2007-09-12

Naturalist as a Label

Although I've never actually disliked the term atheist as a personal label, I've come to appreciate a reason to prefer an alternate label: it's just too specific. Referring to someone as an atheist says that they don't believe in any deities, but it doesn't say anything about their beliefs regarding other supernatural concepts. Although they generally don't, an atheist could believe in life after death, ghosts, spirits, auras, astrology, numerology, karma, fate or any other number of supernatural entities or forces. In light of this, I have a theoretical preference for the term naturalist, but I have concerns regarding its practical usage. If I tell someone I'm a naturalist and they then ask what that means, I can explain that I don't believe in anything supernatural. If they don't ask, however, I'm afraid they will either think that I'm just interested in the outdoors, think that I'm a nudist, or simply not understand. I've identified as a Humanist in certain circumstances, but I feel this term simultaneously says too much and too little about what I think. I would really rather err on the side of saying too little and avoid mischaracterizing my beliefs, which are constantly being refined and reanalyzed in the light of new experience. I suppose that I'll adopt naturalist as my preferred label for now and see how it goes.

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1 comment:

trailrider said...

I like the label Atheist because it means only one thing. It is clear, it is clean, it is pure, it is simple. Yet I, like you, yearn for a label that is more descriptive but with each new effort, I come closer to concluding that I am the square peg. There is a website called Church of Reality. Their motto seems to be "If it is real, we believe in it." So, I call myself a Realist, a term that has at least as much opportunity for confusion as Naturalist. I just love that motto and will define Realist however I want to. Realist says, "Hello, Naturalist."