Man, it's awesome to be back in the office. I just spent a few weeks at my childhood home in Arkansas, where family trees don't branch.
The family tree of atheism, however, is diverse, and it includes a whole host of different lables for different situations. We tossed a few of them in your This Week email.
Vacations are winding down. Soon we'll be back to hosting speakers, watching movies with other godless folk, and hitting the books. 2011 was perhaps our greatest ever all across the nation! Not only did we run gaggles of events, but we increased our number of affiliates from 234 to 312!
I think 2012 is going to be even better. It starts with the Reason Rally in March. Do you know how your group is going to get there? Stay tuned for ways the SSA will be able to help.
Happy 2012 everybody!
Our Family Tree
The following was written by Sam Jackson.
There are many people who encompass the non-theistic community and
some of them don’t even know they are there. You could say there are two kinds of atheists – those who know they are atheists and those who don’t. The ones who know can further be divided into those who admit as much and those who refuse to make said pronouncement. In any case the phrase non-theist is an umbrella term used to include everyone who does not assert some sort of belief in god(s). The breakdown of non-theist constituents is of course much more complicated:
Atheist – The most candid term but also one of the most divisive. Technically all non-theists are atheists, the prefix “a” meaning without or not and theist meaning someone who believes in god(s). A simple application of the law of contradiction states that either you believe in at least one god or you don’t. Atheists are those who are without belief. We have of course complicated the word to have both an inclusive an exclusive meaning. The exclusive meaning is used to express explicit disbelief in god(s), sometimes called strong atheism, while the inclusive meaning expresses all types of non-belief.
Agnostic – A misunderstood term. Originally agnostics claimed that all knowledge is uncertain. Contemporarily agnostics assert they don’t know if god(s) exist or not. Given the word’s popular modern usage, one could say there are technically agnostic atheists as well as agnostic theists.
Ignostic –The most fascinating of the bunch. In a conversation with a theist I had not too long ago, he cited the usual argument atheists give and agreed that it was understandable that god is not detectable. My reply was that the problem was actually much harder for theists. The biggest question is not where is god, but what is god. Ignostics say that god(s) must be adequately defined before any claims of it (like their existence) are to be made. In one of Christopher Hitchen’s debates he said that in many ways the statement there is no god is as meaningless as there is one. If the word itself is meaningless no claims can be made of it. Ignostics may also be called theological non-cognitivists and arise out of the larger verificationist and logical positivist movements.
– As expressed in this article
apatheists are those who don’t care for the whole discussion. They focus only on real tangible things in life and see the search for applying a religious or non-religious label to oneself as a worthless endeavor. There is complete indifference to the whole issue.
Anti-Theists – This is the most activist term. Anti-theists are people who actively seek to stop theistic belief as they see theism as deleterious in some way or another. Most people introduced as the “new atheists” are part of the anti-theist camp.
It is important to note that although a non-theist may identify with any given subcategory, it may only be a temporary phase. I would have never called myself an atheist unless I knew of the more inclusive definition and made it clear that I did not deny god, I simply lacked belief. As time passed however the difference became less and less staggering. Therefore the important thing is to try to make a group that is as inclusive as possible to all non-theists and to not to get too caught up in definitions or labels.