Sam Harris on the lack of need for the word "atheism": "Nearly everyone rejects Zeus, Thor, Isis, along with the countless other dead gods of antiquity, and yet no one feels the need to name this condition of unbelief." I liked the sound of that until I realized this: "theism" means the belief in ANY god, not ALL gods---so an "atheist" would mean specifically someone who doesn't believe in a single one of them, as opposed to someone who, as typical for a theist, believes in one god or a certain group of gods, but not the others. There isn't a need to "name the condition of unbelief" of those who disbelieve in specific ones of the available gods, because that's already got a word, which is "theist." It makes sense to me that if pretty much everyone who believes in a god or gods believes in some but not all gods, that we WOULD want a specific word for someone who believes in none of them.
But his point stands even if I think it wasn't well-illustrated by that particular example. He goes on to say that we don't have special words to indicate our lack of belief in most other things. I don't believe in horoscopes, but no one makes me identify myself as an anti-astrologist, and no one asks what horoscope-related trauma caused me to give up my faith in horoscopes. Did I perhaps have a bad experience with people who DID believe in horoscopes? Do I realize that horoscopists aren't perfect, just predictable? I should try THEIR newspaper's horoscope, because if I was trying some OTHER newspaper's horoscope, of COURSE I didn't feel like it was for me. Etc. Nor do I have to call myself a non-vegetarian non-Gemini non-doctor.
Having a word that means "not-that" helps give the impression that "that" is what's normal and right---as opposed to "that" being an addition to the standard model. Better to have words for "plain" and "plain plus the religion option," rather than to have words for "plain plus religious" and "plain plus religious but minus the religious." Better to have "hamburger" and "cheeseburger," rather than "cheeseburger" and "cheeseburger without cheese."
As I do each year, I have a sticky note on my computer monitor with "APRIL FOOLS' DAY" written on it. Otherwise (or perhaps I should say "Even so") I tend to fall for things, like the year I believed the most popular rock station in our college city was changing to an all-polka format. Or the year I believed Google had started a dating service, which I STILL think was an AWESOME IDEA. (Did you see this year's Google prank?)
Every year I hope not to fall for a fake pregnancy announcement: I'd get so happy and excited, and the disappointment of finding out it wasn't true would be so awful. So far I haven't fallen for one, but I did fall for one on a non-April-1 day when a Facebook friend did the "I'm expecting!!" joke where the punchline is "...snow!," so I got a sample of what that feels like ("really good followed by really bad").
Gift ideas for an 8-year-old, part 2 of 2 - Last week I talked about the gifts we were getting/considering for Edward, who is turning 8 next month. This week it’s Elizabeth’s turn: not “girl gifts,” ...