Sunday, January 10, 2010

Open thread on today's show

Hey gang. I'm posting this one a few hours early, because, unless I've missed my guess (and I've just double-checked the schedule on the AETV site so I don't believe I have), this will be the day that Kazim's Special Thing that was announced for the show last month and then postponed will be happening. So consider this a heads-up for the program this afternoon, after which this will serve as the open discussion thread for what transpires.

So, now we all know what the surprise was: AETV's first ever on-air theist guest, Baptist minister Kyle Miller. A soft-spoken gentleman, and not the sort of wild-eyed fundie cretin you'd all like us to tear from limb to limb, but nice to have as a guest. Part of Russell's goal on today's show was to demonstrate atheists and theists can have civil discussions on a topic of mutual interest without having the whole thing turning into a Bill O'Reilly screaming match, and in that I thought the experiment worked fine. As it turns out, the last half hour did not seem to be nearly enough time to broach the subject matter — the Problem of Evil — with any kind of depth. A big thank you to Kyle for taking time out of his day to be a guest.

Folks, if you just tried commenting on the more recent post that was up for a short time, please go ahead and re-comment here. I went ahead and deleted that as it was redundant to have two "open thread on today's show" posts. I personally thought there were a lot of opportunities on the subject of the Problem of Evil that didn't get broached, but maybe I'll comment in more detail later.


  1. can we get a Threadgill's reenactment?

  2. AETV surprise possibilities

    1. he was a gost the hole time
    2. he is really a woman
    3. kent hovind didnt kill his father, kent hovind IS his father!
    4. him and matt are actually two split personalities of the same person.

  3. Yep, barring something catastrophic, it should be going on as planned today.

  4. He's going to propose to Jen!

    No wait...

    A hairy klingon looking special guest?

  5. Bathtub, Martin said AronRA isnt going to be on...Matt wants it though

  6. I just want to say right now, whatever the "awesome thing" is, I can see no reason to have to wade through an hour of this particular episode to get to it. Painful.

  7. OK. Kyle Miller. That was less than awesome.

  8. Jonah, yeah I am watching. Did they say why they put it at the end? the stream was flakey for me.

  9. Kyle was wishy-washy on lots of things. He did admit that he helps people not because he thinks it's a good thing to do, but because God commands him to. It would have been interesting to ask if he would sacrifice his only son if commanded by God, but the hosts may have felt that that wouldn't be civil.

    He was about to move on to the tired point that atheists abandon their faith not because of considered argument but because of negative experiences with religion, but Russel and Jen disabused him of that notion pretty quickly. It would have been interesting to let him dig a little deeper on that point before confronting him with it.

  10. I actually liked it. Even though it was not a real argument or debate it was surprisingly entertaining.

  11. I must say while it is refreshing to have theists come on the show (especially live.) It felt like we just have him a pedestal to preach unsupported claims. He said he didn't want to debate and there obviously was no debate, it was pretty much him espousing his unsupported beliefs largely unchallenged. Not saying we should kill theists, but at least call them on the BS.

  12. I think that the hosts might have taken the pastor on a little more directly. He treads close to gnosticism by insisting on his own metaphorical and figurative understandings, which would have ultimately resulted in him contradicting himself. Begin by confronting him with the "syzygy of chaos and cosmos" next time, and see what happens.

    "Computer virus" sin sounds like something I heard in a sanitarium, once. A funny thing to admit happily, but the human brain is not a computer, and the Bible is not a better source code.

  13. Today on the Atheist Experience a local pastor will talk about the "problem of evil"...pastor?

    "Hi. I don't really care to debate or to entertain the traditional problem of evil. My belief in god is entirely faith-based and esoteric. Regarding the problem of evil, I'd just like to say that I've been all over the world and there's lots of evil and I think God wants us to do something about it...but no, it doesn't pose any conflict with my view of my omni-max God. In fact, I'll even redefine 'holy' to mean 'wholly' and hope nobody remembers that the Bible wasn't written in English (killing off even the homophonetic poetry)."

  14. The stream kept dropping out for me, so I didn't get to see large chunks of it. Now I have to wait for it to hit itunes.

  15. The Ustream upload should already be up and ready for those who had it cut off. :)

    Some thoughts? Well, Kyle was a nice chap, for sure but with such random dodges of the questions posed, it felt like it got nowhere. "I believe in God and I went to Africa to do good things. Therefore, God much exist and be good, like the Bible says." That's what I got from it.

    I also feel Jen should have had a chance to ask and follow up a bit more, she had some of her more interesting questions dodges in a long-winded way.

    All in all, a good idea, but perhaps needs a bit more breaking in to get a good rhythm.

  16. Yeah it's a good idea though, if the theists won't call in, drag them in off the street!

  17. I understand the need to remain civil, and I applaud it, but holy crap I thought I was watching a Fox News anchor interview Dick Cheney, with all the token objections that lead to no where, and just letting the bald assertion fly.

    Of the few objections raised, every single one was allowed to be dodged and every single weak non answer was allowed to go unchallenged. It made atheists look incredibly bad because some infantile answers managed to shut us down.

    But my biggest question is why this was during the last half hour of the show and not the whole show?

    If he didn't want to debate and just wanted a pulpit, why did you give it to him? Why accept a wishy-washy liberal or moderate pastor?

    As for the show, it was a typical show, tons of boring atheist callers that were kept on too long, but surprisingly there were two crazy callers that, unfortunately, seemed to bore the hosts and they left them ultimately unchallenged. Would it have killed you to ask the astral projection guy to project himself into the studio?

    I know you can't control whether or not theists call in, but you can control the amount of time spent on atheist callers.

  18. If he didn't want to debate and just wanted a pulpit, why did you give it to him? Why accept a wishy-washy liberal or moderate pastor?

    I think the idea was to have more of a "discussion" than debate, and the reason Kyle ended up being the guy was because he was the one who answered the email Russell sent out to several local Christians.

    I agree that the net effect was that of a totally softball interview that didn't really allow for any depth in dealing with its subject matter. Chalk it up to, "This is the first time we're doing this, so there's a lot of eggshell walking going on while we try to figure it out." I think Russell's hope was to have a meaty discussion without it just turning into an act of inviting a Christian to the studio just so he could be flayed alive. But in that case, you're dead right it should have been the whole show, because that last half hour just ended too abruptly and sort of left viewers with a feeling of, "Well, what was the point of that?" The point was to give having a theist guest a try, and learn from the experience so that if we decide to do it again it's more interesting.

    There are things about the Problem of Evil I wish had been broached, which weren't, and I plan to structure my topic next week on a key P.o.E. question, which I fully intend to be flamebait for Christian callers. I'm going to email Kyle and encourage him to alert his fellow church members about next week's show as well, in the hopes some of them will call in and keep all you dull atheists off the goddamn phones! :-)

  19. As an experiment, having a theist guest was a good idea but there is definitely some fine tuning to be done.

    First, I commend Kyle Miller for agreeing to come on the show. Just agreeing to do something like that takes some balls and I don't think there are many Christians out there that would be willing to do the same.

    Having said that, I can't exactly call his experience difficult. I certainly think there could have been a much more "intense" discussion without crossing the line into disrespect.

    I agree with some of the other comments that the guest should have been the topic of the whole show and I even think it would have been interesting if the guest would have taken a few questions from the viewers, at least through chat, IM, or email if not by phone.

    I hope you can find other theist guests in the future but, should you find others, I hope the AE cast will be a little more willing to hold their feet a little closer to the fire so to speak.
    Even though I might have hoped for a longer and more spirited conversation, I still have to say good job Russell and Jen. I saw Matt even chimed in on the stream chat when the guest came on.

    I think you guys can do a much better show with theist guests and I encourage the AE to keep doing it.

  20. As much as I generally love the show, I thought this one was a little boring. The guest was one of those "Nice" theists. It might just be me though. I'm finding the arguments of the professional theists just too lame to even listen to. And, although it is fun to laugh at the vacuous ones, I'm getting scared that they may actually have enough numbers to snap the rubber-band back on us and make this place a theocracy. All you have to do is watch one of those mega-churches and see what they are talking about and the size of the audience to just make one sad.

  21. I hope nobody missed the mention of Adam & Eve in his discussion of the etiology of suffering.

    I can only hope that when he counsels those Somalis and other folks who've suffered such unimaginable horrors, he has more to tell them about than magic fruit and talking snakes...

  22. @ Martin:
    I think Russell's hope was to have a meaty discussion without it just turning into an act of inviting a Christian to the studio just so he could be flayed alive.

    The better way of describing it in the pastor's terms would be to say, the pastor should expect to have to pick up his cross and follow. The end of that road is well understood - he's supposed to be nailed to the boards; and I mean that figuratively, not literally.

    One of the funnier Canuck jokes I know is, Why doesn't Jesus like ice-hockey? 'Cuz he's always being nailed to the boards.

    When he started talking hermeneutics, that was an invitation to question his non-standard interpretations deeper. "Sin as computer virus" has no Biblical justification; that is totally modern concepts being grafted onto the atavistic tradition. Where did he get that knowledge? Did God tell him that? How did God tell him that?

    Was the Holocaust a computer virus? Aye, the very problem of evil - for modern Jewish thinkers assert the universe is "totally amoral", for good reason.

  23. It could also be said that religion is a computer virus.

  24. I wasn't interested in listening to Kyle preach, so I just stopped watching after they brought him on. Good show, otherwise. I hope Jen is feeling better.

  25. Well, Kyle didn't preach. That was one thing I was worried about (a repeat of the legendary ACA "Furr's Cafeteria Incident"), but he was respectful of that. What happened was a discussion, though not an especially hard-hitting one.

  26. It was... frustrating. I know we could do with more theists but I don't know if this is the right way of doing it, particularly if they don't want to debate. The only thing you can discuss without it really turning into a debate are things you agree on, or things with subtle differences of opinion. The problem of evil is not one of those things.

    He didn't seem to know what was meant by the problem of evil - how could you know what it is without coming across the phrase 'gratuitous evil'? Then he gave a bullshit answer (although the whole holy/wholly thing isn't quite as bollocks as people seem to be saying - and I think he was allowed to ramble about irrelevant things. He mentioned Adam and Eve specifically, an area of discussion rife for discussion, but it wasn't broached (what can a Christian take from Genesis if they don't take it literally? for example).

    If 'discussion' means having a theist on as another source of information on the Bible, Christian theology, etc, then I put it to you that you already have a large number of hosts who know a lot about the Bible and Christianity, and it's really not necessary.

    Maybe it might be a better idea to encourage people from the nearby churches to call in if they hear something they disagree with?

    Another thing I just thought of. Is it possible to have two callers on at the same time?

  27. "I'll even redefine 'holy' to mean 'wholly' and hope nobody remembers that the Bible wasn't written in English (killing off even the homophonetic poetry)"

    Yeah, that bit raised an eyebrow for me too. It really stood out for myself, inspite of the fact that I zoned out quite a bit during his dialogue (this mainly because he sounded almost exactly like the wishy washy Church of England christians that I am used to hearing from).

    But "Holy = Wholly"?? That's a new one. And a silly one at that.

  28. I'll agree that the "holy/wholly" thing did sound ridiculous to me. However, I don't actually think he literally thought that the two homophones implied a similar origin, and instead I assume he was just trying to make an accessible (if not particularly clever) pun to explain the concept. Didn't think about focusing on it at the time, and even with hindsight I think pursuing that tangent wouldn't have been very useful.

    BTW, if you haven't already seen it, there's a new post up about my overall thoughts on the event.

  29. I'm not going to analyze the show, you're all doing it. I do congratulate the attempt. It was definitely an experiment that should be repeated with refinements. The best thing, I think, was that, hearing the respectful way in which you treated the theist, other theists may be emboldened to come onboard. Keep trying. It's a good idea.

  30. i also wanted to post in support of the attempt and i agree that, especially for a first effort, being accommodating and conservative was very smart.

    theists like kyle have kindness as a real trump card- i don't feel he made any statements to support a belief in God, but he certainly represents Christians as good and loving people, so he could at least make viewers think "well i may not believe exactly what he does, but at least he is doing good and these atheists are just trying to tear him down."

    these are also the reasons I usually get frustrated with debates between theists and atheists in general. i hate how atheists feel forced to tread on eggshells.

  31. In regards to the "All the atheists I've worked with had sad stories." bit...

    He's got a biased sample. He doesn't work with people who are happy and joyful - he works with people who are down on their luck, by definition.

    Thus, any atheist he happens to work with WILL be down on their luck, by definition.

    His 'experiences' with atheists are only of the sad type like that.

  32. [i]but surprisingly there were two crazy callers that, unfortunately, seemed to bore the hosts and they left them ultimately unchallenged[/i]

    I totally agree. I was loving both those calls and they were brushed aside quickly. That's exactly the nonsense I love. Oh well. I think they were distracted by the upcoming super event showdown knockout... err, quiet soft spoken discussion.

  33. yeah, they did seem a little distracted for most of the show. i was wondering what was going on since i just listen to the audio version. they might have also been a bit better behaved since they had a guest in the studio.

    speaking of well behaved, when the subject of hell came up, i had a wicked desire for jeff to come bursting in like the kool-aid man asking if he deserved to go to hell. i used to think jeff was too harsh with that, but i have converted. i do think it is something xtians get away with wayyy too easily. i liked the angle matt often took of "well, if you don't, you are more moral than God" but i think that usually fell on deaf ears.

  34. Russell, you should have invited the Astral Projection guy to Threadgill's after the show.

    Oh wait...does Threadgill's have an Astral menu?

  35. I'm listening to the show, and I haven't gotten to the pastor yet, but the news bit about the Ugandan child sacrifices got my skeptical antennae up. On one hand, it's not unbelievable that a region where it's commonly believed that sex with virgins and children can cure AIDS would also have other baseless beliefs that endanger children. On the other hand, I immediately made the mental connection to the U.S.'s Satanic Panic, and I'm curious if there's any kind of independent confirmation of a rise in child deaths due to sacrifices and the like. That the government has a task force to combat it and that there are people claiming to have been involved isn't convincing, since we've seen similar things when there's no real activity.

    Not that I'm saying this isn't happening, or that it isn't tragic, or that it's totally unbelievable, but I'd rather have more solid evidence before I get worked up about it.


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