Ellen Johnson, president of American Atheists, already responded to Sam Harris questioning the use of the label “atheist.”
A couple other prominent atheists are also joining the fray.
David Koepsell, Executive Director of the Council for Secular Humanism, supports Harris:
Now mind you, we do face some clear political and social challenges from the deeply religious and antisecular, and we are still far outnumbered. Responses to these challenges will always be more effective when mediated through some sort of organization such as CSH or [Center For Inquiry]. We are more likely to achieve results as a team than as a bunch of individuals. But the trend in affiliation movements is toward less homogeneity, less closely knit and more short-lived groups working together for a specific goal then drifting apart until necessity calls again.
I agree with Sam Harris on his other important recommendation. Perhaps our best tactic is to live our lives not worrying about labels or “isms” and, by the strength of our examples as decent, hard-working and ethical people who happen to belong to no religious faith or do not hold supernatural beliefs, lead by example for those similarly drawn. This is the trend we already see. The silent majority of that 1.5 billion are doing just this, and our ranks are swelling.
David Silverman, communications director for American Atheists, takes a completely different approach:
My opinion is that if you DON’T use the word Atheist, you’re hurting the movement. I’m saying that even using the alternative words (Brights, secular humanist, realist, or even agnostic) HURTS the movement by allowing people to retain their prejudice against us. It also shows a weakness of conviction on our part, so even IF (big if) people actually know what the alternate word means, they don’t think you’re gutsy enough to admit your real thoughts. They may be right.
Sam is really wrong, and it really bothers me. My opinion is that EVERYONE should use Atheist. No Brights. No Agnostics (YES, THEY ARE THE SAME). No Secular Humanists. Only Atheists.
More responses will be forthcoming, I’m sure…