Open thread for episode 21.32: Tracie and Phil

Tracie and Phil take viewer calls.

Also, don’t forget a few special announcements:

August 26, 2017, is the Austin Pride Festival that will be taking place during Pride Week. ACA will have a booth at the event, and we invite everyone to stop by and say “hello!”


God Awful Movies is coming to Austin, same weekend as our ACA annual Bat Cruise! Come make an atheist weekend of it!
God Awful Movies:
Fri, September 22, 2017 | 8:00 PM – 10:00 PM CDT
Scottish Rite Theater
207 West 18th Street, Austin, TX 78701
ACA Pre-Cruise Lecture:
September 23, 2017 | 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Trinity UMC, 4001 Speedway, Austin, TX 78751
Meet for the Cruise:
Saturday, September 23, 2017 | 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Capital Cruises Dock
208 Barton Springs Road, Austin, TX 7870

The crew suggested we add some resources and “further reading” links to some of the specific things discussed on the show this week:


  1. says

    To the caller Aaron from Wyoming, asking for good arguments against the “common design” argument. Here is a nice overview of extenstive posts covering this particular creationist argument:

    The claim “common design” actually doesn’t explain the evidence for common ancestry from molecular phylogenetics. So they’re still left having to explain molecular phylogenetics, in it’s entirety. Saying “it’s just common design” doesn’t actually accomplish that.

    I wrote a lengthy post taking it apart here:

    Not to mention that whole OP by Allan Miller also completely refutes the “common design” tripe:

    “Common design” does not and can not explain the evidence for common descent from molecular phylogenetics. It is just some bullshit phrase creationists are taught to say without them ever thinking any more deeply about it.

    On another forum I also wrote a lengthy post to explain how molecular phylogenetics implies common descent, as in I explain the underlying logic of phylogenetic inferences:

    The creationist phrase “common design” DOES NOT explain the evidence for common descent.

  2. says

    To the caller Aaron from Wyoming, asking for good arguments against the “common design” argument. Here is a small overview of some rather extenstive forum posts covering this particular creationist argument:
    The phrase “common design” actually doesn’t explain the evidence for common ancestry from molecular phylogenetics (or comparative anatomy). So they’re still left having to actually explain the evidence for common descent, in it’s entirety. Saying “it’s just common design” doesn’t actually accomplish that. It’s not an explanation that actually explains the nesting patterns in the data.
    I wrote a lengthy post taking it apart here:
    Not to mention the OP of that very thread, by Allan Miller, completely refutes the “common design” tripe:
    “Common design” does not and can not explain the evidence for common descent from phylogenetics. It is just some nonsense phrase creationists are taught to say without them ever thinking any more deeply about it. On another forum I also wrote a lengthy post to explain how molecular phylogenetics implies common descent, as in I explain the underlying logic of phylogenetic inferences:
    If you can understand that post, you will understand how the creationist case against common descent is simply hopeless, and no amount of repeating the vacuous phrase “common design” constitutes a plausible alternative explanation for phylogenetics.

  3. moldred says

    In a pilot study published online in September and slated to appear in the January 2011 Archives of General Psychiatry (Vol. 68, No. 1), University of California, Los Angeles, researchers led by Charles Grob, MD, showed that a modest dose of psilocybin — the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms” — given to terminal cancer patients under the supervision of trained therapists helped ease anxiety and improve mood for up to six months. In addition to feeling calmer and happier, researchers say, the participants reported forging a closer connection to friends and family members.

  4. Robert, not Bob says

    I think you guys missed a catch right away. You have someone making the “trans people have a high rate of suicide, therefore it’s a mental illness” argument. The response is “yes, because they’re persecuted and abused all their lives”.

  5. says

    What I’ve observed is that religion is a car that gets people to happiness. Some cars are reasonably well-maintained and do not present problems, but when improperly maintained or abused, they can cause problems for or even kill other travellers to happiness. From brand to brand, from model to model, there is a variety of inherent advantages or disadvantages, but people typically just use what they can afford and only change brands or models when their old one has stopped working for them. Some car makers say their brand of car has The Accessory and others claim theirs has The Real Accessory and they engage in different marketing strategies to get a bigger slice of the market. Doesn’t matter. Most people do not understand exactly how it works but are quite happy to use it as long as it gets them to their destination.

    Do we all need to understand how the car works? Do we all need to confirm whether The Accessory is real? Will knowing that a certain integral part of my car has a 23% chance of failing really matter when it gets me to my destination just the same?

    Do we all have to bike to happiness?

    (Bit of background, I was a Catholic until I was 18 or 19, quitting after I began studying western philosophy, socio-anthropology, psychology, world history and theology. Since then, I tried to promote atheism and critical thinking until about I was 39 years old.)

  6. says

    only joel from oregon could confirm this, since his short last call gives us no background about her, but i couldn’t help but get from his mom a whiff of the argumentum ad emotionalis blackmailum.

    why does joel’s mom ask about his atheism if the answers consistently upset her? is she truly interested in understanding her son? or is she hoping to reconvert him through the sheer power of tears? she might not even be doing it consciously, since joel acknowledges that his mom is very emotional and may not have the intellectual tools to communicate otherwise.

  7. says

    robert @ 3:

    You have someone making the “trans people have a high rate of suicide, therefore it’s a mental illness” argument. The response is “yes, because they’re persecuted and abused all their lives”.

    that is not the proper response, because the question posed by the caller was “is transgenderism a mental illness?” not “does transgenderism often result in mental illness?”

  8. Roger in Ohio says

    Comment to Phil about the high level of “religiosity” in African American community. This seems completely reasonable to me given the issue of slavery and treatment of slaves. If you are being treated badly it is logical that you would want to hope that there is some better life waiting for you. The worse your current condition the more you would want your condition to improve so the more likely you would be to seak a better “afterlife”.

  9. says

    Ugh, I fecking hate being the public punching-bag at the moment. I’ve just come back from my morning work assignment, done some shopping for the new house I’ve moved to because I’m frankly moving up in the world and everything is going well; I’ve put the Atheist Experience on loudspeaker as I cheerfully set up the new furniture, with the sunlight streaming in through these huge windows… and then I shut the video down and write this depressed comment.

    Why? Because some random person is expressing hatred towards me. I don’t know him, and will never meet him, but some guy has seen fit to call up my favourite atheist show because he needed yet another (I’m sure he spams his views on this everywhere) forum on which to insult trans men and women by calling us insane. We’ve done nothing to him, but he feels the need to insult us anyway. Several times a week, while I’m simply reading news or watching videos, I see some expression of transphobia, whether it’s the thousandth time I’ve read a hilarious claim to be an attack helicopter, or someone deliberately calling a woman “he” out of spite, or calls to deny us medical treatment, or people randomly calling us ugly or crazy, etc. If it were occasional, I would shrug it off. But this is bloody constant, despite my avoiding trans topics.

    I’m an atheist and never suffer the slightest discomfort or discrimination for it. I’m openly bisexual, and it’s never a problem. I’m an immigrant, but I’ve assimilated easily and have no trouble at all with that. I’ve never visited a psych except when I went to get approval for vaginoplasty. Pretty much the only source of distress in my life is the onslaught of transphobia in our culture currently.

    I’ve just been jovially chatting with the shopkeepers in my new neighbourhood, getting a feel for the place, establishing good relations. Now, I have the horrible feeling that if they somehow knew that I once transitioned, a certain proportion of those flirty men and friendly women would not be behaving like that, but instead telling each other horrid anecdotes about the freak who’s moved nearby. It is immensely draining to know that so many people would stop treating me as a woman, or often even as a human being, if I were outed to them.

    I hate this society. I’m thinking that the only way to tolerate it is to live in deep stealth and try to forget how awful people are, in between the sad reminders of it, knowing that the legitimacy of my existence is the hot topic of this decade.

  10. Mobius says

    A good show, though we had lots of atheist callers.

    Somehow, I can’t see Matt asking, “What do you not believe and why?”

    Still, there were some interesting discussions.

  11. funnymyth says

    On the transgender being a mental disorder topic:

    I’m perplexed with the definition of a mental disorder. By what means are brain processes deemed a disorder? What is the fundamental difference between someone who is say, bipolar (classified as a mental disorder), and someone who is transgender(not classified as a mental disorder)? One has multiple personalities while the other has a personality that does not coincide with their sex. What makes one a disorder versus another?

    I am genuinely ignorant as to how classifications of abnormal brain function are categorized. If someone is knowledgeable on this topic, please inform me!

  12. Paul S says

    Hi – For Joel from Oregon
    Can I suggest a process for handling the difficult conversation. 1. Start with the end in mind – what is the result you are looking to have. e.g.: I’d like you to understand my position without getting upset in the conversation. 2. Prepare for any conversation de-railers – your mother getting upset being the obvious one. Rather than continue to avoid the conversation think about how else you can deal with this e.g.: Mum, I can hear that you want to understand my position but I cannot explain it if you are always upset about this. Take a moment to get composed and let’s keep going. There may be other de-railers too. Think them through and how you will respond. 3. Think about how you will start the conversation (refer to the end in mind). Finally, 4. Think about where and when to have the conversation, where will it be most conducive to have a good conversation. e.g. Could you take her to afternoon tea or somewhere you know she will like to be.

    Avoid the conversation is of course an approach as suggested by Tracie & Phil, however if openness and honesty are characteristics you and she both admire it is best to make the effort and have the tough conversation. Be as empathetic as you can be, speak quietly and use language that is supportive to her. Avoid being argumentative. Show her you care about her feelings and all you want is her to show the same to you.

    good luck

  13. Murat says

    @aarrgghh @robert

    Are suicides usually considered to be the final outcomes of mental illnesses?
    So directly associated?
    Stefan Zweig wasn’t mentally ill, nor were many others who just couldn’t fin their escape routes within the realities surrounding them.

  14. says


    I am sorry for the distress caused by the call–oddly on topic as it’s the distress caused by social nonacceptance we were talking about.

    Just some background, because I know the viewers don’t see what happens behind the scenes. First, we go on what people tell our screeners, and also, in the host chair, we’re going on how the screeners interpret that information to us.

    In the case of this call, I actually started with it, because the topic was, pretty much, “Wants some ideas on ways to describe transsexuality, other than as a mental disorder.” I had interpreted this as someone who was desiring to defend trans folks, who had potentially run into people claiming it’s a mental disorder, and seeking ways to counter argue that point. I spoke to Phil pre-show to ask how comfortable he was with this topic–because I am often still learning things from my trans friends, and I don’t feel nearly vetted enough to speak on behalf of trans issues in in-depth, informed ways, compared to activists and friends I know within the community itself. Phil said that he likewise didn’t feel empowered to speak for the trans community, and so I quickly googled the issue to see if I could wrap my head around what might be asked, and how I might respond.

    I was surprised to have a caller on the line actually arguing *for* transsexuality as a mental disorder, and all I could say that was within a few minutes of searching, it appeared to me that nothing about the professional mental health community’s attitude about this topic seemed to indicate a mental problem with *being trans*–only with the distress experienced, which they seem to attribute to the very stress you are describing.

    I know Callie Wright and have much respect for her work. And I know that in the past she had at least one guest she invited after having similar disagreements online over topics like this one–which is why I guided him toward Callie’s work, although I know there are many useful resources.

    I probably would have still taken the call even if it had been billed more accurately, but I will be the first one to say I may not have started the show with it. And that thought came to my mind almost immediately once we got into his real issues.

    I thank you for expressing your feelings on this issue, because, wittingly or not, you are validating through personal experience, the very issue that was discussed–that trans folks seem to do much better when not marginalized for being who they are–which, I believe, could be said of any of any human being.

  15. says

    funnymyth: Normally “disorder” requires that the issue is having a negative, and substantial impact on the person experiencing it. Generally a therapist or mental health professional isn’t going to recommend treatment for a person who is feeling happy, healthy, and well in life. If they are able to manage the problem and aren’t experiencing negative effects that they feel are damaging their life in some unacceptable way that they’d like to change, most therapists will wonder why they’re seeing the patient. When people begin therapy, it’s common for a therapist to ask what their goals are–what do they wish to change and why? This way they have a solid metric for success in treatment. Once you are able to do / stop doing the thing you think is causing you problems, you are considered to have been successfully treated.

    So, you can have all manner of diverse brain states–including psychosis–and unless it’s causing you problems in your life, or creating dangerous situations for you or others, it’s usually not considered to be on the level of anything the mental health community is going to be concerned with.

  16. Robin says

    The label Gender dysphoria is basically used in many countries to be able to legally transition into a different gender by their insurance. There is a huge debate in the Trans community if it is discriminatory. There are countries where you don’t need to be labled with Gender dysphoria to transition. I’ve been to the World transgender Care Conference (WPATH) in the Netherlands and besides the awful pictures of rats with penises and other medical technologies (this whole medical field is big business btw), Quite a few doctors actually believed that transgender people had a mental disorder and Transitioning is a cure for them.

    It reminded me of years when Homosexuality was a mental disorder.

  17. Monocle Smile says

    That analogy is pretty horrible, but I’ll address this:

    Do we all need to understand how the car works? Do we all need to confirm whether The Accessory is real? Will knowing that a certain integral part of my car has a 23% chance of failing really matter when it gets me to my destination just the same?

    In a nutshell, the answer to all of those is YES. When it comes to religion, it’s not just that we don’t know if the Accessory is real…we don’t even know that the car OR THE DESTINATION are real.
    In my view, you’re basically saying that it’s best for alcoholics to be constantly drunk because they’re “happy” that way. Religion isn’t actually about happiness, and you’ve been conned if you think it is.

  18. Monocle Smile says

    Allen from Speakerphone started off poorly. If you have to assert immediately that you’re “not bigoted towards anyone,” we’re gonna have a bad time. Then when he got into his “A cannot be B” garbage, I had enough. These losers have to invent all sorts of excuses to dismiss every last bit of science and psychology on this topic. Oh wow, and then he gets so much worse with his spiel about “dooming themselves to a life of recurring surgeries when they’re just being irrational.” Fuck you, Allen. Fuck you.

    Tracie and Phil were on the money, as far as I’m concerned. That was about as well-handled as could be expected. Tracie’s “the issue has to be resolved in your head, not in their heads” nearly got me out of my seat. Smackdown with precision.

    I can’t imagine what your life must be like, and it’s terrible that people like Allen can just be casually terrible with no repercussions. I am glad that you feel comfortable opening up here at the blog.

  19. Monocle Smile says

    I remember Mirek’s first call. That dude needs to stop diving headfirst into glurge without a clue. In fact, that would be my advice to Mirek: get a clue. If people blather on about seemingly extraordinary stuff and science doesn’t seem to notice, that should be a glaring red flag.
    There’s also the economic argument to consider. This is my favorite way of returning fire from woo-heads and is typically only dismissed with conspiracy theories so bad that they threaten to give me diabetes.

  20. Kora Sonnenschein says

    I really hope that we will hear some more from @FIRAZ. I have so many questions I would like to hear your opinion on.
    For example –
    What are the terms used in public discourse surrounding atheism/apostasy in Kuwait? What is the legal frame?
    What are the rules of conduct surrounding this issue in public and family settings? By what mechanisms and institutions are these rules enforced?
    How may atheistic individuals adept, modify or reject these norms in search to live a good life?

    And a question that is of specific interest to me: Do you think that atheism/nonreligiousity as formed in opposition to Islam produces a different kind identity than the atheism produced in response to christianity and the enlightenment movement?
    In what way? Do atheists in your country orient themselves towards “western” atheism? What meanings are adapted, which are rejected, how are they transformed?

    I am so very curious to hear your take on this. And finally I just want to say that my heart goes out to all my brothers and sisters suffering under religiously legitimized violence. Love from Germany.

  21. Robert, not Bob says

    A distinction without a difference. As Tracy says here, it’s only a mental disorder if it seriously damages a person’s ability to function.

  22. Steve Evans says

    Hi ,
    Some time ago , a caller rang in saying there was no evolutionary reason for some people being Black and some being white.
    The answer is simple and is because of evolution .
    Black skin resists skin cancer in hot sunny climates better than white skin .[ask any Australian of Anglo Saxon origin !] .
    White skin allows vitamin D to be adsorbed by the skin much better than black skin in cooler temperate climates which leads to lower incidence of rickets disease . The only group of people in England today who suffer from rickets are fundamentalist muslim girls who are constantly covered from head to toe .
    Evolution at work in our time being demonstrated .
    Hope this helps if the question arises again

    Steve Evans
    Shropshire ,England [The county Charles Darwin was born in !]

  23. says

    robert @ 23:

    “A distinction without a difference. As Tracy [sic] says here, it’s only a mental disorder if it seriously damages a person’s ability to function.”

    and i agree with tracie. to be clear, i was not agreeing with the caller’s flawed reasoning, just attempting to clarify it.

    but framing is important: the caller’s question “is transgenderism a mental illness?” asks whether transfolk are inherently mentally ill. i presume you disagree. “does transgenderism often result in mental illness?” asks whether there is a causal chain leading to mental illness. your original post responded to the second question, to which you answered “yes”. so you yourself illustrated the difference.

  24. says

    re african americans and religiosity, one might say that christians gave them religion because they weren’t going to give them freedom. marx and lenin famously said:

    marx: “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. … The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.
    Criticism has plucked the imaginary flowers on the chain not in order that man shall continue to bear that chain without fantasy or consolation, but so that he shall throw off the chain and pluck the living flower. The criticism of religion disillusions man, so that he will think, act, and fashion his reality like a man who has discarded his illusions and regained his senses, so that he will move around himself as his own true Sun.”

    lenin: “All modern religions and churches, all and of every kind of religious organizations are always considered by Marxism as the organs of bourgeois reaction, used for the protection of the exploitation and the stupefaction of the working class.”

    and to be clear, since i disagree, among other points, that all religions fit the marxist characterization, i’m not a member of the club.

  25. says

    and once more on the first caller, i was cringing through the entire discussion. allen was obviously shifting the burden of proof: “i think transfolk are mental. please prove me wrong.” it was difficult to not believe that he was a troll. amy correctrix, you have every cause to be offended at someone who is at best just another barstool psychoanalyst.

  26. Murat says

    I was surprised Charlottesville was never even mentioned throughout the episode. I get the obligation of being politically neutral, but “blacks and religiosity” was providing more than a segue way to that hot topic, on which I’m sure each host had a few things to say.

  27. says

    My sister belongs to Victory Outreach and at first it sounds great but over time you realize just how much of a cult this church is.

    They “minister” to drug addicts, prostitutes, gang members, and other outcasts of society. They teach them the reason they are in the place they are is because they don’t have god in their life and that they can rehabilitate them into productive members of society. Once members join the rehab program they are forced to work for free in a form of slavery, they are then indoctrinated into an incredibly fundamentalist form of pentecostalism. While being indoctrinated they are told that if they ever leave the church they will fall back into their old ways. I have heard rumors that if someone does leave the church, they will send out people to offer the former member drugs, alcohol, etc….so that then they can bring them back into the fold as soon as they feel weak enough.

    My sister, has been in and out of their rehab program and each time she feels worse about herself and more connected to the church. The primary goal is to create a class of people to do absolutely everything for the pastors of the church while requesting very little for themselves. For example, my sister makes minimum wage, but had guilt thrown at her so much to the point at which she felt she was going to hell if she did not attend their yearly conference which costs hundreds of dollars to attend.

    This is a disgusting denomination and one that I wish people knew more about.

  28. t90bb says

    6 jerome…..

    there is little doubt that pretending to have an imaginary friend can be calming…..but your arguing the utility of religious beliefs….many of us care whether or beliefs are justified…..if you dont keep drinking the cool aid….some find it delicious…..

  29. says


    I’m with you on this, and it’s important to note I was giving shorthand. There are other nuances to “what is a mental illness?” And for example, if this helps clarify for others, the DSM often points out that other factors accounting for the problem / distress negate some diagnoses.

    So, for example, if we were going to diagnose a person as “clinically depressed”–having clinical depression–we would have to rule out obvious situational factors that could be causing the depression. That is, if someone lost their child in a car accident two weeks beforehand, it would be irresponsible to diagnose them with clinical depression. They may *be* depressed and be a candidate for short term treatment, but it’s a very different diagnosis than clinical depression, that would be experienced without dependency on situations that cause depression in most folks.

    I didn’t discuss that in my early reply, but didn’t realize it would be relevant or helpful till I saw the further responses. Although, seeing them, it seems obvious that would have been a useful thing to mention.

  30. says

    Just a note to say that the crew recommended we add links to resources or issues mentioned in the program that may be of interest for further reading. I thought that was an excellent suggestion, and have added them to the original blog post above. Thanks all!

  31. Robert, not Bob says

    I think we’re all mostly on the same page about this… Yes, technically, “is being trans a mental illness” and “does being trans cause mental illness” are not the same, but in practical terms, I say they are. It’s like saying that it wasn’t tripping and falling off the building that killed you, but impacting the ground.

    I suppose it’s possible that even in a completely accepting society being trans would in itself cause some extra stress-especially in adolescence, when everyone’s already wound as tight as a violin string-but I see no reason to believe almost all the stress of being trans isn’t caused by society.

  32. Rocky says

    An answer for Angel in Seattle in regards to these people giving god all the credit for their execration from drug use.

    Maybe praise them for what they have gone through. Remind them of the internal fight they went through. Maybe they had some good resources to lean on but at the end of the day according to their own religious doctrine they have free will and they on their own chose to stop.

    Give them the credit they deserve and then move the conversation to why they believe.

  33. says

    @Robert, not Bob: Eh, not even in practical terms. If being trans is a mental illness then the treatment won’t stop until you stop being trans — and as it isn’t a mental illness, that means that treatment won’t be effective, anyway. If being treated badly because you’re trans (note the rephrasing) causes mental illness, then the illness can be treated and the cause of the illness can be dealt with, and the combination will, hopefully, be effective.

  34. Murat says

    About communicating with atheists / free thinkers / skeptics from the Middle East:
    Much as any kind of contact with anyone who feels alone or outnumbered is valuable, and much as online communities are ideal for this, people from more free countries should always keep in mind that the concept of religious freedom elsewhere is best protected and promoted through politics in their homelands.
    If the guy you vote for goes on and shakes hands with Saudi Kings or the extremists of Israel, then you should check if your world view is in line with your political affiliations or not.

  35. heretic11 says

    Can I ask a simple request? Can Tracie not interrupt every caller by yelling over them before they finish their sentence? I’m a very sensitive person and I feel very sad for the callers who are interrupted by Tracie yelling loudly over them. I’m sorry for being so sympathetic.

  36. Murat says

    @Kore Sonnenschein

    And a question that is of specific interest to me: Do you think that atheism/nonreligiousity as formed in opposition to Islam produces a different kind identity than the atheism produced in response to christianity and the enlightenment movement?

    The simple and quick anser is YES.
    I can provide some more info and comments if I find the time soon, but the basic difference is that (as many of the saner, better muslims todays know and say) Islam does NOT have an issue with “atheism”. The objection of Islam has, both categorically and philosophically, towards “polideism”. That’s the spirit of the tagline of the religion: La ilahe illallah (There are no gods other than Allah).
    So, the logic is constructed from that point of view. Rejection of other deities (which were attributed power to during 7th century Arabia, had totems, etc.)
    One major thing many miss is that: “Allah” already existed as something like a chief god BEFORE the age of Islam – a quick clue can be provided through remembering the name of Mohammed’s father, “Abdullah” (servant of Allah). What Mohammed did (on thelogical level) was to WIPE OUT other deities from the system, and not the “introduction” of Allah, as many tend to believe.
    For one who is coming from a “thelogical” assessment of the religion, you could say that wouldn’t matter. But in common practice, people grow up with the kind of doctrination that would shape their path into or out of religion in a particular way. Hence, yes, there IS a difference in terms of the PATHS.
    But after a point in any free thinker’s life, the path becomes irrelevant. The second and the third legs of your airborne journey do not get affected by whichever first leg yours was.

  37. Jazz Ad says

    Regarding the discussion about African Americans and religion, I find surprising that a point never gets raised.
    The Catholic Church is entirely responsible for the development of the Atlantic triangular trade and as such, takes a huge responsibility in the very existence of African Americans.
    The Valladolid debate, initiated by the Vatican stated that native Indian Americans were capable of reason and should be brought to Christianity.
    As such they couldn’t be enslaved anymore and another supply had to be found, which was conveniently available in Africa, since it was determined back then that black people were much closer to animals.

  38. Wes says

    So, are the episodes with Matt and Russell the only ones where they take theist callers? These episodes where they’re preaching to the choir get so boring.

  39. says

    In addition to the very good links provided, there is a very simple explanation why common decent is bogus.

    Evolution can only proceed step-wise. IT can’t plan ahead.
    Which is why we have the bodgey ‘designs’: Organs anchoered to the spine, not the ribcage [from when we moved on all fours] bad back design, bad birth canal design, bad eye design etc.
    A designer can.
    So the evidence AGAINST common design is simply: the stupid designs that anyone with a room temperature IQ can spot, and avoid.

    Particularly given that most ID’ers have ‘god’ as their unspoken designer.
    And he is meant to be perfect.
    And all-knowing.

  40. phil says

    @Roger in Ohio

    I would agree that would have an impact. In addition, I would also say that having ownership of something played a role too; let me explain.

    When it came to what African-Americans owned post-abolition, the answer is not much, relatively speaking. However, one place they could own, control, gather, and have events in was their church building. It’s no surprise that even moving into the 1900’s civil-rights era, churches played a large role as these were locations where the community could gather in large numbers to discuss issues (as renting a dining hall or auditorium may have been disallowed due to racial discrimination or safety concerns).

    Moving into the present day, that sense of ownership is still felt by many African-Americans (and is still expounded upon every Sunday as reverends, pastors, deacons and ministers call out to their congregations to help with the infamous building fund). Growing up, I was taught that the church is the lord’s house, but that it was our responsibility to maintain it and keep his house clean.

  41. Robert, not Bob says

    How much effect does the rarefied theology have on how ordinary Muslims behave? There’s a huge gap between the people and the theologians in Christianity, after all.

  42. Murat says

    I think this depends on “ordinary muslim” of which geography we are talking about. For countries with some kind of revolutionary period in their past, most likely to be lived in the late 19th or early 20th century, the need to have theological justification to dogmatically owned belief is inevitable for the educated population.
    For Turkey, I believe that from 1950s to this past decade, the officially-backed approach was to promote “reason”, inevitably ending up with a majority that either stepped slightly out of religion or relied on practical rationalizations of certain religious teachings.
    Also, I think a very important point many people miss when approaching Islam is that, it is usually and simply “nationalism in disguise” when the subject is an Arab nation. For everyone else, switching to reason takes a shorter path as you will need to overcome not two but just one sort of dogma.
    Intellectually, Bosnians have been the “crème de la crème” of Yugoslavian geography for many centuries. Why? Because when the region was under Ottoman rule, brighter people with career goals had preferred to become muslim to synchronize with the “state religion”, and their education was more favored than religious minorities officially, which in the end created one of the most progressive muslim communities in the world.
    I don’t know too well the stories behind China’s millions of muslims or how an “ordinary” Malaysian muslim practices cognitive dissonance, but it’s obvious that in the case of Chechens “islam” is “counter-nationalism”, something they had chosen to distance their ethnicity as farther from Orthodox Russians as they could. (There’s a similar background to Tolstoy’s “Hadji Murat” also, though he was an Avar rebel and not Chechen as I recall)
    I believe that the major reason islam began to be seen (and in chain reaction, to act) as a cartoon version of itself is that nobody on the popular scene in western media cares to put “Arab nationalism” on the table as the title of the root cause behind the bloody circus.
    I do still enjoy following debates between theology-infused, intellectual muslims and dogma-bound names. The difference of intellect is as enjoyable to witness as when seen on AXP.
    Geograpy and national history matter heavily in the definition of “ordinary”. Had islam been dumbed down to its worst self everywhere, people like this one wouldn’t pop up here and there:
    The main question is to guarantee “secularism” all around the world. A genuinely secular state and a people smart enough to see this kind of neutrality will be beneficiary to everyone can in the long run overcome any religion-based threat.

  43. RationalismRules says

    Just dropping a link here for anyone who has any interest in learning about transgender issues from people who actually live those issues every day of their lives.

    It’s a wonderful series from Australia called “You Can’t Ask That”, where various individuals from a marginalized group respond to anonymous questions from the internet (other episodes include ex-prisoners, sex workers, wheelchair users etc.). Please don’t misjudge this based on the title – it’s not an exercise in sensationalism. Although the questions frequently come from a place of deep ignorance, some even to the point of rude or insulting, this is what gives the series its power – challenging questions, answered with simple human dignity and good humor by ordinary people. For the viewer, it’s a crash course in empathy.

    Here’s the original version.
    Unfortunately the site is geoblocked, so if you live outside Australia you’ll need a VPN to access it, but if you don’t have a VPN there’s a shorter version available through YouTube for a small charge.

    (I would thoroughly recommend this series to the first caller, although from the call I doubt he’s particularly interested in turning off his exceptional logical capacity [/s] long enough to listen to people who actually know what they are talking about.)

  44. Robert, not Bob says

    (Correct my ignorance if need be) Yes, I do get the feeling that in the Arab world, there seems to be no viable national identity above “tribe” other than “Muslim”, and of course religion seems to be a go-to source of extra support for any political movement.

    What I was asking about was in your previous post you seem to be saying that, theologically, Islam is supposed to be relatively light on original atheists, apostasy being the main concern. That that would affect how actual Muslims behave doesn’t seem very plausible. Beyond the difficulty some Muslims and Christians alike have believing atheism is a real thing, anyway.

  45. Murat says

    See, atheism was already not an “accessible” thing till recent centuries. I tend to think of William Blake as maybe the most notable and pioneer atheist. Deism was as plausible as it got till late 18th century in the world of literature, art, politics, and even science, no?
    So, let’s say, back in 16th century, the “sides” were prettey much about “what kind of theism” you were indoctrinated with.
    Hence, it’s not abnormal not to have any muslim philspohers back then who claimed to be “atheist friendly” or something.
    It’s actually “today” that we can test this line of thinking. And none of the smart people that I know of claims Islam to have a problem with “atheists”. It’s, like, with regards to Quran, they’re already out of the field. The match is between politheists / mushriqs and followers of Mohamed who tidied up the mythology and limited the number of gods to one, a single unity.
    Treating another human being like he/she holds a godly authority = big sin.
    Believing in other deities than Allah = big sin.
    Not believing in ANY gods = N/A
    That’s also why the very early muslims had quite many wars against Romans, politheistic Arab tribes, etc, but on many occasions there was some kind of treaty with Christians and Jews.
    I’m not sure if the latter ones I will mention have reachable articles in English on the issue, but you can check works of Edip Yüksel, Caner Taslaman, Abdülaziz Bayındır, Recep İhsan Eliaçık. Though having many other differences, such people unite in the idea that, for any land to be called truly “islamic”, the “test” has to be applicable to individuals, hence, no obstacles should be put in front of other faiths, nor to not having a faith. It must be a “choice” what one embraces as faith and how well he/she practices it.
    This is also why such contemporary thinkers, in theory, claim that secular European countries are better fit to carry the title than sinking-down Arab lands.
    With regards to Quran, their approach holds more water than the hadith-based, concealed Arabic nationalism, I’d say.

  46. Robert, not Bob says

    I think it’s unlikely Muslims would have fought Roman polytheists three centuries after Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, but that’s irrelevant…

    I see no reason to believe that states, Muslim or not, go to war over obscure points of doctrine. They go to war to defend or extend their power, and find doctrinal justifications afterward (though religious passages could be written with such justification in mine, I suppose). It can go the other way too-“people of the book” has often used as justification for peace (I’ve read that some Muslim leaders stretched the “people of the book” thing to include Hindus and Buddhists, because tolerating them served their purposes).

    I agree it seems plausible that early Muslims might not have understood the possibility of atheism, but that doesn’t have to apply to present Muslims.

  47. Murat says

    Actually, there is some confusion on exactly how and when early muslims confronted Romans, and whether (those) Romans they fought were Christians or else. I don’t know the details but the evidence suggests there is sort of a love / hate relationship there, especially towards Christians.
    The paragraphs under “Content” in the following link also confirm that, right after a war between polytheistic Persians and monotheistic Romans, the Quran roots for the Roman side and mentions victory would be theirs eventually:
    The punchline of how Islam can theoretically cope with atheism is that the “non-believers” mentioned throughout the Quran are those who don’t believe that “there are no other gods than Allah”… Does an atheist believe that there are other gods than Allah? No.
    I’m not sure how this plays out with Christianity and Judaism.

  48. says

    Hi Tracey! I have an analogy I think you might like regarding the idea that the universe is too unlikely to have occurred by chance.

    Imagine a person living in 1917 who correctly predicted all the lottery results for the next 100 years. One may argue that this is so unlikely that it is reasonable to think there could have been a supernatural influence.

    Now imagine a person living in 2017 that correctly states all the lottery results from the previous 100 years. Most would see those lottery results as random events and not impressed how unlikely it was that those exact numbers were selected AFTER they had already been selected.

  49. walter says

    A little late comment, but good show, guys. Nice combo for hosts.
    Tracie, I like your wit and clarity.
    One thing i noticed, Tracie used a speaking phrase summarized as “My doing XXX made you feel YYY” — Framing is important. The atheist (in this case) does not own the feelings of another — “I did XXX. Why do yu feel YYY?” might be a less guilt-assuming approach.
    If this is too vague, I will pull out the exact quotes if you want.

  50. swissguy says

    What i really can’t get my head around. Black nonbeliever group? Atheist should really do better than doing it racial again. Why not finally have ONE nonbeliever group fighting for each others right. Especially to show the “morally superior christians” you don’t need a book to tell you what is morally wrong.

  51. RationalismRules says


    Black nonbeliever group? Atheist should really do better than doing it racial again. Why not finally have ONE nonbeliever group fighting for each others right

    Atheist group? Humans should really do better than doing it belief-based again. Why not just have ONE group of people of all beliefs fighting for each others rights?
    Do you see?

    There is a valid reason for minorities to have their own separate groups if they choose to. It’s not about ‘exclusion’ or ‘division’, it’s about being able to hang out with people who share your particular experience, and focus on the issues that are important to your particular group, rather than be subsumed by the majority in a ‘unified’ group.

  52. says

    Dear Ms Harris, dear Mr Session and dear someone who might also read my comment,

    why do atheists and muslims see Jesus when having a “near-death experience” even though they don’t believe that he’s real? I mean, they are not christians. I’m an atheist but that really bugs me. I don’t know whether to believe these people or not. Thank you in advance for your answer.

  53. Monocle Smile says

    @Stefan B
    They don’t.
    I don’t believe you for a second. Whatever pastor fed you that crap was lying.

  54. Sameoh says

    @Stefan B,
    1)Thinking/Hearing too much of Jesus and the the religion.
    3)Thinking/Hearing too much of spirit, after-life, near-death floating-seeing self stories.
    Subconsciously their brain creates what they want to believe or see.

    For the rest of the world who don’t know the story Jesus or don’t contemplate on him,
    do you think they will see Jesus in “near-death experience”
    Example, Africa forest tribe people, Jungle tribe people, Asians, Native Australia tribe people
    and any other nations and people who doesn’t have much contact with other religions.

    Whether you want to believe these people or not it is up to you.
    If you are those people who want a ‘reality’ answer:
    1) Go do some research and ask for proof.
    2)Did the government confirm this.
    3)Did the police confirm this.
    4)Did the Science Organization confirm this.
    5)Did other religions confirm this.
    6)Look up the list of countries of the world, note down the countries you think are Not associated with Jesus
    religion story, and compare them to the countries that do.

    All the best to you.

  55. says

    @Monocle Smile
    Yes, they do. No pastor fed me with this information. There are videos on YouTube in which atheists and muslims talk about their NDEs.

  56. RationalismRules says

    @Stefan B.
    To add a couple of extra thoughts to Sameoh’s post:

    1. Does the fact that you have only encountered Xtian conversion stories tell you that such conversions only happen towards Xtianity? No, it only tells you that you have only encountered those particular stories. There are almost certainly NDE conversions to the dominant religion of other cultures, which you simply haven’t encountered.

    Consider the we English-speakers are much more likely to encounter stories from other English-speakers – and within the English-speaking world Xtianity is by far the dominant religion. That’s a built-in bias right there.
    2. Think about what is happening in your brain when you are nearing death – basically it’s shutting down.

    When someone wakes from an NDE with a ‘memory’ of an ‘experience’, we can’t even know whether they actually had that experience, or whether their poorly-functioning shutting-down brain has mixed up cultural ideas with a ‘memory’ flag.
    Think about deja vu. This is exactly that, our brain confusing something we are currently experiencing with a feeling of ‘memory’. Except in the case of deja vu it happens while our brains are in full working order. How much more likely is it for our cognitive processes to go a bit haywire when the brain is shutting down…

    The fact that someone converts as a result of their NDE tells us nothing about whether or not that experience was real, it just tells us that it was powerful. Based on my dreams and my deja vu experiences, I have no trouble at all believing that their NDE ‘memory’ is very powerful to them, but since I don’t believe my own dreams / deja vu feelings, there’s just no way I am ever going to be convinced by someone’s ‘memory’ from when their brain was shutting down.

    3. We do know that oxygen deprivation leads to euphoria, disorientation, and in some people to the sort of ‘white light’ experience that is commonly reported in NDEs. And guess what is happening in the brain when your heart stops beating – oxygen deprivation!
    (This is a little OT from your question, but it’s good to be aware of when you are considering NDEs)

    4. People also report their ‘life flashing before their eyes’ when they are near death. Does that mean it actually happened? That would mean that time somehow behaved differently for them than for the rest of the universe. We don’t take that experience as literal, we understand it to be a product of the mind. Why would a near-death vision of Jesus be anything other than a product of the mind?
    Why don’t you drop us a couple of links to the YouTube clips that you found most compelling? Just don’t put more than 2 links in a single post, or your post will get held back as possible spam.