Affirmative Atheism

There is a lot of noise made about “New” Atheists, “militant” atheists, “fundamentalist” atheists and “angry” atheists. All of these are, in my agnostic opinion, prejudicial and false. Atheism as being proposed int he media is neither new, nor militant, definitely not fundamentalist and having just had a lovely time with PZ Määîrs I can safely say that at least one of these baby eating demonists is not at all angry, although I get the strong feeling he is occasionally frustrated. So, we need a term for them that is both descriptive and true.

I have often said that I want atheism to become a normalised aspect of modern society (and of course that implies also that I want religious belief and agnosticism, but not religious exclusivism, to be normalised). I take a “let a thousand flowers bloom” philosophy for social polity. So I want to suggest a term: Affirmative atheism. Atheists need to be able to affirm their right to exist, partake in civil society, and so forth without being prejudicially treated (as they were, to my shame, by the Australian media when the Atheism conference was held in Melbourne, and which is why PZ was here).

I get 10% of all profit from that term.

96 thoughts on “Affirmative Atheism

    1. that would be confusing: in the 19th century many naturalists were Anglican vicars.

      Plus, I don’t think anyone would want PZed confused with a naturist.


  1. Very . . . affirmative.

    It’s nice. Positive. Accurate.

    Only thing I don’t like is the connection with “Affirmative Action”, the US-centered practice of trying to make up for past injustices against a group by giving special rights to the present members of that group. I don’t think anyone here wants atheist hiring quotas, just not to be fired for not believing in an imaginary man in the sky.

    “Assertive” is interesting, as well.

    I personally like “Registered Voting Atheist”.


  2. I want us to get to the point where there *isn’t* a term for people who don’t believe in deities, because that’s the default position. 🙂


    1. That would be nice, but I wouldn’t hold your breath. I suspect humans have an inborn disposition to make those conclusions…


  3. I’m not sure why there is such an emphasis on the “Atheist” part of all this. It seems that this resurgence is more about promoting reason over dogma, and that atheism is just a possible result of that, but not necessarily the only result and not necessarily the motivating force behind it all.

    Clearly, one can be atheist and a narrow minded authoritarian bigot. ‘Atheist’ is not synonymous with ‘Free thinker’, it’s just that some free thinkers are atheists, and some atheists are free thinkers.


  4. Well, I myself am an obtusely oblique atheist. Actually, I don’t really give a crap what anyone else, providing they don’t try to tell me what I am. The whole atheism-theism debate has become one big pissing contest where both sides try to foist responsibility for the worst tragedies of the last few hundred years on each other.


  5. I wanted to comment on the treatment by the Australian press of the atheist confab. If Australia is anything like the United States (and it’s really just like us, right?) then many of the reporters & editors issuing copy on the occasion were themselves atheists or, at least, agnostics. Their reasons for treating people with similar views on religion to themselves as horn-wearers is worth pondering.

    Papers in the US, even those manned by urban sophisticates, tend to treat people with a focused intellectual interest as cranks, particularly when two or more are gathered in their interest’s name. What we’re seeing is that newspeople feel compelled to report atheists assembled as akin to StarTrek conventioneers, rather than like gathered reps from respectible political, social, professional, religious & scientific organization. Remember, we’re talking about editors & reporters who agree with atheists, yet deny them the respect they’d afford a conventional collective they find repellant. So why treat them like UFO enthusiasts, rather than bank executives? I suspect this trope has more to do with newspaper people than atheists, and certainly indicative of cowardness and a desire to appear respectable, but also much to do with their attitudes toward focused intellectual interests. In any case, it’s worth pondering.

    Mitchell Coffey


  6. I like the big red A all by itself – Atheist – let it stand on its own. Everything else is an adjective.
    Apparently world thinks, that there are not many Atheists in the U.S. And with good reason,
    given the rabid fundamentalism in US, I have on occasion argued that aggressive atheism is a stance to be taken in conversation [see Sam Harris, in his lecture”The End of Faith” ].


  7. ““The logical conclusion of the accommodationist position is to accommodate things like miracle claims””

    The legitimacy of this statement rests on the degree to which we are being accommodating of those claims. If it’s merely that people think such claims are true, but are not attempting to foist them upon others, then accommodating those thoughts seems to have no logical alternative. After all, where we can make a strong argument that basing policy on miracle claims is probably not a good idea, the simple act of thinking miracle claims are true is something that can’t currently be approached empirically.

    I’m certainly not accommodating to the actions of theists who appeal to their superstitions in order to dictate laws, and I imagine there are few other accommodationists who are. Of course, few of us are accommodating to the actions of those who would appeal to secularly authoritarian dogma either; we’re quite progressive in the consistency of our intolerance on such matters, I’d say. But I’d sooner let a theist enjoy the creativity of their own mind, should they find comfort in it, than in any manner attempt to impose my will upon their thoughts, which regardless of one’s faith or lack therefor, should be deemed of the highest and most unassailable sanctity.

    It’s a fools misunderstanding to imagine that the skepticism of accommodationists is weak or indecisive. On the contrary, it is the extent and solidity of our skepticism that makes it impossible for us to embrace without caution any movement that not only seems to think it knows what others are thinking (quite a feat for skeptics of telepathy) but seeks to judge it also.

    My own view is that the Inquisition would still have been just as insidious and frightening a thing even had it acted under the auspices of reason, rather than Catholic doctrine.


  8. Late to the party on this, but it seems to me you’re putting lipstick on a pig. I appreciate that you had a nice time with someone, but that doesn’t change the facts that there are very real disagreements here that are unresolved.
    If I recall, you’ve had some if those disagreements.
    Renaming a movement without addressing the underlying reasons that made the original name so unpalatable to you is an exercise in spin.
    You recognize the existence of the negative conotations to the name but respond by suggesting the name be jettisoned.
    How, then, does the new name not also gain a negative connotation? Will you not be criticizing those who adopt the new name?


    1. Ack! Mobile version of this site posted this under an unrelated comment. The above was directed at the original post and not any comment.


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