Saturday, November 05, 2011

I get interviewed

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I was asked by Erin Carney of American Atheism to answer a few questions for both our blogs, which I take to mean I am now officially an Internet godless sensation, or something. (Wait, weren’t I always?)

Anyway, here ya go.

Q: What in your own words is your personal view of what Atheism means?

A: I think people need to keep in mind there are two main definitions for ‘atheism’ nowadays: the lack of belief in deities, and the social movement to legitimize nonbelief among the public. The two are often conflated when people use the terms ‘atheism’ or ‘atheists’ without further context, which leads to plenty of miscommunications and headaches. Of course, one can be an atheist without being part of the secular movement, and vice-versa; plenty of practicing believers, such as Rev. Barry Lynn, are also ardent secularists who believe that religion and politics (or public life in general) should be kept separate.

There’s also a third, “unofficial” definition of ‘atheism’, which reflects the fact that not only do many (if not most) atheists today lack any belief in god(s), they also actively believe in the non-existence of deities, which is semantically different from ‘atheism’, which, again, is strictly about the absence of belief either way. This third variant is really more suitably labeled ‘anti-theism’, but I suppose people just stick to the one label, ‘atheism’, out of convenience.

Q: Do you believe in any kind of existence after death? (As we both know, energy is never lost)

A: I don’t believe in any form of post-mortem existence; I see no good reason to. Of course, there may be an afterlife – just as there may be gods and leprechauns; we cannot prove negatives – but it’s quite clear that even if such a thing does exist, there’s really no point in pretending to know anything about (or living with any expectation of) something that, by definition, is not part of the natural, scientifically observable world. (Also, energy may never be lost, but only in that whatever forces and constituents that power our bodies and minds will eventually be used otherwise by nature after we die. There is no need for any supernaturalism in the equation.)

Q: How old were you when you began thinking of yourself as an Atheist?

A: I really began to consider myself godless when I was about 16, back in circa early 2008. I’ve never been particularly religious (the Bible was really just fables to me, and I always hated church – boring a child that badly should be cause for CPS intervention), and though I did believe in God as a child (perk of growing up in a nominally Catholic society), that just sorta went away as I grew up. I’ve always been too curious and critical; God-belief never really stood a chance with me.

Q: When you started Blogging was it all about atheism, or just for fun etc?

A: Well, you can see for yourself (if you’re a bit masochistic) by checking out my first, archived blog, Respectful Defiance. Nosebleed-inducing aesthetics aside, it originally began as overtly anti-religious and rather antagonistic (somewhat akin to PZ Myers’s Pharyngula, which is where I got most of my early inspiration from, anyway), but over time (and particularly since switching to Preliator), I’ve both mellowed and branched out, with most of my current writings surrounding politics and poking fun at stupid people in general. But really, I’ve always just blogged about whatever I felt like; I don’t have any set themes to adhere to.

Q: What is the ONE thing that would make you change your mind and believe in a God? (If Anything)

A: This is a bit tricky to answer; any such event would be so very personal and subjective that it’s almost impossible to say what would work and what wouldn’t with any certainty. But, to give a general answer, I’d guess that if something happened that A) was very clearly divine in nature (booming voice from the heavens, oceans turning to cream cheese, I dunno), B) could not be explained by any rational or scientific means, and C) demonstrably affected many other people as well (beyond what could be attributable to conversion disorder or mass hysteria) – in other words, if we could actually prove beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt that it was the “real deal” and that it wasn’t all just in my head – then yes, chances are I would be swayed, as such a phenomenon would then be a part of objective reality, and thus, undeniable. Anything less, though, and I’d probably chalk it up to the human condition (hallucination, delusion, ignorance, inattentiveness, brain fart, etc.). I’m a buzzkilling realist that way.

Q: Do you have any tips for young people who might be struggling between belief, and non-belief?

A: Honestly, I believe that anyone who’s undecided on the matter should be left to their own devices until they sort things out for themself. I don’t believe in trying to push anyone in the direction of any particular belief; after all, we hate it when theists do it, so we should rise above it and trust that people can make up their own minds. (Of course, no-one’s stopping you from giving your honest opinions about matters, however anti-religious they may be.) Just expose young people to the widest possible variety of information about different faiths and let them pick whatever suits their particular spiritual needs.

Q: If for some reason you were forced to practice a religion (Any religion you like) and if you didn't someone you loved would be hurt or maybe killed, what religion/philosophy would you choose and why?

A: I suppose if I absolutely had to pick my poison, I’d probably go with Deism, simply because it’s the closest thing to atheism that still technically counts as a religion.

Q: As I told you before you have a very easily navigated Blog. Did it come naturally, or did you, like me have to do a lot of learning?

A: Actually, blog design is as much of an adventure to me as blogging, itself. Preliator’s current look is the product of 95% trial and error, and the rest comes from searching around for solutions to whatever I wanted to do (rotating banners, various post and comment widgets, colors and layouts, etc.). Blogger Buster in particular has been a huge help in this regard. As for aesthetics, I just had a general idea for what I wanted – simple, clean and easy to navigate – and tried to make it work, bit by bit. I’m still tweaking details to this day as my tastes change over time.