Good luck with that, Larry

Larry Moran offers an interesting challenge:

I challenge all theists and all their accommodationist friends to post their very best 21st century, sophisticated (or not), arguments for the existence of God. They can put them in the comments section of this posting, or on any of the other atheist blogs, or on their own blogs and websites. Just send me the link.

Try and make it concise and to the point. It would be nice if it’s less than 100 years old. Keep in mind that there are over 1000 different gods so it would be helpful to explain just which gods the argument applies to.

Thing is, we’ve been asking this same question for many years on our show. We always rush callers to the front when the screeners tell us they claim to have proof that God exists. So far, we’ve been disappointed.

Pretty much everyone says he or she has proof that God exists winds up landing in one of the following categories, roughly in descending order of frequency:

  1. They wish to make a first cause argument.
  2. Before the call ends they will admit to being an atheist in disguise; they either thought it would be funny to offer a fake proof, or they (correctly) believed that they wouldn’t get on the show unless they lied. Hot tip for people fitting this category: You almost certainly aren’t funny and didn’t impress any of the viewers. Try keeping the lines clear for actual theists instead.
  3. They offer some poorly drawn refutation of a particular scientific principle, and then assume that the only alternative to the science is their god.
  4. [Inserted after reading the comments] They cite a personal encounter with the supernatural which cannot possibly be verified, investigated, or duplicated.
  5. They have some pseudo-scientific argument that is based on some kind of misapplication of a science they barely understand, such as quantum mechanics.
  6. They have some kind of even worse pseudo-scientific argument that involves making up “laws” that don’t actually exist.
  7. They have some kind of linguistic argument that relies on proving that “God” exists based on purely semantic properties rather than observed evidence.

When these various tactics fail, about half will resort to threatening us with some form of Pascal’s Wager, most likely without knowing who Pascal is.

That about covers the supposedly sophisticated arguments that theology has had to offer in the last 200 years. Seriously. If there are many more then few theists are aware of them.

Open thread on episode #676

Matt and Jeff in our last 90 minute episode for a while. I’m in the middle of listening right now.

There appears to be a problem with the podcast, because annoying music keeps interrupting the audio. It might be coming from another studio or something.

Now this is ticking me off. 30 minutes into the episode, Pat from Pasadena called in. AGAIN. Last week she called me and Martin and rambled for quite a while about her “non-traditional Christianity” that she knows from “metaphysical” experiences that she picked up through meditation.

I think Martin and I were pretty patient with her last week, but this is ridiculous. She called in again, with completely different hosts who haven’t her routine before. She makes NO acknowledgment of the fact that she called last week. She doesn’t say a word about the time we already spent on her. She shows no sign of recognizing what we told her then. She just pretty much says exactly the same thing to see what different people will say to her. And predictably, the response is almost exactly the same.

No longer a friend of the center…

Rather than writing a long post, I’ll just link to Jerry Coyne’s comments as he and I seem to perpetually be on very nearly the same page.

I’ll be speaking to CFI Tampa on October 16th. I plan to talk about whatever they want to talk about and I have no intention of walking into their home and telling them everything that I think is wrong with the organization.

Why not?

Because the organization, on the whole, is one that I still respect and would like to support. CFI members at the local level are some of the best people that I’ve met and have been great promoters of reason, discussion, conversation and fellowship (a word I’ll use with a grin, and mean it).

But, as I’ve said before, I’m disturbed by a number of individuals in leadership positions in various skeptic and secular organizations that have explicitly or implicitly tried to ostracize outspoken atheists from their organizations. Some of them seem to be doing it for ‘big tent’ reasons, some are opting for a style over substance accommodationism and some have simply been duped by lies (“skepticism has nothing to say about untestable claims” or “outspoken atheists hurt the cause”).

I love the idea of CFI and the JREF and dozens of other organizations. I love the people in those organizations. I greatly admire and respect many of the leaders of those organizations – even those with which I strongly disagree on some subject.

The difference is that I’d never implicitly or explicitly attempt to make them feel like they didn’t belong or that they shouldn’t be permitted to present their views or any of the other nonsense that has been directed at atheists.

Dr. Shook, you’ve been duped and dazzled by sophistry and intellectual masturbation. The “contempt for religion’s intellectual side” is the result of understanding, not misunderstanding. But hey, if you’d like to send out a few free copies of your book, let me know. I think I’d like to read it…and then I’d like to have myself, Jerry Coyne, PZ Myers, and others offer reviews and commentary on it.

Let’s actually promote inquiry and discussion. Now there’s a thought.

Then some days, we just get emails that are this awesome

Yeah, this one is Christian spam, but it’s one of those instances where you wonder if the person sending it to us honestly thought that offering us a link to a sure-to-be LOLtacular Christian online novel would be just the sort of outreach we atheists had been awaiting, to finally soften our hardened hearts against Jebus. The email alone is so fun (pick your favorite line), my only worry is the book will be disappointingly less hilarious by comparison.

There is a new epic novel (in e-book form) of intense spiritual magnitude. It is titled, “Satan: Judgment Day for the Dragon.” by author Trey Smith and founder of the God in a Nutshell Project.

Satan: Judgment Day for the Dragon is FREE. It is not partially free. It is not “kind of” free. It is not halfway free. Never once is a credit card even mentioned on the pages of this e-book site. IT IS TRULY FREE. And, getting to it is as simple as clicking here. Basically, we don’t want to sell it to you… WE WANT YOU TO HAVE IT!

This book, Satan: Judgment Day for the Dragon is a very… very new thing. It is the FIRST of its kind. It is a story based on Biblical texts, ancient historical evidences and a great many wonders we as mankind have forgotten. It is vivid, violent, gritty and gripping. It may shake you. It may twist you. But, you may love every second of it; that is for you to decide.

This novel is the story of how the devil became the devil. It a story that takes you into realms that are beyond comprehention. There is no simpler way to describe it. And describing it would spoil everything. We want you to SEE IT. You tell us; is it REAL? Or, is it just good fiction?

CLICK HERE to get Satan: Judgment Day for the Dragon FREE right now.

Is it REAL? Or (comma splice) is it just good fiction? I’m guessing neither. And I’d humbly suggest that anyone who thinks “It a story that takes you into realms that are beyond comprehention” is an effective pitch needs to sit down with a publicist. (Note in the interests of fairness: at least “judgment” is spelled correctly.)

Enjoy your book. (smileyface) In case you still aren’t sold, here are the opening paragraphs of the first chapter of the “novel.”

We do not start with the beginning; for in reality, such a thing does not exist. A beginning and end are merely two points on a line, a segment of what is everlasting. Thus, there is nothing magical about the beginning, nor the end. All that truly bares any interest is the curved, jagged, rippled, bent, twisted, sloped and amazingly warped line that lies in-between. In essence, the beginning and end are fixed points that only serve as a capsule to contain the chain of events that has led to this moment, the moment in which you now sit to read this page.

So, it would be foolish of us to begin at the beginning. That would be like attempting to read backwards gibberish. In this story, to understand the beginning, we must start with the end. Therefore, let us start at the proper place; let us begin with the violence.

In the real world of publishing, involving things like literary agents and editors, the last sentence of paragraph two might raise a giggle, if it weren’t for the fact that they’d have stopped reading and tossed the manuscript by sentence four of paragraph one. But by making it available free, at least this Trey Smith knows what it’s worth.

If you’re at your computers, I guess you’re already sitting down for this…

Word has just come in that The Atheist Experience‘s time slot is, for the first time in its 12 year run, being shaved from 90 minutes to one hour. I haven’t yet heard when this change will go into effect.

There’s already a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth about this on Facebook, but apparently there’s nothing we can do. I don’t think we’re being targeted or anything. What’s probably going on is a change in ChannelAustin policy by which they’re trying to cut back on longer shows in order to fit in more programs per day. Either way, it sucks, and it’s going to take some real adjusting.

One thing that’s going to have to happen is some real ruthlessness in dealing with tedious, rambling callers, like that “collapsing wave-form” dude from last Sunday. And hopefully our atheist fans will at last get the message that, while we love them dearly, it’s preferable to use the email address, and not a phone call to the show, to tell us what an awesome job we’re doing. We should be more strict about demanding a caller make his point within, oh, 30 seconds, or we’ll have to let him go. Since I don’t inhabit the host’s chair any more, I can’t promise the regular hosts will agree this should be the practice.

If I may be allowed to air a personal gripe? If you’re wondering why I don’t have any more details about this, it’s because I found out about it, just half an hour ago, from a Facebook post by Matt. While I know it’s important to let the fans know right away, I think it would have been — oh, what’s the word — a courtesy for the cast and crew to have been informed, personally, ahead of time.

In any event, the show will go on! We aren’t ones to let something as petty as having our time slot chopped by a third to stop us speaking truth to power and all that! You can expect the same spirited blasphemy and hard arguing and hilarious Jeff Dee tirades you’ve been getting all these years. It will just be in a more concentrated package. We love and appreciate the support of all our viewers, new and old, all through the years, and we plan to be around for many, many more years yet!

Addendum: Matt has sent us all an email explaining the changes and apologizing for what’s turned out to be an honest goof. There has in fact been email discussion going on the last couple of days about all this, but it’s been taking place on the ACA board’s private email list, and wasn’t being shared with the TV list, which Matt assumed was being done. Several of us on the crew are not on the ACA board, and I guess that got overlooked. So, consider feathers unruffled.

The new time slot goes into effect the second Sunday of October (we’re being pre-empted on 10/3 by the fucking Mormons again), and we’ll be back in the big studio we were using ten years ago, which the guys have been trying to get for a long time in order to accommodate our ever-expanding studio audience. So kudos to them for managing that. For more details as they’re revealed, just keep checking the website.

Removing blog roll for now

That neat little widget that used to appear in the side bar, which scrolls through a list of other atheist blogs, is gone for now. It was causing some false reports of malicious software on some browsers. We’ll keep an eye on this site until they come up with a solution to put it back.

Open thread on show #675

Okay kids, here’s the fight cage for today’s show. No time tonight, but Monday at some point I will post my email conversation with Troy, so you can see what led up to today’s final call. Enjoy.

Oh yeah…arrrrrrrrrrrr!

Viewer Mail: Are There Other Gods?

I’m not posting the writer’s full letter because he is an atheist who wrote to ask how we might reply to a theist he encountered. I provide sufficient input to give you an idea of the claims he said were put forward:

>…[to an atheist] there are no concepts of evil and suffering.

Well, that’s just stupid. Evil may be self-defined, but that is what a “concept” is–an idea you hold. An atheist may say “I don’t use the term evil because it’s too ambiguous,” but he could hold “X” as a criteria of evil and accept X is evil. Meanwhile “suffering” is less ambiguous. While we can talk about what constitutes suffering, anyone who has ever broken a bone or burned themselves or lost a loved one understands suffering–both physical and emotional. Even animals understand suffering–we know, because when they’re given choices to avoid it–they take those non-suffering options. If a dog can understand it, why not an atheist?

>To an atheist, there is no difference between a tree falling over and crushing a bees nest and an earthquake causing a building to collapse and kill a group of human beings.

In-group bias exists in all social species. Wolves, for example, hunt prey–but how often do you see them hunting wolves? This person is trying to give god credit for biologically derived realities. Bees are not people. And we are biologically geared to care about other humans, because we are human social animals. This is why you don’t see cultures that routinely raise other humans for food–anywhere on the planet. All people, all wolves, all chimpanzees, see a difference between members of their own species and animals that are not members of their own species. Again, a wolf can get it, but a human can’t–without god?

>Seeing as all living things are just random matter, what’s the difference to an atheist?

Seeing as all people are depraved and deserve death and hell, why does a Christian care if a building falls on other people? Didn’t they deserve it?

>He claims that only biblical faith offers objective standards of good and evil

Actually, it doesn’t. Euthyphro shredded this years, and years, and years, ago. You can either personally understand why X is wrong, in which case you are using your own moral judgment, or you can’t understand why it’s wrong, and you’re nothing but a trained monkey who does X because he’s been taught to, with no employment of moral judgment. Following orders is not a morality and requires that I exercise no understanding whatsoever of moral thinking or behavior. Beyond that “Thou shalt not kill” was followed by god ordering the killing of people all over the place. How is that objective? Is killing wrong? Is slaughtering your neighbor, his wife, and his toddler sons–but keeping his (most likely underage) daughter as a “wife” (i.e., sex slave)–the sort of objective morality he means?

>Atheists have no reason to feel pity for anyone or anything.

So, rats empathize, but not people. What a sick view of humanity–we don’t even have the natural emotional range of a rat?

>he said there that there have never been any other gods.

What about the Ugarit god “El” that the Hebrews borrowed to create the god he worships today? Pantheons have been demonstrated in Egypt, Greece, Rome…the idea there are no other gods is so demonstrably false (if we mean gods people believed in and worshiped) as to make his claim ridiculous. Even Ba’al and Ashterah and Sophia are mentioned in his own Old Testament. Sophia (the goddess “Wisdom”) even gets a speaking part in the Book of Solomon:

Ashterah was the wife of El (another name for Yahweh), and was worshiped by the Hebrews alongside Yahweh (because both El and Ashterah were borrowed from the Ugarit pantheon). King Hezekiah abolished the worship of the wife of El, according to the Old Testament:

Ba’al is mentioned all through the Old Testament: (see the box on the right for more Ugarit gods)

>and are not really gods because they exist within the Universe, not outside it.

He doesn’t get to define what people call gods. If there are so many gods that don’t fit his personal definition, he can’t argue they’re wrong, only that he doesn’t personally consider these as gods. But he can’t say nobody else did or does. They are gods. They are worshiped. They do exist as legitimate concepts of gods that stand in glaring and direct opposition to his claim.

>Only Christianity has ever had the idea of an eternal, infinite creator God.

Let’s say that’s true. So what? What if I found only Egypt ever had the concept of a god with a hawk head…so what?

>Any religions younger than Christianity have copied it…

Wow, how can he claim to know what every religion after Christianity has taught? That’s a bold claim, and one I doubt he’s informed enough to make. But funny he worships a god borrowed from Ugarit by the Hebrews, while he claims other religions don’t fly if they borrow from his?

>But I just wondered what your guys thoughts were?

I think he’s ignorant about animal psychology and the roots of his own religion and instead of informing himself, he stays ignorant so that he can use his ignorance as a springboard to claim support for his beliefs–which shrivel and die in the light of actual information.


Open thread on Non-Prophets 9.8

It just occurred to me that I mentioned the new episode was up last week via Facebook, and of course you podcast-savvy listeners have already heard it. But for those who only rely on the blog for new information, you may not know that there is an all new guerilla episode featuring Lynnea, Jeff Dee, and me, Russell. Go check it out!