An interview with The Amazing AtheistMikey 142 comments
I've only recently been made aware of The Amazing Atheist. I can't remember how I found him, but I do know that once I started watching it was impossible to stop. At first it was the hilarious way he 'owns' some of the other Youtubers, but underneath the humour there are some arguments that make a lot of sense.
He mostly targets religious propaganda and general nutjobs, and if there is even the slightest flaw in your argument, you're going to hear all about it in TAA's . Despite that, I'm certain that if they were in the same room together, Richard Dawkins would give a slight 'keep fighting the good fight' nod of approval in TAA's general direction.
Love him or hate him, you have to admit he's passionate and damned entertaining. TAA, or Terroja Kincaid as he is also known, was kind enough to answer some of your questions below.
Do you consider yourself an Atheist missionary?
I think that a rationalist worldview can be an extraordinarily positive force in people’s lives if they arrive to it in the right way. The problem that atheism will face as it becomes more socially acceptable is that people who are rationalists by default might not appreciate the inherent beauty of a non-superstitious worldview in the same way that those of us who had to fight our way through a sea of bullshit do. I’d hate to see rationality become another of the things that we take for granted.
So, while I do promote empiricism, I do think that the context under which someone becomes a rationalist is important. There are a lot of kids out there today who embrace atheism and rationalism as a way of rebelling against mommy and daddy. And that’s okay if it starts them on the path to free thinking and inquiry, but all too often their commitment to truth is superficial.
For that reason, I don’t want to be an atheist missionary. Teaching people to accept atheism isn’t the right way to go about things. If you teach people to question and to doubt everything they are told then atheism follows naturally and it won’t be atheism of a superficial variety. It will be genuine and they will have earned the right to it.
What started you on this path?
I am, first and foremost, an entertainer. Entertainment has evolved with the advent of the internet and the subsequent development of sites like Youtube. Why would anyone pay to see a guy stand in a club and perform the same five minute bit over and over again when they could watch a performer being forced by the demands of his audience to grow and change and constantly come up with new material? Why would anyone watch a TV sitcom full of bland caricatures when they can type in my name or the name of hundreds of other vloggers and see all the complexity of real life human beings? Granted, many real life human beings are fucking boring. But I’m certainly not.
I am a godless entertainer because I am a godless man and I was a godless child. I confessed my atheism to my mother at the age of 11 and she cried and made me feel like shit. I honestly thought at the time that she would be proud of me for realizing that there was no God. "You passed the test, son! You’re so smart." Instead she just cried and cried like I had told her I wanted to fuck animals or something.
I was always a skeptic. I was the kid who set traps for the tooth fairy, not to catch her, but to prove that she didn’t exist. I was the kid who stayed up all night on Christmas Eve not to see Santa, but to catch my parents in a lie. I don’t know why I saw through all this stuff so early on and so many people as smart or smarter than me believed it for so much longer - I guess that I just have something hardwired into me that doesn’t accept a thing just because an authority figure claims that it is the case.
There is an exception to that though. When I was 6 or 7 my mother told me to avoid the Jacuzzi in our backyard because an Alligator lives in it. She was, of course, merely trying to prevent me from drowning, but I believed it until I was 12-years-old (which is absurd, because I was a clever 12-year-old!) and I never applied scrutiny to the claim. I think that it is my failing, and perhaps the failing of humanity in general, that we’re less inclined to question things if they’re scary. That’s probably why Hell, and its promise of eternal torment, has converted more to the side of Christ than the promise of Heaven.
So, I’m on this path because I was born on this path. I’m not precisely in the genetic determinism camp, but I do think that, at least in my case, nature prevailed over nurture. I am an atheist entertainer because I am a natural skeptic and a natural clown.
What makes The Amazing Atheist, 'Amazing'?
People read too much into that name. Honestly, if I would have even begun to suspect the extent of success in store for me, I would not have chosen such a ridiculous moniker. I don’t find myself particularly amazing; I’m just a fan of corny alliterations. The name has a comic book feel to it. Comic book writers used to always give their characters alliterative names to help them remember the names of their characters. So names like Peter Parker, Wally West and Richard Reed became emblematic of superheroes and the superhero mythos.
Now, some say that Amazing Atheist is not really alliteration because alliterations only apply to recurring consonant sounds, but that’s actually a fairly antiquated and narrow definition of the word they’re applying.
Anyway, "The Amazing Atheist" is my chosen moniker because I think it’s euphonious and memorable, not because I have a massive ego (though I probably do have a massive ego).
In a world where most are encouraged to be tolerant of religious practice, belief, blatant stupidity and circumvention of general logic, what influenced your own affirmation to call yourself Atheist?
Fitting in has never been my strong point. I was always the weird kid that nobody liked. I made jokes that no one got, I was bad at sports and I just looked goofy. I was too tall and my hair was so blonde that it looked white. The fact that my mom made me get bowl cuts that made me look like a retarded mushroom didn’t help.
Anyway, after so many years of trying to fit in with others, a person comes to a point where he or she just says, "Fuck these people." I reached that point when I hit puberty and I’ve never really looked back. I never fit the mold, so I made a mold of my own and now I’ve got thousands of people who fit it with me.
I’m not different because I’m an atheist, and I’m not an atheist because I’m different - but being different did make it easier to be an atheist.
It seems that to The Amazing Atheist, no taboo is sacred; is it possible that God could create a taboo so sacred that not even The Amazing Atheist could provide comment?
I’m not impossible to offend. When people used to compare the Backstreet Boys to The Beatles, I was offended. If there were a god who made it taboo to compare mediocre hacks to their truly talented counterparts, then I would observe and respect his will in that instance.
Your thoughts on the following fundamentalist conundrums (or as I like to call them funundrums):
Where did the universe come from if not from God?
Why did it have to come from anywhere? Occam’s razor addresses this question nicely. If we’re going to presume a God popped out of nowhere in order to explain the universe, then why not just presume the universe just popped out of nowhere? Obviously, the beginning of the universe is an event (if it was an event) beyond human comprehension. Crediting that event to an anthropomorphic deity is just our way of coming to terms with our inability to grasp our profound ignorance of whatever the real truth may be.
Also, I don’t understand what ground any theist thinks they gain with this argument. If the universe was created by a god, it’s still incredibly unlikely that it would be the one they worship (or even one the humanity had any knowledge of at all). The fact that intelligent life arose, as far as we know, on this planet alone out of billions and billions of worlds shows that if there was a creator he was a lot more fascinated with planets and stars than with living things.
If there is no such thing as heaven or hell, what happens when you die?
We are the sum of our parts. We feel with our nervous system, think with our brains which are powered by the blood pumped from our hearts. The idea that all of our finely tuned organs, our bones, our brains - everything that were made of - is completely superfluous makes no sense to me. If we can survive death, then what is the point of all this well-evolved machinery keeping us alive? I’m not saying that the afterlife is impossible, but I don’t see any compelling reason to accept it as likely. Does this disturb me? Yes. I have not come to terms with it at all. I want to live forever. But, I also want a large penis and a flying car!
I accept harsh truths and console myself with what I do have.
Even if evolution were true, what provided the first spark of life?
Evolution doesn’t concern itself with the question of the origin of life. But, even if the origin of life was a one in a trillion chance, it was still bound to happen somewhere. If you roll a one trillion sided die and end up with the number 22,326,537 that doesn’t mean that 22,326,537 is somehow special or ordained. It just means that it happens to be the number you rolled. And Earth just happened to be the place where the lightning prick of life struck.
If angels and demons don't exist, then how do you explain the hundreds of verified visitations and possessions?
Some people are still looking at evolution and saying, "No! We were created by God!"
Some people still look at mental illness and say, "This is the devil at work!" As George Carlin once pointed out, "Some people are fucking stupid."
Amazing Atheist, what will you do if you find out that you were wrong?
I will burn forever in a sea of infinite fire. Luckily, I’m not wrong.
How can Atheism not be a religion when it has unverifiable doctrines like the theories of evolution, the big bang, and natural selection?
The funny thing about Evolution is that most creationists believe in it. They believe in a false wall of distinction between "microevolution" and "macroevolution." Ultimately, its speciation, not evolution, which they deny. This, of course, makes no sense. They think that an organism can undergo minor changes on a small time scale but that it is somehow not possible for organisms to undergo major changes on a large timescale.
But, of course, Evolution is as much of a fact as gravity. The Big Bang is perhaps a bit less certain, but still overwhelmingly supported by empirical evidence. It doesn’t require faith to believe that these things are true. At least, it doesn’t require any more faith than it takes to not be a solipsist.
Is there any religious practice which you deem worthy of your admiration?
Are you ever worried you might get recognized on the street by someone with a grudge? Has it happened yet?
I have been recognized by detractors. They employ harsh words, but none have gotten physical. If one of them ever does, I will fuck them up. I am not Richard Dawkins. I am an American boy raised in the South and if someone touches me, it’s on. I would never initiate a fight, but I would sure as hell finish one.
Unless they were tougher. Then I’d just run! I am one-fourth French, after all. Retreat is in my blood. And I can move pretty fast for a fat guy.
If Atheism was ever accepted as a mandatory subject in the education system, do think Religion should also be included?
Yes, but I don’t think Atheism should be taught in school. Just teach kids critical thinking skills and atheism will come naturally to them.
Do you ever worry that your 'confronting' personality might make some people reluctant to engage in a debate or respond to your videos?
It’s none of my concern. If people want to talk to polite atheists, then they have their pick of plenty of other vloggers. I personally don’t see the merit of politely refuting people who think you’re a heathen sinner bound for eternal suffering, but other atheists disagree with me.
I am convinced that timidity never accomplished a fucking thing. Violence isn’t necessary, but toughness and temerity certainly are. No one ever changed social policy with politeness. When the blacks wanted equal rights, they staged protests, held signs, chanted slogans, let white people beat them and hose them and sick dogs on them. They didn’t politely ask that segregation end. They threw a hissy fit until justice was wrought.
Now, obviously Atheists are in a better position than pre-Civil Rights Movement blacks and therefore the same level of protest isn’t required of us, but we do need to let people know who we are and what we think and why we think it. People always bitch that I misrepresent atheists, but the only reason I wind up representing atheists at all is because I’m loud, I’m in your face, I’m out there on the front lines with a megaphone, broadcasting my opinion to the world. If they don’t like what I’m saying, then they need to get their own megaphone and say something else. If someone wants to play the MLK to my Malcolm X, then let it be. But don’t bitch and me for being a bad voice for you when the real problem is that you’ve failed to be a voice for yourself at all.
What's the best and worst things that have happened since becoming popular on Youtube?
I was a free-market capitalist when I joined Youtube and now I’m a lot more socialistic - that transformation is confusing for some people and they view it not as personal evolution but as hypocrisy. So, Youtube makes it harder for you to change your mind about something because you worry, on some level, that people will call you a flip-flopper. So, that’s a bad thing Youtube has done for my life.
A good thing that it has done is help me to realize that I’m not alone in the world. I always felt like I was the odd man out and that no one got me. Being on Youtube has made me realize that like-minded people exist out there in the world. I struggled with powerful depression for a long time in my life, but since I’ve been on Youtube, my depression has all but vanished.
What does The Amazing Atheist do when he's not making videos?
I go through cycles of obsession. I have always been terrible at doing things on a regular basis. I tend to do one thing all day, every day for weeks on end and then, suddenly, switch to something else. If I start reading books, I do nothing but read books all day, every day for weeks. If I start watching anime, I do nothing but watch anime for a few weeks and totally forget that books exist. I’m not a creature of habit so much as a creature of obsession. Making Youtube videos and reading the news are the only two habits that I’ve managed to form.
What do you do for work?
This is the most commonly asked question that I get, so I might as well answer it here. I develop websites for the specific purpose of making ad revenue off of them. I am also a member of many affiliate programs, selling everything from sex toys to web hosting. My income from these ventures, combined with my Youtube revenue, is more than sufficient for my lifestyle. I drive a new car and I live in a nice apartment (which I don’t keep clean!), and I work for myself.
I cannot work for someone else. I have a pathological aversion to authority. Unless said authority is buxom, dressed in leather and equipped with a riding crop.
What group of people annoys you more than any other and why?
I am most annoyed by people with no sense of humor. A person who disagrees with all of what I say, but has a sense of humor, will like me more than a person whose ideology mirrors mine but who has no sense of humor at all. Humor has the potential to overcome all differences like nothing else. People who lack humor are, in my opinion, deeply flawed.
How do your friends and family react to your videos?
My mom likes them. My dad hated them when he was still alive, but I didn’t care then and I certainly don’t care now. There are elements of my family that would die if they saw them, but they’re elements of my family that probably deserve to die (in that figurative sense, of course) in the first place.
Why is a Banana not 'the Atheist' nightmare'?
It’s rich in potassium. Atheist’s dig potassium.
Who would the planet be better off without?
We need a lot less fucking bureaucrats and red tape. Why does everything require a permit and proof of ID and requisition form B-12? My dad has three licenses with three different names and three different ages as a kid because the folks at the DMV just took your word for all of it. Now, some might say that this is a terrible thing - but it was a great thing. It meant that you could start over, that you’re life wasn’t under scrutiny and that your mistakes didn’t haunt you to the grave. People need breathing room and rules that are flexible - I think the cynicism and paranoia of my generation is largely due to this awareness that you are chained to your identity. You have a designation number and your fingerprints are on record and that is your inescapable reality. People don’t feel like people anymore. They feel like cattle, with ID tags in their ears, branded as property of their respective governments.
If the world was rid of religion, do you think it would be less interesting?
The Jerry Springer Show is interesting. I think we’ve been interesting long enough. Maybe we should give stability a chance instead of hitting everyone else over the heads with chairs all the time.
Do you think Richard Dawkins would approve of your method?
Richard’s method and my method are largely the same. The main difference is that I yell and curse. We both have the same, "I’m right and I know it and I’m tired of this silly shit," attitude.
Is that Gorilla199 guy for real?
Apparently so. Every time I think I’ve finally met the stupidest or craziest person or belief that I have ever encountered, someone like Gorilla199 comes along and lets me know just how terribly wrong I was. At this rate, in a few years I’ll encounter someone who really does believe in The Flying Spaghetti Monster.
Thanks to everyone who submitted a question and to Jake for contributing to this piece. Also big warm hugs to The Amazing Atheist for agreeing to this interview, and for continuing to entertain us on Youtube.
- The official Amazing Atheist web site
- Book: In defence of evil