Taner Edis is uncomfortable with the label “atheist”, even though he agrees that he is one.
One problem is that I know how far too many Muslims react to the word; “atheist” has connotations of “enemy” as well as someone opposed to all that is True and Good. I would like Muslims to allow scientific institutions more autonomy in their countries. Once I am identified as “an atheist,” my arguments to that effect become worse than irrelevant–they actually harm any cause I would be seen to support.
But also among non-Muslims, the “atheist” label can poison the well. Even in academic writing, I regularly come across disclaimers that while the author is not devout, they disavow the dogmatic certainty displayed by atheists as well. To some degree, this is invidious stereotype-mongering. But the fact is, the stereotype is out there. Once I’m described as “an atheist,” people feel free to assume all sorts of (usually negative) things about me.
Annoying, but I doubt there’s much I can do about any of this.
Yes there is! Come out. Represent the good people of atheism. The reason the stereotype persists is that the people who refute the stereotype are always trying to hide.
I wouldn’t force anyone to be out — if I were introducing Edis to someone, for instance, I’d respect his wishes and call him “non-religious” — but his last line there is not correct. There is something he could do, if he were willing to put up with the bad assumptions.