Episode 108: Post-Election Withdrawal

The doubtcasters collectively work through their post-election withdrawal symptoms by examining how demographic shifts are changing the American political landscape with special focus on how religious vs. secular polling locations influence voting. Also for this week’s counterapologetics Justin Schieber presents a presuppositionalist argument for atheism developed by Stephen Maitzen.

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  1. BradC says

    A technical question about your iTunes feed: I’ve subscribed to your podcast in the new iOS 6 podcast app, but none of the podcasts have dates. The individual episodes just sort alphabetically, which means I have to dig around to find the newest episode. I tried unsubscribing and re-subscribing, but that didn’t seem to help.

    Is there something wrong with your iTunes feed on the back end, that these dates are missing? Or am I doing something wrong on my end?

  2. says

    The irony of calling Maitzen’s paper a “presuppositionalist argument for atheism” is that (Calvinist) presuppositionalists quite like the whole total depravity thing and so the child deserves to suffer.

  3. stephenmaitzen says

    Many thanks for carefully discussing my paper “Atheism and the Basis of Morality” on your podcast. I’m happy to see it brought to the attention of a wider audience. Just three quick comments about the “Satan reply.” First, as you point out, theism isn’t Manichaeism; God is sovereign, and only what God permits happens at all. Second, if God lets Satan cause or abet a child’s torture because God doesn’t want to curtail Satan’s freedom, that’s exploitation and therefore imperfection on God’s part. Third, I can’t see how God can justly delegate to us his moral responsibility for resisting Satan. As the Spider-Man principle says, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

  4. stephenmaitzen says

    @fergusgallagher: If the child deserves to suffer, there goes the moral obligation we thought we had to prevent his/her suffering. We aren’t morally obligated to prevent people from getting what they truly deserve. Calvinism doesn’t rescue ordinary morality.

  5. lorn says

    When my polling station was at a church W was elected. When it changed to a secular community center Obama was voted in. In the interest of science I propose shifting it to a local topless bar but, so far, I’m not getting much cooperation. Science is hard.

  6. Matt Coddington says

    In response to Stephen Maitzen’s paper: I was wondering how it would address the “everything happens for a reason” argument. If the purpose of our existence on earth is to achieve a personal relationship with God (and thus, gain entry into heaven), even bad experiences can give us an avenue to achieve that, no? So an abused child may find a connection with God as a result of that abuse (I know it’s crazy, but I know christians who believe this). Whether it’s finding a connection in a youth group with another abused child or what have you yadda yadda.

    And I’m not sure the “compensation != justification” argument counters this considering getting into heaven is the whole point. Whatever happens on earth (good or bad) is designed to push us along our path of achieving a personal relationship with God, and thus getting us into heaven.

    Therefore literally everything that happens to us is in our own best interest, no?

    I’m sure there’s a simple answer, I’m not smart and have just started listening to the RD podcast. I love it, keep it up! :)

  7. BradC says


    You are playing right into the author’s hands with that objection. He is, in essence, agreeing with you, that the perfect theistic God must, in fact, have some unknown reason (salvation? heaven?) to allow this innocent child to suffer, for their own benefit.

    And if that is true, then why would we have any obligation to help prevent or relieve that child’s suffering (since it is part of God’s plan)?

    But this flies in the face of the most basic obligations of ordinary morality, to prevent the unnecessary suffering of innocent children.

    Therefore, theism cannot provide any basis for human morality. From his intro:

    I argue that the existence of theism’s perfect God logically precludes the existence of certain basic moral obligations on our part, such as the obligation to prevent or
    relieve terrible suffering by a child when we easily can.
    In brief, we have that obligation only if no perfect being is allowing the child’s suffering to occur, and hence only if no perfect being exists.

    In other words, the fact that innocent children do suffer, and the fact that we have widely-agreed upon moral imperatives logically implies that no perfect God exists.

    Compensation vs justification only comes into play when you are talking about hypothetical net benefits to others from the suffering, not to the child herself. See section (3) in the paper, a sickening thought-study about a child allowed to be abused and killed as an object lesson for onlookers about how horrible child abuse is. Does this achieve some benefit for those onlookers? Probably. Is the suffering therefore justified? Of course not.

  8. BradC says

    Podcast feed problem identified!

    Check out this discussion here:

    It appears that your RSS feed has an improperly formatted date, which causes iTunes to display the podcast list without dates:

    I could see that Reasonable Doubts is not RFC 822 compliant because the pubDate element is missing the day of the week:

    [title]Reasonable Doubts Podcast[/title]
    [pubDate]19 Oct 2007 23:18:14 GMT[/pubDate]

    [title]The Ars Technicast[/title]
    [pubDate]Wed, 21 Nov 2012 17:29:00 +0000[/pubDate]
    So it is neither a bug nor a user error but a format error in the feed that the Doubtcast folks need to fix.

    Thanks to jaume for researching this.

    Can you guys get this fixed?
    Do I need to notify someone else through another channel?

  9. sezit says

    Thanks! I greatly enjoyed the native american story – Especially the bit about Pukwudgies, the best name ever for mythical beings.

  10. says

    Comments from an American in Paris on marriage equality.

    About the difference between the number of those in the march: This is the case in every single demonstration in France, so there’s nothing Fox News about it. There are a lot of people iin France opposed to marriage equality, mostly practicing Catholics and Muslims.

    One of the grotesque bits of the legislative process (aside from the slow pace and hesitations of the left-wing government that promised rapid action) was the testimony of many psychoanalysts during parliamentary hearings who claimed, among other things, that marriage equality was bad for society because adopted children need to have both a mother and father because an adopted child needs to have a plausible fiction that his adoptive parents are his biological parents. Really! Poor kids from the wrong race, I guess, who should be removed from their white parents.

    The adoption issue is one of the stickier points. I think there is a fairly strong majority in favor of marriage as such. But France is family-obsessed, and the notions of adoption by same-sex couples or medically-assisted procreation is resisted by many. There are real concerns that the current legislation will exclude same-sex couples from some rights held by mixed-sex married couples.

    Note that the French are backwards about sex (really). Abortion came late. Vasectomies have been legal only from 2001. Surrogacy is illegal, etc.

    Another disgusting bit of news about this are the declarations of some mayors that they will refuse to perform the mandatory civil ceremony. Rather than state that any discrimination will be strongly prosecuted, as the law requires, our Jello president promised that their “liberty of conscience” would apply (before the uproar this statement caused him to backtrack).

  11. stephenmaitzen says

    @BradC (November 27, 2012 at 8:21 pm): Thanks for your detailed comment on behalf of my paper. Just one correction, if I may.

    You wrote, “Compensation vs justification only comes into play when you are talking about hypothetical net benefits to others from the suffering, not to the child herself.”

    Compensation differs from justification no matter who gets the compensation. If God lets a child be tortured to death not because it’s necessary or optimal for her benefit but for some other reason (or no reason), then no amount of heavenly compensation paid to her afterward justifies God’s original exploitation of her. Why not? Because compensation never counts as justification. They’re distinct concepts, regardless of amount. If God is perfect, then his actions and omissions must all be justified, not merely compensated for.

  12. Kristina D says

    I think religion and politics go hand in hand as far back as man has known how to exploit and deceive other men.

    It reminds me of this video I recently came across– it’s a cute little song about how Jesus and his followers actually Occupy Jerusalem.

    Anyways, here it is: http://youtu.be/a6akkb_afqs

    Great Show! I listen all the time!

  13. bobo says

    What if God allows a child to be tortured to death in order to teach the rest of humanity the value of compassion?

    (I heard this given as a reason to allow extreme neonates to suffer and die, rather than just abort)

  14. stephenmaitzen says


    What if God allows a child to be tortured to death in order to teach the rest of humanity the value of compassion?

    Exploitation on God’s part! (What value, after all, did human compassion have for that particular child?) Obviously you don’t have moral permission to treat a child that way for that purpose, not even if you clone the child into existence. I can’t see how God could have moral permission either.

  15. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    ^^^ Spambot commenter detected (choice cheaper Cheap Diablo 3 Gold).

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  17. Jim Lampi says

    I like your podcast and have listened for years. I think you should minimize the political comments however. When dissing republicans, it seems analogous to different religious sects expressing superiority over one another, even making fun of other religions. As atheists, we know they are virtually the same and patently false, and so the superior attitudes seem ludicrous to us. This is the way many of us feel about Democrats and Republicans. They are virtually the same, and both thrive in the current political system which caters to large groups, special interests, industries and corporations, disregarding, or even at the expense of, individual rights. I have heard that most of our country’s founders would not have wanted a 2 party system. Ours is worse – it is basically one party.

    I may be incorrect, but I understand that certain tax exempt organizations are not to promote political views. I do not know if this applies here.


  18. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @Jim Lampi #24:

    They are virtually the same

    Article: Pharyngula – Republican vs Democrat plattforms
    Article: Dispatches from the Culture Wars – Fact checking results by party affiliation

  19. bobo says

    Until recently, the church never had a problem with child marriage, did it?

    So if the bible = objective morality, the inerrant word of God, and all that, and child marriage was never spoken against, we can only conclude that God approves of pedophilia no? (as long as the pedophilia takes place within marriage, I spose)

  20. andrewviceroy says

    I love Stephen’s paper(s!) and quoted him favorably in my own book in this context. If I were to try to posit a rejoinder to the argument off the top of my head, it would be a COMBINATION of 8b (retrospective/retroactive consent) and the notion that within god’s perfect creation, a perfectly balanced ordering of first, second, third (etc) level goods and evils is already expected. Thus, the former takes care of the exploitation, while the latter takes care of the obligation, by allowing for the compassion of others as a secondary good with a weight that trumps the primary evil. This is to say that God plans for the suffering to be alleviated by humans just exactly when it is. Of course, even if this were tenable, we’d then have to consider the (Mackie’s classic) argument concerning the suffering of animals throughout time in terms of ordered goods and evils, which no theist has explained to my satisfaction. Those kinds of moral hierarchies are easy to fudge in your favor anyway.

  21. andrewviceroy says

    It seems to me that Job is our gold standard for how authority is delegated to Satan, but one could argue (conveniently, as always) that everything changed after the crucifiction.

  22. stephenmaitzen says

    @andrewviceroy: (#27) Many thanks for your kind words. You conjectured that “God plans for the suffering to be alleviated by humans just exactly when it is.” That makes it sound as if God is manipulating us, which even compatibilists like me would say rules out our being morally responsible when we do alleviate it. At a minimum, it rules out the libertarian freedom that theists so clearly prize, especially when they confront the problem of evil.

    (#28) “It seems to me that Job is our gold standard for how authority is delegated to Satan.” Right: improperly.

    [BTW, the way you spelled “crucifixion” is maybe the way it ought to be spelled. I hope it catches on.]

  23. says

    What if God allows a child to be tortured to death in order to teach the rest of humanity the value of compassion?

    I find that it’s easier to understand if you divorce it from the idea of god and bring it down to earth, so:
    What if I stab you in the face in order to teach the rest of humanity the value of compassion? Have I then acted morally?

    If not, then why would that excuse be acceptable for god?

  24. andrewviceroy says

    @Stephen Maitzen: (#29) You deserve it. Your work is succinct, poignant, and goes where it needs to be.

    I was imagining that god had designed the plan so that it just happened that way without interfering with (libertarian) free will, so no manipulation (that is, if you don’t consider creating a world that influences people in specific ways ‘interfering.’ That seems to be where the argument would go next. Lots of rabbit trails).

    Of course, I’m playing devil’s advocate, as I actually don’t think contra-causal free will is possible anyway. I lean mtowardards determinism (actually, I prefer to be more careful and call myself a “predispositionalist”: http://www.scribd.com/doc/109894045/The-Right-Track-The-Track-That-s-Left-Exploring-Predispositionalism I include a quote from you from your CPBD interview w/ Luke! I’d be happy to send you a free pdf if you like. It’s not specifically about theism, though that is probably the major concern when I cash out. I actually do have a 400pg meta-critique of Christianity that I’ve been tinkering with since 2007, but I’m burnt out now after this book and don’t have the CV to get enough readers anyway. So I’m back in school).

    As for the responsibility issue, perhaps elibertariantarian could justify that via recognizing our capacity for hierarchal selves, as what seems to be the direction incompatibilists are going (or as some [Fischer] might call it “semi-compatibilism,” when in terms of responsibility).

    Actually, I do also lean toward the mythicists as well (I try to keep up reading R. Carrier and Bob Price- I’m not wedded to any of them though), so “crucifiction” is appropriate!! hehe, but I’ll confess it was a happy mistake.

    I do love how Satan is just another court subject in Job. Again and again, theists make him out to be so powerful without remembering this overtly subservient relationship to the king, who BTW, appears to be winging it as far as a “divine plan” goes.

  25. andrewviceroy says

    Clearly, if you don’t pay for your spell check program, it eventually sabotages you!

    “I lean toward determinism…”

    “perhaps libertarians could justify…”

  26. bobo says


    I find that it’s easier to understand if you divorce it from the idea of god and bring it down to earth, so:
    What if I stab you in the face in order to teach the rest of humanity the value of compassion? Have I then acted morally?

    If not, then why would that excuse be acceptable for god?

    Take the example of an extreme neonate. Yes, the baby will likely die. Yes, abortion and/or letting it die would have been the better choice vs. prolonging it’s suffering. Or take the case of cancer patients in India – people that Mother Theresa decided should suffer rather than receive pain medications.

    In both cases, the suffering of the neonate and the cancer patients = natural. So, prolonging the suffering of the neonate, cuz ‘pro-life’ , and denying pain meds to the cancer patient ‘cuz pain meds wont bring you closer to God’, are seen as entirely *moral*.

    Stabbing you in the face is a premeditated act. Letting someone die horribly (as was the case with Savita Halappanvar) or by simply prolonging someone’s suffering (by not letting them die) is simply perceived by these ‘compassionate’ people as the natural outcome of God’s will!

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