Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain

Illogically Logical


Recently Eldon wrote about his difficulty in settling on a position in his faith or, more succinctly, his lack of faith.  Like many of us leaving behind what we once believed he isn’t sure how to label himself or just exactly which philosophy best describes his position. I’m not sure why a label matters so much except that we’ve had one for so long we believe we should call ourselves something.  Maybe we’ve lived in the black and white for so long we think we should know more than we do.  We should be…certain.

I’m not sure why it is that some atheists seem offended if one says they’re agnostic but don’t identify themselves as atheist. It’s as if they have as much of an agenda as fundamentalist Christians.  I’m agnostic.   I’m really not sure what I believe in regards to a higher power, some energy force, call it what you will.  Is there really no evidence for any of these?  I can understand how folks come to that conclusion, but I’m not there yet.

I’m leaning toward and, practically speaking, atheist. I don’t pray, I don’t worship a god, and I don’t follow a religious philosophy unless you can call the golden rule religious.  I wouldn’t even know which god or if any currently conjectured god, is real. How does one worship a god they can’t even identify?

Some people have never believed in a god.  I can see how someone who has never believed would not be able to relate to the journey of those recovering from religion.  There are others who seem to have lost their faith overnight.  Something just clicked with them and, poof, there went their belief.  I’m not contending it was a small something.  Maybe they learned just one part of what they’d believed wasn’t true so they couldn’t trust any of it anymore.  It isn’t right or wrong.  It just is.  But there are others who take a lot of time in coming to a decision about their faith, who are slow to adopt the name atheist.

In part we are slow to adopt that as our moniker because it is such a loaded term.  At least it is around these here parts.  Being openly atheist makes you untrustworthy, unfaithful, unscrupulous, and, in the opinion of a lot of people, quite possibly unhinged.  I know, I know.  I’m not responsible for what other people think.  I can’t control what other people think.  But I can control what they know about me.

According to one commenter on Eldon’s blog:

“The problem with saying that you don’t define yourself by what you don’t believe and saying that you are uncomfortable with the term “atheist” is to miss the point of what atheism is all about. The stance of not believing in something, per se, is not important. But the lack of belief in certain ideas which have incredible power, authority, and influence over cultures throughout history has a different matter. Te identification has socio-political import, hence the conversation.”

But why does the identification have socio-political import?  Is it that big a deal what we call ourselves?  Somehow I just don’t think so.  What is important is  taking a position on those certain ideas the commenter refers to.  Though he didn’t go into detail about what those are I can’t help but feel that there are a lot of progressive/liberal Christians who take the same exact stance that atheists do.  I just don’t think I have to label myself to be a good person, to oppose the oppression of those who need a voice, to stand up for human rights.

I see the point that if more people came out as atheists maybe…maybe…others would become more accepting.  Maybe more people would realize that atheists aren’t such bad people after all.  But judging by what I know of the fundy believers who hold such disdain for atheists I highly doubt it.  They’d either be in denial of said atheism or they’d assume Satan himself had possession of the atheist.  Evangelicals believe in that sort of thing, y’know.

I’ve been told that my logic about the whole atheist/agnostic terminology is confused and misinformed.  But truly it is not.  I’m quite well aware of the difference between agnosticism and atheism.  Advocatus Atheist has a pretty good article about that very thing.  A quote from the article:

  • Agnosticism deals with knowledge.
  • Atheism deals with belief.

I’m not conflating the terms.  I’m not misinformed about the terminology.  I simply haven’t felt like I had enough knowledge to form a belief.  I’ll readily admit that part of not forming that particular belief has been emotional in nature.  If a Christian can say I’ve walked away from God because of disappointment or anger then I suppose an atheist could say that I won’t just let go of God because because I’m afraid or I need a crutch or some similar emotional reason.  And maybe they’d partly be right.

Grundy at Deity Shmeity asks the question, “What the Hell Am I?”, and makes some pretty good points.  According to his article I’d probably label myself an Agnostic Atheist.  That is, if I wanted to label myself with, y’know, a label.  But to be honest I really don’t give a rip about labeling myself.  I’m not ready to call myself atheist.  Maybe I’m still trying to resist any remnant of my former fundamentalist behaviors.  Feeling a bit rebellious I suppose. *grin*

22 thoughts on “Illogically Logical

  1. I have found that people need me to have a label. Something that they can identify with. Just the other day a family member said to me “so you are a full fledged atheist now huh?’ To which I replied, yes and no. If I must be labeled I am an agnostic/atheist. I don’t really believe she understood what that meant. I explained but to her they are one in the same. I said I would rather just be labeled a human being, a person, someone who is trying to do go, be good. A humanist, a freethinker, to which she replied Christians can be free thinkers too. I don’t know I suppose, maybe. Anyway it seems society needs for us to have some sort of label so they can lump us together and therefore I guess we feel like we need to find a label so we know who our “people” are.

    I’ve thought a lot about this myself. I waffled back and forth on what to label myself and really when it comes down to it, it’s no ones business but my own.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think you’re right. A label would be more for other people than it is for myself. I’ve been lumped together for a long, long time and while it’s a little bit scary not to have a tribe, so to speak, I kind of like not being stereotyped. So we’ll just waffle together!


  2. I think I know what you mean. I’m actually not a big fan of the atheist label myself. I don’t apply a label to myself for any other non-held-belief. I would prefer to say “I don’t believe in God.” However, people just jump to the label anyway. As theagnosticwife says, it’s other people who need the label for you. But I fully support your resistance!


    • I’d never actually thought about it like that. Not labeling myself for any other non-held-belief. Maybe the next time someone presses about a label I’ll say I’m alochnessmonter, or aleprechaun, or asasquatch.

      A little humor might just sidetrack the conversation.


  3. Thanks for writing this. A few people have given me the hairy eyeball because I identify as agnostic rather than atheist, and have made some incorrect assumptions as to why I do so. Sadly, the nonbeliever community gets wrapped up in labels too.


  4. I can understand why one would feel the need to try and self ascertain their position with a label .. some people need a marker to know where they are, or where there stand is,in whatever situation they are in, and there’s nothing wrong with that .. where I do have a problem tho is that other people are all to very quick to label others .. That to me is wrong and there’s far to much labeling going on in this world
    A person is a person no matter what they believe and no matter how much that belief differs from anybody else s.. Personally no matter who I meet in life I always see the human being and their personality and the only label I know them by is there given or chosen name and to me that’s how it should be.


    • I admire that in you, always seeing the person. You don’t see Christian or Atheist, black or white, male or female. You treat everyone with respect.


  5. Thanks for the reference. Labels aren’t necessary, but answers should be at the ready. I think everyone should have an answer to questions like “do you believe in God?” or “do you think there is an afterlife?” They are big questions that people should think about. It appears you have and are.


    • I agree people should really consider these things. So many people don’t think very deeply about their beliefs. But shouldn’t that be more to have answers for oneself? Do I owe anyone else an explanation of what I believe?


  6. Well, call me anything but late for dinner! Do you believe there is a God? If the answer is no, you are an atheist. That is what the term means.

    If you don’t wish to ‘come out’, don’t. In this society it is foolish to come out in many instances. I am certainly not going to push you into calling yourself something if you have emotional baggage with the term.

    Of course, all of us ‘non-believers’ (if not atheists) who do not stand up for non belief have no grounds to complain when the believers force ‘in God we trust’ on our money, ‘under God’ in our pledge, chaplains in our congress, take away the rights of gays and women to choose, kill stem cell research, get ‘teach the controversy’ in schools (there is no controversy among scientists), etc. Because we are silent, they encounter less resistance.

    I have a bit of trouble with the whole knowledge/belief-agnotiscism/atheism schtick. In recognition that realistically, all knowledge other than ‘I exist’ is probabilistic, the way I see it is that some beliefs have more evidence to support them than other beliefs. Absolute knowledge doesn’t exist (I know, how do I know that?). Credence afforded a proposition should depend only on the quality and quantity of evidence. Credence is belief. We all only believe, with greater and lesser degrees of justification. Thus says Zarathustra (oops – I mean exrelayman – pretty easy to get full of yourself, isn’t it?).

    You, D’Ma are a good thinker and internet friend. I am just putting out there how I see this issue without any demands on you to concur. (I can see the theist mocking, ‘how many sects of non-belief are there’). I admit I am an atheist – there still might be a God, but since I see no evidence in support of this proposition I cannot give credence to it. Many whom I must deal with in person would be surprised to know this, but on the internet I can let ‘er rip.

    I hope this has been an enjoyable rather than stressful read for you. I tried to lighten it up in a few places.


    • That’s the thing, exrelayman. You may label yourself whatever you choose in whatever setting you choose. And I appreciate that you don’t try to press anyone else into labeling themselves. But there are those out there who would. As I pointed out in my post there are many progressive Christians who would stand up for your right to unbelief. They are opposed to teaching evolution in public schools. They are in favor of same-sex marriage. All of this is because they recognize the precarious nature of their own belief. Not that they are waffling on it, but they recognize that it is just that – a belief – and that each individual has a right to their own beliefs.


  7. Since you’re linking to me, I’m linking to you. You’re on the ol’ blogroll. (Care to add me 😉


  8. I couldn’t agree more. To hell with labels. I change mine every week, sometimes several times a day.

    I think I needed the label before … as much as some people need a last name to know whom to call relatives. I needed the label because I needed to belong. But, the label could never hide my uniqueness, so I’m throwing it out.

    Truth be told, every person is unique and cannot and should not be categorized. I am never categorizing myself again. It’s useless.


  9. Categories aren’t useless, but they aren’t complete. They are shortcuts for understanding something since we don’t always have the time/energy/ability to see someone in all their complex glory.
    You might have to have some labels ready for people who want to relate to you in shorthand and change the label for each person. To some LGBT aquaintances I use the label bisexual, partly as identification and partly as activism to show that not all bisexuals are promiscuous or nonmonogamous. In the deconvert online community I go by the label agnostic atheist. With people I know, I don’t need a label.


  10. I’m an atheist..because I’m an agnostic. Maybe there is a deity of some kind, maybe there isn’t. I don’t have enough knowledge to say for sure. If you’re agnostic, then I think you’re an atheist, otherwise, what are you saying you don’t have knowledge of? If you can make the leap to theist, then you must have some knowledge to use to make that decision.

    There are atheist out there that might say “they KNOW there is no deity”, that’s too general a statement. I can say “I KNOW there is no christian god”, I can’t say that I know there is no deity at all. Maybe there is, but I have my doubts.


    • I largely take your point, which is why by the end of the post I half-heartedly labeled myself Agnostic Atheist.

      “If you can make the leap to theist, then you must have some knowledge to use to make that decision. “

      I don’t think that a lot of theists who make that leap do so on knowledge. I might be wrong about that but I really do think most people make that leap based on emotion.

      I’m pretty skeptical of anyone who says they have absolute knowledge or that they “know for a fact” that a god does or does not exist.


  11. Sorry I read this thread rather late. Just want to add that a label seems to be indispensable for almost all theists. “You don’t believe in God? OMG (pun intended), so you’re an atheist. Poor you. But please don’t worry, I’ll pray for you.. “.-


    • Maybe it’s not just theists, though. I see unbelievers doing it, too. Oh, you’re an agnostic atheist? You’re a weak atheist, then. Oh, your a New Atheist? Well you’re a militant atheist, then. Oh, you’re just agnostic? What a wuss! You can’t take a stand? *shrug* I think we all do it in other areas as well. The thing is, once you label someone you’ve put them into a box and sealed the lid. As if they can’t be dynamic in their thought processes. I still don’t care much about labels because I like to get to know people. Everybody is different.


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