I Don’t Believe in a God – What Should I Call Myself?

DaVinci's Vitruvian Man

Note: Este articulo es disponible en español aquí.

Catholic, Born-Again, Reformed, Jew, Muslim, Shiite, Sunni, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist . . . .  Religions give people labels. The downside can be tribalism, an assumption that insiders are better than outsiders, that they merit more compassion, integrity and generosity or even that violence toward “infidels” is acceptable. But the upside is that religious or spiritual labels offer a way of defining who we are.  They remind adherents that our moral sense and quest for meaning are core parts of what it means to be human.  They make it easier to convey a subset of our deepest values to other people, and even to ourselves.

For those who have lost their religion or never had one, finding a label can feel important.  It can be part of a healing process or, alternately, a way of declaring resistance to a dominant and oppressive paradigm.  Finding the right combination of words can be a challenge though.  For a label to fit it needs to resonate personally and also communicate what you want to say to the world.  Words have definitions, connotations and history, and how people respond to your label will be affected by all three.  What does it mean?  What emotions does it evoke?  Who are you identifying as your intellectual and spiritual forebears and your community?  The differences may be subtle but they are important.

If, one way or another, you’ve left religion behind, and if you’ve been unsure what to call yourself, you might try on one of these:

Atheist.Atheist Symbol   The term atheist can be defined literally as lacking a humanoid god concept, but historically it means one of two things.  Positive atheism asserts that a personal supreme being does not exist.  Negative atheism simply asserts a lack of belief in such a deity.  It is possible be a positive atheist about the Christian God, for example, while maintaining a stance of negative atheism or even uncertainty on the question of a more abstract deity like a “prime mover.”  In the United States, it is important to know that atheist may be the most reviled label for a godless person.  Devout believers use it as a slur and many assume an atheist has no moral core.  Until recently calling oneself an atheist was an act of defiance.  That appears to be changing.  With the rise of the “New Atheists” and the recent atheist visibility movement, the term is losing its edge.

Anti-theist.  When atheist consistently evoked images of Madalyn Murray O’Hair, hostility toward religion was assumed.  Now that it may evoke a white-haired grandmother at the Unitarian church or the gay kid on Glee, some people want a term that more clearly conveys their opposition to the whole religious enterprise.  The term anti-theist says, “I think religion is harmful.”  It also implies some form of activism that goes beyond merely advocating church-state separation or science education.  Anti-theism challenges the legitimacy of faith as a moral authority or way of knowing.  Anti-theists often work to expose harms caused in the name of God like stonings, gay bating, religious child maltreatment, genital mutilation, unwanted childbearing or black-collar crime.  The New Atheist writers including Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins might better be described as anti-theists.

Agnostic.  Some atheists think of agnostic as a weenie term, because it gets used by people who lack a god-concept but don’t want to offend family members or colleagues.  Agnosticdoesn’t convey the same sense of confrontation or defiance that atheist can, and so it gets used as a bridge—like “I think I might be bisexual.” But in reality, the term agnostic represents a range of intellectual positions that have important substance in their own right and can be independent of atheism.  Strong agnosticism views God’s existence as unknowable, permanently and to all people.  Weak agnosticism can mean simply “I don’t know if there is a God,” or “We collectively don’t know if there is a God but we might find out in the future.” Alternately, the term agnosticism can be used to describe an approach to knowledge, somewhat like skepticism (which comes next in this list). Philosopher Thomas Huxley illustrates this position:  

Agnosticism is not a creed but a method, the essence of which lies in the vigorous application of a single principle… Positively the principle may be expressed as ‘in matters of intellect, do not pretend conclusions are certain that are not demonstrated or demonstrable.’

These three definitions of agnosticism, though different, all focus on what we do or can know, rather than on whether God exists.  This means it is possible to be both atheist and agnostic.  Author Phillip Pullman has described himself as both.

The question of what term to use is a difficult one, in strict terms I suppose I’m an agnostic because of course the circle of the things I do know is vastly smaller than the things I don’t know about out there in the darkness somewhere maybe there is a God. But among all the things I do know in this world I see no evidence of a God whatsoever and everybody who claims to know there is a God seems to use that as an excuse for exercising power over other people, and historically as we know from looking at the history in Europe alone that’s involved persecution, massacre, slaughter on an industrial scale, it’s a shocking prospect.

Skeptic.  Traditionally, skeptic has been used to describe a person who doubts received religious dogmas.  However, while agnostic focuses on God questions in particular, the term skeptic expresses a broader life approach.  Someone who calls him- or herself a skeptic has put critical thinking at the heart of the matter.  Well known skeptics, like Michael Shermer, Penn and Teller, or James Randi devote a majority of their effort to debunking pseudoscience, alternative medicine, astrology and so forth.  They broadly challenge the human tendency to believe things on insufficient evidence.  Australian comic Tim Minchin is an outspoken atheist who earns a living in part by poking fun at religion.  But his most beloved and hilarious beat poem, Storm, smacks down homeopathy and hippy woo.

Freethinker.  Freethinker symbol  (from Fr. pensee)Free-thinker is a term that dates to the end of the 17th Century, when it was first used in England to describe those who opposed the Church and literal belief in the Bible.  Freethought is an intellectual stance that says that opinions should be based on logic and evidence rather than authorities and traditions.  Well known philosophers including John Locke and Voltaire were called freethinkers in their own time, and a magazine, The Freethinker, has been published in Britain continuously from 1881 to the present.  The term has gotten popular recently in part because it is affirmative.  Unlike atheism, which defines itself in contrast to religion, freethought identifies with a proactive process for deciding what is real and important.

Humanist.  Humanist symbolWhile terms like atheist or anti-theist focus on a lack of god-belief and agnostic, skeptic and freethinker all focus on ways of knowing—humanist centers in on a set of ethical values.  Humanism  seeks to promote broad wellbeing by advancing compassion, equality, self-determination, and other values that allow individuals to flourish and to live in community with each other.  These values drive not from revelation, but from human experience.  As can be seen in two manifestos published in 1933 and 1973 respectively, humanist leaders don’t shy away from concepts like joy and inner peace that have spiritual connotations. In fact, some think that religion itself should be reclaimed by those who have moved beyond supernaturalism but recognize the benefits of spiritual community and ritual.  Harvard Chaplain Greg Epstein dreams of incubating a thriving network of secular congregations.

Pantheist.  As self-described humanists seek to reclaim the ethical and communitarian aspects of religion, pantheists center in on the spiritual heart of faith–the experience of humility, wonder, and transcendence.  They see human beings as one small part of a vast natural order, with the Cosmos itself made conscious in us.  Pantheists reject the idea of a person- god, but believe that the holy is made manifest in all that exists.  Consequently, they often have a strong commitment to protecting the sacred web of life in which and from which we have our existence.  The writings of Carl Sagan reflect this sentiment and often are quoted by pantheists, for example in a “Symphony of Science” video series which mixes evocative natural world images, atonal music, and the voices of leading scientists, and has received 30 million views.

If none of these fit . . . .  Keep looking.  Many of the American founding fathers were deists who didn’t believe in miracles or special revelation through sacred texts but thought that the natural world itself revealed a designer who could be discovered through reason and inquiry. His Noodly Appendage Naturalists assume a philosophical position that the laws operating within the natural realm are the only laws governing the universe and no supernatural realm lies beyond.  Secularists argue that moral standards and laws should be based on whether they do good or harm in this world and that religion should be kept out of government.  Pastafariansplayfully claim to worship the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and their religion is a good-humored spoof on Abrahamic beliefs and rituals.

Recently there has been steep uptick in people who identify as godless and a parallel uptick in atheist and humanist community building.  Many godless people are newly out of religion (or newly out of the closet).  Some find homes in Unitarian Universalist churches, which offer a gathering point for people who like the church tradition but are more interested in spiritual community than shared beliefs.  Ethical Culture Societies offer a supernaturalism-free landing place for a few more. Promising start-ups like the Humanist Community Project and Foundation Beyond Belief emerged recently and appear to be growing. But most people don’t yet have access to a community organized around shared secular values and spiritual practices.   That means our labels are largely individual and sometimes experimental.  We may try one on for size, live with it for a while, then try on something else.

As a movement, sexual and gender minorities have faced a similar challenge.  LGB started replacing the term “gay community” in the 1980s. It then became LGBT, and then LGBTQ (to acknowledge those who were questioning) or LGBTI (to include intersex people).  In India, an H got added to the end for the Hijra subculture.  For urban teens, the catch-all term queer has now replaced the cumbersome acronym.  Queer embraces the idea that sexual and gender identity is biologically and psychologically multifaceted.  It includes everyone who doesn’t think of themselves as straight.  Secular rights activists may eventually evolve a similar catch all, but in the meantime, organizations that want to be inclusive end up with long lists on their ‘About’ pages:  atheist, agnostic, humanist, freethinker, pantheist, skeptic and more.  So, join the experiment that picking one that fits and wearing it for a while.  Or make up your own.  I often call myself a “spiritual nontheist.”  It’s a mouthful, but it forces people to ask, what is that?  and then, rather than having them make assumptions I get to tell them where I’m at:  I don’t have any kind of humanoid god concept, and I think that issues of morality and meaning are at the very heart of what it means to be human.  Maybe next year I’ll find something that fits even better.

—–

Read more on nonbelief by this author:

The Atheist Visibility Movement:  Should Atheists Slam Religion or Show Respect?
What the Bible Says About Rape and Rape Babies
Recovering from Religion?  Give Yourself Time

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington.  She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of www.WisdomCommons.org.  Her articles can be found at Awaypoint.Wordpress.com.

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About Valerie Tarico

Seattle psychologist and writer. Author - Trusting Doubt and Deas and Other Imaginings. Founder - www.WisdomCommons.org.
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83 Responses to I Don’t Believe in a God – What Should I Call Myself?

  1. mriana says:

    While I’m more of a soft/implicit atheist (I don’t like the word negative), I prefer to label myself as a humanist or a freethinker who is sort of pantheistic, like Neil deGrasse Tyson. I’m just not one to stand there and shout, “There is no god, damn it, and you know it” even though I don’t believe there is a god or at least none of the human concepts of a deity, from Horus to Krishna to JC to Ah-yah, is god. Since I know those are all human concepts, it makes more sense to be like the Tao and not even attempt to describe such a thing, because to describe it, is not to describe it at all, whatever it is. All one is doing is creating and describing their concept of a deity, which really doesn’t exist, except in their minds. Some might share a similar concept to the one describing said deity, but I don’t have or claim that concept for myself.

  2. Fortunately I am in a time & place that I can apply all the labels above – including pastafarian, as I am an ordained minister… ;-) . I don’t mind calling a spade a spade, but I respect those who are not comfortable with the atheist label because of the stigma it carries.

    About Neil Tyson, I always had great respect for him, but in one of his last talks about this subject (the label ‘atheist’), he rejected it so emphatically he almost insulted the ones who had no problem with it and call themselves atheists. I don’t mind if he doesn’t like the label ‘atheist’, but his reasons (as he stated on that video) were “disappointingly weaseled”. :-(

    • mriana says:

      My not liking the “atheist” label is not so much the stigma as it is the militant atheists, who appear to be the opposite side of the coin to religious Fundamngelicals. I don’t like extremes and there seems to be too many atheists who are extremists, much like religious Fundamngelicals. The problem is, they can’t seem to see they are much the same as religious extremists and resent it being pointed out to them.

    • “Disappointingly weaseled” is a great phrase. One of the easiest ways for two people to connect, or two groups to connect, is by defining themselves in contrast to a third party. I think there are a lot of nontheists who try to build bridges to theologically liberal people of faith by defining themselves in opposition to those they call “militant” or “fundmentalist” atheists.

      In his Atheism 2.0 talk Alain de Botton does this by sneering at Dawkins, not acknowledging (not realizing?) that he is able to talk about recycling the good parts of religion and building secular moral communities with them precisely because of the groundwork that has been laid in the last decade by Dawkins, Dennett, etc. It’s interest to watch different segments of the atheist community attempt similarly to distance from Sam Harris, because he so refuses to pull punches.

      • Perry Bulwer says:

        This is a reply to residentatheist at June 30, 2012 at 9:02 am. There is no reply button under that comment so I am posting it here.

        residentatheist, you do not need to believe in the supernatural to know that something can come from nothing. Physics explains it by quantum field theory that not only allows it, but demands it. See this short blog article for a good explanation:

        http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2011/02/02/can-you-get-something-for-noth/

        On a more philosophical level, money is an example of something coming from nothing.

      • @Perry Bulwer from post June 30, 2012 at 10:03 am

        Physics does not get something from nothing. Matter popping in and out of a vacuum is not from nothing. First of all there is space, a vacuum in space, gravity, radiation and in all probability dark matter/energy. If there was ever “nothing” there would still be “nothing”.

    • AmerBuddha says:

      I think the atheists are the stupidest of them all. The atheist is stupider than the religious phanatic because he/she lets the phanatic frame the argument. The phanatic says there is a god, the atheist says no there isn’t. But god is DEFINED by the phanatic. Its his/her definition, and the atheist doesn’t come up with an alternative. Unless, of course, he/she purely believes in nothing from nothing, which I personally doubt in the deepest part of our psyche, anyone believes. (There are no atheists in a foxhole)…. .

      • I am an atheist. I do not believe in nothing from nothing. I do not believe in any supernatural. I remove supernatural from the equation because the universe couldn’t exist if the supernatural existed. In order to get something from nothing, it would require a supernatural event. There were no supernatural events so the universe has always existed. There was no beginning.

  3. AlterNet carried your above piece on 7 Types of Non-Believers of which I read. I question why it’s necessary to want to label non-believers; is it to pigeon-hole us? It could be argued that labeling us as Non-Believers is not totally accurate because we believe in something even if it isn’t religion. Yes, I am one and have no need to call myself by any label. IMO as soon as a label is pinned that becomes a form of dogma in itself, to be lived up, to be diss-cuss-ed, and it hinders growth to come forth which is exactly what I find unacceptable about religion ; its beliefs so rigid there is no room for other possibilites. Catholics, Evangelicals, Mormons and Islamists, and other religions are soo sure they have found THE TRUTH, and most would not venture to move away from their positions. Hmm…is it fear that keeps the religious (especially the extremists) from entertaining the thought that the puppeteer they credit for pulling their strings might not really exist and that would cause them to freak out because OMIG! how could they live without that belief? They might have to take responsibility for their actions or non-actions, right? Plus the fanatics that claim to hear the voice of their god that instucts them to wage the holy and unholy wars would have to examine their (under-lying) motivations, no?

    Evolution like change is constant in life, whether or not we wish to board its ship. If more practiced goodwill toward those unlike them right human relations might have a chance collectively.

    Thank you for listening.
    Olivia Hemming

    • mikespeir says:

      “diss-cuss-ed”

      :-)

    • Thanks, Olivia. I think you articulate one of the biggest down-sides of labels, which is that they tend to make us more static, less open to flow and growth.

      • Rob Curry says:

        Oh, I think labels are fine, if seen for what they really are. Like all words, and language in general, labels can serve to aid the communication of ideas. At the same time, a mature approach to labels must take into account that they are shortcuts, ways to point in a certain direction. The map is never the territory, yet maps can be extremely beneficial all the same!

  4. elbruce says:

    I self-identify as atheist because it’s the most common term these days, and using the same term helps us band together as a political force. But a great many of those labels equally apply. Except for “pantheist” which I believe makes a stronger claim than how you’ve described it.

  5. The Truth Seeker says:

    I consider myself weak agnostic but also like to think of my self as a humanist. In a crowd if someone were to ask me what I was, I would say a humanist. Saying an agnostic or atheist would get me in trouble. I think Christians wouldn’t be sure what a humanist is and they might let if go.

    You can see what religion has done to the non-religious; put us on the defensive being afraid to say what we really believe. Unlike other European countries we are going through a time here in America similar in some respects to the inquisitions carried out by the Catholic Church. If you live in the south in the Bible belt you can be sure your going to get into trouble admitting you’re a non-believer. I would say that non-believers are the new minority who are unjustly persecuted by believers. There will be a time when we are not looked down upon but it won’t happen soon.

    • Rob Curry says:

      I think it’s a valid concern to note that many non-religious people feel like they ought to censor themselves when it comes to expressing their opinions openly and honestly on opinions or thoughts about religion and its many claims. This is why I encourage people to speak up more freely to test the waters and discover (in many cases) how it’s not really so bad as many are led to believe.

  6. J. Quinton says:

    I used to call myself an agnostic, but then I realized that agnosticism really doesn’t distinguish between theism and atheism. It seems to me that agnosticism is a reason for atheism (or for theism). A person can be agnostic but still believe in a god.

    Agnosticism does imply a method, yet that method was never really formalized until I learned about Bayesianism. So instead of agnostic I call myself a Bayesian, and now I have a formal way of determining how probable or improbable things like belief in god are via my own subjective probability.

    • Your right. Agnostic does not distinguish between theist or atheist because agnostic is the third option (Don’t Know). Bayesianism has nothing to do with theism, atheists or theists. There is a zero probability of the supernatural existing so probability has no function here.

      Agnostic, Theist and Atheist are mutually exclusive. Agnostic means “Don’t know” or “Can’t Know” as coined by Huxley. He said that although the gnostic was certain god existed, he was not so certain (“didn’t know”). He even took it one step farther and said it was unknowable. Of course he was mistaken. I am an atheist and I do know there is no god(s).

      In 1869 Huxley coined the term ‘agnostic’ to describe his own views on theology. He said: “They were quite sure they had attained a certain “gnosis” – had, more or less successfully, solved the problem of existence; while I was quite sure I had not, and had a pretty strong conviction that the problem was insoluble.” [http://atheism.about.com/od/aboutagnosticism/a/huxley.htm]

  7. mikespeir says:

    Personally, I think “agnostic” should only be used as an adjective, not as a noun. But I tire of the fight. It’s not very profitable. I call myself an atheist, mostly because I’m lazy. I look for the day when people will be surprised that anyone self-defined according to whether they believed in unseen and unprovable entities. At going on 57, though, I’ll never see it.

  8. A woman named Donna sent me this response by email . She is quite right.

    “Unitarian Universalism (“UU”) offers a home and community for people who have all the beliefs described in the article- people who are spiritual seekers, as well as those who have more secular interests. I am somewhat surprised by Ms. Tarico’s statement: “Despite the best efforts of, say, the Humanist Community Project or Foundation Beyond Belief, stable communities organized around shared secular values and spiritual practices have yet to emerge”, with no reference at all to UU, which has been around in its present form for at least 60 years. UU offers a very stable community, with many of the positive benefits of religion, without stifling questions. There is a shared set of values, but not doctrine. Pls. go to http://www.uua.org/beliefs/wel… for more info.”

    I’m taking the time to write you directly because, just yesterday, I experienced an amazing Rites of Passage service (a UU tradition for 8th graders) at our local UU church (in Pasadena, CA), of which I am very proud to say my daughter was a part. After supporting her in the commitment it took to take the 9 month class leading up to writing and publicly making her own Faith Statement in front of the entire congregation, I am even more committed to the value UU offers and the importance of letting people know such a church/fellowship/community exists.

    I see from your website that you have many UU contributors, so, I’m again wondering why you made no mention of our organization?

    • mriana says:

      The UU in my area, despite having a few humanists, does not attract me. The people who attend there are Wiccans, Pagans, Pot worshippers (whatever that’s really called), New Agers, and alike. My family isn’t too hip on it because it’s still religious in directions we aren’t going. Now if there were more Taoists, Buddhists, Pantheists and humanists maybe my older son and I would be more attracted to it, but as it stands, the UU here is too religious for us and we don’t want any part of it. I cringe everytime someone tries to suggest or recommend the UU to us, because it’s too religious, in our opinion.

      • Rob Curry says:

        My understanding of the UUs is that they are non-creedal and each local organization in the wider Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) has its own flavor and way of doing things.

        In my geographic area, there are three UU Churches, one UU Congregation, and at least one UU Fellowship. The Fellowship is anti-clerical. The Congregation wants to avoid the word ‘church’ due to the negative connotations they associate with it, Of the others, one resembles a generic Protestant church with little to no mention of ‘god’ and another focuses on universalism in an eclectic sense of finding something of value in almost every human religious or philosophical tradition. The other has a minister who came out of a Hindu background and looks for ways to help people with very different opinions embrace mystery as a sort of common ground that anyone can share.

        Sometimes if one group in the UUA is not to one’s liking, another one may very well be–or, as some choose to do, one may simply create an alternative that meets particular needs.

      • mriana says:

        I understand this too, Rob, but that’s the only UU we have in this city. There isn’t another one to check out and see what “flavor” it is.

    • mriana says:

      No edit button. I just wanted to add, that from what I’ve seen, the UU in this area does not fit any of these labels you mentioned, Valerie. They have their gods and goddesses, which they worship, as well as their superstitions, in the UU here and that’s not my family’s bag.

      • mikespeir says:

        There’s not one anywhere near where I live, anyway, but if there were I wouldn’t attend, and for the same reasons as you. Community’s great. I’m kinda turned off to religion, though.

      • mriana says:

        @mikespeir (there’s no reply button under your post) You’re right, there isn’t a UU everywhere, but it’s not community that bothers me. I’m not Wiccan or Pagan, which seems to be the majority at the UU in this are, despite there being a small hand full of humanists. I have no problem with the love of nature, but there are a lot of things in the Wiccan and Pagan practices that just aren’t me.

  9. Perry Bulwer says:

    When I started a blog and was faced with describing myself in a few words, I found that no one single label is adequate. I am a humanist, but some humanists are believers, which I am no longer. I am a free-thinker and a secularist, but those terms do not necessarily describe a state of unbelief. I am both an atheist and an agnostic, depending on the subject. I am skeptical about some things, but not others. So, use all of these terms, and a few others, to describe myself: Humanist, Free-Thinker, Atheist, Agnostic, Skeptic, Secularist I am all of those. Each one on its own does not tell the whole story.

    • I agree. If someone asked me about any of those labels I would have to assent, but with some explaining. Hence my peculiar self description which forces them to ask what in the world I mean, rather than allowing them to assume they know.

      • mriana says:

        I have sometimes wished there was something like Pantheistic humanist, but even then like the Spiritual humanist and religious humanist, that might get dogged by some Secular humanists too, so I just say humanist, because at any given time, I could run the gambit of humanism.

      • rob says:

        I used the term ‘nullifidian.’ It means non-religious or no- faith.

  10. Flyquil says:

    I absolutely and thoroughly enjoy having no label, and no dog in the fight. People really make me laugh when they try to attach some make believe belief or thought structure concept to me. Honestly I must be the dumbest SOB on the planet b/c I don’t know how you arrive at any of these labels. Which brings me to the thought that you don’t have to call yourself anything, nor do you have to care much to acquire any label. But if you really want one, make one up. Cheers!

  11. Blestwolf says:

    There’s one that I subscribe to, which I’m surprised you didn’t mention: apatheism!
    Who cares if there’s a god? Atheism and anti-theism imply that one cares as much about the existence of a god as a believer. As long as they don’t try to force religion on me, I won’t force lack of religion on them.

    • Rob Curry says:

      I’m not so sure about this implication. Does accepting the description of ‘bald’ also mean that one necessarily cares about the existence of hair on one’s head?

      The word ‘atheist’ functions much like the word ‘bald’ for me. Let’s not assume that it conveys the same feeling or sense of import to everyone that it accurately describes.

  12. dan masters says:

    After a 30 year search that wound its way from Baptist Fundamentalism to Charismatic churches to exploring Catholicism with a detour through eastern religions that led to a new found love for science, reason, and community, I have labeled myself a humanitarian. I have decided that it doesn’t matter what you claim to believe or dis-believe. The only thing that does matter is what you do. If you are not working to make your small corner of the world a more just, compassionate, and healthy place, I have no time for you or your message.

    I just stumbled on your site a couple of days ago. Love everything I have seen so far. Looking forward to seeing more.

    Thanks

  13. dB says:

    I like the fact that the term Atheist is divisive. I wish to be permanently divided from those who believe in all forms of mysticism. All mysticism being conjecture, at best. The tendency to believe that which you know ain’t true is the basis of most of what’s wrong with society.

    • Rob Curry says:

      I don’t see the word ‘atheist’ as divisive. To me, it functions as merely descriptive. What does it describe? Only that one does not happen to believe in the existence of any god or gods.

      Now in certain circles it may also evoke connotations of divisiveness, this is true. But that’s not always the case, and certainly not necessarily so.

      • Rob Curry: What does it describe? Only that one does not happen to believe in the existence of any god or gods.

        Residentatheist: Theists and atheists have nothing to do with belief. Theism is the concept of a god (Zeus, Allah, Yahweh etc.). Theists are people who accept these concepts as a truth. Atheists are non-theists. We do not accept theism as a truth without supporting evidence. Has nothing to do with belief.

  14. I hate watermelon. Does not being a watermelon eater require me to adopt a label? I don’t believe in god, and I see no reason to label myself on that matter either.

    • Rob Curry says:

      If there were a large social and political emphasis on the virtue of eating watermelons, and the need to do so in order to fit in, or to gain some incredible reward, or to avoid a terrible penalty were commonly believed and asserted–then you would likely find that a word would spring into existence for those who felt otherwise, or simply did not buy in to the “Must Eat Watermelon” worldview.

      Of course it’s up to you to choose how to label yourself, or not. Absolutely! I support that right completely. Just keep in mind that others will still label you with or without your permission. So is it as ultimately absurd to focus on atheism as it would be to focus on awatermelonism? Perhaps it depends to some small degree on the greater social context.

      • Well said. Your comments manage to be non-provocative and rather common sense while still adding a missing dimension to the conversation. Thanks!

      • Norma J. Young says:

        Responding to both your response to me & to Rob Curry’s “watermelon” comment earlier:

        1) Your response to me (above) first: Thank you for validating my “root word” guess. After I clicked on “post” (I don’t know how to correct or delete/RE-post a post to your site), I realized that I had paired “Trusting Doubt” and “Deas and Other Imaginings” into one reference as if they were the same book. Now, I’m glad to be corrected–they are TWO DIFFERENT BOOKS! The “Deas” book sounds utterly fascinating! I, too, have been on a quest because I became more and more fascinated with the world of ideas as I began to question the “fossilized” ideas (dogma) I had been raised with in a fundamentalist religion (Seventh-day Adventist) — which I now consider a cult. I have documented my quest as I have gone along & intend to bring out a book(s) (when I can get more of my “ducks” in a row) that will recount my experiences — in as authentic a form as I can produce. Your book, “Trusting Doubt” has been very encouraging to see. I don’t feel as lonely in my quest now. The more individuals & communities of people I find who are beginning to have “stirrings of questionings” that could lead them to a quest or have been/are also still on this quest, the more I realize that the more people who “tell their stories,” the more these Quests will yield truths more quickly and Civilization will advance more quickly–and humanely.

        2) Your response to Rob Curry, who said:
        “If there were a large social and political emphasis on the virtue of eating watermelons, and the need to do so in order to fit in, or to gain some incredible reward, or to avoid a terrible penalty were commonly believed and asserted–then you would likely find that a word would spring into existence for [...]” –

        (You, Valerie, said:) Well said. Your comments manage to be non-provocative and rather common sense while still adding a missing dimension to the conversation. Thanks!

        –I thought was EXCELLENT! Valerie, you have a gift for “extracting the essence” of a comment, amplifying it and showing its unique value to the preceding Whole. Yes; I’ve enjoyd Rob’s comments before too & agree with you, particularly on this one. Watermelon happens to have been–& still is–my favorite food for many years. I could really identify with Rob’s analogy. Great common sense choice. Since as the “father of modern communications, Marshall McLuhan” said, “Meaning is in PEOPLE, not in words; “if people gave the word “watermelon” the same power that other words have in this world that can determine life or death, such as “God/god/”god”, “heaven” or “hell,” then yes; watermelon could certainly become controversial!

  15. Phil Little says:

    I don’t know if I am an athiest – certainly an agnostic – I have moved away from formal religion having been raised in the R.C. Christian tradition – certainly I find the “god” of the Christian religion to be contrived, constructed and convoluted – so I am probably a non-theist – but when I am asked by others to define myself I simply respond “I am a recovering catholic!” and that usually ends the conversation. Sometimes I get “Oh, I didn’t know there were groups” or something like that – and a few who are more clever just laugh.

  16. I heard one commentator say that he deliberately uses “atheist” because all the other terms (skeptic, freethinker, agnostic, etc.) a theist could also use. This was the one term that make a clear distinction.

  17. Rob Berg says:

    Labels can be terrifically powerful. When I called myself a Christian, I heard and read many messages that served to unite people under a banner as “believers”. Within the fundamentalist community in which I was raised, “Atheist” carries the same weight as “Devil worshiper”. As we progress as a culture toward values without mysticism, a label can help us strengthen the movement by offering a banner we can all hold high, yet it should also be appealing to those who are currently resistant. For that reason, I choose to call myself a “freethinker” because its both positive and descriptive. Furthermore, as soldiers for a more rational world, I think we should refer to “believers” as “non-freethinkers”.

  18. Dave Miller says:

    Mostly, I just refer to myself as non-religious. It is vexing to me to have to define myself in terms of not believing in something that doesn’t exist anyway, e.g., atheist.

  19. Joseph says:

    You have written a delightful article.

  20. Norma J. Young says:

    I LEARNED SO MUCH! Thank you!
    I’ve always hated “labels.” Because “labels LIMIT.” However, in our need to define our world & our selves in SOME way–just as biology & chemistry found it necessary to NAME classes of creatures or elements, I was drawn to this article.
    I just finished reading this & was AWED at the Clarity of the writing & grateful for the succinct definitions & distinctions the author makes among the different philosophical groups. A person’s philosophy of life (or lack of) determines everything else about how they live. The author gives such clear, historical & current information about “labels” without “cubbyholing” people stagnantly into them. We are indeed a pluralistic society. Even people within one “label” would not describe themselves in exactly the same way when it comes down to the details.

    I have moved through many phases in my Journey to understand myself and the world. Right now, I’m experimenting with a self-styled term/description which attempts to take the best of the categories offered & “customize it” to make it fit for me now. . . I reserve the right to modify the description whenever I feel the need . . . that makes it a “LIVING ‘label.’” The “label” exists to serve ME not v.v.

    In your own “Heart of Hearts” & “Mind of Minds,” where do you think/see/feel YourSelf to be?

    Here’s mine (for now): “I am an Eclectic, Feminist, Humanistic, Free-Thinking/Feeling ‘Open-to-Evolving Truth’ Traveling, Dancing Naturist.”

    —– Forwarded Message —–
    From: Jack Maurice
    To: atheists-36-announce@meetup.com
    Sent: Friday, June 29, 2012 4:42 PM
    Subject: [atheists-36] I Don’t Believe in God – What Should I Call Myself?

    I Don’t Believe in God – What Should I Call Myself?

    http://awaypoint.wordpress.com/2012/06/04/i-dont-believe-in-a-god-what-should-i-call-myself/

    * Comments on Message Board


    Please Note: If you hit “REPLY”, your message will be sent to everyone on this mailing list (atheists-36@meetup.com)
    This message was sent by Jack Maurice (gotreason02@gmail.com) from Orlando Freethinkers & Humanists.
    To learn more about Jack Maurice, visit his/her member profile

    Meetup, PO Box 4668 #37895 New York, New York 10163-4668 | support@meetup.com

  21. SNM says:

    In many cases, there’s something that doesn’t sit right with me about the use of the word “agnostic.” I do not believe in Leprechauns. Technically, I would have to concede that I am agnostic toward the existence of Leprechauns, since I do not “know” for certain that they do not exist, but I would consider the probability that they exist to be infinitesimal. The core definition of agnostic is one who does not know. The natural connotation of “I don’t know” is usually that it’s reasonable to entertain both, or multiple hypothesis about the claim being considered (there are Leprechauns, there is a god, etc.) If I were to proclaim myself a Leprechaun agnostic, I would be ridiculed by god believers and non-believers alike, and rightly so if I connoted that the existence of Leprechauns is a reasonable possibility.

    I view the existence of a god or gods just like I view the existence of Leprechauns, so I could never feel right considering myself an agnostic, unless we’re careful to remove that connotation. Without the connotation, I am agnostic toward gods, Leprechauns, and almost everything else.

    In practice, it might be more complicated because this doesn’t even begin to address the question of how we define god. Is our hypothetical god a Prime Mover? Is our hypothetical god the universe itself? Are we gods from the perspective of a person who lived ten thousand years ago? Assuming we were to learn as much in the next ten thousand years as we did in the last, would we consider our descendents to have found god as defined in some manner that we currently don’t even know how to imagine?

    • “The natural connotation of “I don’t know” is usually that it’s reasonable to entertain both, or multiple hypothesis about the claim being considered.” –That’s an excellent point, one that I haven’t really thought about.

  22. Rob Curry says:

    Interestingly, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists–the current Dalai lama–would qualify as a “positive atheist” using the definition provided. In his book, A Simple Path, he explains that a transcendent creator-god is an outright impossibility according to his view of Buddhist teachings.

    The question of what an atheist should call herself, or himself, is ultimately a personal one. While it can be a productive, enlightening exercise for a curious person to work through the question and its related issues, focusing on it too adamantly all too often leads to pointless semantic bickering.

    So far as I’m concerned, not only are people free to identify themselves as they wish, but it’s not a matter of great import to me. Understanding and making a positive difference in life are goals that can be aided by helpful terminology, yet these goals do not rely on any particular terminology.

  23. I don’t think an an anti-theist exists.The definition above seems more like anti-theism (there is a difference). Anti-theist would be against-theists. Theists are the victims here. They are the ones that are conditioned to accept theism as a truth. However, it is true they are also the perpetrators and guilty of spreading their particular flavor of theism to other non-suspecting people. Especially the innocent little children. But it is not their fault they were blindsided by one of these faith-based religious cults.

    As an atheist I find it difficult to blame the theist who has been force to consume these ridiculous concepts from birth via a theistic society. I used to be a theist for over 40 years until a little light came on and I realized what I was being told was impossible (walking on water, raising the dead, sticks that turn into snakes, talking snakes etc.). I know what it is like to be a theist. It is so sad to see so many so disillusioned by so little.

  24. Norma J. Young says:

    I realized this morning when thinking about the post I made (JUNE 30, 2:24 A. M.) that I had left out a word VERY important to me — & felt “incomplete/disrespectful/inauthentic to myself” for not including it. I realized there are also Other words I could add that are also precious to me; however, this one is more encompassingly “precious” & represents to me an Attitude of Life as well: Therefore; I am taking the time to revise my “LIVING Label’” to include it: I will put the additional word in CAPS to distinguish it from the earlier post . . . as I/you can see, my preference for a “LIVING Label” is already showing & being useful — it’s like the difference between typing a document with a typewriter & with a computer; the computer, of course, allows for greater ease of flexibility, adaptability and change, which are essential to LIFE. {Life is Movement (change) & Movement is Life.}

    Here is the “LIVING Label’” from my earlier Post with my “precious” word inserted in CAPS: “. . .Here’s mine (for now): “I am an Eclectic, Feminist, Humanistic, Free-Thinking/Feeling ‘Open-to-Evolving Truth’ Traveling, Dancing ARTIST/Naturist.”

  25. Norma J. Young says:

    Just wondering. . . I subscribed to receive emails notifying me of new comments. Haven’t received any new ones in 3 days. Tried to communicate with the subscriber website & couldn’t. Are there new posts — or is my subscriber function MALfunctioning?

  26. Norma J. Young says:

    Just saw the 2 boxes below about “Notifying me of follow-up comments & new posts via email
    AFTER I’d clicked “Post Comment.” Will try this method in case some “glitch” happened in my subscription.

    • Hi – I hope that works. Can you let me know if it doesn’t? Thanks! Valerie

      Valerie Tarico, Ph.D. Author, Trusting Doubt and Deas and Other Imaginings Founder, WisdomCommons.org blog: Awaypoint.wordpress.com Youtube: TrustingDoubt’s Channel http://www.valerietarico.com 206-898-8184

      • Norma J. Young says:

        Thank you, Valerie. REALLY validating, comforting & increasing trust in “online Community” to get a response on this technical question from the Founder of this website and author of the book generating it. . . was SURPRISED at the speed & personalness of the reply–made me realize my comments were HEARD {I also felt HEARD in your response to my first post –about “‘LIVING labels” –& it felt gratifying to realize that my efforts (again) were not in vain.}

        With the built-in isolation that already exists in being a member of a minority in a majority Christian country, it’s especially important that atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, feminists/humanists, “the consciously–or unconsciously ‘Un-Labeled’”–all the people who dare to question AND “come out of the closet” in that questioning — feel a part of an ALTERNATE community. Thank you for helping me to feel that Community can exist Outside of visible buildings (churches, mostly) in mainstream society –which are much easier to access and tempting to want to connect with at times. When I DO connect for some cultural or holiday event, I always feel I can only “go so far” — that I can’t REALLY be a part of the “Inside” because I’d have to adopt “The Party Line” — and “The Party Line” is “same-o”/”same-o.” One has to hear the same thing over & over & is constrained to arrive at the same “fossilized” conclusion, which makes me feel like it’s just “An exercise in Futility” — and a Farce! There’s no REAL FREEDOM to question basic assumptions of theology. I can’t stand that. It’s Boring!

        {Regarding again the technical question of notification of further posting comments to my email — that prompted your response to me & mine back. . .I’m new to computer and this is my first experience “blogging.” Trying to navigate the technics of it. Yes, your post to me DID work. . . I wouldn’t have posted further now (because your reply said let you know if it DOESN’T work). Perhaps I got so many comments in my Inbox right after I subscribed because it was the weekend & people have more time to contemplate then. It seemed odd that after I posted the “P.S.” to my lst comment, there were no more comment-notifying emails to me — & I thought some gliltch was happening. I’m glad to know now that was not the case–there was just nothing more YET to transmit–because I went on the blog itself & saw I had been the last post. I DID get the email notifying me of my “P.S.” post, so I knew it was working to THAT point.}

        I wouldn’t have written so soon again, Valerie — even when I saw your reply, (because the nature of it not Requiring a reply) — except I saw the word “DEAS” again in the title of your book & realized I’d been curious before as to its meaning. I’m sure you answer it thoroughly in your book; however, I don’t know how soon I’ll be able to get to the book itself, so thought I’d just ask it here for a “quicker route” in the interest of my “overloaded plate.” My “imagining” is that it is short for the word, “I” deas. Then I thought of the word, “Diety.” This may be kinda far-fetched “imagining,” but “I” deas sounds like “I” is the adjective & “deas” the noun. Perhaps there are “deas” that originate from “I” and “deas” that originate from “you/others.” Your title encourages one to TRUST “Doubt, Deas and Other Imaginings” . . . in other words to allow oneself to doubt, be open to “deas” from oneself or others and to allow one’s imagination to be Free. This is what I Get from seeing the title for the first time & just pondering the meaning myself without having it explained to me by its author or anyone else who’s more familiar with your book.

        NOW: I’m ready to have it “unveiled” a bit more–if you can and are willing to–without my having to buy the book or research it more on my own right now–which I don’t have time for . . . and just see “how close” I may have come in my “musings.”
        Thank you. . .
        ~Norma

        Thank you.

  27. “Deas” does indeed come from the word ideas. “Deas and other Imaginings” is a book of folktales. The title story is about a magical world in which ideas turn into objects but people have become afraid of individual creativity. The central character loves playing with “deas” which eventually puts her on a quest. :)

  28. Norma J. Young says:

    How do I edit a post once I realize I’ve made an error & already clicked “Post Comment?” I just realized that my two-part post responding to you, Valerie & responding to your response to Rob Curry — is confusing, because when my post came back in my email, it had your response to Rob Curry first–& yet I was responding to your response first. I don’t want to confuse your readers, but don’t know technically how to correct it & reference it clearly. Maybe I should have responded to each of your posts separately, rather than trying to be efficient & respond to both together. Multi-tasking can end up being confusing — & NOT efficient!

    Perhaps your computer gurus at your website can edit it to be technically more readable — the reference at the top referring to your comment to Rob’s. (Sorry for the technical neophyte-ness at my end.)
    -Norma

    • Perry Bulwer says:

      Norma, in another comment above you wrote: “… I realize that the more people who “tell their stories,” the more these Quests will yield truths more quickly and Civilization will advance more quickly–and humanely.”

      There is no reply button on that comment, but I thought you might be interested in some of the religious abuse survivor memoirs and other related books I’ve listed on one of my blogs. see:

      http://religiouschildabuse.blogspot.ca/p/books-on-religion-and-cults.html

      • Norma J. Young says:

        WOW!

        Perry. I was BLOWN AWAY! Thank you VERY MUCH! Had no IDEA this existed! What a SERVICE you are providing to SO many people. Thanks for taking the initiative to REACH OUT to me! I only had time to quickly scan the blog–AND quickly realized what an rich & relevant resource it will be to me–once I’m ready to go further steps. I will pass on your info to me to others.

        [By the way, I liked that there was a double-space between your paragraphs. When I wrote my posts, put that double space in, but when it was posted to the blog, the space was taken out--& it all "ran together." Don't how you were able to get it to stay in--much more READABLE that way. Maybe if I space down 3 spaces instead of 2, the computer will read 2 & there'll be space between paragraphs. I'll try it on THIS post.]

        –Norma

  29. Nobuo Ishiwata says:

    The almost religion claims gods created the world (the universe) and the human. Then naturally you could have next question. “Who created God (gods)?” Some answer might be: god of gods, God anyway has existed and so on. However, there’s nothing explanations to convince me so far.

    First, I have to understand how we recognize ourselves (our existence) because who recognizes such gods are exactly we – the human. You might know Descartes’ statement: “Codito ergo sum (I think, therefore I am). So we have ability to recognize not only ourselves but others, animals, plants, the world, the universe and even gods.

    Our brains can recognize such things by using the senses. But these human’s ‘sensors’ maybe limited to recognize our ‘true world’, in fact, our eyes can’t see infrared and our ears can’t catch ultrasonic wave. This means that we cannot verify aspects of our ‘true world (everything)’ due to a lack of suitable human’s ‘sensor’

    You can feel existence of your solid body and everything through only your perceptions like a sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch, balance, pain, time and others. And eventually, your consciousness recognizes them. That is to say everything’s existence – including gods – is depending on your consciousness i.e. human’s consciousness.

    Therefore I can say that the world and everything ware created by the human consciousness, there were not created by the gods as the religions claim. The gods are just illusion (delusion) that human’s brains create. Besides, I can point out that heaven, hell, devils and angels are delusions also.

    In fact, I have to say ‘crowded human’s consciousness or ‘crowded consciousness of all organisms with intelligence’ because the world and everything’s existence aren’t composed of individual consciousness. Multi-consciousness influences each other to realize our real world. If there would be someone has a special sense that the human doesn’t have, could see such ‘true world’ above and if he observe, our real world would be like a Virtual Reality.

    However, maybe I should quote some scientific evidence or theory about my argument above to convince you. Actually there’s information, which reveals on the crowded human’s consciousness – ‘Network of the soul’ on ‘life after death’ of the human.

    If you have interest about that information, you might get it, searching the internet. Moreover you might need to think of the quantum mechanics also for imaging the mention above as scientific evidence.

  30. unknownlol says:

    CALL yourself a G.O.D cause that’s what i do

  31. gilhcan says:

    Rather simplistic. The “a” in anti… means the same as the “a” in atheism. If you want to distinguish positive and negative atheism, “atheist” is sufficient for the positive, and “non-theist” would do better for the negative. Non-theism carries much less negative baggage of the Murray sort in the religious wars, and it’s a more human and wholesome attitude from which to discuss matters of belief. A sharp distinction should always be maintained between belief and knowledge.

    Agnostic is derived from the Greek “agnosco,” meaning “I do not know.” It seems a contradiction to brand not knowing with any gradations of certainty. It seems evident that the statement to not know is sufficient to cover all the categories. Like breathing and living, moving from not knowing through stages of belief and knowledge is an ongoing process, evolution in view. It’s a learning process. Study, thinking, and conceptualizing will happen.

    All the gradations of belief to non-belief should be distinguished from knowledge. Religious beliefs and attitudes are given to us. It seems most people give the little serious concern except in formalities like formal attendance at church, marriage, and funerals. Otherwise, religion appears to be used to assuage the anxieties of existence like illness and death. To a non-believer, that can seem little different than fairy tales and Mother Goose.

  32. lewis says:

    What would i be? i belive in my own god, beliveing that if god is real, it does not matter how you worship him, which religion you choose. As long as you belive in a god under your own personal imigary. i find it hard to explain my views but would help if somebody could let me know what i would be catagorised under. I dont follow any religion nor belive what they say, but i do believe in a creator.

    • Maybe a deist like Thomas Jefferson?

    • Mriana says:

      Wait. It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you believe in a god? What about Taoists? Taoism is, for the most part, a non-theistic religion. It would be nice if you clarified. Thanks.

    • Mriana says:

      And may I ask, what makes it a him?

    • Mriana says:

      (No edit button, so please forgive the multiple posts.)
      Don’t take my questions personally or as an attack, I’m just trying to get you to think about what you said. Taoism, as well as some other world views, believes there is a yin and yang (female and male) to everything. The earth is yin/female and the sky/heaven is yang/male. Thus, my question as to what makes you think god is a “him”. It could be androgynous, both male and female.

      Just something to ponder along your journey.

      • Perry Bulwer says:

        Some Christians believe that Genesis 1:26 and Genesis 11:7 which use the plural in the phrase “let us make man in our image” is proof that God is both male and female. For example, the cult I was in believed that the Holy Spirit/Ghost was female. I am now an atheist, by the way, and no longer believe in that nonsense.

        Here’s an excerpt from a Jewish site disputing that interpretation of those verses in Genesis, something I would have found interesting in my dogmatic life but now see as simply silly:

        “Trinitarian Christians maintain that Genesis 1:26 and Genesis 11:7 are prooftexts of an alleged tri-unity god, but this claim is erroneous. The inference that “Let us make man in our image” (Genesis 1:26) refers to the plurality of God is refuted by the subsequent verse, which relates the creation of man to a singular God, “And God created man in His image” (Genesis 1:27). In this verse the Hebrew verb “created” appears in the singular form. If “let us make man” indicates a numerical plurality, it would be followed in the NEXT verse by, “And they created man in their image.” Obviously, the plural form is used in the same way as in the divine appellation ‘Elohim, to indicate the all-inclusiveness of God’s attributes of authority and power, the plurality of majesty. It is customary for one in authority to speak of himself as if he were a plurality. Hence, Absalom said to Ahithophel, “Give your counsel what we shall do” (2 Samuel 16:20). The context shows that he was seeking advice for himself’ yet he refers to himself as “we” (see also Ezra 4:16-19).

        “There is another possible reason for the use of the plural on the part of God, and that is to manifest His humility. God addresses Himself to the angels and says to them, “Let us make man in our image.” It is not that He invites their help, but as a matter of modesty and courtesy, God associates them with the creation of man. This teaches us that a great man should act humbly and consult with those lower than him. …..”

        (like I said, silly to think that a capricious murderous god like the god of Genesis is modest, humble)

    • general zard says:

      Try this :: 3)    If you don’t believe in the perfect Creator fashioning the imperfect cosmos out of nothing, and you don’t believe in the cosmos springing out of nothing without the help of any Creator and then just randomly running down its energy in a series of utterly pointless and mindless interactions then you are left with the truth: the cosmos is not created. It has always existed and will always exist. It can never not exist. It goes through great cyclic Ages as it explores every conceivable possibility. The basic stuff of existence is wilful, purposeful energy – mind/spirit (Geist to use Hegel’s word) – that strives to turn all possibilities into actualities. It does so eternally. When it has exhausted one Age of all of its possibilities, it commits “divine suicide” and begins again. This cosmic adventure can never end.

      • Mriana says:

        And that is why I prefer science over mythology. Science makes more sense and you don’t have to do any mental gymnastics to comprehend it.

  33. Mriana says:

    To Perry (no reply button) Yes, I’ve heard of the explanation that God was addressing the angels, but I having heard of the other. However, I cannot fathom a creator deity destroying what it created intentionally, which many Xians (ie Pat Robinson) seem to do- attribute destruction to their deity. While some mothers do kill their offspring, most see their offspring as precious and wouldn’t dream of harming them, much less killing them. If such a creator exists, then he’s not worth worshipping and if there were a creator deity, you’d think it would be more like Dr. Spock.

    • Perry Bulwer says:

      Mriana, when I first read your reference to Dr. Spock I immediately assumed you meant the Spock from Star Trek. But then it occurred to me that you might have meant Dr. Benjamin Spock. According to wikipedia, the latter wrote a book Baby and Child Care that was the second best selling book next to the bible for over 50 years, so maybe he was a diety :) . http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Spock

      Either Spock would make a better diety than the god of Genesis, but I would vote for Benjamin because at least he encouraged consideration of a child’s point of view as an individual (the other Spock probably would too), as opposed to the jealous, spiteful, vengeful god of Genesis who commanded his followers to kill children.

      • Mriana says:

        ROFL! I thought the same thing too when I saw the Dr’s books in my mother’s bookcase when I was around 6 or 7 y.o. She had to explain one was real and one was fictional, as well as Mr Spock and Dr. Spock. I did mean the real baby dr, not Mr. Spock of Star Trek.

      • Perry Bulwer says:

        Since I missed that clue of Dr. vs Mr., I guess I can’t call myself a Trekkie, even though I’ve watched the series and all the movies except the latest one.

      • Mriana says:

        Yes, Dr Spock had more nurturing in his pinking than most gods of religion and natural consequences… Oh boy! Dr. Spock had a corner on that and (as far as I know) never raised a hand to his own children when they did something they shouldn’t have. Natural consequences are far better than “the Finger of God” coming down to kill both guilty (of whatever) and innocent people, just because he was full of wrath.

  34. hedonix says:

    A useful start for those finding their way. I have been godless ever since Moses broke the stone tablets, and found that no single label ever covers all aspects. So, I made up my own: Equalitarian. Now, my only problem is remembering how to spell it

  35. I tell every inquiring person that “I’m a retired Catholic”, that usually satisfies them.

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