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‘Self-Professed Atheist’

Whenever an atheist is interviewed on the news or on some talk show, the host always makes a point to say that the atheist is “self-professed.” They never do this for Christians, Jews, Muslims, or any religious figure. They don’t say, “Here is self-professed Catholic priest…” Why not?

I think when they add, “self-professed” in front of someone’s identification they are taking a shot at them. It is a way of delegitimizing them. A self-professed priest for example would mean that only that person recognizes his position and that everyone else thinks he is crazy.

When they say that someone is a self-professed atheist, they are saying that they really believe we really believe. Some Christians have this thing where they believe that atheists secretly know God is real and that we are just “rebelling” against him. Or that we secretly know that God is real, but are agents of Satan trying to lead good Christians astray so that Satan can eat their souls or something.

If you are ever interviewed about something as an atheist and the interviewer uses this “self-professed” crap, stop the interviewer right then and there and demand an explanation. Demand that the religious person be addressed as “self-professed” and start addressing the religious person as such. Do this especially in relation to their religious title or position.

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  • http://twitter.com/EnemaOfGod Grand Proctologist

    I’m not sure that the intent is so nefarious. It seems to me that, in a country like the US where “atheist” has such a negative connotation, it may just be the media telling the viewer that the person being interviewed considers himself or herself an atheist, we aren’t outing him or using an epithet to diminish him or her.

    To me, its akin to the diminishing practice of referring to homosexuals as being “openly homosexual.” It may be a defensive mechanism on the part of the broadcaster to prevent a claim of bias (implying a negatively held title on someone without their knowledge or consent or without an adequate basis for doing so) rather than a genuine display of bias.

  • Travis Morgan

    Staks, that is how I take it too. I have noticed interviewers do this quite often to atheists. My first reaction is always, “what do you mean ‘self-professed?’ I’m not just professing that I am an atheist. I AM an atheist.” I agree with you that it is a subtle shot at us to suggest that we believe in god but hate god or something like that.

  • skm9

    Many times when someone is called a “self-professed” atheist it is not to question their position, but because the person describing them believes “atheist” to be inherently a negative term, and does not want to take responsibility for using the word.

    At any rate, that has been my experience. I suppose some are actually questioning the legitimacy of whether someone is actually an unbeliever, but I think most are merely calling us the worst name they can think of and blaming us for making them do it.

  • Alex S Mcnair

    Sometimes you see the ‘self-professed’ thing when the object is a bit outrageous or considered out of the norm, like a ‘self-professed lover of palm tree climbing’ or a ‘self-professed collector of cereal boxes.’
    There you go. Most people think (at best) that atheism is outrageous. Something done for attention.

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