"What embitters the world is not excess of criticism, but an absence of self-criticism." - G.K. Chesterton

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Q&A

This "13 questions for atheists" meme seems to be doing the rounds at the moment. (Although 3 of the questions seem to have vanished somewhere). No-one's tagged me as such, but I thought it might be interesting to give it ago. So...

Q1. How would you define "atheism"?

Well... the a- prefix denotes "the absence of" and theism refers to belief in a divine being, so: "the absence of belief in a divine being".

Makes sense, doesn't it?

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

My mum is more "spiritual" than religious and my dad is too pragmatic to really bother with all that stuff. I was baptised though, and assemblies at my primary school were pretty CofE in content: Hymns and parables but no real attempt to establish any serious dogma. Both my brother and I turned out more-or-less atheist.

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

Questionable.

Q4. What scientific endeavour really excites you?

The search for life (intelligent or otherwise) on other planets.

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

We have a community?

This might just reflect my own prejudices, but I think those atheists who engage in debate with theists tend to underestimate the intelligence of the other side. Mocking religious believers and calling them stupid is neither big, nor clever, and makes it more difficult to separate the moderates from the extremists.

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

I imagine: "Huh?"

Followed by various questions.

Depending on the reasons my child gave for their decision, I wouldn't necessarily have a problem with it. We all need to find our own path through life.

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

Personal revelation is usually pretty interesting - although it doesn't constitute an argument and so doesn't actually need refuting.

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

Not sure.

I don't see the point in arguing with deists who base their views on some form of intuition: After all, they're not causing any trouble.

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

Hmmmm...

Probably... Dawkins. Solely on the basis of his books on evolutionary theory.

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

The Pope.

'Cause it'd be funny.

I'm not going to tag anyone, but people should feel free to post their answers in the comment box below. Any theists are also welcome to adapt it for their viewpoint as well.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Rev. Dr. Incitatus said...

Q1. How would you define "atheism"?

What Matt said.

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

Cake or death? Cake for me!

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

Hypothesis

Q4. What scientific endeavour really excites you?

All of mine.

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

A little more tolerance and recognition of the fact that ignorance is not the same as stupidity.

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

Get thee to a nunnery!

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

The presuppositional approach is a hoot. Whether it is easily refutable or transcends reason depends very much upon which side of the argument one is on.

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

I believe that all the wrongs of the world essentially boil down to an ionic imbalance, and that there is nothing that cannot be cured with the right kind of saline.

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

Dennett, certainly. The other's have always struck me as rather low caliber by comparison.

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

The man who is about to hang another man for being a homosexual.

8:20 PM

 
Blogger Timmo said...

For fun, I thought I'd take Matt up and turn this meme upside-down, making it a meme for theists.

Q1: How would you define 'theism'?

There are a couple of ways one might do this, but I prefer to borrow a proposition from Plantinga and call that theism:

(T) The world was created by God, an almighty, all-knowing and perfectly good personal being (the sort of being who holds beliefs, has aims and intentions, and can act to accomplish these aims)

I will go further and suggest some other definitions:

Atheism: (T) is false.

Principled Agnosticism: Nobody can know whether (T) is true.

Individual Agnosticism: *I* do not know whether (T) is true.

Also, I will add a second proposition, again borrowed from Plantinga:

(C) Human beings require salvation, and God has provided a unique way of salvation through the incarnation, life, sacrificial death, and resurrection of his divine son.

Christian Theism: the conjunction of (C) and (T).

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

When I was a child, I had a lukewarm upbringing in the Catholic Church. We stopped attending Mass regularly when I was ten. It wasn't until I was about sixteen that I became very interested in Catholicism -- and when I did I found a lot of opposition from my family.

Q3. How would you describe 'Darwinian evolution' using only one word?

Well-founded. (With the hyphen, I contend that is really just one word.)

Q4. What scientific endeavor really excites you?

All of mine, and much more besides.

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

I hope that religious people come to be more conscious of God's liberating activity in the world. In particular, I hope that the Christian community comes to a greater acceptance of liberation theology

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 children, so I can only speculate. I have some close friends who are studying to become priests, and I support their studies. I would support my kid's vocational discernment in whatever way I could.

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

I think the Problem of Evil is the most intellectually and personally stimulating argument against (T). It's a powerful challenge, and for that reason it is my favorite. Still, I think there are equally powerful responses to this problem. You've probably already seen my line on this: God desires that we act freely and autonomously, and this means He put in place in a world which operates according to stable, enduring laws. However, once such laws are in place, it is always possible to abuse them (and if God intervenes to stop the abuse, He undermines the law-governed character of the world that makes it possible for us to be free and autonomous in the first place).

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

Probably the most controversial view among theists I hold is this one.

Q9. Of the "Four Horsemen" (Plantinga, Swinburne, C.S. Lewis, and Geisler) who is your favorite, and why?

Plantinga. He very nicely shows how many token objections to theism are question-begging.

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

Perhaps assuaging my own agnostic and atheistic scruples with my beliefs would be best.

11:13 AM

 

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