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Posted by on Aug 29, 2012 in Atheism, Drama, Feminism, Nonsense, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Science, Skepticism, Uncategorized | 4 comments

What’s In A Name?

Are all skeptics atheists? No. Absolutely not. The problem with skeptics and atheists is that we like to argue. In fact, we tend to argue about everything. Sometimes we enjoy it, and sometimes things get ugly. But anyway, skepticism is a way of examining truth claims. That’s all it is. And traditionally, it applies mainly to supernatural and paranormal claims. Alternative medicine, such as homeopathy, is another frequent (and easy) target. But that doesn’t mean that skepticism can’t be applied to other assertions, though to reach a definite conclusion, the claim must be falsifiable. God claims, in their most nebulous sense, are not. 

Atheism is lack of belief in god(s). If you want to add something else to atheism, then you have to add a plus. Or you have to rewrite the dictionary. Or something.

Frequently, skeptics are also atheists, since most god claims (except for deism, perhaps) are falsifiable, but skeptics certainly don’t need to be. They can be agnostics. And they can be theists or deists. They can even believe in astrology. In fact, for every single one of us, there are surely many things that we’re not skeptical about, and we don’t even know it.

Further, there are plenty of atheists who aren’t skeptics. For instance, all who embrace feminism — or any other political doctrine — dogmatically. I’m sure there will come a time when we’ll argue about that, too. So imagine a Venn diagram with a large overlap, and you’ll get the relationship between skepticism and atheism right.

Some changes for our fledgling network might be in the works. Stay tuned. Exciting times ahead.

  • Egbert

    Well labels have social meanings as well as intellectual meanings. If you label yourself ‘christian’ then you’ll be treated differently to someone who labels themself ‘muslim’. So words also mean social identity.

    People have not realized it yet, but atheism has lost its intellectual identity, which is now meaningless, and now only has a social meaning. People label themselves ‘atheist’ for social reasons, often to indicate their opposition to Christianity or monotheism. This was inevitable once it became a popular movement.

    • Labels are a necessary evil. Even when you refuse to label yourself, you do. And you’re right, social identity is an important component (and result) of most descriptors.

      • While labels are, indeed, a necessary evil, we have to make sure that we’re not allowing labels to be stereotypes, to encompass things that may or may not be true of the labeled individual. That’s why I’m so strongly opposed to allowing “atheism” to be a social label. It already has a meaning. Anything that gets added to atheism immediately makes it something other than atheism.

  • Copyleft

    When you consider that atheism can include those who dogmatically state “I know for a fact there is no God and I utterly reject the possibility that there could ever be any such thing,” it’s easy to see that atheism is not the same thing as skepticism.

    Likewise, those who say “I’m skeptical of all science that seems to contradict the Bible” are obviously not applying ‘skepticism’ the way most of us understand the term.