1. ocukor1 says

    Hi everyone. Love your show. Keep up the good work. I’m new here. Greetings from Maryland.

  2. robertwilson says

    The first caller said early on he has only seen a few shows. I’m not sure whether to be cynical and assume he said that to get away with saying a bunch of stuff the show has contested a million times before and preach at the hosts, or to believe him because he said a bunch of stuff the show has contested a million times before…

  3. Björn Camitz says

    Hi Don and Russel. Not sure how this blog-chat works, but i hope im on the right thread, first time live viewer. Oh, and another swede 🙂

  4. Alan Wilson says

    An excellent book to read (especially for caller Isaac) is “The Bible Unearthed” Finkelstein/Silberman – this book completely debunks a lot of the Old Testament mythology, including the stories of the Patriarchs and Exodus.

  5. Jen S says

    Yeah, pretty sure this guy currently on (5:26 pm central) does not actually understand the term “burden of proof”.

  6. Björn Camitz says

    Best reason for atheists: Following the evidence where ever it leads. Best reason for theists: Lead the evidence that where you need it…

  7. dncscwthangls says

    Hey, this is Cassandra, the 2nd caller. Just wanted to post here in case anyone had any questions for me about my experiences. I obviously have a history with some… interesting stuff, so feel free to ask away. I’d like to help anyone going through their own personal quandaries and any personal issues the best that I can.
    And thanks for listening.

  8. Eva Stonz says

    Holy shit!! This was an embarrassing night for the state I’m from (Florida) and the city that I live in now (New Orleans)
    First poor Drake (axed) asked why his anecdotal evidence didn’t suffice to shift the burden of proof to atheists (not nearly that eloquently),then James identified himself as deist ,&described himself as having the attributes of a theist. Both said they’d been long time viewers,yet neither grasped the concept of the words they vomited into incoherent ramblings.
    My eye is still twitching from the mustard seed debacle…and I need a

  9. says

    I have, in my garage right now, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, and Tupac preparing for a global come back tour. Either prove that I don’t, or accept it as fact and shape your entire life around it as if it is fact. That is the theistic mindset. Well, not really. ONLY in regards to their particular sky wizard belief. But not about ANY other extraordinary claim. In fact, they approach the claims of other religions in a nearly identical manner than we approach their claims. Do they not see that?

  10. louis cyfer says

    bobby ducket, they don’t see it of course. they have some special pleading to explain why their particular story is different.

  11. Bradders says

    RUssel mentions ‘the pope saying things without the permission of his PR team’ at 25:25 do we have some sources for that? just be an interesting read

  12. Monocle Smile says

    I continue to shake my head at people who push the canard that the bible is backed by archaeology. Finkelstein is the foremost authority on this topic and given his conclusions in The Bible Unearthed, I think even most atheists are far too conservative when it comes to challenging this canard.

  13. Monocle Smile says

    Isaac has zero backbone. His apologetics are especially feeble. Abraham and Isaac? Rambling nonsense and then a random tie to jesus. What? Then he talks about how the bible ties itself together, which is one of the dumber things I hear from believers. That tells me that he hasn’t actually read the bible.
    “We have science to back it up”
    What the actual fuck?
    “Abraham fits in with history”
    Oh my shit. Abraham didn’t exist. Moses didn’t exist. These were NOT REAL PEOPLE.

    And then the prophecy stuff comes in. I realize this guy lives in Oklahoma, but he needs to learn how to actually think. He was asked several times why we should care about the bible or about theology and no answer came.
    “It’s greater than anything I could do”
    I suspect the number of things that are greater than what Isaac could do is incredibly high.
    “I know you guys don’t believe in miracles, but here are some miracles”
    I had hopes for Isaac, but he’s kind of a dumbass.
    “At the end of the day, it comes down to pride”
    Okay, I’m done. Fuck this guy. This is the “atheists just want to sin” garbage. Preach elsewhere, dickhead.

  14. says

    like many particularly challenged callers, drake seems to think that his burden of proof can be dispensed with any “evidence” at all, when the obvious standard is “reasonable” evidence, preferably a “preponderance” thereof.

    like the hosts, i don’t like to get bogged down in terminology, but i think the atheist position could be better explained to theists as “being unconvinced of the existence of a god”. as russell often says, he’s willing to be convinced. this terminology makes it clear who bears the burden of proof.

  15. Monocle Smile says

    Does Drake need an education or a fist in the face? Maybe both?
    Never mind, I don’t believe that Drake’s a real caller. He sounds like he’s about to laugh a couple of times.

    While I appreciate James’ opening that how we feel about the god character doesn’t affect his existence, I’m glad Don and Russell pointed out that we only talk about this in response to specific claims.
    Personally, I only ever address the morality stuff when it becomes evident that the theist is just not going to understand or care about how we demonstrate existence. It’s just a second front of attack.
    I get pretty frustrated with the idea that we can’t call god’s commands immoral because his objectives might not include the well-being of humanity. Well, yes we can, because fuck that god. And theists know this! We live together and share space and the way to make things better for everyone is to work together and not be dicks. It’s insanely obvious. The foundations of morality are really, really simple; I still don’t see how a god is relevant.

  16. HappyPerson says

    The first caller wasn’t challenged enough, but I think that wouldn’t have mattered, especially when he said that his position just comes down to hope/faith. I guess the question for him is why the God belief would make his position more ‘meaningful’ (his words), beyond hoping for something that may turn out to be false.

  17. Paul R says

    God is ‘half God and half man?’ What kind of Christian is Isaac? No Christian would agree with that statement. Or any of the other stuff he said. That was just painful.

  18. says

    Before I get started–just want to say how much I appreciated Cassandra’s call. While I can’t personally relate–hers is a story often over shadowed by testimonials about how much good religion does to support people like her. But her tale reminded me of the conversations I had on the show with Rob Poole. One of the items he brought up in his own debates about prayer in psychiatric therapy was the harm that could be caused by a doctor actually allowing a patient to believe they support that prayer can help–that god will intervene to help them–and then if treatment fails, what? Even god has left them to this miserable situation of depression or other psychiatric difficulty? Not only have “they” failed, but their therapist advocate, AND now even their god has abandoned them to this? It’s a very risky form of “help” that can cause a lot more damage to someone with mental health issues to begin with. And that’s too often ignored, or even denied, in religious circles.

    OK–so to Isaac:

    >The first caller wasn’t challenged enough

    I’ve been on the show before where I just didn’t have the energy, so I’m not going to be too harsh here–but I had to agree that on an ideal day, Isaac should have had his ass handed to him 1000x over. I think Monocle, above, hit a lot of the things I was stunned about when I was listening.

    To be fair, Don and Russell both have secular backgrounds–and while their experience on the show gives them a lot of insight into the brains of fundies, I had to wish that I or Matt had been there for that call, with backgrounds in that same theology. I hope he’ll call again when one of the past-fundie hosts is on the show. That’s the type of caller I live for.

    Also, Isaac backed down each time he was asked to support anything, and then would punch back with a back-handed comment basically telling the hosts they were wrong–after backing off supporting his views.

    So…the New Testament was foreshadowed by the Old. Russell comes in and explains that if you write stories based on prior stories you know about, that isn’t evidence that the prior authors had knowledge of what was to come and were foreshadowing it. Isaac then claims to understand and agree, but immediately then says that the OT authors weren’t aware, but were writing what god told them, which did, in fact, foreshadow the NT–totally either not getting or dismissing what Russell had just corrected. I’m actually not sure the hosts caught that, to be honest–or if they just decided to let him proceed.

    It’s hard to judge, because often people get on us for interrupting and corrected constantly and say we should just let people go for a bit, even if they say wrong things; but then other times we get criticized for letting someone get away with bullshit claims that go unchallenged.

    I admit my preference would be something like “Well, actually, based on what you’re saying, I don’t think you understood my prior criticism–see if you can follow this…” and explain it again–maybe even ask if he can restate it to make sure he’s *getting* what’s being communicated (not just thinking he gets it).

    Isaac was completely uninterested in offering any real defense, and all he accomplished was spitting out a long list of unfounded, often already debunked, claims about the Bible, Jesus and god. And at the end of the day, he probably hung up thinking he’d done well, asserting things the hosts could not rebut.

    The claims about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob being real, simply floored me. And arguing about the miracles of Jesus–when we can’t even established he existed, and those who are credentialed to make the call wouldn’t even give credence to the miracle claims. Someone told a story about Jesus turning water into wine–and that proves he was a god because the story wasn’t more grand? That’s *pathetic*. It reminds me of the Life of Brian when the crowd asserts that only the true Messiah would deny his own divinity. Even the stories about Buddha mirror this–doing small things until one day he hits a full blown Enlightenment. This is, as Russell noted, a common literary technique. Joseph Campbell, who spent his life studying myths, helped guide the story for Star Wars as a consultant. If you watch that, Luke doesn’t start out blowing up death stars. He builds up to that. And in just about any story ever told about a superhero or god, they work up to the big feats. This is so common as to be mundane. And the fact the Jesus story follows suit does not make it an extraordinary tale proving divinity of a historic character we have to trust to educated guesses (which I’m happy to do tentatively), is not, himself, simply a myth.

    I think most ex-fundies would have been frothing to get a crack at Isaac. I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m being critical of Russell and Don–but a caller like Isaac, just the fundie in me wanted to see a bull dog response.

  19. says

    One further thought on the issue of Old Testament “foreshadowing” of New Testament stories yet to come.

    About a year or so ago I read some modern Star Trek books on the Khan character, written by an author well after Gene Roddenberry had died.

    “Star Trek: The Eugenics Wars: The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh” was written by Greg Cox in the early 2000s. Gene Roddenberry died in the late 1990s.

    Cox’s writing relies heavily on information provided by Roddenberry when he first presented the character in the mid 1960s.

    Is it more likely that Cox, being familiar with Roddenberry’s work, and working in the same genre to produce a work within this same context, produced stories that relied and aligned and were relatively consistent with the earlier creations? Or that Roddenberry unwittingly was being fed a story about Khan by a being that knew some years later, Cox would come along and write his tales about the Khan character? Was this a behind-the-scenes plan of a supernatural consciousness designing this connection? Or was it simply a more modern author building upon content that had already been created and with which he was already familiar?

  20. Adam Kahn says

    On secular recovery –

    I have been looking into secular and evidence based resources, and recently ran across this

    Also, evidence has come to show that 12 step alone is not very effective

    However, people are working on evidence based recovery

    Which seems to boil down to some sort of community involvement (12-step, group therapy, etc.), personal therapy with a specialist, and work on an individual basis (journaling, workbooks, self-exploration, etc.).

    Just a few resources if you’re interested 🙂

  21. Yaddith says

    I never cease to be amazed by how ignorant Christians are of the contents of their own holy book. According to caller Isaac:

    “The Bible does not condone human sacrifice. Nowhere in the Bible will you find that.”

    An unequivocal statement, but entirely incorrect. Human sacrifice (specifically child sacrifice) is required by God:

    “Sanctify unto me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is mine (Exod. 13:2).

    “Thou shalt not delay to offer the first of thy ripe fruits, and of thy liquors: the firstborn of thy sons shalt thou give unto me” (Exod. 22:29).

    Weasily apologists claim this meant that the children were to be consecrated to the service of God, but that is baloney. How do we know that? Because God says so:

    “Wherefore I gave them also statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live; And I polluted them in their own gifts, in that they caused to pass through the fire all that openeth the womb, that I might make them desolate, to the end that they might know that I am the Lord” (Ezek. 20:25-26).

    Case closed.

  22. dana says

    So, the mustard seed was written as being the smallest but it’s not. THIS was where Matt would have jumped in with both feet and LOUDLY said “You’re making the perfect argument for the fact that there was NO god whispering the facts in these bronze age ears!”

    When the idiot asked why be an atheist, only weak replies were mumbled. Matt would have yelled loudly that he prefers to believe as many true things as possible.

    Matt can handle these idiots. Weak people who seem unable to FIRMLY back up their own atheism makes the rest of us look like imbeciles. I wish I could have been there to bail both men out of what was NOT a tight spot.

  23. Murat says

    Hi Cassandra, if you are reading this: Your experience of the supernatural / religion seems to be interwoven with emotional relationship(s), or at least I personally found a connection to my similar past in your narration:

    When you love someone too much, you get lost in them to the point that you begin to perceive everything around yourself as mere accessories that orbit around your relationship with them. And the moment you discover that someone (or something) else can also trigger the very same emotions, you realize that, what you have known to be the centre of your existence may itself have been a mere accessory.

    The funny (or sometimes, tragic) thing is that, it’s quite impossible to fully comprehend the situation when you’re inside it. And when you somehow get out, there is quite an oblivion. You now know that the past was an illusion, but this brings with it the reasonable probability that the present can also be seen as another illusion when you reach another step in the future.

    Both in the case of relationships and of religious orientations, we get shocked to see that life is too short to experience one illusion after another, so we feel the need to focus more on reality.

    I for myself am not a fan of reality or reason, but unfortunately resonable enough to come to terms with delusions. Hence, even after the most dangerous curve I can’t feel safe or sound enough to leave all aside. But unlike me, you sound like you have truly taken the curve and you should feel lucky for that. It definitely was a hard journey for you and you have stabilized yourself successfully on both accounts. So, kudos! 🙂

  24. Russell Glasser says

    So yes, Tracie and I have different communication styles, and I can understand why somebody who prefers the more hostile, aggressive style might be frustrated that that conversation was so low key. But I can assure you that my approach on that call was deliberate, and was not at all due to feeling low energy, or anxiety about the caller’s approach, or anything like that.

    On the contrary, I think the caller did an EXTREMELY poor job of presenting his religion as credible, and I felt it was pretty obvious from his own tone and his hesitation to respond on several occasions, that he was painfully aware of this. I don’t feel like I let him make any assertions without being challenged; on several occasions he said things like “It’s well accepted that these events are historical” and I simply responded “No it’s not” or “Do you have examples?” after which he paused and responded “Not really.”

    But I don’t try to browbeat or humiliate the callers who are failing to make a case. Some people might find that more entertaining. Personally I feel we’ve experienced a failure of communication if I have to yell at someone and then hang up, or if they get so hostile that they leave. I’d rather risk appearing “weak” as another commenter put it (I obviously disagree), but give the caller time to lay out their points while making it clear to the audience that (a) they haven’t made a persuasive case, and (b) they have nothing else to offer.

    Speaking for myself, I found the first call very satisfying. People have different tastes, though, so I’m glad we have a variety of approaches among our hosts.

  25. Russell Glasser says

    Also to Dana, who is clearly very upset:

    It’s not my job to “help” a caller who is being completely incoherent, by explaining what point they are TRYING to make. If they can’t make a comprehensible point, that’s their problem, and I’m perfectly happy to just highlight that fact. You may consider somebody yelling a slogan that you find comfortable and familiar to be a good style. I’m not judging here, but that style is not mine.

  26. Monocle Smile says

    To me, the “at the end of the day, it comes down to pride” was what got my blood boiling. Maybe that’s because I’m an ex-believer, but that kind of preachy crap needs to be met with a verbal fist.

  27. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To Russell Glasser
    I’d like to say that I’m happy with all of the hosts, and please don’t take any of the “haters” criticism too seriously. I’m thoroughly pleased that you try to take the intellectually honest and constructive route, and not the “haha you’re stupid” route.

    PS: Minor nit:

    It’s not my job to “help” a caller who is being completely incoherent, by explaining what point they are TRYING to make. If they can’t make a comprehensible point, that’s their problem, and I’m perfectly happy to just highlight that fact. You may consider somebody yelling a slogan that you find comfortable and familiar to be a good style. I’m not judging here, but that style is not mine.

    I might argue that doing some amount of clearing up the opponent’s position is required as part of having an intellectual, honest, and constructive dialog. Aka part of the principle of charity, or close to it.

    I haven’t seen this show yet, so I cannot comment on particulars. Maybe it was so incoherent that it would take too long for you to hold their hand to walk them through their own argument, and I totally understand that.

  28. dana says

    Thank you, Russell, and, yes, I was very upset. I am so tired of feeling like a target for idiots with a belief that god is real. It took me a lot of tip toeing through minefields to reach my full potential of being an atheist. I actually hate myself for all the years I spent trying to be what everyone else was. FULL OF FAITH. I tried. I faked it trying to make myself form into the small pretzel everyone else was bent into. So even the perceived insistence that “they” know what is right, even when they have no proof, sets off my fire alarms and knee jerk reaction.

    It actually took Matt, and his “righteous anger” approach to show me that MY way is just as good in MY eyes as theirs is to them. And he gave me more confidence than I had as a timid failure at religion. Some of us NEED to hear it loudly and clearly, and not as mild milktoast. I would have never heard it otherwise.

    So keep true to yourself, friend. Not everyone needs to be yelled at like I did. He gave me a backbone when I needed one.

  29. Murat says

    Much as some tense, to-the-edge dialogue may be more entertaining or high-scoring at times, I guess we should see the AXP team not like solo vigilantes, but more like The Avengers, hence, not expect The Vision to use a bow and arrows, nor Iron Man to wield Mjolnir.

  30. bigjay says

    I’m an atheist but I have a point of contention with some of my fellow atheists. Maybe you guys and gals can show me where my thinking is in error?

    When someone says that comic books, Lord of the Rings, or any other work of fiction may have some actual places or facts in them, but that doesn’t mean people 2,000 years from now would be justified in taking that as completely true and possibly building a religion around it, I think that’s not a good argument from our side.

    The obvious reason being that Spider-Man and LOTR weren’t written as non-fiction, with the intention of convincing later generations to believe it and worship its central character(s). But the bible, Quran, etc. all WERE written as non-fiction, with the intention of passing along information and putting forth a deity. I’m always surprised when theists don’t push back against that argument.

    Am I wrong? Is “well, Spider-Man is set in New York, an actual place, so should we believe it’s true?” actually a good argument against holy books? I don’t think so but what do you folks think?

  31. dncscwthangls says

    @bigjay The books I consider when trying to “test” the validity of the Bible based merely on how old or historically accurate it is are the ancient Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Akkadian, etc texts. These stories of the ancient gods and heroes, tales of leaders that have either lived in reality or were birthed only in fiction–many of these stories were thought to be based in some truth, especially at the time they were told. Why else did people literally sacrifice to them, animal, human,food, whatever? Why pray to any of these “characters” unless you feel, truly, that it will benefit you and your loved ones? These stories are far older, such as “Epic of Gilgamesh” which is circa 2100BC, reveal epic, “worship-worthy” gods/heroes/leaders/etc. Go back to these stories, stories that relate to the Bible in the sense that they speak of the wonders of a human that may or may not have lived and did miraculous things that may or may not have happened. Christians like to think “their book” is older but they are dead wrong in this. The Jews can claim some really old stuff, especially when you look into the ancient mystic tomes of the Zohar, which is still only around 500BC. Anyway, this I’d think is a good place to start if you want to really counter the Christian (and even Jewish) Bible without relying on comic books and fantasy novels.

  32. Chancellor of the Exchequer says

    Hmm, weirdly I don’t mind Rus and Don’s handling of these particular believers. They were pretty much like kids without potty training; they just ran around messing themselves.

    What I found utterly hilarious was the false thought that one particular caller had of being above Rus and Don whereby they thought Matt/Tracie would be better suited to them when they actually showed to be beneath the ability to handle a freshly realized atheist. The delusions were quite grand.

    It’s the underestimating of one’s opponents and the overestimating of one’s self that did that caller in.

    Cassandra’s call was pretty cool, I like hearing about cult survivors and the upward progression in their lives. Congratulations and welcome to the blog, dncscwthangls!

  33. says

    bigjay @ 34:

    “… Spider-Man and LOTR weren’t written as non-fiction, with the intention of convincing later generations to believe it and worship its central character(s).”

    this is exactly the point of the counter-argument — a reductio ad absurdum — to illustrate why the theist argument doesn’t work. the theist is trying to use a factual part of the bible to prove the fantastical parts. but the intent behind a work is irrelevant when trying to determine whether the contents match up — in whole or in part — with external reality. either they do or they don’t.

    the theist argument doesn’t help us separate fiction from works claiming to be nonfiction. if it falls apart with a work of obvious fiction, how can it succeed with a work whose veracity is the subject under debate?

  34. dncscwthangls says

    Btw, thanks to everyone’s positive comments about my story. Like I said (nervous sounding as I was) I made the call for those theists that know cognitively that they should/could move past theism but are too scared to do so because of all the deep-seated feelings they’ve accumulated as believers. I was never in a cult exactly, though my ex-husband was like a cult in and of himself. The church/youth ministry wasn’t, not really, though it did encourage fully diving into the idea of revival, prophecy, and all of that. Pushing that we would be the generation to truly see the Second Coming and all that crap. Just after graduation (that day, actually) I decided to run off with a man I did not love but thought was my God-chosen partner (based on what he said and how awesome it sounded to me at the time). I married at far too young an age, and my church didn’t even concede in this union. No one did, except maybe for his mother. I even tried to back out after hearing some of my friends pleas, but he pulled me back in with all his magical promises. I guess this story shows the power religion can play, but more importantly, the dangers it can hold for those of us susceptible and desperate for something “more” from life.

  35. Monocle Smile says

    Anyone else catch Matt’s recent debate with Blake Giunta? This is threadjacking, I know, but it would be nice to discuss it with the denizens of the blog. Personally, I think Giunta needs to take quite a few history classes instead of reading books by the likes of Gary Habermas.

  36. Murat says

    The distinciton between “fiction” and “non-fiction” was not something solid and distinguishable back when holy texts were written. We should take into consideration that, unlike a present-time reader wandering among the halls of Barnes&Noble, people back then were taking very seriously ANY kind of text, mostly because TEXT ITSELF was a tool for the elite, sort of like a magical power that could well enable those who can use it to believe it would not be in their hands for anything other than revealing facts… Facts from deep inside their sacred intellect, even… Think of it like Stan Lee being so praised, so nose-in-the-air and carried away that he himself begins to believe in the existence of Spider-Man…

  37. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    Article: Wikipedia – Herodotus (484-425 BCE)

    He is widely referred to as “The Father of History” (first conferred by Cicero); he was the first historian known to have broken from Homeric tradition to treat historical subjects as a method of investigation – specifically, by collecting his materials systematically and critically, and then arranging them into a historiographic narrative. […] Some of his stories were fanciful and others inaccurate; yet he states that he was reporting only what was told to him and was often correct in his information.

  38. blue says

    I enjoyed the change from Matt’s style. There is more than one way to skin a cat. Although I do love a good Tracie takedown. Cassandra was very corageous to leave religion. I hope things just get better and bettr for her.

    I thought the mustard seed argument had a kernel of interest in it. Is it a nomral apologetic argument? That bronze age people would need to be spoken to in bronze age terms or the writer would alienate them. If I time travelled back to then and tried to start a religion, explaining quantum physics probably wouldn’t help me do anything but be ridiculed. Although, I suppose that it supports the srgument of persuasive people trying to gain followers, not the god claim. If I travelled back in time with quantum physics plus omnipotence I could have them build a generator tout suite. And in any case, I would avoid saying things that were clearly false and would be disproven later. I could use a mustard seed as an analogy without having to specify it was the smallest seed. If it is the smallest seed people then and there knew, it should be self evident, and by not pointing it out I can ensure that the analogy has longevity, even when we discover begonias.

  39. says

    blue @ 42:

    “If I time travelled back to then and tried to start a religion, explaining quantum physics probably wouldn’t help me do anything but be ridiculed.”

    no need to time travel — your observation is true today and will be true into the indefinite future. as richard feyman once quipped:

    “If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum mechanics.”

    only a small number of elite academics have the ability to wrestle with this stuff. but the question isn’t “why didn’t everybody know about it back then?” the question is “why didn’t anybody know it?” certainly an omnipotent god could make at least one person understand this stuff and reference it in the bible.

    also too, finding a nuclear reactor in a pyramid would be helpful to the theist case.

  40. Monocle Smile says


    also too, finding a nuclear reactor in a pyramid would be helpful to the theist case.

    Eh, I’m pretty sure the ALIENS crowd would be tumescent with glee over that finding.

  41. keaper says


    Cassandra, my name is Karen Delinski. I run a blog called #ChurchCrimes and push it on facebook under Hashtag Church Crimes. I think our stories are very similar and I would love to message you. Please feel free to message me. At the very least, check out my blog and let me know what you think.

  42. Chikoppi says


    The Iliad? The city of Troy (aka, Ilios or Illium) actually existed. Archeological evidence seems to confirm that it was destroyed or abandoned during a period coinciding with the events reported in the Homeric poem. Therefore the events and characters of the Iliad, including the fantastic ones, must be a true account.

  43. says

    Monocle Smile @ 44:

    “Eh, I’m pretty sure the ALIENS crowd would be tumescent with glee over that finding.”

    along with the time travel and multidimensional crowds — plenty of fun for everyone. what woomeister wouldn’t want a piece of that?

  44. bigjay says


    Interesting point, I guess I just assumed that some texts from thousands of years ago were intentionally fiction, meant just for entertainment or passing on parables but not meant to be believed completely.

    My issue with the Spider-Man/New York thing still bothers me, though. In the same vein as a caller once whom I think Russell talked to. Russell asked the caller if he would believe him if he said he had a invisible, pink dragon in his garage? The caller said no, Russell asked why, and the caller said because he would suspect that Russell had made it up because of the conversation they were having at the moment.

    I agree with the caller, when Russell said he had a pink dragon right on the heels of their conversation, the timing would suggest Russell was making it up. That’s how I feel about atheists using the Spider-Man/New York thing on theists.

    To touch on what you said, Murat, back in the day if all texts were fairly rare and therefore serious then I can see where they all should be looked at as being written as non-fiction. However, in today’s world, there is a vast amount of fiction, so Spider-Man, seen by someone 2000 years from now, would be compared to the huge amount of other obvious fiction written in our time, and deemed to also be fiction, wouldn’t it?

  45. Murat says


    I agree that an overuse of such examples may blunder the subject matter as they create a shaky ground for the point to be made. As for today: Even though there is a vast amount of fiction, people get subjected to each narrative under specific circumstances that may (and sometimes actually do) result in them finding some more credible than others. The situation with L. Ron Hubbard’s material (that generated Scientology) is a good example to how fiction and non-fiction can blend in the minds of readers (and most probably, in the mind of the writer as well) especially if there’s a hint of scientific or historic fact (or even hypothesis) involved.

    A not-so-strong argument is something Matt had noted a few times in previous shows: “Why would God rely on text to communicate with people?” Why not, one can ask rightfully: For we always tend to think of text as common as it is today, we fail to see that it was as high-tech a means of communication as could be thousands of years ago.

    I find it entertaining to imagine a “slide” of the ages so as to make the alleged “heavenly” messages arrive not back then, but today: Would they appear on every single mobile phone simultaneously? Or, would God contact only Zuckerberg via mysteriously hacking his Mac and want him to deal with the situation, maybe at the expense of Mark being sacrificed in the end? How rational would it be to ask then why God would rely on computers? Why would he not? It’s his game… I mean, the flaw, if there is one, is not in such details but rather in the general intentions and goal of the alleged God.

    I think one of the major areas in which an application of logic to theistic claims may fail is regarding the bilateral function of text. Because it’s not always something like a telegram from a sender to the recepient; has some sort of a “life” in itself, becomes almost a “third party” among the alleged creator and his subjects, flowing like a double-agent among the pages.

    Some movies like Secret Window, Adaptation, Stranger Than Fiction, The Hand etc. focus on the issue of writers losing control over their work in regards to their perception of reality. Prophets, apostles or messengers dealing with what’s “beyond” can also be examined in this aspect.

  46. says

    bigjay @ 48:

    “Russell asked the caller if he would believe him if he said he had a invisible, pink dragon in his garage? The caller said no, Russell asked why, and the caller said because he would suspect that Russell had made it up because of the conversation they were having at the moment.”

    uh, no — you and the the caller, if you are recalling his words correctly, are missing the obvious point: a reasonable person would suspect that Russell had made it up because people don’t normally have invisible, pink dragons in their garage! the point being: extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and only a gullible fool would take russell at his word. when we contrast it with the claim:

    “Russell has a basset hound in his garage.”

    we could forgive a reasonable person for believing russell in this case.

  47. Yaddith says

    Murat #49:

    I think you are correct in pointing out that the distinction between fiction and non-fiction is not always obvious to the reader (or in some cases even to the writer). As you say, L Ron Hubbard is a good example of this. Another example is Richard S. Shaver and the “Shaver Mystery” of the 1950s. I am also reminded of H. P. Lovecraft. His occultist friend William Lumley claimed that Lovecraft was unknowingly channeling the Old Ones when he composed his stories!

  48. says


    >I thought the mustard seed argument had a kernel of interest in it. Is it a nomral apologetic argument? That bronze age people would need to be spoken to in bronze age terms or the writer would alienate them.

    It’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t: “It makes sense god would communicate with Bronze aged people in terms they’d understand.”

    Yes, and it also makes sense that if there isn’t a god involved, and Bronze aged people are writing stories, they’ll express them in terms they’d understand.

    I mean, basically what the Christians are saying is that if there is something extraordinary about it, then it must be god. And if there is nothing extraordinary about it, that must also be god. If anything/everything = god, then we have a situation where we can’t falsify, and it’s useless. How do we test for god if every result = god? We then have a situation where an universe with no gods is identical to one with gods. They can’t be told apart.

  49. Devocate says


    But the bible, Quran, etc. all WERE written as non-fiction”

    Got any evidence for that claim? The bible certainly isn’t written like non-fiction (who is actually claiming to have been there for creation?)

    By the way, a careful reading of Tolkien will show that he does not claim to be writing fiction, but rather translating an existing book. Allowing the publisher to classify it as fiction is merely expedience. So your example is suspect in both directions.

  50. Murat says

    @Yaddith #51

    “Creative writing” (pun intended) is a multi-layered process. When you mentioned Lovecraft, I remembered having read something about Robert E. Howard: He had told his friends that while his was on his desk at nights, the image of Conan the Barbarian appeared over his shoulder, sort of forcing him to write. To us, it may sound like a metaphor of the barbarian in his head trying to remain alive, active and somehow in touch with the writer’s reality; but who can say for sure that Howard did really not sweat cold and shook?

    On the slightly lighter side of the argument, many stand-up comics get their inspiration from their own daily life. Even name the shows as Seinfeld, Louie, etc. But to what extent is it “them” really? There’s eventually this process of “refining” or “embellishing” when some sort of a script is in the works. Louis CK says once said he writes and tells the first-person jokes emphasizing that he actually experienced the situation, that it really happened to him, simply because the audience likes it more to think that way. After a few decades, who would be able to tell which of what he told was sincerely an anecdote?

    A serious distinciton between people’s perceptions of Islam is relying only on the Quran or referring also on the hadith (which is basically hearsay) and it’s ironic that there’s this hadith: In his deathbed, Muhammad wants to say some things (like a will) to those around him and Omar wants to note it. But Muhammad opposes claiming that if he wrote it “could be mixed up with verses of the Quran that is the word of God” whereas what he’s gonna say is personal and he’s gonna say it just as a dying man. What an obvious contradiction: Even THIS was spread along with other (some, outrageous) hearsay. Still, the ordinary muslim on the street is unaware that the culture knitted around what’s taken as the source is not coherent with the source.

    Prophet, son of god, messenger or anything else – I think all those people, at least to an extent, had sort of a “talent” not far from that of artists and performers; one that was the outcome of a brain that functioned unusually. Tyler Durden revealing himself to the “host persona” relates to something very common in religions: Schizophrenia… Not necessarily an evil plot by a lying man, but maybe just a sincere search of one’s own path through the labyrinths of his own complex brain…

  51. Ethan Myerson says

    [blockquote]Someone told a story about Jesus turning water into wine–and that proves he was a god because the story wasn’t more grand? That’s *pathetic*. It reminds me of the Life of Brian when the crowd asserts that only the true Messiah would deny his own divinity…[/blockquote]

    Tracie nails it. If it is nothing but grand miracles, they’d proclaim how grand their god is. If it’s one small miracle preceding grand miracles, they can say that it couldn’t be made up – because, after all, who would make up a meaningless miracle? If it’s grand miracles with small ones interspersed, they can say look at the vast array of miracles this god can perform. And so on.

    One of my earliest memories of realizing just how nonsensical the biblical miracles are came from when I was maybe 8 or 9 years old. I was sitting in synagogue, listening to the weekly Torah reading. It was the story of the burning bush; Moses was awed by this sight of a bush that was clearly on fire BUT WAS NOT BEING CONSUMED ZOMG. I realized that A) that is a pretty weaksauce as miracles go and B) that must have appeared as something completely amazing to a society that depended on burning organic consumables for light and heat. It dawned on me that the whole thing was just a product of people living in the times in which it was written. There was no eternal divinity giving insights to these authors. They were just a bunch of dudes writing down stories they’d told each other.

    From that point on, Saturday morning services became just listening to mythology with a little Jewish calisthenics before hand (like Catholic Mass, Jewish services have a fair amount of stand-up, sit-down, bow-bow-bow, genuflect). As a budding Dungeon Master, I didn’t mind listening to mythology Saturday mornings. It gave me an endless supply of story ideas and NPC names I could draw from.

  52. Tod says

    The funniest interpretation of the burning bush I ever heard was that bushes in the mountainous regions in that area could have actually been poppy’s like the illicit drugs that get grown in Pakistan etc…

    If one was on fire, the smoke would have been hallucinogenic hehe 🙂
    I can imagine Moses could be all trippy and like “Dude!.. that bush is on fire… but not burning!… whoah dude!


  53. Jason Waskiewicz says

    I always enjoy Russell’s low-key approach. Maybe it matches my personality. In my religious days, Russell and I could have talked and he might have gotten me to question, even a little bit. It’s true that a more aggressive approach is entertaining, but it would not have changed my mind. I think Russell and Don got Isaac to think. When he hung up, his mind may not be changed, but he was forced to think through things, and this will have an effect later on. That worked for me.

    Now, when a caller gets aggressive or rude in some way, the more aggressive approach is called for. I’ve seen that side of Russell a few times. But, I look at a lot of theist callers like old me: well intentioned and sincere, but unwilling to question a few areas. When I would catch myself questioning certain areas, I would shut that down in my own mind. Yelling at me and attempting to humiliate me would have raised my hackles and made me dig in and become more stubborn.

  54. Mobius says

    @15 Monocle Smile

    There is a good NOVA episode on PBS titled “The Bible’s Buried Secrets” that covers the same subject. It is 2 hours long and can be found online. It is, IMHO, well worth watching. It discusses the findings of archeology in relation to the Bible and how little of the early old testament is supported.

  55. bigjay says

    @ aarrgghh

    No, you’re missing my point. True, people don’t usually have invisible pink dragons in their garage but people also don’t usually walk on water and rise from the dead after three days either.