Question: What is your personal philosophy?
John Amaechi: I am an atheist. I would say that I’m not... not that I shy away from this at all, but I’m not a radical atheist in that I’m not one of these people that says "If you believe in God you must be a complete moron." I may hold that thought in my head at times, but I’m not one of these people that thinks I should bash other people over the head. Because I’ve been to nearly every type of church or synagogue or temple and when I watch people leave that place, even if it is just once a week, even if they only go because they feel they have to... and if I see them leave that place filled with a bit of joy, better able to handle the next week coming, then I’m happy for that. I know many atheists are not. However, for me, I don’t need that kind of vertical framework. I don’t need to think that I’m being loomed over my shoulder in order to behave in a way that's moral.
I think my guidance came from my mother. She was also an atheist, but she was a doctor and I used to watch her go on visits—because in Britain doctors actually visit you when you’re sick. And she used to go on visits and I wouldn’t go upstairs to see her dong medicine stuff with whoever was ill, but I would be downstairs—this was when I was 7 years old—and sat around in a room full of relatives who were very, very anxious, very, very scared, panicked about what was going on because if a doctor visits you you’re very sick. And I would watch my mother sit in the room and just be... calm everybody down just by talking to them. You’d see the tension drop and release. And so this for me was amazing. This was in '77, '78 maybe and Star Wars was all the rage. And I literally spent my youth imagining, believing that my mother was a Jedi, because she could talk to patients and be like "It’s all right, you’ll be able to cope." And I would see them just relax and it wasn’t that they thought the problems had gone away, but they were able to cope because my mom said so and so that is my framework.
I grew up thinking the best job in the world would be a Jedi and being a psychologist is the closest thing I could get, so I wanted to be a Jedi and I don’t want to be a Sith, so that is what keeps me on the straight and narrow.
Recorded October 7, 2010
Interviewed by Max Miller