This is a repost from my blog "Truth Is a Woman"... if you are interested in reading more, it can be found at

A couple of folks have asked me why is it important to frame atheism in a “palatable” way? Or maybe the question is why I feel that it is important…

First off, I will say that I think P.Z. Myers and his sort of in-your-face atheism is important and necessary. There needs to be various ways to get out the message that religion is not only potentially dangerous, it is ludicrously infantile in the way it attempts to insulate itself from criticism.

So I see efforts like the “Out Campaign” as healthy and valuable… why, therefore, would I hesitate to “join?” And for me it is, once again, the obfuscation of labels. While I know what I mean when I say “atheist” there are so many who associate the term with a “dogmatic” kind of absolute knowledge concerning… well… everything… that I would just rather avoid it. If someone asked me, do I believe in God? (and I thought they were asking from an Abrahamic perspective) I would unequivocally say, “No!”

Of course that still doesn’t get at the "palatability” factor... and what is palatable to me, may not be to others. I am perfectly willing to vet someone else’s beliefs. I will pelt them with questions and debate their answers until we are both exhausted. And if I find contradictions, closed-mindedness, prejudice, or any other annoying line of reasoning, I will say so. Some find this highly-unpalatable, but I consider it a fine meal.

When I say palatable, then, I simply mean clear, understandable, and meaningful… of course if I can also make it attractive, intriguing, and desirable, so much the better…

I hope Jay doesn’t mind, but I’m going to quote him at some length (this is a comment from the Avampirism post):

If you don’t believe in a god why would you show concern over being called godless? Certainly if a person isn’t worried about the wrath of a deity coming down upon them for their defiance I cannot see how any lesser judgement could matter, although people have certainly perished for their beliefs. To be concerned with external perceptions or labeling of your position is either to be uncertain of the resolve in your decision to deny a divine being’s existence or you fear being outcast for something that others do not understand.

Jay was spot on, I am very concerned with the 2nd one. Here was my reply:

It’s true enough I am not worried about the wrath of a deity, because for all that I can tell wrathful sorts of deities are the product of our imaginations… or more precisely our psychology and evolutionary past.

That said, I do worry about beings that do exist, and those are all my human fellows. Humans can judge, and make vastly incorrect judgments — misunderstandings can so easily arise, and those misunderstandings can have repercussions… I don’t believe it is small of me to “worry” about such things and to want to avoid them… thus the problems with labels generally…

As for the label Atheist, not only is it often misunderstood (to mean someone who is “immoral”, arrogant, who claims to “know” things that cannot be known), I just don’t see why it’s necessary at all. If someone doesn’t have “a philosophy” (e.g. they are not a Positivist, Rationalist, Empiricist, etc), we do not have a need to call him/her an “aphilosophist,” do we? It’s just silly to see religious labels as somehow so “defining”, and it’s even sillier to put one on someone who wishes not to play that game…

And I stand by that response. Religious and non-religious labels are too important, and I think they shouldn’t be. Rather than try to “overcome” religion with the power of my “atheism,” I would rather get everyone thinking about what it is they really believe. It is my position that when they simply reflect on what they already believe, many people will come to realize they are, already, not Catholics, not Methodists, not Episcopalians. They will realize they are something else and they don’t necessarily need another label to describe it…

I believe that a world less chock-full of religious adherents (even if by name only), would be a world less “spiritually” conflicted… and the less we are worried about spirits and ghosts, the more our humanness becomes a bond — the better shot we have at real and lasting peace…

Well, that is my hope anyway, and that’s why I am shy about brandishing my scarlet A.

Views: 45

Comment by Morgan Matthew on September 4, 2008 at 2:26am
"There needs to be various ways to get out the message that religion is not only potentially dangerous, it is ludicrously infantile in the way it attempts to insulate itself from criticism."

We talked about this slighting in the podcast last night and I would definitely like to make it a talking point for the next one Ty. Great post! I look forward to seeing more great posts. Hopefully see you on the podcast?


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