I ran a quick search for discussions on this topic and nothing came up, so I thought I'd make a thread on it to see what you guys think.


The provocative title of this thread is identical to the title of the even more provocative speech by the formidable Sam Harris at AAI 2007:


Link here should the embed not work.



When Sam made this speech there was a lot of controversy about it, because he argued that the very act of associating yourself with a negative term (in this case, atheism) brings about a number of severe disadvantages. You'll have to watch the whole video to know exactly which disadvantages these are, because Sam sums them up quite a bit better than I can.


The reason I start this thread is because the more I think about this issue, the more I'm starting to agree with Sam, and the more time I spend on atheist forums I also realise that reason is something that's bigger than atheism, and I'm also beginning to have doubts about whether identifying myself as an atheist is really worth it.

So, what do you think? Is the label useful? Do we need it? Is it holding a broad application reason and rationality back? Is it perhaps useful now and can it be abandoned later?


The second half of the video is Sam talking about how science should accept that there might be experiences that mystics have had through the ages, which are different from the ones we normally experience, and so science should be interested in what exactly those states are and should incorporate them in our growing knowledge of neurology.

I thought that was a less controversial subject (though just as interesting), but if you want, you can comment on that too. Not really why I'm opening this thread though.


Thoughts, Nexus?

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Your point on capitalism bring up an interesting point on lables.

When asked I proudly say I support capitalism (or I am a capitalist), similar to how Loren says that he is an atheist.

What I often forget is that the word does not mean exactly the same thing to everyone.

When I say capitalism I'm refering to the idea that people should be rewarded for their effort and that one should earn something to have something, resulting in a culture of traders who don't take but produce.

What other people hear is the idea of making yourself rich at any expense to others, resulting in a culture of back stabbing and theives (roughly the opposite of what I mean).

Similar to how I say I am an atheist meaning that I am godless, rational and free-thinking but theists hear that I am god-hating, immoral and closed minded (where did the baby eating steroetype come from by the way?).

Harris...he part of the 'wipe out islam' crew? I mean, I'm kinda more-like... don't wipe out the people(s) in rough areas but wipe out the ability for their myths to carve laws and anti-human rights being ok'd by state due to old-world bs nah mean?! hapee12!

you dont make much sense.

bobh, perhaps Jim meant don't paint with so wide a brush as to wipe out the people, rather wipe out their ability to create laws based on their myths and belief and faith systems. Protect human rights of people. Some states pass laws that violate basic human rights. 

I would use, as the criteria, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights


Jim, did I state your case correctly? If not, let me know. I have been known to be wrong. 

Atheist is a negative and limiting term. When asked about God et al, I just answer that I'm secular, putting my confidence in science. If they persisit, I tell them that I'm not into ghosts and magic. Next, it's that I'm not willfully stupid. And finally, You can lubricate your Jesus and with a twisting action, insert 'im. 

(Your comment) 'So, what do you think? Is the label useful? Do we need it? Is it holding a broad application reason and rationality back? Is it perhaps useful now and can it be abandoned later?'


Good point: Much like a debate, the atheist label keeps us locked in the theist/non-theist 'cage fight' that strains reasonable communication. The label stalls any movement towards rational understanding or agreement between two sides that fundamentally desire the same things: A better life for all, wherein we can all work to improve society as we move forward into the future, together...

Just a thought.

Even if we do not personally label ourselves Atheist - once we say we don't believe in god others will label us that. Our society lives with labels and definitions - I really don't see how we could escape the label. So, why not embrace the label instead?

An atheist believes in the nature as the most powerful power in human lives and not any supernatural power. Therefore, in ancient Europe, non believers were called Naturalists and it was a very apt and positive description of non-belief. Thereafter, it became fashionable and convenient to describe them as heretics, which was even a more negative term that atheist. There have been more that one discussions on this topic at the AN in the past and myself and several more members did suggest that we should revert back to describing ourselves as naturalists. If we do not want a negative label, we have to change it ourselves: no one is going to do it for us. May be, we should find a name like 'Scientific Naturalists Forum' or something like this for AN. Otherwise, this issue will keep on coming up again and again.




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