Sunday, July 27, 2008

Today on the show: Foolish atheism

In principle, we think that the biggest enemies of extremist Christians should be moderate Christians. Too often, when we bring up examples of Christianity Gone Wild, like Reverend Fred Phelps and Jerry Falwell's claim that secularism caused 9/11, the response is "Oh, forget those people, they don't represent most Christians."

That's not good enough. Who's out there denouncing those people? We are. In order to avoid getting a bad name, the Christians who find they are not represented by Phelps and Falwell should be the first ones to publicly criticize those very prominent figures.

But we don't want to be hypocrites of course, which is why today's show will focus on atheists with some very weird ideas that we don't agree with at all. Maybe they're not as prominent as their Christian counterparts, but they're out there, and they give atheists a bad name. Here are some of the examples we'll be using, as time allows:

  • There is, of course, the recent spate of messages from Patrick Greene about his anti-free speech lawsuit, which in some way inspired today's topic.
  • Raelians, who say they're atheists... it's just that the Bible was inspired by aliens, not gods.
  • Communists. Yeah yeah, we hear it all the time, Stalin was an atheist, Russia was a godless state, we're better than they are precisely because "we" believe in God over here, and they don't.
  • Objectivists. This one may be a little controversial with the listeners, but there is a pretty good case to be made that Ayn Rand had a little bit of a cult of personality going on, and even encouraged it. Worshipping people is bad. As PZ Myers recently said so eloquently, nothing is sacred.


  1. Looking forward to seeing the show when it's available on Google Video. This also should give us who are atheists pause and be conscientious about presenting atheism in a positive way.

    As for Communists such as Stalin, I wonder if you brought up that atheism was not what motivated Joe to initiate the murders of millions of people.

  2. A question and a comment.

    What is the email address I'm supposed to use to tell Patrick that he's doing something hugely stupid?

    Also, that call from Eve was, like, every terrible creationist argument compacted down into a three minute call.

  3. Communism is wrong on a couple levels- however it has overshadowed Marxism. Most people don't actually read the guys writting and realize how cracy he was.

    This guy slogged through it to show the insanity- it is prettty good.

    As for the extreme libertarians, it is worth pointing out that government is essential for capitalism- you need a government to print money.

    For the more moderate version, it is just a question of asking them what alternatives they plan.

    Religions that are atheist. As an antitheist I am opposed to them. They operate on faith.

    Nihlists and sophists- if they really believe what they say, why do they try to stop us from stealing their stuff?


  4. Yeah, Eve was a big bundle of cliché, made all the more entertaining by the fact that she was repeating idiocy from Ray Comfort.

  5. Pinko, in addition to phone numbers, I think posting people's emails on the site is another thing I'm going to disallow, even though Patrick has given permission. Which is why I rejected the three attempts by someone to post Patrick's email to the comments here. If you want to comment on his foolishness here, though, be welcome. He's likely to pay another visit.

  6. Arguably, there's also a case to be made against closet atheists who remain 'undercover' for no better reason than say, financial benefits or social networks for reasons of status and income.
    Not wanting to offend close family members is acceptable I think. The line is crossed however when family members tell you how to raise your children.

  7. Yeah, Eve was over the top all right. I think we couldn't have put forward a better parody of Christian beliefs if we actually set some stealth atheist up to call in and imitate the worst arguments she could think of on purpose.

  8. Seriously, don't put Felps and Falwell in the same breath. You apparently know little about either man beyond what you see on the evening news, and that's a shame.

    I'm trying to look out for you a little bit on this one.

  9. You apparently know little about either man beyond what you see on the evening news, and that's a shame.

    Well, that would hardly be our fault, would it? If Falwell didn't want people to have such a negative opinion of him, to the point where comparisons with Phelps didn't seem to out of line, he should have presented a better face to the evening news. It is, indeed, a shame these men choose (or chose, in Falwell's case) to be stupid and hateful all their lives. It was their choice to make, and hardly anything you can criticize us for if we choose to call them on it.

    Bigotry is bigotry, whether you practice it by picketing funerals with anti-gay signs or by appearing on TV to blame gays and liberals for terrorist acts in fact committed by religious extremists. I'm not inclined to give Falwell's idiot bigotry a pass simply because, unlike Phelps, he had the respect of conservative TV news outlets who were glad to give him a nationwide media platform for his hate speech.

  10. Seriously, don't put Felps and Falwell in the same breath. You apparently know little about either man beyond what you see on the evening news, and that's a shame.

    You're absolutely right. They're very different. For instance, while Jerry Falwell was a staunch supporter of segregation and opponent of the Civil Rights movement, Fred Phelps pretty much singlehandedly ended Jim Crow laws in Kansas.

    So clearly, it's an insult to Fred Phelps to include him in the same sentence as an all-around bigot like Falwell.

  11. It's Phelps, first of all.

    Second, you're right - it's not fair to equate the two. In addition to Phelps' outstanding work as a civil rights lawyer, he's also a vocal proponent of the First Amendment while Falwell attempted to use the sort of 'Patrick Greene-esque' bullying tactics to censor opinions he disagreed with while denying church-state separation.

    Phelps, while bat-shit crazy, is honest and forthright about what he believes. Falwell, though similarly crazy, used his followers to form the Moral Majority - which was neither - in order to promote their beliefs through less-than-forthright means.

    While Phelps has been unrelentingly adhering to the same literal view of his holy book (which I consider to be nuts), Falwell altered his views over time. One might claim that this is an example of Falwell growing, learning and gaining a greater understanding of the message in the Bible....but it's odd how his message conveniently changed in ways that helped line his pocket and gain notoriety and followers.

    When I read quotes from Falwell:

    (Yes, I know, those aren't all sourced)

    I see a similar message, just not as 'in your face'.

    Phelps is honest and crazy, Falwell was perhaps less of both.


  12. Samuel Skinner erudite refutation of Marx has convinced me. Oh how wrong I've been! Marx is obviously lost on someone who believes communism to be "wrong on so many levels".

  13. Stop making me sympathetic to Phelps!

    Sigh. Another God man consumed by the bible. It is too sad and too bad.

  14. > Stop making me sympathetic to Phelps!

    Actually I watched the Louis Theroux TV program on Phelps and the Westboro Baptists recently. The portrayal was sympathetic to the people but not their odious ideas. I liked it and was disturbed to find that on many points Phelps and his followers are actually not as mad as many are in the less obviously controversial and more populous religious right.

    > Sigh. Another God man consumed by the bible. It is too sad and too
    > bad.

    Huh!? You are the one making odd assertions with no back up and for which I called bullshit. Now you resort to baseless ad hominems. To spell it out for you: Marx was a consistent atheist, an opponent of religion yet with a sympathetic understanding of why people turned to religion for answers to their problems.


  15. I'm relieved that you didn't have time to get to your discussion about Objectivists. If the article you linked to is any indication of your grasp of the philosophy, then I'd recommend you take some time to genuinely understand Rand's ideas before commenting on them (try Tara Smith's 'Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics' if you can't get past your dislike for Rand herself).

    I would love to hear you guys have a rational conversation about Objectivism, but your suggestion that Objectivists rely on an Argument from Authority is as fallacious as your caller's suggestion that "Darwinists" accept evolution because Darwin said so. While I have noticed that many Objectivists enjoy quoting Rand, I don't know many who accept Objectivist ethics "because Rand said so". To paraphrase Matt, "There are no reasonable people who have come to accept _Objectivism_ because it came from _Ayn Rand_...It doesn't matter who it came from. The words of _Ayn Rand_ stand and fall on their own."

    For the record, I don't even consider myself an Objectivist. Just a person who takes ideas seriously and is consistently baffled by most atheists' hostility and emotionalism when discussing Rand's philosophy. I expect better from you guys, so I hope I'll be pleasantly surprised when/if you do discuss Objectivism on the show.

  16. Hope I don't disappoint, Eric, but I'm seriously considering doing a whole show on Objectivism next month. I'm a little disappointed that I didn't get to the rest of the topic, and frankly, going after Communists and Raelians is just shooting fish in a barrel.

  17. Sorry- here is the essay:

    It didn't track the first time.

    For those who are curious, I found it from this:

    Everything you needed to know about why Marxism is bad.

    Now, lets see if the links show up...

  18. Well the links showed up this time but a substantial argument fails to appear. What surprises me for a rationalist website is the uncritical acceptance of free market fundamentalism and fuzzy thinking that pervades the argument you linked to.

    Space is too short here to even try to answer the flaky strawman arguments. Perhaps its worth reading the original document (the Communist Manifesto) and applying some critical thought of one's own to come to your own conclusion. Of course there is no need to do that if you can find a third-rate blogger whose prejudices concur with your pre-existing ideas.



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