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May 6, 2006

The "A" Word -- 2

Some months ago we discussed here whether the book I am writing should employ the word "atheism" in the title. There was considerable sentiment against word mincing. Now the always lively A. C. Grayling weighs in with a somewhat different perspective on the subject:

As it happens, no atheist should call himself or herself one. The term already sells a pass to theists, because it invites debate on their ground. A more appropriate term is "naturalist", denoting one who takes it that the universe is a natural realm, governed by nature's laws. This properly implies that there is nothing supernatural in the universe - no fairies or goblins, angels, demons, gods or goddesses. Such might as well call themselves "a-fairyists" or "a-goblinists" as "atheists"; it would be every bit as meaningful or meaningless to do so.

Posted by Mitchell Stephens at May 6, 2006 10:03 AM


There is no acceptable answer to naming the awesome effect of preconceptionless awareness, partly because it is impossible to actually accomplish (we use memories to construct the "now" of consciousness) but mostly because symbols are for communicating and there is nothing "real" in symbolic interaction: symbols are not matter.

I agree with A.C. that "atheist" is a word framed by religious folk. And I can understand his reasoning for the use of "naturalist", but when you are living in a world in your head constructed using belief it is impossible to define what a world not built on belief would be like, let alone name it.

I have another question about your title: why the word "toward"?

Posted by: Jay Saul at May 8, 2006 4:34 PM

I'm more willing to believe in fairies than gods, personally.  I can think of reasonable situations in which putative fairies would have cause to hide themselves from humanity; gods, not so much.

"Naturalism" is word-mincing.  Your book (as I understand it) isn't about skepticism, it's about atheism.

Posted by: Dayv at May 9, 2006 3:39 PM

Also, "naturalism" is easily confused with both environmentalism and naturism.

Naturism, for those who are unaware of the term, is a British word for nudism.

Posted by: Dayv at May 9, 2006 3:40 PM

Tempting -- as I struggle with materialism in India before the time of the Buddha -- to switch to a study of nudism. "Toward" is in the title, Jay, because the blog is supposed to be part of the *process* of producing a history of atheism or disbelief or naturalism (which is kind of an ambiguous word) or "the-hell-there-are"-ism.

Posted by: mitch at May 10, 2006 9:59 PM

Ahh, sorry, I thought that was the title of the book itself. Processing toward hell we are. Occasional nudist behavior would have to be part of any true practicing the-hell-there-areists. We never even think of walking out the front door naked. We puff ourselves up with our intellectual rants about the obvious silliness of the relgious myths, all the while our actual behavior is so deeply religion based.

Posted by: Jay Saul at May 11, 2006 2:01 AM

Religion and gods were created by Humans for Humans, and religion will probably exist for as long as is needed in the evolution of humans.

People will always invent Gods, if the existing ones are not good enough for their satisfaction.

Posted by: John at July 31, 2006 4:41 PM

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