Don’t let theists negate you. Negate them!

Words can be powerful, not only to communicate ideas and emotions but also to confuse and intimidate.

For example, consider the Greek word theo meaning ‘god’. From that root arises ‘theism’, which (like any other ‘ism’) is an ideology – in this case, an ideology based on belief in the existence of some god. [An ideology is a commitment to the ‘truth’ of some idea rather than the idea of ‘truth’.] In turn, someone who adopts a theistic ideology is a ‘theist’.

Similar to all ideologists with an “us-them” (or “on-off”, “black-white”, or “good vs. evil”) mentality, theists identify the “them” (the bad guys) as “atheists”. The word ‘atheist’ is derived by adding the Greek prefix ‘a’, meaning ‘not’, to ‘theist’, i.e., ‘a-theist’ (just as the word ‘atom’ is derived from Greek parts meaning not-divisible). Thereby, if all evidence leads you to conclude that the universe is natural, then theists “negate you”: you’re not one of them (the good guys), living in a fairy tale, drunk on supernatural delusions.

Phooey on them! I refuse to be labeled an atheist. I don’t “not-believe” in god: I’ve estimated the probability of the existence of any god to be astoundingly small (somewhere around 1 chance in 10 to the 500th power) – but it’s not exactly zero. Therefore, I’m not an atheist: I’m a theist who’s concluded that living one’s life based on the possible existence of any god is dumb.

I also refuse the label ‘agnostic’, which with the Greek prefix ‘a’ (not) and the Greek word for knowledge (gnosis) means “not knowing”. I admit that I don’t know the exact value for the probability of the existence of any god, but there is enough evidence (or more accurately, lack thereof) to conclude that one would need to be bonkers to live in a supernatural daydream, making decisions based on assuming that any god exists.

Besides, though, it’s astoundingly inefficient and potentially confusing to try to communicate ideas using negatives. For example, rather than inform you that, when I finish typing this, I plan to go for a walk, how about if I told you that, when I’m no longer typing, I don’t plan to eat, have a shower, or go for a drive? In fact, after typing this, there are billions of things I don’t plan to do!

Similarly, rather than accept the theists’ negative description that I’m an atheist or an agnostic, I adopt a positive attitude and inform them that I’m a scientific humanist. If they want, I can inform them what “scientific humanist” means. But I’ve found that they rarely want to learn anything new – which seems to be typical for “theists”, or more appropriately (negating them), for unscientific antihumans!


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