Don't Pigeon-hole Me!

There are a lot of terms for the non-religious, with various shades of meaning. Each has a textbook definition, and each has its own connotations, both positive and negative. The problem is, few of them describe an actual worldview, and those that do are often inappropriate for the actual beliefs of any particular person.

I, for example, am a skeptic. I demand evidence and/or logical analysis before I believe someone's argument. What does that tell you about my beliefs and worldview? It should tell you next to nothing, beyond the way I think about things, but you probably have made some assumptions, maybe even about my personality, based on the connotations that the word holds for you.

I'm also an agnostic. I believe it is impossible to prove or disprove the existence of non-material beings by material means. Among many other things, I've been told this means I "just don't want to make up my mind", a statement I find simultaneously ignorant, insulting and arrogant.

I'm also an atheist (more accurately, a negative, or "weak" atheist). Having never seen even the slightest jot of evidence for the existence of a god or gods, I see no reason to believe in them. A lovely Jehovah's Witness once told me that this means I'm a "goat", someone who is pessimistic (I'm cynical, there's a difference), nihilistic (I'm not), and depressed (only when I have to talk to idiots), and who insists there is no God (I don't) because someone from one of the "wrong" religions hurt me in some way (well, I *was* forced to attend Catholic School, and I've had to listen to dozens of JW and other religious rants over the years, so half-credit on that one).

Here's the thing, though. You can accurately call me any of those things, but still have an incomplete or even entirely wrong idea of what I believe. Describing me as an atheist is like describing a cop as "a man in a hat". It may well be a true statement, but the speaker is missing the big picture definition, and making assumptions that may not be true!

About the Author

Despite a decade of Catholic school, I have never been a believer. I guess I was just born without the gene! Nevertheless, I've always tried to explore others' ideas and practices, on the theory that just because you can't use one part of a product, it doesn't mean you have to throw the whole thing away.
 
I spent over a decade traveling the world, and I've lived in both Europe and the US. I've read the Bible, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Koran. I've studied engineering, yoga, martial arts, shooting sports, and ballroom dancing. What I've discovered is that a) spirituality is just a spooky sounding word for any of a number of methods for learning about yourself and your mind, and b) whatever word you use, doing so is the single most important thing in learning to be happy.
 
My blog, The Passionate Rationalist (http://www.societyofreason.com/devoutrationalist) is dedicated to my thoughts both on gaining self-knowledge and using your mind to eliminate misunderstanding and delusion.