My Impressions of Richard Wade

I’m in Washington, D.C. at Union Station waiting for my Amtrak train back to New York after a pretty incredible weekend. I’m going to write a few posts to jot down my impressions and experiences from my weekend at the Reason Rally and the American Atheists’ annual convention. In this post, I’ll start by describing my impressions of my companion for the weekend, Richard Wade of the Friendly Atheist blog.

Ever since I interviewed Richard, he and I have been good friends online, exchanging many IMs over many hours. Way back when we were doing our interview sessions a year ago he suggested I attend the Reason Rally because he wanted to meet me. Without that seed being planted in my head, I may not have ever thought to make the rally my first big foray into the world of real life atheist gatherings, but I’m sure glad I did. So, a few months ago I contacted him about rooming together and doing all the events together and we did. And it was a real treat.

I have always admired Richard for his wise insights and for the exemplary humaneness with which he treats people in his groundbreaking “Ask Richard” column. And this weekend, having long hours to interact with him face to face and to discuss life and ideas, I have a whole new appreciation for him. Based on his written expression, I always expected him to be a relatively staid, serious, and compassionate person. I had no idea that overlaying an inner perfectionist streak, he would have the air of a classic, laid back California guy and would be prone to totally let loose as just the goofiest geek when excited. He’s funny, animated, enthusiastic, and laughs easily, loudly, and at length. And he laughs hardest and most joyfully when being teased even though he hardly seems inclined at all to tease back. I take it he also expected me to be a little more serious and less the geeky goofball I am too. We both come across as more serious in our writing than in person, I think.

His generosity and concern for people are palpable. He saw so much misery in his long career dealing with addicts (many of whom killed themselves), and he suffered so much on their account, that his bliss seems like that of a man who has been through hell and back serving other people and who, on that account, knows life can be just too painful if one wastes it in self-absorbed, self-defeating bullshit, and so he doesn’t. Many wry, critical, shrewd, and sometimes even cynical candid remarks indicated that for all his unrestrained exuberance at what pleases him, he is also quite a realist. Off the cuff in private he also felt comfortable letting loose a more razor edged anti-theist atheism than comes through in his blog posts. I get the impression he has made a thorough, conscientious, and successful choice to affirm life as much as possible, to exorcize his every demon as proactively as possible, to treat people as caringly and carefully as possible, and to express his feelings shamelessly—while also judiciously reserving them just enough to make those around him as comfortable as possible. He is unassumingly remarkable and layered like an onion. I just loved getting to know him.

Your Thoughts?

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For an amusing anecdote from the weekend Richard and I spent together, read about how we met Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan in a crosswalk in D.C. To learn more about Richard in his own words, read any or all of the installments from our wide-ranging 8 part interview. Below are links to all the installments titled by topic:

On Richard’s Personal History With Religion and the Origins of the Ask Richard Column

Anger In Families Divided Over Religion

Atheism and Religions As Bases For Identities

How Atheists Should Respond to Alcoholics Anonymous, and How Personal Values Influence Professional Therapy

The Ethics of Lying To Stay In A Protective Closet

How Atheists Should Confront And Replace Religions

Whether Believers and Non-Believers Should Avoid Marrying Each Other

Whether Believers Are Literally Deluded

 

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • Ubi Dubium

    I had a chance to meet Richard at the meetup after the Stewart Rally. And what made my day was that he was excited to meet me. Here’s one of my favorite writers on the internet, I was just a commenter, didn’t even have a blog yet, and he made me feel really special.

    I ran into him yesterday at the Reason Rally, right near the wonderful guy with the “repent or be devoured by Chthulhu sign”. And with thousands of people around, Richard recognized me! (OK, my big Pirate hat is a bit memorable. But still.)

    I try to be thoughtful and to the point when I write, and I think Richard is my main role model for that. Whenever I read an “Ask Richard” column, I try to imagine what I would say if I were answering it. They I read his answer and it’s often similar to my thoughts, only he says it much more thoroughly and much more eloquently. He’s amazing.

  • John Morales

    Not a Dick, then? :)

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Nope. We even had a conversation about how he prefers Richard to any nickname. He stressed he doesn’t like to be called “Dick”.

    • John Morales

      Thanks. That’s pretty definitive!

  • tim

    “We both come across as more serious in our writing than in person, I think.”

    I have never met Mr. Wade – but this does sum you up pretty well.

    I really enjoyed reading about your encounters this weekend and I wish I could have been there.

    -Tim

  • http://www.facebook.com/dubsays aaronwilkerson

    It was quite nice to meet and share a train ride with both of you after the convention. I’m surprised to learn you had not known each other much longer. You are both kind and genuine.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Thanks so much, Aaron, it was really a pleasure meeting you too. I’m glad to get your friend request. I looked for you the other day, but couldn’t find you so I’m glad you found me.

      Richard and I have been IMing over a year now and we have read each other’s work for a couple years, so we were very friendly even before we met last weekend.


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