Monday, January 11, 2010

Post-show thoughts for 1/10

Hi folks,

Thanks for watching the show last night, and thanks in advance to all of you who will eventually come across this thread after listening to the podcast. Sorry for spinning this off into a new post, but I felt like using my executive privilege to cut in line and not appear after 20+ comments.

I hear what you guys are saying about the positives and negatives of last night's experiment. And believe me, this was definitely an experimental bit, and I didn't have any idea whether this would be a good move or not. I suspect I will not really be sure until discussing it and reading feedback for a few more weeks. I'm sure there are things that could be improved.

I cut my intro short, because the obvious shuffling around on camera threw me off a bit and I didn't want the introduction to seem phony. But I was intending to explain a little better why I decided to violate our usual stated reasons for not having Christians on the show. Obviously there are a lot of exclusively Christian shows out there, so we feel no need to provide "equal time." But as we've noted often in the last year, it's hard to get a reliable source of disagreement from the callers when so many people are internet fans who seek us out because they like us. I think yesterday's show illustrated that very well, since all but the last two callers were atheists, and those two were a bit mediocre in my opinion.

So I have been wanting to see what would happen if we go offer an invitation to an experienced Christian speaker, rather than some clueless person who just happened to stumble on us. I sent out an email to everyone at Great Hills Baptist (which is among the biggest churches in Austin) and got feedback from Kyle right away. While acknowledging that this was possibly a stumbling first effort, I'd like to make a case for why this appearance was a success.

First of all, apologies to people who were hoping that they would see a full scale brawl and didn't get one. I know that that's a direction we could have gone, but that would have depended more on getting a guest who wanted to fight. We got Kyle. He's a polite, friendly, non-creationism-promoting, non-atheist-condemning Christian, and that's who we wound up with on the show.

At the same time, I completely disagree with somebody's claim that this was so "softball" that it was like Fox News interviewing Dick Cheney. My opening statement was intended to point out that whether or not evil is a "problem" for God, there is no indication that there is any kind of God (whether Dionysus, Jonathan Edwards' god, or Kyle's god) taking an active interest in society; and what we see is exactly what we'd expect if every individual simply made up their own concept of god based on personal preference. To the extent that Kyle made specific claims about his god, we didn't miss any opportunity to point out that there is no rationale for believing that this god actually exists, or that Kyle's interpretation of God has any more weight behind it than that of Jonathan Edwards. And furthermore, Kyle didn't provide any serious disagreement with this response, preferring to disavow any application of evidence.

Yes, the conversation still turned out to be pleasant and friendly. So what? The mission of the Atheist Experience is not to destroy Christians at every opportunity. It's:
  1. To promote positive atheism -- which wouldn't have been as well served by hosting a Crossfire-style shouting match.
  2. To provide community outreach and clear up misunderstandings -- which I think will only be helped if we can encourage more Christians to watch the show and not fear the atheist attack dogs.
  3. To present atheism as a rational point of view while pointing out logical inconsistencies in religion -- which we most certainly did.

I must also report that Kyle was a fine dinner companion, listening respectfully to people who wanted to contest what he'd said, and talking about experiences that people were interested in hearing. That's exactly why we regularly add "or atheist friendly" in our dinner invitations.

Finally, I hear some people saying that the segment wasn't long enough, and that they were left wishing that we had left more time for it. Fantastic! I was initially worried that 30 minutes was going to be too much time. I was thinking that if it became a one-sided preachfest, at least we would have a time limit. Instead, the time I was on seemed to fly right past, and I was downright surprised when 6:00 rolled down. Apparently, so were our viewers. So if you actually wanted more, then that's a good indication that this is something we ought to repeat.

Obviously I wouldn't be averse to having a guest with a little more fire and brimstone in them. If you know a better way to get in touch with such people, post your suggestions.


  1. Hey, thought it was a great idea. And I fully agree that ripping your guest another one isn't the best way to promote positive atheism. The tone of the conversation is set by the type of guest you have in the studio.

    One small suggestion: it would be nice to agree on one topic with your guest before the show. This way, both you and your guest can prepare the discussion and it will lead to better questions, answers and it will be more educational / entertaining for people to watch.

  2. We did exactly that, in fact. We agreed on "problem of evil" as a topic. The conversation might have drifted around a bit, but I think most of it remained relevant.

    Believe me, I know the danger of having an unscripted free for all, and I wasn't going to get into that.

  3. In my estimation, it was a good idea and a decent first effort that can only improve with time and experience. If a Christian agrees to enter the "lion's den" of atheists (which is commendable in itself), hitting him with both barrels isn't exactly the best way to promote rational dialogue.

    Of course, if the Christian comes on the show and is condescending and rude, then "an eye for an eye," right? As it has already been said, "the tone of the conversation is set by the type of guest you have in the studio."

  4. I wasn't expecting a brawl, but I also didn't expect the hosts to get spanked as badly as they did. It's my opinion that the pastor came out looking incredibly strong in this since few if any of his fallacies and falsehoods were called on.

    I mean it is possible to have a friendly discussion and still call people on their bullshit.

    I hope you guys do this again, because it was a nice change of pace and I enjoyed it, even if my opinion of it was low. However, please please please don't let it become a pulpit and please don't let them get away with things that would not be tolerated with callers. Each unchallenged question dodge made me die a little inside.

    But then you did get a moderate/liberal Christian, and those are the worst people to argue against since everything is sunshine and lollipops and everything else is just bad interpretation (which I'm amazed you didn't call him on!).

  5. Uh huh. Well, thank you for your concern, Mask, even if it is melodramatic bullshit. Kyle came out looking like a nice guy, which he was. If that's what you consider "looking incredibly strong," then so be it. He didn't make any case whatsoever for the existence of god. I'm sure that you were dying to have us demonize him in the bargain. Sorry you were disappointed.

  6. I don't see how this could possibly help our position. Basically he comes out looking like a swell guy and the best we could hope for is not to be considered very mean and negative. You simply can't invite a guest and then press him very harshly or hold him as accountable as you'd like. Especially when he's a decent guy.

    But he also quoted scripture in lieu of answering questions and even resorted to "atheists had bad experiences" routine. There is no way to counter that strongly and not look like an ass in this format. If you can make this work it will surprise me.

    I don't mind civil discussions. But I don't think religion needs a bigger soap box. Did you hear anything new?

    Did he happen to mention if he used religion when he "counseled" victims of the world? He didn't mention it but I doubt he was helping them sans god in a humanist capacity.

  7. Capsule review: "room for improvement".

    Maybe the post-engagement activites has reduced your Purity Of Essence?

    I know it's amateur TV, and that you host the show mainly on the merits of being dumb enough to volunteer. But still.

    Yeh, the atheist callers were mediocre at best, but it didn't help to bring on a snoozefest at the end.

    The discussion doesn't have to be a brawl, but can't it at least be a discussion with someone who has a quality, any quality all apart from being a nice guy and doing a great codfish impression.

    A far more interesting discussion would have been to ask the "what do you believe and why" instead of trying to have a non-debate about something the guest didn't want to defend anyway.

    Also, maybe it might have been less of a snoozeefest if you had let Jen talk.

    Luckily Matt wasn't on, he has an even harder time shutting up and leaving some air for the co-host.

    On a kinder note I do approve of the experimentation, and having guests on can be a great change from the usual parade of fawning atheist calls.

    But next time, make it a whole show with calls at the end instead.

    And have someone a bit more interesting as a guest, if you can find them.

  8. Here's a random "off the top of my head" suggestion. Maybe you could have this type of thing in the form of a debate after which viewers could call in and vote on who they think won. Secret purpose being that the theist would encourage his people to watch the show and vote. Bigger pool, more fish.

  9. I was very happy about the shift in format.

    We've all noticed the shrinking numbers of crazy theist callers, and we're all hoping it's a reason for optimism on the larger scale, but at the same time we like to see a good rational arsewhooping. What really got me interested in the show was the debate, the discussion and the unofficial course in rational thinking we get on a weekly basis.

    Now we didn't exactly get to see an arsewhooping, it was a civil conversation, but that's fine.
    1. It sends the message to theists that we're not just going to eat them alive
    2. It reminds us that not all these people are idiots
    3. I know kung fu

    Personally, i'd give it a 9/10. This is a direction I'd be happy to see the show go into.

    Maybe Pastor Kyle would even be willing to come back now and again, he seems like a nice man.

  10. I cannot make my mind up whether Kyle's appearance on AETV was a total waste of time or not. There was nothing new or even particulary interesting in what he had to say. He pretty much refused to engage on the PoE argument in any meaningful way.
    He also stated that his christianity was totally faith based and evidence was not a major concern. This suggests that me that any attempt to engage him in thoughtful discussion is a bit of a waste of time. He is secure in his delusion and no amount of gentle probing from Jen and Russell was going to produce much in the way of original thought or perspective on the issues.

    The only thing that I took from
    the discussion was a confirmation that theists are of a different mindset from myself.

  11. Oh the drama! I'd completely forgotten to download the latest podcast.

  12. After reading this, I guess I have mixed feelings on the whole ordeal. On the one hand, I don't think you pushed him harder enough on critical issues like "why are we having to go through this suffering in the first place?" However you make an extremely important point here that your goal is to promote positive atheism, and I think that if you had actually tried to make things get interesting, a less "atheist friendly" view would've been portrayed.

    I guess that really creates a bit of a problem then: you can't promote friendliness and a proper argument at the same time - both of which need to be done to achieve your "goals".

  13. I'll tell you what I'd like to see -- a fully honest conversation between intelligent, well-informed theists and atheists. As far as I know, no such thing exists right now. If I'm missing something, please let me know.

    As I survey the podcastsphere (or whatever you call it), there are very few shows where atheists and theists actually talk to each other. There is Apologia (which hasn't put out a show since August and may be defunct), A Christian and an Atheist, and AETV (i.e. you guys). The first two are worthwhile shows, and their participants certainly deserve thanks for producing their content for free, but they seem more dedicated to the having the conversation focus on being good-natured and friendly, with everyone involved leaving with a smile on his face; than on getting at the truth. It would be out of line to raise one's voice or suggest that another participant's point of view is ridiculous, unreasonable, or even simply invalid. They leave the "shouting matches" to unspecified "other" shows (which they seem to imagine are everywhere). As a result, no one is allowed to try to change anyone else's mind, and there's no expectation that anyone will actually change her mind about anything, or even consider it.

    I very much like that AETV dispenses with the bs and engages in full-throated conversation. It doesn't degenerate into a shouting match either (a vastly overblown fear, far more likely in written exchanges than in verbal conversation). As has been noted by others, however, the theist callers are few and usually clueless, precluding the discussion being intelligent and well-informed. This week's "experiment" was a good first step and I salute you for it, but to be truly successful you'll need to (1) find someone (or several people) who is intelligent, well-informed, and willing to actually engage you (note that I am not suggesting a hothead fundy), (2) treat the guest as you would a caller, even at the risk of upsetting him, and (3) devote as much time as it takes, which will probably be several shows worth of time.

    I'm not suggesting that this will be easy to set up, and I have no right to expect AETV to confirm to my wishes. I once tried to set up a local discussion group like this and had little success -- the Christians preferred to remain in their bubble where their beliefs didn't have to endure any challenge; while the atheists were easier, but still some left the group because "talking to Christians is pointless, you'll never convince anyone". Still, you guys have much more reach, clout, and organization than I do, and I hope you'll try, because the world really needs this.

  14. in short, i think Kyle was really boring because he won't apply critical thinking to his faith (evidenced in his refusal to address logical contradictions within the teaching he accepts).

    i think you both did your best to stimulate the conversation, but he deflected every attempt with special pleading in the form of "i am just a humble servant for a good God." he wouldn't even fess up to his humble act when kazim pressed him on it.

    that said, i think it is a worthwhile effort for future consideration. i vote for no return from kyle tho...

  15. While it wasn't nearly so softball as faux news I still think that you should of held on in questioning some of his points. You do really well with talking callers through their own arguments (let's face it most of the ones that call need the help) but this guy was a professional of sorts and therefore an expert at dodge-fu. He should have been able to tell you straight up what it is he believes and why.

    I think having guests on the show, is a good idea, but when you have a theist guest then you should take advantage of their presence and ask them things that don't go over well with phone calls. Such as the "do you believe in hell? what is hell? am I going to hell?". Some guy in Mississippi calling in and telling you that you are going to hell may not understand all the implications of what he is saying, but in person a guest sitting face to face with you... There is no way to come out of that looking good (well for some people at least) and there shouldn't be.

    As nice of a guy as he is, and as much good work that he has done, if he says something dickish then he deserves to look like a dick (atheists had bad experiences, wtf?!?).

    Anyway, if you do this again I think I second a motion to not get in one of those fuzzy logic liberal Christians or deists. Arguing with them can be a massive timesuck, but hitting up some other religions such as Jewish, Muslim, ect. that you never really had that many calls from would be interesting.

  16. Kyle said some pretty interesting things. I wonder if his views on hell and good/evil coincide with those of the majority of Christians.
    Having a studio guest was a cool experiment, but how about a pre-recorded video interview that could be edited and played during the show? I like minus' idea of having the discussion early in the show followed by caller feedback.

  17. Just a suggestion: You should have Pastor Miller back sometime soon and start the show with him on the topic of discussion.

    Then for the last 1/2-hour start taking callers. But make sure that the callers have been screened to make sure that they have a question for Pastor Miller or a comment relevant to the topic of discussion.

  18. would the guest stay on for caller feedback? if not, it could be rude since they couldn't defend themselves and if so, it could be really messy and it would probably make it even more difficult to get someone to agree to come on.

    don't get me wrong, i would sort of like that format, but only as a guilty pleasure as the theist was most likely thrashed, or at least provoked into making some sort of stand.

  19. Eric:
    I'll tell you what I'd like to see -- a fully honest conversation between intelligent, well-informed theists and atheists. As far as I know, no such thing exists right now. If I'm missing something, please let me know.

    I had a conversation with Tracie this morning, and we discussed what I think is a potential problem with this format.

    Basically, the hypothetical ideal guest would be someone who has all of these qualities:
    1. Is educated (or at least has read some books on the subject) and well spoken.
    2. Is willing and eager to get in a real meaty disagreement with us atheists, not simply try to politely find common ground.
    3. Have obvious misconceptions that are easy and fun to take on, such as young earth creationism.

    As you pointed out, this is going to be really hard to find. I mean, I'm sure they do exist... many professional apologists would fit the bill. While someone like Ray Comfort might arguably fail to meet criterion 1, he at least has a stable of tested arguments that he trots out on a regular basis, so he's done some thinking (albeit faulty thinking) on the subject. But Ray Comfort is one extremely well known guy, a rare case who is probably so high profile because he meets all these unusual conditions of having ridiculous arguments while enthusiastically promoting them and speaking well.

    However, most people who are well educated and good to talk to (condition 1) aren't going to hold such ridiculous beliefs (condition 3). And most people who are willing to engage with us are probably interested in outreach, as we are, and therefore won't match condition 2.

    I totally enjoyed talking to Kyle because he was so friendly, and he's the kind of guy who I would like to hang out with more and talk about mutual interests and issues. But that doesn't necessarily make him repeated guest fodder.

    I'm going to try to examine these criteria and do some more detailed research before inviting another guest, rather than just sending out blind invitations and taking on the first person who accepts. It definitely will not be next month, since Tracie (the cohost) would prefer to do a normal show. But if I decide this is worth repeating, I'll use the intervening time to try figure out how to get a guest that meet the audience's interests more directly.

  20. Kyle would agree to take calls. In fact, he specifically asked before the show to take calls, and said again that he would like to try that sometime.

    The reason we had him on at the end of the show is that I wasn't certain how the discussion was going to go, and I was afraid of having a preacher filibuster on my hands. I might be open to having him field calls in the future, but it sounds like there is quite a mixed response on the idea of his return.

  21. Our main concern about having a Christian guest on the air answering callers is that the show essentially becomes The Christian Experience. The idea of the show as a live call-in program is that people are calling in to hear the views of atheists in regard to whatever questions a viewer might have. Christians have at least half a dozen entire networks at their disposal to get their message out 24/7. We have 90 minutes every Sunday. And we want to turn that into another platform for the Christian message? I don't think so. While I'm cool on having on-air Christian guests, I draw the line at letting them take calls. If we do another show with a Christian guest, we should do the whole 90 minutes with him, and not take calls at all. Just my 2¢.

  22. i guess it would be rude to say that #1. Well Educated would screen out all the hard line theists? haha.

    reminds me of the callers who get frustrated and say "i wish i could just make it more clear so you could understand" when, in my opinion, they are struggling because they don't actually understand their own idea-and if they did, they would comprehend the flaws in it.

    my parents are committed Lutherans, but I think they would be terrible to debate because they are educated and smart enough to be just like Kyle- smart enough not to challenge those beliefs. they were raised in the "you just don't question certain things" school because that's how the devil gets in!

  23. I completely agree with Martin. I don't like the idea of feeding the desires of people who just want to see "Christian blood". Every week there are people in the chat that whine about how many atheist callers there are and then when a theist calls in they whine about how it's the same old argument.

    The only real purpose I can see at the moment is to have a Christian tell us how they reconcile conflicting ideas, but we already know how that ends up...

  24. It was a great idea to get someone on the show with a different point of view and have an in depth conversation with him. Too bad that didn't happen.

    I understand you're all amateur tv makers and that there will be problems and I more than appreciate the time and effort you put into the show. Still I'd like to point out what I thought were problems with the interview, so that hopefully they can be avoided in the future.

    -Let the guest talk. After all, that's why he's on the show for, right? Russel's first question (the intro about Dionysos etc.) took way too long. Kyle tried to interrupt and comment a couple of times, but Russel didn't let him. He even went so far as to give his version of what he thought Kyle's opinion was, without giving Kyle the chance to confirm or deny this. At least not immediately. Keep the questions short so the guest actually can have his or her say.

    -Related to this, make good agreements with the co-host about what her or his role is. Now it happened a couple of times that Jen wanted to say something and Russel just interrupted and said his own thing.

    -Agree on the topic beforehand. I read your comment that you "did exactly that", but if that's the case, then Kyle didn't keep his promise. Because one of the first things he said was that he wasn't that interested in discussing the philosophical problem of evil. The rest of the discussion reflected this. Sometimes it was more like two interleaved monologues.

    -Have a guest who is willing to discuss. Sure, Kyle seemed like a nice guy, but he was not there to discuss religion. In his view religion is purely based on faith, not evidence. The end. What discussion can you have beyond that?

    -If you're still interested in talking with this person who has basically shut the door to discussion, then listen to what he says and ask follow up questions, instead of returning to the same point. A couple of times during the interview Kyle said that while he thought god was good (by virtue of being holy), he didn't think the Bible gave any indication of god promising to help get rid of suffering. Therefore, instead of coming back to the point of why god allows suffering (he answered that: god didn't promise anything to the contrary), you might ask him if he thinks that goodness doesn't imply helping suffering people if you can. I think an attempt at this question was made, but wasn't really pushed. That seems to be the heart of the issue: Why does holyness and hence goodness not imply helping suffering people?

    I'm looking forward to the next stage in this experiment. And thanks for putting out the show.

  25. Plain Simple,

    Good advice, but I do want to clear up something about the format that you may not have realized.

    Let the guest talk. After all, that's why he's on the show for, right? Russel's first question (the intro about Dionysos etc.) took way too long. Kyle tried to interrupt and comment a couple of times, but Russel didn't let him. He even went so far as to give his version of what he thought Kyle's opinion was, without giving Kyle the chance to confirm or deny this. At least not immediately. Keep the questions short so the guest actually can have his or her say.

    I had originally hoped to give this sort of an informal debate format. Because I didn't want to see one person going on forever, or all three people talking over each other, I proposed a structure for Kyle by email and he agreed to it. Basically, I suggested that Kyle give a five minute (ish) presentation of his perspective on POE, and I follow up with another five minute presentation on mine. Then, we would all address the issues brought up in those ten minutes.

    The reason it sounded like I wasn't letting him talk was because I did what I said I would -- prepare a five minute presentation -- and he only made a few cursory remarks. I was kind of waiting first to hear if he had more to add, but he didn't, so I went ahead and did mine.

    I realize this couldn't have been clear while you were listening, but I was trying to structure the whole thing so there could be some fodder for each side to respond to. It didn't happen, and again I think that's a result of hoping for more disagreement than we ultimately got.

    Other than taking my five minutes, I don't think I interrupted either Jen or Kyle much at all. In fact, Kyle got to speak uninterrupted so much that it undoubtedly contributed to certain people (ahem) describing the episode as a "spank." As Aesop pointed out 2500 years ago, you can't please everyone.

  26. Kazim, your post definitely explains why it came across as it did. Obviously as listener, oblivious to any previously made arrangements between you and Kyle, I didn't know what the proposed structure of the interview was. Perhaps you were planning to say that in your introduction, but that also got screwed up by the camera shuffling (I suppose, I listened to the podcast so didn't see what was happening with the camera).

    All in all it seems that your pre-show agreements with Kyle were either not clear enough or he just chose to ignore them. He didn't keep to the structure you just described and he didn't seem interested in the philosopical PoE. What's left?

  27. I didn't understand that format kazim, so thanks for the info- perhaps in the future, the co host could act as moderator (e.g jen would have said russell will go first with his thoughts on the topic and kyle will respond, then we can have rebuttals in an informal discussion).

    but in terms of letting the guest talk, as matt (and others) have commonly discussed, it is the host's right and duty to stop someone if they make statements that need to be addressed, especially when they are laying a foundation for an argument that will likely render their following statement irrelevant. I understand it is annoying to cut someone off before they can make their point, but it is even more annoying to listen to someone ramble for a few minutes when their initial assumptions are not even correct.

  28. Oh yeah, something else. If you're going to have more guests like this you need to come up with a different studio layout. The poor guy needed to turn his back to someone in order to address the other. All involved looked very uncomfortable trying to figure out which way to face. This was one that would have been better in Matt's living room with some comfy chairs in a semi circle.

  29. @ gfunkusarelius: "but in terms of letting the guest talk, as matt (and others) have commonly discussed, it is the host's right and duty to stop someone if they make statements that need to be addressed"

    There is a difference between letting a guest talk when he already is talking (and talking nonsense on top of that) and giving a guest the opportunity to respond to the host's questions/opinion.

  30. Well, I am 100% with AtheistUnderMask even it Kazim may feel all wronged (boo-hoo) and call it melodramatic BS.

    Come one guys, Kyle may be a nice guy - so what? Nonsense needs to be called nonsense, even when it comes from a "nice" person. Or to quote mask: It is possible to have a friendly discussion and still call people on their bullshit.

    You would never let a caller get away with the kind of stuff Kyle came up with. The hosts were soft to the point of pain for me and I completely missed the usual logical brilliant argumentation.

    Kyle had nothing of interest to say either, just the usual love and sugar coated deity stuff.

    I think the whole thing was quite a waste of time that could have been better filled with some good old callers getting on the line.

    Having said that, nothing wrong with experimenting and trying new ideas. Next time a less sugar and a bit more bite, please.

  31. Perhaps put out a casting call? Like on YouTube or something. Even if they aren't in studio guests there must be some vocal theists on the internets who would love to be a call in guest on a pre-arranged topic. Like 'Why Jesus wasn't the Messaigh', or 'Is the bible inerrant' or something like that.

    Like Don does one of his Bibles Greatest Hits: Slavery or something but has contacted God4u777 beforehand to arrange a discussion on the show.

    Just an idea on getting some more theist interaction.

  32. Russell:
    Basically, the hypothetical ideal guest would be someone who has all of these qualities:
    1. Is educated (or at least has read some books on the subject) and well spoken.
    2. Is willing and eager to get in a real meaty disagreement with us atheists, not simply try to politely find common ground.
    3. Have obvious misconceptions that are easy and fun to take on, such as young earth creationism.

    I fully agree with (1) and (2). I agree with (3) insofar as I think that all theists "have obvious misconceptions that are easy and fun to take on", but I don't think a young earth creationist is a good choice. Matt said on a recent show that he has a low tolerance for inanity. I do too. Well, inanity is the rule when it comes to YEC, and it's certainly what you get with Ray Comfort. It would be fun to listen to you guys make Ray look like the moron that he is -- so you should accept the opportunity should it arise -- but no one will learn much, least of all Ray.

    I think the ideal guest would be Francis Collins, but the chances of that are slim to none now that he's the NIH director. I do have some names for you, however, listed from most likely to accept to least likely:

    (1) Tony English, who made several appearances on the A Christian and an Atheist podcast. He was something of a poor fit on the show because he seemed to want to have the kind of discussion you want, but the other hosts did not.

    (2) Kevin Harris, who was a regular on Apologia, and co-hosts the Reasonable Faith podcast with William Lane Craig. Some of the other theist regulars on Apologia are also possibilities. There's also William Lane Craig himself, but I doubt he'd accept. Plus, professional apologists have their livelihood (and their ego) invested heavily in their stock arguments, and thus tend to repeat them ad infinitum, no matter how often or how thoroughly they are refuted. Dare I mention Matt Slick?

    (3) Ross Douthat of the New York Times. I mention him mainly because he is an intelligent, well-educated Catholic who recently wrote an column asking for this kind of discussion.

    I do not know any of these people personally, but I doubt it would be too difficult to get an email address for any of them. None are local to Austin (I think), so they would probably have to call in. Perhaps you'd want to use The Non-Prophets for this, instead of The Atheists Experience. If you are seriously interested in going down this road, I'd be happy to do what little I could to help set it up, and I imagine many other fans of the show would as well.

  33. One reason i fell in love with AETV was the diversity of views you get and if someone is boring, they are usually gone quickly. if kyle had called in, he would have (hopefully) either been forced to make a claim and defend it or they would part ways fairly quickly when they realized he was just basing belief on faith.

    so, one thing i don't like about the in-studio guests (and the reason i don't really like a lot of the podcasts with the long-interview format) is you are stuck with one person's input and a lot less variety.

    there are times when i wanted to hear more from a caller even when they went long, but i think it might be exceedingly difficult to find such guests. plus, in the studio, they might throttle you, lol.

  34. First off: Russel and Jen, you guys did a great job with the clearly "experimental" show.

    If you guys could somehow split the difference between this show and the Matt Slick one, it would be great. This was a little too sedate and rambling for my taste, while the Slick episode was probably too harsh of a back and forth to be a regular deal. Of course, this week's guest was far too polite for you to corner and grill for a half-hour, because you would have gotten the same answers but looked like jerks in the process.

    Again, good job! Maybe this could be a quarterly feature or something.

  35. I thought the show was good while I was listening to it, but as soon as it ended I thought: "that guy didn't say anything new or interesting". Which is how I feel pretty much anytime a theist calls in. I'd like to ask you to reconsider your "theist priority" on call screening. They are good for an occasional laugh, but I'd rather hear you address questions from fellow atheists, those conversations end up being much more interesting.

  36. Something that had bother me the last few shows was taking calls with only 1 or 2 minutes to go. This happened quite a lot and always irritated me, since I feel it is disrespectful. People sometimes wait for quite a long time to finally get through, and then do not get the time to actually state their question or talk about their experiences.

    One of the great benefits of this format, which has not been mentioned before, is that you get rid of that. If you happen to speak to someone interesting over the phone, you can ask your guest to wait a few minutes longer and respectfully finish the call before moving on to the face-to-face discussion.

    When I said in my first comment it would be nice to pick a topic, I see that I was mistaken. Watching the show I thought it was a very open discussion, but after watching it again, you guys did stay on the topic of "evil" quite well. Being in Texas and being Austen based, it would be nice to perhaps have a guest on the show from the vicinity and discuss a specific local issue (please after clarifying the issue for the non-locals).

    Again, I really liked the idea and felt it was a good move. I am sure it will take a few times and some feedback / discussion to settle on a standard format, but it was a great first try and I am looking forward to more :)

  37. IMHO it is better to take a couple short calls in the last few minutes than to not talk to them at all. and there have been multiple occasions when the host would ask them to call back since there wasn't time to go into detail and the people would actually call back and get onto the show earlier.

  38. I liked it. I would have enjoyed more time though. Do it again!


PLEASE NOTE: The Atheist Experience has moved to a new location, and this blog is now closed to comments. To participate in future discussions, please visit

This blog encourages believers who disagree with us to comment. However, anonymous comments are disallowed to weed out cowardly flamers who hide behind anonymity. Commenters will only be banned when they've demonstrated they're nothing more than trolls whose behavior is intentionally offensive to the blog's readership.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.