Political Flavors

Thinking About Labels – “Secular” vs “Atheist”

Posted in Editorials on May 17th, 2013

Rebecca Goldstein’s talk “The Mattering Map: Religion, Humanism, and Moral Progress” gave me a lot to think about. She touched on “the gender issue,” microaggressions, and the idea of mattering. If you are at all interested in philosophy I recommend you check it out when it’s posted online.

What really caught my attention was when Goldstein described abrahamic monotheism as crediting God with creating both the physical world without and the moral world within.

What if you think it’s only the latter?

This is why I struggle with labels like atheist/theist/agnostic. Secular is a better word. It relegates religion to the private realm. As I have stated before, I truly believe that how we live, how we make decisions, what our values are – matter more than what our theology may be.

6 Responses to “Thinking About Labels – “Secular” vs “Atheist””

  1. DarkStar Says:

    I’ll be a mere ‘secularist’ when, In The Name Of And Justified By Religion people STOP:

    burning men and women to death as witches,
    beating gay people to death,
    pushing for legislation that would see gay people put to death,
    eschewing proper healthcare in favor of prayer and faith-healing,
    beating their children to death,
    flying planes into building,
    blowing themselves and others up,
    working to deny women or gay people rights,
    working to have the state violate women’s bodily autonomy,
    pushing their religious agenda into public schools or trying to take public funds to fund religious activities,
    justifying their wars.

    Or pushing for other types of violations of bodily autonomy or empowered and informed consent in the absence of prior aggression (and given due process of law).

    Not a moment before then.

    And if you need to see videos and news stories for all of these things just ask. For starters: http://cl.ly/I22Z/o

  2. Steve Bowen Says:

    I think I would rather live in a created universe than with Abrahamic morality.

  3. Elizabeth Says:

    Touché, Steve.

    The whole controversy about this conference is based on a conflict between atheists who think women are people and those who don’t. Perhaps the latter group is “aligned with Abrahamic morality?”

    Today I listened to Susan Jacoby argue passionately that people who are “spiritual but not religious” should identify as atheists. Not sure I agree with that.

  4. Steve Bowen Says:

    “should” is a big word. I would expect that ‘spiritual not religious’ people would have more in common with atheist or humanist values than with mainstream theism. but, a label is only valid if it is owned by the person wearing it so if such a person wants to self identify as, for example, a catholic for other cultural reasons who am I to object?
    even so there are moral consequences implicit in the idea that right and wrong are defined outside of the human condition and should I be drawn into such a philosophical debate (heaven forbid) I would test rigorously the idea that a god given morality was consistent or useful.

  5. Elizabeth Says:

    It’s not that I think morality is “god given,” but rather, I think morality is subjective to some degree, and if I’m basing my world view on something other than empiricism, is that not “religious” in some way?

    I know atheists who don’t see an issue with this, but I still like other terms better.

  6. Steve Bowen Says:

    That morality is subjective (to some degree?) is a view I agree with (although Adam doesn’t as I understand him). But if you are not using some empirical measure to arrive at your own moral position, I’m not sure where else you are looking.You may have a gut instinct for what you think is right or wrong, but those are likely to be culturally or even genetically aquired. If you think that you are tapping into some platonic moral reality, then yes it is “religious in some way” but subjectivity is harder to maintain. You are attempting to chart a course from Moral Realism, via cognitivism to moral subjectivism which I think is a difficult ask.

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