Aron Ra is president of Atheist Alliance of America, director of the Phylogeny Explorer Project, producer of the Living Science Lessons classroom supplement biology series, host Of the Ra-Men podcast, and author of Foundational Falsehoods of Creationism.
Ra was kind enough to grant me some time to interview him.
Jon D. Webster: Walk us through the process of your being elected President.
Aron Ra: The current vice president of Atheist Alliance of America, Mark Gura, (host of the Blind Faith Vaccine TV show) called me when he was acting president. He said he would rather I be the one to represent that organization. So we talked about whether I would be good for the AAoA. Then Mark conveyed that to the board, and they voted me in unanimously. That position will be a challenge, because I’m aware of the reputation they’ve already built up, and I’m determined to improve on that somehow -over the next couple years before I voluntarily surrender my position to someone else.
J. D.W.:What are some of your goals for the organization?
A.R.: I would like to build a better network to unify the movement as much as can be, pursuing common goals against a common enemy. My primary goal is to raise the image of atheists and awareness of our numbers as a significant demographic: We’re not only the fastest growing, but we actually outnumber Catholics already! And I think that once the data is out, it will show that no less than 1/3 of the US is atheist -even if most of them don’t yet know they are atheist. Soon lobbyists and politicians will actually pander to our vote -rather than discarding us as the pitiful percentage they currently think we are.
J. D. W.: As I understand it, you grew up Mormon. Can you tell us about your deconversion experience?
A.R.: We moved a lot when I was a kid. I spent my childhood in several of the western states. When we lived in Arizona, Utah, and Nevada, places where Mormons were dominant, I might never have questioned my family’s beliefs. I thought that’s what Christianity was. But when we moved to California, Oregon, and Washington, where Mormons didn’t own and control everything, then I got to experience Christian bigotry against other denominations. I quickly learned that if you want to know what a Mormon believes, ask a Mormon. If you ask a Baptist, you won’t get the right answer. In fact, if you ask anyone from any denomination what some other religion believes, you won’t get a good answer. Even if you ask a Protestant what Protestants believe, you won’t get a representative answer. That fact started me on a path of inquiry, reading and comparing different sects looking for whatever truth there was at the root of it all. Turns out, there isn’t any truth to any of it. But it took me a long time to figure that out.
J.D.W.: Tell us about your book.
A.R.: Pitchstone Publishing approached me in person some years ago, asking that I say everything I said in my video series, but they wanted me to flesh out my arguments and explain in detail all those images and citations I flashed by so fast: so that readers would fully understand what I was hinting at even without any understanding or prior information on any of these topics. So that’s what I did, and I’m happy with what I’ve written. It’s a pretty big book too. Though I’m always thinking of something else that I could have included in that. Maybe I’ll have to write another book after this.
J.D.W.: Do you find people tend to be more likely to pre-order than order a book? Something about the fact that it is not available yet that makes them want it more?
A.R.: I don’t think so. As I write this, my book still hasn’t been released yet. But people have been receiving their pre-orders in both print and audio. For the last couple months, my book has been listed as the #1 new release in Christianity. The last time I checked, it was still ranked at around 15,000 out of 8,000,000. If it stays there much longer, it just might be listed as a best-seller. That’s amazing to me. I sold out one box of books from people asking me in email to sign one and send it to their country. That, to me, is humbling somewhat -though that is the sort of thing you’d think people would get arrogant about. I’m just happy that so many people are excited to read it.
J.D.W.: Regarding Christianity, what would the best world be?
A.R.: We need to realize that faith is not a virtue. It is the very opposite of everything it pretends to be. It’s not an understanding, nor a revelation of “absolute” truth, or anything like that: quite the reverse. It is literally nothing more than lying to one’s self and refusing to admit that there’s not one word of it that is evidently or even possibly true. It’s wholly unreasonable unrealistic illusory nonsense.
J.D.W.: Are all false beliefs harmful?
A.R.: The only value any information can have is how accurate you can show it to be. If you can’t show that it’s accurate at all, then it has no value at all. If you can’t show there’s any truth to it, then admit there’s no truth to it. If it’s not evidently at least probably true, then it’s not true in any sense! It is dishonest to assert as fact that which is not evidently true. Where I live in the South, we call that “talking out of your ass”. Although I think most people would just call that a lie. That’s all religion is or does.
J.D.W.: Can false beliefs be helpful?
A.R.: Whatever placebo effect any “white lie” may have is statistically negligible in the general analysis of this question. Otherwise only accurate information has practical application. However much anyone knows about theology, they still can’t distinguish that from the man-made myths of any other faith. Consequently having a master of divinity degree shouldn’t grant any more authority than being an expert on Aesop’s Fables.
J.D.W.: Is intellectual integrity more important than how a certain belief makes someone feel?
A.R.: I’ve heard Christians implicitly admit that on some level they know that what they make-believe is not really real, but that what they pretend makes them happier than the skeptics, whom they see as bitter and cynical. Personally I think I’ve always been happier than any Christian I’ve ever met, but even if that’s true, that doesn’t really matter. Drunks often think they’re happier than sober people too. But even if they are in that moment of stupor, it’s irrelevant -even if that illusion seems momentarily true.
In my opinion, accuracy and accountability are paramount. You can’t honestly say that anything is true until or unless you can show that it is evidently at least probably true. Otherwise, I have to cite Hitchen’s razor: that “positive claims require positive evidence and what is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence”. In science, there is only what is supported by evidence and what is not supported, and whatever is not supported does not warrant serious consideration. Come back when you can show that there’s at least a THERE there. Then we’ll have something to talk about.
J.D.W.: Why do you think is the top reason people are Christians?
A.R.: To my experience, Christianity in the west is an excuse to justify ignorance and escape responsibility. Thus dimwitted people pretend to know everything better than any expert. You don’t have to actually help anyone. You can just wish on a star that they get the help that they need. You don’t have to be accountable for anything or prepare for the future either. You can deny both our past and our future and live like there’s no tomorrow -literally. You can be fruitful and multiply, bringing more souls to the Lord until the world is grossly overpopulated and starving. You can ignore the needs of future generations too: just consume all our resources to dominate and subdue -until everything is reduced to ruin -while pretending that your dream djinni will poof out of nothing just in time to save us from ourselves. You don’t actually have to atone for any of the wrongs you’ve done either, because your magic imaginary friend hates everything you hate and forgives everything you do, because he always agrees that you’re somehow justified in every injustice you ever commit. It’s an all-encompassing rationalization where no one learns any lessons because no one even has to admit ever being in the wrong. Just label your lies as truth with a capital T and never let yourself realize otherwise.
J.D.W.: Many people say people’s view of their father is how they view god. Do you think there might be some truth to this?
A.R.: Even when someone loves and respects their father, I think most people idealize a better image of a father they wish they had: Morgan Freeman for example. I often envisioned my ideal divine father as Lemmy from Motörhead. A lot of people did. That’s why so many people said that Lemmy is God.
J.D.W.: Christianity is untrue. But out of all of the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad fucking untrue arguments for the existence of God, which is the best?
A.R.: Believing impossible nonsense for no good reason is foolish at the very least Claiming to “know” such insane ravings when they can’t be indicated or vindicated, verified or falsified is even worse in that it is dishonest. Yet that is as good as it gets. I wish I could conjure a more charitable answer for this. But there really isn’t a single good argument for Christianity. The whole concept is bewildering inanity whether in whole or in part. Taoism or Jedi are foolish too. Yet they’re vastly superior without all the absurdities, atrocities, inconsistencies, contradictions, and profoundly failed prophesies and other associated dogma which are collectively or individually literally stupefying, and I mean that in all sincerity with the benefit of decades of thoughtful consideration.
J.D.W.:What are the worst arguments for atheism?
A.R.: From a rational perspective, it doesn’t matter what you believe; all that matters is why you believe it. So if you can’t give any reason for that conclusion, that would be the weakest argument for atheism. Literally any reason at all would be better than the best that can be said of any form of theism.
J.D.W.: If you had to make the case for atheism or against Christianity, how would you start?
A.R.: I wouldn’t limit my attack to just one religion but all religions, all belief systems based on faith. Any belief which requires faith should be rejected for that reason. I would say that having no reason to believe something is a pretty good reason not to believe it. But that is just the default position to start from. Then I would then begin building the massive pile of Christianity’s epistemological, philosophical, and moral failures without one word of defense on any point, because there is none possible. It’s not just wrong scientifically and historically; it’s wrong ethically and morally, and has consistently impeded, retarded, or reversed progress in every application it has ever touched. All things considered, religion is overwhelmingly negative with a long list of indefensible faults and unconscionable horrors and not one redeeming excuse to exist now or ever.
J.D.W.: Thank you for your time.