Words to Cultivate

Some Useful Vocabulary for Atheists, Freethinkers and other Critics of Religion

2016-05-04, Updated 2016-08-04

A list of terms which, I would suggest, could and should be used regularly—wherever they are appropriate of course—by atheists, freethinkers and critics of religion in general. Some of these expressions are neologisms, i. e. recently coined, while others are not new but have been under-utilised.

Sommaire en français Une petite liste de termes — à l’intention des athées, des libres penseurs et des critiques de religions en général — que je suggère pour usage courant. Quelques-uns sont des néologismes, c’est-à-dire récemment inventés, tandis que d’autres sont des termes existants mais sous-utilisés actuellement.

the irrational fear of atheism or of atheists. The suffix -phobia is indeed appropriate here because this fear is clearly unfounded and irrational, being based on the religious myth that one must believe in a fictional daddy-cop-dictator in the sky in order to behave ethically. (Contrast this with the dubious term Islamophobia which must be avoided for several reasons, in particular because fearing Islam is not necessarily irrational.) See also moralistic creationism below. This prejudice is extremely widespread. See: definition of atheophobia and Atheophobia, A Prejudice Thousands of Years Old.
basically a synonym of “religious belief.” Examples: — According to Christian mythology, Jesus was the son of “God.” — According to Muslim mythology, Mohammed was the last prophet of “God.”
ethno-religious determinism
the true meaning of the extremely loaded word “multiculturalism” (which long ago used to mean “cultural diversity” but has since evolved into a very tendentious—and anti-secular—ideology). Approximate synonym: religious essentialism
freedom of conscience
this includes both freedom of religion and freedom FROM religion (which in turn includes the freedom of apostasy, i.e. the freedom to leave a religion), as well as freedom of opinion and of thought. Freedom of conscience is fundamental, while the other freedoms are necessary consequences of it.
freedom of apostasy
a necessary consequence of freedom of conscience. If you do not recognise the right to apostasy, i.e. the right to leave a religion, then you are a religious bigot. There is neither freedom of religion nor freedom of conscience without the right to apostatize.
Belief in belief. Examples: — the silly idea that religious beliefs should be respected. — the essentialist notion (closely related to “multiculturalism”) that religious affiliation is somehow innate and immutable. See: definition of metabelief.
moralistic creationism
The belief that morality comes from “God,” whatever the hell that is. Moralistic creationism is the basis of classic atheophobia. See The Moralistic Foundations of Creationism and Theism As Hate Propaganda.
Attitude of unthinking, uncritical deference towards the religion of Islam, thus affording it preferential treatment compared to other religions such as Christianity.
A near-synonym of “Islamophilia” but stronger. Literally, the attitude of idolizing or worshipping Islam.
false obligation
Religious obligations are always false, that is, not in fact obligations, because any religious behaviour—such as attendance at religious events or wearing religious symbols or clothing—is either freely chosen, thus not obligatory, or imposed (i.e. coerced) by other humans, thus a form of abuse. A combination of the two situations is of course possible. See The Myth of Religious Obligations. Example: A woman who wears the niqab is either doing it freely, by choice, of her own free will, or she is being coerced by her relatives or community to do so (and is thus a victim of abuse because she is denied her freedom of conscience), or some combination of the two.

Next blog: Dubious Words