My World View – Atheism As A Label

Anyone who reads my blog knows that I support Neil deGrasse Tyson in a large way, even if this video has a point.



NDT stumbled into this argument by accident because … well, he isn’t concerned about the same things as atheists and hasn’t thought that much about it. He’s a busy man and doesn’t have time to view every possible news source for non-belief.

Atheist is a damned fine word. So is anti-theist. I’m one of those. The latter.

I speak for no other atheist, no other atheist speaks for me. Those who think the label implies a world view are wrong, not mistaken, but wrong. Unfortunately, there are enough such people that NDT has a point. Just as importantly, ZOMGitsCriss has a point too. The golf argument is wrong. The reason that there is a word for non-belief is exactly as she states. If only 10% of the world believed in gods, it would be a useless word. This is not the case currently, so the word does have a use; does have a meaning.

He will have learned this lesson by now. Deriding him for it is somewhat pointless, but I think this video does a good job of saying what needs to be said without being negative. What do you think?

    • Joe ‘Blondie’ Manco
    • May 12th, 2012

    I like Dan Barker’s distinction – a lower-case atheist being one who simply lacks belief in a god(s) (like Tyson), an upper-case Atheist being one who publicly takes action to raise awareness to religious practice and its assault on reality and justice (i.e. the New Atheists).

    It would be good if this kind of distinction found its way into everyday discussion. I can understand Tyson’s reasons for wanting to dissociate himself from Atheism but I wish there was a better term to resort to than ‘agnostic’. Which, as we know, is one I find meaningless and irrelevant in most uses. I can only see it having real meaning in cases similar to your own – a period of uncertainty during a transition from theism to atheism or (shudders) vice-versa.

    I haven’t forgotten that I said I’d write a more thorough entry on agnosticism but philosophising about it hurts my brain. Can we say I’ve killed two birds with one stone here or can I not get out of it now? 🙂

    • LOL, good to see you commenting Joe. No, you can’t get out of it. My headache is your headache 🙂

      I agree with you, such a thing about capitalisation might be useful, but those outside the ‘know’ would not use it and it would continue to be … well, not useful. This is why I plough ahead with anti-theist. I think it removes all doubt. If anyone thinks I can’t change my mind it’s not theists LOL They seem to think they can change my mind with the flimsiest of arguments. Atheist does have a lot of negative connotations in the theist world… but it always will. To superman, kryptonite is a word that fills him with dread.

  1. @Joe Blondie Manco, perhaps nontheist needs to gain currency as a term.

    I think that there are theists who are open to reason, and who may share many of the concerns atheists have about fundamentalism, but who might be put off by the the term “atheist.” I’d prefer to avoid upsetting them too much, because a more pressing issue, for me, is stopping fundamentalism and getting people to acknowledge the importance of reason. If reasoning doesn’t then take them to atheism, I’m not losing sleep.

      • Joe ‘Blondie’ Manco
      • May 15th, 2012

      Doesn’t nontheist mean precisely the same thing as atheist though? Granted, it doesn’t have social stigma like atheist does, but it would only take time I imagine. I think the more people start identifying as ‘atheist’, regardless of whether or not they are activists, the better. With time and numbers the negative connotations will lessen.

      You are right that there are many secular or moderate Christians. I wish there was more of them. If every theist did their own thing, went to their place of worship as tradition dictates, practiced their religion for the personal inspiration it gives them and honoured the separation of church and state there wouldn’t be a vocal and outspoken Atheist movement.

      Do you agree that they are still somewhat of a problem in the sense that they are prolongling their religion’s lifespan and acting as ‘enablers’ for more future fundamentalists?

      Sorry, I know only the top line of your comment was directed at me.

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