First of all I would like to thank both Ed and John for inviting me to Skeptic Ink and giving me this opportunity. I would also like to say hello to my new colleagues and fellow SINners. I have been reading much of the content authored here and it is both impressive and thoroughly enjoyable, so to be invited to join such a group of talented people is a privilege and I am deeply grateful.
Now a little bit about me. My name is Peter Ferguson and I currently reside in Galway, Ireland. I have a BA in History and Classics, and an MA in Classics. I am now in my first year of my Ph.D. researching the interactions between pagans and Christians, specifically in North Africa during the Vandal occupation. I am a member of Atheist Ireland and the Humanist Association of Ireland (HAI), and an active member of Humanists West, an affiliate of the HAI. I am also the founder and current Auditor of the Atheist Humanist Society in the National University Ireland, Galway.
I have been very lucky not to of had a deeply religious upbringing. I was reared a Catholic and went through the rigmarole of baptism, communion and confirmation. However, I don’t think I ever truly believed. My earliest memory of religion was being forced to go to church every Sunday and of how boring it was. I used to hide behind the couch every week to avoid it, but as I never changed my hiding place I was quickly found every week; I wasn’t a very bright child. My first doubts regarding religion occurred when I was 8; I was chastised by my teacher for asking a priest where God came from and didn’t accept the answer of “he was always there”. Apparently this had “embarrassed” my teacher and I should simply accept what I was told without question. I treated religion rather flippantly from then on, as a chore that simply must be endured. My parents finally gave me the choice of whether or not I would like to continue to go to mass at the age of 13 and I haven’t stepped foot in a church since, bar official occasions such as weddings and funerals.
Even though I wasn’t religious in any manner, I would still call myself a Catholic, simply because I never thought about the topic and mindlessly accepted the status quo, (an attitude I fear many among my generation have). This persisted until I started attending college and I began to realise religion’s disastrous influence on humanity, both past and present. I then started to identify with the atheist label and became more vocal in my criticism of religion. I began articulating my criticism and set up a blog as an outlet and established the Atheist Humanist Society in NUI Galway, both in the hope that it will encourage people to consider their beliefs and question the role and function of religion in today’s society.
On my banner at the top, the fellow on the left is Socrates. I feel he accurately represents a necessary aspect of scepticism. Socrates recognised the limitations of his knowledge and his fallibility. Being a sceptic does not simply mean being sceptical of others, our scepticism must be turned inwards lest we become cynics and fundamentalist regarding our ideals. Listening and receiving the criticism of others is the best way to grow and learn. As far as I am concerned, the ability to self-analyse and admit when you have erred is one of the most important aspects of scepticism.
On the right is Thales of Miletus, one of the first philosophers to attempt to explain the world and our universe in terms of human reason rather than myth, which is unfortunately something we are still trying to do over 2500 years later. There are no gods and only through human reason can we progress as a species. Atheists recognise that humans are the only force capable of accepting the responsibility of providing for the welfare of humanity.
Well that is enough about me, now to tell you what to expect from this blog. I will, on occasion, deal with current events as they are related to scepticism and atheism, specifically UK and Irish atheism. I will also write about pertinent aspects of my activities with the university society and the HAI. However, as a Classicist I would like to write about historical events and important pieces of literature which pertain to atheism and scepticism. I will discuss ancient Greek philosophers, pagan authors, ancient ideas of deism and atheism, naturalists, early Christian apologetics, and hopefully as my studies progress I will delve into some biblical criticism. I see my participation in Skeptic Ink as long term, and I hope it turns out as such.
One final note, Skeptic Ink has a very good and fair comment policy which I will enforce here. I openly encourage discourse and criticism; however, I will not accept childish name-calling of myself or other commenters. If I ever feel the need to delete a comment for such behaviour I will always explicitly state why.