In thinking about the difference between a definition of atheism and a definition of nontheism, it occurred to me that while atheists generally rule out all beliefs of a supernatural or magical kind, perhaps nontheists might not believe just in deities, but that would not rule out beliefs in a spiritual world or many other similar nonsensical beliefs. But atheism by definition does not rule these out either. I don't believe in magic, or ghosts, or pink unicorns, or leprechauns, or FSMs, or zombies, or vampires, or ghouls, goblins, necromancers, dragons, demons, devils, angels, demi-gods, etc. ad nauseum. How I wish there was a word which defined my beliefs better! It would certainly go a long ways towards combating religions if the word we used to describe ourselves lumped a belief in deities in with all this other garbage. Any thoughts or ideas?
Update! So far some very good responses:
Just last week I realized I didn't like the term atheist because it did not rule out the belief in life after death, supernatural things, and other woo-woo garbage, all of which I reject.
So far, the term I like that best describes me is Scientific realist. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_realist
This is probably a close description of my approach to thinking as well.
I love being an atheist. It's concise, clear, and makes obvious that I am without gods. I do understand wanting to avoid stigma, and the use of language for people to define themselves, but I "embrace" being "atheist".
There's been the movement toward "Brights" for some time. group on Nexus. once that "pending" glitch is fixed :-) That does lead to the contrast of calling other people "Dims" - I'm not the first to suggest that. However, it's an interesting idea.
Don't get me wrong, I also love being an atheist. And I don't give a damn about "avoiding stigma", it is actually my wife's family that would cause problems for her, big problems, so I do try to keep my atheism to myself around her folks.
I was never at all enthusiastic about the term "brights". Sounds pretty ridiculous to me.
I'm sorry but it reminds me of Lite Brite, Rainbow Bright, and toys from my 80s childhood... So I've never been keen on it as something to take seriously. I guess it fits if you're a Rave Atheist...
Hah, maybe that was the connection that made me snicker every time I heard the word - Lite Bright! I used to have one of those too! Such a silly word... what are we supposed to call theists? Dims? (Dullards?) Dim-witted? Calling ourselves Brights sounds pretty dim-witted to me.
APISTIA is a good word. Unfortunately, it is not known well enough.
Doesn't really roll off the tongue easily either does it?
A pretty decent reply, though I am not in complete agreement with all your points. I would focus on what you propose as alternatives. You say "call me a Rationalist, Naturalist, (or) Secular Humanist". These are good alternatives, I like all three (though I like Naturalist less than the other two). I am still good with calling myself an atheist, but the reason I started this discussion was that it helps to have many different kinds of weapons for different circumstances. I.e., I like to tailor my responses to people's questions to the kind of person they are and the kind of reaction I'd be likely to get. Sometimes I just want to avoid the conversation entirely, if I think it will only cause harm and do no good. In these instances I don't want a word which I can tell would give them just what they are looking for - an opening to spew their poison at me. I want a word which will give me an advantage by keeping them on their heels rather than poised to pounce. "Secular" is a word which is already readily equated with atheism or godlessness, so I wouldn't want to choose that one, and Naturalist doesn't really get to the point (which could be good if all I wanted to do was create confusion to make an escape). Rationalist gets to the point pretty well. "I am rational and you are not" it says. It turns the tables because now it is they who are missing something valued. We do not even have to call them "theists", we can call them "arationalists". And using this term rather than atheist allows you to steer the conversation down paths which they fear to tread, like epistemology (theists fear this the most I think), and right off the bat they have got to try to reason with you to get you to believe that they are being rational when they are clearly not (faith being the opposite of reason), thus undermining their faith. In fact, in general the first thing I choose to say to a theist is that faith is incompatible with reason, and we need discuss nothing further before they are either turned or tire of trying to convince me that faith is ever anything but the absence of reason. So yeah, I think Rationalist is a very useful term, and far underappreciated. But I'm still good with being an atheist most of the time. :-) Thanks for the response Rob!
I like your thoughts on the subject Pheonix. I especially like your reason for using the term Rationalist when faced with a person you need to turn the tables on.
A few months ago, I heard someone call themselves a Scientific Realist and liked the expression as I think it best describes me. It may be a bit cumbersome, so Realist may be a better term to use when you need to turn the tables. What do you think of these two names Pheonix?