Monday, July 18, 2011

a self-confessed blogger writes

Much hilarity is to be found in the story of Niko Alm, the Austrian atheist who has won the right to be pictured on his driving licence with a colander on his head on the grounds that it constitutes "religious headgear" - the religion in question being Pastafarianism, i.e. membership of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, peace be upon his noodly appendages.

Now that's all a lot of fun, no-one likes a good laugh more than I do, etc. etc. - however, I do have a query: what's with this bit of phrasing?
A self-confessed atheist, Mr Alm says he belongs to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, a light-hearted, US-based faith whose members call themselves pastafarians.
"Self-confessed"? That's an interestingly charged phrase that used habitually to be attached to the front of the word "homosexual", until it was repeatedly pointed out that this makes whatever follows sound like it's something to be ashamed of. It seems to me highly revealing of the acceptability of overt atheism in general public discourse that the BBC article should phrase things in this way.

Google is your friend for this sort of thing; a quick not-particularly-scientific analysis reveals the phrase "self-confessed" prefixing pramaholic, wig addict, nutter, gym bunny, boring bastard, geek, whiner, video gaming addict, and so on and so forth, all carrying some baggage of slightly furtive embarrassingness. Narrow the search to "self-confessed atheist" and you get a series of articles that vary in tone but are generally not well-disposed towards atheism. Same goes for "self-confessed homosexual", though it seems to be only in the murkier backwaters of the internet that you see that phrase used these days. "Self-confessed feminist" still pops up occasionally too.

The point is, would anyone describe themselves, or another as, say, "a "self-confessed Catholic"? A "self-confessed Muslim"? A "self-confessed heterosexual"? A "self-confessed dental hygienist"? No. I'm prepared to believe that the reporter did it unthinkingly (for some reason) but there is an implicit slight involved and it must stop. Now I am off to put a colander on my head in solidarity. Ramen.

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