September 2007

I dont believe in a religion, but i do not refer to myself as an atheist. when someone asks me what religion i follow, i tell them i dont follow any religion. when they say, “so your atheist?” I tell them no. I feel that by being an “atheist” you automatically become anti-religious and are against any kind of religion. I support friends and family who are, i support what makes them happy regardless of my opinion. some people believe in the existence of aliens, some dont- but people dont have a word for the group of people who dont believe in aliens, they just dont believe in them. If anything, ill tell someone im buddist. i see buddism as a way of living/thinking- not a religion. I just feel that everyone has a negative connotation embedded on their minds whenever the word atheist is said. im starting to think that people aren’t necessarily afraid to let people know that they are “atheist,” but rather not even acknowledge religion and label themselves as… i dunno… human? … rational?… just plain ole people? i mean, im sure if you found a tribe somewhere without any prior human contact(other than themselves) you wouldnt call them atheist because they dont know about jesus or god… youd call them … i dunno what you would cal them… hahaha. your thoughts? (this is poorly edited and coming from someone who is tired and did not organize his thoughts)

I agree that many people have unfortunate associations with the word atheism, and I also don’t lead with “I’m an atheist” (at least not in professional situation) because I don’t want to be misunderstood. If someone asks me what my religion is, I say that I’m not religious. If they continue to ask if I’m an atheist, I’ll reiterate my point without sounding un-atheist — “Right, I’m not religious.”

I don’t see why being an atheist makes one anti-religion, any more than being religious makes one anti-atheist. I’m an atheist, but I’m against religion only in the sense that I believe religion is incorrect. I think some people have perfectly reasonable justifications for being religious.

I think it’s interesting that you describe yourself as a Buddhist. If you don’t believe in the supernatural aspects of Buddhism, I don’t understand how you justify doing that. If you do believe in them, then you aren’t an atheist, so you don’t have to worry about using that label.

Regarding whether a tribe that didn’t know about Jesus or God would be labeled atheist — I don’t have enough information to answer that question. There are plenty of religious people who do not believe in Jesus or the Judeo-Christian God (e.g., Buddhists).

So, to sum up: I’d say that the fact that many people have bad associations with the word “atheism” does not imply that we should abandon the term. Rather, I think that atheists should go ahead and call ourselves atheists while setting a good example for our group. If you are an atheist but are uncomfortable with the term, I’d recommend just sticking with “I’m not religious.” It’s an honest option.

Posted on September 19, 2007 at 6:19 pm by ideclare · Permalink
In: Atheists' problems

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  1. Written by crickets
    on September 29, 2010 at 9:50 am
    Reply · Permalink

    I think it’s possible to be buddhist without the supernatural elements. most of the core concepts of buddhism, in fact everything but reincarnation, can be incorporated into a naturalistic worldview. in fact, even reincarnation does not neccesarily presuppose a deity, so it is consistent with a broad definition of atheism.

    many eastern religions, including shinto, taoism, buddhism, and hinduism, are compatible with atheism.

    this may be counterintuitive, especially in the cases of shinto (literally ‘way of the gods’) and hinduism, but remember that the concept of ‘god’ doesn’t always translate well. the spirits of shinto are more like ghosts or animistic spirits than gods in the western tradition, and hinduism is an incredibly diverse religious tradition which has included sects which rejected the idea of a creator god.

    that being said, ‘atheist’ is often taken as a stand-in for naturalist, and robbed of supernatural elements taoism and buddhism in particular begin to resemble philosophies of life more than religions.

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