I am sure you know or have met somebody who thinks like this. You may, in fact, be one of these people I'm about to describe. If you are, I strongly urge you to consider what I'm about to say.

You're an atheist, but you feel that too many hard-nosed vitriolic cynics have given the label a bad name so now you refuse to refer to yourself as what you truly are. And yet. Yet, you could always make an effort to proudly assert that yes, you are an atheist but that you're willing to discuss your (lack of) belief system with anyone in an open and non-biting fashion. It's what I do. So many people, after talking to me, remark in surprise that they thought atheists were supposed to be bitter and angry and closed to all other arguments. They walk away with at least one new example of atheism and I feel good about myself for representing both myself and my belief system in a positive light.

The same is true of the 'skeptic' label. So many choose the term 'critical thinker' which is fine, but I don't see why a word I view as positive (skeptic) should be taken away from us because others choose to use it negatively. I choose to take it back. I explain, with a smile on my face, what being a skeptic means to me and how I use it to view the world and make decisions by thinking critically. At this point nearly everyone agrees with me and I feel I've reclaimed the world for happy skeptics everywhere.

My point here today is that there is no reason we should let the terms 'atheism' and 'skepticism' become negative words. I've been called an atheist before in a negative fashion. It was spat at me like a slur. I should have wanted to laugh but it stung and I never want anyone to feel that particular arrow again. There is no reason, if you lack a god belief, to not declare yourself an atheist (unless, of course, your job depends on it which will hopefully seem a ludicrous notion one day). So, if you can put a positive face to these labels, by all means do so. In fact, I see it as your duty. Let's move forward for the next generation.

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Comment by Kate Holden on November 16, 2008 at 8:44am
Katrin, I'm so glad you've had positive reactions to your status as an atheist. We haven't all been so lucky. I want, when people hear the word, to associate it with positive things. This is why people like you are so important to atheism. You give the word a positive face. Thank you.
Comment by Kate Holden on November 15, 2008 at 8:16pm
Steve, I understand how you feel regarding some of our fellow atheists. And the deal with gators is that they're flipping awesome. :)
Comment by Kate Holden on November 15, 2008 at 11:06am
Thanks, Dan. I really appreciate your blog and think you'll find mine agreeable as well. It seems we hold the same ideals.
Comment by Dan Trumblee on November 15, 2008 at 10:42am
I can't tell you how much this post resonated with me. It is actually the whole reason I started my blog. I think we need to put a more public face on our atheism so religious people can see that nonbelievers are intelligent, moral, hard-working people. I think this is the biggest thing holding us back right now. Atheists have allowed themselves to be marginalized as a tiny, radical group that only wants to attack Christian values. We do need to challenge relgious beliefs--especially those that threaten the rights of others--but more importantly, we need show the value of our own beliefs. This is the key to getting more atheists our of the closet.



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