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Alternative Terms For Atheism?


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That's the problem with the label "rationalist," though. It implies that you think of yourself as wholly rational at all times, even if you don't intend it as such. Obviously, people are going to laugh at how pretentious that sounds. 

 

 

I've thought about this.  I would only call myself an aspiring rationalist.  But that is too wordy.  To me atheist simply means unbeliever because in this context people understand "believer" refers to religion.  Keeps it simple.

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The second reason is that the term "atheist" has been used by many people as a pejorative. The negative feelings about this term are so deep in many parts of our culture that I do not think they will ever be removed. It is also closely associated with some anti-Christian movements and activities that I am not part of.

 

The term is used as a pejorative because atheists are hated by some and a target of bigotry.  Avoiding the use of the word "atheist" will not change that.  If it is highlighted as an offensive term and becomes un-PC enough so that it becomes more or less unused, then some replacement term will become a pejorative, and we'll go through the same cycle all over again.  This has happened time and time again with other groups.  Those who are hatemongers in the name of religion are threatened by the fact that we do not believe in a god, so they turn (or will turn) atheist or any replacement terms into a pejorative.  The only fix is for enough people to become more enlightened and less bigoted.  I for one have no compunctions about being called an atheist, although depending on the situation, I may not advertise that I am a non-believer in gods in order to avoid uncomfortable situations or putting myself at some sort of disadvantage.

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Rationalist also isn't on the list. An article was linked in another thread that includes this interesting angle to look at:

Another term I forgot about. Rationalist relates to your thought process, not to the conclusions arrived at. The word atheist does not imply a thought process, and in fact, atheists are perfectly capable of being irrational.

Indeed. I would argue that the thought process is more important than the conclusion, since anyone can jump to any conclusion without any good reason.
Indeed! I like the term rationalist because the values I hold in my "atheism" are critical and rational thinking. Atheism is not a philosophy that informs my life like religion is for theists. It's simply a matter-of-fact description of my disbelief in god. But my central focus is more on what I can know and discover. In my everyday life, my "atheism" doesn't carry any real personal meaning for me. Rationalism, however, does. Ensuring that I approach the question of whether or not to believe something in a rational way is what is important to me.

 

I had a professor once who said, "I don't care what you think. I care how you think."

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Oh, I could never call myself a rationalist!  People who know me would laugh and laugh at that!  Oh my, I'm laughing right now thinking of myself trying to be rational!

 

Once, at work and backed into a corner AND it was relevant to the conversation involving work (we worked with dying old people that sometimes asked hard questions of god and eternity of us), I told a manager-type person that I was "agnostic," and she looked at me all confused and asked, "What does that mean?"  She had NO concept (she's a good catholic) that somebody could just not be positive if there was a god or not, and did not know the term agnostic.  I sighed and tried to explain it and "It means I'm not sure" still left her with a blank look on her face.

 

I may not always be rational, but at least I'm not stupid!

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I'm not one for labels of any kind. For instance, I do have an addiction to alcohol. I go to AA meetings. But I don't identify myself as "I'm Steve and I'm an alcoholic." That (drinking foolishly) is something that I have DONE, not who I AM. Similarly, I identify myself as atheist, not AN atheist. Capice?

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I'm not one for labels of any kind. For instance, I do have an addiction to alcohol. I go to AA meetings. But I don't identify myself as "I'm Steve and I'm an alcoholic." That (drinking foolishly) is something that I have DONE, not who I AM. Similarly, I identify myself as atheist, not AN atheist. Capice?

Nice! I heard someone ask Richard Dawkins a question about his hope for the future of atheism. He said that his hope is that, in the future, it will no longer be necessary; that the word atheist will have as much usefulness and meaning as the word a-Zeusist or a-unicorn-ist does today.

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God either exists or he does not exist. This a true dichotomy. It is either one or the other. So, when faced with the claim that a god exists, you either believe the claim, or you do not. There is no inbetween.

I disagree. I'm a fence sitter. I haven't decided yet whether or not I believe a god exists. It's not a matter of proof, I'm not confident in my own opinion one way or another. I don't think the description of biblegod is accurate, but I'm also not confident that there is no higher being at all. I cannot say either yes I believe in a god or no I do not. This might be temporary, or I may feel this way the rest of my life. What does this make me?
Agnostic. Or, to put it another way, it's my user name spelled backwards. ;)

 

Some would point out, though, that if you can't say you do believe in god, then you lack an actual god belief, which in turn makes you an atheist. That basically depends on how strictly one defines atheism.

True. I was referring to the strict meaning of atheist (lacking a belief in god's). I would

Argue that in all actuality, by definition violet butterfly, that you are an atheist. You hold no belief in any god. I agree with Citsonga, it depends on how strictly you define atheism. That's the problem with terms and definitions. They are not always all encompassing. The best way to describe your position is to actually describe your position rather than reducing it to a single term that may connotate something that is not accurate for you. There's nothing wrong with saying "I don't know."

 

As an aside, the word agnostic, in the strict definition, means that you believe knowledge of something (god) is unattainable. It is a theory of knowledge, not an actual position of belief/non-belief in that something, in and of itself. When asked the question "Do you believe god exists," agnosticism would not be an accurate answer, because it does not actually answer the question. You either accept the notion or you do not. If you are unsure, then you do not currently accept the notion. There is a wide range of how strongly you may reject the notion. You may not have at all a very strong rejection of it, but you still do not accept it. This is why agnosticism, as you point out, is compatible with both theism and atheism. Since agnosticism and atheism have colloquial meanings and uses that don't match the strict definitions, it may be more accurate for you to simply respond (as you did), "I don't know." That's a completely honest answer that no one can fault you for.

 

Someone on the forums recently said that the term Ignostic might be more accurate. Since "god" in the general since of the word (outside of specific religious descriptions) is such an ill-defined term, it isn't even a coherent enough concept to even be debated. That pushes it beyond agnosticism because we cannot even be sure what it is that we are actually contemplating. Religion has done all of the "god definiting." I hold a strong belief that all of those religious notions of god are false. As to whether a general god concept might be true, it's impossible for me to even have a position because we lack any real definition of what a "god" even is. It would be like asking me, "Do you believe shakbladicsignostra exists?" My first and only resonce at that point can only be, "What are you talking about?"

 

Now, once we start describing "god," we have something to discuss. Does an intelligent creator of the universe exist? My current position is no. I believe it to be possible, and I'm open to the possibility, but no evidence has ever demonstrated this to be true or likely. Just because many people think it's true does not make it more likely to be true.

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Alternative terms for an "apple"

 

Fruit of the malus domestica

 

A pome, of which we can eat the ripened ovary

 

One fruit with thousands of varieties

 

A food that can be eaten raw or cooked

 

In the case of the apple, all that other information obfuscates the simple reality that we are talking about something everybody understands by simply hearing its name, "apple."

 

In the case of the atheist, it's the same.

"Forbidden fruit?" You forgot that one. Lol

;)

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As an aside, the word agnostic, in the strict definition, means that you believe knowledge of something (god) is unattainable.

 

 

Not necessarily. One who holds that he/she doesn't know whether god exists is an agnostic. That individual could hold that such knowledge could be attainable (either now or in the future), but that he/she simply doesn't yet know.

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Why don't we need alternative terms for "theism?"

 

Oh yeah. Everyone knows what a "theist" is.

 

Same for "atheist."

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As an aside, the word agnostic, in the strict definition, means that you believe knowledge of something (god) is unattainable.

 

Not necessarily. One who holds that he/she doesn't know whether god exists is an agnostic. That individual could hold that such knowledge could be attainable (either now or in the future), but that he/she simply doesn't yet know.
No one "knows" whether or not god exists. No one can definitely claim knowledge one way or the other. Therefore, we should all (theist and atheist alike) be agnostic. But if you do not hold a belief in god, then you are also atheist. You may hold a belief that knowledge of a god is possible, but the lack of acceptance of the existence of god makes one an atheist also (by one definition), and also agnostic (by one definition). Again, there are varying definitions of both agnostic and atheist. In strict philosophical terms, agnostic is the position that knowledge of something is unattainable. That's the only point I was making there. You are equating "I don't know" with agnosticism which is valid by the general Websters definition; those who have not decided on belief or unbelief is included. I was not disagreeing with that. I am agnostic because I do not believe knowledge of any god concept is attainable because we lack a coherent definition of the term. In regard to specific theistic claims of various religions, I hold those to be false claims. I can still admit the possibility that some aspect of some of them could be correct, but all available evidence indicates these concepts to be man made.
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I think the only difference between an atheist and an agnostic is personality.

 

A soft atheist spurns the agnostic label as unnecessary because it implies confusion, yet, similar to the agnostic, withholds belief due to lack of evidence.

 

The agnostic 'doesn't believe' as opposed to 'withholds belief' and spurns the atheist label because they believe it takes too strong a position on the unknowable. 

 

Both end up in virtually the same place for all intents and purposes. 

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No one "knows" whether or not god exists. No one can definitely claim knowledge one way or the other. Therefore, we should all (theist and atheist alike) be agnostic.

 

It is true that no one knows whether a god exists. However, people can and do claim (and believe) that they know. The people who recognize the arrogance of this claim are the agnostics.

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No one "knows" whether or not god exists. No one can definitely claim knowledge one way or the other. Therefore, we should all (theist and atheist alike) be agnostic.

 

It is true that no one knows whether a god exists. However, people can and do claim (and believe) that they know. The people who recognize the arrogance of this claim are the agnostics.

 

 

Or soft atheists.  Don't forget us.

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No one "knows" whether or not god exists. No one can definitely claim knowledge one way or the other. Therefore, we should all (theist and atheist alike) be agnostic.

It is true that no one knows whether a god exists. However, people can and do claim (and believe) that they know. The people who recognize the arrogance of this claim are the agnostics.

Agreed!

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No one "knows" whether or not god exists. No one can definitely claim knowledge one way or the other. Therefore, we should all (theist and atheist alike) be agnostic.

It is true that no one knows whether a god exists. However, people can and do claim (and believe) that they know. The people who recognize the arrogance of this claim are the agnostics.

Or soft atheists. Don't forget us.

Also agree!

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No one "knows" whether or not god exists. No one can definitely claim knowledge one way or the other. Therefore, we should all (theist and atheist alike) be agnostic.

 

It is true that no one knows whether a god exists. However, people can and do claim (and believe) that they know. The people who recognize the arrogance of this claim are the agnostics.

 

 

 

Is it also arrogant to claim that one knows that there is no Superman?  After all you can't prove that Superman isn't at this very moment in deep space and traveling to our planet while we speak.  If your answer is no then why not?  I do not see the difference between the idea that Superman exists and the idea that God exists.  Feel free to demonstrate why one might have more support than the other.

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I don't think it's a matter of arrogance, it's just confidence. Florduh, for example....based on his posts I don't believe he has any doubt that no god or higher being exists. He is confident that this is a fact.

 

On the other hand, I'm at a point where I'm like whoa, wait a minute. Everything I've been taught since birth about this higher being might not be true. What is happening!?

 

I think they are two very different things. I don't feel comfortable calling myself an atheist, and it's not because of a stigma or the opinion of other people. It's because I do not think of myself as an atheist. I am simply someone questioning what I was taught and slowly forming some new opinions on the matter.

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It is true that no one knows whether a god exists. However, people can and do claim (and believe) that they know. The people who recognize the arrogance of this claim are the agnostics.

 

Or soft atheists.  Don't forget us.

 

 

I'm not forgetting. But not all agnostics are atheists. I have one brother who is an agnostic Catholic, and another whom I would describe as an agnostic Deist.

 

Also, although people tend to equate strong atheism with gnostic atheism, I don't think the two are the same. One can have a positive belief that a god does not exist (incurring a burden of proof) without claiming knowledge. I count myself in this category with respect to the Christian god, although the teeny weeny bit of agnosticism there is no more than my uncertainty of my grip on reality.

 

I used agnostic in an inclusionary sense.

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It's just easier to call myself an atheist. Every theist knows what it means. I only have to explain it further when in the company of other atheists.

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It's just easier to call myself an atheist. Every theist knows what it means. I only have to explain it further when in the company of other atheists.

QFMFT!

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It's just easier to call myself an atheist. Every theist knows what it means. I only have to explain it further when in the company of other atheists.

 

According to Atheism for Dummies, Bertrand Russell called himself “agnostic” when speaking with other philosphers, but “atheist” when speaking to a general audience.

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Disclaimer: This article discusses one type of ex-Christian, namely atheists. It is not intended to imply that all ex-Christians are atheists. That said, other ex-Christians, and even Authentic Christian Believers, are welcome to join the discussion. (However, any Christians who comment should remember that this is not the Lion’s Den.)

 


 

On the Magic Sandwich Show’s 2014 webathon for Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), the subject of avoidance of the word “atheist” came up. David Silverman stressed the need for people with no belief in any gods to realize that they are atheists. He mentioned that even some major atheist organizations, such as the Secular Coalition of America, avoid using the term, and said that this is “wrong.” While I agree that encouraging atheists to use the word “atheist” is important to detoxify the term, I strongly disagree that using those other terms is necessarily wrong.

 

Each word has its specific meaning(s) and its place.

 

  • Atheist speaks only to whether or not someone believes in one or more gods. An atheist is anyone who does not answer “yes” to the question “Is there a god?” No other information is conveyed.
  • Agnostic relates to one’s approach to knowledge. The word atheist does not specify whether or not one is absolutely sure that there are no gods.
  • Freethinker relates to how one forms beliefs and opinions. The word atheist does not indicate one's way of thinking.
  • Skeptic relates to suspicion of a claim. In the context of explicit atheism, it relates to one’s approach to verifying claims. The word atheist does not convey how one concluded that there are no gods.
  • Methodological naturalist relates to one’s approach to gaining knowledge. It is a generalization of skeptic (in the latter, narrower sense mentioned above). The word atheist does not convey how one concluded that there are no gods.
  • Metaphysical naturalist relates to how one views the makeup and processes of the universe. This is not in any way implied by the word atheist.
  • Bright is a redundant neologism that means exactly the same thing as metaphysical naturalist. In its favor, it has fewer syllables.
  • Secular describes one’s relationship to religion or religious institutions. There are atheists who are not secular and secularists who are not atheists. Examples of the former include Scientologists, many Buddhists, and (in a different sense of non-secular) S.E. Cupp. Examples of the latter include President John F. Kennedy, Reverend Barry W. Lynn, and most of America’s founding fathers. The word atheist conveys insufficient information on this matter.
  • Humanist relates to one’s approach to ethics. The word atheist does not imply an ethical system.
  • Non-theist (noun) is a redundant term that means exactly the same thing as atheist, and whose only function seems to be to avoid the A-word.
  • Non-theistic (adjective), on the other hand seems to describe more (imply less) than atheistic does. For example, I would describe science or secular government as non-theistic, but not as atheistic.
While I do not agree with using these alternative terms soley to avoid the A-word (outside specific situations where using the A-word might not be safe), this does not mean that these other terms don’t have their place.

I see non-believer didn't make the list. I'm thinking of using that term, should the need arise, because I don't want the be tarred and feathered by an angry mob.

I prefer infidel.

The fear-mongering from my background in Christianity scared me out of ever referring to myself as an atheist. I still don't think of myself as atheist only. It depends on how I'm feeling. It's funny when I'm feeling really aggressive and fed up with Christianity I might be like "fuck this. I'm an atheist!" If I feel like looking into meditation and Wicca, I'm mostly an agnostic that day and indifferent towards my resentment of Christianity, in this way I'm subdued and "flirty" with religious topics. Most of the time, however, I'm just an ex-Christian and I like the term "infidel" here because before I came to my confusions, I had a background in Christianity and that's sunbathing that'll never leave me. I own that part of me.
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