We talk about Friendly Atheism and Positive Atheism and Angry Atheism and Militant Atheism…
You never hear any of those adjectives preceding “Humanist.”
(Thanks to Bjorn for the question!)
I don’t know what we can learn from this, but as a Humanist, I have heard of the various adjectives the precede “Humanist”. I have never known humanism to be anything but friendly though.
Perhaps the unintelligent individuals that apply the label militant (or any other negatively connotative word) to atheism don’t fully understand the implications of humanism and might even consider themselves Humanist, because it sounds nice.
One of the tenets of secular humanism is “Build a better world”. Sounds pretty friendly to me. You don’t build a better world by making enemies.
lots of religious people, even in particular faiths, will call themselves humanist if they think it means someone who cares for humanity. Of course in the American South it means people who put themselves before God so you get a lot of choice adjectives placed before humanist.
Humanism also has a certain set of beliefs, making it much more palatable to those of religious persuasion. Atheism is a negative to begin with, so many try to fill that negative with something regardless of what that something is. It seems to be extremely difficult for those in a religion to imagine a life with no prescribed set of beliefs.
What can be learned from this…?
People don’t know what it is.
I agree with 5ive.
Humanism is positive by being a philosophy of something, whereas atheism is the negation.
Secular and religious have both been used as adjectives for humanism too.
I was raised in a xtian household, and the term “secular humanist” was always spoken in a disparaging tone. Growing up, I got the impression that it was evil and dirty to be a secular humanist. Funny that. It seems that anytime a group puts focus on humanity and away from another group’s deity they are disparaged. To me it’s just a sign that they realize how feeble and vulnerable the concept of a “real” deity is…especially when they have to constantly defend it because it can’t defend itself.
That’s why I (and others) prefer the term ‘naturalist‘ as opposed to ‘atheist’. Religious people would then be referred to as A-naturalists
I think it pertains to the notion that many people assume atheists are innately angry or immoral. It’s sad how we have to constantly put adjectives like “friendly” or “positive” before “atheist” in order to let people know that we generally aren’t anything like those ill conceived notions.
I agree with Axegrrl’s comment about Naturalists. Great strategy. Using the term atheist makes theist the default – or the norm. Identifying as a Naturalist takes that away from the theist.
Um, “secular humanists” are the baddies that are trying to keep prayer out of schools, and God out of the Pledge of Allegiance, right? They’ve long been bogeymen of the religious right. The term just has a different set of negatives for the fundamentalists. Less foaming at the mouth angry white men, more sneaky multicultural deviants undermining America’s “christian” morals.
Other than being a complete doormat in response to their intrusions into government and public life, there is no way to not piss off the religious right. You will never please everyone. The goal as I see it is to piss off the right people for the right reasons.
Tim Mills of Friendly Humanist might have something to say about the question’s assumption.
I see many similarities between the way “atheism” and “feminism” is treated. Both feminists and atheists are assumed to be angry all the time, they’re assumed to be somehow weird or crazy or evil, and both ideologies have the pleasure of dealing with straw (wo)men and nonsensical blather from people who would rather maintain the status quo. Atheism is simply going against the norm. True, some atheists are rude, some call the theists on their woo no matter what, but seriously, compared with many social conservatives, even PZ Myers is a teddy bear :P.
Wouldn’t militant humanists be people who act like John Brown?
I think it depends on who you’re talking to. My brother in law recently informed my husband that humanists have an agenda….to get rid of Christianity. I’ve also been accused of being angry and have been told that my blog is an attack on Christians. I haven’t specifically been called an “angry humanist”, but the implication is there.
Education and exposure is the key to understanding the diversity that exists in everything. Diversity is everywhere!
Humanism doesn’t have a stigma to overcome. That’s why so many humanatheists would rather just concede “atheism” and move on.
Ah, I did forget the stigma of “Secular Humanist.” Thanks, Dale, for pointing out the Friendly Humanist blog, which also has a link to the Not-So-Friendly Humanist blog.
Well gee, Bob, how many times have you met an unfriendly Humanist? 😉
First of all, I’ve heard a number of various epithets attached to humanist. And “humanist” is generally, here in my conservative part of the US, said in a derisive and judgmental way. So I would dispute the premise.
But even if humanists have a better image, their goals are completely different. Atheists are primarily focused on exposing the problems with religious delusion. Humanists offer a different, secular philosophy and worldview to replace religious belief. Since they are focused on a positive message rather than a negative message, it’s natural their PR is going to be better.
I belong to both atheist and humanist groups because I share the goals of both groups.
I’d like to think that “friendly” is implicit in “humanist”. But it’s not.
“Humanist” may be, by definition, a less threatening term to the religious than “atheist”, but my guess is the reason more religious people have a problem with atheists than with humanists is because prominent anti-religious figures (such as Christopher Hitchens) more often identify themselves as atheists than as humanists. That is, unfriendly atheists are more visible than unfriendly humanists; so friendly atheists need the adjective more than friendly humanists do.
That said, some of us humanists still call ourselves “friendly”. Just to be clear. 😉
(PS: Thanks for the mention, Dale.)