Monday, October 22, 2012

Notable Skeptic #4 Alan Alda

Alan Alda is an American actor, writer and director. He is best known for his role on the hit T.V. show M*A*S*H. He played the role of funny and flirtatious Korean war doctor Captain Peirce. Alda also hosted Scientific American Frontiers for PBS. Alan is a New York Times bestselling author, Never Have Your Dog Stuffed, and Other Things I’ve Learned and Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself

"For a while in my teens, I was sure I had it. It was about getting to heaven. If heaven existed and lasted forever, then a mere lifetime spent scrupulously following orders was a small investment for an infinite payoff. One day, though, I realized I was no longer a believer, and realizing that, I couldn’t go back. Not that I lost the urge to pray. Occasionally, even after I stopped believing, I might send off a quick memo to the Master of the Universe, usually on a matter needing urgent attention, like Oh, God, don’t let us crash. These were automatic expulsions of words, brief SOS messages from the base of my brain. They were similar to the short prayers that were admired by the church in my Catholic boyhood, which they called “ejaculations.” I always liked the idea that you could shorten your time in purgatory with each ejaculation; what boy wouldn’t find that a comforting idea? But my effort to keep the plane in the air by talking to God didn’t mean I suddenly was overcome with belief, only that I was scared. Whether I’d wake up in heaven someday or not, whatever meaning I found would have to occur first on this end of eternity." -- From Alda’s memoir Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself

In 2008 Alan wrote for the Edge Foundation
“I still don't like the word agnostic. It's too fancy. I'm simply not a believer. But, as simple as this notion is, it confuses some people. Someone wrote a Wikipedia entry about me, identifying me as an atheist because I'd said in a book I wrote that I wasn't a believer. I guess in a world uncomfortable with uncertainty, an unbeliever must be an atheist, and possibly an infidel. This gets us back to that most pressing of human questions: why do people worry so much about other people's holding beliefs other than their own? This is the question that makes the subject over which I changed my mind something of global importance, and not just a personal, semantic dalliance.”

The Notable Skeptics series will range from celebrities, scientists, authors, etc. Some will be known on a smaller scale for the work they do for charities and their communities. All quotes or implications of skepticism will be referenced with a link. I will not claim anyone as a notable skeptic unless I have 100% verified facts. Some will be easier than others. I use the word "skeptic" to imply one or more of these terms; atheist, agnostic, humanist, secularist or non-religious.

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