Whether to label one self as Atheist, Humanist, Secular Humanist, Non-theist???

Can I please get professional opinions on how to best 'label' myself? (what type of non-theist?) Thanks for everyone's feedback and time.  : )

My status is: I believe in nothing magical, mystical, supernatural, superstitious, godly/divine etc. I believe Earth and the first life cell was created by a scientific phenomenon where the right circumstances and conditions 'sparked'. I don't believe in new-age energy or alternative healing medical practices such as reiki, meditation, reflexology, acupuncture, crystals/pyramids/metaphysical, cultural body-religion traditions. I feel all those are Smoke-And-Mirrors tactics pushed by opportunistic manipulators & 'bought' by naive, desperate, brainwashed folks. As a youngster, I even frowned on magicians, churches, circuses, salespeople, advertising etc because of fake/phoney representatives, persona's & psychological-manipulation messages and actions.

Now that you know my status, perhaps you can help me understand how I should identify. Is the word 'Secular Humanist' simply a more politically-correct (easier to accept?) term for the word 'Atheist' or is there a difference? Does the word 'Humanist' mean a person's actions (Doing good without god) or is 'Humanist' a pronoun meaning all non-theist beliefs?

When in situations where I felt the need to declare my non-theism, I used to say I was an Atheist- I got very negative reactions including friend 'acquaintances' alienation. So, I tried saying I'm a Humanist...a term many don't recognize so I had to include AHA's slogan (doing good without god). Now, I hear some Humanists believe in the metaphysical crap (energies, crystals etc) and I should identify as a Secular Humanist...which I'd need to give another slogan or description?

I am proud to state I'm a non-theist & to post such on my Facebook wall. I am active in our city's PFLAG family support group and I'll clarify I'm a non-theist if I refer 'spiritual-seeking' attendees to our only "Open-and-Affirming" church here. I empathize & understand the importance of some GLBT's (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender) needing a 'spiritual' home belonging, especially when their biological families & churches reject and disown them.

I've received job discrimination and friend-alienation from being an out Lesbian. Once again, I'm feeling pressure and the need to explain who I am. I look forward to hearing from others regarding my non-theist 'label' dilemma.

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As a friend said, "Labels make useful servants but terrible masters." They can give others a useful starting point as to what people might have in common, or not.

Anyway, I see "humanist" as describing, as you said, a broader worldview and actions: doing good because it's up to us -- we humans can and should (independent of any supposed supernatural authority). I've encountered "religious humanists" who see value in God(s) as an acknowledged human creation, who'll interpret the god-language of their traditions that way.  "Secular humanist" to me can emphasize that you're focused on this one real world, no god-language or demons or other metaphysical crap (which a shocking 85% of Americans recently surveyed believe in) needed.

I'll happily answer to secular humanist, or humanist, or atheist, or nontheist. (Or in some contexts, simply "not religious.")

"Labels make useful servants but terrible masters."

Wonderful quote!  Labels are SHORTHAND, an abbreviated way to understand the nature or substance of something or someone.  As such, they provide some clue(s) as to what that something or someone is, but by no means the whole of that something or someone.

As regards the venue which is Atheist Nexus, I identify myself as an atheist.  Insofar as I'm concerned, there are no gods ... PERIOD.  That, however, is by no means all of me.  I am also a man, a bisexual, an engineer, a father, a music lover, and many other things I could spend all day giving voice to.  If I choose the label "atheist" for myself, it is because I feel it suits me as a shortcut and in one narrow portion of the person which is yours truly.

It's worth keeping in mind, too: should the day ever come when religion vanishes from the earth, the idea of atheism would (or in my mind, SHOULD!) vanish right along with it ... because we would all be humans without religion ... or far more simply:


Like you, I don't believe in anything supernatural, but don't know what we should call ourselves.  I prefer "scientific realist", but don't talk enough with believers to know how that would go over.

Personally i label myself an atheist but that only tells people what i don't believe in. When representing the philosophy i live by i call myself a secular humanist.

I generally use "humanist," or "secular humanist" to describe myself.  "Atheist" doesn't tell enough about me.  One reason I prefer humanist is that when I was leaving religion I saw an announcement of a meeting and called the contact person.  I began the conversation confused, and ended a humanist.  (This was long before you could look up stuff on the internet.)  Everything the person said resonated with me.  I've been to several AHA national conferences; in 2005 I was the president of the chapter which hosted one of them.  And -- this may upset somebody -- I feel that just saying "atheist" is an invitation to a fight.  Some of my religious family members will accept humanist more easily, and I do respect their feelings.

Jerry, words are powerful.  They can be used to do harm and to create anger, or to soothe and comfort.  But as I see it, a negative reaction to using the word "atheist" is not an invitation from you to start a fight, but rather an ignorant response from an uninformed person.  Relish in the idea of proudly proclaiming that you're an atheist, and then kill them with kindness.  They'll be very confused that such a nice person is a godless heathen. 

Just as you respect the feelings of your family, they should do the same in return.  Sometimes certain topics amongst a family are better if not discussed at all, but that doesn't change who you are or what you represent.  There's no need to sugar-coat your label.  (Just my 2-cents, Jerry.)   

I have no problem identifying myself first as an atheist, and then narrowing down my label as a secular  humanist.  To me it's the same as a theist saying in broad terms that they're a Christian and then further describing themselves as a Catholic, a Protestant, Pentecostal, etc.  

I wouldn't call myself a militant atheist, but I'm definitely an ANTI-theist.  I'm not comfortable taking the blasé attitude of allowing religion to prosper.  It's done and is doing TOO MUCH HARM to humanity. 




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