Why the label 'atheist' bothers me a little...

A while ago I was talking to some friends and the topic about my position came up and they asked me "What do you believe in?", to which I answered that I don't 'believe', but that I think that evidence should be evaluated and yadda, yadda, yadda (skepticism)... and then, they finished saying "So, you are atheist", to which I responded "I am skeptic, therefore I am atheist". A few months ago, there was a 'Atheist Pride March' (or something around that), and I was telling a contact on "AtheistNexus.org" that the 'Pride March' thing didn't appeal much to me, because being an atheist is the result of my skepticism, and not some other way around (if there was a 'Skeptic Pride March' I would undoubtedly and eagerly join it. ). If there was to be good evidence about the existence of 'god' (however you want to define it/him/her), I see not a reason why I wouldn't change my mind and no longer be an atheist; Of course, I think that such an event is so remotely possible that I don't really worry much about it.

Why don't I like the label of 'Atheist'? Because then I am in the same group as other bunch of people that although are also atheists, I don't want to be in the same room as them, i.e. Raelians or Scientologists; those two are actually atheist groups. Of course, we may argue that when 'we' talk about atheist, we refer particularly to humanist, naturalist, agnostics, skeptics, etc, but if we are truly strict with the definition, then there are a few groups that are atheists but not necessarily the type 'we' would like to gather with.

So, I think that the word 'Atheism' and its derivatives, unfortunately don't do any good for us. How much, do you people think, that the word 'Atheism' has been forced upon us from the outside the 'community' and maybe the 'community' has adopted it just because that is what others refers to us, for better or worse?

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Comment by G.P.Plascencia on February 16, 2010 at 9:05am
@Fred: Very interesting comment. Thanks for writing.
Comment by Loren Miller on January 28, 2010 at 4:23pm
GPP, I have been saying that forever, regarding what we DO believe in versus what we don't. I've thought about the terms "rationalist," "empiricist," and "free-thinker," but none of 'em quite cut it.

If anyone has some better suggestions, I'd love to hear 'em!
Comment by G.P.Plascencia on January 28, 2010 at 4:04pm
@Tom: Indeed, we should label ourselves for what we DO believe, not for what we don't.
Comment by Tom Thompson on January 28, 2010 at 12:59pm
I have long avoided the label. I do not identify myself as atheist when asked because the term is largely useless, at best.

Sam Harris explains why in a youtube video, I believe this is the one.

In my perspective atheism can be considered either a response to theism or a slander used by theists. In the absence of theism it has no meaning and no value. If theism ceased to exist so would atheism.

I find it more useful to label what I DO identify as rather than what I do NOT identify as.
Comment by G.P.Plascencia on January 28, 2010 at 12:22pm
@Fred: What I like to do is always add skeptic and agnostic to the definition.
Comment by G.P.Plascencia on December 12, 2008 at 9:45am
Thanks for all you comments.

By definition, I am an atheist and I am not bother to be called one. Basically, what bothers me is that other people (as in the other part of a discussion, and usually religious) already assumes so many wrong things about me because the label Atheist has been twisted to mean so many other things besides "I don't believe in gods". Also, as I mentioned in my post, the other problem I found with Atheist is that there are people who are also atheist; they don't believe in gods, but Xenu? I mean, c'mon! Of course, those beliefs are are actually a lot like religious beliefs, but strictily, they are atheist. 'Atheist' is so easy to abuse. I know that it is a matter of semantics, but I think it is something that should be noticed.
Comment by TJMorgan on December 11, 2008 at 9:42pm
"People use it as a label or a fashion statement that have never really sat down and pondered it properly. Its lost meaning through overuse, misuse and abuse."

Sounds like how people use the word, "love."
Comment by River Otter on December 11, 2008 at 8:08pm
I don't mind being called an Atheist. I don't believe in god (or the supernatural for that matter). Atheist for me is straight to the point. No bullshit beating around the bush.

I am curious though, why is Atheist a term that we don't need? What harm does it do? Why would Skeptic be better? What should we call a non-belief in god?
Comment by Brandon on December 11, 2008 at 4:26pm
I have a problem with the term Atheism like I have a problem being called a Republican, or a Liberal. I have my own views, and despite your best attempts, you cannot define me by labeling me.

I am not the average of everyone else's views, all lumped together for the purpose of getting things done. I am me.

That is something I feel I am sacrificing every time I label myself instead of finding a way to declare my own views. I find it is especially difficult to identify with a specific groups because I am feel as though I am agreeing with one set of views (held by said group) and disagreeing with another. Although I understand that this sacrifice seems to be a requirement in order to get things done in our society, I do not like it.

/why do we label people
Comment by TJMorgan on December 11, 2008 at 1:53pm
It doesn't seem to be the "atheist" part of people that you have a problem with though, it seems like it is those who have other beliefs that you don't agree with that you have a problem with, but they also happen to be atheists. While you may be both be atheist, it is the other stuff that differentiates you. The term "atheism" shouldn't get the bad rep for that, it should be the terms that define the things about them you disagree with that get the bad rep.

I don't have a problem with the term atheism at all, as all it implies is that you don't believe there is a god to believe in or to disbelieve in. That is what the term is responsible for. It is not responsible for atheists who happen to believe in things that many other skeptics would be skeptical of. They just happen to also be atheists, but the term doesn't deserve to be slandered for what they DO believe in. There are seperate terms for those things.


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