Open thread for episode 21.46: Tracie and Jen

Today on TAE, Jen discusses the use of skepticism in areas outside of religious claims.

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  1. moldred says

    Vegans are mobility bigots! They believe if a life form can’t fight back or run away it’s OK to kill and eat it! One told me
    “I’m a vegan not because I like animals but because I HATE PLANTS!!! vines have tripped me thorns have pricked me and those damn fracking trees have slammed into me when I sled or ski!!! Nothing makes me happier than the pitiful screams of veggies when I cut shred chop boil fry and BBQ them!!!”

  2. moldred says

    Neal Degrasse Tyson’s idea helped me
    We are made of stardust from a dying star, and when we die, we are recycled to cosmic debris that will someday make something else.

  3. David Muir says

    Hi Kanaan,
    Per Tracie’s suggestion, I am writing to you. A couple years ago I suddenly had a fear of death that really seemed to come out of nowhere. After talking with some people I was able to figure out that a major cause of this fear was an anxiety deep down that I would die without having accomplished very much at all in life. This naturally scared me and made me depressed as it made me think that I would have just wasted my life. I thus became determined to live my life much more fully and determinedly. This practice has certainly helped to get rid of quite a lot of that fear. If this situation applies to you, then I hope this approach can help.

  4. John Gibbons says

    I am an 80 yr old lifelong atheist who has been informed that maybe a couple of more years is all I have due to kidneys failing. I have never given death much thought other than knowing it is inevitable. The last caller today was interesting. I wish I had some advice for him. My position right now with my current quality of life is I will welcome the day when I can lay down and go into that endless sleep. Have heard a lot of people who fear death but this guys reason is interesting. Hope to read some interesting comments on this.

  5. Max Doubt says

    Please don’t let Tracie run the show again until she figures out how to end a call that isn’t going anywhere.

  6. Clockwork Rex says

    Grown-ups fear death,as children fear to go in the dark.That natural fear in children is increased with tales,& so it is also with the others. ~ Francis Bacon (paraphrased)

  7. says

    To Kanaan from the end of the show today,

    If you’re reading these comments, I really hope you watch this TEDx talk. This was one of my psych professors in college. He taught my culture and gender class. He helped his students understand different ways of thinking from very different parts of the world and he really knew what he was talking about. He’s lived (like, relocated-his-family, lived) in Egypt and India, among other places. He helped me learn a lot that I needed to hear. He was the best kick in the pants I ever got.

    He also gave another talk here speaking about similar things.

    Here is another blog article written by him which also hopefully helps.

    The only other thing I’ll add to what he says is this: Stop worrying about things you have no control over. Let go and move on.

  8. Monocle Smile says

    @Max Doubt
    Is that you, Bret Frost?
    Maybe you should stop watching, because whiny nonsense like this serves no purpose whatsoever.

  9. colonyofcells iamamachine says

    Easy to have healthy colon bacteria by eating foods with fiber. Refined substances with no fiber are oil, sweeteners, juice, refined flour, protein powder, salt, etc. All animal products have 0 fiber. To reduce or eliminate animal products, should take vitamin b12 supplement.

  10. Evil God of the Fiery Cloud says

    As maddeningly frustrating as the call with Dianna was I’m glad Tracie and Jen saw it through to as much of a conclusion as it could get. I’ve no desire to see a kid lose respect for his Ma, but I think it was important to dissect every point that woman made and lay bare just how insipid her methodology was. People with the world view of this woman are fucking dangerous and it was good that it was demonstrated just how empty her arguments were.
    If her lad has learned even a little bit about critical thinking from watching this show, I doubt he has much to fear from his sit down with the pastor.

  11. colonyofcells iamamachine says

    WHO says red meat, processed meat and smoked meat causes cancer. Harvard Healthy Eating Plate says limit dairy which is linked to some cancers like prostate cancer. About half of people are lactose intolerant and are doing just fine without dairy. China has told its citizens to reduce animal products by 50% for health and for the environment. If reducing or eliminating animal products, should take vitamin b12 supplement. The government 2015 diet guide for americans can be found in:

  12. MusicBoxKat says

    I was so looking forward to the hour-and-a-half of the show, especially when I saw the hosting would be done by Tracie and Jen. But it was a real disappointment. To hear, almost the entire show, an explanation that was not accepted by the caller, but then followed by a more complex explanation. Ultimately the hosts allowed themselves to be manipulated by the caller. Why would the Atheist Experience let that happen? That caller should be told to “think about that for a while”. To me, everyone would get more out of that, and then have a chance to hear another caller, too.

  13. colonyofcells iamamachine says

    The best argument for going vegan is to help delay global warming and to help delay human extinction. Most global warming scientists now recommend going vegan. Just take vitamin b12 supplement if reducing or eliminating animal products. About 15% of global warming is from livestock (mostly cattle). Every day, many people die from antibiotic resistant bacteria. My younger sister died from hospital bacteria in 1992. Livestock factory farms are a source of pandemics and killer bacteria. Livestock also waste lots of water and cause lots of other environmental problems. Just buy most of your foods from the local farmers markets and the produce section plus cheap staple foods like tubers (potato, sweet potato) and or whole grains.

  14. humberto garcez says

    Its a huge irresponsibility to say that AA does not work. Its easy to see how bias and miss lead this information is. Its by far the most successful program to rehabilitate people with theis disease in the world. Please, keep your saying where you know. I challenge you to describe which is the institution you mentioned that evaluate the results on AA. There is not. But, if you inquiry any specialist on chemical dependency which is the most effective institution to help alcoholics, than You know how wrong and irresponsible your statement is. Really hope you correct your self.

  15. Monocle Smile says


    WHO says red meat, processed meat and smoked meat causes cancer

    This is a blatant lie as it is currently worded.

    China has told its citizens

    A terrible, terrible metric for weighing the truth of a claim. Yes, our current practices, especially in China where there are far fewer regulations, are inefficient when it comes to land and energy use, but this has little to do with eating meat. The solution is to develop alternative methods of cultivating meat and put in regulations to cut down on waste (we throw away assloads of food).

  16. Edward from london says

    We all agree that stardust can turn into humans.

    The belief that it does it without intelligent manipulation is a false belief with no proof.

  17. colonyofcells iamamachine says

    Since we have terrorists sacrificing their lives partly bec of religion, I would have to admit that religions do help motivate the 80% of people who are religious. I am happy for religious people who are able to overcome their addictions with the help of imaginary friend or imaginary friends.

  18. says

    Hi Kanaan, My name is Paris, I am 23 yr old and what I am about to share with you is not based on science, but you also don’t need god to make it work, I hope somwhere, something helps within all this. SO….: we live like 80/90 years whatever and after that we die forever like our consciousness and it wont come back not even in a billion years, I disagree…. yes we are active for an (x) amount of time and that is bound to our bodies (for now, cool sciene shit is up and they are like mapping out brains or at least are working on the technology to do so and by doing that you I think litterally that you have recreated that person, or cloned if you are still alive while you got mapped) so when the body becomes inactive (not mentioning sleep of course) that doesn’t mean your effort (or imput) doesn’t live forth, in the same way that the events and characters in your life have shaped yours and those events and characters where shaped by prior ones, you have an impact on reality. I guess the difference in looking at it from what I heard in this episode was that they were comforted or stable at least by looking at death and seeing it as not being alive, but for individuals like me and maybe you as well, that gives a form of devaluation towards the expresiveness of being alive, which is of course not their aim. my view makes it so that being not born, born and inactive afterwards as one expression, from the events that made my parents come together to my goals in life and what I hope to have created within my active years, reality goes in one direction within the frame that is relevant to me, and so I can’t help but see my whole being as a non-random event, an ineffability. So I don’t think I lose my ”position” when I die, to me its a precursor to my very being. I am who I am today, when I wake up tomorrow I am going to respond according to my life till that point, I think that in every moment to moment base I am a different human, I base my actions on the information given to me. I am but a moment of awareness. I can undertake action to invluence my future moments based on predictions made by my model of reality. I see myself like a cannonball going through time and I can try to youknow invluence the trajectory.

    I did not re-read this and English not my native writing language, Its late, Kanaan, I hope you even get to see this somehow. Be productive, take life EXTRA serious, who knows… You might enjoy it ^^.

  19. John Pender says

    The extremely long call today was interesting for me, I came from a rural area outside Flint, Michigan, and I have a feeling my religious relatives would argue exactly in this way if I was interested in really digging in like Tracie did. Fortunately, they do not approach me to argue about it and know my feelings on religion. My sister-in-law actually sent me a Ray Comfort video the other day, and I explained to her who the banana man was, and why he is not convincing. Did not get a response.

    I have a feeling Dianna is not accustomed to having her views challenged, as it is just let slide up there by pretty much everyone except her son. That is the way it is in my family, my mom is a bible believing Roman Catholic who had to have my dad talk to the priest and promise to raise their children Roman Catholic, since he identified as agnostic even though his dad was an altar boy until a priest slapped him around for drinking the wine-and his dad left the church. . Out of the 7 kids in our family, only my youngest brother identifies as Catholic, while all others besides me went the cafeteria Christian route. I believe my dad not going to church had a lot to do with me not buying the bullshit, because he didn’t seem to think going to church was important.
    Dianna’s son is in the same position I was. If both parents were believers, then in is much easier to indoctrinate your kid. A child will notice well before the teen years if one of the parents doesn’t believe an all-encompassing world view of another. Dianna will now have her son go talk to the pastor. I hope she takes his dad there too, so he can also ask the pastor questions.

    I was hoping she would have been asked if she cared whether or not her beliefs were true point blank. She actually did indicate she cared more about how it made her feel, but I don’t remember if the question was asked if she cared one way or the other. That might be effective to show her exactly what her position is. I also get why they might not have done that, because they were trying to save Dianna’s son some pain from going to some pastor and listening to some drivel.

    Dianna’s reasons for believing are MUCH more prevalent than many people here would think. Like I said earlier, if you go out to any rural area, I can almost guarantee you this is how they would argue if they cared to engage at all. Getting them to engage in a serious way is very rare, and the ONLY reason she did, was because she thinks it is her last chance to get her son to validate her beliefs. I bet she thinks the pastor has a chance. Hopefully, her son can get the pastor to call in to the show!

  20. clockworkrex says

    “Some people fear death,as some people fear the dark.That fear in some of them is increased with tales,& just like the fear of death is within some of them,also.” ~ Me

  21. Mobius says

    Oh, jeez, Edward is back yet again.

    Edward, there is NO evidence that intelligence is required to transform stardust into humans. Therefore, to believe that it is required is irrational.

    But then, you’re Edward and what else can we expect.

  22. colonyofcells iamamachine says

    I would guess that it is a waste of time to argue with a fideist. Lots of smart fideists like the skeptic Martin Gardner. I would not argue with people who feel like they like ice cream even though I do not like ice cream bec ice cream is junk food.

  23. Mobius says

    As to the call from Dianna…

    Yes it was long and got to be rather tedious as Dianna ran around in circles. But I do think it was quite illustrative of the magical thinking that so many theists engage in. They think what is true is what they want to believe is true, and reality be damned. I hope that her son (IIRC that is who she was trying to reach) got an earful of the nonsense she was spouting and how none of it was grounded in reason.

  24. ron says

    I agree with Max Doubt. I had to skip ahead because it becomes tiresome to hear someone bring up the same argument earning the same refutation again and again. Questionable is that it helped the poor atheist son who now has to sit through some b-s-ing pastor. She made no progress with this person. I think her call is consistent with the hypothesis that she is a troll just trying to ruin the show and eliminate other callers. She ruined it for me and I think I am not alone. Tracy lost a lot of my esteem that she has built up over the years by not cutting this hopeless case loose much earlier and moving on to more worthy callers.

  25. colonyofcells iamamachine says

    Singapore used to be part of Malaysia. Singapore is about 15% muslim and about 20% hindu and so far, all the rulers of Singapore have been freethinkers (atheists). Singapore atheists prefer the term freethinker. I worked in Singapore for 3 years when I was younger. Malaysia has a higher percentage of muslims so it is probably difficult for an atheist to become the ruler of Malaysia.

  26. Monocle Smile says

    Yeah, Dianna was obviously indoctrinated from a young age and was told that her god is always with her. So she just internalized that message and thinks that her body’s default state includes “god.” It’s like convincing a healthy person that they are sick…they will think they are constantly sick because they attribute their default state to “sick.”

    Dianna sounds like a wildly out of touch cartoon character. Her blathering about “miracles” tells me that she is appallingly unaware of the world around her, both in terms of current events and news and in terms of how things work. Tracie and Jen did a good job trying to extract a straight answer out of this person, and her inability to speak in anything other than non sequiturs hopefully sends a strong message to theists.

  27. colonyofcells iamamachine says

    I used to be a protestant fundamentalist and it did take some time to overcome the fear of hell and to accept death. I read Spinoza in college and I have been a determinist since that time and it has helped me to accept death. I enjoy reading about paleontology and that helps me accept the inevitable extinction of all species including the human species. My guess is even universes have to die too.

  28. colonyofcells iamamachine says

    It is probably the way to death that can be painful. Actual death is probably as easy as going to sleep. Actual death is maybe sort of the red pill escape from the matrix trap called life which seems to be just a simulation created by trillions of brainless cells in symbiosis with trillions of brainless bacteria in the colon.

  29. colonyofcells iamamachine says

    After being an atheist for many years, I also tried being a fideist but it did not last since too many things about religions bother me so I had to continue coping with life and death without using religions.

  30. linus says

    If Kanaan is on, I had a nihilistic fear if death for many years. I’d be happy to share the process I went through that’s helped me. I’ve been fine with death for 6 years. I won’t be responding to trolls though.

  31. Monocle Smile says

    Wow, the nerve of someone like Dianna accusing doctors of not knowing what they’re doing half the time. Jen’s expression said it all.

    @Evil God
    You nailed it. People like Dianna are extremely dangerous to themselves and the people around them, especially their children.

  32. RationalismRules says

    When the first response to “What do you mean by god?” is “God is love” you know the conversation is not going to be productive. If dogma is the first thing they reach for, it’s a pretty strong sign that their beliefs have never been examined thoughtfully.

  33. paxoll says

    Seriously, please update your information, completely wrong analogy with comparing circumcision with the vaccine scare. It is more like your explanation that a source with a history of reliability is usually reliable. , a meta analysis is the highest level of reliability based on how how many studies are included. 60 studies is pretty damn high. “High-consistency evidence was found for five outcomes, with male circumcision protecting against cervical cancer, cervical dysplasia, herpes simplex virus type 2, chlamydia, and syphilis. Medium-consistency evidence was found for male circumcision protecting against human papillomavirus and low-risk human papillomavirus. Although the evidence shows a protective association with HIV, it was categorised as low consistency, because one trial showed an increased risk to female partners of HIV-infected men resuming sex early after male circumcision” Really, please be up to date if you are going to try and make a reaching statement. People should realize that prevalence of disease greatly impacts sensitivity and specificity of treatments.

  34. says

    K A N A A N,
    Everyone has similar feelings. So to rid yourself of this feeling you must look beyond your self. Look at the big picture, the billions of other people struggling with life. Focus on a cause that benefit others.
    Contribute something of yourself, to someone else. Everyone can use some help. If you do it with sincerity both of you will benefit.
    These are simply undeniable truths; they will work.
    Why are some people in the past remembered ? What they did touched others life’s. Maybe it was great, maybe it was simple, but they did something. If you go beyond yourself during your life, your help and contributions will be remembered after your death. That’s the only way.
    I do art. I do it for myself. Others get some benefits from seeing it. After my death, others will continue to benefit. The point is doing.
    Hope you’re not talking yourself into a relationship with The Hairy Thunderer . . . that will really fuck your head around.

  35. Mobius says

    @22 Monocle Smile

    Yes, Dianna’s definition of “miracle” seemed rather incoherent. The reproduction of a human is a miracle, but the reproduction of ebola is not, and is actually evil. But we humans slaughter cows and from a cow’s perspective (if they have a perspective) we should be considered evil. So how, to a cow, is human reproduction a miracle?

    The whole conversation I got the impression that Dianna had never thought deeply about her position. And worse, she had never developed the methods of critical thinking. She was heavily into magical thinking, where what she wants is what is true and facts be damned.

  36. t90bb says

    Huge fan of the show but unless they do something about allowing callers to talk silliness for 45 minutes I will stop watching. This (todays show) was the worst run show I ever witnessed. Totally unacceptable////…..and I love the hosts.

  37. Monocle Smile says

    Really? I strongly disagree.
    Dianna started off as a flightly, shallow kind of theist. Hordes of apologist types will point to that and scream “what’s the harm?” at atheists. Leading her down a winding path that eventually exposed her extremely alarming and harmful beliefs is extremely important, because “moderate” religion is not benign and needs to be exposed thusly.

  38. t90bb says

    32…Monocle….45 minutes to expose her and the dangers of her “feelings” was wayyyyyy too long in my opinion……
    Dianna was an easy mark and Matt would have done what needed to be done in less than 15. I realize shes not Matt, but she let the call meander wayyy too long…….Diannas thought process was so flawed the hosts should have pinned her down…made their points and move along.
    Disagree all you want but if they continue to fail to move calls along…I AM BETTING listener ship will drop……This has been an ongoing issue whenever Matt is not on. The board has made mention of this almost every week. Tonight it was at its worst.
    Again. she was an easy mark. I would have liked to hear from some of the others that were turned away.
    THAT SAID it should be noted that the hosts finally got there….just 15 minutes or so late, I realize what they are doing is not easy…but 45 minutes on a bat shit crazy nut is NUTZZZ!!! Let her have her say……discuss…..point out where they disagree and invite her to call back after she has given it more thought, and move on.

  39. Monocle Smile says

    Dude(tte), the trolls have been whining that viewership will drop due to X, Y, and Z for years and years, and yet I don’t think it’s too bold to claim the show currently enjoys its largest average audience in its history.

    Do you have any clue who was “turned away?” No. For some reason, folks like you seem to think that the lines are constantly bulging with highlight-worthy callers and the hosts are just all too stupid and incompetent to let them on the show.

  40. t90bb says

    35. Monocle……I understand your position and hope you are right about viewership. I dont think you will find a quote of me claiming the hosts are stupid or incompetent….so please do not straw man me. Do not tell me what I “seem to think”…fair???

  41. Anthony Caroprese says

    I feel so sorry for Dianna who seems to be afraid to accept the possibility that she might be wrong. So much so that she hangs on to childhood beliefs without evidence. Placebo much?

  42. t90bb says

    For the record…I care about and respect all the hosts. And I am even a fan of some of the regular posters here (including Monocle)!

  43. Mobius says

    @32 Monocle Smile

    While I do think the Dianna call ran on too long, I do agree with you that it was a very good example of the wrongheadedness of so many theists. Particularly of the sort that have never invested the time to seriously consider their beliefs. Dianna was likely indoctrinated into her religion as a young child, and her thinking on the subject is still that of a child.

    I wonder what her response would have been if she were asked to explain the feelings a Hindu has for the existence of Vishnu. A devout Hindu’s feelings would be just as strong as Dianna’s, yet they both can’t be correct. And if one thinks critically, that should definitely point to feelings not being a reliable source of truth.

    Sadly, Dianna seemed to grasp a tiny bit of this near the beginning when she agreed with Tracy that feelings were not a valid way to truth. And yet, she constantly referred to her feelings as evidence for her god. All I could do was shake my head. A lack of cognitive dissonance was strong with this one.

  44. deeng says

    Dianna is my mother’s doppelganger. As @t90bb points out, Matt would have “done what needed to be done in less than 15” minutes. It would’ve been an entertaining watch, but it would’ve left her feeling brow-beaten and would give her an excuse to reinforce her beliefs. The approach Tracie and Jen took here is perhaps not as entertaining to watch, but I think it’s more likely to be productive for someone like Dianna, either as a caller or listener.

    I called back in August asking how to handle conversations with my own mother. Tracie and Phil gave me what advice they could in the few minutes left the show. I think the call with Dianna was the best answer to my question I could hope to get.

  45. oldblackeyes says

    Hey first time posting to follow up on Tracy’s request, I am one of those people who has suffered from the existential terror of death. I first experienced it in my early teenage and for a while (couple of years maybe) it would keep me up unable to sleep more nights that not. I have suffered insomnia ever since and depression, in fact I would say that my utter terror of death is probably the only thing that has come between me and attempted suicide at times. My desperation for a solution led me into a fairly fundamental branch of Christianity for a while, but I got over that 🙂 The arguments you put forward and the stardust one mentioned earlier in these comments don’t work for me at all. The terror is somewhere in the loss of consciousness, it’s hard to explain, complete oblivion is the issue, I didn’t care before I was born because I didn’t know better and sure I won’t know better when I’m dead but the fear is in the loss, in the never returning from that oblivion. I honestly prefer the Idea of an eternity of torture to complete non-existence. Anyway to get to the point, I do feel like I’ve kinda dealt with it, it no longer keeps me up, it no longer intrudes on my life. I feel like the acceptance I have is in the realm of “This really sucks but that’s just how it is” no amount of introspection is gonna change it so just put it out of your head as best as possible, fill your mind with other things. I don’t think there’s much point for people like me or the caller trying to find a way to find death pleasant or ok but for me accepting it as an unfortunate inevitability is the best I can manage, and is surprisingly soothing . Sorry if this is a bit long but Tracy seemed really interested in the phenomena

  46. Brendan S says

    Just ask Dianna if she were to find herself on trial for killing her spouse (and didn’t really do it), would she want a jury of her “peers” using their feelings to decide her fate?

  47. Harald Clark says

    I have to disagree with all the Tracie-hate over this episode. Many watchers of the show may have become too obsessed with Matt’s style, which is great and I enjoy it. Tracie has a different style; both trying to bridge the understanding gap with callers, and being just as strong in defense of reasoning and reality.

    Last episode Tracie and Don dealt with a caller who had previously called and spoke to Matt. Tracy sought to understand the callers’ point, and was just as fire filled as Matt in disagreeing and pointing out the problems in the view. As the call became circular, Tracie agreed with Don that the call wasn’t going anywhere, and managed to end the call respectfully and with the caller thanking them for the time; contrast this with Matt’s approach and eventually hanging up. Dianne appears to have a number of reasoning problems in her world view, and I’m not sure Matt’s approach would have helped her or the viewers any more than Tracie’s approach.

    I am extremely happy that Tracie is hosting the show more now.

  48. RationalismRules says

    @deeng #51
    One tool that Tracie and Jen didn’t use is John Loftus’s ‘outsider test’. I think it’s a good one for someone like Dianna, who bases everything on feelings.

    In case you’re not familiar with this, it’s about asking questions that shift the believer’s perspective to that of an outsider. In this context it might be used something like:
    Dianna: “I believe in god because I feel he is always with me”
    Questioner: “If a Muslim felt that Allah was always with him/her, would that convince you that Allah is real?

  49. sayamything says

    Dianna just annoyed me to no end. Far as I can find, there was never a scientific consensus that said cigarettes were good for you. There were marketing campaigns that claimed that. There were corporate interests that claimed that. There was media that at the very least suggested that, and the funny thing about that? Media was all “gee, I don’t know” about cigarettes right up until tobacco companies were no longer allowed to advertise in their pages/on their air time, then suddenly they had no qualms in saying tobacco products were bad for you because it was pretty well-established a long time prior.

    But you don’t need to go down that road. I don’t think most of the time it’s a conspiracy. I think a lot of journalists are poorly equipped to report on science. A lot of (using weasel words because I’m too lazy to look up exact numbers) the reporting on eggs wasn’t because “science” had changed its mind, it was because people were misreporting the studies.

    To give a more contemporary example, the people arguing video games cause violence and the people arguing that they don’t often cite the same studies. Why? Because studies rarely say anything as definitive as “video games make you murder people!” or “video games can’t make you murder people!”

    I suspect another element is something Matt brings up a lot: we have trouble with not knowing. We want concrete answers we can point to.

    (Of course, with eggs, there’s also the fact that people seem to have this major aversion to just simply eating things in moderation).

    I’ve heard the whole “maybe in the future we’ll find out cigarettes are good for you” and it seems absurd to hang anything on that. But science gets it wrong sometimes! Doctors don’t know everything! And in this case, that means that God is just as valid!

  50. David Levine says

    Thank you Tracy for such a clear and excellent example of how religion harms other people, as you said. This mother actually appeared to be saying that you can do anything in the world, so long as you have a feeling that God is telling you to do this, apparently including sacrificing your own children if you think God commands you to withhold medically necessary treatment or to look the other way when priests are raping your own children. What would this mother do if this priest she’s sending her son to ends up raping him in the name of Godly Love?

    Regarding the existential angst of death, I highly recommend one of Sam Harris’ latest podcasts entitled The Lessons of Death:

    And of course, the inimitable Hitch puts it well:
    “The clear awareness of having been born into a losing struggle need not lead one into despair. I do not especially like the idea that one day I shall be tapped on the shoulder and informed, not that the party is over but that it is most assuredly going on—only henceforth in my absence. (It’s the second of those thoughts: the edition of the newspaper that will come out on the day after I have gone, that is the more distressing.) Much more horrible, though, would be the announcement that the party was continuing forever, and that I was forbidden to leave. Whether it was a hellishly bad party or a party that was perfectly heavenly in every respect, the moment that it became eternal and compulsory would be the precise moment that it began to pall.”
    ― Christopher Hitchens, Hitch-22: A Memoir

    Woody Allen makes me laugh to: ““I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” …

  51. Tom R. says

    Please get Matt back. I like Tracy but she goes on and on and on WAY too long with people, psychoanalyzing every little thing.
    The freaking Dianna call was 3/4 of the show for Christ(tm) sakes.

  52. RationalismRules says

    @linus #35
    I’d be very interested to hear your process. The only process I’m aware of for combating irrational fears is immersion therapy, which obviously cant be applied in this case (!). Even if Kanaan doesn’t join the conversation, it’s still worth sharing your process – it may help us to help someone in the future.

  53. Speck O' Dust says

    I am in my 50’s and have been an atheist my whole life ( with the exception of being told as a young child that “you must believe in god”) and don’t have a fear of death, but, a certain kind of sadness about dyeing and not getting to know “what happens”. I mean, it’s kind of like reading a book, and you really get onto it, then you find out the last fourth of the book is gone and you will never get to know any more about it. Kind of feel ripped off, I can see where adopting a belief in somehow being able to continue on past consciousness of life would be soothing. If it were not for all those other pesky details…..

  54. Monocle Smile says

    Re: tobacco
    Lots of folks (like Dianna) think that clickbait trends represent scientific consensus. That’s how lost they are, and it’s because education is still not prioritized from a young age in this country.

    The last bit of “we don’t know everything, therefore god” is a scorched-earth strategy often employed by presuppositionalists and other assorted apologists. Lots of Matt’s debates feature this line of “argumentation.” What makes it particularly galling is that the people who espouse this nonsense clearly don’t believe it themselves, or they’d probably be dead.

  55. MadCityObserver says

    That show host Tracie gave irrational theist caller Dianna sixty-two minutes of airtime was ridiculous. At the end of it Tracie commented that “I don’t know that this call is going to get anywhere …”, a conclusion that I and perhaps most of the YouTube audience had already reached by at least the twenty-minute mark. That show co-host Jen let it go on and on and on for as long as it did also disappointed.

  56. brucen says

    I am not alone in saying there are other people waiting and the time spent on that call was inordinately long. It was painfully obvious in the first 1/2 hr that this was going nowhere. And it did. Please, move on.

  57. Pony says

    Re 12-step groups

    I always find myself bemused when people who have little experience with 12-step groups sound off with great confidence about what they are, how they work, and so on.

    As for me: I participated in a 12-step group for about a dozen years. When I went in, I had traveled from the Catholicism of my youth to a sort of vague deism (at best). Counterintuitively, given that “God” and “Higher Power” are an integral part of the steps and the program, my experience actually led me to fully embrace the atheism that I now believe has long, perhaps always, been at the root of my sense of self. I left my group about four years ago and have never looked back, but I acknowledge that the group and the process was helpful to me in many ways.

    First off, whatever meetings the caller attended, they are not, as Tracie pointed out, following the basic tenets of any true 12-step group.

    Yes, groups “pass the hat” and ask for donations to support what they are doing — basically, the tiny amounts of money collected go to pay for coffee, literature pamphlets, perhaps events and outings, etc. But *if* a group demands any kind of payment, it has placed itself outside the bounds of the “12 traditions,” full stop. In my experience, perhaps 25-40% of meeting attendees will contribute, and typically this is a buck or two. So if she was dunned hard for money, that isn’t 12-step kosher.

    Yes, belief in and acceptance of “God” and “Higher Power” are a crucial part of the steps. However, what those terms mean is entirely up to the participant—the stereotypical non-theistic “Higher Power” is a doorknob. The idea (whether or not it’s correct) is that one cannot overcome the struggle of addiction alone, and must turn to *some* other influence “greater than” oneself, to achieve recovery (again, whether or not this is true is up for grabs, IMO). I attended groups in a city that has been identified in at least one credible national survey as the “least religious” in America, so there were many, many non-theistic members involved. On the other hand, I’ve attended meetings in places like Texas and Georgia and South Carolina where a far higher percentage of members accept a superstitious/theistic view of things.

    In my case, my first “HP” was to simply see life as a book, a story. I could, if I so chose, simply “read” my life—walk through my experiences and leave it at that—or I could dig deeper, as I might in a novel, and look for metaphors, similes, yes, even “messages,” though they wasn’t any conscious messenger. It worked well enough, allowing me to see myself and my situation more clearly.

    Over the years, I grew less tolerant of the “superstitious” aspects of the program. Not so much the God/Higher Power beliefs, which I filed under “live and let live,” but rather the silly pronouncements and seeming beliefs of many members that strained credulity. My classic example is a guy who says something like, “Now, I know if I even had a sip of beer tonight, tomorrow I’d be down on skid row turning tricks for a fix,” the kind of thing I heard often. Essentially, imbuing the process with magic and the substance with something akin to demonic powers.

    I also came to object to what I saw as the program’s fundamental basis in fear, which was really quite similar to what I experienced in church. Again, as AA (not my program) says, “Take what works for you, and leave the rest,” and many more confident members do that. However, the overall tenor of the literature and the process is, “You *are* an addict, that is your primary identity, and you will never *not* be an addict. Therefore, you must come to us for help, and you must never, ever leave, otherwise, you are doomed to relapse etc. etc.” Indeed, there was even frequent gossip, frequently wrong, that some apostate has “been drinking” or “is using again,” or often much worse. Yet I’d see these people, and they’d be doing just fine without the program, even years later. So, fear. No thanks.

    All that said, I know many atheists who continue to find the program useful and who seem to be able to overlook the more religious aspects.

    But as Jen pointed out, there is *zero* credible evidence that the 12-step program actually works. The literature is full of “gotcha” caveats—for example, AA emphasizes that “those who have worked the program” correctly are 100% sober—that rather slyly imply that if it didn’t work for you, it’s *your* fault, not the program’s (sound familiar?) The anonymity works and is important (though is often violated by members), but it’s also a convenient smokescreen that means the highly decentralized 12-step world will never be able to undergo any kind of serious scientific scrutiny.

    I left 12 steps for the above reasons, but I don’t hate the program. It does seem to work for those for whom it works (tautology, ta-ta!), and for them, bully. But when government mandates attendance, as say, a term of bail or probation, that is a clear violation IMO of the establishment clause.

    Sorry so long. But I felt like neither the caller nor Jen or Tracie had enough experience with 12-step programs to really speak to how they operate.

  58. Grandpa Joe says

    I found the Dianna call interesting and don’t find any reason to attack Tracie for allowing it to play out as it did. We’ve all listened to calls that have gone on too long on subjects we weren’t personally interested in. For example, I find the philosophical calls to be mind-numbingly boring.

    As the hosts have said on the show before, it’s not necessarily about changing the caller’s mind. It’s clear that wasn’t going to happen during the long span of this conversation. But maybe it brought some clarity to someone who was on the fence. And maybe it planted a seed of doubt in Dianna’s mind. This was a Broadway performance in circular reasoning. It’s obvious she hasn’t put much critical thought into her beliefs. Maybe she will now.

  59. Ron Slaton says

    I really liked the show yesterday and think that it is necessary to have a few episodes that hammer away at the theist’s arguments like Tracy did. Isn’t it a fact that this is exactly the way a real-life discussion with a “Dianne” goes? It takes a tremendous amount of patients and persevering to engage most believers. Tracy avoided the pitfalls of shutting down the caller and proceded to dismantle every single thing Dianne brought up. Every flimsy, feely and unreflected thought that ever went through Dianne’s head was beautifully countered with Tracy’s solid reasons. I hope that Dianne would go back and watch the show and see how irrational her reasons truly are.

  60. Mike5527 says

    This was a really terrible show, maybe the worst show I have ever listened to, and I have listened to every episode for the last four years. What is the point of having the same caller on for an hour, when the discussion is going nowhere! A more professional show host would have ended the call after 15 minutes.

  61. johnmaskelyne says

    I must say, I’m very much in favour of the handling of the call. It is just the sort of narrative that listeners will be encountering in their everyday lives and seeing the difficulties drawn out so effectively will, no doubt, be of far more benefit than, say, two lay people debating some partially understood facet of physics through analogies.

    Jolly good job, Tracie and Jen.

  62. linus says

    What I found worked for me was making a routine to spend time with myself at least once a week. Might sound silly and some but it’s worked. On a day off I’d get a coffee and breakfast sandwich, put my headphones and sunglasses on with good tunes and go for a long walk in the woods or around somewhere interesting looking. No eye contact, no polite conversation, no texts or phone calls or social media; just me. I didn’t need to explain myself to anyone. I’d just walk, sit and think about my sh*t. It wasn’t a cure all, it does take work like anything good in life. I think the self imposed complete loneliness of doing this helped me to come to terms with my mortality. The routine and staying active helped keep my endorphins up, plus all the fresh air. I found even sitting outside and people watching helped a lot. Sitting inside kills it though. In short; remove yourself from society and observe it from the outside. Anyway that’s what’s worked for me. I hope it helps someone.

  63. Blade Longshanks says

    For Kanaan:

    You might want to consider this quote from Victor Frankl:

    “Those things which seem to take meaning away from human life include not only suffering but dying as well. I never tire of saying that the only really transitory aspects of life are the potentialities; but as soon as they are actualized, they are rendered realities at that very moment; they are saved and delivered into the past, wherein they are rescued and preserved from transitoriness. For, in the past, nothing is irretrievably lost but everything irrevocably stored.
    “Thus, the transitoriness of our existence in no way makes it meaningless. But it does constitute our responsibleness; for everything hinges upon our realizing the essentially transitory possibilities. Man constantly makes his choice concerning the mass of present potentialities; which of these will be condemned to nonbeing and which will be actualized? Which choice will be made an actuality once and forever, an immortal ‘footprint in the sands of time’? At any moment, man must decide, for better or for worse, what will be the monument of his existence.
    “Usually, to be sure, man considers only the stubble field of transitoriness and overlooks the full granaries of the past, wherein he had salvaged once and for all his deeds, his joys and also his sufferings. Nothing can be undone, and nothing can be done away with. I should say having been is the surest kind of being….
    “From this one may see that there is no reason to pity old people. Instead, young people should envy them. It is true that the old have no opportunities, no possibilities in the future. But they have more than that. Instead of possibilities in the future, they have realities in the past—the potentialities they have actualized, the meanings they have fulfilled, the values they have realized—and nothing and nobody can ever remove these assets from the past.”

  64. Edward from london says

    Dianne = Easy Christendom member with silly reasoning.
    Edward = Difficult for the hosts, hence banned.

    Stardust into humans without intelligent manipulation is a belief with no proof so why do you all believe it ?

  65. t90bb says

    I really dont want to hear hour long therapy sessions……dianna could have been exposed much more quickly. I appreciate that some enjoyed the nearly unending call. At the ten minute mark it was clear she was basing her beliefs on “feelings”…..once it was pointed out that basing beliefs on feelings is not reliable and she acknowledged this…..the hosts work was finished. Allowing her to repeat over and over that she is steadfast on relying on feelings anyways was entertaining to a point…..but not 45 minutes worth….I realize this is just my opinion. For the first time ever I was tempted to turn the show off mid episode. Jus sayin!

  66. t90bb says

    67…..Edward…..if you actually try to make sense when you call the hosts might entertain you a bit longer. Honestly, you are a total bore to me. If you actually think you have good evidence for your magic genie please call back prepared to make sense.

  67. robertwilson says

    Count me as a fan of how Tracie handles these calls and as someone who was happy with this show.

    My first impression of some of the dissatisfied comments are that people want to get through as many calls as possible just ending things with a soundbite worthy response sooner or later.
    But the call this Sunday seemed to me like something that the show is always looking for and hasn’t had at all recently – a genuine call from an average Christian trying to get to “why” they believe. Not an apologist (though those can be good calls if they’re not trolling), not someone calling to preach.

    The only thing I think I disagreed with Tracie about was her impression that this affected the relationship with the caller’s son very heavily. Perhaps I missed something but my impression was that this might have been a one-off interaction with her son that led to these two calls and they don’t get in each others’ face about it or argue regularly.

    My impression was genuinely willing to talk to people to help her understand why her son thinks this way, not necessarily to convert him, and she had no idea what she was getting into and just retreated to her defenses of “it works for me” and “it makes me happy so why does it matter? why should I examine this?” which so many average Christians would do.

    I’m sure there are some points where I would have taken a different approach, or tried a new one for a particular point, but I would be stunned if anything elicited a significantly different response from the caller. And yet, I think it was a good call and I agree with the assessment above that it was probably a better approach for getting through to that particular caller or others like her.

    Keep it up Tracie and thanks to Jen as well, I thought she was a good co-host, much more collaborative rather than interjecting and interrupting for something disconnected to what the host was going with.

  68. ohyeah says

    I use the Santa Claus argument and have the believer try to convince me (50 year old Male) there isn’t a Santa Claus. Works everytime. 🙂

  69. Monocle Smile says

    You have the same fucking conversation with the hosts every time you call. That is not “difficult.” That is “trolling.”
    Fuck off. Tracie, if you come back on to post about Dianna, I request that you ban this character.

  70. Robert, not Bob says

    Dianne’s call was exactly what the show is for, from what I’ve seen. It’s usually impossible to have a substantial discussion with someone so wedded to the belief-in my experience at least; what happens is that at some point the theist gets upset and burns the conversation down. There are calls that ought to be cut short, but this wasn’t one of them.

  71. Ethan Myerson says

    The belief that [stardust turns into humans] without intelligent manipulation is a false belief with no proof

    I’m curious about how you have determined what stardust can and cannot turn into by natural processes. Can natural processes alone account for stardust turning into Carbon (atomic number 6)? Can natural processes alone account for stardust turning into Fermium (atomic number 100)? Can natural processes alone account for stardust turning into water? Into salt? How about alcohol? What about lipids?
    What about viruses? Can natural processes alone turn stardust into viruses or does that require an intelligent agent to do some manipulation?
    I assure you that I’m not trying to trick you into anything. I am legitimately curious about what you see as the limits to the capabilities of natural processes, and what you see as being beyond those limits, and therefore requiring an intelligent manipulator.

  72. cvon says

    Tracie is a fine inspector of houses and even though I suspect Dianne is going to remain committed to a house with a dubious foundation, it’s important to have these tools and conditions of inspection demonstrated.
    Seriously, this caller seems very much like the religious folk I encounter in my life and a great example what a suspension of disbelief looks like.
    Some calls take time and this was a great show.

  73. Gail Herr says

    I enjoyed the show today including the lengthy call with Dianna. I don’t think every show should or can be one long call, but this one was warranted. Dianna’s frequent nervous laughter demonstrated to me that she felt some discomfort with her inability to explain her beliefs. That might lead to further examination of those beliefs. As others have said, this call mimicked many conversations nonbelievers have with religious folks. I wish I could handle them as well as Tracy and Jen. They were on fire today. I think listening to this show equips me to deal with theists in my own world.

    Regarding Kanaan’s call: I used to have a crippling fear of death, when I was in my 20’s. I am now 65 and a cancer survivor. I can say I rarely think about death, because I’m too busy living everyday. What I found out over the years was that a fear of death often originates in a generalized anxiety, sometimes called “background anxiety”. This constant low-level fear can manifest itself as a fear of death. It’s normal to feel fear if you are in a life-threatening situation, but if you think about and fear death often, you are probably struggling with a type of anxiety disorder. The good news is that it is fairly easily treated and resolved, allowing you to live your life with joy and peace. As Jen mentioned, the best first step would be to talk to your doctor. She might recommend medication or counseling (or both). It’s possible that after 6-12 months you would not need further treatment. I agree with another commenter that finding ways to focus on others is very helpful in recovering from this anxiety. I have an active social life, but if I sat home alone too much I would sink into depression/anxiety. If you are socially active already, you might need to seek out more positive friendships and activities. Best wishes, Kanaan. You can build a life without fear.

  74. RationalismRules says

    Edward/John/JWbot has taken to inflating his posts, like a toad puffing itself up to look more substantial. Ironically, all this does is to physically highlight the emptiness of his preaching and his bloated sense of self importance.

  75. RationalismRules says

    @linus #66
    Thanks for sharing your experience. The processes that have been effective for you and others appear to carry a common thread of working on one’s awareness/presentness of life. It seems that attempting to defeat the fear is not effective, so the better course is to actively work on life, which while not necessarily eliminating the fear, will gradually shrink its importance. What do you think?

  76. t90bb says

    This will be my final post in regards to letting certain calls go on too long. This is not an issue about any one host. It seems everyone but Matt allows the crazies to go on far too long for my taste. I think they do this because they are afraid of coming off mean or dismissive. Do not misunderstand, I a want all callers to be given the opportunity to make their point. The show depends on that….sometimes you have to feed the caller enough rope to let them hang themselves, lol.

    Matt has the confidence and the personality to show his frustration at callers. He often is willing to say what we are all thinking. But that is just his style and I realize the other hosts have to work within their own skill set, personalities, and patterns of thought. Like I mentioned before…although Diannas call was too long for my taste, the ladies eventually got there which we all appreciated. Actually Jen was pretty direct at the end of the call. Dianna clearly likes the comfort she gets from believing. She finds the world BIG and INTIMIDATING and BEYOND HER CONTROL. The idea that there is a magic genie behind the curtain that is looking out for her helps her get through life. This was obvious very early on in the call. I give her some credit for even calling….although I get the idea that she had every intention of setting the hosts straight, lol..
    I didnt mean to sound too cranky over the calls longevity. It is a personal preference in approach ans style. No right or wrong here,

  77. Eric Reid says

    I’ve been an atheist since I was born. I’ve talked with Tracie about fear of death and if I was missing anything by not having ever believed or understood a religion by not being indoctrinated at some time. Both she and Matt answered in the negative, with the exception of a sense of community. I happen to live in a place where there are no atheist organizations and the closest town that does is about a day’s drive away. I feel it’s not very healthy to be so isolated from those that could potentially share my viewpoint and interact with them in positive and enjoyable ways (severe social anxiety… under control?). Unlike others, I thought the Dianna talk was absolutely brilliant, not only in terms of giving me an example of how a typical (?) hardline (?) Christian thinks. I was flabbergasted by the seemingly coherent manner in which she spoke and the absolutely incoherent ideas that came out of her mouth. It was absolutely fascinating to hear her ideas spelled out as if they made perfect sense. I think this was one of Tracie’s most logically sound and persuasive arguments and poor Dianna didn’t seem to understand most of it, and when she did, her answers just didn’t conform to my own sense of reality. This is what have been missing about religion; it and atheism are not only contradictory, but the contradiction carries into to everyday life and affects all thinking, not just religion. It never occurred to me that “what you see is what you God.” If one has the ability to get one’s girlfriend pregnant at 14, do you feel guilt? Do you just pray away the guilt? Is there any rationalization for breaking one of God’s no-nos? Is there any all-consuming fear or do they just go at it again and… God? I found it fascinating the lack of logic that Dianna seemed to be able to ascribe to her religious “feelings” and her ability to apply it to arguments that had nothing specific to her savior.

    Kanaan, I feel you. Tracie told me that, true to her words today, she has no qualms about dying and looks forward to it in a strange (to me) way. I, along with two ex-Mormons, expressed my fears in similar ways. I know there will be no fear after death, no suffering, no anything. The problem is, I like living and I don’t want it to end. Using Matt’s typical “party” analogy just doesn’t cut it for me. Yes, I would take life over non-life any day and the concept of non-life, non-existence, is scary and often wakes me up in a panic. I love my wife, I love my child, I love thinking, I love learning and I want the time to continue it. I’m 47 and as life races towards the end, I find even the most mundane things dreadfully important. This is what Mormonism gave these two guys we were talking to and why they had such a hard time extracting them from their religion. I really liked listening to these fellows and Tracie try to help them understand her position. I still find it dreadfully scary at times. Good luck on working it out. Use the resources available and talk to me if you want someone to commiserate with. LOL

  78. Dave R. says

    I was just disappointed that Tracie didn’t ask Dianna if she could at least understand why her son might not believe in a god. Just asking “Do you understand why we don’t believe in god?” followed by “because all of the reason you give are things that sound like utter nonsense to us and that we want at least a tiny bit of reproducible verifiable truth.”

    I feel bad for the kid having to go to a pastor because most of us are not a Matt D. and can’t refute every argument that might come up. I hope the kid just sticks with “ok, prove it” for every single thing the pastor says.”

  79. Fan of the show says

    another episode wasted… i’m just gonna say it this show was off the rails. I listen every week and I love the female hosts but they are FAR FAR to patient and have no real idea of when to cut off a conversation. It honestly is starting to wear on me personally and imo is making the show a bit unprofessional in a not good way. I already hear all the haters but this is how I see it.

  80. Nathan says

    I very much enjoyed the discussion with Dianna, this is the kind of discussion I seem to end up in. I like how every time Dianna would try to jump back to something she had tried, they would point out that it had already been shot down. I’d take another one of these calls over the prank calls, trolls like Jon from London, or having another atheist call in.

  81. Kimble says

    Jen just got done speaking about the irresponsibility of unsubstantiated claims, I don’t necessarily disagree with her comments but would like to know where she is getting her information about Alcoholics Anonymous statistical failure.

  82. Mandy says

    I’m a super lurker but wanted to say that, for whatever it’s worth, I appreciated the way Tracie handled Dianna’s call. Although it was very clear that Dianna is a victim of lifelong indoctrination, I feel like the overall conversation was one that could possibly allow Dianna (and others) think about her own beliefs a bit more as she reflects on the call over time. Will it ultimately change her mind? Probably not. But having a positive engagement with someone over their religious beliefs could be very helpful in opening their mind to another perspective.
    And, as someone who objectively sucks at debate, listening to a call like this definitely helps me to learn. 🙂

  83. Marx says

    It amuses me when believers refuse to acknowledge logical fallacies in their argument.

    Tracie and Jen were great!
    I hope to see them working together more often in the future!

  84. Margret says

    Loved the long call. While it was exhausting, as these conversations tend to be, it was a very good one, that repeatedly showed the uncritical way some believers go about their beliefs. It’ll certainly help me to keep such a talk on track should it encounter me in the future.

  85. says

    it took time to get there, but the money shot was getting dianna to realize, if not admit, that her god belief is not as innocuous as she likes to think, but is in fact potentially disastrous, as long as she remains willing to allow her “feelings” to overrule the judgment of licensed professionals and knowledgeable experts even in the face patently dangerous situations.

  86. ogster says

    dianna’s call sure made for good conversation but it didn’t really need to be that long. it was a classic case of indoctrination at a young age and one without challenge. it was a relief when it was finally pointed out by jen. tracie used so many analogies yet none worked. dianna already stated at the beginning that the hosts probably won’t change her mind. tracie should have just asked her why she already decided not to change her mind without hearing anything they had to say. instead, tracie just attacked her beliefs on and on without realizing they weren’t getting anywhere.
    tracie had good arguments, of course. but they were not very different from each other. as part of an audience, i wish she had stuck to one and make dianna concede before moving on. even though tracie talked way lots more, it was dianna who controlled the conversation, with tracie making an analogy for everything dianna says.
    it’s good to remind the audience that “feelings” aren’t are a good meauring tool in finding the truth, but it didn’t have to take the whole show.

  87. Edward from london says

    Yes stardust into humans and then tell me processes, got it.

    But this does not address the question of intelligent manipulation or not. Your “not” idea has no proof.

  88. CaptainFresh says

    I got over the death fear by having an operation. When they put you under you lose all consciousness and there are no dreams. To me death will be an operation where you dont regain consciousness. Nothing to fear.

  89. KK_Me says

    Great show by Jen and Tracie! And I think the long caller was good, sounded just like the arguments my mum would use.

    Tracie and Jen handled the call very well, but it didn’t seem that the caller understood that by following her feelings she’s excluding herself from truth. I wouldn’t know what the hosts could’ve done other than provide the many examples that they did, maybe just clearly state enough times: “You are not being reasonable. But other people including your son care more about being reasonable than following their feelings.”

  90. RationalismRules says

    @Ethan Myerson #73
    Best of luck with that. If you get any honest response I’ll be surprised.

    Oh look there’s a response. Does it address anything you asked? Of course not.

  91. DanDare says

    I thought the long call was hard, frustrating and excellent. Some of the real meat was not exposed till nearly the end. When Tracie began to track down the “harm” of belief it was hitting pay dirt and exposing this awful mindset that sits under vague, unexamined belief. It’s basically “there is no such thing as truth except what I feel is true”, no “evidence”, no examinable connections between things, no predictions of future states. I hope her son calls in sometime.

  92. says

    t90bb says
    “Huge fan of the show but unless they do something about allowing callers to talk silliness for 45 minutes I will stop watching.”

    You do realize that the “silliness” is what 90% of theists believe? And on the basis of those beliefs they do their best to pass laws controlling other members of their societies, restrict what can be taught in schools, close down Planned Parenthood clinics, and let children die without medical intervention.
    They follow their “holy books: and toss family members who are not cis-sexual out of their homes, often to the streets or drive them into living a lie, or to often suicide. These “silly” beliefs can be deadly to those around them. It was good to watch how Tracie handled the caller, and brought out into the open how dangerous those beliefs, and those who hold them are.

  93. Ethan Myerson says

    @82 RR
    Yeah, I thought I’d get at least one post where he engaged with my questions before going back to being a bot. I was wrong about that. That’s OK; I’ve been wrong about people before, and I’ll be wrong again.

  94. drawn2myattention says

    Dianna is typical of many christians–happy, self-satisfied, and imperturbable. What we saw was her vivisection by a first rate dialectician–Tracie Harris. It was not a pretty sight, but it needed to be done.

    To anxious Kanaan: find and read the works of psychotherapist Albert Ellis. An atheist and skeptic, his psychotherapy is deeply philosophical and hard-headed.

  95. says


    >Seriously, please update your information, completely wrong analogy with comparing circumcision with the vaccine scare. It is more like your explanation that a source with a history of reliability is usually reliable.

    I’d say this falls somewhere in between. After the very first initial study, international organizations were already updating their recommendations–without further support. They jumped the gun due to the dismal situation in S. Africa, where HIV was devastating the countries.

    There are also many ethical considerations that make this issue not so cut-and-dry. And the fact we really can’t account for how circumcision works, and how it doesn’t–isn’t helping.

    > , a meta analysis is the highest level of reliability based on how how many studies are included. 60 studies is pretty damn high. “High-consistency evidence was found for five outcomes, with male circumcision protecting against cervical cancer, cervical dysplasia, herpes simplex virus type 2, chlamydia, and syphilis. Medium-consistency evidence was found for male circumcision protecting against human papillomavirus and low-risk human papillomavirus. Although the evidence shows a protective association with HIV, it was categorised as low consistency, because one trial showed an increased risk to female partners of HIV-infected men resuming sex early after male circumcision” Really, please be up to date if you are going to try and make a reaching statement. People should realize that prevalence of disease greatly impacts sensitivity and specificity of treatments.

    Again, I’m not going to support the comparison to anti-vax. But I also think people need to be aware of some of the problems with the studies and, especially, the models used to explain the mechanism that works to tie circumcision to HIV resistance.

    In the original study, one problem was they did a survey where they failed to account for the fact that most circumcision in the countries they were examining, was “traditional” rather than “medical”–basically religious as opposed to why/how it’s done in the U.S. Not taking into account factors like this *was* a problem. If circumcision is also tied to religious sexual restrictions, and not being circumcised is tied to not being part of a religion that has sexual restriction–that could create problems with the results.

    Obviously, I agree that the more studies done, the more the results can be trusted–not in small part because methods get better based on critiques of past studies. Originally, for example in 1996, “Circumcision and HIV infection: review of
    the literature and meta-analysis,” published in the Journal of STD and AIDS, reported “A meta-analysis was performed on the 29 published articles where data were available. When the raw data are combined, a man with a circumcised penis is at greater risk of acquiring and transmitting HIV than a man with a non-circumcised penis (odds ratio (OR)=1.06, 95% confidence interval (CI)=1.01-1.12). Based on the studies published to date, recommending routine circumcision as a prophylactic measure to prevent HIV infection in Africa, or elsewhere, is scientifically unfounded.”

    I also agree, again, that information gets better, and more recent data is what should have more weight as long as there is no (very good) reason to doubt.

    Issues with methodology have to be considered: Unlike studies where we can actually use rigid controls, controls of populations that aren’t kept in a lab become less viable–not just for these studies, but in general. But due to ethical concerns, we can’t use people in a highly controlled environment to test HIV transmission, so I admit this is the best we can do with most sexual activity studies. The other issues we run into are self-reporting–which isn’t only subject to outright dishonesty, but also subjective evaluations. So, for example, people who identify as “heterosexual” often have experimented with same-sex relationships. They just aren’t prominent enough in their histories for them to “identify” as bisexual. They aren’t being dishonest, they just honestly don’t consider themselves “not heterosexual” based on a few deviations–they identify with their standard activities.

    But again, this is not a problem with HIV/Circumcisions studies in any specific way–it’s a general problem we have to cope with any time we do sexual studies with human beings.

    So in the current case of the male circumcision (MC) studies, we have developed a model–which has not really be demonstrated (as far as I know to date–but I’m not expert, and maybe there is something more recent that has nailed it down more tightly?) to be the reason for the correlation between circumcision and lower HIV rates. But it basically has to do with the idea that some bacteria found on the penis thrive in low oxygen environments, and when more of the penis is exposed to oxygen, the bacteria that’s left is resistant to HIV, and therefore it offers protection–to men.

    In the case of other methods of resistance, such as condom use, we run into the same problems with studies–self reporting and inability to control for activity. So, if someone says they’re only with one woman, are they? If they say they don’t engage in gay sex, do they? A lot of subject trust is involved, and this can skew results. In fact, most papers call this out within their text, because we all know it’s a problem.

    Like MC, condom use also has a model of how it works. The idea is that the virus can’t pass through the condom, so that as long as fluid doesn’t get out of the condom (removed while sex is still happening, breakage, overflow), transmission can’t occur. BUT, unlike MC, condoms are only as good as they are consistently and responsibly used. The fact that folks don’t always consistently and responsibly use them, is considered a big problem in studies on condom effectiveness. But anytime you use one correctly, you can expect a high degree of efficacy against fluid-transmitted STDs and pregnancy.

    And when we test for efficacy of condoms, we see they help where they are expected to help, with variable degrees of effectiveness, but always effective when used properly and with high degrees of consistency. And where we would expect them to be less effective, they are less effective. So, they’re not as effective in situations such skin-to-skin transmissions, such as herpes. They still offer SOME protection–which makes sense based on our understanding of how they work–but the effectiveness is impacted by user-error, use/not use, and type of STD–as we’d expect.

    The MC model doesn’t act this way. It seems to work, when studies show effectiveness, about 60%. We don’t know if that means 40% of men, it doesn’t work for at all, or if that means it protects all men euqally about 60% of the time when they have sex. But if the model is correct, it seems it would impact the men the same way–since bacteria that can’t survive in oxygen rich environments shouldn’t have any easier time exposed on one guy over another–at least not to the tune of 40% failure. Since a circumcised penis is always circumcised, the fail rate can’t be explained as easily as it can with condom use. It’s not like you accidentally became uncircumcised for 40% of your sex. But let’s say we agree that the solution to this is that the bacterial isn’t fail safe. It’s *some* protection, but not total protection, and it fails about 40% of the time, just because it’s not *that* effective. Like the condoms and herpes.

    Well, OK, so let’s look at other applications of the model and see? If an increase in the bacteria that repel HIV is the model, then wouldn’t exposing even part of the skin to oxygen cause that same effect, even if it’s to a lesser degree? And yet, it seems that some types of circumcision don’t seem at all effective. In cases where it’s less effective, that matches the model, as exposing more or less skin would be expected to result in more or less protection, but shouldn’t any additional exposure result in some additional protection? Right now, results on this–again, as far as I’m aware–are mixed. Some studies comply with what you’d expect, some don’t. And that’s something that needs more research.

    Then we have another problem. Gay men don’t seem to be helped *at all* by circumcision. If you’re gay and slap on a condom, you can expect some level of protection–because your gay penis works just like a straight man’s penis, and the mechanism for skin contact and fluid transmission is the same. Early on, speculation was that since gay sex involves both receiving and inserting, and circumcision only protects the person with the penis, this is why we don’t see results in gay populations. So, other researchers checked this by testing gay men who self-report as primarily or solely insertive partners–saying they rarely or never receive. And we should, according to the current model, see improvement there in transmission rates–but to date, we don’t. The only studies I’m aware of that show improvement don’t reach statistically significant levels–which means that for some reason, gay men aren’t gaining any sort of HIV protection from the same surgical process that straight men gain. And that was a surprise, because the speculation before it was tested was that we should see at least *some* demonstrated assistance from MC, in this population. That’s something that needs to be addressed and reconciled with the model, because right now, it’s not aligning to it. And if MC works–and we’re going to call it causal, we need to understand that mechanism in a way that allows us to accurately predict its impact on populations. The fact we didn’t accurately predict this, is a short fall.

    Outside of this we have ethical considerations, but that’s another matter. Some studies show increased risk and less condom use in some populations after circumcision–even though the HIV rates still fell. If we simply go with rates and say “it brings down infections,” that’s a win. But if we consider that the infections we are still getting may actually be due to the MC procedure making people think more risk and less condoms are needed, then it’s like the early polio vaccinations, where the only cases still happening were from the live vaccine use–which led to not using that anymore. If it brings rates down–that’s good, we all agree. But if the remaining cases are caused, all or in part, by the treatment, that’s a problem we have to fix.

    Part of the ethical concerns expressed have been that promoting MC will be seen by many as a replacement for condom use, and at least to some level, that appears to be an assumption that, unfortunately, has potentially been borne out. So, men who reduce condom use, are opting for a far less effective method of protection in MC, and some think we need to do a better job promoting condoms, which offer better, more comprehensive protections, to all populations (gay, straight, men, women, etc.) and which can be inexpensively provided and don’t require someone to subject themselves to as much risk of physical harm, and undergo an invasive surgical procedure (to gain a far less effective protection).

    The programs in Africa are actually mainly recommendations for adult men to have the MC procedure. This, for me, removes most ethical concerns. A person making a decision over their own bodily integrity based on their perceived sexual future, and able to access the information, isn’t a problem for me. Although I think the studies on increased risk and lower condom use show we need to do better at making sure these people understand what this may/may not offer them. But in cases, like the U.S. where we continue to push this as one more reason to violate the bodily integrity of children without medical problems, and with no reason to assume their future sexual behaviors will put them at risk, or put them in situations where MC will help them–this is not justified, and is in fact considered to be a human rights violation according to published declarations of human rights.

    In the end, I would say that if an adult male is familiar with the literature and feels that MC applies to him in a way where he’s comfortable or desirous of having it done, that should be a legal, elective procedure. Or, if insurance companies agree to adopt it, a preventive procedure. But I would still like to see more research and improved models of how it works.

  96. says

    By the by, why do we get vegan posts on this forum? It is not remotely connected to atheism or skepticism. I must admit I find the “you MUST be vegans to be ethical” as annoying as the “you must believe and follow MY faith, because I have decided it is right” posts. As a grown-up atheist and skeptic my response to strident vegans is a gentle, and weary “F off”.

  97. SG says

    I almost thought Tracie was going to take a “Street Epistemology” approach, based on her first questions to Diana. I think if Tracie had used an SE technique and tried to keep some structure to the discussion it would have been more productive, but I actually think it was a good discussion as it was.

  98. Joel Smallwood says

    I found it a bit ironic. In the first segment, Jen and Tracie talked about how your biases can affect what you accept as truth (using Vegan poop as an example).
    Then Tracie and Jen, with the first call, made a pretty interesting claim that AA doesn’t help people. They even suggested it can harm people.
    I am not a fan of AA for a myriad of reasons, but this just didn’t sound right. It seemed to me, just on intuition, that the support alone should be enough to help some. And it has been around for so long and the methods replicated so often in other contexts that it seems like it has to have some benefit, at least for some people.
    So I did a quick google search, and this claim seems to be overstated, to say the least. Jen and Tracie made it seem like the evidence is in, but from what I can tell, the evidence is ambiguous at best, and tends towards it being more help than not. I certainly couldn’t find anything that suggests it does more harm than good. Perhaps a link would help.
    Like I said, it was a quick search, but wikipedia gives links to several studies, most of which suggest it is helpful to many people, and SA suggests the same (I looked up the authors — and they seem to have a pretty good skeptic pedigree):
    Perhaps some citations regarding your truth claims 😉
    btw. I really like the extended call. I know some people didn’t, but it was nice to have an extended conversation that was mostly civil. I probably wouldn’t have been quite so aggressive with her, but it was a good call.

  99. Robert, not Bob says

    @96, CaptainFresh: That’s my position too: I’ve been under general twice. It’s as if the universe ceases to have existed.

    @ 100, Jeanette: I wonder if there’s a correlation between those who thing the call was a waste of time and lifelong atheists, who of course would have a different perspective from former theists.

  100. says

    I knew the long call would be appreciated by some and not by others. I find it informs me more to hear what people who think differently experience in a case like this—but only if they offer constructive feedback. I do appreciate the comments from folks who (1) realized what I was doing/why I allowed the call to go on, and (2) who appreciated it for their own reasons. But I also want to be clear I’m fine with criticism, and appreciate constructive feedback from people who can provide more than “I didn’t like this for reasons.”

    Unhelpful feedback:
    8: No help.
    15 – I’m not sure simply telling a caller “here’s my response, go think on that” is useful. I assume you mean that there was a particular point or set of points you’d have made and then given up—information on which points and what point, would be useful.
    41: This comment was ridiculous. “unless they do something…” A 50-minute call is not normal for this show simply because I did this one time. The rest of your comment was criticism without constructive content. Do you just judge calls based on length and nothing else (you mention zero about call content). At 44, you say Matt would have resolved it sooner. I agree. Can you give any constructive thoughts as to how? Pin her down *how*? You saw how I handled it—can you give an example of “You did X here, and doing Y would have improved it by…”? “I would have liked to hear from some of the others that were turned away,” I concur with the 45 here—you have no idea who was in the queue. All atheists, but one: Mark—who was a repeat from a previous show wanting to rehash again that he doesn’t believe god could have created the universe. I’m guessing you hated that caller as well, because he was also on for quite some time going in circles. He may have been interesting as he’s had time to ruminate on ideas from a prior show. And I acknowledged at the last he would be welcome to call back.

    Semi-helpful feedback:
    26 – I am not sure she was a fideist. While she claimed it was about feelings, she also indicated that if she had good evidence her pastor was molesting kids, she’d “feel” it was true. She seemed to use “feel” in two separate ways. In some instances she was doing what you’re describing—using it as a justification. But in other instances she basically admitted that feelings are only as good as the evidence behind them. I don’t think it was an example of fideism as much as a personal, inconsistent philosophy that she doesn’t recognize is at odds with itself.
    28: “I had to skip ahead because it becomes tiresome to hear someone bring up the same argument earning the same refutation again and again.” Ironically at dinner, someone said they found it interested that I refuted the repeated points by Dianna with different refutations. I can’t account for how different people see different things in the same event, but there it is. “Questionable is that it helped the poor atheist son who now has to sit through some b-s-ing pastor.” Well, as I have been in those shoes before, I would have found it satisfying, and this was a big reason I did what I did—more for the son than his mother. She was only on the call to coerce him to talk to her pastor, so this was never for her. “She made no progress with this person.” Correct, but my goal was to provide satisfaction for the son–which I knew would be at the expense of some audience members. If he has to sit with a pastor, I hope what his mother was subjected to gives him at least some satisfaction while he’s in those meetings. “Tracy lost a lot of my esteem that she has built up over the years by not cutting this hopeless case loose much earlier and moving on to more worthy callers.” I will see if I can find some way to go on with my life without the high regard of an internet random.
    37: Agreed.
    40: Cow example is great. I wish I’d have thought of it or some iteration—such as war. If people kill each other, is there ever justification? If a person harms another, can it be a tool for good? For example, genocide is wrong, but sometimes actions of a nation intent on stopping a genocide can be unethical or ethically ambiguous. Are these evil or miracles? Even asking about amputating an arm to stop gangrene, for example.
    50: I agree the call should have been shorter. I think at one point I did ask her about people who might “feel” differently than her. She seemed to be of a mindset that if it conflicts with her worldview it can’t be correct. I’m not sure she goes any deeper than that. “Sadly, Dianna seemed to grasp a tiny bit of this near the beginning when she agreed with Tracy that feelings were not a valid way to truth. And yet, she constantly referred to her feelings as evidence for her god,” I found this frustrating, and when she’d return there, I’d remind her we had agreed this was not valid. Finally by the end, she just began to deny she’d ever agreed with me.
    51: What do you think Matt have done, specifically, and at what point in the call?
    53: I understand the reason you’d like to have this asked, I suspect she’d say god would make them all feel the right thing—no matter what. Even if they felt she was guilty, there would be some greater good reason for it, and that would be OK.
    54: “Dianne appears to have a number of reasoning problems in her world view” – Agreed.
    55: I asked her something similar in the form of what if someone believes god tells them to do harm. She seemed to just dismiss it. Below, I noted that I wished I’d used this test with her son—what if he says he “feels” there is no god—would that make it OK for him to be an atheist then? I do wish I’d have asked *that*.
    56: Thank you for researching that. Interesting. But I still get her point, that incomplete facts can lead a person to a wrong conclusion or belief—and science can do this. However, it’s still the best method we have, and the more information we gain, the closer to correct we become—as evidenced by all the progress we’ve made in so many different fields of discovery. I do think I asked her what better alternative we have than being guided by whatever evidence there is? Is going on gut really superior than following evidence simply because we can identify cases where evidence can be misleading–is it nearly as misleading as emotional feedback, when, as she admitted, we may not even know what is motivating it?
    58: What’s wrong with psychoanalyzing things?
    59: “That show co-host Jen let it go on and on and on for as long as it did also disappointed.” Jen should not be blamed for this. It was 100% my decision. She even suggested in writing to me that we should move on, and I opted not to do so.
    64: “It was painfully obvious in the first 1/2 hr that this was going nowhere.” From the perspective of gaining ground with Dianna, I agree. But I would like to hear, at some point, from her son, who was the person I was actually on the call for.
    65: “What is the point of having the same caller on for an hour, when the discussion is going nowhere!” Her son.
    73: “I really don’t want to hear hour long therapy sessions” Then it’s good you didn’t. If you think what I did with Dianna was therapy, then you have a very distorted view of therapy. “Dianna could have been exposed much more quickly. At the ten minute mark it was clear she was basing her beliefs on ‘feelings’…..once it was pointed out that basing beliefs on feelings is not reliable and she acknowledged this…..the hosts work was finished. Allowing her to repeat over and over that she is steadfast on relying on feelings anyways was entertaining to a point…..but not 45 minutes worth.” Thank you, that last bit was informative and useful. However, it still leaves her son out of the equation–and he was the reason for the call, was he not? What matters is what he wanted out of it, and whether or not he got that. I hope he did, but I don’t know unless he calls or writes to let me know.
    75: “The only thing I think I disagreed with Tracie about was her impression that this affected the relationship with the caller’s son very heavily. Perhaps I missed something but my impression was that this might have been a one-off interaction with her son that led to these two calls and they don’t get in each others’ face about it or argue regularly.” Most folks who contact us (and in my own case) don’t get to “you need to talk to the pastor” through brief and casual conversations. The “talk to the pastor” instruction comes once the family is through trying, through arguing, not willing to talk to you anymore, but also not willing to leave you alone. It happens when they still want to put pressure on a kid to conform, but they haven’t succeeded after exhausting all their other options. I’d be surprised if mom cared at all how the call went or what she looked like, because all she needed was for him to go see the pastor, whom she reasons will magically explain *HER* beliefs better than she can. The reality is that whatever the pastor tosses at the kid won’t have anything to do with what Mom believes, unless s/he also just sits there saying “Well, you see, we just feel it”—which s/he likely won’t. The pastor will be arguing for their own beliefs, not mom’s. So, the conversation with mom was mainly about giving this kid some satisfaction, based on what I realize his mom is about to force him to endure.
    84: “I think they do this because they are afraid of coming off mean or dismissive.” That thought never enters my head. “I a want all callers to be given the opportunity to make their point.” With most calls, that’s more what’s in my head: Seek first to understand, then to be understood. This is a fundamental reality of communication. You can’t have a conversation with a person, if you fail to understand their perspective. “sometimes you have to feed the caller enough rope to let them hang themselves, lol.” I’m not in it for any sort of “gotcha” moment. If that’s what you want—to see someone hung—then I get 100% why you don’t like my style of handling calls, generally. I’m having conversations, not setting passive-aggressive traps. “Matt has the confidence and the personality to show his frustration at callers.” People show frustration in different ways. I was showing frustration during the call with Diana. At dinner people commented that I was very patient. I felt I was attacking her. In fact, someone else described this very call as me “attacking” Diana’s beliefs. Just because I don’t look how you’d expect a person to look when they’re going off on someone else, doesn’t mean it’s not happening.
    86: I agree that would have been a good question to ask. I also agree 100% about asking the pastor to demonstrate his/her claims. That was something else I wish I’d have mentioned. When I had to go meet with my pastor, I had the benefit of knowing someone who was an ex-pastor who advised me in that same way. If the son had been on the phone, I’d have said as much. As it is, I wish I’d have simply added it as a point after the conversation with his mom.
    87: “FAR FAR to patient and have no real idea of when to cut off a conversation,” Which would have been, when, in your estimation?
    94: “dianna’s call sure made for good conversation but it didn’t really need to be that long.” I agree, and have taken the time to read the feedback in hopes of ideas/recommendations on how it could have been effective and shorter. I agree with you that asking her about changing her mind at the outset would have been an appropriate question. I’m not sure I didn’t realize it wasn’t going anywhere, as much as I wanted to make sure her son felt satisfaction, as he now has to go sit with a pastor. My own pastor “meeting” went for several sessions before I was able to get the pastor to admit all he had to go on was faith, not even any good evidence the Bible was, as he asserted, the divinely inspired word of god. There is no way this kid should have to endure that (or even one meeting) while his mother gets off the hook with a 10-minute call. She needed some time in the hot seat, and if nothing else, to look ridiculous for that hour. I don’t do the show to make anyone look bad, but in her case, based on what she’s about to put her kid through, I felt she deserved a bit of being shown up as entirely vapid in front of her boy. I hope he sat there for a good hour thinking “holy cow, my mother looks completely ridiculous.” I hope he enjoyed every second of it. I don’t know if that’s what was happening with him—but there is no way his meeting with the pastor could ever result in him looking half as useless as his mother looked, and pushing off her responsibility to justify her own beliefs on a pastor (who can’t really address her beliefs, but only his own) merited that. “i wish she had stuck to one and make dianna concede before moving on.” Good point. Thank you. “even though tracie talked way lots more, it was dianna who controlled the conversation”. Agreed. I think your earlier point about forcing the concession ties in here.
    99: I also hope her son calls in. I’d love to hear an update, or even if my interpretation of how to handle his mother was what he was looking for. Obviously I hope, as I said on the show “he got his money’s worth,” but if not, I’d want to know that as well.
    102: I hope this is what her son wanted and got as well. The idea of her calling in, just so she can leverage sending him off to let someone else defend “HER” beliefs, is without any honor whatsoever. She didn’t care at all if she looked ridiculous, I would suspect. But I hope he got some satisfaction from it.

    Things I thought later would have been useful:
    >Asking Dianna if her son “feels” there is no god, is that valid, since it’s how he feels about it? How would she go about determining who is correct, if feelings are a basis for truth? While I asked her this in relation to other religious views—I wish I would have used her atheist son.
    >I wish there could have been a greater examination on the point of “evil exists” vs. “miracles can look awful, but are for a greater good.” To me, I can’t see how we could parse those two ideas from each other. How would we differentiate a world where evil exists, from one where miracles can use apparently evil incidents for a greater good? How can we say there are both, when we have no metrics to tell them apart?
    >I wish I’d added for her son that the onus is on the pastor to prove the religious claims—and that he is not required to defend anything. He could literally sit across from the pastor and just say “I don’t know—but you don’t either.” Pastor: “Well, how do you think this universe came to exist?” Son: “I don’t know—but you don’t either. You just pretend to know. You read an old book and just claim that’s how it was done, without understanding or evidence.”

  101. says

    106. I wouldn’t disagree with the evidence being “ambiguous.” I think Jen referenced the more harm than good claim, and I did see a study that asserted that while googling–but it wasn’t consensus. I have several friends who have had different experiences with it. I didn’t really understand the point of the call beyond expressing someone was having a religious AA experience–and didn’t want to over-extend it, but from what I’ve heard, it’s like Boy Scouts–where there are over-arching policies, and then each group kind of gives it their own flavor. I think a lot depends on who you are, and what that group is like. I think the more rigorous studies don’t agree/show consistent positive results. Some other types of studies do show positive results, and in the end, people just need to decide if it works for them or not based on what’s going on with their local chapters.

  102. paxoll says

    Tracy, yes, there is a lot of problems with medical research, a wall of text is not helpful even for people not educated on the topic. I’m not going to dig through each of the studies used in that systematic review, but they were not all from africa, and they were not all surveys.

    Please, anyone reading this, bacteria on the penis has NOTHING to do with HIV transmission. HIV is transmitted through direct blood or seminal fluid fluid contact with broken skin barrier. Bacterial infections, such as syphilis, can cause skin lesions that will allow contact of the fluids with the inside of the body. Mucus membranes such as in the mouth, vagina, anus and to some extent an uncircumcised penis have very thin skin barriers that are much easier to tear through trauma involved during sex.

    Secondly Tracy, condom use while more effective then “MC” (does that stand for male or medical?) for prevention of all sexually transmitted diseases is completely irrelevant to the topic of does circumcision prevent transmission. Abstinence is the most effective by far, but people are not likely to give up sex. People are also not likely to give up sex simply because they don’t have a condom. ALL methods need to be publicized and utilized for maximum results. Thirdly, HIV is hardly the only STD worth talking about, the study shows that HIV has the least evidence (but still positive) for prevention by circumcision. So why is this even worth talking about? It would be like a vegan saying the diet is better for your teeth and someone else saying, just brush your teeth better. It is inconsequential to the “real’ topic. Which is where this is really going. The whole reason it is a topic on the top of many atheists minds, is that it is a traditional religious practice, and it seems like a good way to slam religion. Mutilate children! I already went into this topic when Matt let his ass show during the 21.26 show. Lots of explanations, analogies, and research posted on that thread.

    I appreciate you following the comment section and taking the time to write. I just don’t like when the hosts (not just you) overstep on a topic, usually scientific, that you are not well versed on. Abiogenesis, circumcision, or even veganism (granted vegans aren’t versed on this either and make lots of false claims), there are valid claims and rational arguments that CAN be made on these topics, but I find on the show that these topics are very often presented with false claims and fallacious arguments. I bring this up not because it has any actual relevance to the topic of atheism, which it doesn’t, but because when the hosts do chose to address these kinds of topics and get it wrong, it hurts your credibility.

  103. bigjay says

    I understand and empathize with those who think Dianna was allowed too much time. I get your point. But I have to remind myself sometimes that this show isn’t all about me and what I want in a call. Those of us who have been around awhile and heard all the stupid stuff theists believe and say can get tired of callers like Dianna, but remember, there are others out there who haven’t listened to every episode. They might get a lot out of hearing Tracie and Jen patiently walk through all of Dianna’s statements and refute them one by one.

    At least she was a theist caller!

  104. Net says

    I can see why someone would fear death. Especially an atheist. I like to exist. The thing that helped (other than realizing that the universe will be dead place in few hundreds or thousands of billions of years, because there might be other universes to explore) is that my consciousness changes over time. I am not the same person I was yesterday (I am rather similar though) and I am definitely the same person I was when I was 18 or 10 or 6. You die every second, probably every length of Planck time, and you are reborn, very similar to what you were a second ago but slightly different. The differences accumulate over time. When you die there will be one big change, but not any bigger than was the one when you were conceived. Once you are worried that you die every second the fear of death in distant future should not take too much of your time.

  105. Nathan says

    Thanks paxoll for your wall of text, since I see no reason to take what you say is credible and no reason to believe you aren’t overstepping on everything you say we can all ignore you.

  106. Nathan says

    You won’t look through the studies she posted, so . . .

    Nope, not thick, but you sure have a fetish for cutting off foreskins.

  107. bujesus says

    Jen & Tracie, while Dianna’s call was long, it highlighted how frustrating circular thinking and confirmation bias can be. Mind you, I listen at 1.5x speed, so it was shorter for me! Haha. Tracie, religions have spent thousands of years perfecting the use of slippery logic, vague definitions and feel-good justifications to make sure the vegan poop don’t stick. While Dianna was well-versed and highly-skilled at being evasive (having been taught from infancy), you hold no blame for not being able to pin her down. While she may think she “held her own” in the discussion, I hope that anyone else still on the fence would see there was no substance to any of her arguments.

    The only thing I would have pointed out earlier is that she selectively cherry-picks good things she sees in life and throws them into the “God” basket and throws bad things into the “We’re Fallen” or “Devil” basket, thus confirming her entrenched beliefs. One of the most despicable habits is people who throw clearly bad things into the “God” basket by saying, “maybe something good will come out of it”. An example would be justifying your child’s death by brain cancer by saying that God wanted him/her early. Or that the most recent hurricane was God’s response to homosexual behaviour. Or, “my recent car accident made me realise I didn’t love God enough”. I drives me nuts.

    For some people, (1) God Created Everything (of course), (2) Everything Exists (I see trees), therefore (3) God Exists (ta da!) is all the proof they require. They are gullible and self-deluded, yet incapable of recognising this in themselves.

  108. t90bb says

    In see that Tracie posted and a good portion of her responses where directed to me. She made good points about why some of my input was not constructive. For the record:
    1. I am a huge Tracie fan
    2. I do not judge a call’s quality by length
    3. I am not looking for knockouts or “gotchas”….but when clear points are scored its important to have the other side take note or we are only spinning our wheels. And trust me, to my view…”TRACIE SCORED A LOT OF POINTS!”…..if that call was a prize would have been stopped by the ref!

    I do feel that Dianna was unwilling or unable to acknowledge her failed and potentially dangerous “reasonong” (or lack of). And sure there was enough here to make it a longer than usual call…..but to let her ramble on using the same basis that only 15 minutes earlier she recognized as unreliable got tedious. Asking her to acknowledge to what she had previously agreed with might have been helpful. If she refused to do this then dropping her politely might have been in order. And asking callers to “think on it” was recommended for when callers seem to take contradictory or inconsistent positions. Asking callers to review the call, PICK a position (they cant have both positions), and call back to discuss further seems a nice way to end a call that seems unable to go further..

    I admit I feel like a bit of a dick for the tone in some of my posts. I really do admire all of those associated with the show. Its very important work, and they all do it 100 times better than I could. Tracie is actually one of my favorites. Again, Tracie and Jen exposed Diannas flawed foundation very well. I guess I just got a bit bored with them landing punches and Dianna obliviously blathering on. But as I have been reminded by many of you…its not my show. lol…love you all.

  109. Net says

    What really bothers me about Dianna is that a lot of people think that way. Reason is stranger to them if not an enemy, they use feelings. They cherrypick anecdotal evidence to strengthen their position and ignore large scale data. Those are people who have no trouble believing that Earth is flat, because it does not feel round or that life was created, because it seems too complex to happen on its own. They can be mostly harmless though sometimes they can be very dangerous when they got to position of power. They do not care for the truth, they are happy with what feels to be true. Anyway it is very difficult to understand their position, because they do not understand their own position, they do not use reason, they use feelings and feelings change. You ask them whether they are for death penalty for known ter terrorist and they are all for it, it feels so right. You ask them whether they fear of miscarriage of justice when it comes to death penalty and they are definitely against it, because it feels just wrong to risk murdering an innocent person.

    Their position shifts depending on how you ask them and they do not even notice something is wrong with that.

  110. James H. says

    The marathon call was great. It is calls like this that make the show interesting. Also Jen & Tracie are truly the dynamic duo! Always a good show when they are on.

  111. Munt says

    Hey Jen and Tracie, love your work … and all the rest of the team @ tAE <3

    Thank you for spending so much time with the lady who planned to drag her son along to a cult official. Great job on getting her to analyse her beliefs. I think a little bit more time should have been spent pointing out the harm of forcing her son to sit in counsel with a harmful human being intent on infecting him with a destructive mind virus.

    Keep up the good work,

  112. James H. says

    @ 107 I was raised w/o religion and have actually known very few believers on anything more than a cordial basis (I’m 50 if that says anything). I enjoyed the marathon call. It was illuminating to me how strong of a force indoctrination can actually be. Of course not every moment was diamonds, but for the most part I found it entertaining, enlightening and instructive and was actually glad it took up most of the show. I much prefer it to atheist calls, particularly the ones who are looking for gotcha tips on debating (so boring). Tracy & Jen are both experts at critical thinking and I alway learn something from them.

  113. Secular Strategy says

    I’ll just throw my two cents into the dog pile (that’s how it works, right?)

    I think there’s two ways of looking at the Dianna call: Either it was much longer than it needed to be, or the time was not used wisely. The central problem is that she made it clear right from the start that she does not think that evidence is very useful. After that, one is forced to make a decision about where the conversation will go. If evidence is going to play a role, then we need to resolve this issue first.

    To use a car analogy: Imagine you decide to sell a car to someone, and he immediately tells you that he’s Amish. There’s no point talking about the heated seats or cup holders. There’s a bigger issue to resolve first.

  114. says

    Thinking it over, the only problem that I can see with the Dianna call was that she was not asked right at the start “Please define the God you believe in”.
    Working down from her “god is love” to “Is your god Zeus? Is your god the big crocodile that lives in the river? Is he the same god Catholics pray to?” Then start the “does your god actually DO anything?” “Does he/she/it care if you masturbate?” might have started the conversation on a more definite footing. As it was Dianna just assumed any mention of “god” was, of course, her personal, Christian type god.

  115. RationalismRules says

    @Secular Strategy #121
    Tracie addressed the question of evidence a couple of times during the call through the cheating partner scenario. She pointed out to Dianna more than once that her ‘feels’ were based on evidence in some cases and not others.

    Also, your point would make sense if the goal were to change Dianna’s mind, but as Tracie stated post-call and in her comments above, her aim was to expose Dianna’s flawed thinking, for the son as much as for anyone else.

  116. flinthound says

    “Please don’t let Tracie run the show again until she figures out how to end a call that isn’t going anywhere.”

    Calls with non-skeptical theists never go “anywhere” during the duration of the call itself. No one expects them to. Tracie’s arguments appeal to skeptics and theists who walks a fine line between belief and skepticism, of whom there can be many watching and learning the basics of critical thinking.

  117. flinthound says

    “Tracy lost a lot of my esteem that she has built up over the years by not cutting this hopeless case loose much earlier and moving on to more worthy callers.”

    Ron, have you not considered that the show is watched and heard by thousands, and that others you would not deem “hopeless” are being influenced? I never tire of hearing sound reason, and these are exactly the type of arguments that snapped the spell for me approximately one decade ago. Had I not heard them then I would still be entrenched in superstition, vainly seeking to find the asserted invisible friend, and unhappily so. The show is more than what you yourself take away from it, and more than the caller herself… there are others also.

  118. RationalismRules says

    (OT from the current show, but AXP-relevant)

    I’m currently debating a theist on another platform, and I was about to make the free-will counter-argument that Matt D frequently uses: did God reveal himself to Paul/Saul and does Paul/Saul still have free will? (Alternate version: Satan instead of Paul/Saul) I have used this in various arguments, and it always stumps the Xtian opponent.

    However, it just struck me that there is a counter:
    – Paul/Saul no longer has free will regarding belief in god, although he does in every other way
    – The god’s desire for humans to believe in him of their own free will is not invalidated by occasionally choosing to reveal himself to a selected few individuals, especially if those individuals are the method for spreading the word.

    Now that I’ve thought of it, it seems blindingly obvious. Dang it! I liked that argument, and now I can’t use it anymore.

  119. paxoll says

    RR, the argument is still valid. 1) the argument most often comes from why doesn’t god reveal himself to the atheist in the same way, obviously god doesn’t have any reason not to since he did with Saul. 2) if it takes away free will belief, then god doesn’t necessitate belief to be saved, unless he was condemning saul by revealing himself. 3) Since god can reveal himself, not revealing himself to atheists means he doesn’t want atheists to believe or be saved. Obviously xtians can simply say god can do whatever he wants, but it means that their typically held beliefs about god are not true.

  120. Monocle Smile says

    That’s not a counter. It’s an excuse. The “free will” thing is a non-starter, since the bible is replete with the god fucking around with the volition of human beings.

  121. RationalismRules says

    I agree that there are plenty of arguments that invalidate free will – not least the fact that belief is not actually a function of will. I’m just saying that Matt D’s counter is flawed.
    Xtians say god wants us to ‘come to him’ of our own free will, and personal revelation would compromise that, which is why he doesn’t reveal himself to everyone.
    Matt D’s counter only works if everyone has to have free will in order for god to be happy. Removing free will from a few individuals doesn’t compromise everyone else’s free will.

    So long as the Xtian opponent responds to “Does Paul/Saul still have free will?” with “Yes”, then Matt D’s counter works. My point is, to defeat Matt D’s counter, they just need to say “No, Paul/Saul no longer has free will on the issue of belief, but everyone else still does”, which kills that line of argument.

    if it takes away free will belief, then god doesn’t necessitate belief to be saved, unless he was condemning saul by revealing himself.

    No, the god can still require belief to be saved – Paul/Saul definitely believes. The god might value free will belief more highly than forced belief (ie. personal revelation), so only reveal itself for other reasons (to get a 600 year old drunkard to build an ark, for example)
    Also, you are implying that god cannot make exceptions to his own rules, which doesn’t fit with any notion of god I’ve encountered.

  122. paxoll says

    RR, Yes god can make exceptions to his own rules as evident throughout the entire bible, which is contrary to repeated statements throughout the bible of god being unchanging and the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. One of the fairly large contradictions in religious beliefs. Which is one reason if god can reveal himself to saul and perform miracles, he should still do so. Also if god reveals himself then you are no longer believing by faith… Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him… This appears to say belief without faith is impossible, implying that revelation wouldn’t be belief, or conversely, that revelation would not take away the power to believe, equally invalidating the theists argument.

  123. Monocle Smile says

    The counter isn’t flawed…you’ve just stumbled upon the entire purpose of that line of argumentation. It’s not really a counter in the classical sense. If the theist responds with “no,” then they’ve created a whole host of other problems they can’t solve. This has everything to do with thinking coherently about the big picture along with the details and little to do with the technicalities. It’s extremely important to stop drawing constricting boundaries around problems like this, because Matt’s approach is holistic and Socratic in nature.

  124. Evil God of the Fiery Cloud says

    Perhaps I’m missing something here, but is what God looking for necessarily belief or rather worship/adoration/love? In most cases in MY interactions with Christians (as well as my own understanding when I was one) the important thing wasn’t so much believing in God/accepting his existence as submitting yerself to him. Matt’s argument is usually that even if God revealed his existence in an indisputable way that doesn’t mean he’d start worshipping him, however God won’t even resolve the issue as to whether he exists or not.
    The theist will generally argue that such a demonstration of his existence would remove the free will of someone to accept God or not, but Matt rightly points out that if Satan exists then he CERTAINLY knows God exists and this knowledge didn’t prevent him from rejecting what God wanted. Therefore as humans with free will, we could learn of God’s existence and still reject his authority.
    So forgive me for being obtuse, but I don’t see the flaw in Matt’s argument if we understand that the issue isn’t necessarily belief but submission. I can understand the issue in that in the mind of many theists, it tends to be a 1:1 where accepting God’s existence instantly means recognizing him as the supreme authority. This is why ye can occasionally experience their frustration in these discussions where ye say that even if God’s existence was proven beyond a reasonable doubt that doesn’t mean ye’d suddenly bow down and worship him.

  125. thedude198644 says

    To Kanaan,

    If you’re reading, a bit of background. I’ve dealt with depression and anxiety as far back as my teenage years. I’m 31 and even as recent as earlier this year was dealing with death anxiety. Everyone has good intentions as far as providing their perspectives on the matter, but I never found any of it all that helpful.

    Something I did find helpful earlier this year was to set a timer on my phone for 5 mins. While I was driving, I gave myself 5 mins to think about death. Specifically about what would happen after I died. Since I am an atheist and don’t believe that I will survive my death, I wasn’t worried about what I’d experience. Instead I focused on my friends and family and how they’d react, or what would happen with my cats, or what would happen with all of my belongings. When my phone timer beeped, I stopped thinking about death and went about my day. I did this for a few days in a row. I stopped after 4-5 days, but I’d already started to feel better. I guess it’s sort of like immersion therapy for death.

    If that helps you, then I’m glad. Either way I hope you find something to help you feel better.

  126. RationalismRules says

    I take your point that it’s the beginning of a line of argumentation rather than a stop-dead counter, but I’m not really convinced that the god revealing itself to some individuals and not others is so problematic. It seems to me if you go down that path you’re heading into even more technicalities, because you’re going to have to make an argument that these issues have to apply to every single human in the same way, which gets you into arguing the interpretation of individual verses.

    I’m happy to play the theist if you’re interested in exploring this. Equally happy to not.

    That’s a good added perspective, although it doesn’t entirely correspond to the Xtianity I was brought up with. My version said that if you believe Jeebus died for your sins you are saved. That’s it. They were very clear on that point. All the other stuff – submitting to god’s will, living like Jeebus etc. etc. – was all terribly important, but aspirational rather than disqualifying.

    There is a problem with the Satan argument, in that Satan is an angel, not a human. If I were a theist I would simply argue that free will / belief may apply differently for angels.

  127. Evil God of the Fiery Cloud says

    My version said that if you believe Jeebus died for your sins you are saved. That’s it. They were very clear on that point.

    I’ve had experience with that particular flavor of christianity as well, but I fail to see how it really changes the point. Wasn’t the original argument about belief in God in general and not the specifics of Jesus dying? I was under the impression that we were discussing that God revealing his existence would somehow override free will and force whoever he revealed himself to to become a jibbering fanatic.
    I mean maybe God has a sorta Lovecraftian quality to himself where instead of driving one mad it turns them into sycophants. The idea’s not without precedent. I seem to recall the legend of Semele who was a paramour of Zeus who was tricked into asking him to reveal his true form to her by Hera and upon seeing it was burned away. Even in the Old Testament here and there there’s bits where direct exposure to God has powerful effects on people.
    However, I never really hear anyone making the argument that God’s presence is just overriding to mortals. Usually the argument I hear is that if he were to definitely verify his existence it somehow makes us unable to still think he’s an asshole who’s unworthy of worship.

    There is a problem with the Satan argument, in that Satan is an angel, not a human. If I were a theist I would simply argue that free will / belief may apply differently for angels.

    Hahaha, not sure I would necessarily call this a “problem” with the Satan argument. Speculating on the nature of free will from another hypothetical species not demonstrated to exist is kinda going further down the rabbit hole than one needs to for arguments sake.

  128. RationalismRules says


    I fail to see how it really changes the point

    I’m not even sure I have this clear in my own mind, but I’ll give it a go. The belief in Jeebus is not in itself the issue, but it affects the lens through which you view the issue.
    If your lens on the issue is ‘belief’, as mine is, personal revelation by god does kill off your ‘free will’ on that particular issue.
    If your lens on the issue is ‘submission’, as yours is, it could be argued that personal revelation by god doesn’t invalidate your free will to submit.

    What I find interesting is that I’ve yet to encounter a single Xtian who says “No, Paul/Saul no longer has free will”. Prior to this conversation I was thinking this might be because ‘free will’ is such a foundational concept for them that they couldn’t even consider the idea that god could take it away from someone. Now I thinking maybe it is more an indicator that your ‘submission’ view is the pervasive one.

    Hahaha, not sure I would necessarily call this a “problem” with the Satan argument.

    It was a problem for me recently. The theist doesn’t have to actually go down the rabbit hole, they just have to point to it.
    Me: Did Satan absolutely know god exists? Does Satan still have free will?
    Xtian: Are you comparing Satan to humans?
    Me: (considers the looming rabbit hole, and switches to Paul/Saul example)
    …and this was not a skilled opponent.

  129. Monocle Smile says


    because you’re going to have to make an argument that these issues have to apply to every single human in the same way, which gets you into arguing the interpretation of individual verses.

    No, it doesn’t. You can ignore the theology at that point and merely ask “well, that’s a stupid-ass way of going about accomplishing this so-called plan. Why is your god stupid?” And if the theist argues that it’s not stupid, they basically become a sitting duck. Because god “revealing himself” only to certain people while providing absolutely nothing to help them convince other people is indistinguishable from god not existing. It’s extremely problematic; screw the theology.

    Like I said, the “yes” answer is expected, but the “no” answer is even worse for the theist, so the line of argumentation works either way.

  130. RationalismRules says


    “That’s a stupid-ass way of going about accomplishing this so-called plan”

    …takes you straight back to the free-will argument. If the god wants people to believe ‘of their own free will’ rather than from compelling evidence, how better to achieve that than telling a small number of people to spread the word? Yes, that means the god wants its adherents to ignore the superior cognition with which it has gifted them, and to be superstitious rather than skeptical, but if that’s what the god wants then the methodology is not a bad one, as far as I can see.

    [Caveat: this is argued from the point of view that ‘believing of your own free will’ is a coherent concept. It isn’t, but that’s a totally different line of argument]

    Because god “revealing himself” only to certain people while providing absolutely nothing to help them convince other people is indistinguishable from god not existing.

    No sir. A non-existent god cannot interact with anyone, so a god that interacts with some people is definitely distinguishable from that.

  131. Evil God of the Fiery Cloud says

    @RR – 134
    I agree we’re coming at it from 2 different angles. I don’t see belief in and of itself being the issue many theists are talking about even if that’s the wording they use. Again it’s because for most they don’t understand how one could be definitely aware of God and not devote themselves to him, whereas for non-theists that idea is so weird it’s rarely immediately considered. The show itself has had several examples of this over the years (though eff if I can recall any of them specifically, hahaha).

    Me: Did Satan absolutely know god exists? Does Satan still have free will?
    Xtian: Are you comparing Satan to humans?
    Me: (considers the looming rabbit hole, and switches to Paul/Saul example)
    …and this was not a skilled opponent.

    In this case I think my response would have been “are ye saying that there’s different kinds of free will? Either explain yerself or please don’t change the subject.” ESPECIALLY because they’re implying specifics of a race that’s not demonstrated to exist, I don’t see this as any kind of defeater so much as a “baffle them with bullshit” tactic. Otherwise I see no reason to think “free will” (whether it truly exists or not) needs to be different for any thinking agent be they man, angel, elf, saiyan, wookie or whatever.

  132. Monocle Smile says

    Like I said, there are many more problems here.

    If the god wants people to believe ‘of their own free will’ rather than from compelling evidence, how better to achieve that than telling a small number of people to spread the word?

    You can’t be serious. The desire itself is pigheaded, and the methodology doesn’t actually do anything. If there are multiple religions flying around and there’s absolutely nothing to distinguish one from another in a real sense, this mission will always fail.

    [Caveat: this is argued from the point of view that ‘believing of your own free will’ is a coherent concept. It isn’t, but that’s a totally different line of argument]

    No. It’s all part of the same package. I recommend being much more holistic about this, otherwise you’ll get trapped by Catholics who love writing thousands of words on very specific theological issues only to ignore all of it in favor of more word salad for other issues.

    No sir. A non-existent god cannot interact with anyone, so a god that interacts with some people is definitely distinguishable from that.

    Logical positivism wins out here. If you’re not one of the “chosen,” then the two are equivalent. And if you ARE one of the chosen but have no way to confirm that, then the two are ALSO equivalent. I reject the notion of “subjective truth” (read: reality conforms to perceptions).

    The overall message is that the very specific point that you want to isolate isn’t nearly as relevant as you think. The theist doesn’t “win,” they have effectively destroyed their own land to weaken a specific counter. But this means that Matt’s line of argumentation works! To repeat, I recommend getting away from isolation of theological issues and looking at big-picture epistemology and reasoning.

  133. RationalismRules says

    Don’t be so concerned about my lack of holism. I am interested in exploring specific lines of argument to see where the strongest arguments lie, not because I lack an overall picture.

    Also, I don’t find that a holistic approach is the best for me in debate – it’s too unfocused to be effective. I respect and admire your and Matt’s ability to follow a gish-galloping goalpost shifter all around the spectrum of apologetics in one conversation, but it’s not my skill set. I’m better at focusing on a single issue and drilling into it, so that’s what I tend to do.

  134. Monocle Smile says

    Cool, I guess, but you’re probably going to have a bad time. Religious apologetics are specifically designed to focus on single theological issues at a time (“pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”), and if you’re not going to correctly identify ridiculous ideas as such when you “drill down” (like in the example you mentioned), I really can’t help you. Nor do I understand why you choose to do this. A theist can pitch a thousand excuses for any one particular problem, and it’s only by looking at the other consequences of those excuses do we see their weakness.

    Besides, the “strongest arguments” never have anything to do with the details of theology and everything to do with empirical evidence (well, the lack thereof). Talking theology with christians is mostly to humor them because they ignore the stark lack of evidence or don’t know how to think.

  135. StonedRanger says

    Just out of curiosity, am I the only one who cant see the video posting here? It was up for a day or two and then it went away.

  136. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @StonedRanger #147:

    am I the only one who cant see the video posting here?

    In the OP, I only see “<video insert>”.
    Video: Axp – 21.46 Vegan Poop (1:49:25)

  137. johnmaskelyne says

    I might be being stupid but why does having good evidence for something remove your free will to believe it or not? There are surely innumerable situations where we would say there was good evidence for propositions yet people do not believe, despite that evidence?

  138. Evil God of the Fiery Cloud says

    @johnmaskelyne – 149

    I seem to recall an old episode where Jeff Dee pointed out that there’s actual evidence that the world is a sphere and yet people persist with the flat earth hypothesis and called the idea that people can’t believe what they want despite evidence to the contrary “ridiculous.”

    There are days when I really do miss Jeff Dee as a host, hahaha.

  139. QueenBoadicea says

    Did you ladies hear the throwaway comment she made that atheists are evil? She then speaks of how great it would be if we all loved each other, presumably because God is love and therefore we should follow his example. I wonder if she can love evil people. Can she love Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin or any of the people who owned slaves in America? If so, then her love is meaningless. Love given so easily to such people is dangerous. Hitler’s people loved him so much they used his name as a greeting and their collusion with his immoral ideas allowed the deaths of 6 million Jews. It was only people who stood against Hitler (including some Germans who sheltered Jews and helped them evade capture) that brought an end to his reign of terror. I wonder where atheists stand in her views about love.

  140. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    This free will discussion reminds me of a novel series that I just read, and that I thoroughly recommend to everyone here if this brief description sounds interesting to you. It’s legally and freely available online, directly from the author.

    I would start quoting this story alongside Stargate SG-1 in future discussions if it had the same sort of popularity, but sadly it doesn’t. Maybe I can change that for the better!

    In particular, in this whole free will discussion, I think that we often grant way too many premises of the religious position, when the real consequences of the religious position are far, far darker, as per this story, and the quoted bit below concerning how the story is a literary deconstruction of Christianity in general.

    The Salvation War is a Web Original trilogy that premiered online in the beginning of 2008, asking a simple question: what if God announced that everyone’s time was up, and that Satan was coming to claim the bodies and souls of everyone on earth?

    The answer author Stuart Slade gives is simple: the governments of the world declare war on Heaven and Hell, and bring upon them all the might of the modern military services aided by every single technological advancement we’ve made since the Bible Times.

    In short, the series can be summarized as war fiction heavy on Technology Porn in the vein of Larry Bond or John Ringo that goes on a ramming course in order to deconstruct apocalyptic horror along the lines of The Taking or the hard-handed evangelism of Left Behind.

    The first book, Armageddon???, follows the fight against the forces of Hell, and all the tasks that must be accomplished to win first that fight, and then the one against Heaven itself.

    Clarke’s Third Law:

    The demons have Bronze-age technology. The humans have 21st century technology. The demons, naturally, think that the humans are using magecraft of epic proportions.

    Another example is the demons’ own technology. They have, through trial and error, discovered a way to enhance their portal making abilities through sets of amplifying antennae with wires stretched between them. So far as the demons believe, these are shrines for powerful interdimensional spirits aiding them.


    Of the Demonic Invaders. In real life, they would had been curbstomped by humanity’s modern weaponry just the same way as in the story.

    Of Biblical tropes in general, really. Take the supernatural elements of The Bible and Word of Dante, make them conform to the laws of physics enough to interact with the real world but otherwise play them as straight as possible, put them in the modern world, and what do you get? A joke. God Is Evil, the Demonic Invaders are ugly but no real threat to a modern army, the only really bad thing about Hell is the torture, and Heaven is supernaturally clean but still basically a Third World country. It would all be awe-inspiring to a Bronze Age culture but not to anyone who has ever driven a car.

    And a shout-out to the name of Matt’s wiki. The author of the story also has a good sense of humor. Here is a demon’s reaction to tanks:


  141. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Because I love this story so much, and I suspect lots of others here will, and I want to sell it, let me quote a little bit of the official story FAQ.

    How did a story like this get started

    The question came up on SDN, what would happen if irrefutable proof came up that the whole human race was condemned to hell and always had been. That hope of salvation was a myth? The general consensus was tha humanity would fight, if for no other reason than its better to go down fighting than just lay down and die. Also, if they can interact with us, we must be able to interact with them – all we need to do is find out how. At that point, reading the thread, I got interested and started to think on how we would fight back (I’m a professional military analyst). Reading up on how daemons were supposed to fight and what they had to fight with, it resolved into “we can do that” , “we can do that”, “they can’t do that”, “they wouldn’t even understand how we did that”. It quickly became apparent that daemons as described in the appropriate mythology don’t stand a hope in hell against us. The phrase “hope in hell” set a light off in my head and so The Salvation War started. It caught on.

    The thing to think about here is this. Virtually all our military advances have taken placed in the last few years. Taking a human lifetime as the traditional three score years and ten, one human lifetime takes us back to 1939. At that time battleships still ruled the sea, the best fighters were 300mph aircraft armed with machine guns. Armies were still virtually all infantry that walked around armed with bolt-action rifles. Armored warfare and so on were untried concepts. At best, they could fight the daemon hordes on roughly even terms. Go back another human lifetime and we’re in 1870. No aircraft, wooden warships powered by sails (if the crew are lucky, with steam assistance) and armed with smoothbore muzzle-loading cannon form the bulk of the world’s navies. Most armies have muzzle-loading muskets and smooth-bore direct line-of-sight artillery. The Daemons will walk all over them. Back when the mythologies were written, those authoring them gave the daemons the most frightful weapons they could imagine. To us, now, those weapons are jokes, pathetic and feeble things that we can virtually ignore while we slaughter those who carry them with almost impunity. And we’ve gone from there to here in two human lifetimes. What will humanity’s weaponry look like in another two lifetimes? The very thought should be terrifying.

    Nearly all of Armageddon??? is about the people involved and how they adapt to what is happening around/to them. Even the scenes set in battle are focussed on the people and the weapons are described only in terms of what they do to people. The daemons are the most affected, primarily because they are the ones faced with the unimaginable. As humans, we don’t need to imagine what salvo rocket launchers, nerve gas, high explosives, landmines, rifle bullets etc do to their victims because we know. We do it to each other all the time. To somebody with a bronze age mindset, its horrible and unimaginable. Something completely unknown and beyond any form of understanding. Most of Armageddon is about the Daemons coming to grips with that and what it means. The humans end the story much as they started, just sickened by the slaughter they’re inflicting yet grimly determined to keep on inflicting it until their enemy (no longer Daemons) gives up. The daemons change incredibly, read how Memnon enters the story and how he leaves it. He’s gone through an epiphany and he’s done a heelfaceturn. Once a creature of horrific evil, he’s seen where that leads and is seeking a different path – as is the whole of Hell itself.

    The fighting sections of the book (actually about a third of the total) do two things, one is to provide the impetus for the character development, the other is to tell people what weapons do to their victims. Amateurs are all too free with their recommendations to use weapons (eg “Stop illegal immigration by setting minefields along the border”) without understanding what those weapons do. So, I tried to make it clear that weapon effects aren’t nice neat little clean departures but a hideously brutal and cataclysmic way to die. There is a very good reason why most people on a battlefield die screaming. People say ‘war is hell”, Armageddon makes it clear its far worse than that. The way humans kill their enemies fills daemons with terror, that’s worth thinking about as well.

    Why are the Legions of hell stuck in the bronze age, and why did jesus think it more important to bring pot to heaven than I don’t know researching the civilisation they will be destroying soon?

    A bronze age legion of hell was used because that’s what the mythology stipulates.

    Why didn’t the daemons do a detailed reconnaissance before fighting the humans

    They did, it’s just that human progress up to the start of the 19th century was very slow. There was almost no difference between an army of 330BC and 1650 AD. A casual observer would look at the armies of Alexander the Great and Gustavus Adolphus and mumble “still using phalanxes I see” and wander off. For 3,000 years humanity was inching along at a development rate that was about comparable with the daemons themselves. A quick look every two hundred years of so was perfectly adequate for information purposes all that time. So why should the daemons make the decision to change anything? The whole ethos of daemonic society is “don’t rock the boat” and “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. They had a system that worked (and very powerful incentives not to stay away from Hell too long) so why should they suddenly change their system for no apparent reason. They were unlucky that suddenly humanity’s ability to kill leaped forward within a few decades. had the daemons hit in 1945 or 1955 they would still have been in with a chance; they’d have got a hideous bloodying in their first battle but the time period of their defeat would have been slow enough to allow them to react, learn and change. It was the sheer speed of their defeat more than anything else that doomed them; they were behind the curve and outside the OODA loop.

    It should also be pointed out that a lot of real life nations and armies have gone to war with very bad or no intel.

    Why is the only thing going for the baldrics is the fact that they are mostly immune to one of our weakest caliber of bullet.

    That is simply not true. We gave the daemons all of the powers they were supposed to have; extreme strength, the ability to fly, the ability to possess people’s minds, the ability to throw lightning bolts, extreme resistance to damage and gave them all reasonable explanations, if necessary twisting science into knots to do it. But, they got their powers. I think the problem here is that some people have been educated into believing that “having powers” = “automatic victory” and they expect that anybody with “powers” is de facto invincible. What TSW:A does is suggest that “having powers” is not an automatic route to victory. If the technology difference is too great, having “powers” doesn’t help. It doesn’t matter if a being can throw lightning bolts (or have a death-ray glare, whatever) if they are being slaughtered by an enemy they can’t even see and who is using massed indirect artillery fire. The daemons have their powers, it’s just that they don’t matter very much Daemons and angels both have powers that thousands of years ago made them godlike but are much less effective against the firepower and resources modern industrial societies can produce. This is, I think, one of the main points of the stories.

    The daemons put up the best fight they could given the assets that had available; in fact they did pretty well. They survived. “Powers” mean nothing when they are simply irrelevent to the situation as happened here; the same “powers” that made daemons invincible in the far past were meaningless faced with the devastating power of modern military equipment operated by humans. Exact comparison – an armor-clad knight on a modern battlefield. What good does it do him that his armor is impervious to arrow or sword and his destrier can outrun a peasant on foot when he is charging a company of M-1 or T-90 tanks with heavy artillery support? Answer: nothing at all. He’ll die in seconds and all his medieval “powers” don’t count for beans

  142. heathen says

    Dianna is one of the most disgusting, dishonest people I have ever heard! The only person I have encountered like that was a jahovas witness in Texas who had the exact same mix of dishonesty, stupidity and tenacity. They let her get away with wayyyyyyy too much slippery dishonest bullshit just because she acted too stupid to follow the actual point and or topic over and over again.

  143. rune1im says

    For those of you who are interested, there are secular programs to help with addiction, even if it is like a support group. The meetings aren’t as widespread as AA/NA but they are worth looking into: Women for Sobriety, Secular Organization for Sobriety (SOS), Rational Recovery, Men for Sobriety, Moderation Management, SMART Recovery and LifeRing Secular Recovery

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