Last Muslim email, I’m done. Your turn.

All right, seriously, we’re going around in circles. I’m bored. You can talk to Muhammad if you want.

Parts 1 , 2, 3.

Why do you think your god just existed without anything happening that caused the god?

Because it makes sense to say that god led to the creation of something then to say things JUST HAPPENED by itself. The same way you guys are saying that the burden is on me to prove the existence of god, the burden is also on you guys to prove that whatever is out there actually led to the creation of the universe and you guys still havent found out.

Why don’t you give me a good reason why I SHOULD go around killing strangers?

The fact that you kill all sorts of animals etc via pollution what makes it different then your own species? They are all bunch of interacting atoms so why does it make it right to kill insects birds fish or even dangerous lethal species but not your own species? Im sure if you ever see a bee hive on top of your doorway the first thing you would do is kill it you wouldnt think about “HEY ITS NOT BENEFITING ME IN THE FIRST PLACE SO WHY NOT JUST LEAVE IT THERE”

Many apologies, but I don’t believe you. If you make up a story using conversational Arabic, you can even write it in English. All you need is a translator who understands both English and conversational Arabic. It sounds like you’re asking me to believe that Muhammad didn’t know any people who could translate between conversational and written Arabic. You want me to accept your claim that Muhammad had no believable earthly means for committing his thoughts to paper, but as an alternative you want me to believe that it was accomplished by magic.

I see where it is going. You can’t find a valid response so you have to say “I DONT BELIEVE YOU” Well its the truth and thats how arabic works. You can translate conversational to english and write it down sure. YOu can also translate written arabic to english even though its going to sometimes distort the meaning but if you were to translate conversational arabic to written arabic it would also disort meaning and looking at the perfection of the quran in its meaning etc there is no way it was translated it like that.

Another thing that doesn’t seem to add up about your story: If Muhammad was illiterate, how was he able to know what it was that he wrote?

I think you’re a bit confused. Muhammad did not write the story. Allah reveals it to Muhammad, Muhammad memorizes the revelations. Muhammad recites it to a group of people the group of people write it on a book. The fact that the writting of the quran into a book happened shortly after the Prophet’s death makes it impossible for any deviation.

Oh, I see how it works now. All I have to do is make some kind of claim, and then it becomes “history,” and then it is undeniably true. There is no need to verify anything at all.

Well, in that case, I’ve got a claim for you. I am illiterate. I have no means of writing this email to you right now. But I’ll tell you how I do it: I have magical supernatural powers, thanks to the angel that I am channeling right now. And you know what the angel just told me? He says Muhammad — both of you — are full of shit.

No but the claim needs to be logical and based on true observation. I obviously know you are literate because I’ve read your background and you’ve read on TV so thats a fail on your part. Muhammad was a loner back the and it was confirmed via counts in poems etc. There couldnt have been another person comming up with a story and then reciting it to Muhammad. THink of the logic here. If there was a person who came up with a story and gave it to Muhammad, why would he come up with something that would disprove his religion? It just doesnt make sense. People back then did not believe in god and now all of a sudden youre telling me that there could have been a person who did not believe in god help someone deny his religin?

Have at it. I’ll let Muhammad know you’re discussing his masterful arguments.

We get Muslim email (part 3)

Yep, I went another round with Muhammad. He sent two emails and here’s the resulting response.

This was part 1 and part 2.

Muhammad’s first reply:

What additional information do you get from calling it “God?” Even assuming that “dimensions interacting with each other” made sense as something other than a bunch of words strung together, why wouldn’t you just keep calling them dimensions? Do the units of measurement become conscious when you apply this label? I don’t get it.

Because if it were JUST dimensions and nothing else, what made it shit out the universe?You cant say it just happened because for all I care it could have just sat there and just existed without anything happening but the fact is something did happen and it was the fact that it shat out the universe. IT cannot do something by itself without another thing acting upon it.

You’re making a bunch of statements that are not supported by any observation. We don’t know whether it’s in some way more likely for energy to “sit on its ass” than “shit,” because we have nothing outside of this universe to compare it to. Science doesn’t currently have any definite position on whether there is some kind of metaverse, containing more energy which either sits or shits. We don’t have any statistical data. For all you know, free floating energy has no alternative but to shit universes. Or whatever you’re trying to say.

What im trying to say is sciences says that energy just existed and has always existed. If that was true all it could have done is just exist without anything happening but some how some way it didnt just exist without anything happening it led to universe what caused it to lead to the universe?

There are two uninhabited patches of land. On one of them, it rains. On the other, it does not rain. Does this require somebody to “intelligently” choose to make it rain in one place and not another? Must everything be uniform, all the time, unless there is divine intervention picking between two places? If so, what is your justification for this claim?

It rains as a result of evaporation and this evaporation happens because there is water and water is there because of the interaction of atoms and the atoms came from energy and energy like I said is from god. Without god you wouldnt be arguing about these two uninhabited patches of land. What Im trying to say is there is something behind everything that is happening. And if that first happening was something by itself without existence then nothing would have happened.

You can’t measure god and say he exists or not using natural physical laws. God is super natural therefore no physical laws or nature or quantum mechanics apply to him. This is where the quran revelation comes in handy and explains the only proof of his existence.

Why would I want to do that exactly? Austin has an excellent police force which solves murder cases with a fairly high rate of success. It may not be a guarantee that I would be caught, but I think it’s pretty likely that I would wind up sent to jail or executed myself. And even if I did wind up getting away with it, many of my friends would probably have awkward questions for me, probably even fear me. As a result, I would certainly lose contact with many people whose love and friendship I value highly.

So are you saying you’re not going to kill random people because of the fact that you would be jailed? So if there was enforcement order you would kill people at will?

So instead I’d like to ask: what is your god’s purpose for existing? Why does the god do the things that it does? What drives it? Why does it do whatever you think it is doing?

He exists because he created everything therefore he must exist. He has a reward of heaven and hell in which the believers will go heaven and the non believers will go to hell. He deserves every respect and worship to him because without him you wouldnt exist so the least we can do is respect him and bare witness his existence.

Second email:

That makes very little sense to me (are you saying that you can’t make up a story and then dictate it?) but okay, we’ll move on.

If you make up a story using the arabic language in which you would use when engaging in a conversation then no you cant write it down. But if you make up a story using the language in which can be written then yes you can write it down. For you to be able to that though you must learn how to read arabic first.

Imagine yourself in my shoes for a minute. You are merely a poor benighted atheist, without any belief in God or supernatural magical powers whatsoever. I come to you and say “Look here, I know for a certainty that there is a magical being who lives in the sky and listens to every one of the seven billion people on this planet, every minute of every day. And the reason why I know this is that 1,500 years ago, an illiterate man wrote a book about him.”

So you’re saying that you would much rather believe it if you were actually alive during that moment? Too bad thats when it happened and it is history that doesnt mean you can deny it. Do you think 3000 years from now people are going to deny all the science discovered now just because its too old?

1. This being you’ve described really exists, despite a complete absence of other corroborating evidence.
2. I am somehow mistaken, and the author of this book either wasn’t illiterate or somehow found SOMEBODY who was willing to listen to this story and write it down.

Again you cannot come up with a story that is in readable form unless you know how to read arabic. Thats just the way it is. So the prophet could not have made up that story unless he knew how to read which he didnt. There are many arabic poems in the past the confirm Prophet Muhammad‘s illiteracy.

Before you answer, stop and ask yourself if your answer would be the same if the book was not the Koran but say, the book of Mormon, or a book about Scientology or something.

Bible book and others have been proven to be edited through out the year.The old and new testament is from god himself but they have been changed and edited through out the years the Koran was never changed….

And now, my reply to both. Sorry, but editing is becoming a pain so I’m not going to even try snipping for clarity this time.

Because if it were JUST dimensions and nothing else, what made it shit out the universe?You cant say it just happened because for all I care it could have just sat there and just existed without anything happening but the fact is something did happen and it was the fact that it shat out the universe. IT cannot do something by itself without another thing acting upon it.

This rule that you’ve made up seemingly doesn’t get applied to your god. After all, you believe that the god just sat on its ass before shitting out the universe. All you’ve done is answer a question you don’t understand, by making up additional stuff which you still don’t understand. Again I’m asking what reason you have for believing this addition god-thing exists.

What im trying to say is sciences says that energy just existed and has always existed. If that was true all it could have done is just exist without anything happening but some how some way it didnt just exist without anything happening it led to universe what caused it to lead to the universe?

Why do you think your god just existed without anything happening that caused the god?
It rains as a result of evaporation and this evaporation happens because there is water and water is there because of the interaction of atoms and the atoms came from energy and energy like I said is from god. Without god you wouldnt be arguing about these two uninhabited patches of land. What Im trying to say is there is something behind everything that is happening. And if that first happening was something by itself without existence then nothing would have happened.

And around we go in a circular argument. You want me to accept your assertion that god exists, and your argument for this is that “Things don’t just happen without intelligence.” Then when I suggest an example of something that doesn’t have an intelligent cause behind it, and you say “God did that.” But God is the thing that you are trying to prove to me, so all you are doing is repeating your assertion, not making an argument. When are you going to justify the belief that your god exists?

So are you saying you’re not going to kill random people because of the fact that you would be jailed? So if there was enforcement order you would kill people at will?

Incarceration is one of many reasons. Maintaining relationships with other people is another. Yet another is that I have no motivation to kill strangers; it wouldn’t get me anything useful. And if there were no formal law enforcement, that stranger quite likely would still have friends and relatives who would wish vengeance.

You asked me why I don’t kill strangers, and I gave you several reasons why I would not do it. You focused on one reason and then asked if that was the only one. I get the feeling that you’re not really looking for a serious discussion, but you just like to hear yourself talk. Why don’t you give me a good reason why I SHOULD go around killing strangers?

Moving on to your second letter:

If you make up a story using the arabic language in which you would use when engaging in a conversation then no you cant write it down. But if you make up a story using the language in which can be written then yes you can write it down. For you to be able to that though you must learn how to read arabic first.

Many apologies, but I don’t believe you. If you make up a story using conversational Arabic, you can even write it in English. All you need is a translator who understands both English and conversational Arabic. It sounds like you’re asking me to believe that Muhammad didn’t know any people who could translate between conversational and written Arabic. You want me to accept your claim that Muhammad had no believable earthly means for committing his thoughts to paper, but as an alternative you want me to believe that it was accomplished by magic.

Sorry, but I just don’t believe you. I still find all the other alternatives much more plausible.

Another thing that doesn’t seem to add up about your story: If Muhammad was illiterate, how was he able to know what it was that he wrote?

So you’re saying that you would much rather believe it if you were actually alive during that moment? Too bad thats when it happened and it is history that doesnt mean you can deny it. Do you think 3000 years from now people are going to deny all the science discovered now just because its too old?

Oh, I see how it works now. All I have to do is make some kind of claim, and then it becomes “history,” and then it is undeniably true. There is no need to verify anything at all.

Well, in that case, I’ve got a claim for you. I am illiterate. I have no means of writing this email to you right now. But I’ll tell you how I do it: I have magical supernatural powers, thanks to the angel that I am channeling right now. And you know what the angel just told me? He says Muhammad — both of you — are full of shit.

I guess you’ll be abandoning Islam now. I wrote it down, after all, so it’s history now.

That’s all for now! If I get another reply, I’ll mention it in comments until there’s another full round to post.

We get Muslim email (part 2)

Here’s part 1 in case you missed it.

Muhammad’s second message to me:

Hey thanks for reply I forgot to mention one more proof of why god exists and it has to do with Prophet Muhammad. Please look at this and then I will go back and make a comment on all the comments you made previously

Before I start I need to mention one thing. Arabic is not like English. You can come up with a story in english and write it down simply. The language you see in a textbook you can use in normal conversations. In arabic you cant. Meaning there is a way to talk arabic in normal conversations and there is a way to read arabic. You cant write down what you normally talk in arabic because it wouldnt make sense. In other words for something in arabic to be written, it must be in the language of readable material. If you cannot read arabic, you will not be able to make up readable material. You may be able to talk arabic normal in conversation but you wont be able to make up stories that can be written down UNLESS you know how to read arabic. Now that I cleard this up we move to my argument.

The fact that Prophet Muhammad did not know how to read or write and was illiterate means he couldn’t have possibly come up with the Koran (which is in readable material) It was revealed to him by God and the prophet Muhammad memorized it and which he then recited to many people. Notice how I said it was recited to many people. There couldn’t have possibly been a change or edit because any deviation in writting it would be easily detected by the people who memorized it at the time. The quran was written in book form within a few years after the prophet’s death. Now back to the original argument, there was no way that the prophet himself could have come up with the quran when he was illiterate. You may say, well someone who knew how to read came up with the story and told Muhammad. Saying that wouldnt make sense in 2 ways. First the people back then did not believe in a god so why would a non believer help someone come up with a story to disprove his religion? Another thing, if there was someone capable of comming up with something so great like the Quran, what would he be doing hanging out with an uneducated illiterate Prophet Muhammad? He would be in much higher rankings.

My reply (again with some repeated text truncated):

Muhammad,


…Please look at this and then I will go back and make a comment on all the comments you made previously

Okay, but it feels to me suspiciously like you are trying to change the subject. If you thought that all this quasi-scientific talk about energy and universe shitting was supposed to be persuasive proof of God in the first place, then why would you break off a half-finished conversation in order to bring up a wholly unrelated point about a supposedly illiterate person in the seventh century? It’s a bit of a roundabout way to make a point, don’t you think? If your entire belief in God is based on the literacy status of one guy, why didn’t you just say so in the first place?

…You may be able to talk arabic normal in conversation but you wont be able to make up stories that can be written down UNLESS you know how to read arabic. Now that I cleard this up we move to my argument.

That makes very little sense to me (are you saying that you can’t make up a story and then dictate it?) but okay, we’ll move on.

[Argues that Muhammad, being illiterate, could not have written the Koran without a miracle.]

It all strikes me as an incredibly flimsy foundation on which to base believe in an infinitely powerful supernatural being living outside the universe. And I bet if you give it some thought, you can understand why.

Imagine yourself in my shoes for a minute. You are merely a poor benighted atheist, without any belief in God or supernatural magical powers whatsoever. I come to you and say “Look here, I know for a certainty that there is a magical being who lives in the sky and listens to every one of the seven billion people on this planet, every minute of every day. And the reason why I know this is that 1,500 years ago, an illiterate man wrote a book about him.”

Thinking outside your religion for a moment, which do you honestly find easier to believe?

1. This being you’ve described really exists, despite a complete absence of other corroborating evidence.
2. I am somehow mistaken, and the author of this book either wasn’t illiterate or somehow found SOMEBODY who was willing to listen to this story and write it down.

Before you answer, stop and ask yourself if your answer would be the same if the book was not the Koran but say, the book of Mormon, or a book about Scientology or something.

I think you know what my answer is.

Just curious, does anyone know what he talking about regarding the supposed impossibility of writing down spoken Arabic? Because Muhammad is really trying to hammer on this point in his latest message, and it doesn’t make any sense to me at all. I mean, you could presumably speak conversational Arabic to a translator who spoke English, and then you could write down an English version of what he said. Why wouldn’t you be able to write an Arabic version?

Hey, wasn’t the Institute for Creation “Research” suing Texas or something?

Yeah, they were, weren’t they? So what’s become of that? Well, it would appear that, like all lawsuits, it’s becoming the usual drawn-out exercise in paperwork-generating tedium. But the ICR did, amusingly, recently file a motion for summary judgment, before the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board even managed to complete discovery for their defense. Basically the ICR’s argument is a variant on the tried-and-true “Waah we’re Christians and rules don’t apply to us!” whine creationists typically rely on. You can read the motion, the burden of which is that, because the ICR doesn’t take state money, the THECB has no jurisdiction over them. The THECB responds by saying, well, yes we do. Ah, it’s never a dull moment dealing with entitled creationists who feel they can “educate” without any oversight.

Wait, what am I saying? It’s nothing but dull moments! Criminy.


From the ICR motion:

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (“THECB”), to the extent that it claims any jurisdictional or regulatory authority over ICRGS’s academic liberties under the Texas Education Code (e.g., under its Chapter 61 or otherwise), does so improperly, because ICRGS is statutorily exempt from the Texas Education Code’s application, as the fairly simple text of said §1.001(a) clearly shows.

From the THECB’s response:

Plaintiff’s contention purposefully and improperly ignores the remainder of the Texas Education Code…. Chapter 61 of the Texas Education Code — the Higher Education Coordinating Act of 1965 — includes a subchapter which expressly authorizes the Higher Education Coordinating Board to regulate private postsecondary educational institutions.

Wow. Quote-mining the law now? How very creationist of them.

We get Muslim email (part 1)

Yes, it’s true. Christians often accuse us of picking on them and ignoring what they consider the more dangerous religions like Islam. (PZ Myers’ readers coined the term “Fatwa envy” to describe such complaints.)

The mundane truth, however, is that we don’t often talk about Islam simply because we rarely get feedback from Muslims.

With a few exceptions. Naturally, in the interest of being equal opportunity offenders (sorry — moral equivalence fallacy anyone?) I must showcase this letter… which, in fairness, makes about the same bad fallacies as any Christian apologist.

Subject: I want a feedback on these possible suggestions that creationism exists.

Hello my name is Muhammad *****-*****

I would like a feedback on these suggestions.

1. Energy exists as a result of different dimensions interacting with each other and among those dimensions is time itself. These dimensions interacting with each other = God. Without these dimensions interacting with each other, energy never would have existed. Now I know in your mind you are asking how do you know that these dimensions = God. Well its the fact that things must come out of things. The only way for something to happen if there is another thing acting on it to make it happen. The fact that energy always existed and never was created or destroyed is confusing because this so called energy that always existed could have just sat its ass up there without cause (being sarcastic) the fact that it didnt just sit its ass out there and that it eventually shat out the universe means there was a particular point in its existence some specific point in its existence that shat out the universe. The fact that it shat out the universe in point A and not in point B means there was some sort of intelligence involved. The only possibility is god therefore by deduction god exists. You cant give me another explanation to explain why point A is where it shat out the universe and not point B without including something intelligent. You cant say well it randomly occured at point A because the fact that it was random means means I would have to go back to my original statement that it could have just sat its ass out there and nothing happened but it didnt, something happened, meaning there has to be something that caused it to happen.

You can say the same and tell me well how did god exist in the first place who created god. No matter how many blocks you build you will still have blocks. No matter how many times you say supernatural created supernatural created supernatural created supernatural, THERE IS A SUPER NATURAL involved

2- My second statement has to do with cause. Its not really an explanation but its something you should look at. Why dont you go ahead and kill a random person on the street. What causes you to say no thats just wrong? I mean if you look at it youre just made up of a bunch of interacting atoms just as a carboard box is made of a bunch of interacting atoms. You can break the cardboard box without even thinking but cant do the same for a human being. What makes you think you can kill cows freely when cows are just as interactive of atoms as you are. Is it because they are below you in the food chain? You can canabalize humans cant you. What is your ultimate cause? Why are you doing what you are doing today?

Here’s my reply. For brevity, I will truncate some of the quoted passages that I already posted, which you will see marked with leading ellipses.

Hi Muhammad,

1. Energy exists as a result of different dimensions interacting with each other and among those dimensions is time itself.

Speaking as someone who has been through numerous physics classes, this appears to be pure gibberish which superficially sounds like science. Dimensions don’t “interact with each other.” They are units of measurement.

These dimensions interacting with each other = God.

What additional information do you get from calling it “God?” Even assuming that “dimensions interacting with each other” made sense as something other than a bunch of words strung together, why wouldn’t you just keep calling them dimensions? Do the units of measurement become conscious when you apply this label? I don’t get it.

…that it eventually shat out the universe means there was a particular point in its existence some specific point in its existence that shat out the universe.

You’re making a bunch of statements that are not supported by any observation. We don’t know whether it’s in some way more likely for energy to “sit on its ass” than “shit,” because we have nothing outside of this universe to compare it to. Science doesn’t currently have any definite position on whether there is some kind of metaverse, containing more energy which either sits or shits. We don’t have any statistical data. For all you know, free floating energy has no alternative but to shit universes. Or whatever you’re trying to say.

The fact that it shat out the universe in point A and not in point B means there was some sort of intelligence involved.

1. To what are you referring when you say “point B”?
2. Where the heck did intelligence enter the conversation? As far as we’ve observed, intelligence only comes as the end product of a universe which exists, generates life, evolves brains, and executes consciousness as a behavior of those brains. Until you demonstrate that there is some kind of stuff that behaves like a brain outside of the universe, you’re just making stuff up.

…I would have to go back to my original statement that it could have just sat its ass out there and nothing happened but it didnt, something happened, meaning there has to be something that caused it to happen.

Why?

There are two uninhabited patches of land. On one of them, it rains. On the other, it does not rain. Does this require somebody to “intelligently” choose to make it rain in one place and not another? Must everything be uniform, all the time, unless there is divine intervention picking between two places? If so, what is your justification for this claim?

…THERE IS A SUPER NATURAL involved

I think you skipped a step that explained what “A SUPER NATURAL” is and how you know it exists.

2- My second statement has to do with cause. Its not really an explanation but its something you should look at. Why dont you go ahead and kill a random person on the street.

Why would I want to do that exactly? Austin has an excellent police force which solves murder cases with a fairly high rate of success. It may not be a guarantee that I would be caught, but I think it’s pretty likely that I would wind up sent to jail or executed myself. And even if I did wind up getting away with it, many of my friends would probably have awkward questions for me, probably even fear me. As a result, I would certainly lose contact with many people whose love and friendship I value highly.

I don’t know what reality you think you’re living in, but here in this world, usually actions have consequences. When I look at all the consequences of killing random people on the street, I can’t see how the benefits even come close to outweighing the drawbacks.

…What is your ultimate cause? Why are you doing what you are doing today?

I enjoy living free, I enjoy
friendship, and I find it fulfilling to be able to support myself and get things that I want. None of those goals are furthered by killing strangers. So I’m going to have to ask you to explain what kind of stupidity would cause me to entertain such an action.

Let me turn around and ask you the same question. I would ask you what your ultimate cause is, but I’m presuming the answer will be something like “to serve my god.”

So instead I’d like to ask: what is your god’s purpose for existing? Why does the god do the things that it does? What drives it? Why does it do whatever you think it is doing?

There has been one followup exchange, which I will post later if there’s enough interest. Needless to say, though, “Muhammad” did not respond to anything in my reply, but instead went on to talk about how miraculous it was that his namesake was capable of writing a book.

Todd Friel does not like VeggieTales

It’s been a while since I tuned in to Christian radio, but I was driving around this weekend and turned on Wretched Radio with Todd Friel. Todd was bewailing the bad influence that the computer-animated cartoon VeggieTales is having on Christian kids.

Todd brought up data claimed by Ken Ham, who says that regular participants in Sunday School are more likely to leave the church and disbelieve the Bible.

On the show, Todd tied this in with VeggieTales. He made the case that:

  1. Sunday school tries to present sanitized Bible stories for kids, so they learn them as cutesy fairy tales rather than stories of an angry and vengeful God, by whom we need to be saved from sin.
  2. The cartoon offers cute little morality plays, also presenting of tidied up versions of Old Testament stories but never really inserting a Veggie Jesus into the action. Instead of salvation through grace, they emphasize things like responsible behavior and doing the right things for good reasons, rather than because the Bible said so.

I don’t know about you, but this makes me think that I ought to give VeggieTales a second look as something more worthwhile than typical brainwashing for kids.

Anyway, here’s the thesis Todd eventually got around to presenting. Kids are leaving the church in droves because they learn the Bible in a similar context to fairy tales and other childish stories. When they outgrow the fairy tales, they outgrow the Bible as well. To remedy this, kids deserve to learn the unvarnished truth. We need to see less secularization of churches in order to please their congregants, and we need to get back to teaching hard truths about how everybody deserves hell, and are only saved through grace. When we don’t deliver that, we drive our kids from Christianity.

As you might expect, I have a slightly different take.

First of all, sanitized presentations of the Bible aimed at kids, along with megachurches loaded with secular entertainment — rock music and live skit performances and “cool” young pastors — exist because people have already been drifting away from being seriously devoted to fairy tales for a long time now. They are trying to grab onto and hold people in any way that they can.

I don’t think the cuteness of VeggieTales is the problem. I think it’s an attempted solution to the underlying problem, which is that the Bible stories are childish and shouldn’t make all that much sense to grownups.

It seems to me that in generations past, people went for religious explanations because they were the best game in town. Observe how theists love to tout intellectual luminaries such as Isaac Newton and Thomas Jefferson as “creationists.” Easy for them to say, since both men lived well before Darwin made a naturalistic proposal to explain the origin of human life. In their time, there was simply no alternative to the default position of a designer.

It’s a lot harder to maintain this belief now, simply because a lot of scientific progress has been made in general, and most kids learn the basics of science in school. This is one really obvious reason why fundamentalists in general are so down on public schooling and opt for homeschooling at much higher rates than the general public. And it’s absolutely true that when kids go to college, they are much more likely to reject religion.

I think that Todd may be right that kids who watch VeggieTales eventually rethink their faith when they realize to what extent the show is a silly cartoon just like SpongeBob, with little basis in reality. It’s less clear to me that the problem would be mitigated if there were no VeggieTales. I would say that making the Bible palatable for children is simply a band-aid on an ongoing problem, that as we live in a more rational world, it will become increasingly difficult for fundamentalism to compete successfully for space among people’s memes.

As for Sunday School, I think this may be yet another case of confusing correlation with causation. My guess would be that going to Sunday School and rejecting religion probably share a root cause. It may well be the case that parents who encourage kids to read and learn about the Bible more (as opposed to just listening to what they’re told about it) are probably interested in educated kids in general, and education leads kids to drop their faith.

TAM7 – Part 6

Quick updates…

Adam Savage spent a little time telling us some rather compelling stories about his early personal failures. We watched a great panel, hosted by DJ Grothe, featuring Penn, Teller, Ray Hyman and Jamy Ian Swiss. They discussed some ethical issues involved in the conjuring arts and the impact of psychic entertainers.

After lunch, there was a talk about the late Jerry Andrus, along with a few segments from a documentary about his life, followed by a panel on skepticism and broadcasting, featuring Penn & Teller, Adam Savage, Jennifer Oullete and Bill Prady.

Phil Plait spoke about the 2012 doomsday predictions.

They discussed the more than $8000 raised to provide vaccinations to children in southern Nevada.

And now…they’re doing the live auction.

I’m still feeling a little under the weather so I’m going to grab a nap after the auction, so I can party tonight.

TAM7 – Part 5

It’s Saturday morning in Las Vegas…do you know where your host is?

I’m sitting in the ballroom, listening to Michael Shermer make a case for Libertarianism. He’s not done and I’m certainly not going to get into it now, but it’ll likely be part of the on-air review.

I developed a bit of a sore throat last night, so I took some meds and went back to the hotel room. We had an early morning and I didn’t want to be sick. As it turns out, I’m definitely a little bit sick but I’m not going to let it stop me from any of my planned fun.

This morning, during the live ‘Skeptics Guide to the Universe’ – Rebecca Watson married Sid Rodrigues in a planned, spontaneous wedding that was a secret to all but a handful of people. During the SGU Q&A session, Sid got the microphone and offered a quick proposal, Rebecca said she’d need a wedding party (and a group of appropriately dressed people walked up on stage), her family (who also came up on stage), music (George Hrab came out and sang for the cake cutting and first dance), etc. Adam Savage presented the rings and much fun was had by all.

I have a nice “Wedding Invitation” which reads; “The honor of your presence has been forced against your will at the marriage of Rebecca Watson to Sid Rodrigues… Saturday, the eleventh of July, two thousand and nine at half past eightish in the morning.”

More later, but we’re trying to plan a group picture of AE/NPR fans Sunday afternoon at 3:30 (after the Million Dollar Challenge).

TAM7 – Part 4

I’m going to continue blogging about the events, but I’m afraid you won’t be getting more detailed discussions about each event at this blog. I’m listening to the talks, taking some notes, meeting lots of people and, in order to enjoy myself, I’ll be giving a somewhat detailed account of the events at TAM on the next Atheist Experience show and the next Non-Prophets, instead of here.

That said, here’s a quick recap of the day…so far:

When I last signed off, Hal Bidlack was giving the opening address. I’ve got a great deal of respect for Hal, but what I’d really like to do is have a lengthy discussion with him about skepticism and religion. Hal took a moment to strongly make a point (which he evidently made at the last TAM, as well) that every skeptic is welcome here and that while Randi is an atheist, Hal isn’t and that we need to be respectful when dealing with the issue of religion.

He didn’t go into great detail, which is why I’d like to have a long — on air — discussion about this subject because, I am sincerely interested in how someone manages to advocate reason, critical thinking and skepticism, yet maintain religious beliefs. Please note: I am completely serious. This is not an attempt to promote an argument or beat up on someone…Hal is a genuinely good guy and he holds a position that, to me, clearly amounts to cognitive dissonance — and I’d love to talk about why. I’d love for it to be thoughtful, respectful and informative. I’ll see if this can be arranged.

Phil Plait spoke for a bit about the state of the JREF, the wonderful work done by the JREF crew in organizing the event (and they most definitely deserve gratitude and recognition, because things are running smoothly and the event has been wonderful, so far).

James Randi spoke about his recent illness and how he’s doing better, very humbled and honored to see that we have more than 1000 people at the event and are expecting more as the meeting continues.

Without addressing every speaker we’ve seen today, in detail, I’ll just say that I’ve had a great time. Bill Prady gave the keynote address (which gave me ideas to pitch to him for additions to his TV show, “The Big Bang Theory”). Fintan Steele, a former monk, gave a very interesting talk about “Personalized Medicine” or “Personalized Mysticism”.

After lunch, Jamy Ian Swiss and James Randi took the stage for a great session of nostalgia from Randi’s life. We saw footage from an early appearance on The Tonight Show, footage from a BBC program, the milk can escape and a couple of straight jacket escapes…along with some rare footage of Randi’s work with Alice Cooper.

Jennifer Oullete talked about a new initiative to provide Hollywood with easy access to real scientists with the goal of improving the way science is presented to the public – a very important endeavor that I’m optimistic about as so many people get their information from popular programs.

As I write this, we’re listening to the anti-anti-vax panel. I’ll prompt microbiologychick to write a blog post on this talk, later.

Still to come, today: The Live Auction…Joe Nickell…and the wrap-up by Jeff Wagg.

For those people at the event, some of us are getting together for drinks at the lounge near the Silverado at around 8pm. I’ve been overwhelmed by the positive response from fans of the show and I’ll be trying to spend as much free time as possible with anyone who wants to sit down, have a drink and chat.

If I didn’t already absolutely love doing the show, you guys would have made it worth doing simply by saying “Hi, I like the show” and not just because most of you seem to want to fill me with free liquor.

I’ve been made a card-carrying, T-shirt wearing member of the Society of Edmonton Atheists (though this won’t get me free health care)…another fan of the show brought me a book edited by Michael Martin (more on that later, I’d like to read it before I comment) and everyone has been great; posing for pictures, drinking, chatting…if Las Vegas wasn’t already my second-favorite city, it would be now.

More details to follow…and I’ve been informed that we’ll be going to the Skepchick party on Saturday night, so there may be a bit of blurry-blogging on Sunday.

TAM7 – Part 3

We had a great time at the reception last night. I did get to meet James Randi and this long-awaited thrill was more than I’d anticipated as he recognized my name — something I wasn’t expecting. A few years ago, I wrote an essay for a website and not only did Randi read it, he thought enough of it to quote it in one of the Swift reports. I was dumbfounded, as I’d really just been paraphrasing many of the things I’d learned from him over the years. That paled in comparison to being recognized for the work we’ve done on The Atheist Experience/Non-Prophets shows.

Whoever suggested that one avoid meeting their heroes in order to avoid disappointment never had heroes like mine. I’ve met several of my heroes and I haven’t been disappointed in the least.

One of the bigger surprises of the reception was that I was approached by a surprising number of people who were fans of the work we’ve done. I expected to run into a few people who might recognize me from a YouTube clip, or some who might spot the name and ask “Don’t I know you from somewhere?”, or “Hey, I really like the shows”…but what happened was substantially more than that. I spent the better part of the evening talking to people who were big fans of one or both shows.

It’s very nice to hear that people appreciate and have benefited from the work we’ve done and I can’t wait to meet more people over the next few days. If you’re at TAM and haven’t stopped by to say hello – do.

After the reception, we went to the ‘Magic, Mentalism and Mayhem’ show…hosted by Jamy Ian Swiss and featuring Kevin Burke, Banachek and Mac King. A brief summary: Jamy was the perfect host and entertainer (as expected), Kevin Burke was laugh-out-loud funny, Banachek was baffling and Mac King was at his best – and was the perfect highlight and closer.

As I’ve mentioned, I don’t ever leave Vegas without seeing Mac’s show. I’ve seen his act several times and we’ll be going to his show on Monday…even after seeing last night’s show (perhaps I should say ‘especially after’).

After the show, we sat around and drank with some of the attendees and then turned in…because the events started at 8:00 this morning.

We just finished listening to the Skeptics Guide to the Universe Live, and Hal Bidlack is finishing up his opening remarks. My laptop battery is dying, so I’ll have comments about his opening remarks a little later.

Time to enjoy my day!