Humanist Network News’ latest podcast has a series of one-on-one interviews with Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett. I listened to it yesterday and I think it’s one of the best episodes they’ve done to date. (And congratulations to hosts Duncan Crary and Jes Constantine on their two year podcasting anniversary!)
You can download the episode here.
It also includes discussion with all those authors (including Sam Harris) on Harris’ speech where he suggested doing away with the atheist label.
I was disturbed during one of the other interviews, though. The Rational Response Squad jabbed those atheists who shy away from the term. They said (jokingly?) they would start a website for “chicken shit atheists” (42:15) — that is, people who don’t use the word “atheist”… like Humanists, for example
I’ve never heard any Humanist, Bright, etc. back away from the word “atheist.” They just felt it didn’t describe who they were or what they believed as fully as the other terms did. Atheism only means you don’t believe in a god. It doesn’t describe what you do believe.
Personally, “atheist” was the first word I used to describe myself when I stopped believing in a god — I hadn’t heard of any of the other terms — and it has stuck. I’m proud to call myself an atheist, even though Humanist might be a more accurate, total description.
Either way, I don’t think Brian and Kelly of RRS made anyone want to call themselves an atheist, even if they share they same non-belief mindset as the rest of us.
On a slightly related note, I’ve been getting a number of emails from people who request I don’t use their names or out them as an atheist when they send me links. I’ll honor their wishes but it’s a constant reminder that there is a whole other group of people who want to call themselves atheists but can’t bring themselves to use the word.
The reason they don’t want to use it is simply this: it would ruin their lives. Their families might disown them. They could lose their jobs. They would be alone.
It’s just not worth coming out when you don’t have support behind you.
I’m all for people going public with their atheism, no matter which “form” it takes. My former campus group started a simple yet fantastic website that encourages people to go public with their non-belief using their real names.
But I also know that for some people, their inability to do so is not because of lack of courage. Or balls. It’s because too much is at stake. Why make a stand when the rest of your life will come crumbling down?
I do think that a lot of times, this way of thinking is overstated. The sky won’t fall if you come out. You just think it will. But it’s a very real fear.
We as atheists need to help foster an environment where that wouldn’t be the case. We need to offer as much support to those in the closet as possible. The more atheism becomes an acceptable way of thinking, the easier it will be for closeted atheists to come out.
[tags]atheist, atheism, humanism[/tags]