Among the general populace, ideas like “atheism” and “secular morality” are treated as radical and mysterious and perhaps self-contradictory.
Among the most productive spheres of science and philosophy, phrases like “atheism” and “secular morality” rarely appear because they are simply assumed.
When a scientist proposes an explanation for an observed phenomenon – a hypothesis he would like to test – nobody mentions that it’s an “atheistic” hypothesis. Of course it is. What’s the alternative? “God did it”? Don’t be silly. If by “atheist hypothesis” you mean “non-magical hypothesis,” then yes: It’s an “atheistic” hypothesis. Just like every other scientific hypothesis.
When a philosopher tries to solve a particular problem in moral theory, nobody mentions that he’s doing “secular morality.” Of course he is. What’s the alternative? “God said so”? Don’t be silly. If by “secular morality” you mean “moral theory that doesn’t answer questions by reference to invisible magical beings,” then yes: We’re doing “secular morality.” But why bother mention that? It’s like pointing out that utilitarianism is a “unicorn-less moral theory.” It does moral theory without needing to call upon unicorns. Whoopty-do.
If you spend enough time reading the productive edge of science and philosophy, and then stick your head back into the popular discourse for a few minutes, hearing terms like “atheistic” and “secular morality” is a bit jarring.
Oh God, you think. That’s where the level of discussion is, on this planet.
And then you have a choice.
Or you can return to the cutting edge, and hope that people will eventually catch up so that a larger section of humanity can work together to solve the pressing problems we face – rather than arguing endlessly about gods and god-based morality.
Or you can do both, as Paul Thagard does. But that’s hard, and you might spread yourself too thin.