Bill Moyers discusses disbelief with Jonathan Miller

April 14, 2009 | By | 1 Reply More

I recently had the opportunity to view Bill Moyers’ 2007 interview of British intellectual Jonathan Miller, who produced the PBS series, “A Brief History of Disbelief.”   It’s a lively and thoughtful interview (it lasts about 20 minutes).   Here are some excerpts, but it is well worth watching the entire thing:

For a very long time, atheism was not an affirmation; it was accusation. I mean, it was talked about, that there were atheists, in those same ways that there were Communists under the bed. You know, there were they were they were around, but no one knew where they were or what they looked like, or and so forth. For me, I am only a disbeliever by virtue of the fact that I’m surrounded by people who make assertions to which I cannot lend my assent.

BILL MOYERS:  When you hear the word “God,” what goes off in your head? How do your brain cells fire?

JONATHAN MILLER: Well, I mostly, I haven’t the faintest idea what people are talking about.

I hate the word, “spiritual,” anyway because it’s been hijacked by this ghastly sort of new age lot, who talk about “spirituality.” What I would say is, I have moments of – I suppose you might call them transcendent feelings; feelings which rise above what is immediately in front of me.

I’m reluctant to use the word ‘atheist’ to describe my own unshakeable disbelief and that’s not because I’m ashamed, afraid or even embarrassed, but simply because it seems so self evidently true to me that there is no God that giving that conviction a special title, somehow dignifies what it denies.


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Category: Psychology Cognition, Religion

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. Tony Coyle says:

    I’ve always loved Jonathon Miller. He has always been an iconoclast, and truly deserves the title “renaissance man”.

    Regarding the interview – the scorn he manages to convey with his voicing of the word “spirituality” is unparalleled.

    I agree with his comment that “I am only a disbeliever by virtue of the fact that I’m surrounded by people who make assertions to which I cannot lend my assent.”

    I wish I were half as erudite, and I’m really looking forwards to the series. I hope it’s available online!

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