Sunday, June 22, 2008

The godless meme

Like Unity, I'm not big on memes. But like Unity, I like this one

Q1. How would you define ‘atheism’?

The lack of belief in God/gods.

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

No. My parents were not religious at all. My first introduction to the concept of 'God' was at school. Apparently I was pretty annoyed at Mum and Dad for not having mentioned this whole thing about one bloke making the whole world. It's not as if they 'made me' an atheist, they just didn't see any point discussing it, and left me to find out for myself.

As a child I was generally agnostic until I was about 11 or 12. The religion I was agnostic on would have been that fluffy Anglicanism that we English cling on to. I was a cub scout and in St Johns Ambulance as a cadet, so every week I had to pledge to God (and the Queen), and I knew that I was lying (on both counts).

Q3. How would you describe ‘Intelligent Design’, using only one word?


Q4. What scientific endeavour really excites you?

That's a really tough question, as there are loads of possible answers - the Human Genome project, space travel, quantum computing....

My background is Mathematics, and so it may not be 'sexy' or have an immediate impact, but I'd say Game Theory is a favourite, and I can apply it to playing Diplomacy.

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

I'm not sure that there is a 'community', or that there could or should be one. I'd rather that atheists as individuals didn't attack religion for the sake of it, but on the other hand I'd also want them to defend each other more robustly when the religious attack some of us.

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

I don't have kids, so I don't know how I'd react. I'd like to think I'd have some clue that a child of mine was religious already, so it shouldn't be a massive shock. I'd probably make a joke about them getting a free house.

I would not force my atheism on my kids, just as my parents didn't force theirs on me. I would, however bring my kids up to question everything, and I would certainly make sure that they were equipped to question their own beliefs (or lack thereof). If they decide that they want to become a priest, nun, whatever, then fine. As long as they are happy, and don't try to convert me.

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

I'm not sure about it. The most common one is the idea that everything has to have had a beginning, and that beginning is God. The challenge (if not a refutation), is that this is unknowable. Time could be infinite, in which case there is no beginning.

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

Dunno. Perhaps continuing to support the Labour Party even though Blair and Brown (and most leaders in fact) have been religiously motivated in some way.

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

I've not read much Dennett or Harris, but what I have is a little too confrontational for it's own sake. Likewise, Hitchens just likes to take an argument and let loose the rhetoric to show how clever he is. When I agree with CH I can nod along vehemently, and when he's wrong (as he is on Iraq in my opinion), he's an annoying git.

So it's Dawkins then, by default. Actually, I've read The God Delusion and it's pretty well presented (and is often misrepresented in order to demonise him and through him all atheists), so it's not just be default. He does, however, sometimes go a little too far when speaking.

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

I can't think of a specific person. Perhaps a Jehovah's Witness who's refusing to accept life saving treatment as a result of their beliefs.

Right, there it goes. I don't nominate people to pick up a meme (in fact, if a meme is a true meme, it would be taken up without me needing to).

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