1. Chancellor of the Exchequer says

    So, Rebecca is back, kewl.

    Wow at Russell learning another life skill, it’s almost like helping others has benefits exempt from a god’s input, that’s weird.

    Phil the builder! Can he fix it? Phil the builder! Yes he can!(Forgive me.)

    Art, wut? Gawd is the ultimate ground of existence…wut? What makes gawd’s ground ultimate, why don’t we have that? Is gawd being stingy with its land?! I need to confront your gawd(walk on your gawd?)

    Dan, why not create a family group for you guys to talk about it(you can do that on Failbook, I think.)

    I laughed at Phil getting blocked by his fam, the life of internet atheism is arduous.

    Dan, of course the adds are out of obligation, look at my gen, you think we want to add our moms, dads, aunts and uncles etc on Bookface? We’d honestly rather not(note, #notallyoungpeople.)

    Billy, you make it hard to not get a goat image in my head. You are hard headed and an extremist, you sound rather unsettling when you got like you did while engaging with the hosts, you sounded like you needed to see someone. You aren’t a skeptic, just a plain denialist who is just big mad that the Christian book isn’t considered a historical magnum opus. There are drawings of a being hurling lightning down at humans from on high, the greek people have the proof of what their ancestors believed about lightning storms, it’s not some secret or obscure conspiracy to invent evidence for supernatural claims stemming from(then) unknown causes.)

    If you want to slander historical fields, the axp is not the place to do it, goat. You quickly stopped being understandable, I just started hearing, “baaaahs.” There are no shepherds and fields of grass here.

    Just extra and empty for nothing. This came up last time too(less than 100% is equivalent to zero.) You know nothing billies need to stop harassing those that don’t subscribe to your bs as they try to contact those who wish to engage in honest dialogue.

    N.O. the ex-muslim, welcome to thinking this whole theistic thing through for yourself. Humans damn sure like drama, hence the multi-billion dollar entertainment industry.

    Praise Sheezus, bye, Chuck!

    Tom(the pastor) sounds familiar.

    Tom, stop getting atheist definitions from your theist buddies. Athiests don’t believe, what more do you need?

    Hard atheists(or Strong atheists) claim that gawds don’t exist(they’re right) while Soft atheists(or Weak atheists) just don’t believe, with no claims of non-existence.

    Ah, a “copout” eh? Now I’m starting to not buy your pitch, you claim to be unprepaired but here you are with all kinds of “new atheist” claims and statments like you have a burden of proof agenda that you want to strong arm all atheists into. I think if you theists worked on your burden of proof then there would be no atheists, that is, if you’re right.

    Dishonesty is not a good look, by the by.

    Atheists don’t exist in a vacuum, so naturally humans being humans have other beliefs that interlock, hence the commonality(but not an absolute rule) of pro-science, humanistic(feminism gets an add here), anti-homoantagonism, anti-sexism, anti-bigotry in general tint more than a couple atheists have.

    However all atheists absolutely share the non-belief in a deity/ies.

    Tom, your foolishness is starting to show more and more, despite getting two atheists to set your narrative straight, you insist on the nonsensical “new atheist” term when you were freaking told that you’re doing this “what is an atheist” thing wrong. Athiests are individuals, some are reasonable, some are not, some love science, some do not etc. The WLC mention earned you the “blockhead” theist title, no wonder you can’t process corrections like any honest human being with integrity would.

    Athiests make no claim exept, “we don’t believe you.”

    Great, now he’s hearing voices, I just-

    Does faith have anything to do with your dishonesty? If so, it needs to be booted. As atheists aren’t practicing faith in our disbelief, much to your chagrin.

    Now, Tom, you wasted all that time while you had evidence of your gawd’s existence all along? This must be some good evidence!

    Not an argument from design! Tom, you are decades late mate, nobody buys that in 2017. I’m reassured that you were tired, guess that’s why you weren’t serving anything of particular merit.

    Irene, it makes no sense to those with reasoned beliefs and love but those “parents” aren’t doing this humanity thing right.

  2. jeffh123 says

    Russell’s discussion with Tom of Oregon kind of disappointed me today. I think he attributed more to atheism than was justified. Atheism is only a small part of my world view. It only means one thing: I don’t believe in a god or gods. It means to me that I have not seen any adequate justification in believing. I don’t have to prove anything. I don’t have a burden of proof. I am not saying that there is no god(s). I can’t prove that. It’s like saying someone is guilty of a crime. The state has to prove it. You can’t prove the null set. Theists are taught that atheism is just like a religion. But there are no tenets, no morals, no rituals, etc. associated with being an atheist. There no guiding philosophy associated with being an atheist. The only thing atheists have in common is the lack of a deity belief. Atheists are democrats and republicans, prolife and prochoice, believers in the soul and not, belief in evolution and not. I think the discussion could have been better. Thanks for the great program.

  3. paxoll says

    For Billy in Austen call. Another painful meandering. Its simple. Ancient texts can be inaccurate, when evaluating ancient text for veracity you can pile EVERYTHING into the category of “belief”. Abraham believed god wanted him to sacrifice his son, or simply people believed Abraham was told to sacrifice his son, this can also be “corrupted”, maybe Abraham had daughters and someone changed the story. This doesn’t take the claim out of the realm of “belief”. If you are considering it a “belief” then you have little reason to doubt what someone claims to believe, and regardless if it was changed, people who claim it to be true are “believing” the corrupted form. So did Abraham exist or what did he believe at the time is historically irrelevant. What is relevant is what people propagating the story believe, they are the ones writing the books, if they are claiming this story to be true there is no rational reason to not accept what they are claiming to believe. If the Hindu down the street says they believe in an Elephant god, you don’t say well I don’t believe you are truthful about your belief. This is a completely different way to evaluate if what was written is true. Whether Zeus farts lightening is a completely different historical investigation compared to whether people BELIEVED Zeus farts lightning.

  4. Rob Sheehan says

    The Fatima stuff happened in Portugal, not in Mexico. It happened in 1917. Ricardo Montablan narrated a documentary on it once.

  5. says

    You guys handled Billy terribly.

    I get that history isn’t your strong suit (Charlemagne reigned in the late 8th and early 9th centuries, btw), but it’s pretty easy to point out that the reason why we know the Bible has been compromised is because we have EVIDENCE that it has been compromised: Hundreds of editions of it spanning thousands of years, in different languages, by different scribes and authors, each of them choosing what to omit, what to add, what to change, and how to translate in accordance with the social mores and norms of their period. This isn’t conjecture or speculation. We have these editions of the Bible, from the earliest Greek manuscripts written in the second century to the countless modern English versions. It is not hard to look this stuff up and learn what’s been changed over the years.

    Furthermore, the reason why we know the ancients believed in a god that caused thunder is because they told us he did. Every culture had one. The Hurrians/Hittites called him Teshub, the Canaanites/Phoenicians Ba’al, the Assyrians/Babylonians Adad, the Egyptians Resheph (and yes also Zeus, Thor, Jupiter, etc.). Even the Hebrews original interpretation of Yahweh was a storm god, with thunder and lightning a sign of his wrath (2 Samuel 22:15, Job 28:26, Psalms 135:7, Zechariah 9:14). It was not that unusual to associate the most frightening weather event with the most powerful god, and they often did.

    Now, you could make the argument that all the knowledge we have about these mythologies and their storm gods could be as compromised as the Bible, but here’s the important part: We don’t have any evidence that they have done so. The literature that says the Greeks believed in Zeus hurling thunderbolts from atop Mount Olympus is pretty uniform and leaves little doubt.

    The ancients were extremely superstitious and they believed that every unexplained random event in nature was due to some god. Even human feelings and emotions were the work of gods influencing your mind. The Romans were so superstitious that their armies frequently released a bird on the day of a battle and which way the bird flew would tell them whether they should have their battle that day (if it flew the wrong way, they would march down the road 20 miles and postpone the battle for another day — when the gods would favor them ie: when the bird flew in the right direction). And we know they did this because THEY TOLD US THEY DID THIS. Yes, those sources could be compromised, but without any counter-factual evidence, we have to assume its true until proven otherwise. And that has happened before: There are a lot of dubious facts in Roman records and histories so it’s not all taken at face value. Some events are embellished; others are just flat-out made up. But it’s not 100% wrong and it’s not 100% right.

    And that is the real crux of this argument, that Billy was taking an absolutist position about knowledge: It’s either all true or all false, there is no middle ground. It’s a version of the Fallacy of Composition (what I hope one of you would mention but you didn’t), or what I call the 99=0 Fallacy: That if something isn’t 100% perfect and absolutely true, it’s therefore absolutely false. Unfortunately, few things (in fact, quite possibly all things) in this universe are 100% or 0%. Every fact is somewhere in the middle and Billy will just have to live with that level of uncertainty.

  6. Bret Frost says

    You guys ought to read a book about time management. You bore everyone to death then allow callers to dominate the show. I used to enjoy watching live, but now I just watch the recording so I can skip the bullshit.

  7. Wiggle Puppy says

    It doesn’t matter whether or not the Bible was compromised or not for the purposes of Billy’s call. If we had the originals of the Bible books and knew exactly who wrote them, that still wouldn’t lend one bit of credibility to the supernatural claims they contain, just as it is for every other text that makes wild claims about the supernatural. Billy was conflating two different things: whether or not people in the past believed certain things, and whether those things are actually true. Some people in the past believed that Zeus caused thunderbolts, and I think that they were wrong. Other people in the past believed that Jesus died and then ascended into heaven to serve at the right hand of god, and I think that they too were wrong. In other words, I’m perfectly willing to believe that people in the first-century Middle East *believed* that Jesus was the son of god and died to redeem the world’s sins, but not that this is factually true. Billy was building a contrast that makes no sense.

    In other news, I wrote a novel about magical chicken nuggets. If you’re interested, please consider checking it out!

  8. bigjay says

    Wait, Tom is a pastor and he’s not prepared for the conversation? Doesn’t his entire life consist of preparation for such conversations? Agree with others here who say Tom needs to drop his attachment to “New Atheism” and WLC. I also think that Russell started off answering him with way too many words. When a simple, “lack of belief in a deity” would have been a better starting place, given that Tom really wants to saddle atheists with a burden of proof.

  9. Rob r. says

    Can you guys stop splitting up the episodes in YouTube I really hate to see 8 videos in my subscribe box. I don’t want to unsub but that’s way too many videos to be posted in quick succession.

  10. says

    @7 Wiggle Puppy

    It doesn’t matter whether or not the Bible was compromised or not for the purposes of Billy’s call. If we had the originals of the Bible books and knew exactly who wrote them, that still wouldn’t lend one bit of credibility to the supernatural claims they contain

    The standard I set is this,

    Suppose there’s an event, where 1 million people go into a stadium and watch a person perform some action. When the event is over, all 1 million people exit, and proclaim that they believe that they witnessed magic happen.

    Further, we can interview and cross-examine the testimony of these people to whatever extend we wish.

    Did we establish that magic occurred? No.

    At best, we established than an event took place that 1 million people believe they saw magic. Further scientific investigation could have been done by these people, with the evident provided afterwards, but they didn’t.

    If an illusion of magic can be convincing to one person, it can be convincing to a million. So 999,999 additional redundant testimonies do us very little, in terms of epistemology.

    … and that’s the BEST that scenario can get us. With the Bible we don’t even have anywhere near that. We have a book that claims there’s 500 anonymous and long-dead witnesses to the resurrection.

  11. Stephen Anthony says

    I agree Ishkur. They handled him pretty badly. Letting him ramble on and not checking his false equbilances.
    There’s sufficient evidence of ancient religious beliefs. It’s just one book. And no one is asserting the truth of the beliefs, but just that they exist.
    With Christianity, people are asserting the truth of the claims in this one book and there’s no substantiation.

  12. rectorsquid says

    I wonder why atheists push back with the burden of proof thing without ever just saying “Yes, I believe there is no god. And I have as much proof in this as you have proof that there IS a god. We are both equally without proof. So what?”

    On the show, I would like to hear one of the hosts or co-hosts tell a caller “Let’s pretend that I strongly believe that there is no god and that I have no proof but I still believe it to be true. Now what do you want to talk about?” It would be an interesting change and I wonder what a call-in-theist might do in that situation.

  13. mi tortent says

    billy is an idiot. he doesn’t understand the difference between what people believed in ancient times and whether those beliefs are true. we can trust ancient documents about what people believed. we don’t question if people actually believed that jesus was crucified and he resurrected. what we can not substantiate is if this was true. we are pretty certain people believed that thunder was caused by gods. the equivalent issue regarding christianity as per billy’s call would be, can we determine that gods indeed caused thunder. russell does not think well in the moment. he gets flustered easily.

  14. KJWalker says

    @Rob r. Youtube demonetizing is a big pain. By splitting the episode up you prevent a few complaints from Theists from shutting down the entire video. Now they need to complain on each and every clip.

  15. Zachary says

    I love them posting clips of each show. It allows you to either watch the entire video or watch clips of it. Sometimes I just want to watch a call or two later and not the full video again. If you don’t want a bunch of notifications, just turn them off. You know the show happens every Sunday anyway..

  16. Brad James says

    This was a pretty poor showing all around. Especially with the pastor guy. Atheism is just an answer to a question, it’s not a part of some ideology of “new atheism”. You guys should have disabused him of that right off but it was left with him probably feeling justification for his nonsensical beliefs. I really feel Russell kind of wings it where as Matt has a focus….what do you believe and why do you believe it. It makes for a more focused and less meandering conversation. Also a note to Phil, you have a tendency to step on comments that the host makes….for instance the host…Russell in this case, will make a great point that demands a answer and you’ll come in with “And also, such and such”, what that does is bury Russells comment and the caller is then only responding to you. It’s a hijack of sorts. I also find that you sometimes talk to find a direction for where you are going rather than have a good idea of what you want to say and express it. It’s a bit of a ramble sometimes and I dont always follow what your point is.

  17. Mobius says

    Phil and Russell, thanx for your efforts in rebuilding people’s homes. Your story gave me all sorts of warm fuzzies.

  18. DanDare says

    I don’t think Billy was someone called Billy. Their voice was disguised. I think its an old pal that got asked about Universe Farting Pixies by Mat only a few episodes ago. This guy keeps calling in with different names and doing basically the same schtick every time.

  19. Monocle Smile says

    Are you talking about the “Higgs field is designed” guy? Boy, was that guy annoying. Check that…IS annoying. You are correct that this is the same joker, and he’s changing his identity and location. Let’s just light all of our knowledge on fire so you can feel secure in your batshit god belief. Great plan. I’m creating categories of apologetics; this type falls into one I call “butthurt,” and is exemplified by people employing bizarre talking points that they themselves don’t take seriously in order to make a meaningless “point” because they can’t stand the existence of atheists.

    “Front-loaded intelligent design theory.” It’s just another desperate god of the gaps variant. Shut the fuck up, guy with no friends. Why is he upset about christians getting “slammed” over the bible when he’s not a christian? This fuckmonkey is lying out his ass.

  20. Monocle Smile says

    Phil did a great job handling Billy by explaining that evidence for the existence of a belief and evidence to substantiate a claim, but of course Billy is a fucking toddler and determined to throw tantrums on the air.

    Contrary to some of the others here, I came away from Billy’s call feeling pretty happy with Russell and Phil. Russell made him look exceptionally stupid at the end of the call and then hung up. Bravo.

  21. Monocle Smile says

    Russell preemptively smacked down Chuck the Hyena! WOOOO

    Tom, we DO have evidence for all the things you listed as aspects of “New Atheism.” You’re using a telephone, dumbass. I don’t have any real respect for any theist who uses the term “New Atheism,” because it’s just an attempt to cast atheists as an opposing religious body or political movement to distract from the complete emptiness of their own position.

  22. Ethan Myerson says

    Russell was just about to make the right point with Billy (or at least appeared to be about to do so), when the conversation pivoted slightly and got in the way.
    Billy’s point (okay, AMONG Billy’s various points) was that we can’t read the minds of ancients, so we can’t state what people actually believed to be true. Russell made the point that there are Christians today who do believe the myths and stories presented in the bible. Were he allowed to continue, I’m sure he’d have pointed out that there are Jews today who believe the stories of the Torah, and Muslims who believe the stories of the Koran, and Hindus who believe the stories of the Vedas, and so on. Rhetorically, I imagine, Russell would have asked if we could say today that it’s reasonable that 19th century Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Hindus also believed in those things. How about 18th? What about 8th? The point that Billy would eventually have to face is that it’s not unreasonable to claim that adherents to a religion – even those adherents to religions that today have no adherents – believe the things that the religion teaches.

  23. Vivec says

    Well, I mean, “I believe a god doesn’t exist” isn’t a thing all atheists believe, for one. Many, myself included, just lack belief in a god, without the corresponding positive assertion that no gods exist.

  24. sayamything says

    A couple of things, in revere order of the calls because the Russian caller is fresh in my mind:

    I think Russell has a different idea of other parts of the country than I do, and might necessarily be the case. I’ve live most of my life in the Northeast, and in fact most of that time in Vermont and New Hampshire, the states considered either the most atheist or least religious, depending on phrasing. While it’s not as religious as where my partner’s from in the South for example, there’s still a pretty present religious aspect, right up to the questions of where you go to church and work harassment for being an atheist. I don’t know of anyone being fired for being an atheist, but I knew barely any professed atheists until I was in my late twenties or early thirties. And the funny thing is, a lot of those atheists (and myself) share the sort of path AronRa has talked about in the past.

    My brother even gets some of this stuff in New York City, that godless liberal bastion, and while I’m not saying “everyone experiences this,” the fact remains that people do experience this. I don’t know about California first-hand, because I’ve never been out there in person, but people I know from the Left Coast have similar stories as well. I don’t have any sort of long-term or in-depth study, but we’ve had to fight the encroachment of religion in our schools, we still get the “God hates [epithet for gay people]” types (I’ve been the target of violence because Jesus wants to save my not-straight soul, to boot), and people still associate “atheist” with “hates God” or “Baby Eater” or almost anything you could probably mention from any other portion of the country.

    And again, I do understand that we’re less religious up here, and more relaxed about religion than some places, but it’s not like what the caller described of Russia. It’s still better to be a pagan up here, because “at least you believe in something.” People definitely do care about your religious beliefs.

    I’d still rather live here than most of the South (at least as far as religion and me go), so it’s not like I’m saying “it’s just as awful to be an atheist here!” But at the same time, I don’t think even NYC or LA count as atheist paradise.

    As far as the caller casting all ancient literature into one pot and saying we had to throw it all out, it’s important to remember why we take these things as credible or not credible, and I think Phil and Russell kept trying to go down that road. The caller seemed to think anything that didn’t directly say “yes, you’re right” was irrelevant. Howeverm, there’s a good reason we “trash” people who believe The Bible while accepting other works, and it’s an intellectually consistent one.

    The reality is we have access to a large number of Biblical sources of varying age and completion that we can date and sequence back from the earliest manuscripts to the latest. We have a reasonable idea of when many of the changes in the source material were made, and even the modern Bible has internal discrepancies to deal with. We also have very few extra-Biblical sources confirming any of it and plenty that contradict it (not the least of which being all those societies that didn’t notice a global flood happened).

    Also, this is a different burden of proof than whether or not, for example, Jesus rose from the dead. People often use the fact that the Christian cult existed in the early centuries CE to indicate it must be true that Jesus was real and rose from the dead. We have plenty of evidence that there was a Christian sect from that time period, which is enough to validate that claim but not whether Jesus was divine, did miracles, or even existed. So to compare it to the lack of extra-Biblical sources for Biblical stories, you had entire societies built with these beliefs about gods who threw lightning baked into their culture, almost literally. Not just documents, but shrines, inclusion in the culture’s artwork, etc.

    For some reason or another, a good number of older civilisations acted in accordance with beliefs that we can verify not only from their written word, but their craftwork and literally their lifestyles. We have multiple sources of information converging on the same answers and while we can’t read minds, it’s reasonable to accept that they weren’t all attempting to defraud a bunch of 21st century atheists. None of this is sufficient to demonstrate that Zeus is real, either. But it does make a reasonable case that people believed in lightning gods (among others).

    I also wouldn’t doubt that a non-zero number of people were pretending for various reasons. That still doesn’t mesh with the idea that we cannot reasonably infer that people believed the things they professed to believe.

  25. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To Jasper of Maine

    Suppose there’s an event, where 1 million people go into a stadium and watch a person perform some action. When the event is over, all 1 million people exit, and proclaim that they believe that they witnessed magic happen.

    Further, we can interview and cross-examine the testimony of these people to whatever extend we wish.

    Did we establish that magic occurred? No.

    … and that’s the BEST that scenario can get us.

    You trigged my usual pet peeve. Here I go.

    ~takes a deep breath~

    I’d strongly argue against the last assertion. That’s not the best scenario. You can do much better. You’re not trying very hard. It’s near trivial to show that your position is extremely silly.

    Much better scenarios are found in our works of fiction. In particular, our modern fantasy and superhero fiction provides some of the best examples, whether it’s Marvel, Harry Potter, etc.

    Imagine you found yourself in the world of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with Thor, The Hulk, etc. Imagine you happen to become best friends witrh Thor and The Hulk, and you regularly see them saving the world from alien invasions. You also live in the Marvel Cinematic Universe where this is covered regularly as simply news on CNN, MSNBC, Fox, etc., and politicians debate about the dangers posed by the heroes, and so forth. At this point, it would be obscene to deny that Thor exists, is super-tough (“magically” tough), and can summon bolts of lightning. Because you’re a friend, and say a member of S.H.I.E.L.D., you have access to even more evidence than most people, and you know that the ability to summon a bolt of lightning is simply an innate ability of Thor.

    > How not to attack Intelligent Design Creationism: Philosophical misconceptions about Methodological Naturalism
    > (final draft – to appear in Foundations of Science)
    > Maarten Boudry, Stefaan Blancke, Johan Braeckman

    Is Thor a god, and does Thor use magic? They’re not very interesting questions IMHO. I’m particularly impressed with the Marvel Cinematic Universe in this regard. In the first Thor Movie, the character Thor even addressed this point: Thor explains that when we puny humans see Thor summon a bolt of lightning, we think “magic”, but in Thor’s world, science and magic are the same thing. This is fundamnetally correct: If magic were real and commonplace, we could science the shit out of magic.

    > Girl Genius Webcomics – episode “Science”
    “Any sufficiently analyzed magic is indistinguishable from science!”

    Even if Thor’s ability to summon a bolt of lightning comes from an innate ability that he was born with, and that cannot be transferred, and cannot be studied in any way in a reductionist manner, it’s still science. We can still science that shit. We can still measure the energy content of the bolt of lightning. We can determine its effective range. We can measure the speed at which Thor can summon it. With invasive measures, we can measure Thor’s brain activity when he summons the bolt of lightning. We can do lots and lots of science on it without ever finding a materialistic reductionistic explanation, nor an explanation of any kind.

    It’s just like the Aesop of the following video with Feynman: Perhaps in the Marven Cinematic Universe, no one can ever give a satisfactory explanation as to how Thor can summon lightning via force of will, not even Thor himself. This is no better nor worse than in our world, where no one can give an explanation for how magnets work – not even the Nobel physicist Richard Feynman. “Magnets do work according to this mathematical model” is just one of the parts of the world that you have to accept without explanation, and you have to accept it because I have a boatload of evidence to back it up, even though I don’t have any sort of explanation at all. For exactly the same reasoning, if you were that person in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, then you have to accept Thor can summon lightning by force of will.

    > Richard Feynman (not) answering “How do magnets work?”

    I can go further: Imagine a world where diviners who use divination were commonplace (moreso than now). They used dousing rods and other stuff. There were call-in hotlines. The difference is, in this hypothetical world, everyone knows that some people really can do divination. For example, you lost your car keys, and so you call a hotline, which costs $5, and they tell you where you lost the keys, exactly. This sort of thing is commonplace – everyone does it – and it works practically every time. Sure, there are always a few frauds, but the real diviners have to go through strict government licensing where they must demonstrate their powers in order to be licensed, in a similar spirit to the Million Dollar Challenge.

    In that kind of world, if I was not a diviner, I would regularly make use of those hotlines, just like everyone else. It would be absurd not to. There is a tvtrope term for that kind of person in fiction who refuse sto believe in gods, magic, etc., in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary:

    Flat-Earth Atheist

    Atheism in a clockwork universe ostensibly overseen by a completely non-interventionist divinity is one thing, but what about a world that’s practically the playground of the mythic forces that created it?

    While some authors do this as an honest philosophical exercise, it’s almost always Played for Laughs. A self-styled hardline atheist that just happens to live in a high fantasy setting brimming with both huge pantheons of gods rampaging around the landscape constantly causing all sorts of things to happen, and the worshipers that pray to (and immediately hear back from) said pantheons of rampaging deities. Maybe they don’t believe in the gods at all, and are totally nuts, maybe they’re completely in denial about the existence of gods, or maybe they’re feigning disbelief in hopes of ending their worship and bringing about some kind of Götterdämmerung or whatever. Sometimes the character himself is a god (typically a loony one). Sometimes this is a direct attempt to discredit science by comparing it to religion: instead of using the scientific method, as a scientist does, the strawman atheist relies himself on a devout faith — in this case a faith that “science” holds all the answers, despite obvious proof to the contrary.

    Of course, our world looks absolutely nothing like those fictional worlds. The standard of evidence that I would want is super high, and the religious are absolutely nowhere close. Even if we grant most of their claims concerning eye witness testimony, etc., it’s not good enough. The kind of evidence that real religious believers bring is nowhere close to my examples here. Miles apart. Worlds apart even.

  26. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Err, I meant to include a “[…]” in the blockquote. Sorry. I mangled my quote of Jasper. Sorry.

  27. Simon & Mrs Wendy Hosking says

    Posting from Australia, which has way more Atheists than most of America.

    In the little office where I work everyone is an Atheist.

    One of my workmates has zero knowledge or religion. Doesn’t know the difference between Catholic and Protestant (hadn’t even heard the terms when I mentioned them) and barely knows the difference between Buddhist and Muslim. She’s not dumb btw – she’s quite smart. Clearly an Atheist.

    One of my other workmates is a bit sort of New-Age. Believes in a ‘force’ (sort of like the Jedi or something). Still clearly an Atheist.

    One of my other workmates was raised Christian, but has drifted off and just doesn’t really believe it. Not really sure, but thinks there probably isn’t a God. I’d call her an Atheist.

    My other workmate is similar to myself. We try to be skeptical, we’ve watched and read fairly widely on the subject and we’re sure there is not God in the same way we’re sure there are no pixies at the bottom of the garden. Also Atheists.

    Atheism is just a position on one topic. It’s not a world view. There are many, many ways to come to being an Atheist and many, many things you can believe while being an Atheist.

    If ‘Pastor Tom’ phones up can someone please explain this.

    (I do love the show btw)

    – Simon

  28. says

    :Russell’s discussion with Tom of Oregon:
    I’m just disappointed. The guy was asking simple questions and you gave round about complicated answers and in the end I could barely count them as an answer to his question by the time you finished. If I could barely follow you and I knew where you were trying to go with it and the terms you were using, how is this country bumpkin using plain English going to understand nearly any uncommon words you are throwing at him? You need to communicate on the level that the caller is on.

    -It isn’t hard to explain that Atheism is a single position on a single question. He didn’t know that. This is an easy fix to help the caller understand Atheism. It took Phill to catch that before it hit the floor.

    – It isn’t hard to explain the false dichotomy of belief. His view that you must either believe a god certainly exists or believe that one certainly does not exist. Other hosts have explained this with few words and I know you’ve seen them do it and you know it Russ. Why did you struggle to find the right language?

    – It isn’t hard to explain that Atheism is not a system and that most people who arrive at Atheism get their by skepticism. And then explain what skepticism is and why it is a good thing. He probably is not familiar with our definition of skepticism.

    – Good points to Phill for pointing out that people can arrive at a belief for a bad reason. Might have been good to point out that people have all kinds of beliefs for what are bad reasons and our goal is to avoid that mistake and use skepticism as a tool to notice when we are making it.

    I would just ask that Russ could eagerly review that call with some peers over there over a beer or two. I think there is an opportunity to do that way better. Russell has been on the show a long time, no question it is possible for him to do this well, but that was a disappointment.

  29. says

    @25 EL

    I’d strongly argue against the last assertion. That’s not the best scenario. You can do much better. You’re not trying very hard. It’s near trivial to show that your position is extremely silly.

    You know what, you can take your opinion and shove it up…

    Actually, good points. I’ll retract my statement, as applied to the Bible.

    At first, I felt you weren’t really addressing my position. For instance,

    At this point, it would be obscene to deny that Thor exists, is super-tough (“magically” tough), and can summon bolts of lightning.

    … Wasn’t something denied by my position. Nor did your objections apply to my stadium example. Like, at all. The problem came when I was applying it to the Jesus stories. It’s possible that some of those people following him around did have scientific evidence that could be presented. I was looking at it as 500 random observers who did a one-time viewing of an event.

  30. Monocle Smile says

    @Joshua Hendrickson
    To be fair to Russell, they cut that call much shorter than they would have liked, and I don’t see a ton of evidence for your condescending “country bumpkin” characterization. Tom knew enough to talk about naturalism and scientific empiricism, so that’s pretty unwarranted.

  31. billgarthright says

    I just listened to this episode as a podcast, and it was frustrating as hell. Again. Sorry, but I just have a big problem with how Russell replies to these people. (Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s difficult. It’s always easy to be a backseat driver.)

    But that guy talking about how we knew that people in the past thought that lightning was a supernatural event? They didn’t know back then what lightning was, so of course many people thought it was supernatural. But what Russell and Phil failed to make clear is that there’s a HUGE difference between accepting what people believed and accepting that their belief was TRUE.

    There was no need to bring Christianity into it at all. It’s reasonable to think, based on written documents, artwork, and other evidence, that people believed lightning to be supernatural in origin. Nevertheless, it would NOT be reasonable to believe, based on that evidence, that lightning really WAS supernatural. THAT’S the difference.

    And that’s generally how atheists view the Bible, too. We say it’s not trustworthy when it comes to the reality of supernatural events, but it might still be useful in indicating what some people BELIEVED. (Certainly, other documents back then back up the fact that Christians believed certain things, without backing up the belief that they really happened.) Those are two very different things.

    Likewise, when they talked with that Tom guy in Oregon, that was frustrating, too. As Joshua has already noted in a comment above this one, atheism is a simple reply to a very narrow question. It’s not a worldview (sure, it’s probably PART of my worldview, but not a huge part). It’s certainly not a claim, so we don’t have the burden of proof.

    As an atheist and a skeptic, I just stick with the null hypothesis in the absence of evidence that theist (or deist) claims are correct. It’s like not believing in leprechauns because of the fact that I’ve seen no good evidence leprechauns exist. That’s all. But instead of saying that, Russell seemed to agree with the guy!

    Russell is a smart guy, and obviously a nice guy, but… well, it’s all a matter of personal taste, I suppose. I’ve been listening to the Scathing Atheist podcast recently, and I guess that’s more my style these days. Admittedly, a lot of things irritate me these days – especially since November!

    PS. I’m having an extremely difficult time commenting here. I’m logged in, but I always seem to have trouble with this website.

  32. Devocate says

    “where no one can give an explanation for how magnets work – not even the Nobel physicist Richard Feynman.”

    Nope. Feynman CAN explain how magnets work. Just not to a journalist who isn’t willing to take a graduate course in Physics. Watch that video more closely.

    There are in fact NO facts that scientists are willing to concede we will never understand.

    Thank you kindly.

  33. paxoll says

    Ok, onto the call with Tom. When I see someone with preconceived ideas go into a conversation, it seems the best thing to do is to stop them immediately and address the the misconceptions as they arrive. In my opinion the best way to do that is to apply them back to the person in question. When burden of proof arose, turn it back, Tom was a christian, ask him does he need to prove the negative existence for the Hindu gods, or spirits in shintoism, in order to not believe they are true? Pointing out the shared atheism with respect to other religions seems much more likely to get the other to understand than to try to explain the null hypothesis, rational thought, how belief works just to get to the same point.

  34. Taige says

    Some constructive criticism:

    Phil seems really nice – but he repeats the same idea over and over using more words than needed and almost refuses to end a thought without adding several more that belabor the point and take up lots of time and it’s pretty frustrating to listen to.

    I see great potential in him, but please consider these thoughts to improve.

  35. jack schulz says

    I believe you are confusing agnostic and atheist. Agnostics give that leeway, atheists do not. I am an atheist and give no leeway on the question of is there a god. Agnostics say what you indicate, maybe, but I dont think so. You should spell ojt that you are not talking for atheists, but for agnostics.

  36. Boris B says

    Guys; I don’t find your arguments for disabling the comment-section valid.
    (like: too much spam; long winded apologists, and various obscene or misogynistic comments (…) )
    I mean; you’ll get those here too (except, maybe for the spam), and why not let them expose their dishonest selves that way? There are lots of atheists, quite capable of refuting any asinine shit they might come up with, right there underneath the video on the medium 99% of the views are generated. To be redirected to another medium (here), is, and should remain the behavior of faith-believers, afraid of the freedom of expression, in my view.
    Hope you’ll change that policy. Love the show, though!

  37. Monocle Smile says

    @Boris B

    To be redirected to another medium (here), is, and should remain the behavior of faith-believers, afraid of the freedom of expression, in my view.

    Argument ad lazy-um. The goal is to have productive discussions, not laugh at a theist sideshow.

  38. says

    Feynman actually says quite a bit about how magnetism works while playing with the interviewer. But he also says some stuff about how knowledge works, what an explanation is, that’s possibly worth more than a straightforward explanation of magnets.

    Meanwhile, the first thing that should have been said to Billy, but kind of went unspoken, is that we know what people thought because they’d write about it. We know that at least some people thought that lightning was God’s wrath right up until the 18th century, because that’s part of the Benjamin Franklin myth (I use “myth” in the sense of a story that everyone knows, saying nothing about how true it is): people thought that thing, Franklin pointed out that churches got struck by lightning and burnt to the ground more often than any other building, had a laugh about that, then thought some more and did some experiments and invented the lightning conductor. For a while at least, churches then stopped raving about lightning as an instrument of God’s wrath and quietly had lightning conductors installed. But then gays invented the hurricane attractor and messed it up for everyone.

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