Open thread on episode #756

Sorry about whatever the hell was going on with UStream today, but it was nothing the control room could control. It was really nice to be back on, the calls felt good (it’s very helpful when a Christian caller will just come right out and admit that Christianity is neither logical or rational — saves time), and I found it a very pleasurable experience on the whole. Glad to the see the UT SSA gang in the audience, too. Here’s the info about this Thursday’s Sean Faircloth talk on-campus. To anyone in the area, please consider working that into your schedule.

Chris made it!

Freaking w00t! I can STFU now. Well played, everyone! And congrats to Chris.

Still not over though. As of this writing, there are 31 hours left until the pledge drive ends, and so you still have a chance to get your e-book or hardcover reserved, or even get your name in the book.

“Painter of Light” passes into that heavenly glow

Kind of a shame about Thomas Kinkade. I am, after all, getting close enough to 54 that that sounds like a distressingly young age to die. If you don’t know who he is, he’s the self-proclaimed Christian “Painter of Light™”, who specialized in commodified hotel-room-style landscapes, full of idealized snowy country cottages and quaint little olde-timey towns where there’s no electricity but everyone’s warmed by the light of the Lord.

Kinkade was, naturally, ridiculed by art world scenesters and critics, because he was, early in his life, actually a very skilled painter with a nuanced command of color and composition, who chose instead to whore his talent to produce Product™ for the sort of people who don’t know anything about art but know what they like. (Being art world scenesters, many of them were probably secretly seething with envy that they didn’t think of it themselves.) Kinkade compared himself to Norman Rockwell, which shows just a tiny bit of egotism, because while Rockwell’s vision of American Life was just as idealized, Rockwell had the editorial cartoonist’s eye. His paintings were full of people around whom you could easily imagine a real character with a life. A single image could tell a whole story. Kinkade’s paintings, on the other hand, had a lot of light but no depth, no story, no narrative, just images of glowing snowfields or brave soldiers walking towards God’s heavenly sunbeam (presumably they’d left their dead, IED-mangled corpses behind them while doing this, a detail Kinkade probably rightly felt his audience wouldn’t appreciate). One critic amusingly pointed out that Kinkade overdid it so much with the warm, orange, inviting firelit glow emanating from the windows of his cozy cottages that it’s like the damn house is on fire.

HOLY SHIT! SOMEBODY CALL 911!

Well, people’s tastes in art notwithstanding, what was interesting about Kinkade’s life towards the end was that, as his multimillion-earning franchised shopping-mall galleries began to fail financially in the last decade, Kinkade was accused all over the place of affinity fraud. He had to settle to the tune of around $2 million with a couple of his investors, who complained of being duped into investing heavily in unprofitable galleries. As the Chicago Tribune reported at the time…

“They really knew how to bait the hook,” said one ex-dealer who spoke on condition of anonymity. “They certainly used the Christian hook.”

So while he didn’t preach from behind a pulpit, or have his own show on TBN, Thomas Kinkade seems to have found a way to be yet another sleazy money-grubbing evangelist.

Too bad. When he could have been a great artist.

Stay classy!

This is an actual postcard snail-mailed to residents of Conway, SC, by The Rock Church, inviting people to their Easter services.

The blood smear is an especially nice touch, don't you think?

Nice, huh? Now imagine you’re a parent with a kid, and this turns up in the mail, and either your kid sees it, or you immediately think “Holy shit! My kid could see this…” Well, you don’t have to imagine it, because that’s what happened.

Now as you all know, I’m not bashful about sick, politically incorrect, potty-mouthed humor. But I like to think I have enough basic common sense to gauge my audience. I try to understand the fine line between what’s really funny, that people will get, and what’s just trolling. But what happened here is that The Rock Church basically trolled its own congregation and its entire community. Smooth.

Kevin Childs, the pastor, has offered an apology. And he assures us he’s really sorry, and that he’s not making one of those “‘if you’re offended, I’m sorry you’re offended’ non-apologies that don’t impress me either.” But while I’m sure he thinks he’s being sincere, his apology actually turns out to be more offensive than if he’d offered one of those Limbaugh-style not-pologies after all. And here’s why.

The problem isn’t so much the card, it’s the grotesque prejudice behind it.

Apparently, Childs is surprised and disappointed at the criticisms he’s getting, not from his congregation (whom he dismisses, strangely, as “fussy over-churched little Pharisees” — seriously, this guy’s on douche overload), but from atheists.

…if MUCH of the criticism is coming from the very people my own heart longs to reach, THAT stops me in my tracks. I could pretend otherwise. I could stick my jaw out, think up some zinger come-backs, and pretend I’m “earnestly contending for the faith.”

Listen, if fussy over-churched little Pharisees slam us, I honestly could not care less. If their unbelieving neighbors say that we’ve pushed them FURTHER from faith, that will keep me up at night. If our attempt at edgy irreverent outreach cast our church and Christianity in a bad light, blame me. Just me. And I apologize.

Wait, what?

So, Kevin, what you’re saying is that you really intended your card as an outreach to atheists? Because somewhere in that cracked clay pot you call a brain pan, you got the idea that we’re such disgraceful, immature, heartless and morally bankrupt people that we would look at an image making a joke of animal cruelty and totally go “LOL! Dude, I used to think religion was bullshit. But this church looks like the fucking bomb! Look at that little bunny’s guts! LMAO! I gotta go to this church now. Maybe if I get lucky the pastor will sodomize a couple of kids and put a kitten in a microwave!”

I mean, really?

Look, dude. You want to reach out to us? Fine. Here’s a protip. We like things like arguments, and evidence, and discussion, and rational discourse. We’re not a bunch of overgrown frat boys lighting farts and doing our best to extend our arrested adolescence into our fifties. (Can you actually light a fart, by the way?) That would be you, if this is any indication. To get us into your church, you first need to convince us your God exists at all. And the way to do that is by engaging that dusty little thing you’ve had on the shelf for years called a mind. Really, man, you could not have faceplanted into a steaming pile of fail more gracelessly if you were Pauly Shore starring in a Uwe Boll movie.

And no, I’m not judging your whole church by your own idiocy, because those fussy little Pharisees have called you on all this, too. If anyone reading this is from Conway, and you know this guy, or anyone from his church, please, tell them to tell him to give his head a shake.

Ascend, Christian Youth! (Just…not your boners)

Via Hemant comes this weird peek into the world of Christian sexophobia. There’s this event going on in Chicago called The Ascension Convention, and someone snapped this facepalm-worthy photo.

Because, apparently, when guys and girls have thirty seconds alone and unchaperoned in an elevator together, the babymakin’ explodes! No young adult can be trusted with their own genitals for a single unguarded moment, because Satan is lurking around every corner with his little French Ticklefork to prod your naughty bits into action.

Folks, if you’ve just been utterly baffled as to what’s brought on the recent right-wing onslaught of anti-abortion, anti-birth-control, anti-marriage-equality, anti-anything you might like to do in the privacy of your own bedroom that might squick a Christian out legislation, this is it. These people are taught from a very young age that human bodies, presumably created and perfectly designed by their loving God, are evil. That’s a recipe for sexual neurosis all on its own. We’re not just fighting prudery here, gang. We’re fighting full-on psychological dysfunction.

Then again, we could turn this into a selling point for the next atheist convention. “Come to Skepticon for great speakers, panels, parties, and hawt secks in the elevators!”

Being an atheist doesn’t excuse you from doing your homework

Over on Camels With Hammers, Daniel has reminded us of several temptations that atheists should watch out for. It’s excellent advice, starting with this.

We atheists need to remind ourselves that figuring out that the interventionist gods of the major religions are false is a fairly easy intellectual discovery. We are not geniuses or especially smarter than the average religious believer simply on account of our ability to figure this out. We have just, for whatever combination of reasons, either assiduously avoided or managed to escape the emotional, social, and identity entanglements that cloud the minds of otherwise smart religious people. We need to recognize it is just stupid to call religious people stupid just because their ideas are ridiculous.

In general, I like to promote what I refer to as “atheist evangelism” as much as I can. But there are traps that atheists can fall into, when we get overconfident and lazy in the belief that atheism makes us smarter and less prone to errors. Recently I’ve made a similar point in a number of replies to the show’s email which I would like to share.
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Open Thread on AETV #755

A bit late, but I know you want to talk about it.

I don’t think Matt and Tracie were aware of this, and some commenters may not be either: Dale, the Australian guy who took up half the show, was not kidding — or if he was, he kids a lot.  He used to be a persistent troll at The Atheist Experience and The Non-Prophets – Fans page on Facebook, before he got himself banned.  The members taunted him to call, and it sounds like they were not disappointed.

Of course, Dale managed to spin this train wreck of a call in an astonishingly dishonest way: he recut the video to only include the last minute where Matt finished up and hung up on him, maybe hoping people wouldn’t realize that they spent a good 20-30 minutes on him first.  He’s got open comments on this video,  so I’m sure that means he would welcome people stopping by and explaining more details about the call, perhaps linking to an uncut version, etc…

A final push for A Better Life

Chris Johnson is now in the final five days of his Kickstarter campaign for A Better Life, a purty sniny kawfe-table photobook featuring a lot of atheists discussing how we all don’t really suck, thank you very much. I’ve really been plugging this hard, not just because myself and Matt and Beth and Tracie and Lynnea (as well as Dawkins, Dennett, PZed, Jessica Ahlquist and so many others) are slated to appear in it, but because, as a creative individual myself, it saddens me to think that I might live in a world where a book like this…

See how pretty that is? It has clouds. GODLESS clouds!

…might not see print for lack of funding, while this…

If Heaven is bright orange-yellow, I'll stay home, thanks. That would give me such a headache.

…is flooding Barnes and Nobles around the country and making its way onto bestseller lists.
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Happy Aftermath Day

If you stopped by the blog yesterday, and said to yourself “Hah!  Jen McCreight obviously wouldn’t join the Men’s Rights movement!  I can read a calendar and I am not fooled at all!”… and then you patted yourself on the back and closed the blog down without bothering to click on the link… well, shame on you.  You may be nobody’s fool, but you managed to cheat yourself out of a lot of entertainment.

Yesterday, 21 bloggers announced the departure of someone else from the network.  Here’s the big list for you to peruse:

  1. The Atheist Experience: Jen McCreight is becoming an MRA
  2. Jen McCreight: Greta Christina just isn’t very angry anymore
  3. Greta Christina: JT Eberhard is rejoining his old Christian rock group
  4. JT Eberhard: Stephanie Zvan launches a new career writing erotic novels
  5. Stephanie Zvan: Dana Hunter found the Virgin Mary in some geodes
  6. Dana Hunter: Daniel Fincke is going to be a full time open air atheist preacher
  7. Daniel Fincke: Richard Carrier is running for Congress.  As an objectivist.
  8. Richard Carrier: Muslims bought off Al Stefanelli with hookers
  9. Al Stefanelli: Chris Hallquist is working for William Lane Craig
  10. Chris Hallquist: Chris Rodda sees history in a new light thanks to Kirk Cameron
  11. Chris Rodda: Ed Brayton, intimidated by Chuck Norris, is quitting blogging to be a pro poker player
  12. Ed Brayton: Ophelia Benson is joining Alain de Botton as an atheist who loves religion
  13. Ophelia Benson: Maryam Namazie will be a fashion designer
  14. Maryam Namazie: Offended by the nude calendar, Biodork will be creating a calendar of veiled women
  15. Biodork: Hank Fox has a meltdown after his blue collar roots are insulted
  16. Hank Fox: Greg Laden is really a con man named “Sticky” Johnson
  17. Greg Laden: Crommunist no longer cares about racial issues
  18. Crommunist: The Lousy Canuck is upset at not being the only Canadian
  19. Lousy Canuck: Assassin Actual is won over by the Cosmological argument
  20. Assassin Actual: Justin Griffith’s drunken binge ends the Rock Beyond Belief legacy
  21. Justin Griffith: The Atheist Experience is acquired by Fox News.  Lousy bunch of traitors.

We had a ridiculous amount of fun planning this self-destructive blog ring for your amusement.  Gratifyingly, many commenters referenced the other posts, and some even said they made it all the way around the circle.  Hopefully some of you have discovered some great blogs you weren’t following before.  I am personally very impressed by what a creative and talented group of writers are co-members of Freethought Blogs, and I’m proud to be in the company of so many godless bastards.

For the record though, would TAE join Fox News?  Assuming we get a contract that says we can retain our current cast and format, YES, in a heartbeat!  Think of all the callers we’d get!