Sunday, January 31, 2016

I Just Encountered Someone Who Called Himself A Post-Theist

As always, when I meet an atheist like this one calls him- or herself something other than an atheist -- non-believer, skeptic, post-theist or what have you -- I wonder whether he or she has chosen the exotic self-identification in order to distance him- or herself from the New Atheists.

Assuming that this is indeed the case, I sympathize with the motive -- I rarely let a chance go by to distance myself from the New Atheists -- but I disagree with the tactic. I do not wish to surrender the name "atheist" to the New Atheists.

Before they came along, the most famous atheists were people like Schopenhauer, Marx, Nietzsche, Twain, Russell and Sartre. I am one of the intellectual heirs of those earlier atheists. The non-believers, skeptic, post-theists and what have you may or may not also be among their heirs and worthy successors. The New Atheists most assuredly are not.

Because those earlier atheists were more than just atheists. After they had told you that they were atheists, they still had interesting things to say. They weren't one-issue people, declaring all atheists to be good and all religion to be bad. They all realized that things are much, much more complicated than that.

One of the few things upon which New Atheists and I agree, and upon which I and all of the non-believers, skeptic, post-theists disagree, is that the term "atheist" denotes someone who does not believe in the existence of God or gods, and that it means nothing more or less than that.

Usually, theologians have favored, and atheists have rejected, terms which obfuscate rather than explain. Unfortunately, these atheists who insist they're not atheists have picked up a bad habit from the theologians. And it doesn't make atheism look any better when onlookers finally figure out that non-believer, skeptic, post-theist and all those other terms which some atheists these days choose to identify themselves as atheists while avoiding the term "atheist" -- that what all of those other terms really mean is "atheist," no more and no less. If we have to choose another term, then let's do like the New Atheists, and choose a term which leaves the term "atheist" in it, and call ourselves, for example, Steven Bollinger Can Haz Nobel Atheists.

(Sartre won a Nobel and gave it back. I'm sitting here thinking how rich I would have to be to follow suit. Sartre was stinking rich when he turned the Nobel down.)

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