Open thread on episode #687

Have at it!

In case you missed it, I was pre-announcing this to be the “worst episode ever.” Planned co-host couldn’t make it. No phones. No audio in the beginning.

Mega-kudos to Steve for hitting on the strategy of filtering chat comments and sending them to the phone screen line as if they were calls. What you hear in the end is me interviewing first-time cohost Erica about her plans to come out to her Christian family, followed by 40 minutes of me mostly monologuing on caller questions.

Considering what we were working with, I actually think it came out pretty well and not the disaster it could have been. Your thoughts!


  1. says

    Painful. Ok, now that's out of the way -I have to give kudos for your ingenuity and seat of pants flying ability :-) You guys made the best of a bad situation and we appreciate the effort… and the outcome too :-) Thanks for the effort you all put into every show.

  2. says

    Well, it WAS a disaster. Horrible, horrible stuff. We at least can't fault you for false advertising. Considering what you had to work with, I guess it couldn't have turned out any other way.I hope nothing terrible happened to Jeff Dee. I really do.

  3. says

    Was the co-host a fan of the show who just came along to watch? If so, how many fans actually turn up at the studio to help out or watch?

  4. Martin says

    JT: I believe some years ago there was a Christian lady on staff who tried to screw us on our scheduling a lot. That's the closest I can think of. We did, however, have a few of the more prominent Christian shows call in and yell at us. I miss those days.

  5. says

    Just want to say that it could have gone a lot worse. Kudos for actually going through with it… and you pulled off a listenable show. I do wonder sometimes if the people managing the studio have it out for you guys. Being pre-empted, taken down to an hour, rescheduled for training, moved to different studios… etc.

  6. says

    I've been watching the Atheist Experience for over 1 year now or so and have to say this was the most horrific and boring show ever. The callers are the life, blood and entertainment of the show most of the time, unless there are more interesting/immediate 'hot topics' to address.I think it would be good to plan backup news or discussions for the show in the event of technically glitches. I don't think relying on chat is a good idea as it's too much of a cluster, not interactive, lame and doesn't have many of the theistic fools that we love to hear arguments from and laugh about.

  7. says

    Don't take this the wrong way, but maybe you tried too hard. Perhaps instead of trying for a "structured" program, you should have just sat and chatted with Erica about her background, her family issues, and whatever else came to mind

  8. says

    They should have done the Pascal's Wager Endurance Test, where they see how many times they can address it within an hour.

  9. says

    Russel, I think you did a great job, I liked your dialogue and the way you laid out your thoughts, not to mention I agree with pretty much everything you said. Guess that makes me a big ole kiss a$$. Well, smoochie, smoochie!

  10. says

    I think your Jeff impression needs a little work. Other than that, great job working with what you had. It certainly was entertaining.

  11. says

    I thought the episode turned out well. The crew and hosts did great. The people in the chat probably made it hard for the crew because many of the chatters kept posting worthless comments about “Jesus farting, (or something similar) in between quality questions. I would not have been able to follow the chat in any structured technique, so great job on that as well.

  12. says

    I didn't hear about this until this morning. I'm sorry that things didn't work out, but thanks for doing whatever you could to make it work.I've spoken to Jeff and it was a miscommunication, mostly on my part. You're doing the show with him on the 9th…so hopefully things will be much better. :)

  13. says

    I have to say I disagreed about your take on the whole Santa thing. It's not lying or playing a joke on kids, it's playing pretend. Playing make-believe is something we all do (hopefully) as kids, and this is just a chance for adults to play too. The youngest kid we have in my household is 14 and we still set out cookies and milk, and track Santa on NORAD. It's just fun. We don't actually think the dead are walking about on Halloween or think that a rabbit is hiding eggs on Easter, but what harm is there in pretending?

  14. says

    Re: IbisThere is a difference in knowingly playing make-believe and believing something that is false.When I was a kid I used to play with action figures. I would make-believe they were real and really doing things. I knew they weren't though, I was just using my imagination.I also knew that the cartoons where the action figures come from were fictional.It would have been wrong of my parents to tell me they were real.

  15. says

    Ibis,As long as you explicitly frame it as playing pretend, I have no problem with it and in fact agree. I already mentioned that I would take Ben to see the mall Santa, and I told him to play along with other kids.The only place where the practice gets dicey is if you stop treating it as pretend and tell your kid that it's true. There's a big difference between having your daughter dress up and play princess; and telling her with fake sincerity that she IS a princess who will inherit a kingdom someday.Your mileage may vary on Santa. I haven't really said that it's wrong to make your kids believe in Santa; it's just that I personally chose not to.Russell

  16. says

    I don't ever remember feeling that I was lied to about Santa Claus. Nobody ever told me outright that we were playing make believe or that Santa wasn't "real" (I had two sisters much older than I, so there was plenty of opportunity) and as far as I know, neither were my niece and nephew. When you play pretend, it kind of defeats the purpose to not explicitly say that it's true. At least from my experience, it's best when you go all in. By the time you're nine or ten at the latest, it doesn't take much common sense to realise the game you're involved in. (My mileage may vary somewhat because I was never indoctrinated to believe in a personal god.)

  17. says

    We were raised without believing in Santa (I wish my mother had gone the same route with the god thing) and our family did run into trouble because of my big mouth in the first grade. I let everyone know that my mother said Santa wasn't real – and she was promptly called into the school. I think the suggestion of reasoning with the child and letting him or her know that it's a game of make-believe that parents play with kids and they are in on it is a good suggestion. It could help them keep their traps shut — unlike me. Looking back on it, I'm a little horrified that my 6 year-old self did that.

  18. says

    I'm with Muriel – Russell is my favourite host, and if anybody could make it work, it was him. It was like an improvised episode of the non-prophets.

  19. says

    I don't know whether my parents told me Santa was real or just let me believe it, but I think there's something to be said for the process of finding out the truth for oneself. It's a good exercise in critical thinking; even if the kid finds out from a classmate they at least have to think about it.

  20. says

    I have to give my congratulations for all the people working on the atheist experience, even on the worst situation possible you guys manage to make the program, an it didnt suck ( too much XD).Maybe it was god trowning some curse on the studio XD

  21. says

    You did alright under the circumstances folks. Although (as you've probably discovered by now) I wouldn't go to chat rooms for accurate monitoring in future. Personally I could hear every word as you all spent ten minutes getting the sound to "work".Also – emergency audience member sub: is this a toe on a slippery slope to becoming the atheist Donohue?(mostly humerous question)

  22. says

    Santa was, in fact, a factor in my deconversion. This was because Xmas culture and my parents said it was very laudable to believe in Santa, so my 5 or 6 year old self promised himself that he would always always believe in Santa. Then it turned out he didn't exist, and (even though I never suffered public embarrassment) I was shamed into becoming more skeptical. Well, that, and my mom tried to insist he was real, and then real in a "metaphorical" sense as an incarnation of generosity and the Xmas spirit (and as an explanation for presents given by parents, which we knew wasn't really true but all conspired to believe). I don't think she really meant to insist on this point, she just liked sneaking in the presents on Xmas eve, arranging them, and seeing us wake up excited on Xmas morning, and didn't want us talking as if there wasn't a Santa and ruining the magic.This struck me as sort of silly/excessively sentimental (people can sneak around and give gifts and be excited about Christmas without Santa), which substantially colored my opinions about her belief in God later, given that virtually everything about it was completely analogous.

  23. says

    Muz: "Also – emergency audience member sub: is this a toe on a slippery slope to becoming the atheist Donohue?"That would be kind of cool, take a mic out into the audience and get a "man in the seat" view on things. I have no idea how easy that would be, of course…especially with lapel mics and robo-cams.

  24. says

    Not to be too hard on Russell, but I think the show would have come off better without the tone that sounded like "OMFG THIS WILL BE THE WORST SHOW EVAR, WE HAVE NO PHONES!!!1!"A calmer tone would have really helped it come off more smoothly: "We're usually a call-in show, but we're having major technical problems so we're going to get questions from our chat as best we can, and I have some things to talk about, plus we have a guest host, Erica, to help out."It's easy for me to say, being a Monday morning quarterback and all, but take it for what it's worth.

  25. says

    It took a bit of time to sort things out, but once you had the whole sort-out-the-chat thing going it was quite good. Although I could have done without the repeated loud snorting sound near the end.

  26. says

    I thought you did well with what you had, Russell.And if I could go off topic for a moment regarding Saturday's NPR–I personally thought Matt gave a quite cogent version of the Accommodationist argument. In so many words, regarding protests in the Hawaiian Senate, one might sum it up as "don't be a dick." Thankfully, unlike some others we could mention, he actually tied it to something concrete: the difference between blurting in at the generic "Father" and waiting until the sect-specific "Jesus Christ." No disrespect meant to Lynnea (sp?) who was simply less willing to compromise.

  27. says

    I just got around to listening to the podcast yesterday. I think it was a pretty good effort under the circumstances. Major kudos to Erica for having the chutzpa to go on camera with you. Especially considering her family doesn't really know she's an atheist!Moral of the story: always be prepared with extra discussion material. :o)

  28. says

    I think it would have been better if instead of panicking Russel had encouraged Erica to talk about dealing with xmas as an atheist surrounded by religious rellys. She seemed to have thought about it a bit and I was interested to hear about it but she was cut off in favour of something happening on the computer, it felt a bit impolite to me and I was disappointed as well. If it had been treated as Non-prophets with pictures Russel might have been less hysterical. OTOH I've never been on live TV so who am I to know?

  29. says

    Personally, Russell, I thought you guys did a great job. When nearly everything that could go wrong did in the five minutes, it was kind of over with, and then it was just interesting conversation. I listened to it on Monday and I honestly forgot that the phone lines were down till you remarked on it at the end of the show. So no fault here; I thought you all handled it terrifically.

  30. says

    Santa was, in fact, a factor in my deconversion.Yeah, me too, but I was 9 before I actually dared to ask my mom the question directly, though by then it was just to confirm my conclusions. It didn't seem possible to me that one person could do all that work in one night. And if he did, how could there be non-Christians? Wouldn't Santa be proof-positive? But if they weren't getting presents, either it was because they weren't Christians, or because Santa wasn't real. Somehow I decided it was more likely that a seemingly impossible story wasn't true than that Santa was holding people's religions against them — particularly when not doing so would convince millions. And I think once the Santa thread was pulled, that whole garment unraveled over time. Santa is for kids the fourth member of the Trinity, just like [insert name here] is "the fifth Beatle". So if one goes by the board, well…