Sunday’s Caller and Public Response: Confirmation is not a Rebuttal

I wanted to post a follow up to the Sunday show that created some stir on the Internet this week. The best thing I’ve seen come out of it has been people on threads debating these ideas.

Not long ago, I started saying that religion has “The Best P.R. Machine Ever.” No matter what they do or what they teach, they have but to weakly spin it as valuable and good, and like magic, society says it’s valuable and good. And if you point out the problems with it, you are suddenly immoral and wrong. It’s “Through the Looking Glass” all the way.

That being said, I see a trend in these discussions that is interesting. Christians are offering “rebuttals” that aren’t rebuttals. Let me use a nonreligious example before I proceed.

Me: Oh no, I got a flat tire.
Him: No, you just misunderstand what it is that’s happened. See, you drove down this road where they did construction yesterday, and there was a nail left on the road. So, you drove over that, and it got into your tire, causing your tire to deflate. See?
Me: How is that different than what I just said?

The fact is, Christians often will say they’ve found some way out of Problem of Evil, or Euthyphro’s Dilemma or certain religious paradoxes that have been identified. And when they explain, they haven’t “gotten out” of them at all. They’ve merely started their statement with “You misunderstand,” and then gone on to explain precisely why they are smack dab in the middle of that problem, dilemma or paradox. They then look at you, like they’ve offered more than confirmation the problem, dilemma or paradox is right on target. How do they get away with confirming these problems, dilemmas and paradoxes are valid, while claiming to have trumped them in some way? Is this a Jedi mind trick I could learn?

In the discussions online, a few I’ve seen have contained the following, just to sum up:

  1. People saying that the caller was wrong to call the girl “evil,” then saying that in truth we’re all born sinful (i.e., evil) and need salvation (from our evil nature)—and then claiming that if we’d only let the caller talk longer, he’d have explained that for us.Explained what, exactly? That the girl is evil? How is the Original Sin explanation anything but a reinforcement of what Shane said? Explaining why you say she’s evil doesn’t change the fact you are calling her evil. You haven’t changed the claim, you’ve just added more words to it and asked me to agree you’ve said something entirely different, when you’ve only restated it.
  2. People saying that it’s wrong to say god allows child rape. God doesn’t allow child rape, they say, he just doesn’t want to impede our free will.Again, you’ve simply added more words; but in summary, you’re still agreeing that god knows the child is being raped, could stop it, but allows it. You’re simply saying why you think a god that allows child rape is good. And your explanation—that he doesn’t want to inhibit the actions of child rapists—as your justification for why god should be considered good, is unfathomable to anyone but someone indoctrinated into your religion–or perhaps a child rapist, who is likely right on board with wanting to not be inhibited.
  3. I’ve seen many Christians (and a few atheists) claiming that the caller has to be a Poe, that we set it up or were duped, and they know this because no Christian would say what this guy said. If you think that’s a good position, please Google “Why do we need salvation?,” to see an endless list of sites representing churches and individuals explaining:(a) We are all born into sin (evil).
    (b) The just result of that condition is that you should die.
    (c) Believing in Jesus won’t make you deserve anything better, but will result in you getting something better regardless.This is by no means a rare Christian doctrine.
  4. Today I got a real live Calvinist on a thread, who wanted to explain to me that he doesn’t believe god allows child rape, he believes god causes it.

    Keep in mind, this god is morally upright. He went on to be sure I knew that, while the child may not have transgressed yet and become sinful, she’s born with a sinful nature, and will get to it later if she doesn’t die young. So, in essence, if not in deed, she is equivalent to the child rapist in nature. He also went on to clarify that any transgression against god is deserving of the same hell fire. That is, god has no capacity to make moral evaluations—having sex outside marriage is just as evil as mass murder; god can’t, or doesn’t, apparently, discern that subtle nuance. (Ironically some people “rebut” this by saying that god is so good he can’t abide evil, and so any blemish can’t exist in his presence. In addition to undermining god’s omnipotence, this, again, just restates what has been said already. It’s not a rebuttal, it’s confirmation.) This person also noted that “sin” (or evil) is simply defined as not doing what god wants you to do—again, no judgment involved, just obedience. So, you can’t trust your moral inclinations, so why not just obey this book/god/pastor, and not worry about whether you’re doing horrible things or wonderful things? Lastly, he put a cherry on top by saying that if the rapist accepts Jesus, he will spend eternity in the great reward, and not suffer any punishment at all for his life of child rape. This is the god he loves and worships and just thinks is all that and a bag of chips. In his own words:

    @Tracie: God doesn’t “allow” child rape. He ordains it, just as He does everything else. Make no mistake; the rapist will be cast into Hell for eternity if God doesn’t cause him to repent. But that is the fate of ALL unrepentant sinners. We as humans think, “Well, I may be a sinner, but at least I don’t rape children.” This is measuring by human standards, not God’s. ALL sin, if not repented of, has the same price: eternity in Hell.Original sin is an invention of the Catholic church to justify infant baptism. Yes, we are born with a sinful nature. But the Bible defines sin as a “transgression of God’s law.” Since infants have no concept of right or wrong, they are called “innocents” in the Bible.Calvin didn’t invent the idea of man being inherently depraved; God did. Remember, we are not dealing with man’s ideas of “good”, but God’s.

While in Denver with Godless Bitches, I said one of the best ways to break down this P.R. machine may actually be to make sure people know what is really taught in a good many Christian churches in the U.S. When you ask a Christian, they give you the feel-good-lure-you-in parts up front. But after you’re in that church, the real doctrines come at you; but, as you’ve already bought into some milder ideas, these full-blown doctrines don’t seem so foreign to you when you hear them. Often these Christians really don’t realize what they’re saying. They really do believe they’re saying something different than they are—than what was just said. When they hear another Christian say what they, themselves, believe, without couching it in the more kind, religious terminology/context, they honestly don’t recognize it as their own doctrine anymore. But when you ask for clarification—you just get a more wordy version of the horrible thing they are trying to explain is not what they believe.

This is not a rebuttal. This is confirmation.


  1. says

    On point 3 but not directed at Tracieh can we stop using the term poe and tying to pick people out as poes. If you can identify a poe without them admitting they made it up then they a) weren’t a poe to begin with because you could distinguish them (a poe being by definition indistinguishable) or b) were parotting the claims of real Christians (which is what makes them indistinguishable) so it really doesn’t matter if you respond to the parrot or the christian.

  2. says

    Morning Tracie.

    Some of the “Rebuttals” above sound more like descriptions.
    That said, it was unbelievable to watch as the caller wound down a virtual pit of unfathomable logic. I honestly cannot believe you and Matt let the guy ramble so long, he wasted ¾ of the show, thought the punch line was classic.


  3. says

    So Calvanism is basically finding a deep end, within the deep end, to go off, morally speaking.

    On the topic of “free will”, I find its utilization as an excuse to be unintelligible.

    1) Is “free will” necessarily a good thing? Why? Is all the horrible atrocities worth it?

    2) Why can’t he impede our free will? We do it to ourselves all the time. Our parents especially to it to us when we’re younger.

    3) It’s assuming that the impediment is all-or-nothing. Why can’t God override our free will when it comes to murder, but decide to let us make our own decisions when it comes to some crime that’s less severe, like theft, and allow humanity to deal with the minor issues?

    4) The idea that God can’t reveal himself to us, because it would violate our free will, because we’d be forced to worship him… I find it laughable. It’s only supposedly that way because that’s the way he set it up. If salvation had nothing to do with worshiping God, but left that up to humanity to figure determine who’s sent to “jail” or not… OR if we simply didn’t have a heaven or hell, and God just let us do our things, beyond the limitations in #3, there’s be no impeding of our free will at all.

    The free will “get out of jail free card” that God seems to have for himself is incoherent frothing gibberish.

  4. scott1328 says

    In order to rebut Tracie’s point, may I mention that Christians are not only unaware of the ramifications of their beliefs , but they are often ignorant of the very beliefs they are supposed to hold. So that when their doctrines are reiterated to them, they often disavow them as not being True Christian beliefs.

    It’s also not that God has a great PR team, its just that God and religion are given undue respect and deference by the media and the public and that the meda and public often overlook unconscionable actions and attitudes of the religious.

  5. mandrellian says

    I agree. There are plenty of people who really do believe the heinous things that inspire Poe accusations, so you might as well just assume legitimacy and assault the heinous beliefs. My personal extreme – the point where I question legitimacy – is the Westboro cult or WL Craig as I’ve rarely encountered anything sicker than what those clowns believe (though Calvinism in general comes pretty close!).

    If, after all, it turns out you were being Poe’d, fine – block, killfile, send a dumptruck of horse shit to the person’s driveway, but trying to discern Poe status during a conversation is a waste of time. Like michaeld says, if a Poe is doing it right, that’s just impossible.

  6. Dorkman says

    Even when I was myself a Christian, Calvinism made my head explode.

    God doesn’t “allow” child rape. He ordains it, just as He does everything else. Make no mistake; the rapist will be cast into Hell for eternity if God doesn’t cause him to repent.

    So God makes a guy rape a child, then either puppeteers him to “repent” and lets him go to heaven, or does not so puppeteer him and sends him to hell for eternity. And he knew he was going to do all these things before the guy was even born — indeed, before he even created the universe.


  7. says

    To be fair, though, I am talking in the context that I opened with–of Christians who are posting to torums to express these “explanations.” If that was not clear, thanks for the opportunity to clarify. I do think it’s less often, though, that people aren’t informed about the doctrines, than that they really believe they are good. It reminds me of when I did the show and post on “hymns” and talked about the horrid lyrics. *Many* people contacted me to say “I never heard songs like that when I was a Christian–those are weird.” When I would begin to ask them about very popular tunes, like “Amazing Grace,” they would go have a look at the lyrics and come back saying “I never realized what I was singing.” In other words, they were reading the content, it was presented to them, and they were familiar with it–having memorized it by reading it out of a hymnal so often. The fact it had lost its impact and reached a point where it no longer had meaning to them is, in fact, the point of indoctrination–to get you to stop thinking and just accept. It isn’t they didn’t know these were the words–how could you not know the words to a song you sing regularly? It was that they’d stopped thinking about them.

  8. Recreant says

    Re #2:

    Let’s not forget all the times the bible mentions god actively mucking around with free will.

    Hardening Pharoah’s heart so that he wouldn’t let the Israelites go.
    Stuffing Jonah down the gullet of a “big fish” until he agreed to go to Ninevah
    Knocking up Mary without her permission

  9. L.Long says

    The Calvinist is 100% correct. IF there is a gawd that creates and controls everything. Then gawd creates the “evil” as well. The whole idea of Satan as evil is a late xtian invention, It is gawd that creates ALL. And the rapist is directed by gawd, as this creation is going according to gawds will & plan, so for xtians they have no free will.
    They can not have it both ways, if there is a gawd plan then everything goes according to his will and the rapist is controlled by gawd.
    If there is free will then gawd does not control anything there by making prayer doubly useless and the ‘evil’ act of the rapist is his decision. And gawd is irrelevant.

  10. says

    Yes, Calvinists have an unsurpassed capacity to sit there, eating a plate of sh*t, saying “You know, this is exactly what a meal should be! Praise the cook!”

  11. sonorus says

    Exactly. These are the rules he set up and then he can’t get out of them and therefore gets a free pass for letting horrible things happen to innocent people and even children. It’s nonsense to anyone who isn’t using it as an excuse to solve the moral paradox of why does god allow such horrible things to happen to children.

  12. sonorus says

    It’s the same problem one encounters these days of trying to figure out if a right-wing politicians really said the thing they were quoted as saying or if it was from The Onion or another parody site. If the ridiculous parody is indistinguishable from the real thing…what then?

  13. says

    Or the Great Flood.

    Let’s see. We’re God, and we have a world full of apparently evil people. Apparently, we’re going to go the violate-their-free-will way. So, do we:

    A) Snap our fingers all Q-style, and do personality wipes on everyone instantly.
    B) Drown everyone in miserable deaths.

    I’m not a sociopath, so I probably would have gone with A.

  14. Alverant says

    1) Being “evil” is not a justification to rape. Sure we may think of it as poetic justice when we hear about child molesters being raped in prison, but it’s still wrong.

    2) God didn’t have any problem interfering with free will when he helped Tebow make those football passes or telling George W Bush to invade Iraq or telling four Republicans to run for President for 2012. So why not take simple covert steps to prevent horrendous crimes. If a god who can prevent evil but chooses not to should not expect to be praised or for people to claim he/she doesn’t exist.

  15. says

    @heicart “if the rapist accepts Jesus”? accepts Jesus? It is not a calvinist who could have said that! google T.U.L.I.P to know what calvinists believe.

    Btw, why people associate free will with calvinist? It is crazy for calvinism doesn’t believe in free will at all!!!

    A general question, where did you get the idea that god is all powerful, all knowing, all bla bla bla?? it is not in the bible, I think. It comes maybe from Augustin or Aquinus, but not from the bible. ANd who said he was all loving!? the old and the new testament show that god love only the ones that he elected (according to judaism, calvinism and the bible).

  16. Marc Weeks says

    The most striking thing to me during this last episode was the number of times the caller was struck dumb (literally, figuratively, take your pick) by the host’s/co-host’s crystalline logic. I could, without much effort, envision the caller’s head beginning to smoke and emit sparks as your words struggled vainly to squeeze through the doctrinal filters. It was almost like listening to a Bizarro-world rendition of the novel “1984”: you and Matt trying to convince Winston “Shane” Smith that 2 plus 2 equals 4, while he’s quite certain it’s 5.

  17. anatman says

    no moral warp is too extreme for the devout. they live in the heart of an ethical black hole. little girls are evil? fine. therefore they deserve to be raped? also fine. a supposedly good god made it that way? he’s just that holy, right on. i wish this shocked me, but a seminarian of my acquaintance once assured me very sincerely that stillborn infants go to hell because they didn’t ‘accept jesus.’

  18. says

    “stillborn infants go to hell because they didn’t ‘accept jesus.’” if he said that, you can be sure he is not calvinist.
    just saying “accept jesus” for a calvinist it would be like saying “homosexuality is good” from the mouth of a southern baptist. doesn’t seem also from a catholic seminarist, to say that for other reasons. do you know which brand of christianity he was?

  19. says

    This is the problem if you accept an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent loving and just god. You always have to account for the “god works in mysterious ways” intellect numbing BS. Its the theological get out of jail free card when engaging in religious group think. You can’t allow yourself the use of common sense let alone our moral sense as god working in mysterious ways always trumps it, and the use of these two faculties is too often in conflict with what their world view demands be true. Thus this intellectual flailing about.

    The bible is a theological fallacy feedback loop.

  20. says

    Hey. Can you link to that post/show you did on hymns? I’m actually curious about that. Did you talk about Amazing Grace?

    I’ve heard it before, but never listened since I just hate religious songs in general (except for Jewish Gospel… yeah… it’s a thing [although that’s not actually Adon Olam]), so usually pass them by and don’t give them a listen.

  21. sonorus says

    Yes and yes. I don’t accept that people are “evil” or that anyone is so heinous to deserve to be raped or tortured or otherwise violently attacked.

    The worst example of #2 is when people insist that a narrow escape from a tragedy (say, having been home sick on 9/11) was god’s intervention. Does that mean their god didn’t care about the thousands of other people who were killed? Those stories always bother me. I wonder if people even think about how insensitive it is to say such things out loud when other people may be grieving for someone who had the misfortune of being in the disaster area. Of course no one would claim that their loved one was being punished by go via a hurricane or tornado. Perhaps they think that about strangers, especially strangers who practice a different religion or look different from them. Sadly, we can think of several recent examples. Of course that’s just confirmation bias.

    And one other point…what kind of being wants everyone sucking up to them all the time. I’m occasionally in a position where a lot of people are being extra nice to me and I find it annoying. Go about your business and leave me out of it. It’s creepy to think of an omnipotent being with nothing better to do than sit and listen to bad faux-70s pop “praise music”.

  22. says

    #1 is quite interesting… I had a couple experiences where I had to explain that this seemed to be the idea to which the caller was referring. I had to make this explanation to a couple people who seemed to be defending Christianity – one suggested that this was a person who clings to the Old Testament and another suggested that this person was not a “True” Christian.*

    * To which I agree, but because I see no objective standard by which to determine such things. The person I was replying to seemed to think there is, which really makes me wonder what she thinks the standard is if your caller doesn’t fit the bill.

  23. John Kruger says

    As soon as someone advocates rape as a punishment, for just about anything, the only response I have is more or less “fuck you.” If you want to imply that children could be guilty enough to merit rape as a punishment, again “fuck you”.

    Tracie had the guy dead to rights on how he could not trust his moral judgement for a long time. I think he got off very easy with the dramatic reveal at the end, to be honest.

  24. Lord Narf says

    … or telling four Republicans to run for President for 2012.

    Only 4? I think it was far more of them than that.

  25. Lord Narf says

    Well, once it’s been integrated into almost every Christian sect, it becomes part of the package, despite being extra-Biblical. A lot of this sort of thing was added by Papal decrees of the early church. Remember that Catholics place the Pope and the bureaucracy of the church above the Bible itself.

    Since Catholicism was Christianity, for the longest time, throughout most of Europe, even the wacky fundies who consider Catholicism to literally be the tool of Satan incorporate many bits of Catholic, extra-Biblical dogma.

  26. N. Nescio says

    Always thought the rationalization of #4 was laughable, because even IF YHWH showed up in the real world and came around for a nice cup of tea and a sit-down, I would still be able to review its actions in the OT and be free to tell it to go take a running leap. It’s like the apologists just assume that if the OT God ever shows up I’ll automatically fall on my face and convert, completely ignoring that such an appearance would in no way inhibit me from rejecting its twisted morality. I would still be free to make a choice, it’d just be a better informed choice.

  27. Lord Narf says

    Someone needs to explain to them that no one will like them, no matter what their label. Anyone who promotes forcing raped women to bear children and subjugating gays is going to become more and more hated, as the current crop of teenagers grows up.

  28. says

    ah, ok. ya I think in the baptist main stream “theology” (if a main stream exists in baptist) they would say that the baby is too young “to choose” therefore we can’t know what god will “decide” I heard one baptist pastor that we would be declared innocent. But I guess some baptists can argue that they are under the “original sin”…But I am pretty sure in the new testament they say that we cannot judge if someone “will be saved or not”. So it seeems that seminarist doesn’t follow his bible and his “god’s words”.

  29. says

    No, I think anatman is talking about a seminarist he knows.

    For Shane, not sure. Maybe I have to hear the show again, but my first impression was that he could be calvinist but use also arminianism arguments when cornered. Maybe he is a Reformed Baptist (that includes some Luther and Calvin theologies)

  30. says

    Ya, I know all that, but I wonder where is the official source (which concile or theologian) that includes that omni-holy-package.

    For Catholic,ism ya seems when I talk to catholic theologians that it is hard to see that the bible is their holy book. they have some many extra things that it is hard to see exactly where it comes their theology from. also you can’t really debate with them the bible for they consider it as all metaphorical. especially the gospels. seems even jesus “ressurection” is considered metaphorical for many catholic theologians

  31. codemonkey says

    This just reminds me more of Dennett’s “belief in belief”. Sacred ideas are those ideas that are so precious and valuable that you cannot even think critically about them at all, because that would destroy their magic. I suspect that a lot of the more moderates that spout this bullshit are just parroting the official line as best they know. It explains how otherwise moral people can say such evil things. Unfortunately, the built in defense system of the belief complex makes it irritatingly difficult to confront – the evil ideas themselves are branded as good and any attempt to question them will destroy them, so you can’t question them. It’s ingenious in a morbid sort of way. I can’t imagine a subtle way to fix this. The only effective way to fix these problems seems to be to confront these idiotic ideas head on, while being polite as we can be.

    I feel so much like a broken record right now.

  32. says

    I just remembered a passage where jesus was talking and children was forbiding by the adults to talk to him. But Jesus “said” something like: “let them come to me for the kingdom of god are for children. you have to be like them to inherit the kingdom” (something like that) So bye bye original sin’s concept and depraved children and babies who go to hell. unless it was only an obscure parable…

  33. Lord Narf says

    Ya, I know all that, but I wonder where is the official source (which concile or theologian) that includes that omni-holy-package.
    I imagine it was in one of the early councils, when they hammered out the Trinity and stuff like that. Well, saying that it was in one of the early councils is probably a bit inaccurate. Most extra-Biblical doctrine took a couple hundred years of heresy purges to be established with any kind of uniformity.

    This whole view that the fundies have, of their theological worldview being handed down by God, directly to the people writing the text of the Bible, is pretty freaking hilarious, when you think about it. Anyone who’s even vaguely a student of history, even in the most amateurism way, should be aware of the profound doctrinal wars that happened in the first few centuries of the Roman Christian church.
    Fortunately for their worldview, learnin’s of th’devil. You can’t encounter contradictory evidence when you’re aggressively protecting your ignorance of alternate worldviews.

    they have some many extra things that it is hard to see exactly where it comes their theology from.

    Mostly ex Papae culus, I suspect.

    also you can’t really debate with them the bible for they consider it as all metaphorical. especially the gospels. seems even jesus “ressurection” is considered metaphorical for many catholic theologians

    I wouldn’t say that they consider the whole thing to be metaphorical. I was raised Catholic, myself, and I had a great deal of interaction with the priests, since I was an altar boy for five or six years. Although, I was spared from the more private interactions, since I was an ugly child.
    My father went part way through Catholic seminary, too, so I picked up bits from him.
    The impression i got was that the Gospels and the Letters of Paul are taken as … well, Gospel. They pick and choose a bit, from the Old Testament. King David and King Solomon featured prominently in my early stories. All of the priests I knew considered everything before Abraham to be myths carried over from some previous culture.
    The Catholic perspective on Revelation is that it’s all metaphorical representation of the events of the time in which it was written.
    I might have had a less than typical sampling of the priesthood, though, having always lived in more educated, urban parts of the US. I had multiple priests tell me that there’s nothing wrong with Dungeons & Dragons, for example, as long as I remembered that it was all fantasy.

  34. says

    How is the Original Sin explanation anything but a reinforcement of what Shane said?

    If I were to guess, I’d say that they think the problem is that the girl is being singled out. They think our objection is “but why is that girl more evil than anyone else?” They then proceed to explain that we’re all evil. This alleviates the problem of singling out the girl, as if she was particularly evil.

    Obviously, it doesn’t actually help because they’ve misunderstood the objection. They haven’t dealt with the problem, they’ve made it worse.

    having sex outside marriage is just as evil as mass murder; god can’t, or doesn’t, apparently, discern that subtle nuance

    I think the point is that, from their point of view, there is no nuance. There’s no difference. As you mention:

    This person also noted that “sin” (or evil) is simply defined as not doing what god wants you to do

    When you masturbate, you’ve committed the crime of disobeying god. When you slaughter thousands of innocent people, you’ve committed the crime of disobeying god. As you can see, they’re identical.
    This type of “morality” is based on the idea that the morality of an action can be judged solely on whether or not it’s in accordance with the wishes of the authority. Whether you’ve hurt people in the process is simply irrelevant.

  35. curiousgeorge says

    I couldn’t agree with this statement more. Teenagers call such people “haters” and generally speaking I believe teenagers are much less bigoted. Share a quick story. I live in a border state that votes repulbican. At my daughter’s homecoming two young men brough same sex dates to the dance. I only found about this because my daughter casually mentioned at the dinner table that one of these young men and his friend won some drawing at an event afterwards. I asked her if bringing a same sex date to the dance caused any kind of stir and she looked at me like I had 3 heads and said as far as she knows noone cares. Had this happened when I was in high school in the 80’s it would have probably made headlines.

    What I worry about with teenagers is the enormous amount of chaos in way too many of our American classrooms and that these kids are not educated. Too many American children are being neglected by being raised by parents not properly socialized themselves and I also worry about the increased durg use and binge drinking. These enviornments manifest themselves with children who enter adulthood with skills allowing them to do no more than subsist. Add to all that not enough jobs and/or jobs that don’t pay a living wage and it is not good. None of this is the topic of this post, but I am concerned about these in terms of current problem and whether it is getting worse.

  36. says

    ST. THOMAS, Summa, I, Q. xxv
    SUAREZ, De Deo, III, ix;
    HURTER, Compendium theologiae dogmaticae, II (Innsbruck, 1885)

    The Nature and Attributes of God: Divine Attributes, Divine Knowledge, Eternity, Immutability, etc…

    Toner, Patrick. “The Nature and Attributes of God.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 6. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 13 Jan. 2013
    (the above is a great article with plenty of extra-biblical sources.)

    God is love.
    “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 Jn 4:16).

  37. says

    About the concils: My guess about the divinity or not of jesus was that they have wanted to stop querrels between the ones who said he was god or the ones who said he was only god’s prophet, so they said to make everyone happy: Ok, 100% human and 100% god at the same time..the rest is just history…

    About your experience as catholic: me too I come from a catholic background and was an altar boy. I was cute but never had a problem in any matter with the priests. In high school I could choose between religion courses or moral so I took moral, not because I didn’t like my catholic experience, it was just not filling my questions about life, death, etc.

    For metaphor in the Bible NT: thanks for your elaborate version. Ya what is good about the book or revelation in catholiscm (and calvinism, and lutherism) is that they only considered it as a metaphor for the time. For the letters I agree with you, to be considered literal it seems, but for the Gospels I have to disagree with you: I took some advanced courses in college in theology (catholic) and I know some catholic theologians (some are priests and some not) but they all agree for example that Jesus never casted literaly Legion into pigs and I can continue. They say that Jesus spoke with parables and the gospels are parables of jesus life. that is why I don’t see really why they believe and what are the grounds for extra biblical stuff.

    For metaphor in the Bible OT: Ya all the weird stuff in the OT, I haved learned also in elementary catholic school that they are metaphorical.

    After all we were previliged in a sense to have been raised catholic (the church from the 70s though, heard before that it was quite horrible) with the liberty of conscience and not to be raised and harassed by the modern fundis movement in our childhood. And not having forced to believe that the earth has 6000 years or that evolution is “just a theory”,

  38. Lord Narf says

    … I also worry about the increased durg use and binge drinking.

    Yeah, if they listened to happier music, they might not drink as much. I wasn’t aware that dirges were so popular with the kids, these days. I’ve heard a few goth metal songs that were close, though.

  39. Lord Narf says

    For the letters I agree with you, to be considered literal it seems,

    Well, yeah. Considering they were actual letters, written by a guy to the heads of his early church. Or course, many of them are forgeries, but aside from that …

    … but for the Gospels I have to disagree with you: I took some advanced courses in college in theology (catholic) and I know some catholic theologians (some are priests and some not) but they all agree for example that Jesus never casted literaly Legion into pigs and I can continue. They say that Jesus spoke with parables and the gospels are parables of jesus life. that is why I don’t see really why they believe and what are the grounds for extra biblical stuff.

    Well, yeah, literal, except for the parable cop-out. But where they gloss over some portion and say it was a parable, they still generally say that it was literally told by Jesus, as a parable. So, it should still be taken as inspired and part of Jesus’s message to us.
    That’s distinctly different from many bits of the Old Testament, which they disregard completely.

  40. Lord Narf says

    Yeah, I think most of them consider the physical reality of any given story to be a moot point.

  41. curiousgeorge says

    Typo – meant drug use. I’d add role modeling to my list in what it means to get up and go to work and contribute to society every day. Too many kids don’t see that. I don’t think it is their parent’s “fault” though – I think it is more a function of our socio-economic enviornment.

    I want to say also about the young men. Where I live borders a swing state and even though I’m in a conservative state there is more progressive values because of the population density. Go 20 miles south, a young man brings a young man to homecoming and it would cause a stir. I don’t want to come of as if I’m minimizing the problems or don’t realize they exist.

  42. Scott Benton says

    I’ve spent much of the week reading some of the online chatter about this as well. This is the most mainstream exposure I know of you getting. They had it on HuffPo and Glenn Beck and probably others.

    What amazed me was that I made it to the grand finish. The caller really sucked and I was plenty tired of listening to him by the the time he got his inevitable kiss-off.

  43. doug the box says

    “Does not compute…..Norman coordinate……”

    Congratulations michaeld, you just repelled the android invasion.

  44. curiousgeorge says

    @ ericvon gernmania or Lord Narf

    I live in an urban area of the United States that was heavily settled by Catholics and Catholicism is still a strong influence.

    I always understood it that Catholics were not allowed to disagree with any official position of the Papacy. Lord Narf has pointed out that they recently changed positions on the idea of pergatory. Has the official Catholic postion on contraception been changed or is that still evil? I did an internet search and unless I missed something, seems contraception is officially evil.

    My questions are this: Am I incorrect that Catholics are allowed to disagree with the official position of the Papacy? I also am curious that if it is evil to use contraception and a Catholic uses it anyway, what is the official position of the papacy in terms of consequences. Do official teachings dictate the Catholic goes to hell, since pergatory is no longer an option.

  45. Ysidro says

    “When you ask a Christian, they give you the feel-good-lure-you-in parts up front. But after you’re in that church, the real doctrines come at you; but, as you’ve already bought into some milder ideas, these full-blown doctrines don’t seem so foreign to you when you hear them.”

    Just like every other cult!

  46. says

    Disagree with the pope: as far as I know in the Vatican they are priests who disagree with the pope,
    catholic theologians, catholic priests and catholic people. I guess you can do it in being polite and respectuous without any problem. For my part, I never encoutered someone catholic who has been excommunicated. Myself in my few courses in catholic theology, the teachers were priests and they knew I was born catholic and they never threaten me in any sorts, even when sometimes I was polemical.

    For contraception, since 2 years now it is allowed especially in Africa to prevent AiDS, etc. For catholic people in general, we have the right in catholic church to use our own liberty of conscience. Of course, if you go to a priest and ask if it is ok to have unmarried sex with many women (or men), he might not approve….But a sin, well in catholic church sin is not something black and white, they are degree of sin and as I said previously we can use our own moral judgment when we are catholic.

    For purgatory: seems you confuse purgatory and limbo. Limbo is or was the place where supposely the unbaptized kids were going; purgatory, a place where the catholics who are or were going to hell have or had a 2nd chance to go to heaven…a probation time.

  47. says

    A perfect god would not need or want either a Creation or unending servility.

    More on why free will fails as a first-class fantasy:

    “The Problem of Evil is an insurmountable one for Christians (and all other theists who believe in a perfectly loving, all-powerful and all-knowing god). There have been intense and motivated efforts over the past two millennia to defend such a position rationally, and they have all failed. Miserably. Utterly. And in many cases, dishonestly.

    Some approached involve invoking an unknown “greater good” defense (which throws god’s omnipotence under the bus. An omnipotent deity could simply actualise a desired goal without needing to use suffering as a “middle man”). Attempts to shift the problem by asserting that human happiness is not the goal of life (but knowing god is) removes the omnibenevolence and omnipotence of god (if you love someone, you don’t want them to suffer. It really is that simple).

    Here, Plantinga takes the old canard of free will. Unfortunately, free will is meaningless unless everyone has an equal amount of it. This is undeniably NOT the case. Not everyone is given the same lifespan, physical strength, mental acuity, political clout, financial resources, and so on. Plantinga is pontificating from the luxurious confines of his residence, funded by conveniently gullible sheep. This has certainly damaged his ability to empathise with the billions who live on less than a dollar each day. And the thousands who starve to death every time the Earth completes a full rotation.

    Plantinga also, perhaps unwittingly, advocates a social Darwinism in which the rich and physically powerful are able to murder, rape and steal from weaker individuals (and are therefore less able to exercise their own free will to prevent their own suffering). Plantinga worships a cosmic pedophile who revels in granting freedom to abhorrent individuals while getting his jollies from seeing the most vulnerable suffer and die in agony (only to get thrown into even more torture in the Christian vision of hell).

    Lastly, a loving god would take away free will from those who would willingly surrender it in return for a life without suffering. Funnily enough, Plantinga seems to believe in a heaven without suffering but with all the bells and whistles of freedom. So why not create that universe from the get-go and stick with it? Why create a universe with even the possibility of corruption? It certainly is not something a perfect god would do. Then again, a perfect god would not blackmail beings he supposedly loves for eternal worship. ”

  48. Lord Narf says

    My questions are this: Am I incorrect that Catholics are allowed to disagree with the official position of the Papacy?

    The Pope is the mouthpiece of God. What he says goes.
    Of course most American Catholics don’t give a damn what some guy over on the other side of the world has to say. Most of them are bad Catholics.
    The Catholic Church isn’t about to excommunicate them for ignoring Catholic theology, though, because then they would stop tithing. They only make specific exceptions, in an attempt at political influence, such as when John Kerry was denied Communion, back in 2004, I think it was, because of his stance on abortion.

  49. tonysnark says

    “God doesn’t allow child rape, they say, he just doesn’t want to impede our free will.”

    There is a glaring problem with this, which is that rape takes away the free will of the victim at the expense of the rapist. The victim does not want to have sex with the rapist: the victim’s free will is to not have sex. That’s what makes it rape. If God values free will so much, then why does he consistently choose to value the free will of the rapist over that of the victim?

  50. tonysnark says

    Hear, hear!

    If the constitution of the United States of America can prohibit cruel and unusual punishments, then why can’t God? We know it’s immoral, that’s why we have the eighth amendment. Just one more way that human beings are more moral than this fictional “God” character who, if he existed, would be a vicious despot orders of magnitude worse than Stalin or Pol Pot.

  51. simblake says

    Arguing morality with a theist is like trying to send a gold bar to someone using an anonymous thief as a courier… they just won’t get it!

    Atheist morality – I’ll not do this thing because it will insult/hurt/embarrass/inconvenience/kill this other person.

    Theist morality: I’ll not do this thing because a collection of fairy stories says it’s bad.

    China Mieville… in his book Perdido Street Station… outlines the perfect moral code. “Do not infringe on another person’s freedom.”

    Rape is an infringement on a person’s freedom to choose their sexual partners and the time and place in which they have sex. Murder is the ultimate removal of all freedoms. Hurting someone mentally is the removal of a person’s freedom to think about that which they may choose to think. Hurting someone physically will (at some level) remove a person’s freedom to move as they choose. Also, these all infringe upon a person’s freedom to exist without being harmed.

    Freedom is the key. As is often quoted… my freedom to throw a punch ends at your nose. Morality is essentially curtailing your own right to freedom, by yourself, in order to protect the freedom of others, or taking an action that protects their freedom.

  52. coachrick says

    Notice how at the end of the call, by saying his moral compass was corrupt, Shane was arguing against his own first premise, that people arrive at their own moral conclusions naturally?

  53. Lord Narf says

    Honestly, you don’t even have to go that far. The free will excuse is a complete lie, from the start. They believe that God interferes in events all the time. After all, he answers prayers and changes things. The free will of the rapist is just a bullshit excuse that they pull out of their asses, in a lame attempt to make their worldview coherent.
    Not all Christians necessarily believe that God changes events in answer to prayers, but the vast majority do.

  54. says

    I’m not even sure that’s a very good definition of free will. By that standard, the fact that I can’t fly is a violation of my free will.
    By any reasonable definition, the action is separate from the will. Impeding the act does not violate the will to act, so god could easily stop someone from doing something. As long as he doesn’t interfere with their consciousness to do so, he hasn’t violated their free will.

  55. Lord Narf says

    Yeah, that’s another thing that’s always bothered me about the argument. God can allow a rapist the free will to attempt to rape a child, but …

    “Oh, I’m sorry, wow. That was a freak set of coincidences, the way that rock was caught by the tire of that truck and hurled into your temple, as you were about to cross the street and kidnap that child.” -God

    No free-will violation, in that series of events. And that’s EXACTLY the sort of thing that God gets credit for, when it’s a positive, freak event. And that’s the exactly the sort of activity that God engages in, in their book of myths.

  56. says

    And that’s EXACTLY the sort of thing that God gets credit for, when it’s a positive, freak event.

    Precisely. Apparently god’s main power is his ability to take credit whenever good things happen and avoid blame for anything bad.

  57. Lord Narf says

    Yeah, that’s the sort of thing you can pull out, with most Christians. When someone makes an excuse like God not violating free will, you can usually turn it around and compare it to their contradictory position about positive events. You just have to think of it, at the time. Most Christians’ worldviews are utterly inconsistent.

  58. says

    Thanks for the references! Can be usefull to know those stuff. (I knew Aquinus had something to do with that.) Seems though that omni-god is more like plato’s kind of god then the actual god describe in the old testament (can’t remove a chariot because it was made of iron, change his mind often, become angry and jealous, etc)

    “God is Love”
    Ya but it doesn’t say he loves perfectly nor everyone.

    Thanks anyway. Will have an eye on Toner’s article.

  59. says

    Also if Jesus said “Father forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing”. Seems Jesus hadn’t a high opinion on (or no clue at all of) the omnis of that god.

  60. Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc says

    @Lord Narf

    There are whole genres of uneasy listening out there, but most of the dirge-iest (?) tends to be consumed by an older audience who’re already jaded/bearded/tattooed/whiskied.

    Goth Metal is positively lightweight!

    IMO all of this is better than those bloody pop songs that extol the ownership of expensive running shoes. As I don’t have kids I’m glad that I don’t have to navigate the minefield of instant gratification.

  61. Lord Narf says

    Heh, it was just a typo joke, man.

    What would you say is more dirge-like than goth metal? There’s plenty of harder and more industrial stuff out there, but if you want slow, sonorous, base-heavy music, goth metal is closest to the category, I think. What would you say is a closer match?
    And yeah, goth metal is lightweight. That’s kind of the point of comparison. A lot of the stuff that I listen to is way too fast and heavy to be compared to a dirge.

  62. Mike de Fleuriot says

    Enough waffle, what we can take from this, is an excellent quote for the next atheist group that has the balls to put it up on a billboard. Yes, I think the Tracie Harris quote should be up there on the highway, poke holes at Jesus.
    Even Hitchens would be envious of it, I believe.

  63. coachrick says

    It’s fascinating to see Shane’s position shift under the razor sharp rational questioning of Matt and Tracey! He went from “Because we are naturally moral, therefore God!” , to “We are naturally evil and immoral and incapable of objective morality without god”!

    Tracey is right in saying that this is an example of using different words to say the say thing but claiming its a new position. Shane admitted this early in the call when asked, “Because we’re moral why does that mean god? ” His answer , “Because we can’t get morality from anywhere else!” …the very point he denied he was making at the start of the call!

  64. chiptuneist says

    Not quite, I don’t think. His first premise was simply that we arrive at moral conclusions naturally, not that we arrive at CORRECT moral conclusions naturally. It would be possible to have a corrupt moral compass and still arrive at moral conclusions, they would just be less likely to be correct moral conclusions. Of course, it all depends on what is meant by ‘corrupt’. Since it appears that in this case it is meant as ‘does not directly align with the wishes of an eternal authority’, and there is nothing offered to show that this authority reaches correct moral conclusions, it’s also possible that a ‘corrupt’ moral compass as defined above would actually be MORE likely to come to correct moral conclusions.

    Which is, you know, what we actually see in reality.

  65. says

    What I found interesting about premise 1 was that it was essentially conceding that he was wrong:

    “My argument is that we cannot be moral without God. Premise 1: I’m wrong. QED”

  66. plutosdad says

    There is one good thing about the Calvinist’s position: none of us are “better” than any other.
    For instance, i am not sexually attracted to children, but the pedophile is. Does that make me better than him? No, but it makes me lucky and thankful that I don’t have to suppress those desires.

    If we focused more on that, on what makes people do the things they do, we can actually help the pedophile and protect children, but if we think we are better than him, and drive him underground, we may create an environment where he is more stressed and more likely to give in to those urges.

    Similarly, I am not better than the psychopath, if it is true that psychopathic brains are damaged or non functioning in certain areas. I am lucky those areas of the brain work for me. They allow me to feel empathy, and to control my impulses, and not hurt others. But to think I am better than a person who has no impulse control because that part of his brain simply doesn’t work is ludicrous, and is a feature of our old ideas of “sin”

    Of course, every other point in Calvinism is pure evil.

  67. Psychopomp Gecko says

    Yeah, plutosdad, I am no better than a murderer in prison. And since I am no better than him, who am I say what he did is wrong? That’s too much judgement about which one of us is better morally.

    Just like how I am the same morally as a pedophile. I guess that’s supposed to hold true whether he’s done anything to a kid or not. I mean, if they’ve never molested a kid, then that means he’s just a person like me with some sexual desires that someone else would call deviant. But then, if he actually submits to them and harms another human being, I still get to be considered his moral equal. The best part is, this means we don’t have to do anything like lock them up or get them counseling. After all, who are we, their moral equal, to say what is better for them?

  68. billhelm says

    Good stuff Tracie. There’s a Dawkins video where he debates a pastor with the same result. Dawkins makes a point, then the pastor just quotes the Bible, without addressing the issue. People are good at repeating what they’re taught, but don’t always think about what it means. Christians pray for “ears to hear”, but actually need a “mind to think”.

    The same thing also happened in a “Oprah Denies Christ” video. She asked if people who never heard of Jesus are going to hell, or are in hell.
    The Christian response, “We’re supposed to evangelize the whole world”.
    That’s nice. Now answer the question.

    Is their reasoning power so eroded from indoctrination that they don’t realize they are not answering a question or addressing the issue, but just repeating with more detail?
    Or do they deep down, maybe subconsciously, know they’ve lost the point, and not answering is the defense of their ego?

  69. potatosnchips says

    So, this sounds a lot like an appeal to emotion. E.g. you seem to be saying “zomg lol look at these guys they believe something that’s really upsetting, so it can’t possibly be true”

    I’m not sure why we should think it’s relevant that the belief is really upsetting. Why should someone who believes christianity reject it simply on the grounds that they find it uncomfortable? That seems to be contrary to what a rational person should do, especially in science.

  70. Lord Narf says

    We’re not the ones ho usually bring up the morality argument. It’s after the Christians bring out the morality from god argument that it’s useful to bring up the fact that their god commands them to do things that they know are immoral, too.

    It’s a punctuation point. Your divine command theory model is logically inconsistent … oh, and by the way, the Bronze Age morality of your holy writings makes your god an evil thug, and your attempt to advocate it makes you look like a monster to anyone who embraces a more evolved morality (that’s a generic you, not you, potatosnchips).
    It’s just a last kick, after he had already been beaten, as a possible demonstration for anyone to thick to follow the logical part of the argument.

  71. potatosnchips says

    But see that’s where I’m confused about the claim. It seems like the discussion was going like this:

    Shane: “See, I have good reason to believe this or that is immoral, since I have a superintelligent, superrational being to tell me so”

    AE: “Ah, but you don’t have that good reason at all, because look, your God commands absurd things like child murder and rape”

    Shane: “I’m not sure why that’s a refutation of anything said. Are you trying to say that child murder and rape are bad when God commands you to do them? What reason do you have for believing that? After all, everyone’s intrinsically evil as per christianity. Are you trying to suggest that people aren’t evil? What reason do you have for believing that?”

    AE: “Because goodbye you asshole!”

    What could have been done there was an analysis of whether atheism has to deal with moral skepticism or not. There are plenty of good reasons for thinking it doesn’t, but you guys didn’t go into those. You just didn’t even address the point. The caller was pointing out that their moral intuitions seem to have a solid footing in reality given that God is all knowing, fully rational etc. They were asking why an atheist should take *their* moral intuitions to have a solid footing. If an atheist responds by saying “hey look we don’t see child murder as justifiable” then why is that any response at all? The caller has good reason to think that the atheist’s moral intuitions are unreliable, so just assuming they are reliable is no response to the argument.

  72. says

    Shane: “See, I have good reason to believe this or that is immoral, since I have a superintelligent, superrational being to tell me so”
    AE: “Ah, but you don’t have that good reason at all, because look, your God commands absurd things like child murder and rape”
    Shane: “I’m not sure why that’s a refutation of anything said…

    It’s a refutation because it shows that our moral ideas and the edicts of the god are fundamentally opposed. I.e. if one is reliable, the other isn’t. There’s no way to reconcile this.
    I’ll agree that, if we ignore reality for a moment, you can make such an argument. You could say that god is the supreme moral being and so he has created us to intuitively recognize good moral standards. However, if we look at the world, we quickly recognize that those same moral standards forces us to conclude that god is evil.

    The caller was pointing out that their moral intuitions seem to have a solid footing in reality given that God is all knowing, fully rational etc.

    But that’s bullshit because our moral ideas directly contradict a lot of the things that their god supposedly commands and does. That leaves us with two options:
    1) Our moral conclusions are reliable. This forces the conclusion that god is evil and not a reliable source of moral ideas.
    2) Our moral conclusions are not reliable. In that case, we have no rational basis for saying that god is good. All you can say is that god has established a set of rules and you have chosen to follow them.
    Claiming that god’s rules are morally superior (absent any handy redefining of terms) is a moral conclusion and so is not possible.

  73. John Whelan says

    In the uneducated circles in which I move the saying is “Bullshit baffles brains” In other words if you talk enough sh1te for long enough people will become bewildered at what you say and you will therefore appear knowledgable and intelligent.
    Like I said, bullshit baffles brains

  74. says

    I described moral metrics on the program. Assessing morality is possible using these metrics. As in many things, there are some actions that will be clearly assessed as “moral,” some clearly assessed as “immoral,” and some where there cannot be a moral assessment–where there is no moral action or more moral action. This is not just about “feeling uncomfortable” with his religion. It’s about his claim that it’s a good place from which to obtain morality. If it can be demonstrated that his moral rules/beliefs fail to align with moral metrics, then it can be said that his religion is not a good basis for morality. By taking extremely immoral positions and labeling them as moral, it is fine for a person to have an adverse reaction to that. We have evolved toward moral behavior as social animals. So we naturally feel aversion to flagrant injustice, unfairness, harm to other people. And expressing that is also natural and not problematic. Pointing out the person is trying to promote immoral perspectives as moral, and *adding* that it’s also personally reprehensible to us, does not mean our reasoning prior to the condemnation is somehow negated. A person can be both passionate about their cause and reasonable. Showing emotion does not mean a person is being unreasonable. They are not mutually exclusive.

  75. says

    Showing emotion does not mean a person is being unreasonable. They are not mutually exclusive.

    Personal hobby-horse, but why is it that people so often fall into either side of the ditch? Either they think that being emotional is itself a good argument for something or they think that being emotional automatically invalidates anything you say.

    The validity of an argument and the emotions of the person making it are two completely separate things. One does not in any way reflect, indicate or determine the other. There was an abortion thread a while back where I explained this point three or four times and the other person still didn’t get it.

  76. andrewkiener says

    “If the ridiculous parody is indistinguishable from the real thing…” then Poe’s Law is still true 🙂 Not sure what actual actions might be taken…

  77. says

    Yeah, a pet peeve of mine is when a religious person tries to excuse their bigotry by saying that it’s what their religion teaches.

    Hmm, no, saying why you are a bigot (because of your religion or because the god you believe in is a bigot) in no way makes you a non-bigot, it merely explains the origin of your bigotry.

    Also, for your #2 “he just doesn’t want to impede our free will”, then why do so many christians want to legislate their religious laws? Wouldn’t outlawing abortion or gay marriage impede women and gay people’s free will?

    Sure, the people wanting to have a theocracy and those making that free will argument may not be the same but if they make that argument then it is fair to argue that the same line of argumentation should lead them to supporting marriage equality, reproductive rights… and ask them if they do.

  78. Angela says

    Finally got around to checking out the blog and stumbled across this gem. This is, in my opinion, the best episode/call EVER (Drunk Denise from Portland with Jeff and Matt being a close second). Tracie, I apologize for stealing your argument, but ever since I heard your point about child rapists, I use it – and get the same pathetic and disgusting response, which is awkward when it comes from a family member o.O

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