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Atheists, you need to rethink your morals! How about it?

There seems to be a common misconception among religious people of all kinds that atheists are somehow less moral, and that religion "enriches" one's morals. And so moral and religious discussions are often intersected. I think this is wrong in more ways than one, but for the sake of character limit, I'll save it for now.

The question is how do we separate the two? And this is what the idea is about - we need a new term beside "atheist" to serve (from the viewpoint of religious people) as a middleway between religious (and therefore moral in their view) and atheist (and therefore immoral in their view). This term however must not be exclusive from religion... it needs to be inclusive.

So, without further ado, here's what I believe is the best such term:
Moralist - Anyone who follows the positive and/or negative version of the golden rule, including in cases of conflicts with holy scripture.

The conflict part is critical. Without it, the term can label anyone who's ever heared the golden rule. With it, you label any non-fundamentalist religious person AND the larger part of atheists.

Why the word "moralist"? Regardless of what your faith is, a word like "moralist" can't bring bad associations. Just imagine someone condemning you for being "moral". It would be counter intuitive.

How can this make any difference? If used as an additional label (as opposed to replacement) it can estabilish a common ground between religious people of all kinds (say, Crhistians and Muslims) and atheists, and therefore help reduce religious prejudices and tensions and separate religious from moral discussions.

Assuming you like the idea, how can you support it? Next time you're in a moral conversation, if you follow the golden rule, say you're a moralist, regardless of what your religion is. Don't drag your holy stripture (if any) into the conversation, but do express your opinion as influenced by it. Next time someone asks for your religion, say you're a "moralist [religion]".

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Closing Statement from Vasil Rangelov

I'd like to thank everybody who participated in this conversation, and this goes double for theists. The term/label would be of little value if no theist person adopts it, though it would still be a good thing even if only atheists adopt it.

I'd like to reiterate something I had to constantly answer in the conversation for anyone not willing to go over it all:

Being a "Moralist" does NOT mean you follow ONLY the golden rule.

There are many moral questions that can't be answered directly by the golden rule or are simply out of its scope, since the golden rule deals only with personal prevention. You being a moralist only means that if something (holy scripture or ideologies) lead you to do something that is against the golden rule (slavery, rape, genocide, etc.), you claim you would ignore those parts in favor of what the golden rule leads you to... but you'd still follow everything else said something leads you to.

It's not like using the term itself is going to "change the world" or something. No. For the most part, the world is already full of Moralists. They just aren't using the term. But what this can help with is illuminate this very fact, and in the process, tare down most walls of religious prejudices (most visibly so in the atheists vs. theists and Christians vs. Muslims part). Taring down prejudices is not the end goal. It's just the start. The start towards the end goal of having a unified definition of what's moral, and in turn, have a unified society, while still respecting everyone's rituals, deities and opinions on unprovable things.

Also, I'm personally not deeply attached to the word "Moralist". I'd be willing to use any word, as long as it carries the same semantics, which FYI are different than "Humanist".

If anyone has further comments to make to this, you can comment in this conversation
http://www.ted.com/conversations/1585/if_god_is_love_and_love_is_god.html
which is basically the same idea, except I'm also suggesting a word for it.

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  • Apr 4 2011: I am a recent Agnostic/athiest I love the Idea of being a Moralist. I haven't been able to tell my family, whom are die hard christians, that I no longer beleive the same way they do. But I think it might make it easier to tell them I'm no longer a christian not athiest but a Moralist.
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      Apr 4 2011: Do say it like "Moralist Agnostic/Atheist" please. You know, to reflect "religion" as part of it. Otherwise, the term would sound as exclusive as "humanist", and it needs to be inclusive.

      And I suggest you first start by pinning this Moralist label onto them, to further soften the blow.

      BTW, I recently had a conversation with my mother where I started saying we're atheists. We've been using the term "non-believing Christians" for a long time to label ourselves, which only a year ago I realized was equivalent to atheist, but now that I used the term, she was like "Well, I wouldn't say I'm ATHEIST". I then said "Mom, do you think there's a God?". She said "No. God is a human invention". I said "There you go, you're an atheist! That's ALL the term means". "OK, fine, we're atheists" she said. Upon further discussions, to my surprise, I found out the reason she didn't liked the word atheist was not because of morals (like all atheists, she knows morality and religion are two different things), but because she liked the holidays, and thought atheists means we would deny celebrating them. My response was "As atheists, we can deny any stories and superstition around holidays, but that doesn't mean we must not celebrate the holiday itself. It only means we don't have to", and she agreed.

      If your family are die hard Christians, you'll likely have a harder time, but that's just another "weapon" for your arsenal ;-) .

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