Yes, I know, this is just begging for a joke about teabagging…

…But even I won’t go near it, gang. Wait, I just did. Oh well! And yet, a headline like “Christian Right leader takes vacation with ‘rent boy’” is still funny no matter how many times stuff like that happens. Gee, it’s almost like “Christian Right leaders” are all a bunch of repressed moral hypocrites or something.

An example of the e-mails I tend to spend time on…

As I’ve said on the shows, I spend a great deal of time answering e-mails. Some only take a moment to respond to, others take hours. It’s been suggested that I post some of them here so that people can see, learn, laugh or sigh along with me. As I spent over 3 hours on this e-mail last night, I thought I’d go ahead and post it to see if this is something that suits the blog. I probably got a few things wrong…c’est la vie.

It’s long (I’ve only edited it to protect the anonymity of the questioner), so if long posts aren’t your cup of tea, move along. My comments are in the boxes.

Matt,

Thanks for writing me back. Sorry I didn’t mention, but I’m a Christian. To be more exact I’m Roman Catholic.

I have a number of Catholics in my family and I’ve spent some time studying Catholicism, but I was raised Protestant and I’m sure that it will color some of my commentary. What it won’t affect, though, are the broad statements about truth, evidence, reason and belief.

I’ll be turning 21 in a couple of months. I find the notion of God to be a very interesting topic because God is such a controversial figure.

I find it interesting, not because of the controversy but because of the lack of controversy.

You’ve started off using the word ‘God’ without really defining it. Yes, you’ve stated that you’re a Roman Catholic, so I’m reasonably safe in assuming that you hold to many, if not all, of the doctrines of that church…but what I meant by “lack of controversy” is that despite the controversies over the specifics of “God” there’s a (largely ignored) lack of controversy on the question of the existence of this ill-defined “God”. The majority of people believe that some god exists, despite the seeming inability to agree on what the word even means. It may be the case that the word means something different to nearly everyone – which would mean that no real information is being conveyed by its usage. That’s intriguing.

What’s more intriguing is that when we actually discuss the reasons people have for accepting this foundational belief, many different reasons are offered and none of the reasons involve a sound argument supported by evidence – which is, I would argue, the only reliable path to truth.

Growing up, I was raised Catholic, I went through most of the Sacraments because I was forced to by my parents. Being in my teens hardly anything made since in my faith. As a teenager I wasn’t really a believer, God or no God I didn’t care. I do however recall anything associated with Church was boring. Growing up with a lot of my friends in the Church, about half aren’t even Catholic anymore, and quite a few don’t even believe in God. The number one reason is because none of it made any sense. It was when I was around 18 did I start to take an interest.

It is important to ask questions about God, if God is real then why doesn’t he manifest himself to us?

Am I safe in assuming that you agree that your God does not manifest himself? Because later you seem to imply that he does.

If so, then that should be the end of the conversation. That which does not manifest is absolutely indistinguishable from that which does not exist and, therefore, sufficient justification for belief is impossible. This is something that confuses people, though I think it should be instantly recognizable. You reject other god-concepts that don’t manifest, don’t you? If I told you that there was an alternate universe in which your analog was Emperor of the Earth’s analog, yet this reality was utterly separate from ours (did not manifest in our reality in any way) could there ever be any reasonable justification for accepting that claim?

Until something has manifested in reality, there cannot be sufficient evidence for believing that it exists. Indeed, how could one even begin to define it? It is beyond detection or examination.

Who created God? What exactly is God? How does God function? What does an infinite being do with his time?

If you haven’t answered your second question, “What exactly is God?” then what justification do you for any of the other questions? If you don’t know what it is, you can’t assert that it was created, has a function, is infinite, etc…. you’re blithely skipping over the most important question in order to ask other questions that are spawned from mere speculation and assertion.

Running a finite universe cannot be the complete work of a infinite being? What is exactly is a spirit? What is the Spirit of God? Why would an all powerful loving God allow evil? Why is the God in the Bible all about sacrifice? Why do I have to die in order to go to heaven and hell? What is heaven and hell? Why would God create the universe? How did God create the universe? Why would God create Man? Why would God become Man? Why would God die for Man?

Can a god die? Did a god die? Did a god ever manifest in any way? You’re questioning doctrine, and that’s fine…but you have to start questioning the foundations. These questions make sense to you because they’re within the framework of the religion you were raised in. Why not ask questions like; Why would there be a cosmic mechanism for justice, like Karma?

You don’t ask those questions because you haven’t already surrendered your mind to the presuppositions of Buddhism…you’ve surrendered them to the presuppositions of Roman Catholicism. You haven’t completely surrendered, though, or you wouldn’t be questioning doctrine.

My point is simple; you think you’re asking the right questions, when you’re really not. Don’t get me wrong, you’re asking questions that may eventually lead to the right questions and I applaud you for questioning at all, but you won’t get very far until you question the very assumptions these questions are based on:
– What does “god” mean?
– Is there sufficient reason to accept the claim that this “god”, once defined, actually exists?

The rest of the questions are distractions. They’re questions that you feel safe in asking because your particular church absolutely loves to write it all off as “mystery”. (The next time you’re at a funeral or mass, keep a running total of how many times the word “mystery” is used.) These questions allow you to feel like you’re being intellectually honest, without any great risk of you actually investigating the presuppositions that serve as their foundation.

That’s like me dying for a worm. Why would Christ command me to eat his flesh and drink his blood? Why is it that everybody tries to prove Christ in the Scriptures when Christ himself didn’t write anything nor did he tell anybody to write anything? Those are extremely tough questions to answer, some may be repulsive, but its questions like these that have helped me.

Going back to the subject of asking the right questions; what reason do we have for thinking Jesus existed at all? I happen to think that it’s very likely that there was a real man at the center of these stories, but my point is that there’s a grand assumption being made and one that may not be justified.

What does it mean to say “person X” existed? If I say George Washington existed, what am I saying? Am I saying that there was a boy who refuse to lie about cutting down a cherry tree? Of course not. I’m saying that we have as much or more evidence to support the existence of George Washington as we do for many other historical figures. We have independent accounts, records, things reportedly written by him, paintings, accounts of friends and relatives that are all verifiable to differing degrees. The various claims about his life are judged as reliable and likely true or unreliable and unlikely to be true based on how the various reports agree, whether there’s any discernible bias, whether something has the hallmark qualities of myth-building and many ot
her criteria.

Eventually, we conclude that there’s very good reason to accept that George Washington existed, was the first President of the United States and that he most probably did not refuse to lie about chopping down a cherry tree.

The farther removed we are from an event and the fewer sources we have, the less reliable things become…

Did Socrates really exist, or was he merely an invention of Plato? I have no idea, and it doesn’t matter. The words attributed to Socrates are either sound or unsound whether they came from Socrates, Plato or Plato’s next door neighbor. The words stand and fall on their own merits. (Note that this is not true in the case of Jesus where the truth of his words is inextricably tied to his existence…)

What about Jesus? We have a few accounts, by anonymous authors, written decades (or more) after the events supposedly occurred. We have no extra-Biblical, contemporary evidence to confirm any event specific to his life. We have, from these four Gospels, reports that either explicitly or implicitly conflict (was he born while Herod reigned or during Quirinius’ census?) and we have many outlandish, mythic-hero claims. We have no good reason to think that any of these are eye-witness accounts and even if they were, we have no way to verify their reliability.

If we make a list of claims about this individual and rank their likelihood and credibility, we wind up acknowledging that it’s likely that there was a person at the center of these myths…but we can’t confirm anything about this individual’s life. There’s not sufficient evidence to assert that the Jesus character was entirely fabricated but after conceding the possibility that an itinerant rabbi existed, there’s really not much else to say.

You could, if you wanted to, interview people who claim to have been abducted by aliens. They’ll tell you stories that contain remarkable similarities, they’ll seem honest and sincere and there will be many of them that agree. Will you believe their claims? If not, why not? Their claims are far better supported than the ancient writings of anonymous authors and less far-fetched (many of the stories don’t actually involve physics-defying miracles). You’ll be getting eye-witness testimony, directly from the source – but I’m betting you wouldn’t believe and it confuses me as to how one can do that, and then believe ancient, unsupported claims of miracles.

If God doesn’t exist then do I really have to live up to morals? Can I just pick and choose the mores I want live by? If God doesn’t exist does that give me the “okay” to do evil? Who’s to say I’m wrong? Society can, but in the long run I don’t have a consequence, but who’s to say society is right anyway?

There are consequences, and we both know it. Saying “in the long run” is just a red herring. Your line of reasoning ignores the only consequences that are likely to matter…the ones that happen while we’re alive. It does no good to appeal to hypothetical post-life consequences.

If God doesn’t exist is murdering an unborn innocent developing human wrong then?

I’d say God’s existence is irrelevant to whether or not it’s wrong. Does genocide or child rape become morally correct simply because a God declares it so?

The Euthyphro dilemma is an ancient treatment of this subject. An updated take on it might look like this:

Is something moral because a god commands it or does a god command it because it’s moral?

If it’s the former, then there are no moral absolutes, morality is simply a fiat declaration that can be changed on whim (and the fiat declaration of this god is no more moral than my own declaration – the only difference is one of power; a might-makes-right mentality which has no ties to morality). If it’s the latter, then the god is simply a messenger boy and is irrelevant to whether or not an act is moral.

What would happen if the “notion of God” disappeared? Would the world become a better place or would the world become horrifically barbaric? The world is barbaric with the notion of God already, so how much more barbaric could it be without the notion of God? Without God their are no limits of what man can do. People develop prejudices, intolerance’s, slander. For all kinds of reasons, “he looked at me funny.” If God doesn’t exist than its best to live life right now to the fullest in any way that suits you. What are your thoughts on this?

I think you answered it. Without the god concept, we are free. Would the world become a better place? I think it has and I’m optimistic that it’ll continue. Secular morality is superior to religious morality in every way except one – religious morality is simple and easy; it is an unthinking, uninvolved system that requires no effort on the part of the participants. Moreover, religious people already recognize and accept this and there are a few ways in which this is obvious. Here’s one:

The Bible clearly and explicitly advocates slavery. It gives instructions on who to enslave, how long you can enslave them, how much you can beat them, how much to pay for them. It explicitly advocates owning another human being as property, including passing them on to your offspring. This Old Testament advocation is not reversed in the New Testament, it’s supported with specific instructions for servants/slaves to obey even cruel masters.

This is morally repugnant. Even most Christians recognize that this is morally repugnant. It wasn’t their religious views that ended slavery in the United States, it was the influence of secular ethics that encouraged softer interpretations of their religious views.

If slavery is immoral, why doesn’t the Bible say so? Is god so inept in his communication that he inspired men to get this simple issue exactly backward? If so, how many other things are backward? How many subtle doctrinal points that have divided Jews and Christians are the result of this God’s inability to communicate? Why hasn’t God cleared this up? If God did inspire the Old and New Testaments, why not inspire a New New Testament correcting the mistakes? Why did it take the influence of secular progressives to change the moral views of Christians?

Is it more likely that this god is inept, or that he simply doesn’t exist? Is it more likely that the Bible represents the best thinking of its authors at the times it was written or that it reflects the best thinking of an omniscient moral lawgiver and creator?

How hard would it have been to say “Thou shalt not own another human being as property”? Instead, the Bible specifically states that your slaves are your property and they can be passed on to your descendants.
How hard would it have been to say “Slaves, do not succumb to masters, cruel or otherwise, but throw off the yoke of oppression and be free”? Instead the Bible orders servants to obey their masters, even the cruel ones.

The Bible is simply wrong about slavery. Apologists will attempt to cover for this with a thousand excuses, but the Bible is simply wrong.

Bottom line is either God exist or not, you either see him or don’t. But we both can’t be right.

You’re making a mistake here and I don’t want to harp on it too much, but it needs to be clarified.

“Some god exists.” That is a claim and those who accept that claim are labeled theists and those who do not accept that claim are atheists.
“No gods exist.” That’s a different claim. There really isn’t a label for those who accept that claim, but anti-theist will probably do.

The point is that rejecting the first claim does not mean you necessarily accept the second claim.

Yes, it is a fact… either some god exists, or no gods exist. Those are the only two possibilities. However, what you BELIEVE about those two possibilities is not limited to simply two options. Rather than g
oing into great detail, I’ll recommend that you watch my lecture on belief.

When we die we are either just going to obliterate into nonexistence which sounds nice, or we are going to see ourselves the way God sees us.

Whoa, cowboy! How did you come to the conclusion that those are the only options?

It’s worth noting that some Christians believe that non-believers will be annihilated instead of sent to an actual hell – so even within the scope of Christian doctrine your dichotomy fails. But there’s no reason to accept the false dichotomy that implies that either your particular take on Roman Catholicism is correct or the anti-theistic view is correct. What about the theological claims of Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Jains, Hindus, Zoroastrians? There are many different competing views and they can’t all be right…but they can all be wrong.

You’re proposing a modified version of Pascal’s wager here and it’s the last gasping breath of someone who has already admitted defeat.

Which doesn’t sound to pleasing, because nobody knows where he or she stands with God that’s why we have faith. Unless you “presume I’m Saved” I can say I’m saved all I want but that doesn’t mean one iota, that’s my opinion. God isn’t limited to what a finite creature thinks of him. God can do anything and everything, there are no limits with God.

You seem to be defining this God more specifically, as we go along. Despite your claims of uncertainty, the god you’re describing is sounding more and more Roman Catholic. Do you see what you’re doing? Do you see how you’ve skipped past the truly relevant questions and made assumptions that support your presuppositions?

If God allows evil in the world, then God allows evil in the world, if God allows goodness in the world, then he allows it. Only God is good. But he allows it.

By what standard are you determining that God is good? If God is only good by his own standards, then couldn’t the Devil be considered good by his own standards? How are you accepting one set of standards over the other?

Either you are judging them by your own standards (in which case you are the author of your own morality) or you’re choosing one of them with no regard to any objective standard. As a mere mortal, how can you be sure that you haven’t backed the wrong horse? After all, yours supposedly sanctioned slavery and threatens people with hell. Exactly what has the Devil sanctioned?

Please realize, I don’t believe in either and I’m not supporting either. We could substitute any two fictional rivals and the questions are still valid.

You can say “what is the problem with righteousness in the world?” People typically don’t question beliefs that are comfortable to them. If God doesn’t exist then what is there to atheate?

First of all, atheate isn’t a word…and while I initially thought I liked it, I really don’t. It represents a flawed perspective that I partially outlined in my comments about belief. Despite that, let’s look at what you wrote next:

Nobody atheates unicorns cause nobody believes their real. If God wasn’t real their would be no believers.

You’ve committed a rather obvious logical fallacy here which would invalidate any syllogism you attempted to construct. I’m not even sure I can put those two sentences in a syllogism in order to clearly show the error.

First of all, if no one believes unicorns are real then everyone ‘atheates’ unicorns. Because the only way that your non-word means anything is if it means “rejects claims of the existence of”. So your first sentence is absolutely backward – everyone atheates unicorns (provided we ignore the views of children, for the sake of argument).
The real problem, though, is in your second sentence, “If God wasn’t real there would be no believers.” Rather than constructing a syllogism, let me just retype that sentence replacing one word…hopefully you’ll begin to understand how horribly flawed that sentence is:

“If Allah wasn’t real there would be no believers.”
“If Brahma wasn’t real there would be no believers.”
“If Karma wasn’t real there would be no believers.”
“If Homeopathy wasn’t real there would be no believers.”
“If Astrology wasn’t real there would be no believers.”
“If alien abductions weren’t real there would be no believers.”
“If bigfoot wasn’t real there would be no believers.”

You’re trying to claim that the existence of atheists somehow confirms the existence of god and you tried so hard to do it that you made up a new word, got the usage of that word completely backward in the first sentence and then wrote a second sentence that is so invalid that I’m pretty sure you’ll be a little embarrassed. You should be, but don’t beat yourself up over it. We’ve all made stupid mistakes like that…it’s learning from the mistakes that matters.

Nobody typically submits themselves to something that they know doesn’t exist.

This is the “no one would knowingly die for a lie” claim that we dealt with over the summer. First of all, it’s not true. People have knowingly died for a lie when they thought they were protecting others or serving a greater good. Second of all, it’s irrelevant because we need not claim that martyrs died for something they knew to be untrue. We need only note that whether or not they believed sincerely is irrelevant to whether or not the claim IS true.

There have been many martyrs for many religions. I’d reckon that the overwhelming majority of them sincerely believed that they were dying for the truth. I’d also point out that you and I would agree, I presume, that all non-Christian martyrs died for something that we do not believe to be true which means that we agree that people do die for things that aren’t true, they just may not realize that they aren’t true.

The sincerity of one’s convictions has no bearing on the truth of those beliefs.

If God wants to manifest himself into bread, so be it, whether I understand or not. If God wanted to make me non existent he could. You start putting limits and boundaries on a being with no limits or boundaries you set yourself up for doom. You can’t force God to be on your own your own time at your convenience, he plays by his own rules whether we agree with those rules or not, that’s besides the point. If God wanted evolution to exist, then so be it. If God made the natural ;aws of order for people to discover so be it. If God allowed man to figure out E=MC2, So be it.

And if those things are true irrespective of a god, so be it.

Every man and woman desires to be independent from God, the only problem is everybody is dependent on him, I exist because he allows me to exist whether I acknowledge him or not.

Please demonstrate that God allows you to exist.

God doesn’t force anybody to believe in him, but he does ask for us to believe and that we follow his commandments,

Please demonstrate that God has ever asked us anything or ever provided us with any commands to follow.

God is the one trying to save our butt he wants us to believe in him,

What is God saving us from or to? Why is belief relevant? Is God powerless to act without our belief?

only God can save us from what we think we want,

Why do we need to be saved from what we think we want? Isn’t what we think we want simply what we want? Do I want something and think I want something else? How do you know?

but God knows the outcome and warns us, “that’s n
ot what you want, I know you better than you know yourself.”

I’ve never received this warning. How is it delivered? Wouldn’t that count as a manifestation?

I don’t believe in God to save my butt from hell. I believe in God because I love God

What an absurd statement, “I believe in God because I love God”. I love time travel, but that doesn’t make it real or believable. If I said “I believe in time travel because I love time travel”, I’d be laughed off the air…and deservedly so.

The time to believe something is after you have an understanding of it and after it’s been reasonably demonstrated to be true.

It seems that you care more for comfort than truth. It’s called a ‘comforting delusion’.

we can never attain maximum love of God with only a minimum knowledge of God.

OK, now you’re just tossing out nonsensical preaching terms. You started off well; asking questions, considering possibilities and now you’re just trying to say things that sound deep when they’re really not.

I love my parents even though they grounded me, and spanked me but they also raised me and took care of me. You come to love your parents more by realizing how much they have sacrificed on their behalf for you.

You come to love/admire/respect/hate people by knowing them and seeing qualities that you consider worthy of love/admiration/respect/hatred. You can love/hate real or fictional characters…but how you feel about them has no effect on whether or not they exist.

The god character in the Bible is not worthy of respect or admiration. Whenever someone explains why they love or revere god, it’s never that Biblical character it’s the fictional character they’ve invented in their own mind that is only loosely modeled upon that Biblical character.

Even if they were ruthless people they still gave you life, not to many unborn babies can make that claim.

Yes, I understand that you’re opposed to abortion and it’s obviously a major issue for you, as you keep hinting at it. Just for your own education, there are atheists who oppose abortion.

However, here we simply disagree. If you were raised by ruthless people, I don’t think you should love them simply because they didn’t abort you. That’s the type of thing battered housewives – and religionists – say and it just drives me nuts. Saying someone is worthy of love simply because they didn’t kill you is moronic.

And, I’ll also point out that “not [too] many unborn babies can make that claim” is silly. No unborn baby can make that (or any) claim. It does, however apply to all of them.

God didn’t make us to die, he made us to live, just like our parents.

First you need to demonstrate that God made us. Only then you can begin to demonstrate that he didn’t make us to die.

But since God knew man would sin and therefore die, he had already conquered sin and death, before anything came into being.

Now you’re just starting to get boring. I don’t mean that to be rude, but it’s the truth. Instead of a discussion, you’ve simply moved on to a sermon…and one that is not only uninformative, it’s not even Biblically accurate. He couldn’t have conquered sin and death before anything came into being, because sin hadn’t come into being yet, from both a philosophical and a theological perspective.

Just like how my parents planned a head before I came into being. Not a moment has passed with God. Their is no past or future with God, everything is in the now with him. God lives in an eternal moment. God doesn’t jump in and out of eternity but he does come into time.

More rambling definitions about what God is, just moments after asking all sorts of questions that implied that you didn’t know what God is. Can you demonstrate that any of this is true? If you can, why didn’t you do that instead of simply preaching it? If you can’t, then why do you believe it?

We have no concept of eternity, because we have never existed for all eternity,

More bad arguments. “We have no concept of 2000 years because we have never existed for 2000 years.” See the flaw yet? What you mean is that we cannot accurately conceptualize infinities. Despite that, we can have some understanding of it.

That aside, the point is still irrelevant – because you’re still just preaching rather than demonstrating. How does our ability to accurately conceptualize eternity have any bearing on claims of the existence of gods?

we have no clue what that looks like because were not in eternity were stuck in time, our senses have never came across it. Because we don’t know what the human mind looks like that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. The same with God, although we cannot see God, we see a natural order of laws, which can presume us to believer there is something out there. If there was no natural order of laws everything would be chaotic and about a 100% chance nothing would exist.

There are mathematicians out there that will find that sentence very amusing.

What you just said was that if there was no order, there would be chaos. Yes, that’s true. It’s called a tautology. How is it relevant? You think it’s relevant because you think there can’t be order without a god…that’s an argument from ignorance until you actually present the argument and evidence that demonstrates that it’s actually true.

I’m not against Science or Reason, I just happen to incorporate science and reason with faith.

Then you don’t understand science or reason…or faith. Faith is the excuse people give when they don’t have a good reason. Science is the method by which we discover good reasons. What you’re doing is accepting some science and reason, as long as it doesn’t make you too uncomfortable and as long as you can still find a way to shoehorn your irrational god beliefs into the gaps in our understanding.

While that’s not anti-science in the sense of being opposed to scientific inquiry, it is anti-science in the sense of retarding progress and polluting scientific inquiry with the unnecessary baggage of irrational beliefs.

Science, when properly performed, holds nothing sacred. Where exactly does the sacred fit into that paradigm?

Truth is truth and nothing can alter truth, my opinions don’t mean one iota. I just believe people have misunderstandings. Their seems to be a lot of ambiguity with God. I also believe people develop their own personal agendas. I look at the universe and see how small we are in the large scheme of things you almost have to wonder if we exist, does God even see us so to speak? The universe is deep and full of mystery beyond limits but to God the universe is a simple structure.

How do you know? You’re all over the map… ‘God isn’t understood, people misunderstand, but I’m sure that God exists and that the universe is a simple structure to him.’ It’s absolutely ridiculous that you can hold such contradictory views in your head.

I don’t believe in just “freak” accidents, a building doesn’t just one day appear. The universe didn’t just one day appear in eternity,

How do you know? I thought you said you weren’t anti-science…the big bang happened, it’s been confirmed by science. Are you rejecting it, or are you just saying that it couldn’t have happened without a god? If it’s the latter, how do you know? What justification do you have for making such an assertion? Have you studied other universes and other possible universes and come to this conclusion because the evidence lead you there…or did you start with the belief that God exists and find a way to plug it into the equation…or did y
ou simply give up and decide that because you can’t figure out how it could have happened without a god, that it must require a god?

because the universe is made up of finite material.

Says who? If you mean a finite quantity, you’re correct. If you mean finite in a temporal sense (and I’m sure you do, based on comments you’ll make in a moment), then there’s no reason to think you’re correct.

Finite materials cannot give being to infinite structures. Its one thing to believe God was born of a virgin, but its another to believe, all existence came about by just simply coming about.

Yes, one of them is supported by science and the other isn’t. Unfortunately for you, it’s virgin births in humans that aren’t scientifically supported.

Talk about the virgin births of all virgin births that we just came about by a “freak accident” nothing comes about by just a “freak accident”

Nothing? There’s never been a freak accident? There’s never been an astronomically unlikely occurrence?

Are you just exaggerating for effect or you on your way to collect a Nobel prize?

the universe isn’t a “freak accident” because there is a such a thing called natural laws.

Clearly you’re not in line for a Nobel prize. Those laws are part of the universe. They would, then, be part of the “freak accident” that you say didn’t happen. You can’t use them as an argument against the accident…they’re the very thing you’re trying to explain.

If it were a “freak accident” there would be no laws or the laws would be constantly changing at a rapid pace faster than the speed of light.

OK, now you’re just making shit up. The first clue was the very unscientific term “freak accident” being used 5 times in rapid succession. The second clue was when you started making grand assertions about what can or can’t happen – questions that some of the greatest minds are still working on.

You’ve gone from questioner to zealot rather quickly and I wonder how your God would look upon those who pretend to know stuff that they really don’t know.

But the earth sits on an axis of 23 1/2 degrees if it were off by a degree all life would become extinct.

Life, as you know it, would not exist…but you’re beginning with the assumption that we were the goal. You need to read up on quite a few subjects…beginning with the anthropic principle, and then I’d focus on evolution.

What you’re doing is looking at a hand of cards and saying “If the deck had been shuffled just one card heavier, I wouldn’t have these cards.” Correct…but so what? In that analogy you’d have different cards. In your example, you cannot say what would happen. Maybe there would be no life. Maybe there would be different life. Maybe that different life would be sending messages to another different life form claiming that if the angle wasn’t 21.75 degrees, all life would become extinct.

If the universe was always here then what is causing the universe to change?

If the answer is “we don’t know”, then the answer is “we don’t know”. It doesn’t mean you get to make stuff up or claim that our lack of knowledge means that some god must be involved.

Why is the universe at an incredible speed expanding? Planets don’t make the universe go. Stars and just random spontaneous molecular motions don’t cause the universe to just go.

You’ve asked a question and then made two silly observations…do you think you accomplished something there? If your conclusion is, as I’m sure it is, that God is the answer: that’s an argument from ignorance. Here’s an example of what you’re doing:

You asked a legitimate scientific question and then basically said “well, peanut butter isn’t the answer and neither is a coin toss…so I’m gonna say God is the answer”. 2+2 doesn’t equal 13, so does that mean it equals “God”?

Would anybody really believe that I existed from all eternity? No that’s nonsense.

Agreed. Especially since we have a rough estimate of when you started to exist (hint: it’s probably listed on your driver’s license).

I’m a structure, I am a mini universe inside myself, I have organs and physical features, and you can break those down into even smaller components with cells, the Gobi apparatus, the ribosomes, the nucleus, break that down even smaller to an atom. Do protons and neutrons and electrons if they had a mind of their own say “whatever we are in has that always been there?” Cells come and go, but I still exist, but I didn’t always exist, something higher brought me into being, that I had the potential to become.

You are the result of millions of years of evolution, which was the result of billions of years of stars converting elements into new elements and spewing them out in explosions.

I will soon come to an end just as the universe will come to an end because its made up of finite material.

You don’t know that the universe will end, and there’s good reason to think that it won’t. It’s called the First Law of Thermodynamics. The universe will suffer heat death (via the 2nd law), but all indications support the idea that the matter will exist, forever.

This, though, is entirely irrelevant to any of your points. You still haven’t bothered to address the question of the existence of gods…and despite skipping over that unknown, you’ve somehow settled on not only a particular category of god but a very specific doctrinal view of a god…and you’ve done it all without any justification.

Just as we cannot give ourselves being, abiotic or biotic, there is always a being that gives us being.

My parents.

Right now the earths being gives existence to all life form, the second the earth doesn’t exist then we don’t.

Unless we figure out how to survive away from the Earth and leave it, you’re correct (though we’ll more likely cease to exist long before the Earth does…it takes a lot more to destroy a planet than a species).

If the universe was an infinite structure then we would all be of infinite structure

That may be the dumbest thing you’ve said. Not only are you using ‘infinite’ as an actual quantity, but you’re also conflating infinities.

You cannot distribute qualities to subcategories. It’s like saying “If mankind is made up of men and women then I am made up of men and women”…

This is the problem with theistic discussions. People don’t have a good idea of what they believe or why and instead of actually considering evidence and reasoned argument, they attempt to defend it at all costs. It results in muddled thinking and tons of logical fallacies.

Everything finite thing runs its course, the universe too will run its coarse as well which could be in another kazillion years x a kazillion years. We know what a finite structure looks like, take a human but what does an infinite structure look like? Nobody has a clue.

It’d look like everything. :)

Even if the universe was an endless series of caused causes stretching backward into the past then everything finite in structure could be made actually and would exist even though their cause or previous parent might not exist. But even this from a logical standpoint you can determine thats not true, then that would mean once I come into being I don’t need anything else to give me being, nothing could ever be a contingential being,

OK, I’m glad we’re almost to the end because I couldn’t take much more of this. Contingential isn’t a word. I’m not saying
that just to pick on insignificant spelling and grammar errors; there are plenty that I ignored and I’m sure I’ve also made some. I point it out because you’ve clearly done quite a bit of reading and only partly understood what you’ve read and now you’re trying to use words that you don’t have a proper grasp of. This usually means one of two things… either you’re trying to sound smarter than you are because you know you’re not completely comprehending or you’re doing it because you honestly have no grasp of how much you have no grasp of.

You don’t have to do that. You don’t have to write me a lengthy dissertation made up of fake words and half-understood concepts. We can just talk.

The problem here is that you’re doing it while making one unsupported claim after another, all in defense of your beliefs when none of them actually succeed at defending your beliefs.

it would all have to be by mere chance, but who knows how many outside factors give me my being even outside my original cause. If they don’t exist then neither do I. Imagine an infinite amount of beings coming into being, if that were possible we are simply expanding the set of beings met from within the imagined set. But it has been met, since contingent beings has been met. There is some soure of being on which our material unvierse right now depends.

What are your reasons for not believing?

I don’t believe because I have not been presented with a logically sound argument or sufficient evidence to justify the claim. Additionally, I haven’t been presented with any argument or evidence that would make me think that there’s any value in proposing supernatural answers to questions, and a rock solid argument that demonstrates the opposite:

Supernatural appeals are not explanations. They have no explanatory power. You gain nothing by pretending that you solved a mystery by appealing to another mystery. You have, in fact, lost the opportunity to find the truth.

I don’t believe because no supernatural claim has ever withstood the rigors of scientific investigation. The truth has nothing to fear from inquiry…inquiry is the light that leads to truth. It is far more honorable to admit that you don’t know than to pretend that you do.

I don’t believe because the various god claims are absurd, in the highest order. They don’t pass the “sniff” test. For that, I’ll give you one single example that pertains to your religion (though I think I’ve already given an example in questioning why your God never corrected his books take on slavery)…

Imagine you’re in a foreign country with your pregnant friend. You don’t speak the language and she goes into labor. You’re standing on the sidewalk pleading for help, but no one understands or cares. In desperation, you drop to your knees and pray to God for help. When you finish, a ball of light appears before you, you have an intense feeling of calmness and it starts leading you to a car. You get in the car, find the keys in the ignition and pull out into traffic. The ball of light leads you down the road and every car pulls off to side, allowing you to safely travel at incredible speed. It leads you to the hospital and your friend delivers her baby.

Is there anything that could EVER happen that could possibly make you worship another god?

Most people would say “no”. I’d argue that the answer could be “yes” but it would have to be exceptional circumstances, like the baby dying or some other god doing something even nicer…but generally, the answer would be “no”.

Yet your Bible tells the story of huge nation of slaves that watched a sea part, so they could walk across dry land. They were lead by a pillar of light at night and a pillar of cloud by day and they were fed manna from the heavens. And yet, when Moses had left them for 40 days, these people – led by Moses’ brother – decided to just up and start worshiping another god…because the old god wasn’t working out.

That’s absurd. I don’t believe for one second that it happened. What it tells us is that these people were in the habit of worshiping whatever god suited their fancy and that they didn’t actually witness those miracles, because there’s no way they’d have thrown in the towel after 40 days…especially the brother of the leader.

But keep reading. What happens? These people are punished – except for Aaron, Moses’ brother. He gets to be God’s head priest.

Does that remotely make sense? Is that remotely the act of a wise and just god? The guy who led people astray gets to be the top dog? Isn’t it more likely that Moses simply hooked his brother up?

It doesn’t pass the sniff test. It’s bullshit, start to finish. It’s the poorly thought out revisionist history of a roving band of people who wanted to feel more important than they were.

That’s just one of many reasons that I reject Christianity and there are similar examples in other religions…but the big reason is this:

No religion has successfully met the burden of proof.

We know what you want

Got into a little bit of a dustup last night on Facebook on one of the show’s two fan pages (that I know of). No, this wasn’t a theist, but one of our legion of atheist viewers, taking the position that, because we were allowing too many atheists to call the show and prattle on ad nauseam, and weren’t doing what we should be doing, which is painting the walls of the studio with Christian blood, that we had lost touch with our fan base, grown boring and complacent and didn’t give a shit any more. And so on. I did my best to explain just what it is we can and cannot control about the program (among the latter, just whether or not any theists are watching at all, let alone feeling inclined to call in), but all my explanations were basically brushed off as lame excuses followed by more haranguing on how to do a show like this, which we’ve been doing 13 years, properly, from someone who hadn’t done one ever. You get that from time to time.

Happily, we simmered down and ended on a more friendly note than we began. But I felt I ought to address, in particular, this assumption some folks seem to have that we’re just totally oblivious when the show is being boring because some dude is yammering on about this or that and Matt or Russell or whomever isn’t hitting the hangup button fast enough.

First off, you should know some history. It’s true that the AETV a lot of you wish you were seeing now was the show you pretty reliably got each Sunday, back in the first half of the aughties. After that period, something new was added, and that something was the Internet.

Sure, the ‘tubes existed just fine back in the earliest days of the show as well. But back then, most people were still on dialup, video streaming wasn’t what it is, podcasts weren’t yet around, YouTube was just a twinkle in some programmer’s eye…that kind of thing. To give you an idea how different things were, there was a brief time when I redesigned the ACA website with a spiffy logo and all the rest of it, and lots of people complained because the fact there were JPEGs on the home page was glacially slowing their load times. (That the current site hasn’t apparently realized it’s not 1999 any more is a topic for another day.)

What this means is that, before, say, 2005, if you wanted to watch AETV, you watched it on ChannelAustin, which was then Austin Community Access. Shitty non-digital picture, titles typed out on a vintage 80’s character generator, the primitive works. This meant that the overwhelming majority of our viewers were Christians, stumbling upon the show while cable-surfing and getting their WTF meters blown right into the red. So on any given show, all but perhaps one or two of our callers would be a Christian, and often a righteously pissed-off Christian. We ended up with our regular weekly trolls, like Steve the Creationist and Prophecy Tim. The hosts of Christian shows on the other Access channels would call and yell at us. Truly these were days of milk and honey.

Flash-forward to the present, and what has changed? Well, along came YouTube, and all at once, AETV burst out of its Access cocoon and went not local, not national, but global. We have fans in countries Sarah Palin has never heard of, which would be most of them. We became one of the most, if not the most, popular atheist media programs currently produced, and to date, no one’s really doing it — live call-ins! — like we are and have been for a decade or more. And this of course means that, now, atheist fans of the show, who barely existed in the early 00’s outside of the regular ACA bagel-shop meetup group, vastly outnumber any Christians who chance upon us via a fortuitous clicking of the remote. And those fans, every Sunday, queue up to call in and talk. Which further means that, now, screaming matches with indignant fundies are a far more rare occurrence on the show.

If you’re one of the many folks kvetching in the UStream chatroom about this fact, pause for a moment to consider how those of us who lived the glory days must feel. We know what hijinks you’re missing, even more than you do. You guys know the “I’m gonna punch you in the head” dude? Imagine that kind of wacky (not so much the direct threat of violence, but the general loss of temper) all the fucking time, and you’ll have a good picture of the show from around eight or nine years ago.

Now, having said that, consider this.

What are we gonna do? Just tell our atheist fans not to call ever? Of course not. Most of you are fans in the first place because the show filled a very special niche in your life, one you probably didn’t know you wanted filled. If I had a buck for every email we get from a viewer who thanks us profusely, who thought that they were all alone in their nonbelief and didn’t feel anyone understood them or relate to them…well, I’d have a few bucks. The point is, the fans — the very people who are, ironically, complaining their own calls on the show are overrepresented — are profoundly important to us. And AETV is not simply intended as a weekly believer beatdown. It is also an outreach to isolated and lonely atheists. So if someone calls with a heartfelt question about, say, dealing with an alienated family member, we’re not just going to boot that guy off the line because all you bloodthirsty psychos in chat are itching for us to go Leatherface on a creationist. That call may be a bore to you. But it is certainly very important to him. A lot of your godless brothers and sisters do live the proverbial lives of quiet desperation, and if we’re the only people they have to talk to about a serious problem, we take the role seriously.

And yet, we do want more slugfests, like we used to get. And we are aware that a number of calls from atheists are allowed to prattle on. There were at least a couple of callers last Sunday I’d like to have seen Russell hit the button on about five minutes sooner than he did, but that wasn’t my call to make. To put it in its most direct terms, if you’ve found the show disappointing in its lack of interesting and heated on-air exchanges, remember the following:

  1. In live TV you never know what you’re going to get.
  2. Not every caller will be a stupid fundie we can tear to pieces.
  3. You will find some calls interesting and not others. (Corollary: You will find some entire episodes interesting and not others. We sure do.)
  4. We’re all just enthusiastic amateurs at the end of the day, volunteering our time to do this because we enjoy it so much. That said, though I’d say we’ve gotten pretty good at it over the years, our efforts will always be imperfect.

We appreciate that we have an international fandom now. And perhaps it’s because we make this look so much easier than it actually is, that a number of our viewers become so vocal about how we could fix it. But while we simply cannot force more Christians to call us (and when they do, trust me, they get moved right to the top of the queue), there are ways you can help us make the show better, brisker, and less inclined to tedium. While I’m no longer the full-time host and it’s not my prerogative to set standards for callers, I don’t see that Matt or Russell would disagree with me too strongly over the following suggestion.

If you, as one of our atheist fans, want to call the show, be prepared. Make sure you have an interesting and pertinent question. When we take your call, ask your question, allow us to answer it, and then once we have, allow us to move on to the next caller, instead of putting us in the position of having to cut you off. Once we’ve
answered your question, don’t think Huh, what else can I talk about? to keep us on the line. Fifteen minute epic calls that aren’t about something damned interesting can be pure pain to endure. Check the ACA FAQ before you call, to make sure we haven’t already addressed your issue. Moreover, check Iron Chariots if you have some complicated question relating to counter-apologetics. In short, when you call, be on point, get to the point, and stay on point. Short and sweet.

And who knows, if we get in the habit of blowing through, say, eight or ten callers an hour instead of only four or five, we might get a better variety of callers being far less long-winded. And some of those might just be the indignant Christians you’ve been hoping for! With everyone doing their part, we may yet return to the days of milk and honey. And blood.