Friday, July 4, 2008

The Atheist 13

Bing, owner-proprieter of Happy Jihad's House of Pancakes, tagged everyone, and I am proud to count myself a member of everyone.

Q1. How would you define “atheism”?

Atheism is what happens in a person's head when he notices there is no good reason for believing that god exists.

Q2. Was your upbringing religious? If so, what tradition?

Yes, vaguely. I was baptised as a Methodist and attended a Lutheran school for a time, and my mom was a sort of William James-ish pantheist, although she didn't take any of it very seriously. My home town was awash in many varieties of Christianity, however. And I think Jews were allowed in town so long as they kept their book-learning ways at a healthy remove. (I picked up that very stereotype there!)

Q3. How would you describe “Intelligent Design”, using only one word?

Superfluous.

Q4. What scientific endeavour really excites you?

The efforts to revive extinct beasties from extant DNA samples. I hope someone pulls this off and we end up with a wooly mammoth, a wooly rhinocerous, a Neanderthal person, a Tasmanian Tiger, whatever.

Q5. If you could change one thing about the “atheist community,” what would it be and why?

We would have more people working to do the hard part more effectively -- namely, helping people envision life after god so as not to be afraid of it. I admit I fall short in this.

Q6. If your child came up to you and said “I’m joining the clergy,” what would be your first response?

"We need to discuss this." I would seize the opportunity to make him a secret agent to destroy it from within [evil cackling].

Q7. What’s your favourite theistic argument, and how do you usually refute it?

That the Bible or the Koran are "instruction manuals" for life, without which we'd be in a free fall of relativism and indeterminacy. The extent to which people whitewash the major Holy Books never ceases to astonish me. In the words of Reverend Lovejoy, which only barely exaggerate the matter, "have you ever sat down and read this thing? Technically we're not allowed to go to the bathroom."

Q8. What’s your most “controversial” (as far as general attitudes amongst other atheists goes) viewpoint?

I seem to kick up a fair amount of dust every time I suggest that religion causes good people to do evil things. I continue to maintain that religion tends to distort value judgments in a way that makes this inevitable, so that (for example) "Jehovah's Witnesses" really think they're doing the right thing when they allow their children to die from curable conditions.

Q9. Of the “Four Horsemen” (Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and Harris) who is your favourite, and why?

Since I respect them all, it's rather meaningless to pick only one, but I'll say Hitchens because a) he comes at this from roughly the same angle as I do (politics, humanities) and b) he recently allowed himself to be tortured and demonstrated great intellectual honesty about it.

Q10. If you could convince just one theistic person to abandon their beliefs, who would it be?

Joe Six-Pack.

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I'm not a big fan of the tag games, but if you're on my blogroll, or if I've ever linked to you, or if I've ever responded to a comment of yours, or if you feel I should have linked to you, or if you just find it interesting, please consider yourself tagged.

3 comments:

Kvatch said...

What’s your most “controversial” (as far as general attitudes amongst other atheists goes) viewpoint?

That atheism is a theism, and thus not that far removed from other theisms.

Of course...I'm an agnostic. ;-)

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Dale said...

Kvatch, no, atheism is not a theism. But feel free to expand your thought -- perhaps I'm missing something.