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Making love to Dawkins’ brain, then leaving $5 for a cab: An interview with Jake Farr-Wharton

20 Feb

Hello, Cupcake readers. Meet Super Jake.

Jake is a Freethinker, Secularist, Skeptic, Naturalist, Atheist, Anti-theism-ist, Humanist, LGBT Activist, Garden Gnome Makeup Artist, Writer, Underpants Enthusiast and Self-Professed 2011 Sexiest Atheist on God’s Green Earth.

When fighting irrationality, his weapon of choice is the ImaginaryFriendsShow.com podcast, which was recently nominated for an atheism/agnosticism award on About.com which makes it in the top 5 of atheist/agnostic podcasts IN THE WORLD!  You can click here to vote for Jake’s podcast and move it from its current ranking at #5 all the way to the top.

Also, Jake has recently published his book Letters to Christian Leaders; Hollow be thy claimsThe book is now available on Amazon.com

Jake was kind enough to spend some time speaking with me about his new book.  Enjoy!

Q: Welcome to The Cupcake Atheist, Jake.  I really enjoyed your book. One of the things I enjoyed most was that each chapter begins with an excerpt taken from the speech or writings of an evangelical Christian, followed by your rebuttal.  Why did you choose to use your subjects’ own words and do you think that is important to the aim of your book?

A. I read a lot of atheist literature and find that atheist books often misrepresent Christians and in misrepresenting them they distance themselves from them. Atheists who likely spent the majority of their lives as atheists often write these books, and they are trying to put in words what they think the Christian or Muslim believes.  What I wanted to do in my book is quote word-for-word what these Christians are being taught by these morons, by these disgusting people who are trying to infect the minds of potentially productive, intelligent people.

Q: Did your own experiences with religion influence that decision?

A: Effectively, I was raised a fundamentalist Christian. When I was a Christian, I’m not sure I would have appreciated an atheist screaming in my ear.  I absolutely would have listened if an atheist or scientist would have gotten up in front of my church and debated my priest and taken apart his own messages.  So that is what I wanted to do in my book.

Q: The foreword of your book indicates that the rationalist message is “getting out but it isn’t being bought.”  Why do you think this is the case?

A:  It is the way the message it is packaged and sold.  You can scream all you want at a believer or a theist.  It simply doesn’t work. The message will never reach them.  Their mind is blocked and that’s it. I absolutely love Dawkins and have read most of his books.  I’m an avid lover of biology and genetics and I would just love to make love to Dawkins’ brain. He is a really incredible person.  It is the way he structures his message.  Effectively, his texts are structured toward people who already get the message and just want to learn more about it.  No Christian wants to think about their belief in god as a “delusion.” I’ve chosen a different attack.  I want to let the theists know that it’s not their fault.  They were complicit, but in most cases they were just children who were being taught bullshit by people they trusted.  How were they to know what they were being taught is completely contrary to all evidence?

Q: Can you speak to why you chose to target Christian leaders as opposed to all believers?

A: By leaving the believers and the individual theists out of the attack and going right for the jugular, right for the people who disseminate that message of garbage we leave the believer to think on their own.  They don’t have to challenge themselves because it is their pastors who are being challenged.  I’m not pointing at individual believers and saying, “hey, pick up your brain, you left it behind.”  It’s the pastor who is saying that he has this beautiful new cloak on but no one else can see it.

Q: A quote from the book: “It seems all Christianity is good for is holding humanity back.”  In your opinion, has religion anything positive to offer humankind?

A: Yes, it does, and not just Christianity but all religion. I spoke with someone the other day that is going through cancer. Basically, this person said that when he was told he has cancer he immediately sunk into a deep depression.  He almost put off treatment, but it was faith in god that helped bring him through. This is a very specific situation.  I don’t think this benefit translates to belief in general.  Religion has something to offer in very small, personal ways.  To the greater society, it just impedes us and keeps us from progressing. If religion is to have any benefit to society, it is by keeping the hell away from society.  It needs to be kept in the home, out of government buildings and off the streets.  You have a religious belief? Great, keep it inside your home.

Q: What topics might you address in future works?

A: I don’t want to make my next book all about religion. I am a lover of science and skepticism, and I want to target some other things such as homeopathy.  I want to smash the shit out of homeopathy.  Also, ghosts and these sort of ridiculous things that permeate culture. Then urinate on them.  I’m not sure you can urinate on the entirety of homeopathy, but its only water anyway. Then, my plan is to take on Islam.  I will not sleep until I get a fatwa. If I could get a cleric to put out a fatwa of non-communication towards Jake Farr-Wharton, that would be great.

Q: You mention noted atheists and skeptics such as Richard Dawkins and Michael Shermer.  Do you have a favorite public skeptic?

A: I look up to a few people for different reasons.  I like the work of Guy P. Harrison.  He wrote 50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God and Race and Reality.  He respects the individual believer.  I love CJ Werleman who wrote God Hates You, Hate Him Back. It analyzes the Bible from a skeptical point of view.  I love Richard Dawkins for his work on evolutionary biology. One of my favorite books is The Greatest Show on Earth, his most recent one.  Neil deGrasse Tyson tops my list though, he speaks and I have a nerdgasm!

Q: Lastly, what is your favorite dessert?

A: I’ve got coeliac’s disease, so I can’t digest wheat or gluten.  That being said, there are very specific desserts that I take immense pleasure in.  One is Orange and Poppyseed Friands, but only when done well.  I love my Nona’s Tiramisu.  She makes it just for me, and being Italian, she puts in too much alcohol and you end up drunk after eating it.

Atheist Activism: An Interview with Jonathan Meddings

17 Feb

Jonathan Meddings is the Queensland State Convener of the Freethought University Alliance in Australia, President of the James Cook University Society of Atheist Philosophy, Head Coach of the North Queensland Fencing Association and member of the Humanist Society of Queensland.

He studies Medical Laboratory Science Honours at James Cook University and his research involves serology and haematology in freshwater turtles.

His writing includes contributions to the Young Australian Skeptics and those of his own blog The Carapace. He is currently writing a book about atheism which he aims to have completed by the end of 2011.

Jonathan was kind enough to spend some time talking with me about atheist activism.

Q. How did you become involved in atheist activism?

A. I first read The God Delusion in 2007 during a trip to Malaysia. Dawkins had reaffirmed my atheism by supporting it with valid arguments. Over the next couple of years I continued reading books by the likes of Hitchens and Harris and found that the arguments supporting atheism far outweighed those supporting religion; although I didn’t really become active about my atheism until March of 2010, when I attended the Global Atheist Convention. It was the largest gathering of atheists in history as I understand it.  Meeting so many other atheists there who were doing so much inspired to get involved. I also had the opportunity to get my copy of The God Delusion signed by Dawkins which was nice, even though I waited in line for nearly two hours.

Q. Did you finally get to meet him?

A. I had enough time to congratulate him on his talk before being ushered away by security trying to keep the line moving.

Q. As a movement, atheists are generally described as notoriously difficult to organize.  It is often likened to trying to herd cats.  How do you get atheists involved and working together toward a goal?

A. This is something I have experienced as President of an atheist club. I think it is fair to say that atheists are generally individuals and freethinkers whereas the religious follow a group mentality and are more like a herd of cattle or sheep. I am not sure how to go about organizing atheists, but I think if they see that we are acting to create positive change they will get on board.

Q. Tell our readers about your organizations and your blog The Carapace. What would you like them to know?

A. Well I run a club at my university called the Society of Atheist Philosophy and I represent the Freethought University Alliance for my state. The Freethought Alliance is a coalition of atheist, humanist, secular and skeptic groups from around the country. I started The Carapace after attending the Atheist Convention and meeting scientists and skeptics who are also bloggers like PZ Myers and Kylie Sturgess. Before that I didn’t really know what a blog was to be honest.

Q. Australia has an openly atheist PM, whereas the U.S has an unspoken religious test for holding our highest political office.  What political challenges do you see ahead for atheists in Australia?

A. Well, I think it is important to note that while our Prime Minister is an atheist one of her first acts of office was to ensure over $200 million dollars to fund the school chaplaincy program. In addition, she remains opposed to gay marriage. I think it has less to do with one’s religion or lack of religion and more to do with whether or not one has the courage to hold to personal convictions in the face of political pressure from the religious right.

Q. Do you have a favorite public skeptic or atheist?  Someone who has inspired you?

A. As someone involved in science I enjoy the work of Dawkins, Myers and Harris. I find that my views in particular are very much aligned with those of Harris.

Q. And how do you find your views are in line with those of Harris?

A. I like the way he has approached the problem of Islam and is going where few others have dared by discussing science and morality.

Regarding Islam I think he and I are very much on the same page. It is sad that people usually misunderstand what people like Harris and I are trying to say and instead label us as racists or xenophobes. However, although I cannot speak for Harris, I think we both understand the difference between Muslims as people who identify with the religion of Islam and Islamists who follow the political ideology of Islam.

It is an important distinction to understand because although all Islamists are Muslim, not all Muslims are Islamists. That doesn’t mean that I have to agree with Muslims who say that Islam is a religion of peace though – and I don’t. Having looked at Islam objectively I find it is more of a political ideology than a religion and that at best it can be called little more than a religion of hate. In my view the Islamists are following the objectively true Islam.

It seems to me that there is no such thing as religious moderates, only moderates who wrongly consider themselves religious, and this is especially true in the case of Muslims. I am not saying that there aren’t moderates out there who hold some religious views. I just think it reaches a point where one is ignoring so much of what their religion teaches that they either have to start a new religion or stop identifying with their current one.

Q. A hot topic in the atheist movement is how best to engage religious people in dialogue and how tolerant or accommodating of religion we should be.  What are your thoughts on this?

A. Well that is a tough one. I think if people are reasonable you should try to reason with them. If they are unreasonable though you are just wasting your time, because you can’t reason someone out of a belief they weren’t reasoned into in the first place. For example I really don’t think you could have a reasonable discussion with a creationist. It reaches a point where some people are just so ignorant that when you talk to them it is like you are speaking a different language, which suits them just fine seeing as they don’t care what you have to say anyway, they have already made up their minds, which remain very much closed to rational discussion.

Q. As a researcher and someone involved in science, what are your thoughts on the current state of science education in Australia and/or the U.S.?  Do you feel like science education and rationalism are related and if so, how?

A. Well in my experience as a science and a research student we tend to teach science students what science has discovered, and ignore actually teaching them the scientific method. The result is that you get students who have good scientific knowledge but lack scientific intelligence. To explain that — I always say knowledge is what you know and intelligence is how you know it. That is the difference between someone who studies science and someone who is a scientist, the former can tell you a lot of scientific facts and the latter can explain them. Frankly it worries me that I know people who get to the end of their science degrees without even being able to distinguish between the general public’s definition of a theory and a scientific theory.

To answer the second part of your question — I think that all types of education should be based on rationalism, which is simply using reason and evidence to justify your conclusions, as the scientific method does. This is why creationism shouldn’t be allowed in schools. There is simply no evidence supporting it. That is why creationism cannot be taught, only preached.

Q. What are your future plans for atheist outreach?

A. Well I am in the middle of writing a book which I aim to have finished by the end of the year. I plan to keep blogging and working with the Society of Atheist Philosophy and Freethought University Alliance. I’m also currently trying to organize an atheist art exhibition to involve artists who are willing to create and display art with atheist themes. Through the Society of Atheist Philosophy I am also organizing an event on campus so people can bring their Bibles and other holy books and trade them in for sex toys, lubes and condoms. We would trade pornography but my state has strict censorship laws about that.

Q. Lastly, what is your favorite dessert?

A. That’s an easy one.  My favorite dessert is Poffertjes, which are little Dutch pancakes. They are typically served with syrup but I like them with lots of chocolate sauce.

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