Open thread for episode 22.35: Tracie and Phil

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  1. Chris McClean says

    I am a black male. A free thinker/ anti- religion former Christian. I live in Barbados( the last of the Brirtish colonies to set slaves free. I’ve been watching your shows on YouTube the past couple days. I want to add my small contribution to the atheist position. It’s simple…. the bible cannot support or defend the existence of God in the same way god does not support or defend the bible. The bible is actually an indictment on the evil ways of the Christian god. Defenders of god support and believe through fear. It is a unique position that atheists have taken and only now because we have the freedom to express our beliefs can we voice then without fear of violence. I will continue to watch and support your show and some day visit Austin or one of your conventions.

  2. Andrew Lemke says

    Regarding the call early in today’s show from Luke in Arizona:
    This tired, provably-false argument that a moral code can’t exist outside a religion and the immutable “truths” it articulates through its prescribed rules and regulations for human behavior – in contrast to a supposedly squishier secular moral code – is refuted by by the reality that religious doctrines have evolved over the centuries. There’s a lot of stuff that was once considered “sinful” by religious entities that they now proclaim to be acceptable.

  3. John David Balla says

    Remarkable only begins to characterize Luke’s call. He literally does not know what it means to be human (while being a human). Even though Tracie was very patient and equally clear in her explanations and examples, including the primordial concept of fairness, Luke’s theocratic worldview precluded all understanding. This is what human looks like when amped up on religion. Beyond shocking!

  4. twarren1111 says

    Couldn’t agree more. Luke was so inculcated, he couldn’t see his false positive of needing a deity to define things, and how immoral such a position is, that he was utterly incapable of seeing the emperors new clothes. And so it goes…homosexuality is immoral because god (Romans 1), slavery moral because god (exodus 21), rape moral because god (exodus, numbers, Deuteronomy and Leviticus), and it’s moral to kill your disobedient children and immoral to wash your hands (Jeebus, Mark 7)…and the result is wasted time…that’s the purpose of the universe: maximize the maintenance of information in a useable form…and making stuff up wastes time…that’s what’s immoral.

    And, of course, Tracie!!! was spot on…her summary after Luke’s call expressed the essence of what it’s all about and what happens when you fall prey to the false positives of religion.

  5. John David Balla says

    @twarren1111 I should also add that Luke’s extreme subservience could not comprehend living life without clear authoritarian rules. That introduces just too much anxiety for him to handle. He is a textbook description of a theocratic fascist. Incapable of thinking for himself and rather proud of it. I don’t question his sincerity, however, which makes all of this even more disturbing. If I did, my rebuke would take that into account.

  6. Wiggle Puppy says

    Kudos to Tracie for verbalizing what I’ve been yelling at my computer screen the last three times Luke has called: if he’s going to define “morality” in terms of a god, then obviously I don’t believe that morality exists, but that’s irrelevant, because I don’t recognize that as morality. Kind of like if you define luck in terms of genies, then I don’t believe in luck, but that’s not a definition of “luck” that I recognize as meaningful and useful, so it’s kind of pointless to bring it up.

    If Luke calls again, a humble suggestion: what he *pretends* to be asking for is a grounding for morality from a secular worldview, but what he is *actually* asking for is a reason to be moral in the absence of authority who commands one to be so. (In other words, what Luke is actually asking is not “what is morality?” but really it’s “why BE moral?”). Hence his insistence during the call that he is a wicked selfish being who would act immorally if not for his god, which he seems to think atheists / secularists have no answer for. To that, there are a range of answers: because being moral contributes to a society in which morality is more astutely valued, which ultimately benefits me, since I’ll be treated better; because I’ve been treated disrespectfully and know how that feels and don’t wish to make other people feel that way; because we have a society that will imprison you or otherwise punish you for transgressing moral norms (which Tracie brought up, obviously); etc.

    Oh, and Luke mentioned that he subscribes to deontology, which is the idea that only intent matters in evaluating the morality of an action, not the consequences. The quintessential counterexample is to bring up the harborer of refugees during the Holocaust. If lying is immoral in all situations, then it would be immoral to lie to Nazis if asked about potential sheltering of refugees. You must instead, tell them the truth. I think you see the obvious problem here. A strictly deontological society would also punish murder and attempted murder exactly the same, since the intent in both cases – to kill someone – is identical. Again, it isn’t hard to spot an obvious objection. Deontology by itself – especially divine command theory, its most absolute and inflexible – is a hopelessly simplistic way of viewing the complexities of human society. There has to be some form of consequentialism to take account of specific cases and situations, even if deontological principles enter the equation somewhere.

  7. Marianne Sturgis says

    Tracie was fantastic, as usual, trying to explain the morality issue. I despise this silly argument but when I have to, I use piranhas as an example. They’re fish with brains the size of a grain of rice yet will never devour each other. They work as a team to hone in on their prey, eat it, then carry on. I know many species do this as well. I just don’t understand why the religious find it so difficult grasping the concept of morality without a god.

  8. says

    If Andrei is interested, here go a few links on children and polyamorous relationships:
    As a non-monogamous person (I’m not interest in romance, so I don’t know if you could really call me polyamorous), I think connecting with multiple people is really easy to understand: love is not always like a bathtub, but can be rather like the sea; oone doesn’t have to leave for a new one to come in. Also, it doesn’t necesarily mean being promiscuous, neither the other way around. There are poly people who prefer to have sex with one partner at a time, just as there are people in monogamous relationships who have sex outside of their relationship. I also think the pressure to marry and have kids is more undesirable than benign because it creates stree to those who, like me, do not desire such relationships, and may, as Tracie pointed out, force some to remain in toxic relationships – all of this is stuff that gets in our head; it’s really not easy to ‘unlearn’ them.

  9. says

    Can the show please stop taking calls from Luke? All he does is try to play “gotcha,” and he’s too dumb to do it well. All of his calls are frustrating because of his dishonesty. There have to be other callers out there worth talking to; Luke has demonstrated time and time again that he’s not interested in the conversation. He’s interested in trying to get the hosts to slip up in some way so that he can claim victory.

  10. Monocle Smile says

    I’m fairly convinced that Luke does not actually believe his own bullshit, but is merely using the show to bully atheists for his own ego. Not that he’s been successful.

  11. Lamont Cranston says

    SJHoneywell says:

    Can the show please stop taking calls from Luke? All he does is try to play “gotcha,” and he’s too dumb to do it well.

    I would second that motion. All in favor?

    I don’t think it is a matter of being dumb. It is that Luke is consistently intellectually dishonest.

    I have come to believe he purposely persists in mis-characterizing answers by hosts, which are extremely clear, in order to try to portray the hosts as saying something they did not say in a feeble attempt to “win” whatever point he is trying to make.

    I thought it was brilliant to tell him that if his definition of morality requires a God that she would agree with him that there is no Secular Morality and there was nothing further to talk about. I could tell he was flummoxed by that (Now what do I do?). 🙂

    I also believe that it was well timed to hang up on him when it happened. There was nothing to be gained by further conversation. It eventually is about as productive talking to Luke as it was talking to Hamish.

    Lamont Cranston

  12. Simon & Mrs Wendy Hosking says

    I like to hear Luke’s calls, please don’t stop him calling in.

    He is incredibly wrong, arrogant, frustrating, annoying and generally a real pain. Just like so many people that use this train of thought. It’s great to hear Tracie’s explanation of where he’s going wrong.

    Lots of people struggle with where to get their morality from without god. I struggled with the concept when I became an Atheist (although I still had morality) and I know many Christians that seem to hold on to their faith as they think they won’t have any morality if they leave.

    I was wrong, the Christians I know are wrong and Tracie puts it so well.

    So thanks Tracie, I can see it’s painful for you but it’s really, really worth it.

    – Simon (the opinions expressed may not be shared by Mrs Wendy but probably are)

  13. John David Balla says

    @Simon. Second that. The educational value of Luke’s calls is what matters most. Interestingly, the value would lessen if he became understandably embarrassed when Tracie asks — after a meticulous setup — “Why can’t you understand? Even a dog understands fairness?” but he doesn’t because he’s so sure of himself. A poster child for the dangers of absolute certitude.

  14. John David Balla says

    And for the record, Luke seems quite sincere to me. I’ve met others like him.

    But for his god he would be rudderless, which he eluded to at least once.

  15. paxoll says

    Man, Luke was sure trying hard to twist what Tracie was saying into a naturalistic fallacy. He couldn’t comprehend that moral systems are natural products, he never got around to asking what determines what makes a moral system worth following.

  16. Theisntist says

    As they say, the proof is in the pudding, and the less religious a society is, the less crime and unfairness.

    I guess Luke has had enough chances to make his points but in general, it’s calls like his that are the best opportunities to show just how unsupportable theist positions tend to be, especially when Tracie is on her game! There is a reason that’s the call we all want to talk about.

  17. Robink says

    Luke: the definition of insanity is trying the same thing a dozen times and expecting a different result

    Watching Tracie dismantle his disingenuous questions may have been her finest hour. She really got to the core of his problem; that the morality he espouses isn’t really morality at all, it’s obedience. To truly be a moral agent you need to exercise choice and judgement. Luke is basically looking for an easy answer to the question “without the fear of my chosen God what would compel people to be moral?”. And there isn’t one, as is evidenced by the fact that every single person on earth (even Christians) act immorally, even by their own admission, virtually every day. Being human is messy, and painful and hard and no amount of invented rule books can change that.

  18. thelordyourgodmike says

    During the call, I was hoping that one of the hosts would ask Luke:
    Q: “Has your god given you the morality that you should not rape and kill?”
    Q:”Do you rape and kill now?”
    Q:”Hypothetically speaking, if it could be convincingly proved to you that your god does not exist, would you begin raping and killing?”
    Q:”Are you really a moral person if you don’t rape and kill only because you think a god told you not to do that?”

  19. says


    Your comments resonate.

    >Remarkable only begins to characterize Luke’s call. He literally does not know what it means to be human (while being a human).

    Thinking later about the call, I actually thought that Luke communicated about human beings like an alien who has been dropped on the planet, with no experience with the human species. It was bizarre.

    >Remarkable only begins to characterize Luke’s call. He literally does not know what it means to be human (while being a human).

    I thought this as well, that ironically (because religion often says secular people are trying to avoid responsibility), he seems to want to unburden himself from the responsibility of his choices and actions—to not have to apply himself and make judgements for which he could ultimately be held accountable. This is, to me, one of the greatest harms of religion—that it robs people of their lives. He’s not living *his* life. He’s living a life prescribed by religious dogma, without regard to what is best for him in the context of his life.

    >I don’t question his sincerity, however, which makes all of this even more disturbing.

    Here, I disagree. On a prior call, and on this call, Luke continually tried to saddle me with claiming that it’s an obligation for people to use their moral tendencies and moral judgement, despite me repeatedly, then and yesterday, saying that I am absolutely not saying a person is obligated to exercise moral judgement. Luke, himself, is an example of a human being who is not doing that, and many people with psychopathic tendencies don’t have, or don’t apply, many of the moral metrics in their judgments about how to treat others. He did ask why we put people in prison, and that moves a little toward the idea of why one *might* decide to use their moral inclinations in interactions with others—due to consequences and social cohesion—but that’s another discussion.

    However, an honest person does not repeatedly misrepresent someone who is clearly and repeatedly responding with “No, that’s not what I’m saying.” You don’t keep telling them that’s what they’re saying, if you’re trying to have an honest conversation.

    I don’t know ultimately what his agenda is, but he has one. He isn’t trying to gain understanding about what others believe. He definitely has something to prove. But I’m not sure *exactly* what it is, other than to insist atheists can’t be moral agents, maybe? But it’s not for me to guess what motivates him—only to say he does not converse like an honest participant.

    Someone after the show actually made a good suggestion. He wanted to hear Luke ask “what did people do, from a moral standpoint, before the Bible/Christianity?” Like, what is Luke’s vision of humanity pre-Christian? I would be interested to hear that response.

  20. says

    And just to add, one thing I found funny was his assumption that because I would not defend Matt’s specific positions on morality, that meant that Matt and I were in disagreement. It couldn’t possibly be that I’m not familiar enough with Matt’s positions. In fact, there is no reason to assume I follow all of Matt’s videos and talks–that I am familiar with anything about what Matt thinks beyond what he’s said when we are on the show together. It was interesting to me that he seemed to view Matt as somehow authorized to speak for all atheists, or even all the hosts–or that the hosts are all intimately aware of how the others view a particular topic, beyond what has been expressed in their presence.

  21. bluestar says

    I agree with John #14. I think Luke is quite sincere. He reminds me of these “street preachers” who hang out in parks, near clubs and concert venues. They preach without a G~d all of humanity is immoral. They call people who are going to see a show “idolaters”, they accuse women wearing shorts and sandals in hot oppressive weather of “causing others to stumble”. I have heard them say “we cannot live any way we want to”. There exists in these folks undercurrents of self loathing, condemnation, and sexual frustration that only G~d can fix. I steer away from individuals like this and have nothing to do with them.

  22. Theisntist says

    We must be open to the possibility that people like Luke are actually psychopaths that would rape and kill without fear of hell keeping them in line, and they are just projecting.

  23. says


    “I don’t think it is a matter of being dumb. It is that Luke is consistently intellectually dishonest.”

    You may well be right about this. That said, Luke’s intellectual dishonest takes the form of consistently (and deliberately?) misrepresenting the hosts’ statements or jumping forward to unwarranted conclusions. If he’s not too dumb to have the conversation, he’s pretending to be too dumb to have the conversation.

    Beyond that, I think we’re in agreement completely. Whether this is done deliberately or because he just doesn’t understand, Luke is just trying to win points in any way he can. At this point, I think it’s been pretty well established that he doesn’t really have anything other than his dishonesty, and while it’s good to show that that sort of believer exists, I think we’ve had ample evidence from Luke.

  24. Paul Money says

    If belief in God is all that’s keeping Luke from going on a raping and killing spree, let’s hope he keeps his faith!

  25. John David Balla says

    @heicart #21. This thread has generated a worthwhile debate over Luke’s sincerity. But to your remark:

    >Thinking later about the call, I actually thought that Luke communicated about human beings like an alien who has been dropped on the planet, with no experience with the human species. It was bizarre.

    This decapitation of cognition indicates a pathology for which a more specific designation may be in order. Whether it is learned through religious indoctrination or biological in origin, in either case, is the framework in which he appears to operate. Perhaps the answer to the honesty is embedded here. His confusion and contradiction may be a separate matter. Also worth noting is that those who peddle absolute certitude, e.g., Divine Command theory, are often poor listeners. And his stoic response and emotionally devoid reaction to “Why is this so ho hard for you to understand?” (paraphrased) is bereft of emotional content that we would expect with the presence of ego. If Luke is lying I would expect the presence of common defense mechanisms. I will share a paper on this that does this more justice.

  26. SH Jou says

    Thank you Atheist Experience for another wonderful show. I always appreciate the application of everyday common sense and reason in your response to callers, as demonstrated again tonight in Luke’s call. And as Simon pointed out, the education value of these calls are invaluable in disputing incredulous claims in a logical and orderly manner. Keep up the good work!!

  27. Robert Anding says

    Re: Our boy Luke:

    This is what happens when one has no concept of hypocracy and healthy
    self-embarrassment. I know Christian churches are wont to teach and employ liberal shame; but, may be his own canon of morals doesn’t house injunctions against dishonesty. If you take inventory of callers like Luke (very readily identifiable) almost to the person they are cut from that very same cloth. Recurring M.O.s.


  28. DaughtCahm says


    I just want to say thank you. I was born into the church of christ, and one that is strongly opposed science and evolution, and they’re extreme YECs. I have had doubts for years, but only in the past 5 years or so did I start labeling myself atheist. (I have kids who I desperately want to protect from religion.)

    As I’ve been exploring my new atheist self it was wonderful to hear someone declare that they used to be CoC and are now atheist. I know that’s why you all do the show. Wanted to let you know that you’ve made a difference in my life and that of my family.

  29. Cousin Ricky says

    Luke of Arizona does not understand nuance. He thinks entirely in binary terms. He doesn’t understand the concept of general principles. He needs a list of rules or he won’t know how to proceed.

    That’s probably why he needs a god to define his morality.

  30. Amy Jackson says


    In regards to Luke: AZ: Secular Morality Doesn’t Exist, I found him to be off base when he would start
    an idea with “If I start over as an atheist, and give up all of my beliefs …” I can tell you from recent experience,
    being that I just turned to atheism last year, that I did NOT give up my other beliefs. I am still a conservative,
    I still support Trump for the most part, I am still a trans woman, and most importantly, NONE of my morals changed
    from the time that I was a God-fearing Christian, to the time that I dropped the religion, and became a skeptic,
    and then an atheist.

    The only thing atheism does is answer the question of whether one believes a god (or God) exists. It has nothing to
    say about one’s morality, or lack thereof. It’s just that CHristians like to say that God is the author of morality, and He
    writes our morality on our hearts and such, so therefore, if we drop away from Him, apparently really no longer have
    morality or such, although Christians will use roughly the same logic to say that we were never really Christians because
    “Jesus never lost one that he found”, or they will say that everyone, even atheists believe in God, kinda just because.

    It’s all complete nonsense to me, and then the … pereson I still talk to about this will point out the window and say that
    rocks and trees are evdence for God, and I am thinking “No, they are evidence for the existance of rocks and trees!”

    I think my biggest issue is that I spent roughly 40 years believing this BS, and I am SO glad to be out of it. I will tell you
    that I felt an almost physical weight lift from my mind once I realized that I was an atheist, and I did not have to believe
    all of the fear-driven falsehoods that were being spoken from the pulpit each Sunday.

    Thanks Much and the Great Spahgetti Monster Bless … 🙂

  31. Cousin Ricky says

    @Chris McClean – Have you heard of David Ince? He lives in Calgary, but he’s originally from Barbados. He was just back there a couple of months ago, but I don’t know how often he goes back. He writes at

  32. John David Balla says

    @Cousin. Luke has an aversion to freedom. Erich Fromm’s “Escape from Freedom” describes the socipathy consistent what we heard from Luke like this:

    >Fromm distinguishes between ‘freedom from’ (negative freedom) and ‘freedom to’ (positive freedom). The former refers to emancipation from restrictions such as social conventions placed on individuals by other people or institutions. This is the kind of freedom typified by the existentialism of Sartre, and has often been fought for historically but, according to Fromm, on its own it can be a destructive force unless accompanied by a creative element – ‘freedom to’ – the use of freedom to employ the total integrated personality in creative acts. This, he argues, necessarily implies a true connectedness with others that goes beyond the superficial bonds of conventional social intercourse: “…in the spontaneous realization of the self, man unites himself anew with the world…”

    Translation. Luke exemplifies “a complete failure of imagination”, incapable of contrasting a theocratic precept with its absence. Even when Tracie gave him the “five fingers” example, which couldn’t be more clear, he couldn’t follow. An entire career in clinical psychology could be sourced by the cognitive deficiencies demonstrated by Luke. Now I need to check the DSM 5 to see if there’s anything like Imaginative Deficit Disorder.

  33. SH Jou says

    Now, I am more curious about people’s response to Beni from Seattle’s call. I wholeheartedly sympathize with Beni’s concern as I’ve been mulling over the very same issue ever since I decided to be more active in approaching theists a couple years ago. I believe that people’s pursuit of intellectual honesty and common good will eventually prevail over religious fundamentalism, no matter its many manifestations and organized localization efforts around the globe. But at the same time, I am cautious not to stay overly optimistic or naive in my judgement of humanity as I keep finding people I care about acting against their better selves in the name of religion.

    Borrowing John David Balla’s descriptors, ‘extreme subserviency’ and ‘absolute certitude’ are fortified many folds when organized campaign by missionaries and local chapters imbue long-held regional traditions and superstitions to their religious dogma in different parts of the world, e.g., “Chinese rites” and ancestor worship controversy. (Until Pope Pius XII declared these animism and totemism practices “civil” activities in 1939, effectively making an exception to church’s idol worship prohibition, Christianity struggled to gain followers in East Asia.)

    When Beni said, “American Christian fundamentalists would run and pee their pants.” while describing Nigerian Christian fundamentalists, it rang so true to my own experiences. I was born and raised in South Korea until I moved to America at the age of 15, and my fondest childhood memories involve church activities. Fortunately, my parents only reluctantly attended Christian churches to serve socio-cultural and business-networking obligations, and they never pushed religious agenda at home. (My dad was a non-practicing Catholic at best, and my mom would most likely identify with Mysticism.)

    However, as a young child, I saw the horrors of religious fanaticism first hand when my playmates, otherwise as normal and innocent as any other pre-teen children in a godless world, would show up to church on Sundays only to tremble in fear and cry repentance in front of the altar while speaking in tongues. I watched from the choir section as their eyes rolled back into their heads and their grief-stricken faces screamed unintelligible words feverishly. The psychological damage done to these innocent children from having such skewed view of reality forced upon them is unimaginable. They grow up to view the world as inherently evil and themselves as sinners while living in fear and self-pity which can be alleviated only by submitting to an authoritarian being who is absolute. (I can only elaborate on my Korean experience here, but I would love Beni’s input about Christian fundamentalism and its formation in Nigeria. I can only assume that region specific belief system(s), language, history, etc., were exploited by the church in its propagation, but I don’t have the slightest idea since I lack any academic or personal knowledge in that part of the world.)

    Combined with Korea’s history of persecution under Chinese and Japanese encroachment through many centuries, and as ethnocentric and war-torn as they were, Koreans were uniquely positioned to receive teachings of the Bible and the story of ‘chosen people’. Intellectual honesty and common good are luxuries people cannot afford at times of suffering. And once converted and tasted the forbidden fruit of the promised land, extremism reach its full tilt in a ‘state of blissful hallucinatory delusion’.

    Once this ‘faith’ has taken its root in people’s minds as a coping mechanism, I found it extremely hard to engage them even in a simple discussion about religion. I often found myself screaming in frustration, “Jesus Christ! What the HELL are you babbling about?!?! **** me God!” as they proudly regurgitated latest apologist garbles.

    The biggest breakthrough in my approach to extremists came when I started speaking with absolute conviction in my belief and stopped wasting time in general absurdity from wordplay. Once the discussion begins, I now swiftly dismiss from the start the existence of Christian God and the validity of the Bible, and I also lean heavily on the burden of proof.

    “No, I don’t know how the universe began or where human consciousness comes from. But I ABSOLUTELY KNOW with 100% certainty that YOU DON’T KNOW neither! God DOES NOT exist, and the Bible is an ancient round-robin storytelling artifact at best! PROVE ME wrong!”

    Whatever their response, I am always quick to interject, “You don’t know that, and you have proved nothing. Please STOP lying to yourself. Jesus would not approve of your disingenuity in your words. How am I so sure about all this? Well I have ‘faith’ in humanity.”

    I am brutally honest and straightforward in debates regarding religion, even though over-exaggerated sometimes for effect. It comes as a shock to many who know me, because I am usually very reserved and calculated in my words. (I also started to prioritize my effort. I engage only those in my life that I care about and those capable of 2-way communication. I have neither the time nor the energy for others.) I also found this approach very helpful in weeding out dishonest Christian apologists. The conversation quickly comes to a stalemate as it devolves into a match of wills about ‘my faith’ versus ‘your faith’. This is when I disengage from the conversation by agreeing to disagree. I have already wasted enough time in my life trying to reason with them, and I refuse to waste one more second.

    And in regards to culture specific obstacles, it helps to speak their language, literally but more importantly figuratively. I worked to hone my approach in dealing with Korean Christian fundamentalists to cater to Korean culture and language just as as Christianity had done when they set out to poison them. I started using more layman’s terms and colloquials while occasionally incorporating Confucian proverbs and anecdotes. (Heavily influenced by Confucian teachings for centuries, Korean language utilizes heavily metaphors/ figurative speeches/ similes in everyday reasoning and logic exercises when dealing with unfamiliar or unknown subjects. And such storytelling and often truth-bending techniques innate in the language lend massive credibility to otherwise ridiculous claims. But this is a whole new subject for another time.) This made a huge difference in my breakthrough efforts especially when effectively integrated with a barrage of Atheist rebuttals full of cliches and catchy phrases.

    My primary aim here is not to prove anything right or wrong but to be effective in casting doubt in fundamentalists ignorantly holding onto their beliefs. My aggressive approach is to make the fight memorable enough to instill in them that there are people fiercely defending Atheist position with conviction matching, if not overpowering, their own religious fervor. I do not attempt to lead them out of the cage the religion has imprisoned them in. I only want to show them where the door is and empower them with the knowledge that they already hold the key to the lock on the door.

    Now writing this post has been so much easier since I am speaking to atheist audience. But the struggle to articulate my position is real when I am dealing with people with blind faith in my daily life. More often than not, my attempt to reason with theists fail miserably, and I get disheartened and discouraged. But I have come to terms with the reality of the matter, and I try not to judge the person for their faith. Instead I curse the institutions and their toxic ideas. And this is a very important point that I also bring up in my conversations with theists. I do not judge them, rather I judge the ideas that were instilled in them. When they realize that I have their well-being in mind, my frustrated outbursts are not as offensive, and it keeps them engaged in the conversation.

    One could reasonably argue that all theists are extremists at minimum in their capacity to process logic and discern reality, and that there really shouldn’t be any difference in approaching them. I cannot agree more. However, I would just like to add that understanding cultural and moral precepts of the region the particular theist is from helps immensely in identifying their mental block so a more effective approach could be formulated.

    Lastly, I want to reemphasize this point. Speak with vigorous yet steady conviction. Seeker of truth is swayed only in the face of evidence.

  34. gshelley says

    For the first caller, I think Tracy dealt well with him, but I was wondering what he means by “right or wrong regardless of consequences”
    I’d have liked to hear an example -murder is wrong for example, but not because of the consequences (someone has been murdered). What does that even mean?

  35. Lamont Cranston says

    Cousin Ricky says

    Luke of Arizona does not understand nuance. He thinks entirely in binary terms. He doesn’t understand the concept of general principles. He needs a list of rules or he won’t know how to proceed.

    I’ve been thinking about this and in the following I am NOT talking specifically about Luke.

    If a sociopath or psychopath (there is a difference) were to call the show he would likely be a fast talker and might exhibit a lack of empathy for others. They have an actual inability to relate to how others of their own kind actually feel about much of anything. This lack of empathy puts them in the unique position of being unable to relate to a set of behaviors that even a dog can understand in relation to being part of social species. They are by definition antisocial, but pretend to be social to get by.

    Sociopaths or psychopaths often depend of a set of rules to control their behavior whereas the rest of us would innately understand how to behave morally in the same situation because we relate to the feelings of the others around us (e.g., )

    These people tend to rely on an external input to adjust their behavior in order to fit in. No, not all psychopaths or sociopaths are criminals or harmful. Instead some of them are even rather productive businessmen. What they do have in common is the ability, for the most part, to pretend to be moral and have empathy based on a carefully learned ability to copy proper behaviors for a given set of circumstances.

    However, if those rules were stripped from them, they would be hopelessly lost with an inability to make moral choices because they simply don’t have the thought processes with which to make them (they literally can’t understand something that would come naturally to most dogs). They can comprehend their own “well being” (if that is the measure), but they are at a complete loss with regard to empathizing the “well being” of anyone else.

    I believe that if a psychopath or sociopath had become dependent on the commands of the Bible as a guide for their moral behavior they could find themselves at a complete loss as to how to behave in a moral manner without that crutch. They might be convinced that any sense of morality apart from the Bible must be impossible. They could also take the position that there must be no such thing as Secular Morality because clearly morality must require a God who gives moral direction via a Bible with codes to live by.

    In a sense, where Traci talked about our social behaviors being something which just “is” like having 5 fingers on each hand just “is”, these people only have 4 fingers with no idea how a 5 fingered hand works. They just do what they can to imitate what they see everyone else doing. They might believe that they are obligated to act like a five fingered person because with only 4 fingers that can’t just BE a 5 fingered person. They do this using whatever crutches are available to them. As a crutch they might resort to a set of rules from the Bible that they were taught would work to keep them out of trouble.

    This is not an attempt to analyze Luke. It is merely an attempt to consider what a sociopathic or psychopathic Christian who called the show might behave and could be totally incorrect.

    Lamont Cranston

  36. Wiggle Puppy says

    @ gshelley: He’s talking about deontology, which holds that it’s the intent of an action, not the consequences, that matter when making a moral evaluation. You can look up Kant’s categorical imperative to get the gist of it, but the basic idea is that you must always act with the intent to respect the inherent dignity of other rational actors. This categorical imperative generates a list of rules designed to avoid disrespecting another rational actor: don’t lie, don’t kill, etc. For a Kantian deontologist, a murder would be wrong because you intended to disrespect the dignity of another rational actor. It’s the opposite of utilitarianism, which holds that a murder would usually be wrong because it deprives people of future pleasures.

    If this distinction isn’t clear, more complicated hypotheticals make it more so. For example, imagine that you could develop an experimental drug by experimenting on one person against their will. The experimentation would certainly kill them, but successful completion of the drug would save ten people. For a deontologist, it would not be moral to sacrifice the one individual by testing the drug on them, because you are taking an action that disrespects that peron’s rationality. For a utilitarian, the action would be moral, because the lives of ten people saved by the drug would outweigh the one lost by its development.

    There are obvious objections to both of these in their purest forms. In my comment at the beginning of this thread, I gave the example of Nazis asking you if you are harboring Jews. If it’s always wrong to deceive people (which the categorical imperative would probably dictate), then you would be obligated to tell the truth. There’s an obvious problem here. And with utilitarianism, killing somebody in an industrial accident would be judged morally equivalent to cold-blooded murder, because the outcome is the same. Again, there’s an easily identifiable problem here, That’s why, in the centuries since these ideas were first developed, they’ve each been refined into more mature forms that better take into account all the complexity of human experience. And it’s why Luke’s divine command theory – which holds that things are morally right or wrong depending on their simple correspondence (or lack thereof) with the commands of an all-powerful dictator – came across as hopelessly naive and childish in the conversation with Tracie.

  37. says

    heicart @21:

    However, an honest person does not repeatedly misrepresent someone who is clearly and repeatedly responding with “No, that’s not what I’m saying.” You don’t keep telling them that’s what they’re saying, if you’re trying to have an honest conversation.

    as frustrating as it is in conversation, this type of dishonesty is even more insulting on message boards, where you can literally point upthread to the exact words you’ve typed and even reiterated for their benefit. clearly the person isn’t interested in what you’re saying, once you depart from whatever script they’re following. but whenever i’m on the receiving end of this criticism, i automatically stop, reread the dialog, acknowledge any mistakes and from that point forwards thrice read what i’m being told. (unless i’m clearly being fed gibberish…)

  38. mzavros says

    Tracie, you claimed Buddhism came from Hinduism and I’ve not heard that at all. Where is this info?

  39. John David Balla says

    Ahh…the Hitchens proposition may have helped here.

    Name me a helpful, positive action that could only be made by a believer” [crickets]
    Name me a wicked action that could only be made by a believer, [and you would have to think very long at all.]

    Or for Luke specifically, name me a good deed that a nonbeliever is incapable of, that could only be discharged by a believer.

    Perhaps a question for next time. No hypothetical required.

  40. says

    @mzavros –

    Buddhism borrows heavily from Hinduism, which existed long before Buddhism. Buddhism developed in India, and any person reading Hindu and Buddhist texts can’t really miss the similarities, even the shared concepts and language. This article particularly talks about Buddhism’s striking similarities to Advaita Vedanta, which was an outgrowth of older Hindu traditions. Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism rely on one another to such a degree that there is debate about which one influenced the other–since they’re clearly intertwined.

    Part of the problem with research is that the religions themselves have revisionist ideas about their own origins. But generally speaking, you can read the Vedas and Upanishads, and then read Buddhist writings, and the similarities are unmistakable, with Buddhism borrowing concepts and vocabulary from the older Hinduism.

    When folks try to argue they’re not related, it’s more like Christians who claim Islam isn’t worshiping the same god and isn’t related to Christianity. And Muslims claiming their doctrines are entirely unique, as dictated by an angel to Mohammed. But if you look at it from a non-religious view, as a secular person just studying the information, you can see the borrowing that happens from Judaism, to Christianity, to Islam.

    Buddhism and Hinduism are the same situation. Buddhism comes out of the same region, long after the establishment of Hindu ideas, and uses much of the same language and concepts–but tweaked. It’s rebranded Hinduism.

    Another few links on the Upanishads/Buddhism:

    This article explores the relationship between Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism:

    The concepts and labels they use are not universal to all religions, but found in religions originating in India. Of the three Hinduism is the oldest to contain these ideas.

  41. says

    @aarrgghh –

    I was on a thread once where someone kept misrepresenting me. I kept saying, in every reply, that what they were saying I said, is not what I was saying. Finally, after several exchanges where they continued to misrepresent me in the same way, I stopped arguing all other points, and said I would not continue until they showed me where I’d said what they were saying. I basically said, “show me where I said this.” And I wasn’t accusing them of lying–but really wondering how they’d come to that idea. Their response, I kid you not, was to write back and claim that I had cleverly misled them–to make them think that’s what I was saying–even though I never actually said it. All I could do was point out that if they read the posts, I clarified and denied it in literally every post in response. Somehow, though, I was responsible for the fact they weren’t paying attention to what I was saying.

  42. John David Balla says

    @ heicart: “No rational argument will have a rational effect on a man who does not want to adopt a rational attitude.” — Karl Popper

  43. Lamont Cranston says

    mzavros says:

    Tracie, you claimed Buddhism came from Hinduism and I’ve not heard that at all. Where is this info?

    It might have been better to say that the two are related rather than indicating that Buddhism comes from Hinduism.

    The two have many beliefs in common and obviously share significant background. In fact there are Hindus and Hindu documents that traditionally accept Buddhism as a form of Hinduism. However, Buddhists generally reject this.

    To the best of my knowledge (not perfect by any means), Buddha was born into a Hindu family. So there is a connection. However, that does not necessarily mean that Buddhism is just a form of Hinduism.

    Lamont Cranston

  44. Theisntist says

    In my brief foray into Buddhism, I learned that Buddha never made reference to reincarnation, but it is nevertheless assumed in most branches of Buddhism that reincarnation is a thing. I always wondered why that would be, but it makes sense if Hinduism was the standard view of reality in Buddha’s time.

  45. Serge Rubinstein says

    As the french philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre pointed, an action is moral if it matches the universal criterium. It is the answer to the question : “what if everyone did the same ? “

  46. says

    heicart @47:

    Their response, I kid you not, was to write back and claim that I had cleverly misled them–to make them think that’s what I was saying–even though I never actually said it.

    the dodge i usually get is some form of “yeah, but what you’re really saying is …”, but “you wrote ‘x’ to make me read ‘y'” sounds like sheer sputtering flopsweat. [picard facepalm]

    unless you’re describing a toddler, i hope you crucified them.

  47. paxoll says

    “you claimed Buddhism came from Hinduism” does not mean “that Buddhism is just a form of Hinduism”. Judaism “came from” the pantheistic religion of the Canaanites. Christianity and Islam, “came from” Judaism. Mormonism “came from” Christianity. Catholicism is “just a form” of Christianity. Not going to bother to listen to the whole show again just to find the specific wording Tracie used, but everything has been correctly used in the comments here.

  48. Monocle Smile says

    Listened to Luke again.
    That assclown can go pound sand. No more calls from him are necessary; he’s already a dead horse.

    Fuck deontology. Given that we live in a physical world as physical beings and we’re a social animal, it’s pretty obvious that any functional system must lean utilitarian and pull back where necessary.

    Was Matthew a repeat caller? I think I recognize his nauseating tone. He sounds like he wants to give Jesus a blowjob.

  49. Monocle Smile says

    The “teaching scholar” bullshit is a dishonest way to exclude very specific mythicists, but since Robert Price is in fact a teaching scholar, Matthew looks even dumber.

  50. III says

    There’s the golden rule approach for teaching a child morality, which emphasizes empathy (and eventually) theory of mind; this approach teaches moral reasoning and socialization in one go. Then there’s the way I was brought up (in a fundamentalist household): here are THE RULES.

    I grew up with an underdeveloped ability to imagine what other people were thinking (cognitively). I didn’t realize this about myself; most people in my life didn’t realize it because I have empathy. It was life-changing for me, as an adult, to be in a role where I encouraged strangers to articulate what they were thinking (I volunteered as a rape/DV counselor in the ER). What I heard would shake anyone’s confidence that they know what others are thinking, but for me, it was mind-blowing (and eventually made me a kinder person and better friend).

    I didn’t have an (innate) inability or a lack of interest in imagining what someone else was thinking – I had no awareness that it was even necessary. Luke may not be a psychopath or a sociopath – if he grew up in a rule-based household, he may have had limited practice with cognitive perspective-taking. A sociopath/psychopath (correct me if I’m wrong) has a problem with emotional perspective-taking.

    Everyday social negotiation is invisible to people who accept rules-based morality. He dismisses the free rider problem (if he wants something, everyone does) and worries about the problem of the last piece of pizza (if he wants something, everyone does).

    Luke wanted, eventually, to “prove” that if we have different moral principles (or as he would dismiss them – “preferences”) we wouldn’t be able to agree, in some hypothetical scenario, on how to live. (Someone thinking differently than him? Madness!) If Luke wants real answers (he doesn’t) he should think about the principles that have driven our agreement in the real world; even someone who insists that this is a Christian nation with Christian laws would have a hard time arguing that our byzantine legal code (say the difference between the different degrees of crime) is based on the Bible. If our legal code were based on what God had handed down, rape would still be a property crime and the differing laws regarding rape in “Christian nations” … wouldn’t be different.

  51. Serge Rubinstein says

    People accepting Jesus existed, and above all, was crucified lack of historical knowledge. Crucifixion was the punishment for rebels and escaped slaves. Jesus wasn’t any ot both. Besides, everything is supposed to happen under emperor Tiberius, who was, as a stïcian philosopher, a defender of law without compromises, like shows his treatment of the prefect of Rome Sejan, also because he didn’t want the return of the troubles of the republic.He would never have accepted that a man should be crucified only because a mob claimed it ! If Pilatus had doen this, Tiberius would have at least called back in Rome. That has never happened, beecause the whole event never took place !

  52. Paul Money says

    I know that this isn’t a kindergarten, but it isn’t a barrack room either. Bullshit, ass clown, fuck and blowjob don’t add anything to the dialogue, in fact they just lower the tone and do no credit to the forum.

  53. Monocle Smile says

    In this case, I believe it’s calling a spade a spade. Nobody’s shedding tears for either of the callers in question and my comments were not directed towards users on this forum.

  54. says

    So I’ve check. This was Luke’s fifth call to the show this year. Here’s a quick summary:

    Show 22.02, at 1:45:25
    Asks a series of leading questions. Eventually Tracie hangs up on him and accuses him of “JAQ”ing off.

    Show 22.04, at 22:04
    Luke is convinced that atheism is ridiculous because it is defined as a lack of belief. He also claims that the word “amuse” means “a-muse,” or without thought, and that everyone who isn’t a Christian is an atheist.

    Show 22.05 at 1:21:53
    Is convinced that all atheists must be moral nihilists, that if there is no god that meaning and conversation are impossible, tells Tracie that her position is definitionally that morality is that which keeps the species going, and conclude the call by telling the hosts that they aren’t atheists.

    Show 22.32 at 1:08:35
    Plays the “are you?” game with Matt for a few minutes until Matt calls him out as a jackass.

    This last show.

    Luke is played out. Please, no more calls from this smug asshole.

  55. twarren1111 says

    Thanks for the Luke links:
    Show 22.02 at 1:45:25 Mark: Luke asks what Tracie meant at the beginning of the show when she said TAE wants to promote a positive image. Tracie and Eric Murphy talk about charity, community work, public planting of trees, etc. They point out you don’t need religion to do good things. They mention Phil leading an organization that builds ramps for disabled people. Luke’s response to Eric and Tracie is “isn’t it interesting that ‘positive atheist culture’ is basically dependent on Christian culture?” Wow! Both Tracie and Eric look confused. Appropriately so. Luke doubles down and Tracie points out that her church did zero charity work. Off the top of my head: rotary club, lions club, Sierra club, meals on wheels….what is clear is Luke is just picking a fight here in that his topic came from that days show itself. He merely wants to attack the idea of ‘positive’ atheism. Luke tries to ask if ‘moral imperatives’ are then intrinsic to atheism. Of course it isn’t Luke! It’s just about communities. People. You know; caring. Luke then asks: if atheism isn’t about morality, right and wrong, then how can atheism offer a positive culture? Luke: “but play dates with kids isn’t good or bad…” and Eric steps in focusing on why is Luke trying to imply without god one can’t be moral and thus one can not have a positive culture. Luke then: “but if you have no intrinsic value or moral purpose…” and the hosts call him out on this issue, ie, if his point was that you can’t be moral without god why didn’t he say that from the beginning? That he’s wasting time. That he is being a liar. He is dishonest. And Tracie!!! is appropriately livid.

    Show 22.04 at 37:14
    Luke opens up with: defining atheism as a lack of belief in god is ridiculous for 3 reasons. 1.atheism is a completely subjective term that varies from religion to religion. 2 it’s a negative philosophy and negative philosophies don’t exist. 3. God is not nearly as compartmentalized as atheist believe. Russell agrees with point one bc he agrees that every religion has its own god(s). But Luke doesn’t seem to recognize that this is a “no, duh” type of statement. Luke also hasn’t grasped that a claim is a claim and is separate from evidence. Hence, the claim god exists is separate from the evidence. If a person is not convinced by the evidence then the claim fails to be supported. It does not mean the null hypothesis is true. Rejecting the evidence for the claim of god has nothing to do with the claim there is no god. Luke cannot understand this. He is totally binary. He can not see the middle. He cannot see the self referential middle. He sees only true positive and true negative. He doesn’t see that in any complex system there is also false positive and false negative. He just can’t think with Bayesian logic. He sees no middle. Luke even quadruples down that any theist other than Christian really is Atheist bc they don’t believe in the right god. Truly amazing. Luke would not do well in an Islamic country. Luke even starts insisting that there must be consistent definitions and thus Jews are atheist in terms of Christianity but they aren’t atheist in that they believe in a god and Luke can’t handle this bc he can’t accept that atheism just means not accepting the hypothesis of any deity having any evidence. Luke is terrified of uncertainty.

    Show 22.05 at 1:21:55
    Luke asks: why aren’t atheists moral nihilists? Luke says there has to be meaning, purpose, in the universe because otherwise there is no reality. Luke then talks about moral relativism in atheists and he’s talking very fast. Tracie asks what is Luke using to determine morality. What metrics does Luke use. Luke is confused. He states morality is not metrics but something you strive for. Interesting: this is the second time I’ve heard Luke’s cell phone vibrating in the background. Like he’s getting friends to give him talking points. Luke says he’s a Christian so morality is a goal to strive for. Morality is in the character of god in the universe. That’s it. So he can’t define morality otherwise. Tracie is trying to get Luke to define what he means by morality. Luke insists on Tracie defining what she means. So she does. Tracie tells Luke what her views on morality are: fairness, empathy, how one functions in a social group, what behaviors help and hinder, and how all of this changes over time. Luke really can’t accept looking at all animals to define morality. Luke then tries to bring in choice (bc he probably wants to focus on free will; original sin) and Tracie answers him broadly and accurately. Luke then tries to focus on the muddy idea of how can we try to be fair, etc if we aren’t innately fair. Again, he’s trying to not say original sin, fallen humans, soul, etc. Now Luke tries to focus on how do we know if what we think is fair is true. Tracie points out that’s redundant. If something feels fair then that’s what’s ‘true’ so why focus on ‘true’. Here Luke is trying to not use phrases such as: original sin, fallen man, absolute right and wrong, need for deity to tell us ‘objective morality’, concept of sin, concept of hell, concept of heaven, etc. Luke then tries to make concrete what Tracie is trying to explain to him. Luke cannot handle the messy middle! He cannot understand the role of empathy.

    Show 22.32 at 1:08:35
    Luke asks: if I say atheists are immoral, explain why I am wrong? Matt defines how he sees morality. Luke then asks if Matt would be more moral if he used the Bible. Matt asks Luke if he thinks slavery is moral. Luke asks if it is immoral from an atheist perspective to own slaves. Jen says yes. Luke asks why? But, Matt keeps Luke to the original question: does Luke think slavery is immoral. Luke answers with, “do you?” Matt lowers the boom and insists that Luke answers the question. Luke asks “on what grounds” is it moral to own slaves and Matt hangs up on him. Luke cannot answer yes or no questions bc of his rigidity. It’s amazing how bc of his religion he can make post hoc adjustments ad lib for his ‘morality’ but he can’t see any argument or evidence as true outside of his narrow perspective. It’s like he can’t see the middle but he can readily go around the flanks to keep his rigid world view intact.

    I think his calls are good. He’s obviously struggling and I think he has compatriots with him. As such, nothing serves better to reveal the truth than logical debate. As such, Luke continually provides an eye opening education to everyone involved be it the insightful atheist to the most gullible theist. This means education is always occurring when Luke calls.

    Plus, Tracie!!!

  56. aleunam says

    Our mind cannot comprehend 3 important facts : Nothingness, Infinity and Perfection. This is why we say there must habe been a beginning and it has to be an end, there must habe been something /someone who created all this and this is why God is not Perfect, because we cannot create him Perfectly. We created God, not the other way around

  57. says

    >People accepting Jesus existed, and above all, was crucified lack of historical knowledge.

    While I am happy to admit I’m not a historian or Bible scholar, I try to, as much as I’m lay-informed, accept consensus in any valid field of research or study. My understanding is that the crucifixion constitutes consensus, at least for now?

    From the article:
    Most scholars of antiquity agree that Jesus existed,[54][55][56][57] but scholars differ on the historicity of specific episodes described in the biblical accounts of Jesus.[15]:181 The only two events subject to “almost universal assent” are that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and that, between one and three years later, he was crucified by the order of the Roman Prefect Pontius Pilate.[13][58][59] Elements whose historical authenticity are disputed include the two accounts of the nativity of Jesus, the miraculous events including turning water into wine, walking on water and the resurrection, and certain details about the crucifixion.[60][61][62][63][64][65]

    I will continue to stick to what I understand to be consensus, in the interest of fairness, because I expect others to also defer to such consensus. Much like when a caller called not long ago trying to overturn Historic consensus on the show, and I told him to take his talking points to Historians, where such arguments had any real impact. I am not the arbiter of what Historians accept as consensus in their field, but I will work within it until such time as Historians believe they’ve been presented with sufficient evidence to change their views. Otherwise–why have research and academic fields of study, if we must all start from square one and learn it all ourselves and generate our own views? The entire point of these bodies of work is that we can appeal to them for shorthand reference to have informed conversations.

    I would also say that this forum is not the place where historical consensus will be overturned. If anyone doesn’t like a consensus of a field, they should present their arguments or evidence for consideration in the appropriate channels. Otherwise they are appealing to people who are equally inexpert and not really vetting their claims robustly.

  58. gshelley says

    “He would never have accepted that a man should be crucified only because a mob claimed it ! If Pilatus had doen this, Tiberius would have at least called back in Rome. That has never happened, because the whole event never took place !”

    Regardless of whether Jesus existed, and if he was crucified, the account given in the New Testament is a fiction – the trial as presented was not legal and would not have happened, the depiction of Pilate does not match at all what we know of him and the actual description of the crucifixion itself blatantly taken directly from psalms,rather than any observations by witnesses.
    Of course, this does not prove it didn’t happen, but makes me wonder why the consensus is that Jesus was crucified. – It seems to be at least in part (and perhaps mostly) that scholars think people wouldn’t have made it up if it wasn’t true and that something must have happened to make his followers start to think he was resurrected and was god.

  59. Monocle Smile says

    I partly suspect it is because for most of history, all historians who would weigh in on this matter were Christians. Same reason there exist severe biases amongst New testament scholars. It’s not that surprising.

  60. says

    Every time I hear the hosts mention student secular alliances in high school, I think of how quickly I would have been disciplined or expelled at my public high school as a teen if I ever would have attempted something like that.

  61. gshelley says

    It also means they seem to think they don’t really have to argue their case – everyone already knows they are right and only cranks disagree so why bother.
    I’d like it if more people who were secular made an effort to defend the historicity case. Ehrman’s book was not good, it barely addressed mythicist arguments (ie made no effort to see if they could explain the data), had circular arguments (basically that we know the gospels date back to Jesus, because his followers would have told stories about him and these would have formed the basis for some of the gospel stories) and had other errors
    I don’t have the book in front of me, but Dominic Crossan gives a similarly terrible reason for accepting a historical Jesus in his “Power of Parable” book, after having argued that most, if not all of the stories are themelves parables, and not necessarily historical

  62. III says

    Truthfully, while listening to the calls I assumed Luke had some kind of cognitive issue, but seeing these calls as you’ve written them out makes me suspect he’s a troll. There’s too much shifting sand, even within a single call, and then when you look across calls…

    Still, I’ve found them enjoyable. Tracie is very respectful about not assuming what someone is saying OR where they’re going (even though she’s seen these arguments play out 1000 times). She avoids jumping ahead on autopilot, and troll or no troll, it’s great to see him flummoxed. He’s been on the verge of screaming GOTCHA! so very many times, and been thwarted each time because she hasn’t approached the conversation with the smug, defensive script he’s counting on.

    This is what makes me think he’s a troll. The genuinely idiotic think there’s no possible response to their diamonds – that’s why they call. This guy is 1) clearly anticipating the stock answer 2) tries to zoom past the inconsistencies in his arguments he seems to (already) know are there… which Tracie isn’t letting him get away with because she’s not salivating as hard as he is at getting to the point in the discussion where she would be screaming GOTCHA!

    Ah well. Better luck next time, Luke.

  63. Larry Cahoon says

    I don’t mind going with the consensus of the experts in the field most of the time. But I have problems doing so when it comes to christian history – be that the crucifixion, the early persecutions or anything else in the early church. The stories that were written were put forth by the winners. They mostly tried to destroy or disparage any other description of events. And as Bart Erhman has said there are no records of Christ outside of the church from the first century. So I view most descriptions of the early Church years as biased due to such long standing practices. It is very hard to determine what is truth, even for those who are the experts. I see the consensus shifting, but it still seems to be Church centered in it’s interpretation not because it is the correct interpretation, but because it is the interpretation that the Church has used as propaganda for centuries.

  64. Lamont Cranston says

    III says:

    Truthfully, while listening to the calls I assumed Luke had some kind of cognitive issue, but seeing these calls as you’ve written them out makes me suspect he’s a troll. There’s too much shifting sand, even within a single call, and then when you look across calls…

    I don’t know if the “shifting sand” makes him a troll. I’ve seen all of the same things from a large number of the theist callers. I am not saying that Luke is not a troll, mind you.

    Theist often present present an argument saying they have evidence for their case. Then they proceed to provide things that are not evidence. Then when pressed they try to shift the burden of proof. After that doesn’t work they try to say the atheism is just another form of religion (atheist are accepting things on faith). After that gets shot down they shift to a different claim (shifting from historical Jesus, to cosmological, to ontological, to look at the trees, to the design of a watch, evolution, etc.).

    Then, after the hosts directly answer their questions with clear brief answers, the callers are asked a few simple questions that would usually require nothing more than simple yes or no answers to illustrate the problem with their position. Of course they see that the answer they would have to give leads directly to a conclusion that is an insurmountable problem for them (like asking if they think slavery is immoral). So they start deflecting, dancing and dodging or cooking up bizarre definitions (slavery wasn’t slavery, it depends on what the definition is “is” is) to waltz around the issue.

    The only way to remain a theist is to be versed in the art of the shift and dodge to delude one’s self about what the religion actually teaches. As a theist you have to find a way to make it all seem to make sense even if it doesn’t make sense (Genesis, Noah’s Ark, et. al.) or else turn off your brain. In a sense religion is “crazy making”. Shifting is not just the playground of trolls.

    Having said all of this I think it is time to let Luke go the way of Hamish and let someone else make a fool of themselves.

    Lamont Cranston

  65. Robert, not Bob says

    You said much of what I was going to (thanks for saving me time!). I’d like to add that we’re often dealing with someone with the epistemology that holds that some things are true by definition and therefore the quality of arguments or evidence is irrelevant. So, as I’ve said before, people shouldn’t be so quick to yell Troll.

    As to the historicity argument (if we must go ’round that little circle again, so be it…), while I’m no historian, I have looked into it enough to know that the only evidence for Jesus is the gospels, and it disturbs me greatly that historians are willing to go with evidence that poor. Of course many may be lying for the sake of their jobs…

  66. paxoll says

    I have to agree with MS. The historian consensus is made up of pretty much all christian scholars. The bias is pretty evident in their books. The non biblical sources are all non-contemporary’s of jesus. They are all relying on hearsay from the growing christian population as it spread. Granted they are all first century meaning they could be relying on eye witnesses 20+ years after the fact. But we do have reason to doubt the biblical portrayal of the crucifixion as the behavior of Pilate is inconsistent with his general disregard for anything the jews cared about. The prefect that would piss off the whole city by bringing in standards bearing Ceasars image, would likely not capitulate to condemning an innocent man.

  67. Paul Money says

    “But we do have reason to doubt the biblical portrayal of the crucifixion as the behavior of Pilate is inconsistent with his general disregard for anything the jews cared about.”
    The conclusion reached in this sentence is not evidence of anything other than a human being who possibly acted inconsistently.
    “The stories that were written were put forth by the winners. They mostly tried to destroy or disparage any other description of events. ”
    This is asserted without evidence.
    We should try to adopt the same standards that we demand of theists eh?

  68. paxoll says

    I’m not saying that it “probably” didn’t happen, I’m saying that the expert “consensus” in this matter is suspect for multiple reasons. What is more likely, inconsistency in an individual, or inconsistencies in stories about that individual 20+ years later? We have a decently large collection of stories and they are so disparate from each other and other history that the only real “consensus” from very bias historians is that Jesus was an actual person, and he was crucified, and one of those things is absolutely integral to the very reason the historians are bias.

  69. III says

    The thing is, and I’d have to listen again, but I thought I saw shifting sands on his definitions, not just in the goalposts or the arguments he constructed. I’d have to listen again… but I had the sense that when he initially mentioned “a sense of justice and fairness” (what seems fair or just differs from person to person, is not handed down by god, and evaluating things as fair/unfair or just/unjust is part of human nature) early in the call, he used it in the same way that Tracie eventually defined it… yet he pretended he didn’t understand her definition as the conversation evolved. Similarly, when he initially introduced morality, he made the distinction between his morality and Christian morality… (as in, his adherence or not, to the “rules”) but later seemed to have trouble seeing “choice” as integral to morality.

    However… I might have misunderstood. Goodness knows I was distracted by wondering if he’d been brought up in a panic room and had just figured out how to dial out.

  70. Scott Taylor says

    @Monocle Smile
    Replying to Paul, who seemed to have trouble with the statement that

    The stories that were written were put forth by the winners. They mostly tried to destroy or disparage any other description of events.

    This isn’t in the least bit controversial, but Paul seems to want evidence.

  71. Paul Money says

    It may or may not be controversial, but it is word for word the phrasing that revisionist “historians” use to disparage the consensus view of the holocaust (for example), hence very suspect to me. As we know nothing whatsoever about the writers of the gospels, any assumptions about their bias and their destruction and disparagement of other descriptions of events, is speculation.

  72. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @Paul Money #83:

    it is word for word the phrasing that revisionist “historians” use to disparage the consensus view of the holocaust (for example), hence very suspect to me. As we know nothing whatsoever about the writers of the gospels […]

    If you think the abundant evidence undermining holocaust deniers’ stories is inaccessibly lost to time, in order to reduce both to a superficial comparison of phrasing, you’ve already granted holocaust deniers too much credit.
    Larry Cahoon #73:

    The stories that were written were put forth by the winners. They mostly tried to destroy or disparage any other description of events. And as Bart Erhman has said there are no records of Christ outside of the church from the first century. So I view most descriptions of the early Church years as biased due to such long standing practices. It is very hard to determine what is truth, even for those who are the experts.

    Paul Money #83:

    any assumptions about their bias and their destruction and disparagement of other descriptions of events, is speculation.

    Article: Wikipedia – Proto-orthodox Christianity

    Bauer hypothesised that the Church Fathers, most notably Eusebius in his Ecclesiastical History, “had not given an objective account of the relationship of early Christian groups.” Instead, Eusebius would have “rewritten the history of early Christian conflicts, so as to validate the victory of the orthodox party that he himself represented.” Eusebius claimed that orthodoxy derived directly from the teachings of Jesus and his earliest followers, and had always been the majority view; by contrast, all other Christian views were branded as “heresies”, that is to say, willful corruptions of the truth, held by small numbers of minorities.
    However, in modern times, many non-orthodox early Christian writings were discovered by scholars, gradually challenging the traditional Eusebian narrative. Bauer was the first to suggest that what later became known as “orthodoxy” was originally just one out of many early Christian sects (such as the Ebionites, Gnostics and Marcionists), that however was able to eliminate all major opposition by the end of the 3rd century, and managed to establish itself as orthodoxy at the First Council of Nicaea (325) and subsequent ecumenical councils. […] As the Roman political and cultural elite converted to the locally held form of Christianity, they started exercising their authority and resources to influence the theology of other communities throughout the Empire, sometimes by force.

  73. paxoll says

    We are not commenting on the

    As we know nothing whatsoever about the writers of the gospels, any assumptions about their bias and their destruction and disparagement of other descriptions of events, is speculation.

    We are commenting on the biases of the primarily christian historians who are making the “consensus” on the historicity of the christian writers. Do you not question the validity of the research from groups that have very significant conflicts of interest? That is exactly what we have with christian historians.

  74. Paul Money says

    I could go back over this thread pointing out the things that I do question, but I think that I’ll just let my posts stand! I would point out though that referring to the bias that christian historians obviously have does not allow one to automatically dismiss their version or assume, as some do, that they “destroy and disparage other descriptions”.
    Revisionists use precisely this technique with the holocaust.

  75. paxoll says

    So the only holocaust historians are people with bias against who, or for who? Jews? People deny the moon landing, is that the same? People deny the earth is round, is that the same? Pointing out that some idiot rejects mountains of evidence because they claim the scientists are “bias” does not make it an analogous situation. For one thing we are dealing with bias on top of bias, the bias of the sources and the bias of the historians evaluating the sources. The “consensus” claim on the resurrection of Jesus is founded on the independent verification provided by non-scriptural sources, 2 in fact, Tacitus and Josephus. Both of which are non-contemporary historians to Jesus and are basing their accounts on hearsay of…guess who…christians. It is equivalent to saying a news report on the claims of alien abductees is a secondary confirming source. No it really isn’t. We are dealing with the same information source, early Christians. When you look at the historical critiques of those independent sources there is clear bias between historians in how reliable that source is on that specific information. Quite honestly claiming “consensus” on this matter is like a doctor in the 60s saying the medical consensus is that smoking is good for your health, because the only doctors you hear talking about smoking are the ones working for the smoking industry. I bet millions of people started smoking because of those advertisements, and they were wrong to trust the consensus of obviously bias experts.

    I think we have in our modern enlightenment have applied scientific standards to all academic disciplines that do not warrant the regard. Historians are not scientists and anytime a scientific fact is found that conflicts with history (noah’s flood) we reject the historical claim immediately. For me I will stick with hedging my belief and simply say that early christians claim that jesus was crucified.

  76. Paul Money says

    All historians write with a certain amount of bias, they are humans. One may therefore view their conclusions with that in mind, but their conclusions may still be correct. The absence of an alternative account is interesting. You have no evidence that Tacitus and Josephus relied only on Christian hearsay, they may for all we know have had better sources.
    Be all that as it may, I am not arguing for or against the crucifixion account, only for precision in criticism of Christians and an understanding that as far as that is concerned, they may well be right.

  77. Monocle Smile says

    @Paul Money

    All historians write with a certain amount of bias, they are humans.

    We are talking about a singular bias covering virtually an entire field. Stop equating.

    You have no evidence that Tacitus and Josephus relied only on Christian hearsay, they may for all we know have had better sources

    Yeah, and maybe monkeys flew out my ass yesterday.
    Point being that nobody should give a flying fuck if someone “could be right” if we have no reason to suspect that they are in fact correct. This is just contrarian nonsense.

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