We get email: Believers and their security blankets

You know what theists are hung up on? This notion of absolute certainty and dogma. Because they are so often trained to think in no other way, they cannot fathom how rational people can freely admit to not knowing a thing for certain, and yet still feel confident in rejecting the truth of the thing on the grounds of a lack of evidence. So why is it, the more we ask for their evidence for God, they insist we really don’t want to see any? Isn’t that just their way of comforting themselves in light of the fact they know full well they cannot meet their burden of proof? Of course it is.

We’ve had an especially dense fellow emailing us since yesterday, and the exchange so far has wound up with the following…

Out of one side of your mouths you claim that you do not believe in God,
on the other side of your mouths you claim that you do not know if God exists, and to make matters worse you live your lives as if you knew for sure that God does not exist.

Martin: [Name withheld], your problem is that you simply do not seem to be bright enough to make meaningful distinctions, nor to consider ideas with any degree of intellectual nuance. Try, however you can, to allow this concept to penetrate the very thick walls of your skull: it is possible to admit that you do not know something for certain, and yet have an opinion concerning its truth or falsity. I do not know for certain that an alien city does not exist beneath the surface of Pluto. However, do I believe there is an alien city beneath the surface of Pluto? Moreover, do I live my life, day to day, as if the existence of an alien city beneath the surface of Pluto is a relevant fact that should influence my decisions? No, I do not. I have no reason to, and doing things with no reason is foolish. If, at some point, evidence for such a city comes to light, I may be forced to change my mind about the matter. But until such evidence comes, I feel confident in dismissing Plutonian alien cities, even while admitting I lack absolute knowledge about their existence.

So no, this is not “talking out of both sides of our mouths.” This is us being smart and knowledgable enough to understand epistemology (look it up), which, as each of your emails makes more and more clear, is not a subject you understand.

You do this by rejecting all evidence that comes your way.

Increasingly Frustrated Sentient Human, aka Martin: But you have not sent any evidence our way. You have just whined and bellyached that we haven’t accepted your beliefs as blindly as you have. But that is your problem, not ours.

Let me demonstrate what I’m talking about. Matt admitted that he did not hear the debate, Morey vs Barker, but yet on one quote from Morey, Matt decides, “Morey doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

Martin, Who Is Hoping There Is a City on Pluto As He’s Ready to Request Asylum There: This is because the one quote you provided from Morey contained a logical fallacy called a “straw man argument.” And when people employ fallacies, it is a pretty safe bet that they either do not know what they’re talking about, or do not know how to argue effectively even if they do know what they’re talking about. So either Morley is an ignorant idiot, or he isn’t and simply has a bad habit of sounding like one. Either way, first impressions count, and the quote you provided made a bad one. Perhaps you could have found a better quote.

It is clear to me that this kind of superiority complex Matt suffers from makes it impossible to have a meaningful discourse.

Martin, Who Would Headdesk If He Wasn’t Typing on His Lap Because He’s Tired of Replacing Broken Desks: Except it’s not a superiority complex to point out when someone has said something inaccurate or ignorant. I would say what makes it impossible to have a meaningful discourse is when ignorant people insist on clinging to their ignorance despite many attempts to communicate concepts to them accurately and clearly in the hopes of improving their understanding. As Exhibit A, I would point to my attempts to clarify things to you, and your continued inability to grasp them.

Why do you ask people for evidence for God when you don’t even believe in God in the first place. You should be asking yourselves, what would prove it to me? But this you will not do, why? Because your pride won’t let you.

Martin, Who’s All Out of Love, and Ready to Throw a Punch or Two Below the Belt: I think you should redirect this line of questioning. Try this instead:

People who don’t believe in things ask for evidence because — are you sitting down, because this will come as a shock — they are open to having their minds changed. But instead of providing that evidence, you insist we would reject it, even though we have prompted you many times to produce it. This should tell you something, and here it is: You know you do not have evidence, you know you cannot rationally defend your religious beliefs, you know deep down you do not have good reasons to believe in God and the Bible…but your pride (or rather, your fear, instilled in you through a life of strict indoctrination) won’t let you admit this.

Suddenly the game changes, doesn’t it?

I leave you with this. Down through the centuries the Bible has survived ALL the attacks of Atheists, skeptics, you name it, who hate God & His Christ. Matt Dillahunty’s Atheist experience show, which seems to be his lifes purpose, is a small wrinkle in time, it’s a sad pathetic experience, it’s illogical, non historic, he makes mistakes that are absolutely mind boggling.

Martin, Still Here: You do realize you’re the one you’re trying to convince with this childish, petulant tirade, right? We terrify you with our rejection of your myths and our ability to out-reason you. And this is the security blanket you weave to hide behind.

The Bible is the ONLY reliable thing we have to show us the meaning and purpose of life.

Martin, Now Just Mopping Up the Blood: Speak for yourself. I have chosen reason as my source of meaning and purpose, and from the higher perch on which I sit looking down at you, it’s clear to me you have chosen an impoverished idea of meaning and purpose.

Our inbox really looks like this, people, more often than you know.

Open Thread for Show 798: Don Baker & Russell Glasser: “Nothing New Under the Son”

Today Don talked about themes in Christianity and how they echo earlier religions and philosophies. We also had a fun time with caller Hamad, who offered this:

1. The universe is finite.

2. If the universe is finite, it cannot be infinite.

3. Finite things exist, therefore an infinite god is necessary.


Of course, the hosts offered up their own version, noting that using this same reasoning we could offer that the existence of “existent” things is evidence that nonexistent things exist.


Just a reminder that we have an e-mail address and Facebook page available for those who would like to call to tell us they agree with our positions or that they appreciate the program. Please feel free to contact us with those sentiments (which we appreciate) at <tv@atheist-community.org> or post your thoughts to us on Facebook. The show calls should be geared toward atheist concerns (questions/problems/news/new information), or theists who want to explain to us why we’re wrong.

The Argument from “It Just Makes Sense to Me”

Someone at the Sunday ACA Lecture series alerted me that my (brief) introductory topic on the last show I cohosted might have confused some people. They asked if I could provide some examples in order to clarify what I was trying to describe. I’m always appreciative when someone lets me know I’ve been unclear, as it provides me an opportunity to clarify. And so, with that, I offer my clarification.

There are many examples to choose from. I have conversations in everyday life that could illustrate this, and there are also examples among famous figures that demonstrate it well, but the most clear and concise example I recall is the story of Steven LaBerge. [Read more…]

Atheist Arrested for Blasphemy, and How You Can Help

I was a guest on Trolling with Logic podcast today. And I met another guest, Aly, who was on to discuss a recent blasphemy arrest, and offer information about what people can do to help. Currently the idea is to put as much public pressure on Kuwait as possible in hopes of getting them to relent these charges and drop this case. Aly provided me with a link to an article he asked that I share, which is what I’m doing here at the blog. Anyone interested please check out the article and its links to petitions and other avenues of action available. There is also a Facebook page set up for information, I encourage you to like and follow. I have asked Aly to try calling into TAE today, as well, to discuss this further with the hosts. Please show your support of Aziz and share this information as much as possible. Thanks for your consideration.

Mail bin: arguing with the FAQ

Fishing for stuff out of email today, I’m getting a letter by John from Ireland, who is a bit irritated with us that we haven’t replied to his previous messages.  John has decided to show us how much he cares by reading through the ACA FAQ page and rebutting the answers to our questions.  I thought I’d throw John a bone and give him the full blog treatment.

Subject: referring to your FAQs

This message was sent via the contact form on the ACA website:

Dear Atheists,

I have wrote numerous times to yourselves to have my questions answered by someone, to no avail, and lately to ‘Scepticon’ asking them of their most irrational of premises – How to rationally approach Death [or something worded to that effect] with no forthcoming answer.

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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? [Read more…]

Texas vs. Planned Parenthood (or Religion vs. Society’s Best Interests)

OK, first article I see in today’s paper, and why it pisses me off:

  1. Texas has successfully defuned Planned Parenthood clinics in Texas. Their propaganda point has consistently been “we don’t want tax dollars going to abortions.” However, it has been consistently reported that we already do not allow tax money to go to abortion services, and NONE of the PP clinics in the state funding program offered abortion services. From the article:

    “Lawyer Pete Schenkkan said Planned Parenthood officials will decide whether to press ahead with that trial in hopes of winning a permanent injunction that would reverse Texas rules excluding Planned Parenthood’s health clinics because they are affiliated with other Planned Parenthood groups that provide abortions or promote abortion rights.”This was *always* the issue—simply punitively punishing the clinics because they have a “PP” shingle over the door. It was never about keeping funding from going to abortions—that was an outright falsehood propagated to gain public support for the action.

  2. PP had to demonstrate two points in court. According to the judge, they were able to demonstrate that what the state was doing would harm women in Texas. What they didn’t show is that Texas didn’t have a legal right to do it. From the article:

    “Planned Parenthood, Yelenosky ruled, met only one of two legal hurdles when it showed that being excluded from the health program would probably cause harm to the organization and the low-income women it serves. However, he added, Planned Parenthood failed to show that it would likely prevail in a full trial on its claim that state law doesn’t give Texas officials the authority to exclude the organization from the program.”

  3. Texas had tried to say that other clinics will take up the slack for PP, but here is what the local paper found when they tried to set up an appointment with another clinic:

    “An American-Statesman spot check of 29 of 186 doctors and clinics listed in an area 30 miles around Austin found eight that weren’t participants or weren’t accepting new patients and two that offered only limited services.”“For example, a state health department website, intended to direct low-income women to participating health care providers, contains numerous mistakes, including practices that don’t provide contraceptive care.”Please note that women with a good income won’t be very impacted by this—only women who don’t have much in the way of resources. Imagine you’re poor, and rely on public transport (which sucks in Austin), you have a clinic you’re already set up with, and then you’re told Texas is just shutting it down for no good reason. Then you call and call and call, and can’t find a clinic taking new patients, and when you do make an appointment, you show up and they can’t renew your birth control prescription, because they don’t offer those “services.”

    The state does offer a phone number (866-993-9972) to help match women with clinics—but this is ALL so unnecessary. And as a result, fiscally, Texas now has to make up for federal funds we’re losing by doing this stupid, stupid thing.

  4. So, this morning when they said we need another bond package to pay for road improvements, I wanted to slap someone. If we don’t have funding to take care of necessary infrastructure improvements, is it really wise to pass legislation to punitively punish a clinic that is keeping to your rules, just to appease your religious base of constituents? Well, if you’re Rick Perry, the answer to that question is “of course.”

    “At the urging of Republican Gov. Rick Perry, Texas launched a state-run, state-financed Women’s Health Program on Jan. 1 after almost a year of unsuccessful efforts to remove Planned Parenthood from a program that had been 90 percent funded by the federal government. U.S. officials cut off that money on Dec. 31, saying efforts to exclude Planned Parenthood violated federal law on Medicaid spending.”

  5. When people ask me why I’m an active atheist and why I care about religion so much or what other people believe—this is why. If you care and want to do something about this, consider a donation to Planned Parenthood.

Free speech and free attention

This post is going to cover two different themes: social media and the attention it brings people, and Christian privilege in the public square. They’re related, I promise I’ll get to that point.

I grew up in a time that was right on the front end of the Internet age. As a freshman computer science undergraduate student in 1992, the Internet was still a weird buzzword that social rejects and highly specialized academics used.

The host of the local morning show that I used to listen to once told a funny story where he didn’t want to be pestered by the guy sitting next to him on an airplane. “So what do you do?” asked the guy in the story. “Computers,” lied the professional radio host. “That shut him right up!” he bragged. You can imagine how much that story cheered up a guy like me as I wrangled with projects in UNIX and struggled through classes on data structures and algorithms, and got scorned by the frat guys in my dorm suite.

People didn’t really get what was going on with the internet yet.  This cartoon was considered very amusing at the time.

On Facebook, a select group of 57 people know you're a dog.

The New Yorker mentions the Internet in 1993. How erudite of them.


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