Actor Alan Alda’s Strange Journey To Becoming Agnostic

ALAN KOTOK is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Critically Acclaimed Artist Alan Alda Used Science To Disprove Atheism

Alan Alda has had a successful acting career spanning decades. Alda became a familiar face as one of the lead characters on the 1970s wartime drama show MASH. Since then he has starred, directed, and written for television, theater, and movies. Alda has also been known as a spokesman for science. He was the founder of the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science and the Future of Life Institute.

Alan Alda was raised in a Roman Catholic family. He has told reporters that many of the rules of Catholic doctrine seemed nonsensical, which made him question his family’s faith. While Alda did not believe in God, he rarely shared his views with the press. This was mostly done because the actor felt that celebrities should not use their elevated status to tell people what to do or how to think.

Alda has never been comfortable with labels. While he has claimed in memoirs that he “was not a believer,” he never attributed himself as an atheist consistently. Partially this was done to avoid being lumped in with others and also because he was still exploring the intersection of religion and science.

Working with scientists, Alda became inspired by the notion of scientific proof and methodology. Alan Alda felt that certain atheists were becoming as dogmatic about the lack of existence of God as the religious were about divine presence. To him, it became two sides of the same coin. He decided that there was not enough proof to say one way or another if there is a God and decided that he was more agnostic than atheist. Although he would gently refuse to use the term agnostic: “I guess in a world uncomfortable with uncertainty, an unbeliever must be an atheist, and possibly an infidel. This gets us back to that most pressing of human questions: why do people worry so much about other people’s holding beliefs other than their own?”

On July 31st, Alan Alda told CBS This Morning he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease three years ago. In no way did he indicate that this terrible affliction changed his relationship with belief. In fact, he spoke about becoming comfortable with both uncertainty and science as a way to cope with the disease.

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