Doug Orleans (dougo) wrote,
Doug Orleans

Atheism, take two

mshonle pointed this out in a comment, but I think it deserves a new post: Bill Moyers interviewing Daniel Dennett on the Charlie Rose show. This I find much more satisfying than Dawkins's show, both in presentation and in content: it's nearly a full hour of one single conversation, without the uncomfortable and somewhat stuntish confontations. But moreover, Dennett's take on religion and atheism is much more sophisticated and benevolent than Dawkins's: rather than suggesting that religion and faith are fundamentally detrimental to society, Dennett is happy to let religion live and thrive, as long as we can get rid of what he calls the "toxic" parts of religion.

This is somewhat related to an idea I've been mulling over for a while now, which I was going to talk about in the previous post but decided to save for a later essay. But I'll mention a little bit of it now: I'd like to come up with an operational definition of what it means to be theist or atheist or agnostic. (Perhaps "behavioral" is a better word than "operational", if you know more about psychology than computer science theory.) In some sense, I truly don't care if you believe in God or not—what matters to me is what actions you take that affect me. Claiming to believe in God or not is often a good indicator for the actions you might take, but not always, and I'd like to think more about specifically what actions matter. There are different levels of mattering, of course; I care less about what a fellow citizen of my country does than what a coworker does or what a girlfriend does. But I haven't gotten much further than that yet. Maybe someone's already done this somewhere?
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