AHS+ is a catchall term I’ve come to use over more than decade’s involvement in atheist, humanist, secularist, and similar groups, of various nonreligious and irreligious types. It is an attempt to recognise both the overlapping and distinct identities within our movement.
How we define ourselves is a debate many feel passionately about, and others just shrug at. Terms such as secularism and humanism, although they have their own distinct meanings, have at times been put forward as ‘positive’ alternatives to the term atheism.
A 2019 survey gathered the views of nearly 34,000 nonreligious Americans. Among the wealth of findings, those on identities stood out most to me. When asked how they feel about a range of nonreligious identity labels, 79% strongly identified as atheist, 75% as secular and 65% as humanist. When asked to pick a primary identity, 57% chose atheist with humanist a distant second with 14% and no other identity label passing 10%. Many people who do not identify as non-religious may share these labels.
The term AHS+ should help us understand our common interests. It is an attempt to encompass, rather than replace or override. If you primarily identify as an atheist, then that’s great. This blog will very much come from an atheistic perspective. But there are many committed secularists who identify as religious, and humanists who practice their humanism within a faith tradition. Many atheists hold religious cultural identities. All these people should have a place within our movement.
The term is consciously based on the LGBT+ label, which allows people to see themselves as part of a community of shared interests with complementary identities, without compromising on their own primary identity. The term does not imply that every letter in the acronym must apply or apply equally to all within the wider community it covers.
I’ve framed this in terms of identity, but each of the initials in AHS+ also represents an idea. Atheism is a view on a single question, humanism covers a range of worldviews or life stances, and secularism is a political philosophy.
We need more effective approaches to atheism to challenge religious dogmatism, more effective approaches to humanism to bring empathy and reason to solving the crises we face, and secularism to liberate us from controlling religious privilege in the public sphere.
This blog will explore these social, political, philosophical and identity issues, with a particular focus on the UK. It will strive to be a positive voice for change within the wider AHS+ community.
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