Saturday, November 12, 2011

Larry Tanner

Hello and Happy Saturday!

First up I wish to thank Janie (aka Mother Moon) for her wonderful interview last week. Thanks so much for sharing with us Janie!

Today we have a new interview so please welcome Larry Tanner.
Larry is an Atheist and I know you'll enjoy his interview as well!

Here Is Larry Tanner's Introduction:

I am married with three young children. I have lived in Massachusetts most of my life and still do. Since 2008, I have self-identified as an Atheist. I was raised in a Jewish home of relaxed observance, and I keep some interest in Jewish culture. My wife of 11 years is a devout Christian.

1) What religion do you practice?
Although I don’t feel that I practice any religion, I give a small amount of money to a local Jewish religious center. Through my wife, I support a local Christian church. I recently held a Passover seder with my family, and I attended an Easter barbeque with my wife’s family. Being non-religious, and in some cases anti-religious, has not completely removed religion from my life.

2) Are you a convert/revert or were you raised within this religion? If you converted, what did you need to do to convert? And what did you practice prior to converting?
I suppose I am a “convert” to Atheism. In 2008, when I was 38 years old, I accepted that Atheism best reflected what I thought was true about the state of the world. I arrived at this conclusion after many years of learning about my religion, about Christianity and other religions, about the textual histories of various holy books, about both world and human history, and about methods of knowledge and understanding in various disciplines of the sciences and humanities. Before I accepted that Atheism was the view I truly held, I considered myself a Jewish believer and I made a practice of reading Torah, donning Tefillin, and visiting shul. After my acceptance—I don’t think “conversion” captures my experience—I became more focused on the knowledge and activities that really interested me. I wanted to learn about probability. I wanted to blog and to do computer programming. I felt more empowered to pursue my best self.

3)Within your religion are there degrees of observance (ie. Orthodox,conservative, moderate, liberal)? What are the defining differences between the degrees of observance?
Some people give different degrees of Atheism, as in strong Atheism or weak Atheism. The degrees are supposed to reflect how certain one is. Atheism is often contrasted with agnosticism, which is the position of “I don’t know.” Even at the times in my life when I was most believing, I always harbored some agnosticism. Eventually, however, I realized that I knew enough to make “I don’t know” a weasel conclusion. I didn’t think it was honest for me to sit on the fence anymore, and so I became an Atheist.

4)Within your religion what degree of observance are you ((ie. Orthodox,conservative, moderate, liberal) ? Why did you choose this degree of observance?
I suppose I would be considered a strong Atheist, as I don’t think there’s any question that no gods exist or ever have. I’m certain that all religions are man-made and that all the holy books are human invention. Don’t get me wrong: some of the narratives, poetry, and teachings in these books are lovely. But these books do not warrant special authority and they often don’t make great guides for how people ought to live their lives today. I am also personally critical of religious organizations. I think the Catholic church is a horrible, evil institution. I think religious apology and evangelism are mostly immoral activities. I am an advocate for the position that religious organizations should pay state and federal taxes.

5)What is the Afterlife within your religion? For example: what happens when a person dies? Are there places for reward/punishment? (such as a Heaven/Hell concept)
I don’t know of any good reason to think that there is an afterlife in the sense of a Heaven or Hell.

6) In your opinion, does everyone make it into heaven/paradise? If they do not, why?
In my opinion, and I feel I’m on the right track with this, everyone dies and eventually decomposes.

7) What makes your religion a good fit for you?
Atheism makes a good fit for me because it brings me back to basic important questions that need to be asked about most anything: Is this actually true? How do we know? How else can we legitimately understand this? It’s also a good fit because I don’t need to do things I always thought were kind of silly—such as giving thanks and praise to nothing, or calling Abraham’s willingness to murder his son a good thing, or standing in respect to a book or a wall.

8) What are your holy days and what do you do to celebrate them?
Every day is “holy.” We don’t get a chance to re-do the right now and the today. Hopefully, what we are doing and learning right now set a trajectory for good things.

9) Do you consider people of other faiths to be your friends?
Yes, people of other faiths are my friends. Heck, one of them is my wife! I don’t know what my young children will choose for themselves religiously. My worries for them are more material, but I would not want them to join a religion in which they feel compelled to avoid me. That would hurt.

10) Would you ever join people of another faith to celebrate one of their holy days? Please explain why?
I try to minimize the amount of time I join family and friends in specifically religious activities. I have better things to do. When they are done with the religious part, I usually try to join them at that time. Sometimes, as for a funeral, one must enter a church and sit through the blah-blah, but these times are relatively few.

11) What are your thoughts on the burka, and Shariah Law?
I think both the burka and Sharia Law are awful and antithetical to human happiness and welfare.

12) Are women allowed to hold religious office (priest, minister, rabbi, iman etc) in your religion and how do you feel about it?
There are several Atheist organizations, and I believe women are able to hold any office within them. Personally, I advocate equal opportunity for all.

13) Does your place of worship segregate? If yes, how does this make you feel?

14) How much does your religion affect your daily life and how much thought do you give it when making a decision? Does it affect in any way your decision on abortion, gay marriage, etc?
Atheism affects my daily life in some ways. I read the Atheist blogs. I don’t worry about having bacon or sausage. Most of the time, the non-existence of divine beings in the universe doesn’t seem to affect me.

15) How would you react/feel if your child wished to marry outside your religion?
If the potential spouse is a Red Sox fan, I can handle most anything.

16) In your opinion, if someone is not of your faith, will they go to hell?
No. I have a hard time understanding how people could think that their group alone has the keys out of Hell while everyone else now living and the billions upon billions who have ever lived before are baking over brimstone.

17) Who do you think is not a practicing ----- in your religion and why? ie who in the public domain claims to speak for your religion? Do you agree with them or not?
There are some prominent and outspoken Atheists. They don’t speak for me or for anyone else. They know it, too.

18) Have you ever been the target of a hate crime? Please explain.
When I was a kid, I was probably called various Jewish names before (e.g., “kike,” “Jew-ball,” etc.).

19) Do you ever feel like your religion devalues you?
No, not at all.

20) Does your religion give you peace of mind?
No. I get peace of mind from the love of my family and from being a decent person.

21) Do you believe in reincarnation? Why or why not?
Not in the sense of people “coming back” as other people or animals. I’m not familiar enough with any pro-reincarnation arguments to comment much on the idea.

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