When I interviewed Neil de Grasse Tyson on Atheist Talk Radio, questions of atheism, agnosticism, or religion did not come up in planning for, conducting, or talking about that interview. Maybe people assumed he was an Atheist. When I interviewed, with Lynn Fellman, Ira Flatow, a couple of members of Minnesota Atheists expressed minor concern: “Is Flatow an atheist? If not, why are you interviewing him on Atheist Talk?” I think that must be because they had heard something about his background. Personally, I have no idea what Ira’s beliefs or lacks of beliefs might be.
My answer to the question that was asked was, of course, “I don’t do interviews about atheism or religion. It’s mostly not my area, and I don’t find it as interesting as the science … We’ve got Ira on the show to talk about issues that would be of interest to our audience, which tends to be sciency.” (I do science interviews on ATT, not so much other topics.)
For the most part, I have no idea if most of those I’ve interviewed are atheists or not. It is my practice to assume that all people I know are “nones” in the sense of “non-believers” which might make them atheists, agnostics, or merely indifferent. I assume that until proven otherwise because I find life less annoying that way, and because there are so many people who assume that others are Christian, or Jewish or whatever. If I am proven wrong, then who cares?
Interestingly, here in Minnesota, when people assume that I have a religion it is often “Jewish.” I’m Irish and German ethnically and was raised as a Catholic in a mainly Irish church, but captured by Jews as a teenager, and raised by them for a while. My “Jewishness” though is mainly because I’m from New York, and New Yorkers and American Jews have some overlap in their culture. Indeed, if Neil de Grasse Tyson was much lighter skinned (but not too light) people might assume he was Jewish, since he’s totally from New York.
(I quickly add that while Neil is from New York City, I’m not … I’m from upstate, but with close cultural ties to The City.)
Personally, I do think of myself as an atheist (see Atheist Voices of Minnesota: an Anthology of Personal Stories for more details, when it is available!) because my work in evolutionary biology and in certain political areas has led me to carry out activism in church-state and related issues. That makes me an activist, and thus, an atheist, apropos NdGT’s commentary in the video. But you will know from my blogging, I mainly address a subset of the issues covered by many of my fellow bloggers such as PZ (Pharyngula) and others.
Oh yeah, and I’m a Scientist. I’m also a Blogger, so be careful.
Hat Tip for the video: Jennifer Ouellette