Atheists, Secularists and Humanists
Many people are unsure of the differences between these three - we hope this page clarifies things.
All humans are born atheists - some of them have theism thrust upon them but there is no gene for religion.
As atheists we are defined negatively - not by what we are, but by what we are not - we are "not theists".
Those who invented the god idea became "theists" - probably because they couldn't explain things or they were afraid of death We don't need the god idea to explain anything and we see no evidence for it, so we reject it.
We were labelled by the religious as "a-theists" but we don't feel any great need for any label. Note: the "a" doesn't stand for "anti", it means "not".
It isn't about "belief"!
We are insulted by an incorrect definition - "Atheists don't believe in god."
That's silly because there are many things we, and most other people, don't believe in: dragons, Hobbits, Narnia, unicorns, elves, pixies, fairies, klingons, etc.
We are simply "not theists" - that's what the word means - if there were no theists there would be no atheists!
The only thing atheists share is the rejection of the god idea - there is no such thing as "atheism" because there is no atheist philosophy, no set of beliefs that atheists share. There are good and bad atheists just as there are good and bad theists. Accepting or rejecting the god idea is no predictor of goodness or badness.
As atheists we don't have anything to prove, we are neutral, we are rational, we are logical - in fact we are often accused of being "too rational", "too logical", "too hard", "too tough".
This is usually followed by: "you have no right to question our sincerely beliefs or to ask us to provide evidence for them!" (The same could be demanded by fascists and white supremacists - so what makes religion "special"?)
We laugh when people say to us: "ah, but you can't prove that god doesn't exist!" - as if this comes as a surprise!
It is never necessary to prove a negative - think about it, we would have to spend ages trying to disprove all sorts of silly ideas - and life is too short for that! Can you "prove" that Hobbits don't exist or that Hippoism isn't the one true religion?
The onus is always on the proposer of an idea to prove it by showing there is need for it and evidence for it.
Spectacular ideas require spectacular proofs.
A god, as a creator of everything, of the billions of galaxies each with billions of stars and planets, is a pretty spectacular idea, so it requires pretty spectacular proof. We have examined "the classic god arguments" and rejected them because they boil down to playing with words rather than "proof".
- See no need for the god idea. *
- See no evidence for the god idea.
- Reject the god idea.
* everything explained by the god idea can be explained simpler without it.
That's the definition we stand by.
Some atheists are happy to be called "humanists" but most don't formally subscribe to any set of ideas, they don't label themselves as anything and they are bright enough to figure things out for themselves.
We believe religion should be separated from the state and individuals should have freedom of and from religion. Secularism is an essential element in a cohesive society where citizens are valued equally.
The National Secular Society champions the separation of religion and state and equal respect for everyone's human rights so no one is disadvantaged, nor privileged, because of their beliefs.
We campaign for a secular state in which all citizens are free to practise their faith, change it, or have no faith at all. We promote secularism as the surest guarantor of religious freedom and the best means to foster a fair and open society, in which people of all religions and none can live together as equal citizens.
Please click here for a more comprehensive answer to the question: "What is Secularism?"
- We want everyone to make a free and informed choice about belief.
- We support the Liberal Tradition: the right to freedom of thought, speech and action - as long as you cause no harm.
- We oppose religious ("faith") schools because they deny freedom of choice.
- We oppose worship in schools because it is based on "the god assumption" which is shared by a minority of young people in the UK.
- We oppose the funding of religious organisations by taxpayers - religions are businesses, not charities.
- We oppose any attempt to operate religious law (sharia law for example) separate from or alongside secular law.
- We oppose all forms of discrimination based on the interpretation of holy books.
- We oppose Bishops in the House of Lords.
- We accept that we, like everyone else, have no right not to be offended.
Roughly speaking, the word humanist has come to mean someone who:
- trusts the scientific method when it comes to understanding how the universe works and rejects the idea of the supernatural,
- makes their ethical decisions based on reason, empathy, and a concern for human beings and other sentient animals,
- believes that, in the absence of an afterlife and any discernible purpose to the universe, human beings can act to give their own lives meaning by seeking happiness in this life and helping others to do the same.
We are human, we are intelligent, we are empathic - we do our best to lead happy, fulfilled and responsible lives while helping others to do the same.
Please click here for a more comprehensive answer to the question: "What is Humanism?"