Daniel Dennett is one of the heroes of my philosophical past. At the time I started reading philosophy of mind in the early 80s, he was cult, and it seems he’s never ceased to be, expanding his field of expertise from theories of consciousness to the topic of evolution and others.
Recently Dennett has joined the ranks of outspoken (and even campaigning) atheists. After he nearly died and subsequently recovered from a severe heart crisis he wrote a very impressive and much-discussed article, politely but distinctly disapproving of those who’d said they’d prayed for his health: “Thank Goodness”.
Later he was one of those who proposed to re-name atheists as “brights”, in an admittedly arrogant coining of a term analogous to the term “gay” for homosexual men. (The whole atheist movement he’s part of is inspired by the gay liberation, even adapting the term “coming out”.)
Now Dennett has received the “Richard Dawkins Award” (no big surprise, as both have been friends for a long time), and on Richard Dawkins’ website there are videos of his speech. Before you get to Dawkins’ laudatio and Dennett himself, though, you have to suffer the introduction of a certain Julia Sweeney, who proves the fact that being an atheist does not preclude ickyness.
One of my favorite parts of Dennett’s speech is when he grants the religious people a positively connotated name, like “straight” for heterosexuals, and proposes the term “super” (for believing in the supernatural).