Open thread on episode #868

A very enjoyable show today, I thought, and always nice to be back in the cohost’s chair. As for the YT channel running behind, yes, I know, sorry everyone. But I am already underway in getting caught up — stuff is uploading as I type this — and the plan is to be completely current once more within a few days at most.

Here are the two G+ hangouts I mentioned partaking in last week.

Atheist Analysis:

A Debate Show Without an Interesting Name:

Update: To discuss the debate between Matt Dillahunty and Sye Ten Bruggencate, please go here.


  1. Hope says

    I’m glad that the pastor called back. So his reasoning for being a Christian is that he had a dream about Jesus? That’s… just about the worst justification I’ve ever heard. Even as personal experience goes, that’s just not anywhere near a decent justification. I’ve had dreams where I had supernatural powers, and when I woke up I felt really energized and full of good feelings, but that doesn’t mean I think I have those powers. Heck, I’ve even had a dream or two featuring Jesus. Doesn’t mean that he’s really a deity. It’s a DREAM. On the plus side, I think he realizes that this is really weak sauce. He doesn’t even bring it up to fellow Christians. I think there’s hope for him yet.

  2. Hope says

    On another topic (doing it as a separate post so we don’t mix subjects), I was at Matt’s debate with Sye yesterday, and it was even worse than I thought it would be. I can’t even explain. I knew it would be a shitshow, but it was about 100 times worse than my imaginings. Just totally brutal. Sye was super hostile and his answers to some of the audience questions were not only laughable and frustrating, but at times disturbing. There weren’t many Christians there, but even many of THEM were disgusted with Sye, especially his condescending tone and ad hominem attacks against Matt and others. When the video comes out (it’ll be on The Thinking Atheist ASAP), you MUST watch it. I’ve never seen anything like it.

    I talked to Matt afterwards, and apparently there was some assholery going on after the debate where Sye refused to take a picture with Sarah Moorehead, who organized the entire event, because he didn’t get 100% of his way with the format of the debate and the camera setup. That, in addition to the debate itself, caused Matt to publicly swear off debating Sye or any other presup again, which I think is justified. I honestly don’t understand how he made it through one debate without screaming in frustration. He did the debate, exposed Sye’s bullshittery for what it is, and the point is made. I applaud him for making it through, and I think he’s done his duty to its fullest extent.

    After the debate, there was a livecast of Dogma Debate, featuring Dave Silverman and Sarah Moorehead in the first segment and Eric Hovind and Sye in the second. It’s almost as much of a shitshow as the debate itself. They even managed to get David Smalley, who gave a talk before the debate about how to respectfully debate Christians, completely pissed off. I would recommend that you listen to it after you see the debate so you can get the full context, but I can’t blame you if you can’t wait! (

    I wouldn’t even know where to start with a full summary of what happened, so if anyone has questions, feel free to fire them at me. And when the debate video comes out, see if you can spot me asking Sye a question during the Q&A, and the sympathetic smile and shrug Matt gave me while Sye was delivering his non-answer. 🙂

  3. says

    Yeah, I had a feeling it would be less a debate (because in no way is Sye a professional debater, or even trained at an academic level in forensic debate to begin with) than an exercise in pure cartoon violence, but it’s sounding like it was even worse than anyone was anticipating. And in typical Dunning-Kruger fashion, Sye is utterly oblivious as to what a gibbering, offensive fool he came across to everyone in the room, and is, I am sure, crowing of his great victory.

  4. Monocle Smile says

    That’s the thing about Bruggencate…besides his horrific apologetics style, bad arguments, and inability to debate properly, he’s just a flat-out asshole. He doesn’t even attempt to mask this, either.

  5. Hope says

    Exactly. From what I understand, part of his beef with Sarah was that he wanted the debate to be entirely informal, but it ended up being about 30% formal (poor him, he only got 70% of what he wanted). There were formal opening statements and rebuttals, followed by 40 minutes of barely-structured back and forth, a long audience Q&A, and very short formal closing statements. I can totally see why he wanted that, as he spent the majority of his intro using out of context clips of Matt to attempt to pin him down as a hard solipsist and use that as “reasoning” for why no one should take anything he says seriously (in classic presup style, no attempt to actually give evidence or reasoning that belief in god in reasonable, the topic of the debate), gave up much of his rebuttal time on the basis that Matt first needed to demonstrate how he could know anything (of course) and Why should we trust a solipsist?!, and spent his conclusion literally preaching.

    There were several points when most of the audience was laughing at his absurdity (mostly Dave Silverman in the front row!), and he just smugly told everyone to laugh all they want. So I think he was aware that he was offensive and ridiculous, but he probably took it as evidence that what he’s saying is getting to people. Which is true in a sense, just noooooot quite in the way he wanted.

  6. adamah says

    Yeah, the Jesus dream is weak, esp considering the guy admitted to being under stress at the time, with his life in crisis as HE WAS IN JAIL! OF COURSE he’s going to be subconsciously processing and sorting out his dilemma in dreams….

    Speaking of dreams, a few years ago I experienced an episode of sleep paralysis, and was semi-awake at the time (I was camping, sleeping in a tent). It felt as if my body was being scanned presumably by aliens using a powerful beam of energy which immobilized me. It was a weird experience, for sure, and I’d be probably be one of those types who rants about alien-abduction if I hadn’t known what was happening.


  7. Ruben Laane says

    Actually that’s good thing as more people will see through his bullshit.
    Like Matt says: the best way to convert a christian to atheism is to make him/her read the bible.
    If that stupid behaviour is the best that Sye can do people will be appalled with him and I think you said as much.
    And it’s good that Matt went to this abuse, because he can use this as an example of what this is what atheists are up against. So the more abusive Sye was the faster and deeper he was digging his own grave and I hope Matt was just thinking: Keep digging Sye, keep digging, I just need to endure less than a couple of hours and you will be in your own grave. Just stay decent and not let myself get provoked.
    Remember that Matt wasn’t at that debate for Sye, but for others that may finally start to think about the idiots they are following!

  8. says

    I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to stomach it. Even just listening to something like casual Christian radio, and I’m yelling at it, trying to hit a hold button.

    I’m not a fan of letting an apologist go unchallenged for 15-20 minutes at a time.. they should be stopped the instant they say something incorrect.

  9. JT Rager says

    I listened to the segment. Hilarious and frustrating.

    Favorite parts:

    Sye says something to the effect of “I never said atheists agreed with me that god exists! They just know that god exists”

    Sye thinks that EVERYONE believes in his personal god, and challenges himself and Dave Silverman to take a polygraph test. An audience member says they aren’t reliable (and not used in a court setting), and Sye accuses them of finding ways out of actually doing it.

    Sye, in stating why he didn’t take a picture with Sarah Morehead even though he took one with Matt, says he doesn’t take photos with liars. Which is funny, since according to his worldview, ALL atheists are liars because they believe in his god.

    Sye states that the god he believes in isn’t a loving god, because that’s not in scripture.

    Sye asserts that you have free will where your future is predetermined.

    My biggest kicker on the whole case is the following:

    Sye’s foundational argument is that everyone gets the same knowledge of the world revealed to them through revelation. In the after-show segment with Dogma Debate, he clarifies that he’s talking about “scripture”, and not voices talking to people or visions. Setting aside issues of Biblical inerrancy, he then talks about how remote tribes across the Earth know about his god via revelation (because EVERYONE, even babies, know that his god exists). How the fuck is that revelation via scripture possible to both tribespeople and babies???

    As a final note, he stated somewhere that he doesn’t debate anyone to convince anyone. He does it to profess the truth of his god. Getting points for Jesus I guess.

    There is absolutely no reasoning with him. Fuck him, fuck his dishonesty, fuck his assholery.

  10. Monocle Smile says

    Ironically (though unsurprisingly), Sye’s complained before about calling into AXP with the excuse that he didn’t think he’d be treated fairly.

    I’ve often wondered if Sye has something actually wrong with him, but I guess some people are just stupid assholes and there’s no deeper explanation.

  11. rodney says

    Where can I listen to this week’s episode? I’ve checked youtube, blip, and just googling it, but no luck so far.

  12. Hope says

    Setting aside issues of Biblical inerrancy, he then talks about how remote tribes across the Earth know about his god via revelation (because EVERYONE, even babies, know that his god exists). How the fuck is that revelation via scripture possible to both tribespeople and babies???

    During the debate, Matt brought up a tribe of people who apparently had no god concept whatsoever until they were introduced to it by outsiders. He asked Sye to explain how this is possible if everyone knows that God exists. Sye’s response was, and I quote, “I deny that.” He refused to believe that that even happened and basically asserted that the sociologists who studied that tribe made the whole thing up.

    What a logical guy. If the evidence contradicts my absurd claims, just blatantly ignore the evidence!

    That is a great point, thought… If revelation is through scripture, how the hell can people who don’t have the scripture and/or aren’t able to understand it (because they’re BABIES) know that God exists? Is it some kind of weird holy spirit thing? This smacks to me of the people who believe that everyone should know that God exists because we have trees and stars and cool shit like that, and it’s OBVIOUSLY evidence of God’s glory.

  13. Hope says

    He hinted at that a bit during the debate. He said he was glad to do the debate because Matt wouldn’t be able to hang up on him.

    He definitely has many of the traits of narcissistic personality disorder, I can tell you that.

  14. Hope says

    And I think it worked! Some of the Christians at the debate challenged Sye on his arrogance and asked him whether he actually thought he was being respectful and acting like Jesus would. At one point during the Q&A, Sye asserted that he would not discuss the Bible with non-believers (even though according to him, there’s no such thing as a non-believer… Plus, how would he know if the person who asked the question was an atheist or not?), and someone in the audience shouted, “JESUS WOULD!” The crowd went wild. 🙂

  15. Hope says

    OH YEAH. “Your free choices are pre-determined.”

    What the fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck.

  16. adamah says

    Sye says something to the effect of “I never said atheists agreed with me that god exists! They just know that god exists”

    Don’t you just LUV it when someone TELLS YOU what you believe, deep-down inside? As if they’re omniscient, KNOWING what everyone else believes?

    Who knew God bestowed the gift of mind-reading on some of his children? 🙂

    Funny thing is, you don’t need the cover of God’s word to engage in that kind of thing, since such arrogance is not the exclusive domain of theists, eg we’ve seen recent examples here of some telling others what their opinions are, or what their intent actually was (where’s that rollie eyes emoticon?).

    Obnoxious assholery, whatever the cause, since it should be obvious that until someone invents a brain-scanning lie-detector device, it’s impossible to know what someone else actually believes (even IF the person themselves actually knows, as obviously self-delusion exists; we’re assuming they have reached a conclusion and are intentionally being deceitful to others).

    At least Sye can point to the Bible as his excuse (blame?), since it encourages (if not commands) believers to be dogmatic assholes!

    Sye’s likely referring to the words of Paul from Romans 1:20, saying everyone KNOWS God exists since the evidence is all around us in His creation; hence we’re all without excuse.

    Paul was using the ‘argument from apparent design’ fallacy, which actually had some merit in the 1st cent CE; however, it’s effectively been dismantled by subsequent scientific advancement and knowledge, esp after Darwin’s ideas emerged to offer a more-detailed explanation besides ‘God Dun It’!

    So Sye is playing the ‘appeal to authority’ fallacy (Bible claiming to be Divinely-inspired), which is related to the ‘appeal to tradition’ fallacy (propagation of errors). Millions of people CAN be wrong, and we’re wrong in the past (eg flat earth, egocentrism, etc).

    I suppose someone could play his game, countering with accusation that deep-down, Sye KNOWS God DOESN’T exist, or else why would he be trying so hard to justify His existence?

    Pointless, though, since as I said above, it’s impossible to know what someone truly believes. But it might be worthwhile to point out that him (and Paul) claiming it as possible is a wild over-reach.

    Ruben said-

    Like Matt says: the best way to convert a christian to atheism is to make him/her read the bible

    Unfortunately, simply reading the Bible doesn’t cut it for many: one has to think critically, reading the Bible with a critical eye. Few believers want to dismantle their beliefs, since they WANT to believe it’s the inspired word of God.

    Remember that Matt wasn’t at that debate for Sye, but for others that may finnaly start to think about the idiots they are following!

    Unfortunately, believers who actually read the Bible will find many built-in faith-protecting mechanisms contained inside, with scriptures warning them not to be stumbled by the flaws and short-comings of other believers (including their pastors, dismissed as false prophets, etc).

    Such passages are in the Bible in response to battles for control occurring within early Xianity between gnostic and orthodox factions, and are even found in the OT, too, since human nature hasn’t changed.

    Hence despite the examples of hypocrites like Pastor Ted Haggard, Xianity survives. Such ‘bad seeds’ are spun as a test of believers’ faith.

    In other words, eviscerating the foolish arguments of Sye will do nothing, since there’s 10 wanna-be Xian warriors willing to sacrifice their intellect on the altar to God and in the name of Christ.

    If Xianity wasn’t such a devious mechanism of control, I’d almost be tempted to describe it as “slick”, since theology certainly is time-tested and well-honed, based on an deep understanding of human nature.


  17. says

    Yeah, that was ridiculous. I remember dreams that I had as a child vividly, that doesn’t mean that the things in those dreams were ever true. The irrationality is strong in this one.

  18. says

    I wish I could say I was surprised, but if Matt had gone and looked at any of Sye’s other debates, he should have known what would happen because that’s how ALL of Sye’s debates go. Sye is a complete ass and I’d think that Matt’s experience with Matt Slick would have prepared him for the inherent dishonesty that presups use at every turn. Of course, now Sye is probably out there declaring himself victorious.

  19. rodney says

    Thanks, good show. I really wish Matt had been on the button when that guy snarled, “let me finish a frickin’ sentence(or words like that).”

  20. Hope says

    I’m sure Matt did look up his other debates, considering he had a pre-written rebuttal, and it was actually perfect. Sye’s arguments are so predictable that Matt didn’t even have to wait until the debate to prepare a rebuttal, and it addressed everything in Sye’s introduction!

    But yeah, Matt knew what he was getting into. Now that the deed is done and he has successfully exposed presups for what they are, he has stated that he will no longer debate Sye or anyone of his kind. I agree with that move. Just once to expose the bullshit… Any more will just be giving them a platform. And there’s no point in debating someone who refuses to give evidence or even arguments to back up their claims and spends most of the debate in word games.

  21. Muz says

    Well don’t forget that we all believe in god because there’s no alternative but to do so, woven as it is into the fabric of all things. It’s “logical”. The fact that there is even logic at all proves this.
    So we already believe in order to have anything resembling the consciousness and logic to have the conversation, and then later it is revealed which god it is. …I guess. Which is jesus and all of that too.
    Presumably all the other god concepts were logical too, but jesus is just the most logical…or something.

    I haven’t seen it yet, but maybe the insanity of trying the tie and untie this gordian knot all the time has driven him mad finally. Although frankly I think what made Sye maddest of all was not having Eric there next to him to go “Yeah! What he said!” and little else.

  22. Hope says

    Presumably all the other god concepts were logical too, but jesus is just the most logical…or something.

    Thing is, he doesn’t even offer ANY arguments for why Yahweh/Jesus is the right god. I asked him how he gets from nebulous power that makes truth/reason/knowledge/physical laws possible (just granting him that for the sake of argument), to a god, to Yahweh in particular. His answer was basically, “Because that’s the way it is.” If it had been anyone else, I would have tried to follow up, but I knew beforehand that I was going to get an answer like that. Can’t really expect much else from a presup.

    Someone else asked him, “If there’s a Muslim saying he has divine revelation from Allah and you saying you have divine revelation from the Christian god, how do I know who to believe?” His answer was that the Koran is obviously wrong because it says the Bible is corrupted. How does THAT make any fucking sense in anywhere other than Presup World?

    It turned out that Hovind was in the audience the whole time. I didn’t know that until it was announced after the debate that he was there and would be on the Dogma Debate livecast.

  23. adamah says

    To the theist caller from TX who was talking about the power of prayer:

    He was attempting to offer a layman’s psychological mechanism by which the ‘placebo effect’ operates, so he’s confusing an explanation of the mechanism with the actual effect itself. For his purposes, they are the same.

    The point he seems to have missed is the term ‘placebo’ is primarily used to describe the effect of a MEDICINE to offer a resolution of symptoms; it’s generally not used within a theological context to refer to the power of belief in a deity. It’s referring to giving a patient sugar pills and told they’ll help alleviate the pain (leading them to assume it’s actually an opioid, analgesic, etc). It’s unethical for a provider to lie to patients.

    If theists truly understood what the term ‘placebo effect’ implied in regards to prayer, they should be offended.

    A popular urban legend circulating in the media recently says that recent studies indicate the placebo effect manifests EVEN IF the patient knows it’s only a placebo they’re being given. As the following article explains, it’s largely the result of junk/bunk science:


  24. adamah says

    “His answer was basically, “Because that’s the way it is.”

    Holy Hell, how childish. He’s leaving out two words, “Because I SAY that’s the way it is.”

    You’ve got to be kidding, as NO ONE could be so stupid and childish as to expect a bald-faced ‘appeal to authority’ to carry any water with anyone except their kids, right?

  25. adamah says

    Yeah, memories are quite labile, eg many people will confuse childhood dreams with their actual childhood memories, such that the two can become inseparably intertwined.

  26. ChaosS says

    I just listened to the Dogma Debate posted by hope – the first time I ever listed to Sye after reading so much about him, and wow.

    Yeah that guy’s got some issues.

    OK, what can I be Absolutely Certain of ?

    Yeah pretty much all I got is Cognito Ergo Sum.

    But, I can be reasonably certain about a whole slew of things thanks to the work of scientists and researchers who have a great track record with being right about stuff.

    I don’t need to be absolutely certain that my alarm will ring, car will start, sun will rise, etc… to have a great deal of confidence in them. And if one of these things fails to happen, there is a place for it in my worldview so I wouldn’t have to have an existential crisis on the spot.

    You won’t admit that you are wrong.

    You are Absolutely Certain about things you read in Iron Age literature… and I fail to be impressed.

  27. JT Rager says

    I felt really silly thinking about it afterwards, because it’s SO OBVIOUS! But yes, both Sye and Eric were adamant that it was scripture, and not voices talking to them or feelings they were imbued with. I really want to know the answer to what they would say now. It’s too late now for me anyway, but it would have been really cool to hear David ask press them on that. I don’t blame anyone for not thinking of it.

  28. adamah says

    You chittin’ us, right? What word was too much for your brain to handle? Lemme guess: was it ‘labile’?

    Ok, for the sake of Matt then, I’ll try to avoid posting words greater than six letters long…



  29. Hope says

    Matt addressed that quite a bit in the debate, but Sye just wouldn’t take “reasonable certainty” for an answer. For him, unless you absolutely 120% know something, you might as well have never heard or thought of it. Even after Matt explained this, Sye kept going on about how Matt doesn’t know anything, he just believes things. Everything is so black and white with him.

  30. Hope says

    You better believe it, because once the video comes out, you will quit your foolish doubting! 😉

  31. Matt Gerrans says

    I am absolutely certain that I can’t be absolutely certain about anything.

    Actually, speaking of uncertainty, what exactly is the difference between “Notify me of followup comments via e-mail” and “Notify me of follow-up comments by email?” Besides the difference in dashes and the word “via” vs. the word “by,” of course…

  32. Hope says


    (I don’t know. 🙁 )

  33. says

    The Dogma Debate live chat with Sye and Eric was excruciatingly painful – but… getting two people who claim to have divine revelation from scripture to admit they they disagree is quite a win.

  34. ChaosS says

    The one bright spot in that show was the guy who said he believed in the Force and said to Sye “…and you do too.”, that was pretty funny.

  35. says

    I know that I’m annoyed by you is a pretty good response to Sye’s bullshit.

    I imagine a 10yr old Sye learning about the burden of proof and having his tiny little mind blown….

  36. adamah says

    Simon said-

    I imagine a 10yr old Sye learning about the burden of proof and having his tiny little mind blown….

    It was amusing watching the video of Eric Hovind debating Thunderfoot, Eric being unable to grasp the concept of what an ‘assumption’ is, and why it’s necessary to employ to move onto getting things done (rather than wasting time on fruitless searches for certainties, or as Romans 11 says, “assured expectations of things hoped for”).

    It was amusing until Eric repeatedly failed to grasp it, and it started to become pathetic….

  37. Hope says

    Oh man, I loved that. “No no no no no, it’s just peripheral stuff.” So you DON’T really have divine revelation?! That, or god is intentionally fucking with you?

  38. xscd says

    Good looking beard and moustache, Martin.

    It was interesting hearing an ex-Muslim caller who left his faith. Humans have created so many religions and gods that we now consider quaint, archaic, silly and superstitious (like the Greek, Roman and Egyptian gods and religious beliefs) which are now extinct. I can’t help but feel that both Christianity and Islam will join them and people will feel that same way about them at some point in the future.

    Christians and Muslims may not realize that as wrong as each religion seems to the other, both seem equally as wrong to many of the rest of us.

  39. says

    So the caller Brian introduces himself as the pastor of a small church and then about 20 minutes into the discussion says he’s not really studied up on the theology he ascribes to nor the history behind it. Does this seem odd to anyone else?

  40. says

    I’m still highly dubious he’s actually a pastor (I have never encountered any pastor unwilling to represent his church), but a lot of small church pastors could very easily never have gone to seminary.

  41. Matt Gerrans says

    Here’s what I don’t understand, Sye and Eric do this stuff where they say “IF there was a god, then COULD he (of course, not she) reveal stuff to me in a way I could be certain?” And then immediately jump to claiming that that you admitted there IS a god and He DOES reveal magical nonsense. They jump from “theoretically” possible or imaginable to “it is so.” It is also “possible” that the universe is ruled by the FSM or IPU, or the force or whatever. Lots of crazy ideas are “theoretically possible” or cannot be disproved, but we don’t jump from possible even to plausible much less “it is so.”

    By the way, I think Sye in a previous debate offered the lie that his way of knowing that he could be certain about was extra-scriptural, but here he seems to be claiming it is in the scripture. If he found it in the scripture, why doesn’t he show us where in that huge steaming pile of contradictions and non-sequiturs he found it.

  42. Monocle Smile says

    Just finished the whole show. You’re right; that guy doesn’t actually understand what “placebo effect” really means. Prayer can serve as a form of meditation, and that’s pretty much it. Also, that guy kind of turned into a dick at the end.

    I lift weights, and when I’m going heavy, it’s better if I lift angry. Some lifters use ammonia; I just try to imagine some dickhead’s stupid face or some issue that I’m upset about and let the hate flow through me. Nothing is actually pissing me off at the moment, but the anger does increase adrenaline. Placebo effects can be excellent, but let’s not confuse them for what they are not.

  43. adamah says

    Matt said-

    Here’s what I don’t understand, Sye and Eric do this stuff where they say “IF there was a god, then COULD he (of course, not she) reveal stuff to me in a way I could be certain?” And then immediately jump to claiming that that you admitted there IS a god and He DOES reveal magical nonsense.

    The way to reduce that is to cut him off at pass, asking before proceeding if he’s having doubts of God’s existence by asking “IF”; ie get him to admit it’s a tentative premise, only, temporarily accepted for the sake of discussion.

    Rephrased, take it the other direction to force him to admit it’s not an admission, but a hypothesis, a tentative ‘thought experiment’.

    I’m not sure Xians even do that kind of thing consciously: that kind of shape- and position-shifting comes so easily, perhaps such foggy-brained slimy rhetorical methods are an example of God’s Holy Spirit at work? 🙂

    For a predominately Xian audience, I’d agree (as you said above) that it might be more effective to stay on “their territory” and within the domain of Xian theology (rather than going to philosophy), pointing out some of the more glaring doctrinal contradictions: let the Bible argue with itself, chasing its own tail (and here’s where an ex-minister can have some real fun, making use of that theological training to open minds).

    To Paul’s claim that everyone already KNOWS God exists, ask why the Bible repeatedly says that FAITH (defined as the ability to believe in the absense of evidence, or even in SPITE of the presentation of disconfirmatory evidence) is a gift from God, granted to some select humans by way of God’s grace?

    For if everyone already truly believes in God deep-down inside, then what’s the need for FAITH?

    If they don’t actually know their own theology, let them chew on that one, sputtering out some impotent and non-sequitorial response (point it out, too)….

    If the Xian actually understands the history of their own doctrine, they’ll respond by saying faith is needed, NOT to believe in God, but faith is needed to believe JESUS is the Messianic mediator offering the path to salvation.

    Thus faith gives the ability to believe in the promise of salvation offered via JESUS, where faith is said to be granted as a ‘gift’ from God.

    HOWEVER, the catch-22 arises if God selectively decides whom he’ll grant the “gift” of faith to, a required prerequisite for the “free gift” of salvation; thus Jesus is not doing the judging work (separating the sheeps from the goats), but God makes the ultimate determination who gets saved or not, giving out faith as a proxy for salvation.

    (As an aside, the Greek word used in Hebrews 11 to describe faith is ‘hypostasis’, carrying the literal meaning of a “title deed”, a physical document one shows to others to prove their right to gain possession (in this case, the hope of salvation). Hence, the idea was that one’s works demonstrate their internal faith, where showing works supports the expectation of salvation).

    The broader picture is if someone has such a low-demand for proof that they accept the existence of God before seeing evidence, then it’s hardly a challenge to accept the additional hypothesis that Jesus is the son of God and has been authorized by God to offer salvation to humanity (with God still in control, deciding who get the golden ticket of “faith”).

    Accepting the 2nd premise is a tiptoe thru the tulips if you’ve already overcome the larger hurdle of accepting the 1st (believing in God) without proof. So it’s basically a doctrine that self-selects for the gullible, and has built-in defensive measures to protect such gullibility.

    Bottom line is NT theology was primarily targeted to a very-specific audience: 1st century Jews, who already accepted the existence of YHWH (having been indoctrinated to believe in God from birth, living in a culture where to deny the existence of God was a death-penalty offense).

    Already accepting YHWH’s existence, these potential Jewish converts needed a bit-more convincing that Jesus was the prophesied messiah, NOT just for Jews, but also for Gentiles (esp when they’d seen a series of failed would-be Jewish messiah claimants, and it ended poorly for all of them, including Jesus). Converting gentiles wasn’t as much of a challenge, since they believed in Gods and were attracted to this exotic syncretic religion out of the East; it’s the Jewish audience who were more challenging, esp since they faced repercussions of being shunned by their Jewish families, being persecuted by the Jewish community as falling into false worship, in addition to being martyred by their Roman overlords.

    And despite such ‘early adopters’ like Paul (a Hellenistic Jew who persecuted Xians, until a miraculous roadside conversion to Xianity), for Jews to become Xians would truly require a LOT of faith (and that’s NOT a compliment, since I see ‘faith’ as a synonym for ‘gullibility’).

    BTW, if I didn’t say it before, great job on the show, Martin and Russell! It was very entertaining and civil (Russell earned bonus points for having the decency to apologize to one caller).


  44. adamah says

    Thanks for posting, and I must say it’s not as bad as I was expecting… Instead of not debating presupps again, Matt should do more: his common sense approach contrasts with Sye’s irrationality to leave Matt the clear winner.

    In discussing the pony-tailed atheists he saw at the Reason Rally, Sye says God hands some people over to their errant beliefs when they subconsciously suppress the truth of God’s existence? Hmmm, can you say “blame the victim”?

    At 52:00, Sye exposed weakness when said he recently learned the original Hebrew of the scripture says, “the fool says in their heart, “no God for me”.

    The obvious question should’ve been, why the change? Was Sye’s prior understanding, and that of millennia other followers who’ve used that passage as an insult incorrect?

    And if such translation errors are KNOWN to exist, ask Sye if he’s fluent in ancient Hebrew, Aramaic (the language of Jesus), and Greek? Clearly God’s revelation isn’t working to obtain originally-intended meaning of Bible passages, to get closer to the original message of the words.

    Futhermore, why do ANY doctrinal position changes occur over time, if God reveals absolute truths to humans? Shouldn’t God’s will be revealed perfectly by now, so 2 millennia later?

    That’s the problem with claiming to possess of absolute truths and certainty: ONE EXAMPLE to the contrary, let alone the track record of such theological changes, easily refutes that argument.


  45. deesse23 says

    The epitome of pricelessness was Matt asking Bruggencate TWICE IN A ROW “how d´ya know?”
    Sye:”You just said that”
    Matt: “How d´ya know?”
    Sye:”I just HEARED you say it!”
    Matt (cool as a cucumber)”: “Well, how do you know?”
    SO priceless.

    Second one was -near the end of this bruggenslaughter….erm..debate-:
    Matt:”How you you know my wife is NOT a prostitute?”

    Third at 36:00: “And as to wether or not we can know anything….the only demonstration i can give is: i wrote this rebuttal ahead of time”. Thinking about it, maybe THIS was the best actually.

    I am close to worshipping Matt for his razor sharp intellect and wit! (worshipping with reason and evidence of course)

  46. Hope says

    Sorry, posted this in the wrong place. Meant to put it in the thread below me. 🙁

  47. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Sye asserts that you have free will where your future is predetermined.

    That actually is a reasonable position. See: compatibilism.

  48. Monocle Smile says

    I disagree about doing this more. Presuppositional apologetics doesn’t have much of a pedestal anyway, and after this debate, Matt clearly demonstrated that they don’t deserve any share of the pulpit. The other Christians in the room were disgusted, even. Debates should not be a waste of time.

  49. says

    Actually, Matt said that he hadn’t when he was talking about the upcoming debate on TAE. Hopefully he did before the debate, but honestly, if he had, he should have known that it was pointless to debate him in the first place, just like Bill Nye should have known that debating Ken Ham was a pointless waste of time. Matt exposed presups when he debated Matt Slick on TAE, Sye is the same nonsense, just less intelligent.

    Of course, I’m sure Sye is out there declaring victory, just like Ken Ham did, even after he was horribly beaten in public. Theists have a painfully convenient memory.

  50. Muz says


    You can hear from the intro that Sye is pushing that knowledge of ultimate reality thing right away. That ‘ultimate’ bit is the most fascinating, to me.
    It’s addressed many ways, but it still has a certain amount of rhetorical power. So much of philosophy has been that search for absolute answers, yet the fact of the searching seems less important than the notion that absolutes must be there whether we know them or not. That’s why pointing out uncertainty still has that certain kick if you want to criticise all kinds of things (science, for instance)
    I tend to think the pre sup argument and other similar ones like the anthropic principles etc will stay somewhat potent until people see the procedural side of life and thought more. And it’s not wholly relativistic to say life’s procedural either. Change and incompleteness does not imply instability

  51. says

    Regarding the pastor’s discussion about how his dream was convincing to him, but he acknowledges that it wouldn’t be good evidence to someone else…

    There’s a basic rule of thumb. If the evidence is not sufficient to convince someone else, it shouldn’t be sufficient evidence to convince you. If the evidence too poor quality to convince others… it’s too poor quality.

  52. Matt Gerrans says

    Yeah that “how do you know” sequence was nearly perfect. The only thing that would improve it slightly would be to have made the last one “how do you know you just heard that?” for Sye’s benefit, since he was too damned dense to realize when he was being pawned.

  53. Matt Gerrans says

    Now you tell us! Too bad existing messages can’t be moved from one thread to another…

  54. Ruben Laane says

    Are you saying Matt is not a diety?????? Because I am pretty certain HE is!!!

  55. Matt Gerrans says

    Normally, I would prefer informal debates, too. With guys like William Lane Craig, it is very annoying to listen to them drone on for 30 minutes solid of equivocations and every other sort of fallacy without pause.

    However in the case of Sye, he just wants to be able to interrupt continually with his idiotic little “do you know that is absolutely true” kind of nonsense, so the more formal debate format shows what an insipid dolt he really is.

  56. aj says

    The sound quality on some of these calls is appalling. Please ask them to hold the mouthpiece further from their mouth or speak at a greatly reduced volume.

  57. says

    On the subject of “the placebo effect,” I believe, if memory serves that there was a The Cochrane Collaboration report (meta analysis) on the placebo effect that showed that the claims about it are exaggerated.

  58. says

    Tony made a great point about Islam. I too have noticed that many people who are also Islamic and from the Middle East seem to buy into conspiracy theories.

  59. Edward Howton says

    Brian was a pretty good call, but it’s sad to see how so very shoddy his thinking is. He’s asked why he believes in god, and he gives a vivid dream as a reason. Sure, great, he doesn’t preach it because he knows how silly it is to use that as an argument, but on the other hand, he uses it as an argument to convince himself and it works.

    Then he gives that story about the stranded man in a boat refusing help. Again, it’s one of those post-hoc stories made up by people who already believe to try to slip nonsense under the door disguised as meaningful.
    In the (stupid) story, everything that happens is directed by God, which means the man is stranded in the boat for the express purpose of God sending three other boats to rescue him only so the man can refuse help and eventually die so that God can slap him in the face. And that’s ignoring the fact that in the story the people who go to the rescue are having their free will violated by God in order to do something they might not have otherwise done; I.E. gotten into a boat and gone out to rescue the stranded idiot.

    I add that last part because, if you think about it, if they didn’t have their free will violated by God then they would’ve been out there anyway, so God would be taking credit for something he didn’t actually do.

    Like I said, it’s a really stupid story, and it’s sad Brian uses it to push his beliefs onto others. It’s only made worse by the fact that he backs into it by saying the equivalent of “Here’s a really terrible example I wouldn’t use”. Why not use a good example, Brian? Why not break out the big guns and create an unassailable argument instead?

    And of course, we all know why already: you don’t have good examples. You can’t possibly have any, because if you did you’d be using them, we’d have heard them, and there wouldn’t be any atheists or even non-christians in the world anymore.

    Think harder, Brian. You’re nice and all, but it’s disappointing how little you’ve analyzed your own position.

  60. Cyrus Draegur says

    Regarding Christian from Cedar Park…


    Now, the line of work within which I have the most experience requires me to know what someone’s trying to say even when they don’t know how to phrase it.


    (customer service is a bitch, especially when you’re one of those rare individuals who actually try to do a good job and make the devastating mistake of actually giving a crap…)


    That said, wow, that guy totally sucked at spitting it out and you guys sadly missed the boat on understanding what he was actually trying to say! O_O;


    I’m sorry if that sounds harsh, but it’s not to make you feel bad! Rather, it’s hopefully going to help you be aware of it in the future and possibly experiment with corrective action. It’s a really hard skill to teach and I only managed to figure it out through blunt trial and error.


    Anyways, the non-mystical, non-placebo benefit to which Christian was referring was external perspective.


    When he was saying “the mindset you have when you’re talking to an omnipotent being that you can’t hide anything from,” he wasn’t talking about “positive vibes that make me feel better about myself,” but RATHER the praying individual’s mind spitting out ERROR: MODULE WHITELIES.BIN HAS ENCOUNTERED A PROBLEM AND NEEDS TO CLOSE.


    I need to paraphrase this:


    Step 1: Bobby starts praying.
    Step 2: Bobby consciously forms an opinion that he cannot lie to his “god”.
    Step 3: Bobby subconsciously loses the ability to sustain any delusions other than his “god”.
    Step 4: Bobby admits his faults to “god” without reservation,
    Step 5: Bobby accidentally accepts his own faults.


    It turns out, Bobby’s “god” was just a surrogate for himself.


    This is the kind of insight one alternatively could get from writing a journal or meditating in silence, provided one is already a mature individual who understands one’s own shortcomings, can accept one’s flaws, and ask oneself really hard questions, to which one can answer honestly.


    The problem is THAT IS REALLY FREAKING HARD FOR A LOT OF PEOPLE! I highly encourage that everyone learn how to do that without having to depend on a mental sock puppet, but Christian was right about one thing: being able to look at yourself honestly, being able to stop deluding yourself for a little while, is extremely important to being a healthy person!


    I’m an atheist, but I personally find it easier to use a sock puppet of my own ANYWAY, while fully understanding that it is, indeed, a sock puppet. I’m a brony, and I got the idea of writing letters to Princess Celestia from the cartoon My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Every so often when I have a lot on my mind, I’ll sit down and compose a letter, pretending I’m writing to the winged unicorn goddess responsible for raising the sun because a) it’s fun, b) she’s adorable and c) it *really does* make the whole prospect of loosening up and swallowing some difficult truths a lot more palatable.


    Obviously I don’t think that Princess Celestia LITERALLY raises the sun. That’s absurd! It’s repugnant! It’s ridiculous! But who would pass up an opportunity to get free good vibes and warm fuzzy feels (which IS placebo!) while getting dirty up to your elbows in grappling with your concerns on an honest level (which is NOT placebo!)? Nobody I’d find interesting to chat with, that’s for sure!


    TL;DR: Christian from Cedar Park wasn’t talking about placebo good vibes from prayer; he was talking about getting a good hard look at yourself because you thought you were baring your all FOR JEEBUS.


    Good Hard Look At Oneself is a good thing, right?


    Or does What’s The Harm recommend self-absorbed obliviousness to personal fault? Because I wouldn’t expect so…


    But as stated above, you can get the benefit of that without prayer; it’s just that prayer can be good for that. Just like spoons aren’t great for steak, but can be pretty damn handy with ice cream, although a cone might be better.

  61. says

    I think Sye is just an obnoxious megalomaniac who is more concerned about people fearing his god even more so then admiring this superstitious deity. In other words fear over admiration.

  62. adamah says

    Sir Real said-

    God threatens us with harm and punishment according to the bible, so it’s not free will if it’s under duress.

    Yup. Sometimes believers will say God wanted humans to have free will so we wouldn’t have to love and worship Him, completely missing the utter irony that the Bible COMMANDS everyone to do both, in essence removing the decision from the domain of an exercise of free-will (it is properly labeled as ‘freedom of choice’).

    Same goes for Adam and Eves disobedience: when God prohibited eating under penalty of death, it was no longer a free-will decision, since they HAD to obey.


  63. Mikael N says

    I am not sure if anyone will read this anymore, but I think somewhat what Christian’s talking about might be about prayer having an effect other than placebo might be just letting go, your problem might be out of your hands and through prayer he’s found a way to make that conclusion. Letting go of a problem can surely by helpful, although he might have thought that the prayer was the cause of the relief, and not the effect, whereas we (meaning Atheists or maybe anyone that agrees with me) will say that the change of mind caused the relief.

  64. Billbo says

    Was not the dream guy who didn’t like being call “irrational” being completely irrational? If you are believing in things that cannot be shown through reason or logic then you are being irrational. I understand the hosts not calling him on it so as not to lose him right away. But if we are to be honest we must call things what they are, despite that someone’s feelings might get hurt. Why does that guy care if you call him “irrational” anyway? That is what I would have asked.