Christ-centered and cross-focused

Sorry about the earlier confusion, but it turns out the interview on Lutheran talk radio this morning was recorded and broadcast in the afternoon. But you can listen to the archive now.

They seemed nice. I hope they didn’t pull a Ray Comfort on me; let me know if the recording has me praising Jesus and professing my love of the Lutheran church.

Also, I’m done with classes for the day. Time to stagger home and vegetate.


  1. moarscienceplz says

    “I think Christianity is a 2000 year old scam.”

    Well, that certainly sounds like your position, PZ, so I guess these guys are no banana-men.

  2. moarscienceplz says

    I bet it wasn’t fun defending the book title ‘The Happy Atheist’ when it wasn’t your idea.

  3. throwaway, gut-punched says

    Off the bat I have a problem with what the introduction is saying about ‘new’ atheism. It’s not that atheists are getting savvier, it’s just that we’re not putting up with the “Shush, you!”‘s and society is becoming incrementally slightly more tolerant of atheists, to the point of acknowledging that our existence is not a threat to their “way of life”, except in all the ways where they’ve been privileged before. I think probably the lasting legacy of ‘new’ atheism is reappropriating the word ‘atheist’ as something other than a slur, as something neither positive nor negative, just a state of non-belief.

  4. No One says

    @ 25 mins in the interviewer tries a bit of a gotcha when you quoted the bible “Render unto Caesar…” when you where talking about secularism. I think you did a nice job of staying on subject by explaining your quote.

  5. says

    I am surprised by how long this interview is. I expected the standard 10 min long chat. So far it is not too bad, he set it up pretty fairly, though I agree with throwaway in regard to his misunderstanding of why atheism is much noticable now.

  6. rmpislv says

    It seems that he was pretty fair on the editing. The called in comments were somewhat annoying as you would expect. However, tomorrow and Friday will be guests to respond to the interview. I suspect that won’t go over quite so well.

  7. redwood says

    I noticed the responders were revving up the “he doesn’t understand real Christianity” theme without explaining exactly how PZ didn’t understand it. I’m sure there will be more of that when the interview is dissected in the following days with no room for rebuttal, of course. I did like the interviewer’s answer to Mr. Godwin, saying that we would say “communism was responsible” for what those regimes did, not atheism.
    You did a great job answering his questions, PZ. You’ll be raked over the coals in the next two days with all your possible slips of the tongue examined carefully and no one to defend you, but that’s the way it goes. I really enjoyed listening to it and thought it interesting that the interviewer never really engaged you, that is, argued with you. He was just collecting data for his meat grinder.

  8. says

    I am not looking forward to the questions. I am sure many of those questions were formed long before the interview happened and the content was ignored.

  9. rmpislv says

    Yea the comments about ‘real Christianity’ drive me insane. The term is meaningless.

  10. says

    I got to the point where the interviewer asked PZ what he thought of his Lutheran beliefs and I think PZs reaction is much the same as mine. I have never, ever understood how some guy dying, well, sort of dying at least, absolves me of anything at all. To me they are completely disconnected things, and I cannot make that line of thought make any sense.

  11. rmpislv says

    I was more in the camp of “well I don’t understand the logic here, but I’m pretty sure logic rules don’t apply so I shouldn’t discard religion because of this particular lack of understanding on my part”.

  12. Pete Newell says

    rmpislv@9: It’s not completely meaningless. It falls under the heading of “no true Scotsman”, and is just as context sensitive.

    It’s also usually a marker for someone you should avoid arguing with if you expect rational and consistent responses.

  13. rmpislv says

    Pete@12, I agree with the no true Scotsman. I’m not sure I agree with the comment about it being context sensitive. I suspect that people can agree on the context yet disagree on what the Scotsman was trying to say.

  14. grumpyoldfart says

    Starting at the 51’00” mark the interviewer said he was a “full-bore” Christian and explained details of the Jesus in whom he believed.

    At the 52’00” mark he said, “I do believe that my only hope in this life and the life to come is that Jesus [the previously described Jesus] as my substitute on the cross. What would be your reaction?”

    I would have put him on the spot and asked him what he believes will happen to those who don’t share his beliefs? It would have been fun to listen as this “full-bore” Christian said everything except what he sincerely believed to be true: That unbelievers will burn in hell for eternity.

  15. says

    The ads during the breaks were hilarious… I kinda wish they weren’t added in the edit so PZ could have commented on them – the ad for the speaker who kept saying “The best thing I love about being a Lutheran is never having to question any part of the Bible – Not once, not ever! It’s so awesome!” or words to that effect.

    Seriously? All of it? Someone get that man off the streets quickly!

  16. Stephen Minhinnick says

    PZ, you gave a good interview. But I don’t like it that they had phone-in callers after the interview without giving you the opportunity to respond directly. All those peoples’ objections have been endlessly answered before. I wished that you were still on the line to put them straight.

  17. silentsanta says

    I am enjoying the interview, but there are a couple of areas where I think you could have hit harder;

    when asked about the gospels – “if they were lies, I mean, who is doing the lying?”, I think a good response to this is to bring up the many documented ‘false’ gospels that have been rejected by the Christian church throughout history, and ask where they might have come from. Christians already dismiss most of these gospels as fabrications, the problem is that they view their ‘fab four’ gospels as somehow magically trustworthy enough to back up supernatural claims. Even if we had a 100% contemporary account from a newspaper on the day or day after a purported miracle, for a living individual, it would still not be enough to believe in supernatural claims. There are thousands of hindu holy men whose miracles are attested to by contemporary accounts. We rightly consider these insufficient reason to believe in supernatural events that violate the natural order. The gospels, written by non-eyewitnesses, many decades after the events described, should not be considered better evidence than the National Enquirer.

    Secondly, when asked about people being willing to die for their beliefs, it is often instructive to bring up martyrs of other religions; people like Joseph Smith, who nearly everyone listening will happily agree was a con-man, and many of his followers that endured much hardship and even death for what amounts to an obvious scam. Yet the religion burgeoned regardless, probably because of a strong emphasis on winning converts. In light of this, sacrifices of the early Christians aren’t at all problematic.

  18. Mary says

    If podcast listeners do want to engage with people happy to answer their questions, could they be directed here?

    I agree that it’s too bad the commenters after the interview will get no further feedback. As it is, you certainly gave them a lot to think about, PZ. If the cognitive dissonance doesn’t get them, they might actually begin to see a different perspective.

  19. petermountain says

    Should have gone to bed a half hour ago but I can’t tear myself away from the interview. Great job PZ!

  20. petermountain says

    Todd gets to ask all the questions. That’s the way it works~ he’s running the interview. I’d love to hear PZ ask an hours worth of questions to Rev Wilken.

  21. raven says

    Secondly, when asked about people being willing to die for their beliefs, it is often instructive to bring up martyrs of other religions; people like Joseph Smith, …

    People die for their beliefs every day.

    And we read about it every day. The headlines tonight were about a suicide bomber in Iraq. Hardly a day goes by without one or two of those. Then there is Syria where people are dying by the thousands for their beliefs. Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Egypt.

    The 9/11 airline hijackers died for their beliefs while destroying the WTC and 3,000 random strangers.

    It means at best, absolutely nothing. More often, it shows the mental and moral bankruptcy of religions.

  22. Maureen Brian says

    And with its usual prescience the Guardian, just as PZ was doing that, was putting up again the link to Bertrand Russell’s “Why I am not a Christian” – still good stuff.

    This was 1927 – so there’s no such thing as “new” in the atheist business – and Russell could be far and away more scary than this!

    The link is here –

    I haven’t listened to the podcast yet: I’m still on the morning news.

  23. Callinectes says

    You know, if a pastor, well educated in theology and Biblical study and all that jazz, who diligently taught his congregation everything he knew, later lost his faith and became an atheist and wrote a book arguing against Christianity, specifically his version of Christianity; I absolutely guarantee that his former congregation would read it, put it down and say “that’s not the Christianity I am familiar with”.

  24. John Morales says

    I’ve just listened to the entire thing; well done, PZ, you danced the pavane most competently.

    (You kept being handed rope, you kept making pretty bows with it)

  25. Nick Gotts says

    a “full-bore” Christian – grumpyoldfart quoting the interviewer

    That’s one who witters on about it all the time?

  26. gussnarp says

    The interview hasn’t been too bad as far as I’ve been able to listen so far, but the ads! “College is hard, you need Jesus!” – No! No you don’t! Jesus will not help you get your work done! He will only demand two hours a week out of your available work time to praise him and 10% of your meager income to give to his preachers instead of spending on nutritious ramen!

  27. gussnarp says

    I didn’t like the “name a specific atheist abolitionist” question. Who the hell is prepared to answer that on the spot? But of course there were many atheist and agnostic abolitionists, including Robert Ingersoll, William Llloyd Garrison, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony… Atheists and agnostics were hugely important figures in the abolition movement (and suffrage, and desegregation, and every instance of social progress in America).

  28. One Day Soon I Shall Invent A Funny Login says

    I was impressed by the interviewer as an interviewer: he was informed on PZ’s positions; he asked direct, short questions, and then he shut up and let the PZ talk. Just what an interviewer should do but so few really do.

    I was impressed by PZ’s easy, confident presentation; he presented himself well and, judging by the tone of the commenters later, he impressed the listeners as well.

  29. says

    I did finally get to listen to the questions. A few annoyed me. The one painting atheists as being amoral was tiresome, it is old and used so often. I was happy to hear the host defend PZ at that point, especially as PZ was unable to do so himself. The other comment that bothered me was the paster saying that PZ does not sound like he is happy. I have no idea what gave him that idea from the interview. I wonder if it might be due to his assumptions and biases that he thinks this, and would have said PZ was unhappy no matter what he said during the interview. I have no Christian background but I know others do, is it common to simply assume atheists must simply be unhappy due to their atheism?

  30. BeyondUnderstanding says

    While it was nice to see an interviewer let an atheist guest actually speak, I started to suspect he was only doing so with hopes PZ would make himself look uncaring and cold. Especially when the pro-life questions started up. But PZ handled it great.

    John Morales hit it on the head:

    You kept being handed rope, you kept making pretty bows with it

    I also detest the, now common, format of interviewing experts, then immediately following up with speaking to the public (rebuttal free). “That’s all the time we have, now let’s turn it over to some callers who will confirm just how mistaken that expert really was.”

  31. Lausten North says

    Very respectful on his part. Anything that seemed like a trick question or gotcha was him actually expressing what he really believed as far as I could tell. My “benefit of the doubt” was a bit stretched in the call-in period at the end. He left way too many loose ends about atheism “causing” atrocities under communism. I find it hard to accept that he hasn’t given this more thought.