10 Questions with an Atheist: (((Billy)))

Part of the 10 Questions with an Atheist series.

First things first: The cat to my left is NOT (((Billy))) the Atheist.

It’s William of Ockham

Better known as the Singular and Invincible Doctor. [You'll see why he's important in a minute.]

(((Billy))) either forgot or neglected my request for a picture.

He did send me a very intriguing story. One told in ten answers to ten questions.

One you can read, right now, if you just keep moving your eyes down the screen.

That’s it. You got the hang of it.

1. How would you describe yourself: atheist, agnostic or skeptic]? Explain. 

I have gone from a soft theist (elementary school) to deist (junior high) to universal deist (high school) to agnostic to atheist.  I am an atheist (note that my blog is, after all, called (((Billy))) the Atheist).  I see no natural phenomena which cannot be explained through natural explanations.

At the same time, I am somewhat agnostic. I know that, dealing with supernatural phenomena, I cannot ever be 100% sure that the supernatural does not exist as it is impossible to prove a negative.  So call me about .00001% agnostic.

I am also a skeptic. I am a firm believer in the scientific method, including the self-correcting mechanisms within the scientific community. I am highly skeptical of professional skeptics.

2. When did you know you were an atheist? Did it scare you or was it a non-issue? 

I realized that I was an atheist on (about) my 42nd birthday.  I had been comfortably agnostic for about 20 years and really did not see any reason to question my world view.

My agnosticism grew out of a thoroughly naturalistic upbringing.  As a kid, I saw a great deal of mountains and national parks (I grew up in the national parks — literally (Dad was a park ranger)).  All of our road trips through the southwest included long, and wonderful, discussions about the geology of wherever we were driving.  I learned, at a very early age, that any rock formation, no matter how bizarre, could be explained through volcanism, erosion, deposition, fault lines, thrusts and folding, and other natural geologic processes.  It never occurred to me, as I got older, to look for any explanation for the universe other than a natural one.

In the summer of 2007, I discovered the atheosphere.  I lurked for about three months.  Then I began commenting.  As I commented on various blogs (Atheist RevolutionYou Made Me Say ItNo More Hornets, the Spanish Inquisitor, Ordinary Girl, and many others), I began to learn more about, and refine, my belief system.  I realized, eventually, that agnosticism was an intellectual cop out.  It did not fit the evidence I saw in the world around me.

Deciding that yes, I really am an atheist, did not scare me.  If anything, it made me feel more comfortable with myself.

3. Ever suffer persecution as an atheist?

No.  I have had way too many people try to witness me, but have never been persecuted.

4. What do you want to accomplish with your life?

Back in high school, we were told to come up with quotes, sayings, or statements for our senior pictures in the yearbook.  I wrote down that my goals were “To leave the world a better place than I found it.”  The advisor told me, point blank, that only God and Jesus could make the world a better place and that I, as a hopeless sinner, didn’t have a prayer of achieving my so-called goal unless I embrace Jesus as my saviour.  I left the area under my name blank.  And this was at a public high school.

That goal is still the same:  I really do want to leave the world a better place.  I have helped to create a national historic site for the National Park Service.  I provided security for the Search and Rescue teams (actually, for the team providing support for the S&R teams) in New York City back in 2001.  I served in the army.  I served in Louisiana after Katrina.  I also work two or three forest fires a year.  The difference I make is small, but it is a difference.

Other than that, I want to be able to travel.  I want to be able to retire when I am ready.  It works.

5. Who are your heroes? Why?

My heroes?  Damn.  Tough one.

One is Pete Seeger.  I learned about the labour movement through his songs and writings.  I learned about the civil rights movement through his music, and the music he popularized.  I learned about human rights, the dream of peace and equality.  Plus, he and I have the same vocal range, so he also taught me to sing (well, what passes for singing, anyway).

William of Occam is another hero of mine:  his idea that the simplest explanation is usually the simplest fits perfectly with my naturalistic outlook.  And the fact that he came up with the idea centuries ago is even more impresseve.

Another hero is Frank Herbert.  He awakened a love of science fiction (beyond the space operas) and literature.  Plus, his treatment of the interrelationship between humans and the environment, along his treatment of messianism (if that is a word (if not, replace it with a real one, please?)), are remarkably accurate and, at the same time, frightening.

6. What would you like to accomplish with your blog?

I’m not sure what I want to accomplish with my blog.  I really do not expect to deconvert anyone but I will continue to add my voice to the body politic in defense of progressive policies, human rights, and reason.  And I will continue to fight against faith-based government and authoritarianism.

7. What’s your favorite part about being an atheist?

Ben & Jerry’s Karamel Sutra Ice Cream.  And the secret handshake.

Honestly, it is being able to hold (albeit long range) conversations with people who can challenge my assumptions.

8. Are there any Christian concepts that you respect?

I respect the thoroughly ignored idea that wealth is not everything, that those who are better off should help those less fortunate, and that we should help all people, not just our ‘neighbors.’

The supernatural bullshit (which is about 99.9% of modern Christianity) I can definately do without.

9. Does it irritate you when Christians try to share their faith with you?

Yes Do I Look Like I Need to be Saved? outlines it quite well).

10. Were you ever a Christian? Would you go back? 

I actually still consider myself a Unitarian Universalist and, when visiting my folks in Maine, attend their church.  However, by virtually any definition one wishes to use, I have never been a Christian.  And I see no situation which could possibly send me over to the irrational side of humanity.

(((Billy))), thoroughly enjoyed your unique story. Thank you so much for sharing. Anybody have any questions, comments or concerns? Take a crack at it in the comments below.