Reed Braden has nominated me for Nullifidian’s Atheist Thirteen meme, and since it’s been a long while since I’ve participated in one, how can I refuse? If you want to play too, just copy the questions below, and nominate three bloggers who you would like to participate.
Q1. How would you define “atheism”?
Atheism is a lack of belief in a god or gods.
That’s the most economical definition. It encompasses strong and weak atheism. It encompasses the atheism of those who have given deep thought to the matter, and those who have given it little thought.
Q2. Was your upbringing religious? If so, what tradition?
I was raised Catholic, and all of my primary and secondary schooling took place in Catholic institutions.
Q3. How would you describe “Intelligent Design”, using only one word?
Q5. If you could change one thing about the “atheist community”, what would it be and why?
We shouldn’t be afraid of the word “community,” and we should instead embrace its political potential. “Herding atheists is like herding cats” & c. & c., but while we don’t have to agree on everything, there are some things, such as the regard in which we are held by other members of society, that unite us.
And let us not be wedged by that bullshit “New Atheist” label. The Four Horsemen are not our enemies.
And <i>please</i> stop bandying about the terms “good” and “evil” as if they possessed absolute values. You sound like a theist when you do so.
Q6. If your child came up to you and said “I’m joining the clergy”, what would be your first response?
I’d be OK with it.
Q7. What’s your favourite theistic argument, and how do you usually refute it?
There is actually a family of theistic arguments (and by “family” I’m picturing Leatherface and kin in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) that try to shift the burden of proof/evade proper substantiation by attacking empiricism. The stronger variants attack empiricism outright: “you can’t demonstrate empiricism by means of empiricism,” they cry, and therefore the atheist is being unreasonable in demanding empirical evidence to justify a god-claim. This can be answered with a simple reductio: junk empiricism if you want, but in the name of consistency you ought not then visit a doctor when you are sick. (And as we know, some have been tragically consistent in their anti-empiricism.)
The weaker variant made an appearance on a KKMS (Christian talk radio) interview with August Berkshire, where the hosts asked August whether, there being insufficient scientific evidence to convince him of the truth of Christianity, he might accept what they termed “legal evidence”–the standard of evidence usually accepted in a court of law: e.g. personal testimony, etc. Berkshire pointed out that courts nowadays in fact do demand a great deal of scientific evidence, such as forensic evidence. And I don’t know that very many courts would accept the kind of testimony the KKMS hosts want to present as even admissible. Leaving that aside, let’s have a look at what’s being proposed here. These guys claim God as an ontologically-existing phenomenon, but while they accept that there is no scientific evidence in support of this claim, the suggestion is that we should instead accept the claim on weaker standards of evidence, and the implication is that we are being unreasonable for not doing so. Have you ever encountered such desperation? They also miss the obvious point that it is neither the purpose nor function of a court to decide scientific questions or claims about the existence of God.
Q8. What’s your most “controversial” (as far as general attitudes amongst other atheists goes) viewpoint?
I can’t really comment on general attitudes among atheists, but if I had to speculate as to which of my viewpoints would be most “controversial” . . . (a) Despite appearances, I don’t have a problem with religious moderates. (Religious moderates who make stupid arguments are another matter.) And (b) I don’t think Islam is any more “inherently evil” than Christianity (though how I would describe certain manifestations of Islam is a separate matter), and I think that when non-Christian religious minorities–yes, even Muslims–are treated with the same level of disdain by Christian majoritarians that atheists can find themselves subjected to, atheists have just as much cause to be pissed off.
Q9. Of the “Four Horsemen” (Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and Harris) who is your favourite, and why?
Dawkins. Debates with theists, particularly of the Christian persuasion, about atheism generally turn into debates about evolution, given the theist’s presupposition that evolution = atheism. Of the Four Horsemen, Dawkins is the best qualified to deliberate on the subject.
Q10. If you could convince just one theistic person to abandon their beliefs, who would it be?
My Dad. He’s a pre-Vatican II Catholic, and I think he’d be a lot happier liberated from the attending neuroses of that particular strain of Catholicism.
Now name three other atheist blogs that you’d like to see take up the Atheist Thirteen gauntlet: