Presenting my case to the jury of my peers: using or NOT using the term HEATHEN for the nonreligious...

In another discussion thread completely unrelated to this discussion (the mega-thread, What xian/religious sayings get on your nerves? ) , Benjamin Miller posted a response which began,

"We are using the same data, we just have different interpretations" saith the creationist to the heathen.

I, the heathen, typically respond something akin to "Assuming that we are looking at the same data, has it ever occurred to you that you shouldn't start with a conclusion and force the data to fit the conclusion?"


Halidom casually corrected Benjamin Miller at the beginning of his response to Benjamin,

Ben a heathen is not an atheist it was usually referred to tribes that had their own god outside of the main religions.


** emphasis mine in the above quotes --Rock

I have seen this type of correction for the usage of "heathen" many times, on many boards, and in many ways - so this is in now way a slight to Halidom; in fact Halidom was quite courteous and offhand about it, much moreso than I've seen in other discussions. Halidom's response did, however, trigger my desire to open this up to a "broader audience" and have my stance on the term heathen, its definitions, and its uses be condoned or condemned by my peers.

No I've already posted the meat of this response in the other thread; however, like I said above, I wanted to get it out from a neck-deep thread and into its own light, and give everyone a chance to weigh in.

As you can guess, I am convinced that the term heathen is a correct and proper shorthand - even a synonym - for atheist and/or nonreligious. I know that I, like many people, use them interchangeably - although I must admit I use heathen more when using it to refer to myself, and most often in a humorous fashion. However I don't view it as an insult, and I believe that when it is used it is widely accepted as being completely interchangeable with atheist.

What proof do I have? Well, it comes from the internet, or course! Everything you read on the "interwebs" is true, right? (OK, OK, removing tongue from cheek now...). I did a quick Google search for the definition for "heathen", since I know that the major, respected dictionaries are available there. Here are my results:

Google Definition (found by searching for "definition heathen" on G...

Noun:A person who does not belong to a widely held religion (esp. one who is not a Christian, Jew, or Muslim) as regarded by those who do. defintion for "heathen"

1. Offensive
a. One who adheres to the religion of a people or nation that does not acknowledge the God of Judaism, Christianity, or Islam.
b. Such persons considered as a group; the unconverted.

1: an unconverted member of a people or nation that does not acknowledge the God of the Bible
2: an uncivilized or irreligious person

1.  an unconverted individual of people that do not acknowledge the God of the Bible; a person who is neither a Jew, Christian, nor Muslim;
Now that I've presented my thoughts and proof, I'd like to get your side - am I in the right? Should my fellow heathens be allowed to use the term referring to us atheists, without implying Multiple Personality Disorder?

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It seems that the usage of 'Heathen' will vary depending on the conversation/who's saying it. My mother-in-law will use the term to mean anyone who isn't Catholic. I've also met those who use it to mean non-Christians. It usually seems to be used by those who say it as 'a person that doesn't belong to the group I'm in'. I have also heard other Atheists or Pagans call themselves Heathens, but in those cases it seems to be a case of using the term in jest in reference to the believers that spew the term liberally. I actually don't like the definitions provided 100%. From my experience I would tend to define 'Heathen' as 'a person not belonging to the religion of the speaker'. I say that because only saying that a Heathen is anyone that doesn't follow one of the Abrahamic religions is a Heathen fails when Christians of Jews call Muslims Heathens (mix it as you wish). That's my personal view based on the usage I've experienced anyway.

Indeed, to a degree, atheist was long ago applied to anyone who didn't fit the Greek theism of the time... no matter their 'religion', as those fellows clearly thought theirs was the one and only, so if you weren't with them you were against them. In that sense, yes heathen and atheist are quite synonymous. In hindsight of course, in their beginnings, both labels were born of the ignorance of 'others'.

Very solid response and reasoning, T A A. Thanks for providing your insight!

Yes... they used to refer to Christians as atheists!

I like calling myself "heathen" or "heretic" and take it as a term of pride because those words are intended to be an insult. Think of it this way. The word "yankee" was intended as an insult for the revolutionaries in the American Revolution. They turned that word into a source of pride. ^_^

Not to us Southerners (pronounced "suathenrrs" down here ;) ). The word "yankee" is almost always (and I'm not joking) preceded by "damn", as in "Damn Yankees". LOL

Of course when I hear Damn Yankees now I think of the short-lived supergroup of the early 90s, consisting of Tommy Shaw (Styx), Jack Blades (Night Ranger), Michael Cartellone (Accept, currently with Lynyrd Skynyrd) and the outlandish Ted Nugent (who doesn't need a list ;) ). A very, very fun concert.

But what if someone from, say, England calls you a yankee?

It's an interesting term... in the US it means from the north (more specifically the lib'ral North East), outside the world it means from the US generally.

S@teven.. Brits use the abbreviated form.. "Yanks". Only the American South, from what I understand, uses the full "Yankee"

Ah semantics :).  I've heard it both ways.  I would argue for the most general use of the term - one who does not follow an abarahamic religion.  Atheists can then be included in what is considered the larger group of heathens - Just be prepared to share it with some non-abrahamic faithfuls.


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