In Defense of the Term Atheist

So I’ve been wavering back and forth on creating a public profile to completely “come out”.  I shared some name suggestions and many of you gave feedback and gave some of your own suggestions.  There was one name in particular that I’m drawn to, but most of you didn’t care for it: Accidental Atheist.

The two most common complaints I heard where:

  1. You’ll be seen as the evil horrible atheist who… eats babies, worships Satan, and whatnot.
  2. Why are you focusing on what you left behind?  Don’t let your past define you.

But those are actually the two reasons why I like the term.  If I’m going to come out publicly it’s not just going to be for my own good; I’d like to normalize atheism.  I’d like to add to the growing presence of ex-Christians and ex-pastors who have come to the realization that the concept of God is implausible and unlikely (Agnostic/Atheist).  I want to throw my hat in with the likes of Jerry DeWitt, Neil Carter, Hemant Mehta, and the entire Clergy Project.  I’d like to elevate the profile of the Clergy Project.  I want to reach out to people who feel as alone as I felt and let them know they can survive and start over.  I want to identify as an atheist precisely because it’s a feared and confusing term.  Partly to make people more comfortable with the term, but mostly to help those who “accidentally” find themselves in my shoes.

So I think, if I do create a public profile, that will be the term I use.

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13 thoughts on “In Defense of the Term Atheist

  1. I think Accidental Atheist is fine.

    Thinking out loud here, but it seems an issue you might run into is people not taking your non-belief seriously since it’s labelled as accidental and that word may make it sound like weak atheism. Maybe that’s just a semantic game I’m playing in my head, though.

    I say run with it if you dig it. Looking forward to “seeing” you come out in public.

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  2. Go for it. 🙂 I have decided to own the term atheist and I use it all the time now to describe myself. And oddly, it’s gotten me startled looks, but when I don’t sprout horns or doing evil things it seems that people calm down. I think it’s a perfect title to describe you and your situation, and I am also totally in agreement with your thoughts and desire about normalizing atheism. That’s what I’m going for too. My husband was really worried for me and wondered if I was making a good choice in using the term freely, but I figure that if people know me, or get to know me, the word won’t seem so scary to them.

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  3. I think it’s fine. My only caution is that there’s already a book out with a similar name, and a wordpress blog with the name (“https://accidentalatheist.wordpress.com”). If you’re cool with that, I like the name.

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  4. I’m with you. I want to normalize the word, and I want to be part of a community that helps others who are going through this. If I have learned anything over the last several months writing on this topic, it’s that there is an incredible need for more support of those leaving faith. It’s funny, because I felt that way when I started my other blog about being a special needs parent (that I could connect with others as they found themselves with this new diagnosis)- and yet I actually feel more useful in the ex-Christian community. Because help isn’t as obvious and plentiful here, I think. We need to change that.

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  5. Reason #1 just propagates the idea that atheists are horrible people, so I don’t think it’s valid. You can be an atheist and behave as an ogre, or you can be an atheist and behave as some will respect. Your choice.

    Reason #2 is true, you want to look forward and not back. But that doesn’t mean calling yourself an atheist is allowing your past to define you. Everyone is defined by their past, you can’t escape that. And there’s no way for you to avoid focusing on your recent traumatic experience, at least for a while. That doesn’t mean you can’t also be forward looking.

    Good name. Use it if you want to.

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