Like every other group of people with common interests at heart over the ages, we, too, have our own label - "atheists". Whether one likes it or not, we just have the need to label everything. But, labels eventually spawn counterparts - slurs, insults, slang, name(calling). Ours, though not directed at atheists in particular, would be "heathen".heathen, noun -
an unconverted member of a people
or nation that does not acknowledge the God of the Bible2
an uncivilized or irreligious person (Source)
So, my question is, like most pejorative terms - of which I believe the origin of this word to be - has its effectiveness waned over time? Has it become yet another synonym, just another thing atheists happen to be? Take the word "Christian," for example. It started out as a pejorative label for someone crazy enough to follow the "Prophet" Jesus. And now, it's the only way to describe Protestants.
So, obviously, if used in a derogatory way, ("John is a blasphemous heathen"), a varying degree of offense would be taken to the statement. Most likely a minor degree, but still offensive nonetheless.
But, if stated out of pure belief, ("Aren't atheists heathens?"), would the term be taken as offensive still?
I believe the impact of the term, if it was ever greater, has most definitely faded as the times have changed. And, in a derogatory sense, any word becomes offensive (e.g. "Saul is Jewish," is, of course, much more reasonable than "Saul is a stupid Jew," a hurtful statement that could evoke greater problems). But, there are always multiple sides to one issue, so I'm sure there's still a few choice people who would take the term "heathen" as an insult, in any context.
Any thoughts on the matter?