Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Godless Wednesday: Dawkins Playboy Interview

Richard Dawkins, probably the most famous atheist in the world, has an interview in the latest Playboy magazine.

Below is an excerpt, but you really should go and read the entire thing yourself. Dawkins wit, intelligence and commitment to educating the public on the irratioality of religious belief come through loud and clear:
PLAYBOY: Is there a better word for a nonbeliever than atheist? Darwin preferred agnostic. Some have suggested humanist, naturalist, nontheist.
DAWKINS: Darwin chose agnostic for tactical reasons. He said the common man was not ready for atheism. There’s a lovely story the comedian Julia Sweeney tells about her own journey from devout Catholicism to atheism. After she’d finally decided she was an atheist, something appeared about it in the newspaper. Her mother phoned her in hysterics and said something like “I don’t mind you not believing in God, but an atheist?” [laughs] The word bright was suggested by a California couple. I think it’s rather a good word, though most of my atheist friends think it suggests religious people are dims. I say, “What’s wrong with that?” [laughs]
PLAYBOY: You’ve described yourself as a “tooth fairy” agnostic. What is that?
DAWKINS: Rather than say he’s an atheist, a friend of mine says, “I’m a tooth fairy agnostic,” meaning he can’t disprove God but thinks God is about as likely as the tooth fairy.
PLAYBOY: So you don’t completely rule out the idea of a supreme being. Critics see that as leaving an opening.
DAWKINS: You can think so, if you think there’s an opening for the tooth fairy.
PLAYBOY: It sounds like the argument made by Bertrand Russell, who said that while he could claim a teapot orbited the sun between Earth and Mars, he couldn’t expect anyone to believe him just because they couldn’t prove him wrong.
DAWKINS: It’s the same idea. It’s a little unfair to say it’s like the tooth fairy. I think a particular god like Zeus or Jehovah is as unlikely as the tooth fairy, but the idea of some kind of creative intelligence is not quite so ridiculous.
PLAYBOY: So you aren’t taking Pascal up on his wager. He was the 17th century philosopher who argued it’s a smarter bet to believe in God, because if you’re wrong——
DAWKINS: The cost of failure is very high. But what if you choose the wrong god to believe in? What if you get up there and it’s not Jehovah but Baal? [laughs] And even if you pick the right god, why should God be so obsessive about you believing in him? Plus, any god worth its salt is going to realize you’re feigning. The odds are extremely low, but nevertheless it’s worth it because the reward is extremely high. But you may also be wasting your life. You go to church every Sunday, you do penance, you wear sackcloth and ashes. You have a horrible life, and then you die and that’s it.
PLAYBOY: Assume there is a god and you were given the chance to ask him one question. What would it be?
DAWKINS: I’d ask, “Sir, why did you go to such lengths to hide yourself?”
hat/tip to Friendly Atheist

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