April 1, 2012

What is Post-Atheism?

atheismHave you heard the term "post-atheism" used by people in the atheist movement? I have encountered a few different definitions of this term, but I've always thought that the best one was the idea that post-atheism refers to the mindset that while one is still technically an atheist (i.e., one does not accept the theistic belief claim), one no longer considers atheism to be a significant part of one's identity.

One way to look at post-atheism would be to say that it would describe us all if religious belief were to disappear. In such a scenario, we'd all be post-atheists because atheism would be too irrelevant to have any value in our identity. But this is not the way most people use the term. Most use it to describe a step they reach after atheism.

Some have gone so far as to suggest that post-atheism is a more mature and thus more desirable state than atheism. That is, post-atheism reflects a more clear-headed and less angry stance that some atheists will eventually reach as they evolve beyond atheism. Perhaps there is even some truth to that view.

Others have suggested that post-atheism is not only not a step forward but perhaps a step backward. They typically argue that post-atheism is simply an excuse for disengagement and apathy. A post-atheist, they argue, is just a burned out atheist who has given up.

I do not consider myself post-atheist, but I often wonder if that would change if I lived outside the bible belt. I do feel like I understand the post-atheist mindset, and there are certainly times when I find myself drawn to it. However, it never seems to take long for a particularly egregious example of religiously-motivated bigotry or a serious church-state violation to bring me back.

What do you think of post-atheism? Does it represent the next step for atheists, or is it just an excuse for disengagement?

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