Monday, April 25, 2011

Naming the religious

It find it occasionally aggravating that there is no accepted single-word term for religious people.  We say ‘religious people’ or ‘the religious’ or (most mawkish of all) ‘people of faith’.   Whereas the rest of us are just ‘atheists’.  I expect this is because for most of human history – at least while we’ve have languages – religiosity of one kind or another was the default so we didn’t need a term for it. 

It’s gratifying that we now do, but history has left us without an appropriate word.  People have tried to address this situation.  Richard Dawkins, for example, has used the perfectly good ‘faith-heads’ (technically two words, of course, but it scans like a single one), which is both admirably expressive and concise.  Unsurprisingly, of course, many faith-heads have objected to the term as an insult, but I really can’t understand why.  Don’t they think faith is a good thing?  I wouldn’t object in the slightest if someone called me a reason-head because I think reason is a virtue.  What’s to complain about?  And what’s to complain about with ‘faith-head’?  And yet it’s not considered polite and no doubt many atheists would disapprove of the tone.

Well since everyone considers me impolite anyway I’m going to stick with faith-heads until something better comes along.  I usually won’t mean it as an insult.  Probably.

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