Why do we identify with the label atheist?
I am as much an a-faerieist or an a-dragonist as an a-theist. Yes, I do know that atheist predates the word theist.
I have said elsewhere that I consider myself a PEARList. Proven Evidence And Reasoned Logic. You don't go around seeing Christians calling themselves a-jewist.

It seems odd to identify one's self by something we do not think exists.

What do you think?

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We call ourselves atheist because the vast majority of people are theist. If 80% of the population believed in fairies, we probably would call ourselves afairyists.

Atheist is great, because it pisses off believers, and sort of throws our non-belief up in their face. Since they feel compelled to shove their faith in our faces so often, I think it's just right if we flaunt our lack thereof.
That's why I usually refer to myself as a rationalist and if asked if I'm an atheist will answer "Yeah, that too."
The only downside to using that term is I'm not allowed to believe in conspiracy theories or pseudoscience garbage either. Which, if you think about it, isn't a downside at all.
I agree that it's odd to define ourselves by what we are not; another idea would be "brights"
(see http://the-brights.net/ ); a bit derogatory, though, as "gay" was decades ago.
Concisely put, Ralph. I agree that liberal theists are more similar to me than atheist libertarians are. At least most religions emphasize community. It's just that some are more expansive in their view of what community they belong to.

As for me, I'll proudly call myself an atheist, because it gets the point across more succinctly than any other term at present, but if we find a single word to mean "I hold to be true that which has been consistently independently verified", then I'd embrace it.
This is why I choose PEARList. Though, once again, folks have no idea what I'm talking about. Secular Humanist is another way I've described myself.

I know of few other belief systems that define themselves by what they are not.

Skepticism and Atheism do tend to go hand in hand, though, don't they. It seems that one leads into another. Or, as I like to point out, once you stop believing in the Tooth Fairy, Santa Clause seems a little suspect, as well.
Why do we identify with the label atheist?

Because things need labels.
When you call yourself an atheist people know what you mean. Whereas with humanism, naturalism, brights or any other similar labels most people won't know what you're talking about.

However, it comes with its down sides as people have negative connotations of atheist, which is why on my CV I choose to put secretary of the Secular Society, rather than atheist society.
The process of "labeling" groups of people is as old as civilization itself. It is a tool we employ for differentiating ourselves from those who do not belong to our particular slice of society. Labels can be both constructive and/or destructive. They can unify a population, or they can divide it.

I suppose the label "atheist" falls into the dividing category in that it is used predominantly in a negative context. However, this is only becuse the majority of those who use the word are believers themselves. I do not see it as Inappropriate because the concept of theism is very real. If you have a person with no morals are they not amoral? In my mind the term theism does not conjure up any specific religion. The fact that I disagree with every theistic doctrine does not deny the fact that theism exists. Therefore, by possessing no theistic position I am atheistic.

Having said that, I really hate labels! I am a human being! hows that for a label?
You're so species-ist. Why label yourself human being, rather than ape or animal?

Of course, then we could say that you were biased toward carbon rather than silicone structures, so I suppose that would be another divisive label, stating your preference for living vs. nonliving nouns! (I'm kidding.)
Ha! Thats great! I see, now we have migrated from "ism's" to "ist's"! Just for you, I will say that I am content to be a jumble of organic molecules, commonly referred to as carbon based! I suppose divisiveness has to start somewhere.

You are definitely as sassy as your photo implies! lol!
I like the way it sounds. Quite literally, I like the way "atheist" rolls off my tongue. Simple and elegant. I also like and respect a lot of people who share the same philosophy. I think atheism, while not a belief system, can definately be considered a philosophical belief (or assertion, if you think belief is a dirty word), so I don't see any problem with it being used to identify a group of people.

I like the PEARList lable too, but I still prefer atheist because it's more recognizeable.

Now, if I were to really press myself, I don't think I'd have an answer as to why I prefer atheist over other possible labels for a person like myself. I just do. I might change to calling myself a humanist in the future but for the time being I'm happy to call myself a atheist. =)
I love the way it rolls off my tongue too. Plus people look at you weird, or have to think for a second (gasp, you wouldn't want that!), when you call yourself a secularist or humanist. I love being called an atheist. It has a different connotation for me.




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