Monday, June 16, 2008

On Being a Heathen

From the Samurai Frog, I steal this'n:

Q1. How would you define “atheism”?
I've never felt that to define oneself as an "atheist" one must be 100%, absolutely dead certain that there is no God of any kind. Basically, that kind of single-minded certainty is part of what I don't like about religion. And yet, to me, an "agnostic" is one who simply doesn't have an opinion. I do have an opinion, and a very strong one, that there is no God of any kind - no white-beard-and-robes guy; no mystical force of nature; no initial spark of creation architect, no nothing. But I can't claim to know this, any more than I can claim to know that there aren't advanced civilizations living beneath Mars' crust. But I can certainly be remarkably skeptical of it.

Q2. Was your upbringing religious?
No. Baptized Catholic but never went to church or made any other sacraments. Was brought up by believers, but not in the specifics of a faith. I actually kind of get what "cultural Jews" are getting at - I celebrate Easter and Christmas, go to the occasional Mass, was married by a priest, and feel other cultural connections to Catholicism, but am not really a Catholic.

Q3. How would you describe “Intelligent Design”, using only one word?
Can I pretend that "Trojan Horse" is one word?

Q4. What scientific endeavour really excites you?
The leaps and bounds being made in medicine. It's really astonishing the things we can cure and prevent.

Q5. If you could change one thing about the “atheist community”, what would it be and why?
I'm not sure there is an atheist community, and I don't think there should be one. The notion of a set of rules and beliefs that all atheists should share is, frankly, repugnant. It's the absence of such dogma that I love about atheism.

Q6. If your child came up to you and said “I’m joining the clergy”, what would be your first response?
Admiration. People who devote themselves to the clergy are, in large part, selfless, giving, and extremely generous people who do a lot of good. A twinge of disappointment, sure, but I'd feel that twinge if my kids hated U2, too - that's just a natural, genetic desire to have your children be to a large degree like you, to validate you. And as longs as you don't let those twinges rule you, they're fine.

Q7. What’s your favourite theistic argument, and how do you usually refute it?
The notion that there must be a God for such a complex world to exist, given that the immensely logical refutation that a God complex enough to create such complexity must itself require a creator seems never to have been pondered.

Q8. What’s your most “controversial” (as far as general attitudes amongst other atheists goes) viewpoint?
I don't know that I have one.

Q9. Of the “Four Horsemen” (Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and Harris) who is your favourite, and why?
Hitchens, because he can write like the devil, and because he's all about the real-world examples, and not about thought experiments.

Q10. If you could convince just one theistic person to abandon their beliefs, who would it be?
Osama bin Laden? The head of the Klu Klux Klan? Someone like that - who takes theism to very dangerous, murderous extremes.

Until Whenever

1 comment:

R.A. Porter said...

Interesting post.

My favorite theistic argument is deferring to the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics to prove that the universe could not come into being without an outside spark to give it order and energy for its initial state.

Then I spend a little while explaining that interpretation is true only in the classical sense. Whereas a more accurate, probabilistic reading of the law shows that entropy is only *highly likely* to increase. Therefore, given a long enough time, the universe could come into being in a highly ordered fashion *all on its own*.