Is There a Better Word Than ‘Anti-Theist’?

Claudia, an atheist, has been having a discussion with a theist, and she wants to pose a question to all of you.

But first, some background:

We are atheists… most of us who are vocal about it also have very specific (and negative) views about religion. The budding atheist “movement” centers around defending secularism and denouncing the myriad ill-effects of religion. The term used to describe such a person is “anti-theist.”

It’s this label I have a big problem with.

It’s a label practically begging to be misunderstood as someone who hates religious people. At least visually, it belongs in the same sort of category as “anti-Semite.” Anti-Semites don’t merely oppose, say, circumcision or Kosher meals; they are understood to hate Jews. Someone unfamiliar with us, if they hear we are “anti-theists” can be forgiven for assuming we hate religious people, not merely oppose religion as a concept.

I think we are in need of a term that reflects the opposition to religion without carrying with it the implication of bigotry.

Is her premise fair? If so, do you have any suggestions for a term?

"Even when they brag about it, as in the Great Orange Maggot's case?"

Christian Groups Said Nothing as Teen-Groping ..."
"Abortion. There is nothing worse than that in their distorted minds - and it is ..."

Franklin Graham: Those Denouncing Roy Moore ..."
"The Bill and Monica incident was consensual, as between adults. Do you not understand the ..."

Christian Groups Said Nothing as Teen-Groping ..."
"As the grand-daughter of a soldier who helped liberate some of the camps, it's difficult ..."

Rick Wiles: Liberals Are Forming a ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Aaron

    I’ve always liked “godless”.

  • Myrmidon

    Very fair — i dislike the term for the same reasons. No idea on an alternative, though.

  • Eskomo

    What about this tongue twister, anti-theismist. A person that is only against theism, not the theist.

    Nah, too complicated.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    Anti-faith? Anti-theos? Anti-superstitious? Contratheistic? Hemant? I dunno. I’m not much of a fan of inventing new words if the intent is clarification. If we’re worried that people won’t understand what we mean by a particular label, it won’t help to invent a new one that we’ll have to explain to everyone. Labels like that only really work well if they grow organically out of a large number of people using them, so that they’re already in the public consciousness.

    But hey… I guess you have to start somewhere.

  • Vanessa

    I agree. Anti-theist is explicitly meaning against theists. There are a million alternatives that are more accurate [for most]:anti-religion; anti-myth; anti-god(s); or simply, anti-theism.

  • earl

    Just spell it “antitheist” instead “anti-theist” or “anti theist”.

    Because it shall mean antithe-ist, which is someone who is against a deity, and not anti-theist, someone who is against someone, who is a theist.

    But I think there is no good solution in the English language, maybe it would be nicer to import a word from a foreign language.

  • Julie

    How about going for “pro”: Pro-reality; Pro-secularist; Pro-human, for god’s sake :)

  • michael

    I also agree. and i have a good word that is both positive, and difficult to misconstrue. Pro-secularist.

  • Anonymous

    First of all, I reject the characterization of “bigot” whenever I hear it. Valid criticism of religion is never bigotry, and I bristle whenever I hear the characterization. One popular celebrity cult uses that thought-stopper at every turn – it’s obnoxious.

    I agree that I don’t like “anti-theist.” I’m not against theists. Part of the reason why I’m so vocal is that I care for theists. If someone were to call me an anti-theist, I would correct them. I’m an a-theist.

    Beyond that, I try not to get too bogged down by terminology. A lot of time can get frittered away in that debate, but in the meantime, quick-to-offense religionists will hear what they want to hear no matter how careful you are. *shrug* As kind and accurate as you try to be, someone will always get ticked off. (I’m fresh off being told how nasty “humanists” are. Paul Kurtz would haz a sad)

  • Rob

    …or go the route of not trying to wrap up one’s beliefs in a tiny label. I don’t want to think of myself as an -ism or an -ist if I can help it.

    I am opposed to theism, but if I define views as anti-theist or anti-religion, I imagine I’ll be referred to by the simpler label “that dick”.

    If you need to be a part of a group opposed to religion, then let the group lay out their principles in a short paragraph. If not in a group, lay out your own beliefs in a few sentences as necessary. That should be sufficient.

  • Icaarus

    What about the common phrase Humanist? Isn’t that the point of humanism after all?

  • http://www.youtube.com/aajoeyjo Joe Zamecki

    I’m anti-religion. Pro-people, but not afraid to challenge just that – people. In a friendly, but firm way.

    Yes, I too would rather work hard for mutual peace than delight in a victory over fellow humans.

  • Raiki

    I’ve always been a fan of Post-theist. We’ve moved beyond those beliefs. As Laplace put it when asked by Napoleon where god fit into his system of the universe: “Sire, I have no need of that hypothesis.”

    ~R~

  • MH

    The new atheism has always struck me as old fashioned anti-clericalism, so why does it need a new name? It isn’t so much the beliefs, but the power structures around those beliefs that get people riled up.

    The US has had strains of it running through our thinking since the time of the founding fathers. I mean check out this Thomas Jefferson quote:

    “In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.”

    If you read that and asked people who wrote it they would likely think it was a Hitchens quote from “God Is Not Great”.

  • http://dofang.tumblr.com Dofang

    “Contra-theist” or “counter-theist” make sense as a term for someone who expends effort trying to counter the claims of theology.

    An “anti-theist” to me would mean someone who believes in god but rejects god’s rules, such as a Satanic cult member…

  • Sweetredtele

    I use non-theist.

  • Ozy

    How about “skeptic” or “pro-skepticism”? I’m not against religion, per-se, I am against the ignorant, uneducated following of dogma in a way that is ignorant to the damage it causes, and religion is not alone. Any sort of superstition, alternative ‘medicine’, or quackery is game.

  • Mark

    In the same way that the abortion debate has pro-life and pro-choice dichotomy, maybe we should go with something along the lines of pro-reason or pro-science. Then, their calling us anti-theists can be met with an “anti-science” retort.

  • The Picard

    She has a good point. Anti-religionist would be more accurate. It’s the institution of religion that’s the problem.

    Many atheists don’t necessarily have a negative view of religion and that’s fine. But, if you want to express a view that religion is a negative force in the world (as I do) you need to do more than say your “pro-secularist” or something-or-other. You need to specifically target the thing you oppose.

  • serenity42

    I guess I am confused because I always thought that atheist meant one who does not believe in god. I never understood it to mean one who is against another person who believes in god. So I double checked and the dictionary definition of atheist is a person who does not believe in god. So I think the term atheist is just fine.

  • http://sacredriver.org Ash

    I second the use of post-theist if another label other than atheism is needed. I think this is a positive term because it suggests that theism is a thing of the past, not in terms of adherents unfortunately, but in terms of utility and rationality.

    Although non-theist is also a decent, neutral term.

  • jose

    +1 for humanist.

  • http://twoangryvoices.blogspot.com Aegis

    Humanist works. If we’re anti-anything, in my experience, we’re anti-church; religion on its own, practiced privately, rarely has such unfortunate or widespread or dangerous ill-effects as organised, hierarchical faith.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Bright.

  • http://dicianno.org/blog Armando Di Cianno

    I very much agree with the Claduia. There’s not much to say, and it’s not just a language / word-looking-bad type thing — the word is easily misconstrued to be “a person who is anti-theism” (correct, but still scary sounding) or “a person who is anti-theists” (which is very wrong, and quite scary).

    The right word would probably be something that is anti + superstition | myth | knowledge. None of that sounds right, though. “Skeptic” is nice, but it’s not strong enough, in my humble opinion.

    A more fair term would probably paint the strong characteristics of an atheist in a way that wasn’t dependent on other terms. Obviously, in this case, it’s very difficult — what is the positive way to say no-god, no-myth, no-superstition?

  • AxeGrrl

    I’m content with ‘humanist’ too.

    I’ll always prefer a term that speaks to what you’re about rather than what you’re not about.

  • http://virtualityforreal.blogspot.com/ Alankrita

    Pro-reason

  • JoshBA

    @Icaarus

    Humanist isn’t quite the same. You can be anti-the-concept-of-a-god and still be a huge misanthrope. Being a humanist generally precludes also being a stanch human hater.

  • Icaarus

    When posts like this come up I am reminded of the loss of language of the movement over the last 100 years (approx)

    theism – the beliefs and practices surrounding a specific deity (or deities)

    deism – the belief in the existence of a deity (supreme being that is above the known laws of nature, or having influence directly over nature).

    atheist (anti-theist) encompassed all deists, agnostics, pantheists, omni-deists and Atheists

    Atheist – There is no god and religion is bad (anti-clericalism)

    Humanist – a Renaissance cultural movement that turned away from medieval scholasticism and revived interest in ancient Greek and Roman philosophy.

    Secularist – ‘of the world’ summarized by let’s leave earths affairs to the earthlings.

    Which is why the en Vogue American term “The Secularist Agenda” bugs me to no end.

    I am more in favor of secularist than humanist since secularist gives everyone the power to state “keep thine religion out of thou politics” but considering the negative connotation it has collected I will firmly support the use of humanist for all sensitive situations.

  • http://spaninquis.wordpress.com/ Spanish Inquisitor

    Why do we have to be anti or pro anything? They’re the ones with the delusional belief system. They are anti-realists. Why can’t we simply be realists?

  • http://www.dead-logic.com Bud

    I’m particularly fond of the label “freethinker.” It’s both positive and easy to explain in terms of what we really don’t like vis-a-vis religion. But more than that, I think we should focus more on clear and concise explanations rather than catchy new joy-joy labels that might end up just causing more problems (like, say, the “Brights”).

  • Methodissed

    It’s hard to clearly portray a philosophical position with a simple term, and even more difficult to represent a large group of people. I’m am strongly anti-theistic toward mono-theistic religions but not all religions, and toward some believers but not all believers. Therefore I’m situationally anti-theistic, which, though accurate, is not very descriptive.

    The term atheism (A=Without, Theism=God belief) is about as clear and simple as you can get. Anyone who views atheists as anything more than people without god belief is unfairly imposing their own biases.

    I don’t like the term new atheists and cannot imagine a meaningful alternative. We’re atheists – some of us hold stronger positions and/or are more vocal, but those are variations along a continuum.

  • Icaarus

    @JoshBA

    I recognize there is a difference, I myself am an Atheist, and a humanist. But if the movement is to push forth under a less confrontational front then a more agreeable word might be chosen. Sure some meaning will be lost but so will the confrontation. It would be like a Catholic calling him/herself such to his Anglican neighbor, but referring to him/herself as a Christian in general discussion to prevent uncomfortable situations.

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com miller

    Try atheist activist. That’s what I use.

    Or, if you like Douglas Adams, radical atheist.

  • dartigen

    I don’t mind using atheist and anti-theist.
    Anti-theist means you are explicitly against theism in all its forms, as someone who is, say, anti-smoking is against smoking in all its forms.
    Atheist means that you do not follow a religion (and to me that is all that it means).
    It’s unfortunate that the two terms get confused so much, and that because of the confusion we have to start looking at different words to use.

    I guess you could use ‘humanist’ in place of ‘atheist’ if you want but IMO they really should be treated as seperate philosophies. Though I suppose if you’re looking to avoid using the term ‘atheist’, ‘humanist’ works alright in its place.

    But it’s sort of a weird discussion for me, I’m lucky enough to be somewhere where religion holds very little significance (at least, where I am) so I don’t have to worry over the term I use.

    @Raiki: I guess in a way all atheists are post-theist; we were theists, but we’re not now. To each their own, though.

  • Hope M.

    Anti- means against. The atheists you describe are against theism. I think anti-theist is an appropriate term, if not the most flattering one. Or I should say, I think it’s an accurate term.

  • http://brapgronk.blogspot.com/ Brap Gronk

    “Independent”

    Politics: a person who votes for candidates, measures, etc., in accordance with his or her own judgment and without regard to the endorsement of, or the positions taken by, any party.

    Religion: a person who acts in accordance with his or her own judgment and forms his or her own beliefs without regard to the endorsement of, or the positions taken by, any religion.

  • http://www.canadianatheist.com/ Riz the Anti-Theist

    I am a loud and proud anti-theist and I feel no need to make a term that is “nicer”. The term I have now represents and suggests precisely who I am, and I’m just fine with that.

    Anyone who doesn’t like it is free to.. not care. Honestly I think people really just need to suck it up as a whole.

    But I’m a bit of a jerk (in the “jerks” vs. “not being a jerk” category), so I suppose that’s just how it goes.

  • Greg

    Maybe the way to go about it is to use it as an adjective, rather than a noun.

    Rather than saying:

    I’m an anti-theist.

    Say:

    I’m anti-theism.

    No-one says they are a ‘pro-choicist’, do they?

    Also, I think some people are possibly slightly missing the initial point of the question – it isn’t to relabel atheists, but rather to relabel people who are completely against theistic religion, or ‘anti-theists’.

  • Anonymous

    Humanist is an interesting choice, but not all atheists are necessarily humanists as that “philosophy” is currently understood.

    More to the point, though, why would anybody characterize “atheists” as “anti-theist”? Does this make theists and religious adherents “anti-atheists” or “anti-secularists”? The whole debate seems pointless.

  • anti_supernaturalist

    Labels are fashion statements — suit ‘em to context

    I am the anti_supernaturalist to emphasize that atheism is too limited a response towards all forms of self-indulgent supernatural thinking. Also, I have no interest in being “friendly” to dedicated members of any of the so-called great monotheisms: zoroastrianism, judaism, xianity, and islam.

    But words containing ‘a-’ ‘anti-‘or other privative prefixes do give too much credit to dominant mythic humbuggery.

    Perhaps the best extant choice is ‘secularist’ since ‘secular’ enjoys a long history of being a clear antithesis to ‘sacred’ — and it is very important to emphasize that our Constitution creates a secular government.

    ‘Humanist’ also works because of its deliberate use by revolutionary thinkers to reclaim the works and rationality of Greek and Roman minds which xianity willfully destroyed between the 5th and 15th centuries of the common era.

    And then I’m fond of ‘skeptic’ and ‘skepticism’ which have a positive connotation of being self-reliant, hard-headed . . . with a Bogart-like twist of noir. The ‘Maltese Falcon’ still enjoys an audience of otherwise conformist Americans.

    Here is a fragment from that ill preserved scepticism of Xenophanes of Colphon, 500+ years before ‘Christ’ was invented:

    The Ethiopians say that their gods are flat-nosed and black, while the Thracians say that theirs have blue eyes and red hair. Yet if cattle or horses or lions had hands and could draw, and could sculpt like men; then horses would draw their gods like horses, and cattle like cattle. . . Xenophanes (ca. 570–475 BCE )

    Once someone had thought that; then “God” was dead, as a cultural fact.

    Sadly, most self styled atheists are as ignorant of Xenophanes as are fundies — there is no doubt that high culture can be erased. Nor can there be any doubt that today’s political scum like Palin et. al. want to destroy science, secular thought, and an open society. Religion can not be refuted; it can only be dismantled.

    No matter what you call yourself — the de-deification of western culture (including the sciences) is our task for the next hundred years.

    the anti_supernaturalist

  • Vad

    Honestly, to me it sounds like the “love the sinner, hate the sin” differentiation anti-gay Christians try to make.

  • JulietEcho

    A lot of the terms being thrown around (especially Humanist) are unsuitable. The definition we’re trying to pin a word on is something like “someone who thinks religion is a bad thing” or “someone who thinks we’d be better off without religion.” It’s quite possible to be a humanist, a non-theist, a religious independent, an activist, a secularist, and/or a freethinker while still thinking that religion isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

    All of those words suggest that someone is (at least probably) not religious themselves, but have nothing to tell us about whether said person thinks religion is good, bad, or neutral.

    The clearest term I can think of would be anti-religion. It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but if we need a label for the group (which I think we do, since people are so likely to equate “atheist” with “anti-religion”) then I don’t see a better alternative.

  • http://stateline.net/ Mark

    You’re right, of course, Anti-theism isn’t Atheism.

    Atheism is not a competing belief system – there’s nothing systematic about it, it’s not a religion. There is nothing inherently anti-theistic about it.

    All I can think of while reading this is an already common word, antithesis.

  • MV

    As long as religion is priviledged, what you are asking is not going to happen. Questioning religion, a core belief of many (most?) is going to be seen as a personal attack. This may or may not be deliberate. So any term you use is going to attract a negative connotation.

    If the goal is to lessen offense, it’s going to be difficult because people will find ways to be offended if they want to be. That said, what is wrong with using terms like skeptic or rational? Religious belief clearly is antithetical to those things. And a theist shouldn’t have any issue with that. It’s the whole point of faith.

  • http://en.allexperts.com/q/Atheism-2724/indexExp_111189.htm Jeffrey Eldred

    Secular Humanist works great. It shows that you believe that the only way to act ethically to people is to prevent the intrusion of religious institutions into the public sphere. They may or may nor react positively to your “protection” of their rights, but they will at least appreciate that you are attempting to build something constructive for society.

  • Laura Lou

    “Secular Humanist,” “Bright,” “Freethinker,” and “Skeptic” are not good ideas. These are words that have different connotations than an opposition to religion. Perhaps you just assume all Secular Humanists, Brights, Freethinkers, and Skeptics are anti-theists — this is not necessarily true, AND it does not negate the fact that we need a term specifically for “anti-theist,” without all that extra baggage.

    Whatever pet word you like to describe yourself with won’t work here. If we want to avoid the “anti-Semite” connection, don’t make it a noun. Say, “I am anti-religion.”

  • JJR

    I’ve got no problem with calling myself atheist and anti-theist. I do think religion is positively harmful, even the most watered down varieties; I do think the world would be a better place if humanity as a whole simply outgrew religion and tossed it off as a quaint cultural relic. I don’t think that will ever happen completely, but I do think the religious ought to be questioned and ridiculed if they aim to direct public policy for faith-based reasons. So yes, I am against those people, politically and morally. If the religious were content merely to live their faith as a way of living by example, nobody would care much, unless that also means they deny their children medical care. But since many religious people believe in divine collective punishment, i.e. God punishes a society or people as a whole unless *everyone* conforms to that particular God’s tenets of faith, etc., they are NOT willing to “live and let live”…which is irrational and this I strongly oppose.

    Saying you’re anti-religion but not anti-religious people sounds as disingenuous to me as “hate the sin but love the sinner”. I may view some religious people as less harmful than others, but that’s simply a question of picking one’s battles. I don’t want someone merely to water down their faith, I want them to abandon the need for faith altogether.

  • Brice Gilbert

    @NH

    I don’t know. I’m a huge fan of Hitchens and I’ve always read his criticisms as being much more aligned with the idea that God himself and the actual beliefs of believers are harmful and immoral despite what these people claim.

  • Raiki

    I suppose JulietEcho (and others) are right. Post-theist just doesn’t convey the full meaning of Anti-theist. Nor do Humanist, Skeptic, et. all.

    I am a big fan of Contra-theist, but how many times can you stand having people just stare at you blankly before another, more accessible, word becomes necessary.

    ~R~

  • http://theobligatescientist.blogspot.com/ ObSciGuy (Paul)

    These labels aren’t just a matter of conveying what you believe, but also what you think about what others believe (e.g. fundamentalist Christians) about multiple issues.

    No single word can ever successfully convey the answer to all the following questions:

    1) I agree with / disagree with / am ambivalent towards the moral positions of religion X.
    2) I agree with / disagree with / am ambivalent towards others adopting the moral positions of religion X.
    3) I agree with / disagree with / am ambivalent towards the “truth claims” made by religion X.
    4) I agree with / disagree with / am ambivalent towards others believing the truth claims made by religion X.
    5) I do/don’t tolerate individuals who identify with religion X.
    6) I do/don’t eat babies. 😉

    The core problem is (1) knowing who you’re talking to and how they define “atheist”, “humanist”, “secular”, etc. and (2) which of the above questions they’re trying to find answers to.

    My advice: It’s plainly a bad idea to even try to summarize your positions on a range of issues (e.g. morality, claims about reality, tolerance of fundamentlism, etc.) with a single word. We would all be better served by trying to use complete sentences instead of one-word, ambiguous labels. 😉

  • mingfrommongo

    Rationalist. Using reason to interpret the world is the opposite of attributing it to supernatural forces.

  • Greg

    The hate the sin love the sinner comparison to homosexuality doesn’t really work imo.

    One’s sexual orientation is something you’re born with, whether you are a theist or not isn’t.

    No matter what you do, you can’t alter who a person is, whereas you can change what a person believes.

    Also, religion is an entity in a manner that sexuality isn’t.

    Whilst there are things called Christianity, Islam, and the like, there is no thing in the same way corresponding to being gay.

  • http://zheshiwoying.blogspot.com/ AwesomeCloud’s mom

    Drosophila melanogaster!

    Gorilla gorilla?

    Just kidding. I’m partial to the term ‘freethinker’. When used in the context of my stance on theism, it makes me sound aloof and evasive, but that’s all right.

  • Cortex

    I think religious people will see it as a personal attack, no matter how you phrase it. I’m not sure it’s inaccurate, either. The way I see it, an anti-theist is against religious people, that is, they are against people being religious. If a person stops believing, they cease to be a religious person.

  • JimV

    Who uses “anti-theist”? I use “atheist”, myself. To me it has the same relationship to theism (belief in a specific god) as asymmetery does to symmetery, i.e., I take the a- to mean “lacking”. As I lack a belief in any specific god, I am an atheist.

  • BoomerChick

    Let’s proclaim loud and proud with a smile that we are atheists. It’s not a bad word.
    The more we come out of the closet and make our presence known the more we will become accepted. We are not the bigots here!
    Yes, some of us will be discriminated against or shunned but we will be the trailblazers for a future where reality rules.
    Atheists are everywhere!

  • Laura Lou

    Cortex (and others who have said the same) is right on both counts.
    Religious folk will always find away to be offended at the words we use, and I think we’re kidding ourselves if we think anti-theism is ONLY an objection to the concept of theism and not the people who practice it.

  • jose

    Anti-religion is negative and ugly and mean. Imagine the header of this blog with Hemant with the lovely smile if the title were “ANTI RELIGION BLOG”. Doesn’t really fit. Your name needs to say what you stand for. Otherwise you project a reactionary image, sounding like a political ad thrashing your opponent instead of offering your own proposals. Being anti something should be a consequence, like “oh, so you’re a *insert-word-here*… you don’t like religion very much, right?”

    Rationalist. Using reason to interpret the world is the opposite of attributing it to supernatural forces.

    Yeah but it excludes excitement, happiness, passion, love, and vision.

    Overall, the arguments against humanist sound unconvincing.

  • Lamar

    I understand most atheist simply do not believe in God, but also do not hate those who do. However, as a Christian I would not think of changing my identifying name, even though I get bashed all the time for my beliefs. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t enjoy being attacked for what I believe about faith in God, but I also am not attempting to change my name to avoid the verbal assaults of those who disagree with me.
    In the same way, I would think an atheist — one who is without God or unbelieving in God — should not avoid a monicker that expresses who they are. Anti-Christ is certainly a name that addresses identity, but is even more inflammatory. Christians go by the Name that reflects who they are and should never attempt to blur the line. So should be the case with the atheist.

  • http://www.correntewire.com chicago dyke

    it mostly doesn’t matter. they’ll call us whatever they want, and the theist-friendly media will go with their definitions, and not ours. look at the reproductive freedom movement. when was the last time you heard it called that, by a major publication or news programs? no, it’s “pro-choice” or more polemically “pro-abortion” (even though what reproductive freedom folks are about is way, way more than just abortion rights) vs “pro-life.” which is the most ridiculous and hypocritical term imaginable, given that the same people who are most vocally anti-choice in terms of abortion freedom for women also oppose birth control, and funding for actually birthed and alive babies who happen to have poor mothers and need things like medicine, food, and education. nope, to heck with those kids! those people say. if they were properly gawd-fearing from conception, they’d have had the good sense to be born out of xtian parents with big trust funds, and then xtian taxpayers wouldn’t be “forced” to pay $0.01 of their tax dollar giving them formula and a jack and jill book for school.

    there are so many terms the american media, and public in general, utterly slaughter it’s just sort of pathetic at this point. in our case? we’re on the order of “anarchist” and “marxist.” which is to say, the people who throw those terms around, along with “atheist” like it’s some sort of “insult?” never read Marx (and certainly not in German); couldn’t tell you the first thing about the anarchist movement as a political history topic, and certainly have only read parts of their own holy books where most of us have read them all, or at least the relevant critique.

    we could call ourselves “lovers of helpless babies-ists” and they’d still call us “satan worshipping baby eaters.” indeed, isn’t that the original intertube joke about atheists = “baby eaters?” the people in question are happily, willfully, arrogantly ignorant of fact, history, reality and are mostly addicted to a media stream like religious TV or a right wing newspaper.

    stop trying to placate them. do you know the “Overton Window” concept? if not, look it up. by agreeing to their terms, you automatically begin the first step in the direction of losing the game.

    i am an atheist. i am also a woman, a person of color, a “commoner” and a radical. i am ashamed of NONE of those labels, no matter how many ignorant TV watching know-nothings want to “slur” me with those labels.

    if you share any of my views, or any that are unpopular with believers, you shouldn’t be either. be ashamed only makes it that much more easy for them to oppress you. MLK had something to say about that, as did Gandhi, and Susan B.

  • Mara

    Changing how you say something purely because you don’t like how it sounds and not actually changing your actions sounds useless. What makes a difference is how someone acts. Anyone at all can call both others and themselves any word they want, it does not make it correct. I would also go as far to say that if someone acts ‘anti-theist’ but does not call themselves ‘anti-theist’ it does not change that they fit the criteria for ‘anti-theist’. So whether or not they themselves or someone else calls them ‘anti-theist’ makes little difference.

  • Mr Z

    If this is a duplicate, so be it. I think it can’t be said too strongly. A rose by any other name….. No matter what name you come up with you will still be anti-theist. There is no excuse for folk that do not care or bother to understand words they are unfamiliar with.

    There is no reason to sugar coat the truth, nor try to make it palatable to the most sensitive intellects.

    Godless does not describe anti-theism. In fact, I can think of no term which does a better job.

    Education is the answer to many of the ills brought by myth and delusion. Start with the name. The education of those who don’t know what atheism and anti-theism are is the right place to start. If you want them to understand your point of view by simply stating your ‘label’ then I think you’re going about it the wrong way.

    I have yet to find a situation where I could simply say atheism or agnosticism and add to the conversation. Seldom, if ever, do I find believers capable of speaking in terms of large concepts, so the conversation necessarily has to be done in baby steps at their level. You can’t simply say that Pascal’s wager is hogwash; most often you have to first explain what it is.

    Given the level of education/knowledge that I find in most believers, it is irrelevant what name you come up with as it will soon be stigmatized by ignorants, and a new name will be required so as not to offend the deluded with phrases they don’t want to take the time to understand.

  • lauram

    I like pro-predictive. I’m for anything that helps me make predictions about how actions and reactions will likely occur. That’s why I love science.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    I am the anti_supernaturalist to emphasize that atheism is too limited a response towards all forms of self-indulgent supernatural thinking.

    I like that term, and “self-indulgent supernatural thinking” is spot on. Anti-supernaturalist seems like a good choice to me. I wouldn’t necessarily describe myself as an anti-theist (it sounds so hostile), but I do think religious belief is a bad thing for the individual and for society. However, I have a broader focus on supernatural beliefs in general. Anti-supernaturalism is a much larger tent and includes not just gods, but also things like psychics, reincarnation, and healing crystals.

  • Robert W

    This is a very productive post and comment thread. I know its not quite the same but the sentiment that quite a few of you have is similar to hating the sin but loving the sinner that us Christians understand. Done in the proper context it is expressing love for the person even if they do or believe things that you would disagree with based upon your faith.

    The more we can love people and simply disagree in our beliefs the better we will all be.

  • Kimpatsu

    I use “freethinker”, as everyone is an anti-theist; Xians disagree with Jews and Muslims, and vice-versa in a wonderful three-way, and all religions disapprove of the wacky practices of all other religions.

  • Anonymous

    Robert! I told you! Sin is a religious construct. (I’ll put a smiley cause I’m in a good mood and your post is fairly gentle :))

  • Steve

    It’s so not the same. As said above, gay people don’t choose to be gay. They can’t do anything about it.

    In comparison – despite the indoctrination of children – religion is an entirely chosen mindset and behavior. People can lose it. It sometimes takes a lot of time and effort, but “ex-religion therapy” would actually work.

  • Robert W

    Anon,

    I am just saying that it is similar in how people are thinking. If I can say that I disagree with your beliefs or even some of your actions because I view them as a sin through my religious beliefs and yet still love or respect you as a person then it is similar to you saying I disagree with your beliefs but I am not attacking you as a person. I didn’t say it was exactly the same.

    And just because you used a smiley face I won’t get into a discussion of the doctrine of sin. :)

    Steve,

    And who said anything about gay?

    In comparison – despite the indoctrination of children – religion is an entirely chosen mindset and behavior.

    I agree that you choose to believe, just as you choose to no longer believe. But I have had that argument here before more then once.

  • Claudia

    So of course this being a question I posed I was naturally out of the house for most of the conversation,*sigh*.

    Lots of really good comments. I’ll just add a few thoughts:

    – RE: It doesn’t matter –> I disagree (obviously). Words are made to communicate concepts and there are better and worse ways of communicating concepts. I think “anti-theist” is a terrible way of communicating opposition to religion because a person of perfectly good will can easily interpret it as personal dislike of theists. Controlling terminology can help define a movement. I think it’s legitimate to question the capacity of pro-active redefining (as the anemic “Bright” movement shows) but I still think it warrants discussion because if we don’t want that term defining us (and I sure don’t) we need to have another to respond with.

    – “Humanist” –> Humanism is a philosophy that says that morality and human fufillment are possible without supernatural beliefs. So far as I’m aware it does not explicitly or neccesarily require anti-theism. I think you can be a Humanist without being an anti-theist and vice versa.
    – Secularist –> I think this may be the closest fit. It exists in implied opposition to religion but it’s construction is more conceptual and therefore harder to interpret as personal against individuals. It’s not quite perfect because it doesn’t neccesarily carry with it the core opposition to the concept of faith-thinking, but no term is perfect.

  • http://www.phoenixgarage.org/ cr0sh

    I was going to suggest “non-delusional” or “sane”, but then again those terms go against the DSM in that it doesn’t recognize people with religious beliefs to have any form of mental illness (I think we’ll know we’re making real headway when the DSM finally changes in this regard).

    chicago dyke says it best, though – although I personally think the term “atheist” is still “playing according to their rules”.

    In the past, I’ve considered what mingfrommongo suggested, but have found that when I used the term, I had people claiming you could be rational while still having a god-belief. I don’t think that being truly rational precludes or excludes “excitement, happiness, passion, love, and vision”, as jose has suggested, but that does seem to be opinion of some (as if it weren’t possible to be rationally excited, rationally happy, rationally passionate, rationally loving, or having visions of a future based on rationality).

    I personally like to think of myself as a non-delusional, self-actualized, rational (trans-)humanist. Some days I do feel like a misanthropic bastard, though…

  • Steve

    And who said anything about gay?

    You did. You know exactly where that ridiculous concept is applied to 99% :rolleyes:

  • Anonymous

    Robert

    yet still love or respect you as a person

    Well, I’m irresistible. 😛

    Aaron

    I’ve always liked “godless”.

    Me too!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7l5kQWjhyeg

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    In comparison – despite the indoctrination of children – religion is an entirely chosen mindset and behavior. People can lose it.

    People can lose it, but they can’t choose to lose it. They only lose it by being convinced otherwise. I would argue that religion is not a conscious choice, particularly not since the vast majority of people are taught to believe in gods before they’re even out of diapers. I suppose losing religion takes a certain willingness to open your mind to new ideas, but it can happen even against one’s wishes. There are lots of stories of atheists who fought tooth-and-nail to hang on their faith, but ended up losing it anyway.

    That said, I disagree with Robert’s comparison to “hating the sin, but loving the sinner.” I don’t hate religious beliefs. There are certain religious beliefs I find immoral, but I have no moral objections to their supernatural origin. I simply think the beliefs are false. And I find even the benign ones (like belief in a warm-fuzzy afterlife) to be childish and self-indulgent. Because of that, I think humanity would be better off without them.

  • Robert W

    Steve,

    You did. You know exactly where that ridiculous concept is applied to 99% :rolleyes:

    Not my intent at all nor what I meant to imply.

    Goodness. Trying to give you guys a compliment on being thoughtful on ow you maybe perceived and how we may have some thoughts in common is really hard

  • Robert W

    Anna,

    People can lose it, but they can’t choose to lose it.

    It is my contention that once you are exposed to the information and take a stand on it- either to believe or disbelieve, you are making a choice. For example, when you say people hold on to their beliefs and then ultimate it is lost, at some point they decide to let it go once and for all. That is a choice on their part.

  • Dan Covill

    I’m not willing to characterize my entire world view with the prefix “anti”. I like “freethinker” the best of the one-word candidates. Yes, I think that includes atheist as a subset.

    Rationalist. Using reason to interpret the world is the opposite of attributing it to supernatural forces.

    That, too.

  • Korinthian

    Antheist?

  • Sally

    I’m a fan of “not religious”.

    I also like “bright” as an umbrella word. No, it’s not precisely the same as freethinker, humanist, atheist, skeptic, whathaveyou (and you can and should use those in addition to bright), but it often encompasses them. Better than that, the movement is welcoming to that subgroup of people who don’t believe in woo but aren’t ready or willing to give up the cultural or otherwise secular aspects of a religious identity at this time.

  • WingedBeast

    Change the prefix.

    Counter-theist.

  • Sinfanti

    Actually, I think Eskomo nailed it at the beginning of the comments. The most accurate would be “anti-theismist”. It’s a pain to say, but I’m willing to twist the tongue to achieve clarity of purpose.

  • Jen in Chicago

    I think Claudia’s observations are right on the mark. Many times when I tell people I am an atheist immediately the defense of religion or religious beliefs comes into play. The believer immediately assumes I am anti-religion and seeking to convert them away from their beliefs.

    Atheist, simply put, means a disbelief in a god, higher power, or supernatural being.

    When we bring into the conversation religion or structured belief system, the assignment of terms and its assumptions becomes convoluted.

    As the “new” atheist movement continues to unfold, there will be greater attempts by the theist world to divide and conquer the godless movement. One of those ways of doing so it to change the semantics and labels of those associated within the movement.

  • sdavies

    I like realist (rationalist is a close second).

  • anthrosciguy

    How often is “anti-theist” used by atheists in reality. A non-scientific Google search shows 255,000 results for “anti-theist” and over 8,000,000 for “atheist”. Is this actually more of a solution in search of a problem?

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    I cast another vote for post-theist.

    While not being derogatory, it suggests a progression from theism to “something else”. This “something else” would be intentionally left vague so as to include a big-tent of atheists, agnostics, Deists, and naturalistic Buddhists and Pantheists.

    The central unifying concept is that mankind needs to move beyond the concept of an interfering God that can be manipulated or influenced by prayer, pleading, self sacrifice, or people believing certain things.

  • Michael

    …and we’re back to this. I wonder why we don’t accomplish much.

  • Ben

    Here’s the problem with labels: everybody has an idea of what a label means. They’re stereotypes, but they’re also subjective. You can’t necessarily tell what a person thinks a label means until after you use it. Stick one on yourself, like “atheist” or “anti-theist” or “bright” or “humanist” and regardless of what you think that label means, the person you’re talking to will almost certainly have a different idea.

    Too often, especially in the religion debate, labels are actually a hinderance to having a dialogue. Tell a Christian that you’re an atheist and they’ll automatically bring to mind a hundred ideas of what that means. They’ll start arguing against those ideas, so much so that you waste time knocking down straw men and never get to what you actually think.

    Christian: Do you believe in Heaven?
    You: I’m an atheist.
    Christian: Really? Why do you hate God?
    You: I don’t! It means I don’t think God exists.
    Christian: You don’t think he does? But you’re not sure?
    You: No, I’m sure.
    Christian: How can you be sure? That takes just as much faith as religion. Atheism is a religion to!
    You: No it’s not, there’s no doctrine etc.
    Christian: Why are you so militant? Can’t you just let us have faith in peace? What’s wrong with [my idea of] faith?
    You: What do you think “faith” means?
    Christian: Faith is love. Love is God. You don’t have faith so you must hate god!
    You: 8-|
    .

    Would I describe myself as an atheist? Yes. Would I do so while having a conversation about religion with a religious person? No. Not because I’m ashamed or anything like that, but because conversations tend to be a lot less defensive when you discuss ideas rather than labels.

    Christian: Do you believe in Heaven?
    Me: No, I don’t believe in heaven or hell.
    Christian: Really, are you an atheist?
    Me: I don’t think there’s any evidence to suggest a god exists, let alone heaven, hell, or anything else that can’t be explained by science.
    Christian: There’s plenty of evidence for God. It’s all in the Bible. Have you read the Bible?
    Me: Which translation?
    Christian: 8-|
    .

  • John-Henry Beck

    I haven’t had the chance to read through all the comments, and likely won’t.

    But I do like her letter and premise. It sounds like a good idea. It would be nice to be clear that most of us are mostly focused on the bad ideas and the harm they cause.

    Not that I claim to have any good ideas offhand. Something about being anti-irrationality?

  • The Rationalist

    Believe in God is not the same thing as religious – there are atheistic religions, and there are theists who affiliate with no religion.

    I am an atheist because I do not believe in any gods.

    I am anti-religion because I believe that the authoritative, submissive, hierarchical and conservative nature of religion is inherently incompatible with free thought, free inquiry, science and free society.

    Religion is an inherently harmful institution.

    Theism is a false belief with harmful consequences.

    They are separate sets with a great deal of overlap, but they are not the same thing.

  • Deepak Shetty

    I too wish that there was a word representing anti-religion without the “anti” – However if enough of us rally behind it , then the same negative connotations will get transferred to it. For e.g. calling ourselves pro-choice hasn’t prevented the nuts from saying we murder unborn babies.

  • http://shaunphilly.wordpress.com ShaunPhilly

    I like anti-faith, personally. I think faith is the root of the problem, not the specific doctrines people have faith in, which are just ideas.

  • Pseudonym

    Theophobe?

  • AxeGrrl

    Given everything I’ve read in this thread, I think I like Julia Sweeney’s idea best, which is the term ‘naturalist’…..

    Because that would make religious believers anaturalists :)

  • gsw

    To expand on what MV states, it actually does not matter because whatever new word you come up with, it will quickly obtain negative connotations.
    Moral – immoral – amoral
    the A in atheist never stood for anti, it stood for not.

    example:
    Once emancipate meant a boy child of 14. Then it was a released slave. Later it became a female who was permitted to make her own decisions about marriage/work/life. In the German language, it is now an insult. Females call other females an emancipate as an insult!
    I believe the equivalent in American English would be a ‘ball-breaker’? (Sorry if that is a very bad phrase). The result is that young women are cautious about referring to emancipation, for fear of being misunderstood, as in: Oh yes, I am a brain surgeon, but I am not (shudder) emancipated!

    Moral of the story – not until enough people are willing to shout “yes, we are atheist – you have a problem with that?” will the emotivity become positive.

  • AxeGrrl

    Robert W wrote:

    It is my contention that once you are exposed to the information and take a stand on it- either to believe or disbelieve, you are making a choice

    Let’s relate this to a scenario you introduced in the can’t Christians just admit Anne Frank is in hell thread:

    You wrote:

    If you had evidence that this airline wasn’t safe, that their could be a safety problem with this particular plane you would choose not to get on the plane. Your act of not getting on the plane is a choice based upon the evidence

    Was your conclusion that the plane “wasn’t safe” a choice Robert? Given the evidence you mentioned that the “plane wasn’t safe”, could you, instead, have simply chosen to believe that the plane is completely safe?

    If coming to conclusions is simply a ‘choice’, then you’d have to say that you could have chosen to believe that the plane is safe…..in the face of evidence to the contrary

  • catsnjags

    I use Humanist, Naturalist, Realist and Atheist in conversations. Selection depends on the person to whom I am speaking.

  • Brian

    The older I get, and I’m plenty old, the more I see faith—anti-rational, anti-progress, anti-female, anti-science—as itself evil.

    I’d be comfortable as an anti-faithian (?) or something like that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000586562927 muggle

    Atheist suits me just fine until it gets labelled a religion, then I’ll call myself Non-theist.

    I loathe anti-theist and consider secular humanism a nontheistic religion that they can just shove. It’s just so GD phony. Bright is as bad as anti-theist; well, not quite; just snobby instead of downright hateful.

    I like freethinker and rationalist but let’s face it 9 out of 10 people in the nonthinking world don’t have clue one what these words mean. I also like Greydon Square’s Ex-tian but that only applies to some of us. I can use it to honestly describe myself but my daughter couldn’t.

    We would all be better served by trying to use complete sentences instead of one-word, ambiguous labels.

    Well said.

    Right on, Boomer Chick!! Back in the ’70’s I was the only woman shooting baskets in the local Y and the guys tried to run me out of their gym on a rail. I did not allow this to happen and won most of their respect for standing my ground. Now we’ve got the WNBA. Things change. And being a trailblazer can feel pretty damned good. (Does it show that I’m proud that I stood my ground?)

    Refusing to label myself as anti-theist isn’t because I’m placating them. I call myself Atheist loud and proud and always with a capital A. If I say Atheist and they hear anti-theist, that defines their bigotry, not mine. I’m not letting them define me. I am defining me. I am not someone who hates someone just because they believe in some kind of deity or deities. I can’t control their reaction. But I can control how I define myself. Besides, it’s hardly every theist who hears Atheist and equates it with anti-theist. If it were, I wouldn’t have any theistic friends.

    I disagree that religion is a choice. No, it’s not like being gay in that it can change over a lifetime but, seriously, even when it is thought about, either a thing is credible to a person or it’s not. They either find it believable, probable or not.

  • http://diaphanus.livejournal.com/ Ian Andreas Miller

    Is her premise fair? If so, do you have any suggestions for a term?

    Her premise is not fair for a number of reasons.

    First, there is already a well-established word antitheist (without the hyphen, but frankly, it hardly matters) with means, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, “One opposed to belief in the existence of a God.” Other dictionaries, and even the opening line of the Wikipedia article for antitheism, have variants of this definition, and in each, there is reference to the anti- (“against,” “opposing,” etc.) modifying the abstract use of the the- (“deity”) word element, not modifying the personal use. Sure, you could find dictionaries with definitions in which there is reference to the personal use, but that does not seem to be the main usage. Anyone who insists that antitheist must also be used in that personal sense is using the word in a nonstandard way, and deserves to be called out for it.

    Second, her statement, “I think we are in need of a term that reflects the opposition to religion without carrying with it the implication of bigotry” is problematic. Does the anti- prefix actually carry with it the implication of bigotry? Not necessarily. Words that employ that prefix certainly can carry with them the implication of bigotry, but when such words do so, I do not think it makes any sense to blame the implication on the force of that prefix. The implication of bigotry is also a function of the base to which the prefix attached, and also the historical use of the word in question. The example given, anti-Semite, carries the implication of bigotry not because it has the anti- prefix, but because of the combination of the prefix, the base, and the usage of the word. Whether people in general know it or not, the anti- prefix is more versatile than being in reference to the personal use of “one against people of a certain group (etc.).” The formation pattern of “anti- + [base indicating a group of people] -> indicating implication of bigotry” is not a productive one in our language. Consequently, Claudia’s thesis commits a false dilemma on the usage of anti- (since the prefix has other meanings and does not have to be thrown into such a etymological straitjacket), along with a fallacy of composition (because the anti- cannot really be pegged as the source of the bigotry in the example given). Again, anyone who insists that anti- must be used so narrowly is using the word in a nonstandard way, and deserves to be called out for it.

    Third, and finally, the word anti-theist (or antitheist, whatever) has word elements that are not exactly analogous to those found in the example given, anti-Semite. As I pointed out elsewhere, one of the potential weaknesses of using Greek and Latin for formative word elements is that, in many cases, despite the precision in meaning that the Latin- and Greek-derived word elements used in compound words can offer, there still exists a kind of vagueness and ambiguity of exactly how those word elements interact with each other semantically. For example, pantheism looks like it should mean “belief in all the gods,” and although that is a valid meaning, it is used more in reference to the Greek phrase pan esti theos, “god is everything.” In the case of anti-theist or antitheist, there is a vagueness, or looseness, in the syntactic relationship of these Greek-derived word elements that makes it so that what the anti- is modifying is not always clear. While the anti- could be modifying the theist (anti- + theist), as Claudia seems to be suggesting, the anti- could just as easily be modifying the theism, where the -ism was changed to -ist to indicate the person, the -ist so to speak, of the anti-theism, in reference to the abstract noun (anti- + theism -> anti-theist). The latter formation gets around non-productive and hard-to-say combinations like “-ismist” (-ism and -ist stacked together), and it seems to be the reasoning behind the antitheist word cited above.

    Personally, I would stick with antitheist, since it already has a well-established meaning, and if anyone tries to argue that its word elements have to mean one thing or another, when in fact they do not, I can call those people out on that, too.

  • stogoe

    If there’s one group who’s going to willfully misunderstand everything they possibly can about atheists and our opposition to religion’s corrupting influence on society, it’s theists. So I say screw ’em. They’re going to scream and moan and throw a fit no matter how many times you try to change your label.

  • Claudia

    @Ian Andreas Miller, first, thanks for the well thought out comment. I’d like to briefly explain why I disagree with you. I should note that my expertise is in biochemistry and not etymology, so my argument is not going to be an academic one.

    I’m going to assume that your comment is largely true on the points of fact, due to my lack of study on the subject. If we were using the term in an adademic context with people who have good working knowledge of the strict definitions of words, I’d probably agree with you. However we aren’t talking about that, we’re talking about how words are percieved and interpreted in the wider world.

    I think we can agree that words exist to communicate concepts between humans. Its my understanding that when a large enough consensus exists on the definition of a word, old or new, dictionaries edit, add and subtract to reflect the language in use by the population. So it matters if a large chunk of the population hears “anti-theist” (with or without hyphen) and understands “doesn’t like religious people”, even if the strict dictionary definition isn’t that.

    I think it’s reasonable to predict this misunderstanding is likely to happen, as most people aren’t going to take your “this comes from the greek and anyway the Oxford dictionary says…” strategy. They’re a lot more likely to have a “It’s about religion and it’s a similar word to anti-semite” thought process. I’m not saying it’s a correct train of thought (I don’t think it is) but I’m sure it’s a likely one.
    It seems to me that at this point we have a choice. We can either stand by the word and fight the misconceptions about it because we feel it’s important (I would advocate this with the term “atheist”, which is also misunderstood, rather more maliciously and purposefully IMO) or we can opt for a different term that reflects our meaning and causes fewer misunderstandings. I simply think that correcting misconceptions about “anti-theist” is going to take tremendous effort and I’m really not attached to the term at all, so I think we’d be much better off without it.

  • Robert W.

    Axe Girl,

    I don’t want to hyjack the thread started by Claudia’s question but I will answer yours.

    If coming to conclusions is simply a ‘choice’, then you’d have to say that you could have chosen to believe that the plane is safe…..in the face of evidence to the contrary

    I don’t disagree with this statement. It is a choice either way in my opinion. Just as an atheist chooses not to believe in God despite the evidence and as a believer chooses to believe based upon the evidence.

    Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that everyone is always consciously aware of the choice they are making but nonetheless it is a choice because once you have been exposed to the information you must take a stand on it and that in my view is the choice. People who don’t believe want to couch it as a passive process when it really isn’t.

  • Silent Service

    I’ve always been found of Nondenominational Skeptic.

  • http://namelesscynic.blogspot.com Nameless Cynic

    The problem is that the argument is being twisted.

    From a linguistic standpoint, “anti-theist” would be a definition for Satan – the one who opposes God. (Admittedly, that’s how some theists view all freethinkers, but that’s their problem, not ours.) “Opposing God” implicitly indicates a belief in said god.

    Taking the viewpoint that there is no god isn’t the same thing at all. That’s why the term is “atheist” (from the Greek ????? (atheos), meaning “without god”).

  • Alex

    Actually the person she is talking to is really an anti-naturalist. I’ve always seemed to see myself as a humane naturalist.

  • Lynne

    If the goal is to emphasize that you are opposed to religion rather than simply define your lack of belief, then I would suggest anti-dogma. (Unless Alan Rickman is involved.)

  • Nic

    As many have pointed out, it’s both negatively leading and fundamentally counter-productive to define oneself as anti-anything. There are so many things to celebrate in this world that specifically calling out the things one doesn’t celebrate just invites conflict.

    Besides, defining oneself as opposed to something one doesn’t believe exists in the first place has always struck me as, well, ridiculous. I don’t think Superman exists, but I certainly wouldn’t define myself as a “asupermanist.”

    What’s wrong with just calling yourself secular?

  • alfredwallace

    I use the term nontheist to describe myself. Atheist is a term, in my mind, that has connotations of absolutely knowing there is no god. I cannot make that statement any more than I can absolutely state there is a god. Agnostic doesn’t do it because that gives the religious the hope that I will change my mind about joining them in the pew once I see the “evidence.”

    I choose not to follow religion or a religious lifestyle. If incontrovertible evidence was presented to me tomorrow of a god I still would choose the my current world-view. I have no use for the crap peddled by religion and, thus, want nothing to do with the movement, no matter if deity exists. I’m a nontheist and I live my life that way: free from religion.

  • Grimalkin

    Personally, I use either “active atheist” or “practicing atheist.” It’s a mirror of what theists use to distinguish between the people who just believe in God during the holidays from those who make it an important part of their life.

    Similarly, I’m not just an atheist. I’m a member of several atheist organizations, I participate in atheist events, I’m involved with the local atheist community, etc. I’m the equivalent of the Christian who goes to church every Sunday.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    Robert,

    It is my contention that once you are exposed to the information and take a stand on it- either to believe or disbelieve, you are making a choice. For example, when you say people hold on to their beliefs and then ultimate it is lost, at some point they decide to let it go once and for all. That is a choice on their part.

    Yes, I know. You keep saying that, but that doesn’t make it true. I never made a choice not to believe in gods, and I couldn’t start believing in them even if I wanted to. The same is true for you, by the way. If you’re honest, you should admit that it’s impossible for you to choose to believe in other deities. Why is it impossible? Because you don’t think they’re real. You can’t choose to believe in something you don’t think is real. There’s no way you could choose to start believing in Shiva, for example.

  • http://waters.me/ Simon

    Secularist – is the obvious choice.

    Secularism is open to anyone. There are many religious secularists (indeed most minority religions don’t want other religions making the laws, or exploiting the state).

    Humanism/humanist doesn’t work, as there are religious humanists who might have a different agenda on religion.

    Americans live, and have always lived (since a certain misunderstanding over duty on Tea) under a secular democracy. Those who set out to misunderstand “secularist” are un-American, and please tell them so, and feel free to say a Brit who is jealous of your constitutional safeguards told you to tell them.

    E pluribus unum and all that Jazz.

  • http://allusiveatheist.blogspot.com/ T Ray

    exorcist

  • David Gruvola

    Language has a bias to it no doubt. Atheist as opposed to Theist? How about calling ourselves Naturalist in contrast to those who are Supernaturalists or Antinaturalists?

  • someone

    “nullifidian”

    http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/nullifidian

    I use nullifidian for myself when I can’t escape labels altogether. And I’m pretty vocal about my position. I’m not exactly militant though. I don’t understand how it would be possible to be anti-imaginaryfriend.

  • TGrin

    I wasn’t going to read through the 200 or so posts, so I offer this idea with the caveat that it may have been mentioned previously:

    Secularist.

    It doesn’t show hatred, but it shows a solid stance of being anti-religion, specifically where church and state are concerned. Furthermore it capitalizes on recognition value as it’s a word that’s been in use for awhile.

    Dunno if this is a dead thread, but tell me what you think.

  • Edam

    Realist works for me.

  • http://wazaghun.blogspot.com Wazaghun

    I do not think that “we” need any term.
    “We” do NOT believe.
    I am not defined by what i am not. I usually define myself by what i am.

  • AxeGrrl

    I wrote:

    If coming to conclusions is simply a ‘choice’, then you’d have to say that you could have chosen to believe that the plane is safe…..in the face of evidence to the contrary

    Robert W replied:

    I don’t disagree with this statement. It is a choice either way in my opinion.

    So, when there’s evidence that a plane is unsafe, it’s a ‘choice’ to believe it’s unsafe?

    How is that a choice Robert?

    Robert W wrote:

    Just as an atheist chooses not to believe in God despite the evidence and as a believer chooses to believe based upon the evidence.

    You only phrase it that way because your criteria for ‘evidence’ is different (and less rigorous) than ours. If i had a nickel everytime I heard a theist offer something like “the trees” as ‘evidence’ for ‘God’….

  • AxeGrrl

    Anna wrote (in reply to Robert W):

    Yes, I know. You keep saying that, but that doesn’t make it true. I never made a choice not to believe in gods, and I couldn’t start believing in them even if I wanted to. The same is true for you, by the way. If you’re honest, you should admit that it’s impossible for you to choose to believe in other deities. Why is it impossible? Because you don’t think they’re real. You can’t choose to believe in something you don’t think is real. There’s no way you could choose to start believing in Shiva, for example.

    Exactly.

    Could you respond to this Robert W?

    Could you just ‘choose’ to believe in Shiva? If so, I’d love to hear how….

  • Eyeson Thyside

    A good relacement for Atheist would be Transtheist: as in transcending theism.

  • http://www.peaceful-inhabitants.tk The name is Steven

    Atheism and anti-theism are two completely different ideologies.

    I’ve met many people that claim to be atheists when in reality they are anti-theists.

    If asked about “God” a true atheist will say something like “I don’t care”

    If they answer anything like “God does NOT exist” that makes them an anti-theist

    Anti-theists that call themselves atheists are a real hassle imho; they claim to not have any beliefs at all regarding religion, but their belief is obviously that theists are wrong and that intelligent design isn’t possible…

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    I disagree ‘The name is Steven’. An atheist has no belief in gods. Someone opposed to religion is as much an atheist as a person who doesn’t care about gods or religion.