Open thread for episode #935: Tracie and John


Tracie and John take live calls from the ACA studio in the Freethought Library.

Comments

  1. says

    Following my phone call re “Defining Godhood”, here is some background material, less than 500 words. I hope you will read it even though I am not holding my breath; given how long you spent on the next call discussing ghosts.

    ———————————————————————————————————————————————————-
    Introduction to Secular Theology

    People are non-believers from birth and this until someone tells them about some “divine” bully. At that point, either they become atheists, in relation to “the” god, or get down on their knees to worship.

    True, when one is facing a real bully, especially a brutal one, one may not have any choice but force-submit. Think of the people who, among others, had to deal with the Romans, the Huns or the Mongols; either force-submit or be, thoroughly, annihilated.

    But, what about those people who can’t wait to self-submit, at the feet of bullies? Those who, seemingly, need to imagine the worst of the worst? And who, rather than wait to actually be confronted with the worst monsters, dragged from the deepest recesses of their worst nightmares, grovel, right now, as if this gratuitous gesture could, and would, earn them brownie points?

    What about those who believe that, if  they ever meet “their maker”, all those hours of worship will be taken into account? Not only might this, abject grovelling, temper the wrath of their “supposed Lord and Master’, it might actually qualify them for extraordinary rewards?

    And what about, if the bully, those pious churchgoers eventually face, is not the bully they so, fervently, worshipped? What if the bully they worshipped… doesn’t care? Or turns out to be the Wizard of Oz?

    What then?

    Personally, I would rather start, this quest, by “Defining Godhood”. At the very least, I would try to make sure that I am not like the man who went out to buy tomatoes and came back with turnips; simply because he didn’t have the foggiest notion of what tomatoes were. I certainly would not want to settle for the turnips, instead of tomatoes, simply because I did not know either.

    And, insofar as I am dealing with the concept of God, I would declare myself a Secular Theist. A hard core, non-believer, intent on using the Definition of Godhood, in dealing with the concept of god, the same way scientists dealt with… the Higgs Boson.

    In other words, rather than willingly get down on my knees, to show that I am less than I can be, and strive to prove that I can be even less than what I have become, I would stand up, on my own two feet, full height, and would demand be counted as a self-motivated, first-class and full-fledged Human Being.

    Then and only then, using the Definition of Godhood, would I set out to find God.

    Guy Rocheleau
    http://autocracyincorporated.net/

    grocheleau255@yahoo.ca

    ———————————————————————————————————————————————————-Next>
    Defining Godhood

    Why do we listen to all those claiming to believe in god? And why are we supposed to accept, so blindly, any of those gods?

    Is it because we are missing a proper Definition of Godhood? And, if that is the case, how can we get one?

    As a practical experiment, let’s stack two sheets of paper on top of each other. Simple, can be done by anyone and, just as anyone, we can leave the top sheet blank.

    To carry out the experiment, we simply turn to the second sheet and, just as anyone else can, we write the word GOD. Then, as the next step in the experiment, and as anyone has to, we ask: “What does it mean?”

    Here, because the word is not our own, and because we only have definitions of gods, we decide to sift through all of them to try and find labels common to all gods. Even if only to set a standard of godhood precise enough to insure that only real gods will qualify as worthy candidates.

    First, we notice that God, the Concept, claims to be ultimate. Stripped of all artistic licence, it claims, or is claimed, to be ultimate. After all who would want to be, or be the champion of, a less than ultimate god?

    Second, we notice that God, the Concept, also has, or is said to have, authority. After all, without having authority, how can, ultimate, define a proper candidate for godhood?

    And third, we find that God, the Concept, also has, or is said to have, choice. Stated another way, how can God, the Concept, ultimate, authority, be God, the Concept, ultimate, authority, without choice?

    In other words, we find that all definitions of God, the Concept, can each be listed as a proper definition of God, the Concept, if and only if they include, or are said to include, at least, three linked labels: ultimate, authority and choice.

    Here we could conclude the experiment. And have a greater measure of confidence when we meet both believers and atheists. If god doesn’t exist why do we talk about god. And if we have the word god, against the background of godhood, why insist on the need to believe instead of simply testing?

    But, in sifting through all definitions of gods, we were also told about demigods, “lesser” gods. Gods, who may have the proper three features of godhood: ultimate, authority, choice. But who nevertheless are, or are said to be, somehow, lesser than other gods.

    How can that be? Should we pretend that we don’t need to salvage so-called lesser gods? Or, should we, instead, dare to push a little further? And see what gives?
    In the first part of the experiment, we wanted to set the bar high enough to make sure that any proposed gods really are gods. Now we need to test actual definitions of all those gods. And because we need to test those definitions, we are stuck with the artistic licence, the faith or even the reason of those who propose their candidate.

    Here, to say the least, we have wide ranging definitions. We have definitions of gods who rule the sky, gods who rule the sea, gods who are faster, gods who are stronger. We have definitions of gods about everything and gods who claim to rule everything. Not only do we have definitions of gods pre-empting the claims of other gods, we also have gods outbidding the claims of other gods. We even have definitions of gods “borrowing” the claims of other gods.

    But will we ever be able to escape the master-slave mentality if we accept definitions of so-called “lesser gods” as valid justifications of inequality rather than as noteworthy differences? Should we actually celebrate those gods who regard others as inferior rather than those gods who embrace the dynamic productivity that can only be found in differences?

    In our experiment, we defined godhood to, at least, include three linked labels: ultimate, authority and choice. We also included so-called ”lesser gods” because we find that different gods may very well be gods with worthwhile differences rather than abject inequalities.

    Now we find that, in relation to any choice, all the gods have to choose. In relation to any choice, either they choose to choose, they choose not to chose or they choose to let someone else choose for them. That whatever their choice, in relation to any choice, they are not free to escape the responsibility of their Sovereignty.

    That their “Free Will” is subjected to the burden of their Sovereign Will.

    How then do gods react to being forced to choose, without being asked? To the linked labels of ultimate, authority and choice, do we now have to add: rebellion? And if that is the case, don’t we also have to add: reason?

    Guy Rocheleau
    http://autocracyincorporated.net/
grocheleau255@yahoo.ca

    ———————————————————————————————————————————————————-Next>
    The Moral Code of Sovereign Beings

    Given

    • That in relation to any choice, Sovereign Beings either choose to choose, choose not to chose or choose to let someone else choose for them.
    • That, regardless of their choice, in relation to any choice, Sovereign Beings are not free to escape the responsibility of their Sovereign Will.
    • That a Moral Code, should be written as the ideal guide for the conduct of all Sovereign Beings toward each others.
    ⁃ That is toward anyone, anywhere, anytime, and this under any circumstances.

    Then,

    • In order to be mindful of the Sovereign Will of Other Sovereign Beings.
    ⁃ I do not initiate violence nor do I intend to do so.
    ⁃ I do not associate with those who initiate violence or those who intend to do so.
    ⁃ Nor do I associate with those who stand by anyone who either initiates violence or intends to do so.
    ⁃ Instead, I offer to negotiate mutually profitable transactions.
    ⁃ And, in the meantime, I prepare to retaliate in kind; with interests.

    On this basis,

    • I may claim to be a Moral Being insofar as I try to be Good and Just.
    ⁃ Good, because my actions are good examples of the Moral Code.
    ⁃ Just, because my actions are accurate examples of the Moral Code.
    • And, insofar as I am Good and Just.
    ⁃ I certainly aim to have Rights, Legitimate Claims that define, in the full amount and the proper currency, the price required, to have been paid, in the context of the Moral Code.
    ⁃ And I certainly aim to make sure that no vote, or any amount of votes, by any Sovereign Being, or group of Sovereign Beings, that is no Sovereign Choice whatsoever is to be understood as any sort of mortgage on the soul of Other Sovereign Beings.

    This said,

    • I do leave room for the possibility of a truce, I do offer to compare notes, even if only to let others know where I stand.

    Guy Rocheleau
    http://autocracyincorporated.net/
    grocheleau255@yahoo.ca

    ———————————————————————————————————————————————————-

    Thank you
    Guy Rocheleau

  2. Monocle Smile says

    @Guy
    That was a wall of mostly garbage. I don’t see any semblance of a point in there.
    “Secular theist” is almost an oxymoron. I’m not sure why you’re so obsessed with gods and obsess over writing “god” on a piece of paper. The nature of your website is rather…enlightening.

  3. Monocle Smile says

    @Guy
    I guess I just find it curious that you’d put so much effort into that screed when clearly loads of theists won’t agree with you. And during your call, you said that the discussion about defining god didn’t need to happen…and then you and the hosts had a discussion about defining god. I don’t really think you came away understanding what’s going on.

  4. Wiggle Puppy says

    I don’t understand what the point of all this is. Actual conversations never go like this. The gods of a Hindu are different from the god of a Muslim. The god of a Muslim is different from the god of a Catholic. The god of a Catholic is different from the god of a Baptist. The god of a Baptist who believes in a vengeful god is different from the god of a Baptist who believes in a more loving god. If you don’t believe in a god, what’s the point in in providing such a detailed definition of something that you don’t believe in and that probably doesn’t map to anything that anyone else believes in? It’s kind of like inventing a bunch of imaginary creatures and then providing an argument for which one of them would win in a fight. It seems kind of pointless, and it’s not even really that interesting either. I’d rather talk about what people actually believe

  5. Eric Seipel says

    @Guy I think the problem Tracie was having was that (and any one can correct me) your definition of a thing that may or may not exist, that has never scientifically proven through a repeatable experiment, that may only exist in someone’s head can not be defined like a fruit. In fact people cant even deal with things definitions when they are in their hands, tell some one your favorite fruit is tomato… some may get it, I think a few may argue with you that a tomato is a vegetable… then try explaining a peanut is not a nut. Just because there is a technical definition of an object doesn’t mean people use it in the correct way every day. Now, realizing people cant even handle the definition of tangible things, how do you plan on defining someone’s idea that lives in their head? Just look at the etymology of the word define, it goes against what I’ve heard a lot of people say about their god.

  6. Aula says

    @Guy
    “First, we notice that God, the Concept, claims to be ultimate. Stripped of all artistic licence, it claims, or is claimed, to be ultimate. After all who would want to be, or be the champion of, a less than ultimate god?”
    What of all the legends where various gods fail, are defeated, die or the gods whom are gods of limited scope or are gods of a type of failure?

    “Second, we notice that God, the Concept, also has, or is said to have, authority. After all, without having authority, how can, ultimate, define a proper candidate for godhood?”
    Authority: The power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience.
    This trait is common to almost every form of life. It hardly seems a quality worthy of defining a god.

    “And third, we find that God, the Concept, also has, or is said to have, choice. Stated another way, how can God, the Concept, ultimate, authority, be God, the Concept, ultimate, authority, without choice?”
    I will site my argument above nearly all living things seem to have some choice in how they live their lives.

    For a much better example of a god I would look to Aron Ra’s definition, a magical, anthropomorphic, immortal. These three traits are at least 99% (for margin of error) of all gods.

  7. San Fran Disco says

    @Guy, you really seem to have missed Tracie and John’s overall points: most atheists arrive at their position in a really simple way. And it goes like this: ‘You’re a theist? Ok, show me your definition, your evidence and your argument. Whoops, that argument is not sound. Goodbye.’

    It’s so easy to go about our business like that. Fully accepting the theist’s definitions ALLOWS you to fully reject their argument once it fails to meet the burden of proof.

    If you just ram through, with your definition of ‘godhood’ which the Catholic doesn’t even believe in, you don’t even connect and the chance to reject the Catholic’s argument in detail goes away if you keep trying to insist on your definition of godhood over theirs (instead of just deflating theirs on their own terms).

  8. Bugmaster says

    @Guy:
    I can’t find the video with your call in it (maybe it hadn’t been uploaded yet ?), so I don’t have the background information that should accompany your comment. Maybe this is why I find it almost entirely incomprehensible. That said, as far as I can tell, you’re trying to work out a moral code for super-powerful beings, such as gods. I think this is an interesting topic, from a philosophical point of view — especially since it appears to be applicable to ordinary beings as well (such as, for example, ourselves).

    My problem with your approach, though, is that I don’t see any evidence in the world that would lead me to believe that super-powered beings of any kind actually exist; this includes gods, Matrix Lords, Kami, aliens, etc. Thus, I don’t see the point in framing the discussion in terms of “Secular Theism”. On the other hand, if you wanted to talk about ethics as it applies to everyone (including ordinary humans), I think I’d be a lot more interested.

    Naturally, no one died and made me the Atheist Pope, the above is just my own personal opinion.

  9. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    First, we notice that God, the Concept, claims to be ultimate. Stripped of all artistic licence, it claims, or is claimed, to be ultimate. After all who would want to be, or be the champion of, a less than ultimate god?

    Not all gods. Basically, almost any description of a god outside of the modern Abrahamic traditions. Even in earlier Jewish traditions, there is existing evidence that there were other gods and demons that were not wholly subservient to the big god.

    In your language, plenty of other religions have no “god” character, and all of the magical characters are mere demi-gods using your terminology, but they are called “gods” in the associated religious writing. Ex: Odin, Zeus.

    Whenever I engage with most religious people, I can replace the word “god” with “extremely powerful creature (that may or may not have been responsible for the big bang / existence of spacetime) (that may or may not be immaterial and/or outside of conventional spacetime)”. That working definition seems to work out pretty well for most believers – except pantheists.

    Second, we notice that God, the Concept, also has, or is said to have, authority. After all, without having authority, how can, ultimate, define a proper candidate for godhood?

    I’m not sure if you’re appealing to moral realism or not. Moral realism is wrong. Authority is a human construct. It’s a social construct. There is no such thing as objectively having authority as an innate property. Rather, authority is a description of certain states of affairs of interactions between two or more people. In other words, it’s a cultural construct. Just like morality.

    (PS: Having said that, I am going to make the world into a better place, and “tough” if you get in my way, and in extreme cases I am willing to use violence against you to make the world into a better place, but I generally prefer to work through the rule of law – for obvious reasons.)

    So, you are totally not clear on this point.

    Now we find that, in relation to any choice, all the gods have to choose. In relation to any choice, either they choose to choose, they choose not to chose or they choose to let someone else choose for them. That whatever their choice, in relation to any choice, they are not free to escape the responsibility of their Sovereignty.

    That their “Free Will” is subjected to the burden of their Sovereign Will.

    How then do gods react to being forced to choose, without being asked? To the linked labels of ultimate, authority and choice, do we now have to add: rebellion? And if that is the case, don’t we also have to add: reason?

    Mostly lost me. I think what you’re trying to say is wrong. I think you need to read up on determinism, and I strongly suggest the related works of Dan Dennett.

    PPS:
    As others have said, you’re assuming a lot of philosophy and references that are not in evidence from the mere content of your post. My guess is that watching the episode will not help much (but it might). Your thoughts are sometimes very unclear. I’m not really sure what point you’re trying to make.

  10. says

    Re: Guy
     
    He was well meaning it seems to me. I read a bit of his comment, which rehashed much of the stuff on his blog if you followed the URL. Of the call I have this to say: as with some theist apologists, there are sometimes atheists suffering from word salad syndrome too!
     
    Guy’s focus on this ill-conceived concept of “Definition of Godhood” appears to me to be a symptom of a pathology of thinking. But hey, most of us are just amateur thinkers anyhow!

  11. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Ack, I meant to say compatibilism. I think Guy needs to read up on compatibilism, and especially the related works of Dan Dennett.

  12. says

    @Guy:

    > Following my phone call re “Defining Godhood”, here is some background material, less than 500 words. I hope you will read it even though I am not holding my breath; given how long you spent on the next call discussing ghosts.

    Wow, really? We spent an inordinate amount of time on your call, and only were able to take other callers by going over our time slot by more than half an hour. I ended your call when it became obvious to me that the nature of your topic was not going to be something we could resolve on the air in the time remaining on the program. If you want feedback for a complex idea, such as what you are describing, “on the air” is not the best venue for long-term, in-depth discussion. Here at our blog, even if the hosts aren’t able to read and consider your thoughts—you will get a great deal of feedback from the other readers/commenters. When I ended the call it was not to dismiss you, but to direct you to a better forum for discussion on your topic. And as you can see, above, you’re already getting feedback from folks who have read your post. I did you a favor by ending the call. It wasn’t a mere dismissal.

    Like others, I’m not sure what “secular theology” could entail, since it is and has been believers in gods who have defined the concepts. Without theists, this dialog would not ever have taken place, and would not be taking place today. The reason it is necessary to define a god is to examine the validity of the concept. And without believers in that concept, what is the point? In other words—there is a reason we so hotly debate the controversial topic of the existence of gods, rather than doing so for the existence of fairies. Unless someone is holding that fairies are real and trying to promote that in the public dialog in some way—we have no need to even consider the concept. It makes no difference to anyone how tall a fairy is or whether there is one supreme fairy or what fairies would like for humankind. But if someone began to promote them as real, and if the idea caught on, there would be more and more discussion and more and more concern over whether these fairies, in fact, exist. And that could only be examined by asking those who promote the reality of fairies “What is it you’re calling a fairy?” I couldn’t come to them and assert what they mean by it and try and force them to adopt my view of what is/is not a fairy. In the case of gods, we have a plethora of historic reference to god concepts and many modern concepts—nearly none of which can be classified as “the same.” God A and B may have attributes XYZ in common and attributes QRS as differences. But God C may have none of XYZ, but have Q and R in common with God B. In the end, we have a very flexible definition for “god”—and there may be some concepts that are more/less in line with more popular ideas, and there will be a fuzzy line around the label, and then things nearly all of us agree fall outside. Matt has used the concept of “healthy” to describe this framework. That is, a person dying of cancer is generally not what we would consider “healthy.” And then we have people in peak physical condition that we all view as healthy. But between those two points there will be some debate. What if I have great health metrics, but am diabetic and require daily insulin to control my condition? Is that healthy or unhealthy? You are trying to use a framework for something like a “tomato”—but that’s FAR too cut-and-dry to apply to a conceptual item, like a “god.” The very reason we have such dispute about what the nature of a god actually *is*, is because we don’t have something to point to—like a tomato. It is conceptual, like ‘healthy.’ And we need to keep the dialog within apples-to-apples here, in order to treat it fairly, as well as productively from a pragmatic standpoint. This is something you did not seem to be able to understand during the call as you kept going back to very concrete examples with hard/fast references in reality. God concepts cannot be treated that way because we do not have this sort of historical nor universal modern acceptance of this concept.

    > People are non-believers from birth and this until someone tells them about some “divine” bully.

    How is it then that this concept ever arose? Who told humankind about gods if we can’t come to this concept without being taught this concept from someone else?

    While I reject we are theists from a young age, it is true we do assign agency to objects as children. And this appears, at least, to be a viable explanation for how people, around the globe, have managed to develop concepts of gods that are unrelated, and yet somehow similar in a supernatural nature.

    Additionally, not all accepted concepts of god are bullies. The deistic god would be a prime example. So, all of your content on this “bully” concept can be tossed, because it fails to account for non-bully gods.

    Then you go back to your tomato example. I have addressed this above, and we discussed this on our call. You can’t use a concrete object we can observe, test, examine, and *define* on that level, as a metaphor or similar item/issue to the idea of “god.” We have no god to examine, and this is precisely WHY we have the myriad descriptions of gods today and in the past. If we could point to a god and say “you’re calling it eternal, but it clearly has a shelf life”—we could then narrow down the definition, but we would also all have to be theists in that case, because we’d have an existent god with which to compare the competing claims. We do not have that, and so it isn’t at all like a “tomato.” I am not able to point to a god and tell someone “you’re wrong about your claim that god is eternal,” in the way I can point to all of the research on tomatoes and tell someone “that’s not an attribute of a tomato.”

    “Secular Theist”

    Then you believe a god exists. This already biases you. You have your own concept of the god or gods you believe exist. You believe there actually is a referent in reality—and that means we have something to compare the claims against. Unless you can produce it, then your claims of what constitutes a god are no more valid than any other theist’s claims.

    > A hard core, non-believer

    This is a logical impossibility.

    Theist: “Theism, in the field of comparative religion, is the belief that at least one deity exists.”

    You cannot be both a theist and a non-believer.

    > Why do we listen to all those claiming to believe in god?

    Because it is their claims we are reacting to. Until someone promotes a concept of an existent god, there is nothing to assert does not exist. Nothing to examine, and nothing to respond to. If I use my own definition of god, then I’m not addressing the actual theistic claim, I’m strawmanning the claim the theist is making and addressing my own concept of god. And in the end, I’m having a very unproductive conversation with myself in which I’ve dismissed the actual claims I’m pretending to respond to.

    > Here, because the word is not our own, and because we only have definitions of gods, we decide to sift through all of them to try and find labels common to all gods.

    And here is where you’ll encounter problems. As noted above, it’s possible for God A and God C to have NOTHING in common, but for God A and God B to have commonalities, and God B and God C to share commonalities also. To say that there are attributes that are common to *all* gods is to misunderstand that this does not have to be the case. God A may be a being that created the universe and will judge humankind in an afterlife. God B may rule over a particular area of the world and judge his/her adherents after death, and heal the sick miraculously. God C may not be a judge of humankind at all, but may be a god of miraculous healing and medical cures with limited capacity only in that field. He has nothing in common with God A, but something in common with God B. The fact that God A and God C have no commonalities does not mean one of them cannot be considered as a legitimate god concept. In fact, it would be common to find healers paying tribute to God C. God D might have created the universe and have no further interaction with humankind whatsoever, and demand no worship. Some gods may have beginnings—just as Zeus began to exist at his birth. Some gods may be said to have no beginnings. This does not preclude them either from being a valid god concept.

    > to insure that only real gods will qualify as worthy candidates.

    As a nonbeliever, I do not accept there are “real gods.” This has not been determined. If it had, then we wouldn’t be having all these different concepts. The way to nail this down is not to dictate to others what constitutes a god, but to point to and examine the “real gods” to see what attributes they have and do not have. We aren’t able to do this—I believe, because we have no real gods to examine. This means we are enslaved to the concepts, which are the creations of believers, not nonbelievers. You may not LIKE the reality that we can only respond to the claims of believers, but reality is not required to conform to our preferences. This is very like when theists tell us all the reasons they don’t have, and can’t supply evidence. At the end of the day, the fact they have none is still the reality, and it’s still their problem, not mine. You can explain to me all day the problem with trying to respond to the myriad concepts, but that doesn’t change the fact that these concepts still exist and still play a role in humankind’s existence both historically and in the modern age. It may be a hassle, but it’s also a fact.

    > Second, we notice that God, the Concept, also has, or is said to have, authority.

    It depends on what you mean. The deist god created the universe to self-govern. That god concept does not govern things. Do you mean to say that the fact of creation and being the being that put the laws of nature into play is a type of “authority”? That’s about the only argument for the authority of a deist god, I can imagine you’re making.

    > And third, we find that God, the Concept, also has, or is said to have, choice.

    Some god concepts have choices. But some people do not view god as something with cognitive capacity, but as pure energy without personality or agency. When you say it is “said to have, choice,” you are simply asserting that some believers in some gods assert that their gods make choices. But then you ignore believers in other gods who do not believe in a concept of god that can even think. How have you determined that theists who believe in a cognitive god are correct, and those who promote a god of energy are incorrect? Based on what? Where is your evidence to support which party is right about their claims regarding the attributes of gods?

    > we find that all definitions of God, the Concept, can each be listed as a proper definition of God

    Actually, no, we do not. And this is the problem. You are trying to separate valid attributes of gods from invalid ones, but you’re simply arbitrarily rejecting some commonly held, historically demonstrated concepts of god that are broadly accepted, and asserting that other attributes are, according to you(?), valid. Quo Warranto?

    > ultimate, authority and choice.

    Ultimate in what sense? Many gods in history have been restricted to regions or particular areas of life. Gods of art, gods of love, gods of healing, gods of Egypt. Do we just rewrite the entire history of how gods have been defined? Again, Quo Warranto? How have you determined that these aren’t aligned to “real gods”?

    > Here we could conclude the experiment. And have a greater measure of confidence when we meet both believers and atheists.

    No, you’ll start talking to a believer, and after a bit, they’ll tell you “But that’s not what I believe a god actually is.” And then what? You tell them that their god is not a god? If a believer says that their god cannot defy logical realities (cannot make a rock so heavy that god could not lift it)—a very common modern apologetic position—that this god isn’t a “real god”—since it’s not ultimate and lacks authority over logic? That’s a great many Christian god concepts you just trashed—based on WHAT? What did you compare their claims to, in order to determine gods cannot be limited by logic?

    > If god doesn’t exist why do we talk about god.

    Because there are a great many believers that promote the concepts in ways that directly interfere with the rights and capacities of others. If believers went about their business unnoticed and not harming anyone or anything else, we wouldn’t likely be creating movements to counter theistic agendas. This would become much less of a dialog, far less of an issue, and The Atheist Experience wouldn’t likely have ever been created.

    > And if we have the word god, against the background of godhood, why insist on the need to believe instead of simply testing?

    This is precisely why we instruct callers to “tell us what you believe and why you believe it.” They lay out what they’re claiming as “true”—and we examine their claim.

    >But, in sifting through all definitions of gods, we were also told about demigods, “lesser” gods. Gods, who may have the proper three features of godhood: ultimate, authority, choice. But who nevertheless are, or are said to be, somehow, lesser than other gods.
    >How can that be?

    It’s irrelevant “how” it can be. It only matters that, in fact, it is. Again, this is the reality of the concept of “god.” And to correct you, Apollo was not considered a demi god, he was a “god.” Hercules was a demi-god. Apollo was not a minor deity—he was part of a pantheon of gods, all of whom shared power.

    “Demigod: A demigod (or demi-god) is a divine or supernatural being in classical mythology. The term has been used in various ways at different times and can refer to a figure who has attained divine status after death, a minor deity, or a mortal who is the offspring of a godand a human.”

    By your definition, every god in history until we hit monotheistic religions, can’t be called a “god.” Again—Quo Warranto?

    > In the first part of the experiment, we wanted to set the bar high enough to make sure that any proposed gods really are gods.

    Demonstrate to me that any god is a “real god.” Again—you’re using a meaningless term here. If we had real gods to examine, this wouldn’t be necessary. The problem is that nobody can produce a real god. And until someone does—we can’t simply dismiss common concepts of gods, historically and modern, as “not real gods”—and tell other people that we’re redefining the word now, and their gods aren’t gods anymore. How do you expect to gain “buy in” for this—while you’re dismissing HUGE numbers of gods, both past and present?

    > Should we actually celebrate those gods who regard others as inferior rather than those gods who embrace the dynamic productivity that can only be found in differences?

    Again, you don’t get to redefine human history. Some gods had more power and authority than other gods. Some gods have no authority (depending on what you mean by authority). They aren’t just “different”—they ARE stronger/weaker according to how this word “god” has been used throughout human history. We even have tales of contests between the gods where some have won/lost.

    > In our experiment, we defined godhood to, at least, include three linked labels: ultimate, authority and choice.

    I have provided common exceptions above. So, I don’t accept your three baseline metrics yet.

    > because we find that different gods may very well be gods with worthwhile differences rather than abject inequalities.

    No, we don’t. Zeus could veto the other gods of the pantheon. He wasn’t just different—he was, in fact, more powerful, even while his realm included the sky and thunder in particular. He could be, on occasion, subverted, but the other gods didn’t openly defy him (and win).

    From the Wiki entry on Zeus: He was respected as an allfather who was chief of the gods[9] and assigned the others to their roles:[10] “Even the gods who are not his natural children address him as Father, and all the gods rise in his presence.”

    He was superior, not just different, and the actions of the other gods demonstrated their acceptance of his superior status.

    > Now we find that, in relation to any choice, all the gods have to choose.

    How do you reconcile this to the many theists who define their god as “energy”? This is a broadly held concept, not some weird obscure WBC idea held by a few dozen folks. In the New Age arena in particular, this is often cited as being a concept of god. How does this concept of god “choose” without cognitive capacity?

    > That whatever their choice, in relation to any choice, they are not free to escape the responsibility of their Sovereignty.

    The deist god, I suppose, could be said to have sovereignty as the one who created the laws of nature that govern the universe; but that god is said to have created the universe to self-govern. So, today, as that god plays no part in the affairs or running of the universe—how is it sovereign? Is the god “energy” sovereign? It would also encompass the laws of nature—but would have no cognitive capacity. It would have sovereignty in the same way gravity has sovereignty. Is that what we mean here?

    > That their “Free Will” is subjected to the burden of their Sovereign Will.

    Does the god concept “energy” have “free will”?

    > How then do gods react to being forced to choose, without being asked?

    You seem to be assuming personality and cognitive capacity. And not all god concepts come with this.

    To the morality of “sovereign beings”—You seem to be using “Sovereign Being” to mean any being capable of making decisions for itself, and not just ‘gods.’ This is highly problematic, as morality differs a great deal between different species. And concepts of divine morality are all over the map.

    When you say that “a Moral Code, should be written as the ideal guide for the conduct of all Sovereign Beings toward each others”—at first I suspected you meant gods toward other gods, and that would have played havoc with monotheistic god concepts. However, if we’re saying that there is some sort of ethic that governs all beings that are capable of moral capacity—again, we have a problem as other species are not always going to be onboard with human views of morality—and gods also will be problematic, as they will represent moral views of diverse cultures and histories. This is a potential quagmire from which no one is likely to emerge.

    > That is toward anyone, anywhere, anytime, and this under any circumstances.

    I tend to view morality as being more flexible than this. In other words, I’d say that if someone states that it’s always immoral to be deceitful, to anyone, anywhere at any time, they’re very wrong. Deceit is a tool that can be used for good or ill. Circumstances are not irrelevant, but actually required in evaluating a moral decision’s value as “right” or “wrong” action.

    > I do not initiate violence nor do I intend to do so.

    I’m having an impossible time following you here. First of all, this eliminates MOST god concepts on the planet, modern and historic. Next, as a human I can’t even agree that it’s never OK to initiate violence.

    But since the scope here is, or should be, kept to gods, you’ve just eliminated nearly ever god ever proposed.

    > And, in the meantime, I prepare to retaliate in kind; with interests.

    And this, to me, is immoral. This sounds more like revenge or vengeance, than justice and right action. An eye for an eye, is not exactly the pinnacle of human moral expression. And “take out my eye, and I’ll take out yours—and then some!” sounds like “excessive force.” I don’t subscribe to that as moral at all.

    Your moral code is proprietary, and not universally understood and accepted—by any means. So, again, how do you intend to gain buy-in by people who are diametrically opposed to your perspective—of whom there are many?

    In the end, however, if I assume this is part of your criteria for godhood (and if it’s not, why did you include it, as it’s a red herring?), then it’s a fail. If it’s not your criteria for godhood, I’m sorry I wasted time responding to this section at all. But you were utterly unclear about why this section was even included.

  13. corwyn says

    Guy sounds like he is trying to understand ‘aliens’ by reading science fiction. Until we encounter one, describing them is futile, and we are taking the word of people who have no more information than we do. Pointless. Even having a definition of ‘aliens’ or ‘gods’ won’t help me should I ever encounter one. I will need to deal with them de novo, preconceptions are likely to get me in trouble. Can you imagine what an actual compassionate god would think if you told them that you think they drowned the world once?

  14. Ruppert says

    About Kim Davis:
    I live in Germany(not a native speaker) and I am an atheist, however I am not sure if all the “internet atheists” treat Kim Davis fair. Please illuminate me if I am wrong. So here is my (fictitious) example:
    I work as a policeman for about 10 years. Someday a new law is adopted – all policemen are obligated to massage (sorry for a stupid example) every citizen who request a massage from me. Do I have to obey the law and massage people, although it was not a part of my job yesterday? Or can i say no, this is not something that I am signed to in my contract of employment? (End of the fictitious example).
    I would say that gay marriage legalization was BIG change in her job. Should everybody be forced to accept critical changes on their workplace?
    Am I seeing it wrong? What is wrong with my policeman example? What do you think?
    …Sorry for bad english…

  15. says

    Hi Ruppert:

    >I live in Germany(not a native speaker) and I am an atheist, however I am not sure if all the “internet atheists” treat Kim Davis fair. Please illuminate me if I am wrong. So here is my (fictitious) example.

    Thank you for the heads up.

    >I work as a policeman for about 10 years. Someday a new law is adopted – all policemen are obligated to massage (sorry for a stupid example) every citizen who request a massage from me. Do I have to obey the law and massage people, although it was not a part of my job yesterday? Or can i say no, this is not something that I am signed to in my contract of employment? (End of the fictitious example).

    First of all, the U.S. employment law allows for something called “religious accommodation.” This means that in general employers who can accommodate customers AND also absorb accommodating your religious freedoms, must do so. If your religious needs cannot be accommodated without causing hardship on your employer’s ability to serve customers, then you can be fired (or not hired, if you’re applying for a position).

    For more information: http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/wysk/workplace_religious_accommodation.cfm

    In the case of the U.S. government, it cannot discriminate, by law, without pressing cause.

    For more information: https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/amendmentxiv

    First of all, Kim Davis had to swear an oath in order to hold her office. That oath requires that she will support the Constitution of the United States and that of Kentucky (her state) and that she will faithfully execute, to the best of her ability, the office of *county clerk* (in her case) according to law.

    For more information: http://www.lrc.state.ky.us/legresou/constitu/228.htm

    The U.S. Law did not change. The courts merely judged whether or not it is/has been legal to deny marriage licenses to gay people, and it determined that it is NOT legal to do so. They didn’t make any new laws—they said laws forbidding gay marriage were not ever legal and need to be disregarded. The courts then have determined that the laws Kim Davis swore to uphold INCLUDE and have always included, the right of gay couples to be legally married. And now Kim Davis is saying she won’t abide by her oath, and she wishes to discriminate against gays by law, as an officer of the government court.

    Additionally, Davis did NOT just stop at refusing to issue licenses herself, but coerced her staff, using fear, to keep them from issuing the licenses as well—even if they were willing to do so. So, this wasn’t about her religious conscience—it was about forcing other people to do what she feels her religion dictates.

    For more information: http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2015/09/03/3698353/kim-daviss-deputies-reportedly-say-they-want-to-issue-marriage-licenses-but-are-too-afraid-of-davis/

    >I would say that gay marriage legalization was BIG change in her job.

    No, it wasn’t any change at all. The courts indicated that gay marriage should never have been ILLEGAL, per the constitution she swore to support.

    > Should everybody be forced to accept critical changes on their workplace?

    If you swear to defend the laws of the nation, and the courts say that Group-X cannot be discriminated against according to EXISTING laws—then your job did not change. You’ve just been instructed to obey the existing law and stop acting in a way that was never actually legal according to the Constitution. The fact that nobody challenged the legality of gay marriage does NOT mean it was legal to deny marriage licenses. This is important: We did NOT make gay marriage legal. We DID conclude that laws prohibiting gay marriage have always been illegal.

    >Am I seeing it wrong? What is wrong with my policeman example? What do you think?

    I hope the above helps.

  16. Wiggle Puppy says

    The policeman example isn’t valid. We recently had a law change (here in Atlanta, Georgia) that says that policemen are no longer supposed to issue a citation for possession of marijuana of less than an ounce; they’re now compelled to arrest the person. Arresting people and issuing citations is part of a policeman’s job description and this is just a change in the job procedure. Giving a massage isn’t and that would be a major change. Issuing marriage licenses is part of Kim Davis’s job, and she’s simply been instructed to go about the procedure in a different way.

  17. Mas says

    @Ruppert
    Kim Davis was “suddenly” ordered to hand over the same piece of paper to same-sex couples as she previously had to opposite-sex couples, How is that similar to being forced to perform massages on demand to anyone who requests them?
    Where is the “BIG change in her job”?

  18. favog says

    It only takes the barest skim of Guy’s quite-a-bit-more-than-500 words to know that any believer will just respond with “Well, that’s not the God I believe in”. That’s why you need to ask “what do you believe” before you can ask “why do you believe it” even though, as has been noted in shows past, the second question is the more important one. Otherwise, you aren’t even talking about the same thing, and it’s just a waste of everyone’s time.

  19. Bugmaster says

    I think the policeman example is pretty valid, and I do have some sympathy for people like Kim Davis. Let me alter the example a little to illustrate my point.

    Let’s say that our policeman’s job is to patrol a specific area of the city every day. This area includes some vacant lots, but, over the years, these are slowly being replaced by condos, retail stores, etc. This is not a problem for our policeman; he is still perfectly capable of patrolling the area. One day, though, a new row of condos is built in what used to be a vacant lot, surrounded by decorative fountains. Unfortunately, our policeman has severe hydrophobia.

    Now, he has a problem. He can’t patrol those condos, because being near all those fountains causes him severe distress; yet his job description includes patrolling the condos. What does he do ?

    Well, our policeman has a few options. He can try to get over his hydrophobia, but realistically, this probably isn’t going to work (phobias being what they are). He can ask his boss for permission to swap patrol routes with his buddy (someone who isn’t so hydrophobic). Maybe he can negotiate a pay cut, and reduce his patrol route so that it no longer goes through all those fountains. He can always quit, too.

    But one thing he doesn’t get to do is get on a podium and proudly proclaim, “I shall no longer patrol the condos with all the fountains next to them ! Let these filthy water-lovers drown in crime !” I mean, he can do that too if he feels like it, but he shouldn’t be surprised if he gets fired as the result. That’s what happens when an employee brazenly refuses to do his job (and, in case of some public sector employees, jail time is also a very predictable outcome).

  20. says

    The U.S. standard for religious accommodation is that it be “reasonable.” It’s not reasonable to shut down a major component of a workplace’s job. Refusing to allow others to do it in her place is where she went wrong. If there was nobody else willing or qualified to do it, she is required to carry out the duty, as she is a sworn representative of the government. The government can move her into a different position and move someone else in when it’s a rank-and-file type of job (such as a police officer) but since she’s an elected official she can’t be moved or fired.

  21. Bugmaster says

    @ladyatheist:
    That’s a good point; I did not know that Kim Davis was an elected official, I thought she was a regular public sector employee. In that case, jail time makes perfect sense; unless maybe there’s some other way to get her removed from her post, similar to impeachment.

  22. ThereAreNoGods says

    Re: Kim Davis

    Kim Davis holds an elected position, therefore she represents the government in her jurisdiction.

    According the First Amendment to the US Constitution, government cannot establish religion within the United States.

    By disregarding certain requirements of her elected government position based on her personal religious beliefs she, and by extension of her position, the government she represents, is establishing a religion. Citizens of Kentucky are being forced to adhere to her personal religious beliefs, while their own beliefs – or non-beliefs -are being superseded.

    Kim Davis is therefore violating the civil rights of her constituents. in violation of the US Constitution.

    As I see it, she has two choices: put her own religious feelings aside and fulfill the requirements of her office or she can resign. She does not have the option of establishing religion because it suits her to do so.

  23. OrphanBlackOps says

    In regards to the guy whose wife is afraid of the “a-word”, maybe she doesn’t want the kids going around saying “I am an atheist” due to social stigma as well as herself being labeled this for the same reason.

  24. mond says

    @tracie

    I think that Guy may be a crank and also may be trying to make money from his online activities.
    I clicked through to his website. Its is fairly incoherent BUT does have a shop.

  25. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Tracie

    Matt has used the concept of “healthy” to describe this framework. That is, a person dying of cancer is generally not what we would consider “healthy.” […]

    Note: Matt might(!) have gotten that from Sam Harris. (I like to throw Sam a bone when I can, because I really like some of his work, but he’s still a scumbag.)

    @Ruppert

    Do I have to obey the law and massage people, although it was not a part of my job yesterday? Or can i say no, this is not something that I am signed to in my contract of employment? (End of the fictitious example).

    Depends on the wording of the contract. It may be that the contract requires this new activity, or maybe it doesn’t.

    However, Kim Davis has no employment contract. She is not an employee. She is an elected representative, similar to an elected representative in parliament, which is what makes this issue particularly difficult to deal with. She cannot simply be fired, because she is not employed, just like a parliament cannot fire a member.

  26. Henry Leirvoll says

    @Guy – wow .. you have given this much thought, and I can see you are struggling to put it all into words (yet, you still do it), so it is hard to understand where – or even what – you want with all this.

    You can’t pose a logical experiment to a believer, and think you have him cornered into being forced to give up his beliefs. And it certainly isn’t up to us (atheists) to define (any) god(s), it’s for the person claiming to have a god in his or her life to define this. Then, and only then, can we start picking it a part with reason.

    I have a challenge for you.
    I am a fan of using an abundance of words to describe most things, but those words have to be coherent. Try, if you don’t mind, to use fewer words to describe what you want from all this because I (at least) am genuinly interested. I just don’t fully understand your word-coctail so far.

  27. rodney says

    I would just like to thank Tracie for moving on from Guy’s call, if you made any mistake, it was taking as much time on it as you did. I did try to read through his post, but like his call, it’s just kind of silly. I thought during the call that I kind of understood where he was coming from, there should be one definition, but that’s not the way it is, and an atheist declaring that there is just one definition means nothing to a theist. Now I’m not so sure I had it right, but I’m fairly certain it’s not worth further attention..

  28. Random Listener says

    The host audio was really low for this show. I tried listening on a couple machines and had the same issue.

    Please post with louder audio.

    Thanks.

  29. Monocle Smile says

    @Bugmaster
    Religion is like hydrophobia? Are you joking?
    Why do you feel sympathy for Kim Davis?

  30. blue says

    The fountain analogy would be correct if the policeman not only refused to patrol the area, but set up barricades so that no other police could get into that area to patrol it. This hateful woman was not only refusing to do her job, she was not allowing anyone else to do it.

  31. Bugmaster says

    @Monocle Smile #29:
    In both cases, the public servant has some sort of an irrational phobia. In my example, it’s fear of water; in the actual case, it’s fear of gay people. But, in both cases, the phobia causes very real distress to the afflicted person, and prevents that person from doing one’s job.

    You may argue that hydrophobia is morally neutral, whereas homophobia is evil; but look at it from Kim Davis’s perspective. She doesn’t think she’s evil; she doesn’t wake up every morning thinking, “mwa ha ha, let’s see what kind of mischief I can cause today”. Instead, every time she is forced to sign a marriage license for a gay couple, she feels the kind of mental pain that borders on physical. I can empathize with that, and I can sympathize with her, even though I cannot fully understand her personal experience.

    Of course, being afflicted with a phobia does not automatically entitle one to inflict pain on everyone else; which is why I can’t condone Kim Davis’s actions. I feel sympathy for her, yes; but that doesn’t mean I think she’s a wonderful person. As I said in my example, and as blue alludes to in comment #30, when you have a problem with doing your job, the right choice is to stop doing your job and pass it on to someone else. Preventing other people from doing the job is exactly the opposite of the right answer.

    Feeling compassion for people is not the same thing as fully endorsing everything they do. We are all human, and none of us are fully good or fully evil, and all of us can make mistakes. We should strive to be better, and not even you are 100% perfect.

  32. Monocle Smile says

    @Bugmaster

    Instead, every time she is forced to sign a marriage license for a gay couple, she feels the kind of mental pain that borders on physical. I can empathize with that, and I can sympathize with her, even though I cannot fully understand her personal experience.

    Here’s the difference: I don’t believe this for one second. I don’t believe she feels pain at all and I don’t understand why you do. Until homophobia is diagnosed as an actual disease on par with other phobias and it is demonstrated that she is afflicted by said disease, I’m going to hold the position that Kim Davis is malicious in her actions. Furthermore, people with phobias generally don’t insist upon making other people act as if they share their phobia.

  33. Wiggle Puppy says

    @Bugmaster @MonocleSmile

    I agree that they’re not the same thing. I’ve known people that are afraid of spiders, heights, etc and they get can get panicky and teeter on the edge of anxiety attacks if they have to face the thing they’re afraid of. Pretty much every homophobic person I’ve ever met just has this grossed-out judgmental and contemptible feeling because it’s supposedly “unnatural,” whatever that means. Sorry, but the right to not be offended is not a very strongly defended right in this country, and I have little patience for people who think they have some divine right to discriminate against other people on the basis of the wishes of some god whose basic existence can’t be demonstrated.

  34. Bugmaster says

    @Wiggle Puppy #33, Monocle Smile #32:

    Sorry, but the right to not be offended is not a very strongly defended right in this country, and I have little patience for people who think they have some divine right to discriminate against other people…

    As I said above, one can feel sorry for a person without endorsing that person’s actions. Believing that homosexuality is a sin (whatever that means) does not give you any kind of a right to discriminate against anyone. Similarly, believing that water is out to get you does not give you the right to demolish fountains or whatever.

    Monocle Smile says, “I’m going to hold the position that Kim Davis is malicious in her actions”, but no one is a villain in their own mind. Kim Davis is obviously wrong, and also self-righteous and probably even obnoxious, but she’s not some sort of mustache-twirling cartoon villain. If you insist on dehumanizing all of your ideological opponents, you’re no better than they are.

  35. Monocle Smile says

    @Bugmaster
    So nobody is malicious? Is that really what you’re saying? She has to know that she’s actively doing harm to people and just doesn’t care.

    Kim Davis is obviously wrong, and also self-righteous and probably even obnoxious, but she’s not some sort of mustache-twirling cartoon villain

    But she’s not mentally ill, which is what you claimed, and now you’re deflecting to avoid admitting that you made shit up.

    If you insist on dehumanizing all of your ideological opponents, you’re no better than they are

    It’s not “dehumanizing” to say that someone is wrong and has no reason to think that they could be right. Furthermore, her actions are not that of an innocently misguided person. I feel no sympathy whatsoever for Kim Davis.

  36. Gnostic says

    Glad I decided to read these comments while listening to the Youtube video. Skipping Guy was a pretty easy choice once I saw that wall of word salad.

    Keep up the good work with the new studio location! Your tech team is doing great, I bet it’s not easy setting up all that equipment and making it work smoothly.

  37. Robert, not Bob says

    @Monacle Smile #3: If being a secularist means having nonreligious government and public society, there can be secular theists. Deists are, almost by definition. There are even secular Christians and Muslims, though one could argue they miss the point of their religions…

    And yeah, I agree it’s a pointless waste of time on Guy’s part. Like trying to establish the qualities of elves. Which elves? Tolkein’s? Pratchett’s? Keebler elves? I think what he may be groping toward is a set of definitions that are, if not accurate, at least useful. This effort is doomed to fail, not just because-as everyone’s pointed out-each theist has a different idea of god, but because many theists deliberately keep their ideas of god as slippery as possible, to avoid any possibility of being proved wrong. So: not just several billion definitions of god, but several billion constantly changing definitions of god.

  38. Robert, not Bob says

    Addendum to my previous comment: while Aron Ra’s “magical humanlike immortal” comes pretty close (in physical terms, anyway) I’ve come to suspect “god” is like “sea” (a body of water people agree to call a sea).

  39. Ruppert says

    @heicart:
    Thank you very much for your detailed answer!. Most convincing for me was:
    1. “Kim Davis had to swear an oath in order to hold her office”. Very good point.
    2. “Additionally, Davis did NOT just stop at refusing to issue licenses herself, but coerced her staff…”. Very very very convincing!!! I didn’t know that. No discussion here.
    Not so convincing for me was claim that nothing actually changed. The Media around the world published the announcement “America legalized gay marriage”. And I would say that was kind of a game changer. Juridical it may be in fact no change. But for religious people and of course for gay people it is a big change.
    But any way, point 1 and 2 outweigh.
    @Bugmaster:
    You example is of course much more elegant and sophisticated. Thank you.

  40. gshelley says

    On the creating life topic, I suspect if it was to happen, it would be dismissed as “copying life”
    And if they did it with different bases in the DNA, that still wouldn’t be enough

  41. Val says

    “Definition of Godhood”
    – I can’t define a god. I’ve tried. It’s just not something I can define. Anything I come up with would apply to a sufficiently advanced alien species, or even ourselves in the future.

    Immortal? – I can see humans being immortal in the future.
    All-knowing?, All-powerful?, All-loving? – I can’t even understand what these things mean. They’re contradictory even in themselves. Maximally-knowing/powerful/loving? Where is the limit of knowledge, power or love? How would we determine if something reached it?
    Able to create a universe – I could easily see with the advancement of computer technology in the future being able to recreate a planet with conscious inhabitants digitally. Does this make us gods? What does this say for the supposed creator god of our universe? Even if he’s the god of our universe, maybe in his universe he’s just as mundane and powerless as we are in ours.
    Worship – Even if I could tease out a definition of a god, I could never conceive being able to worship something. Even if anything was worthy of worship, one of the definitions of that worthiness would be a sufficient humility to not desire being worshiped.

    So we have to use others definitions. If I used mine, I’ve defined gods essentially out of existence. The conversation would be over – yet there’d still be billions of deluded believers out there.

  42. Val says

    Ghosts

    I just bought a new house. It creaks. It groans. It moans. It shakes. It pops… My wife and I will be sitting in the bedroom and hear the unmistakable sound of something heavy falling on the ground downstairs. We’ve investigated multiple times – nothing. Now we just joke, “I guess the burglar dropped his flashlight again – he’s probably buggered off by now”

    My house was built 5 years ago… before it was there, there was nothing but emptiness for decades. Before that it was forest miles away from any settlement. Is my house haunted? By whom? The previous tenants? Mr and Mrs young couple with 2 kids and now living in a slightly larger house closer to his work?

  43. says

    Ruppert:

    Let me clarify. I did not assert that nothing changed in people’s lives. I clarified that the law did not change, because it didn’t. In the U.S., states can pass “illegal” legislation. That is, they have the *capacity* (but not the right) to pass laws that violate the Federal Constitution. Those laws will stay on the books and be enforced, even though they are illegal laws. They are illegal because no state has *the right* to laws that violate the Federal Constitution. However, in the U.S., those laws will stand until someone issues a legal challenge. The only people who CAN issue a legal challenge are people with “standing.” So, only someone who is actually being violated by the illegal law, may take that to court to “challenge” the law.

    In the case of gay marriage, there was never any legal right for it to be illegal. But because of how gay people in the U.S. were treated historically, they weren’t able to challenge it, because it’s only been relatively safe to be openly gay for about a generation now. So, FINALLY, we have a social atmosphere where people *can* be out and gay.

    However, they didn’t have to challenge any laws, because there have not been laws on our books that disallow gay marriage. It’s just that no gay people had come forward to ask to be married before recently. So, when they came forward and asked to be married, the states should have allowed this, but denied gay couples the capacity to marry.

    This resulted in many states passing laws to say gay people couldn’t be married. But these were NEW laws and amendments to state constitutions. In other words, there were not laws that banned gay marriage. And after gay people began to request marriage licenses, states reacted by passing legislation to OUTLAW gay marriage. We did NOT pass laws to allow for gay marriage. We passed laws to OUTLAW it–after gay people began to ask for marriage licenses. It was never illegal for gay couples to marry until recent state laws began to be passed. It was THESE impediments that have recently been raised by the states, that were challenged.

    So, gay marriage in the U.S., according to our Federal Constitution, was never *illegal*. It has always been legal. But it had never been “challenged” in the courts.

    For more information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_Proposition_8_(2008)

    The link above shows that in 2008, the state of California tried to make gay marriage illegal. And they were challenged and failed, resulting in a ruling that *gay marriage cannot be outlawed.*

    The “new” laws were to stop gays from getting married, and those were illegal laws that were challenged and failed.

    There have not been any new laws that “allow” gays to marry, because the courts have found that the Federal Constitution guarantees equal treatment under the law. So, the courts have ruled that as long as straight people can marry, gay people cannot be legally disallowed from also being married. They didn’t “legalize” gay marriage. They just told the states that our 200+ year-old Constitution does not allow states to ban gay people from equal access to legal marriage. That is–gay marriage was never “illegal”–according to our courts.

  44. says

    Val – I went to an appt yesterday, and had to sit in the exam room on my own waiting for a bit. I was in a room with old wooden floors, against one wall. Whenever someone walked past the door outside in the hall, the acoustics were such that I could hear their footsteps RIGHT NEXT TO ME on the open floor in the room with me. I laughed and thought about the ghost caller.

  45. says

    >Pretty much every homophobic person I’ve ever met just has this grossed-out judgmental and contemptible feeling because it’s supposedly “unnatural,” whatever that means.

    Um…actually, it seems to me a number of people are homophobic because they are gay, but are in situations where they’re not allowed to be gay. So, they express their anger at openly gay people, because they resent what they want, but can’t have. This is demonstrated every time an anti-gay crusader is discovered to have their own gay lover. Grossed out? More like “turned on.”

    Example: http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/01/29/lkl.ted.haggard/

  46. Wiggle Puppy says

    @ heicart Yeah, good point. I was thinking more of the rank-and-file fundamentalists who think everyone is really straight and that being gay is some sort of active, contemptible rebellion against god (kind of like how everyone actually believes in god and those who claim to be atheist are just rebelling against him, right?), but point taken.

  47. favog says

    @52:
    Oh, Tracie. You must know by now that … Ted Haggard Is Completely Heterosexual.

    @47:
    Ghosts wear clothes because they are made of ectoplasm, which is a psycho-receptive substance and as such, when a ghost manifests, the individual self image determines the form taken by the ectoplasm. Most people do picture themselves clothed out of habit, so only a nudist’s ghost appears naked. At least that’s how I explain it when I’m playing D&D. And I’m pretty sure the template rules would allow me to make a ghost dinosaur if I wanted to.

  48. Narf says

    @2 – Guy Rocheleau
    I’m pretty much with the others on this one, Guy.  I barely skimmed the first section, since the second section looked more interesting.  I only got about 2 paragraphs through the second section, though, because it fell apart that quickly.

    I don’t think it’s possible to find any universally accepted characteristics for all gods.  Even if you could, those characteristics would be so vague as to be useless.  Anything more specific that you tried to cobble together would run into the problem that many people on here have mentioned: the theist would just turn around with a “Well, that isn’t my god!” to any argument you constructed around that god-concept that you’ve cobbled together.

    The only good way to go about arguing with theists is to ask them what they believe, first, then address that.  We have a holy book to use as leverage, with most Christians, but you still have to hash through their feelings about their holy book, first.  There’s an approach to take with liberal theists who essentially ignore the Bible, and there’s an approach for Biblical literalists, who somehow manage to still ignore 90% of the Bible.

  49. says

    Love the show! Ironically, the book behind Tracie, “Sense and Goodness Without God,” writes about ‘stipulated’ and ‘lexical,’ which was what @Guy was talking about. Another problem with @Guys argument is the theological claim that god is inconceivable. Theologians frequently fall back on god’s inconceivability when their ‘acquaintance’ god argument shows it’s implausible. In truth, god can be imagined but not conceived (except as the incarnate zombie god). BTW, if you need a writer for the show’s website, or whatever, I’ll volunteer (www.amadmanssoul.com)

  50. Bugmaster says

    @Ethan Myerson:
    Bah, you’re probably right 🙂

    @Monocle Smile:
    Fine, I’m willing to replace “hydrophobia” (or, rather, “aquaphobia”) with “triggered by water”, and “homophobia” with “triggered by gay people”. Here, I’m using the Tumblr sense of “triggered”, meaning “seeing this thing causes me severe distress”. You are absolutely right in pointing out that I’m no doctor, I shouldn’t be handing out diagnoses. I don’t believe this substantially changes my point, however.

    If you were a Vegan, would you work at a slaughterhouse ? I mean, maybe you would if you had no other choice, but doing so would be extremely stressful for you, right ? So, a Vegan who is also a normal person would probably quit, or ask someone to cover for him on the killing floor while he works in accounting, or whatever.

    A Vegan who is a bad person would barricade the slaughterhouse to prevent anyone else from working there; from what I hear, some real-life PETA members would go so far as to set the place on fire. But the fact that some Vegans are terrorist assholes doesn’t make their distress at seeing a pig being killed any less real. It doesn’t excuse their actions, either, of course.

  51. Bugmaster says

    @Narf #59:
    I agree with everything you said, but I still think Guy’s point is interesting, if you forget about gods and just think about beings with a lot of power.

    Let’s say that you are a super-powerful alien. You have lived for 100,000 years. Your mind is, by now, contained in some sort of a quantum supercomputer, which is contained inside of your indestructible spaceship, which is stuffed full of nanotech drones and particle emitters.

    You drop out of warp one day on a lark, and encounter Earth. Its denizens are so primitive that they haven’t even developed fusion yet. You can probably emulate them in software pretty easily, if you wanted to. What ethical responsibilities, if any, do you have toward them ?

    According to Peter Singer (with whom I disagree on most topics, including this one), we humans are currently in the exact same position regarding animals, so it’s not entirely an idle question.

  52. Wiggle Puppy says

    @Bugmaster

    You keep replacing bad example with more bad examples. Vegans who are vegans because they disapprove of the treatment of animals are generally reacting to the inhumane treatment of animals on industrial farms and in slaughterhouses. Even if one ultimately decides to eat meat (which I do), it’s almost undeniable that the current food production causes a lot of unnecessary discomfort and pain to animals. It’s not that vegans are “afraid” of animal slaughter the way that someone with acrophobia is afraid of heights; it’s that they find the process objectionable based on real-world physical consequences to the animals involved. Please provide the measurable physical or psychological harm that would be done to thinking creatures by the fact of two people of the same gender having sex or getting married, such that a homophobe’s point of view would be justified.

  53. says

    It sounded to me as if “Guy” was really “Stotch,” a troll who has called the show repeatedly under a number of aliases and stupid accents. At first, I thought he might be the “Pastor George” troll — who also has called in under a variety of names and bad accents — but the pattern of “Guy” was too similar to that of “Stotch”: keep the hosts talking, around and around in circles if possible, stretch out the call as long as possible so that the maximum amount of time is wasted while absolutely nothing of substance gets discussed. Kudos to the hosts for trying to turn the call into something useful.

    This particular troll never calls when Matt hosts because he knows Matt would just hang up on him in about two seconds flat. When there’s a host who has trouble being assertive with callers — like Russell, who tries to end calls by awkwardly saying “Okayyyyy” with an inflection that suggests he wants to be done — Stotch likes to drag out the call by whining, “Can I ask just one more question? Just one more, please?” And it almost always works. But he couldn’t pull that part of his act with Tracie.

    I’m usually not entertained by trolls, but this performance was pretty good. I actually laughed when “Guy” managed to get an uncomfortably long amount of uninterrupted time to spew absolute nonsense (in the most literal sense of “nonsense”), punctuated by an advertisement “accidentally” blaring onto the show. That was pretty well-done. It actually is a little tough to keep the hosts going around in circles like that because the things the troll says have to be “off” just enough so that the hosts kind of have a clue of what he might mean but can never pin him down. He had a good follow up to the performance when he made a post on here that was obviously attempting to get a rise out of the hosts and the community.

    I don’t know what the hell is wrong with weirdos who get their jollies trolling shows, though. I sometimes speculate that people like him are nihilistic kids who thinks it’s fun to mock and waste the time of anyone with convictions. If so, that’s even more pathetic than “Stotch” being a lonely loser with nothing going for him in his empty little life.

  54. says

    @EnlightenmentLiberal (post #30):

    I like to throw Sam a bone when I can, because I really like some of his work, but he’s still a scumbag

    Wow, that’s quite a thing to say. Sam Harris is one of the most reasonable and well-spoken public intellectuals I know of, He’s quite thoughtful and has nuanced positions on a wide variety of issues — you know, the kind of nuance that often gets missed when his critics misrepresent his arguments.

    I disagree with some of his positions, but I’ve never heard anything that would convince me he deserves to be called a “scumbag.” What makes you label him as such?

  55. Bugmaster says

    @Los #63:
    Yeah, I think it would make perfect sense to impose a time limit on all calls. Maybe even get a physical egg timer or something loud like that, which goes “DING !” when it’s time to move on to the next caller. This will protect the hosts from trolls who just want to waste their time, and it will also prevent the hosts from going on and on about the same topic for far too long, which they sometimes have a tendency to do (hey, we’re all human).

  56. Narf says

    @61 – Bugmaster

    I agree with everything you said, but I still think Guy’s point is interesting, if you forget about gods and just think about beings with a lot of power.
    Let’s say that you are a super-powerful alien. You have lived for 100,000 years. Your mind is, by now, contained in some sort of a quantum supercomputer, which is contained inside of your indestructible spaceship, which is stuffed full of nanotech drones and particle emitters.

    Well, sure, but that isn’t the proposition under consideration.  You’ll still run into the same not-my-god problem.

    That is, and has been, the premise of some good science-fiction (think the Pak), but as an argument, it will only address the Raelians.

  57. Narf says

    @63 – Los

    … but the pattern of “Guy” was too similar to that of “Stotch”: keep the hosts talking, around and around in circles if possible, stretch out the call as long as possible so that the maximum amount of time is wasted while absolutely nothing of substance gets discussed.

    You’ve just described half of Christian, young-Earth-creationist apologetics.

  58. Narf says

    @65 – Bugmaster
    But then you have guys like the atheist who called in looking for answers about the nightmares and general fear of hell that he has. I’m fine with giving him half of the show.

    Every time something like this sounds tempting, after they should have hung up on some guy 10 minutes ago, I think of one call that went on more than twice as long, which was time well-spent.

  59. Bugmaster says

    @Wiggle Puppy #62:

    Please provide the measurable physical or psychological harm that would be done to thinking creatures by the fact of two people of the same gender having sex or getting married

    Why would I do that ? I explicitly stated that aquaphobia and homophobia are both irrational. There’s no objective harm done, by definition.

    However, subjectively, in one case the person experiences irrational distress when encountering water; in the other case, she experiences irrational distress (perhaps manifesting as a sense of profound wrongness and righteous outrage, similar to what you yourself experience sometimes) when allowing gay people to be married.

    Now that I think about it, I guess I’m not sure what your point is. Are you claiming that people can only be truly distressed and outraged by certain specific things, and that people who are distressed/outraged by different things are just playacting, or what ?

  60. Wiggle Puppy says

    I thought I made my view clear, but here goes. The phobias you’re talking about have to do with a fear of death or other great harm. Acrophobics fear falling from large heights, claustrophobics fear getting crushed, arachnophobics fear dying from spider bites, and so on. What is the great personal harm that homophobes are reacting to? The problem (one of them, at least) with your “everybody has different views, so let a thousand flowers bloom argument” is that everything you’ve said also applies to, let’s say, interracial marriage. Should clerks be allowed to deny marriage licenses to people of different races just because seeing two people of different races in a relationship makes them uncomfortable? (I live in the Southeast and I can tell you that these people still exist.) If you’re answer is no, then explain how that’s different from the gay marriage case. If your answer is yes, then I think I’ve heard everything I need to hear. Yes, everybody has different opinions, but if certain can’t articulate a good rational reason for their opinions and those opinions have a negative material impact on other people, then some people are just wrong.

  61. Narf says

    What is the great personal harm that homophobes are reacting to?

    Probably rains of brimstone, from their loving god, like what got Sodom and Gomorrah … which is, you know, totally a real thing that happened.

  62. Bugmaster says

    @Wiggle Puppy #70:
    I personally know a guy who fears spiders (I don’t want to use the word “arachnophobia” because that’s a diagnosis, and I’m not a doctor). When he sees a spider, he doesn’t execute some sort of a cost-benefit analysis whose conclusion is “this spider will most likely kill me”. Instead, he immediately freaks out on a purely emotional level. That’s what makes his fear irrational. If you asked him to logically justify it, he couldn’t.

    Moving on, I think that you may be confusing three different concepts here:
    1). Understanding why people act a certain way by estimating what they must be thinking and feeling like; a.k.a. empathy.
    2). Acknowledging that other people’s negative emotions are as real as your own, and that other people are as human as yourself; a.k.a. sympathy.
    3). Endorsing other people’s actions.

    You ask me whether “clerks [should] be allowed to deny marriage licenses to people of different races”, as though it is a natural and inescapable conclusion based on anything I’ve said; but this is not true, because I deny that (1) or (2) directly leads to (3). I don’t believe in demonizing people — even those people whose beliefs I find extremely distasteful… Actually, especially those people, because that’s how bigotry gets started.

    To answer your question, think that if a clerk has some sort of a deep, ingrained conviction that performing interracial marriages is wrong, then, functionally speaking, that clerk has a condition that prevents him from doing his job. At this point, he should be reassigned to another job if possible, or replaced if necessary. If the clerk is actively preventing this from happening, then yes, he should go to jail just like any other elected official who refuses to perform the duties he had sworn to perform. I think we both agree on this.

    The difference between you and me, as far as I can tell, is the reason why we think the clerk should lose his job and/or go to jail. You are arguing that this should happen because the clerk is an inherently evil person, and all evil people should be punished as heavily as possible. I think that this should happen because the clerk agreed to do certain things and not do others when he took the job, on the penalty of being fired or jailed; and he broke that agreement. I don’t believe that certain people are just arbitrarily evil; this is real life, not AD&D.

  63. Bugmaster says

    @Narf #71:
    As far as I can tell, homophobia can take the following forms (it’s a spectrum, so the list is not exhaustive):

    1). “Gay sex is nasty, I feel awful whenever I even imagine it, so we should ban it as much as possible”. This is the most secular version of the belief.

    2). “Gay sex is immoral (because morality comes from God, and God said so). If we endorse some immoral acts, we send a message to society that doing immoral stuff is basically ok, which leads to all kinds of negative outcomes. This is why we should ban homosexuality along with other immoral acts such as adultery, vandalism, blasphemy, etc. If we don’t, the perception of what is moral will keep shifting, until even the immorality of such despicable acts as rape or murder will come into question”. This belief is religiously motivated, but still fairly secular in the details.

    3). “God had cast a magic spell of protection over all humans, but especially over America. This spell is sustained by our faith, and it is the only thing that stands between us and natural disasters, mass anarchy, and, ultimately, Hell. Doing things that God told us not to do erodes our faith, and thus weakens the spell; it also pisses off God who might just decide to cancel the spell one day. This is why we should strictly enforce God’s rules, as set forth in the Bible”. This is basically the Westborough Baptist Church version of the belief, which, AFAIK, few people hold. I could be wrong though.

  64. Wiggle Puppy says

    @Bugmaster Well, thanks for both putting words in my mouth and for the ad hominem, but you didn’t address my actual point, which is that some people are simply wrong when they have a negative bias towards other people that they can’t rationally justify. I never said that Davis (who is a “she,” not a “he”) was “evil,” just that she is wrong if she thinks she has a justified position, in which case I don’t have to respect or sympathize with her views. And like I said before, I reject that the “pure freaking out” of arachnophobia is the same as homophobia. In your own list above, (2) and (3) aren’t knee-jerk reactions, they’re well-thought out and reasoned opinions based on premises that I don’t think have been rationally justified. And if you think (3) is something that “few people” hold, then listen to right-wing talk radio sometime and then check the ratings they’re getting. And yes, I have “negative emotions” towards some things, but if you show me that I don’t have a good, rational reason to have those feelings, guess what? I’ll give them up!

  65. Wiggle Puppy says

    And you’re correct that this is “real life.” I have several gay friends who had really tough childhoods and went through a lot of unnecessary and totally pointless suffering because they were surrounded by people like Kim Davis, people that told them they were unnatural and disgusting for who they were, views based on nothing more than irrational religious belief. So if you think I should have sympathy for people like Davis, my response is: I don’t. And now that things are changing, people like Davis (and her famous supporters like Mike Huckabee) are confusing “my religious freedom” for “not getting everything I want all the time.” Well, tough.

  66. Bugmaster says

    @Wiggle Puppy #74:

    but you didn’t address my actual point, which is that some people are simply wrong when they have a negative bias towards other people that they can’t rationally justify

    How so ? I did say that extremely negative emotional reactions to water, spiders, and yes, even gay people are irrational. I said that multiple times, in fact. Ok, I acknowledge that, philosophically speaking, there’s probably a difference between “irrational” and “simply wrong”, but do we really want to split hairs to this extent ?

    In your own list above, (2) and (3) aren’t knee-jerk reactions, they’re well-thought out and reasoned opinions based on premises that I don’t think have been rationally justified

    Meh… I don’t think that most people who object to homosexuality do so on purely logical grounds. I think they mostly do it based on some combination of (1), (2), and (3). I would also argue that (3) is so radical that it is pretty much a knee-jerk reaction, too.

    And if you think (3) is something that “few people” hold, then listen to right-wing talk radio sometime and then check the ratings they’re getting.

    Firstly, few people are talk-show hosts; and secondly, AFAIK most right-wing talk shows go with (2) instead of (3). That’s why the WBC has like 10 members, as opposed to 100,000.

    And yes, I have “negative emotions” towards some things, but if you show me that I don’t have a good, rational reason to have those feelings

    My friend the arachnophobe does understand, on a logical level, that the vast majority of spiders are perfectly harmless. But whenever he sees a spider, he just can’t help himself, he freaks out. I feel the same way about giant millipedes, FWIW (which is a shame, because objectively speaking, they’re fascinating). Human minds are funny that way.

  67. Bugmaster says

    @Wiggle Puppy #75:

    So if you think I should have sympathy for people like Davis, my response is: I don’t.

    As per your comment #74, I think that your utter hatred and dehumanization of people like Kim Davis is irrational. But I know how you feel. Half my friends are gay, too.

  68. Wiggle Puppy says

    If you keep insisting that “I think she has a rationally unjustified position on this one issue that causes harm to certain groups of people and I therefore don’t respect her opinion on this one issue” equates to “utter hatred and dehumanization,” then I think I’m pretty much done here. I’m only gonna be straw-manned so many times.

  69. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To Bugmaster and Wiggle Puppy:

    Can both of you agree that anyone who holds and exposes the positions #2 and #3 of post #73 should be publicly ridiculed and shamed?

    Specifically, we should ridicule and shame those who say that morality is the arbitrary dictates of a purported celestial ruler instead of the well-being of humans (and other conscious creatures), and we should ridicule and shame those who say that there is a celestial ruler who will A- cause suffering or B- remove its protection from our society – if we allow gay people to live happy, productive lives.

    I’m not sure if you can agree that ridicule and shaming is a reasonable course of action – plus genuine engagement with the points for people who are willing to listen, perhaps having been brought to the table by the ridicule and shaming.

  70. Wiggle Puppy says

    If by “exposes” you mean “espouses,” then I agree, although I would draw a distinction between shaming the person (which I don’t really go for) and ridiculing the position. I think ridiculous things should be ridiculed.

  71. Bugmaster says

    @EnlightenmentLiberal:
    Sorry, I personally cannot. I am very much against public shaming of anyone, for any reason. I think that bad ideas should be challenged and discredited, not suppressed by force or through social pressure. I could articulate my reasons for this, but I don’t want to derail the thread too much (unless you think it’s ok).

  72. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    I do think that some such people should be shamed – especially the people in charge and others who should know better but instead regularly lie. I also think I would be comfortable with the shaming of anyone who is in general anti-intellectual, anti-curiosity, anti-science, and pro-faith – which is seemingly a lot of religious people, so yea. Ridiculed and shamed because I think that they do a lot of real demonstrable harm in this world through their dishonesty, ignorance, cognitive dissonance, etc., and I think that’s the best approach to fixing the problem.

    Of course, as I said, to anyone who is willing to engage, I try to give them the benefit of the doubt, and I try to engage honestly, sincerely, and without ridicule, but simultaneously I have very little tolerance for such things because I see the harm that they do.

  73. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Bugmaster
    How do you intend to change religious believers to no longer be religious believers? Do you even have that as a goal? Do you claim indifference if there are religious believers or not?

  74. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Actually, not sure I should start this here. I was just trying to help you two come to an agreement or understanding. I see that I’m further to the side than both of you, lol.

  75. Wiggle Puppy says

    How does one “challenge and discredit” deeply-held and fundamental bad beliefs without first exposing their irrationality and nonsensical epistemology?

  76. Wiggle Puppy says

    Let me tell you how those conversations usually go:

    P1: Why are you against gay marriage? It doesn’t affect you, so why campaign so hard against something that will increase overall societal happiness and well-being?
    P2: God says it’s wrong.
    P3: How do you know God says it’s wrong? Because your holy book says so? Well that holy book also says that plants existed before the sun and that man was created from dust and that we should kill unruly children and witches and that human sacrifice is cool and a bunch of other things that conflict with things we know about the universe as well as our modern moral sensibilities. It’s a bunch of nonsense and can’t be used as a reasonable justification for anything.
    P4: My faith is personal! How dare you attack it! Everyone has the right to their beliefs!

    Without being able to ridicule that which is ridiculous, you’re kind of stuck…

  77. Bugmaster says

    @EnlightenmentLiberal #82, #83:
    Ok, so one of the major problems with public shaming is that there’s no magical mechanism that allows only the “bad” people to be shamed, and prevents “good” people from being shamed at all. By normalizing shaming as a tactic, you are handing your opponents a ready-made weapon to be used against yourself. Of course, it is perfectly obvious to you that only the people who “do a lot of real demonstrable harm in this world through their dishonesty, ignorance, etc.” should be shamed — but guess what ? This is exactly what Kim Davis thinks about you. So, what now, may the person with the most Twitter followers win, or what ?

    How do you intend to change religious believers to no longer be religious believers? Do you even have that as a goal?

    Public shaming does not accomplish this goal. Instead, it makes people afraid (justifiably so) to express certain opinions. Today, you are the guy in charge of deciding which opinions should make the person an Enemy of the People; are you willing to bet that you will still be in charge tomorrow ? Meanwhile, the people who hold these opinions will still hold them, and you won’t be able to prevent them from passing on their ideas (not unless you want to spend a considerable amount of effort on mass surveillance, anyway).

    Contrast this situation with the belief in the Flat Earth. No one thinks this belief is evil, or that the people who hold it are some sort of inhuman monsters. We just think that they’re really ignorant, because the amount of evidence for the true shape of the Earth is so overwhelming. We’ve got pictures from space and everything.

    Because of this, Flat Earthism is pretty much a dead belief. Barring some sort of a post-apocalyptic catastrophe that wipes out most of human knowledge, it’s never coming back. You don’t need to maintain constant vigilance against any latent Flat Earthers in the population; you don’t need to scour everyone’s Facebook feeds for any brief mention of Flat Earth leanings. It’s done.

    That’s what I think should happen to religious belief; and in fact it is happening now (though probably not as fast as I’d like). I don’t want to convert people to my lack of faith at sword-point; I don’t need to do that, because I’m pretty sure that I’m right, and I’ve got lots of evidence to prove it. Coercion is just a tool for people who only have faith.

  78. Bugmaster says

    @Wiggle Puppy #85, #86:

    How does one “challenge and discredit” deeply-held and fundamental bad beliefs without first exposing their irrationality and nonsensical epistemology?

    Er, what ? I believe one does so by exposing their irrationality and nonsensical epistemology. That’s not public shaming in any way. There’s a difference between saying, “you are wrong and here is why”; and saying, “you are wrong because you’re an evil person ! Shame ! Shame ! Shame !”. If you don’t know the difference, then perhaps it is your own epistemology that needs to be re-examined.

    Let me tell you how those conversations usually go…

    If you think you can change such a person’s mind by repeatedly telling them how evil and stupid he is, then a). you’re bound to fail, because b). you’re no better than that Christian who is trying to convert you to his faith by regaling you with tales of sin and Hell. That rhetoric didn’t work on you, why do you think it will work on your Christian opponent ?

  79. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To Bugmaster
    We’re slightly talking past each other. I think some of your points have merit. I think your concern that “shaming is a weapon that could be used against me” is overblown, and it immediately reminds me of the freeze peach crowd. Finally, you didn’t notice that in both posts I specifically stated that I was more than willing to engage honestly and intellectually with those people who are willing to, but for those who are unwilling to engage, then ridicule, shaming, and similar weapons of social persuasion and persecution are the only weapons that can be used.

  80. Wiggle Puppy says

    1) Like I said, I don’t go for ridiculing people, only their ridiculous beliefs. I’m not calling anyone “evil” or “inhuman,” just pointing out that their harmful beliefs lack sufficient justification

    2) God isn’t the flat earth. God is some kind of transcendent inter-dimensional thing that exists beyond space and time and can’t seem to be detected in any way. Robust scientific explanations for things that were formerly attributed to god(s) – thunder, earthquakes, the formation of the earth, the diversity of life, etc – haven’t seemed to put huge dents in religious belief. God just moves a bit further out of reach. Only by attacking the epistemological foundations of faith can we address this, which requires pointing out how ridiculous a position based on faith truly is.

    3) I’m not saying that shaming is good because of strength in numbers – if everybody in the world agreed with Kim Davis I wouldn’t change my position, because I think I have a good reason for mine and that they don’t. I’m saying that shaming is good because when you attack the foundations of someone’s belief and they have to defend them and then find that they can’t come up with a really good defense, then suddenly there’s reason to start thinking about things a bit more deeply.

    4) Yes, Kim Davis can point to us and say that we’re doing real, demonstrable harm, but the question is: can she prove it? The common justifications I hear are things like the idea that children of gay couples aren’t raised as well as those by straight couples and stuff like that, which seem to never bear out when actual research is done. Is there a demonstrable harm being done that would justify denying to consenting adults happiness and equal legal rights? Again, like I’ve said a bunch, some people are just wrong.

  81. Wiggle Puppy says

    Okay, now I’m really done. I never said that anyone was evil and the fact that you keep repeating it demonstrates that you’re not worth engaging with

  82. Bugmaster says

    @EnlightenmentLiberal:

    I think your concern that “shaming is a weapon that could be used against me” is overblown, and it immediately reminds me of the freeze peach crowd.

    I’m not sure what that crowd is all about or what your beef with them is, so it’s hard to say if I support them or not. I can say that I am very much in favor of freedom of expression; after all, without it, the gay-rights movement would’ve never gotten off the ground.

    Finally, you didn’t notice that in both posts I specifically stated that I was more than willing to engage honestly and intellectually with those people who are willing to, but for those who are unwilling to engage, then ridicule, shaming, and similar weapons of social persuasion and persecution are the only weapons that can be used.

    Firstly, I disagree that your use of shaming against people whom you disagree with is effective in accomplishing your goals (as long as those goals are “discredit untrue beliefs”, and not merely “hurt those evil bastards in any way I can”). Secondly, I think that seeing society as a war, and arguments as weapons, and your ideological opponents as enemy soldiers is… unproductive. FWIW, I also think that using actual weapons on your opponents is likewise unproductive, but I think we both agree at least on this point.

  83. Narf says

    @Bugmaster – #72

    I personally know a guy who fears spiders (I don’t want to use the word “arachnophobia” because that’s a diagnosis, and I’m not a doctor). When he sees a spider, he doesn’t execute some sort of a cost-benefit analysis whose conclusion is “this spider will most likely kill me”. Instead, he immediately freaks out on a purely emotional level. That’s what makes his fear irrational. If you asked him to logically justify it, he couldn’t.

    My girlfriend’s little sister basically has a panic attack if she sees a cockroach.  That’s not hyperbolic.  It’s literally a panic attack.

  84. A Darker Storm says

    A (human) and a (human) walk into a courthouse. They hand the clerk money and the clerk gives them a marriage license in exchange for that money. The gender, age, race, religion, and sexual orientation of either (human) is no longer a factor in this process.
    Did this help clarify any unresolved issues?

  85. Narf says

    @Bugmaster – #77

    As per your comment #74, I think that your utter hatred and dehumanization of people like Kim Davis is irrational. But I know how you feel. Half my friends are gay, too.

    I wouldn’t say anywhere near half are gay, but I’m friends with 5 or 6 or so, through my local atheist groups.  The organizer of one of the groups is gay.

    One of the guys is freaking hilarious, because he starts hitting on girls when he’s drunk.  It’s the exact same thing as drunk-bisexual girls, when it comes to which sex they’re attracted to.

  86. Narf says

    @85 – Wiggle Puppy

    How does one “challenge and discredit” deeply-held and fundamental bad beliefs without first exposing their irrationality and nonsensical epistemology?

    You might be surprised.  A lot of people react well to ridiculing their beliefs.  Some of them will try to beat those damned atheists at their own game and discover the foolproof, rational arguments that support their position.  They’ll start examining their position, and many of them will finally realize that the rational reasons to believe just aren’t there.

    We hear from people like that on the show, though e-mail to the show, and on here.  Hell, that was sort of how Matt broke himself free of religion.  He studies Christian apologetics at length and studied the arguments against his position, and he realized that the theistic side (never mind the fundamentalist Christian side) had nothing.

    Basically mockery can lead a lot of people into self-examination, so I consider it to be on the table.

  87. Wiggle Puppy says

    @Narf Yeah, that’s what I was going for. Bugmaster stated that (s)he wanted to challenge and discredit harmful beliefs but was uncomfortable with attacking and mocking the foundations of peoples’ beliefs, and my point was that if you don’t attack and ridicule the validity of ideas like “faith” directly, then people will just fall back on that and you won’t get much of anywhere. It was a question posed to Bugmaster directly. If you look at comment 86, that’s what I meant.

  88. Bugmaster says

    @Narf #95, Wiggle Puppy #96:
    I have no problem with personally telling someone, “look, this belief is ridiculous, here’s why” — but the “here’s why” part is important. If you just say, “your belief is ridiculous because I said so”, or “because you’re stupid”, then you’re not really attacking his belief, you are just attacking him as a person, and that never goes well.

    But the “personally” part is also very important. There’s a difference between telling someone in private, “look, your belief is silly”, and saying “Point and laugh, everyone ! Point at the idiot ! Look at how stupid he is ! Come on, all together now !”. In the first case, you’re just having some private fun at someone else’s expense, which isn’t really that big of a deal. In the second case, you’re a bully who is inciting a mob, and now you’re doing real harm to people.

  89. Monocle Smile says

    @Bugmaster
    You’re against public shaming for ANY reason? Are you serious?
    Personally, I think public shaming is one of the best methods of making someone reconsider their position. It’s nonviolent and cuts right to the point, as long as it’s fairly high-minded and not merely insult salad. And EL would be the first to say that public shaming should target shaming someone for holding a particular position, not just shaming them for physical appearance or something irrelevant to the topic. If a skinny girl named Karen says that “god says gay marriage is wrong,” then she shouldn’t be ridiculed for her aversion to pasta. You shame her for holding such a ludicrous position.

    Also, Kim Davis might think that we (and gays) do demonstrable harm to people, but the difference is that she’s wrong and we’re not. You seem to be ignoring this, and it’s the most important difference.

  90. Wiggle Puppy says

    You’re a master at straw-manning people! I said very clearly that my reasoning was “if your position is based on a holy book and your trust in that holy book is based on faith, then you have insufficient justification because faith is indistinguishable from wishful thinking and your faith is indistinguishable from all the other people who claim to have faith and believe different things than you.” Please tell me where if I claimed to be right because I said so or because the other person was stupid. And these debates need to happen in public because A) I suspect I’m not going to change the mind of a hard-core believer (at least not initially) but people who are not sure might benefit from seeing the arguments presented and determining who has a more convincing argument and B) we live in a country where laws are made by the public in the form of a representative democracy and interpreted by judges who are either elected or appointed by an elected executive. You don’t come quite out and say it, but it seems like you’re suggesting that controversial issues shouldn’t be debated in public, which I find totally baffling. I don’t make a habit of walking up to people who I disagree with on these issues and just start yelling at them in public – I know quite a few – but if you put your viewpoint out in the public arena and tell people that they should agree with you on topics that affect other peoples’ lives, then I’m going to ask for justification, and if there isn’t any, then I’m going to say so. It’s not like Kim Davis was quiet about it. She did have a nationally-televised rally with presidential candidates after being released, right?

  91. says

    @Guy
    There are dictionaries that give multiple definitions to what a god or goddess is even though there are many religions relating to the idea since ancient times. Still it is generally a concept and still subjective per person of such things.

    Even if one calls other people or other things of nature a god that is still debatable. Subjective thinking of experiences that can be tested skeptically and scientifically would be more useful for such claims rather than just playing word salad about any faith perhaps. I don’t think it would make a difference to change words and concepts all that much on any end of ideas about such things.

  92. Narf says

    @97 – Bugmaster

    I have no problem with personally telling someone, “look, this belief is ridiculous, here’s why” — but the “here’s why” part is important. If you just say, “your belief is ridiculous because I said so”, or “because you’re stupid”, then you’re not really attacking his belief, you are just attacking him as a person, and that never goes well.

    Of course.  You rip apart his argument, and when he either refuses to acknowledge any of your points or immediately turns his argument into “Bible, Bible, Bible, Bible … Bible,” let the mockery commence.

    But the “personally” part is also very important. There’s a difference between telling someone in private, “look, your belief is silly”, and saying “Point and laugh, everyone ! Point at the idiot ! Look at how stupid he is ! Come on, all together now !”.

    I disagree completely.  Public mockery is absolutely on the table.  You don’t do it within a professional setting, in which you’re supposed to be more classy than that, but otherwise, have at it.

    Of course, in a professional setting, no one should be bringing up religion in the first place.

  93. says

    if theists want to get together and nail down some “ultimate” definition of a “real” god, there’s no one stopping them. meanwhile atheists are under no obligation to do that job for them.

    which illustrates why no one cares about this topic.

  94. says

    @ 100 – narf

    “Public mockery is absolutely on the table.”

    jefferson said it best:

    “ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them.”

  95. Mas says

    @EL 30 (and @Los 63)

    Whenever someone casually calls Sam Harris a scumbag, it’s likely that person has fallen for the “preemptive nuclear strike” smear.

  96. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Mas
    Sam Harris has clearly described his position as thus: He clearly stated that it was moral to kill Osama bin Ladin, and and Osama was not guilty of any crime, and that the reason it was moral to kill him is because Osama’s political advocacy was so dangerous that he needed to be killed. — Holding that position makes one a scumbag.

    http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/response-to-controversy

    When one asks why it would be ethical to drop a bomb on Ayman al-Zawahiri, the current leader of al Qaeda, the answer cannot be, “Because he killed so many people in the past.” To my knowledge, the man hasn’t killed anyone personally. However, he is likely to get a lot of innocent people killed because of what he and his followers believe about jihad, martyrdom, the ascendancy of Islam, etc. A willingness to take preventative action against a dangerous enemy is compatible with being against the death penalty (which I am). Whenever we can capture and imprison jihadists, we should. But in many cases this is either impossible or too risky. Would it have been better if we had captured Osama bin Laden? In my view, yes. Do I think the members of Seal Team Six should have assumed any added risk to bring him back alive? Absolutely not.

    Sam Harris is also a fool. Osama bin Laden should not be captured or killed because of his political advocacy. He should be killed for laundering money, for conspiracy to commit murder and other crimes, for payment to others to commit murder and other crimes, etc. All perfectly normal crimes. But Sam Harris believes that it’s moral and justifiable to kill people who are believers in the extremist violent form of jihad if they happen to be politically influential, and is so fixated on this issue that he cannot take 5 seconds of introspection and see the perfectly normal and plain crimes that Osama did.

    I am one of the biggest free speech advocates that you can find, and Sam Harris fails miserably.

  97. Bugmaster says

    @Monocle Smile #98:

    You’re against public shaming for ANY reason? Are you serious?

    I don’t know, “ANY” is kind of a big word, but basically, yes. Is that so strange ?

    As I said above, I believe that false beliefs should be discredited, not suppressed. When you get together a mob and use it to publicly shame someone, you’re not going after his belief, you’re going after him personally. The thing is, in the short term, this tactic works pretty well. You get someone fired from his job, dis-invited from a conference, blacklisted in the industry, ostracized by all his friends, doxxed, or whatever. That person is no longer a threat to you, and you’ve sent a clear message: anyone who dares to express some specific belief (say, that the Earth is flat) will suffer the same fate. After a while, no one dares oppose you.

    But the problem is that you haven’t actually proven to anyone that the Earth is round; all you’ve proven is that you and your followers are not to be messed with; and that public shaming is a wonderful tactic. And tomorrow, someone with more followers with you (which, if you’re fighting for social justice for minority groups, includes most people by definition) is going to start a little shaming campaign of his own, and there won’t be much you can do to stop him. Meanwhile, everyone else is quaking in their boots, afraid to say anything that will draw the ire of anyone with a mob at his back.

    So, I’m against public shaming for the same reason I’m against firebombing one’s political opponents: collateral damage, escalation, chilling effects against progress, and basic morality (though I acknowledge that this last point is subjective). Yes, public shaming is non-violent, but that still doesn’t make it right.

  98. Bugmaster says

    @Monocle Smile #98:
    Forgot to add this last part:

    Also, Kim Davis might think that we (and gays) do demonstrable harm to people, but the difference is that she’s wrong and we’re not.

    Are you aware that this is what literally everyone says about their opponents ?

    “You may think that gay people are harmless, but you’re wrong, they are eroding the moral fabric of society and must be stopped !”

    “You may think that God does not exist, but you’re wrong, and you’ll go to Hell for it (and drag other people down with you, too) !”

    “You may think that firebombing this mosque/church/synagogue/whatever is a bad idea, but you’re wrong, it’s what God wants us to do !”

    Have you really never heard stuff like that before ? If you have, then what makes you different ? Is it the strength of your convictions ? Is it the burning rage you feel inside when someone violates the principles you hold sacred ? Well guess what, that’s what everyone else feels like all the time, as well !

    You might say, “no, idiot, it’s the evidence”. Ok, what evidence have you got ? That Creationist who lives next door to you has got a mountain of Bible quotes to back up his belief; is that any better than what you’ve got ? Ok, so you say that you’ve got the real, true evidence; whereas he’s got nothing but obsolete quotations from a mistranslated book. Guess what, that’s exactly what he thinks about your list of fossils and DNA GC-content, too. Sure, sure, I get it, molecular DNA evidence is makes way more sense than all those Biblical quotations, but I’m already on your side. How are you going to convince the people who aren’t ? Are you just going to go around silencing anyone who disagrees with you, or what ?

  99. Wiggle Puppy says

    And here we come to the heart of matter, arguing that physical evidence with which one can build models that yield predictable and repeatable results is just as valid as the writings in an old book created by ancient desert mystics. Yes, some people might say that allowing gay marriage will lead to damage to society and divine wrath, while others say that persecuting gays inflicts real psychological and sometimes physical harm and that they should be treated equally under the law. So now we have a disagreement. How do we go about figuring out who is most probably right? If one person claims that gays are sinning because god prohibits homosexuality and therefore it’s a choice because god doesn’t make mistakes and another person says that evidence shows there is a strong genetic link to homosexuality and it isn’t a choice, how do we figure out who’s right? Well, if the first person justifies their reliance on their holy book by faith, then we’re kind of done, because I can’t distinguish that person’s faith from the faith of a thousand other people who all believe a thousand different things, but we can test physical (in this case genetic) evidence to confirm whether or not the conclusions we’ve reached are most likely true. You keep jumping to people getting fired from jobs and such if there’s no need to go there. The point of mockery, as others have pointed out, is to shape people out of hardened complacency. There are many religious people in this country and elsewhere who believe their beliefs strongly but seem to not have the first clue why. They are taught from a very young age that their holy book is absolutely correct simply because it is and that faith is a virtue. So when someone else starts questioning why exactly their holy book is so reliable and why faith is different from gullibility or wishful thinking, the space is opened for them to start thinking more deeply about why they believe what they believe. You keep jumping to all these nightmare scenarios for no reason, when all we’re saying is that ridiculing that which someone holds to be sacred and inviolable can get them thinking a bit more about where their beliefs come from, especially if they find that they can’t justify their position like they thought they could.

  100. Monocle Smile says

    @Bugmaster

    As I said above, I believe that false beliefs should be discredited, not suppressed. When you get together a mob and use it to publicly shame someone, you’re not going after his belief, you’re going after him personally. The thing is, in the short term, this tactic works pretty well. You get someone fired from his job, dis-invited from a conference, blacklisted in the industry, ostracized by all his friends, doxxed, or whatever

    Thanks for being dishonest and ignoring what I actually said about public shaming. Are you even capable of addressing this topic without spinning off in some other direction? I’ve been letting your smear job of Wiggle Puppy sit on the sidelines for now, but it’s spreading wildly. What I’m talking about isn’t about silencing. It’s about the opposite. It’s about airing the other guy’s dirty-ass laundry and pointing out its filth.

    You might say, “no, idiot, it’s the evidence”. Ok, what evidence have you got ? That Creationist who lives next door to you has got a mountain of Bible quotes to back up his belief; is that any better than what you’ve got ? Ok, so you say that you’ve got the real, true evidence; whereas he’s got nothing but obsolete quotations from a mistranslated book. Guess what, that’s exactly what he thinks about your list of fossils and DNA GC-content, too

    Yeah, fuck that. Some people are lost causes. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be shamed…because the shaming is for the benefit of the third party as well. I have never made it my goal to convince creationists that they’re wrong. That’s because 99% of the time, they are hopeless dipshits. Instead, effective public shaming shows other people that they’re full of shit. It’s why I often ask creationists why their computer works and I go from there. Typically I deal with dunderheads who don’t understand the Socratic line of reasoning, but when a third party follows the thread and sees that science demonstrably works while fabricated nonsense (religious texts) demonstrably does not, they learn something.

  101. Narf says

    @106 – Bugmaster

    As I said above, I believe that false beliefs should be discredited, not suppressed. When you get together a mob and use it to publicly shame someone, you’re not going after his belief, you’re going after him personally.

    Whoah, whoah, whoah, whoah, whoah.

    That is not what public shaming means.  Everything you describe in the following paragraphs is public shunning, possibly bordering on some sort of incitement.  There’s a freaking huge difference.  Public shaming is simply mocking someone, after ripping apart what they have to say, in front of a group of people.

    If this is what you took from the words ‘shaming’, when you first brought it up, then there’s your problem.

  102. Narf says

    @95 – A Darker Storm

    Did this help clarify any unresolved issues?

    “But, but, but … but Jesus! Look at all of the things he said against homosexuality!”

  103. Conversion Tube says

    110 . “Are you aware that this is what literally everyone says about their opponents ?

    Are you aware that in a lot of arguments one opponent actually is wrong and the other actually is right, regardless of what “everyone says”??

  104. Conversion Tube says

    “Have you really never heard stuff like that before ? If you have, then what makes you different ? ”

    What makes us different is we are appealing to logic and observable facts or pointing out where something isn’t a fact instead of playing pretend trying to act like we know what an invisible friend wants for everyone.

    Not only are they stating an invisible being exists with no evidence. They are also stating they are capable of ESP, reading this non existing characters mind. They don’t just think it exists, they know exactly what it wants.

  105. Bugmaster says

    @Narf #113:
    Hmm, well, in that case, we’re probably arguing over nothing. I was thinking of “public shaming” in this context:

    http://www.amazon.com/So-Youve-Been-Publicly-Shamed-ebook/dp/B00L9B7IRC/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

    But if all you’re doing is saying, “your beliefs are stupid”, then yeah, it’s not so bad; as long as you are not inciting other people to pile on to your opponent and cause him real harm in his real life.

  106. Bugmaster says

    @Conversion Tube #116:

    What makes us different is we are appealing to logic and observable facts or pointing out where something isn’t a fact instead of playing pretend trying to act like we know what an invisible friend wants for everyone.

    Yeah, I am with you 100%; but remember, I am not the one you have to convince.

    Your religious opponents (well, most of them, anyway) think that you are the one who is “playing pretend” as though there were no God, whereas every reasonable person clearly knows that God exists and watches over us all the time.

    This is why ridiculing people right off the bat is an ineffective tactic: to your opponents, you look as ridiculous as they look to you. Yes, if they accepted the same exact core premises as you do, then they would realize right away that they are wrong and you are right; but then, you wouldn’t be arguing with them in the first place !

    So, what you need to do is find some common ground with them. Find out what few premises, if any, you have in common, then build on that common foundation to develop a model of the world, and point out which of their assumptions disagree with the model. At that point, they can either reject their assumptions; or poke holes in your argument; or stick their fingers in their ears in sing “la la la I can’t hear you”. In this latter case, yeah you can totally mock them, but this probably won’t do anything… Might make your own supporters laugh, I guess, so there’s that at least…

  107. Narf says

    @119 – Bugmaster
    Yeah, that book is horribly misnamed.  That’s criminal impersonation and fraud.  How the heck does that count as shaming?  Also, the kind of abuse he’s talking about on social media isn’t shaming; it’s harassment.  Whoever named that book needs a good talking to.

    And who the hell wrote that review?  27 lines in one mass of text?  Or up to 54 lines, if you’re below 1080p resolution.  What the hell, man?

    Oh, and I’m a fan of ellipses, myself, but if you’re averaging one per line, you’re doing it wrong.

  108. corwyn says

    @120 Bugmaster:

    This is why ridiculing people right off the bat is an ineffective tactic

    Which would be great advice if anyone was doing that. They’re not. So once again you are tilting at strawmen.

  109. Narf says

    @Oz 3
    You noticed that too, huh?  I can’t remember who it was who was talking about wanting to listen to the show to see if Guy had anything more interesting to say on there that he hadn’t put in his comment on here.

    No man, what we got on here was the coherent version.  On the show, he wanted to compare establishing a definition of godhood with establishing a definition of a tomato, despite the fact that ‘godhood’ is purely conceptual, and ‘tomato’ points to an actual, physical referent.  When Tracie proposed ‘love’ as a better metaphor, since it’s also purely conceptual, Guy rejected it for some reason that was never adequately explained.  I guess he rejected it because it kills his desire to force a definition of godhood onto theists.

    Speaking of which, he thinks we need to establish a definition of godhood, ourselves, before we even speak to theists, and then we have to use that definition in the argument.  But he isn’t trying to force a definition onto theists and tell them what they believe … somehow.

    MS and EL, you know how Skwills is such an insufferable asshole, trying to tell us what we believe and why we do what we do, despite constant correction?  It seems like Guy is trying to do the exact same thing, in the other direction.

    Guy’s complaint is that without doing what he proposes, we’re stuck having to address whatever any given theist proposes as their description of their god.  Well, no shit.  That just comes with having the reactive position.  If we impose our own definitions that the theists don’t agree with, we no longer have the reactive position; we take on a burden of proof; and the theist can just disregard all of our arguments, anyway, since they don’t apply to his god.

  110. Oz 3 says

    @ Narf says Great points. It was approaching the Ray Comfort ‘unless you can prove you know EVERYTHING, you’re not qualified to dispute ANYTHING’. Tracie was amazing in her responses.

  111. Narf says

    As for the Ray Comfort thing, I would ask him if he knows everything about his god.  Almost all Christians fall back on the mystery of their god and the inability of humans to understand why their god does things the way that he does.

    So, you don’t know everything about your god, so you aren’t qualified to dispute anything about your god.  “Okay then, your god is a ham sandwich!” as Russell is fond of saying.

    No, no, you don’t get to dispute that claim, Ray.  If you don’t hold yourself to the same standards that you hold everyone else to, you’re a dishonest hypocrite.

    Yes, your god told you, so you know it for certain.  How do you know your god isn’t lying to you?  Yeah, yeah, the witness of the holy spirit.  How do you know that the holy spirit isn’t a behavioral manipulation tool set up by your god to help con people?

    Mind you, Ray would never actually admit to being wrong, and it’s only worth talking to him if you have final editorial control, since he’s demonstrated such amazing deceit in his editing, before, such as changing out the question he asked atheists, inserting one that makes their answers look bad … since he was behind the camera, and all he had to do was swap out the audio.

    When it’s OK to lie: When you’re lying for Jesus
    – potholer54

  112. Bugmaster says

    Looks like we’ve mostly come to consensus on the public shaming thing, namely that a). I’m apparently an evil mastermind who lies all the time to everyone about everything, and b). everyone is pretty much against the kind of “public shaming” that I thought we were talking about, namely inciting mobs to harass your political opponents and silence their opinions. I’m not as big of a fan of general non-harassing mockery as other people, but I don’t have any strong principled objections to it, either.

    @Narf #124:

    he thinks we need to establish a definition of godhood, ourselves, before we even speak to theists

    Could we at least agree that any kind of god would be, at the very least, an extremely powerful being ? By this I mean, someone who could (if he wanted to) spontaneously accomplish grand feats that we humans would consider impossible in principle.

    So, for example, a general with his finger on the nuclear launch button would not count as a “god” under this definition — yes, he has the power to wipe out entire cities, but we are pretty sure that anyone with a nuke could do the same thing. A regular person who can fly by will alone probably won’t count as a “god”, either; yes, he can do impossible things, but their effect is ultimately pretty minor (plain old birds can fly too, they just do it differently). However, someone who could obliterate cities with a snap of his fingers, create worlds out of empty space, or instantly convince every person on Earth to recite the same limerick simultaneously, would count as a god under this definition.

    Obviously, most religions endow their gods with lots of other attributes, but that’s ok — we’re not trying to create a fully exhaustive definition, we’re just trying to nail down one minimal requirement.

  113. Narf says

    Could we at least agree that any kind of god would be, at the very least, an extremely powerful being ? By this I mean, someone who could (if he wanted to) spontaneously accomplish grand feats that we humans would consider impossible in principle.

    Eh, in most cases, but I can think of exceptions.

    Take the Baals of ancient times.  There were a few larger gods called Baal or some similar variation, because it was a general term for a god, in some language or other.  There were also household baals, though.  I think it’s similar to something in Hinduism, in which you have thousands and thousands of gods, which are part of Brahman, as is everything else, but they’re also separate entities.  You can have your own household god.

    You could argue that they’re more properly called spirits, but they call them gods.  Those things would not be extremely powerful, just able to do things that humans cannot, such as providing spiritual protection against evil influences and that sort of spiritual nonsense.  Considering that god worship started as something more like spirit worship, the line between spirits and gods is pretty fuzzy.

    I don’t know how powerful Polynesian totem-worshipers thought their gods were, either.

    So, no, I don’t think we can.

  114. Wiggle Puppy says

    @Bugmaster 127: Yes, instead of spinning off in a bunch of directions about roving mobs and a bunch of other baffling stuff, you could have tried reading what I was actually saying, when I kept insisting over and over that what I was advocating was refusing to respect peoples’ views if they were harmful to other peoples’ well-being and couldn’t be rationally justified…

  115. Narf says

    @Bugmaster

    I’m apparently an evil mastermind who lies all the time to everyone about everything …

    Hey, everyone needs a hobby.

  116. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Bugmaster

    namely inciting mobs to harass your political opponents and silence their opinions

    I’m honestly not sure what you’re talking about. If someone is attempting political advocacy, and if I believe that their position is wrong, then a reasonable thing to do is to organize a letter petition drive to sent that organization letters that state disagreement. It would be reasonable for the lettes to contain words like “wrong”, “foolish”, “dangerous”, “harmful”, “noxious”, etc. Is that harassment? Is that “silencing their opinions”? I don’t think so. Again, you’re really resembling the freeze peach crowd.

    There’s still a massive disconnect. I don’t know if the disconnect is over the tactics, or if the disconnect is a disagreement concerning the appropriateness of the application of peer pressure.

    Let me put it like this. Many religious people are religious because of peer pressure of their fellow religious people, and if that wasn’t there then they wouldn’t be religious. I want to create some counter peer pressure. On the one side, they’ll have people praising them for being religious. I want people on the other side to ridicule them for being religious, like calling them “foolish”, “ignorant”, “gullible”, and so forth, and ideally that should also come with further clear and rational arguments and explanations why those descriptions are appropriate. If someone is going to choose to be silent because the culture is ridiculing them for their ideas but no more, then that’s not my problem, and I’m pretty sure I don’t care. That’s fundamentally different than harassing them which involves seeking out non-public persons, and/or using words like “bitch” and other inappropriate insults.

    I think you disagree with the above paragraph – yes/no?

  117. Bugmaster says

    @EnlightenmentLiberal #131:

    I think you disagree with the above paragraph – yes/no?

    If I hold a gun to your head and say, “give me all your money”, you are — technically — absolutely free to choose to refuse my proposal. Of course, acquiring a new hole in your skull is much, much worse than acquiring an indelible reputation as “that guy whom it’s ok for everyone to mock”, but the principle is the same: the choice is not exactly free.

    You are making a distinction between using “inappropriate insults”, as contrasted with appropriate insults such as “foolish, ignorant, gullible, and so forth”, but I don’t think this distinction makes much difference (and besides, no one died and made you the guy in charge of deciding what’s appropriate).

    Imagine that you’re an atheist growing up in, say, rural Alabama or somewhere like that. You voice your atheism, and now everyone in your community calls you “foolish” and so on. They are using only appropriate insults, of course; no one calls you a “bitch”; but, since everyone in town knows for a fact that God exists (or at least they think they do), people treat you as we would treat a round-Earth denialist. Would you be converted to religion by such tactics ? In general, in what way would your beliefs and behaviors change ?

    I think the difference between you and me is — possibly, I’m not sure — that our goals are fundamentally different. You want to see less religion in the world; but I want to see more reason (as well as more mutual respect, more freedom of expression, and less violence in general). Our goals are not entirely incompatible: if there’s more reason, obviously there’d be fewer unreasonable things, such as religion. However, your methods of using intimidation to get what you want are incompatible with my other goals, because intimidation is not reasonable (and it promotes the kind of culture where mutual respect and freedom of expression are much harder to obtain).

    To use a rather crude and entirely hyperbolic analogy, I support some of PETA’s goals (kinder treatment of animals), but despite this I am not a PETA member — because some of their tactics (terrorism) conflict with other goals that I value at least as highly.

  118. Bugmaster says

    @Narf #128:
    You might be right about household gods, I’m not sure. I don’t really know how powerful those guys were supposed to be. If they prevent evil demons from possessing your house, then I could argue that the household gods do possess a lot of power (assuming that demons exist, which people at the time probably believed that they did).

    On the other hand, I can think of entities such as Brownies or the Domovoy, who can basically do little things like driving out mice, preventing your beer from souring too quickly, etc. These are all minor feats that wouldn’t land them in the “god” category by my definition. But then, they were usually bargained with, cajoled, or tricked, and not worshiped — so maybe that’s ok ?

  119. Monocle Smile says

    @Bugmaster

    If I hold a gun to your head and say, “give me all your money”, you are — technically — absolutely free to choose to refuse my proposal

    You didn’t read a word of what EL wrote, did you?

    You are making a distinction between using “inappropriate insults”, as contrasted with appropriate insults such as “foolish, ignorant, gullible, and so forth”, but I don’t think this distinction makes much difference (and besides, no one died and made you the guy in charge of deciding what’s appropriate)

    /dismissive wanking motion
    This is the difference you’ve been complaining about so far, so now we have yet another change of direction for no reason.

    but, since everyone in town knows for a fact that God exists (or at least they think they do), people treat you as we would treat a round-Earth denialist. Would you be converted to religion by such tactics ? In general, in what way would your beliefs and behaviors change ?

    I’d probably re-evaluate my position, which is all EL intends to do. I agree with him. But you’re forgetting for the half-dozenth time that someone is right and someone is wrong on this topic, so you can’t just flip the script and expect the same outcome. I’d still come to the conclusion of atheism. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t do some more critical thinking.

    However, your methods of using intimidation to get what you want are incompatible with my other goals, because intimidation is not reasonable (and it promotes the kind of culture where mutual respect and freedom of expression are much harder to obtain)

    HAHAHAHAHAHA
    If EL’s proposal is what you call “intimidation,” then you’re indeed deep within the freeze peach crowd. Grow a skin.

  120. ironchops says

    @133
    “(assuming that demons exist, which people at the time probably believed that they did)”
    Demons do exist. They are not supernatural but they are spirits. Spirits are not supernatural either but are real just the same.

  121. Narf says

    @133 – Bugmaster
    I wouldn’t say that they’re necessarily very powerful. What power they do have just works on the spiritual plane — whatever the hell that is — rather than the physical.  I wouldn’t say that they have to be powerful to do things that we can’t, just fundamentally different.  Either way, they sure as hell aren’t powerful like one of those anthropomorphic-personification gods.

  122. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Bugmaster
    Thanks for clearing that up. I still think there’s a partial disconnect as to the severity and specifics of the peer pressure which I’m proposing, but I think that’s largely immaterial at this point. It seems that you think any and all forms of organized or spontaneous cultural condemnation of ideas is a form of intimidation comparable to putting a gun to someone’s head, and thus constitutes a form of censorship. I politely disagree. My “freeze peach” assessment appears to be correct.

  123. Bugmaster says

    @EnlightenmentLiberal #137:

    It seems that you think any and all forms of organized or spontaneous cultural condemnation of ideas is a form of intimidation comparable to putting a gun to someone’s head

    To be fair, I explicitly said that the gun-to-the head situation is much worse. By analogy, a paper cut and a broken leg are both injuries, but one of them is much more severe than the other.

    I’m not sure what “spontaneous cultural condemnation” looks like; I think this is called “the status quo”, or possibly “patriarchy”, but I could be wrong. However, “organized cultural condemnation” is just your ordinary run-of-the-mill public shaming mob, so yeah, I’m against those. As I said, I want false beliefs to be discredited, not merely silenced (for reasons I outlined above). On a purely personal note, whenever I see someone trying really hard to silence his political opposition, I can’t help but see him as a weakling who is trying to hide his total lack of evidence behind some fancy rhetoric and peer pressure — you know, Creationist-style. But YMMV.

    My “freeze peach” assessment appears to be correct.

    I still don’t know what that is (besides some kind of meme), so… maybe ?

  124. Bugmaster says

    @Narf #136:
    Yeah, I think you’re right, so my definition is definitely not inclusive enough. I guess we’re back to square one when talking to theists about their gods…

  125. Bugmaster says

    @Monocle Smile #134:

    But you’re forgetting for the half-dozenth time that someone is right and someone is wrong on this topic, so you can’t just flip the script and expect the same outcome.

    In a world where everyone had access to some kind of a universally accepted, 100% accurate oracle, your point would be totally relevant. Sadly, we don’t live in such a world. Here in our current world, people disagree on who is right and who is wrong all the time; and merely stating “I am so totally right” really loudly is not, by itself, a very persuasive argument. Not even when you are totally, 100% right, for reals.

  126. Wiggle Puppy says

    @ Bugmaster It’s baffling to me why you keep going in all these crazy directions. Imagine the following conversation:

    P1: I believe that women shouldn’t get access to medicine for kidney infections.
    P2: Why?
    P1: Because I believe in Gary the cosmic fairy, and Gary says that women get kidney infections because they’ve done something wrong, and treating their illness is permitting wrongdoing. They should suffer through them as punishment.
    P2: How do you know that Gary thinks that?
    P1: Because Gary’s Book says that.
    P2: Why should we do something just because Gary says so? And furthermore, Gary’s Book sure looks like it was just written by some people who didn’t know very much about the world, not any kind of higher being. In fact, I don’t even see any reason that Gary exists. How can you justify depriving women of treatment for kidney infections when you can’t demonstrate that Gary is even a real being?
    P1: Because I have faith that Gary is real and that Gary’s Book accurately reflects his wishes. Most of the people around us believe in Gary and think we should do what he says.
    P2: That’s ridiculous. You can’t give any reason why any of this is true, and I can’t distinguish your faith from the faith of a person who believes the exact opposite. The people in your small community may believe in Gary, but there are a bunch of other people around the world who believe in Melvin the fairy, Kyle the succubus, Jerry the minotaur, and a whole bunch of other things, none of which we have any reason to think actually exist.
    P1: My faith is personal, and you can’t criticize it! Everyone has a right to their beliefs!
    P2: But you’re advocating for a policy that affects the material well-being of other people, and you can’t justify it. At that point, your faith doesn’t just live in your head anymore and you need a more substantial reason why we should take it seriously. Pointing to a book that says questionable things isn’t even close to enough.
    P1: You’re mocking my faith! You can’t do that!

    All we’re saying is that people’s ridiculous beliefs should be pointed out to be ridiculous if they negatively affect other people. That’s it. It’s not that hard. I don’t want to get anybody fired, or tarred and feathered, or socially ostracized. I want people to provide a good reason for positions that affect other people, and if they can’t, then I’ll say so. You’re living in this weird slippery-slope fantasy world where ridiculing people’s beliefs is tantamount to severe persecution. It’s not. At all.

  127. Monocle Smile says

    Here in our current world, people disagree on who is right and who is wrong all the time; and merely stating “I am so totally right” really loudly is not, by itself, a very persuasive argument

    We’ve all been clear about what we mean by “public shaming” and yet you continue to act as if we mean something else. I can’t fix your dishonesty. Furthermore, the fact that some people might not be persuaded by public shaming is utterly irrelevant, and you continue to miss this point as well.

  128. Bugmaster says

    @Wiggle Puppy #141:
    I have no problem with your hypothetical conversation. However, if P2 proceeds to get all of his friends together, and gets them to plaster the neighbourhood with leaflets proclaiming, “P1 is an idiot who hates women and worships fairies, everyone make sure to jeer at him when you pass him on the street”, then yeah, I’d be opposed to that.

    By the way, I completely agree with P1 when he says, “Everyone has a right to their beliefs!” Everyone absolutely has a right to his beliefs. You don’t get to assume direct control over other people’s thoughts; better people than you have tried that, and failed pretty spectacularly.

    You have a right to your crazy beliefs, and P1 has a right to his. But when we are trying to figure out a public policy that affects everyone, then we need to come up with a solution that is grounded in some sort of reality. And I really wish that people — on all sides — would stop advocating for the use of force in order to make everyone else accept their policies, because, historically speaking, this just doesn’t work too well.

  129. Bugmaster says

    @Monocle Smile #142:
    That’s because you keep equivocating between two meanings of the phrase: 1). “person A publicly making fun of person B”, and 2). “person A inciting all of his friends to make fun of person B”. I am ok with (1), but not with (2).

    Furthermore, I do think that, if your goal is to persuade people; then choosing a strategy that is not in fact effective at persuading people is a bad move. If, on the other hand, your goal is to suppress opposing views; then persuading people is indeed irrelevant — but I do in fact oppose that goal. Of course, if your goal is neither to persuade people, nor to suppress opposing views, but something else entirely; then my objections are moot. If that’s the case, please state clearly what it is you’re trying to accomplish.

  130. Monocle Smile says

    @Bugmaster
    Fucking stop it. YOU are equivocating. EL was talking about one thing. YOU picked that random-ass bullshit out of thin air and pretended as if EL was talking about something else. YOU made it seem like we’re talking about engaging in loud ad hominem fallacies and nothing more. YOU did that. We were all clear. YOU made a poor choice.

    Furthermore, I do think that, if your goal is to persuade people; then choosing a strategy that is not in fact effective at persuading people is a bad move

    Please learn how to read. Some people might not be persuaded by being mocked. I don’t really care. Of course, you’ll find some way to horribly misread this, too.

  131. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @MS
    I think there’s still some miscommunication going on. It’s hard to put my finger on it.

    I think Scott Clifton really put it great in his Skepticon 7 video. Loosely: Imagine you went into a normal party, and told everyone that you believe that you are in The Matrix right now, and cling to this belief stubbornly, and attempt in seriousness to defend this belief with “I have faith”, etc. Scott Clifton notes that you will quickly pay a social price. You will to some extent be avoided, a light degree of ostracization and shunning. People will make fun of you behind your back, or even openly to your face. There will be peer pressure to conform. Something like that is what I want to be done against religious people.

    Bugmaster has some borderline legitimate grievances. In this particular case with the particular peer pressure that I want to use, I think that Bugmaster is wrong. I think that the peer pressure will be effective, and I am not terribly concerned that this application of normal levels of peer pressure will result in McCarthy era tactics of suppression. Bugmaster seems to admit no acceptable amount of peer pressure, whereas I see a difference between acceptable amounts of peer pressure and unacceptable amounts of peer pressure.

    In Bugmaster’s defense, this is a very hard area of free speech ethics IMHO. JS Mill spends quite a bit of time talking about peer pressure as a form of effective censorship that can be more powerful than government censorship.

    I think Bugmaster deserves a little more respect, and you should attack what he’s saying directly, which is his seeming absolutist black-and-white position that no amount of peer pressure to “suppress” (bad) ideas is tolerable.

  132. Wiggle Puppy says

    It’s hard to give Bugmaster respect when (s)he keeps erecting straw men and putting words in peoples’ mouths. Please point out where anyone said that we should paper the neighborhood with flyers and leaflets and get everyone to “jeer.” It’s really easy to argue against a distorted, cartoonishly ridiculous version of your opponent.

    Oh, and Bugmaster, yes, everyone has a right to their beliefs. What I was referring to was the theist inclination to cite personal faith and conviction as a reason for trying to compel other people to live by their own beliefs, then retreating to “everyone has a right to their beliefs, leave me alone!” when subsequently challenged on their epistemological foundations.

  133. Bugmaster says

    @EnlightenmentLiberal #146:

    Bugmaster seems to admit no acceptable amount of peer pressure, whereas I see a difference between acceptable amounts of peer pressure and unacceptable amounts of peer pressure.

    I think this is a fair summary of our disagreement, though I didn’t mean to come off as quite that absolutist. I don’t oppose all peer pressure per se (though see more on this below), but organized peer pressure specifically. So, if Alice is at that party, and she loudly proclaims that she is in the Matrix, and everyone in earshot just goes “wha… are you for real ?” — then I’d be ok with that. However, if Alice is having a private conversation with Bob about this Matrix deal, and then Bob turns around and yells, “hey everyone, Alice over here believes in the Matrix, is she nuts or what ?” — then I think that Bob would have crossed a line.

    This is why I’m somewhat uncomfortable with your statement, “something like that is what I want to be done against religious people”; though maybe I’m misinterpreting it (if so, I apologize). I mean, I agree with your goals — I would love to live in a world where religion is treated with the same level of respect as belief in the Matrix (i.e., not much of it). But I want this to happen not because it becomes fashionable to shame religious people, or because religious people are thought of as somehow inherently inferior, and not because there’s some sort of an organized campaign that galvanizes its followers to jeer at religious people wherever they find them. Instead, I want this to happen because most people understand that there simply isn’t much evidence in favor of religion, and thus have placed this belief on the same shelf with fairies, leprechauns, and Matrix overlords.

    To put it another way: I actually lived in a fairly conservative community for a while (a short while, but still); and I learned pretty quickly that expressing certain beliefs (such as, e.g., “hey, maybe there isn’t as much historical support for Jesus as everyone thinks”) is just a bad idea that will land me in a world of trouble. So, I learned to shut up and go with the flow, say grace at meals, grunt noncommittally whenever someone asked me my opinion on the Iraq war (which was obviously the best thing invented since sliced bread), etc. I don’t really want communities like that to become the norm (o rather, more of a norm than they already are), and I definitely don’t want to turn our entire society into a place like that — not even if I get to be on the winning side. Ethics aside, I’m pretty sure that some of my current beliefs are wrong (hey, maybe even this one !), and if that is the case, then I want to leave the door open for someone to convince me of that.

    So, if by “something like that is what I want to be done against religious people” you mean, “I wish more people would spend the effort to mock the religious, in order to make them afraid of (or maybe just extremely uncomfortable with) speaking their beliefs out loud”, then I disagree with you. But if all you mean is, “I wish most people understood that religion is bunk”, then yeah, you and I are on the same page.

  134. corwyn says

    How about:

    I wish there was as much peer pressure applied against crazy irrational beliefs like religions, as there is against crazy irrational beliefs like ‘the Yankees are a great team who are going to win the pennant’. No one (as far as I can tell) thinks that is a too much peer pressure.

  135. Narf says

    Oh, wow. I see that FTB’s e-mail notification system finally kicked back in, for me. I just got a fuck-ton of back notices to stuff from several days ago.

  136. says

    @15
    in reply to my statement > Here, because the word is not our own, and because we only have definitions of gods, we decide to sift through all of them to try and find labels common to all gods.

    you said>it’s possible for God A and God C to have NOTHING in common

    my answer>Not even godhood? Then why do you refer to both of them as gods? Somehow, as implied in your statement, the fact that both are gods is not something they have in common.

    How about a more down to earth approach?

    Do you have a definition of knighthood? And if so, why and when do you find it useful? How much of a discussion can you have with someone who does not have a definition of knighthood, yet whimsically sees knights all over the place; in all sort of things? How much of a discussion can you have with someone who has a different definition of knighthood?

    As a sort of lesson from Discussion 101, shouldn’t we have, not only a definition of the concept of knighthood, but shouldn’t we also make sure we agree on it before we start arguing?

    And, if you find it useful to have a definition of knighthood when talking about knights, don’t you think that, given all that has been said about gods and their powers, it is that much more imperative, to at least try, to have a definition of godhood?

    Lastly, I did not set out to have a deep discussion about god. Want it or not, this is Discussion 101. The need to have definitions, once we have concepts, and the need to agree on those definitions, let’s call that a common language, before we start any debate.

    At this point, if anything else can be said, understand that I refuse to let faith based classical theology monopolize the concept of god, hence my introduction to secular theism, I hope to have at least a stab at defining godhood, even though it may be subject to severe criticism, and I propose a moral code even to those who cannot see the difference between violence and the expressions of violence and therefore may never know when violence is legitimate and when it is not.

    I am sorry I took so much of your time. And I promise I will not bother you again unless you invite me to comment on where you stand, if you agree or not with the following statement:

    – it’s possible for Human Being A and Human Being C to have NOTHING in common –

    Guy Rocheleau
    grocheleau255@yahoo.ca

    PS: I will not apologize for what will hopefully be a temporary speech impediment. And I will not apologize for being less than perfect on the phone. Instead I will thank those who credited me for at least trying. After all, when everything is said and done that is all one can ask of anyone. So, at least, try to get a definition of godhood and let’s compare notes. Who knows maybe we will be able to negotiate mutually profitable transactions!

  137. Narf says

    @Guy

    in reply to my statement > Here, because the word is not our own, and because we only have definitions of gods, we decide to sift through all of them to try and find labels common to all gods.

    I don’t think we have a single characteristic that applies to all gods. We’ve been talking about that for a good portion of the 150 comments on this post.

    you said>it’s possible for God A and God C to have NOTHING in common
    my answer>Not even godhood? Then why do you refer to both of them as gods? Somehow, as implied in your statement, the fact that both are gods is not something they have in common.

    Godhood is the thing we’re trying to define, man. Saying that the things we’re identifying as gods share the quality of godhood … well, yeah, that’s technically true, but it doesn’t get us anywhere at all.

    We already have the laws of logic, one of which is the principle of identity. A equals A … which is basically what you’re supporting here. We need a little more to go on.

  138. Wiggle Puppy says

    Since you’re interested in a “down to earth” approach, Guy, think of the objection to your thing this way:

    Imagine you have three people all coming to you trying to convince you that their belief in “magic” is the right one. Person A believes in a Harry Potter type of magic where the ability to do magic stuff is cultivated and learned and involves things like casting spells on people and things to move objects and affect thoughts and cast curses. Person B tells you that their conception of magic is kind of like the Force in Star Wars, an ethereal spirit binding all living things together to which some people are naturally attuned, which allows people to use telepathy and telekinesis but doesn’t include the ability to cast lasting curses and things like that. Person C tells you that they believe in magic, but when you start asking them questions, it turns out that what they mean is more like time travel and the existence of parallel universes that can affect each other somehow. Person A and Person B kind of have some similar beliefs with a few differences, but Person C’s idea is rather different from that of either A or B. So, having heard all this, who has the correct or more accurate definition of magic? How would you develop a definition of magic to compare these concepts to? Does it even make any sense for you to develop your own definition of what magic would/should be if it hasn’t been demonstrated to you that “magic” is a thing that even exists in the real world? This seems to be what you’re not getting. Sure, we can analyze from a literary perspective the different kinds of magic that have been used in fiction – much like analyzing the various gods that have been proposed by humanity can tell us about the cultures and societies that have believed in various concepts – but how do we come up with the “right” definition of something that has no verifiable referent in the real world? You keep saying that defining godhood is necessary to have a discussion about gods, but what you don’t seem to get is that doing so actually adds an unnecessary step. If I don’t believe in magic but I define magic to be the Harry Potter type and someone comes to me and says that they believe in a Star Wars-esque Force, then we’re kind of back where we first started where they have to define what they believe in and we discuss from there, except we’ve wasted time with my definition of magic that I don’t even think is real anyway. If I define godhood to include some sort of quality of conscious, but someone who says they believe in god as an entity that created everything and has vast power but is not conscious, to what am I comparing that person’s definition to say that it isn’t valid? You’re left just asking the person why they believe what they believe, which is where we started in the first place, right?

    Oh, and to say that gods have “godhood” in common is wildly ridiculous. I could say that potatoes and pears have “flipzhood” in common, where “flipzhood” is defined to be the common characteristics of potatoes and pears, like having a skin and having seeds somewhere in or on itself. I could then extend the definition to say that apples have “flipzhood” too. But we already knew that apples, potatoes, and pears have seeds and skins. I haven’t really done anything but make up a word and then arbitrarily attribute to it some characteristics that we already knew about with which I could then judge other objects by my arbitrary standard. I haven’t really advanced our understanding of anything in any meaningful way.

  139. corwyn says

    I haven’t really advanced our understanding of anything in any meaningful way.

    And you might have confused someone into thinking that potatoes have seeds in (or on) them…

  140. Wiggle Puppy says

    If you leave potatoes in a moist environment long enough, they develop “eyes” on the surface, and each one can be cut out and grown into a new potato plant. It’s a different type of “flipzhood” than that of pears

  141. says

    @153
    To me magic is by definition a process that is not well understood. And, as you pointed out, it can apply, without loss of meaning, to novels, such as Harry Potter, to movies, such as Star Wars, and to cutting edge Astro Physics, such as any hypothesis on parallel universes. It’s magic!

    To compound the problem, the definition of magic does not tell us if a given “magic trick” can ever be understood. Or that it has a “verifiable referent in the real world”.

    In other words, if ever you have to deal with a process that you don’t understand, you may accurately consider it magic. You may even assume that the process may never be understood.

    What you may not do is conclude that you should not even try or that if you don’t know how the process works then no-one else does.

    Unless you want to promote a religion. In that case, instead of the word magic you should use the word mystery. Which actually does go as far as saying that the process you don’t understand can never be understood. And, in the spirit of a true religion, you should forbid any other source of knowledge; just to reinforce the idea that if your religion does not give you the answer then the answer does not, cannot exist.

    I don’t know how “wildly ridiculous” it would be if I said that some people have priesthood in common, if they have been ordained, or if I said that some people have knighthood in common, if they have been knighted by monarchs. Anymore than I know how “wildly ridiculous” it is to say that gods have godhood in common, if they meet the criteria set forth in a definition of godhood.

    That’s why, I’ll take the longer way and state that if some people have something in common, defined in the concept of priesthood, they should be called priests. If some people have something in common, defined in the concept of knighthood, they should be called knights. Just as gods should have something in common, defined in a concept of godhood, if they are to be called gods.

    Of course I could simply agree with you. God does not exist, we don’t even have a concept of god let alone a definition. Maybe not even a word? So why don’t we just go home and watch commercials on TV? Once in a while we could criticize on a theistic position or an other. Without ever trying to figure out what this all about.

    I could agree but it would be hard because I think that even the word god on a piece of paper has to be taken as the start of a quest for the ultimate and that it has been left in the hands of faith based theology for far too long. I refuse to leave the field to people who would by-pass reason. I refuse to leave the field to people who believe!

    In this context, I simply offer a definition of godhood. Let’s see if it can stand on it own merit.

  142. Monocle Smile says

    @Guy
    Even your examples are off the mark.
    When I was a believer and active in my church’s youth group, we had to change our mission trip at the last minute because we discovered that the host church was Baptist and didn’t recognize my youth minister as a priest…because she was a woman. So “priesthood” doesn’t have a universal definition.
    There are probably plenty of knights whose knighthood was in dispute throughout history.

    Of course I could simply agree with you. God does not exist, we don’t even have a concept of god let alone a definition. Maybe not even a word? So why don’t we just go home and watch commercials on TV? Once in a while we could criticize on a theistic position or an other. Without ever trying to figure out what this all about.

    Go home. You don’t understand the topic of discussion whatsoever, and your shameless shilling earlier was a bit obnoxious.

  143. Wiggle Puppy says

    “In other words, if ever you have to deal with a process that you don’t understand, you may accurately consider it magic. You may even assume that the process may never be understood.”

    There are lots of things I don’t understand, including abiogenesis, the origins of the cosmos, and why cancer spontaneously occurs and goes into remission in seemingly-healthy people, but I wouldn’t call any of this “magic” (and I don’t assume that any of this might never be understood; I don’t assume anything about it at all and I don’t know why you would). I guess you can define “magic” however you want, but you’ve equivocated on the term so much that it basically becomes meaningless, and you haven’t actually addressed my point. My question was whether A, B, or C had the most accurate definition of magic and how you figured that out, and in response you created your own category “D” of magic. So which of you has the “right” or “correct” definition, and how did you determine that?

    The knighthood example, as has been pointed out, doesn’t work. Sure, many people have been called knights for different reasons; Paul McCartney and some medieval jousting guy may have both been called knights without seeming to have a lot in common. But if we start to define knighthood as receiving some sort of honor from a sovereign for a set of notable achievements, then we can talk about people who have been labeled knights and why they were called that and maybe what some of the different historical categories have been. We can point to things in the real world and figure out why they were put into that category and then know something about what rights and privileges they might have received as a consequence.
    To extend my analogy, let’s say that we find that the most favorable type of “flipzhood” for plants to have is one characterized by thin skins, a sweet inside material, and small seeds, because that type of flipzhood makes it more likely that a bird will eat the fruit, be able to swallow the seed, and carry it away to be planted elsewhere, allowing a plant to try to compete and thrive in a variety of environments rather than just one. Then we can talk about how we might measure plants to determine the flipzhood of each, and we might even then work to engineer plants with the most favorable types of flipzhood in order to aid their survival. In this context, “flipzhood” only becomes a meaningful category when it allows us to make accurate, testable measurements and predictions about things in the real world, NOT BEFORE. If we merely define “flipzhood” to mean “concerning a fruit or vegetable that has a skin and seeds” and then start putting things in the category and excluding others, we’ve simply come up with an arbitrary category by which to judge things and categorize them, which doesn’t do anything. If you make up a category of “godhood” and then start putting things in that category and excluding others, calling the ones you’ve included “gods” and the ones you’ve excluded “not gods” – then you’ve just created a tautology, which doesn’t really do anything either. This problem is compounded when the things you’re categorizing don’t have referents in the real world. If someone tells you that they worship Ganesh (and I know people that do) and you tell them that Ganesh isn’t a god because he isn’t ultimate, what exactly did that accomplish? Anything? Do you REALLY think that THEY will stop worshipping Ganesh because he doesn’t fit YOUR definition? Why not just ask them WHY they believe in Ganesh and go from there?

  144. says

    Narf,

    Imagine for a moment

    That all gods do have at least one common characteristic: they are gods.

    Why?

    Because they have in common qualities (listed in a definition) of godhood. For lack of anything else let’s use mine.

    This way,

    You can dismiss the outlandish and often self-serving claims of those would-be theist who, for example, worship a rock, call it a horse and use it to slurp soup.

    On the other hand,

    You can keep on claiming that “we don’t have a single characteristic that applies to all gods”. Yet still, somehow, call them all gods. And state that ”Godhood is the thing we’re trying to define…” while neglecting any likely definition; including mine.

    The choice is yours. And if I offer a definition of godhood, don’t instantly conclude that it has to be the end all and be all, of it all. Or that it is perfect. Instead see it as the starting point in my attempt to build a consensus.

    Unless of course, you feel that a consensus would be useless as a basis for language, communications and, through them, our common understanding of our environment.

  145. Narf says

    Narf,
    Imagine for a moment
    That all gods do have at least one common characteristic: they are gods.
    Why?
    Because they have in common qualities (listed in a definition) of godhood. For lack of anything else let’s use mine.

    I already addressed that.  Saying that all gods have the attribute of godhood is the most useless thing you could propose, because it’s a simple tautology.  All that you’re accomplishing with that is moving the issue one step down the line.  Okay, so what are the attributes of godhood?  It’s the exact same question.

    You can dismiss the outlandish and often self-serving claims of those would-be theist who, for example, worship a rock, call it a horse and use it to slurp soup.

    No, you can’t.  What about the Polynesian islanders who worshiped totems?  Sure, they thought that there was a spirit/god of some sort in there, but you could say the same of the person who worships a rock.

    You can keep on claiming that “we don’t have a single characteristic that applies to all gods”. Yet still, somehow, call them all gods. And state that ”Godhood is the thing we’re trying to define…” while neglecting any likely definition; including mine.

    I didn’t see a definition that you proposed.  Most of that first post you made was long and didn’t seem to be going anywhere, so I gave up in boredom, a few paragraphs in.

    Can you give me a few characteristics that you think are shared by every god out there, without the mass of text?  This last comment you made, which I’m responding to, is much better … more concise.  Give me what you have so far, in the way of characteristics, and we’ll talk about that.

    The choice is yours. And if I offer a definition of godhood, don’t instantly conclude that it has to be the end all and be all, of it all. Or that it is perfect. Instead see it as the starting point in my attempt to build a consensus.
    Unless of course, you feel that a consensus would be useless as a basis for language, communications and, through them, our common understanding of our environment.

    Here’s the core problem with what you’re saying.  You just stated it, here.

    If it isn’t the be-all, end-all, and it isn’t perfect, it’s useless.  Consensus isn’t good enough.  If we’re going to have something that we can take into a conversation with theists, it needs to be airtight.  Otherwise, we’re stuck with the same reactive stance, asking them what they believe, because their beliefs might not align with the consensus.

  146. says

    In so-called civilized societies, with proper rule of law, when two individuals or groups have a conflict, they appeal to a neutral third party. Usually that would be a Court of Law with a judge and all the trimmings.

    The judge would verify that your “youth minister” is indeed “A person who is trained to perform religious ceremonies at a Protestant church.” (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/minister) and may even remind the “host church” that simply disputing a claim, on the ground of some gratuitous detail, does not automatically invalidate it.

    If you keep this in mind then, when you deal with knights disputing the knighthood of other knights, you only need verify if the disputed knights have been “… granted an honorary title of knighthood by a monarch … for service to the Monarch…” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knight). Again keeping in mind that simply disputing a claim, again on the ground of some gratuitous detail, does not automatically invalidate it.

    Therefore, in this topic of discussion, we simply point out that any would-be god should have the “title of godhood” to be recognized as a proper god. Just as any would-be knight should have the “title of knighthood” to be recognized as a proper knight.

    Defining Godhood merely means listing the criteria required to deserve the title of godhood. And, if I have suggested my own, you should, somehow, understand that I simply want to see if it can stand on its own merit.

  147. corwyn says

    @161:

    “they appeal to a neutral third party.”

    So you think there is a neutral third party on the question?

    That *is* funny.

  148. Monocle Smile says

    @Guy
    What corwyn said.
    Not every accepts the definitions you do. In fact, I’d say that most clergy would object to that overly broad definition of “minister.” You’re running into exactly the same problem over and over and over again.
    You’re too focused on labels instead of concepts. We’ve been trying to communicate this, but it’s escaping you.

  149. Narf says

    @Guy (adding to corwyn and MS)
    Guy, you just need to face up to the fact that we always have the reactive position.  We have no burden of proof; we just have to tear down the inanity that the theists present.  That’s why we have to respond to whatever they present as their definition of their god (if you can coax one out of the evasive bastards) and their supposed evidence that supports whatever they claim.

    You don’t like having to always respond to whatever they have to say?  Well, tough.  That’s the way things are.  If we try any other approach, they’ll accuse us of straw-manning their position, and they’ll probably be right.

  150. Wiggle Puppy says

    Yes, coming up with a definition of “godhood” might be useful if one was going to do some kind of anthropological analysis of different gods through history to see how they rank on scales of “ultimateness” and such – in fact, doing so results in a good argument for atheism, since the earliest Mesopotamian gods were just kind of superhuman warriors who lived on earth, then gods became more complex beings who lived in the sky and gained the ability to manipulate the earth and and the weather, and then, as we learned more about the world and how it works, gods began getting more abstract and moving into transcendent ethereal realms and became the source of universal moral codes, moving ever further out of our reach. So, the concept of “godhood” has gotten more complicated as human societies have become more complicated, suggesting that gods are a product of the human imagination. But coming up with a definition of “godhood” and trying to tell theists who believe in a different concept that they have a “wrong” definition is pointless.

  151. Rick Wiggins says

    Listened to and enjoyed AE 935. Just one thing, though, can y’all record these a bit louder? I work in a steel shop with a bunch of deaf people who can only communicate at the tops of their lungs.

    Don’t worry about recording it too loudly, one can always turn it down. But if it’s not loud enough? Can’t hear it.

    Thanks and I look forward, again, to next week’s installment.

  152. corwyn says

    @164 Narf:

    they’ll accuse us of straw-manning their position,

    They accuse Aron Ra of exactly that, even when it turns out their god DOES fit his definition. At best, it is a way to get into a *different* argument with theists.

  153. Narf says

    They accuse Aron Ra of exactly that, even when it turns out their god DOES fit his definition.

    Which just makes it even more important that we never let them be right about that.  To the undecided observers, we need to leave the theists with the distinction of being the dishonest scumbags.

    Although I have to tell you, skwills did his side proud, in this respect.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen someone go at it so doggedly, without a single shred of evidence and many broad counter-examples.

    I’m speaking specifically of his “New Atheists only attack Christians,” and “New Atheism is a religion,” claims, although I can appreciate if those two didn’t spring immediately to your mind, since that guy is so much stupid crammed into one tight little package of asshole.

  154. Bugmaster says

    @Narf #167:

    Which just makes it even more important that we never let them be right about that. To the undecided observers, we need to leave the theists with the distinction of being the dishonest scumbags.

    Um, point of order: we should do that only if theists are, in fact, being dishonest scumbags. If Aron Ra actually does strawman their point somehow, he should admit his mistake. We’re critical thinkers, not sleazy politicians.

  155. Narf says

    @Bugmaster
    Well, sure, and if he’s straw-manning them, I’ll oppose him on that point.

    Of course, in his post about religious faith being belief without evidence, he wasn’t straw-manning them.  That’s how the vast majority of Christians use the word.  Some of them will say that faith is evidence, which is freaking bonkers, but they appeal to faith when they don’t have the goods to back up what they believe, and they know that they don’t.

  156. corwyn says

    @168:

    The point I was referencing was Aron’s definition of ‘god’ as ‘A magical anthropomorphic immortal’.
    Some theists seem to object to this definition, but upon questioning, admit that their god does share those characteristics.
    If there are theists whose god really doesn’t have this characteristics, they might complain about straw-manning.

  157. Narf says

    @corwyn
    I’ve met some who don’t worship a god with those characteristics.  None of them are Christians, though.  I’ve met some pagans who worship all sorts of crazy shit.

  158. Bugmaster says

    @Narf #169, 171:
    Yes, I agree, an appeal to faith is irrational by definition. That said though, I think that there’s simply an impassable mental gaps between (most) theists and (most) atheists. The two sides acquire beliefs in completely different ways, and thus words like “evidence” simply have different meanings in the two different contexts.

    In general, “evidence” means something like, “something we can use to support a belief”. But when we atheists say “evidence” we mean something like, “an objective measurement of some feature of the world (plus or minus some quantifiable of uncertainty)”, because this is how we form beliefs. On the other hand, the theist would count faith as “evidence” in the first sense of the word, because that’s how theists form beliefs. This sounds “bonkers” to you and me, but our way sounds “bonkers” to them, so just saying “it’s bonkers” is not supremely helpful. I honestly don’t know of a good way to resolve this situation…

  159. Bugmaster says

    @Narf #171:
    Forgot to add: yeah, there are pagans who worship impersonal gods; there are also Buddhists who technically don’t worship anything, but who still believe in lots of supernatural stuff. There are also pantheists who believe that the entire Universe is a god of some sort… so yeah, it gets complicated.

  160. Wiggle Puppy says

    @172 Bugmaster, your false equivalencies are super out-of-control. Theists, don’t in fact, think that our methods of knowing are completely “bonkers”: most theists I know do things like drive cars, ride in airplanes, utilize modern medicine, use computers and phones, and a number of other things that require some kind of understanding about the physical laws that govern our universe. So theists and atheists can probably agree that there are some aspects of our shared reality that can be measured and understood, and atheists then are in a good position to ask why the reliance on evidence and reason that informs almost every aspect of our lives gets to be thrown out when the god question comes up. It’s not like theists use faith to understand EVERYTHING in their lives; you’re making up false dichotomies that make no sense at all.. And there ARE ways to try to break the impasse over faith itself: first, ask theist X how their faith differs from the faith of theists Y,Z, and Q, who all cite faith in defense of completely different things. There’s not usually a really good answer and this sometimes causes a bit of self-reflection for the theist (in fact, for me this question was the first step toward leaving theism). Second, many theists tend to understand that citing faith alone isn’t enough to convince OTHER people, and therefore do things like cite holy book, in which case one can point out contradictions and unsavory passages that suggest the book may be less than divinely inspired, or make philosophical arguments like the argument from design or the cosmological argument, in which case one can point out the logical flaws that make them invalid. Sure, you may not always convince people to abandon theism immediately, but it’s not like the two sides are speaking completely different languages and there’s just no room for any kind of interchange at all.

  161. Bugmaster says

    @Wiggle Puppy #174:

    most theists I know do things like drive cars, ride in airplanes, utilize modern medicine, use computers and phones, and a number of other things that require some kind of understanding about the physical laws that govern our universe.

    This is not, strictly speaking, true. You don’t need to know a great deal of chemistry to drive a car; all you need to know is how to put in gas (radiator water, etc.), and which button (pedal, etc.) to press to get it to do what you want. I am no RF engineer, but I can still use a cellphone.

    I do agree with your larger point: even most theists would agree that electrons and such do exist. However, AFAICT theists do not appreciate the process that resulted in the discovery of electrons. They have this vague idea of someone messing about with test tubes and stumbling onto the right answer, but they don’t understand the systematic process of scientific discovery; nor do they understand that the “right” answer is always changing. In fact, they often cite this as a point against science: if the “right” answers are always changing, then isn’t science just a huge distraction ?

    And there ARE ways to try to break the impasse over faith itself: first, ask theist X how their faith differs from the faith of theists Y,Z, and Q, who all cite faith in defense of completely different things

    The answer is pretty obvious (to any theist, at least): the difference is that my faith is right, and theirs is wrong. Duh.

    in which case one can point out contradictions and unsavory passages that suggest the book may be less than divinely inspired

    Given that the book is divinely inspired, any apparent contradictions or unsavory passages are merely a deficiency in your own understanding. By analogy, if you are trying to assemble an IKEA bookshelf, and you happen to assemble some kind of crooked monstrosity with lots of extra parts leftover, then the problem is not with the bookshelf, but with yourself; you should’ve followed instructions.

    but it’s not like the two sides are speaking completely different languages and there’s just no room for any kind of interchange at all.

    Of course, we are talking about humans here, so there are always exceptions and outliers. However, I believe that they are relatively few in number.

  162. Wiggle Puppy says

    @175 Ohmygosh, you have this amazing ability to respond to things that people haven’t actually said. Your original statement was that “The two sides acquire beliefs in completely different ways” and that theists form beliefs based on faith and atheists form beliefs on reason and evidence. But in fact, both sides form most beliefs through inductive reasoning. If you believe that stomping on the brakes will stop your car, it’s because we have a general understanding that applying force against the motion of a wheel will slow a car, and because the last 1000 times I applied the brakes, it slowed the car down instead of making it accelerate out of control. It doesn’t result in absolute certainty, but it’s fairly likely that it will be the same the next time based on our experience and the knowledge of the physical forces involved. There’s no “faith” involved. My point was that we generally all come to our beliefs the same way, but theists carve out this special exception where “faith” is enough on the god question. There’s no “expert” level of scientific knowledge needed. I can’t believe I have to spell this out.

    “The answer is pretty obvious (to any theist, at least): the difference is that my faith is right, and theirs is wrong.”
    So you follow up with “how do you know yours is the right one?” and keep pressing. Eventually some more substantive answer is necessary if they’re trying to convince you, and they know this. Geez.

    “Given that the book is divinely inspired, any apparent contradictions or unsavory passages are merely a deficiency in your own understanding.”
    Try watching any of the dozens of Atheist Experience calls on slavery. They’ll often start with the theist saying that the Bible’s passages are being taken “out of context,” and the next question is in what context it could possibly be morally okay to own another person as property. Many of the callers will then tie themselves in logical pretzels trying to defend Exodus, and it’s not hard to tell that even they realize they’re grasping at straws. Some will indeed say that god’s sense of morality is so far beyond ours that we must be misunderstanding it, in which case the question is how they determined that god’s moral standard must be good (or alternatively, how they determined that god is the good one and the devil is the bad one) if they can’t rely on their own judgment. Eventually the hole in the logical argument gets exposed. Your responses only work in a universe in which follow-up questions aren’t permitted.

  163. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Wiggle Puppy

    if they can’t rely on their own judgment. Eventually the hole in the logical argument gets exposed. Your responses only work in a universe in which follow-up questions aren’t permitted.

    If only it was that easy to convince them. If only we could get a consensus that their argument was flawed. If only convincing religious people that they’re wrong was that easy.

  164. Wiggle Puppy says

    @EL Yeah, I know it’s hard, and almost never does a theist give up their beliefs after one conversation or even several. I was just responding to Bugmaster’s assertion that conversation is nearly impossible because theists rely on faith and atheists rely on reason and evidence and so the two sides are fated to talk past each other and there’s no point in even trying (or, according to Bugmaster, “there’s simply an impassable mental gap between (most) theists and (most) atheists”). My point was simply that exposing the flaws in someone’s argument and pressing them on their epistemological foundations is a good way to start, because theists do in fact live in a world in which reason and evidence inform almost every other aspect of their lives besides the god question, and getting them to realize that there’s no good reason to exempt the god question is important. As Matt says on the show often, he was a skeptic about most things long before he was an atheist, and when he finally got around to applying his skepticism to the god question, his beliefs began to fall away.

  165. Wiggle Puppy says

    I also think that “theist” isn’t a homogeneous category. When Richard Dawkins gives talks, he often states that he isn’t there to try to convince the hard-core believers who go to church 4 times a week and go on mission trips and such and believe absolutely. He’s there to talk to the people who were raised since birth to believe that faith is a virtue, that one needs a god in order to be a good and moral person, that one needs a god in order to have purpose in life, etc, and have simply been told these things and had them reinforced from such a young age by the authority figures in their life that they just go unquestioned and un-examined. I’m talking about this category; if you ask them *why* faith is a virtue and *why* one needs god in order to have meaning and purpose and they sputter trying to come up with good answers and you have good counterarguments against these propositions, then you’ve opened the door for them to at least start re-evaluating and thinking more deeply about why they believe what they believe.

  166. Narf says

    @Wiggle Puppy
    Yup, there are certain categories of people who simply can’t be reached.  I’m sure that the Ray Comforts and Ken Hams of the world … Sye Ten Bruggencate …

    Also, anyone who is making multiple 6-figures or 7-figures off of their megachurch pastorship and books … yeah, they have way too much invested in prolonging the lie, even if they do lose their faith.  Of course, if they thought about it, they’d realize that they could sell a million books plus, revealing their break from Christianity, and they could still be an influential member of the community … just playing to a different community.

    I mean, CNN … MSNBC … Fox News … all of those channels would be all over them.

    But it’s the uncertainty.  They can’t be certain of what awaits them on the other side, and the secular community wouldn’t worship them and place them as an unquestionable authority … which must be one hell of an ego stroke.  Plus, of course, it would probably blow apart so many of their personal relationships, so there’s that.  I can see how they would stay with something that they know will maintain their lifestyle, instead of taking the plunge.

    Also, not to be mean, but there are some people who simply don’t have the brain power to think through anything critically.  They believe what the authority figures in their life tell them, and it ends there.

    I suspect that that radio guy from Oregon who we had on the blog several months ago was that sort of person.  He finally resorted to just spamming YouTube videos at us, until he was banned, because that was all that he had to work with.  Hell, didn’t he start plagiarizing entire web pages, dropping them into the comment box, a couple of posts in?  I don’t think he has the mental power to analyze and put the arguments of his own side into his own words.  He certainly doesn’t have the brainpower to understand what makes an argument valid/invalid and sound/unsound, never mind being able to discern the difference.

    But those guys on the fence, watching from the sidelines?  Yeah, we can tip them over.  Also, ones like Matt Dillahunty, who think they have logical reasons to support their faith, because they haven’t looked into their reasons thoroughly enough.  Some of those can be brought around, after a few years of butting heads with some sufficiently educated atheists.

  167. Crystal says

    My God…..Tracie is So beautiful! O_O “sinfully” beautiful lol 😀 Where can I find everything with Tracie in it please???? 🙂 Lol

  168. Narf says

    @Crystal
    In Austin, I presume?  She’s going to be somewhere in Manitoba, at an atheist conference, though, in another week or two.  I can’t remember exactly where.  They mentioned it on the last episode of Non Prophets Radio, among other places … wait, and I think there was a blog post about it.

    Oh, here we go: http://freethoughtblogs.com/axp/2015/09/16/tracie-will-be-speaking-at-river-city-reasonfest-this-weekend/.  Watch for her at a conference near you or watch the episodes in the archive of this show.

    I’m pretty sure she’s straight, though, if that’s the direction that your obsession extends into.  Just try not to be one of those creepy kinds of stalkers.  😀