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Neutral term for 'nonreligious'

  1. Feb 23, 2007 #1
    One division of the worlds population can be that one is either religious or nonreligious, but nonreligious is thus defined by the absence of something else, which is perhaps not the most politically correct statement.

    Another example where this have been applied to some extent is in traditions. There is written tradition and oral tradition (as oppose to non written tradition).

    Obviously, atheist would not work as that is only not believing in a divine creator.

    Is there a neutral term for 'nonreligious'?
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  3. Feb 23, 2007 #2


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    Bright is a good term.
  4. Feb 23, 2007 #3


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    "Is there a neutral term for 'nonreligious'?"

    No, there is no natural term - at least, there's no need for there to be one.

    The artifical division of the world into one of two groups is the action that creates the dichotomy. There was no dichotomy until you made your first statement.

    The world is full of an infinite number of beliefs of subtle flavours. To force a binary separation is tantamount to declaring that all colours fall into 'light' or 'dark'.

    So, religious vs. non-religious is likewsie an arbitrary boundary.

    Besides, you'd be pretty hard-pressed to define your terms let alone use them to categorize. There are a lot of people out there who are religious in their beliefs in ways that have little or nothing to do with supernatural beings.
  5. Feb 23, 2007 #4


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    The terms 'secular,' 'humanist,' and 'secular humanist' are often used for the purpose. 'Bright' is a newcomer, and, despite the fact that everyone who uses it is quick to say it should not be considered offensive to non-brights, it usually is anyway. 'Freethinker' is another commonly-used yet deeply loaded label.

    On the whole, though, I have to agree with Dave about your false dichotomy.

    - Warren
  6. Feb 23, 2007 #5


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    From an etymological perspective, aligious might be a good term.
    "religio" is composed of the prefix "re-", and the last part is related to the word "ligere", meaning "to bind, glue together".

    Thus, religion should mean a "re-establishment of bond", i.e, something achieved by an act of ritual.

    the aligious individual remains therefore in the unbound state.
  7. Feb 23, 2007 #6


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    What's wrong with "non-religious"? That sums it up quite well. They do not believe in organized religion. It does not imply, as you stated, "the absence of something else". They simply do not fall for the preachings of men.
  8. Feb 24, 2007 #7

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    That seems to be what the OP is looking for, so I don't see a problem with that.

    But terms like "atheist", "secular humanist", and "bright" are making a different distinction--a distinction that I would describe as naturalistic versus supernaturalistic. Plenty of non-religious folks are still quite enchanted with the "supernatural". (But being nonreligious is a major first step in the right direction. :wink: )
  9. Feb 24, 2007 #8


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    Perhaps empiricist?
  10. Feb 25, 2007 #9
    The antonym of religious is irreligious. But it can be defined as either not religious or against religion, so you would be wise to specify the intended meaning.

    EDIT: ...but then again, "not religious" also works fine, as others have said.
  11. Mar 28, 2007 #10
    i dont see why there is a need to label someone with no religious beliefs as any paticular name, as its been stated nonreligious is simply a factual way of describe someones views, therefore how can there be any better descriptive to use instead.

    i suppose i could suggest that we go back to the days of people like da vinci and use the term "illumminati" (enlightened ones) to show that we know better about religion, but i dont think that would do nonreligious people any favours.

    lets stick with the term nonreligious, its factual, non-biased, and isnt offensive
  12. Jun 1, 2007 #11
    I don't like the term "religious" myself. It tends to group all the religions together. It gives the impression of rituals and mindless practices. I would probably prefer pious/piety.

    To start from the beginning, going down another path of the crossroads: When the "non-religious" are not indifferent but are actively anti-religious, they have earned their right to another name.
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2007
  13. Jun 1, 2007 #12
    Wow. I guess I can expand my thoughts on 'the absence of something else'.

    It is worth noting that no one ever needs to identify himself as a non-astrologer, non-voodoo-priest or a non-alchemist. For me, non-religious does not make much sense, as it somewhat implies that 'religious' is standard and that 'non-religious' is a deviation. If that makes sense.
  14. Jun 1, 2007 #13
    mm it does. What you need is a word that is positively descriptive (I am) rather than negatively descriptive (I am not), and is at the same time obscure enough that it hasn't become a loaded term yet.

    I use Ignostic or Nietzschean for myself.

    Consider http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apatheism" [Broken], though.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  15. Jun 1, 2007 #14


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    That is a good option. I have studied the teachings of many of the world's great teachers, and I find it very difficult to fall for the interpretations of the powerful in the wold's religious communities, though I greatly respect/adhere to the teachings of their primary prophets. I was brought up as a catholic and discovered early on that the church had perverted the teachings in the new testament to serve the will of the church. The fundamentalist christian churches that selected teachings to support their views were no better. Buddhism was a radical improvement on Hinduism, just as Christianity was a radical reformation of Judaism. This type of thing will go on as long as humans inhabit the earth. The closest that I can come to affinity for any religion is to Zen Buddhism, because I have had any number of head-smack "Duh!" moments in which the interconnectedness of things in our world points to a shared reality that we can discuss, if not understand.
  16. Jun 2, 2007 #15
    Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity ...No Islam? There are 1.3 billion Muslims in the world. Primarily, should you wish to, study Islam; not the Muslims who cannot perfectly follow its teachings.
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2007
  17. Jun 19, 2007 #16
  18. Jun 20, 2007 #17


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    I am atheist and therefore absolutely non-religious and yet finds this highly offensive. I find it narrow-minded and self-centered.

    I would personally much prefer to be surrounded by religious and respectful people than by non-religious intolerant and self-righteous people.

    I guess I am intolerant of intolerant people :tongue2:
  19. Jul 1, 2007 #18
    - But non-religiousness is just the lack of religiousness - any other thing that's common to all non-religious people (if there is anything, which I doubt) would be purely incidental.
  20. Jul 1, 2007 #19
    I argued about that earlier.

  21. Jul 19, 2007 #20
    Sorry, didn't see this. Well, in context where you'd use "non-religious" you could probably replace it with "not religious", which is similar to what you'd use in the same kind of situations with regards to the voodoo priest, astrologer or alchemist cases. For example, compare "I'd comment on the nature of the holy ghost, but I'm not religious" with "I'd comment on the cosmic powers released when Venus is in the ascendant, but I'm not an astrologer"
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