Interview with Bloggasm about atheist issues
Just thought I'd post this here as well, maybe someday we'll get a more comprehensive FAQ about the group, but anyway...we were contacted by Simon Owens from bloggasm.com to answer some questions for a piece about Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion and the rise of atheism. So, here they are:
This is Kelly from RRS. I'll be answering the questions for Brian because he's incredibly busy right now on other projects.
>>>1. Firstly, I'd like some background info on you. Should I refer to you as Brian Sapient? How long have you been in the Rational Response Squad? What's your role in the organization? Have you participated in any of their public debates or other programs? How many members are in the group?
Brian (yes, you should refer to him as "Brian Sapient" co-founded the RRS with Rook Hawkins almost two years ago. Yellow #5 (Mike) came on board next and I followed a few months later. Brian is essentially the coordinator, engineer, and all-around driving force behind the group. Rook is an auto-didactic historian who is currently working on a book regarding the historicity of Jesus. Mike is the resident science expert who works as a chemical engineer and has a degree in microbiology. I am currently working on my master's in neuropsychology with a minor in philosophy. We all work on the basic elements of the group such as the website and broadcasts, and we also have a lot of help from our community, many of whom we consider to be as much of a part of the RRS as we ourselves are.
Brian has generally been the spokesperson for the RRS, and the vast majority of media coverage has included him, with a few exceptions in which I appeared individually. The two Nightline pieces were both Brian and myself, the most notable being the debate against Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort.
As far as members go, it is very difficult to gauge exactly how to go about calculating that number. Registered users at our forums number around 9000, our myspace friends are up to about 26000, youtube subscribers are close to 6000...it would really depend on what you mean by "member".
>>>2. Do you think that The God Delusion has created a more mainstream view of atheism in the US? Do you find that it's getting more mainstream news coverage?
I would say that this apparent upsurge of atheism into popular culture is the result of many things and that the books that have been published are just as much a result as a cause. Books like The God Delusion, The End of Faith, and God Is Not Great have certainly kept atheists in the media, along with other things such as our Blasphemy Challenge, but the climate of the culture is shifting in general. There was a point in time when these books would not have been published, much less have been on the NY Times bestseller list, and that alone is indicative of the fact that religious belief is steadily losing its stranglehold on the populace of the US, and thereby the media. (Although the recent censorship controversies involving Kathy Griffin and Sally Fields demonstrate just how far we still have to go.)
>>>3. I've noticed that popular sites like Digg.com tend to heavily promote atheist-themed articles. Do you think that the internet, as a medium, is more sympathetic to atheists? Does it effectively push atheist stories into the mainstream media?
I think that the internet has certainly helped to spark what some are terming the "atheist movement." First of all, it has allowed a relative minority (as far as the US goes) to connect and collaborate in ways that were impossible in the past. Secondly, being mostly user driven and not subject to the censorship that one finds in the major media outlets, it has given us the forum in which to speak out publicly. I also feel that the increase in information available to the average person has helped many to see religion for the fraud that it is.
That being said, I think that the issue is much more complex as individuals who are scientifically oriented may also tend to be more computer savvy, and therefore, we have a kind of advantage in the internet proficiency quotient (if there were such a thing). I don't know that it is necessarily "more sympathetic" to atheists, though, as there are just as many people spreading religious rhetoric all over the web.
>>>4. Did Dawkins provide support/links to your blasphemy project on youtube? What was the official title again? The Blasphemy Challenge?
Yes, Dawkins did support the BC, and there were links to it and stories about it posted on his website. We work in coordination with Dawkins and his team on various projects.
>>>5. Are you saddened that two of the most prominent atheists-- Dawkins and Hitchens-- are British? How come American atheists aren't as well known?
No, it doesn't sadden me, and I don't find it to be indicative of much. Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett certainly have their spots in the "movement", and there are many American atheists who have written books and had a profound impact on the atheist community. It just happens to be that Dawkins and Hitchens had more personal notoriety to bolster their book sales. It is my personal opinion that it's all in the accent.