Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Is Sam Harris right to reject labels like "Atheist" and "Humanist"?

reposted from:
Chris Street comments are in bright green; highlights in blockquotes (yellow).

New Humanist poll: Is Sam Harris right to reject labels like "Atheist" and "Humanist"?

Following Sam Harris's speech to last week's Atheist Alliance International Conference in Virginia, our new opinion poll asks whether he was right to suggest that non-believers should discard the word "atheist", along with other labels such as "humanist", "secular humanist", "rationalist", "naturalist", "sceptic" and so on.

Harris argued that there is no need for the godless to define themselves by something they don't believe in, saying: "atheist is a term we do not need, in the same way that we don't need a word for someone who rejects astrology". He even goes so far as to say that using the term "atheist" could be counter-productive, running the risk of "squander[ing] the trust of people who would otherwise agree with us on specific issues." Instead of forming organised groups under these labels, Harris suggests non-believers "should not call ourselves anything. . . We should go under the radar - for the rest of our lives. And while there, we should be decent, responsible people who destroy bad ideas wherever we find them."

This stands in stark contrast to the approach taken by Richard Dawkins, particularly his US-based "Out Campaign", which encourages non-believers to "come out" and express their lack of faith by wearing t-shirts emblazoned with a giant letter "A" for "Atheist".

Let us know what you think by voting in the poll in the top right corner of this page? Do you agree with Harris in his rejection of these labels, or is it essential that atheists unite under a common label in order to take on the might of organised religion?

Once you've voted, please feel free to expand on your views by commenting on this post. If you're new to our site and blog, stay and have a browse around the main New Humanist site. There's articles from the past 8 years, and you can also sign up for a FREE trial copy.

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