Gary J. Kirkpatrick is the Administrator, “Atheism: The Step That Changes Everything.” Here we talk about his life and views.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What was early life like for you?
Gary J. Kirkpatrick: I was frightened by the possibility of eternal torture for being naughty.
Jacobsen: How were religion and faith influential on you if at all?
Kirkpatrick: I learned the Catechism very well. I remember studying it in bed, so I could answer the nun’s questions the next Sunday. As an adult, I worry how young people are being filled with delusional stories that in some cases are constructed to encourage violence and other immoralities.
Jacobsen: How does religion around the world, and in your locale, appear to receive special privileges in the upbringing and the filling of the minds of the young?
Kirkpatrick: It appears to have been marginalized where I live. Around the world is another matter.
Jacobsen: What effect did thinking about and reading about non-religious belief impact personal perspectives on the world around you?
Kirkpatrick: I came to realize that the human species was infected with delusional stories.
Jacobsen: Did these impact friendships and relations with family
Kirkpatrick: I think it complicated some of my relationships, either by my zeal in trying to persuade them of the correctness of my religious beliefs or of the invalidity of religions.
Jacobsen: What books have been influential in personal philosophical life for you? What about films or documentaries?
Kirkpatrick: End of Faith, The God Delusion, Religion, God is Not Great, and Bart Ehrman’s How Jesus Became God, Misquoting Jesus, God’s Problem, Jesus Interrupted and Forged.
Jacobsen: If you reflect on some of the concerning developments in fundamentalist religions around the world, what trouble you?
Kirkpatrick: The return of the forces of ignorance — the Empire striking back.
Jacobsen: If we split the basics of the literals and liberals of the religious ideological groupings, are both bad or only some parts of each bad, or all they all bad, to you? What are the positives of liberalized, ordinary religion and the negatives of it, too?
Kirkpatrick: More liberal religious groups share my political views and views on how to treat others. They are more accepting of skepticism and reason.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: So, since you are living in two different places throughout different times of the year, what are your experiences of the different cultures of Spain and the The United States? How do people express their faith in different ways?
Kirkpatrick: In Europe generally religiosity is much less intense than in the US. There are comparatively a few fundamentalists here and the rate at which people attend church and express belief in a deity is much lower than in the US. Part of that is it is due to historical forces. For example, in France, the church sided with the king in the time of the Revolution back in 1789. In Spain, the church strongly backed Franco, who remains intensely unpopular. These positions eroded support for religion.
Nowadays church attendance is somewhere in the 10 to 20 percent range. The general belief in a deity is 35 to 50 percent, higher in Poland. Church attendance is down to less than 10 percent, higher on holidays. I am using EU statistics. You can find by using the term “religiosity in Europe.”
Jacobsen: In Europe and the US, they have more advanced technology than most places in the world. How does this lack of religiosity reflect itself in the online spaces?
Kirkpatrick: There are many online debate groups. Our group is not one. It is intended to a support group for people who have recently shed their religious beliefs.
Jacobsen: Is it in any way influential in politics?
Kirkpatrick: Not in Europe with some exceptions, such as Poland and Lithuania in. My partner and I spent a couple of months in Poland last summer. It was probably the most religious country we have been in. However, it is about half of what it was during the Soviet era. During the Soviet era, the Church sided with the people’s efforts to improve their living conditions.
Jacobsen: If you look at that lack of caring, essentially, in the European context, how does this, in one way, reflect a certain getting over religion and, in another respect, potentially if a fundamentalist wave were to hit Europe a lack of potential preparedness?
Kirkpatrick: I do not see a wave of religiosity on the horizon. There is some Islamic fundamentalist.
Jacobsen: Thanks much for your time here.
Kirkpatrick: Okay! Take care.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.
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