1. Evil God of the Fiery Cloud says

    Amusingly the one dude nitpicking about the “without belief in God or gods” definition of Atheism echoed almost word for word a dude who was in the comment thread of a David Smalley post on Facebook.

    Also, Fuck Yeah Eagles!!!!

  2. theisntist says

    I’m coming to better appreciate Russel’s style, less flashy than Matt, but he listens and actually tries to understand the caller’s point of view (even if they sometimes have no coherent one), and Phil is developing into a solid co-host.

  3. The Wild Monk says

    Luke, Phoenix, Arizona… “Jews don’t believe in God.”

    He means atheist Jews (ex. Ashkenazi Jews who are a race of people) don’t believe in God.

    There are 2 million atheist Jews in the US.

  4. Mikey Tube says

    LOL. I knew that Russell would take a shot at a sport that he lacks the balls, coordination, and probably, the intellect, to play. What a coward. Why is this creepy dude with absolutely NO people skills, still hosting this show?? Put him BEHIND camera two, where he can do something positive for the show.

  5. Monocle Smile says

    Four posts in, and we already have a butthurt troll.

    Some blather from the callers today, but a pretty solid show, I think.

  6. JG Estiot says

    James from London: If there were nothing before the big bang, it means there could not be a god either. So this takes care of the Intelligent Design hypothesis. My hypothesis for the start of the big bang is a kind of reverse self-ignition. The universe started itself then through the distortion of time, went back to its beginning and started itself. It is a self-feeding natural phenomenon that does not require anything other than the universe itself. There could be other universes being created in the same way as I write this. Perhaps there are billions of billions of universes expanding from their own reverse energy and bending of time.

  7. Nathan says

    Christian is a repeat troll caller, he’s the same guy who called and said he just loved the church even if they were bad.

  8. Mobius says

    @3. The Wild Monk

    My take on the guy that said, “Jews don’t believe in God.” is that what he really meant was “Jews don’t believe in Jesus.” It sounded like he was starting to say this at one point when Russel was challenging him on the statement. Yes, there are secular (atheist) Jews, but I don’t think that was who the guy was talking about.

    On another note…Yippee! No Vegans!

  9. Splarte says

    Luke’s call : the shortest response was :
    Not knowing is the default position : claiming “there’s a god” makes you a theist AND makes the default position atheism.
    Luke is the one drawing the line and calling his side “the good side” and now he’s asking “How can you stay in a place called “the not-good side” ?”
    Ancients greeks invented the words “helene” (speaks greek) and “theist” (believes in olympian pantheon) and every other people was barabarian (speak egyptian, latin, chinese) and atheist (belives in Osiris, shamanism, zoroastrism,…).
    Sorry Luke but for Pericles you were a barbarian atheist.

  10. einyv says

    Luke, Luke , Luke you sir are unreasonable. Jews don’t believe in god because they don’t believe in the right god. To Jews, Christianity is based on a lie, Jesus was not the messiah foretold in the prophecies and early Christians created their own prophecies.

    Words have meaning and they can change over time. I personally never met a god claim that had evidence for its existence. Define your god and its attribute and I will tell you if i believe. Currently I do not and certainly not the Christian god as that one is a contradiction and therefore can’t exist.

  11. gshelley says

    The guy who didn’t like the word atheism because if someone believes in the wrong god, then they don’t really believe in an actual god, so are atheists (I think that was his argument) almost had a point. How god is defined can affect whether people believe. I have seen the argument made on the show, that if someone claims a table (or other object) is their god, but that it doesn’t have any godlike powers, or sentience, it’s just a table, then if we accept that theists get to define god, that means we believe in this god and are not atheists.
    I don’t think it is a good or useful argument, but other than putting in some sort of quality control filter for what is accepted as a god claim, I don’t know the best way around it.
    For the guy’s argument, believing in the right god is not usually part of the definition of theist (and he seemed confused on the issue as to whether he actually thought this, or if he thought this was for some reason the logical outcome of accepting the “a” in atheism), but even if it was, we just can say atheists are people who are aware they don’t believe in god, theists are people who think they do believe in god.

  12. gshelley says

    @11, Me
    Also, this would mean that if there was no actual god, then everyone is an atheist.
    Perhaps aatheists would please him more (the first a being for aware), then we can say that all theists are either uatheists (for unaware) or ttheists (true theists), but that we have no way of knowing if anyone is actually in the ttheists set.

  13. Porivil Sorrens says

    Not really, if by atheist you mean “Someone who does not believe in a god/gods”.

    It is possible to be a theist – “someone who believes in a god/gods” – irrespective of whether or not a god actually exists.

  14. rectorsquid says

    Luke was just being a dick. He wanted to stick words into the hosts mouths and had no intention of listening to any rebuttal. As if “atheist” being a badly defined word somehow makes a god exists. When he got to the “Jews are atheists” part, he sounded like troll. Trying to say that there really is a god because not everyone uses the word “atheist” in the same way is just plain dumb.

  15. jacobfromlost says

    I haven’t commented in a long time, but I HAVE TO know the answer…to Russell’s shirt.

    Peace, love, and…I have no idea. I spent an hour trying to figure it out. A cloud? A lopsided UFO with a jagged line through it? A bagel? A donut? Clearly it is none of those. WHAT IS IT?

  16. DanDare2050 says

    Theory – he is using it like guess.
    Hypothesis – He says a hypothesis needs no evidence
    Whatever existed before the big bang – nothing had to exist “before”. To go back to Steven Hawking, he said that that is like saying “what is more south then the south pole?”
    He assumes the universe was “created”, not that it just formed as a result of some natural force, combination of events or simple happen-stance.
    He presupposes design instead of this is just how the universe plays out.

  17. DanDare2050 says

    Back to James again:
    Simplicity is the hallmark of things designed by humans, not complexity. Humans take the complex and messy and make it simple and tidy, generally reversing entropy locally. Nature achieves complexity by accident all the time.
    We see complexity emerge from the simple, because complexity is easier to achieve. The big bang theory sees the universe as initially very simple and then expansion does things like breaking the symmetry of the forces making the universe more and more complex.

  18. DanDare2050 says

    Luke in Pheonix:
    trying to understand “atheist” as a lack of belief in god. He was so close. He is atheist about all other gods but his own, even ones that he has never heard of and will never hear of. He either thinks they are not real or has no knowledge of them and thus lacks a belief in them. People who call themselves atheists go one god further than that.

  19. says

    There’s a big contradiction in James’ argument that I’d like to address. He wants to describe things using temporal language while also treating them as non-temporal (timeless, or “outside of” or “before” time). This makes as much sense as describing the brush-strokes of a statue, or the rhythm of a painting. Allow me to elaborate:

    Let’s take a postulate and a question to see how they interact.

    P. The air around us is colorless.
    Q. Is the air around us red?

    Clearly, the answer is no. To put it another way, if the air around us is red (or any other color), then our postulate must be false. You can’t describe the color of a colorless thing – obvious contradiction. So how to we apply this to the Christian argument?

    P. God is a timeless entity.
    Q. Does God exist right now?

    Again, the answer is clearly no. To put it another way, if God exists right now (or at any other time), then the postulate about his timelessness must be false. He can’t exist now, tomorrow, or yesterday. “Timeless existence” would therefore have to be identical to “never existing at any time.” I don’t think Christians should hang their hat on that one.

  20. Ethan Myerson says

    Luke from Phx: Your arguments from poorly understood etymology are embarrassing. “Amuse” has nothing to do with “not thinking”, and is etymologically distinct from “muse”. Your inability to draw the correct parallel between “symmetry/asymmetry” and “theist/atheist” was just as cringeworthy. No one was claiming that the “a-” prefix was meant to denote “person who denies the existence of-“, but that’s what you thought the argument was.
    It reminded me of that video from years ago where some shouty, vertical-video-enthusiast, driver’s-seat preacher (Josh Feuerstein, I’m guessing) posited that the word “universe” itself is proof of god. His argument was that “uni” means “one” and “verse” means “thing that is spoken”. Therefore demonstrating the truth of the Genesis creation myth.
    Get better at knowing things before you try to make an argument based on those things.

  21. RationalismRules says

    @paxoll @jacobfromlost
    ‘Understanding’ makes good sense if you look at it as a symbol for a brain with electrical activity. The problem is, in common symbols that’s a cloud, not a brain.

    I see a cloud with electricity (as distinct from a lightning bolt, which would come underneath the cloud symbol). An electrical cloud. Given Russell’s ties to computing, maybe it’s “Peace, love and The Cloud”? I don’t even know what that means, but it seems like something a self-confessed computer-nerd might wear.

    I prefer your explanation, but if that’s intended to be a brain the designer needs to find a different vocation.

  22. RationalismRules says

    @Secular Strategy
    The problem I see with your argument is that you are comparing a descriptive property of something (ie. color) with a non-property (time). ‘Timeless’ doesn’t mean ‘without time’ in the same way ‘colorless’ means ‘without color’.

    ‘Timeless’ means “independent of time”. Whether something exists at a particular moment in time does not tell you whether or not it is subject to temporal constraints, it simply tells you that you are only observing it at that particular moment.

    There are ways that ‘timeless’ would be in conflict with time-dependent notions of existence: eg. only existing between 6pm and 7pm each day, or not existing on weekends, but I don’t see that existing throughout all time (and beyond) is in conflict with existing at any particular moment in time.

    The problem with semantic arguments like this is that they can be easily defeated simply by changing the word that the argument hinges on. Change ‘timeless’ to ‘eternal’, another common theist term for the same concept, and your analogy disappears.

  23. RationalismRules says

    I am pretty much convinced that Luke was trolling. Both ‘amuse’ and ‘Jews are atheists’ struck me as “let’s see how absurd an argument I can make without being hung up on”.

  24. jacobfromlost says

    I still don’t know what the shirt is, but I found many, many similar symbols/shirts online. The first two are always the same–peace and love–and the third is usually a complete non sequitur as a joke. I found “peace, love, pizza”, “peace, love paws”, “peace, love, soccer”, etc. The problem is that I still have no idea what the symbol is supposed to represent, thus making a direct search impossible. Here’s hoping Russell, or someone who knows, reads this and answers this question for me. (I searched the guesses I had, which included the guesses listed above, and that symbol never showed up. So…(shrugs).)

  25. Marcel says

    @29 jacobfromlost
    The one thing I thought it might be (and a quick google shows something quite similar) is Peace, Love, and Tacos

  26. Monocle Smile says

    Care to name something that both exists and is not subject to temporal restraints?
    The concept appears to be incoherent. What is “beyond time?” It’s word salad meant to sound profound.

  27. RationalismRules says

    As I understand it, there is a model of the origin that posits space and time coming into existence together. If that is what happened, then it would seem that either space / time came from nothing, or it came from something that existed ‘beyond time’.

    The idea of time not existing is profound to me – I can’t get my head around that at all. But if I accept that time had an origin, then I don’t find ‘outside of time’ to be a particularly profound extra step.

    Of course I can’t give an example of something that exists and is not subject to temporal restraints. Nor can I give an example of something coming from nothing. Does that mean that all discussions about the origin of space / time are inherently incoherent, just because we don’t have examples yet?

  28. says

    The idea of time not existing is profound to

    Not to me. To me it’s completely nonsensical. It’s one of those things physicists make up because they define time differently to us mere mortals. They write equations on a whiteboard that say time is a cofficient of this or that. No it’s not. It’s our observation of the sequential nature of events.. our observation of causality.

    If you were able to be on a viewing platform just before the big bang occurred, you would be aware of the time passing as you waited for things to happen. You’d be going, hurry up, I’ve been waiting an eternity for this.

    Physicists say time didn’t exist before the big bang because there were no events. And of course there were no minds to observe events. For that matter, until life evolved to observe events, there was effectively no time.

    Same with before the big bang.. there’s a before, just not in terms of physics.

  29. RationalismRules says

    Just because an idea is counter-intuitive doesn’t make it false. Half a century ago people were arguing in a very similar way against quantum entanglement. At the time it was “one of those things physicists make up”. Now, not only is it measurable, it’s put to practical use. Who can say that in the next half century we won’t come to understand time in an entirely different way?

  30. says

    Just because an idea is counter-intuitive doesn’t make it false.

    In general terms I agree with this statement.

    However in this case I disagree. The only reason time didn’t exist because there was nothing to observe it.

    It becomes a philosophical question along the lines of “If a tree falls in the forest”.

  31. says

    A singularity has the properties of being infinitely small, infinitely dense and infinitely hot. However it has to exist to have properties. If something exists, time exists.

  32. says

    I don’t think Luke was a troll. I think he’s a pseudo-intellectual. Based on his obsession with “consistency”, I’d hazard a guess that he’s a libertarian or objectivist, trying to square his horseshit philosophy with his horseshit religious beliefs.

  33. RationalismRules says

    It’s worth noting that our understanding of time has changed in the past century. Time dilation, the idea that objects in motion experience time differently depending on their relative velocities, doesn’t fit with the intuitive notion of time (not with mine, anyway), yet it is a demonstrated phenomenon, and GPS systems correct for it (ie. practical application). When we have actual evidence that the way we subjectively experience time is not the whole picture, how do you not begin to question your intuitive ideas of time? And once you start to question your intuitive ideas, how do you not acknowledge the possibility that you may be wrong about something as fundamental as whether it has a beginning?

    One reason I’m not particularly bothered by the idea of time having an origin, even though I don’t understand it, is that the alternative is equally counter-intuitive. I can no more wrap my head around the notion of ‘infinite time’ than I can around the notion of ‘no time’. If time didn’t begin, then it has always existed, back to infinity. What does that even mean? We have no experiential basis from which to understand infinity, we can only consider it in the abstract. In that sense, it’s no more comprehensible than the idea of time beginning.

    Just to be clear, I’m not arguing that time did begin. As far as I’m aware, it remains an open question. I just don’t accept that intuitive arguments provide sufficient reason to discard that hypothesis.

  34. Monocle Smile says

    Out of curiosity, how many math or physics classes have you taken beyond high school? I don’t say this to be condescending, but your understanding of these concepts is inaccurate and a bit naive. It’s not surprising nor your fault; these concepts are difficult to understand for the uninitiated.

    To be fair, Shaun is largely incorrect as well. Time is not merely our perception of causality. Entropy gives us a very clear basis and direction of the arrow of time. If all minds were eradicated tomorrow, the universe would still keep moving like it does today. It is extremely silly of Shaun to say that before life began, there was effectively no time. Space and time are inextricably linked, which is why dilation happens.

    Just to be clear, I’m not arguing that time did begin. As far as I’m aware, it remains an open question. I just don’t accept that intuitive arguments provide sufficient reason to discard that hypothesis.

    There is no currently accepted cosmological model model that has space and time beginning ex nihilo. Religious apologists will lie about this all day.

  35. says


    It depends on your concept of time. My idea of time is that stuff happens. I exist in time, like a fish exists in water. Hard to see beyond that.

    I tend to favour the big bounce hypothesis. But of course it’s not testable with our current understanding of physics.

  36. RationalismRules says

    I took 1st year maths at university. It was 30 years ago, and I don’t remember any of it.

    I have no problem being told that my understanding is lacking. It’s a lot more helpful if you point out where I’m getting things wrong, though, rather than just dropping that comment and moving on.

    Also, just a hint: If you don’t want to be condescending you might want to avoid saying things like: “It’s not surprising nor your fault, these concepts are difficult to understand for the uninitiated”. On the positive side, at least you didn’t say “Don’t worry your pretty little head about it”

  37. Harald Clark says

    I agree with Monocle Smile that ‘beyond time’ is not coherent with our scientific understanding of time.
    I agree with RationalismRules that using language we can explore abstract ideas that may or may not be logical and/or demonstrable and/or coherent.
    And I agree with Shaun, we are fish.

  38. says

    Also, just a hint: If you don’t want to be condescending you might want to avoid saying things like: “It’s not surprising nor your fault, these concepts are difficult to understand for the uninitiated”. On the positive side, at least you didn’t say “Don’t worry your pretty little head about it”

    All good. Didn’t even register to be honest. I would be the first admit that physics is opaque to me. Which is annoying because I hate any field of human knowledge being beyond my ability to grasp. But that’s life. Each has their strengths and weaknesses

    And I don’t like it when people say intuitively there is a god, so naturally I understand if I believe intuitively that time has always been, wonder what spaces expands into and can’t comprehend infinity, that some people on this blog may not like that either.

    I take the Homer Simpsonish philosophy of existence – “It’s just a bunch of stuff that happens”

  39. Mobius says

    @35 Shaun

    Sorry, but this isn’t correct. Your view of time is a limited perspective on a much larger concept. You want to take what you see in the day to day world and apply it to all of the universe and its history.

    Einstein showed us that time is part of the geometry of the universe, part of space-time. Cosmology shows us the universe had a beginning. Since time is part of the universe, that means time had a beginning and that beginning was the Big Bang.

    One can make speculations about some meta concept of time, time beyond the existence of the universe. But as of now, we can’t do any more than speculate. Our current theories don’t postulate anything about such. As far as I know, even our hypotheses don’t postulate anything like that. For now, time started with the Big Bang.

  40. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Cosmology shows us the universe had a beginning.


    The model of general relativity, if extrapolated backwards in time, does reach that conclusion – sort of. The math has all sorts of nasty infinities and divisions by zero. In technical math, that’s known as “singularities”. Any competent physicist or cosmologist will tell you that the singularities in the math are strong indications that the model is wrong. We already know that general relativity is not a complete description of reality, and the story that I just told you relies solely on general relativity. At the very least, at the length scales involved, we know that quantum theory is important, and we don’t have an adequate model of reality that involves both quantum theory and general relativity. We don’t have an adequate model of reality that covers the probably-mythical first moment of the big bang.

    Again, big bang theory is true and well supported by the evidence. However, big bang theory does not posit that time and space began at a finite point in the past, and big bang theory does not posit that all observable matter occupied an infinitesimal point of space at some particular point of time in the finite past. Rather, big bang theory just posits that all observable matter in the universe occupied an incredibly small sphere with an incredibly small but non-zero finite (e.g. Real-valued) radius at some particular point of time in the finite past.

    This is important when dealing with certain kinds of creationists, i.e. William Lane Craig. Modern physics does not show that time and space had a beginning.

    Sure, time and space as we know it had a rough beginning, e.g. a transition from whatever was “before” to what is now, i.e. inflationary multiverse hypothesis. See also: String “theory”.

  41. Kit Zupan says

    See Krauss’s book A Universe From Nothing. In essence, in physics “Nothing isn’t ‘no thing’ anymore.” The reason is virtual particles oscillate between existence and non-existence faster than can be detected (yet) – proof of this requires a PhD and the mathematics such people routinely use – and this instability disrupted the fabric of space-time and dark matter/dark energy and the singularity expanded. That’s the general position most cosmologists consider reasonable right now. BTW, we cannot observe the Big Bang. It is behind the barrier. We haven’t the technology (yet) to see beyond it.

    Intelligent Design is bogus from the start. It is merely Creationism thinly disguised. See The Dover Trial.

  42. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To Kit Zupan
    I should have been clearer: There is not a solid physics model that indicates that there was a first moment of time. However, it’s still a competing hypothesis. This book by Krauss, and several of his lectures on youtube, address the possibility that there was a first moment of time, and discusses the philosophical implications. I also believe that in the debate on youtube between Krauss and William Lane Craig, Krauss also points out that the current physics does not require that there was a first moment in time – only that such a hypothesis is currently consistent with the data, and a hypothesis of an eternal past is also consistent with the data. We need more data (and better models).

  43. Mikey Tube says

    @5 Never played the game, but, I do admire the ability it takes to do it well. Russell should be behind the cameras, because he is terrible at relating to people, IMO. Fair enough?

    @6 Who’s butt hurt? I was embarrassed for the show, and am, frequently, when he is the host. If you can’t see the difference between the way Russell deals with people, compared to someone like Phil, then I guess it’s no wonder you have to resort to a.h. attacks, as well.

  44. Monocle Smile says

    You’re butthurt. Sounds like you’re way too emotionally attached to the show; take a break and deal with it.

  45. Stephanie says

    #18 and other posts:
    My guess for the T-Shirt is that it stands for a silver lining in the clouds.

  46. Oliver Berry says

    So the definition guy was claiming that atheism should be defined as “believing the Christian god does not exist?” That is the dumbest definition I’ve heard for it so far. What does it mean as far as my life goes if I say I am an atheist? I do not believe some magic being is behind the workings of my life because nothing yet has been evidence of such.

  47. says

    Luke’s reasons atheism is ‘ridiculous’:

    1. A completely subjective term that varies from religion to religion.
    2. It’s a negative philosophy, and those don’t exist.
    3. Believing in god is not nearly as compartmentalized as atheists imply.

    OKAY — religions are belief systems (belief being the acceptance of something as true, with or without evidence), and since there has never been any evidence presented to validate any religion, the entirety of religion is completely subjective, as well…does that make religion equally ridiculous? And I would further hold that the stance of “not believing your claims” does not vary AT ALL from religion to religion. I, as an atheist, am unmoved by ANY god claims, so how does my stance vary?

    Negative philosophy? When you are an atheist, you are not swayed by god claims (and therefore living your life as if one does not exist…but not making this assertion, an important point). Not being convinced of unsupportable claims is not a negative philosophy, it is holding to a base philosophy in the face of irrationality.

    SO WHAT? Compartmentalization, or the lack thereof, has nothing to do with the validity of any claim. I can, AND DO, claim that faith in any god is silly without adequate evidence. That doesn’t meet the standard of ‘compartmentalization’.

    Trolls need better material.

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