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Words Used to Describe and Label Religious Doubt

By Dale McGowan

Part of Atheism For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Atheism and other kinds of religious doubt are chock-a-block with labels and terms. Some are more important than others; some are neutral or positive; others are used (even by atheists) as putdowns. The following list includes all of the major labels — good, bad, and ugly.

  • Atheist: Doesn’t believe a god or gods exist.

  • Agnostic: Not sure whether a god or gods exist.

  • Freethinker: Holds opinions based on independent reasoning without the undue influence of authority, doctrine, or tradition.

  • Skeptic: Withholds judgment pending actual evidence.

  • Humanist: Focuses on this natural world and this life. Sometimes used as a synonym for secular humanist. No, doesn’t worship humans.

  • Secular humanist: A humanist who specifically adds, “I don’t believe in God.” Still doesn’t worship humans.

  • Secularist: Used to mean someone who wanted to keep church and government separate. Now refers to a person who lives without religion.

  • Antitheist: Believes religion poisons everything and prays (hopes) for a future without it.

  • Apatheist: Doesn’t care whether there’s a God or not. Is annoyed that you asked.

  • Accommodationist: An atheist who seeks common ground with the religious. Much hugging.

  • Deist: Does not believe in God. Believes in “God.”

  • Pantheist: Believes the universe and God are one and the same, but not exactly.