BRING ON THE CRAZY!

Some emailer from “UK Isle of Wight” writes:

Subject: GOD Dose exist and the proof is everywere


Quite simply and so beautiful, GOD is nothing and nothing is the absolute of everything

Kazim:

“GOD is nothing”

I agree with that part. The rest seems to be pretty much gibberish.

Emailer:

nothing exist

hypothetically lets say the universe has a wall made of rubber if we take all the stuff out we get closer to nothing until were left with particles bouncing around at a colossal rate witch would form heat as energy this “energy” is now in theory in nothing so it has no forces to keep it in or to burn its fuel so it expands massively on a colossal scale until it spreads its energy out evenly then it would contract back in and technically repeat again and again.

so if nothing is something can we call it God in the sense of something of a creation or beginning rather then a higher being of consciousness?

Kazim:

The things you are saying at least superficially resemble sentences constructed in the English language. I imagine they make sense to you in some way.

Emailer:



v = HD and E=mc2


what don’t you understand ?



Kazim:


Flamingoes may journey smooshily up besides the curly hedges of knickers!

Emailer:

to write out the complete origins of the universe would lag the internet out for years in one single email. to be derogative of meaning i.e. talking gibberish is not only showing a complete bias approach to life and its existents but also completely missing my point of God cannot exist as nothing is impossible nothing is Zero witch is unachievable and infant but without zero nothing would exist at all.

It was a joke u numpty !

best wishes

Open Thread / Show #693: Jen & Tracie

As always, we air at 4:30-5:30 PM (CST) today (Sunday). You can watch live on ustream:

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/the-atheist-experience

My plan is to discuss a few of the willfully ignorant things theists say in response to discovering people are atheist activists, including statements such as “why are you so angry at god?” and “I think you’re just searching for god.”

Example: Person X has a loved family member who swears by a particular homeopathic doctor, who is conning them out of their money and resources and “treating” them for a dangerous and potentially fatal illness. The family member will not seek demonstrated effective treatments from a conventional doctor, because the homeopath has convinced them that modern medicine is a hand-puppet of Big Pharma and therefore an untrustworthy conspiracy. Eventually the family member dies. Person X begins a blog and a youtube channel to tell their story to help expose the dangers of homeopathy. They are contacted by others with similar stories, and they form an association to spread information to people about the lack of support for homeopathic claims and hopefully to help others avoid the same suffering they have experienced at the hands of charlatans.

They should expect to get letters from believers expressing they are wrong. They should expect to be accused of being cogs in the Big Pharma conspiracy. They should expect to get testimonials from well meaning people with anecdotes about their “successes” with homeopathy and the “good” they are convinced it does.

But I’m sure they would never expect some willful idiot will suggest that they are fighting homeopathy because they secretly want desperately to find evidence showing it really works, or that they secretly already believe it does work, and are angry about the fact it works.

These particular rebuttals to the anti-homeopathy movement would be ridiculous. It seemed to me time to provide a link calling it out as “stupid,” for people to use. I’d rather atheist skeptics, anti-theists and activists spend their time letting theists provide their demonstrations for their claims of gods existence, than spend their time having to defend against accusations that even a fool should recognize as foolish.

I have heard theists confuse hypothetical uses of “god” with belief in god. But I find this utterly dishonest, because we all use hypotheticals routinely. There is no reason someone should suddenly be unable to recognize a commonly used method of examining a claim. I might say to you I think a problem with your car is that you have an oil leak. But you know of some reason that isn’t correct. You say “If it were an oil leak, though, I would expect XYZ to be happening, too, right?” That does not mean you agree it’s an oil leak. And nobody should misunderstand that. In the same way if an atheist says “If there were a god that killed all these people that would be morally inexcusable,” the atheist is not asserting believe in god and belief in the claims of the Bible. It’s clearly a hypothetical, and even more-so due to the fact he wears the clear label “atheist” to alert the theist he doesn’t accept this god is real. There is no excuse for any misunderstanding in these dialogs. I’m convinced these “misunderstandings” are willful dishonestly and red-herrings to get the atheist off track and in a defensive mode so that the theist is then relieved of having to defend an indefensible position.

So, if it helps, save the link to this blog post. Whenever you’re told you “hate god” or are “searching for god,” copy-paste and tell them atheists are worn out arguing dishonest stupidity and unless they have something of actual substance to offer in support of their unjustified beliefs, you aren’t going to waste your time debating people who can’t grasp basic levels of communication such as how to recognize the use of a hypothetical, the meanings of common words (“atheist”) or how to apply the simplest context (“I don’t believe in god, therefore I cannot hate god”).

*Correction: I updated the headline to reflect Jen replacing Matt today as host.

More Blogger wackiness

While scanning the dashboard tonight, I noticed quite by chance that some legitimate comments had been snagged by the spam filter. So far Blogger’s been doing a fine job of ferreting out the Asian pr0n and Markuze ravings, but there are some decidedly non-spam comments stuck in there as well. I’ll go through some of these and try to clear the ones that are indeed legit, so if you’ve tried to comment here and wondered why it hadn’t appeared, this may be why. One pointer for future reference: comments that include an inordinately large number of links seem to get autoplonked.

“God Exists” and “The Bible Is True”

Following is a synopsis of some responses to a viewer mail we received from “Aaron.” I gave up hope that Aaron would be able to go very deeply into a dialog about his own beliefs, but felt it was worth recording for the edification of blog readers.

Hello Aaron:

This may be my last reply, because you demonstrate a level of understanding of the history and reality of your own religion and holy book that really requires a “Bible and Christian History 101” course, not a few letters from an association volunteer. And even though I am involved in Austin with an Educational Foundation, I’m not here to spoon-feed you a semester’s worth of information you could easily find online if you honestly even wanted to know how your Bible came to exist. I suggest you start here and follow the links to educate yourself on at least the basic facts about your own holy book:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bible_Canon

There have been many versions of it—including many “final” versions of it. And today there are in fact at least three “orthodox” Bible versions that are accepted in mainstream Christianity; and these are not all based upon the same set of base manuscripts for their content. When you say “The Bible,” then, you are using a word that refers to at least three different widely used anthologies of early Christian writings that are all considered “THE” holy Bible by different, large groups of people who all call themselves “Christians.”

>The Bible was written by Moses – who yes, was a shepherd

There is no compelling evidence that Moses even existed, let alone that he wrote any part of the Bible. We have wildly exaggerated tales about him, mostly in Jewish mythology, but nothing to confirm this was ever a real man, any more than a figure like Paul Bunyon.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moses#Historicity

The idea Moses wrote the first five books of the Old Testament is a Jewish myth. Christian Bible scholars know this. May I ask where you obtained this information and who told you this was true? Further, can I ask you why you believed it without researching it yourself? Many Bibles today come with Translator’s notes which would tell you—right there inside your Bible—that we don’t have the identity of the author of the Pentateuch—the first five books that Moses is said to have authored.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentateuch
“Modern biblical scholars see no signs of Mosaic authorship, but indications of much later writing”

>but also by a doctor/historian (luke)

Again, this is not a valid claim. It is not known who authored the gospel of Luke. It’s just an old church traditional tale:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gospel_of_Luke#Authorship

> and a guy who was a master of Jewish law (Paul).

Again, some books are attributed to Paul. But authorship assignment still requires speculation. There is no “fact” of who wrote the books within the Bible. But it is an undisputed reality that whatever is in there now is a revision of whatever was originally composed (which we no longer have).

Whoever is feeding you your information is unreliable and/or lying to you. Go to a Bible shop and open up the first page of each book in a NIV. You will see a page that tells you who the authors are *suspected* to be (if there is even a suspected author) and whether those assignments are based on scholarly guesses or just old religious traditions. What you will not find is anything conclusive to identify authorship to any high degree of certainty. And what you will not find is any credible Bible scholar who has studied these texts—believer in god or not—claiming they know who the authors actually are.

>Why would guys like Peter put embarrassing things about themselves in book where they’re just trying to gain followers (Jesus calls Peter “Satan,” peter deneies Christ). If you’re tyring to lie to build a following, you don’t do that.

Can you demonstrate Peter authored any book of the Bible and explain how you can be sure he did?

More importantly, when did I claim to know what anyone’s motives were for authoring 2,000-year-old letters? I have no idea what motives some anonymous author had 2,000 years ago for writing a letter—and I am sure you don’t, either. More importantly though, whatever was originally written is now gone. What we have now are altered texts that are no longer representative of the original writings.

I don’t know if you’re inclined to read more. I had been giving you very brief replies. My thinking was that if you couldn’t even recognize your own reasoning was absurd (in my examples of how you reasoned about Gremlins vs. god), I wasn’t sure a lengthy and densely informational response would be of any use to you (and would just waste my time). That said, I did put together a response to you, but mainly to post to our blog for the benefit of others who might actually be inclined to learn from it. However, if my assessment of you is incorrect, and you can follow the information below, here it is for your edification, broken down into three (hopefully easy-to-digest) parts.

1. Your support for your belief using “you can’t prove it’s not true” is irrational. And here is why:
You asserted god exists and the Bible is true; and you challenged someone who does not believe god exists and the Bible is true by asking if the claims “god exists” and “the Bible is true” could be disproved. However, you admitted you could not disprove gremlins exist; and when you admitted that, you acknowledged only that “maybe” they exist, but you “don’t know” (meaning you aren’t committed to saying if they do or do not exist).

But as someone who did not believe gremlins exist, who admitted he could not prove they do not exist, if your argument (i.e., I believe god exists because that claim cannot be disproved) is convincing, why do you not now believe gremlins do exist? Until you say it is true that gremlins exist, you are not a person who believes gremlins exist. That is you are still a nonbeliever in the existence of gremlins. Your position is merely it is possible they could exist, not that you believe they, in fact, do.

If you do not find an inability to prove gremlins do not exist to be a convincing argument for their existence, why did you use that same line of argumentation with me for your god, repeatedly? If even you demonstrate you don’t accept it as compelling–what on Earth made you think anyone else would find it compelling?

2. “The Bible is true” does not make sense based on my understanding of the word “true.”
“True” as I understand it, generally means “correlating to demonstrable reality.” So, when you say “the Bible is true,” I assume you mean that if we examine all of the best evidence for things claimed in the Bible, it will show a consistent positive correlation to what the Bible claims about reality. Since this is not the case, I don’t know how you’re using “true.” Here are two examples of what I mean, one addressing extra-Biblical reality, and one addressing internal Biblical reality.

Example 1: Extra-Biblical example:
You asserted not that evolution is false, but that you believe god was the catalyst for evolution. If you aren’t disputing evolution, then we can say that, in fact, we agree the Bible is not true in the case of Genesis and the account of how humans came to exist on Earth. According to the Bible, man popped fully formed and already communicating using language. And ultimately this same first human was wearing clothing and using agriculture–straight from his magical beginnings from dirt.

If we look at what evolutionary biologists put forward as the model of human evolution, then the Bible is not “true.” There is fossil evidence, DNA, and beyond b
iological evolution, a demonstrable history of how and when human agriculture is first evidenced compared to how long humans had existed previously in nomadic or hunter-gatherer cultures. Additionally we can tell from excavations approximately when people began to fashion tools (and by proxy when the idea of “manufacturing” things, such as clothing, may have been introduced), and there is simply no evidence to support that the earliest humans would have been “truthfully” represented by the Genesis account. All of the evidence appears, in fact, not to correlate to that account as “true.”

Example 2: Internal Biblical Example:
The New Testament passage (Gospel of) John 7:53-8:11 is as good an example as any. As an atheist, I have no objection to agreeing that the men and women who are hired to translate the best modern translations of the Bible are qualified people for the job. They are expert at reading and interpreting ancient languages that the average person wouldn’t begin to have a clue about. Additionally, they are devoted specifically to the texts used within the Bible. These are men and women who have devoted significant portions of their lives and careers to the Biblical manuscripts specifically. And I accept them as “expert” when it comes to claims about those manuscripts.

In the NASB and NIV versions of the Bible (both reputable translations), if any person takes an interest in doing so, they have a wealth of input from these experts, literally, at their fingertips. There are marginal notes, footnotes, endnotes, etc., right on the pages where the text appears. Anyone can see what the translators have to say about the texts Christians are reading in their Bibles. And I can’t imagine anyone claiming the people inserting these notes are not qualified to giving the best opinions of what the best and most current data demonstrates about what is “true” about these texts.

Throughout the pages, there are many insertions of notes that alert the reader that the text is in question or is disputed. It will alert you that this or that verse here says X, but in some other available manuscripts it does not say X (or says Y instead).

I chose John 7:53-8:11, because it is probably one of the most famous stories in the Bible about Jesus. It is the story of the adulterous woman–who is brought before Jesus for judgment. He there puts forward the famous line “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” This has become a very popular story with Christians.

Yet, according to the translators’ notes, it isn’t included in the oldest and most reliable manuscripts. They say outright and boldly, right on the pages of the NASB, that the story was added to the text later. These are translators who have a vested interest in the production and sale of Bibles being a successful industry. They have no cause to undermine their source of income by claiming “it’s a fake!” And yet, that’s what they’re saying if you are someone who accepts this book as “true.” If any group had a reason to lie or be biased about the Bible including reliable content, it would be people who work in the Bible-selling industry, selling to people who, like you, want very badly to believe it is “true”–and yet they’re telling you (and me) it’s not.

So, the best and most reliable evidence, considered by the best experts in the field, with no reason for bias against the text, does not align with your claim “the Bible is true.” And you can see this yourself–as any Christian who is interested can also–just by opening a good Bible translation that includes translator notes.

So, I have no idea what you mean when you say “the Bible is true.” I see no evidence that it should not be considered to include lies, errors, falsehoods–whatever you want to call them—basically statements that do not correlate with the best evidence we have to judge against in reality.

3. Your claim “god exists” is so far a meaningless statement, to which I cannot respond—since it makes no sense as you have stated it.
So far you haven’t really explained what this claim means. I don’t know what you’re calling god, so I have no idea what to say about whether it exists or not. But for example, I accept the existence of many things—books, water, chairs, even oxygen (which can be demonstrated using balloons and fire, and many other methods). To me, “exist” is a word we use to assert that a particular item manifests in some way in demonstrable, material reality.

This is why it’s interesting that you said only that “gremlins may exist” after admitting you could not disprove them. If I were to go into a classroom of 10-year-olds and ask them if gremlins exist, they would inform me gremlins are fairytale, mythical creatures that do not, in fact, exist. Their assessment has nothing to do with gremlins having been disproved. It would be a statement of the extreme lack of evidence for the existence of gremlins. In other words, the people who assert gremlins cause machines to malfunction, have never been able to produce a demonstration of what they’re talking about. This leads the reasonable 10-year-old to assert that gremlins do not exist. That is, their manifestation within reality so far cannot be discerned from nothing.

So, we have two bins. One labeled “nonexistent” and one labeled “existence.” Everything starts off in the “nonexistent” bin. And once it unambiguously manifests in reality in some way—either on its own, like the sun, or by some demonstration, like oxygen–it goes into the bin of “existence.” What we don’t do is put items into the “existence” bin BEFORE they are demonstrated to exist or before they manifest self-evidently in some measurable fashion.

Interestingly, a 10-year-old gets this, but you are so unwilling to admit your argument “you can’t prove it doesn’t exist, ergo it’s reasonable to accept that it does” is a fail, that you have demonstrated you will even dishonestly assert you can’t really say gremlins don’t exist—even though you and I both know that if you were honest, you’d admit you don’t give a second thought to asserting gremlins are myths. A 10-year-old is not only more reasonable than you, then, but also more honest.

My question to you is whether this thing—whatever it is you’re calling god—”exists,” in that it demonstrates a manifestation in reality that we can discuss. Or whether it is indiscernible from nothing? And if it’s no different than nothing, I can’t agree that “nothing exists.” And I can’t really examine what we’re supposed to be talking about in such a case—and I can’t see how you could, either? I have no data points to confirm to even begin a dialog with you about it. When you have some manifestation or demonstration, come back and we’ll have “something” to talk about (rather than “nothing”).

Thanks for writing.

-th

###

I’m sorry to say that after this exchange Aaron replied that he’d rather believe in god and be wrong, than not believe. That’s right, he threw Pascal’s Wager at me, after all this trouble I went to jotting down these notes. But knowing it would go to use at the blog allowed me to avoid feelings of futility and disappointment.

When I replied that Pascal’s Wager is a fail, but that he’d have to research it to find out why, he sent back a fairly large cut-and paste-apologist’s Web site content that asserted Pascal’s Wager was a fail because god demands devotion and real belief, not just someone playing a part.

I congratulated him on finding one reason Pascal’s Wager fails, and gave him a few others as a bonus point for having looked it up at all. Then alerted him that copying and pasting without giving credit to a source is plagiarism, because it’s like trying to claim someone else’s ideas as your own. He had asked me if maybe
Matt would write back to him. I told him Matt is copied on all the tv e-list correspondences, but that his probability of a reply from Matt was quite low for two reasons:

1. He’d already said he’d rather believe and be wrong. If someone asserts they don’t care if they believe falsehoods, what is the point of anyone arguing with them about the their beliefs? I can’t imagine a greater waste of time to enter into.

2. The last copy-and-paste note (paragraphs and paragraphs of material) was indicative of a problem we often see with some mail correspondence. We ask people to contact us to discuss what they believe and why they believe it. Sending us reams and reams of what someone else believes for us to rebut is senseless. If they can’t explain what they believe and support what they believe, providing their own reasons, then maybe they’re not ready to assert it as their belief? If the person who wrote the content Aaron had stripped and sent to us wanted to challenge us about his beliefs, he’s welcome to do so. But nobody on our list is interested in arguing with random apologists’ web content through Aaron’s endless relays. What an easy conversation that would be from Aarson’s perspective? He wouldn’t have to think or type or explain anything—just copy and paste while we spend time crafting thoughtful responses using our actual reasoning.

To summarize: Nobody on our list is interested in a one-sided waste of our time.

Universes and the equivocation fallacy

I said I was going to comment on this in the Episode #692 thread, but the comment got way too long. So here’s a full post.

In the most recent episode, a caller named Peter from New Zealand tried to prove that there is no God. Side comment: I have to say, I get really impatient with this topic, almost as much as attempts to prove that God does exist. Both pro- and anti-God arguments usually hinge on the notion that you can “prove” or “disprove” the existence of physical things through pure reason, without respect to the things that you actually observe in the universe. Augustine was really into this concept, and it was a big deal sometime around the Renaissance. But basically the rise of science was based on a recognition of the fact that our model of the universe is always going to be tentative, so we should build up a system that recognizes facts as more or less likely to be true based on their support through observation. There is never, ever, going to be some kind of successful argument purely of the form “A is A, therefore Bigfoot exists / doesn’t exist.” Proving things in the real world requires that you look at things in the real world.

Look, guys, 200 generations of philosophers have tried and failed to both conclusively prove and disprove the existence of God. If you think you have solved the problem all by yourself, you are most likely not only wrong but sounding completely ridiculous. Learn to live with uncertainty.

Anyhow…

Peter in particular was making a fallacy which is extremely common in theistic arguments against scientific cosmology. Namely, he was making an equivocation fallacy on the word “universe.”Early in the call, he says: “My definition of the universe is ‘that which exists.’” That’s fine, and it’s certainly ONE legitimate definition of the word universe.

But as his argument unfolds, he wants to apply that same definition to the claim that “God created the universe.” Then, the argument goes, obviously that is logically contradictory since God cannot create the universe if he is part of the universe.

To quote another caller: No, no, no, no, no. You’re done.

The theistic claim that God created the universe applies to THIS, current, physical universe that we inhabit. That is a completely separate definition of the word “universe” from the one he started with. You cannot claim that you are using one meaning of a word, only to turn around and apply a different one. That’s what the equivocation fallacy means.

Here, let Dictionary.com make this more concrete. Peter was starting more or less from definition #4 of “universe”: “Logic: the aggregate of all the objects, attributes, and relations assumed or implied in a given discussion.” I.e., “Universe” = “Everything.” But “God created the universe” implies definition #1: “The totality of known or supposed objects and phenomena throughout space; the cosmos.” That’s not the same universe!

Let me put it another way. Science fiction and fantasy fans frequently refer to the “universe” that encapsulates a particular set of characters, history, and rules. For example, the universe of “Lord of the Rings” contains Middle Earth, Bilbo, Frodo, Gandalf, and all that deadly dull stuff in the Silmarillion. Fans of Joss Whedon’s work refer to “the Buffyverse” (or sometimes “the Whedonverse”) which contains the events of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series and comic books, as well as Angel, and possibly (depending on how liberal you get) Dollhouse as well. Fans of David Weber’s Honor Harrington character call his books the Honorverse. Etc.

Here’s the point: J.R.R. Tolkien simply does not exist inside the Hobbitverse. Joss Whedon does not exist inside the Buffyverse. David Weber does not exist in the Honorverse. Certainly it is relevant and appropriate to speak about Joss Whedon during a discussion of Buffy, but Joss still does not occupy the same universe that Buffy does. (There are apparent exceptions, of course. But even if an author writes a version of him or herself into a story universe, it’s still not really the author; merely a character who happens to bear the same name and some characteristics.)

In the 1977 movie “Oh God,” George Burns appears as an unassuming man who turns out to be God. It is fair to say that in the universe(4) of “Oh God,” God exists. It is also fair to say that within the context of that story, God created the universe(1). But you still can’t confuse the two definitions with each other, and that’s why Peter’s argument is not good.

Within the universe of the fictional story known as “The Bible,” there is a character called God. That character created the universe (i.e., the cosmos). I think we can all agree on this from a literary point of view. Christians only differ in the sense that they believe that the Bible is non-fiction, or in other words, we are living in a universe that is accurately portrayed by the Bible. If that were true, then God would exist within this universe(4) but not within this universe(1).

And now that I have beaten this topic to death, go forth and equivocate no more.

Open thread on episode #692

Matt, Don, “Sacred” as a buzzword of ignorance. Have at it.

I just finished listening and I have a comment about the New Zealand chap who attempted to disprove God. However, it wasn’t my episode so I’ll save it for the comments section.

That so-called “Christian morality” in action yet again

Sometimes, by happy serendipity, you discover something that, in a totally non-conspiracy-theory kind of way, allows you to connect a few dots and go, “Ah soooo!” Being someone who makes something of a close-to-full-time hobby of science fiction and fantasy literature, and knowing as I do a number of writers both professional and aspiring, I came across news recently of a potential scam targeting the latter group.

The sad truth of our world is that there are hucksters and con artists out there who latch onto your dreams and hopes and insecurities in order to rob you blind. Religion has refined this so expertly all you can do is stand in awe.

Aspiring writers are easy pickings for vile charlatans. And it is via the blogs of award-winning science fiction novelist John Scalzi and literary agent Janet Reid that I learn of a writing contest for newbie talents, the fine print of which can be summarized as “We Are Going To Fuck You.” (What does any of this have to do with atheism and religion? Wait for it.)

The contest is run by one Karen Hunter of First One Digital Publishing. Immediately, to anyone who knows anything about the legalities of actual publishing, red flags are flying all over the map. First flag: entrants must pony up a $149 entry fee. An entry fee isn’t problematic in itself, but this one’s exorbitant, to put it mildly. I just entered an online screenwriting contest for the princely sum of 12 bucks.

Then there is this tiny little rider that they hope you don’t notice, buried deep within the rules.

All submissions become sole property of Sponsor and will not be acknowledged or returned. By submitting an entry, all entrants grant Sponsor the absolute and unconditional right and authority to copy, edit, publish, promote, broadcast, or otherwise use, in whole or in part, their entries, in perpetuity, in any manner without further permission, notice or compensation. Entries that contain copyrighted material must include a release from the copyright holder.

For those of you not up on writing or intellectual property stuff, what an entrant is being told here is that First One Digital Publishing expects you to give away all of your rights to the story you submit, forever. Once they have it, it’s no longer yours, and not only will you never get paid a dime if, say, they sell the story to film or TV, you cannot even ask for it back if they do nothing with it. And you’re expected to shell out 149 bones for the privilege. I’m reminded of Sarah Palin suggesting that women should be charged for their rape kits.

As Scalzi points out, with rules like these, why would any writer with a story good enough to submit to this contest not simply submit it to a real agent or publisher? Because you see, in traditional publishing, a writer is never expected to sign away all rights. When, for instance, Random House accepts your story or book, they are never flat-out buying up the story, lock stock and barrel. They are simply buying first publication rights, which is a license allowing them to be the publishers of your story, to which you retain full copyright, for a period of time specified by the contract. Once the contract expires, the publisher can choose to negotiate a renewal of it, or not, leaving the author free to take the property elsewhere. (Note: there is a thing called “work for hire,” but I’m not addressing that here.)

But this contest is relying on newbie writers being utterly ignorant of their legal rights, which, sadly, almost all of them are. And considering that the accepted length for entries runs up to 65,000 words — right around the low end of what the industry considers a novel — this represents quite a lot of work Hunter is expecting a writer to pay to give up.

The fuckage continues. You don’t have to know jack about writing and publishing to raise an eyebrow at this one:

In the event that there is an insufficient number of entries received that meet the minimum standards determined by the judges, all prizes will not be awarded.

Get that?

If an “insufficient number of entries” are received, First One can simply call the whole thing off. How many entries are “sufficient”? Why, they don’t say. So they can get 20, or 200, or 2000, and decide, so sorry, we’ve received an “insufficient number” of entries, but thanks all the same for submitting. And for your entry fee. Wait, don’t you get that back if the contest is cancelled? Why, it doesn’t say, so I’m going to take that as a “No.” So the contest will be off, but they’ll still have your cash in their bank, and your story, which they can publish, edit, do whatever with, without paying you or even putting your name on it. Because their rules require you not only to grab your ankles but supply your own lube. Finally they wrap everything up with a kicker that leaves them legally untouchable for anything, including, one fears, any arbitrary decision to turn up at your house one day, shoot your whole family dead and burn the place down.

By entering, entrants release judges and Sponsor(s), and its parent company, subsidiaries, production, and promotion agencies from any and all liability for any loss, harm, damages, costs, or expenses, including without limitation property damages, personal injury, and/or death arising out of participation in this contest, the acceptance, possession, use or misuse of any prize, claims based on publicity rights, defamation or invasion of privacy, merchandise delivery, or the violation of any intellectual property rights, including but not limited to copyright infringement and/or trademark infringement.

No, I’m not sure what kind of writing contest could result in “property damages, personal injury or death,” but at this point I’m willing to believe they’ll think of something.

Seriously, even the prominent “Writers of the Future” contest, a major competition in SF publishing that has launched several notable careers, and which is run by the publishing arm of the Church of motherfucking Scientology, does nothing that isn’t strictly ethically above-board in their own rules. Hopefully, by now, I’ve made it abundantly clear what an exercise in total fail Karen Hunter’s little contest really is.

So now we get to that happy serendipity I mentioned earlier. Once word got out in writing and publishing circles — with people tweeting the living hell out of the Janet Reid blog in particular — some folks began to wonder just who this Karen Hunter person was. Particularly when she responded to Reid with an awesomely bitch-ass comment in her blog thread.

Janet,

While I appreciate your comments. And I understand your vested interest in this business because if we’re successful, we eliminate the need for literary agents, the contest hasn’t launched yet. So to post our rules and a link telling people that this is a contest to avoid is both self-serving and misleading. Are there issues with the rules, yes. But I think you should wait until the contest officially launches on Feb. 11, 2011, before you tell people to not join it. That’s the fair thing to do.

Could I, a 20-year veteran in publishing as a writer and publisher, afford to put out a contest that rips people off? I’m not desperate. The goal is to truly find the next great author, something not too many people are actually looking for. What’s been your success track record?

Blessings,
Karen Hunter

PS: I sleep extremely well every night because I operate in truth.

Man. Hunter wasn’t done. This comment was immediately followed by “If my response doesn’t appear on your blog, I’ll know what your true motives are. Thanks aga
in.
” Well, I’d say the contest, rather than revealing how unnecessary agents are, actually illustrates their extreme importance, as agents make their living running interference between clueless n00b writers and the hucksters like Hunter who try to scam them.

Even given the hilarious defensive petulance and rich irony of much of this whine, there was just a lot in Hunter’s language that sounded to me exactly like the kind of butthurt rhetoric we get in emails from creationists, or conspiracy fans, or alt-med anti-vax loons, or anyone who’s pissed at us for slamming something they’ve attached themselves passionately to, and who can’t articulate their anger other than to imagine wild ulterior motives driving us.

So it came as little surprise to discover that Karen Hunter has done the right-wing Christian talking pundit thing on cable news.

Do any of you remember the “atheists need their own Hallmark cards” lady? Well, this is that Karen Hunter. And if you aren’t familiar with her still, she made an appearance on Paula Zahn’s show on CNN about four years ago, where the topic happened to turn to atheism. Appearing alongside the odious Debbie Schlussel, Hunter offered such memorable bon mots as these.

What does an atheist believe? Nothing. I think this is such a ridiculous story. Are we not going to take “In God We Trust” off of our dollars? Are we going to not say “one nation under God?” When does it end? We took prayer out of schools. What more do they want?

If [atheists] had Hallmark cards, maybe they wouldn’t feel so left out. We have Christmas cards. We have Kwanzaa cards now. Maybe they need to get some atheist cards and get that whole ball rolling so more people can get involved with what they’re doing. I think they need to shut up and let people do what they do. No, I think they need to shut up about it.

And here’s my very favorite.

I think they need to shut up about crying wolf all the time and saying that they’re being imposed upon. I personally think that they should never have taken prayer out of schools. I would rather there be some morality in schools.

Oh, morality? Would this be the “morality,” Karen, that led you to think you could get away with trying to bogart the rights in perpetuity of possibly hundreds of hungry and eager aspiring creative talents, while taking their money and constructing an impermeable legal shield around yourself barring them from any recourse against you, even the right to have the fruits of their labors returned to them if you have no desire to publish them? Or if you do publish their work to great success, and overlook putting their byline on it, having set things up so you don’t have to part with a penny in royalties either?

And was it the same “morality” that gave you the smug arrogance to think you could avoid getting called on all this bullshit, by actual established and respected (and godless) professionals in the field to which you’re only a pretender? Is that an example of the Christian “morality” you disdain atheists for lacking? Then let me state how proud I am to have missed the lessons in “morality” you took to heart. As a creative person myself, nothing disgusts me more than the idea of a sleaze merchant like you exploiting the naivety behind someone else’s dreams, and all for your own petty personal enrichment. But somehow, knowing that you’ve probably convinced yourself it’s what Jesus would do, all I can say is, it figures.