Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Atheist Questionnaire

Little Foxling tagged us with an atheist questionnaire. We're not atheists, so this questionnaire might not be wholly applicable to us. But because we have some unconventional views, it might be interesting nonetheless.

So here goes.

Q1. How would you define "atheism"?

Bruce: The belief that there is no God (however defined).

Steve: The affirmative belief that there is no God.

Diane: The view that the entirety of experience and the cosmos can be explained without resort to the supernatural; that is, materialism.

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

Bruce: Yes, Reform.

Steve: Yes, Conservative.

Diane: No. Jewish -- but not religious.

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

Bruce: Pseudo-creationism.

Steve: Boring.

Diane: Cartesian.

Q4. What scientific endeavor really excites you?

Bruce: I'm amazed by astronomy.

Steve: Cheap, clean power. The study of the brain.

Diane: For something I know nothing about, astrophysics -- that there is that sort of stuff to be known, is amazing.

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

Bruce: I think atheists should define themselves by what they believe, not what they do not believe. For that reason, I think "humanism" is a better label.

Steve: Anti-religionism. It is one thing to say that a belief in God is unfounded by empirical evidence, another to say that such a belief is silly, and still another to say that religion is a force for evil in the world. I find too many outspoken atheists who slide very easily from the first proposition to the third.

Diane: Is there an "atheist community"? Are all false beliefs pernicious? If so, there's no difference between Steve's 1st, 2nd, and 3rd propositions, I'm afraid. If not, apart from triviality, that's a deep problem, I think.

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

Bruce: It depends on what clergy. I would be happy if it were the Conservative or Reform rabbinate, less happy if it were the Orthodoxy rabbinate, and unhappy if it were a different religion.

Steve: Mazal tov!

Diane: Who's paying the seminary tuition? But seriously. It's a profession, and a calling, and I'm for it.

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

Bruce: My favorite theistic argument is that God can be thought of (at a minimum) as the essence of goodness. I don't refute it; I agree with it. (I plan to blog about God in much greater detail in the future.)

Steve: I find these arguments boring because, in my opinion, they either (1) try to "prove" something that cannot be proved, or (2) define God in a way that makes God's existence mundane. Accordingly, I do not spend much time or thought trying to refute these arguments.

Diane: The existence of theistic "arguments" is an interesting moment in theology, one way of trying to harmonize the truth of religion with the operation of human rationality. I don't think theistic arguments can ever do what they set out to do (beyond apologism, which is not their purpose). But then, I don't think they NEED to.

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

Bruce: I am a theist. That is pretty controversial in atheistic circles.

Steve: Ditto.

Diane: Ha, ha. Among postmodern materialists, the selection of a religious/spiritual hermeneutic for experience is hard to motivate.

Q9. Of the "Four Horsemen" (Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and Harris) who is your favorite, and why?

Bruce: I haven't read their books on atheism, but I like Christopher Hitchens a lot. I have read two of his other books.

Steve: Hitchens is my least favorite; I find his anti-religionism repugnant. (I have not read Harris, but my understanding is that he holds a similar hostility toward religion and religious people.) I am not all that interested in the evolution/creation "debate," so not Dawkins either. That leaves Dennett -- I have not read him, but I am very interested in the subject of "religion and the brain," and I see him cited now and again by other authors in connection with ideas that I find important.

Diane: No comment. Robust, doctrinaire atheism, and reductionism as applied to religion -- these are, again, to me, moments in intellectual history. Interesting, for adolescents. But not profound. Think: Ayn Rand.

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

Bruce: Any radical Islamic terrorist about to murder people.

Steve: I am a "theistic" person. More importantly, I am (relatively) indifferent to people's beliefs; I find great wisdom in Judaism's pre-occupation with deeds.

Diane: How revealing, to suggest people "abandon" their beliefs because they are "convinced" of something. This is the rationalistic project ad absurdum. People "abandon" ( = change) beliefs when, at a moment of radical conflict between what beliefs tell them about the world, and some other experience of the world, they take a "leap of faith" in one direction. Saul on the road to Damascus also "abandoned" his former beliefs. But not because he was "convinced" of something.

blog comments powered by Disqus