For years I’ve been advocating for “big-tent” atheism, which includes agnostics, humanists, secular humanists, freethinkers, and more. It’s a tent where people can choose activities according to their circumstances and comfort levels, a tent where they can follow their passion while respecting and supporting those with a different emphasis. Fortunately, I think the secular movement has mostly stopped arguing about labels and has begun to cooperate on important issues we can all support.
However, we still have our differences. An article in the Guardian, based on a study at the University of Tennessee, described the six types of atheists as: activist (vocal about issues), anti-theist (assertive and outspoken), intellectual (philosophical and scientific), non-theist (apathetic), ritual (enjoy culture and ceremony), and seeker (open to different views). I criticize this categorization here, and am disappointed that the largest category of all was not even mentioned: closeted atheists, the ones most likely to change our culture by finally coming out.
A thoughtful piece in the Huffington Post by Roy Speckhardt, the Executive Director of the American Humanist Association, is entitled “An End to Arrogant Atheism.” Roy has no problem with most forms of atheism, but thinks arrogant atheism hinders our ability to build alliances. While I agree with Roy’s point that arrogance and humorless ridicule can be counter-productive in reaching out to others, I considered it worth pointing out that the fundamentalist worldview is far more arrogant than any atheist worldview.
Fundamentalist worldview: I know God created the entire universe just for the benefit of humans. He watches me constantly and cares about everything I say and do. I know how He wants me and everyone else to behave and believe. He is perfect and just, which is why we face an eternity of either bliss or torture, depending on whether or not we believe in Him.
Atheist worldview: We’re the product of millions of years of evolution. Most species are extinct, as humans will eventually be. I hope to make a positive difference because it’s the right thing to do, not because of future rewards or punishments in an afterlife. When I don’t know something, I say, “I don’t know.”
Written By: Herb Silverman
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