TED Conversations

Isaac Wells

This conversation is closed.

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?

Share:

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • Oct 19 2011: I'd ask why you used the word paradigm? In what context do you believe atheism to be a pattern of theism?
    I also find, I do not know if you meant it this way, but one particular phrase very offensive.

    "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. " - Now are you saying that you'll stop categorizing yourself as religious if I were to agree to categorise myself as none religious? Furthermore, why do we need to move away from categorisations? Should we not be individually proud of our of categeories? Proud of the differences in this fabric of life?
    • thumb
      Oct 20 2011: This is in response to the response you gave me.

      To answer your question, the reason why I did not give an explanation to Andrew is because the burden is not on me to have to explain. There were many people that gave good reasons as to why atheism is not a worldview (myself included). Also he made a statement about atheism being a worldview and gave no explanation which is why I mentioned that I would love to see his justification for his claim so once again, the burden is not on me to have to explain my position until I hear a response from him. But for the sake of not taking this any further I'll explain why he is incorrect, otherwise we'll spend out time trying to debate who has the burden of proof to bare as opposed to having an enlightened conversation.
    • Oct 23 2011: I apologize Nicholas, for any offense I caused. I don't mean to be offensive.

      I use paradigm to mean a way of viewing things. or the world. This may not be...strictly what the word means, though the meaning i've gathered seems to be that. Do correct me if I'm not quite right.

      Given that conception of paradigm, a paradigm is either an underlying assumption, or a question. And so both atheism and theism arise from the question 'Is there a God?', or potentially a different but similar question. And so, if that question is important to you, then think of yourself in terms of your answer. If not, then don't. I simply would guess that most or all that fall on the theist side would find it important, and that only some of those on the atheist side would (though that is a sort of simplistic view, that you are either one or the other, or I suppose agnostic, when it is probably more of a spectrum type thing). So no, I would not stop categorizing myself as religious, because that is important to me. And if you are non religious, and find that important about you, than categorize away! But if you aren't and it isn't, then...well, why? You can still, but why give something that isn't important that much emphasis in your head?

      I'm not for moving away from categories, though I do think we should be more...aware that to be accurate they probably need to be rather nuanced, and if they aren't then you'll be limited or restricted by them. It is good to be proud of who you are and how you are different. But it sounds silly to be proud of something that you don't care about.

      Did I manage to explain that clearly? The idea is applicable elsewhere, though it is hard to think of examples, just atheism is where I started thinking of it. One example could be that I'm part Czech. Until recently, that didn't matter to me, so I didn't think of myself as Czech. Now it has become important, so I do.
      • Oct 24 2011: Isaac, I think that a Friday afternoon may have prompted less understanding on my part. So I apologise for that. Yes it seems a lot clearer in the way you've laid it out here. So i thank you for your time in laying out an ugly bag of snakes for a simple man such as myself.

        Surely the point of categorisation isn't to restrict in itself. However has taken on negative connotations for the way they have been used? In that case is it not those applying the categorisations rather than the category's themselves?

        I agree that it is silly to be proud of that which you don't care about. But in my own group of friends I can't say I know any that would accept themslves as part of a category unless they wanted to. It may be differeing cultures here?

        I understand your point that we should be careful about continuing to classify without grounds. (If it can be said that way). However, picking up on your last point here, shouldn't categories allow us as a species something to be proud of? For example, your religious leanings or country of origin? Prehaps the world could become a little happier if humans had more to be proud of. Taking negative connotations of categories and turning them on their head? For example, there are many negative stereotypes concerning Jewish people. Some right-wing/anti-semetic people (Another category for you!?) would say they were money grabbing. I would say they are fastidious?

        @Orlando - I guessed it was a response, as you replied to the stub. Was it not rude of you to point this out in such a condescending way?

        I would also ask how you cannot have enlightened debate without proof? And before you respond with what I know will be "But he should provide proof first" I would ask that if you were to ask for proof, at least do so in a way that would not get another person's back up?

        If I have misread anything, please enlighten me, Orlando.
        • Oct 24 2011: I think I'd agree with what you've said Nicholas. Among the people that I am friends with, few would consciously accept themselves as part of a group. It seems that...a lot of people don't really think about these things though, so they unconsciously do so. Self-awareness would more or less get rid of all of that though.

          It is good for us to be proud of things, and more of it could be quite beneficial, so long as it doesn't make us look down on others who are different. So long as shared humanity always comes first, and a respect for the shared humanity. Some respect for yourself and your origins goes a long way towards improving your life, and sharing that with others definitely improves their lives as well.

          Thank you for your response Nicholas!

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.