Daniel Dennett Defines An Atheist

In his talk at the Global Atheist Convention in Melbourne, Daniel Dennett gave a talk on “How To Tell You’re An Atheist“:

As always, if there are any bits we should pay special attention to, just leave the timestamp and a summary in the comments.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • bobo

    Watched this the other day.  I love Dennett.  He has a way of conveying a point with a kind of humor that cracks me up.  Good video.

  • Ndonnan

    Well i thought i would give the professor 44 min of my time and im glad i did.Mr.Dennett might speak well and have a sense of humour but still has the thread most common in atheism and thats ignorance,they just dont get it.The example of the person who has lost their sight and just carnt accept it is a perfect fit for atheism,i dont get it,therefore it doesnt exist. Flawed logic is how i would sum up Mr. Dennett,if your listening to this,you might be an atheist, how embarrasing,and hes a professor.He uses star wars as his example of fantasy,yet how many atheists belive there has to be life on another planet,theres been plenty of sceintist employed and still are for little green men,[hes right though,you are wasting your time,money better spent looking for a yeti].He ends saying,here we are happy and laughing,that never happens in church,ha church rocks,when you go to a youth convention and see 30000 youth up and dancing its awsome.When you see a man preaching to a crowed of 1.3million its inspiring,it kind of makes an old man hanging crap look rather sad.While he says christians play the “i am offended card”,and nothing is exempt from laughter,remember that because its pulled out very quickly and regularly on this site.

    • Dan

      I find it ironic that you are ranting about the ‘ignorance’ of a philosophy and cognitive science professor who is extremely well respected in his field, yet you have a hard time even writing a cogent sentence. There are some Christians who make intelligent arguments on this site, but I’m afraid your comment was not one of them.

    • http://twitter.com/gingerjet gingerjet

       I happen to be one of those that believe that ‘little green men’ exists – mainly due to the vastest and diversity of the universe – its hard to believe that others don’t exist.  But here what I don’t do with that belief (which is all it really is) – build an entire structure of living and traditions around that belief.  You will not see me build a church of alpha centauri, join a 1000 people dancing to some centauri priest, or find me praying silently at night in bed to Marvin the Martian.

      There are a millions more employed in the service of religion than looking for ‘little green men’.  Considering the lack of success of religion – lets give the ‘little green men’ a few more to look for them.

      In closing – please take an writing class sometime. 

    • articulett

      Your grammar and general cogency are atrocious! Were you home-schooled by chance? If you want intelligent people to take you seriously, have a grown up proof-read your screed before you post.

    • Renshia

       Okay, but do you have a point?

      • Ndonnan

        My point is Renshia that “is this all youve got”.When i go to a convention and hear a professor speak,ide expect more than poking fun,that is what Hermant does because he hangs around school kids all day and it shows,but a key speaker.

        • Dan

          I am genuinely curious, so please don’t be offended, but is English not your primary language? I’d just so ironic how you are calling Dennett ignorant when your listening comprehension and writing skills are so poor.

          • Dan

            Oops, I meant It’s not I’d. Funny I’d get that wrong in the post, but at least my writing is somewhat cogent. 

            • Ndonnan

              We all have different skills Dan and mine isnt writing but theres nothing wrong with my hearing.Australian is my first language which doesnt help im sure 

              • Dan

                ‘Australian’ isn’t a language, although it is an English dialect. That would be like me saying I don’t write or understand English well since my first language is American. Did you mean something else, like an aboriginal Australian language?

                Here are a couple helpful hints for your writing: in English proper nouns are capitalized (i.e. Star Wars, Christianity, I, etc) and we put a space after commas and periods before beginning to write again. I make lots of little mistakes myself, but at least attempting to use proper basic grammar will make your writing be taken more seriously (especially if you are going to charge a respected philosopher and cognitive scientist with not understanding logic and being ignorant).

                • Ndonnan

                  Heh ive got a school teacher wife so thanks for the lesson but if you think good grammar makes me unable to see through ignorance and arrogance your mistaken 

                • jkx

                  Nobody thinks that. Personally I just think it’s a strong indicator that you’re stupid. 

                • Dan

                  Maybe you should ask your wife for lessens then. Even apart from you not knowing to capitalize proper nouns or how to use 2nd grade punctuation, if you are using the fact that you don’t understand or write English well because your first language is ‘Australian’ than I’m afraid that does imply you might not have the educational ability (or at least English skills) to understand a lecture given at a 12th grade level.

        • articulett

          If atheist speakers and websites bother you so much, then maybe you shouldn’t view them.  I don’t think people like you are the intended audience.

          • Ndonnan

            How else does one come to understand another point of view if you dont listen to what they have to say.I think everyone has something to offer ,especially those who think differently to what i do. 

            • articulett

              You just said you didn’t think Daniel Dennett had anything to offer and that you didn’t get anything out of it.  In your mind he was just making fun of theists. Are you even a single step closer to understanding his point of view? Go read your first post again.

              I think Dennett’s intended audience is adults– the same with this forum. Maybe when you are an adult you will be able to get something out of these conversations.

              Most of us (including Dennett) have been theists and probably were believers when we your age; we’ve grown up, and now we like to gather amongst other people who have left their supernatural beliefs behind as we have so that we don’t have to walk on eggshells or worry that we might accidentaly reveal that Santa isn’t real to some believer (so-to-speak). Rather than worry about hurting your feelings, we’d rather you hang around your Christian youth dances– or whatever it is that inspires you.

              • Ndonnan

                Well when you go to school tomorrow you can impress all the other big girls with your amazing intellect.Until then youll have to suck it up princess and learn to cope with a more mature view on life.Oh by the way youve spelt arcitect wrong silly girl.Youve got soooo much to learn.XX

                • http://twitter.com/Teletheus Jerry H.

                  “Oh by the way youve spelt arcitect wrong silly girl. ”

                  The only one who spelled “architect” wrong here was you.

                • http://bareatheism.blogspot.com/ Deven Kale

                   I’ve always loved it when people pull out the “I know you are but what am I” argument. Especially when they use it to try and look superior and mature.

                • Ndonnan

                  You really dont get it do you.Ha

                • http://bareatheism.blogspot.com/ Deven Kale

                   If you’re implying that pointing out the ridiculousness of your argument makes me guilty of same, then you make me laugh.

                  If not, then I suppose I don’t get it. Care to illuminate me?

        • Renshia

           Well, did you listen to other videos of the conference? You think this was the only person speaking? It makes sense to have different styles and types of speakers.
          I am sure this is not all we’ve got.

          You are just being a dick. Pulling things apart and whining like a spoiled baby.  If you don’t like the site, go away. But no you would rather act like a child and whine.

          So unless you have listened to all the others, all your doing is looking for a reason to be negative.  Your just another bible thumper that would rather destroy than build.
          A pathetic whining piece of shit, a typical christian I am guessing.

          You still don’t have a point. Just a whine.

    • Tony

      I’m glad that religion puts a smile on your face.  That it works for you, but I must inform you there is no god.  Plain and simple there is no reliable evidence to support the existence of a god.  

  • Pseudonym

    Being in the target audience, I found this talk interesting.  I have a few comments:

    Dennett makes the common mistake of confusing different beliefs with disbelief. To be fair, fundamentalists and conservative religionists of all stripes have a clear incentive to keep this confusion alive, but it’s clearly a mistake to anyone who knows anything about the history of religion.

    It’s most clear for religions which jumped their state or ethnic group of origin early enough. Buddhism did it first, but Christianity probably did it the quickest. They (to pick but two) have always changed their beliefs to suit circumstances and context. In Christianity, this process started even before the Bible was finished being written, when Paul took a Jewish sect and adapted it for the Greek world.

    The only thing that’s really different about this time in history is that the context is changing faster than Christianity is used to. But this isn’t an insurmountable problem.

    I liked his discussion of Quine and bilinguals. I’m glad he brought that up, but it would have been nice if he had acknowledged that it’s not just religion that this issue happens with, but anything that’s a fluid part of a identity. Think of ethnic identity, for example.  Someone’s ancestors may have been living in Malaysia for centuries, but they still think of themselves as “Chinese”. Do they really consider themselves Chinese? What does that even mean?

    I like the idea of religion classes in Quebec. That’s brilliant. The more the merrier, I think.

    Finally, the thing about religion not having a sense of humour is patent nonsense. In my experience, Roman Catholics tell more “St Peter at the pearly gates” jokes than anyone else. How could it be otherwise? Accountants tell accountant jokes more than anyone else does, but nobody would seriously argue that such people might not really be accountants.

    Finally, after watching and reflecting on the talk, I’m still pretty sure that I’m an ultra-liberal Christian. I’m also pretty sure that Dennett would think I’m probably an atheist. I’m glad that he considers me to be on his side; coming from the only New Atheist author whose book was actually worth reading, I consider that a compliment.

    • Pseudonym

      Oh, one more thing while I think of it. The title of this blog post is wrong. Dennett did not “define” an atheist in his speech. In fact, he went to some trouble to point out that this is precisely what he wasn’t doing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1580303569 Heidi Vogel

    Dennett is a philosopher, and as such his speech was a treatise on the comparisons between being a real theist and just acting like one. There was much to be gleaned from his statements when one understands he is not coming up with a true definition of either theist or atheist but how one can hone their atheist radar skills.

    Those of you who complained about his lack of thoroughness must understand that theist vs atheist is a very complex subject matter that cannot be wrapped up in a neat little bow within the 45 or so minutes he was allotted. 

    These symposiums and conventions are a way for our growing numbers to give each other support and to increase our “energy” when it comes to dealing with self-indulgent theists that we must interact with on a daily basis.  Best nugget I found was that Dennett verified my own suspicions that there are still closeted atheists even within the ranks of dogmatic leadership. His words were meant to coax out some sympathy for the devil as it were. I am livid and in my honest opinion those who pray to a God they don’t really believe in are the most damaging to society in their hypocritical cowardice.

    It reminds of that docudrama about this Nazi News Caster who spouted propaganda whilst secretly transmitting coded messages to the Allies during World War II. Once he was discovered and was brought before one of the high ranking SS, the officer laughed in his face and said something like, “Oh sure, you spied for our enemies, but your words did more to bolster the heart of the people around the very thing you despised more than all of the damage you caused due to the pieces of intelligence you gathered. We knew you were a spy and we reveled in your fervor to prove yourself to be a perfect citizen of the Third Reich…” I’m paraphrasing what was said, but you could see the spy’s face as his eyes widen with shock and horror with the realization that he became what he hated the most.

    We need to stop being closeted. Whenever we lie and verbally accept something we know in our minds is wrong, we are ourselves culpable for spreading that lie. This is how the disease called religion flourished during the Spanish Inquisition. Everyone professed belief because they were all to scared to join and rise up against the murdering men of the cloth. Stop this insanity, delusions are a psychological disorder and it doesn’t matter if it’s a belief in the God of the Toaster Oven or the God(s) in some archaic book passed on for thousands of years.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X