Michael Dorian of the New York City Atheists blog has tagged me with this meme, which, as the title above indicates, also happens to be my 400th post. Though I still haven't achieved the level of readership I had hoped for, Exercise in Futility has managed to stand the test of time, and I believe the best is yet to come.
Anyway, here it goes!
Q1. How would you define “atheism”?
I would define it simply as the absence of belief in a god. Personally, I cannot rule out 100% that there is no higher power that created our universe. But if there is such a being, I don't see how anyone can claim to know what it wants or indeed that it wants or needs anything from us puny humans.
Q2. Was your upbringing religious? If so, what tradition?
I was raised Roman Catholic. For the most part, I hated it. I had to go through catechism and attend mass every Sunday. But around New Years of 1984, when I was in the middle of 9th grade, I was inspired by the priest's sermon to take my religion seriously. I read the Bible from start to finish three times in a row, I went to mass voluntarily, pestered my friends about the need to believe, and even slept with a Bible in my bed!
Q3. How would you describe “Intelligent Design”, using only one word?
I can't. So I will just go ahead and say what I want to say about it. The ID movement is an attempt by some in the belief community to have a "scientific" hook on which to hang their religious faith.
Q4. What scientific endeavour really excites you?
Space exploration. One of the things that turned me away from Christianity was the realization of how small we are in this vast universe. For me, the god of the Bible is the god of a very small universe where humans are the reason for the universe having been created. Back then, people didn't know that ours was one of a number of planets orbiting the sun in our solar system, and that our sun was one of millions which were orbited by planets of their own in the Milky Way, which itself was one of millions of galaxies each filled with millions of their own suns with their own planets orbiting them. When you look at it that way, it is hard to believe that our actions here on this planet have any cosmic significance.
But to get back to the main point of the question, I am intrigued about the possibility of finding life, even at the microbial level, on another planet or body in the solar system. We would realize that we are indeed not alone in the universe, and that if we can find microbial life in a place like Jupiter's moon Europa, to take one possible candidate, then there is a greater possibility that intelligent life may exist somewhere as well.
Q5. If you could change one thing about the “atheist community”, what would it be and why?
Well, the "atheist community" is not a monolith, so I don't know what I would change about it. One thing I would argue is that what we should strive for is not an atheist world, but to promote pluralism and tolerance, even for religious people. When you have a country where one group tries to impose its dogma on everyone else, it requires an apparatus to enforce it, which results in a totalitarian society, whether it be Stalin's USSR or Afghanistan under the Taliban.
Q6. If your child came up to you and said “I’m joining the clergy”, what would be your first response?
I would ask him/her what the motivation was. Ultimately, I would have to respect my son or daughter's position if there was no changing his or her mind.
Q7. What’s your favourite theistic argument, and how do you usually refute it?
It amuses me when they ask me "Well, then how did the universe get here?" My response to that is, "Even if the universe was designed by someone, it doesn't mean it was your god."
Q8. What’s your most “controversial” (as far as general attitudes amongst other atheists goes) viewpoint?
I don't know. I am pretty moderate as far as atheists go. From the perspective of other atheists, I guess maybe my advocacy for the rights of religious minorities to be free of persecution. The reason why it matters to me is that if persecution of a minority is tolerated, then you are contributing to a climate that makes it okay to persecute you.
Q9. Of the “Four Horsemen” (Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and Harris) who is your favourite, and why?
Oh, I don't know. Each of them has something positive to offer.
Q10. If you could convince just one theistic person to abandon their beliefs, who would it be?
That's easy, my wife! She is a lapsed Catholic, but does not seem to have it in her to embrace atheism.
Now name three other atheist blogs that you’d like to see take up the Atheist Thirteen gauntlet:
Okay, I choose Stardust, the Jolly Nihilist, and Tina.