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Feb 13 2012

Open thread on episode TAE #748

Russell and Don, “The Failure of the Second Coming.”

By the way, I should have put up an open thread on last week’s episodes of TAE and GB as well, but I forgot for a few days.  Then somebody posted “WHY is there no open thread on the latest TAE?  Is it a conspiracy to keep us from talking about what Matt said?”  So first I was like “I should really put up an open thread for the show.”  But then I was all, “Screw that, I’m not gonna do it because I was taunted!  Nyah!”

So anyway, if you want to discuss #747 or the previous Godless Bitches too, feel free.

41 comments

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  1. 1
    megazeusthor

    Watching your show is like picking up tips on how to start a cult. Jesus coming back is like selling tickets for a trillion dollar lottery; no one’s won yet, but that means any day now, right? In the mean time, how many ticket would you like?

    Successful religions seem to working on several levels. They may seem random and cluttered with all their various beliefs, but they get their hooks into people in numerous ways. Reward & punishment systems, group and social control, and so on. Psychologists & anthropologists in the 22nd Century are going to have a blast.

    Good show guys. Long calls are tough, because you don’t want to give the impression that you’re running from a topic.

    1. 1.1
      Russell Glasser

      I read your first sentence and thought “Oh no, not another comment about how we’re running a cult and promoting groupthink.” Thank goodness that was a hasty conclusion. ;)

      1. megazeusthor

        Oh, sorry. Maybe I could have left that first line out.

        I like the Atheist Experience Crew, but I’m not joining any cults you or anyone else may start in the future.

        I’m more interested in the ingredients and steps to make my own cult — as a purely mental exercise (I’m far to nice and or lazy to start one for real). Anyway, talking about a loving superman, a heavenly paradise or the return of superman seem like things to pay attention to when designing the modern cult.

        (So, why does Jesus need to comeback if God already exists, and we get to meet him after we die?)

      2. Jet

        Damn you and your godless brainwashing! heh heh.

  2. 2
    jacobfromlost

    What did Matt say? I forgot. lol Maybe the conspiracy worked?

  3. 3
    Trooper CX

    i liked the topic and how it was covered so thoroughly. Cheers to Don! Topics are better than taking random phone calls these days. Especially when 20 minutes is devoted to one conversation to a fellow atheist.

    It was mentioned by Matt on a show he got trolled by a caller on, pre-screening phone calls. If that is at all possible, it may increase how interesting the calls are and better arguments/ideas from the caller.

    It just feels like there are a lot of precious minutes blown on atheist callers getting a little too talkative.

  4. 4
    AsianAtheist

    I enjoyed todays show quite a bit ^_^ and I’ve been a big fan for about a year now; however, this is one of the first episodes where I’ve noticed that you now have a studio audience! You guys mentioned that there were guests from other countries in the studio audience, and I was wondering whether the staff at the Atheist Experience has thought about taking questions from the studio audience or something of that nature. Just curious. Keep up the good work! And I look forward to your next show.

  5. 5
    theBuachail

    Just a general point, I find the sneering comment about the “success” of the Catholic Churches pedofile scandal unnecessary and a put-off for a rationally minded person who sees it as a very serious issue which shouldn’t be used to score cheap points with cheap throwaway comments.

    1. 5.1
      Mr. Lynne

      The scandal for the Church was the non-reporting. They were very successful for many many years at holding their own internal church law above the secular law they are bound to as citizens, which is the point of the non-reporting. Ultimately their stupidity came home to roost, so I guess you could say they were very successful for a long time but unsuccessful in the end.

    2. 5.2
      Mary2

      I took it to mean that the scandal was successful, not the actual paedophilia. It WAS a successful scandal – worldwide and huge backlash against the church.

      I thought it was a very funny line. Sometimes a joke is the best way of making a serious point.

  6. 6
    theBuachail

    Can Russell clarify if when he said some Atheists are idiots, he was referring specifically to strong-atheists, who make specific claims that God or gods do not exist, similar to theists who claim God does exist?

    1. 6.1
      Chakolate

      I took him to be talking about atheists who were *not* skeptics. Lots of atheists (lots but a small percentage) are conspiracy theorists, and sometimes just general nutjobs. Denying gods does not necessarily require denying *all* foolishness.

    2. 6.2
      paul

      I seriously doubt that he would straight up call Matt an idiot.

      1. theBuachail

        Yea I’m sure you’re right, but the context of the conversation with the caller was about claims of existence and non-existence of God, and Don mentioned how usually Atheists do not make claims without evidence, though Atheists do differentiate between Strong and Weak Atheism. The caller seemed to take this as agreement from the guys on the show that all Atheists should claim they don’t know, and for those who make a claim that Gods do not exist, they are no different than Theists who claim there is a God.

        This point and the definition of Atheism from dictionary.com was pointed out to me recently in an online argument; while I was arguing that Atheism was not a competing ideology to Theism and made no claims other than refuting the claims of Theism, the Theist was able to point to this definition and argue that Atheism is an ideology and makes similar claims to Theists.

        So it seems Strong-Atheism poses something of a problem in the guilty/non-guilty analogy.

        1. vanrado

          The definition provided by http://www.dictionary.com for ‘atheism’ lists “the doctrine or belief that there is no God,” before, “disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings”.

          No doubt many people who look up this word in dictionary.com will accept the first one, maybe read the second one, then ignore it.

          If you look up a more reputable dictionary, like the Oxford English Dictionary, they provide the following: “disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods”.

          So I wondered where dictionary.com gets its definitions from. Their website states that, “[the website] provides reliable access to millions of encyclopedic entries from five authoritative licensed and proprietary reference sources.”

          But they don’t tell you which ones they are.

          Last thing, I want to point out one of the example sentences for atheism on dictionary.com:

          “Whether atheism is true or not, the main inescapable philosophical point in atheism, is that life has no meaning.”

          Way to go…

          1. theBuachail

            I don’t think that someone would necessarily just take the first definition and ignore the second. In fact the dictionary.com definitions seem more encompassing of the wide and differing opinions of what Atheism actually is. I just came across the Iron Chariots Wiki which also talks about strong and weak Atheism, so again it seems that both are considered in the Atheist community itself to be valid descriptions of the Atheistic position.

            I have been working under the Greek definition of A-theism, where the ‘A’ means “without” or “absence-of”, as in A-symmetry (absence of symmetry). The definition of strong-atheism seems to veer away from this to be something separate again.

          2. Felipe

            I really hate discussions about dictionary definitions. Can’t we just talk about what we mean with a word instead of giving this quasi-argument from authority?

          3. VanRado

            “I have been working under the Greek definition of A-theism, where the ‘A’ means “without” or “absence-of”, as in A-symmetry (absence of symmetry). The definition of strong-atheism seems to veer away from this to be something separate again.”

            Correct. That’s why it probably shouldn’t be in the dictionary definition at all. But if it is, as to encompass strong atheism, then it shouldn’t be the number one definition.

            @Felipe
            “I really hate discussions about dictionary definitions.”
            I agree. That’s why I’m walking away from this, starting… now.

        2. theBuachail

          I won’t push the point if people are not interested to discuss it, but if anyone with some experience is interested to knock this idea over and back a bit of what Atheism is and how it relates to our taking a position in an argument, please feel free to shoot me an email.

          1. Mary2

            I don’t see a contradiction between the two positions. Somebody tells me that Yahweh exists and I see no evidence for this, therefore I disbelieve their claim. [Definition 2] I cannot categorically prove that there is no God but the likelihood of one existing (given what we DO know about the world) is so incredibly small that it makes no sense for me to even entertain the belief. So I firmly believe (subject to being shown evidence to the contrary) that there are no Gods. [Definition 1]

            This type of confusion about what constitutes certainty does not arise for any unlikely claims except those about the existence of gods. If I was to tell you I keep a pig as a pet, you may disbelieve me but given that some people do keep them as pets it would probably not be a ‘strong’ disbelief as you awaited further evidence. If I was to insist that Russell’s teapot was definitely orbiting Jupiter and you do not believe me, even though you have no positive evidence of the lack of a teapot you would have to be an idiot not to hold a ‘strong no teapot’ belief as everything we know about space travel and teapots would tell you that the chances of one being there are so close to impossible as to be considered impossible.

        3. philosweeny

          It’s weird that the definition of atheist gets debated when ‘believers’ can’t even come to a definition of the god they allegedly believe in.

    3. 6.3
      Christopher Petroni

      Check the classic “Foolish Atheists” episode from a few years back. It’s one of the most entertaining TAE shows, and I expect it covers what Russell meant.

  7. 7
    osmosis

    @48:00 Russel you talk about Caesar and historical method and how we know Caesar existed at all. You missed one of the most compelling arguments though.

    Caesar has explanatory power. We _need_ Caesar, otherwise how do we explain the evidence of his existence, of which we have much.

    By contrast, this Jesus dude seems to have gone completely unnoticed, historically speaking. He’s not needed to explain any historical evidence, and comes from a single source. We can’t even find anyone from the period DENYING the Jesus story, which strongly suggests that it’s baseless.

    1. 7.1
      Andrew Ryan

      Good point.

  8. 8
    Walter

    at 47:00 — it is a fact that 78.52% of all statistics are made up on the spot.

  9. 9
    jacobfromlost

    Re the definition thing…

    Both strong and weak atheism encompass “lack of a belief in gods”, just as a tall man and a short man are both men.

    Also, the dictionary is descriptive, not prescriptive. It gets its definitions from US, not the other way around. The sad fact is that most dictionary writers over the years were theists. They don’t get to define who the people are who are NOT them (especially when WE say it is a bad definition). We get to define ourselves. I like the “gnostic theist”, “agnostic theist”, “agnostic atheist”, “gnostic atheist” breakdown as it describes positions almost everyone holds (by SELF-description) on the god question.

    Matt often argues for atheism with the guilty/not guilty analogy, and points out there is a difference between, “I don’t believe in gods” and “I believe there are no gods.” He once said in the middle of an argument something like “If this call had gone another way, I’d have said ‘I believe there are no gods.’” And I had first thought that was contradictory, or even sneaky.

    But then I realized that it doesn’t matter. Matt doesn’t MAKE absolute claims about anything. Even a strong atheist position (I believe there are no gods) can be claimed without making the claim absolute, and depending upon the kind of god concept under consideration, there could be quite a bit of support to back up the claim “there are no gods”–support that any theist can take their best effort to try to dismantle, and fail.

    This also goes to the idea of “knowledge” floating around in the background, and if one side has a different idea of knowledge than the other. (The theist usually has an absolute idea of knowledge.)

    For almost everything, I don’t see knowledge as absolute–and I don’t think Matt does either. As such, I can claim I KNOW that Santa doesn’t exist because toys are bought by parents, we can trace the history of the myth, radar shows no evidence of the sleigh, there are no accounts of discovering his north pole workshop, reindeer can’t fly, etc. As far as any human is capable of knowing anything (ie, not absolutely), I know there is no santa. I think the “strong atheist” position is analogous, and I don’t even think it is that extraordinary.

    So it is possible to go into the jury box, see the sweet old woman on trial for murder, and not only presume she is innocent, but believe she is innocent (perhaps even claim in your own mind that she is innocent)…and still have your mind changed by the fingerprints, DNA, witnesses, video tape, and hair fibers. Even after that are you ABSOLUTELY sure she is guilty? No. You are only sure beyond a reasonable doubt because it is unreasonable to think all of those mutually confirming pieces of evidence were faked somehow.

    1. 9.1
      Jasper of Maine

      Also, the dictionary is descriptive, not prescriptive. It gets its definitions from US, not the other way around. The sad fact is that most dictionary writers over the years were theists. They don’t get to define who the people are who are NOT them (especially when WE say it is a bad definition). We get to define ourselves.

      Thank you thank you! That drives me nuts. Do these people not stop a moment and ponder why there’s conflicting definitions? I mean, can’t those damn language-dictators get it together?

      Or are they acknowledging that others get to define you, because I have some interesting definitions of “Christian” I’d like to apply.

      1. jacobfromlost

        The “dictionary fallacy” is widespread and doesn’t just affect theists who say, “If English was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for everyone!” Words are just short-hand for ideas, and all words were made up, spread around by people who thought it was useful to have a word for that idea, and THEN put in the dictionary…which is still descriptive (describing how some people are using the word, by other people who have no supernatural power over words or meanings).

        When we are in school and learning a language, we get the strong impression words MUST be this way, as if the dictionary was handed down from heaven and words were woven into the fabric of reality. I can still remember making this error in kindergarden when the teacher had us make green paper glasses in the the shape of the letter “g”–you could fold them out and wear them. I can remember thinking (although not in these words), “Wow, there is inherent ‘g’-ness in all things beginning with the letter ‘g’! Glasses! Green! Both start with ‘g’. Uh…er…wait a minute. Grass is green, but it doesn’t look like the letter ‘g’. Garbage starts with ‘g’ but doesn’t have to be green, although some of it could be I guess. Huh. I guess this was just a fun way to make green glasses out of paper. Words apparently can be whatever we want.”

    2. 9.2
      theBuachaill

      But are we really saying that it is an INCORRECT definition? I agree that a disbelief in gods is the common denominator for all Atheists. However, how would a weak-atheist (I really hate this term) argue this position when strong-atheism is widely accepted in the atheist community itself as a valid position also defined as Atheism. What I mean is that anyone who labels themselves as an Atheist and is arguing against beliefs without evidence, is automatically saddled with a belief in no gods as inherent in their own atheistic viewpoint.

      Just so I’m clear: the belief that there are no gods corresponds to the innocent claim in Matts analogy, right? And if so, there is a burden of proof on the Atheist to demonstrate why they hold that position.

      Your example of Santa Clause doesn’t convince me, because of the inherent difficulty in proving a negative. Are you really providing evidence that Santa doesn’t exist, or are you refuting evidence that might be given to prove that he does? It appears to me you’re doing that latter, which is what a weak-atheist would do to support their position that sufficient evidence is not available to back up such a claim.

      1. thajarin

        Burden of proof is required of affirmative claims. Without the claim “there is a god,” there is no need for a claim “there is no god.” In other words without the concept there is no need of a negative assertion. Just because someone makes an affirmative claim doesn’t mean the reverse has an equal burden. If I claim X-bergs are real and give no good reasons for anyone to accept it they can tell me there is no such things as X-bergs and be justified.

        In addition the claim “X-bergs exists” isn’t even well defined. What do I mean by X-bergs and what do I mean by existence. If these basic questions can’t be answered without being vague there is no real reason to remain neutral at all.

      2. jacobfromlost

        theBuachaill: But are we really saying that it is an INCORRECT definition?

        Me: Yes, in the same way that, if we looked up “man” in the dictionary, the first definition said, “A male human who is tall,” and the second said, “A male human.”

        theBuachaill: I agree that a disbelief in gods is the common denominator for all Atheists.

        Me: Then that is what defines an atheist, the same as “man” is defined by “a male human” even though a “a male human who is tall” also is a man.

        theBuachaill: However, how would a weak-atheist (I really hate this term) argue this position when strong-atheism is widely accepted in the atheist community itself as a valid position also defined as Atheism.

        Me: I don’t really understand your question. A person who claims “there is no god” (a strong atheist) STILL lacks a belief in a god. There is no contradiction. Some “weak atheists” can find “strong atheism” in need of support, but even if the strong atheist HAS no valid support in the view of some “weak atheists”…that doesn’t change the fact that they lack belief, nor does it change the fact that there is no evidence for the claim that there is a god.

        theBuachaill: What I mean is that anyone who labels themselves as an Atheist and is arguing against beliefs without evidence, is automatically saddled with a belief in no gods as inherent in their own atheistic viewpoint.

        Me: No. It’s not required. And as I explained, one can be a strong atheist and not make an absolutist claim. It IS a claim, but it isn’t necessarily absolute. (If they make an absolutist claim and say that “no gods exist” even if they were presented with disconfirming evidence, THEN you would have a point. But thus far we cannot test whether they would reject disconfirming evidence because there hasn’t been any evidence for a god.)

        theBuachaill: Just so I’m clear: the belief that there are no gods corresponds to the innocent claim in Matts analogy, right?

        Me: Yes, but the innocent claim would NOT (necessarily) be an absolute claim. It’s a claim that could be changed with evidence. The reason Matt is voting “innocent” on god (ie, a strong atheist claim that god does not exist) is because he has looked at all the evidence, and there simply isn’t any when, if the god claims are true, there should be. That view is perfectly acceptable among jurors who “presume innocent” because they see no evidence of guilt, and vote “not guilty”. Matt can vote BOTH “not guilty” and “innocent”, when “innocent” is not absolute and could be changed simply by presenting evidence. (This is actually how juries work. If you truly BELIEVE someone is innocent after the trial where there should have been evidence, but there was none, you vote “not guilty” right along with those who think the person MIGHT have been guilty, but there just wasn’t any evidence to demonstrate it. But in real life, the trial never ends.)

        theBuachaill: And if so, there is a burden of proof on the Atheist to demonstrate why they hold that position.

        Me: Only if they are a strong atheist, and a strong atheist is not necessarily making an absolutist claim, but a claim. (This confusion comes up, I think, because god claims often ARE absolutist claims. No matter how much disconfirming evidence is presented, it is ignored that the god claim persists. The same isn’t necessary for the strong atheist claim.)

        theBuachaill: Your example of Santa Clause doesn’t convince me, because of the inherent difficulty in proving a negative.

        Me: You can’t “prove” anything absolutely, positive or negative.

        theBuachaill: Are you really providing evidence that Santa doesn’t exist, or are you refuting evidence that might be given to prove that he does?

        Me: I am not making an absolutist claim. I’m claiming that if Santa does exist, then all of the claims about him shouldn’t be so easily falsified. Since they are ALL easily falsified, and none have ever been confirmed, I believe there is no santa. That is not an absolutist claim, as new evidence and observations could overturn that claim and the belief.

        theBuachaill: It appears to me you’re doing that latter, which is what a weak-atheist would do to support their position that sufficient evidence is not available to back up such a claim.

        Me: The problem is the difference between an absolutist claim, and a claim. Matt has already said that absolute certainty is useless, and that he in fact does believe “there is no god”, the strong atheist stance. But the strong atheist stance is WITHIN “lack of belief in gods”. There is no contradiction. The “weak atheist” is not required to have a problem with the “strong atheist” just because the strong atheist needs to support his claim–I can support the claim that Santa doesn’t exist without ABSOLUTELY PROVING it, as nothing can be absolutely proven in reality. Even if we could visit Santa’s workshop, follow his sleigh around with helicopters and cameras, observe presents magically materialize under Christmas trees…there is STILL a possibility that all those pieces of evidence don’t indicate what we think they do, just as it is POSSIBLE the lack of all that evidence doesn’t indicate what we think it is. But that doesn’t stop us from having the courage to say, “Santa doesn’t exist”, even when we never are absolutely certain of anything.

        1. theBuachaill

          I very much appreciate you taking the time to reply in such detail. Still some subtle differentiating points I need to get my thoughts clear on, but will consider your response carefully. Thanks again.

  10. 10
    tyleroverman

    There’s really no such thing as a “true definition.” This might sound weird to some, but think about it for a moment. If you and I have a disagreement about what a word really means, how would we go about settling the dispute? It makes a lot more sense when you realize that I have all kinds of specific ideas that more-or-less correlate with your ideas, and so, as communicating beings, we attach verbal/written labels to those ideas for the sake of discussing them.

    In my opinion, the best way of settling this issue, when someone tries to argue what atheism “really is” (or isn’t), is to just take a step back and not get hung up on the label. Instead, say, “Let’s not worry about the definition of ‘atheism’ right now. I’ll just tell you what I believe, and for the sake of discussion, we’ll call that ‘atheism.’ If that really bothers you, we can call it ‘agnosticism’ or ‘nontheism.’”

    Likewise, I am fairly conciliatory when someone offers a definition of “God” or “Christianity” that falls outside the mainstream. Even when someone defines “God” in fairly meaningless ways, such as, “The universe is God,” then I will still have a discussion about it, but always being careful to make my stance absolutely clear: “In that case, yes, I believe that God, according to your definition, exists. So what?”

    If you’re having a conversation about the labels attached to ideas, you’re missing the point. Discuss the ideas, instead.

  11. 11
    sean

    Do you have a source for the james watt quote? I’ve been unable to find anything credible.

    “We don’t have to protect the environment, the Second Coming is at hand.”

    Thanks and great show as always

  12. 12
    Paul Gnuman

    About the second coming, Don, I think you’re missing the point. Jesus’ predictions were deadly accurate in that 40 years after he said the Son of Man was going to come and reward each man according to his works, and cause considerable gnashing of teeth, somebody does indeed come along and smash Jerusalem and crucify tens of thousands of Jews for the “sin” of rebelling against Rome. If you visit Jerusalem today, you can still see the result that the temple was taken down until no stone was upon another.

    I don’t believe these are real prophesies (i.e. made before the events) any more than you do, but I see no reason not to accept that what is being referred to by “Jesus” are the events that occurred with the crushing of the Jewish rebellion by Rome.

    Have you ever heard of preterism? This is a similar belief, except accepting that the story is genuine. This stuff is all standard history and is covered on wikipedia.

    If you are willing to accept that the Jesus character of the gospels is refering to the crushing of the Jewish Rebellion by Titus Flavius, then you should next be asking what is that doing in the gospels. That is, is it a later addition, for the sake of demonstrating the supernatural powers of Jesus, or is it the central point of the gospels. If you suppose it is the main point of the gospels, then it suggests who wrote the gospels and why.

    There are people who have arrived at the conclusion that the Flavian Romans wrote the gospels just on this idea alone. Remember that these guys had a religion-creating bureacracy at their disposal in the Caesarian cult. The amazing thing though is that it turns out that the Flavians also wanted posterity to appreciate their feat so they had Jesus’ ministry in the Galilee and on to Jerusalem follow Titus Flavius’ military campaign there. They published that story through their adopted historian Josephus (a.k.a. Flavius Josephus) and arranged that events go off in parallel between the two. Joseph Atwill discovered this and has laid it all out in his book Caesar’s Messiah. You really have to read it to see the compellingness because it involves literary parallels that are usually rather subtle.

    I wish more of us concerned citizen atheists would look into it because I believe it can end Christianity in a generation or so, if it would just see the light of day.

    Matt read the book. I sent him one which I think is the one he read. Maybe if he still has it you can borrow it. He wasn’t convinced but I think you should check it out for yourself and at least it is a very interesting theory. There’s a new edition though that has a lot of added material that adds a lot to the evidence. Atwill calls it the Flavian Signature edition because he found a very dense collection of about 26 I think parallels between Luke and Josephus (War of the Jews) many of which are fairly obvious. These are in the same order in the two works, critically. They have a certain character, often sanctimonius, that make them especially convincing for me. Anyhow this is available for pretty cheap as an ebook from amazon. Atwill has a website too and there is a documentary coming out this year, he says.

    1. 12.1
      Paul Gnuman

      Here are some links:

      preterism:

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

      which has plenty of links to related stuff like the First Jewish Rebellion.

      (Flavius) Josephus:

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

      Standard history has it that Josephus claimed to have had a revelation, upon his capture, that Vespasian was the true messiah of the Jews. Standard history entirely written by the Flavians, that is. There is no other surviving, for some reason ;-)

      There are plenty of reviews of the first edition of Caesar’s Messiah, but not the new edition. I don’t want to trigger the anti-spam with too many links (if I didn’t already) so I’ll leave it to anyone interested in getting the book to find their way over to the new edition, which is pretty affordable as an ebook.

      http://www.amazon.com/review/R7VG5UNAA200Y/ref=cm_cr_pr_viewpnt#R7VG5UNAA200Y

  13. 13
    Kes

    Regarding the “What did Louis XIV have for breakfast the day he was killed?” analogy: I kinda feel that the various flavors of deist and theist are arguing about scrambled eggs vs. french toast, while the atheist position would be: How do we know he was served breakfast at all?

  14. 14
    Rich

    I still enjoy the show, but these various talks that people give at the beginning are *really* eating into the meat of the show, which is at center a call-in show. It wasn’t such a big deal when the show was 90 minutes long, but now it’s only 60. Fortunately the hosts have generally cut down their 10-minute long intro yammering to about 3-4 minutes, but now we have these long-winded lectures (usually by Russell, I think) that go all the way out to the 20-minute mark. Why not separate those off as youtube clips, or maybe blog entries? Or at the very least, use a timer, limit the length.

    Similarly, seems like we’ve been plagued in the past few weeks by callers who refuse to make any actual claims, or say that they’re theists, but just come in with ‘questions’ that boil down to whether the universe could have always been here – but they won’t really address the kind of god that they apparently believe in, and the hosts don’t seem to make any attempt to nail them down. It’s interesting to hear these people, to some extent, but please, set a 10-minute timer or something. Their boring hypothetical questions, trying to find a teensy corner where something they call God could possibly hang out, are dragging the show down.

  15. 15
    Clifford Banes

    Regarding #747: A caller questioned why Hitchens felt the need to express his horror at the idea of a deity like the Christian god existing. The caller thought that those sorts of statements clouded the core issue of factuality: Do gods exist or not?

    The hosts’ response was basically that because one issue is fact and the other is opinion, the two really have no bearing on each other, so there’s no conflict, full stop. But I think they missed the caller’s point a little, which is that psychologically the two issues can get very tangled for a lot of people, and he prefers to stick to pure factual logic for that reason.

    Now, I still disagree with the caller, but my response would’ve been this: It IS important to express such opinions because the supposed desirability of a theistic worldview is a psychological tool used by religious people. Proselytizers are shameless in their use of emotional appeals because that’s what works. We humans aren’t very good at living our lives by pure fact, and it’s very easy for us to ignore uncomfortable truths if we have an emotional motivation to do so. The soundest arguments in the world can be useless in the face of one’s desperation for comfort, which is something that religions promise to satisfy. If we leave that promise unchallenged – if we stand idly by while the proselytizers fill up the zeitgeist with the claim that a world with a god is more satisfying than one without – then that claim will more readily enter the general populace’s collection of “common sense” unquestioned biases, and we’ll guarantee ourselves a harder slog against the tide of theism.

  16. 16
    Nick Rodriquez

    The first caller in this episode did take Don and Russell over the edge. Maybe because of the length of the call, Don and Russell could not really put their words in action.

    The caller was correct about the definition of Atheism. It is, in its simplicity, a non-belief in God. But his take on the “origin of the universe” was flawed for many reasons. Granted there are only two possible explanations for the beginning of the universe; either:

    A) The universe was created by a super being, thus, giving it a cause.
    B) Or it is a result of random chance; thus un-caused.

    Lets explore possibility A. The supposed God who created the universe has been given some specific attributes, namely, loving, kind, righteous, omnipotent, omniscient, etc; no matter which religion you refer to. Nothing could be further from the truth. Be it the Abrahamic religions, such as Christianity or non-abrahamic, such as Hinduism, the God of these religions simply do not possess these qualities. These gods bring wrath upon the humans, destroy their own creations when they turn out wrong, cannot stop evil which is supposedly their own creation, have weakness, cannot fathom the consequence of their own “mis-creations”, and so on. Simply put, this god is imperfect and even if it exits, it is not worthy of being revered.

    This takes us to possibility B; the universe was a product of chance. Lets face reality. Our pale blue dot is just a tiny speck of dust in this vast universe which is basically chaotic in nature. Even life on earth is not perfect; we have had evidence of space rocks ending civilizations, extreme natural upheavals (such as the ice age) changing the face of this planet, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunami’s, famine, floods, cyclones, sun-flares, etc, etc. Evidence of “random chance” is widespread in the section of the universe we have studied so far; such as creation of planets just because the conditions were right, black holes devouring stars, a space rock narrowly missing earth, a sparse possibility of complete annihilation avoided on earth just because Jupiter was in the right spot at the right time to catch the asteroid and so on. Clearly the universe is not perfect, thus contradicting the very nature of “the perfectness” of God’s creation.

    A rational thinker would immediately recognize the flaws in theory A and the remarkable harmony and compatibility of the current nature of the universe with theory B. These rational thinkers turn out to be the very Atheists that all the world’s dictionaries try to attach a definition to.

  17. 17
    Zach

    I can’t believe that one caller was trying to equate his belief with your non-belief on the premise that “we don’t know.” I was hoping you guys were going to deliver a Dillahunty-style smack down on him, but it didn’t seem to pan out with the scrambled egg analogies! I think he went away from that call thinking that it’s ok to believe something unsupported, unfortunately, and that your claims or positions are somehow equal simply because no one knows with 100 percent certainty how the universe originated. Frustrating! For a minute I thought the argument was going to turn into the old “how can the universe come from nothing but my creator can” fallacy, but alas it sort of devolved into dictionary definitions and the morning menu for French monarchs. Very entertaining show, I just wish that guy would have walked away understanding the real differences in how you think.

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