Faitheists are Nothing New

June 18, 2011

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Never missing a chance to snipe at fellow atheists for failing his Atheist Heresy tests, PZ Myers adds a fresh charge against Chris Stedman, that of stealing a label without giving due credit. 

Stedman’s new book is titled Faitheist — specifically, (F)a(i)theist: How One Atheist Learned to Overcome the Religious-Secular Divide, and Why Atheists and the Religious Must Work Together (working title, Beacon Press 2012).

Myers cites a 2009 contest in which the winning entry was “Faitheist” to label atheists too cozy or hospitable towards religious faith.  But a superficial Google search reveals how that label has an older internet existence than 2009.  In fact, that label was published in a New York City newspaper back in 2006.  Gersh Kuntzman wrote a piece called The New ‘Faitheists’ in The Brooklyn Papers (April 8, 2006), with the subtitle of “A growing number of non-believers still need a dose of that old-time religion.”

Kuntzman doesn’t claim to have invented the term.  Good thing, since the term is even older.  The earliest reference that I can locate for “faitheism” is in Who’s Who in Hell by Warren Allen Smith (2000, page 57).  Perhaps Smith was just repeating something that he’d heard before, or maybe he made it up — perhaps he should be asked.  Anyways, Smith’s Who’s Who in Hell was fairly well known in many atheist circles (it’s a great read) and it must have helped to put the term into wider use.

Regardless of what we eventually read in Stedman’s book (the contents will surely be original), we can all agree that the label “Faitheist” is clever and useful.  Let’s stick to arguing about ideas and not labels.