If there is one thing people who are not religious have proven they know how to do, it’s quibble over labels.
Atheist. Agnostic. Anti-theist. Non-believer. Non-theist. Non-religious. Bright. Pastafarian. Freethinker. And so on. They don’t all mean the exact same thing, of course, but there are common similarities, such as rejection of religious orthodoxy.
Some of those words apply to me, and some do not. The most familiar, to the largest number of people, is “atheist,” and it’s also a term that can turn a lot of people off in a hurry. Some of us who are atheists avoid using the term for that reason.
I have a different reason for my growing dislike of the word “atheist.” It’s really starting to bug me that the word doesn’t go far enough. It is simply too narrow in focus for my tastes.
All “atheist” really means is that one lacks any belief in any deity. It is possible, therefore — and yes, it happens — to be an atheist, and also believe in all sorts of irrational nonsense which has nothing to do with the divine. For example, there are atheists (not many, but some) who actually accept, and “use,” astrology, homeopathy, numerology, and their own (delusional) superhuman abilities. Even more numerous are the atheists who buy into one or more conspiracy theories. Merely putting a red “A” on one’s Facebook profile-pic does not immunize a person from error.
I don’t want to accept anything as valid without sufficient cause, and there is no reason to focus this attitude exclusively towards religion — nor anything else.
What is sufficient cause for accepting a proposition as valid? Well, mathematical proof certainly works, as does the scientific method (with the latter subject to later revision, of course, but only based on evidence).
I chose my preferred label in reaction to astrology, something I have disliked, intensely, since early childhood.
Skepticism is an attitude, and it is all-encompassing. It protects the skeptic from accepting the invalid as valid — when correctly and carefully applied, of course. It includes, but is not limited to, skepticism about religious claims. There is, after all, no good reason to have such a limitation.