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Isaac Wells

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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 22 2011: This opens a really interesting debate for me. Are we talking about the meaning of the word Atheist from the original Greek or as it stands in popular usage today?

    I can understand your dilemma as I have a similar one, only in the opposite vein. I most definitely believe in God, have a personal relationship with Him in fact, but I am against religion. I have the same problem when talking to people, I don't want to use the word religious or religion to describe myself or my relationship with God, but at the same time, it's hard to converse with people without first having to spend time explaining my terminology.

    The word Atheist has a similar problem with its connotation and the fact that it starts its life from a word that supposes God and then adds a negative. I'd say the easiest way to term an Atheist that has a less negative connotation is to just use Humanist instead. I find it most aptly describes most Atheists I know, and among libertarians, there are many.

    I'd like to address another issue I have with the word Atheist. It tends to come most loudly from those who then summarily dismiss the cognitive powers of anyone who would dare embrace any idea of a God of any kind. Oddly, people who use the term Humanist rarely have this problem and I don't know why that is. It is rather tiresome to be told, and it happens a lot on TED sadly, that having any belief in God whatsoever automatically makes you unable to think. As if Atheists have the corner on critical thinking and there are no other valid opinions. Just a thought.
    • Oct 23 2011: I quite like your thought, and feel, generally, very similarly.

      I don't know the meaning from the original Greek, so I can only assume that my conception of it corresponds to the present popular usage.

      I actually do believe in God, though I am for religion (though there can be, clearly, some notably bad effects), so I would use religious, though I can definitely understand the trouble trying to work around lacking words to use for non-religious and believing in God. I find it, too, quite annoying when people treat those who believe in God as stupid. Luckily it doesn't normally come up with me, because most people who know me know I am quite capable of thinking, but they think it of others, and attribute it to others. If those people are dumb it is for some underlying reason, not religion.

      I think I need to understand what Humanist means better, but I would be interested in using that word instead! Thank you for sharing.

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