It’s that time of year again. You know, presents… red-nosed reindeer, eggnog. Oh, and depending on who you choose to believe, this month will mark the coming of everybody’s (well, some people’s) favorite son of God — Jesus. Oh, what a celebration.
Anyway, it got me thinking about bladers and their thoughts on religion and stuff, so I decided to talk to someone way more qualified than myself about religion and its role in modern society. So I did some digging and found Dr. Krauss.
Dr. Lawrence M. Krauss is a professor at the University of Arizona and is the lead at the university’s Origins Project.
Professor Krauss is the only living physicists to have received awards from all three major physicist societies, as well as countless other awards.
Professor Krauss is also very active within the atheist community, and encourages individuals to learn to think for themselves, which is why we have enlisted his services for this interview. (I know, I can’t believe he did this either.)
So here we go. Let’s find out together: Does rollerblading need god?
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Lawrence, why do you think we are starting to notice younger atheists who are artists, rollerbladers, musicians, kind of breaking the barriers of the typical atheist stereotypes?
Well, I don’t think it’s that difficult to understand — the group of people you’re talking about generally rebel against the sort of “standard” orthodox power structures, and the church is certainly a power structure. So I can see them rebelling against the constraints of being told what to do, right? Pushing the boundaries. Organized religion is all about NOT pushing the boundaries. It’s typically all about being told what not to do, not making your own choices but being told by someone else what is good and bad, and I suspect that a lot of what motivates the culture of the areas that you are talking about, are people who want to make their own decisions. They don’t want to be told what to do by anybody, political or religious.
So I think it’s more a reaction against the authority, especially the moral authority of the church, than an issue of what they think of the doctrine. At least initially, I can’t say I’m an expert in this particularly, but I was surprised when I got your email because I thought, “Well it’s the exact OPPOSITE in professional sports.” You know, in football and such you hear or see people praying all of the time, and in some respects it’s a central part of their sport. I think within professional sports it’s ingrained in the cultural norm, and Atheism for better or worse, is not ingrained in the cultural norm! I would say though that I suspect it is far more normal than what is reflected in the media. I think there are far more Atheists than people are willing to talk about because they are told that they are somehow “bad people” if they are Atheist.
Back to the main group of people you are talking about, I think they are far less concerned about what people think of them and being accepted as “normal.”
That is an interesting perspective! I hadn’t thought of it that way, but I would also like to get your thoughts on the artistic community. So many religious figures credit religion for giving us art, and that creating art WITHOUT religion is “impossible,” or not the same. However we are seeing amazing works of art from Atheists within the various communities. What do you think about that?
That’s such a facile argument though. In fact, all they are pointing out is that the only source of patronage for much of Western culture, was the church! It was the Rockefeller Foundation of the 15th Century. One of the only places you could get support for almost anything, so of course that was the source for art and music and many other things because the church was a source of wealth. It was either the church or the “crown” so to speak, so really it was just an accident of history. You can’t deny that it produced a lot of beautiful music and a lot of beautiful art, but that doesn’t make it anything other than what it was, and that was a source of power and wealth. You know it’s interesting the tie between artists, musicians and scientists though, and that is that we’re not afraid to go our own way, to make our own path.
So there is that cultural connection that I think people forget about, but maybe that is another reason “we” are seeing these people dismiss a deity or the Western God because we share that similarity. So it’s not unusual, I think. People defend the church on the basis of arguments that are really historical arguments, but not usually based on the substance of what the church is all about. In fact, if you think about it, the church has probably burned more books than it has published and banned more art, maybe. I’m not sure about it, but things that went against the church and its values were not printed or published. I’m less surprised now that I think about the nature of this interview, because what you are talking about are really alternative cultures, and I would bet that a lot of these rollerbladers or alternative sports enthusiasts are artists as well.
If you want to get down to it, any good sports person has to rely on empirical evidence otherwise they don’t last very long. You know they’re trained to question what will happen by pushing the boundaries, and also going against intuition. I mean intuition tells you not to slide down a rail, at least I wouldn’t, ha, but obviously what they have learned is the laws of physics allow you to do that! Relying on empirical evidence and going against intuition are in some ways the hallmarks of science.
Along with interviewing rollerbladers and sports figures, I’ve been abel to interview musicians as well, and a lot of them say the same thing which is “It just doesn’t make sense.”
Well, they’re right! It doesn’t make sense because the only way it does make sense, is to give up rationality. In some cases being so influenced by your surroundings that you just stop thinking for yourself. The minute you start thinking and questioning things for yourself, well hold on. I don’t want to suggest that religious people are stupid, because that’s not true. They are however heavily influenced by various “norms” within these religions that impact how they think, but when you start thinking rationally about the World’s religions they all fall apart.
What do you think of these people who call their new investments or cultures, their new religion? You know, the idea that music or rollerblading is now their religion?
I think it’s great because it’s improvised community, and that’s the other thing that religion does. People go once or twice a week because it gives them a sense of community, a support group — it gives them those things and that’s another reason why it survives so well. It requires community in some sense to survive because I think it’s that community that continues to propagate the willingness to believe in things that are silly. So if you can find other communities, whether it’s concerts or skeptic communities, or even these rollerblading communities, it’s great! I don’t think it’s fair to call it a religion though, but people typically call it that because they feel it gives them a sort of “spiritual” fulfillment, but I would distinguish that from religion.
So these people are finding that they can in fact fill those gaps in their lives with other things. Being around likeminded people, which can be just as fulfilling and rewarding as anything religion claims to provide, and I think that’s great! I say let’s replace religion all together with these types of communities and just do away with it.
Let’s plug the new movie now, shall we? “The Unbelievers.” Where can people either purchase it or see it in theaters?
Well, the movie actually just had its premier in L.A and will only be running for about a week, then it’s in New York from December 13th through the 19th. They’re limited runs to make it “Oscar eligible,” which doesn’t guarantee anything, of course, but you know, it’s out there. The world wide release is sometime in 2014, but where it will be available depends on how these first two runs go. Whether they will be available online or in theater I’m not quite sure yet. We do have deals with content media to be able to release it through places like Amazon, Itunes, Netflix and some TV.
Unfortunately right now, if you want to see the movie, you would have to check with local film festivals, or be in New York or L.A. We will be doing some showings at major universities as well, so encourage your schools to show the film at your University if you want to see it.
Being that you travel so often, do you ever feel like you are on vacation once you are home?
In some ways, yes, because I don’t have to wake up with someone else’s agenda, but when I am home I do have to work pretty intensely to get things done. I run an institute here at the University (Arizona), so when I’m here I have the pleasure of making my own schedule which is definitely a vacation in its own right, but as I said it is a pretty intense schedule. It always feels good to be home though, I’m here for two weeks and it’s great.
Any debates coming up?
No, no debates. I do have an event coming up in Canberra, Australia with a skeptics group though. I try not to do so many debates, but I have a lot of people who want me to be on their podcasts, so I’ll be doing a lot of those for the next week or two, to help promote the movie as well. After Australia though I am going to try and hide out for a month or so — I’m actually getting married in January!
The next event we have will be “Is the Universe Necessary?” here at my university (Arizona), and that’s probably when I will resurface.
Is it fair to say that William Lane Craig, is a ‘jackass?’
Oh, I’d say it’s very fair. He may be a fine father and husband, he could be a pleasant person to go duck hunting with, I don’t know, but in terms of what he writes and the way he and his group carry on what they’re doing, it’s disingenuous and blind-headed ignorance. I’m glad you said that actually, because people think that I debate aggressively, but I was in Minnesota recently speaking with my friend George Coyne and he is obviously a priest and we disagree on things, but it’s different because he’s honest and genuine. People who are scam artists and try to distort things to prove their point (lookin’ at you, Ray Comfort) have to be publicly be called out for it.
You know, I talk to these sort of people very rarely. I did that William Lane Craig thing for some reason, I’ve done something with an Islamic “clone” of his in London, but I try not to debate so much. I get called a lot more often after our friend Christopher Hitchens passed, that’s probably the reason why you see me doing more of them now than I did before.
Well Professor, we really appreciate your time and thank you for your perspective!
Any time, take care!
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So now we turn to you, dear blader. Does it matter whether artists or action sports persons are into God or not? Should we stop categorizing our selves as a sport all together, and call ourselves a community of artists?
We’d love to see your comments below!
And here’s the trailer for “The Unbelievers”: