O, RLLY?? Not Using the “A” Word Means You’re Lying??

In a recent special on CNN, American Atheists president David Silverman made the statement that religious nonbelievers are “the most hated group in this country.”


It may be true that there’s active and ongoing discrimination in many parts of the world against religious nonbelievers, but no more so than religions against rival religions. We nonbelievers are not special, we are not enlightened, and we are not especially persecuted, more than some other minorities; to play the victim card like the Religious Right here in the States all too often does, and to exaggerate the facts in that manner strikes me as a little, oh, I don’t know… silly?

Hyperbole much?

There’s also his claim that religious nonbelievers who do not self-identify as atheists are lying. That’s just on-its-face foolishness.

I identify as a skeptic, not as an atheist, because the former best fits my methods and views.

I’m a skeptic to all sorts of claims, the only restriction being that they must be logically and empirically testable. “Atheist” just doesn’t cover as much ground, offer the mileage I need to make it work, doesn’t carry the freight it needs to. “Atheist” is too limited. It pertains and entails only skepticism to one sort of thing — the existence of a God or gods, so I rarely use it.

News flash — Not all skeptics are atheists — nor vice versa.

Two words to illustrate that would be useful here — Martin Gardner — he was a good skeptic and a self-described theist.

That’s the problem with labels. Skeptic, agnostic, atheist, humanist, nullifidian, freethinker, rationalist, infidel, heretic, etc…none of these words are synonyms, none of them say the same thing, none of them carry the same cargo, and using one or more of any of them does not make you a liar for not using any one or more of the others.

It’s simply absurd, though perhaps intended to rhetorically. Rallying people whose only shared trait, if even that, is not believing in someone’s god is a lot like herding cats. Good luck on that.

No one ought to call people liars for not using a particular label, to cajole people to flock to their banner like good little peas in a pod. It is a good way to discredit one’s own movement, though, and if that’s the goal, it succeeds wonderfully.