Skip to content

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.


  1. 10% of nothing might seem like a lot of money to a philosopher…

  2. Can the mascot of Affirmative Atheism be a robot from a 1950s cartoon? “Beep beep. Affirmative.”

    That would actually be kinda cool.

    • John Wilkins John Wilkins

      So long as it’s not this one.

        • Allan Allan

          No I think that is a 25th century robot

      • H.H. H.H.

        Gary Coleman is a robot? That explains a lot, actually.

  3. Ichthyic Ichthyic

    you better register that phrase, John.

    THEN you can get royalties


  4. efrique efrique

    Affirmative atheism sounds pretty reasonable to me.

    And, yes, the bulk of the Australian media coverage of the Atheist conference was simply appalling. Australian journalism should hang its collective head in shame, but it has neither.

  5. latsot latsot

    I propose the term ‘atheist’. I agree with Sam Harris that it’s a term that shouldn’t need to exist but it has a cultural meaning that’s already disreputable. “New Atheists” gives idiots a hook to obfuscate matters and other terms might do the same. We’re atheists and attempts at branding sometimes seem like apology.

  6. Atheists need to be able to affirm their right to exist, partake in civil society, and so forth without being prejudicially treated…

    this pretty much agrees with Douglas Adam’s explanation of what he means when he calls himself a ‘radical atheist’ a term that I have occasionally used with this definition with reference to myself. I now have a much simpler solution, I’m now an atheist without qualification.

  7. latsot latsot

    Thony C: yes, that is exactly what I mean.

    • John Wilkins John Wilkins

      One thing I would like to say is that I am not trying to give a name to atheism in general, only to the modern tide of public intellectual atheists. I don’t expect this will be a term that the idiots cannot misuse; but idiots can misuse the definite article. I think that we need a term to denote this new shift in public atheism, that’s all; and I thought this might be a positive term to replace the derogatory ones.

      • DuckPhup DuckPhup

        I’m sort of biased towards ‘sane people’ as the best positive descriptor for atheists.

        • J. J. Ramsey J. J. Ramsey

          Trouble is, not all atheists are sane, and to describe, say, Slacktivist or Ken Miller as insane waters down the meaning of “insanity” to homeopathic levels. I’m afraid that you just demonstrated one of the reasons why epithets like “fundamentalist” or “militant” get thrown at certain atheists.

  8. latsot latsot


    If there is at all a shift in atheism in recent years it’s just that people are more willing to criticise religion than they used to be. Thanks, to a large extent, to people like PZ, Richard, Christopher, Ophelia etc. This seems like such an obvious, necessary and non-ideological change that I think giving it a name is unhelpful.

    I just see no reason for ‘branding’ of atheism. For starters, think about the connotations of branding. How many atheists do you know who’d be up for that kind of thing?

    • Whether you see the need for branding or no, the “branding” has already been done, latsot.

  9. Made of Stars Made of Stars

    I like the sentiment of the term John, but, like others, wonder what it really adds. ‘Affirmative’ is also a bit laden with hidden meaning (affirmative action…).

    BTW, the Australian media were just trying to manufacture something on a particularly slow week. Pissant journalism, but better for ‘the product’.

  10. shonny shonny

    Assertive atheist is my preferred nomenclature as it is awkward to be affirmative about something that isn’t, huh?

  11. 'Tis Himself 'Tis Himself

    I affirm my atheism without reservation so I like the term “Affirmative Atheism.” Well done, John.

  12. Bob O'H Bob O'H

    Does this mean I can become a negative atheist? I’ll work out what it entails later.

  13. Mike Mike

    I read once that when you ask a Scandinavian if they’re religious, the answer you most often get is “No, I’m completely normal”.

    • That is more or less what we have in the Netherlands. In fact, we DO have a problem with militant atheists, or ‘Enlightenment fundamentalists’ as they are mostly called in the media.Fortunately the media have realised this is an awful term, as most of the people in this category couldn’t tell Spinoza from Erasmus. So the new term is ‘the socially disappointed’. Basically these are people who have lost their faith, have not adapted new humanist values and are lost in state of nihilist consumerism.

    • mightypile mightypile

      If only that kind of question was ever asked in the bible belt… Here, it’s more like, “Which church do you go to?” and that’s before they ask your name!

    • JohnM JohnM

      Yes that sums up my impression of Scandenavians. It’s important to point out however that it’s possible to be an athiest without being boring!

    • Kel Kel

      That’s funny, my wife’s from Finland and she says the same thing. It’s just normal.

  14. hyoid hyoid

    There’s just something about these New, Affirmative Atheists….
    Good sentiment though. I can be the New, Affirmative, Hyoid “Kind” of Atheist.

    • John Wilkins John Wilkins

      Is a hyoid atheist one that has you by the throat?

  15. Noumena Noumena

    If you’re looking for a term for publicly active and vocal atheists who assert for their right to be free from discrimination of various sorts and so on, isn’t atheist activist the most accurate term?

  16. You know, John, this is actually a pretty darn good idea. It puts a positive spin on non-belief. I like it.

    Kind of reminds me of Quakers in the US, who would not swear on the Bible, but would cheerfully ‘affirm’ it.

  17. I’m sticking with Unapologetic Atheism:

    There are lots of atheists who would fall under the category ‘Affirmative’ who would not necessarily support the ‘tone’ of the so-called ‘new’ atheists. The term ‘Unapologetic’ addresses the tone question: We are atheists, and we think your gods are silly and dangerous, and there’s nothing wrong with saying so, and we have nothing to apologize for.

    • J. J. Ramsey J. J. Ramsey

      Judging from how you originally described “Unapologetic” in your forum post as “1) We’re not sorry. 2) We are not convinced by apologetics arguments and are willing to make our counter-arguments publicly known,” you haven’t addressed the “tone” question at all. The thing is that there are three separate issues regarding tone:

      (a) Atheists publicly advocating for atheism, which includes philosophical arguments against theism, bus sign campaigns, and other things that can be done even by atheists who seek to be “friendly,” such as Hemant Mehta, as well as those who have been dubbed “New Atheists.”

      (b) Atheists misrepresenting theists, for example, by describing them as “retards,” “little old ladies who faint at the sight of monkeys,” or by nonsensically insisting that the most loathsome theists, such as Pat Robertson or Osama bin Laden, are the truest theists, or fallacious arguments in general.

      (c) Atheists insulting theists through public displays of disrespect, even if these don’t involve actual misrepresentation, such as Crackergate.

      Issue (a) is obviously defensible, and people complaining about the tone of atheists merely as a response to those who advocate for atheism are being disingenuous. Issue (b) is obviously indefensible, especially for those who are not just taking a stand for atheism but for critical thinking as well–and most atheist activists at least purport to stand for the latter. Issue (c) is more of a gray area.

      One problem that I see is that someone will complain about issues (b) and (c), and the response will be to defend issue (a), as when a certain someone here wrote, “Now, define ‘strident’. Near as I can tell, it’s simply being an atheist and publicly arguing against god-belief.” Wonderist, your definition of “unapologetic” does the same thing, responding to issues of tone (which encompass issues (b) and (c)) with a focus on “counter-arguments”–which is issue (a).

      • “Judging from how you originally described “Unapologetic” in your forum post … you haven’t addressed the “tone” question at all.”

        You would have to be pretty brain dead to read that post and not notice that it directly addresses tone. In the paragraph immediately preceding the paragraph you quote-mined from:

        “It tries to grasp the underlying change in ‘tone’ that the so-called ‘new atheist’ movement has taken on, starting with groups like RRS and authors like Sam Harris. The key point is that we are no longer standing back and being quiet about our atheism for fear of offending people. If you get offended by our criticism of your beliefs, that’s too bad. We’re not going to say we’re sorry, because we think such criticism is actually very important and worthwhile. You are not your beliefs. We respect you as a person, but we don’t necessarily respect your beliefs.”

        Furthermore, I quote the entire article from Mano Singham, whose first sentence is: “The main complaint against new atheists made by accommodationists is not with what they say but with how they say it, their supposedly hostile ‘tone’.”

        Simply do a text search for ‘tone’, and you’ll find it 5 times on the page.

        “Wonderist, your definition of “unapologetic” does the same thing, responding to issues of tone (which encompass issues (b) and (c)) with a focus on “counter-arguments”–which is issue (a).”

        Speaking of misrepresentation…. Are you going to own up to your own? My defenses of unapologetic atheism directly address the tone issue. My defenses are generally as follows: 1) Innocent until proven guilty (i.e. the burden of proof of wrongdoing is on the accuser), 2) there is no such thing as a right to *not* be offended, and c) we feel that we have a prima facie duty to challenge the taboo against criticism of religion, and we do so by breaking the taboo unapologetically, and there’s nothing ethically wrong with doing that.

      • J. J. Ramsey J. J. Ramsey

        Wonderist: “You would have to be pretty brain dead to read that post and not notice that it directly addresses tone.”

        Watch your language, Wonderist. This is not Pharyngula or the “Rational” Responders forum.

        Anyway, that your post attempts to address tone is clear, but as I see it, it fails because of the reasons that I mentioned above. You keep writing as if the only reason the so-called “New Atheists” (which you dub “unapologetic atheists”) have caused offense is because, as you put it, they made their counter-arguments publicly known, that they have done nothing wrong that has merited epithets like “strident” or claims that they are “just as bad as the fundamentalists they criticize,” that they have clean hands. I deny that those hands are clean.

        • “Speaking of misrepresentation…. Are you going to own up to your own?”

          So, I guess the answer to my question, then, is “No.” I expected as much.

          “I deny that those hands are clean.”

          Innocent until proven guilty. The burden of proof is on you.

        • J. J. Ramsey J. J. Ramsey

          Wonderist: “Innocent until proven guilty. The burden of proof is on you.”

          Did you honestly think that I wouldn’t have said what I said without already having examples in mind? Anyway, here’s a page of mine that has some of those examples: “Meandering thoughts on the phrase ‘fundamentalist atheist'”

        • That’s it?! That’s the great unethical evil perpetrated by Dawkins et al?

          His crime is that *you* incorrectly interpreted him as comparing moderate theists to Hitler, when he was actually talking about strategy and tactics? What is this, a witch hunt? “Oh no! I can’t get an erection. It must be because that nasty witch down the road cast a spell on me.” (See for context.) Just because you’re pre-disposed to mis-interpret what Dawkins says doesn’t mean Dawkins actually said it. (Here’s a tip: Prove me wrong by asking Dawkins himself what he meant.)

          Burden of *proof*, J. J., not burden of *accusation*.

          Still “No” on the misrepresentation question, eh?

          By the way, by your own standard (hypocrisy and irony), you’re an anti-fundamentalist fundamentalist.

          (Watch now as J. J. accuses me of equating him with an impotent witch-accuser, when actually I’m commenting on his mis-interpretation of observation and reality.)

        • J. J. Ramsey J. J. Ramsey

          Wonderist: “His crime is that *you* incorrectly interpreted him as comparing moderate theists to Hitler, when he was actually talking about strategy and tactics?”

          The fact that he was talking about strategy doesn’t mean that his analogy doesn’t have unfortunate implications. Heck, Orac noticed this before I did. You also write as if that’s the only thing I mentioned in my meandering. I also pointed out that Larry Moran falsely claimed that accommodationists (or as they were called then, “appeasers”) said that miracles were part of science, or PZ Myers falsely claiming that the accommodationists’ strategy is “to toady up to creationists.”

        • So Orac said it, therefore this is proof. Uh huh.

          Sorry, your misrepresentations and hypocrisy are doing nothing for your credibility.

          Moran “claimed” that accommodationists “said” that “miracles were a part of science”? Or did he merely mock their position? And what would be the crime in that?

          Myers “falsely” claimed that “the accommodationists'” strategy is to toady up to creationists? Or he correctly claimed that *some* accommodationists (Ruse is an obvious example) toady up to creationists *as well as* many other groups?

          Please, Ramsey, try a bit harder. This is ridiculous nonsense you’re spewing.

          The funny thing is that even if your accusations were true, they wouldn’t even necessarily be unethical (e.g. saying something false). You haven’t gotten past the first hurdle of correctly characterizing your opponents, and the second hurdle of showing that they are acting unethically isn’t even in the direction you’re running.

          I will say, though, that your talent for mis-reading is getting close to the ‘legendary’ mark. How you got “Larry Moran falsely claimed that accommodationists … said that miracles were part of science” from an obviously sarcastic remark takes serious imagination.

      • J. J. Ramsey J. J. Ramsey


        Moran “claimed” that accommodationists “said” that “miracles were a part of science”? Or did he merely mock their position?

        Here’s what he said:

        Richard Dawkins writes about the “Neville Chamberlain ‘appeasement’ school” of evolutionists. These are scientists who are willing to compromise science in order to form an alliance with some religious groups who oppose Christian fundamentalism. Do you believe in miracles? That’s okay, it’s part of science.

        Pretty straightforward. Yes, he’s mocking their position–by creating a strawman. The quote from Myers is similarly straightforward as well.


        How you got “Larry Moran falsely claimed that accommodationists … said that miracles were part of science” from an obviously sarcastic remark takes serious imagination.

        The remark is sarcastic in its tone, but there is nothing in it to suggest that Moran is sarcastic in the sense of meaning the opposite of what he says. If you consider taking Moran at his word to be “ridiculous nonsense,” I can’t help you.

        • “Yes, he’s mocking their position–by creating a strawman.”

          It’s a sarcastic argument from absurdity, not a straw man. The logical conclusion of the accommodationist position is to accommodate things like miracle claims, even if the accommodationists themselves do not readily admit of this conclusion. This is the crux of the accommodationism debate, so for you to claim it’s a straw man is to beg the question.

          Even if (if!) it were a straw man, that’s still not unethical. You’re basically demonizing Moran because you disagree with him. Hence your hypocrisy.

          Your argument boils down to: Unapologetic atheists “have caused offense”, therefore their “hands are [un]clean”. To argue this requires that you prove that causing offense is unethical. If you fail to prove this, you’re just another ‘tone’ complainer.

        • J. J. Ramsey J. J. Ramsey

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

          The accommodationist position is that people can still accept and do science even if they have certain religious beliefs. The idea that those religious beliefs somehow become part of science doesn’t follow from that position.

          Wonderist: “It’s a sarcastic argument from absurdity”

          An argument from absurdity shows how something leads to an absurdity. Simply saying that your opponents believe something absurd isn’t even an argument. Your own argument boils down to denying that Moran said what he said and attempting to exculpate him with tenuous interpretations of his words, with some spurious accusations of hypocrisy thrown in for flavor. It doesn’t really help your case.

        • “tenuous interpretations of his words, with some spurious accusations of hypocrisy thrown in for flavor”

          Oh, the irony! lol

  18. latsot latsot

    “Whether you see the need for branding or no, the “branding” has already been done, latsot.”

    Says who? And what *on Earth* do you mean by that?

  19. Rob Gantt Rob Gantt

    I like the term, “affirmative atheist,” as it implies an active thoughtful approach to one’s lack of belief. However, for myself, “evangelical atheist” is more accurate.

    • John Wilkins John Wilkins

      You are of course free to self-describe as you see fit. I am, for instance, a militant agnostic. I do not know if there is a god, and I insist neither do you…

      • Wait a minute! I thought you were an Apathetic Agnostic! Now I’m so confused!

      • I do not know if there is a god, and I insist neither do you…

        I know that but I’m still prepared to go out on a limb and state categorically that there aint. So there!

      • Chris Chris

        Are you referring to this?

      • llewelly llewelly

        I propose Affirmative Agnosticism …

  20. I dunno, Affirmative Atheist still seems a bit wobbly. I’m okay with Antagonistic Atheist, but I’m really more with Wilkins here with Militant Agnostic. Or Annoying Agnostic.

    Wow, all sorts of schisms right out of the gate!

  21. C’mon, Latsot… The “branding” has been done by those who coined the word atheist hundres (thousands?) of years ago. It is one of the most perfect examples of forcing the opposition to assume your premises and then name themselves by your terms.

    It is a perfect, “THEY are not US!” word. In some ways I think we need to grab it and own it, the way homosexuals did with “Queer” (We’re Here, We’re Queer. Deal with it)

    Bot on another front I want to run so far away from the term because the people who brand me with it have a pre-determined definition of what the word makes me: an immoral nihilist, hedonist who eats babies. I suppose one way to fight this would be for “atheists” to do good, moral things, and when interviewed make sure they say, “Yes, I have done good… and btw, I’m an atheist.”

    Branding is without question. What to do with it, how to revert it… that’s the tough part.

  22. latsot latsot

    “C’mon, Latsot… The “branding” has been done by those who coined the word atheist hundres (thousands?) of years ago.”

    No, I will not “c’mon”. I don’t argue that the word has a definition or a connotation, but that’s hardly the same thing as branding. We’re not talking about how people use a word, we’re talking about how to market lack of belief in gods.

  23. Derek R Derek R

    I think we gotta stick with plain “atheist.” Whenever we tack something onto it, it gives the impression that we’re trying to hide from its baby-eating connotations.

    That being said, I like it when people call themselves humanists. You can’t really criticise someone for being a humanist, you never hear people saying “oh yeah, Hitler was a humanist!”

    However, the term humanist makes no statement about the existence of God. The term “secular humanism” sort of solves that in a vague manner.

    How about a new word: “atheohumanism?”

    Nah, atheist is better.

  24. latsot latsot

    Fuck the baby-eating connotations. We aren’t the ones institutionalising child rape and misogyny. What can we *possibly* have to apologise for? We just don’t believe in any gods, that’s it. If some of us like to shout about it, good for us. If some want to keep their lack of belief to themselves, good on them. I couldn’t give a fuck either way. But I find it hard to abide those who take it on themselves to decide what atheists ‘should’ be and how they ‘should’ go about being atheists. Coming up with random new terms for people who don’t feel the need to arbitrarily respect people who make a certain class of idiotic claim is a form of tedious accomodationism and I can’t see any point to it. What is it supposed to achieve? Might a few theists decide that atheists don’t eat babies after all? Does anyone give a fuck?

  25. I’ve never quite undersood why “New Atheist” is considered insulting. As John says: “we need a term to denote this new shift in public atheism …” Even PZ posted a video in which he said that what atheists have “been missing for so many years” is organizing into groups such as Freethought University Alliance.

    Still, people are entitled to choose how they want to be identified … unless they’re “faithiests,” of course …

    • Wowbagger Wowbagger

      Think of it as being how certain people use the term ‘new money’ – it’s meant to be condescending and dismissive and imply those meeting the description are tasteless and crass, even when (in real terms) it’s no different from ‘old money’.

      I think it’s also meant to suggest that it’s a fad that’s not going to last – like ‘New Coke’.

  26. Pierce R. Butler Pierce R. Butler

    … in my agnostic opinion…

    Is an agnostic – one without knowledge, arguably even one without hope of knowledge – entitled to an opinion???

  27. Ian H Spedding FCD Ian H Spedding FCD

    Pfft! This sounds like rank Chamberlainism in an attempt to apPZ Myers. We only get to be Dilbertian Apathetic Agnostics while they get to be all tail-waggingly cute and evil as Dogbertian Affirmative Atheists? We’re never going to score with the Alices of this world with that attitude.

    You needn’t be ashamed of Australian media, though, just media will do. I still have fond memories of your likening news being left in the hands of journalists being like leaving food distribution in the hands of bulimics – or was it anorexics?

  28. It’s funny which p0sts generate the most discussion. People’s Front of Judea! People’s Judean Front!

    I do think this “Affirmative Atheism” tag does the work of asking “New Atheists” to separate their advocacy of atheism (which no “faitheists” quarrel with) from their anti-theism. Do the “New Atheists” merely want to co-exist with the faith-heads and woo-meisters, or do they want to serve as a vanguard for a permanent naturalistic revolution? I think this question divides the men from the boys, though I won’t say which is which.

    • J. J. Ramsey J. J. Ramsey

      I don’t think that’s the men-from-boys question. Rather, I’d say that the men-from-boys question is “Are you fighting for rationalism or anti-theism?” One can push for a naturalistic revolution and still play fair and not dive into the same muck of hatred and sloppy thinking as the fundamentalists.

      • Blondin Blondin


        • J. J. Ramsey J. J. Ramsey

          Ni! :p

  29. John M John M

    All this ‘angst’ about what to call yourselves. Kinda makes me happy to be a nontheist, albeit a militant and angry one 🙂

  30. Mike from Ottawa Mike from Ottawa

    Based on observation of what is actually said by folk like Myers and Coyne on their blogs and the tone fostered there, the distinctive term would be “hostile atheist”.

    • Wowbagger Wowbagger

      Well, I’d call myself a hostile ahomophobe, a hostile amisogynist, a hostile aracist, a hostile aclassist and a hostile arapist – what’s wrong with that?

      • Mike from Ottawa Mike from Ottawa

        How about because all racists, homophobes, misogynists, classists and rapists are necessarily nasty, whereas that it not true of all who are not hostile atheists. Keep in mind, you hostile atheists are hostile not only to theists but to atheists who aren’t as hostile as you are.

        And if you claim, as you appear to do, that all religious folk are equivalent to rapists, classists, misogynists, racists and homophobes, well, I think you qualify as an ‘ignorant atheist’ or perhaps a ‘lunatic atheist’ in addition to being a hostile atheist.

        It is nice of you, though, to so thoroughly ape those fundies who claim that atheists are all a bunch of immoral folk.

        • Wowbagger Wowbagger

          Here’s a question, genius – what’s the common factor between those things I listed and the religious? Could it be that their justifications for having the viewpoints and/or taking the actions might be completely unfounded?

          Could that – rather than the consequences – have been the parallel I was going for, only didn’t need to spell it out because I imagined the readership here to have been a) perceptive and b) intellectually honest enough to grasp the point I was making?

          It’s nice of you, though, to practice the same kind of ignorance and false equivalence of the fundies who you’re aiding with your disingenous mispresentation.

        • Mike from Ottawa Mike from Ottawa


          “Here’s a question, genius – what’s the common factor between those things I listed and the religious?”

          The obvious common factor between the religious on the one hand and racists, homophobes, misogynists, classists and rapists on the other is that you don’t like any of them.

          ” Could it be that their justifications for having the viewpoints and/or taking the actions might be completely unfounded? ”

          The fact you used a list of people who hold not merely unfounded views but vile ones tells me you’re just trying to weasel out of a flub. If what you now claim were true, you might have included such innocuous holders of unfounded views as flat Earthers or Velikovskyians. If your claim were true, you might have used folk who are not innocuous, like homeopaths or anti-vaxers, who hold unfounded views but aren’t nearly so vile as the racists, homophobes, misogynists, classists and rapists you did refer to. Nope, you’re just trying to lie your way out now.

        • J. J. Ramsey J. J. Ramsey

          Wowbagger, the readership was perceptive enough to notice that you paralleled “hostile atheist” with “hostile a-insert-obviously-evil-person-here.” The implication that you were likening theists to obviously evil people was already there, whether you meant for it to be or not.

  31. Then we also need:
    Affirmative African-American
    Affirmative Women
    Affirmative Hispanic
    Affirmative Muslim-American

    by your definition, all should be applying for this.
    Wait, in the USA we have a Bill of Rights, maybe we should just support that !

  32. Aren’t we all simply atheists? I think that Affirmative Atheism is a movement. The thing is that non-atheists can support the movement. Just like whites could and did support the civil rights movement and most of us support the gay rights movement without being gay.

  33. mayhempix mayhempix

    I would like to affirm my apathy to labeling.

  34. Emily Emily

    Noumena, I agree. I consider myself an atheist activist, in fact I have often described myself so. I don’t particularly like “affirmative atheist.”

  35. Notagod Notagod

    Maybe we should change our name every year just to mock them and force them to write new negative books about us.

  36. John, I still find atheists to be strange, being non believer, I refer to be a skeptic or rational and being Affirmative Atheists or any other version as being affirnative of beliveing faithful of nothing 🙂

  37. Gary Bohn Gary Bohn

    Thank you John.

  38. RBH RBH

    I’ve recently taken to using “assertive atheist.”

    • Colin Meier Colin Meier

      I agree with RBH, as I pointed out on Pharyngula.

      “Affirmative” doesn’t actually make a lot of sense in this context, based on it’s dictionary definition.

      I think “Assertive” carries the denotation and connotations we’re looking for, IMHO.

  39. Stephen Stephen

    How about “Bright”? According to the website a Bright is someone with a completely naturalistic worldview, as opposed to a “Super” who believes in some form of the supernatural.

    • Is it just me? I find the name ‘bright’ reminiscent of revivalist tent meetings!

      Instead of ‘I’m a little sunbeam for Jesus’ we have ‘I’m a little bright for Dicky!’

    • Ian H Spedding FCD Ian H Spedding FCD

      “Brights” sounds presumptuous, all a bit athier-than-thou. Besides, the point about the New Atheists is that they’ve made themselves a voice to be heard, so how about Louds : “We’re loud, we’re proud, we’re right! Get over it!”

      Or is the whole naming thing a bit silly and it’s time to get back to playing Mornington Crescent?

  40. Michael Fugate Michael Fugate

    How about naturalist? It has none of the negative connotations of atheist.

    • Bob O'H Bob O'H

      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.

  41. 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”.

  42. Matt Matt

    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. 🙂

    • John Wilkins John Wilkins

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

  43. 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.

  44. Aaron Clausen Aaron Clausen

    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.

  45. Mitchell Coffey Mitchell Coffey

    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

  46. 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” ].

  47. ““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.

  48. TB TB

    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?

    • TB TB

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

Comments are closed.