I recently heard a discussion on christian radio about a person calling him or herself and atheist. The gist is that to call yourself what is essentially a negative, discounts your ethos. People in sobriety do not call themselves "non-drunks" but the more positive and self-affirming "sober". So, the question is, what do you call yourself and why? Personally, I refer to myself as an Evangelical Atheist because I am actively expressing my position and am always willing to join a religious conversation to expound the Atheist point of view. My wife, on the other hand, prefers nontheist. Whether there is a god or not, she could hardly care less and gives neither side any thought.
Skeptic, free thinker, naturalist and rationalist are all good, but when posed with the theological question I always call myself an Atheist (although Agnostic Atheist would be more accurate). This is because a good many people seem to have little understanding of what the terms mean. Yet if I say Atheist, most know that means I don't believe in a god, and if I say Scientific Atheist it adds another layer of understanding to the conversation.
Usually I don't call myself anything. Online I am an atheist because online actions mean nothing. You are only words, so I use the words that convey the idea I want conveyed. Atheist here and on religious sites, metalhead when I talk music, bicycler when I discuss biking...you get the point.
I call myself an atheist - and if pressed, an agnostic atheist (because we can't prove the negative). But it is all pretty negative sounding.
And then I do like Richard Dawkins amusing line: radical atheist, so people don't confuse me with an agnostic.
I also like Christopher Hitchen's (I think it was him?) on this: I look forward to the day when we don't have to define ourselves in terms of the things we don't believe in.
Well - absolutely.
Sam Harris also makes a good point about not needing to label ourselves according to what we don't believe in, but being a non-believer the world will always need to label us as something.
In my own head i think of myself as a Rationalist or Secular Humanist, but for practical purposes we all can congregate under the banner of "Atheist" for reasons of consolidation. Because, we do need to come together as much as possible if the worlds imaginary friends are ever to be put aside.
(although i'm not holding my breath on that one)
If pressed I will say Secular Humanist, almost entirely as outlined by the Council for Secular Humanism. But I add a healthy sense of humor as an important value.
Ian - that's me.
Naturalist appeals to me too--but if such a term conjures up images of bush explores for me...well, I'm not sure it's going to get the point across. ;-p
This is from my info page here... "I'd like to say that I'm a Humanist as that is something I actually am.......instead of associating myself with something that doesn't exist... like God. To say that i'm a non-theist is equivalent to saying that I'm a non-pixieist or non-unicornist. Its just unnecessary."
Secularist or Naturalist would also be good descriptive terms. I could also add a lot more stuff about what I actually do and think..which would give a much clearer picture of who I am...than trying to define myself by all the things I don't believe in.
It really depends on who's asking me, but let's say a close friend or family member asks me what I believe religion-wise. Typically my response is "Oh, I'm not religious" and hope they drop the subject. If the person asking is open-minded, I say I'm atheist because I know they won't think I'm some kind of Satanist for not believing in God or a higher power. If the person who's asking is "spreading the good word" I tell them I'm not interested in talking about it, because I'm not.
Basically, I keep my point of view to myself unless the person I'm talking to is like-minded. I don't like arguing about beliefs because it never goes anywhere and leaves both people feeling frustrated and angry.
In short, I am an atheist. Sorry for the rambling :P