TED Conversations

Isaac Wells

This conversation is closed. Start a new conversation
or join one »

An atheist is still in a theist paradigm.

In describing yourself, when you use broad categorizations, such as I'm black or I'm white, or I'm a chemist or a I'm a physicist or I'm an electrician, or I'm an atheist or I'm agnostic or I'm religious or I'm Jewish, you are saying that the questions that these are answers to are important to you. They have meaning and value, and are worthwhile ways of categorizing yourself.

My idea is that we should be careful of the categorizations we have for ourselves. I, personally, am religious, so I give that question a lot of weight, but for someone who is atheist, or someone who doesn't tend to consider religious questions and such, it seems as though the question has little bearing, though there may be exceptions. It is not applicable in one's self concept. If you characterize yourself as an atheist, you are still in a theistic paradigm. So, my idea is to stop thinking of yourself as such.

While I am thinking particularly of this instance of religion, the idea has wider applications too. For example, in talking of one's skin colour. It is at times useful in helping to identify someone, but otherwise the distinction made between people with different skin tones is usually not an actually relevant question, not to say that heritage and ethnicity (important in the cultural differences and the genetic differences that are consistent across a particular group) aren't applicable.

My idea is mostly related to self concept though. To other who give value to those questions, it is entirely valid to answer them. Religion may not be important to you, but to your associates for which it is, you can still tell them that you are atheist, though if that was the case for me I'd say 'I do not adhere to any religion or believe in God', so as to still come from somewhat outside of that way of thinking.

Individuals of the TED community, what thinkest thou?


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Oct 23 2011: I think your ideas are great, but would like to offer another, related to the statement that questions of religion "have little bearing" and "are not applicable to one's self concept":
    Atheism as a 'religion' itself. It seems to me that agnosticism (although I am not agnostic) is the only viewpoint that can be considered "factually correct" and devoid of any "belief," because while we are alive we cannot possibly know for sure whether or not God exists. So, in the same way that religions take leaps of faith into the unknown to assert that God exists, atheists also take "leaps of faith" in order to say that God affirmatively does not. I think that atheists and the religious both rely upon faith, to opposite extremes. Because of this, I don't think I agree with your statement that atheists should remove themselves from a theistic paradigm.
    • Oct 23 2011: That is a good point, though I think the amount of...importance the belief has in your life, and the level of conviction are perhaps important to consider. Because if you simply don't think there is a God, it seems not important to be in that paradigm, though the same goes for those that think there is a God, and then it has little effect on there life. For committed atheists, it does make sense to think of themselves as atheists. It seems just a matter of importance to you,

      Thank you for your contributions! They are helpful in developing my thoughts!
      • Oct 23 2011: It it not important for an atheist to identify his or her self as an athiest. In my own case, I care nothing for the paradigm that you are describing and I only describe myself as a atheist when asked by a theist. Being a theist, I consider your scope of understanding to be smaller than normal and therefore I must enter your linquistic sphere to communicate. Normally, I don't use the word or ever think the thought.
        On a similar vein, I describe myself as an a-astrologists when talking to astrologists and an a-flatearther when talking to the flat earthers.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.