Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Chris Port Blog #282. Heathen or Heretic?

© Chris Port, June 2011
From an open Facebook group thread on atheists being either "heathen" or "heretic"...
ME: "Heathen" is a loaded term (aren't all pejoratives?). It has historical connotations of being applied to someone who remains 'unconverted' to any of the monotheistic religions. This implies that they may hold pagan religious beliefs, and leaves open the possibility of their conversion to the 'one true God' through proselytization (the bane of most atheists!). It is also sometimes used to disparage someone as 'uncultured' or 'uncivilized' (I'm sure many atheists would have a few things to say to this, quite possibly involving the words "kettle" and "black").

I prefer the term "heretic" as I am, by strong inclination, an iconoclast. This leaves open the tricky possibility that I'm only attacking the dogma rather than the core irrational belief system. This doesn't particularly bother me though. If a heretic convincingly redefines 'God' as an impersonal aesthetic concept rather than an anthropomorphic supernatural conceit, I think they've probably become the atheistic equivalent of a neutron bomb - vaporizing the mad mullahs while leaving the narrative infrastructure of human purpose intact.

I'm sure some atheists would like to see the whole citadel of irrationality flattened, but I'm an artistic type. Irrational belief is part of the human condition. I'm always happy for empiricism to explain it away. But I'm also happy to suspend my disbelief and believe in my own ghost story...

See "Free Will: A Suspension of Disbelief in Our Own Ghost Stories (The Rugby Ball in the Mud, the Ghost in the Machine…)" at

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