National Atheist Party Changes Its Name to Secular Party of America

After a patchy couple of years that have seen a canceled convention and the resignation of its president, the National Atheist Party has decided to forge ahead with a new identity it hopes will be a little more inclusive:

[VP of Public Relations Bernard “Flash” Kellish] said, “… We are certain that not only is the new name far more inclusive of a greater number of Americans that share our vision of true separation of church and state, but that it will open the door to those that may not have joined us if for no other reason than because “Atheist” was in the name. We were created by atheists as a way to be a hereunto unrepresented voice in politics and have been very successful. We will miss the old name but now it is time to move forward and focus on being a viable and respected political party. We hope to make a worldwide network of secular organizations.”

The organization is a 527 group, meaning they can advocate for issues (like church/state separation) but they cannot support individual candidates.

As for the name change, I’m not personally convinced it’ll change much of anything, but I’d love to be proven wrong. There will eventually be a time when politicians will vie for non-religious votes, but at the moment, groups like SPA and even individual atheists aren’t really on their radar. If SPA can change that, more power to them.

Before you dismiss them for even existing, consider this: One of the best things the NAP ever did was ask candidates for public office how they would represent their atheist constituents. If their members could do that (on video or in writing) across the country — before all major elections — that would be a major shift in how atheists are discussed in the media and how we’re perceived.

Atheists don’t like to be lumped into categories, but it’s safe to say most of us are socially liberal and interested in the separation of church and state — and politicians who agree should be fighting for our votes.

If the Secular Party of America took a lead on that front, and got candidates to state (on the record) what they would do to advance the atheist agenda, I would sign up to become a member in a heartbeat.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Sven2547

    Secularism, as I understand it, is the philosophy that government shouldn’t be picking winners or losers as far as religion is concerned, which also means not using religious dogma as the basis for legislation. Religious people can be secularists too, which is the beauty of changing this party’s name from “atheist party” to “secular party”.

    • Nate Frein

      Oh absolutely. I’m much happier supporting a “secular party” than an “atheist party”.

  • LesterBallard

    When it comes to clubs and organizations, I have to go with Groucho; “I wouldn’t belong to any club that would have me as a member.”

  • Isilzha

    Inclusive? That’s a laugh. It’s a terrible group. Had some contact with them and it didn’t end very well.

    • asonge

      I also had an issue with the way they ran policy: it was a popularity contest based on polls within people in the group. No appeal to greater principles, no sense of history desired, nothing in common between everyone except some kind of political identity of being an atheist. And then there was also a few of the people.

  • primenumbers

    They could ask all candidates to sign a basic statement of secularism: that everyone is equal under the law regardless of belief or lack of belief with no special privileges based on belief or lack of belief.

    Such a statement stands out as being utterly fair and is a good way to get people behind church/state separation.

  • Blacksheep

    Even as a Christian this makes more sense to me: “Secular” is being something, “Atheist” is being against something.

    • Blacksheep

      Sorry, not sure why this posted twice – I don’t think it’s that special of a comment :)

    • John Karpf

      Atheism is not being against anything. It is a situation where you wait for evidence. What makes us atheists is the simple lack of evidence for any gods whatsoever. We’re also a-unicornists. a-leprechaunists & a-largegreeninvisibledragonsists. We are not “against” unicorns or leprechauns, we just still haven’t found any evidence for their existence.

  • Blacksheep

    Even as a Christian this makes sense to me: “Secular” is being something, “Atheist” is being against something.

    • Matt

      Yes, just like asexuals are against sex and anosmics are against smelling.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Against what?

    • C Peterson

      “Atheist” isn’t being against something, it is simply not being for anything in particular. Atheists, of course, are both for and against many things, but you have no way of knowing what simply from “atheist”.

      • Blacksheep

        The meaning of Atheism is not being for any God(s) in particular or without God. (hence the name). The meaning and root word of “Secular” stands on its own. (Medieval Latin sēculāris, Late Latin “saeculāris” : worldly,temporal).
        The word “Atheist” has theism built into it – so it’s relying on being without/anti/against/indifferent toward theism/God(s), etc.

        I’m saying I like the one that stands on its own without relying on “not being something else.”

        • allein

          Yes, but that says nothing about one’s political opinions (except perhaps being against legislation based on religious beliefs).

          But I do agree that “secular” is better if you want to a viable political party. I think it’s safe to say that most atheists are secularlists and it may attract some of the more progressive religious types as well.

        • C Peterson

          Atheism (the word is not a proper noun) is not about being “for” or “not for” anything (whatever that even means).

          Atheism is the lack of belief in a god or gods, and that’s all it is. You cannot reliably use etymology to define a word; that is a fallacy of the highest order.

          Were it not for the ubiquity of theism throughout history, we would not even have the word “atheist”.

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          If you want to get that pedantic about it, I think even ‘secular’ depends on the concept of ‘not spiritual’, ‘not otherworldly’. That is, if it weren’t for religious and spiritual beliefs, neither word would exist.

          The only reason we have a concept of ‘secular government’ is that we have a concept of a different kind of government. No word lives in a complete vacuum.

        • holdthepickle

          Thank you for generously taking the time to tell a bunch of atheists what atheism is. If you want etymology to settle everything then you have to go back to the Greek atheos. The “a” part meant without–it did not mean against. This is what Matt was getting at. The meaning of a word can change over time or a word can take on new meanings even in its native language. By the 16th century the French had imported the word but they changed the flavor to mean opposition to theism–not merely the lack of it.

          http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=Etymology_of_the_word_atheist

          You seem to have an aesthetic dislike of opposition and and also of lacking. The Greek “a” means without, which is a lacking. The French import of the word includes the connotation of opposing. That’s just the way it is. But you only see things from your viewpoint. There are those who think it is desirable to be without and, optionally, to oppose: if the thing you are without is delusion. Since you self-identified as a Christian, why do you even feel you have a dog in the fight of what a non-Christian organization calls itself? You are trying to mark territory that we all know is not yours.

    • WoodyTanaka

      Not really. But so what? It is great to be against a thing if it is something, like religious belief -”faith”-, that is worthy of beiing opposed

    • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ TBJ

      This is how I see it and in a way blacksheep is correct (in a way)
      Theism: is a belief in gods.
      From theism comes religions: christian, Hindu , Muslim, etc.
      From religions comes basic value and ethical systems.
      Whereas
      Atheism: Is a disbelief in gods.
      From Atheism we get philosophies: i.e. Humanism, Secularism, Existentialism, Nihilism, Absurdism, etc.
      From these philosophies we get basic value and ethical systems.
      Atheism by its self is not a philosophy or religion just as much as theism is not a philosophy or religion. There are no First Church’s of Later Day Theist’s or there is no Holy Roman Atheists.
      One could easily make the assertion that Secularism is a philosophical position simply because it is based almost entirely upon philosophical principals. Secularism implies a person to hold many positions and values whereas Atheism has only one implication.
      The popular misconception amongst theist’s is that they think the “A” in Atheism means “against or anti.” The “A-” means “not or without.”
      For example: The opposite of “Atypical” is not “Against or Anti typical” but “not typical or without a type.” Atheism could be defined as either “Without theism” or “Not theistic.” Furthermore Atheism could also be defined as “Not believing in gods” (the opposite of believing) or “Without gods” (the opposite of having.) Absence could be used in either sense but it does not mean the same thing. So what does this all have to do with a name? Since the popular misconception (of theists) is that Atheism means Anti/Against-Religion, I believe Secular Party is far better than Atheist Party.

      • C Peterson

        We get no philosophies from atheism. You’ve put the cart before the horse. Atheism stems from the philosophies, not the other way around.

        I’d also argue that you have it backwards with respect to religions. They don’t create ethical systems, they co-opt and incorporate the ethical systems already in place when they are invented.

        • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ TBJ

          Sure from a literal sense of the definition of philosophy, my examples were more about how some people might perceive the breakdown of theism to religion or atheism to philosophy. Wasn’t meant to be taken literally. Which is why I clarified that by writing Atheism is not a philosophy.

    • Ibis3

      Yeah. I get what you’re saying (I think), though it may not be the best wording. You’re saying that using “Atheist” as a descriptor is limiting in this case because it is defining itself only in opposition to or a negation of another concept, whereas “Secular” accrues meanings per se, and is in that sense a positive* concept. That’s probably one of the reasons they changed the name.

      *Of course, if we’re talking about positive and negative in terms of benefit to society, I’d say atheism and secularism are both positive.

  • JET

    As opposed to demanding that all political parties and all elected/appointed officials of the government remain secular as outlined in our Constitution? No thanks.

  • JET

    And since everyone here gets all fired up about bad graphic design, my first thought on seeing their logo was two entwined Windows circles of death.

    • allein

      lol, now I see it too. And since I am at work trying to load a page that is just spinning and spinning, it’s made me especially sad.

  • C Peterson

    Very good decision. I’m always happy to see the word “atheist” removed from any organization, since it almost never belongs. It is a good choice to replace a word that simply reflects a lack of belief with one that represents a positive belief system, presumably aligned with the goals of the organization.

  • http://skepticink.com/dangeroustalk Dangerous Talk

    I’m a proud member and supporter, but I think the main problem with NAP or the now SPA is that people don’t understand how they work. They are afraid that if they join that they would have to give up all other political affiliations (Democrat/Republican/etc.). That is not the case at all. SPA isn’t at the level yet that they are fielding candidates. You can be a Democrat and a member of SPA. Please join them and help fight for our values and our place at the table.

  • Bart Meltzer

    I’m proud to be an Atheist and want to be represented by other proud Atheists. I don’t need to justify my Atheism or the name I choose to identify with to anyone for any reason. All I want are candidates that will represent Atheists as Atheists. And proud Atheists at that.

    If the new secular party can do that then I will support them. If not, cya….

    If an Atheist is afraid of calling themselves an Atheist then they will never be able to represent me or those like me.

    • C Peterson

      I would never claim to be an “Atheist”. That strikes me as either revealing a complete lack of understanding of the word, or else some sort of crazy arrogance. We are atheists; when I see “Atheist” it is nearly always from some misinformed religionist.

      I feel no pride in being an atheist, any more than I am proud that I don’t believe in Santa Claus. Atheism is a neutral position, not something to really be proud of. It is theists who should be ashamed and embarrassed by their beliefs.

      But atheists who speak out, who fight against discrimination, who argue for humanism… those people do have something to take pride in: their active beliefs, and the affirmative actions that follow from them.

      • Bart Meltzer

        If there was no theism on the planet there would be no Atheists.

        Theistically we would all be the same and there would be nothing to be proud of. It would be a much better place to live in my opinion.

        There would be no religious wars and no genocide justified with theistic beliefs. There would have been no witch trials, no Inquisition, no Crusades, no Dark Ages. There would be no Enlightenment since everyone would already be enlightened. We probably would have landed on the moon over 400 years ago if not sooner. Even the murders by Stalin, Pol Pot, and other Atheist tyrants would not have occurred as they would have had no enemies. There would be no war on women based on the Bible or Quran or any other religious text which is misogynistic. Gays and lesbians would not be persecuted. The world would be a much better place because we would have been aloud to learn a better way and treat each other much better.

        If theism was not present this world would not be a perfect world and there would still be some violence and wars but it would not be the bloodbath it has been. This planet would be much more habitable and progressive if humans did not have religion to use to justify fighting on a continuous basis.

        But we don’t live on Planet Atheist do we? We live on Planet Earth where greater than 80% of the populations does take great pride in being theistic in one way or another. For your lack of pride there are millions of theists who will kill you just for simply espousing your lack of belief because they do have pride, and a good dose of theistic ignorance as well. Millions of people get sucked into theism every day. It’s so easy. All one has to do is just be born in a theistic household and chances are they will be another proud theist. Very few still break free from that indoctrination and those few should be proud they had the fortitude to do it. Being an Atheist is a true accomplishment and one to be proud of. It requires a critical thought process that so many will not use or just don’t have. Our planet is infested with theism that has caused, and is causing, more harm than any other single idea ever and you’re not proud to be free from that?

        Most of the Atheists I’ve known who would not use the name Atheist were just afraid of the repercussions from theists. Loss of family. Loss of job. Loss of something. Sometimes those Atheists have some legitimate concerns and that’s why they are afraid to come out of the closet. Not only are they adamant about hating the word “Atheist,” they are also rabidly venomous to other Atheists who are not afraid to call themselves Atheist. I’ve run into the name changers for as long as I’ve been in this movement. It’s been one of the great dividers int he free thought community for a long time.

        Little has changed.

        Every Atheist that hides in the closet gives more legitimacy to those theists who hate us. Those hateful theists want us back in the closet which makes any Atheists who discourage the use of the word Atheist the best ally of those hateful theist. Basically like an attack from the inside where the most damage can be done. Theists don’t need to infiltrate our organizations and communities to cause us harm because we are our own worst enemies. This is nothing new. Madalyn Murray O’Hare dealt with the name changers decades ago. It just never ends.

        With so many people joining the ranks of theism on a daily basis I’m proud to have left theism behind and risen above it. For those who are Atheists from birth, they should be proud to have maintained that in the face of all the rampant theism. For all of that, I’m proud to be an Atheist.

        A person who does not respect being an Atheist and/or takes no pride in it can never represent Atheists in any political way. They will never get my support. I would rather support a kind theist who respects Atheists than an Atheist who doesn’t.

        • C Peterson

          Sorry, I still have no idea what an “Atheist” is. Is it some club you belong to, like the Boy Scouts?

          • Bart Meltzer

            Really? Based on your previous post you seemed to think you know all about Atheists.

            “I would never claim to be an “Atheist”. That strikes me as either
            revealing a complete lack of understanding of the word, or else some
            sort of crazy arrogance. We are atheists; when I see “Atheist” it is
            nearly always from some misinformed religionist.”

            What’s your position? Do you know what you’re talking about or not? Because if you “have no idea what an Atheist is” then you have had no clue what you were talking about at all. Which is very common for theists who think they know what Atheism is.

            • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

              Apologies if you got this and are arguing something else, but I’m pretty sure he’s objecting to the capitalization. He prefers ‘atheist’ over ‘Atheist’. That’s all.

              • Bart Meltzer

                And then there’s that. Another old argument between Atheists.

                The Grammar Nazis. Those who refuse to recognize “Atheist” as being a proper name and deserving capitalization. Fine. They can do whatever they want.

                I’m an Atheist with a capital “A.” If anyone doesn’t like that then it sucks to be them.

                • Bart Meltzer

                  No Rich I didn’t get that because it’s such a Juvenal issue to be dwelling on that I thought most people were above it by now.

                  Wrong again I guess.

                • C Peterson

                  It’s not a minor issue, and it isn’t a grammar issue. There’s no basis to capitalize the word. Pretty much the only ones who do so are religionists trying to make a case for atheism being a religion as well. So we quite properly use the capitalized version as a litmus test for ignorance about atheism.

                • Bart Meltzer

                  Just another Grammar Nazi…..

                  Well you can make a mountain out of any molehill and whine about any minor issues you want. First you don’t like calling yourself an Atheist then you don’t like the fact that I capitalize it.

                  It’s your ignorance about capitalizing Atheist that’s not new. More of the same tired old rhetoric from just another grammar Nazi.

                  Frank Zindler wrote an article for the American Atheist magazine about twelve or thirteen years ago called Capital Ideas which addressed the efforts of many theistic organizations to keep as many publishing houses and other media organizations as possible from using a capital A in Atheist. That effort has been very successful on the part of theists.

                  As a proper name labeling who I am and who I’m proud of, capitalizing Atheist is very appropriate.

                  Of course, we’re proud of who we are. Unlike you. Someone like you who shuns away from being called an Atheist can never represent other Atheists nor speak for them.

                  If you don’t want to call yourself an Atheist then fine. Call yourself whatever you want. Few people will care. But don’t pretend to think you have any idea what it’s like to be an Atheist if you’re too afraid or too principled to identify as one. If you don’t identify as an Atheist you will never receive the same treatment the rest of Atheist are subject to.

                  How convenient for you.

                • Bart Meltzer

                  And, since you don’t like the word “Atheist” then what are you doing on this blog which is called “The Friendly Atheist?”

                  Are you just trolling?

                • C Peterson

                  I’m here because I’m an atheist, exchanging ideas with other atheists.

                • Bart Meltzer

                  You just called yourself an Atheist. That seems like a pretty stark contradiction to:

                  “I would never claim to be an ‘Atheist’”

                • C Peterson

                  Not the brightest bulb, are you?

                  If you want to disagree with my opinion, fine. But at least read and respond to what I wrote.

                • Bart Meltzer

                  Lol… Your personal ad hominem attack reveals more about your level of intelligence than anything else.

  • SeekerLancer

    I don’t know if it will change much in terms of popularity either but I still think it’s a good move and a more accurate representation of what the point of the party is.

  • painperdu

    Perhaps there shouldn’t be A secular party but rather many secular parties. Let’s seek out and vote only for any party that avows separation of church and state.


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