Wednesday, August 13, 2008

How to Identify Yourself


America encourages people to self-identify according to their race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. This will only exacerbate under an Obama administration.

It's far wiser to base your identity on your accomplishments: the important things you've done and are doing, not the accident of having been placed into a group through no efforts of your own.

I may be a straight white male atheist, but that doesn't define who I am. What does? I am a writer, thinker, counselor, and pianist, who tries to be a good human being.

Okay. So how should you identify yourself?

22 comments:

Grace said...

Does it matter how we identify ourselves? Only to ourselves. Becuase no matter how we do it, people will try to put us in a box. No matter how we label ourselves, each label will mean something different to someone different.

The process of identifying yourself should only be used as an evaluation tool to help you recognize your reality vs. your ideal picture of yourself. How you feel about the titles that you give yourself will determine the next steps you should take on your journey.

Marty Nemko said...

Grace, I think how we self-identify matters in other ways:

-- Internally, if we self-identify by our race, gender, or sexual orientation, we tend to look too quickly to racism, sexism, etc as an explanation for our failures.

-- Externally, we present a brand to the world. If we're always talking out issues related to our race, gender, or sexual orientation (I find that many gays and lesbians are especially guilty of that), that their brand is more of a turn-off to the world than if it's based on their accomplishments.

Grace said...

How is being an atheist the accident of having been placed into a group through no efforts of your own?

I think our faith (whether in a higher power or not) is something we create, something we do. And the fact that we have an optimistic faith at all is definately an accomplishment.

Marty Nemko said...

Of course, you're right. Being an atheist is a choice. I failed to pull that item out of the list of other common group identities.

If I may be candid, while making the choice to be an atheist is nothing much to be proud of, in my opinion, it's more worthy of pride than for having faith. Yes, sometimes we get lucky, but I'll bet, any day, on the person who relies on effort, not faith--Faith, to me, implies laziness.

Grace said...

Thank you so much for your comment. To me, atheism doesn't imply a lack of faith. We all operate on certain principles and we walk through life taking certain risks, or leaps of faith, based on those principles.

I agree that we can use our identifying labels as an excuse. But then we are fooling ourselves, thinking we declaring our identity, when in fact we are declaring our perception of our environment.

So often we identify ourselves according to our struggles. This can be unifying and motivating, and it has its place. However, I agree that there are times when a label becomes a detriment instead of a help.

Now I have to think of how to respond to faith implying laziness. Interesting dialogue.

Grace said...

To me, faith always implies action. It is not faith if there is not risk involved, for as the Apostle Paul writes, faith is hope for things not yet seen. As a follower of Jesus, my faith is about walking in a relationship with God and living my life in a loving response to all I have been given. James, the brother of Jesus, said, "Faith without works is dead". My faith does not pacify me, rather, it challenges me to look beyond myself, to get busy in this messy business of loving.

Marty Nemko said...

As long as your faith INCREASES your motivation to act, fine. Too often, I've seen it DECREASE people's motivation to act.

Grace said...

I TOTALLY agree with you there!

Marty Nemko said...

Grace posted another comment, which I inadvertently deleted:

"It's interesting to get a taste of what the label "person of faith" means to you. I'm sure that you have many different examples to choose from, some who seem genuine and some who are snake-oil salesmen. Let's get rid of all of our pre-conceived notions."

Here's my response:

Alas, Grace, I am convinced that ALL clerics are snake-oil salesmen. There simply IS no God worth praying to. It may be helpful to understand how I could be so convinced if you read Richard Dawkins' brilliant yet readable, and widely respected book, The God Delusion.

Marty Nemko said...

Grace, even more acclaimed and only slightly less on-point is Christopher Hitchens' wonderful book, God is Not Great, which was nominated for a British National Book Award.

I daresay that anyone of even average intelligence who read The God Delusion and God is Not Great with an open mind cannot remain a person of faith without, well, deluding him or herself.

Grace said...

How does your atheism motivate you to act?

Marty Nemko said...

Every expert on human behavior knows that you're far more likely to get someone to act if the motivation comes from inside the person rather than because someone else is issuing the orders, even if that someone else promises rewards for compliance and punishment for non-compliance.

Per my post of a few days ago, Spiritual Atheism, I have created MY rules for what I believe is the right way to live, and therefore, I am far more motivated to live that way, to act in accordance with my principles, than if they were imposed upon me by some external entity, such as a God. (which as atheists, for example, Dawkins, Hitchens, and I are absolutely convinced does not exist in any meaningful sense.)

Grace said...

I'm sure you were an atheist before you read those books, as I was theist before I read the Bible. We all define our world in ways that make sense to us based on our experiences and observations, and then we find literature to support and enhance that belief.
Any Christian that I know of any merit does not act because God said this or God said that. They follow a moral/ethical code because something in them told them it made sense and was right and good.
OR they tried things God's way and found it to have beneficial results, so they took the leap of faith and continued their walk with God.

Anonymous said...

Hi Marty:
I jumped on you blog months ago and I agree with many of your concerns (like media bias, boys/men struggle)--even though we may be ocean apart in terms of faith.

Faith is not laziness--at least the bible condemn that. Believe in God (in my case, Christianity) would never made you a billionare or getting PhD without any effort. In the contrary, a lot of believers got more motivated and work harder BECAUSE of knowing Jesus.

No offense, but I don't think the Richard Dawkins's and Christopher Hitchens's argument against God that convincing. I have read some exceprts of their books and articles, and they are more like an angry whining than a civil discussion.

Don't forget Francis Collins, who heads the Human Genome Project, is an atheist-turned-evangelical Christian. Science and God are compliments rather than enemies. Science deal with the law of nature; and God is about the life issues.

Ken

Dave said...

"As long as your faith INCREASES your motivation to act, fine. Too often, I've seen it DECREASE people's motivation to act."


What about the acts of the Christian martyrs? What about Charles Martel, Prince Lazar of Serbia? Both died defending Western civilization. What about Joan of Arc, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Daniel Berrigan and Philip Berrigan? What about Samantha Smith, the child ambassador who mentioned God in her letter to the Soviets? I don't think these people are exceptions among those who have religion. Many movers and shakers have professed their faith and have given credit to God.

Most people without religion are spiritually dead. These people seem to be the ones who are less likely to act.

Marty Nemko said...

I cannot believe that anyone who has read Dawkins' or Hitchens' book could say it is "angry whining!" They're carefully reasoned, very thoughtful books. I can only hypothesize that you got those quotes from religious publications who picked tidbits in isolation to create a distorted impression of them.. I interviewed Dawkins for an hour on my radio show--it's archived on my site: www.martynemko.com, and I daresay you'd be hard pressed to call him anything but brilliant and civil, although occasionally his justified derision about religion did show a bit of emotion. And so what if he did?

And Francis Collins is the anomaly, the outlier so often cited by religionists. For every Collins, there are 100 top scientists who are agnostics or atheists.

Marty Nemko said...

Dave, again you invoke people, largely from centuries ago. We've progressed from there, Dave. Fact is, the vast majority of the intelligensia are agnostic or atheist. And besides, this issue won't be decided by vote. Logically, it is irrational to want to pray to a "God" who would allow literally billions of people to die of the often horrifically painful cancer.

Anonymous said...

"For every Collins, there are 100 top scientists who are agnostics or atheists."

I am sorry, but that sounds like the materials circulated on various atheist/humanist websites. The so-called survey on religious/beliefs of scientists that yield such "results" is not reliable as you think about.

Actually there are more of Christian martyrs in the 20th century than all in the history combined.

It's rather ironic when the Western World, that built their societies upon Christian foundations (indisputable), mostly abandoned their heritage; Now it is China, that have practiced thousands of years of secular/humanism, have tens of millions of people turned into Christ. Contrary to the stereotypes portrayed by the western media, more than ever it is the intellectuals and entrepreneurs become believers. They have the firsthand experiences on how they were duped by the secular/atheist society. They know Jesus is the answer.

I am afraid the society is actually regressing rather than progressing, due to the obsession with PC, relativism and sentiments.

Without the knowledge of God, who define the nature law and morality,on what basis can we human beings assert the right & wrong, true or false? Human beings are finite and flawed by nature, God tell us it's more to our earthy life--that's what motivate Christians to live strong, not to fear death.

Ken

Dave said...

"Fact is, the vast majority of the intelligensia are agnostic or atheist."

Of course. They came out of the halls of Harvard, Yale and Princeton. Harvard Divinity School is a joke. I wonder how many of its faculty members believe in God. They're probably all atheists.

Grace said...

Wow. I can understand why we should be careful about how we identify ourselves. We are all so quick to judge. Which supports my position that it doesn't matter how we label ourselves - we are all going to view others (and their viewpoints) in ways that justify our own viewpoints. My identifying labels only have real practical value as a development tool for me.

Dave said...

QUOTING: -- Externally, we present a brand to the world. If we're always talking out issues related to our race, gender, or sexual orientation (I find that many gays and lesbians are especially guilty of that), that their brand is more of a turn-off to the world than if it's based on their accomplishments.



Sexual orientation is an interesting case because of the politicization of homosexuality. Gays emerged as an assertively identity-affirming community that has forced the rest of the nation to accept a superficial and narcissistic lifestyle.

CodeWarriorWoman said...

Sexual orientation is an interesting case because of the politicization of homosexuality. Gays emerged as an assertively identity-affirming community that has forced the rest of the nation to accept a superficial and narcissistic lifestyle.

Most straight people aren't very aware of what life is like as a member of the GLBT community. Some don't know us in real life, and are only exposed to us through news stories about our issues, where we're identified as such because the story is about GLBT issues. Others read blogs about GLBT issues authored by GLBT people and assume that's solely how we define ourselves, which isn't true.

Perhaps you're not aware, but being "out" at work is a luxury most of us don't have. We would simply be fools to identify ourselves as GLBT in a resume or cover letter, and likely, to discuss it at work as well. The default assumption in America today is that you're straight, and if they don't ask, I don't tell. However, sometimes that requires making choices, such as coming to the holiday party alone so as not to reveal myself. Heterosexuality is default, and is widely accepted. Other orientations, not so much.

I'm not clear how what I do in the bedroom or my interest in marriage rights is forcing you or any other American to lead a superficial and narcissistic lifestyle. In fact, I've found that most people lead these lifestyles out of a desire to keep up with the Joneses or to emulate a fantasy they see on TV. They must have the biggest house, the best of everything, the top brands, etc. for bragging rights and to show they've "arrived" in the middle class. Those of us who don't play that game have a lot more discretionary income, even though it's lonelier when you don't participate in the status race of acquiring "stuff." However, given the choice of having a 6-bedroom house to be like everyone else or retire early, I'll take the latter every time. It's not up to me to tell others how to spend their money or what to value. It's a free country, after all. It's just too bad I have to pay for the stupid financial decisions of others.

Finally, I assume many of the blog commenters are interested in men's rights. Gay men have much less rights in America than any other group, so for me, fighting for men's rights naturally entails fighting for the rights of gay men as well. For some, maybe it doesn't matter, but when those men have no right to their husband's end-of-life decisions, property inheritance, or custody of his kids, it's a pretty devastating thing.

 

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