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22 April 2013

Atheist as a Negative Term: Philosophy in Action Podcast

By Diana Hsieh

On Sunday's Philosophy in Action Radio, I answered a question on atheist as a negative term. The question was:

Should people define themselves using the negative term "atheist"? To me, a rational person sells himself short when he calls himself an "atheist": he's only saying what he doesn't stand for, not what he does stand for. Plus, to use the term "atheist" seems to be accepting the religious frame of reference. A rational person values individual healthy human life, and everything else he believes follows from that, such as respect for reality, reason, and rights. When a person defines himself in those positive terms, what he's against follows. So, can a person be more clear and persuasive when he focuses on what he's for rather than what he's against? If so, what terms might he use to describe himself?

My Answer, In Brief: The term "atheist" is a precise and economical way of designating lack of belief in god and the supernatural, yet it doesn't indicate what a person is for. That requires further explanation – and that's what really important.

Download or Listen to My Full Answer:

Tags: Atheism, Communication, Epistemology, Relationships
To comment on this question or my answer, visit its comment thread.

A podcast of the full episode – where I answered questions on moral judgments of obese people, parental consent for abortion, atheist as a negative term, living longer, and more – is available here: Episode of 14 April 2013.

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