Friday, July 30, 2010

Compassionate Woman Stops Reluctant Robber With Lie

ABC calls this story: "Faith Stops Florida Robbery" and "Christian Woman Stops Robbery With Faith".


"I'm here to rob you."
"Let me tell you about Jesus, I'm a Christian."
"I am too and I hate doing this, but I still need to rob you."
"Do you have a family?"
"That's why I'm doing this."
"I can help you get a job."
"I've got a job."
"Then why do this?"
"I need $300 or I'll get evicted."
"I'm sorry, I have to take every cent."
"Well, they'll charge me for this."
"They'll charge you for the money I'm stealing?"
"I'm the one responsible."
"OK, I won't rob you. And, hey, it's a BB gun."

The dishonesty-in-reporting brigade ignores the fact that he didn't stop until he thought he'd be robbing her...and it gets chalked up to a robbery stopped by faith.

Are people more willing to steal from a corporation than an individual? Yes.
Are people less likely to victimize people once some personal connection is established? Yes.
Did a shared religion help establish a connection? Sure.
Would this robbery have been averted by almost anyone else letting the gunman know that they would have to personally pay back what he stole? It seems likely to me.

The claim that she'd have to pay is also, as far as I can tell, a lie. Essentially, she talked him out of robbing the place by explaining how he'd be robbing her, and not just the store.

So, why doesn't the headline read "Compassionate Woman Stops Reluctant Robber With Lie"?

The moral compass

A fan just wrote in with a quote from a Catholic instructor who offered their moral opinion on both rape and masturbation:

"Rape is better than masturbation because there is a chance of a child to be conceived rather than wasting that of which God gave us."

This probably doesn't represent the view of every Catholic (or even most) and may not even map to orthodoxy - that's not my reason for posting it.

Navigating the moral landscape can be difficult and religions give the illusion of simplifying the process while actually making it more difficult. Even the most flexible cognitive contortionist will struggle to reconcile the web of confusing, vague or contradictory conclusions that result from flawed religious premises.

I understand the appeal. Religious adherents get to be intellectually lazy. They get that comforting "problem-solved" feeling that you get when someone else does the work for you. They get to avoid responsibility for their moral views by shrugging and pointing to their imaginary scapegoat.

The big problem is that religious moral claims gradually surround one's moral compass with magnets.

We may be able to discuss and debate the moral impact of masturbation (I'd say there's no moral assessment to be made), but if you believe that masturbation is worse than rape, you're no longer eligible to participate in the discussion. You've sacrificed your humanity on the altar of laziness and blind servility and you won't be allowed to rejoin the discussion until you correct that.

The rest of us are trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together and we don't need you spilling your coffee all over the table while you try to force pieces together - especially as you seem to have brought pieces from some other puzzle.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

"If I gave you any thought, I probably would."

We have lately gotten a number of emails from viewers bringing Rich Allen's YouTube bullshit to our attention, and who haven't gotten the memo that Jen essentially exposed the guy for the pathological liar he is more than a week ago. They seem to think we need to address Allen's falsehoods as a matter of some desperate urgency. These viewers need to realize that this is exactly what Allen wants you to think: that he is important and that his ravings have some bearing on our own character and credibility.

There are two kinds of people in the world: honest and dishonest. And among each, but especially among the dishonest, there are multiple levels of severity, from the inconsequential dishonesty that comes from mere ignorance, to the truly malevolent levels of douchebaggery that come from a sense of self-importance inflated out of all proportion to any actual achievement or substance to back it up. Because Rich Allen belongs to the latter group, it is senseless to engage him or any of his little pals beyond the level we already have.

There are plenty of sincere Christian apologists out there genuinely interested in having a two-way conversation, in which actual ideas are exchanged, for us to waste our time with the kinds of people who (as happened earlier tonight with one of Allen's doucheposse) send us emails simply repeating Allen's little content-free shifting-the-burden fallacy (which Matt thoroughly disposed of today) and, regardless of whatever answer they receive, respond with such delightful bon mots as (as our correspondent called Jen) "you stupid fucking cunt." Guys like this are just bad people, and there was never even the hint of a desire on their part for an honest exchange of ideas. Their pattern is infantile in its simplicity: taunt the atheist to get him riled up, then declare victory no matter what is actually said by whom. Like their idols in the lunatic fringe media (Glenn Beck seems to be the template here), the principle in play is "Just say anything!" The bigger the lie, the better, because you can guarantee the target you wish to smear will get angrier, and all you have to do is get them angry.

So, you know, fuck these guys. Seriously. Don't keep emailing us about them, because you're giving them the credibility and attention they crave.

There's a scene in the classic movie Casablanca that sums up the situation beautifully. Peter Lorre plays a small-time hood who is desperate for the attention and admiration of Rick, Bogart's character. Bogart has his number and basically dismisses him as the wannabe poser he is. At one point Lorre, with wide, expectant canine eyes, says to Bogie, "You despise me, don't you?" And Bogie, without even looking up from his work, calmly replies, "If I gave you any thought, I probably would."

So there you have guys like Rich Allen, our little Peter Lorre*, forever seeking the attention of the atheist community despite a total absence of any real cred to shore up his bluster. He almost surely does deserve to be as despised as he wants to be, because bad people are despicable by nature. But really, should we give him any thought? What has he brought to the table to earn it? Beyond his oft-repeated lies, I mean? Nothing? Well, sorry, but nothing earns you nothing here. So let's hear no more of Rich, then, okay?

* Naturally, I am speaking of Lorre's Casablanca character here. Lorre himself is someone I'd have loved to have known!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Quick admin note: gang, how hard is it to notice the moderation alert?

Matt's post today is getting a lot of responses, but it would appear some commenters aren't reading the notice that comment moderation is on, nor are they noticing the window that pops up after leaving your comment, informing you that comment moderation is on, and that it will appear on the original post after it has been approved by an admin. Considering that these notices are all but accompanied by a parade of elephants and a 40-piece brass band, I find the phenomenon curious. But still, today one guy submitted his comment no fewer than seven times, and another at least four. While it's no trouble to delete the extras in the queue, still, among intelligent adults I really don't feel like I should have to remind people to read the notices.

Moderation has been more or less permanently activated due to the activity of trolls like Dennis Markuze/David Mabus (who's still around) and the rise in Asian porn spam (not even good porn either!) that is the inevitable consequence of our increasing readership. It has not been activated to censor views we do not like, including Christian views. So if you don't see your comment right away, please, don't keep clicking the button like a monkey with Down's Syndrome going "Why not it work?" It is working. Don't panic. Okay? So: group hug! Now, thank you all for reading and participating here, and we return you to your regularly scheduled blasphemy.

Answering the right questions...

Reposted from my Facebook notes, by request:

"What proof and evidence can you provide that atheism is accurate and correct?"

Atheism is not a world view or a philosophy, it does not assert claims that could be viewed as accurate and correct - it is the rejection of theistic claims. It is disbelief of the claim "some god exists" - there is no requirement that one believe that no gods exist in order to be an atheist.

The question, as phrased, represents a misunderstanding of both atheism and the burden of proof. It's an attempt to frame atheism as if it is asserting that no gods exist and it does so in order to shift the burden of proof. It's not only hand waving...there's a big, rotten, fallacy-ridden, red herring in that hand. Why phrase the question that way? Because, to those who don't understand the burden of proof or the subjects at hand, it sounds so much more clever than "can you prove that there are no gods?"

In my case, I reject theistic claims because they have not met their burden of proof. That's it. I'm an atheist because no one has been able to provide sufficient evidence to support their theistic claims. They've failed to answer a question similar to the one they aim at me...and after being called on that failure they're desperately trying to point the finger in any direction except where it belongs.

If you believe you can read minds, why would you ask a non-believer if they can provide proof and evidence that you can't — instead of simply demonstrating the truth of your claims? The simple answer is that you can't, and you know you can't.

Consider the following:

I get e-mails from Christians on a regular basis. Many of them are convinced that the Holy Spirit has instructed them to contact me and give me valuable evidence that will change my mind. These people believe that their god is real, that he wants me to know that he's real and that he's charged them with providing me with the evidence.

We can, via reductio ad absurdum, demonstrate that these people are simply wrong:

If their god exists, then it knows precisely what information they'll need to convey to convince me and it would communicate this information to a person who is capable of accurately presenting it in a way that achieves the stated goal. (I'm not going to draw out a syllogism for's all from the definition of the god that they believe is real.)

Why then do these people consistently present the most obviously flawed arguments and absurd anecdotal evidence? Why then do these people often say the very thing that confirms that they have no clue what they're talking about?

Are they just inept at communicating the needed information? Then their god has made a terribly stupid mistake, inconsistent with the character of the god they believe in.

Is their god incapable of accurate communication? Not according to their beliefs. Their god is perfectly (or nearly) wise, intelligent, capable, powerful, etc...and clearly directed them to present the information.

No matter how you break this down, the god they believe in simply doesn't exist. There may be a god, and it might even be the one that they're trying to represent, but they're clearly wrong about its desire and ability to demonstrate its existence. At best we're left with something that is, to a third party, indistinguishable from delusion.

Is there something that you're really good at or knowledgeable about? Perhaps you're a bit of an expert at a game, or at repairing cars, or you're a trivia wiz about a certain show. Perhaps you're highly educated in a particular scientific discipline or you've been doing a particular job for many years.

If so, then you'll have some idea of how easy it is, in many cases, to determine (roughly) how skilled someone else is in that same area. You probably also have some sense of the extreme frustration you feel when someone who clearly has no clue what they're talking about is trying to "educate" someone else. It's almost as frustrating as when they're trying to "educate" you. You can spot the bullshit from a mile away and it's almost physically painful to watch someone get away with poisoning another mind with nonsense.

That's what I feel like when I read many of these e-mails. That's what I feel like when I see apologists videos or blogs.

I'll continue to take on all callers, including (especially?) the overly-glib bullshit artists who willingly lie to promote their beliefs...because it's something that I find important and something that I'm pretty good at.

The phone lines are open.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

All new meaning to the term sh*t sandwich...

Courtesy my bud Chris Conner, I am made aware of the company Food for Life Baking Co., Inc.

They name their products after Biblical verses, and I believe I've seen their Ezekiel 4:9 bread at the grocery stores.

So what's wrong with this? Oh, nothing. Free enterprise and all that. But it does make for a gloriously funny example of what happens when you quote-mine the Bible. Ezekiel 4:9 itself is fairly benign, and sounds exactly like the sort of thing organic foodies would love.

Take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt; put them in a storage jar and use them to make bread for yourself...

Now that's not all of 4:9, of course, but it's all Food for Life sees fit to quote. But the amusing part happens if you read on in Ezekiel 4. It gets, er, a little weird. And gross. Have a look at Ezekiel 4:9-17. As they say, context is everything.

Now, there are hints that Food for Life may very well have baked their bread according to God's command. After all, they take care to mention how it was baked "from freshly sprouted organically grown grains" (emphasis added)...and they recommend you "try it served warm to release its exceptionally rich nutty flavor."

Yeah, that's enough for one day.

What type of Theistic Skeptic are you?

I've obviously spent a lot of time on this subject and this will be a much shorter post. I'm simply going to categorize, for clarity, the different types of skeptical theists. I've named them after individuals who all self-identify as both skeptic and theist (some as a specific subtype, like Christian) and as skeptics.

The "Lee Strobel"

This individual is convinced that the proper application of skeptical principle actually confirms their theistic beliefs.

The "Pamela Gay"

This individual is convinced that their theistic beliefs are beyond the critical eye of skeptical principles, often asserting that skepticism only applies to testable claims.

The "Martin Gardner"

This individual acknowledges that they're not being skeptical of their theistic beliefs and that they have some emotional reason for believing. Often they'll acknowledge that their beliefs most probably would not hold up under the critical evaluation of skepticism.

I've covered the difference between the "Pamela Gay" and "Martin Gardner" types in previous posts. In short, neither is applying skepticism to their theistic beliefs and one is claiming that it shouldn't apply. The assertion that skepticism can say nothing about untestable claims is one that I think is demonstrably absurd.

But what about the "Lee Strobel" type?

I'm pretty sure that if we polled skeptics at a convention like TAM (and I think we should), an extraordinarily high percentage would claim that the "Lee Strobel"-type is simply not a very good skeptic. Some of them, might even flatly claim that the "Lee Strobel"-type simply isn't a skeptic, despite using the label.

Is Lee Strobel a skeptic? How about Kent Hovind or Duane Gish or Ken Ham or Deepak Chopra or Sylvia Brown? I'd be willing to bet that most of them would self-identify as a skeptic because most of them think that they have evidence (or perhaps pretend that they think they have evidence, if they're simply dishonest) and that the evidence confirms their beliefs. They, like most people, recognize the value of evidence in understanding reality and I'd bet that most of them (hell, most anyone) would say, "Yes, I'm a skeptic and I value skepticism" once they've had it explained to them.

(The explanation, by the way, could simply be: a skeptic is a person who strives to accurately understand reality by accepting only those things that are supported by the evidence.)

But are they really a skeptic, just because they call themselves one? Would you consider them to be a good skeptic? Is their usage of skeptic consistent with your it consistent with the larger skeptical community? If any of those people were invited to speak on behalf of skepticism, would you object?

Let's not pretend that legitimate, skeptical questions about this subject can be answered by accusations of a "no true Scotsman" fallacy if we're really trying to determine whether or not someone is conveying accurate information about Scotland.

Let's not pretend that we're somehow rude for questioning or correcting misinformation or that there's no problem with letting some misinformation slip by.

If we wouldn't pretend that the "Lee Strobel"-type has any more knowledge about Scotland than one might obtain after watching a special on the Loch Ness monster...then let's not pretend - at all.

Why Anti-Gay Catholic Doctrine Is Good

It just gets sadder and sadder.

I received a response from the Catholic who spawned the last item I posted. Since she wasn’t interested in visiting the blog to see what people thought, I went ahead and issued a full response. Below is her initial note back to me today, along with my reply below that:

Her note from today:

Hey, thanks for the response. I knew when I first wrote you that we would most likely not be coming to an agreement or anything close to it, and I hope you realize that was not my point. I understand how this can look like bigotry because I used to be an atheist and felt the same way you do. I just want to share with you a short explanation of my perspective and only ask that you try to imagine my point of view (as hard as it may be) for the time being. I've been studying Theology now for a while and it only finally came to me when I saw the whole picture. First, I would ask you to accept the claim that those who truly, that being the key word, try to live out there faith, sincerely and genuinely, really believe what their religion teaches. Whether it is out of ignorance, or a great deal of investigating and researching to see if there is truth behind it is irrelevant. The sincere and genuine person truly believes in the good and beauty of God and their faith and that is why they desire and choose to participate in it. There are of course exceptions to this and people who are not in religion for the right reasons, and although this does not contribute to my point, I want to acknowledge it. So, if we can say that a person genuinely believes the Church's doctrine, and is sincere in their belief in it, we can say that their belief in a certain teaching is sincere as well. When they agree with a teaching on, lets say, loving your neighbor as yourself, it is because they genuinely believe with all their being that loving your neighbor as yourself is the right thing to do. Now shift the gears to a not so fuzzy sounding topic such as homosexuality. Regardless of what your opinions are, when someone holds a belief that to you might seem like it is out of hate or discrimination, (I know right now you are thinking BECAUSE IT IS HATE AND DISCRIMINATION, and I would ask you to bear with me), if they are, as I keep reiterating, sincere in their desire to want what is good, true, and beautiful then their support of this teaching is also out of sincerity. The sincerity in the belief that they feel it is false form of compassion (keep in mind this is the believers perspective) to find fulfillment outside of the will of God. Therefore, it is reasonable to say that the motive here is not hate, but one of love from their point of view as a result of their sincere beliefs. It contains no benefit for the individual, but is solely because of love for the other simply because of the fact that they are a human being with dignity. Whether the person agrees or not, in the believer's opinion, the truth remains whether it is accepted or not. For example, if a girl with a eating disorder sees nothing wrong with her problem, the response of concern from her friends and family will remain even against her will, because they believe what they feel to be an objective truth and it is a result of their love for her. Even if they are seen as ignorant or stupid for their beliefs, it does not change the fact that they are wholehearted. Now of course this analogy falls short and in no way am I comparing homosexuality to an eating disorder, but you get my point. I only wish to express this to you because, and I wont go into it, this is a very personal and important topic to me and I value all people so greatly it breaks my heart to see all this confusion going on in so many people's lives right now. I respect our difference in beliefs and would only ask that you understand mine to be one of sincerity and love if you refrain from judging the heart and dig a little deeper.

Thanks for reading.
Peace my friend.

My reply:

Thanks for writing back:

>I understand how this can look like bigotry

You fail to understand, however, that it is bigotry. That’s where the breakdown is happening. Calling something wrong that isn't wrong for no good reason is pure prejudice in action.

>I used to be an atheist and felt the same way you do

Atheism has nothing to do with homophobia or lack of it. Some atheists are homophobic, some theists aren’t. You, unfortunately, have aligned yourself with theists who are. And you are causing needless harm to good people by doing so.

>Regardless of what your opinions are, when someone holds a belief that to you might seem like it is out of hate or discrimination, (I know right now you are thinking BECAUSE IT IS HATE AND DISCRIMINATION, and I would ask you to bear with me), if they are, as I keep reiterating, sincere in their desire to want what is good, true, and beautiful then their support of this teaching is also out of sincerity.

You seem to have a mistaken impression that it’s your attitude, and not your ideology or actions, I have a problem with? It’s the results you reap I oppose. Homophobic bigotry is harmful and wrong, whether it comes from horribly misguided ‘concern’ or open hatred. I hope that helps you better understand my position. Doing harm, but meaning well, is still harm. And I will continue to try to stop it and speak out against it.

>Therefore, it is reasonable to say that the motive here is not hate

Fine. Your motive is not hate. But your actions are still misguided, harmful to others, and based on prejudice, lies and fallacies.

>Now of course this analogy falls short and in no way am I comparing homosexuality to an eating disorder, but you get my point.

Yes, I agree. Gay is demonstrably not a disorder. And it’s not wrong, harmful or a problem. It’s also not your business or anything you need to be ‘concerned’ about. But you seem to think it’s loving to say it’s a ‘sin’ for fallacious and false reasons. I understand you think it’s sin. I think that’s ill, and I oppose it just as I would oppose bigotry from the KKK or any other brand of unwarranted prejudice from any group or authority.

Please understand that if All-Mighty God himself came to me and told me to call homosexuality a ‘sin,’ I would not agree to it. No authority can simply label benign action as wrong and make it so without justification. It would be immoral for anyone, and that would include a god, to require such a thing as ‘bigotry’ from his/her followers. And I am really not sure you understand that.

I’m sure KKK members are very sincere. I’m sure they think their views are positive and helpful and would be good for society overall to adopt. But they’re clearly wrong, just as you are. And they’re harmful, just as you are. And I will oppose that sort of immorality from the KKK or the Catholic church.

>it breaks my heart to see all this confusion

I assure you we’re not “confused” at AE TV. In fact, the more you try to explain, the deeper you dig yourself in. You’re only demonstrating that a well meaning person can be taught to do evil in the name of religion. And the fact you’re blind to what you’re doing only makes it all the more tragic. You seem to think I think you think you’re motive is hate. What I’m really saying is that I don’t care what your motive is. Your view, and your promotion of that view, is flatly harmful and wrong. You’re causing harm to people who aren’t causing harm to you. I don’t particularly care why you do it. It’s wrong to do it, because you’re hurting people for no good reason. You are on the side of evil when it comes to this issue.

I encourage you, again, to visit the blog.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Catholics Aren't Anti-Gay?

We just recieved an e-mail I had to share. It seems that every time we hear from a Christian who wants to help us better understand they're not as bad as we make them out on the show, I’m left astounded at how blind they are to how horrid or stupid they honestly sound.

Here is the intro:

Hi to whoever reads this. I've been watching some of your show for a while now and have noticed a lot of misconceptions held about God and especially religious viewpoints. I understand that many people who call in are well intentioned at explaining the faith, but many are not very equipped or knowledgeable enough to respond to you with answers that are representative of what we believe is the truth about our faith. I, as a Catholic, do not have the authority to speak for anyone else's viewpoint of a different religion, but I can say that there is certain truths and doctrine that are universally excepted as what we would believe to be truth. Unfortunately many of us have not invested in learning the "why" behind the "what", and this perhaps inhibits many of us from responding articulately and intelligently to opposing views, and for this I apologize. I would just like to respond very quickly to the view of atheists and even many Christians on the misunderstanding of our view on homosexuality. Because I care so much about it (and them) and have many friends that have same-sex attractions, it is this misunderstanding that bothers me the most. Rather than restate something that I believe can be said more fully and eloquently through the words of the writer of this article, I would like to share with you the real position of the Catholic Church on same-sex attractions. I know you will not agree with much in this article, but my hope for you is that you will understand better our position of love for them as persons. And it is because of this love that we hold the teachings that we do.

I hope you have a nice day!

The intro itself seems mild enough. However, the article provided was atrocious. Due to copyright considerations, I won’t post the entire article that was shared, but I am giving the link. Please read it. You’ll be amazed this is supposed to "clear up" our negative misconceptions of religion as a backward, dehumanizing, irrational belief system:

It only convinces me further of whatever negative views I held previously about the church’s stance on homosexuals. I don’t believe any further commentary is needed. Once you read it I have confidence you’ll see what I mean.

More tilting at windmills?

There's a new reader rant over at Skepchick and I have questions:

Where are these people?
Where are the "Atheists who proclaim no one with a religious belief should have anything to with Skepticism"?
Where are the people who think, "That person is a Christian, he can’t think critically."?

Holy crap? Exaggerate much?

Where are these people? I have yet to run across one. Nearly every skeptic I've met has encouraged everyone to get involved with skepticism. That's the whole point of advocating skepticism. Nearly every skeptical atheists I've met has not only acknowledged that Christians can think critically, they simply aren't convinced that they've applied this tool to their religious beliefs...and this would be a trivial thing to rebut, if anyone bothered (or could).

I am one of those who question how one can subscribe to the principles of skepticism and still justify theistic beliefs - but it's a question and it's one that has yet to be satisfactorily answered. I'll keep asking it, no matter who gets irritated, because I feel it's important and some people seem to be working overtime to protect the subject from critical inquiry.

I'm not saying that theists don't belong in the skeptic movement or shouldn't be allowed to call themselves skeptics. That's absurd. I'm saying that theistic beliefs aren't immune from skepticism and questioning and I'd love to know how someone could claim that their theism is supported by the proper application of skepticism. I'm saying that there is, or should be, some value to calling oneself a skeptic, something to distinguish the title beyond "selectively skeptical".

Yet I continue to read about this grand threat that risks unfairly excluding people from skepticism and whenever they manage to expand on this idea it is always about one thing:


And the manner in which they address the subject is so... unskeptical.

Won't anyone address this issue with something beyond "don't be a dick" or "STFU" or "you're just as bad as fundamentalist Christians"? Won't anyone defend the theistic skeptic viewpoint with something more than assertions and whining and deflection?

Here's the scenario, it's really simple:

John identifies as a skeptic, advocates skepticism and is active in the skeptical movement. If John believes something (gods, ghosts or garglstropism) that can't be supported by a critical examination of the evidence, isn't it definitional to acknowledge that John has not properly applied skepticism to that issue? Isn't that the point - distinguishing which beliefs are rationally justified and which aren't?

This isn't about kicking John out of a movement or telling him he's not a "true skeptic" or that he shouldn't use the "skeptic" label...that's absurd. It's about acknowledging that John's view isn't properly consistent with skepticism. That's it. It's what we'd do for ANY claim...right?

If John continue to hold that belief, that's his prerogative. We believe what we believe.

If John claims that his belief isn't within the purview of skepticism, isn't that a claim he should have to successfully defend before others should accept it?

If John claims that his belief is actually supported by skepticism, isn't that a claim he should have to successfully defend before others should accept it?

I'm not demanding that John defend anything. John can believe whatever his conscience dictates. John doesn't have to explain himself to anyone, ever. I'm also not saying John is necessarily being a shitty skeptic on that subject. I have no idea whether or not he's being a shitty skeptic until he actually defends his belief. (Depending on the subject, I of course may well believe that he's being a shitty skeptic - but I'm willing to defend that belief.)

What I'm saying is that anyone who accepts Johns assertions before they've been successfully defended is being a shitty skeptic on that subject...and that's what's going on. Those who uncritically accept John's claims and those who attempt to shield John's views from critical thinking are being decidedly non-skeptical.

What I'm saying is that the problem in the skeptic community doesn't seem to be on the side of those who are skeptical of theistic claims (testable or not), it's on the side of those who don't think we should be.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Plugola: The Skeptical Eyebrow launches

Those of you who enjoyed hearing Gia and Chris on the recent Non-Prophets the three of us did will be pleased to know they have started a little talk show of their own called The Skeptical Eyebrow, which is apparently a Hitchens quote. This isn't a podcast but a YouTube channel, so go subscribe. They've only started, but their first discussion has to do with the recent "Should skeptics walk on eggshells around theism?" kerfuffle Matt has been addressing here. I suspect they'll refine their little show as it goes along (like, both audio and video together). They'll be bringing more folks into the conversations in future too. So go check them out and give some constructive feedback if you have it.

Less speculation, more testing...

In keeping with the discussion about whether or not ridicule or insults hinder the process of educating people:

(This is presented as a rebuttal to accusations, not as an argument to engage in more ridicule or insult. Yes, it's one study, but it's better than the anecdotal opinions we've seen bandied about...)

Abstract of (doi:10.1037/0022-0663.73.5.722):

"Tested the proposition that ridicule is an effective educational corrective by including 1 of 3 motivators (ridicule, insult, gentle reminder) or 1 of 3 controls in a handout of course reading assignments. Sex of Ss was included as an independent factor; 180 undergraduates participated. Scores on an unannounced test on the assigned readings, administered during the next class, provided a measure of information acquisition. Although the gentle reminder and insult increased test scores somewhat, relative to the controls, only ridicule produced a significant increase on information acquisition. Sex differences were found for the insult vs ridicule conditions: Males scored higher than females when insulted; females scored higher than males when ridiculed."

Monday, July 19, 2010

Don't be a dick?

I wasn't able to attend TAM8, but I thoroughly enjoyed my time at TAM7 and fully intend to attend future Amaz!ng Meetings. With any luck, Beth and I will be at TAM9. Every year, there are a great many people I respect and admire and that, coupled with the opportunity to socialize with other skeptics, makes it an event I'd like to regularly attend. Phil Plait is among those I respect and admire...but that doesn't mean we're going to agree on everything.

I've been asked what I thought about Phil's comments. To be clear, I have no reason to think that Phil has any idea who I am and I have no idea who he's talking about (partially because he's not very specific about that)...but I suspect that, on more than one occasion, I might qualify as a "dick" by his definition or that of other people. Fortunately, the evidence about the impact of the much reviled "new atheists" isn't good for the "harming the cause" doom sayers.

But let's get to the point.

During Phil Plait's talk at TAM 8, he took an informal poll:

"Let me ask you a question: how many of you here today used to believe in something — used to, past tense — whether it was flying saucers, psychic powers, religion, anything like that? You can raise your hand if you want to. [lots of hands go up] Not everyone is born a skeptic. A lot of you raised your hand. I’d even say most of you, from what I can tell.
Now let me ask you a second question: how many of you no longer believe in those things, and you became a skeptic, because somebody got in your face, screaming, and called you an idiot, brain-damaged, and a retard? [Very few hands go up]"

First of all, who is Phil talking about? This seems a bit quixotic and exaggerated to me. Where are these people who scream in your face on behalf of skepticism? Where are these people whose primary tactic is to yell at someone and call them a retard? Since Phil didn't provide any examples to support the claim, we can only guess.

Secondly, this is a prime example of a straw man argument - setting up an issue that is easily toppled instead of the actual issue. Not only has he not provided specific examples, or demonstrated that this is a significant problem, he seems to be engaging in an extremely flawed informal poll (read: emotional appeal) to get his point across. The first question is a fair skeptical inquiry (have you changed your mind about something?). The second question is about as far from it as one can possibly stray.

Of course most people don't simply abandon their beliefs because someone got in their face and called them names. Better questions would be:
- how many of you changed your position after having your beliefs challenged by someone else?
- how many of you changed your mind after having heated discussions?
- how many of you changed your minds after being offended?
- how many of you were prompted to be more skeptical of your position after seeing other people embarrassed by their attempts to defend a view you accepted?
- how many of you have only changed your mind as the result of people treating your beliefs with kid gloves?

Interestingly, some hands still went up for his ill-formed second question (which sort of refutes his larger point) and I wonder how many more hands would have gone up if we actually addressed the issue fairly instead of poisoning the well.

'In times of war, we need warriors. But this isn’t a war. You might try to say it is, but it’s not a war. We aren’t trying to kill an enemy. We’re trying to persuade other humans. And at times like that, we don’t need warriors, what we need are diplomats."

What an odd argument...I almost can't tell where he's talking about a metaphorical war and where he's being literal because he seems to shift between them without missing a beat. Of course we're trying to persuade other humans, of course we're not trying to kill an enemy...but if Phil doesn't think that skeptics are struggling against the enemies of reason in a way that is occasionally a metaphoric war, then I think he's lost sight of what's actually going on.

It's a false dichotomy that one is either a warrior or a diplomat and an unfounded assertion that there's only room for one or the other in changing people's minds. When superstitious beliefs are killing people or doing serious harm and some in the anti-science, anti-reason crowd refuse to respond to diplomacy, what do you do? Shrug your shoulders and agree to disagree? Write it off as a difference of opinion? Aren't we, on occasion, actually going to need to do something...including things that might shock or offend? Isn't that one of the things that would distinguish a 'skeptics movement' from 'people who are skeptical'?

Find me a skeptic who starts off with insults and name calling and I'll agree with Phil: those people are dicks who are most probably doing more harm than good. Maybe I'm out of touch, but I haven't seen much of this. I'm sure they're out there, but are they really a significant problem?

What I've seen are people expressing frustration, on occasion. What I've seen are people passionate about the truth. What I've seen are people who are unwilling to compromise and unwilling to give certain categories of credulity a "get out of skepticism free" card...

...and I see some skeptics who seem willing to compromise while chastising those who aren't by telling them they're hurting the cause.

"What I see [in the skeptical movement] is that hubris is running rampant. And that egos are just out of check, and sometimes logic in those situations falls by the wayside."

Agreed, but the egos going unchecked might just be the egos of those who think that challenging people's beliefs should be avoided if there's a significant risk of offense or hurt feelings - the ego that thinks their way is the only viable path to change (despite evidence to the contrary). The logic falling by the wayside may be demonstrated by dishonest, exaggerated, emotional arguments that misrepresent and oversimplify the situation (as if skeptics are running around shouting at people and calling them names as a primary debate tactic).

And maybe I'm missing something, but isn't Phil basically calling those who disagree with him, "dicks"? Granted, he's being very polite about it, but that seems to be what he's doing.

He took a flawed poll, in order to lend emotional support to his position and the goal seems to be to chastise some unspecified segment of the skeptical community who he thinks are being dicks, because they've engaged in calling them "dicks".

I agree with him on many of the points he made and I'm not faulting him for trying to convey his opinion or convince people to agree with him. What I find most amazing, though, is this...

A former president of the JREF and perennial icon of the skeptic community presented a blatant emotional appeal with quite a few logical fallacies tucked in, to a crowd of skeptics at the premiere skeptic event...and it seems the majority of attendees lapped it up (or that's the impression I was left with based on reports).


Perhaps it's because Phil's a genuinely nice guy. I like him and I don't take any pleasure in ripping apart his speech. Hell, I have no idea whether he'd consider me a dick or not and it wouldn't change the fact that I like the guy and we agree on most things.

Perhaps it's because the underlying message was not only positive, but one that we basically agree with: don't be a dick. Don't scream at people and call them names. Attack the issues, not the person. Let's try to avoid unnecessary and unproductive conflicts.

It would have been very easy to write a speech that conveyed that message in a way that almost everyone would agree with and I suspect that Phil probably thought that's the speech he wrote...but it's not the speech that some people heard/read.

Why not?

In addition to the problems noted above, I think part of the reason is that the atmosphere of the day seemed thickened by what many people perceived to be yet another attempt to erect a skepticism-free barrier around theistic beliefs. It's a recurring theme and it was reportedly more pronounced this year than last.

An attempt to avoid conflict actually created conflict. Is anyone surprised?

When are we going to actually act like skeptics and address this subject openly?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Open thread on show #666

Sorry most of the week was quiet around here, gang. I'll try to have some good posts for you in the upcoming. For now, we'll open this one up as a general thread on today's show, the highly anticipated Episode 666. There have been hints that hijinks, tomfoolery, and shenanigans of some nature will ensue. Then again, it could just end up being a normal episode of taking calls. Or Matt and Jeff could stun us all by converting to Zoroastrianism and sacrificing a life-size gummy bear, not that the two things have anything to do with one another. Nothing for you to do but watch and find out, is there?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Atheism and Skepticism

I've talked about the Skeptics' Schism before...and I'm sure I'll talk about it again. Here's today's take on the subject.

I'd recommend reading D.J.'s post at the JREF site, and PZ Myers' post that it links to.

Seriously. They're good posts and provide the needed context and background for this quote from Pamela Gay:

"To me, skepticism applies to testable parts of my life. Through science, I can test ideas and make predictions. As a skeptical thinker, when I'm confronted with data I have to be willing to change my ideas about reality, and if the predictive powers of science fail me, I have to admit my science is wrong. A belief in God is a belief in something frustratingly untestable. I can make no testable predictions using religion, but instead find myself faced with having to make an opinion-based judgement. I have made the choice to believe. I admit I have doubts - I am not so strong a person as to say my faith is complete and that in the dark of night I don't worry that I'm wrong. But in the absence of data, I have made the choice to believe in a God."

Here are the questions I'd like to ask:

1. If something isn't testable, how do you justify believing it?

2. How is this not simply a shifting the burden of proof - accepting an answer, without data to support it, and holding that position until data is presented to contradict it?

3. What makes you think belief is simply a choice? Did you really consciously choose to believe a god exists in the absence of supporting evidence or was there more? Isn't it more accurate to say that you've become convinced for reasons that are admittedly not rational or supported by evidence...reasons of which you may not be full cognizant? Was it a choice or is there some underlying presupposition that you're not recognizing?

4. Do you care whether or not your beliefs are justified?

5. Is it hypocritical to selectively apply skepticism?

I'm not picking on Pamela here - these questions are for any skeptic that identifies as a theist. They've been asked before and I have yet to hear any satisfactory answers. Pamela is simply the most recent, relevant example. And, while I shouldn't have to say this, I'm not raising this to attack her - I'm addressing the claims.

Anyone can be skeptical of something. It's probably the case that every sane person is skeptical of many things. It's natural for us to be curious and skeptical. But when someone identifies as a skeptic and we identify others as a skeptics, we're not talking about "natural skepticism" or being skeptical, we're talking about "applied skepticism" - the conscious application of skeptical ideals as tool for evaluating claims.

How skeptical do you have to be in order to qualify as a skeptic?

Skeptics strive (even if they fail) to be skeptical of all things, don't they? That, to me, is what skepticism is. If it's nothing more than picking and choosing what you'll be skeptical of, where is the usefulness? How can you criticize untestable claims while holding your own and claiming they're immune? When I hear that people like Paul Kurtz are claiming that we shouldn't be skeptical of everything, I have to wonder exactly what's going on.

Don't misunderstand, I agree that we can only adequately investigate testable claims - but we should be skeptical of all claims. What would we say if James Randi, for example, stated that he received an applicant for the Million Dollar Challenge who presented a claim that was untestable but that he was going to go ahead and "choose to believe" this untestable claim (though not aware the prize) despite the lack of supporting evidence?

Pamela writes:
"Someone who compartmentalizes their life - placing religion in one box and skepticism in another - is tearing themselves apart"
... yet she tries to claim that her religious beliefs are untestable and immune from skeptical examination. How is that not compartmentalization? If her beliefs are untestable, why believe? If her beliefs are not untestable, why claim they are...and why believe? How is this different from someone who makes any other untestable woo claim?

None of us are perfect in our application of critical thinking and skepticism, we're all going to make mistakes. We're going to accept bad evidence. We're going to allow our emotions and desires to color our evaluation of evidence. We're going to show a little special treatment for the things we treasure.

But shouldn't skepticism be about recognizing those errors and striving to overcome them? Shouldn't it be about a diligent pursuit of the goal to hold the best possible understanding of reality? When confronted with an error like this, wouldn't we expect a good skeptic to acknowledge the error and change their position? Isn't that the hallmark of skepticism?

I've said, many times, that I want to believe as many true things and as few false things as possible. Both sides of that coin are critical. If you're only concerned with believing as many true things as possible; believe everything. If you're only concerned with believing as few false things as possible; believe nothing.

Skepticism shuns both of those extremes (credulity and cynicism) and cares solely about serving as a filter to separate information into piles marked 'reliable' and 'unreliable'. It is an ideal predicated on the desire to have the most accurate understanding of reality that we're capable of.

Pamela even notes this when she writes; "the natural outcome in skepticism is acknowledging doubt". That's true and beautiful but it's only part of the story. It's not simply about acknowledging doubt (because that allows people to misrepresent the burden of proof), it's about attempting to doubt appropriately - to discover which bits of information are reliable enough to be believed and which are not.

There's a difference between being skeptical and being a skeptic - or there should be. If someone claims to be a skeptic, yet believes in god or auras or ghosts without presenting supporting evidence, is that a problem? Not so long as they recognize that on that particular subject, they're not properly applying the skepticism they advocate. Essentially, they're hypocritical in their application of skepticism.

Does that mean they're a lousy skeptic? On that subject, yes. Overall? That depends. Some skeptics will recognize and acknowledge that they're not properly applying skepticism. Others will claim that skepticism isn't relevant to that subject. I'm having a really difficult time deciding which of those is more dangerous and which represents the greatest hypocrisy.

Is the willful rejection of skeptical values in order to cling to a cherished belief more or less detrimental if that rejection is acknowledged? Is it better to say, "Yes, I'm not being skeptical about this - because it makes me feel good" than to say "Skepticism simply doesn't apply here"?

I've got to think that the latter is a gross conceptual error about what skepticism is, if we're going to distinguish it from simply "being skeptical".

It's very likely that each individual case is different. It's a complicated landscape and this isn't about assigning people a score, as though I'm 92% pure skeptic and they're 89% or 96%. There are plenty of things that I've been insufficiently skeptical of - but when I've been challenged on those things, I've acknowledged it and reevaluated my position. I've never said or implied that I hold some belief that is beyond the realm of skeptical inquiry.

It may be the case that some of these willful rejections of skepticism amount to no more than traveling slightly over the speed limit, but if you're part of a movement that encourages people to adhere to the speed limit, you don't get to willfully ignore it without being called out for hypocrisy.

I like Pamela. She seems to be a nice person, she's smart, she's probably a good scientist and, apart from her religious views, she seems to be a pretty good skeptic. I not only don't object to her speaking at TAM 8 (The Amaz!ng Meeting), I was happy to hear she'd be speaking. Unlike some people, I actually hoped that she'd be specifically addressing theistic skepticism - as that's a subject that I find fascinating (if not frustrating). I also don't object to Hal Bidlack (another skeptical theist) serving as MC for TAM. Hal's someone I liked, despite the fact that we may disagree about the relationship between skepticism and theism.

What I object to are the attempts to curtail discussion on this subject. What I object to are the attempt to portray some skeptics as troublemakers, negatively affecting the whole, simply because they're not hesitant to say that they're skeptical of the claim that "theistic skeptic" isn't oxymoron.

Pamela writes:
"There is currently a philosophy that “skepticism is a proper subset of atheism: that is, not all atheists are skeptics but all skeptics are atheists.”" [snip] "This is false logic. Being a skeptic does not preclude a belief in a God. Being a skeptic simply means I have to admit that there are things I know are scientifically true and based on evidence (such as the age of the universe), and there are things that in the absence of sufficient data I may choose to believe in or not believe in (such as God)."

D.J. agrees with Pamela (in part):
"I do not believe that skepticism is a subset of atheism. I believe, and I wonder why it isn't obvious to everyone, that atheism is a subset of skepticism."

It's true that skepticism is not a subset of atheism, in that context. I agree with D.J. that this should be painfully obvious. Atheism deals with a single claim and that is insufficient to serve as a superset for skepticism. But we're talking about 'isms' in that context. Skepticism could include a bunch of "isms" under its umbrella...that tells us nothing about whether or not skepticism supports or precludes theism.

Pamela, though, shifts scopes - both from 'skepticism/atheism' to 'skeptic/atheist' and also from 'is' to 'ought'. Of course there are theists who identify as skeptics - that's not in question.

Here's the simple question that seems to be avoided like the plague:

Does the proper application of skepticism support theism?

Anyone who thinks the answer is "yes", please defend that position - just as someone who felt that their belief in ghosts was supported by the proper application of skepticism.

If the answer is "no" - then it is clear that the proper application of skepticism supports the atheistic position, in the sense that (skeptical) atheism rejects theistic claims as unbelievable due to insufficient evidence. Read that twice. Insert the word "nontheism" for "(skeptical) atheism", if it makes it more clear. (I'll bet I still get someone e-mailing about middle ground...)

That's what we're really discussing here: Is theism consistent with the proper application of skepticism?

Pamela would like to have us believe it is and she attempts to do so by claiming that her theism is untestable and claiming that "Being a skeptic does not preclude a belief in a God."

That, though, is a dishonest shifting of the burden of proof. She might as well have said "Being a skeptic does not preclude a belief in the supernatural/ghosts/auras." It'd be just as true and just as irrelevant. Skepticism does't preclude belief in anything provided that you assert that your belief is justified until disproved. Skepticism is about investigating all claims to discover truth. It's about discovery, not just debunking.

Isn't it one of the core principles of applied skepticism that if something is untestable, then belief is unjustified? How can one justify belief without supporting evidence?

I'm baffled by the unwillingness of some skeptics to state the obvious when it comes to religious claims: they haven't scratched the surface of meeting their burden of proof. Some act as if honestly acknowledging that someone's beliefs are not rational and not consistent with a skeptical assessment of the evidence is somehow a disservice; as if we don't want to hurt the feelings of our skeptical friends who have bought into a particular brand of woo. What sort of friend are you being when you do that?

It's not as if we're trying to kick people out of skeptic groups or exclude them from meetings and events. It's not even as if we're unwilling to consider their case - but pretending that there isn't a dilemma here that should be defended? That's a disservice.

If there's a theistic skeptic who would actually like to defend their views, why not encourage that? Why not arrange for a public debate or panel discussion at TAM9? I suspect that the answer has more to do with image and the perception that such a discussion might alienate people that are otherwise supportive. Honestly, though, I think it probably has more to do with finding a skeptical theist willing to publicly defend that position.

If anyone needed evidence of the pernicious, nefarious, deleterious effects of religious beliefs and their ability to protect themselves while affecting their surroundings; they need look no further than the collection of otherwise committed skeptics who not only shy away from the subject but encourage others to do the same.

Non-Prophets podcast updated with episode 9.6... and 9.7!

Yep, you heard right. Not is the excellent episode recorded by Martin, Gia and Chris now available through conventional means, but Lynnea and I have been busy as well. This weekend we called up European internet buddy Dean Jones. You can download both by subscribing to the podcast or direct download at

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Lame YouTube Apologist Caught in a Lie

I know, it's shocking. YouTube apologists lie. A lot. The one calling himself Shockofgod has been getting a lot of attention lately, because he claims that he called The Atheist Experience and that his question "terrified" the hosts. Here, take a look:

What's immediately obvious to anyone who's ever watched or listened to an episode of The Atheist Experience is that this isn't us. Of course, that doesn't stop Shockofgod, whose real name is Rich Allen, by the way. Rich, who is known for his YouTube videos in which he mounts a camera to his helmet and rides his motorcycle in traffic while spouting bad apologetics, truly knows no shame. He not only posted the clip above, he posted the following on Yahoo! Answers:

Note the answer he chose as the best answer, and the fact that he totally misrepresented what Michael was saying to him. He dismisses all the other gods, because no one has presented sufficient evidence to support their existence. Likewise, we dismiss his god for the same reason.

Now, you could argue that maybe Rich is just so dumb that he didn't realize what Michael was saying. I'd think that too if he hadn't chosen this answer after I posted the following response to him:

So now that Rich has so thoughtfully provided written evidence of his dishonesty, feel free to call him on it whenever you can. Of course, you can't do that on the video above. He's disabled comments. So now which one of us is terrified again?

I guess we could all hope that he really does call the show tomorrow, but I won't be holding my breath.

Can't teach an old dog new tricks?

Another viewer mail worthy of sharing:

I found Atheist Experience on Youtube when browsing on the web. I am writing in reference to the statement in one episode that the journey from theism to atheism can, for some people, be long and painful. It was long for me, about 75 years, but not painful. I just stumbled gradually toward atheism over the years as I read a great deal and thought more about my religion. During my early 30s I left the Lutheran Church for the Unitarians, where I remain, but I gradually changed my belief from the traditional Unitarian position that God is one to that of the agnostic, and eventually to what I understand is a strong agnostic. But, by watching the episodes of Atheist Experience I realized that I was not intellectually consistent to require evidence for either that God exists or does not exist while maintaining that I do not believe in Santa Claus because here is no evidence that he exists. I don't require evidence that he does not. You provided the final argument to convince me to become an atheist: that it is irrational to believe something for which there is no evidence.

Your program does two marvelous things: (1) It helps people like me, who have a stumbling block in their reasoning, to think more clearly. And (2), and this is most important, it demonstrates that persons such as I was, who are on their journey towards atheism, need not be alone on that journey.

I am approaching my 86th birthday. My only regret is that I do not expect to be here when the atheist position will no longer be detrimental to a person's social position or employment, nor considered a factor in determining a person's qualification to hold public office.

My best wishes for you and the ACA.

Positively made my day!

Friday, July 09, 2010

Non-Prophets 9.6 is up

For your consideration.

Gia, Chris and I had a blast doing this. As there was no live chat involved, we'll just make this an open commentary thread about the show. (Also, here is a much lower bitrate version, as I didn't take into account just how huge the higher quality version is and I didn't know at the time what bitrate the guys usually use. So choose this one if you just want a faster download and don't mind some loss of fidelity.)

The last thing that sidewalk evangelists ever see...

Wednesday, July 07, 2010


Posted without comment (other than the implied one...and that one...and that one....)
"Dont use all Gods blessing and say you dont believe him.

You think you dont need him, but you live on His dependency. That is

In next tv show, i would like that all of your members, create a sun
and give to all people that believes what you believe. Or create the
air, and give to them. Or create a land, and plant and give food for
them. Not just plant, but create a land where you can plant and give life.

If you dont believe him, dont use air, dont use food that come from
land you dont create. Dont use your car, or ur home, because man uses
raw material they didnt create.

We all depend on Him. We cant create air, or sun, or anything."

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

There simply are not words for how creepy this is

(Long, awkward silence...)

Well, I suppose something like this shouldn't be surprising, offered on a website called (Oh snap...!)

New "renegade" Non-Prophets episode recording tomorrow

During the lengthy and ongoing hiatus that has frustrated NPR fans for months and months, Russell and Lynnea recently recorded their own stop-gap, "renegade" episode to help mark time until the regular show hosted by Denis, Russell and Matt is able to resume. Which they're saying may be September. Which would be better interpreted as "wait and see." But as fans were happy with Russell and Lynnea's effort, there's no reason not to keep this up, especially as magical internettical computerifical technological magic makes it so easy.

Tomorrow afternoon, I will be recording yet another of these renegade shows, and it should be available on the NPR site by Friday. (It won't be a livecast though, so no simultaneous chat.) One of my guest hosts will be my dear friend, the beautiful and snarktacular Gia Grillo, aka PamAnnJett, whom most of you will recall from the post here not long ago, in which she recounted her little saga about walking boldly up to a pair of squeaky clean sidewalk proselytizers and mercilessly emasculating them in front of everybody! Hey, she may be small, but she packs a wallop. Joining us also, from the misty forests of northern California, will be our mutual friend, Chris Conner. Mostly our topic will involve how the Internet has played such a powerful role, both as a resource for atheists and a way to forge a sense of community among us that atheists never had before. The rise in atheism's profile globally; the popularity of shows like AETV and blogs like Pharyngula; the ability for there even to be such a thing as million-selling atheist books; and finally, the many connections of simple friendships open to us — the Internet has done more for the spread of reason than anything, and we'll talk about how it's impacted our lives. The Young, Godless, and Fabulous today live in a much different world than the one that afflicted Madalyn O'Hair's generation. But in many ways, not much has changed and there's still so much to be done.

All this and other stuff. Look for the new show to be downloadable by the weekend, gang. I'm very much looking forward to it myself.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Joys of the Internet

Someone notified me this morning that I've been misrepresented publicly as making anti-gay statements in a correspondence. In light of that, I am sharing the entire content of the statement I made this morning, in order to show accurately what I said. Fortunately, I shared the content of the messages with several people immediately after having the exchange. So, I actually have people who can vouch, including Jen Peeples who was online this morning, and who also happens to be gay, and a good friend.

The response I received was actually cordial, and I thought all was well (although apparently not):

I called Matt immediately, and he advised that I post this as the one and only response necessary to such obvious slander. I am sure my record speaks for itself, and that punative lies will not be taken seriously by anyone who knows me and/or my views.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Austin Chronicle wants your input!

Who's got the best Public Access TV show in Austin? The Austin Chronicle would like you to tell them. I certainly wouldn't want to influence your vote, but I can think of one or two shows that might be worth voting for.

Now, bear in mind that the page leads off with a very stern warning about ballot stuffing, although they don't specify how they interpret that. However, they are asking for all your contact information before submitting the ballot, so it might be for the best if only locals (or at least Texans) vote. I know there's a lot of you here, so let's get to votin'.

Another Success Story to Share

Just to share another success story--because we rarely share these. We claim we get these letters, but I think it helps for people to see these publicly as well:

Hi. My name is Jeremy and I am a student at the University of Missouri. I would just like to thank you for helping me convert to being an atheist. I have always been confused trying to find the "right" religion to practice and how to worship. I have studied all the monotheistic religions and just never seemed to really get it. However for the past year or two I have discovered shows like yours and have read/watched the new atheists (Hitchens, Dawkins....). For the first time, I can just set back and say that everything now makes more sense. Also, I seem to be at more peace with myself and have a greater understanding and respect for others. I am less hateful and appear to understand others more. I no longer feel the need to discriminate against others for reasons that do not make sense to me (a problem I always had with religion). I understand that this will be the only life I will get and that I should live it the best I can.

I understand that you may have a lot of email for the show so if you do not respond back to me I will understand. However, please show this email to all that work in front of the camera and behind the scenes. I wish for everyone who works at the the show to know that you have made a difference and have helped me (and I am sure many others) become better people just by using reason and a little common sense. Thank you!

Thanks, Jeremy, for letting us know. Really, it makes our day!

Thursday, July 01, 2010

A cruel, gratuitous taunt

Hey. Guess what Matt and I have done today that you haven't...?

Heard the newly-completed full-length version of Bryan Steeksma's "Listen to Reason," that's what. Verdict: Damn!

Patience, grasshoppers.... (In the meantime, you can still buy Residual Soul.)

As has been noted, the full-length song is available for download now.