Open thread for episode 22.02: Tracie and Eric Murphy (of Talk Heathen)

Today on TAE, Tracie and Eric take viewer calls.

The Atheist Experience is a production of the Atheist Community of Austin, a Texas nonprofit educational organization dedicated to the separation of church and state and promoting positive atheist culture.

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Links of interest to this week’s program (to come)


  1. Sacha and Sherrie says

    Hi everyone, and THANK YOU!!
    Just wanted to say a huge “thanks” and express our appreciation for all the amazing work your team does to help people worldwide to wake up from the FOG (Fear, Obligation, Guilt) of religion.
    My wife and I are in Sydney Australia, and have awoken from a lifetime of indoctrination as Jehovah’s Witnesses! (long story)
    The journey to reason and logic is such a liberating and rewarding one, and your show and your team have proven invaluable to us on this journey!
    If you could give us a shout-out today, that would be great….(sorry if that is pushing the friendship a little)
    Again, THANK YOU and warmest love to you all!
    Sacha and Sherrie

  2. paxoll says

    Whenever someone admits some people see them as conspiracy theorists, you can pretty much bet on them having some errors in thinking.

  3. Phil Nomore says

    Eric, AE the Next Generation. Awesome show today. Casual cool logic, without having to pull out the fallacies by name, an approach that works well with the typical AE caller.

  4. beetlenaut says

    The last guy was insufferable, but it turned out to be worth listening to in order to hear that take down. “The end!”

  5. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To paxoll
    True. Having said that, I still hold to about two beliefs where the initial inclination of a lot of people would be to dismiss them as “crackpot” / “conspiracy theory”. Don’t be too quick in dismissing outlandish ideas.

    As concrete example (in addition to my two conspiracy theories), had you told me that almost every modern personal computer, including smartphones, had backdoors that could be accessed over the network / wireless for the CIA / NSA, and that it was baked into the hardware and there was nothing that the end user could do about it (i.e. installing Linux, rooting the Android phone and installing a free image, etc.), my initial inclination would have been to say “that’s outlandish; you’re going to need to start citing some very strong evidence right now”. And then a few weeks ago, that happened to me, and I saw the evidence, and I’m horrified about it, and I’m horrified that most people don’t know about it, and I’m horrified that most people are not up in arms about it. This one isn’t really conspiracy theory material because the evidence is out there and no one really denies the central facts. I’m still foaming mad at the mouth that we as a society has let this happen. #StallmanWasRight

  6. paxoll says

    Please share this evidence. I accept easily that software has backdoors because it was designed by companies and that is simply prudent, I accept that these backdoors are permitted to government agencies on demand because I know the communication companies all do and have been public about it. But if you want to claim that there is a hardware backdoor into a software program? That this backdoor is actively being USED without warrents? I would say prove it.

  7. paxoll says

    Oh, and if you are inclined to preface any post by saying “well you might not believe this evidence..” you should probably not bother posting.

  8. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Heres an intro

    Amd has their own version called the platform security processor, or something.

    On smartphones, the closed source firmware of the baseband chip does the same thing.

    For technical readers check out the libreboot faq.

    The only thing that isn’t proven is that these things don’t contain backsldoors for the NSA. Give the recent revellations by swoden et al, I think one would be a cool to think it less likely than not.

  9. paxoll says

    Lot of unsubstantiated claims in that webpage. Other sources discussing recent issues show that much of it is not applicable to standard home computers, laptops, and devices. Yea, its theoretically possible to use this to spy on my internet use, but they can do that through my local internet provider. They can make my computer a useless lump, but to what end? The best analogy I can think of for this is consider your computer a state of the art safe to keep your valuables in. It has an electric lock, with a backup physical lock, a good extremely heavy and durable construction and a method to fix it onto the floor. Now there is a proprietary (backdoor) to get through the electronic and physical locks, there is detailed schematics on the constructions to make physically breaking into it easier. All of these exploits can be used to get into your safe and and take your valuables. But this firmware is analogous to a special hack that lets someone unfix it from the floor. It is the most useless and unhelpful way to hack someones computer, but a lot of people are freaking out because there is no real personal fix for it. This is literally the most UN-concerning thing I have for my computers and cellphone. This has been a “potential” hack for 10 years and I have found no evidence it has ever been successfully used for anything at all.

  10. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To paxoll
    Exactly what is unsubstantiated? I’ll provide more links as requested.

    The Intel Management Engine has complete root to your computer. It can read or write to main memory, with or without the permission of your operating system. It can lock segments of main memory so that the operating system kernel cannot read or write to those segments of memory; it has to, because it coops portions of main memory for its own usage, and that wouldn’t work unless it locked your operating system out. Because it has direct access to main memory, it can do whatever it wants. Still, to ease the coding of their backdoor, Intel also added a direct connection to the onboard ethernet, added a separate MAC address and a full TCP-IP stack. The Intel Management Engine is even beefy enough that it runs a full web server and a JVM. Because of the wake-on-LAN functionality, if it was maliciously coded (or if it had an exploitable bug), an attacker could turn on your computer remotely as long as the power is plugged in and the network cable is plugged in, and then read and write the contents of your hard drive, and then turn off the computer. You would never know.

    The facts in the preceding paragraph are not contested and admitted by Intel themself (minus the characterization as a backdoor).

    Also see:

    It is the most useless and unhelpful way to hack someones computer
    This was a real security vulnerability for over 7 years that allows an attacker on the network to take over the Intel Management Engine, which means he can run whatever code he wants as root. Anyone who owns the Intel Management Engine owns your Intel computer.

    This has been a “potential” hack for 10 years and I have found no evidence it has ever been successfully used for anything at all.

    And why does that makes you feel better? Did Snowden and Wikileaks teach you nothing?

    I am extremely upset that I do not have root to my computer, and that Intel / CIA / NSA has root to my computer, and they can take over my computer silently as long as it’s connected to a network, and there’s nothing that I can do about it. As long as my computer is plugged into the network and has the power cable plugged in, they can even turn on my computer remotely, and then read any file, and do whatever they want.

    Encrypting your hard drive won’t work, because as soon as your computer starts, the decrypt key is stored in cleartext in main memory, which the Intel Management Engine can take, and use to decrypt the entire hard drive. Given that most people are not going to write their own encrypted disk drivers and instead use one of the few open source ones, it’s trivial for them to include code to watch for the commonly used software.

    Don’t even get me started on other stuff, like how every message over practically every TLS/SSL implementation can probably be read trivially by the CIA / NSA.

    Modern computer security is a sick farce.

  11. Rexlee says

    I enjoyed the show! Great to see Eric on who made good contribution and started to see the fraudster coming out in the last caller. Tracy did a good job on keeping things moving and It is always nice to see Tracy in full flight. Awesome team.

    As far as the positive atheism, I see there are several definitions. In the case where positive atheism is equated with strong atheism, there is a claim that there are no deities, which comes with the burden of proof. Not a good idea!
    Positive atheism I believe are the positive , liberating and good things that flow from not having the burden of having to follow a deity with crazy rules and poisoning the minds of young children and living with the fear of eternal damnation in hell!
    Negative atheism I guess in that context, is being an atheist, but still being a total selfish arse hole similar to many theists.
    It is interesting to look at positive and negative theism and where that takes you!

  12. amuthan says

    I love Eric’s short, direct and confrontational approach. Asks short questions to expose fallacies and explains them by relatable examples. First caller Mark from Toronto was dumbfounded after a long meandering polite conversation when Eric sharply called him out on his inconsistency with a simple question when Mark wanted evidence of Eric’s time travel story but not for the bible stories.

    Gonna have to check out Talk Heathen. I like his no-nonsense approach

  13. says

    I agree 100% with the compliments for Eric on the show this week. I thought his contributions were brief, but carried great impact. I mentioned to him once to twice to please jump in. And after the show I encouraged him, if he’s brought back on another time, to be assertive about making points or inserting questions.

    My problem with the last caller was solved by his on-target intuition with regard to the *real* reason for their call. The mistake I made was in taking the caller at face value and answering the question on good faith. That is, my generosity in accepting the caller as an honest person resulted in me repeatedly trying to find a way to explain a very simple concept to someone who was having inexplicable difficulty grasping that concept. I was legitimately confused about why something so simple was taking so long and being so difficult. When Eric exposed that the caller was JAQing Off, that his question wasn’t honest, that he wasn’t actually wanting an answer–that the caller lied about his topic and interest, in the hopes of starting with “unrelated point X”, so he could work his manipulation on the conversation to try and steer it to what he was hoping would end in some sort of triumphant trap-springing that would make him look victorious and brilliant, I was appreciative. In the end, though, I felt the caller came off as dishonest and incapable of understanding simple points. To me, this is a prime example of why the argument “but they had no (obvious) reason to lie?” is garbage. On the face of it, we have a show where theists aren’t just welcomed but prioritized over other callers. We WANT to hear their positions that are in conflict to our own–and this is publicly expressed. We allow them to choose their own topics, and as long as they’re related to atheism/theism in some way–we take the calls. If there was ever a format more welcoming to telling someone “I’m a theist, I have a belief that conflicts with your own, and I want to offer my arguments and support for my view”–our show would be that format. But this guy called in and said “I would like to understand what you mean by *positive atheist thinking* [actually ‘culture’].” I would have eventually had to give up trying to explain it, because I didn’t get from that “atheists have no basis for morality.” I’m very glad Eric was there and pushed that point and ultimately pulled the truth out of this person.

  14. sayamything says

    First off, I would like to praise Eric and his holy time machine.

    Paul is…I mean, wow. I’m morbidly curious as to where he was going with the Muslim beheading 200 Christians thing. Does he think no bad acts have been committed in the name of God and/or Jesus?

    I liked Tracie’s analogy when it came to Dave and atheism. One of the things I really wish atheists would stop with is the idea that [X] is a religious value, because I can almost guarantee it isn’t. People keep insisting to me that things like sexism and homophobia are issues of religion, and they’re really not. We should probably be less surprised that atheists don’t tend to hold a single position on any issue other than the god claim.

    Ansd I didn’t hit “send” on this before I went to bed. Of course.

  15. Tom R. says

    Tracy needs to make the callers get to their point faster and and move things along quicker. I end up fast forwarding the video because she goes on and on and on with these clowns for far too long. GET MATT BACK STAT!

  16. paxoll says

    EnlightenedLiberal, all I can say without spending any more time on this then I already have (i have read every link and links within those links) is that you don’t seem to really understand what is being said in these sources. I gave you my response which is still accurate after looking though your new links. If you need more tinfoil set up a gofundme.

  17. sayamything says

    It’s always strange to hear Tracie dogged for long calls. It’s especially strange to hear it and praise for Matt at the same time, since Matt has done a ton of calls over 30 minutes, some stretching to an hour or so.

  18. DMuir says

    I was very impressed with Eric and Tracie’s handling of the theist callers. I do wonder with Mark how much of his conversion, besides his own personal issues, also comes down to not understanding fallacious arguments. I was amazed that Eric could figure out that the final theist was pulling a Sye Ten on them.

    The call with Paul reminded me a lot of the call that Tracie and Jen had with Diane from maybe a month ago, in terms of the emotions aspect of it.

  19. says

    >…the idea that [X] is a religious value, because I can almost guarantee it isn’t. People keep insisting to me that things like sexism and homophobia are issues of religion, and they’re really not. We should probably be less surprised that atheists don’t tend to hold a single position on any issue other than the god claim.

    I would want to clarify I agree it’s observable that an atheist/nonreligious person can be sexist and/or homophobic. Taking society out of the church, doesn’t take the church out of society–clearly. But I wouldn’t lose sight of the corresponding fact that religious influence (including a great deal of sexism and homophobia) has shaped society in the West for thousands of years. That is, while a person does not have to be theist or religious to maintain these prejudices, I’d still recognize they are, and have been, religiously influenced prejudices.

  20. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To keep it short, no, I understand that those sources say, and ftb’s resident security expert blogger Marcus ranum has confirmed my understanding, and also said that however bad I think it is, it’s probably worse.

  21. Nazzul says

    Just finished listening and I had to take a break from work to comment. What a great show. Tracy and Eric were on point and that ending was soooo good, that I yelled and scared my office mate. I really feel for that Paul guy he seemed like a newly indoctrinated teen and it sounded like he was struggling with his perceived sins. I wonder if he is gay and was ashamed of it, he did mention homosexuality in his preaching. Again I was pumped at the end of the show once again Tracie is a great host with a much different style then Matt. I also hope to see Eric more I am going to listen to his most recent Talk Heathens and maybe even work up the courage to call next week.

  22. says

    nazzul @ 23:

    I wonder if he is gay and was ashamed of it, he did mention homosexuality in his preaching.

    that crossed my mind as well. he could be a textbook victim of psychological transference on display …

    paul @ 30:05:

    in my relationship with jesus, i’m just falling more and more in love with jesus. like, there’s no one closer to me than jesus. like, he’s my best friend, he’s my true love, he’s my father, he’s my dad …

    at the very least, with jesus he’s practicing safe sex.

  23. StonedRanger says

    Having seen Eric on the talk heathens show and based on the fact that they let people like Hamish blather on, I was not inclined to watch the show. But, I did watch the show and Ive got to say I was wrong, Eric did a great job yesterday. Well spoken and to the point. I too hope he comes back to co host here. I think that its great that AXP is expanding its roster with great new co hosts. Great show all around today.

  24. bawdygeorge says

    I very much enjoyed hearing Eric and Tracey call out Luke on his dishonest tactics, reducing him to a smoldering grease stain. Way to wrap up the show… bravo!

  25. Ryan Boone says

    I’m reaching out to Dave who is having trouble finding a place for a conservative in the atheist community. Tracie made mention of the table at CPAC, and it compares well with something I’m involved in doing in Virginia.

    As a part of Secular Coalition for America’s Secular Values Voter campaign, I’m working with other Democrats in my state to for a secular caucus within the Virginia Democratic Party. A similar effort was successful in Texas and a secular caucus is official, even having the resolutions they submitted become a part of the party platform.

    I’m working with Sarah Levin, Senior Legislative Representative for SCA. If you want to get in contact with her or me reach out by email. She may already know conservatives in Texas who are secular and trying to make secular changes to the Republican party. Best of luck.

    Ryan Boone

    Sarah Levin

  26. Wiggle Puppy says

    @ Tracie 21: yes, and a big part of this has to do with religion’s propensity for looking down upon science (and the idea of deferring to empirical evidence more generally). If you’re someone who values empirical evidence, then when animals ranging from goats to rabbits to whales display homosexual activity, it’s kind of hard to argue that homosexuality is not “natural” and therefore hard to make a compelling case that such persons should be socially condemned and have various rights withheld from them. If however, one holds to the dogma of one’s holy book and/or cultural upbringing and ignores all empirical evidence to the contrary, then it’s easy to cast homosexuals as a deviant group deserving of scorn. So even though anti-gay attitudes might not be, strictly speaking, “religious” attitudes, it’s kind of easy to see why, on the whole, fundamentalist sects of religions tend to be more rabidly anti-gay than atheist groups.

  27. says

    @Ryan–thank you so much for the input. I was remiss this week in driving callers to the blog. I think “Dave in Dallas” would have been a prime candidate, and now I wish I’d have suggested he come here for recommendations. Still, good move to pre-emptively post this, in case he stops by–or even in case someone else in his shoes drops by. I think it’s a fantastic idea to start a secular section of either party–DNC or RNC. I’ve seen efforts to start secular styled parties–but this sounds far more pragmatic and potentially useful (just my opinion–I know others may disagree).

  28. says

    @Wiggle – believe it or not, Christianity — some sects — evolved methods to condemn homosexuality and still accept it’s going to inevitably be the natural inclination for some human beings. These groups framed it as a comparison to alcoholism. Basically the idea is that a person can be born more predisposed to alcoholism than someone else, but that is just their burden to bear in a constant struggle to avoid that particular temptation throughout their lives. I do agree with you that I have seen fierce defenders from the Christian side who seem as though they’d rather die than even acknowledge homosexuality may be naturally occurring, but even when confronted with compelling observations to show this reality, some accept it, and simply adopt an attitude of pitiful condemnation than self-righteous condemnation.

  29. paxoll says

    I’m curious on what Dave meant by “conservative”, and how he is ostracized from atheist groups. If he is talking about some online forum I would be curious what forum and what was the topic of conversation. There are a lot of “left” wing nuts out there that do not use critical thought, do not use rationality, and will not converse civilly. You can find them popping up here typically as vegans proponents, but the audience in this particular blog is not particularly welcoming to bad arguments regardless of the topic. They typically leave after trying and failing multiple times to put together an argument. So I am curious and mentioned in the stream multiple times I wish he would describe or define how he is conservative.

  30. Bill Bo says

    @El #11 If you do not plug your computer directly into the network, but rather into a router that has all incoming ports closed by default you should be safe. I never connect to an external network without a router in between. Of course the router may have a backdoor. I know my router has a management port that I cannot close. But there is a setting to turn remote management off. I trust that it honors that setting. They would need physical access to my machine to break into it.

  31. says

    Yay, Tracie! I was so glad to hear you chew out that guy, he totally deserved it. As soon as I heard him comment something like “So then atheism has a moral imperative to…” I realized that he was not being honest. Even though a lot of what you said about “positive atheist culture” was really good stuff, I was hopping up and down in my seat wanting you guys to get to his real issue, and so glad when Eric finally caught on to what he was up to. Good show, and let’s have Eric back some more.

  32. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To Bill Bo

    I trust that it honors that setting.

    Why would you trust that? Because they told you too? Lol. I used to be that naive and trusting, but no more, not after the shenanigans that I’ve learned about. It might be true that it does what it says, and there seems to be rather high chances that the setting just lies to you no matter what checkbox you select. This is especially true after what I’ve read about DRM methods with Windows 10 and the Intel Management Engine, and the history over previous attempts such as the Clipper chip.
    Somehow, it looks like they got Intel and AMD to do it, and this time everyone just accepted it.

    […] but rather into a router that has all incoming ports closed by default you should be safe.

    You’re referring to the default home router NAT scheme whereby all incoming packets are rejected unless they correspond to a previous outgoing packet (more or less), right? Great, so what happens when the Intel Management Engine decides to initiate the connection with an outbound connection?

    Regarding your suggestion: I’ve thought about using similar approaches, such as using trusted hardware with completely open software (including open and replaceable firmware), such as a Raspberry Pi. (I’m not sure if the Raspberry Pi hardware can be trusted. I’m using it “for the sake of argument”.) There’s even open source initiatives out there that use a Raspberry Pi for precisely this purpose – a hardware firewall.

    However, the more I thought about it, the more that I realized it was pointless. It might work if I used an explicit whitelist approach and forbid incoming or outgoing to any other IP. However, internet browsing becomes basically impossible with an explicit whitelist approach for outgoing traffic. If I want to browse web pages, then the Intel Management Engine could masquerade as web request coming from my computer, and there’s nothing I could do about that.

    I even thought about taking Firefox source and building it myself, and trying to do a security-through-obscurity approach, like making Firefox always set the evil bit on outgoing Firefox traffic (is this even possible? I don’t know),
    which would allow my Raspberry Pi router to distinguish between legitimate Firefox traffic and Intel Management Engine traffic (e.g. always let through outgoing packets with the evil bit set). Of course, even this could be subverted, but probably not unless they had a human focus attention on me. It’s around this point that I stopped caring, especially because it only worked “probably” and because it relied on security-through-obscurity. I resigned myself to my fate, and added a bunch of regulations to my google doc for things that I would do if I was president to fix this mess, and I found some metaphorical lube for the things that are to come and for the things that are already here.

    For a truly horrifically scary thing, look up the A2 backdoor.

  33. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    The reason why I don’t go to PowerPC or ARM or something is that I like running my games, and it’s either be fucked in the ass by Intel / AMD + the CIA, or don’t run x86 hardware and don’t play games. That’s why I got some lube, and accepted my fate.

  34. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    I should probably not use that phrase. Is that phrase offensive to gay people? Possibly.


  35. says

    re cyborgs and transhumanism: back in 2010 i posted, admittedly with tongue in cheek, “who wants to live forever?”, wherein i proposed a strategic approach for addressing the dilemma of uncertainty spoiling the idea of transforming humans into cyborgs or androids: is that thing really you or just a replica? if it’s just a replica, however accurate, then there’s really no point to it, is there?

    for those wanting the cliff notes version: just do it in steps.

  36. says

    @Paxoll – RE: conservative

    I am not as inclined to sit near some people as others at atheist events. On some occasions, I seek people out because I like them, even if we don’t agree on a lot of things. On other occasions, I actively will try to sit away from some folks, because I don’t like them, whether we agree on things or not. But I have definitely encountered folks who seem to have pet perspectives that they can’t go five minutes without broaching, and that gets tiresome very quickly, and that certainly gets a person on the “who else can I sit by” list–for me, anyway.

    Less often someone will be so boorish with a particular pet perspective that they, literally, drive everyone away from them, and if they sit beside you, it’s like drawing a short straw. This can escalate, depending on the personality it’s paired with. And the problem that starts is that most regulars don’t like talking to this person, and they begin to get shut down for their pet thing. So, any new person that shows up is just a “thing” they can start unloading on with their pet thing, anew. The rest of the group has to counter that, or else new folks come, get cornered by this person, and never return after being subjected to 2 hours of some weird ideological rant.

    A few audience members approached me after the show to talk about experiences with folks being hyper political at their socials, who eventually had to be banned due to complaints from new folks, or repeatedly driving new folks away and discouraging them from returning. Sometimes talking to them doesn’t help. Sometimes running interference for them, over and over and over, get’s old for everyone else. And the group has to make a decision between the annoying member that lacks self-awareness and balks at adjusting their behavior, and every new person who shows up and may otherwise want to be a part of this group. In those cases, I have to side with making new folks feel welcome.

    When the caller said they were banned for suggesting they couldn’t support a candidate that supports religious guidance in government, he added something else that suggested there was *more* to the story. For me, I think the caller in this case was just looking to vent and gain some validation. And since he was keeping it all anonymous and being fairly ambiguous about specifics, I didn’t mind providing that to him. Truth be told, the stereotype that was raised in my head was pretty much “if this guy is like people I’ve known who have been banned from other groups, he’d be on my don’t-want-to-sit-near-you list, for sure.” But even someone like that needs a hug now and then, and giving him that one time, over the phone–and also allowing him Eric’s suggestion of starting up his own group–maybe the caller got some much needed comfort that he probably doesn’t find easily in meat space?

  37. paxoll says

    @Heicart thanks for your perspective. I tend to be very analytical, so I often ask a lot of questions in order to get as good of a perspective on a problem as possible so I can make the best decision as I can. When people get ambiguous in describing a problem I find they are often being dishonest in their presentation of the problem. I think in this case he was specifically avoiding exactly what I was asking, what is he “conservative” about. I feel that atheist organizations are primarily about giving different perspectives on bad religious claims, obviously there being a god is the primary. Unfortunately, that is a pretty narrow focus which to me is where the “positive atheist culture” comes in. I see it as two specific areas that are very intertwined with Atheism. The first is humanism. Providing social interactions to help each other. The other is properly applied skepticism. Countering bad atheist arguments is as important as bad religious arguments. Virtually every religious person who calls the show and says they “used to be an atheist”, comes out that they didn’t arrive at atheism through any rational process. I feel that Dave should instead of looking for “conservative” atheists, should find a conservative group that matches him on those opinions and then bring up his atheism to that group 😀

  38. Barbara says

    Regarding the last caller, his line of “inquiry” had a quality that I found quite similar to what I’ve heard from theist callers on many occasions. They present an object or express a point, which one of the hosts then easily refutes in easy-to-understand language. The theist then repeats their argument, perhaps in a vaguely altered form, and the host refutes it again, often using even simpler language. Before long, the theist repeats their argument again, and the cycle continues.

    I tend to look at these interactions from the standpoint of practical psychology. If I really want to know where a grocery store is located, and I ask a person who then gives me an extremely clear set of directions that jibes with my understanding of the area (“You know where the Post Office is? The grocery store is right behind it”), I’m gratified by the experience of having my question answered. If someone clearly isn’t satisfied with a clear, reasonable answer to the question they’ve asked, it’s logical to consider that something else may be going on, and the questioner isn’t being sincere.

    I would think that if you get to the point of having to repeat an argument or refutation a third time, you can expect that the call will go nowhere, because the caller has clearly indicated that they have no intention of acknowledging the point the host is making.

    My impression is that the length of calls could be cut at least in half by having this sort of “three strikes” policy, at least informally.

  39. says

    Been following you guys on youtube for a bit now. I love the way Tracie interacts with callers. Its nice to see a sympathetic approach to non aggressive callers who are clearly victims. This Mark fellow for instance is just a lost puppy. It really is sad sometimes. The whole call I kept thinking how sad it is that he made a choice to change his life and he clearly did but he gave all the credit to an imaginary being. Imagine how much it would help his self esteem when he realized he was the one responsible for his happiness and not god or jesus. No one is responsible for our actions except ourselves. I think it would have been good for him to hear that.
    You guys ever think of starting something up here in canada? Theres a bible belt up here too 🙂

  40. says

    >I feel that Dave should instead of looking for “conservative” atheists, should find a conservative group that matches him on those opinions and then bring up his atheism to that group

    I think that’s not a bad recommendation. While I’m sure ideally he’d love to have a group that could be “all things”–if he can’t he could parse it out as you suggest. There was a woman I sat near at the after show dinner who said she has a long-time best friend who is religious. They don’t discuss religion. They have much else in common, and stick to that. And apparently it doesn’t affect the quality of the friendship or cause any stress or issues. They aren’t walking on egg shells, they just enjoy many other things together. This reminds me of what you’re describing.

  41. says

    @Raging–you have some great groups up north. I’ve been up there twice. The first time I was told I was in the Canadian Bible Belt. 🙂

    @Barbara–that’s not a bad suggestion. Thanks for making it.

  42. amuthan says


    However I wouldn’t hang up after the third attempt. I would change tack, try to corner them with a question back like ‘Do you think it is wrong to promote positive atheism and if so, why?”. Or a one liner that provokes a visceral reaction.

    Tracie is a grandmaster at the one liners, who can forget “If I could stop a person from raping a child, I would. That’s the difference between me and your God”.

  43. says

    Its going to be very funny, very soon when the Vatican comes out and just drops the evolution and big bang fight. Oh its gonna happen. Not that they ever should have fought it in first place!

  44. jaihare says

    The first caller, Mark, should have been referred to Carrier’s NOT THE IMPOSSIBLE FAITH. It demonstrates how Christianity did not have an impossible start.

  45. jaihare says

    By the way, I don’t comment on the blog very much. I think this is my second time. I just wanted to say that I so appreciate Tracie as a host. I thoroughly enjoyed this set of conversations. Much love! Keep it up!

  46. says

    Creationist cause & effect:

    Point to an effect and infer a cause (X) define X as God.

    Therefore God = cause by definition.

    And that turns out to be infallible due to the god being defined as supernatural. No outcome in creationist apologetics ever leads to creationists saying I DON’T KNOW.

    Circular reasoning and appeals to magic, are capable of furnishing fallacious arguments that are just as good for ANYTHING, as they are for Gods and a myriad of supernatural entities. I can’t understand how the typical creationist fails to appreciate the analogies of ‘The Flying Spaghetti Monster’ or ‘The Invisible Pink Unicorn’.

  47. Bill Bo says

    @EL #35 For the router management port, I was pissed when I found out about about a port I couldn’t close. But searching turned up no reports of that ever being used maliciously. It would be really bad news for the router manufacturer if some company found out their router management was compromised. Likewise it would be really bad for Intel if anyone could show their management system automatically phoned home and gave access to any computer ever. Companies have data to protect and would not allow it to go unsued. So the trust comes from never being shown not to trust. I am a software developer for many years for many companies. There is no way to keep them technically from inserting all kinds of backdoors into all the hardware and software you use. But there are security researchers at schools and companies checking things. And the business risk is just too big for being found out. Unless you imagine a conspiracy of silence so big that it is difficult to imagine, it just isn’t something to worry much about. Being concerned about the possibilities is not a bad thing.

  48. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Quoting Bill Bo:

    Likewise it would be really bad for Intel if anyone could show their management system automatically phoned home and gave access to any computer ever.

    It has been shown that this functionality exists due to a security vulnerability, before being patched.
    Of course, given the thing is closed source, it be possible that there’s a designed backdoor that does the same thing. And regardless, because it’s closed-source, it’s much more likely to have accidental bug and also designed backdoors compared to a proper open-source system.

    And clearly you’re wrong about how bad it would be for Intel.

    We already know that the NSA / CIA spies on practically every phone call, email, etc. See the information from Wikileaks and Edward Snowden. We have very good reason to believe that they also spy on most ssh and SSL/TLS connections online, and thereby most encrypted VPNs as well. Yet, not enough people are really up in arms about that. Why would the situation be any different if it was Intel that was spying on us? Or Windows? (More on that later.)

    Also, the market has no alternatives. The only real alternative for most users is AMD. (Intel and AMD are the only practical choices for x86 architecture, and you need x86 if you want to run Windows.) And AMD is doing the same thing. So, what good is it if the public is mad about it? No good at all. You cannot shop with your dollars in the market, and government regulation is nowhere in the foreseeable future, especially because we know that the CIA / NSA love this shit, and those interests seem to be driving government regulation on computer security and privacy.

    Finally, it’s clear that you don’t know anything about the state of how much these companies spy on us. Read this about what Windows 10 does.

    Finally, we will access, transfer, disclose, and preserve personal data, including your content (such as the content of your emails in, or files in private folders on OneDrive), when we have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary to:

    1. comply with applicable law or respond to valid legal process, including from law enforcement or other government agencies;
    2. protect our customers, for example to prevent spam or attempts to defraud users of our products, or to help prevent the loss of life or serious injury of anyone;
    3. operate and maintain the security of our products, including to prevent or stop an attack on our computer systems or networks; or
    4. protect the rights or property of Microsoft, including enforcing the terms governing the use of the services – however, if we receive information indicating that someone is using our services to traffic in stolen intellectual or physical property of Microsoft, we will not inspect a customer’s private content ourselves, but we may refer the matter to law enforcement.

    So, if they get a secret FISA warrant, all of that telemetry that is collected from your computer is theirs.

    Quoting Bill Bo:

    But there are security researchers at schools and companies checking things.

    Yes, and several point out just how screwed we are. Like Marcus Ranum of FreeThoughtBlogs, who is a highly acclaimed computer security professional. And what does he say about it? He told me that however bad I think it is, it’s worse. He told me that he feels depressed when he thinks about this shit because of how screwed we are, and how he sometimes feels weird about being a security expert, being paid to counsel people on security, while also thinking that the entire thing is borderline a sham and farce. Don’t take it from me. Take it from the accomplished professional computer security expert Marcus.

    Also take it from the professionals at the FSF and GNU, such as the libreboot project faq.

    It’s not just Intel either. It’s also AMD. It’s also practically every smartphone too. I assume that Marcus would be ok with me sharing this story that he told me in email:

    I saw a demo at CANSEC west back in (? ’06 ? oh, no, 2010 ) I was doing an invited talk. This one guy had found a buffer overrun in the “smart” antenna controller of a cell phone, and uploaded a shell into it and jumped to it. OK? That was some crazy shit: here’s bourne shell running in the antenna controller – with its standard in/out/err hooked to a socket over a WAN. Then, the guy demonstrated that the antenna controller had DMA on the bus. So he pulled all of the kernel running on the main phone processor’s memory out over the wire. Then, on his laptop, he popped the kernel memory into a debugger, found the process table and system call tables, and injected a new process into the process table that was a root shell. Most of us watching were stunned. That kind of stuff is doable in principle but this guy actually did the work.

    This same security vulnerability – the antenna controller, also known as the radio chip or baseband chip, has root to your smartphone (and you thought that your Android OS or Windows OS or iPhone OS had root? silly you), and it’s closed source firmware. Again, the hack that I described was due to a security vulnerability, but it could be engineered too. And regardless, because it’s closed-source, it’s much more likely to have accidental bug and also designed backdoors compared to a proper open-source system.

    In a somewhat related vein, it’s also well known that many / most smartphones regularly eavesdrop via the mic, automatically do speech to text conversion, and send it back to the carrier, in order to deliver targeted ads.

    For all of these reasons, there’s also at least one open-source group that is (or is trying to?) release a proper open-source and secure smartphone, similar to the libreboot project.

    Now, given all of this and everything you know about the pervasive spying culture of the US government and the international megacorps, especially that one link which breaks down the massive known spying that is built into Windows 10 – try telling me with a straight face that Intel and Windows don’t already have the ability to take over your computer or brick it by sending certain kinds of packets via the internet. If you say that, then you’re a naive fool. I’m not asserting with confidence that it’s there, but I’m saying that anyone who can assert that it’s not there is a naive fool, and I will hazard a guess that the odds that such functionality is there is actually fairly good, e.g. more than just a measly 1%.

  49. says

    @45 – RE: how to handle the dishonest caller: The problem was I didn’t realize he was being dishonest. I thought he really wanted to understand what was meant by “positive atheist culture.” It wasn’t that I thought he was saying it’s wrong, it’s that I thought he was asking for genuine help understanding it. That was my undoing–taking him at his word and responding in good faith.

    @48 – RE: Carrier’s book: Thank you for the book recommendation.

  50. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To heicart
    I also strongly suggest most of Carrier’s work, in spite of recent revelations that he’s seemingly not a nice nor respectable person. The guy is still really smart, and he writes well, IMO.

  51. Yos8 says

    The end of this episode was infuriating to listen to, not because of a dishonest caller, but because his motive was clear almost from the very beginning of the call. Even if he hadn’t been transparent, no one would’ve been “wasting” much time at all, as Tracie accused him of, if she hadn’t gone on numerous lengthy diatribes about the various social events that the ACA and similar organizations offer. How many times did she repeat some form of the same phrase, “If you have kids, you can come, no one’s going to make you. If you don’t, you don’t have to.”

    He kept bringing it back to morality and then the hosts kept going on and on about things that were clearly irrelevant to his points. If you guys had just actually asked him what he believes and why you could’ve dismantled his whole stupid point after maybe three 10-second long back-and-forths instead of three questions from him, each leading to 5 minutes of long-winded exposition from the hosts.

    I found it so incredibly obnoxious that the hosts couldn’t let go of their misconceptions about what the caller was asking and just engage him directly more. Normally I love Tracie but I feel like blood was trickling out of my ears while listening to this.

  52. Clay says

    For the conservative atheist who called, and anyone who is an atheist conservative who happens to be viewing this forum, here’s a thought experiment; what do conservatives usually have in common? The belief that a government that governs least governs best. The whole “strangle the government in a bathtub” sort of mentality. Almost all conservatives are deeply religious as the caller in question rightly points out. And there’s a good reason for that too. It has less to do with wanting to minimize intrusive government but more to do with the religious right getting corporate backing, and with it pushing the narrative that all government is evil, or that somehow anyone who doesnt believe in god is an evil freeloading communist.

    Now I have some conservative friends who disagree with this mentality, and are a lot more sensible on the matter of politics than most other conservative atheists I’ve seen out there, my friends believe that there should be regulations on banks and corporations so that there isnt any one-sided action in the economy that benefits the rich more than the working man. They also dont believe religion has any place in our government either, and they believe we should have publicly-funded healthcare and education, even college level at that. And they’re also christians as well. The probem is that even they within the conservative movement as a whole would be seen as heathens by other conservatives just like the caller, as the right as a while is bankrolled by the rich which also includes the horrible and evil evangelical side of christianity.

    My point? All conservatives in the middle class on down need to cooperate with the left and set aside their ideological differences, as the politicians who parrot the whole free market stuff??? They do it to make themselves richer at the expense of their supporters’ individual rights. The caller’s breif mention of Marco Rubio’s religious intolerance toward people who arent christian should be enough of a clue to that, same with the vast majority of the right as well.

  53. says

    It is said that God is the begining and the end, but that doesn’ t mean he is eternal, because eternal is something without the begining and without the end right? We often hear this from Christians.

  54. Badger says

    Hi All,
    I’ve got a simple question. I once heard one of the hosts (I think Tracie) mention a term when talking about faith, or rather having a life view that doesn’t include having to rely on faith, and for the life of me I can’t remember what it is, and I cannot find it again.

    Can someone please help me? This person mentioned Agnostic Atheistic Something-or-other…
    And it’s not the “standard” Skeptic, far as I remember it was either based on Greek, or on Latin… please help me!

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