A quick thought on labels

The previous discussion on the varieties of New Atheism had me thinking. We’ve already tried contriving a new label for those of us who think atheism should be broad and dedicated to more than just rejecting deities and intersectional — that was Atheism+. And it just created a focus for the haters. So I have a different idea.

WE ARE THE NORM. We are just plain atheists. It’s that reactionary subset that needs a new name.

I propose Social Justice Exclusionary Atheists, or SJEAs. They can’t possibly object, because they do hate the Social Justice movement, so tagging them with a title that makes it explicit about what they are should be warmly welcomed. Everyone is happy.


  1. latveriandiplomat says

    Objectivists almost works, but I don’t think Dawkins and some of the others would be comfortable with quite that much overt affection for kicking the poor and downtrodden.

  2. says

    @rietpluim: Given how quick they typically are to dismiss their atheism as having any implications for their own behavior, I’d be willing to ignore that and define them by the portions of their identity that supposedly matters to them.

  3. Scr... Archivist says

    Keep it simple. One adjective ought to be enough, and there are enough adjectives to describe the different subgroups.

    The ones who think they’re just better, smarter people because they’re atheists can be called “elitist atheists”. The ones who mix in far-right politics are “reactionary atheists”, while the not-so-far-right ones can be called “atheist conservatives”. There are probably more.

  4. F.O. says

    “A-” is actually pretty clever.

    I’ll also throw SQAW for “Status Quo Atheist Warriors” in the lot.

  5. says

    I’ve always liked “Establishment Atheists”. Puts an image in my mind of bowler-hatted, umbrella-wielding, anti-Suffragist conservatives, spluttering with indignation any time a Woman Atheist opens her mouth and says something challenging.

  6. neoriceisgood says

    “they can’t possibly object”

    I don’t know, you’d think the same about the term TERF & according to most people that qualify as one that’s “totally a slur”.

  7. says

    I saw one term I like: “unity feminism” (I’m not sure what it means yet, though) which makes me wonder about
    “disunity atheism”
    “divisive atheism”
    “non-inclusive atheism”

  8. Kevin Kehres says

    I like it…in the same way I like calling the JREF crew “Bigfoot skeptics” — or BSers, for short.

  9. allosteric says

    How about Atheism Classic(tm)? That would make the New Atheists part of a failed marketing attempt at changing the formula of atheism (adding a tablespoon of sugar and a big dollop of privilege, MRA’s, etc). The people are revolting (“you said it, they stink on ice”), and demanding a return of Co…er…Atheism Classic.

    Catch the Wave(tm).

  10. says

    There’s no good reason why a tiny group of the best-known celebrity atheists should be seen as the very incarnation of New Atheism or any other type of atheism. That “four horsemen” thing was always nonsense, because it’s rather churchy to expect a tiny group of middle-aged SWMs to be the sole spokespeople for a large and diverse population of people–especially when there is a much wider diversity of atheist writers and speakers who are at least as deserving of attention. Those famous atheists pushed atheism into the mainstream, something that likely would not have happened so rapidly if they had not been SWMs–but that doesn’t mean that they alone define the modern atheist movement.

    I always thought that New Atheism was mainly about being vocal against religion as well as opposing the idea that a scientific and reality-based world view is compatible with theism or any other supernaturalism. But we don’t need to be splintered into increasing numbers of categories under different labels, and there are already plenty of labels to define the range. For example it’s a shame that some non-theists (AKA atheists) see a substantial world view difference between atheism and agnosticism (meaning agnostic atheism, rather than agnostic theism, of course). And it’s a shame that some atheists think that atheists should restrict ourselves to terms like “non-believer” to avoid offending people. And it’s a shame that some atheists think they have to choose between calling themselves atheists or secular humanists, as if they couldn’t call themselves both (as well as skeptics, liberals, feminists, etc.) at the same time.

    So it might be a good idea to put the “New Atheist” label in the round file. Especially if it’s seen as most closely identified with a narrow range of perspectives that isn’t representative of most of us.

    And there are already plenty of labels for imperialists, Islamophobes, sexists, and so forth, as well. All of the new jargon popping up on blogs could alienate otherwise sympathetic individuals who don’t have time to learn the ever-evolving trendy lingo of internet blogs, in much the same way that most adults don’t have time to keep up with the ever-changing trendy jargon invented by teenagers to set themselves apart.

  11. moarscienceplz says

    I think we should call ’em Vulcans. They are so proud of how their “logic” is unsullied by icky human emotion, they would probably consider it a compliment. Of course, they do think The Needs of the One (themselves) Outweigh the Needs of the Many, so it’s not an exact parallel.

  12. says

    It’s also worth noting that the whole premise of “New” atheism was that there is something new about overt criticisms of god belief. I suspect Madalyn Murray O’Hair would disagree.

  13. nomenexrecto says

    My cynical vein calls us “human”-
    Distinct from the organ donors to the right….

  14. says

    In all seriousness, I am in favor of this idea. I’ve taken to calling them “anti-feminist atheists”, but it isn’t as accurate or neutral as I’d like. (If I want to talk about how terrible they are, I don’t need a pejorative title for them, I can just describe their actions and views.)

  15. chrislawson says

    ex machina:

    The problem with neo-conservatives is not that they believe in the Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand, it’s that they believe the Invisible Hand is the only force in the marketplace (except for Government Interference, which is always a Very Bad Thing), and that a lower price is always the best outcome.

  16. Scr... Archivist says

    chrislawson @28,

    No, that’s neoliberals, people like Reagan and Thatcher. They were promoting a revival of Classical Liberalism (in the international sense of the term) of the 18th and 19th centuries.

    Neoconservatives are those Americans who started as post-war liberals (in the American sense of the term) but became Cold War hawks and shifted allegiance to the Republican Party in the 1970’s.

  17. says

    (Oh and yes, that would indeed mean that “atheists” who believe in “The Invisible Hand of the Market” are not actually atheists.

    And for the record:

    The “Invisible Hand”, at least based on my understanding gleamed from economics and business classes taught by Libertarians, watching videos of speeches given by Wall Street execs, etc, is an unproven “force” that can “create” wealth for people who know how to “tap in” to that “force”. Money and stocks are the means of worship, Wall Street is the main temple [other businesses being the rest], and poor people are the sacrifices.)

  18. MJP says

    I’m fairly sure that when Adam Smith talked about the “invisible hand,” he was literally talking about the hand of God.

  19. says

    Funny, back in the day theists accused each other of being atheists for worshipping the wrong gods.

    Now we’ve got atheists accusing others of being theists for having the wrong economic theories.

  20. says


    Money and stocks are the means of worship

    Yes, and reading science books is the means of worship that so-called “atheists” perform. Or they worship themselves. I’ve seen this word game before.

  21. anteprepro says


    Now we’ve got atheists accusing others of being theists for having the wrong economic theories.

    Quick, someone get the world’s tiniest violin ready!

  22. Ichthyic says

    I thought the invisible hand was just a term for a very, very, VERY quick handjob.

    There’s a Clinton Joke in there somewhere, but I’m just a bit too tired to pick it out.

  23. says

    I like Dictionary Atheist. Because they love to point out how the dictionary defines atheism as a lack of belief in gods.
    Dictionary Atheist: “See Checkmate SJWs the dictionary has prescribed how you can live your life! ”

    Me: “Oh you got me there! No more social justice for me! Now I will sit quietly at home and not vote either. That way maybe you can get that tax cut you earned through your superior work ethic to poor people. And then maybe the whole system will collapse so dudes like you won’t have to support the big bad government until all our highways collapse. Cuz you know that private toll companies abandon roads when they can’t turn a profit.You can stay at home and console your self with your superior bank account until unregulated banks collapse due to predatory and shady lending practices. No more supporting healthcare for moochers. It will decrease the surplus population! Your principle of being a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone You still have that and your dog eared dictionary. (/sarcasm)

  24. Dr Marcus Hill Ph.D. (arguing from his own authority) says

    Maybe something from the fact that they’re Dictionary Atheists and claim we should be unemotional and logical, thinking with our heads not our hearts. “Dic-Heads”?

  25. Spoo says

    @ anteprepro #34

    I thought the invisible hand was just a term for a very, very, VERY quick handjob.

  26. Menyambal - not as pretentious as I seem says

    “Social Atheists” versus “Antisocial Atheists”?

  27. Scr... Archivist says

    anteprepro @37,

    Quick, someone get the world’s tiniest violin ready!

    The invisible hand is already playing it.
    brianpansky @39,

    Nah, give me the “da dum tsh!” sound…

    That’s a percussion sting, sometimes called a rimshot. But it requires two invisible hands!

  28. says

    “Vulcan Infinite Pinnipeds”.
    “Epoxied Old Finks”.
    “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”? (no, wait…)
    “Grand Old Peachfreezers”.
    “Perianal Instantiators of Theories And Sources”.

    Me, I’ll probably stick with “bovine assholes”, named for where most of their justifications come from. Or “bigot”, that’s always good.

  29. Saad says

    CaitieCat, #49

    Grand Old Peachfreezers

    I love this one. You get a nice acronym out of it to double the insult.

  30. militantagnostic says

    A few years ago someone here quoted Adam Smith saying something to the effect that them most advanced society is one where profits are the lowest. Someone responded that The Wealth of Nations is like the bible, you are supposed to worship it not read it. I suspect Adam Smith’s views were much more nuanced than the strawman his detractors criticize and that Shermer and his ilk worship.

  31. says

    The thing is that a) the Invisible Hand worshiped by Libertarians and the like bears basically no resemblance to what Adam Smith was talking about, and b) Smith wasn’t even entirely correct in his much more limited usage of the term.

  32. cp3o says

    Ah, but are you a pre- or post- millennialist atheist? A Sunni or a Shia atheist? Evangelical or Baptist?

    Stop giving the god-botherers a stick to beat us with. An atheist is someone who has no belief in a god or gods. That’s what upsets the religious – it says that they might be wrong and they can’t give valid reasons why they aren’t. It gives a simple statement that leaves no room for setting type A atheist against Type B atheists. I never thought I’d say this but my secondary school motto was “Unitate Fortior” (at least I think it was) and I’ve found something that it relates to!

    I’m an atheist, and I consider myself a humanist, but I’m not a humanist atheist or an atheistic humanist (tautological I know). I am an atheist who is also a humanist

    “Humanists think for themselves about what is right and wrong, based on reason and respect for others.

    Find meaning, beauty, and joy in the one life we have, without the need for an afterlife.

    Look to science instead of religion as the best way to discover and understand the world.

    Believe people can use empathy and compassion to make the world a better place for everyone.”

    If you want to command an army and ride off into a glorious whatever that’s up to you – but if you create a monster that risks becomes a creedal juggernaut, a movement in which unthinking sycophants march to the beat of a local (American) drum you will, I suspect, unwittingly provide a distraction upon which the religious will seize to deflect the world from realising that, however rational some of their apology may be, their religion is based upon the unsubstantiated acceptance of unnecessary suppositions.

    One of the soft underbellies of American business, one I exploited very effectively, is that when it seeks to expand beyond the US it assumes that the rest of the world has the same needs and the same environments (including the same legal/moral structure) as the US and therefore will greedily devour the solution that works in America. Most of the world, and most of its population are outside your borders and vary from supportive through indifference to outright opposition to American imperialism – please don’t screw up atheism for the rest of us simply to solve your internal spat.

  33. medivh says

    I’m thinking xatheists, by metaphor with the logic function xor. Their whole worldview is built on excluding anyone who doesn’t follow their worldview, and the x makes it sound cool to a certain kind of mind. Whether pronounced ‘x atheist’ or ‘zaytheist’, I haven’t figured out yet, but I figure it’s a minor detail.

    Oh wait: ‘gif’ vs. ‘jif’. Crap.