An Atheist Identity?

I am atheist only because there are theists who think I should be otherwise.  I am not known as a “non-stamp collector“, because stamp collectors could give a shit about what I do or do not believe.

Below you can see an illustration of how some see me as an atheist, some as an accomodationist, some as a religionist. Click on the image to read more.

To further show the oddity of the “atheist” label, below this paragraph you can see a bumper sticker design I created to show how my atheism is accidental.
Click the image for an explanation.

Atheist Spray_Crop

Point being, I don’t identify at all with being an atheist except to fight the oppressive side of theism.

But meanwhile, many atheists not only identify with being atheists, they struggle with forming identity-centered atheists communities.  I have never been drawn to such a silly enterprise.  Below is a map from the 2012 Gallup research showing percentages of atheists in various countries.


I lived in Asia for 12 years: India, Pakistan, China and Japan.  While in Asia, no one cared that I was an atheist – though Americans care immensely. Yet in India (hugely religious compared to the USA), Hindus did not care that I was not Hindu (well, unless I had tried to marry their daughters).  And in China, 50% of Chinese are atheists, but I got no high-fives for our shared lack of beliefs.

Indeed, I felt closer to Chinese atheists than I did to religious Hindus. What could separate me from religious Indians was parochial exclusivism, repressive sexisim or dangerous anti-science superstitions.  What could separate me from atheist Chinese was political nonsense, racial exclusivism, anti-homosexuality and much more.

I blog on atheism to counter both the evils of religion and to point out that it is not just religious nonsense that can be dangerous, but also secular beliefs and practices.  More importantly, I often try to show their shared sources.

Perhaps this post will help some to see why I don’t identify with being an atheist though most religious folks will always want to see me otherwise.  Oh well.

Question to Readers: If you are an atheist, do you identify as being an atheist? If you are a religionist, do you think I fool myself?
[And to both readers, please take into account what I wrote in this post in answering the question — thanx.]




Filed under Philosophy & Religion

7 responses to “An Atheist Identity?

  1. jfinite

    I understand what you’re saying, and truly, we only need the identifier of ‘atheist’ because belief is so widespread and is considered the ‘default’, especially here in the US. I don’t go around shouting from the top of buildings that I’m an atheist, but I am by definition one, and it is a convenient categorization when the subject arises.

    ______________ Justin Bonaparte

  2. I identify as a Buddhist, but with regard to specifics of “is there is or is there ain’t a deity,” I’m an agnostic. I don’t care if people are religious as long as they don’t insist on shoving their particular brand down my throat. Nor do I care if someone is an atheist, as long as they aren’t the acerbic kind who thinks that everyone who believes in any sort of deity or spirituality is stupid and backward in their thinking. Since nobody knows for sure, why be an asshat about it either way?

  3. @ Justin and Cie,
    Come to think of it, there are two big types of “identify”:
    (1) Identities that you use to envision yourself
    (2) Identities that you declare to guide others to envision you

    As for #1, I don’t think of myself as American, Atheist, English speaker or many others that do indeed describe my demographics in that I care less about those categories.

    Yet, I experiment with telling folks I am BuddhiSH, Agnostic, Atheist, Non-Religious, Naturalist, FreeThinker or several others depending on the effect I expect from the listener. See my diagram above with all the glasses. Yet they are just identity tools, I still care less about them — well, except maybe naturalist and freethinker. 🙂

  4. TWF

    Love the filter graphic! There’s probably something a psychologist would have to say about the fact that you portray yourself as being seen as the opposite of those you encounter. 😉 But that’s not the point of the graphic, and it is perfect for its purpose here.

    Anyway, as you likely know, I am closer to your vein in this realm, in that I can (and sometimes do) identify as an atheist, but it is not really at the forefront of my identity. Although, online I have used the phrase “as an atheist” disproportionately to the size of my inner atheist self. 😉 (“self” in the many-self model, of course) I don’t care enough about atheism enough that I seek to pal around with atheists beyond what I do online. Other things are so much better to bond over!

  5. Earnest

    Love the picture! I think that many of us “unjoiners” find ourselves objectified by “joiners”. There is some kind of almost allergic not-self reaction if I reveal those parts of myself that this person observing me assumes do not exist. It’s so rare to find anybody that can simply unconditionally accept what one is.

  6. I don’t believe in any gods, and therefore am an atheist. I act though as more of an apatheist in my own life, as this question about the existence of god doesn’t hold a meaningful place in my life. That isn’t to say I’m indifferent about questions regarding religion in schools/laws or other such manners though.

    I identify as a Zen Buddhist because it is what I am actively doing/practicing. If asked about my beliefs on cosmology/morality or other matters I tend to address those on their own.

    I certainly don’t think you are fooling yourself. Your positions seem clearly elaborated as far as I’m concerned.

  7. @ TWF :
    Thank you. You get it.

    @ Earnest :
    Thanks. Yeah, Many people talk past each other when it comes to these issues simply because their temperaments are so different, they could not even begin to understand (and certainly not empathize) with the way the other thinks and uses language.

    @ Adam :
    Well put, mate ! Well put.

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