Shuggy has tagged me with the Atheist 13, a meme of 13 questions for atheists consisting of 10 questions (don't ask me).
Q1. How would you define 'atheism'?
Freedom from the tyranny of a non-existent god
Q2. Was your upbringing religious? If so, what tradition?
Religion was completely absent at home, though I went to Sunday School for a few years mainly to be with friends. School days also involved much bashing out of Anglican hymns. The Church of England is a marvellous training ground for atheists and one day it struck me that the whole thing was absurd. My mother had me baptised when I was small but never took me to church. She did take me regularly to watch professional wrestling though.
Q3. How would you describe 'Intelligent Design', using only one word?
I mean what sort of psycho could have dreamt up this number deliberately?
Q4. What scientific endeavour really excites you?
If I can define science in the broadest sense of the term as the acquisition of knowledge, it is that moment of awe, sitting in an archive, holding an original historical document, an old newspaper, or a book that has sat unread for decades. It is a thrill that never goes away.
Q5. If you could change one thing about the 'atheist community', what would it be and why?
Don't think of yourself as a community for heaven's sake – and stop using phrases like 'for heaven's sake'.
Q6. If your child came up to you and said 'I'm joining the clergy', what would be your first response?
After getting over the shock of finding out that I actually had a child, my sceptical nature would kick in and I would demand a DNA test.
Q7. What's your favourite theistic argument, and how do you usually refute it?
From Gandhi, that truth is god rather than the other way round. It is a neat way of avoiding claiming absolute authority for a single religion, but also maintaining a faith in an immanent force for good. However, I would just say that truth is truth and has no sacred properties. A search for truth is an intellectual rather than a religious activity and respect for truth is more effective if it is not distorted by faith.
Q8. What's your most 'controversial' (as far as general attitudes amongst other atheists goes) viewpoint?
What a question. I don't know what other atheists think. There is an aesthetic in religious art, music and literature that I value. However, I think it transcends its religious roots and reaches a very human emotion that touches on the fundamental relationships that we have with each other. Given human history it is unsurprising that it has found religious expression, but it can just as easily be secular and humanist.
Q9. Of the 'Four Horsemen' (Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and Harris) who is your favourite, and why?
I may not believe in the existence of God, but I do believe in the existence of Will so it has to be Hitchens. I actually read very little about atheism as I am secure in my non-belief. However, what I like about Hitchens is his appreciation of religious texts as being the foundation of our literary heritage. I have always thought of him as a literary figure who got into politics rather than vice-versa. I think that gives him a breadth that the others lack.
Can I also put in a word for historical antecedents in the Freethought movement too? G W Foote and others sought to counter religion as a way of thought rather than purely as a literal belief and he went to prison for his non-belief rather than on lecture tours.
Q10. If you could convince just one theistic person to abandon their beliefs, who would it be?
Just one? Well the thought of Osama saying, "Sorry boys I got it wrong, it's all bollocks" is appealing. That is limited in ambition though. I could go for the big ones; Moses – "Covenant? No covenant, read the small carving"; Mohammed – "I have got a great idea for my book"; Jesus – "No, the son of a carpenter actually".
In reality I would settle for changing any one of the anonymous, repressed sadists who are busy ruining a child's life at this very moment.
Now, back to my roots to name my tag team to wrestle with this innumerate questionnaire.