How do you prefer to describe your non-belief?
Garden variety atheist. I am almost certain that there is no god, but if there were compelling evidence for a god I’d have to change my mind. However, my first instinct would be to figure out how the trick is done. I’d want to know how this being or phenomenon can be brought into alignment with the current knowledge of the physical world, i.e., downgraded from supernatural to natural.
Can you describe a personal event or discovery that had a major influence on your non-beliefs?
I was raised Mormon, and even went on a Mormon ‘mission’ to Japan. I was a true believer, but also wanted to examine and question everything I was taught. The doubts accumulated gradually over the years, and one day in my late 20s I was listening to a talk in Church (in Japanese in Japan) and realized that it was nonsense. This had happened before, but this time was qualitatively different in that I realized that I was right, i.e., I didn’t try to talk myself out of my doubts.
Because of this singular event I call myself a “born-again atheist” but the truth is it took me a couple of years to go from non-Mormon to atheist.
Why did you join Seattle Atheists?
Because we do good things and help to make the world a saner place
What do you consider to be a common misconception about atheists?
I have two:
1. That we’re nihilistic and miserable because we don’t have hope of redemption and an afterlife. I try to live my life as a counter-example.
2. That since we don’t believe in a divinely dictated morality we have no morality. In my experience morality, compassion, and general overall “goodness” are almost independent of one’s religion or lack thereof.
What is the meaning of life?
There is no inherent meaning in life. We happened to evolve in a universe that is coldly indifferent to us. Theists see that as frightening at best; I see it as liberating. As sentient beings, we have the freedom to define the meaning of our individual lives – there’s no omnipotent being to dictate meaning, and at whose feet we must grovel.
If you could have a serious discussion or debate with one living person in the world, who would it be?
I’m not good at debating because I can’t think of good rebuttals to idiotic arguments in the heat of the moment. However, if I could I would love to give Deepak Chopra a smack down.
On the positive side I would love to meet Carl Sagan. He was always positive, charitable and polite, even when in discussions with people with whom he had seemingly nothing in common. I wish I could be more like that.
Share a favorite quote:
There are far too many to list. For example, here are several good ones by Carl Sagan.
But if I had to choose just one it would be this by Steven Weinberg:
Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it, you’d have good people doing good things and evil people doing bad things, but for good people to do bad things, it takes religion.”