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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?


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    Oct 19 2011: I will admit, this is a very interesting post and you do bring up great points.

    But you should keep in mind that atheism is not a philosophy or worldview or way of life. Atheist do not adhere to any single set of ideologies, norms or behaviors.

    I like Sam Harris description of atheism. He states that atheism is just the "destruction of bad ideas and dogma" and this applies to just about everything and not just religion.
    • Oct 23 2011: I don't mean to say that someone who doesn't believe in God has a particular, given worldview, philosophy, way of life, ideologies, norms or behaviour. If anything, to me, that makes my idea make more sense. If you are religious, I imagine that would be something you find significant about yourself, an important part of your view of the world. If you aren't religious, and your lack of religiousness is not something you find significant about yourself, then why treat it as significant. Of course, if your lack of religiousness is something you do find significant, than by all means, treat it like it is. Hopefully that is clear?

      I love a lot of Sam Harris's ideas, such as the idea of a science of morality, but I kind of dislike his views on religion. He wants to abolish it, as far as I can tell, but we really can't say whether or not any of them are true. What if they are? The questions, at least at present, fall outside of the realm that science can answer, as to the truthfullness of religion. Not to say that the things he opposes in religion (or different cultures for that matter) should not be opposed, such killing people, or oppression of women.

      I am good with the destruction of bad ideas and dogma, but the source of those are not religion. Sometimes they arise out of religion, but people with bad ideas, and who promote dogma, and whatever makes the people as such, is what is at fault. They can be like that regardless of religion. So I kind of don't like his views of atheism.
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        Oct 24 2011: I really do not think that many non-religious people treat irreligious views as something of significance. I mean I could be wrong, I just never personally met someone who does. I did mention that it does have some value to me but not to the point to where I'll champion this belief. There are many other things for me to worry about (family, friends, work, education, etc). secondly many people who are not religious actually value things such as reason, evidence, secularism, etc more so than their own irreligious beliefs, which goes back to what I mentioned about atheism not having a philosophical basis.

        I am a huge Sam Harris fan. Outside of Nietzsche and Chomsky, he is my favorite intellectual and I think his science of morality is something to be valued (although I will say that what he is talking about is not new. Chomsky in his book called "Understanding Power" essentially talks about the same thing. I do not think he wants to abolish religion entirely being that this would include the eastern religions that he values so much. What he wants to get rid of the acceptance of bad ideas because he realizes the correlation between ideas, language, belief and how they influence human behavior. Secondly, Sam Harris never stated that none of them aren't true. He once said in a debate against Chris Hedges " they can't all be true". What he says is the reasons given to them and the evidence provided for them are not good ones at all and at many time are non-sequitors (I spelled it wrong). Also things that would be otherwise absurd, such as if I told you that I prayed to Santa clause yesterday, gets sheltered once religious and social language is applied. Switch Santa to god and all bets are off. Science can't answer everything and Science will not figure everything out but that does not decrease its credibility.

        I agree with you about bad ideas and your somewhat right. The things bout religion is that the bad ideas are justified and this is a problem.

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