Nonbelievers Who Aren’t Atheists?

Writes David Niose on Psychology Today:

If you don’t believe in any gods, you are an atheist, right? This definition seems pretty basic, not the kind of material that requires an advanced degree in theology to understand.

But apparently it isn’t accurate. In fact, as I circulate in the secular movement on a daily basis, I frequently meet nonbelievers who are unwilling to identify as atheists.

Of course, there are other words that might describe those who don’t believe in deities — agnostic, humanist, skeptic, etc. — and quite a few nonbelievers prefer one of those terms as their primary means of religious identification, but many reject outright the atheist identity even as a secondary or incidental label. “Don’t call me an atheist!” one such nonbeliever recently told me. “I refuse to identify according to what I reject. I don’t believe in astrology or unicorns, but I don’t label myself according to that — so why should I identify according to my rejection of god-belief?”…

Read More: Psychology Today

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  • Drinky McGee

    Part of the problem I have with identifying as atheist is that I find people who do identify that way increasingly annoying.  There’s a large sector of the atheist community that has become evangelical in their lack of belief and are utterly obsessed with shoving it down everyone’s throat. I don’t find that any less of a pain in the balls than a Christian who feels the need to go missionary 24/7. Much as with Christians, some of these atheists seem to be trying to convince themselves of what they’re saying.

    • Lustxi

      Agreed. I don’t use the word anymore because its been co-opted by a movement with an agenda. They’ve created this annoying language game where they want you to label yourself as someone who subscribes to a humble naturalism… but once you accept the label they want to use your identity claim to legitimize a militant movement with very specific truth claims and an intolerant agenda. 

    • Piouspenguin

       most people like that are a product of over 2000 years of being bashed…………and if you believe in reincarnation, then the atheist “zealots” could possibly be recycled souls from the worst eras of humanity…………i don’t mind them so much………they keep the “god hates fags” cults at bay for those of you who are too scared or just plain lazy to do it yourselves……….criticizing them is kind of traitorous if you consider yourself atheist. FOR SHAME…………………lmao

  • Zenc

    Yeah, I’m not convinced by this article.

    The question is first and foremost logical, which can then lead to the psychological.

    I seriously doubt that Richard Dawkins is afraid of being stigmatized for his religious beliefs yet, as I  pointed out, he recently admitted to being an Agnostic for the LOGICAL element involved.

    And anybody who’s read many of my posts should understand that I’m not real concerned over public stigma either.

    What’s more, I trust Atheists far more than Believers for a number of reasons which are generally best summed up by William S. Burroughs – “Never do business with a religious son-of-a-bitch. His word ain’t worth a shit — not with the Good Lord telling him how to fuck you on
    the deal.”

    Really this whole pity party that Atheists seem to be throwing for themselves is exactly the type of idiotic persecution complex that Christians are so famous for.


  • The only thing to get is money

    Atheists like myself have to understand one thing: Atheism will never be a popular movement. It cannot be because the very word Atheism makes absolutely no reference to any belief or philosophy at all. Atheist or Atheism is just shorthand for saying one who does not believe in gods. Religious ideology dissolves under education and rational thought. Not by having a reactionary movement against it called “militant atheism”. Those two words “militant” and “atheism”, what a joke.

  • Guest

    Anti-monotheism/organized religion doesn’t equate atheism.

  • Keenan Hate-Machine DeAngelis

    Let’s define “god” before we debate its existence.

    god = omnipotent, non-spatiotemporal intelligence

    Good, now that I got that out of the way (which never happens) we can begin discussing this rationally.

    Nobody can be sure if outside of our observable, testable reality there is/isn’t anything resembling intelligence. Our technological limitations prevent us from subjugating this kind of being to any kind of scientific scrutiny.  We are incapable of providing sufficient rational grounds to justify the belief that deities either do or do not exist.

    That’s what I KNOW.  If you’re not an idiot you have the ability to distinguish knowledge from belief; the ability to not conflate personal truths with objective truth.

    As an agnostic atheist I do not BELIEVE in any god or gods.  Due to the lack of any real empirical evidence supporting any classically defined gods’ existence, I am able to deduce that there are none.  But this is not the same as KNOWING.  I’m not stupid enough to deny the fact that we are fallible beings; only capable of observing and testing a small spectrum of the multiversal, hyper-dimensional reality in which we exist. 

    That is how I can also BELIEVE that even if one or more deities happen to exist, they do not appear to be concerned about the fate of humanity. Therefore, their existence has little impact on personal human affairs and should be of little theological interest. We are more than likely just run-of-the-mill emergent byproducts of biochemistry – something that is happening all over the universe.

    >TL;DR – To admit that you do not “know” if one or more omnipotent, non-spatiotemporal beings exists is the only logical, well formed position to take.  What you “believe” is an entirely different discussion altogether.

    • Ray

       there is no rational basis for a belief in god.  it’s really that simple. no need to pull your punches.

  • Pb

    Atheists are as dogmatic and reactionary as theists.  Reject them both.

    • Haystack

      Only if you generalize based on the loudest and most obnoxious of both groups. 

      • Ray

         there are no loud and obnoxious atheists

    • Ray

      the middle way is seldom the right way. both sides are not wrong. the truth has a tendency to agitate people far out of proportion in a way that myth does not. There is no evangelizing by atheists. The religious do little else and are uncommonly paranoid.

  • Dr K

    Semantic dribble … do females define themselves as such – being not male? Religion has played a huge part in shaping humanity’s psyche. It’s normal for language to take the converse.

    • Edgeleader

      Well said.

  • Haystack

    The problem is that the public associates atheism with being anti-religious, because the most outspoken atheists (Dawkins, etc) choose to take that posture. I tend to identify more as an agnostic these days largely because I don’t want people to assume that I hate religion. 

    • Ray

       who cares what ignorant people think?

  • BuzzCoastin

    WTF’s up with all this Evangelical Atheist stuff?
    It’s not enough not believe in god, Santa & the Easter Bunny
    now you gotta proselytize for Atheism?

    If people wanna believe in a super nanny god, it ok by me.
    If people wanna impose their super nanny god’s rules on me; that’s not ok by me.
    If people wanna impose their Atheism rules on me; that’s not ok by me either.

    • Ray

       atheism isn’t a belief.  there are no rules for atheism being imposed on anyone.

  • Geoffrey Roussel

    What’s wrong with the terms “believers” (in god or whatever) and “nonbelievers” ?
    i won’t trust random things without scientific approach and tangible proofs.
    Either i know it, or i don’t, i can also emit hypothesis, but i would never blindly believe things.

    I’m a nonbeliever regarding ghosts or dragons or werewolves too and i guess there is no 
    new terms or words for thoses?

    I don’t see the point in creating new words for that.

  • GOD

    I don’t believe in Atheists.

  • Sdterp

    I agree. It’s mainly an issue of semantics but also an issue of self identity. It’s similar to the discussion amongst other minority groups (Hispanic, Latino, specific nationality; Black, African-American; Gay, Queer, Lesbian, LQBT, LGBTQ; Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Hearing Imparted etc.). While I understand the desire to not be labeled by something you’re not, I suspect it’s primarily the result of trying to avoid the stigma still attached to Atheism. Still no reason to separate the groups for demographic purposes.

  • Sdterp

    I agree. It’s mainly an issue of semantics but also an issue of self identity. It’s similar to the discussion amongst other minority groups (Hispanic, Latino, specific nationality; Black, African-American; Gay, Queer, Lesbian, LQBT, LGBTQ; Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Hearing Imparted etc.). While I understand the desire to not be labeled by something you’re not, I suspect it’s primarily the result of trying to avoid the stigma still attached to Atheism. Still no reason to separate the groups for demographic purposes.

  • J Unseen

    As an atheist, I don’t tell anyone I’m atheist unless the topic of religion is being discussed. I feel like the word “atheist” just has a negative connotation attached for no reason. My religion (or lack of) is my own business. You’ll never see me preaching atheism on a street corner.

  • Ray

    this is all boilerplate.  the new social movement is accused of anger and enthusiasm.  it’s a nice distraction from the issue at hand: religion is forced , legally, on countless people.  atheism is not.  

  • Matholwich

    Pantheism, anyone?

  • spam

    atheist is a SLUR created by theists.

  • Jane

    yep, i’ve been saying this for years

  • Jai Ankers

    Don’t believe in a deity? You’re an atheist. Quit having a bitch and get over it.

    Atheism isn’t like a religion where some rules bind you together, or some dogma influences your decision making- it simply means a person who doesn’t believe in gods.

  • Juan

    Yeah, I have absolutely NO USE for the Abrahamic god or his various fundamentalist followers. But after having experienced, via certain entheogens, what appeared as intelligent beings from another realm, and traveling out of my body, it has become impossible for me to claim I am an atheist.
    I really don’t think the current materialist, reductionist, scientific paradigm as promoted by people like Dawkins is the final word on “realty,” our place in the universe, etc. It looks like there is indeed some very interesting stuff going on just outside of our conscious awareness. We’re still a long way from any kind of ontological certainty.
    Also, I just find the scientific, materialist paradigm just as much, if not more of a buzz-kill, than the fundamentist nonsense.

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