Open Thread for Episode 21.13: Russell and guest John Loftus

We have a guest on today. John Loftus holds two Master’s Degrees in the philosophy of theology and has written four books on atheism, including The Outsider Test for Faith and How to Defend the Christian Faith: Advice from an Atheist.


  1. Joe says

    My sense of why minorities in the US tend to gravitate more toward religion and not question it as much is twofold. First, I think when you have more adversity to deal with that tends to push you more toward a sense of community with others who have similar struggles. I think that’s one reason addicts tend to associate with other addicts, for example. Of course people who are into drugs are more likely to gravitate toward others who are into those drugs so you can more easily get those drugs but that also extends to recovering addicts so I think community is a big part. And black and Latino communities in the US have traditionally been more religiously inclined so that’s where the community is. And secondly, I think the tendency not to question it as much is mostly related to having other concerns, like Russell said. If you’re concerned about walking down the street without being stopped just for walking while black or driving down the street without being stopped for driving while black, I would think that’s going to be a larger concern for you than questioning things that might not necessarily impact you while walking or driving down the street. I can tell you as a disabled person I do think about those larger questions even though life as a visibly disabled person in the US is significantly harder than being able-bodied (or at least apparently able-bodied) but I also have to devote a lot of time to thinking about how I’m going to get around, how I’m going to get enough food on the pittance the government decided I’m entitled to because people want to keep their money and don’t care about helping their fellow man, how to get that food home because I don’t have the spoons to shop that often and when I do I can only get what I can carry, how I’m going to pay my medical bills, the stress of dealing with the ableism people show me almost every day of my life, all that stuff. So even though I do think about those things because they interest me the struggles of my daily life are also a very big concern. I would think the same way I think about ableism because of the circumstances of my birth are probably similar to how someone might think about racism, sexism, transphobia, etc. In other words, when you have white privilege or male privilege or able-bodied privilege or whatever other kind of privilege you have that would give you more of an opportunity to devote more of your time to thinking about things like beliefs, worldviews, etc.

  2. jim60 says

    Really enjoyed the April 2, 2017 episode with Russell and John. Since John will be in Texas for three months maybe he can co-host again. I am sure other viewers wold like to hear more of his view and wisdom. The caller from Iran was very brave and it shows that you are making a real difference in peoples live, even when you don’t know about it.

  3. Nathan says

    Thank you for cutting Lucas/Adam whatever his name is off. He doesn’t want to talk honestly.

  4. Orphan Black says

    That Lucas is a troll. Calls in using a different name every time and avoids answering questions. It’s sad that trolls have nothing better to do in life.

  5. Monocle Smile says

    Yeah, the whiny tween troll with no friends needs to fuck off. Thanks for putting your foot down, Russell.

  6. Sjjk says

    PLease have John back on the show while he’s still in Texas. Love to hear more of him.

  7. Murat says

    Harad’s call reminded me of something that actually was not included in the trialogue between him and the hosts:

    The reason large communities carry one particular faith is very much different from why an individual (indoctrinated or not) carries it. There’s a strong political connotation about major religions, and when you refute one faith, this is commonly read as an indicator of you becoming an “agent” for the “other” side.

    This aspect of the thing is (understandably) not given much time in the show, but when Harad talked about his efforts on challenging people’s minds, what appeared in my mind was groups of people who believe to “stand their ground” through religion BUT with a political devotion.

    The reason many muslims reject the kind of free thinking that comes along with an atheistic or skeptical perspective is NOT ALWAYS their lack of intelligence or stubbornnes. They consider atheistm as a tool for what is seen as a Christian / emperialistic world view.

    And, even more strangly, SOME people do switch to atheism or agnosticism THROUGH political experience, and NOT directly by focusing on questioning the contents of a holy book.

    Some known atheists like Richard Dawkins are terrible at understanding this aspect of the thing and the way they take position in certain contemporary issues puts them PRACTICALLY into what Easterners tend to consider as “Christian Imperialism” regardless of his personal distance from the faith.

    Same goes for Christian-dominated countries, I believe, but in a slightly different mode.

    It would be good to dig into this aspect of religions in a future episode of the show, because the AXP hosts are probably the best group of outspoken atheists in the sense that they approach not only beliefs but also other social constructs and political values with the same uncompromising attitude.

  8. favog says

    “Memento” is still one of my favorite movies, and ever since seeing it I’ve always been pretty jazzed when a new Christopher Nolan movie comes out … oh, wait, that’s not true anymore. Because of how much “Interstellar” sucked. I mean “Dunkirk” looks good, but I don’t know, before that last terrible thing I was a big enough fan that I keep having to remind myself not to take the poor quality of “Interstellar” personally. So no hate-mail from me, Russell!

  9. Murat says

    @favog #10

    Interstellar was a shot at using some very basic and intriguing ideas on a cinematographic level. So, the formula was not much different from that of other Nolan movies. But for Nolan had lost his mind sometime during writing and directing that abomination called The Dark Knight Rises, he lost his magical touch. He could not tie the final outcome to the premise. I believe it was overworking on Batman that caused him to fail terribly in doing justice to the cool approach in the core idea of Interstellar.

  10. Alvaro Rodriguez says

    I just want to point an argument against the specific claim of the Coran being a perfect book.
    If the Coran is a perfect book, the moral instructions of the Coran should be also morrally correct.
    There is a passage of the coran which states kill the unbelievers wherever you find them … Quran (3:151) . If the Coran was exactly as it is but that passage was “dont kill the unbelievers wherever you find them” the Coran could be either a more moral book or a less moral book. The second disproves the original claim, and i would argue that anyone stating the first would be or in a self contradictory position or supporting an obiously morally incorrect proposition.

  11. titan says

    The “Lucas” guy that keeps calling up with different names, I honestly don’t believe is a troll.

    He’s just a very opinionated theist. A theist who REALLY thinks that he’s able to deligitimize the show’s stance on theism, but only relies on the kalam cosmological argument. Unfortunately, that argument is easily debunked since it infers a god without any evidence. He just can’t see that, and feels the need to call in every chance he gets.

    I knew it was him right when he started talking since his voice is pretty distinct. He could be easily screened out from now on.

  12. rocketdave says

    “Lucas” absolutely is a troll. He was trolling the YouTube chat incessantly prior to Russell taking his call. Even if he genuinely believes everything he says, it doesn’t mean he’s not a troll.

  13. Robert, not Bob says

    Russel’s answer to the flat-Earth question was reasonable-Russel’s always reasonable-but I wouldn’t be surprised if Flat Earth belief is in fact increasing. It’s like what you get when the immune system has been compromised: opportunistic infections. Science and skepticism have been suppressed, in order to keep people believing in Trickle Down, Young Earth Creationism, and climate change denial, and other kinds of nonsense have moved in too, as a side effect: both preexisting ideas, like astrology, and brand-new ones, such as anti-vax. I won’t insist on it though; it’s not like I have hard data…

  14. Monocle Smile says

    I see it as backlash against an increasingly forward-thinking world. Globally, science and skepticism seem to be at all-time highs. The response of those who can’t keep up or who don’t want to face reality is to dig in their heels and sink further into delusion.

    What does Lucas/Adam/Andrew/Nick say in the chat? Is it the same kind of stuff from his calls, or does he behave differently?

  15. Bubble says

    I enjoyed the show. Please have John Loftus on some more. I would like to hear more, and I’ll be checking out his books.

  16. Sp00ky BedHair says

    @16 Monocle Smile
    Not much room to have any sort of debate in the chat, especially as there were over 1700 of us on there, or at least watching live. He did get quite a lot of attention after he announced that he was a theist, and that he was going to call in, He just posted stuff like “There is a god”, and “Atheists are stupid”, and “No, really, I have called in”. He eventually got banned apparently for calling someone a “nazi”.

    Apologies for butting in, only just realized you were asking @rocketdave.

    Anyhow, there really wasn’t much to report in my opinion.

  17. Monocle Smile says

    Okay, so it was just teenage trollish bullshit, not anything of substance. He’s one of those verbal meander-ers who takes forever to get around to a point, and that’s rarely worth it on the show.
    It’s not like the show hasn’t heard the same shit before. Some twit who thinks he’s got a philosophical “gotcha” blathers on about logic when they haven’t set foot in a science classroom or even walked outside in what seems like years. His call with Tracie when he challenged her on a rather trivial statement concerning planet formation told me all I needed to know.

  18. Podcast Junkie says

    Adam/Lucas, also called in as Brad on 21.08 and Matt and Tracie explored his argument and beliefs

  19. rocketdave says

    That sounds about right. What I mainly remember was him tossing out random comments like, “feminists suck” and “liberals are dumb,” etc., totally apropos of nothing, seemingly just trying whatever he could to get attention/ get a rise out of some people. He was acting so obnoxious, it seemed like people in the chat were talking more about him than what was going on in the show. I ended up focusing more on the ustream chat instead. Most YouTube livestreams I’ve watched, it’s been impossible to follow the discussion in the chat anyway, because too many people are talking at once.

  20. Nathan says

    Adam/Lucas/Brad sure moves a lot and changes his name all the time. Sounds like an upset teenager, I guess he is really butthurt that this show exists.

  21. Murat says

    @RnB @MS

    Flat earth belief and denial of climate change may be too easy to discard for anyone with rational thinking. But, as was discused during the first call in this episode, people who are into these need to be engaged with, one way or the other.

    I had listened to Neil deGrasse Tyson talk briefly about flat earth. He was trying not to mock the believers, but to simply make his point by providing the major evidences that make us sure why the earth is a globe. Maybe this is the correct approach. Because, when quickly dismissed or mocked, people tend to cling to these even more.

    Also, I think one of the reasons to why such “wild assumptions” get popular is that, many people begin to question the “system” from the wrong end, considering scientific fact to be somewhat in line with paradigms of governing powers – They lie about a lot of things, hence, flat earth!

  22. Monocle Smile says


    Because, when quickly dismissed or mocked, people tend to cling to these even more.

    Given how I stopped believing in Santa Claus and even how I became an atheist, I can’t possibly agree with this. We need both diplomats and firebrands. Tyson can be the diplomat. I’m just fine employing ridicule, so long as that ridicule is supplemented with heavy doses of evidence.

    Also, I think one of the reasons to why such “wild assumptions” get popular is that, many people begin to question the “system” from the wrong end, considering scientific fact to be somewhat in line with paradigms of governing powers

    I agree with this entirely. Fucking Breitbart. Fucking “sovereign citizens.” I blame them in part for this. I also blame the continued shellacking of the US education system.

  23. SpongeWorthy says

    I knew he was A troll because of the way he made a point to say what his (fake) name was, though this time it could have been his real name (who knows?). I knew that he was THE troll who had called recently because he went right to “falsify,” which he went on and on about in his previous call.

  24. marx says

    Interesting that John Loftus studied theology with apologists who stretched the truth when they had to.
    Why do people still believe in a deity?
    I’ll never know why!

  25. Monocle Smile says

    Threadjackin’ time. I feel a bit bad because I’m a big John Loftus fan.
    Anyone watch the debate Matt did with Mike Licona? It was about as embarrassing as I’ve seen in the first ten minutes. For those who don’t know, Licona is the source for close to half of Blake Giunta’s material for the debate on the resurrection.

  26. Murat says

    @MS #27

    Just watchin’ it… This Mike Licona guy… He seems to be presenting the resurrection of Jesus as “just one other supernatural thing in an ocean of weird stuff that makes no sense and has no pattern”…

    So, well, I wonder how this utterly pointless attitude will in the end serve his point of defending “Christianity” as something of particular value.

  27. Pathetic Atheist says

    John’s idea that you cannot have a rationally justified false belief is complete nonsense. He would agree that it is not rational to believe in God, yet if he also holds that it is possible, that is a counter example where if God turned out to be real, it would be the case that it is rationally justified to not believe in it, yet that belief would be false.

    The appeal to probability is also a complete counter to this idea. If his idea is that it is rational to believe the most probable thing, then every time an improbable thing turned out to be true, it would be an example of rationally justified false belief.

  28. Mobius says

    @30 Pathetic Atheist

    I think you are missing what is meant here by “justified belief”. The “justified” means that it is justified by the evidence available, not whether it is actually true or not. Matt’s has stated it may actually be true there is a planet in Andromeda with life, but to believe that to be true is not justified, lacking any evidence of such a planet.

  29. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    No, I think Pathetic Atheist in #30 is entirely right. Mobius, you should read it again.

  30. huepix says

    Just wondering why atheists and theists alike seem to have a real problem accepting and recognising reality.
    Why would you ban someone from a discussion because they’re talking about reality.
    As a scientist I study reality

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