Challenging Stereotypes: Keith Semple on Music, Atheism and Fiction

Also Available On:

Listen on Spotify Badge

Our Guest

Keith Semple

Keith Semple is an internationally recognised singer and musician originally from northern ireland.

He has performed professionally for 25 years in the music industry and has had the privilege of performing on some of the biggest stages in the world. From soldier field chicago, opening for bon jovi and kid rock, to the 02 arena in london with the young voices concert series.

Keith heads up two successful bands based in chicago. “Semple” his name sake, which performs around 100 shows a year. Playing classic songs from the 60’s all the way through to present day hits.

Keith’s original project “the cyberiam” is a progressive rock band that has quickly risen to world wide acclaim. After he formed the band in 2017, they have released over 5 products, 3 full albums and has joined some of the genres heavy weights on stage including marillion, riverside and the pineapple thief, (featuring gavin harrison) .

Keith has now lived in the usa for over 17 years and has decided to start a podcast, The Semple Truth, to discuss his experience of the country. He reveals his thoughts on everything from politics to religion and more.

The Semple Truth Podcast

Buy Me A Coffee

Show Transcript

Click here for a full transcript

[0:03] Our guest today is Keith Semple, a musician originally from Northern Ireland, who is hosting his own podcast called The Semple Truth. We talk about his journey to atheism, how it influences his music, and his love of science fiction and fantasy novels. I’m Doug Berger, and this is Secular Left.

[0:27] Music.

[0:45] Today, our guest is Keith Semple. He has performed professionally for 25 years in the music industry and has had the privilege of performing on some of the biggest stages in the world, from Soldier Field in Chicago opening for Bon Jovi and Kid Rock to the O2 Arena in London with the Young Voices concert series. He has two successful bands, Simple, his namesake, and there’s a progressive rock band called, let me get this straight, Siberium? Okay. Perfect. Perfection. And Keith is originally from Northern Ireland. He’s lived in this country for over 17 years and he’s got a podcast called The Simple Truth that has started up and he’s been going pretty good. And so thank you for joining us today, Keith. It’s my pleasure, Doug. I’m happy to be here. People love a good origin story. Why did you start a podcast and what do you hope to accomplish?

[1:45] So I’ve been an atheist and a, if you want to call it, secular humanist, I guess, for well, since the age of reason, I guess, since about 14. And over where I’m from in Northern Ireland, it’s more common than not. So it’s, even though it’s technically a more religious country on paper than the US, it’s like there was only one in ten of my friends that had any religious beliefs and they got the fun made out of them something awful for it. You know there was one guy who was a Christian and he just got like destroyed as a teenager for it and I’m very used to that and very comfortable with you know being an out an out atheist. Doesn’t even make sense to me that you would have to hide it in any way. So my whole career here I’ve obviously it’s music has been my life but.

[2:38] As I live more and more here in America, I feel like more and more has to be done and more people like me have to speak out. So now the people that are fans of my work or whatever, they might see this and go, Oh, I didn’t realize that. And they’re going to do one of three things really, right? They’re either going to go, Well, I can’t believe this guy is like this. I’m done. I’m never going to follow him again. Or they’ll go, Oh, well, I didn’t realize that. But you know what? Clearly, he’s been a good guy this whole time. He’s good to his fans. We know him as a family man. Oh, maybe my perceptions are wrong. And then, of course, the best one would be that they don’t care at all, and that they realize that it makes no difference what I am as long as I’m a good person and I’m not breaking laws. I don’t have to believe in an imaginary friend to be a good person, is how I kind of look at it.

[3:30] All right, and as you said, you know, In Northern Ireland, most people think it’s, you know, Protestants and Catholics fighting it out, but you’re an atheist. Was it a eureka moment that you realized you’re an atheist, or did you gradually come into it? No, I’ve been very lucky. I say to myself that I’m lucky now because I never had a deconversion. I never had any belief in the supernatural. So, at about 12, I started becoming interested in theology, and then I started reading the Bible. And by 14, I was called out by my headmaster regularly for staying in at lunchtime and reading it. And he knew I was an atheist, or at least whatever term I was using at the time. And he’d be like, well, why are you even bothering? And I was like, well, how can I, if I’m interested in a subject, wouldn’t you tell me to study it if it was any other subject?

[4:22] And so, you know, he was also a lay preacher, so he would, you know, fill in for other ministers. So he was obviously clearly not happy that I was doing this. And I guess for me it’s just…

[4:37] I’ve never had a belief in the supernatural, and I mean like anything, from ghosts to goblins to souls to angels to demons to gods. And so I obviously a lot of the people in that are well known in the atheist community are often big deconversionists like, you know, Matt Dillahunty and these kind of guys who are doing amazing work for the cause, so to speak. But they’ve all had this kind of the opposite of a coming to Jesus moment. You know, and I’ve never had that. So to me, I approach everything with kind of that same skeptical mind on everything. And then I assume everything is, I get not false, but I assume everything it needs a little bit more study before I can say I am this or I’m not this way on the subject, if that makes sense. Yeah, and that’s a common thread with people, myself included, who are atheists now, it’s, you know, we’ve come to that conclusion. We’ve studied things. You know, we’ve reasonably considered the arguments, and we said, well, this doesn’t make sense. This is how we are. You know, a lot of Christians, they think that you just don’t know enough, or you’re just not understanding things. It’s like, no, we understand a lot. You know, we’ve read a lot. Yeah, I mean, I would always argue that the.

[6:04] Well, any study they’ve ever done shows that if you, you know, they’ve done thousands and thousands of studies amongst thousands and thousands of people, hundreds of thousands of people, and every time the person who is the most religiously literate is always the atheist community or the nuns, if you want to call us that as well. And it goes down and down and down and it literally goes down by denomination. Like generally, the least knowledgeable people on, and I don’t know why this is, on Christianity, it seemed to be black evangelicals, Protestants, and Hispanic Catholics. And that’s just what the stats show, you know? And then it goes up from there until you get to atheist, and atheists always know more about the Bible, which I think makes sense because the more you know the less you should believe. You’ve lived in the U .S. for more than a decade, 17 years, and your podcast blurb that you tagline is a Northern Irishman’s take on the USA. Can you give us an example of what you think about the U .S. since you’ve been here?

[7:16] Do you want uplifting or do you want mostly negative? Yeah, let’s go with the uplifting first. Okay. Well.

[7:27] The big thing I noticed about America, the whole American exceptionalism thing, can be a positive thing. It’s not so positive when it comes to the patriotic side. I don’t like that, this idea that somehow you’re born on this piece of land, and therefore you are automatically better than the person who’s born a mile north in Canada. Dumbest thing in the world to me. I’m not afraid to say I am a globalist, if you want to call it that. I long for the day when there are no more countries, There’s no more anything but human, you know, I don’t apologize for that. I think that’s the only way humanity can succeed and we can get to our Star Trek utopia that I’ve been waiting for for 40 years, you know. So I do like American optimism too. So like if I say to somebody that I am a musician, right, and that I do this and this and this and I, they are always interested at parties and they want to know what I’ve done. they’ll maybe even ask to see a video of me singing or something, right? And it’ll be a fascinating, like, conversation and I’ll… they almost think I’m joking when I’m fascinated by them being an accountant or something. And I’m like, no, no, no, you have to understand I’ve been a musician my whole life. I don’t understand normal work. So it fascinates me when somebody is an accountant or whatever, or works in retail. I’m like, awesome. But they never look at me and answer me the way a UK person would. A UK person would go like this.

[8:53] Get a real job mate. Will you stop trying to be Bono or whatever. You see what I mean.

[9:00] That’s just the UK way. You’ve obviously heard about the UK press. You know, the UK press are notorious for just destroying people’s careers. Obviously, the latest version of that would be Prince Harry and Meghan and that. Even though they’ve got a lot of that is on their own shoulders, they are also just beaten down by the press and I think. That that’s my most favorite thing about America is, you know, everybody wants everybody to succeed. But my least favorite thing is obviously the lack of secularism. The fact that guns are allowed in by random just anyone basically like just, you know, I’ve seen the family guy joke where the guy buys a, you know, a sandwich and they give him a free gun. You know, it’s like, I’m very anti -gun. I’m not afraid to say it. I’m very progressive, very secular. And I just see this blurred line that seems to keep getting wider between church and state, you know? So it’s funny when I see your backdrop there, I just, I’m imagining them just slowly parting like this, getting further and further, you know, which would be great. But really they’re sort of blurred. You can’t tell which one’s which, you know? Right. So how has the reception been for you since you’ve been in the United States?

[10:23] Oh, it’s been fantastic. I mean, I’d like to say I’m pretty good at my job. I don’t mean that in any boastful sense, but the, you know, the kind of, I’d say the jury is in at this point. You know, I’m pretty good as a performer, pretty good musician. When I get on stage, it’s where I seem to belong. You know, I belong as an entertainer, it’s very energetic sort of stuff and I like it and people have responded to that.

[10:50] I think because I’ve had such a good career here that I’m comfortable now and I really want to do the other things that I really care about, which just happen to be the most controversial three things pretty much on the planet, guns, religion, you know, so not really, I’m going to probably lose some fans. But at the same time, I feel like it has to be done at this point in my career. I’ve done all the crazy partying and the, you know, the typical rock starry things and the, you know, the whole playing big arenas and playing festivals. You know, we just played House of Blues Chicago on Friday night there to a completely packed room of people all over from all over the world. And it was, it was phenomenal. But then when I got off, I was thinking to myself, so I, I, should I do that thing where I joined that ATM into my computer for the software to make this podcast better? That’s where my mind is at when I’m not singing. Right. And I just feel like I can make a difference because I feel like. A lot of people, okay, so there are obviously famous atheists like Ricky Gervias and these people.

[11:57] But they’re kind of above, they’re kind of just at that level where they’re so mega famous that there’s just nothing, it matters what they say. They’re going to either have lots of fans or not, but I want people to realize that there’s all these people in the middle, you know, there’s these musicians that are locally well -known who are also feeling this way about society and wanting to change it for the better. And I hope the one thing I do with this podcast is make people realize that mostly what atheists and secular humanists and progressives want to do is make the world or the country better for everyone in it regardless of how they look, what they believe and so on. And like I’ve said it before to a friend of mine is like people think of atheists they want to get rid of religion. Now in a perfect world there would be no religion if you ask me. There would be no need for that, you know, imaginary beliefs and afterlifes and souls and things. But I would fight for your right to be able to practice it freely.

[12:59] That’s the thing. Like, that’s why I’m a lifelong member of the FFRF. And I want to be able to say to you, like, you can practice your religion all you want. But the second that you tell me your god says, I can’t do X, that’s when we have a problem. Or when you tell me that your God doesn’t allow my friends John and Jim to get married, well then we have the problem. But otherwise get on with it. Just the same as I would say that to anybody, you know. I see all these funny memes, it’s like an atheist sitting on a wall and there’s all this carnage and war going on and it’s like, you know, religious people fighting and killing each other and an atheist just sitting with a cup of tea watching it all just being like what’s going on because I can’t imagine a reason to be mad at someone as an atheist that you would ever want to hurt them other than a personal issue, right? Somebody hurts your family or something you know there’s other there’s other reasons but other than that an ideology. If your ideology says I cannot like this person you should re -evaluate your ideology period.

[14:03] And what are some of the topics that you’ve covered or want to cover in your podcast so far? Sure. Well, I’m going to cover a lot of things. So far I’ve covered guns. I call it part one because there’s going to be a lot on that.

[14:20] I did Why I’m an Atheist part one and I just focused on basically divine hiddenness, you know. Just that that’s my biggest argument against belief in any gods really but I could you know I basically I’m going to do one per series I’m going to do like 10 series 10 episode series with about a month break in between each just because of my schedule you know it’s I need to make it realistic and because I do the video part and everything for YouTube, it’s a lot of work you know so like I want to make it realistic but also make it really really good. So I’ve done that. I interviewed just to sort of break everybody in nicely was my friend Manny who was on The Voice with me and we just talked. We did talk about some important topics but mostly just fun, family guy impressions, being ourselves and having fun just to show people what they, sort of the real me and then okay now here’s what I’m going to talk about type of a feel. I interviewed Monica Miller, like I said she’s that she was the lead attorney for the American Humanist Association, that was a fabulous talk. Because like I was just saying, I was listening to your episode, talking about the baker who refused the gay couple’s cake that didn’t even exist at the time, and she was fighting all sorts of, you know…

[15:38] Examples of that all the way up into the Supreme Court. She’s done and I was just you know I my jaw was just open the whole time for next episode for next season. I’ve interviewed him and mad at the friendly atheist who I find out lives, you know that really a stones throw from my house, which is awesome because we’ve been out for lunch sense and just hung out and you know it’s like chatting with your it’s like chatting with somebody that’s so close in your views. I don’t get that very often as most atheists don’t so that will go on the next one and we talked about his book. Which was all about being a young sort of teenager growing up in this country and being an out Atheist per se or being open about it and how you deal with that It’s hard enough as a teenager just to be a teenager and be popular or try and be popular or be liked Then add that into the mix, you know.

[16:29] I’ve done some more personal ones like My band the Cyberiam that you mentioned and thank you for mentioning that at the start it. By the way, the Cyberiam is a metaphor for the world we live in today. Like we are in the Cyberiam, you know? Oh, you see what I mean? It’s like, I should have put the robot. Yeah, I should have put the robot voice on this thing for that, you know, but essentially it’s just how we live kind of half in the world and half in the cyber world. So the good thing about the Cyberiam being a progressive band is I can write lyrics about whatever I like. So I’ve written stuff on like there’s a song called Brain in a Vat, which is just purely about solipsism. And there’s a song called 2020 Visionary, which is a mixture of how politicians are corrupt and also the idea of logical absolutes of A or not A. There can be only there can be no middle ground between A or not A and things like that. So I try not obviously I can’t get too ridiculous because I’m I have to still make it sound nice and pretty and flow. So, but I did a whole episode on my lyrics for that, basically.

[17:42] And like I said, a lot of those lyrics are tying into the topics on my podcast, you know, religion, guns, things like that. I did a song which hasn’t come out yet, but I did talk about it. I called it double X and it happened. I wrote it literally the day the Roe versus Wade decision came down. I was so mad and like boiling. I wrote, and the first lines are like, I woke up in 1822.

[18:09] You know, it is the first line, nothing to look, nothing or some blah, blah, blah, nothing to look forward to, you know, talking about like how, you know, women have less right than less rights than a clump of cells, basically, is what the. Yeah, it’s true, it’s how it turned out. Yeah, and I’ve done an episodes on that and then my, the last one that will go out is just on evolution basically. I wanted to give people like the idiot guide to evolution essentially. I’m lucky like as we were saying earlier about my upbringing, you know, my dad is a doctor, well, masters in geology and that’s what he’s done his whole life and philosophy too. So, like, I had that bug to learn, so I understand evolution very well. And I feel like if I can understand it, then anybody can. So, all the preconceptions that people give to me all the time, I wanted to just get those out there and answer them point by point, which is kind of like, if humans evolved from chimpanzees, why are there still chimpanzees? You know, the sort of, to me, the Pam slapping questions that you’re so easily answered.

[19:27] Next season, I’m going to do a climate change one for sure. I did like a little rant on TikTok. I’m trying to build that as well at the moment. And I did a rant on it, but it was very short and compact. I’m going to do a whole episode on that, which again, it’ll just be like a, you know, crash course in climate change.

[19:47] Probably shouldn’t put that up because that looks kind of like the old Russian CCC, but never mind So I won’t shorten that one, Now as you mentioned and we’ve talked about you know You’re in a couple of bands have your bandmates ever given you grief about your atheism or seem concerned about it No, because most of them are on the same page.

[20:14] Within reason. Like some of them would consider themselves spiritual or something like that and you know to me that’s like bleh. But you know I like that better than hey you can’t do this because my God says you can’t. there’s a big spectrum there. So there, you know, there’s levels. I think a couple of my, my bass player, Brian, in Cyberiam is very much like me, but also has this kind of a level of what I, well, I don’t mean this against him, I just mean it in general, of a kind of what I would call wishy -washy beliefs, you know, like, like Mercury and retrograde type beliefs, you know, like, like Saturn’s going to affect your day type thing. But then at the same time is an atheist, is all these things. But then also kind of has a spiritual afterlife -y kind of belief, you know. But the reason why we gel so well together is because we’re so much about loving the other person, like loving the other. And that’s what all of our lyrics tend to come back to about. There’s a song we have called, which we named the second album, Be Connected. And it’s all about living to be better for humanity rather than living for yourself, if that makes sense. So, yeah, I’ve kind of got lucky with that. And there’s no real, like, die -hard evangelicals I have to deal with every day. For more information about any of the topics covered in this episode, check out our show notes at secularleft .org.

[21:44] Music.

[21:50] And then you also mentioned, too, that you were on The Voice, the singing competition show. Was that the American version? Yes, I was actually. I’ve had such an interesting career in that field. I did actually kind of win the British version back in 2001. So it was called Pop Stars, The Rivals. And it’s not technically correct to say I won, because it was different format. So they were whittling it down to become five boys, five girls in a band. But I was the first person after the whole season to be voted into the boy band. So I was like, essentially the winner of the boys. And then the girls and us competed for the last month to see who would get higher up in the British charts on the release, and the girls won. And it kind of fizzled out for us, but the girls are still mega stars in the UK. Like, they filled out, like, the O2 arena on their own. type thing, like they’re mega stars, which is great, wish them all the best.

[22:54] So that was fun, but actually I haven’t brought this up, I was thinking about doing it on a podcast, but I haven’t, is the, I was shocked by the religiosity of the competitors.

[23:09] And I mean like the 17 year olds to the 22ish year olds, like the guy who won it has gone on to just do nothing but church, church stuff, you know, like going and singing at big mega churches type stuff. And I’m, I, I couldn’t get over how churchy the whole show was. And I said to some of the people that were producing it and stuff, and I’m like, is it always like this? Is it just a big Bible fest? Like, there’s literally people praying before they, in groups before, and I’m like, does nobody ever complain, like, people like me who think this is like ridiculous? Like, this never happened. They’re like, well, you know, it’s just, uh, people are allowed to do whatever they, you know, express themselves on the show. And I’m like, well, yeah, that’s true. But you’re kind of letting it bleed into the show itself, which is a difference to me, you know, but behind closed doors, it was very much like, let’s all meet up and have Bible study and stuff. And I’m like, you’re 17. You should be going out looking for chicks and like sneaking out and going to bars and getting high. What are you doing? Like yeah, I think so disappointed. Yeah, I think probably a lot of that has to do with a lot of those people that believe that they have the talent they come from Church background or singing in choirs and things like that. I think a lot a lot of them do Yeah, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. I just feel like I was so shocked by high indoctrination they were already.

[24:37] And I realized just how much of a role that parents play. And you can’t really blame the parents because in their minds they’re doing the right thing. It’s not like they’re bringing their kids up. It’s not like it would be like me bringing my kids up as Christians, knowing that I think it’s a terrible thing to do, not only for humanity but for their mental stability. Like to teach a kid that either A, they’re going to, when they die, there’s two places and there’s only one you can go, and there’s like a level of judgment being placed on you at all times.

[25:13] Is just to me the most child abuse level thing you can do to a child and make them believe these things. But the person who’s doing it, the parent doesn’t know that that’s what they’re doing. They think they’re teaching them morals and ethics and these things, but they don’t realize you can get all of that without any of the wishy -washy nonsense that goes along with it. You don’t need a soul to be good. You don’t need to believe there’s either a good or bad place to be good. Um, so yeah, I, I think that’s the one thing about the voice that I took away and was shocked by, which also spawned my desire for the podcast too, which like the, you know, there’s that saying, I mentioned this to him and actually was that, you know, give me the child till seven and I’ll give you the man or whatever. There’s that classic line that couldn’t have been more true on that show, that these kids were just already brainwashed, that they were just, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. Every sentence had to have Jesus in it. They couldn’t do anything good without attributing it to Jesus. And I’m like, wait a minute, you did that. You practiced singing. You put in the time. You’re really good.

[26:21] Or about how they are called to by God to do this. Or, yeah. Or maybe it’s like, yeah, maybe it’s like, oh, Jesus told me I had to go do Well, you know what? If Jesus told you to step off a bridge, would you do it? I bet you he never tells you to do that, you know, and anything that you don’t want to do, and Jesus tells you to do funny enough, you never do those things. You know, my dad always joked, my dad would always say, isn’t it funny how their God always agrees with what they want to do? You know, just very true. so.

[26:54] How does doing a podcast compare to singing before a sellout crowd at the O2 Arena in the UK? When you do things like that, which one fulfills you the most right now, do you believe? Okay, I think there’s two parts to that. If you asked me that 20 years ago, I would say the O2. If you asked me nigh, I would say it’s… 50 -50. If I could play the O2 Arena or things like it once a week and then do podcasts the rest of the week, I would be about as happy as any human being could be.

[27:34] That’s the truth. Like I still love music, I love writing. I was just recording this morning some bass guitar for songs that I’m writing right now. And I love that space, the creative space of being, you know, sitting there. And right now I’m doing my own music so there’s nobody else involved. So, my drum, it’s hard to see, but there’s a reason why this isn’t actually just for the podcast. All this stuff, or, oh, I’m just knocking my stuff over, all this is actually because I’m in a vocal booth right now, and on that side is the studio, and on that side is the drum room. So it’s all designed to stop the drums bleeding into the booth, right? So I recorded drums a couple of days ago, I mixed those, and I’m recording bass today, I did some piano, and luckily enough, I’m, I wouldn’t say I’m really good on any of them, I’m a pretty good guitar player, enough to, you know, people consider me to be, I guess, but good enough, more than good enough to record pop music on any instrument, you know. So I really enjoy that process of sitting there going like, how am I going to make this bass complement what I’m doing on the drums? And that, as long as I can do that, but then go and another thing I love is sports. So I love to work out and I love to do that. As long as I can do these things and the variety, then I’m happy. I wouldn’t want to ever quit music to do the podcast but I wouldn’t want to ever quit the podcast now to just stick to music again. I feel like I’m finally doing all these things that I’ve ever really wanted to do.

[28:59] And the other things are starting to drop off as I get older like I probably shouldn’t be going snowboarding as much and you know and I have to be a little lighter. I used to play, I don’t think I mentioned that to you because it’s not really relevant to the pod, but I used to play tennis for Northern Ireland for a long time. It’s my sport you know it’s the thing that I excelled at other than music. And now I coach at a local place here and one of my students actually just won the entire state championships under 16, Illinois. So it makes me very, very happy to know that I’m making a difference in some small way in that world too. So yeah, I would say as long as I get to have like a, as my granny always says, a happy medium, then I’m content. And who do you have on your get list for your podcast that you would love to talk to, but you haven’t been able to get yet? Ooh, that’s a good one.

[29:57] Well, there’s lots of people that I admire, you know, my dream would have been Christopher Hitchens, but that’s obviously, we know as atheists, that’s not going to happen. No, no, no, no. if we do a seance or something, you know? He’s a dead parrot. He’s a dead parrot. Yeah, he’s an ex -Hitchens. I actually did, by the way, great quote. I just saw actually his brother get all snippy on Alex O ‘Connor’s show. I don’t know if you saw that yet. Probably not. Alex had him on to talk about sort of drugs and the idea of marijuana being a gateway drug and all this certain nonsense. And the guy was just absolute, am I allowed to swear on your podcast? Yeah, yeah. He was a total dick, like from the start. Now, I’ve always thought he handled some interviews and stuff pretty well, but I don’t agree with a single word he says, but this was just from the start. He just looked on Alex as this young upstart. You know, and I was like, this kid knows more than you’ll know in 10 generations. You know what I’m saying? Alex is like an encyclopedia of just incredible knowledge, you know, and he’s so calm and everything, but this guy’s just like, oh, you brought me here under false pretences. And I’m like, no, you just don’t want to answer the questions because he keeps calling you out on it. You know, side note, you got me, you got me thinking about Hitchens, but, um.

[31:26] I would love to talk to most of the people that Hemant has interviewed actually. So like, another person who’s not here anymore, of course, was James Randi. So that’s not going to happen. But people who are alive, I would love to chat with Matt Dillahunty, or Jimmy Snow, or any of the guys that are really good at that sort of online live debating that they do. I love how they handle the stuff and it’s a very really want to do that but then there’s a lot of people that maybe aren’t so famous like I actually I noticed you referenced him as Andrew Seidel he’s friends with Monica that I interviewed and I would love to chat with him because obviously if there’s anybody that would be as knowledgeable as you can get really on church and state he would have to be high up there on the list but then there’s also the progressive issues I want to chat about too, as far as social issues. So I’d love to chat with somebody like Liz Plank. I don’t know if you know Liz Plank. She’s this sort of secular, progressive activist kind of girl. And I find her fascinating. Not only is she incredibly beautiful, not that that matters at all, but I’m not gonna lie, it probably makes me go back to the Instagram a little more often than I need to.

[32:44] Not just admitting it there, but she’s just incredibly amazing at what she’s doing to sort of, you know, shine a light on progressive issues, whether it be LGBTQ or whatever, and she’s fascinating to me, so I’d love to interview her. I would have loved to have interviewed Dawkins, of course, and Jerry Coyne, but lately they’ve been on, I would say, a tyrant of things that I’m getting more and more disappointed in them, and I’m like, really? It’s like…

[33:18] I didn’t know about jerry coins interesting thoughts till i spoke to him and. I’m gonna look into it i’m like oh come on i’m with richard it’s so disappointing to and then even somebody like jk rowling you know who i am i would show you if i could obviously you can see the tattoos on this arm these are all. Like band related tattoos, but on my leg it’s all characters from my fantasy books that I read. I’m a big fantasy reader, so I read, you know, like obviously Lord of the Rings started it all, The Hobbit, and then I’ve read, you know, Brandon Sanderson and R .A. Salvatore. Actually, I don’t know if you know who R .A. Salvatore is, but he’s the guy that I have all my tattoos of his characters on my leg.

[34:03] And his main character called Drist is like a dark elf, you know, if you imagine like Legolas from Lord of the Rings, but sword wielder and black skin like jet black skin with with violet colored eyes. So like you can picture that in your head. He’s yeah, he threw out the books and I’m on book 39 right now to give you an idea of how long I’ve been reading this. His character is one of the most well -rounded characters in all of fiction. And the reason why is that at the end of every section of the book, there’s a diary entry from him. So, it’s him talking to himself about the emotional and social and religious aspect of what he’s dealt with. And you just don’t see that in other sci -fi and fantasy books. And I’ll maybe try to find one and I’ll send you it, just a quote. But he often deals… Because you know how in those worlds, in the sci -fi worlds, gods really exist? So like, they all have different gods. like the dwarves have a dwarf god and the elves have an elven god and they all really exist and sometimes show themselves.

[35:18] Well in his, the whole story of this is, and I think I, I would not speak for R. A. Salvatore but I have a feeling he’s an atheist in that he often, the way he portrays the religion within the books, I think there’s a lot of of four going on there and in the books he the character is their god everyone is evil that’s a dark elf except for him and maybe a few other select ones but it’s not that they are evil it’s actually just that their god is evil and is the god of chaos so essentially she wants to just create madness and killing and fighting and infighting and all this stuff And he manages to see that that’s not the way anybody needs to be. And then he starts talking about the whole implications of that. Right? So like, that, you know what? I’ve just talked myself into asking him to be on the podcast. There you go.

[36:20] Yeah, I’ve done that a few times where, you know, I’ve had people that I wanted to talk to and I’d be like, Oh, I’ll just send him an email. And then they’re like, yeah, well, come on. I’m like, wow, so, you know, sometimes it helps if you just send them a message.

[36:35] Yeah, it happened with about five of the people that I’ve chatted with so far. They’ve said yes, I had a hilarious interview with a guy called Jason Lewis, who is goes under the handle of homo opinionation on on tick tock. And he’s like, just he’s a gay guy that is just using his in Britain. It’s called campness. I don’t know what it’s called in America, but the kind of like sort of overdoing the gayness, you know, kind of thing with the mannerisms and stuff, he’s kind of camp is that? Yeah, I mean, and I just, I fell in love with this guy, not literally of course, not my thing, but I fell in love with how he approaches social issues. He basically, it’s like mostly just him like in his car with his phone and he’s like this, he’s like, so Mitch McConnell said this, this, this, and this, and it’s always brilliantly thought through. And so it’s, it’s comedy, but it’s done with the, with the way of getting the actual good explanation of what he’s thought out there. And we had a fabulous conversation that I was crying a few times laughing. He’s just so naturally funny, great, great comedy, comedic writer and stuff too. So, yeah, you never know till you try, right? I mean, I was excited that you replied back to me and was like, hey, let’s chat because I’d like to think that my story is reasonably unique in the sense of, you know.

[38:04] Where I’m from being such a small country, you know, there’s only a million people that live in Northern Ireland, maybe a million point two.

[38:12] And people think of Irish musicians, it’s pretty much Bono, that’s it, you know. And the Chorus. And the Chorus. Yeah, yeah, well I didn’t even know if you’d know who they were, but I’m glad that you did. Yeah, they’re one of my favorite bands, yeah. And I guess they are back playing again, they’re playing in Australia this week. I love them and let’s just say my teenage years wouldn’t have been the same without them. That’s all I’m going to say.

[38:40] Very talented musicians. The guy that’s in the band is also fabulous. You know, they obviously don’t bring him to the forefront quite as much for the pitchers, you know, but yeah, fabulous band. But all I meant by that was is that, like, essentially, I’m not a Justin Timberlake, right? I’m not mega famous. Not everybody knows who I am. But I’ve had a good career, and I’ve done more things than most people at my level have done, if that makes sense, right? You know, I’ve done all the big fests here and around, and, you know, I’ve played 60 ,000 -plus people. But I’ve got to do those things, like I mentioned the Young Voices Tour and stuff where I was playing arenas. I’ve done that six, seven times I think. So I’ve done like about 70 arenas, you know, and there’s just nothing quite like walking out to a 20 ,000 seater stadium inside and you’re the center of attention for the next four minutes or so. It’s a very weird thing, but also very.

[39:48] It’s rewarding, you know, if you do it right. You know what I’m saying? And to be asked back by those guys, I did it first 20 years ago in 2003, and then they asked me back two years in a row, which they’ve never asked anyone to come back more than one year. They asked me to come back three, four, five. I came back in 2008 and again in 2015, but that was to do like the first American one that they did. So I’d like to think that just because of my history, I can chat about these subjects and probably have some perspectives that a lot of Americans might not have heard. There is some debate among atheists here in the United States, and probably elsewhere as well, about social justice issues that aren’t obviously related to church and state. Do you think atheists should do more to advocate for, for example, trans equality or gender equality, for example? I 100 % feel that way. I think, like, you’ve only got so many allies, you know, if you want to call it that.

[40:54] Like, you know, that’s the reason why I interviewed Jason Lewis, for example, and I have a transgender friend who has agreed to come on at some point, who’s not famous in any way, but I felt like, how can you, maybe I can normalize it a little by just showing you an interview with a person that was once a girl, is now a man, and you probably could not tell unless I told you that. Do you know what I’m saying, like it’s, and it’s like, you don’t know anything about a person by looking at them. You don’t know what they believe. You can make guesses, of course, if you see the red hat and the big truck. You can probably make a, make a pretty, you know, good conclusion, but you could even be wrong about that, right? So, I just, I think we should be doing anything we can do because, like.

[41:47] Again, I don’t know if you’d agree with me here, But I would say being an atheist generally means you’re in some way a skeptic, which means you’re in some way a logical thinker, which means you’re in some way, sort of rationally analyzing information, which means that you often end up coming out as a secular humanist or some form of that belief in your how you live your life in your social way. And you also generally are progressive. I don’t meet many pro -life atheists but I don’t even call it pro -life I call it anti -choice because pro -life is ironic it’s the most ironic term you could ever use for these people that believe that but if that makes sense like how many how many advocates does a black teenage trans woman, half. She’s just literally quartered the chances of getting help from someone. You know, basically, you know, all those things play against her. And I’m like.

[42:56] So, for example, you don’t know if you see a man dressed as a woman, if they are a man who just is dressing as a woman, ironically, if they’re dressing as a woman because that makes them feel good, they’re dressing as a woman because they’re testing it out, because they’re genuinely feeling like they are a woman inside and they want to actually have a transformation at some point, you have no idea where that is, and it’s just like there’s a spectrum of that. I try to use the word spectrum for everything because there’s even a spectrum on murder. Like, people, again, the Bible leads to all this black, white. It’s you can or you can’t. Gay marriage is either right or it’s not. Or gay sex is either right or it’s not.

[43:41] And then you’re like, well, can you have anal sex with a woman if you’re a man? Oh, well, no, but that’s not as bad. you know, this kind of thing, but I’m like, it’s just like, just like in murder, we have a judicial system that rates and ranks the levels of it. You know, there’s a difference between walking in like this guy just did in Lewiston, Maine, and literally openly and willingly gunning down, killing people, to a guy who works at a shooting range and accidentally bumps his elbow and shoots somebody next to him. Those are not even relatable because one is unintentional and you could argue the one place where I’m okay with guns being owned or held is in a gun range or something similar. It’s about as safe an environment as you can get for that thing. But of course they didn’t mean that. Should they go to jail for 40 years, just like the person who walked in and killed 18 people the other day? Of course not. And it’s the same with, you know, on social issues too, and if we aren’t fighting for these people, who is going to fight for these people, right? It’s not going to be the religious right.

[45:02] So, yeah. Okay. I just got worked up there. That’s why I saved that for the tail end of this discussion here. To wrap up, is there anything that we’ve talked about today or haven’t talked about that you want the listeners to take away from this interview?

[45:25] Oh, well, I mean, firstly, I want to thank you for having me on. Doug, I’ve really enjoyed this. This is great. I’d love to actually maybe have it reversed so I can ask you a thousand questions, because, I mean, you’re probably the best, one of the best interviewers I’ve ever had here, because you actually ask good questions and listen, and then it’s great, and ask good follow -ups. I love that.

[45:49] No, I would thank you, and I would say, if people are interested in learning more, I just want them to come and check out the pod. And essentially, I guess, word of mouth is how these things work nowadays. So again, if you’re a fan of Doug and you listen to his podcast, you think you might like mine, check it out and also share it with the people that you already know listen to these things and maybe you’ll end up enjoying it. That’s it really. I don’t really want to promote my music or anything because that’s not what this is for. But you know, if you want to go listen to the Cyberiam, I am extremely proud of that stuff. It’s like if you mixed Rush, Pink Floyd, Tool and Genesis together and they made like a four -way BB, that would be Cyberiam basically. It’s very progressive, it’s for musicians, but it’s also very melodic and obviously the lyric content is very controversial at times about very important topics. So, but mostly just, I just want – Yeah, we’ll throw some links up on the show notes when it gets published and – Yeah, that’d be awesome. Yeah, no, I just, I appreciate the time and hopefully we’ll do this again sometime, even if it’s the other way around. I’m very open to that.

[47:05] Thank you for listening to this episode. You can check out more information, including links to sources used in our show notes, on our website at SecularLeft .us. Secular Left is hosted, written, and produced by Doug Berger, and he is solely responsible for the content. Send us your comments, either using the contact form on the website, or by sending us a note at comments at SecularLeft .us. Our theme music is Dank and Nasty, composed using Amplify Studio.

[47:51] Music.

Transcript is machine generated, lightly edited, and approximate to what was recorded

Secular Left © 2023 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.


Produced, written, and edited by Doug Berger

Our theme music is “Dank & Nasty” Composed using Ampify Studio

Doug Written by:

Founder, editor and host of Secular Left - please be gentle For media inquiries see our "About" page.