1. says

    My answer to how one would demonstrate God I think is fairly straight forward – all the distinguishing characteristics of the concept must be sufficiently demonstrated in a manifesting phenomenon.

    If you were to define the distinguishing characteristics of a “giraffe” as:
    1) An animal
    2) Tetrapod with long legs and a long neck
    3) Has yellow fur with brown spots

    … you don’t have to concoct some logical argument as to why these “giraffes” must exist. Show me the creature, and demonstrate that characteristics 1, 2 and 3 are present, and you’re done.

    If you define “god” to be, for example:
    1) Creates universes
    2) Knows anything
    3) Create life

    … then you must demonstrate characteristics 1, 2 and 3. I have no idea how you plan on demonstrating that the entity you’re showing me can create universes, but that’s not my problem. I’m not the one who invented such an insane concept.

    It’s easy to invent a concept that is not demonstrable… and often god concepts are purposely made that way, tweaked and honed over the generations to be as ambiguously non-demonstrable and non-falsifiable as possible.

    So to ask me what it’d take to “prove” an intentionally unprovable concept is sort of deranged – and has nothing to do with me having a “closed mind”.

  2. kingeofdremes says

    Could you start posting links to the show when you do these open threads? I always appreciate less work than more, y’know. 🙂


  3. Narf says

    I would take it a step beyond that, depending upon the variety of god being proposed. If someone is trying to convince me that the god of the Bible exists, they pretty much can’t. That ship has already sailed. There’s too much of the inspired word of God that has been demonstrated to be false, and if you’re selling a more liberal version of Christianity, you’re also dead in the water. Once you start ripping chunks out of an authoritarian system, thus destroying the authority, you’re done.

    If someone is trying to convince me of a deistic god … what’s the freaking point? Why would I care whether or not a deistic god exists?

    For that matter, what could possibly be in it for people to convert other people from atheism to deism? Do they think their uncaring creator-god is going to give them a cookie?

    The only reason I can think of to make a stop off at deism is insecurity. The arguments for a deistic god are no more valid nor sound than the arguments for a theistic god. That would mean that their reason for trying to convince us is to comfort themselves.

  4. Monocle Smile says

    I personally feel that an awful lot of deism is rooted in dishonesty. I have experience with people making arguments for a deistic god, but then actually believing that said deity also cares about humanity in the same way the Christian god would. They want to avoid the problems with the existence of their religion’s deity, but want to enforce the tenets of their theology at the same time.

    Remember the first caller from last week, who tried to pull the “let’s agree to this and move on for now” a hundred times? Deism often carries the same “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” crap.

  5. John Kruger says

    I think there are several lines of evidence that might support the existence of a god.

    Prayers that are answered, particularly if they could usurp the known laws of physics.

    Special knowledge that can be shown to have validity external to the proposed revelation.

    Yet, we see no such things, so there is no reason to take such god concepts seriously. I think Martin had the best answer in that all modern god concepts take no risks of being wrong, and as such do not mean anything. How could I prove to someone there is a parallel universe that can never be observed in any way that has pink English speaking elephants in it? I can’t. Such a thing is forever indistinguishable from something completely imagined.

  6. Monocle Smile says

    Those phenomena have an added layer of problems…you can’t identify the source even if they existed. Answered prayers could be due to a number of things, not just a god answering them. Same with clairvoyance. You could merely be tapping into an alternate reality or warping space-time and merely ascribing those effects to a being that doesn’t exist.

  7. says

    Why bother with any of that? The god described in the Bible is perfectly capable of simply changing your mind so that you believe regardless of reasons. And as much as modern Christians like to hammer the “free will,” response, I’ve so far found no evidence in the Bible that their god actually cares about free will and plenty to indicate that he doesn’t.

  8. will says

    i guess they just couldnt resist messing with you at the end of the show lol 😉

    anyways… on a more specific note… good show… as the highlight of it for me… was the clarity to the question Both you and Martin answered… regarding Mateo’s question of what proof would someone need…

    i do observe quite frequently… many people, in which they are seemingly way too naive, where they will believe most anything that is said to them…

    so even with that (brain spilling out open-mindedness)… and even to a much lesser degree of that…

    our brains are wired to put “random” events together to formulate a coherent thought, and or anything else for that matter in all of observation through our senses…

    this is why people still (mistakenly though)… see two random events and or thoughts and put them together and “assume” it was a (insert deity here) aka god’s way of “revealing” himself etc…

    but both Martin and Russell were able to put together a very constructed and thoughtful answer to the question… which is nice to hear…

    Mateo’s atheist friends “answers” of big guy in the sky etc… to me… are just a lazy way to actually answer the question given… and im glad that Martin and Russell have taken the time to really formulate a Meaningful answer to that question… 🙂

    good show guys… good show… 🙂

  9. will says

    oh and p.s. LOLS… to the religious ads on this site too… 😉 just goes to show money is still useful…

    no matter where the source may be 😉

  10. houndentenor says

    I got into this with a theist troll on friendly atheist once. He asked what I needed for proof. Well…errmmmm PROOF. You know, the kind that will stand up to scrutiny, peer review, be accepted in a court of law? Something. Anything! So then he trotted out a link to a website that listed crap like the cosmological argument and (get this!) Pascal’s Wager. I linked him to iron chariots. They he got mad because I wouldn’t respond to all the same tired arguments that you guys on TAE deal with every weak (and much better than I could). That was pretty much the end of that.

    If you believe in something you can’t define or explain then get mad because someone asks for proof that it exists, that’s usually grounds for putting you in a psych ward. Unless it’s religion. I’m a skeptic. If you claim something is true, then I expect you to be able to prove the veracity of your claim. Otherwise I feel justified in presuming (at least for the time being) that your claim is without merit. Come back when you have something. Anything. Not just the same tired arguments and shifting the burden of proof.

  11. houndentenor says

    That would allow for confirmation bias. I hear these claims all the time. Someone prayed for something to happen and it did. That’ doesn’t prove cause and effect, especially when there were countless other prayers that went unanswered.

    It would have to be specific and highly unlikely. Praying to win the lottery three draws in a row. I think that would be convincing since that is so far outside anything that is likely to occur. And, on three specific pre-chosen dates.

    Praying to be healed from a disease for which remission or recovery is known to happen does not count.

  12. houndentenor says

    Free will, at least in the Roman Catholic sense, is simply a cop-out to explain why god obviously doesn’t give a crap that children pray to be delivered from abuse, rape and torture no matter how often they ask for help. If the Christian god exists, he is a monster for allowing things like Darfur to happen. Or even that one woman who was held hostage for years in Austria. How many times must she have cried out to god for deliverance? Or the women in Cleveland held for decades? Free will? That would be a joke except it’s not funny. Either god has the power to intervene or he doesn’t. We expect adults to intervene when the welfare of any child is involved but not god? Really?

  13. says

    Good call. I’ve long had a similar answer to Martin’s regarding “what would it take to convince you that God exists?”

    If the god in question is, in fact, omniscient, then that god knows exactly what it would take to convince me that he exists without negating or harming my free will in any way; he’d know, for example, that taking even mundane claims purely on faith isn’t something I do lightly, let alone claims that an omni-everything universe-creator cares, for example, who I sleep with (or that he doesn’t – this god’s interpreters confuse more than they clarify, which is an observation an omni-God would know that I’ve made many times and which counts greatly against the veracity and power of the various scriptures attributed to him). In fact (and an omni-God should know this all too well), the vague, contradictory, anachronistic and often brutal nature of the scriptures affects my “free will” anyway – by convincing me that they’re simply not reliable sources of truth or morality.

    The fact that I’m still not convinced God exists tells me that God can’t do it, won’t do it or hasn’t done it (presumably for his own reasons), or that God isn’t there – either in any form that can affect the universe or communicate with me (in which case there’s no point worshipping or praying to him even if he does exist), or in any form at all.

  14. John Kruger says

    Well, we can’t really talk about absolute proof in such things. It is just a quick list of things that might support the hypothesis. Even scientific experiments might have results that were caused by other things than the proposed laws of physics they are testing, but with repeat-ability and predictability you gradually rule those other things out. If only Mormons were getting prayers answered in double blind experiments adjusted for natural remission in control groups, that would be some decent evidence, particularly if it was repeatable, even if it was not the final word on the subject. Presumably a “Mormon prayer law” could be built upon and refined given actual results.

    We must not simply appeal to the unknown in order to refuse evidence for a god the way creationists refuse evidence of an old earth. We are better than that. If there were actually testable and repeatable results they would count, the problem for them is that they do not have any such results and are forced to back god into unverifiable territory because of that deficiency.

  15. says

    Help figuring out the lyrics for the theme song, esp a stanza I can’t figure out despite repeated listening!

    It’s the part after this:

    “You may be surprised, yeah….

    Got to get away from (serious ?????)

    For the sake of the World, it’s delusion”

    It’s a killer head-banging atheist anthem, BTW, so thanks to Brian Steensma (I think that’s his name: relying on memory) for writing and performing it!


  16. ChaosS says

    What I found mirthful about the caller were his original examples were Bigfoot and Nessie and his example of proof for these beings was a corpse… so I was half expecting him to produce a dead YVWH for our slab. (do we have a slab?)

  17. ChaosS says

    One of the problems is all the omni-‘s and infinitys going on in the definitions we get, an infinite number of tests is required to establish the infinite number of properties in your omni-improbale hypothesis.

  18. unfogged says

    I hear it as ‘illusion’

    The part I can’t figure out is right at the beginning it could be “Will you open your eyes” or “Well, you open your eyes”. Either works and with the accent I can’t tell which it is supposed to be.

  19. says

    unfogged, I’m hearing that part as “will you”, as if imploring people to open their eyes. The other lyric is about asking people to change “for the sake of the World”, so “will” fits in with that general idea.

    “Illusion” might be it, but it’s still rather iffy, since it doesn’t really fit?

    “Gotta get away from seri-illusion”?

    (Oh, btw the theme song is by Bryan Steeksma)


  20. jdoran says

    Won’t you listen to reason
    Will you open your eyes
    It’s a wonder what you’ll find
    With an open mind
    You may be surprised


    Gotta get away from this illusion.
    For the sake of the world, this delusion
    Has gotta


  21. Carol Lynn says

    And even if the omniscient god did know what would convince me he exists, why would that mean I would *worship* it? The worship concept has never made any sense to me, even as a thoroughly religiously indoctrinated child. “You made the universe. Great job. Here’s a thank you card. What’s with the demand that I spend all eternity singing hosannahs to your greatness? Isn’t that a bit petty”

  22. unfogged says

    “Gotta get away from this illusion” (although I can’t say I ever heard the ‘this’ until I saw the lyrics and listened again). It also confirms that it is “Will you open your eyes” but it still sounds more like “Well” to me. Then again, where I’m from “pen” and “pin” are very different sounding words, as are “merry”, “Mary”, and “marry” and that’s not true for a lot of US regional accents.

  23. says

    Well, to be fair Mateo was only asking what evidence would convince us of God’s existence. The question of worship is entirely separate. And my answer would be “Nope.”

  24. bugmaster says

    I wish they’d start switching up the intro songs again, like they used to (according to the old YouTube videos, at least). I’ve never liked the current song, but even if I did, I’m pretty sure I’d be tired of it by now…

  25. says

    To me a god or deity is defined as someone or something that is able to do the supernatural and if it were possible to prove the supernatural then one would have a basis for proving a god or deity. Seeing how supernaturalism and superstition are relevant and as an atheist I would have to reject any kind of supernatural explanation as being proof. With the entire collective of knowledge of mankind the supernatural has yet to be proven.

  26. Corwyn says

    Some of their previous videos are unavailable due to copyrights on intro music. So, maybe not.

  27. says

    It’s one of those things that reminds me of the oft-repeated claim that every person will, at some time, disappoint you, but God is the only one who never does. Which is often accompanied by the caveat that you have to have faith that everything he does or doesn’t do is for the best even if it doesn’t appear that he’s answering/helping you at all. Or, in other words, God can’t disappoint you because you’re not allowed to have any expectations of him.

    Of course, if you were allowed to apply that low a bar to other people, they would never disappoint you either.

  28. says

    I’ve never really understood the argument that providing evidence would negate free will. I just fail to see how the ability to make informed decisions is a bad thing. If anything, I’d argue that withholding vital data is a far greater curtailment of free will.

  29. says

    Martin said-

    Well, to be fair Mateo was only asking what evidence would convince us of God’s existence. The question of worship is entirely separate. And my answer would be “Nope.”

    When it comes to the first humans to encounter a so-called ‘God’, I always think of the old Star Trek episode from the 1960’s called, “Who Mourns for Adonais”, where the crew encounters a powerful being from our distant Earthly past who wants to be worshiped, just like he was back in Ancient Greece.

    The teleplay must’ve been penned by an atheist, since instead of worshiping Adonais, the crew instead tries to figure out how he performs his ‘tricks’ to overcome him. Let’s hope that by the time humanity ever gets to the point of “exploring strange new Worlds”, theism will have been widely recognized as a useless vestigial appendage from our past.


  30. says

    Somnus said-

    I’ve never really understood the argument that providing evidence would negate free will. I just fail to see how the ability to make informed decisions is a bad thing. If anything, I’d argue that withholding vital data is a far greater curtailment of free will.

    You know WHAT ELSE severely curtails mankind’s ‘free will’? “Divine Will”, where God starts issuing a bunch of bossy-pants orders (“Thou Shalts” and “Thou Shalt Nots”)! Xians believe that performing any action that counters Divine Will is a ‘sin’ (which is the broad definition of ‘sin’), and the act will be punished by God. The fear of punishment should reveal to all but the brain-dead that we’re no longer in the domain of ‘free will’, since the first word (‘free’) implies a choice that is made ‘free of coercion’, and the choice is obviously biased by threat of Hellfire.

    A mindless meme that Xians often say is, “God gave Adam the gift of free will, since God didn’t want to mankind love and obey him”. Most Xians clearly don’t understand that ‘free will’ is NOT the capability to sin (i.e. free agency), but is being given God’s permission to perform an act. So if God wanted to give man “free will”, God would have simply kept His big mouth shut and not have started in with the ‘appeals to Divine authority’, the “Do what I say, or else” stuff! In fact, Adam’s decision to eat the ‘forbidden fruit’ was NOT under the domain of exercising his ‘free will’, since God’s Divine Command forbidding that action removes that decision from Adam’s domain.

    In the parlance of business management, God clearly is a micro-manager (where of course that makes sense, since the Bible was penned by mortals who wanted to control other humans).


  31. Narf says

    Well, I meant the real deists, Monocle, not dishonest douche-bags like William Lane Craig who make arguments for a deistic god, then come around with, “Now that I’ve proven the Christian God exists, and Christianity is true, let’s move on to …”

  32. Narf says

    Yeah, I had the one Catholic guy in my last job offering up as a repository of all of the amazing proof that God exists, and the Bible is true. The rest of us pretty much just laughed at him, since at least half of the stuff on the site is just false, and the rest is strung together in ways that the actual scientists will tell you is nonsensical, to come together into one colossal argument from ignorance.

  33. Narf says

    And then there’s the profound definitional ignorance that we have to deal with, yes. Proof is a mathematical concept. Science deals in evidence.

    “Science just has evidence and theories. So, they don’t even know what they’re doing, and they admit it! The Bible is proof, and God is the Truth.”

    Umm, no. No it isn’t, and no he isn’t. Now stop twisting the scientific method like that, before it springs back, and you hurt yourself.

  34. Narf says

    Sounds like William Lane Craig. He’s also a master of making up untestable, no-lose scenarios, without the slightest shred of evidence.

  35. says

    Yeah, it’s “free” in exactly the same way that someone who is told by a mugger that he’ll be shot if he doesn’t hand over his wallet is free to choose not to hand it over. With the added proviso that if you do refuse to hand over your wallet and get shot as a result, it is you that is guilty of attempted suicide rather than the mugger being guilty of attempted murder.

    Really, the whole idea of free will is kind of slippery to get ahold of. After all, every choice you make is going to be bounded in some way by your situation, your perception, your personality, and your abilities. Choosing to act in ways that aren’t guided by those things at all would be utterly insane at best, frequently fatal, and often simply impossible.

  36. Narf says

    … which is why simple determinism makes so much more sense. I can’t conceive of how people think libertarian free-will is a thing, even within a theistic worldview. Pretty much everything in the Bible opposes the idea.

  37. Corwyn says

    which is why simple determinism makes so much more sense.

    Except that you can’t have a simple conversation and keep the concept of simple determinism. Try it (though not with your sweetie).

  38. says

    William Lane Craig concludes on the existence of his god in a obnoxious and arrogant way. I believe that unlike that retarded bigot Bill O’reilly, W.L.C. knows the truth and isn’t as ignorant as O’Bill and gets off on pissing off atheists that are trying to be reasonable.

  39. says

    That would be god’s standard which I refer to as being a double standard that applies to everything. Even though this god is responsilble for everything as it says in the bible for some unknown reason he is completely innocent as in never ever to be held accountable even when his son who is supposed to be innocent is held accountable. This is what is known as double standard justice, one of the many standards of god the father.

  40. says

    If someone was to assume my guilt, what would it take to convince others of my guilt that would go beyond reasonable doubt? It would take establishing the truth or proving the guilt. In other words a person is to be presumed innocent until their guilt has been proven.

    If you have 10 people who claim to have won the Power Ball Lotto and only one has the winning ticket then all the other 9 people are considered to be like the rest of the people until someone else can produce a winning ticket as well. There is a plethora of religions in this world that have books, traditions and other forms of dogma, but which one or ones actually have a winning ticket?

  41. Narf says

    Actually, David Silverman has said many times that he’s convinced O’Reilly is an atheist and is throwing up a facade … that he’s completely different, on and off camera.

  42. mond says

    Just a slight refinement of your Idea to improve the analogy.
    We have 10 people in front of us claiming to have won the venusian lotto but we don’t know if there is even is a venusian lotto.
    Which one actually has the winning ticket ? Is there such a thing as winning ticket?

  43. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    I don’t think people are creative enough when they try to answer this question. Just start thinking about plots of fun scifi TV shows.

    What would it take for me to accept that there is a very powerful creature running around, e.g. a “god”? Well, let’s put this creature in laboratory conditions, and see if it do simple stuff like transmit a signal faster than the speed of light, predict radioactive decay and other presumably random quantum events, and so on. Let’s see if it can make stars of our choosing go Supernova some time in the past so that we see the Supernova on Earth now on request. Let’s ask him to make every insect on the planet work together to produce a Beethoven symphony all across the world. Teleport stuff FTL. I mean, it should be really easy.

    tld;r If their proposition is that there is a powerful creature, then demonstrate that! What powers does it have? Just show them (in laboratory conditions).

  44. says

    Indeed, evidence that compels belief wouldn’t compel obedience; as demonstrated by Adam and Eve. On the other hand, if compelling belief is in itself a violation of free will, then any information, on any subject, is a violation of free will.
    If I can see that the sky is blue, my ability to free believe that it’s green is abridged. If that’s not a problem, then why is seeing evidence for god a problem?

    The free will defense fails on so many levels, it’s not even funny.

  45. says

    Won’t you listen to reason?
    Will you open your eyes?
    It’s a wonder what you’ll find
    with an open mind.
    You may be surprised.
    Gotta get away from this illusion!
    For the sake of the world, this delusion
    has gotta, gotta, gotta

  46. says

    To the after-show caller:

    This is what I would do. Be honest with your nephew. I wouldn’t trash talk gods or religion, but just don’t pray. If he asks you why you don’t pray, or asks you to pray with him, just explain that you don’t believe in gods, so you don’t pray. His mom (your sister) has chosen to raise him in a religion, and that is her choice, but that does not obligate you to help her. Your nephew will eventually be exposed to those who do not believe. It is probably better that person is someone he knows well and loves.

    Your sister will probably be angry if you do this, but that is her problem. If she confronts you then just tell her that you will not “trash talk” her religion or god when talking to your nephew, but that you aren’t going to lie to him just to soothe her feelings.

    Just my 2 cents.

  47. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    AFAIK, I’ve heard the argument go like this: (The christian) god is so awesome, that if it came down and told you what you wanted to know, that it would be so convincing and sound so right (because it is) that no reasonable person would disagree. In that case, no one would make the choice to disagree. Thus, in that case, no one has the ability to make a choice. Thus, in that case, it would be removing the human’s free will.

    Of course, that’s all baloney. It rests on the absurd notion of libertarian free will, and a bunch of quite silly definitional claims.

  48. says

    Also, it goes squarely against what the bible says. Assuming for a moment that the bible is factual, we run into two problems:

    1) It’s not true. God told Adam and Eve to not eat from the Tree of Knowledge, but they were still quite capable of disobeying.

    2) Even if it were true, god clearly has no problem violating free will in this manner, since he’s done it several times. A notable example is Moses, where god personally and directly orders Moses around.

  49. sigurd jorsalfar says

    I think this is a good point. Any god who is as good and powerful and as caring about our free will as the christian god is alleged to be would only want us to worship him based upon informed consent. But what we actually see is a christian god who, just like all the others, has made no personal effort to keep us informed, and is happy to receive coerced obedience. Christians acknowledge this daily when they insist that faith, i.e. uninformed belief, is a virtue and threaten us with hell for our atheism. And of course what effort the christian god has made, i.e. the bible, can be explained far more easily as the work of superstitious, ignorant and fallible (i.e. normal) men, not a god.

    Though there might be consequences for not worshipping such a god if he existed, everlasting hell-fire would not be one of them since that is a coercive punishment imposed by god, i.e. a gun to the head as others have pointed out, not merely a lack of god’s bounty. If god is just, the worst that should happen is non-worshippers are left to their own devices on this planet and simply cease to exist upon their deaths (even that is arguably too harsh for a loving and merciful god, and the current pope seems to agree) – which is exactly what the evidence says happens anyway (and is one of the reasons Pascal’s wager holds no force with me).

    The ‘free will’ argument that apologists trot out is, as far as I can tell and as others have pointed out, non-existent in the bible. Indeed, even if the bible contains a passage somewhere to the effect that god wants us to have free will (please point me to it if you are aware of one), it is outweighed by countless biblical examples showing that god has no concern for individual free will and expects you to worship him because the dusty old bible says so, or else. The free will argument is the ad hoc invention of medieval theologians who needed it to bolster their weak theodicies. Its ad hoc nature weakens the case for the christian god rather than strengthening it.

  50. Corwyn says

    Or Pharoah. God explicitly violates his free will, ‘hardening his heart’, just so that god can showoff and murder a few thousand babies and children.

  51. Corwyn says


    And if your sister complains, ask her if she is doing what she thinks is best for your nephew, and why would she want you not to.

  52. sigurd jorsalfar says

    One point I meant to add: I’ve heard it argued that the complete lack of effort on god’s part to manifest his existence is the best evidence there is that he wants you to worship him entirely of your own free will, i.e. presenting any evidence at all would violate that free will.

    And yet christians go to great lengths to argue that there is plenty of evidence for god (just look at the trees!, or as I read just the other day: the crucifixion!). Plus I recall reading long passages in the old testament where god, aka Yahweh, offers evidence of his power to get the ancient Hebrews to stop worshipping Baal and to put all their money on Yahweh. So I think this further destroys the ‘god is hidden because of free will’ argument since the bible itself shows god trying to win people over through various (laughable) displays of his power.

    Taken to its logical conclusion, god shouldn’t have even published the bible because of the risk that someone might read it and feel compelled to worship him as a result. But then, how exactly are we to decide whether or not to worship the christian god unless he presents some evidence of his existence? And why is it that some evidence (accompanied by a lot of threats) is seen as not violating our free will, but really solid evidence isn’t permitted? The line between the two (assuming a line can even be shown to exist, which it can’t) is purely arbitrary and illogical. It is better explained by the non-existence, pathetic weakness, or complete indifference of the christian god, rather than by a powerful god deeply concerned about our free will.

  53. sigurd jorsalfar says

    I think the question of ‘what evidence would you need for god’ isn’t even a valid one. It’s not as if christians have some warehouse of evidence so vast that they need to ask us what evidence we want in order to save time combing through that warehouse to come up with the piece of evidence we are looking for, like filling a customer order. In asking this question christians are dishonestly implying that they do have this vast warehouse and we atheists are just being fussy in order to avoid having to admit it.

    Instead of a laundry list of evidence I think the question is better answered with ‘present the best evidence you have’. In 2000 years they have come up with nothing.

  54. Narf says

    Sadly, I’ve had people insist, apparently in all seriousness, that rainbows are proof of the Flood, since there weren’t any before then. Straight out of AiG. I’m always momentarily stunned when I hear someone say something that stupid, in person. Yeah, you expect that sort of thing from Creationist websites, but you don’t expect actual people to say something that crazy.

  55. says

    Sadly, I’ve had people insist, apparently in all seriousness, that rainbows are proof of the Flood, since there weren’t any before then.

    To which the only proper response is: “WERE YOU THERE?”

  56. scourge99 says

    My point is that when atheists say “show me evidence” they usually mean “show me something tangible and/or something that mainstream scientists accept”. Theists tend to think differently. They think of “evidence” in the very loose sense as in “anything that indicates or supports a claim”. E.G., my aunts near death experience is “evidence” that heaven exists.

    Because of this, atheists and theists tend to talk past one another when debating and discussing “evidence”.

    Neither the atheist or theist is in the wrong. Its a simple difference in definition. That difference needs to be hashed out before “the evidence” can be discussed.

  57. says

    Neither the atheist or theist is in the wrong. Its a simple difference in definition. That difference needs to be hashed out before “the evidence” can be discussed.

    Unfortunately, theists also tend to be very reluctant to discuss definitions or stick to them once agreed upon. At least, that’s my experience.

    Moreover, if we agree that we care whether the claims are true, then only one definition is relevant. “Whatever I find personally convincing” is not a good basis for a reliable epistemology. If we care about truth, then we must have verifiable facts, open to investigation. We can’t go with “I felt it in my heart”.

    That’s really one of my pet peeves on this subject; the absolutely irresponsibly lax attitude of the average theist. If at least they cared enough to take the subject seriously, we might move the conversation forward.

  58. scourge99 says

    Moreover, if we agree that we care whether the claims are true, then only one definition is relevant. “Whatever I find personally convincing” is not a good basis for a reliable epistemology. If we care about truth, then we must have verifiable facts, open to investigation. We can’t go with “I felt it in my heart”.

    I’m sorry but you don’t get to dictate what definitions people use. If you attempt that kind of strategy in a debate/discussion, it will get you nowhere.

    Also, not every theist is going to fit this childish cookie-cutter caricature you present. There are intelligent theists out there that argue that they are using a reliable epistemology and they do care about truth. There can be a genuine disagreement about the best methodologies and frameworks to handle evidence and claims. But if you insist on dismissing every theist out of hand by assuming their basis for belief is “i felt it in my heart” then i contend you aren’t actually having a discussion or debating. You are just preaching.

  59. says

    There are intelligent theists out there that argue that they are using a reliable epistemology and they do care about truth.

    Where? What are their arguments? Seriously, I’d like to know.

  60. asdf says

    Viewer Matteo, asked what would it take for an atheist to believe in God.

    One thing that you should mention is that: EVEN if we could see a giant bearded man in the sky, we couldn’t necessarily conclude that this creature created the Universe.

    Perhaps he was an illusion from an ultra-intelligent race of aliens trying to fool humanity?

    Perhaps he is Zeus, and not Jeovah?

    Perhaps he is Jeovah, and he just want to make clear that all the crap in the Bible is wrong?

  61. Corwyn says

    They think of “evidence” in the very loose sense as in “anything that indicates or supports a claim”. E.G., my aunts near death experience is “evidence” that heaven exists.

    Which is pretty close actually. Evidence is anything which appropriately changes one’s confidence in a proposition. What many people miss is that it can change it in either direction. One can easily accept all those ‘examples of miracles’ at face value, as long as all the examples of non-miracles are also included and each given appropriate weight.

    So someone who is 99.99% sure there is a benevolent prayer-answering deity, should, upon witnessing a spontaneous remission of cancer, on a day when 4 people die from cancer in that same hospital, have their faith shaken.

  62. Corwyn says

    Sadly, I’ve had people insist, apparently in all seriousness, that rainbows are proof of the Flood, since there weren’t any before then.

    Did the rules of optics (or quantum electrodynamics) change? In what way?
    Did the incidence of refraction of water change?
    Did rain not fall in spherical drops before?

    What implications would any of those changes have. Does the bible show other changes coincident with that, that we only now understand to be attributable to the changes necessary for rainbows to be a new phenomenon. THAT there would be evidence!

  63. Carol Lynn says

    I’d not pray, unobtrusively, and if the nephew asks why, I’d tell the nephew that people do things differently and that while his family prays, you and lot of others do not pray at all, and there are still other families who pray to a different god than his family does. I’d add that everyone is free to believe and pray or not pray the way they want to and that means that no one can force anyone to pray if they do not want to.

    If that ticks off your sister, point her at the First Amendment.

  64. Raymond says

    I don’t know if you remember, but Matt tore apart some christian with this argument a couple years back. It went something like this:

    Matt: Did your god create the universe?

    Caller: Yes.

    Matt: Did your god have other choices about how to create the universe?

    Caller: Yes

    Matt: Did your god create the rules by which humankind is to be judged?

    Caller: Yes

    Matt: Did your god determine what the repercussions of obeying/not obeying the rules would be?

    Caller: Yes

    Matt: Can your god do anything he wants?

    Caller: Yes

    Matt: So your god created the universe. This specific universe when he could have made the universe differently. Then he created the rules and the punishments/rewards to be applied to everything within his creation. And he chooses to not change anything. So that must mean god is responsible for everything that happens in the universe, including people going to hell.

    Caller: *pause* No . . . that is so messed up. Why are you twisting everything?

    It never fails to amaze me how people can be led by the hand to the obvious truth, and just refuse to see it. Blatant, willful dishonesty.

  65. chris lowe says

    George Orwell published a book that both mocks free will and mimics the Government of God. The reason most modern fascist dictators are deemed atheist is precisely because their megalomania brooks no opposition, even from the divine. Ironically their template is usefully derived from the Holy Books which require absolute obedience and mandatory worship. Evangelicals in the U.S. are dangerously playing with that aspect of Christian dogma. To play on one of our cliches; be careful what OTHERS wish for!

  66. Indiana Jones says

    Just saw some gold on The Guardian website, but you’ll have to get in quick before the shortcut disappears:

    The shortcut to the story reads ‘Pope approves expert sex abuse’

    To be fair, the actual articles headline when you click through is ‘Pope Francis approves expert panel to fight clerical sex abuse’. But methinks a sub editor might be having a little bit of fun with it…

  67. chris lowe says

    Prayer is merely a manifestation of wish-thinking. Nothing more. Harmless in itself…unless you are depending on an answer and base your life on the fulfilment of of your requests by divine intervention.

  68. Mixo Lydian says

    I am an atheist who is a fan of your show. I usually like it, I watch every week, and I congratulate you for keeping the conversation going. But I didn’t like this episode. Why? Look, I hate to say this, because I think you are nice and smart folks—but sometimes, including this time, you guys simply come across as too arrogant for the first 30 minutes.

    You went through unnecessarily long explanations and talked over the callers too much. For several callers you cut off the questions before letting them finish. For example, with the lady asking about quantum mechanics, it would have been interesting to hear more of what she had to say, however misguided her interpretations may be; but I was disappointed when Russell repeatedly cut her off. Then, when Mateo called, Russell settled down and listened to him; kinder, gentler Martin gave what started as a pretty good answer, but then started to ramble on and on (as he admits at 33:40). Russell later concurs (“…we’ve monologued a little too long” at 38:28).

    This balance of host vs. caller is hard to work out, and you certainly don’t want the callers themselves rambling. However, if you really disagree with them, then rather than talking over them, I think you need to do more of letting them fall on their own arguments. Russell finally does nail this technique at 39:12 when he asks about what evidence would convince the caller about a Muslim God, and it gets ever more interesting from then on (finally!). The second half sort of redeems the first, but it comes too late.

    Look, Matt D. may get arrogant too, and people get really mad at him for yelling and cutting them off; but he is more successful as a debater and a communicator because he engages the callers directly with more questions, more frequently. Jen Peeples takes a totally different approach to this: she is ALWAYS considerate of callers, is a brilliant debater and engaging conversationalist. WWJD (What Would Jen Do?) is a good question to ask when warming up for the next show.

  69. Monocle Smile says

    scourge99, you are dangerously close to concern trolling. It’s very rare that you encounter atheists who dismiss theists “out of hand.” Theists are generally dismissed because their arguments suck.

    I’d really, really like to hear the arguments from these theists you claim argue from valid epistemology. If you’re referring to hacks like William Lane Craig, he presents perhaps VALID syllogisms, but not SOUND ones. I’m looking for an argument that is both valid AND sound.

  70. Monocle Smile says

    Oh, tone trolling. You will never get old.

    Allowing woo-obsessed callers to ramble is not productive. Nipping those things in the bud before you disappear down the rabbit hole is how the show stays on topic. I don’t get what’s so “interesting” about people blathering on when they’re clearly wrong right off the bat. The hosts care about truth. The viewers mostly care about truth. Thus, when a caller starts off wrong about stuff (ESPECIALLY when it’s clear they’re not only wrong, but have close to no grasp of the subject), it’s best to correct them right then and there. You might have interest in wrong things for whatever reason, but most of the audience does not.

    Furthermore, these “arrogant” accusations are pretty hilarious when you consider the callers. It’s difficult to even hold a conversation with a great deal of the people who call in without seeming condescending.

  71. irishgypsy says

    Actually if you watch the end of the aftershow the physic guy that Martin is referring to in that call actually corrects Martins assumption that he was disagreeing with the caller, and states that he only disagreed with one thing she said. I dont see how anyone can assume that she had no grasp on what she was talking about.

  72. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Hear hear! I’m pretty sure that the christian god does not exist, but if someone changed my mind and convinced me that it did exist, then I would not worship it. If I learned anything from Stargate SG-1, it’s that the proper reply to evil gods is not subservience and worship, but to nuke them. Oh – what’s that you say, that the god is all powerful? The goa’uld said the same thing before we blew their ass up. The Ori said the same thing too, although in their defense they were a quite bit harder to kill, being all “ascended to a higher plane of existence” and all.

    I think it was Matt who once said that the only kind of theist god he would want to exist is this one: Imagine dying and going to heaven. There you meet an obvious stoner. “Ah shoot. I forgot all about you guys! Earth, right? […] Wait, they said what about me? Blah! Well, the party is still going on. Come on in.”

  73. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Yes, the box office numbers do lie. Thor 2 was a miserable excuse of a movie, and this is from someone who usually likes such things.

  74. Chris Meinersmann says

    So you’ve heard the frase ” nobody is perfect”
    and lets say there is such a thing as a “nobody”
    according to this logic the nobody is perfect.
    now lets say that is the equation for perfection.
    here is my example it is bracketed because it no other variables that are used
    If was to replace the person with an object I would use thing

    Nothing is perfect

    a nothing is perfect

    Now lets go further with this logic
    according to “Biblical Inerrancy” the bible is perfect
    but the bible is a thing with out a “no” to make it perfect
    so to make the bible perfect it must have no added to descriptive noun
    so add it in to the equation of perfection and we get

    no-bible is perfect

    and the bible is a thing
    so A=C
    A(Bible according to “Biblical Inerrancy” )=B(no-bible)=C(nothing)
    it is a direct relationship
    perfection increase imperfections
    the perfection =0

  75. Narf says

    I’ve seen worse. If you go in expecting The Avengers, you’ll be sorely disappointed. If you go in expecting a mindless action movie with lots of pretty visuals, it isn’t as bad.

    Loki is still a very fun character. It’s worth seeing just for him, although you may want to wait for Netflix or something.

  76. says

    If that’s true then that would mean that O’Reilly is not only a bigot but a hypocrite and coward as well. He can’t even be honest about himself unless it’s advantageous or convenient. Talk about being two faced.

  77. says

    I totally agree with you Raymond it would appear that these x-ians have the same set of standards that their god has. It’s perfectly find if someone who they believe is beneath their god’s contempt is going to be tormented and tortured for all eternity as long as it’s not themselves or others who they show preference for.. Another thing to note is that they still haven’t established the existence of their god. If I had a choice that these buffet theists have it certainly wouldn’t be the x-tian’s god. My knowledge of this god would prevent me from ever trusting him. If god were to be responsible for this universe then he would be guilty of negligence.

  78. Mixo Lydian says

    Monocle Smile,

    OK sure, I’ll let go of my accusation of arrogance. However, arrogance aside, I don’t think viewers want rambling on either side. To get to the truth that you say viewers want, I would argue that we need more focused, civil debates and fewer verbal wrestling smackdowns.

    In the first half, there were more cut-offs than a Daisy Duke retrospective! In the second half, the hosts settled into a more thoughtful and respectful response. The callers of the second half were not measurably more deluded than those in the first—I think it’s more about the hosts taking time to calm down and get into the zone of the show.

    If we atheists want to engage the religious in productive discourse about the truth, then to paraphrase Kipling, we will have to keep our heads about us while all those around us are losing theirs.


  79. chris lowe says

    I’ve neither watched, nor care to watch either movie, but judging the trailer I’d say Thor had a better sense of humour than Yaweh.

  80. Monocle Smile says

    Actually, it’s evident in the past that viewers typically think the hosts are too passive and allow wrong-footed callers too much leeway. You’re more alone than you think in this endeavor.

    The calls always start civilly. But if you’re going to lie on the show or go on tangents full of falsehoods, then you don’t get afforded respect. And I’m on board with that…contempt is DESERVED in some instances and pulling punches communicates the message that said bullshit is acceptable.

  81. Narf says

    I never said he wasn’t evil. He just isn’t actually as stupid as the persona he presents on his show, if people like Silverman are right..

  82. Narf says

    I never said Loki is nice. He’s an evil, twisted fuck. He’s also a fairly complicated character, though, played by a wonderful character-actor. Well-written villains are often more interesting than the heroes we’re supposed to be rooting for.

  83. Narf says

    I tend to fall on that side, myself. Normally, I only start getting frustrated when the hosts let a Christian go too long, stringing together bullshit assertion after bullshit assertion, without interrupting and asking the Christian to justify what he just said.

    When your argument fails at Premise #1, there’s no reason to go beyond that.

  84. Mixo Lydian says

    Look, I’m new to this community and trying to understand its norms. You seem like a reasonable person who posts here a lot; from a sociogrammatic perspective, few have ever argued against you, so you must be a leader of the community. So I’d like to direct a question to you as an apparent insider.

    Explicitly, TAE is “geared at a non-atheist audience,” but what is the implicit purpose? I mean, is the drive behind the show really more of an intervention to get the faithful to question their beliefs; more about giving atheists a tribe where they fit in and justify their lack of belief as distinguished from the religious Other; or both? Where along the spectrum from religious zealot debunkery to atheist group therapy is the show targeted?

    If the former, I get the sense that the hosts would be hard-pressed to effectively convince the deeply religious using the tone that the show usually uses (do they?). If the latter, I rarely hear the kind of sensitivity that it would take to thoughtfully support a formerly religious, budding atheist, who is coming out to their family/community, or facing life challenges such as stressors or depression for the first time without a religious community. (For me it’s been more like atheist therapy, jes’ sayin’.)

    I don’t think this thread is tone trolling (thank you for teaching me the term) because I am not making an ad hominem attack in order to prove any kind of point about the argument itself. Rather, I’m questioning the tone of the show to point out areas where I think it could be made more effective at communicating its message to broader audiences.

    Thank you for taking the time to consider this. Any insight you can lend on this matter would be appreciated.


  85. Monocle Smile says

    Ha, I’m no leader of the community. Just an average joe. Well, sort of.

    Go to the ACA website and check out their mission statement. That should clarify a few things. They stand for the promotion of positive atheism and the separation of church and state.

    Have you ever watched or heard a call with an atheist who recently lost his faith? I don’t think you’ll be upset about “sensitivity” (whatever that’s supposed to mean in this context) after one of those. It’s almost all grown adults calling in; kid gloves are unwarranted. Those who struggle with depression should seek help from trained professionals, not religious advisors or random atheists. This is part of the hazard of religion…it offers woo instead of real solutions to life’s problems.

    You’re right; convincing the CALLERS THEMSELVES is difficult and usually doesn’t happen. But the show isn’t for the callers. It’s for the third party listening in. Matt Dillahunty has talked often about the emails he gets from people who deconvert all the time.

  86. houndentenor says

    First of all…love the name. Music nerds unite!

    I don’t think it’s possible to find the perfect balance on a show like this. If the hosts let every caller finish many will run through a gish gallop of nonsense and then they’ll have to back track to the first point. It’s common for theists to assume something (usually presuppositional apologetics or the cosmological argument) and then base a bunch of statements on those premises. I am in favor of cutting them off as soon as they say something that has to be addressed. it’s also not rude to cut someone off on YOUR show or even to hang up on them.

    Side note: this system’s spell check does not recognize either presuppositional or apologetics as words. Curious.

  87. houndentenor says

    About a decade or so ago, I engaged in a long series of rather heated exchanges online with a fundamentalist Christian fellow opera singer. I sometimes felt bad about being rather frustrated with some of her unfounded assertions. At some point she started questioning all her beliefs and not only is she today more liberal than I am, she actually realized she was an atheist while I was still sitting on the fence on that one. I can’t take credit for any of that. She was engaging with me (and others) because she was trying to convince herself that she believed what she said she did. (At least that’s my interpretation.) I just happened to be the person willing to engage her through that. I think many of the theist callers are like that. Yes, a few actually think that they have the logical argument that’s going to convince the atheist once and for all that they are wrong. (My well educated theist friends on the other hand would never call TAE because they know there is no logical proof for what they believe.) But some callers I think are not so much trying to convince the hosts, but trying to convince themselves. That’s why they work so hard and get so frustrated. As someone who deconverted I know how hard it is to let go of the belief in belief. Sometimes I get a strong suspicion that they are wear I was about 12 years ago trying hard to convince themselves that some part of what they believed for so long had to be true. The show does people like that a great service, not only being there and providing an exchange but by not letting theist callers get away with the bullshit that is accepted in theist circles. Keep up the good work. Theists don’t need people holding their hands and telling them that their irrational beliefs make sense. They need people (like the hosts who are a lot better at doing that on the spot than I would be) challenging them, sometimes before the first sentence is out of their mouths. That may not be nice, but as Stephen Sondheim tells us in Into the Woods, “Nice is different than good.”

  88. says

    @ Narf,

    And I’m not implying that you ever said that.. The point that I’m making is that if someone presents themselves as knowing the truth when they don’t or if they’re playing ignorant, they’re still a hypocrit because they are pretending to be something they are not. They’re being deceptive and convoluted in a nefarious manner. A person cannot be objective and unreasonably biased at the same time. However I do agree with you that he is evil, just in a different way he presents himself.

  89. Narf says

    Sure, O’Reilly is a hypocrite and is evil. He’s probably an atheist who is capitalizing on conning the gullible conservatives with his religious facade, since he’s discovered that he can make much more money that way than he ever could as an honest reporter.

    I’m not so sure about WLC. He seems genuine to me. I think he’s really some well-meaning idiot who has learned just enough about philosophy to sound good to people who know nothing about it, and then he has somehow twisted his mind up into a pretzel to the point that he was able to convince himself that his presupposition of God is rational and fits in perfectly with philosophy.

    O’Reilly is intelligent, I believe. I think WLC is a moron, despite all of his education.

  90. Narf says

    Sure, O’Reilly is a hypocrite and is evil. He’s probably an atheist who is capitalizing on conning the gullible conservatives with his religious facade, since he’s discovered that he can make much more money that way than he ever could as an honest reporter.

    I’m not so sure about WLC. He seems genuine to me. I think he’s really some well-meaning idiot who has learned just enough about philosophy to sound good to people who know nothing about it, and then he has somehow twisted his mind up into a pretzel to the point that he was able to convince himself that his presupposition of God is rational and fits in perfectly with philosophy.

    O’Reilly is intelligent, I believe. I think WLC is a moron, despite all of his education.