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Who wants to go through life defining themselves as a 'non-believer'?

It’s Census Day on Sunday, and campaigning atheists are teeth-gnashingly worried that insufficient numbers of people will tick the “No Religion” box. The British Humanist Association is on a mission to encourage as many non-believers as possible to declare their non-belief. It argues that only by getting a realistic snapshot of how many atheists and agnostics there are in modern-day Britain (more than we think, apparently) can we challenge such allegedly problematic institutions as faith schools and the privileging of religious spokespeople in various political institutions.

But if lots of non-believers choose not to tick “No Religion”, I won’t be surprised. Why? Because people generally don’t like to define themselves negatively, by what they aren’t rather than by what they are. “No Religion” – it’s sounds so passive, almost identity-effacing, like “No Comment” or “No Opinion”. The majority of non-believers, of which I am one, see our non-belief in God not as the be-all and end-all of who we are, not as the thing that defines us, but simply as a choice we have made. Our atheism is in many ways the least interesting thing about us. It merely indicates what we don’t believe in, rather than saying anything about what we do believe in (in my case, radical humanism).

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TAGGED: ACCOMMODATIONISM, POLLS


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