atheist, agnostic, skeptic – what am i?

As a response to my recent post about atheism as a religion, reader D. A. asks:

I believe that I don’t believe in anything. Everyone is right and wrong also. So what does that make me?

Dear D. A.:

You can call yourself whatever you want. This is the beauty of the free country we live in. You can call yourself an atheist, or a skeptic, or an agnostic, or nothing at all, and nobody can tell you you’re wrong. In fact, you could call yourself a Buddhist, a Hindu, or a Christian. And while some people might argue with you, they can’t stop you from calling yourself that.

I choose to call myself an atheist. I don’t actively believe anything. However, I think that my disbelief in a god makes me more of an atheist than an agnostic. Also, I want to take the sting out of the word “atheist”. Remember how we’re the most hated minority in America? That’s kind of dumb, isn’t it?

In the words of Hemant Mehta in an interview he had with Fallen and Flawed last April:

1. How would you describe yourself: atheist, agnostic or skeptic? Explain.

Atheist.  It’s the word I first came to identify with and it’s stuck with me ever since.  It’s also the one that has the worst stigma and I’d like to confront that stigma head-on by embracing the word.

That’s how I feel, too.

Of course, you can just choose to call yourself nothing. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. People will always pressure you to try to define yourself, but that’s just because we are all finite beings and we feel the need to impose that finiteness onto the world around us. We thrive on definitions. The fact is, unless you feel the need to make a political statement of some sort, defining yourself by a word probably won’t do much for you.

Keep the questions coming!


4 Responses to “atheist, agnostic, skeptic – what am i?”

  1. March 10, 2010 at 9:46 am

    I usually choose to call myself an anarchist when asked about my political beliefs. I think the word ‘anarchy’ might have similar negative preconceptions like the word atheist. But like you, I looked up definitions and found that anarchist is the best word that describes me. I just think government is wrong and unnecessary, and as far as I know, anarchy is defined as “living without rulers.” But people preconceive that I’m violent or chaotic. There is a term called “voluntarist” that is basically a way of being an anarchist without calling yourself an anarchist. But, like you with your atheism label, I feel that I shouldn’t hide from a label just because it has negative connotations for some people.

    But when people meet me first, and then find out I’m an anarchist, they seem to be more open to the idea… I think it’s just because I’m kinda likable… seriously. I try to be a nice person, and I think that nobody thinks of an anarchist as nice.

    Labels are tricky especially if you are using them to describe yourself. But when people see that you are a likable person, with an unlikable label, they tend to re-think their prejudices.

    So my advice, is just to be a nice, likable person, and more people will listen to your “crazy” philosophies.

    Nice blog, BTW. I’m a new fan!

  2. 2 Kerrie
    March 10, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    I feel the same way about the word “liberal” – lately it seems that “progressive” has become the nicey-nice label to adopt because liberal has been turned into a dirty word because of the right wing’s phenomenal success at taking over and reframing the debate. Take it back and embrace it. I’m a DFH liberal atheist and proud of it. 🙂

    You’re on a roll, Kat! Love reading your posts.

  3. 4 joyworldyet
    April 11, 2010 at 12:34 am

    Since the question “what is an atheist?” frequently comes up, and since there seems to be some confusion, here are a few basic facts.

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