Should people who don't believe in god(s) have a special name like 'Brights' or 'Atheists' or not be labeled?

Richard Dawkins & Dan Dennett came up with 'Brights' and 'Supers' i.e. people who don't accept supernatural explanations and those that do. However Sam Harris doesn't agree & didn't even use the terms Atheist or Atheism in his books 'The End of Faith' or 'Letter to a Christian Nation' because he says you don't need a term describing what you are NOT - only what you ARE. There is no term for people who don't believe in Astrology (Astronomer DOESN'T mean that - despite the fact that almost all Astronomers do not believe in Astrology). Harris claims that terms like Atheist or Bright are used pejoratively by theists & are counter productive.

Does it make more sense to not call people who don't believe in god(s) anything at all -in the same way people who don't believe in ghosts, ufos & big foot aren't called anything? And isn't it possible that calling yourself a 'Bright' or 'Atheist' could be falling into the same 'egoic trap' which so many religious people fall into? e.g. Catholic / Protestant or Sunni / Shea etc)

Or should people who do not believe in god(s) feel uninhibited enough to identify themselves as separate from theists and deists and reflect this freedom in calling themselves a specific name? (Christopher Hitchens calls himself an Anti-theist)

There are advantages & disadvantages to both attitudes - which do you think is most sensible? Are other terms like 'Rationalist' specific enough or should terms like that be avoided too?

P.S. Theists - feel free to address this question if you want to but PLEASE abstain from posting criticisms of non-belief as this does not answer the question posed. Your is co-operation is greatly appreciated.

11 Answers

  • 10 years ago
    Best Answer

    Mr Harris' logic just does not work.

    There is no term for very large majority of people who don't believe in:

    + Astrology

    + Ghosts

    + UFOs

    + Big Foot

    Atheists are a small minority of people so the large majority needs to call the small minority something if for no other reason than to guarantee that their right to disbelieve in God is upheld. By the way, this right is part of the Freedom of Religion.

    If Atheists wish to be called something other than Atheist that is up to them but the large majority will need to call them something.

    With love in Christ.

  • kozzm0
    Lv 7
    10 years ago

    The word Atheism implies that you don't believe anything.

    Though it's usually meant to describe someone who "doesn't believe in god," it's essentially a meaningless description, because "god" is a meaningless word.

    Many, if not most, people who "don't believe in god" simply don't waste their time playing make-believe with nonsense. Any more than they'd go around saying they "believe in the Bpaosritak." That they don't "believe in the Bpaosritak" doesn't mean they have some alternate belief system, it means they're sensible enough to recognize that "Bpaosritak" just doesn't mean anything.

    Since I just made up the word "Bpaosritak" by random typing, I'll now put it on equal footing with all the gods and eternities of religions.

    Listen, my children! Bpaosritak is the Beginning of Beginnings and the End of Ends!

    Bpaosritak begat the Dark Time, and the Dark Time begat the World and Light, and thus began the Age of All.

    Behold! Bpaosritak moved over the all, and over the waters, and over the land, and over the clouds. The All was divided into the Fire, the Air, the Earth, and the Water. They the children of Bpaosritak began to fight, and thus were divided, each the mortal enemy of another: Water the enemy of fire, fire the consumer of air, air the tormentor of water, and water the eroder of earth.

    Bpaosritak saw balance in the conflict and that it was good. Yet Air became jealous of Water's power against Earth, and began eroding Earth also. Thus began the Age of Unbalance.

    That's enough, I just made a religion.

    As for people who use "agnostic," they're declaring they don't know anything, or that they're unsure whether religions are right or not.

    The best descriptive term for someone with no religious beliefs is "non-religious." It makes no extra assumptions of any kind.

  • Lois
    Lv 4
    4 years ago

    The word atheist was probably first applied by some to people whose behaviour they considered showed that they were "without God" or "Godless". It didn't necessarily apply to people who didn't believe in God. It has come to be used as a kind of short-hand for those who don't believe in God or gods. I don't always use the label for myself, but sometimes it saves space. I don't understand why you think that people who don't believe in God should keep it to themselves. Does that also mean that people who do believe in God should also keep it to themselves? We are naturally communicative, and those who are interested in religions and related matters will discuss their views; that's part of being human.

  • Anonymous
    10 years ago

    We need the word atheist to frame our arguments. The word has a lot of negative connotations, mostly due to religious ignorance but i am with Harris on this. As he says; why don't we have words for people who don't believe in astrology?

    I think it's a meaningless word just like theist or agnostic, i.e. either there is a god or there is not and what we label ourselves is irrelevent.

    Personally, i think the word god is meaningless but we must entertain and pretend to the deluded masses just for the sake of argument, like talking to children about Santa Clause. Yes, i'm an atheist towards meaningless santa in the same way as i am to meaningless god, go figure.

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  • 10 years ago

    Culture of the individual first has its roots in his heart.

    Price of many religions - a measure of blood spilled. You can be born a great man in the family of thieves, or be born a thief in the lovely, respectable family.

    In the world of the rule of force, which is divided into four principles:

    1. life predator.

    2. life of the victim.

    3. life of the philosopher.

    4. life of a madman.

    Each of these principles is determined in early childhood, with many variables. Private morality every person of the four groups.

    World Religions create and sow seeds of discord. But they do not have the morality in principle.

  • 10 years ago

    Names only represent the general subjective opinion attached to them, and in probability, never accurately reflect the nature of the entity that they supposedly represent.

    They are fancy but not always necessary.

    The sensible attitude will be not to take it too seriously.

  • 10 years ago

    Should people who don't believe in god(s) have a special name like 'Brights' or 'Atheists' or not be labeled?

    ~~~ Without categorization, there can be no language communication. "Get me an apple, please?" Without the categories of "me" (vs you) and "apple" (vs orange). For that matter, "get" (vs don't get) and "an" (vs some) and "please" (vs Now!)

    It appears that every word in that sentence represents a 'category', not to mention 'red delicious'! *__-

    That is what the egoPerspective does. Ego is thought! It is as egoPerspective that we perceive subject/object distinctions. There are times where we perceive other than as egoPerspective/thoughts (meditational and Zen states of being). From/as that Perspective, there are no such distinctions, there just is what is.

    Dawkins suggestions are both ignorant and juvenile and emotionally biased, and he is not enough of a philosopher to support his own notions, but he seems on a 'mission from 'dog' (his 'dog'), nontheless! I'd love to tear him a new one in a publicized debate! He gives philosophy a bad name! Yup, all ego, but I'd cream him nontheless! *__-

    But things *are* defined by that which they seem to be, and what they don't seem to be (context!).

    Everything that exists, and that is EVERYTHING!, exists in/as context. To fully define anything at all (you, me, the apple...) requires the entire Universe in the definition! (Think Butterfly Effect) An apple is not a plum, a pear, a bicycle, a thought.... Even the subject/object distinctions of "is" and "is not" is ego/thought perceived. So even to say that from a Zen Perspective what 'is' is! must be a metaphor.

    So if there is a believer, there must be nonbelievers.

    The First Law of Soul Dynamics tells us that;

    "For every Perspective (us), there is an equal and opposite Perspective!" - Book of Fudd

    We are all Conscious Perspectives, Souls.

    Two Perspectives (two people or bacteria or whatever...) on different sides of the elephant, 'perceive' the elephant very differently.

    One, "like a snake" (perceiving the trunk), and the other "like a tree trunk" (perceiving the leg). For simplicity purposes, I lefy out the 'infinite' number of other unique Perspectives of the elephant.

    When communicatively expressed, they can well seem 'contradictory'. (I perceive a 'god/I do not perceive a 'god)

    Argueing and attempting to convince, is one way of looking at it. (Being 'right' just feeeels soooo gooood!! *__- )

    Understanding what each other is saying and combining it with one's own perceptions gives a greater understanding of 'elephant' for all.

    The First Law of Soul Dynamics tells us that;

    "For every Perspective, there is an equal and opposite Perspective!" - Book of Fudd

    "The complete Universe can be defined/described as the sum-total of all Perspectives!" - (op. cit.)

    What the 'believer' perceives is as real as what the atheist perceives is as real as what the agnostic perceives is as real as what any and everyone perceives, be it a thought or a dream or an elephant. All exist, all is a feature of Reality, all is True! Context is existence, all that is perceived is context. Such is the beauty of the natural inherent limitations of Perspectives, us!

  • 10 years ago

    I'm with Harris... Atheism in itself is a belief system, albeit belief in not believing. Unless someone specifically states that they are in fact part of Atheism, they should not be categorized with a group that has formed itself as a separate party.

  • 10 years ago

    ALL THAT IS is who I worship and am a part of. I deal directly, not through some self styled earthly representative who applied for the job !!

  • ?
    Lv 4
    10 years ago

    I am an atheist, sorry, and I think it is fine that you label us, to me it is just like calling you guys christians or buddhists or whatever.

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