In the ongoing resurgence of atheistic thinking, the term naturalist has taken on a nuanced and politicized meeting.

Spokesatheist Richard Dawkins, in his book The God Delusion, recognizes that the term "atheist" has a negative definition, i.e. a person who does not believe in gods, and that a negative definition unnecessarily frames atheists at the margin rather than at the center of the discussion. Additionally, this particular term has a negative semantic orientation among moderate, influenceable Americans.

Instead, he has proposed the adoption of the alternate terms "naturalist" and "supernaturalist." This frames atheism with a positive definition and at the center, i.e. a person who believes in the natural world, with all of the positive associations of the word "natural." This consequently frames believers at the margin, de-privileging the concepts of gods, angels, and devils, by underscoring the salient similarity between them and the concepts of ghosts, psychics, and the X-Files.

Nat"u*ral*ist, n. [Cf. F. naturaliste.]

1.

One versed in natural science; a student of natural history, esp. of the natural history of animals.

2.

One who holds or maintains the doctrine of naturalism in religion.

H. Bushnell.

 

© Webster 1913.

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