Sunday, May 23, 2010

Martin Gardner 1914-2010

I went through my phase of militant scientism back when I was in my 20's and early 30's, first as a convinced atheist leftist, and then as a convinced atheist scientist. Back then I loved to read books and articles by Stephen Jay Gould, Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov, Martin Gardner and James Randi.

Asimov died in '92, then Sagan in '96, then Gould in 2002, and now Gardner has left us in 2010. It is fitting that as the news of Gardner's death is spreading, many people are referring to the beautiful, heartfelt remembrance of him that has been written by Gardner's friend and comrade in arms, James Randi, under the title "My World Is A Little Darker."

I parted company with the atheist activist crowd long ago. But I am sorry to see the "old" atheists go (and in truth they are not all strict atheists), because they were intelligent, humorous and always interesting.


Thutm0sys said...

You had been an atheist too? How did you make the transition(s?)

I went from nominal Catholic -> militant atheist -> mellowed-out atheist ->eclectic pagan -> Kemetic.

Apuleius Platonicus said...

My atheism was equal parts Nietzsche, Marx and Herman Hesse's Siddhartha. Even when I was a committed leftist I would tell my comrades I was a Buddhist, and then proceed to explain to them that Buddhists don't believe in God.

The thing that helped me most to make the transition was studying and practicing Zen, which I started in earnest while in graduate school studying physical chemistry.

Buddhism can make an excellent "gateway drug". This is one of the reasons why I so despise Sam Harris and Stephen Batchelor, because they are intent on closing that gateway. Buddhism does not require you to believe in, well, anything. But it also does not forbid genuine religious belief and devotion, which is what Harris and Batchelor are trying to convince people of.

Thutm0sys said...

Aaaaah. For me, what happened was trying magic out of desperation, and having it work (which smashed my materialistic worldview into tiny pieces)
...and then, a very insistent Egyptian love goddess who refused to take "no" for an answer. I'm curious as to how you would articulate your response to atheist challenges...It's hard for me to wrap my mind around. Sometimes I feel like they aren't talking about the same things I'm talking about.

Apuleius Platonicus said...

Thutm0sys: To some extent it is true that you are not talking about the same things (with atheists). But don't underestimate your ability to plant the seed of doubt in their minds. They will probably never admit to your face, but you can have a real impact by engaging with them, at least some of them.

jwthomas said...

In a famous interview Gardner
specifically stated his belief in God (or god, whatever that might have meant to him.) Gould's atheist credential have also been questioned. In fact all the "atheists" you name were primarily capital "S" Skeptics and though nonbelievers not atheist "activists" at all.