My Heresy Club colleague Alex recently wrote a piece called ‘problems with the humanist brand and why I am not one‘ in which he quite rightly pointed out some flaws with humanism and those who identify as humanist. He concluded by saying
I’m a non-humanist, and I’m fine with other people being humanists. I just wish they always felt the same.
It had never really occurred to me that fellow humanists, (for I identify as a humanist), would think it their place to insist that others are humanists even if they don’t think so. It reminds me too much of being told I am one of gods children even if I don’t think so, when I was much younger. I have a problem with this sort of attitude.
I identify as a skeptic, an atheist, and a secular humanist. I see no reason for rebranding myself as Atheist+ because the values, beliefs and aims I have would be the same regardless of the labels applied to me. As an atheist, a skeptic, and a humanist I know that there are similarities between myself and others who use those labels to identify themselves too. We get lumped in with the skeptical, humanist, or atheist communities, which is fine until people start forgetting that not all skeptics/humanists/atheists are alike or represent one another.
The core definitions of the communities we suddenly find ourselves belonging to is often the only common ground we have when it comes to our approach and view of the world around us.
I have seen people who identify the same way that I do demonstrate intolerance of others based on their gender, age, social status, race and religion. I am not like them and it scares me somewhat that people might think I am but they don’t represent me and I do not believe that such intolerant behaviour represents skepticism, atheism, or humanism and so I’m not going to turn my back on them. I reject intolerance within the communities I find myself belonging to alongside those who would embrace such intolerance.
I think it’s important to remember, just as Alex pointed out in his list of the problems with humanism, that the problem lies with ‘some humanists’ and not all of them – the problem lies with ‘some skeptics’, ‘some atheists’, ‘some agnostics’, ‘some feminists’, just as bigoted campaigns and arguments from religious people are from ‘some religious people’ and not all of them.
I blogged my thoughts about the Atheist+ movement on my personal website, Hayley is a Ghost and I stated that I want to fight bad ideas that are dangerous and discriminating and harmful and irrational while standing shoulder to shoulder with people who also think that the ideas being campaigned against are dangerous, discriminating, harmful and irrational whether they’re skeptics, atheists, humanists or not.
I exist within atheist, secular, skeptic, and humanist communities because my worldview is similar to others who define themselves using those labels, and I exist just as equally outside of those communities where I work and engage with believers in paranormal, pseudoscience, and religious ideas.
I’ve never looked at the bad behaviour of others, or their beliefs and opinions that clash with mine and thought ‘I don’t want to use the same identifying labels as them’ because actions speak louder than words – and atheist, skeptic, humanist, agnostic… they’re words. Words don’t instantly qualify people as rational, good, or ethical people. It’s our actions that define us.
Lately I’ve seen a lot of people attacking those who choose to identify as Atheist+ and those who choose not to. I’ve seen people scrutinising the labels that people apply to themselves to work out if they’re good enough, and I have a problem with this. When people tell others what they ‘really are’ or how the should identify themselves based on what they do or do not believe, and that the way in which they choose to identify themselves is stupid it’s patronisingly pompous. Identify as you choose to. Actions speak louder than words.