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Jonathan Miller – The Ateism Tapes (2004)

The Atheism Tapes' is a series of one-on-one dialogs between Jonathan Miller and six acknowledged thinkers on the topic of belief and atheism. It follows 'Jonathan Miller's Brief History of Disbelief' which met with such critical acclaim and popularity that the BBC broke what was essentially an unspoken rule: Miller was allowed to create a second series from discussions cut from the first and air it within the same season. Each segment is dedicated to one discussion and is edited to a 30 minute duration.

In this ground-breaking series, neurologist turned playwright and atheist Jonathan Miller interviewed six of today's leading men of letters and science. New York Times best-selling author Richard Dawkins, Philosophers Daniel Dennett and Colin McGinn, playwright Arthur Miller, theologian Denys Turner and physicist Steven Weinberg discuss their personal intellectual journeys and offer illuminating analyses of nontheism from a wide range of perspectives.

Part 1: Colin McGinn

English philosopher McGinn speaks about the various reasons for not believing in God, and some of the reasons for. He gives a thorough treatment of the ontological argument. In addition, McGinn draws an important distinction between atheism (lack of belief in a deity) and antitheism (active opposition to theism); he identifies himself as both an atheist and an antitheist. Finally, he speculates about a post-theistic society.

Part 2: Steven Weinberg

American physicist Weinberg talks about the effectiveness of the Design Argument, both in the past and today. He also discusses the reasons that people become religious, including the varying influences of physical and biological arguments against religion. Miller connects this to a higher likelihood of biologists being non-believers than physicists, which Weinberg finds surprising.

Weinberg goes on to distinguish between harm done in the name of religion from that done by religion and states that both of these are very real and very dangerous. He goes on to discuss the difference between religious belief in America and Europe, and about how he doesn’t like the "character" of the monotheistic God. He ends by saying that science is very definitely corrosive to religious belief, and that he considers this a good thing.

Part 3: Daniel Dennett

American philosopher Dennett explains why he called one of his books Darwin's Dangerous Idea, and why many of Darwin's contemporaries, in particular, considered Darwin's theory of evolution to be dangerous. He goes on to deal with the question of consciousness (i.e., is the consciousness/soul distinct from the body), talking about Darwin's rejection of the soul and the possible origins and psychological purposes of a belief in an immaterial soul.

Next, he talks about his Christian upbringing and how he became an atheist. He goes on to ask why it is thought rude to criticise religious belief, and suggests that it is due to the influential status of the religions in question. He finishes by wondering whether we could live effectively in a post-theistic world.

Part 4: Arthur Miller

As a tribute to the recently deceased playwright Arthur Miller, another chance to see the discussion between Jonathan Miller and Arthur Miller about disbelief and their experiences of anti-Semitism, recorded in 2004.

Part 5: Richard Dawkins

Biologist Richard Dawkins talks to Jonathan Miller about his implacable opposition to all religion.

Part 6: Denys Turner

Christian theologian Denys Turner defends the case for God as the answer to the most important questions. Tapes-1.avi Tapes-2.avi Tapes-3.avi Tapes-4.avi Tapes-5.avi Tapes-6.avi

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