Friday, July 11, 2008

Atheist meme


I have been memed by Michael Meadon at Ionian Enchantment. I am thus duty-bound to answer the following questions... Other participants include Simon at Amanuensis and Doctor Spurt at Effortless Incitement.

1) How would you define "atheism"?
The search for truth and meaning independent of a supernatural power of any kind.

2) Was your upbringing religious? If so, what tradition?
My upbringing was moderately religious. My parents believe in the existence of a God and are steeped in Christian cultural practices, its norms and traditions – but they are not dogmatic, nor do they attend religious gatherings. Both are uncomfortable with, but ultimately resigned to, my atheism. “Where did I go wrong?” is my Mother’s most common refrain.

I attended an Anglican high school which entailed lots of wine-drinking and cracker-eating every month. Yummy. Thankfully, I was never able to sneak any of them out as they were always placed directly into my mouth (I was thus spared the ignominy and shame of being a cracker smuggler).

3) How would you describe "Intelligent Design", using only one word?

4) What scientific endeavor really excites you?
Genetics. The full potential of this field has yet to be realized. It would be an amazing enhancement of human welfare if one day we could grow our own transplantable organs, fix severed spinal cords, et cetera. I like the idea of being able to toy with nature and maximise the advantage we get out of it. It’s unfortunate, but not surprising, that many religious people see this as a transgression of their beliefs.

5) If you could change one thing about the "atheist community", what would it be and why?
I think the term “Brights” is a little condescending and doesn’t quite roll off the tongue or have the same counter-cultural appeal as say, “Queer” does for homosexuals, for example. “Brights” is a no-hoper and should probably be jettisoned in favour of the more traditional “Atheist”.

6) If your child came up to you and said "I'm joining the clergy", what would be your first response?
“Where did I go wrong!?” would be my refrain. I would then proceed to give him/her my (by then 20-year-old and dog-eared) copy of Richard Dawkins’ God Delusion.

7) What's your favorite theistic argument, and how do you usually refute it?
"The universe is so infinite and complex we couldn’t possibly understand it without appealing to a divine creator.” I usually respond by saying that this is a fallacy of the appeal to ignorance (
Argumentum ad Ignorantiam). Merely stating that we don’t understand parts of our world does not mean that a divinity actually created it.

Also, my worst: “Can you prove that God doesn’t exist?”
I'm afraid that’s just not good enough. I usually quote Hitchens at this point: “What can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof.” God does a pretty neat job of being unfalsifiable, the wily chap that he is.

8) What's your most "controversial" (as far as general attitudes amongst other atheists goes) viewpoint?
I really am quite fond of a lot of religious iconography, grandiose Cathedrals, that sort of thing. Also music. For instance, Were You There When They Crucified My Lord? By Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash is a moving ode to a man who may or may not have been the Saviour. (“Oooh sometimes… it causes me to tremble! Tremble!”)

9) Of the "Four Horsemen" (Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and Harris) who is your favourite, and why?
Me main man, Dawkins. He encouraged me to abandon my namby-pamby agnosticism. See him speak at this TedTalk.

10) If you could convince just one theistic person to abandon their beliefs, who would it be?
Tony Blair. Anybody who saw that smug self-righteous face of his on the cover of Time magazine a couple of months ago would agree. 'Tony Blair’s Leap of Faith.' Few people this century have done more to destroy inter-religious dialogue than Mr. Blair and now he represents himself as this crucial interlocutor between the warring faiths. Good grief…

Prov. 6:16-19: "These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren."


  1. I just remembered that it was my mother who actually bought me 'God Delusion' as a Christmas present. Ah, the rich ironies of life...

  2. Good stuff, Davey boy... You were an agnostic before?!? SIES!

  3. Brilliant quote on Tony Blair!