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Sep 26 2011

Open thread on Episode #728

Russell and Jeff in the self-described “awesome episode.”  One theist caller gets 20 minutes, while another gets summarily dumped after his opening statement.  A new study shows that belief in God is linked with intuitive thinking, or to put it another way, preferring to choose the answer that sounds good over thinking carefully about what’s probably correct.  Be there!

Also, as I mentioned on the show, Lynnea and I have plans to hang out in a bar with Orlando-based fans on a weeknight in November.  Check out this page for planning if you’re nearby.

11 comments

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  1. 1
    Kazim

    Alternatively you could go with the way Matt Taibbi wanted to headline that study:PEOPLE WHO DON'T THINK, GET SHIT WRONG, TEND TO BELIEVE IN GOD

  2. 2
    Petr Kudláček

    Inb4 whine about Jeff hanging up on the professional quack broadcaster.

  3. 3
    JT

    I do think it (dropping the quack) was the proper course of action – both in that they potentially gave the person some insight into what's required for discussions with other sentient life, and in that it would have been a colossal waste of time (more than usual for theists).It'd be like two teams coming to a field to play soccer, and one of the teams declaring that they're not going to play by the rules – that they don't have to get the soccer ball into the opposing team's net to score points, and that there's no way for the other team to score any points against them.I'm not sure how long it would be entertaining to watch two different teams trying to play two different games in the same place at the same time.

  4. 4
    JT

    ..and when he was talking about being able to guess peoples' names, I just kept thinking about the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy

  5. 5
    JacquesK

    The first callers version of God at time sounded at first similar to the Indian philosophical/spiritual idea of Brahma. Interesting but impossible to reconcile with the God of the books (Bible, Koran, Torah).

  6. 6
    Improbable Joe

    That was one of the strangest shows I've seen in awhile. I approve of the quick hang-up though.

  7. 7
    MegaZeusThor

    Good job Russell and Jeff. You’re a good team. It’s funny any time Jeff has to say, “I don’t want to make up plausible sounding answers for the bible — that’s not my job.”

  8. 8
    jacobfromlost

    Jeff touched on something I never hear mentioned in regard to the whole “morals are absolute” claim. I would take it a little farther, in that if morals are absolute, then in any given situation there is one absolutely right thing to do, and that one absolutely right thing cannot change with the context, circumstances, etc. This is clearly absurd (not only in terms of “the” choice being absolute, but in terms of there being only one).

    Jeff mentioned the idea of “no good choice”, but more specifically I would mention moral dilemmas–and since moral dilemmas do exist, morals cannot be absolute (one choice cannot be between two outcomes that could only be called immoral outcomes in any other situation if morality is absolute).

    But it gets even worse than THAT. There is a thing called a psychological “double bind” in which one has two apparent choices wherein the outcomes will have two distinct effects that will either be good and bad, or bad and good, and often leaves them in a “bind” unable to make a decision (and keeping them in the bad situation) because WHICHEVER decision they make will lead to a bad outcome.

    I think atheist pastors find themselves in this kind of “double bind” situation, in that if they continue as pastors they are going through a HUGE effort to “live a lie” and knowingly perpetuating that lie to others, but if they declare themselves atheists they will lose their job, friends, family, etc. They often end up unable to make a decision, and so by default the decision is to continue being a pastor (and consequently, the flock continues believing the pastor believes what he is saying every Sunday, which bolsters their own faith…and the dysfunction continues based on fear and ignorance…).

  9. 9
    AxeGrrl

    (I posted this to the old AE blog site, so I thought I’d post it here too (I had a reply I wanted to add there, but can’t seem to do so now :(
    ~~~~~

    Just a comment on the semantics of the term ‘theist’ ~ I have to say that I disagree with what Jeff and Russell were saying on this topic (Jeff made a comment to the effect that ‘if someone believes that a totem pole is ‘God’, i can touch that totempole and i believe it exists, therefore one could call me a theist in relation to the totempole’) Russell made a similar comment about Julius Caesar (if someone thinks Julius Caesar is ‘God’, i believe that Caesar existed, so i could be called a theist in relation to Caesar)…..

    To me, this kind of reasoning renders the term ‘theist’ completely meaningless. Here’s an example to demonstrate:

    There are people who believe that Jesus Christ existed AND believe he’s ‘God’

    There are people who believe that Jesus Christ existed but DON’T believe he’s ‘God’

    Given the reasoning that Jeff and Russell use, BOTH groups would be classified as being ‘theists in relation to Jesus’……

    But are those two groups the same? I don’t think so. If the ‘believing this thing is God’ part is absent, it’s only _confusing_ to label such a person a theist, imo.

    And good luck trying to tell a Christian that you’re a ‘theist’ regarding Jesus but DON’T BELIEVE he’s God :)

  10. 10
    axegrrl

    (I posted this on the OLD AE blog page for this episode, so I thought I’d post it here too ~ and i wanted to add a reply there, but can no longer seem to do so)
    ~~~~~

    Just a comment on the semantics of the term ‘theist’ ~ I have to say that I disagree with what Jeff and Russell were saying on this topic (Jeff made a comment to the effect that ‘if someone believes that a totem pole is ‘God’, i can touch that totempole and i believe it exists, therefore one could call me a theist in relation to the totempole’) Russell made a similar comment about Julius Caesar (if someone thinks Julius Caesar is ‘God’, i believe that Caesar existed, so i could be called a theist in relation to Caesar)…..

    To me, this kind of reasoning renders the term ‘theist’ completely meaningless. Here’s an example to demonstrate:

    There are people who believe that Jesus Christ existed AND believe he’s ‘God’

    There are people who believe that Jesus Christ existed but DON’T believe he’s ‘God’

    Given the reasoning that Jeff and Russell use, BOTH groups would be classified as being ‘theists in relation to Jesus’……

    But are those two groups the same? I don’t think so. If the ‘believing this thing is God’ part is absent, it’s only _confusing_ to label such a person a theist, imo.

    And good luck trying to tell a Christian that you’re a ‘theist’ regarding Jesus but DON’T BELIEVE he’s God :)

    1. 10.1
      jacobfromlost

      I think both you and the hosts have a point, but I think the reason there is a disagreement at all is because the proposed object under consideration is so ill defined (and perhaps purposefully “defined” in undefinable ways to escape exactly this kind of scrutiny). And perhaps even “ill defined” doesn’t get to the problem as the definition sometimes seems to implicitly change in the middle of these kind of discussions, depending on the needs of the believer at that point in the discussion.

      If a sun worshipper says they worship the sun, it is their god, and I look and see that the sun exists…then insofar as we both say the sun EXISTS it can be said that we are both theists. The fact that I don’t worship the sun doesn’t change its existence. On the other hand, since I don’t worship the sun, one might say I am NOT a theist in regard to the sun–but does theism REQUIRE worship?

      If theism is the belief that a god exists, and we redefine god into “the sun”, and a person does indeed believe that the sun exists…I don’t see worship as a requirement. Indeed, the sun worshipper may not even specify exactly HOW the sun is supernatural at all–calling it “god” and worshipping it may be irrational, but when “god” is left undefined (perhaps even in the mind of the worshipper) then the distinction between my belief that “the sun exists” and the worshipper’s belief that “the sun exists” is also left undefined.

      Of course, the sun worshipper may be using an amorphous definition of “the sun” that may or may not be clear in their own mind. If it isn’t clear, and therefore can’t be made clear to me as I look up at the sun and say that yes, the sun exists–then it is difficult to say exactly what the differences in our beliefs about the sun’s existence ARE.

      And if we can’t say what the differences ARE, but both of us do agree that “the sun exists”, then we both believe that the sun exists. If that can be called “theism” or not all depends on that amorphous, undefined thing in the worshipper’s head.

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