Part of the 10 Questions with an Atheist series.
Atheists kind of puzzle me. Yet, I don’t particularly like that they puzzle me.
So, I at least want to do my part and understand them better.
That’s why I’ve launched this series. And that’s why I interviewed the following atheist.
Short Bio on Eshu
I first met Eshu at Tim Wilson’s Christ Centred Blogging. He and Tim debated vigorously over the idea of hell. Shortly after that, Eshu commented on my blog. And since then he’s been a consistent, intelligent contributor.
I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this. Competition is good. And our relationship is developing into a good one. So, it’s a pleasure to share his story with you.
1. How would you describe yourself: atheist, agnostic or skeptic? Explain.
I’m all of those things. I don’t know if there’s a god, so I’m an agnostic. I also don’t believe in god(s), so I’m an atheist. I have an (empirical) skeptical approach that I try to apply to every area of my life.
So I describe myself as an atheist, although humanist is generally what I write on forms.
2. When did you know you were an atheist? Did it scare you or was it a non-issue?
It was mostly a non-issue because it happened slowly and religion wasn’t something I’d built my whole sense of self around. I never experienced any pressure to conform to particular beliefs, nor was I taught that it was inherently evil to believe or not believe.
3. Ever suffer persecution as an atheist?
No. I was fortunate to grow up amongst people who accepted all manner of beliefs. If there is anything that I’ve found to be taboo it’s having a strong opinion and voicing it loudly and regularly. I imagine that an atheist loudly expounding their beliefs on a street corner would’ve got as much heckling and eye-rolling as an evangelical Christian.
4. What do you want to accomplish with your life?
I’d like to make the people around me happy. I want to learn and develop my skills and help others to do the same. I’d like to think that when I leave the world I will have made it a slightly better place for people to live in. Perhaps being an engineer will help with this.
5. Who are your heroes? Why?
I haven’t given this much thought, but the first person who springs to mind is Alan Turing. This is partly because I’m a geek and he had a big part in creating the modern computer we’re all looking at right now. I also like the irony that a gay man played such an important role in the code-breaking that helped to defeat the Nazis.
6. What would you like to accomplish with your blog?
I hope to continue to learn about diverse beliefs, improve my writing skills and hopefully inform and entertain my readers. It would be great if I could also get people to think a little more critically about their beliefs.
7. What’s your favorite part about being an atheist?
Erm, I don’t really have a favourite part. It’s just the way the world is as far as I can tell. I don’t have a favourite part of the world being round either.
8. Are there any Christian concepts that you respect?
I do like some of the Biblical stories, in particular the good Samaritan, but I don’t think there are many concepts that are uniquely Christian.
9. Does it irritate you when Christians try to share their faith with you?
Yes, sometimes. On the other hand I often see it as a good opportunity for debate. I try not to start religious debates unless I’m actively being preached at because well, I know people don’t like being preached at! When they start the preaching however, I think they’re fair game!
10. Were you ever a Christian? Would you go back?
Yes, I considered myself a Christian up until my late teens. You might argue about how I wasn’t a “real” Christian because I didn’t specifically believe something in particular about Christ or whatever, but I did believe Christ died for my sins and I prayed regularly in private and attended Church for several years.
In theory, yes I’d go back if the evidence was there. In practice I think it is unlikely. I’ve read what are supposedly the best answers Christianity has to its many illogicalities and I’m not impressed. Maybe God will show up someday and make it all clear, but I’m not holding my breath.
Bonus question: What’s your take on Peter Singer? I’ve heard atheists don’t embrace him. Thumbs up or down?
I’ve read a little of his work online–his FAQ you linked to previously was a good start–and my first impression is that he is not the villain many from the religious right have made him out to be. He gives more to charity (as a percentage) than anyone I know and much of what he advocates are things about which I think Christians and atheists (and pretty much everyone) can agree. I’d recommend reading what he says rather than what others say about him before you judge him.
I certainly don’t think that it is right to kill a newborn baby due to trivial, treatable or cosmetic birth defects. I cannot find where he refers specifically to a cleft palate as you describe, but from what I know that is quite treatable.
I’m generally an optimistic person who thinks where’s there’s life there’s hope. However, in cases where the illness is severe and untreatable and doctors can only briefly prolong a painful existence, I would support euthanasia with the proper controls. It seems the only compassionate option. I do not believe that anyone deserves to suffer. If this issue concerns you, please read about the Groningen Protocol and tell me what you think.
Eshu, thank you for opening up and being honest. I appreciate the time and thought you put into answering these questions.
Now, anybody have any comments or questions for Eshu? Ask away. Looking forward to hearing from you.