Things are turmoil-y here, so I think I’m going to turn my Sunday Sermon microphone to the late Douglas Adams (that’s him on the right, from an early appearance in a Monty Python sketch he wrote), in this interview with American Atheists.
This Adams interview is just so good, all the way through. Every time I go looking for a bit I can grab for an excerpt, my peripheral vision drifts to another part that’s just as good or better.
Probably the part that’s most relevant to today’s endless discussions of definitions (agnostic, “strong” or “weak” atheist) and handwringing about being “strident” is this:
I think I use the term radical rather loosely, just for emphasis. If you describe yourself as “Atheist,” some people will say, “Don’t you mean ‘Agnostic’?” I have to reply that I really do mean Atheist. I really do not believe that there is a god – in fact I am convinced that there is not a god (a subtle difference). I see not a shred of evidence to suggest that there is one. It’s easier to say that I am a radical Atheist, just to signal that I really mean it, have thought about it a great deal, and that it’s an opinion I hold seriously. It’s funny how many people are genuinely surprised to hear a view expressed so strongly.
It’s interesting to see someone using the word “convinced” that way. I tend to think of it as a synonym for “certain” or “totally confident,” while his use seems to indicate a bit more wiggle room. Perhaps I’m misreading it, but he seems to be using “convinced” in the sense of having seen enough to form an opinion. I get the impression he would have said it’s reasonable for a person whose convinced X is true to later be convinced X is false, if more information comes to light. All the same, I think I’ll avoid using “convinced” to describe my own view, lest people jump to the same conclusion.
(pic via Python Wiki)