Why not “atheists”?

Stephen Prothero is an author who writes about religion, exploring details and differences. He has a new book called God Is Not One, which sounds relatively interesting. I like that he argues for recognizing the differences between religions rather than treating them as all basically the same thing. On the other hand, he has this to say:

I feel quite certain that a less emotional and less evangelistic atheism would garner far more influence. Atheism has a brand problem.  Lots of the people who do not believe in God refuse to call themselves atheists. Why? Because they don’t want to be associated with proselytizers.

Which is such utter bullshit. People are and, for a long time, have been reluctant to call themselves atheists because of the very problem that the New Atheists have set out to solve. Namely, that atheism has been stigmatized by a religious culture that regards questioning facts based on faith taboo. People don’t want to call themselves atheists because, traditionally in our society, no one publicly called themselves atheists. It has been made to seem radical. That’s the whole point of the very direct, blunt, even hostile New Atheism. It is and must be a direct confrontation of an ingrained hostility towards atheism. It’s a correction.

Via Andrew Sullivan

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