Open thread for episode 22.44: Matt Dillahunty and Don Baker

Don talks about two recent lawsuits in Texas using the Texas version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.


  1. says

    This is David from Queensland Australia, the first caller. I appreciate The Athiest Experience taking my call today on the Atheist Experience. Thank you very much, Matt and Don.
    A few minutes is challenging to give a reasonable presentation on the chapters of the book of Daniel in the Bible that outline history, some with quite specific details and to evaluate if they could possibly be prophetic in nature. What, from my understanding, I find interesting with the prophecies of both Daniel and Revelation is that they vehemently condemn a religious power that seeks to have any civil authority. Sadly, this was the case for some 1260+ years through the dark ages. It pains me to understand, and I absolutely wish that it were not so, but the Bible presents a very near future where once again false religion will claim the right to rule both civilly and morally. As I understand it, Revelation both condemns such a rule and gives a final picture where God will destroy false religion that seeks to control people’s conscience.
    One significant reason why all of this in Daniel and Revelation seems to be written in code by some madmen is in order to help protect it from being wiped out by the actual religious power that it is talking about. However if one is willing to spend just some effort to decipher it, it is quite specific. This can be attested to by many who have looked at these books including Sir Isaac Newton and Luther who was pivotal in helping free Europe from tyrannical religious rule. The final nail in the coffin came from France where, with the rise of the age of reason, temporal power was removed from the papacy by General Berthier.
    Unfortunately, this whole scenario where religion has the right to civil power seems to be on the rise again.
    I am happy to answer any questions that my call-in (originally to be about benevolent theism) about prophecy in the Bible might raise.

  2. cobbler says

    Cobbler from Qld-Australia —-Re david from Qld-Australia – Apologies to the US , i know that you have not forgiven us for visiting Ken HAM upon you and we wanted you to believe that he was the only nutter in Australia , now with David from Queensland getting a guernsey on your talk back, the cat’s out of the bag – the proportions of nut wings in the population of Australia is probably just as high as in Alabama. But unfortunately we do not have a service or group like yours to counteract their lunacy ,and now they have command of the Government benches . Can you send a delegation over here to saves from ourselves

  3. twarren1111 says

    I was recently watching on YouTube a Yale University lecture series on the Old Testament. Christine Hayes is the professor and she is absolutely outstanding. It’s about 24 lectures. The whole semester. There’s just no way one can understand this introductory course and hold the ideas the first caller David from Australia holds. Daniel is written in three different periods of time and clearly references the effects of the Babylonian and then Persian empires overtaking Israel (and Judah).

    She also presents Isaiah so well. How it is essentially three different books and exactly what it’s prophesies relate to. And exactly how Christians and New Testament books misuse isiah.

    This is why faith based methods of determining reality (ie ratios, the math of logic) literally doesn’t add up and leads to such a repeated waste of time and energy.

  4. diggitydog says

    I don’t know if this message can get to Matt, but I’ve noticed that multiple times he’s used the word “contemporary” when he should be using the word “contemporaneous”. Normally I wouldn’t be so pedantic but it seems to lead to a lot of confusion and having to explain what he means (see about 59:30 in this episode for an example). Contemporary means this time period and only this time period, while contemporaneous means during the same time period as another event, sort of “contemporary” to that time period. I love the show and I’m not just trying to nitpick, but it might help prevent some annoying conflicts and tangents in the future if he used the technically correct word.

  5. Murat says

    I know Don was just being sarcastic about it, but “multiple laws based on people’s allegiance of faith” is no less of an evil than any theocracy of a single religion. It’s been practiced in many places, and the outcome is emboldened oppression and conflict. Plus, far as I know, the UK has some domestic reasons to tolerate a portion of that abomination (while containing it), which is part of the reasons they are having difficulty upholding the freedom of speech in its ideal form.

  6. jeuandavid says

    @Murat: Can you please clarify – ideally with an example- what you mean by the statement: ‘the UK has some domestic reasons to tolerate a portion of that abomination (while containing it), which is part of the reasons they are having difficulty upholding the freedom of speech in its ideal form’ ?

  7. Murat says

    I’ll just leave these links here, hoping they help to clarify the point I was trying to make.
    For the UK has a more remarkable history of colonialism, the way they incorporate peoples / individuals into the legal system is somewhat different than other first world countries.
    One of the few legit arguments pumped up by Islamophobes in the UK is that the police can act on “hate speech” charges in a manner quite close to “blasphemy” charges when Mohammed is mocked, while Ricky Gervais can say anything about Jesus.
    I am no expert on law and don’t want to be misleading, but what I am convinced is that, what the UK has once developed as a means of expansion is now having side effects.
    P.S. 1
    I’m not arguing that the bunch of traditions that pass as “Sharia law” actually are a legit part of Islamic belief, but that doesn’t matter as many consider so.
    P.S. 2
    The examples I gave show how Sikhs and Muslims are given passes to do things “others” can’t, and I personally find this very dangerous, misleading and open all the way to abuse. Similar exceptions may exist for other faith groups, I just am not aware of them.
    P.S. 3
    One could argue that, in certain parts of the USA, like Native American reservations or Amish counties, similar practices exist. However, I think the distinction here is that, in such cases we can talk about “municipal laws” whereas the UK takes into consideration one’s manisfested belief system as the point of reference. Would the TSA allow one to carry an knife into a plane saying “Oh, so you’re a Sikh, then that’s ok?”

  8. Murat says

    Wow, that “contemporaneous” is a cool word, thanks for bringing it up!
    While listenin to Matt talk on the issue, the initial misunderstanding with the caller had made me wonder if there was a better way of expressing the idea, and here it.
    More than a month ago, I had had some exchange of posts on here with a Muslim Arab follower of the show named Mohammed, and I was (among other things) trying to tell him that the secondary bunch of stuff that he considered as “sources” for the religion (the hadith) were not even “contemporaneous” with the very content they were (misleadingly) providing – but of course, I was using a quite more convoluted way of saying it.
    I don’t think putting this word on the table will look pedantic to anyone, because whenever the topic is religion(s), it can provide a practical shortcut to some of the serious problems about what people take for granted as reliable narrations.

  9. says


    Daniel and Revelation seems to be written in code by some madmen is in order to help protect it from being wiped out by the actual religious power that it is talking about

    [facepalm] d’oh!

    that’s supposed to be a secret! don’t you think the pope reads this blog???

    whose side are you working for, really?

  10. t90bb says


    Thanks for calling in. Perhaps you can call back again to present your absolutely BEST prophecy. or at least your very top two or three…….

    Your call kind went like this…..You would make a (absurd) claim. Matt would call it into question. You would run on to the next one, without digging in and making your case. At some point you have to be willing to make a compelling case that any of your claimed prophesy deserves validity. A pile of weak ass assertions does not make an impressive argument. The fact that you seem unwilling to dig in with your best and try to win the day with volume speaks to the lack of quality even you see in your claims.

    What I find hilarious about your post is this idea that your magic genie allows other religions to rise up before it smacks them down, lol. Why wont your genie just appear in a verifiable and consistent setting…and make it’ wants known to all, that way these false religions wouldn’t find such traction. It is not like your genie has to conserve its energy or anything right?? It is omnipotent for christ’s sake (lol). But hey..I am just a lowly human, and your magic genie is very mysterious right??? lol.

    The desperation to make the puzzle fit is strong in you, sir.

  11. Honey Tone says

    David Bowers @#1:
    David – you need a new hobby. Obsessing over those books – or any other Bible tomes – will drive you bonkers.

    “One significant reason why all of this in Daniel and Revelation seems to be written in code by some madmen is in order to help protect it from being wiped out by the actual religious power that it is talking about.”

    “SEEMS to be written … by some madmen”? Mad, or drunk, or high, or some combination of them. Who the hell posits an all-powerful creator of space and time and all things in it but who needs to “protect” his holy word from being “wiped out” by ANYTHING, much less some sort of earthly “religious power”?

    Get a grip on a pint, mate, and relax. Saints and sinners, believers and non-believers, have been reading and wrestling with this garbage for two thousand years, and they still can’t agree on what it says and what it means. It’s angels dancing on the head of a pin. It’s not holy, it’s not significant, it’s not real.

  12. RationalismRules says


    Contemporary means this time period and only this time period

    I must pick a nit with you: there is a meaning of ‘contemporary’ which means ‘living or occurring at the same time’, so it’s actually not incorrect to say “There are no contemporary accounts”, it’s just confusing. A clearer way to use the word would be “There are no accounts contemporary to Jesus”. Or better still, as you say, use ‘contemporaneous’ instead.

  13. Lori Braschler says

    I am so proud of Don today. You were the most confident I have ever seen you getting across your beliefs. I agree with you 💯. I felt everything you said. 😀👍

  14. Jakes3D says

    Matt refers to the sermon on the mount deconstruction at however it seems to have been down for 4 or 5 months now. I’d really like to read that, is there any information on ironchariots status? Also is there an alternate archive for these older posts?

  15. paxoll says

    Matt used the word appropriately. The context of the conversation was about the historicity of Jesus and while he might not have said “contemporary to jesus” the time period involved was completely unambiguous in context. Using a lesser known word on someone who doesn’t understand the more common form would be even less useful for communicating. Matt is the best person I have seen when it comes to communicating at the level the person can understand.

  16. Murat says

    I agree with the first half of your post, and also I consider Matt a good communicator overall.
    But this particular example was not one where someone did not understand a more common word. On the contrary, he thought Matt was referring to the more common usage (which he knew well) whereas he could have immediately understood that not to be the case if the lesser known word was used.
    Sometimes it is such tiny details that add to the show an extra educational value on a variety of issues.

  17. Varkey says

    At 2:29:30 Dale recommends the film Stardust. It is a film I enjoyed very much. However it does have a troubling trope of ‘Abduction for Romance’, as discussed here by one of my favourite Youtube channels, Pop Culture Detective (like Atheist Experience I enjoy the ideas and ways of thinking it puts forward that I may not have considered myself – highly recommend – btw I am not connected to any of these channels):

  18. Evil God of the Fiery Cloud says

    Wait, recommending Pop Culture Detective? Jon McIntosh? Non-ironically? Well, everyone’s entitled to their opinion I suppose…

    In any event, every time someone comes on either here or the show to talk about the extra biblical evidence for Jesus I have this almost naive moment of hope where I think for a fleeting second maybe I’ll hear about something I’ve never heard of before. While I’m not fully dived off into being a mythicist and am willing to take for granted there was a dude (or dudes) who served as the basis for the mythical character every attempt to place him seems to meet a dead end. Accounts from decades later identify Christians running around, but cultists running around being pains in the ass enough to be worthy of note doesn’t mean God incarnated and was running around the Levant for a few decades.

  19. Varkey says

    Yes I did recommend it non-sarcastically, as you know. I would ask why you do not like him, as you failed to say, but I already don’t care for your smug opinion. I would block, but I can’t on this forum. So let’s just pretend.

  20. Evil God of the Fiery Cloud says

    @17 – Yer correct, I did not say as I didn’t want to derail the thread so much as just express amazement at him being put forward in a positive light. While I think blocking me (or wanting to block me) for that is somewhat silly, I do invite ye to ignore anything else I write on this or any other thread if ye find it objectionable.
    That said, hopefully we can drop this frivilous matter and the thread can go back to criticism of the Book of Daniel and so forth. Go yer way in peace, as they say.

  21. jake3d says

    Matt references the site and the sermon on the mount post there often, but for maybe 4 or 5 months it has been off line AFAIK. It’s also an ACA & RELATED SITE. So does anyone have news on that? Is it in need of a manager/sponsor or still in transition between owners? Id really like to read that sermon on the mount deconstruction.


  22. Varkey says

    @20 Jake3d

    I don’t know what has happened to the ironchariots site, but this video might tide you over, in case you have not seen it.

    From the description:
    “The first in a series of videos covering different Biblical topics. In 2007 I finished a verse-by-verse deconstruction of the Sermon on the Mount (hosted at This video covers most of the content in that article with a few additional remarks.The first in a series of videos covering different Biblical topics. In 2007 I finished a verse-by-verse deconstruction of the Sermon on the Mount (hosted at This video covers most of the content in that article with a few additional remarks.”

  23. RationalismRules says

    @DavidBowers #1
    The exact same procedure you use to ‘demonstrate’ prophecy in the bible has been applied to other religious texts (eg. the quran), and also to non-biblical ‘prophets’ (eg. Nostradamus) with the exact same result.

    Taking ambiguous ramblings and interpreting them to fit world events is not difficult, nor is it significant.

  24. Jake3D says

    @Varkey Thankyou, I have seen this video. I’ve loved the Atheist Debates Project.
    @RationalismRules thank you for the link that helped. Hopefully will be back up soon.

  25. Murat says

    “How Magic Works” by Penn & Teller.
    Replace “Magic” with “Prophecy” is, and it’s practically the same thing.
    Very educational on many levels for those who fail to see the simple logic behind such stuff.
    If you are the one whose eyes are covered and whose perception is being manipulated, then this is how you are perceived by others as you advocate prophecy.
    Alas, with regards to dogma, it is the greater deal of people who have their eyes covered, and just a few who happen to see from the outside what is actually going on.

  26. ecostarr says

    For Peter in Orlando, you can also your child if it is ok to say a prayer that you preselect that is secular and humanist and present it as being all-inclusive. Such “Prayers” from the UUCA do exist.

  27. RationalismRules says

    Since there’s nothing much going on in the way of conversation, I’ll drop in a thought that occurred to me recently when I was thinking about language and words.

    The purpose of language is to communicate between two or more conscious entities – words are simply a combination of vocalized sounds used to implement such communication. Without a need to communicate between different individuals there is no need or use for words or language.

    Yet the creation account in Genesis has god using language prior to any other being existing. From the start, the god speaks his commands (“And God said let there be light”), and he applies a word to each new created element (God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night”)

    Even if the idea of a god using language to communicate with humans made sense (which it doesn’t, of course: why not simply use telepathy?) there is definitely no sense to the idea that the only individual in existence developed and used language, when noone else existed to communicate with.

    On the other hand, iron-age goat herders believed that magic was done through incantation and spells. So if the bible is simply their mythology, it is perfectly understandable that they would assume that language was a part of the magical Creation process.

  28. indianajones says

    Is it possible to have a thought, an internal dialogue, without a language? More specifically a language made of learnt words? Perhaps ‘words’ is too narrow a term. I mean, dogs and cats and even ants or what have you clearly have some form of (proto maybe) thought. They can remember things, can be taught things and don’t necessarily have a language of words as such, so much as other forms of sounds that aren’t words, or pheromones, or other sensory cues that are clearly ‘thought’ about in some fashion. Even if only to the extent that some sort of processing happens somehow which leads to a change of behaviour.

    I would tend to think that some sort of internal language is necessary at least, and that that language would have to be made up of words or close analogues, and that THAT would have to be considered at least proto thought of some sort, no matter how basic or simple.

    But I’m just spit balling, I stopped studying biology at about the age of 15. I may even have wagged that class, who knows? And that was as close as I ever got to neuro-anatomical linguistics (So proud of myself if that is the correct terminology!) I think.

  29. Varkey says

    What is happening in Pakistan with Asia Bibi is ridiculous and backward.

    If someone said Joseph Smith or L. Ron Hubbard were prophets, would Muslim extremist/anti-blasphemers stand by and not say something critical. But it would be okay if they did it about other people’s prophets!!? Orwellian like control and BS.

    Freedom of religion and of reasonable speech (bar death threats etc).

    Also she was freed because there was not enough evidence she committed blasphemy, not because anti-blasphemy laws are bullshit!

  30. Varkey says

    No ‘prophet’ should be beyond comment or question or ‘blasphemy’. Modern day prophet types are not taken seriously by most (e.g. David Koresh, L. Ron Hubbard etc), but prophets from thousands of years ago are, as well as their followers. For why?

    Jesus may have existed, and may not have been all bad, or may have had some good ideas (like most people), does not mean I think he is anymore miraculous as modern prophets, but he is protected from scrutiny by the cloud of time. As are his followers, who I’m guessing were a bit like people today who join cults and believe BS, or hype modern prophets and claim they performed a miracle (e.g. Sathya Sai Baba).

  31. RationalismRules says

    If language were a prior requirement of thought, how could language have arisen?

  32. indianajones says

    Guessing, utterly and completely here RR.

    I suppose you would have to torture the concept of thought almost completely out of existence. Call it nerve response to stimulus perhaps, iff there is any sort of processing at all, then by similarly minimising the definition of language, that would be a similar thing. I could imagine this then getting more and more complex as many other things tend to do. I can only imagine that language evolves in tandem with thought, to the points where they meaningfully become language and thought, and adapts to be communication with other entities some time in the process. Also memory something something would just about have to play a part too I would think.

    But I cannot emphasise enough that my degree in this subject is from the University of Thinking about it for a little bit and seeing what shakes out.

  33. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @indianajones #28:

    Is it possible to have a thought, an internal dialogue, without a language? More specifically a language made of learnt words?

    Podcast/Transcript: Radiolab – Words (1:01:27)

    (0:55, 55:35) – a woman who taught a 27-year-old man the first words of his life
    (11:19) – experiments probing the ability to form associations between color and spatial orientation
    (21:45) – Shakespeare’s word mashups
    (31:27) – a firsthand account of what it feels like to have the language center of your brain wiped out by a stroke
    (43:34) – the birth of a brand new language 30 years ago

  34. indianajones says

    Thank you Sky Captain. i am going to listen to that. Also I was hoping you might chime in with a citation bomb.

  35. Honey Tone says

    You can google “what came first, language or thought?” and get meaningful responses. A quick and dirty review suggests a rudimentary form of thought comes first, followed by rudimentary language, then a feedback loop between the two leading to more sophisticated developments of each.

    That seems plausible to this ignorant-in-this-field mind. Dogs, babies, other “simple” brains all seem to perceive things and feelings and to remember and act on them even without the language skills to describe the perceptions.

    What any of this has to do with the Abrahamic god (or any other god) is beyond me. For what would a single entity god need language? Why would a creator god need to “say” something “out loud” in order to create a thing? Why would that god need to “name” anything? Was he in danger of forgetting what he made?

    The descriptions in Genesis were merely to give ancient man something to which he could sort of relate. Names and magic words had mysterious supernatural powers to the simple farmers and goat-herders who were the target audience, and it was all meant to evoke awe. They weren’t supposed to be “thinking” about this stuff too deeply, if at all.

    We look at that ancient scroll and think it’s just high-level witch doctoring.

  36. Varkey says

    Again on the blasphemy laws, religions that expect us to not know or doubt are blocking freedom; covered in this video by TheraminTrees (again, I’m not connected to these vids):

  37. indianajones says

    Listened @Sky Captain. have taken on board what you said @Honey Tone and I hope all of that was informative to you @RR! The right handed vs blue wall was particularly instructive to me.

  38. Varkey says

    Can I ask how the moderators feel about people posting external links? I can see it making moderating perhaps harder if links are included in their purview, and I would not necessarily expect a moderator to vet all external links completely, which can be lengthy.

  39. Varkey says

    Can I ask which atheist type Youtube channels (or other media/writings) people recommend? I enjoy Atheist Experience, of course, ThermainTrees, Qualiasoup, CosmicSkeptic, Rebecca Watson, mormonstories. Perhaps that’s plenty or too much!

  40. Marcel says

    @41 Varkey

    Some others I watch/listen as well (though some may have personalities/styles that not everyone is compatible with): the Thinking Atheist with Seth Andrews, Godless Engineer, Non-Sequitur Show, Hemant Mehta, Hugo & Jake, AronRa.

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