“A Better Life” the Movie – Austin Premier in June

Author and Film-maker Chris Johnson will be in Austin for a showing of his film version of his book “A Better Life: An Exploration of Joy & Meaning in a World Without God”. The event is free for ACA members, but there will be a $5 charge for nonmembers of ACA. It will be held June 28, 2015, from 1-3 PM, at the Trinity United Methodist Church (4001 Speedway, Austin). If you’d like to join the Facebook event page and receive updates, please feel free.

Chris’ journey began with a book. He reached out to us at The Atheist Experience while he was working on his project, and we have followed his progress ever since, with many of us supporting his efforts with participation and resources, because it’s a cause many of us felt comfortable getting behind.

As part of the effort to produce the book, Chris also videotaped the atheists who agreed to interviews. After the book’s publication, he began work on processing and editing the video footage to produce a companion film version. During the 2014 ACA Annual Bat Cruise, Chris came to Austin to be a joint “pre-cruise” speaker along with Richard Carrier. Chris presented a short trailer for the upcoming film and talked about the inspiration behind his project—to dispel the negative misconception of atheists as people without joy and meaning.

That same weekend, you may recall seeing Chris and Richard both on The Atheist Experience talking about their respective projects.

Since then we’ve been expectantly following the progress of the movie at this blog. And if you have as well, then you are aware it opened with a world premier to a sold out crowd in London earlier this year. He’s been showing it all around the globe, and we are extremely excited to have him coming back to Austin to showcase the culmination of all his hard work.

Hope you can make it!

Open thread on episode #839

I apologize for the delay in getting this thread posted, gang. I suppose as I was co-host it was down to me, and I just flaked.

The morality question is one I have always found bizarre that Christians want to turn into tis profoundly difficult and inexplicable concept without bringing a deity into the mix. The thing is, when you back them up against the wall, you find (as I think I did in my line of questioning one caller) that they do not really, deep down, believe that it is impossible for them to understand differences between right and wrong unless they are constantly accompanied by a God, holding their hands like lost children, and telling them at each and every instance “This is right” or “This is wrong.”

And yet everything they have been taught to believe insists that they cling to that narrative. So cling to it they do, even after it has been shown to be entirely unnecessary.

I also wish they’d look up what “objective” means. If morality is based on the edicts of a deity, then it’s not objective.

Feisty show, anyway.

The thing about presuppositional apologetics…

I’ve said this about presuppositional apologetics before. But it’s sometimes hard to keep it in mind in the middle of actually talking to a practitioner, like Seth on yesterday’s show. So I’m writing it again just to remind myself.

The thing about presuppositional apologetics is that it’s not convincing to anyone who isn’t already looking for an excuse to continue believing in God. I’ve never in my life heard anyone say “I used to be an atheist, but then I realized that there is no basis for believing things based on logic and evidence, so I decided to believe in God.” That would be an embarrassing and transparent reason to explain a conversion moment. So presuppositionalism is absolutely about shoring up the morale of the troops, not changing anyone’s mind.

When I’m talking to a presup, there’s always a nagging feeling at the back of my mind that I’m doing it wrong in some way, and that the show comments are going to get flooded with criticisms about how we could have handled it better. Then I read the comments and they not only aren’t bothered, but deride the presuppositionalist as in way over his head. Sample from yesterday:

“Tonight’s show’s Theme did seem to be ‘lie to the faces of the hosts about what the hosts are saying'” –Jasper of Maine

“From the perspective of the show, if the whole point is ‘what do you believe and why’ and the person can’t or won’t get to a ‘why’ and refuses to even consider evidence, then (ahem) why are they calling?” –Aaroninmelbourne

“Part of the problem I see with many callers is that they don’t listen to what is actually being said to them.” –Ethan Myerson

“Tracie and Russell got to most of my points. Good job!” –EnlightenmentLiberal

Granted, these are all show fans, with a big bias towards agreeing with us. But we get critical emails all the time telling us when we screwed up, and I never, ever heard anyone refer back to a presup caller and say “Now that guy made a lot of sense.”

This is presuppositionalism boiled down to its essential components: You can’t prove logic using logic. Therefore you can’t justify that logic exists. Therefore if I say “God created logic,” you must either present an alternative “explanation” for logic, or just believe me and accept that God exists. That’s pretty much the whole ball of wax, the rest is window dressing.

But there’s a lot of window dressing involved, because showmanship is also a totally indispensable component of presup. Every presup I’ve ever met has filled his own conversation with a huge amount of smug self-congratulation. Seth had the line about how atheists are stabbing themselves and shooting themselves in the foot and so on. Stephen Feinstein, over the course of his five posts, kept telling everyone over and over again how he was “winning,” and what a crushing victory it was and how stupid I was being. But in the hundreds of comments that followed, either on our blog or his, I never saw one that said “This debate has swayed me to take Stephen’s side.”

I’ll be honest here… having a conversation where the other guy is trash talking and ridiculing you most of the time isn’t very much fun. Conversations with rude, angry people isn’t enjoyable, and rude comes with the territory. That’s why people who talk to presups often feel like they’ve said something wrong, even though presuppositionalism completely fails to make a positive case for God of any kind, any more than it makes the case for Pikachu or the Great Pumpkin or a time traveling Lynnea. Being verbally abused is all they’ve got, and that generally only works on the person you’re abusing, not on the listeners.

Open Thread AE 833: Religion & Depression

On the show I discussed the study published in Psychological Medicine that examined the relationship between religious beliefs and major depression. The prevailing view has been that religious belief provided some protective and/or mitigating effect on major depression. This study puts a serious dent in that view with its conclusion that “These results do not support the notion that religious and spiritual life views enhance psychological well-being.”

The study included over 8000 participants in seven countries and found that stronger religious beliefs were correlated with higher risk of depression. You can read the abstract of the study yourself here (unfortunately, you’ll have to pay if you want the full article), or you can read Tomas Rees excellent summary here.

Something I neglected to bring up on the show is the implication this research study has on the Army’s Spiritual Fitness program. As many of us foxhole atheists have known all along, religious belief is not some magic talisman that wards off depression, PTSD, or other mental health problems that may arise in humans exposed to traumatic events. In spite of this, the Army continues to promote a program that its own statistics show has, at best, had no effect on the suicide rate. At worst, this program may be exacerbating the suicide/depression rate among soldiers, if only by promoting something that doesn’t work over things that do work.

Anyway – open thread, so have at it.