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May 04 2014

Open thread in AETV 864: Russell, John, and something something rhinoceros

Tonight on the show: Evidence! Miracles! Dinesh D’souza! Craziness!

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  1. 1
    Matt Gerrans

    “It happened literally many times!” — In this case, will will make an exception and support capital punishment for this heinous rape and murder of the English language.

    1. 1.1
      Narf

      I dunno, man. That is grammatically correct. It’s just incoherent for other reasons and suffers from bad word ordering. There are plenty of ways to structure your sentences which you just shouldn’t do, for reasons other than grammatical ones.

    2. 1.2
      adamah

      Caller said: “it’s happened literally too many times!”

      Of course, a true miracle would be, by definition, an exceedingly RARE event, a temporary suspension of the normal (ie the mundane) rules of physics, defined as an exceptional event.

      The caller is claiming a stunning contradiction, saying the rare event becomes the ordinary for him, which happens only in works of fiction (and oddly, never when subjected to double-blind test conditions). The caller displays a thickly-veiled narcissism, which is the appeal of Xianity (ie it’s a way to achieve fame in the reflected glory of God, for Walter Mitty types).

  2. 2
    corwyn

    If you can heal the sick with prayer ‘many times’, go work in a hospital. If you don’t, either you don’t *really* believe, or you are a first class jerk.

    1. 2.1
      Paul Wright

      I agree.

      He kept saying he’d seen tissue regeneration many times. In other words amputees growing new limbs. I was a little annoyed that Russell or John never pressed him on this. Would have been fun listening to his BS evidence for those claims.

      1. Jody Mack

        I agree! I was listening to the show while walking my dog this morning and after LOL at the fact that this guy’s big miracle was curing IBS, of all things, but was wishing so bad that they would ask the amputee question and also that they would have asked, “What about when someone prays to Allah and that person’s IBS is cured – what then?” They only asked, “What about those that aren’t healed?” which of course he basically just wanted to blame on them not having enough faith or knowing how to properly rebuke disease or whatever his Christianese was. A frustrating call for sure!

    2. 2.2
      houndentenor

      I will once again make the same challenge to any who think prayer can heal people. Go to Walter Reade (or a comparable) Hospital. There are people there who have lost limbs. Sometimes the same person has lost multiple limbs. Or they have brain injuries. We have made great advances in artificial limbs but what would really help them is to have their arms and/or legs back. Go and pray over them that your god will regrow those lost limbs. Document the evidence. That would indeed be miraculous if you could regrow and entire arm with working fingers or a leg all the way down to the toes. I’d be duly impressed. Do not delay. Your chance to prove that what you believe is true awaits.

  3. 3
    Nathan

    I’m having a really tough time getting through Max’s call, I just want to slap him.

    1. 3.1
      Matt Gerrans

      It seemed a lot like he was a troll. Sometimes after saying something particularly ridiculous, it seemed like he was chuckling a bit. Of course, the old Poe’s Law problem was in full effect for that call. It looks like Russell smirked a bit at the mention of IBS, so his Poe detection system may have been kicked in, but he made a good effort to withhold judgement.

      The whole thing with irritable bowel syndrome seemed like a joke. In addition to the topic being suspect, he starts out the story with the old canard that “I was an atheist until I began to see an overwhelming amount [sic] of these things happen in my life…” (around 35:25). Later he says he was reading and studying the Bible and saw that if he could see that it would go an incredible way to testify about the Truth. If he had been an atheist, he would not have been looking for ways to “testify about The Truth” but instead be interested in testing the “amazing” healing claim of John 14:12. By the way, Christians love to talk about the “amazing” and “astonishing” claims of the Bible and the Bible itself loves to say how the crowds were “amazed” by this or that thing that Jesus said, but I don’t think atheists are so amazed by any claims of any religious screed. Prove any of it is true and we’ll be amazed; in the mean time, it is no more “amazing” than the claims in any other fictional story. Moreover, if he was an atheist at the time, it isn’t very plausible that he was laying on of hands and magically healing people with the Lord’s miraculous powers. I suppose it is possible this guy is as dumb as a bag of hammers, but it smells a lot like troll.

      1. Narf

        In addition to the topic being suspect, he starts out the story with the old canard that “I was an atheist until I began to see an overwhelming amount [sic] of these things happen in my life…”

        You could look at this one another way. He could be lying, just not about what you think he is. I’ve heard Christian evangelists use this line, because they think it gets them cred. Lee Strobel uses that bullshit a lot, about having been a skeptic and an atheist … and then he goes on to explain his reasons for changing, which demonstrate that he was never either an atheist nor a skeptic, and he doesn’t know what either word means.

        I’ve personally caught out a few, in person.
        No, you being mad at God because your mother died does not mean that you were an atheist …
        Ah, so you knew in your heart that God existed the whole time. So, you were never an atheist, in other words …
        So, you think that any good skeptic should accept things like God, because they can’t be disproved. Uhhhhhhhhh …

        It’s a vague relation to the argument from authority … something like the argument from association … or something. “Since I used to be what you are, and now I’ve changed my mind, you should change your mind for the same reason.” Some evangelical teachers actually push the strategy, knowing that many people are very prone to the bandwagon effect. They want their pupils to latch onto and claim the core identity of the person they’re evangelizing to, even if it’s a complete lie.

        They don’t get the fact that when someone says something wrong, it doesn’t matter how much I respect the person. I’m still going to rip that person apart on that subject. They just … don’t … get … that doing a character assassination on Darwin or Dawkins just doesn’t have any effect, since I’ve attacked Dawkins on a few things, myself. I respect them; I don’t worship them.

        I regret that I never got to meet Hitchens. I have a huge amount of respect for what he did, but there are many things about which I’m sure we’d have had a great flaming row.
        … and I’d get ripped to pieces, I’m sure, but that’s a different issue.

        1. Monocle Smile

          You’ve nailed a major distinction between the religious and the “nones.” The religious seem to think we have analogs to their deities in our lives and we treat them the same way…worship and unquestioningly glorify every aspect of their being.

          They approach fractal wrongness on this point. They can make shit up about Darwin being racist or rightfully point out the rough edges of Dawkins and Hitchens, and we won’t give two shits. When this is pointed out to them, the response is either total disbelief or a blank stare. It doesn’t even compute.

          1. blue

            In all fairness, I don’t accept that they think there’s a magic sky fairy. It’s just ridiculous to even tolerate the idea. They just join up and spout the line for social acceptance, which is why there are so many open atheists in irreligious countries.

            I found the study John and Russel needed. IBS is really really easy to cure with a placebo. The person doesn’t even need to “be right with god in their heart”.
            “This was disturbing for Kaptchuk, too; deception played no role in his own success as a healer. But years of considering the question led him to his next clinical experiment: What if he simply told people they were taking placebos? The question ultimately inspired a pilot study, published by the peer-reviewed science and medicine journal PLOS ONE in 2010, that yielded his most famous findings to date. His team again compared two groups of IBS sufferers. One group received no treatment. The other patients were told they’d be taking fake, inert drugs (delivered in bottles labeled “placebo pills”) and told also that placebos often have healing effects.

            The study’s results shocked the investigators themselves: even patients who knew they were taking placebos described real improvement, reporting twice as much symptom relief as the no-treatment group. That’s a difference so significant, says Kaptchuk, it’s comparable to the improvement seen in trials for the best real IBS drugs.”

            http://harvardmagazine.com/2013/01/the-placebo-phenomenon

      2. Narf

        If he had been an atheist, he would not have been looking for ways to “testify about The Truth” but instead be interested in testing the “amazing” healing claim of John 14:12. By the way, Christians love to talk about the “amazing” and “astonishing” claims of the Bible and the Bible itself loves to say how the crowds were “amazed” by this or that thing that Jesus said, but I don’t think atheists are so amazed by any claims of any religious screed.

        This is one of my favorite methods of conflation that Christians do. I’ve heard Christians point to the bit in 1 Corinthians 15:6 and similar passages which make claims of huge numbers of witnesses.

        See? We have an amazing amount of eyewitness testimony to the deeds of Jesus! So many people couldn’t be wrong!

        I can’t remember which Christian apologetics book said it specifically, but one even went so far as to make the statement that if each eye witness had spent only 15 minutes giving his eyewitness testimony in court, it would take more than 5 days straight to listen to it all. That’s a mountain of testimony.

        We don’t have 500 signed, legally recorded witnesses, giving their testimony in a court of law … not that that would provide sufficient evidence for claims of miracles, anyway. What we have is one asshole who wrote down the claim of there being such witnesses. Someone really needs to work on their standards of evidence.

        1. Jasper of Maine

          We don’t have 500 signed, legally recorded witnesses, giving their testimony in a court of law … not that that would provide sufficient evidence for claims of miracles, anyway. What we have is one asshole who wrote down the claim of there being such witnesses. Someone really needs to work on their standards of evidence.

          Professional magicians regularly do astonishing acts in front of roomfuls of audience. If they didn’t go in, knowing it was all tricks, they’d probably come out giving testimony that the magician was performing miracles too.

          No amount of personal testimony or eye-witnessing can establish that someone can break the laws of physics…. only that they think the person broke the laws of physics.

          1. Narf

            Hell, people come out of Benny Hinn’s performances and swear that he just performed all sorts of miracles, despite the fact that we know how he did it through non-miraculous means.

          2. mond

            The magicians example is a nice one.
            How many people go running from the theatre convinced that having watched the classic lady being cut in two and then reassembled illusion that a true miracle has occurred?
            Yet the claims of religious miracles and/or healing are never even as spectacular as the most ‘routine’ magical illusion.
            Your personal conviction that you have just witnessed something miraculous in no way indicates that a miracle has occurred.

          3. Matt Gerrans

            See, I don’t think this is a good counterexample. Because, as Narf said, in the biblical stories, there were really zero witnesses. We only have the story teller adding witnesses in his story to make it more “credible” (to absolute clueless morons, at least). In the magician case, there are real witnesses, so you are giving too much credit to the story to compare the two at all. It merits no such generosity of interpretation.

          4. mond

            @Matt. The more general point is that human beings are capable of being fooled really easily and on a regular basis. So zero witnesses v a gazillion fooled witnesses is kind of equivalent. Witness evidence can be the worse type of evidence just by its very nature.

          5. Matt Gerrans

            I don’t agree. I think in this case, the general point is that if someone makes up an implausible story, it cannot be made more plausible by adding fake corroboration into the story itself. I think that is what believers are doing with their 500 witnesses nonsense and they think it is a very strong point. You and I may think it is a very weak point, but they don’t necessarily understand that we do, or why. They just think we are “turning our back” on the “testimony” of 500 legitimate witnesses. That’s why I think it is important to address the point very clearly and specifically and not only shoot it down, but also get the believer to acknowledge that it is a very weak and stupid point. If we don’t do that, they remain with the impression that they made a very good solid point, but the atheist just chose to ignore it.

          6. Jasper of Maine

            In the magician case, there are real witnesses, so you are giving too much credit to the story to compare the two at all. It merits no such generosity of interpretation.

            I agree insofar as that point should be made clear… but these people often need a basic lesson on how evidence even works… if it isn’t a claim that people saw it thousands of years ago, they’ll come up with living people today, who have.

            To simply stop it at “yeah but you haven’t demonstrated those people exists” is a lesson lost.

          7. John Kruger

            The Lord of the Rings trilogy had battles of tens of thousands of combatants on either side. Clearly, this means it all actually happened beyond any shadow of a doubt.

          8. Narf

            But are orcs and elves legally allowed to give testimony in a court of law?

          9. AhmNee

            FASA says yes.

      3. readwriteerror

        It seemed a lot like he was a troll. Sometimes after saying something particularly ridiculous

        The entire call was frustrating as hell, but I really wish they would have followed up on his vague mention of “god giving us technology” in relation to the miracle of the cured IBS.

        In general I thought the whole conversation was fairly pointless given that (a) neither side seemed to know much about IBS and other digestive disorders, and more importantly there’s no point in talking about a claim or claims of miracles without some kind of empirical evidence. The whole conversation was based on one anonymous callers claim of seeing “miracles” many times.

        I do use the “let’s come up with a definition before we discuss a topic” before getting into it, and I use it myself when I feel I absolutely can’t keep my mouth shut when someone is blathering on and I’m having trouble choosing my battles. :)

        I also agree with the Poe Potential.

        1. troy

          IBS is very often stress induced and therefore goes away with the stress…nothing to see here, again

          http://www.healingwell.com/library/ibs/faq.asp

      4. Muz

        You doubter guys don’t get out enough, metaphorically speaking. People like this are everywhere.
        He’s a cheerful modern hippychristian.

        IBS is gold as a healing cause because it’s idiopathic and covers all sorts of stuff. There’s talk that many incidences are actually a nervous condition, so you can treat it with, say, prozac.
        And it can easily come and go. A diagnosis of Irritable bowel by definition means they don’t know what’s causing it. Once they figure out something specific they’ll call it that.
        Faith healing goldmine.

      5. houndentenor

        It does seem that most claims of “healing” involve conditions most subject to the placebo effect. That is why my faith healer challenge remains to go to a military (or other, I don’t discriminate) hospital and regrow limbs of amputees. That would be a great public service and provide the believer with documented evidence of the miracle.

        1. Matt Gerrans

          You know, at one point it sounded like he was beginning to mention regrowing of limbs, but then stopped himself. This was another troll hint.

        2. blue

          I refuse to prove that I exist, says god, for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.

          (thanks Douglas Adams)

          1. adamah

            Blue, what’s amazing is how many children’s games seem inspired by Biblical accounts, eg it’s like God wants to play a game of “hide and seek”, but He’s not going to lose. It started with the whole “Adam, where art thou?” and now it’s God’s turn to hide.

            He also played “Mother, May I?” with Adam and Eve (once again, the humans lost: they didn’t ask for permission first).

            YHWH is like a child who demands everyone play by His rules, or He’s taking His ball home… It should be clear God does NOT work and play well with other beings.

            :)

      6. Monocle Smile

        Do you listen to Dogma Debate? They’ve had Christian apologists on who flatly spout Kent Hovind talking points. They go on about no transitional forms and radiometric dating and the geologic column and dinosaur and human footprints. They’re not kidding or trolling. They’re actively using them to try to bolster their case. I generally turn these episodes off because the hosts are too nice to these dipshits and don’t call them out on their dishonesty, but it’s quite revealing.

        Yes, people that fucking dumb do really exist, and I think Max is one of them.

        1. AhmNee

          Being dumb isn’t really a prerequisite either. Just being gullible and irrational.

          I’m in the middle of a debate with a friend I’ve had since high school. He’s Mormon. Thinks aliens exist without proof simply because there’s a good chance there is extraterrestrial life. Thinks telepathy exists.

          He’s brilliant when it comes to math. He just has no clue when it comes to standards of evidence and was totally indoctrinated by his father. Highly intelligent, highly gullible.

  4. 4
    Jasper of Maine

    So miracles are that for which are beyond our physics and biology knowledge.

    So black holes are miracles, apparently.

    Lightning were miracles at one point, then we did research, and they weren’t anymore.

    It’s kind of a dumb definition.

  5. 5
    Coming_Curse

    To me the caller seemed to be quite honest. Also it may well be that he was an atheist and just curious about god claims. Reading the bible and testing what it says seems to me a quite sensible approach. Unfortunately the methods could have been far better …
    His claim about cancer treatments being ignored by science though let some alarm bells ring … If he meant what I think he meant he really seems to be not a good skeptic …

    What I find quite astounding: After watching the episode I was of the opinion that the way Russell and John dealt with the call about miracles was absolutely not convincing. Then I watched this specific call a second time and the only things I can object to are some little misconceptions or slightly talking at cross-purposes (especially survival rate vs. disappearing symptoms). So as it seems to me not being a firebrand makes good arguments seem … a little weak or not that persuasive.
    I don’t like that …

    1. 5.1
      Jasper of Maine

      I think the most important part that they touched on, but didn’t push enough, was the non-diagnosis of the “cure”. The best he has was that he observed an alleviation of symptoms, and without any medical knowledge or actual empirical confirmation, merely declared that it was fully cured… especially something that is known to subside within a few days anyway.

      He basically managed to contrive a scenario and trick himself into believing it.

      1. Coming_Curse

        Hmmm … jepp, maybe being a little more pushy could help ;-) … Although I really appreciate the calm approach especially Russell has on most callers.

    2. 5.2
      corwyn

      His claim about cancer treatments being ignored by science though let some alarm bells ring … If he meant what I think he meant he really seems to be not a good skeptic …

      Not to mention that it was a complete red herring. The fact that science ignores some cures is NOT an argument against getting empirical evidence for a claim. One is a fact about the (claimed) behavior of current scientists, the other an appeal to a standard of evidence.

      ***

      I suggest that callers should be called out more on their lying. He said that a digestive tract was complete rebuilt in one day. When he modified that to asymptomatic after a week, the question should then be; “So you were lying before, when you said the digestive tract was rebuilt in one day, why should we believe you this time?”

      1. Matt Gerrans

        Hear, hear! I think it is striking that theists lie like all hell to support their case. So much for getting any morals or ethics from their irrational belief system. Of course, I may not be an entirely impartial judge, but it is my strong impression that we could go through pretty much any axp show and we’d find that the number of verifiable lies offered by the theists callers dwarfed any by the hosts. And I’m allowing for throwing out all the intentional factual errors. These guys simply lie outright when they know what they are saying is not true.

        1. Narf

          So much for getting any morals or ethics from their irrational belief system.

          They are getting their morality from their holy book. Ezekiel 14:9. God lies, too. :D

          1. John Kruger

            What a bizarre passage that one is. If a prophet is fooled into the wrong god, god takes credit for the deception and destroys him? What the heck?

  6. 6
    robinirwin

    i disliked the first caller.

    “i can’t answer that” is just a cop out where he knows a conflict within a bible

    1. 6.1
      Coming_Curse

      But probably theists accuse atheists of doing the same thing when responding “I don’t know” to questions like “Where did the Universe come from?”. In both cases a little more elaboration is probably necessary.

      1. robinirwin

        but that is a more honest answer, since there is no evidence.

        I can’t answer that, in a what would you do question has is a less legitimate answer

    2. 6.2
      Monocle Smile

      He also quoted Ray Comfort. Meaning he’s familiar with Comfort-isms. And he claimed that might makes right. His thought processes are woefully immature for a 19-year-old.

  7. 7
    adamah

    Except the non-response was to a MORAL question directed to be caller (“would you kill your father if directed to do so by God?”), not a question of scientific theories of the origins of the universe.

    So it’s a false equivalency comparing atheists (who respond with “I don’t know”, which is an honest answer) to theists, since Russell was asking the caller what HE would do…

    Adam

    1. 7.1
      adamah

      IMO, Russell let the caller off the hook on that question, since it’s an extremely uncomfortable question for Xians.

      Of course, the “correct” answer is they would comply as a test of their faith, knowing that God demands strict obedience and has the power to resurrect (in fact, that’s an angle Paul eisegetically adds to the account in Hebrews 11, claiming Abraham KNEW God could resurrect his son Isaac, although the concept of resurrection is completely anachronistic for the story’s setting, since it didn’t enter into Jewish thinking until 1,500 yrs AFTER Abraham’s setting, the result of syncretism with Persian Zoroasterian religious thought).

      Of course, admitting to following orders without evaluating the morality of such actions (as a free moral agent) is blind obedience, which the Bible consistently demands; it’s one of the few principles which the Bible is consistent on, from Old Testament to New. God says jump, you don’t question, but you jump….

      As such, Xians have absolutely no business or need for fretting over moral questions, since they’ve delegated their decision-making responsibilities to the Bible and God: they need to be good followers of authority figures (God/Jesus), not deep moral thinkers…

      Many Xians are uncomfortable with that, and don’t like to admit to being a mindless robot, a drone who follows orders. As usual, they want it both ways, their cake and to eat it.

  8. 8
    bloodytarawa

    If god laid down true objective morality at the beginning of creation (infinite regression … let’s not go there just now), he was certainly terribly ambiguous and unclear about it all.

    The various commandments, as we know, leave out all kinds of things we would now consider pretty heinous, such as owning other human beings, murdering anyone who doesn’t believe as you do, rape, child abuse, ad (not literally!) infinitum.

    In addition, within the commonly accepted guidelines outlined in the various commandments there is absolutely no gray area. Even if one accepts the oft-cited explanation that “thou shalt not kill” really means “thou shalt not murder,” how are we to know what murder is? If the state executes a wrongly convicted criminal, is that murder? If not, why not? Were the more than 20 attempts to assassinate Adolf Hitler attempted murder, and if they succeeded, would the perpetrators have violated god’s stated morality?

    As for stealing, would it be OK for an upright man fired unjustly by his wealthy, criminal boss to steal to feed his family?

    American conservative Christians often argue that in the absence of god, and hence god’s “objective” standards for morality, what reason would anyone have to act “morally”? They seem to be curiously amoral people, assuming that they themselves would go on murderous, thieving rampages in that case.

    But I suspect what *most* such fundamentalists mean by “morality” and what they fear in a world absent god, is not murder and stealing or even rape—I think they intuit that human impulses generally inhibit us from such behavior—is SEX. Basically, male Christians have a clear understanding of the male (sorry women if I seem to be excluding; I only know my own experience) and, if it were unfettered, might lead to god knows where … humping the proverbial “anything that moves,” perhaps.

    You all get the drill.

    And: Euthyphro’s dilemma. Yes.

    1. 8.1
      Matt Gerrans

      You forgot to mention capital punishment for adultery.

    2. 8.2
      adamah

      Bloodytarawa said:

      If god laid down true objective morality at the beginning of creation (infinite regression … let’s not go there just now), he was certainly terribly ambiguous and unclear about it all.

      Seriously, you’re giving too much credit to God of the Bible.

      Problem is, read the Bible and you’d realize that’s actually the OPPOSITE situation to what Genesis indicates.

      God gives the first law to man in Genesis 3 (‘eat the forbidden wisdom-bestowing fruit, and die!’) and doesn’t get around to prohibiting bloodshed until AFTER the Flood, in Genesis 9. Whoops! God had a senior moment?

      That’s right: per Genesis, the antediluvian World existed in a state of anarchy, a MadMax-like World where ‘might makes right’.

      I touch on the topic in an article on my blog entitled, “Why did God seemingly allow Cain to get away with murder”?

      http://awgue.weebly.com/why-did-god-seemingly-allow-cain-to-get-away-with-murder.html

      If anyone can read (AND reads with a skeptical mind, not afraid to ask questions), there’s no way to get beyond the book of Genesis without realizing the Bible is simply a collection of fascinating ancient stories, intertwined with ancient legal code.

      Adam

      1. Matt Gerrans

        You know I don’t even think the biblical stories are fascinating. Most of them are really stupid and inexplicably violent and arbitrary. Tell me one that is interesting or fascinating on the level of any good fiction of any genre. I don’t think the Bible stories compete on any level, whether it is character development, plot, story telling, etc. Maybe the use of language is interesting? I guess you’d have to ask an expert in ancient Greek or Hebrew, but they may not have much for comparison and probably love anything that is written in their favorite ancient tongue.

        1. adamah

          Matt said-

          You know I don’t even think the biblical stories are fascinating. Most of them are really stupid and inexplicably violent and arbitrary. Tell me one that is interesting or fascinating on the level of any good fiction of any genre.

          Well, I find it fascinating, speaking from the historic/sociological perspective, and from the literary/critical analysis. The Bible gives insight into ancient cultures over a long period of time, where it’s fascinating to see the concepts evolve (where Paul was just like modern Xian apologetists, making up explanations that made sense to him an harmonized certain concepts, without considering the ramifications for other components).

          Sure, some of the stories in the Torah are devoid of morality by modern standards (eg slavery), but fact is many of the accounts serve as mini-vignettes within the work overall, offering examples to explain WHY the Levitical and Deuteronomic codes (which appear after Genesis) were needed. Many readers miss that, eg missing the message of the rape of Dinah account was intended to show how prohibitions against marriage to Gentiles were beneficial.

          (I wrote how Cain’s lax punishment at God’s hand served as dramatic foreshadowing to the ‘cities of refuge’, also serving as a mini-vignette. Prior legal codes attempted to inject and mix an origins back-story with dry legal code, but none had done so as extensively as the Torah had done.)

          The problem is believers who want to believe in a God, and read the Old Testament as literal historical events. Unfortunately, the Yahwist was too subtle, too clever for his own good: by borrowing from prior sources, he was able to compile writings that had existed long beforehand, but he refined the Torah to make it succeed beyond his wildest dreams, resonating with readers some 2,500 years later….

          Adam

        2. Pj

          There is an aged professor of Sanskrit at a famous university who tells every beginning Sanskrit class, “Sanskrit literature is ten times larger than Greek and Latin, and half as interesting.”
          It’s okay to have a subjective opinion about this kind of thing.

          1. adamah

            Pj said:

            There is an aged professor of Sanskrit at a famous university who tells every beginning Sanskrit class, “Sanskrit literature is ten times larger than Greek and Latin, and half as interesting.”

            Another thing to remember is that the Bible has benefitted greatly from having “motivated” translators who have no ethical qualms about rendering their translations “creatively”, in order to give the Bible a facelift; they want to hide and remove those “liver spots” that otherwise would reveal its true age. Some translations are as shameless as a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon!

            Check out the many various translations of the ‘Epic of Gilgamesh’ out there, another more-ancient writing that similarly benefits from “creative” translation: some translators liberally adding their own concepts as if it were Hamburger (literature) Helper.

            It’s all done in the name of contemporizing the work to make it more accessible to modern readers, and in the case of the Bible to harmonize with the translator’s desired theological beliefs (those “Living Translations” of the Bible are the worst, or the Jehovah’s Witnesses ‘New World Translation’, which simply inserts their desired schtick into passages, without any basis in the source texts).

            Most readers are completely oblivious to how word choice drastically alters the meaning of a passage, esp when translating from ancient languages which lacked clues like punctuation, vowels, etc.

            Jesus condemning those “lying scribes” likely reflects an awareness of the problem, even in the first century; his condemnation is likely referring to the recently-translated Greek Septuagint, which similarly alters meaning for doctrinal purposes.

  9. 9
    Callum McKenzie

    Next time a caller comes out with anecdotes of spontaneous healing of non life-threatening, low level medical conditions, I’d suggest pointing them to Tim Minchin’s hilarious song: ‘Thank you God (for healing the cataracts of Sam’s mum)’.

  10. 10
    Monocle Smile

    I’d like to gather every copy of “What the bleep do we know” on the planet, set a giant-ass fire, and salt the earth so nothing else will ever grow there.

    For all of you quantum woo monkeys who go on about quantum effects in our synapses and neurons: THEY DON’T FUCKING MATTER. The smallest parts of our brain operate on scales at least an order of magnitude too large for the supposed quantum effects to be greater than negligible. For the record, Roger Penrose and Stuart Hammeroff have no fucking clue what they’re talking about on this topic.

    1. 10.1
      John Kruger

      It is kind of like saying that since I built a 1″ long car that can go 1 mi/hr, if I make the same car 10,000 inches long it will go 10,000 mi/hr. It is a wild oversimplification, and for quantum effects it all happens on differences of scale that are really difficult for humans to wrap their minds around.

  11. 11
    kevo

    What amazed me about Max was that he was all too ready to ascribe the spontaneous healing to his laying of hands. Previously, he said his friend had consulted a doctor and was given a special diet to follow. Could it possibly be that whatever had been causing her IBS flare-up was resolved by removing it from her diet? It would be similar to a lactose-intolerant person stopping the consumption of lactose, having the cramping subside as the body digests (poorly) the remaining lactose just at the same time a “healer” commands the cramps to go away in the name of INSERT_DEITY_HERE?

    Instead, he would have us believe that his friend spontaneously grew a new digestive system in 24 hours. Where did the old one go? Or was it magically subsumed too? How would one tell its new? Did it have the factory shine still on it? Is she able to resume her diet IBS-free? How long was she diagnosed with it? Could it have been an infection of some sort that was labelled IBS, or even misdiagnosed as IBS?

    I have so many questions for Max.

  12. 12
    Ubi Dubium

    I have a mild case of IBS, so I think I should chime in here.

    It’s a chronic condition, so it’s not really a matter of either dying or recovering. It comes and goes, so I can be having a flare-up one day, and then suddenly be much better the next. It can vanish for a month, then show up again without warning. One of the possible causes of a flare-up is stress, and placebos can be very effective, so this is a prime target for con-men/faith healers. If somebody is convinced that Jeezus has cured them, and that reduces their stress, then poof, they feel better the next day and it’s a miracle! (Well, either Jeezus or the bowl of raisin bran they had for breakfast.)

    If that’s the best miracle your caller’s got, then I suggest he go look up confirmation bias.

    1. 12.1
      what not

      Yeah, IBS is a terrible example, and Russell and John didn’t know enough about it to point that out. The gut is flush with neurons–see here:

      http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/gut-second-brain

      …which is why stress, sleepiness, arousal, and other psychological states affect digestion so much. There are many causes of IBS, which, by the way, is only a description of an experience (prolonged periods of diarrhea or constipation) rather than any underlying cause or even an understanding of what’s happening internally in the moment, which can be anything from blockage to allergy to anxiety.

      The caller mentioned his “patient” was a believer, and it’s not at all out of the realm of natural experience that her faith in the process would improve her digestion. Now, if praying instantly healed her broken leg, then I’d be paying attention. Otherwise, this example is straight-up bull.

      1. Jasper of Maine

        The caller mentioned his “patient” was a believer, and it’s not at all out of the realm of natural experience that her faith in the process would improve her digestion.

        Or that, as a believer, she felt the pressure of expectation that it’d work, and thus self-reported that it did, even if it wasn’t the case.

        How does he know that the symptoms disappeared, other than the patient saying so?

        1. what not

          Absolutely. I wish these folks were’t so credulous, and so ignorant of how psychology works.

  13. 13
    somnus

    If he really and truly believed what he was saying, he wouldn’t be calling into an atheist show trying to convince them. He’d be down at the hospital emergency room commanding gunshot and car wreck victims to heal. And since he claims to think that it’s something any believer can do, he’d be demonstrating that fact to the doctors and nurses so they could do the exact same thing. He could wipe out the entire need for modern medicine in about two weeks! Or if he happens to be such a monster as to be deliberately withholding his healing powers from those who need it, he’s expecting us to believe that nobody in the past two millennia has discovered this ability and decided on that course of action. Instead, humanity turned it’s back entirely on the ability to simply command healing in favor of centuries of laborious investigation, trial, and error in order to achieve vastly inferior results? Sorry… not plausible.

    As for the morality thing… I think “we have morality because God inscribed it on our hearts,” is possibly one of the most ridiculous things a Christian can say. Because not only is it nonsense if you don’t believe the Bible, it’s at least equal nonsense if you do. According to their fable, the first and foremost thing God wanted was for humans *not* to know morality. It was his very first prohibition: do not eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The Christian God forbade mankind to learn morality and demanded obedience instead. Probably because he realized that understanding good and evil would cause people to reject his authority in the grounds that his demands are evil. In a Biblical worldview, morality isn’t something God gave us; it’s something we wrested for ourselves and he immediately set about trying to crush.

    1. 13.1
      Matt Gerrans

      Nicely put, Somnus! They should invite you in to fill the guest seat some time.

      1. somnus

        Lol. Thanks! If someone wants to pay my airfare from Pennsylvania…

        Although I think I do better in a written format than on-the-fly argumentation. I always need a minute or two to think things through.

    2. 13.2
      adamah

      Somnus said-

      If he really and truly believed what he was saying, he wouldn’t be calling into an atheist show trying to convince them. He’d be down at the hospital emergency room commanding gunshot and car wreck victims to heal.

      I’m not sure of your familiarity with Xian beliefs, since the caller likely WOULDN’T do that, but would be trying to convert heathens by calling into atheist shows, as he was doing!

      Jesus claimed to heal, not to improve the lot of mankind in the here and now, but to prove he was sent by God and authorized to forgive humans of sins (the common belief was that human illness resulted from sin as punishment from God: if forgiven by God, healing results). Just like the priests in the Temple were authorized to forgive sin (hence why lepers were sent to the Temple to be healed, after offending the sacrificial doves), Jesus similarly claimed the same power to offer forgiveness of sins on Gods behalf.

      Hence Jesus healed to demonstrate the glory and power of God (and if the cure failed, ‘blame the victim’ was always an option, claiming the person wasn’t truly repentant, etc)

      Matt often says that Xianity views this World as proving grounds to demonstrate ones worthiness to enter heaven, so all suffering in the present life is viewed as not significant to the reward in heaven. As Jesus said, we should fear not those who can kill the mortal body, but the one (God, and by extension, Jesus) who can destroy the body AND condemn the soul to Hell for an eternity.

      Regardless, the caller has a ‘Jesus complex’, suggesting a raging (but veiled) ego that’s driven by narcissism required to think you’re God’s mortal earthly agent, a human who’s specially-selected to play a role in upcoming cosmic heavenly events.

      The caller needs to quit engaging in magical thinking (it’s embarrassing to continue do so, once you’re out of the teen years).

      Adam

      1. somnus

        I am aware of the distinction that *some* Christians believe this (I don’t know that the caller gave enough information to say whether he does or not, but he seems to express the belief that anyone can command healing in Jesus’s name and have it granted). I just happen to think that my argument holds with either interpretation. Because intermittent miracles performed seemingly at random and never in any way that can be definitively tied to a god very transparently do not proclaim a glorious god. The portray one that is either very limited, or very self-servingly arbitrary (or not even there). Plus, giving anyone the ability to heal, then taking it back if that person ever tries to perform said miracle in a verifiable way, would serve only to make your followers look kinda deluded and sad. It seems like a pretty ridiculous rationalization to me, and one that really only works for people already predisposed to believe it.

        1. Narf

          It’s not for us to pick and choose what makes for a Real^TM Christian, though. If you follow the Gospel of John more than the others, besides being an asshole antisemite, you’ll come away with that exact message, that Jesus only ever performed Signs in order to prove that he spoke with the authority of God.

          This is of course in complete contradiction with other Gospels, in which he refuses to back up anything he says, because you’re supposed to believe on faith … but whatever. If you expect a contradiction-free Bible, you’ve come to the wrong book.

          1. somnus

            I don’t think I’ve said anything that suggests I’m talking about what “true,” Christians believe. I certainly have no particular insight into what a “true,” Christian might be, and no investment in defending any of the countless versions as “true,” Christianity. I’m not even convinced that there is such a thing. I’m talking about the specific claims made by the caller, and what I think their implications are.

            I know that the Bible says that bit about signs. And that some Christians choose to put emphasis on it and some don’t (and some aren’t even aware of it). I’m not dismissing it as an element of Christian belief. When I call it a ridiculous rationalization, I mean that it was a rationalization even when it was being written into the Bible, not that Christians are rationalizing that it’s what some obscure passage means but doesn’t actually say.

          2. Narf

            I know; you didn’t explicitly start into trying to define true Christianity, but I felt you were straying a little closer than you should be. I just wanted to give you a nudge, with the appropriate snark towards Christians themselves speaking of, “Well, a REAL Christian wouldn’t …”

            The big problem I have with what you said previously is when you said that your argument holds with either interpretation. I don’t think it does.

            If God has already performed signs of healing to give those people an anecdote to relate about God’s miracles, then it would be pretty blasphemous of those people to run around trying to replicate the miracle … in effect demanding more miracles of God, testing him.

            Don’t get me wrong; it’s pretty fucked thinking and a completely irrational way to go about your life. It just makes a sort of sense, in the minds of those who focus on things like the Gospel of John. It’s backed up by the stuff in Acts. The apostles ran around performing miracles as Jesus did … until God decided that the world had gotten the message, and that anecdotes of people performing those miracles should be enough to convince anyone. Then, the apostles lost the ability to do miracles.

            The people who hold this perspective don’t expect that it would continue to work, if they ran around continuing to try to heal people in hospitals, because God has already given them their sign. That should be enough to keep them going, no matter how much contradictory evidence piles up.

          3. somnus

            Maybe I’m wrong – it’s been known to happen :P

            But I’m looking at the interpretation through the lens of the claims the caller was making. He appeared to believe that scripture claims God gave believers “the authority to command healing,” and described it as being given to us as a “technology.” This does not suggest to me that he holds a belief that this is something that just comes and goes at celestial whim. So whether he interprets this as being for the purpose of the healing itself, or for the purpose of proclaiming God’s glory is kind of irrelevant to the claims. That’s the “either interpretation,” to which I was referring, and I maintain that my initial statement holds for either one. Because if it were true that people could simply command healing and have it work every time, then whether you believe the purpose for the healing itself or so that you could proclaim God’s glory, it makes sense to demonstrate it as often and as usefully as possible.

            In that light, I think what you’re bringing up actually represents a third interpretation. And it’s the kind of subtle-but-important distinction that is part if the reason there are so many different versions of Christianity in the first place. But yes, if the world operated under *this* interpretation it would not be reasonable to expect the overnight destruction of the medical profession. Of course, it also wouldn’t be reasonable to expect to convince many people who don’t already believe (or want to believe) it. Which, to my mind at least, makes it a pretty poor strategy for “proclaiming the glory of God.”

  14. 14
    adamah

    Oh, on this part:

    As for the morality thing… I think “we have morality because God inscribed it on our hearts,” is possibly one of the most ridiculous things a Christian can say. Because not only is it nonsense if you don’t believe the Bible, it’s at least equal nonsense if you do.

    Yup, it’s amazing how many Xians don’t want to see the obvious implications of their own origins story, and hence can’t reason their way out of a wet paper bag….

    The Eve character is based on the age-old misogynistic motif of the weaker foolish woman, appearing in other cultures (Pandora being the most well-known). Centuries later, Paul used Eve as his prime example of why women should subjugate their will to their hubby’s wishes, using God’s curse against Eve as justification).

    The early Xian Gnostics rejected this view, recognizing Eve as the heroine and protagonist of the story, the Mother of all humankind who wanted to liberate her family from living as moral midgets who only followed orders, being trained to be followers only and told not to ask bothersome questions.

    Of course, the Gnostics were eventually squashed out of existence (literally, too), and the orthodox Xians grasped the reins of control and didn’t let go. Hence we have the traditional interpretation of weak Eve persisting, justifying millennia of misogyny, with many believers who dare not ask any pesky questions or think for themselves.

    Adam

    1. 14.1
      Narf

      One of the things I like to bring up, when someone brings up the bullshit line about God inscribing his morality on everyone’s hearts:
      Really? What about sociopaths?

      1. adamah

        Well, the whole ‘law is inscribed on their hearts’ thing pertains to a prophecy for the future, when God will supposedly ascribe the law on people’s heart (think mind, since ancient men believed humans thought with their hearts). Remember, Jesus (who’s quoting OT scripture) constantly deprecates the Jewish people as hard-hearted stubborn fools who can do nothing right, and the prophecy calls for a time when the Jews aren’t such screw-ups.

        I think people may be confusing that with the claim from Genesis that God made humans in his image, which most Xians think of as giving us mental capacities similar to God’s.

        I always read that claim as an excuse for the Yahwist to go nuts in order to anthropomorphize God, depicting him talking, walking (in the Garden), getting angry, having hands, a face, even showing His Divine arse, etc.

        Depicting Jehovah with humanlike traits and behaviors is movement from the way people previously conceived of deities, eg the Egyptians worshipped inanimate physical objects (like the Sun, Moon, etc), so much less personification was occurring. Making God invisible (and when seen, a shape-shifter) allowed for more character development (a writer’s dream).

        1. Narf

          You get … surprise, surprise … conflicting verses on this point. Hebrews 8:10 is a prophesy of sorts, as you say. Romans 2:14-15 is not.

          Romans says that it is basically the way that God made all humans. I think that this is the one that evangelists tend to use, since it more suits their purposes

          1. Narf

            And of course the parallel verses in Jeremiah 31, from which Paul lifted the applicable section.

          2. adamah

            Narf said:

            Hebrews 8:10 is a prophesy of sorts, as you say. Romans 2:14-15 is not.

            Ok, I see where you’re coming from.

            Of course, Jeremiah is the source of the Xian “New Covenant” doctrine (as found in Hebrews), which supposedly goes into effect either after the return of Christ, or now (depending on if you’re a Preterist or not).

            As usual, Xian apologetists (like ‘Paul’) make up their own alterations and explanations ‘on the fly’ by shotgunning theology, introducing contradictions that require more fancy tap-dancing, all in an attempt to distract and bamboozle the listener.

            If there’s one thing all would-be scammers understand, it’s the old saying, “if you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them by shoveling mounds of BS”. More often than not, it works (esp if the listener WANTS to believe the scammer).

            The concept of the law being written on all men’s hearts has implications for free will, eg will Xians be able to choose to sin if they are ‘hard-wired’ (ie programmed) to obey God’s laws? What happened to “God didn’t want to create men as robots, who HAD to serve and obey him”, used to explain away why Adam was even able to disobey God?

            So God DOES want to create programmable robots, after all, if obedience is His desired end state!

            Exposing the many logical contradictions of Xian theology is like shooting ducks in a barrel…

            Adam

          3. Narf

            I don’t know that it really has much of an impact on free will. Christians would claim that we’re absolutely free to go against the morality that God wrote on our hearts, and we often do. We just know when we’ve done wrong because of God’s little cardio-calligraphy lesson … never mind the sociopaths, which I already mentioned.

            They use it more as a bludgeon against us. We know that God is real. We know that what is written in the Bible is true. We’re just lying, because the Bible says we are. It’s pretty fucked up.

          4. adamah

            Narf, just make sure you understand the difference between the theological definition of ‘free will’ (and it’s relation to God’s expressed Divine will, which ALWAYS TRUMPS over human’s exercise of their free will), and discern between ‘free will’ (used in the absence of Divine Will) and ‘freedom of choice’ (which applies when God has expressed His will, and people choose to disobey).

            “Writing God’s laws upon their hearts” implies humans will perfectly follow Gods will, thus losing both their free will AND their freedom of choice. That only begs the question: if that’s ultimately the desired end-point after Jesus’ return, then why didn’t God simply make mankind and angels as robots, in the first place?

            (Xians usually come back with the “Universal Sovereignty Issue”, their usual non-sequitorial non-response, since it’s tantamount to Satan challenging God with, “I can do it better…” And God saying, “Oh, yeah? Here’s the keys to the Earth, so show me, wise guy!!!” I mean, REALLY?!?!)

          5. Matt Gerrans

            It’s really a stupid argument too. If knew for a fact that such a celestial bully existed and was watching my every move, would I consciously and deliberately defy him, knowing the consequences? There would not be a rational person in the world who would choose atheism or any other religion in the world, if this information was “written on their heart.” It is such an asinine argument that it fails even if you accept its inane premises.

            And if Christians (of whatever particular sub-cult in question) are the only ones who can read their own cardio-calligraphy (I love that one, Narf!), then why do they sin just as much as, if not more than, anybody else?

            And WTF does it mean the Jesus washed away all our sins, if we are all still sinners? I hope he was better at washing feet.

            What a stupid religion! (…well, is there any other kind?)

          6. Narf

            That doesn’t matter. That’s not what that passage is talking about. That passage is just saying that God stuck his measuring stick in us (feel free to interpret that expression as you see fit), not that he forced us to adhere to it. Knowing that we’re doing something against what God wants us to do does not deprive us of our free will.

            Now, given the omniscient, omnipotent, prophesy-granting god of the Bible, free will doesn’t work. The Calvinists have it right. That one little piece of the puzzle that’s specified in that passage just isn’t the piece that breaks it.

          7. adamah

            Narf said-

            that passage is just saying that God stuck his measuring stick in us (feel free to interpret that expression as you see fit), not that he forced us to adhere to it. Knowing that we’re doing something against what God wants us to do does not deprive us of our free will.

            Hmmm, not sure what your theological background is, but in most branches of Xianity, the part in bold above is incorrect: God doesn’t give humans permission to violate His Divine Will, no way no how, as that would be suggesting God gives humans permission to sin. He doesn’t, and won’t accept lame excuses (like the sinner is exercising his free will).

            Instead, God’s expressed Divine Will (as recorded in the Bible) ALWAYS trumps man’s exercise of free will (which is ONLY to be used in the absense of any expressed Divine Will ie free will is only used for ‘conscience matters’, using one’s “Bible-trained conscience” to decide the course of action most pleasing to God).

            Instead, God allows humans the ‘freedom to choose’ to disobey His Divine Will (by definition, to sin), but that implies the sinner still MUST face the consequences of their decision to commit sin (note that the term ‘free will’ implies the choice is made between equal alternatives, FREE of punishment or rewards which attempt to bias the decision).

            The Jeremiah 31 passage mentions how all (from the greatest to the least) will KNOW God, which sounds a lot like thought-control and brainwashing to any atheist! Defo an interference with MY free Will, forcing me to sacrifice my skeptical and rational brain (and in lieu of actual hard evidence, it would take massive closed-head brain damage such that I believed in gods)!

            :)

            Adam

          8. Narf

            We have the free will to defy him, though. We don’t have his permission to violate his laws, without incurring divine punishment, but we have the ability to do so. That’s the free part.

            That’s the line, anyway. All of that goes out the door with the omniscient, omnipotent creator god, of course. When he created everything with all of the details laid out, down to the finest particle, there goes any possibility of free will. If you had some less-knowing, extremely-powerful being who wrote his laws into the minds of a race of beings, but he didn’t have such infinite control, we could possibly have free will, then.

            Like I said, many different ways, libertarian free will is bullshit, but not for this reason. Just making us innately aware of what God wants of us would not rub out our free will, by itself, if it was a real thing.

          9. Narf

            Specifically,

            (note that the term ‘free will’ implies the choice is made between equal alternatives, FREE of punishment or rewards which attempt to bias the decision)

            No. No it doesn’t. If your definition of free will requires equal alternatives, then you’re working with a broken definition which is useless even outside of the god-question. There is no such thing as a scenario in which the alternatives are equal.

          10. adamah

            Narf said-

            We have the free will to defy him, though. We don’t have his permission to violate his laws, without incurring divine punishment, but we have the ability to do so. That’s the free part.

            You’re flat-out wrong, Narf, and many atheists (and fewer believers) and make the same mistake.

            FW is not about capacity or ability to act, but PERMISSION to commit an act in defiance or violation of Divine Will.

            The alternatives must be equal in terms of CONSEQUENCES exerted by an EXTERNAL source (otherwise the force will be trying to bias the decision made by the ‘free agent’). Its not hard to grasp: even someone’s last testament and will conveys the idea:

            “I, Bob Smith, being of sound mind and body and of my own free will, leave all of my worldly possessions to….” The statement clarifies the person made the decision voluntarily, free of persuasion or duress from anyone else.

            You’re thinking of it (ie whether we have the CAPABITY, as If machines) more from the philosophical approach which arose in the last 500 yrs… It’s anachronistic thinking as applied to Judeo-Xian theology.

            I’ve written extensively on the theological view of free will on my blog, mostly in an article on the paradox of Adam and Eve:

            Awgue.weebly.com

            Adam

          11. Narf

            And we’re not talking about Jeremiah 31. We’re talking about Romans 2:14-15.

          12. Narf

            Matt Gerrans

            There would not be a rational person in the world who would choose atheism or any other religion in the world, if this information was “written on their heart.” It is such an asinine argument that it fails even if you accept its inane premises.

            Well, God is a complete fuck-up who can’t create anything right. Unless you want to push forward the argument that a perfect being created such a flawed creature as humans, and that punishing us for the way he created us is perfectly moral. Of course that would be excused by Satan intervening, since Satan was … created … by the perfect being …

            Yeah, the whole theology is so contradictory and incoherent from the word go. I don’t understand how any reasonably-educated people maintain their belief well into adulthood. Fear of hell must go a damned long way.

          13. Narf

            You’re flat-out wrong, Narf, and many atheists (and fewer believers) and make the same mistake.

            FW is not about capacity or ability to act, but PERMISSION to commit an act in defiance or violation of Divine Will.

            Well, then I think you have a useless definition of free will, particularly as the theists use the word. I don’t see why you would even have an argument about that with someone, when that isn’t what the people who bring the bullshit concept into the argument mean when they use it. They’re speaking about libertarian free will, not permission.

            Saying, “No, you’re using the word wrong. It actually means this,” will just have you talking past each other, since the people who bring the term decide how the word is going to be used … unless you want to have theists telling us that atheism means that you’re absolutely certain that no gods exist … and let’s throw in the archaic immorality definition as well, while we’re at it.

            Do you see the problem here?

          14. adamah

            Narf said-

            I don’t see why you would even have an argument about that with someone, when that isn’t what the people who bring the bullshit concept into the argument mean when they use it. They’re speaking about libertarian free will, not permission.

            That’s exactly WHY I do it: many theists will attempt to “move the goalposts” and use the modern philosophical libertarian definition of free will (which hinges on CAPACITY to carry out an action), as if forgetting all about the authority issues which are inseparable from Judeo-Christian thought, eg even calling God and Jesus ‘Master’ and Lord reflects the control and authority issues involved). We see that tendency with some lovey-dovey Xian sects who will deny it, and cover for their horrific God with amazing powers of denial and selective vision.

            That’s why I call them on the carpet for trying to ‘move the goalposts’, and for not knowing their own schtick…. We shouldn’t be afraid to call a spade a spade, or a bald-faced shakedown attempt for what it actually is…

            Adam

          15. Narf

            Come on, man, you said yourself that most theists don’t understand that that is what free will means. I don’t give a damn what the sophisticated theologians have conjured up from their mental masturbation. I care what the actual believers in the pews and the actual preachers believe. It isn’t what you’re talking about, with your permission definition.

            Yes, you have to pin down a theist on definitions, but it does no freaking good to pin a theist down to a definition that doesn’t represent what he actually believes.

          16. Narf

            Let me see if I can put this another way, which will demonstrate why I completely reject your permission definition of free will.

            In which sorts of situations do we see theists attempting to insert free will as a justification for some bullshit or other, as a Spackle-job for their shitty arguments? Why does God allow suffering? Free will.
            It’s always an answer to a why question, in which God values our ability to take indeterministic action, despite the fact that it’s probably going to land us in a lake of fire, as most things apparently will.

            Do you think the theists are saying that God is giving us free will and won’t punish us for causing suffering? That isn’t at all what they’re saying. Every other plug-in scenario I can come up with, in which I’ve heard a theist vomit up free-will as a non-answer, they obviously mean the libertarian free-will concept, not your lack of coercion through divine punishment definition.

            You’re arguing against an argument that they aren’t making.

          17. adamah

            Get over yourself, Narf: we’ve seen many times where a caller says, “but God wants us to have free will” or the classic esp. heard amongst JW’s, “God didn’t want to make humans as robots who HAD to love and worship him, so he gave Adam free will….” These types of comments will literally follow only moments after saying why we must obey Gods laws.

            They are trying to have it both ways, moving the goalposts, with God cast in the role ones best buddy one minute, and the Divine lawgiver the next. If God truly wanted Adam to have free will, God would simply shut his trap, and not start in with the “Thou shalts” and “Thou shalt nots”, since all Judeo-Xian religions hold that Divine Will TRUMPS mans free will. That’s the entire basis of their schtick, doing what the Bible tells us to do, or go to Hell, etc.

            If you’ve never encountered it, consider yourself lucky (or more likely, you HAVE encountered it, but just didn’t notice, due to your lack of awareness of the flip-flopping going on, using the libertarian definition one moment, and authoritarian, the next).

            Look up free will in Merriam Webster, and get back to me: it’s two words, and it’s not that difficult to grap. The ‘Free’ adjective refers to free of coercion from external sources, be it God, another living person, entity, or your dog…. (Yes, a yapping dog is attempting to coerce and bias your decision to give him a treat; it’s not a free will decision).

          18. Narf

            we’ve seen many times where a caller says, “but God wants us to have free will”

            And you think, by them saying that, that they’re indicating that God won’t coerce us into a particular action by punishing us for making a different choice? That’s what you’re indicating with your permission definition.

            I think I’m done with this one. I’ll let the lurkers decide, if any of them are following and still care. I’ve already laid out my points, and you’re not listening to them.

          19. adamah

            Narf said-

            And you think, by them saying that, that they’re indicating that God won’t coerce us into a particular action by punishing us for making a different choice? That’s what you’re indicating with your permission definition.

            I knew why I parroted it as a young believer: I was ‘spinning’ for God, and likely couldn’t face up to the ugly truth that I was being forced to worship God. I was more likely trying to convince myself, but putting a lovey-dovey “But God LUVS us all sooooo much!” spin on it to make it palatable to others… That’s extremely common amongst young pioneers of all Xian faiths: you cannot sell a message of “do what I say or else!”

            I don’t know how else to explain it you any simpler than to say believers will try to play both sides of the ‘free will’ argument, one minute saying how we have to follow God’s word as our ultimate Divine moral authority since we lack His authority to sin, and the next minute, spouting some cockamamie nonsense about how God wants us all to have free will (when if they were honest, they’d call it ‘freedom of choice’, NOT FW).

            It’s absolutely schizophrenic-thinking on display, and they cannot (and should not) be allowed to get away with trying to play both sides of that argument; their feet should be held to the fire, and be asked questions to see if they know their own theological schtick, or are just lying in the name of God to whitewash and sell His ill’ extortion scheme to others.

          20. Narf

            So, you really ran around telling people that God doesn’t judge anyone after we die, because he wants us to have free will, when you were a Christian? Dude, what the hell? You can’t hold other Christians responsible for the fact that you made up silly shit, when you were one of them. I think this is just you, on that one.

          21. adamah

            Please don’t put words in my mouth, Narf.

            Most Xians are masters at the soft-pedal “feel good” sales-pitch schtick: that’s why you see pages upon pages of blathering about how God LUVS us soooooo much (!) and wants us to have free will, or how God offers the gift of salvation in the form of grace, and all we have to do is accept a free gift, etc.

            However, most Xians conveniently ‘forget’ to mention the fine-print stuff like Jesus carrying out the separating work of the flock (sheeps vs goats), and how God’s will is being carried out, with you or without you. OF COURSE most believers don’t have the balls to lay it all out on the table and explain the predicament to non-believers, since there’s no way to politely ‘spin’ an “offer” that has all the subtle beauty and grace of an extortion note wrapped around a brick that’s thrown thru the living room window, saying do what we say and no one gets hurt….

            Such is the psychological dynamic of Xianity, the ugliness of simply more “looking out for #1″ (except in the spiritual domain, not the physical).

          22. Narf

            Please don’t put words in my mouth, Narf.

            Not my fault that you can’t see the obvious result of the way the term is used, combined with the bad definition that you’re trying to use.

          23. adamah

            Lol! And what definition do YOU suggest we use for FW? I’m all ears, and waiting with baited breath to see your presumably-better definition is….

          24. Matt Gerrans

            That’s bated breath please, especially if we are invoking the dictionary in this conversation.

          25. Monocle Smile

            adam, I think you have a much higher opinion of the understanding most Christians have about their own religion. I’m siding with Narf on this mostly because my experience with Christians is that their knowledge barely extends beyond kindergarten theology. You have orders of magnitude more depth in this field than most, and you did when you were a Christian, too. Narf is talking about the masses in the pews, not the preachers or those who choose to take the theological plunge.

          26. Narf

            I propose that we use the definition that the Christians use themselves, as I said: the opposite of determinism. They’re the ones bringing the stupid concept to the table, so it does no good to discuss it in terms other than the ones they use when bringing it to the table.

          27. adamah

            In case any of you haven’t noticed, many believers will flip-flop and vacillate in their own minds, since they’re often not sure what FW means and are relying on what their pastor told them FW means…. That’s why you may need to dig up a definition from various sources, and SHOW THEM what the phrase actually means.

            Here’s an example from a Xian website, where the author creates a false equivalency between FW and actions taken when being robbed, so as to make the scenario with God holding humans hostage seem less threatening:

            http://www.exploregod.com/sovereignty-and-free-will

            Fortunately, some Xian denominations (eg JWs) aren’t that sloppy with their word usage, but are careful to differentiate btwn the phrases ‘FW’ and ‘FoC’, whereas others treat the terms as if they’re synonymous.

            My broader point is to give a heads up to a COMMON source of confusion in discussions wth theists, since it shouldn’t come as any surprise that believers aren’t esp careful about their word usage, arguments, etc.

          28. Narf

            And when they switch up contexts, as they so often do, not just on this subject but with so many others, you tell them that they’re doing so, and you let them know that their argument is dead until they clean that up, because they just committed a logical fallacy that invalidates the whole thing. Using a definition that they’re not using for a word will not prevent them from equivocating like mad.

      2. adamah

        Narf said:

        Yeah, the whole theology is so contradictory and incoherent from the word go. I don’t understand how any reasonably-educated people maintain their belief well into adulthood. Fear of hell must go a damned long way.

        Ironically some Xians will insist they have free will to disobey God’s laws, but they’re actually referring to ‘freedom of choice’ which does NOT convey the same guarantee of being free from having to pay for the consequences of the choice. Some religions (like the JWs) will actually point out the not-so-subtle distinction to their members, ad stick to the widely-accepted secular definitions of these phrases and not try to claim that God is not holding people’s lives and souls hostage, conditioned on if they sin.

        If you think about it, “true believers” and agnostics (who aren’t sure if God exists) actually have NO FW, since the believe they’ll be punished or rewarded by God on Judgment Day, whereas atheists who truly don’t believe in God DO have FW, since they know a scam when they see it.

        So if God truly wanted mankind to have and enjoy free will (a meaningless phrase so often parroted by a minority of deluded believers), they’re saying people should convince themselves the God hypothesis is a longstanding urban legend and become atheists. Didn’t Jesus say, “Let your (ie God’s) will be done on Earth, as it I in Heaven..”?

        :)

        1. Matt Gerrans

          This just occurred to me:

          The xtian says I have free will to sin and not accept Jeepers Christ as my Personal Lord and Savior (“but there will be consequences for those choices”).

          However, (in their belief system), after I die, God will be all pissed off and send me into an eternity of punishment. At that point, will not my “free will” be violated? It will not be my choice to be in a “lake of fire” so God will violating my free will for all eternity. What an asshole. And a liar. So is it only free will in this during this tiny interval on Earth to see weather we make the choice God wants or not, then an eternity of bondage with no free will? That doesn’t sound like free will at all.

          1. adamah

            Matt said-

            The xtian says I have free will to sin and not accept Jeepers Christ as my Personal Lord and Savior (“but there will be consequences for those choices”).

            They’re deluding themselves, parroting a mindless meme that raises their idiot flag if they say that: they don’t know their own schtick!

            What I find is that the ignorance of this basic legal term (ie ‘free will’: look it up in Merriam-Webster, if you don’t believe me) is often seen in Xians, but also in atheists (who likely took philosophy in college, where the usage is more reflecting libertarian thought) who don’t hold their feet to the fire, but allow the discussion to head down a rat hole of irrelevance. FW is ALL about authority in theological discussions, NOT CAPABILITY (as it is in philosophical discussions).

            The difficulty arises from failing to agree on the basic definition of FW before proceeding with the discussion (and if I had a dime every time I saw THAT happen….)

            Adam

          2. corwyn

            (ie ‘free will’: look it up in Merriam-Webster, if you don’t believe me) is often seen in Xians, but also in atheists (who likely took philosophy in college, where the usage is more reflecting libertarian thought)

            Because somehow a dictionary editor trying to determine all common usages for a word will be more authoritative than a professional in their own subject of inquiry, about the strict technical definition of a word? That’s like using the dictionary definition of ‘schizophrenic’ rather than the DSM-V definition in a diagnosis.

            Why don’t you just say what you mean: “The proper definition is the one that agrees with me.”

          3. adamah

            Corwyn said-

            Why don’t you just say what you mean: “The proper definition is the one that agrees with me.”

            Who are you, again? Which definition do you use? (Noting you’ve offered nothing but lip…)

            Another who’s unaware that FW in a theological context contains 2 components: not only CAPACITY, but more importantly, AUTHORITY? Show me any priest/cleric of any mainstream Xian religion who says the Bible and says God gives humans His permission to sin, and then we’ll talk… Good luck!

            Until then, you’re missing the MAIN element which religion uses to gain power and control over ‘the flock’, the requirement to follow Divine Will (as interpreted by the same clergy class) …

  15. 15
    Dustin

    Are we ever going to start seeing episodes on Youtube again? This is 3 in a row that have been nowhere to be found, and for those of us who can’t watch live, it’s very disheartening.

    1. 15.1
      Narf

      They put up the video online a few days after, at http://www.atheist-experience.com/archive/. Just click the Video link on each episode, which will take you to the blip.tv page.

    2. 15.2
      troy

      also here

      http://blip.tv/the-atheist-experience-tv-show

    3. 15.3
      blue

      Dustin, they are up on itunes within hours, if you like podcasts.

  16. 16
    EnlightenmentLiberal

    I’m sure it’s been said already, but to that “I can command people to heal” guy – I’m sorry. I don’t trust you. I do not doubt your sincerity. I doubt your ability to do proper statistical analysis intuitively. Give me hard data with proper statistical analysis, some outrageously obvious miracle like regrowing a lost limb in front of my eyes, or go home.

    1. 16.1
      EnlightenmentLiberal

      Sorry. I meant an “or” in there between statistical analysis and the obvious miracle. Either is a good start.

  17. 17
    adamah

    Oh, just to clarify something I wrote:

    So God DOES want to create programmable robots, after all, if obedience is His desired end state!

    Assuming God is the perfect software programmer of men’s hearts (ie God doesn’t introduce a ‘bug’ in the program code He will write on men’s hearts, such that they will be able to disobey his laws), humans would have lost not just their ‘free will’ (which they don’t currently have, since God PROMISES to punish sins: that’s a heavy-handed attempt to influence their decision), but humans will even lose their ‘freedom of choice’ to commit sin (which they currently have, per Xian theology).

    Humans will lose both ‘free will’ AND ‘freedom of choice’, and thus become mindless drones who are unable to disobey.

  18. 18
    Sari

    I had ulcerative colitis. It’s like IBS on steroids. I suddenly got better one day. I’ve been in remission for almost 10 years. And yes the doctors saw it. It wasn’t a miracle- I went into spontaneous remission. I got lucky. It happens.

    1. 18.1
      Matt Gerrans

      Praise the Lord! I’m sure you meant to include that it was because you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. …Right?

      1. Sadako

        It’s because someone laid hands on them and REBUKED THE SPIRIT OF ULCERATIVE COLITIS! …Right?

  19. 19
    aljones909

    The guy at the end was probably speaking far too loud which caused massive distortion. If anyone listens to Dr Karl on triple J you sometimes hear him asking people to tone it down.It usually takes about 4 attempts at asking them before they get the message that you don’t need to shout into a phone. The automatic gain circuitry will handle a quieter voice just fine.

  20. 20
    Galakyllz

    Haha, the rhinoceros comment was great! Oh man, this episode was a lot of fun to watch. Great job John and Russell.

  21. 21
    Andrzej2501

    Yeeeeeees…. Definitely a troll. Or a complete lunatic (this “miracle healer”). However after reading about IBS on wikipedia I strongly lean toward the troll hypothesis. IBS symptoms could be purely psychosomatic or resulting from a simple infection or something similar. Now if he could regrow a tooth by praying… ;)

  1. 22

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