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Sorry, Neil DeGrasse Tyson. “Atheist” is still useful.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson spends four minutes in this video trying to disassociate himself from atheism. But he’s ok with “agnostic.” A deluge of Daily Dish readers explain why they’re not mutually exclusive.

There’s a joke, more commentary that funny, I heard somewhere:  There are two types of atheists–those say say “none” when asked their religion and those that say “atheist.”

This is Tyson’s first mistake; he pegs “-isms” it to a “movement.”  There’s this irrational fear that I noticed, among even the most prominent atheists, that by giving the belief a label it gives it a unwanted connotation as dogma.

It’s odd that the word “atheist” even exists.  I don’t play golf.  Is there a term for non-golfers?

Most people don’t play golf.

“Atheism” is useful because 1) It describes a minority. (It might be less useful a term in a country like Sweden that’s largely secular.) 2) While it’s not a necessity, there is still a correlation between lack of religious belief and political ideology. People want to make organizations around common philosophical bonds, and the language is useful to share that bond. 3) It’s just a synonym for non-believer. Stop attaching other assumptions.

On an interesting sidenote, Sweden still had an officially recognized state church until 2000.  But as of 2008, only 2% of the population attended regularly. The Netherlands still has a state church.  Separation of church and state suddenly doesn’t sound like everything.

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