Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter hits iceberg of reality on maiden voyage

For those of you who still haven’t seen the jaw-dropping disaster on blogs like Friendly Atheist, Twitter hashtags like #OhNoahHeDidnt, and elsewhere, Ken Ham’s megamillion dollar Ark Encounter theme park — which purports to reconstruct “accurately” the mythical Noah’s ark — tanked hard on its opening day.

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Photos of a nearly deserted parking lot and nonexistent entry lines (the sheer number of unmanned ticket windows is a pitiful testament to how badly AiG overestimated the popularity of the whole farce) combine with reports that there were more atheist and pro-science attendees than anyone else, except perhaps staff. It could not have been anything but demoralizing, as much as AiG will doubtlessly try to spin it as a resounding success.

What immediately strikes you upon viewing the images that have been posted so far is that, absurd as it all is, this is a construction that spent the hell out of the nearly $100 million that was poured into it. Elaborate displays, rows and rows of animal cages with speakers placed within providing atmospheric honks and squawks, intricately carved wooden signs inventing elaborate explanations for how waste-product disposal and feeding were supposedly handled.

And dinosaurs. Yep, it’s got ’em.

All this money and all this effort spent on a momument to propogating ignorance and myth. All to defend the delusions of a sad man (lots of them, really), terrified that science is telling him he has no heaven to go to when he dies. Imagine living in so much fear of knowledge that you dedicate your life to moronity on this massive a scale. After all these years I still shake my head at it all.

On the death of Jan Crouch, Martin looks back…

Yes, it’s me. I did leave the show, but as I said at the time, I’m not cutting all ties.

From the earliest days of my involvement with AXP, I watched Trinity Broadcasting Network as often as I could, for the sheer bizarre spectacle of it. The shamelessness. The utter lack of taste in its Vegas-y approach to Christian worship, and the way in which it worked so well for the Crouches as a machine to print money. Even my memories of my own church-going days as an adolescent held nothing of this weird world of massive pink fright wigs and gaudy suits. I was struck by the pocket universe TBN created, in which it seemed you weren’t just merely watching a channel but being drawn into a world that you yourself could share in… if only you sow your seed of faith right now.

Right around the turn of the century, before blogs were really a thing, I started up one o’ them Geocities sites and wrote about six or seven snarky columns I called Martin’s TBN Watch. As they can be a bit of a pain to find after 15 years, I’ve decided to reprint one here for your amusement, to commemorate the passing of one of America’s great Christian grifters. Enjoy.
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Martin says farewell

I have decided it’s time to leave The Atheist Experience.

I’m not rage-quitting and there is nothing negative inspiring this decision. Now that I’ve entered a new decade of my life, I am ready to pursue other interests (not the least of which is completing a long-overdue documentary project), and I feel as though I’ve done my bit for movement atheism. Basically, I’m just doing an Ashley Perrien here, and it’s the right move at the right time for me.

I’ll still be around and I’m cutting no personal ties. I may see some of you at after-show dinners or the Bat Cruise when time allows.

My very best wishes go out to Matt and Russell and Tracie and Jen and Don and John, and our superb and dedicated crew as they move forward. I would be only too happy to see my slot in the cohost rotation filled by a younger, fresher voice in whom the passion for atheist activism burns like a tiny sun. A Millennial, and even a PoC, would be fantastic if the group finds someone like that ready and willing.

Thanks to everyone for many awesome and exciting years, and letting me be part of one of the most vital atheist media outreaches there’s ever been.

Episode 20.10: Matt and Martin

Nice show today, although my mic was still messed up. I’m starting to wonder if I simply function as a damping field for all of the studio’s electronics. My light even went out about a minute before the show. Ah, well. Apart from that, I enjoyed our first caller, a Christian with whom we had a fruitful discussion, in which Matt made himself understood as to why personal testimonials about life-changing results are still no measure by which we can conclude anything about the truth of Christianity’s supernatural claims.

Also, here’s the Presuppositionalism Panel Discussion video that Matt talked about participating in.

Phones are now better than the Access studio

We’ve been working like beavers to get the new phone system up and running at last in the ACA library, and here, according to Matt, is where it currently stands:

The Internet connection is fixed. The coaxial connector on the telephone pole across the street had been loosened (probably due to high winds and not being tightened properly initially). We just performed a full test of the phone system thanks to some fans who quickly responded to a tweet. Call quality is on par with what you’d get from any cell phone.

We have 6 lines. (The public access studio had 4, sometimes 3.) We can lock any of those lines “on air”. I had all 6 lines live and everyone could hear everyone. (The public access studio could only ever have 1 line live.)
This means we can do a “conference call”-style discussion…or have remote guest host(s) able to address calls alongside the studio hosts. We also have caller ID. Public access does not.

We’re looking into a few more options (I’d like to be able to flag calls from known numbers—to highlight hosts or prank callers), but the phones work really well.

Remaining audio tweaks:
– Sound dampening to get rid of street noises.
– Double check audio to/from stream/record box
– Final check of all sound levels and the compressor/limiter/expander gate
– Additional sound dampening in studio
After that, or along with it:
– A couple of lighting tweaks
– Green screen support
Long term:
– Video conference guests
– More ideas

#RichardDawkins #Awkward

Like a lot of you, I look back wistfully upon a time when Richard Dawkins was a name to inspire admiration, and not one whose mere mention immediately triggers an “Oh shit, what has he said this time?” response. Over on Twitter, where he’s cultivated a reputation for (to put it politely) shooting from the hip and being nearly as reactionary as any Teabagger, his latest gem goes something like this:

Hmm, okay. And yet, oddly, in 2013 (*corrected posting date), the Richard Dawkins Foundation website was favorably reporting on this:

‘Secular safe zones’ offer campus shelter to atheist students

The small sticker on professor Robert Schmidt’s office door isn’t just a decoration — it’s a beacon of safety for students who feel they are being singled out for their lack of religious beliefs.

The blue, green, yellow and pink rectangle signals that Schmidt’s office at Utah State University is a “Secular Safe Zone” — a place where students who are atheists, agnostics or just questioning their faith can go for advice about dealing with bullying, discrimination and other forms of aggression.

“Being an ally to ‘create safe spaces in which secular students can question, criticize, and discuss topics and issues important to them’ feels right to me,” Schmidt said from his Logan office, quoting the goals of the Secular Safe Zone program. “All students should feel safe on campus.” [Emphasis added.]

Yeah, this is one of those moments best addressed by a Fillion GIF.


Addendum: Sadly, it didn’t take me long to find another example of Dawkins being a bit two-faced. I noticed this tweet exchange…

…and remembered that, in the wake of Elevatorgate and “Dear Muslima,” Dawkins got some personal revenge by demanding Rebecca Watson be disinvited from Reason Rally. #Awkward.

Open thread on episode #917

Russell and I are fending off the theist hordes with our mighty brains today on the show. But we will also be dissecting this condescending article on Salon, in which an “I’m an atheist but…” dude (apart from perpetuating the annoying meme that Dawkins, Hitchens and Maher are the global ambassadors of New Atheism, dictating a party line to us all) whinges that we lack proper appreciation of religion’s warm fuzzies. And of course, callers. Below is where you write your thinky bits.

Discussed on show: The Hotline Project.

(Yes, I know I can prattle on. Bad habit.)

When you know you’ve butthurt the right people

It’s when they add you to their “Bigotry Map,” that’s when.

It is a well-understood and even tiresome habit of bigots and bullies that they adopt the language of those they oppress in order to make themselves seem righteous in thought and deed. Heck, even old Adolf got into the act with his famous justification for the “racial purity” platform that ultimately killed millions. “By defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord!” (Emphasis added, because why be subtle?)

Screaming baby Hitler

It’s not really Godwinning when it’s accurate, is it?

So this is how a noted and infamous hate group of hateful bigots, the American “Family” Association, can convince themselves that those who criticize them and who stand for equality and against discrimination are the true bigots. Because when self-righteousness takes up residence in very tiny brains, it must drag self-awareness into the trash to free up disc space.

And so you get the comical spectacle of the AFA condemning the Southern Poverty Law Center for labeling “Christian organizations who support the Biblical definition of marriage as ‘hate’ groups and falsely disseminat[ing] this information to liberal news media,” and they post that right next to a panel proving just what a hate group they really are (by describing LGBT marriage equality as forcing poor put-upon Christians to embrace “sexual perversion”). It would be a lot funnier if folks like this really weren’t so dedicated to hurting actual people.

Check out central Texas, and you’ll find the Atheist Community of Austin on their map, for which we are enormously proud. When the kind of people who call hate “love” and love “perversion” decide you’re the bad guy, you know you’re really on the side of the angels.

Oh…and which “Biblical definition of marriage” are they using again? Because that can get a bit confusing, you know.