Godless Living

Living a fulfilled life without God

Careful Pinning Labels on Others

The atheist community (a community I relate to) continues to do something that annoys me.  I know this won’t be a favorite post because people that read this are mostly within the atheist community.  I hope that there’s thick enough skin here with the readers to be able to take some constructive criticism.  I’m trying very hard these days to not label myself.  I personally don’t care for the degree of certainty that people have in both the theist and atheist communities.  I think there are things we’re certain of, but if we’re honest, there’s plenty unknown and still up for debate.  The true atheist community should know this and science is supposed to be very quick to admit when something is unknown.  Unfortunately, individuals in the communities don’t always value this as they should.

I just wanted to bring to light this thing that is really annoying to me.  I continue to see people claiming that certain people are atheists who never really said that they were atheists.  In fact, in many cases they explicitly denied the label.  However, the atheist community has worked hard to redefine atheism as a “lack of belief” I guess to include more people.  It had traditionally been understood to offer a degree of certainty at the non-existence of God.  With this revisit to the term and the birth of new terms like “agnostic atheist” or “weak atheist” (terms which most atheists fall in by definition), now the atheist community claims that others belonged to their fold.  I want to give a few examples of famous people often touted by the atheist communities as atheists, but they were not atheists according to them.  They didn’t use the label that we pin on them.  Here they are:

Charles Darwin  – Not an Atheist

It happens to be Darwin’s birthday today, by the way.  Here’s a quote: “In my most extreme fluctuations I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God.— I think that generally (& more and more so as I grow older) but not always, that an agnostic would be the most correct description of my state of mind.”

Carl Sagan – Not an Atheist

Here’s an excerpt from a Wikipedia article:

Despite his criticism of religion, Sagan denied that he was an atheist and said that he hated the term, saying:

An atheist has to know a lot more than I know. An atheist is someone who knows there is no god. By some definitions atheism is very stupid.

In reply to a question in 1996 about his religious beliefs, Sagan answered, “I’m agnostic.” Sagan’s views on religion have been interpreted as a form of pantheism comparable to Einstein’s belief in Spinoza’s God.  Sagan maintained that the idea of a creator of the universe was difficult to prove or disprove and that the only conceivable scientific discovery that could challenge it would be an infinitely old universe.

Albert Einstein  – Not an Atheist

Here’s an excerpt from a Wikipedia article:

He believed in the God of Baruch Spinoza, but not in a personal God, a belief which he criticized. He also called himself an agnostic, and criticized atheism, preferring he said “an attitude of humility.”

Thomas Jefferson  – Not an Atheist

There’s a picture floating around the internet of a nickel with Thomas Jefferson’s face and says, “Only in America do we engrave the words ‘In God We Trust’ next to the portrait of a nonbeliever.”  The problem I have with this is that while I’ll agree that Jefferson wasn’t a Christian, he didn’t necessarily not believe in “God”.  I don’t think you can call him a nonbeliever.  I think a lot of people agree that he was possibly a deist… who believes in God.


It’s not a big deal, but just an annoyance to me.  There’s this thread of certainty in the atheist community that really turns me off.  It doesn’t help by claiming to be an ideology based on science, fact, reason, etc. and then making assertions that are untrue… like Darwin, Sagan, Einstein, Jefferson, and many others are atheists that specifically denied this.  I think by definition I’m still what I originally said… an agnostic atheist.  But who needs a label?




One comment on “Careful Pinning Labels on Others

  1. Rodney
    February 12, 2012

    I, too, am an agnostic atheist (or atheistic agnostic). However, most people don’t seem to understand what the term ‘agnostic’ really means, so I just keep it simple and tell them I am an atheist.

    Atheism is a much more reasonable assertion than theism, but I think it is indeed impossible to prove. After all, one would actually have to BE God to know for sure that there is no such thing as God — an obvious absurdity.

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This entry was posted on February 12, 2012 by in Uncategorized.
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