Yes, we know the video link isn’t working. We’re working on it. Specifically, Don says we’re shifting to a new server. So I’ll add an addendum to this post when there’s a workable video to view.
A couple of notes on some things that a few viewers have emailed us about, regarding how a couple of the calls went.
Mark “from Stone Church”: Some folks have admonished us for being a bit curt and dismissive of Mark this time, considering how he seems to have made such progress in shifting from mindless follower to free thinker. Yes, about that. While I’m not as inclined to think there are as many Poes calling us as a lot of our viewers like to think, there is something about Mark that sets my skeptical Spidey-sense a-tingling with every call we get. I’m not the first person to make this observation. That his IP address originates from Canada has raised some eyebrows as to whether he really attends Austin Stone Church at all (though that’s not proof of anything, as a person could use any ISP they chose, I suppose). But there was just something about Sunday’s call that made a little blinking red light labeled Bogus! go off in my head, though I really could not put my finger on any one definite thing. Is he someone who’s been jerking our chain all this time? I cannot point to any smoking-gun evidence. Call it a hunch, which I know is about as unscientific as it gets.
There are little things — notice how Mark always claims to be present in a room full of people when he calls (“I’m with my congregation…” “I’ve got all my friends watching…”), yet you never hear any background chatter? You’d think a room full of Christians calling an atheist show would be full of “Hey, ask them this!” and “Let me, let me!” And then there’s the abrupt shift from “You’re going to hell!” to “Let’s get together on this investigation that shows every time you question religion it’s proven false!” Most of us who came from a religious background will tell you, you don’t go from a devout believer to hardline, investigation-minded skeptic in the span of a couple of weeks. Deconversion happens all the time, but it’s a long and gradual process and it often takes years to shake off the more insidious and psychologically oppressive aspects of religious indoctrination, such as the fear of even the remotest, 1% possibility that disbelief will lead to eternity in hell. (Pascal’s Wager is intellectually risible, but to a non-critical mind, it’s an emotional sledgehammer.)
But the strange thing is, if Mark is a Poe, he hasn’t been asking us anything overtly obnoxious or trollish. (His hellfire admonitions in his “believer” phase were standard Christian stuff.) So while I’m not sure I believe he is who or what he says he is, he hasn’t given us much reason to be rude or contemptuous of him, and that wasn’t the intent on Sunday. But by the time his call was over we were 25 minutes into a one-hour show and it was time to move on.
Charlie the “atheist homophobe”: Unfortunately, we had to move on to this assclown.
Again, some folks have opined that Tracie and I handled this one all wrong, and in fact I’d agree. What I should have done — with 20/20 hindsight — was point out that as an African-American, Charlie ought to know a thing or two about how hurtful and damaging ignorance, hate and bigotry are, and that for him to hold such views was simply disgraceful. Click, you’re done.
What I do not think we had any obligation to do was grant Charlie his point that the term homophobia ought to refer to “disgust” towards gays rather than hate and fear. First off, even if this were true, what difference would it make? Sure, homophobia can (and does) include “disgust,” but it’s the most asinine hair-splitting to try to claim that this emotion is somehow independent or entirely unrelated to fear or hate, when in fact “disgust” in this case is simply an emotional by-product of said fear and hate.
And even if it weren’t a by-product of those things, what exactly was Charlie thinking? That our attitude towards homophobia might change — that we’d revise our opinion that it’s sheer contemptible idiocy — if hate and fear were removed from the definition? And try as we might, we simply couldn’t stop Charlie from spinning in circles on the definition and pin him down on one salient question: if he thinks the definition of homophobia is an inaccurate description of his attitude, then why add to the confusion by using the term to classify himself?
Homophobia’s definition, I agree, is more complex than the strict dictionary definition (“irrational fear and antipathy towards homosexuals”) may reveal. Regular commenter GeorgeFromNY pointed out on Facebook last night that the term has its origins in clinical psych, and originally referred to men whose aversion to the gay was so intense as to be pathological. Furthermore, it’s often noted that what these homophobes fear is not gay men per se, but the possibility that they themselves might respond positively to a potential gay sexual advance, due to some latent unexplored homoerotic attraction they haven’t (and cannot) come to terms with. In short, it was projection gone wild. Now, I’ll admit that many homophobes may in fact not be closet cases, though the sheer number of anti-gay conservative politicians and clergymen who have eventually been caught in flagrante delicto with their young swains does tend to lend some legitimacy to the stereotype.
But really, I think what Charlie was trying to do was perform a semantic Mexican Hat Dance around the real matter at hand, which is, if you call us up and the first words out of your mouth are “I’m a homophobe,” we are not going to respect you. It’s no different than calling up and saying “I’m a misogynist!” or “I’m a racist!” It all translates to “I’m a bigoted douche!” And whether your bigotry is based on fear or disgust, it’s all the same in the end, and equally beneath contempt. Trying to play some game with definitions in order to defend something indefensible is about as absurd as it gets.
“Oh, I see, you don’t fear gays, you’re simply disgusted by them. Well, that’s okay then.” Really, Charlie? Really?
So yeah, we handled Charlie poorly and could have shut him down sooner. But you learn a little something with every episode you do, and we always appreciate the feedback, pro and con, from viewers, because it helps us think about how to do better every time.