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Dan Dennett and Thoughts for an Atheist Friend

Lincoln Cannon

3 November 2009 (updated 6 May 2024)

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Dan Dennett and Thoughts for an Atheist Friend

Dan Dennett is among my favorite atheists. I imagine some may not think that much of a compliment, coming from a theist. But, unlike many (perhaps most) theists, I actually don’t assume atheists to be evil by default, and even have the fortune of counting some atheists among my friends.

One of those friends recently shared with me a video of Dan Dennett, interviewed by Bill Moyers. The video is a few years old. But I think it’s worth sharing here along with a few comments, dedicated to my friend.

Dan Dennett points out that humans are unique in that they alone, among all known species on Earth, can imagine their death and generally dislike the thought. He also points out that he, like most of us, often feels gratitude for the marvelous world in which we live. Of course, as an atheist, he doesn’t think there is anyone toward whom he should direct this gratitude.

I wonder, though, whether he has much considered the longest term ramifications of our unique intelligence combined with its reiterative prosthetic extension through technology. Does he know the New God Argument? Maybe he does, even if by another name. Maybe that toward which he directs his gratitude qualifies as something I recognize as God or an aspect of God?

Those questions aside, I can only say, “amen,” in response to Dan’s observation that our goal, whether we’re atheists or theists, should not be the end of religion, but rather the end of toxic applications of religion.

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