[ExI] Fwd: New Article

Sergio M.L. Tarrero sergio.ml.tarrero at mac.com
Mon Oct 8 16:06:34 UTC 2007


I think the idea of not using the word "atheist" is mainly strategic,  
since it is proving very hard to convince many people who hate the  
term "atheist" (who have built a mighty perceptual filter against the  
term) to seriously pay attention to your arguments, much less become  
"atheists" themselves, if they associate your person with a (yuck!)  
lowly ignorant unenglightened "atheist" ("I know God is there because  
I've felt him... he doesn't, and he'll never understand... he's an  
ATHEIST, for god's sakes!!!", they tend to think).  Because of the  
stigma associated with the word, they take "atheists" themselves as a  
crazy cult, (while, however, it is no problem to *use* the word  
presuasively, like Harris does, in order to help a believer  
understand the point that "we're all atheists with respect to Thor;  
or to any of today's religions' gods, from the perspective of another  
religion"). So, what he's proposing is not using any specific word to  
label yourself in this regard, while you fight silly ideas where you  
find them, simply appealing to words like "reason", "logic",  
"evidence" or "intellectual honesty". If you need a label, maybe you  
can use the term "rationalist" instead (or others you may prefer),  
which is harder for anyone to argue against or immediately feel  
horrified about.

So, I don't think you would be "in the closet" for avoiding the word  
"atheist" (and you will still not feel insulted if someone calls you  
an "atheist", obviously), since you can still argue that you don't  
believe in any personal or even creator god. But you can explain that  
the word doesn't make much sense, it's a pretty useless term - the  
burden of proof (for god's alleged existence) is more on your  
opponent and vis outrageous, lofty, miraculous claims, and they have  
no "proof" for any of this nonsense (except for the grand unified  
theory of intelligent design, of course...  "faith" -irrational blind  
belief- in ancient books of religious fiction is not proof of  
anything and, as much as they hate to hear it, they know it is so). I  
don't go around with a label for being a "non-baseball-fan" since,  
for me, "baseball doesn't exist" (I no longer live in the US). If  
your claim is that X doesn't exist (in our case god) you really  
shouldn't need to label yourself an a-Xer. Even if something exists  
you don't need to label yourself as a non-something. While you can be  
an astrologer, the term non-astrologer sounds silly. Now I wonder why  
the term "non-believer" sounds so natural, so "everyday"... it should  
sound just as weird.  Also, you can say someone is being irrational  
(about something), but you don't define someone as "an irrational".  
Or as an "acook".

If you're a gay activist (in most places - everyone knows there's no  
gays in Iran by now...) you can just argue for human rights, and  
equal rights for all men and women (gay or otherwise). And I guess  
the main reason some gay people stay "in the closet" (something more  
uncommon every day in free societies, you must admit) is mainly due  
to social pressure/stigma (our stupid backwards societies/religions  
corner these people, quite literally, into a closet). A small but  
very significant percentage of the population is most obviously  
inclined to not be "straight", by nature.  So, there is a  
difference.  It doesn't make much sense for a homosexual man to argue  
against the label, I guess, since the definition of homosexual is,  
pretty much, a man who likes men, romantically/sexually (and if one  
feels that way, one should of course fight for his basic rights to  
express this and live his life as he pleases, and a free -albeit  
backwards- society will, eventually, have to accept it). But the  
definition of "atheist" as a label for a person is based on the  
proposed existence or claim of a "god" or "gods". If your claim is  
that there are no god or gods to be found anywhere, no clear evidence  
whatsoever for them, then you're a rationalist, or a realist, or  
whatever. After all, you have a right to insist that you don't like  
being defined by a word with theological implications!!  (since  
religion is, after all, "the root of all evil")   ;-)

Sergio M.L. Tarrero

On Oct 8, 2007, at 3:24 PM, Henrique Moraes Machado (oplnk) wrote:

> Important theme. However I strongly disagree with Mr Harris in one  
> thing.
> Basically he's saying to atheists in general to get in the closet.  
> I don't
> think we should lie or hide anything. We should state clearly our  
> position.
> To prove my point, let me suggest an exercise. Suppose you're a gay  
> activist
> fighting for the rights of homossexuals. Now take Sam's text and  
> replace the
> words "atheist", "humanist", "secularist" etc by "gay",  
> "homosexual", etc.
> How would you feel about his speech now?
> Let's NOT get in the closet.
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Sergio M.L. Tarrero
> To: World Transhumanist Association Discussion List ;
> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org
> Sent: Tuesday, October 02, 2007 4:52 PM
> Subject: [ExI] Fwd: New Article
> A transcript of Sam Harris' recent (controversial) speech at the  
> Atheist
> Alliance Conference is now available on the Washington Post /
> Newsweekwebsite.
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> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org
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