One of my fellow bloggers in Patheos’ atheist portal – Leah of Unequally Yoked – suggested a little while ago that we do side-by-side Q&A posts. I took her up on the offer, and even let her write the questions (two blog-related, two personal, and two wacky)! Her answers are running here on Love, Joy, Feminism and mine are running on Unequally Yoked (click here to read them!).
Q: What’s the target audience for your blog, what do you try to share with them?
Leah: I write for a mixed audience of Christians, atheists, you name it! I started writing while I was dating a nice Catholic boy, and I was trying to crowdsource our debates. I ended up learning that I’d often been attacking a straw-man version of Christianity (albeit a strawman that some Christians accepted). And I didn’t have that coherent an idea of what my philosophy entailed, beside disbelief in god(s).
Now, I talk through a lot of moral thought experiments and questions about how to deal with uncertainty. And I try to make it easier for both sides to engage with the best arguments the other side has to offer and skip past some of the confusion. Questioning from sharp commenters forced me to refine my ideas and keeps me honest.
Q: What are a few posts you recommend for a new visitor?
Leah: As you might expect, my “About” page is a good place to start, but you might also be interested in a summary of why I find religious apologetics unconvincing, some ranting about the way evolutionary psycology pushes the data beyond what they actually describe, and why I think blasphemy for the sake of upsetting people is bad strategy and bad ethics.
One kind of unique part of the blog is under my Ideological Turing Test tab. Last summer I ran a competition where atheists and Christians tried to see if they could imitate each other, which turned out to be a really fun way to check how good we were at imagining how the other side thinks. Some of the ways people got caught as impostures were surprising!
Q: What kind of philosophy do you adhere to?
Leah: I’ve got a lot of Aristotelian sympathies (I’ve been told I have more than are good for an atheist). The best word for what I am is probably ‘Virtue Ethicist.’ I think about moral choices not in terms of outcomes (consequentialism) or delineated rules (deontology), but in terms of whether the choice reflects the moral character of the person I ought to be. Every selfish act doesn’t just harm someone else, it warps my spirit and builds up bad habits.
Q: What are some of your other interests that don’t make it onto the blog?
Leah: Err, well, I tend to subject my blog readers to a lot more costuming mockups and epidemiology factoids than you might expect. I’m just out of college and I’ve been having fun finding new ways to learn and keep my mind sharp. Currently, I’m taking ASL lessons and I’ve been learning programming through Udacity (http://www.udacity.com/).
Q: If you could timetravel forward 10-15 years, what social or political development would you be most excited to check in on?
Leah: I want to see how we end up treating online anonymity. There have been a lot of attempts to set up reputation economies where your peers rate your trustworthiness, but none of them have worked very well. (One one site, some users formed a protection racket that demanded money in exchange for not downvoting you en masse). The online world is more and more enmeshed with the ‘real’ one, and we’re going to need to find ways to protect anonymous speech, but preserve accountability.
Q: What text do you wish served as the holy book for a widespread religion?
Leah: I feel like the easiest answer is Shakespeare, because there’s so much to draw on and this hypothetical religion would be better able to face new questions. And using a corpus of plays would put really interesting questions about identity and authenticity right at the heart of their faith.