Recently a remark by a Christian visiting here reminded me of something peculiar I have encountered from time to time that I had never known about before I started reading and discussing things on line, the notion of the “not real Christian.”
I have heard several people who identify themselves as Christians say that because other people who identify themselves as Christians do not believe in such and such, or don’t agree with so and so, or haven’t done whatever, that they are not really Christians, and some even contend that these counterfeit or phony or somehow not qualified “Christians” (with their scare quotes) will burn in hell. Sometimes the differences they cite sound at least theologically significant, sometimes it’s too subtle or esoteric for me to fathom, and sometimes it sounds like they just don’t go to the same particular church.
To me as an outsider this is bizarre and ridiculous. On the news I hear Muslims dismissing other Muslims as “not good Muslims,” or “not true Muslims” for disparities only they can comprehend. How can theists of any flavor ever hope to attract outsiders when so many differences are cited as disqualifying all the others but their specific variety of religion, differences that seem indistinguishable to anyone not already inside their camp? From the eyes of the uninitiated, their micro-controversies discredit them all as a whole.
It seems as if religion is a thing that spreads out forever like heat, continuously splitting into ever smaller sub groups with ever subtler differences, yet those differences often (not always) remain significant enough to the sub group members to cause disdain and even enmity toward those of other sub groups.
Now the point of this post:
Can this happen to atheists? Has it already? We have several terms that non-god-believing folks use to identify themselves to emphasize other aspects they feel are important. Is there a looking down the nose from those using one term toward those using another? Do humanists look askance at freethinkers? Do skeptics roll their eyes about brights?
Has anyone ever been accused of not being a true atheist by another person calling himself or herself an atheist?