On January 1st I began the day reading my email from Freedom From Religion Foundation and started to contemplate how I would define myself in relationship to FFRF’s quote from Michel Onfray.
“I persist in preferring philosophers to rabbis, priests, imams, ayatollahs, and mullahs. Rather than trust their theological hocus-pocus, I prefer to draw on alternatives to the dominant philosophical historiography: the laughers, materialists, radicals, cynics, hedonists, atheists, sensualists, voluptuaries. They know that there is only one world, and that promotion of an afterlife deprives us of the enjoyment and benefit of the only one there is. A genuinely deadly sin.”
—Michel Onfray, Atheist Manifesto
After reading Onfray’s quote I thought I might consider my own philosophical historiography using Onfray’s categories. . .one at a time:
Laugher, radical, atheist (yes, I am) (see note below on what I mean by “atheist”)
Materialist, cynic (not me)
a person whose life is devoted to the pursuit of pleasure and self-gratification
Sensualist (yes, I am) a person given to the indulgence of the senses or appetites
a person whose life is devoted to the pursuit and enjoyment of luxury and sensual pleasure
(No. I am not “devoted to,” but often “in pursuit of” these things, yet often not very successful at it)
(and some others)
I used the term “Atheist” above, but regularly find it necessary to explain what I mean by this word. There are so many connotations.
The quotes below from “7 Different Types of Non-Believers” by Valerie Tarico may help to unravel this mystery. Originally this was on Alternet. I found it on salon.com.
“Positive atheism asserts that a personal supreme being does not exist. Negative atheism simply asserts a lack of belief in such a deity.”
(I’m a negative atheist, although I hate the use of the word negative here)
To further define myself, I am also an anti-theist.
“The anti-theist says, ‘I think religion is harmful.’ It also implies some form of activism that goes beyond merely advocating church-state separation or science education. Anti-theism challenges the legitimacy of faith as a moral authority or way of knowing. Anti-theists often work to expose harms caused in the name of God like stonings, gay baiting, religious child maltreatment, genital mutilation, unwanted childbearing or black-collar crime. . .”
Although I am a born skeptic, I am a positive and hopeful person. I am a Humanist. . .trying to exercise reason, compassion, and hope. Humanism gives me that opportunity.
“While terms like atheist or anti-theist focus on a lack of god-belief and agnostic, skeptic and freethinker all focus on ways of knowing—humanist centers in on a set of ethical values. Humanism seeks to promote broad wellbeing by advancing compassion, equality, self-determination, and other values that allow individuals to flourish and to live in community with each other. These values derive not from revelation, but from human experience.”