Sunday, January 23, 2011

Open Thread / Show #693: Jen & Tracie

As always, we air at 4:30-5:30 PM (CST) today (Sunday). You can watch live on ustream:

My plan is to discuss a few of the willfully ignorant things theists say in response to discovering people are atheist activists, including statements such as "why are you so angry at god?" and "I think you're just searching for god."

Example: Person X has a loved family member who swears by a particular homeopathic doctor, who is conning them out of their money and resources and "treating" them for a dangerous and potentially fatal illness. The family member will not seek demonstrated effective treatments from a conventional doctor, because the homeopath has convinced them that modern medicine is a hand-puppet of Big Pharma and therefore an untrustworthy conspiracy. Eventually the family member dies. Person X begins a blog and a youtube channel to tell their story to help expose the dangers of homeopathy. They are contacted by others with similar stories, and they form an association to spread information to people about the lack of support for homeopathic claims and hopefully to help others avoid the same suffering they have experienced at the hands of charlatans.

They should expect to get letters from believers expressing they are wrong. They should expect to be accused of being cogs in the Big Pharma conspiracy. They should expect to get testimonials from well meaning people with anecdotes about their "successes" with homeopathy and the "good" they are convinced it does.

But I'm sure they would never expect some willful idiot will suggest that they are fighting homeopathy because they secretly want desperately to find evidence showing it really works, or that they secretly already believe it does work, and are angry about the fact it works.

These particular rebuttals to the anti-homeopathy movement would be ridiculous. It seemed to me time to provide a link calling it out as "stupid," for people to use. I'd rather atheist skeptics, anti-theists and activists spend their time letting theists provide their demonstrations for their claims of gods existence, than spend their time having to defend against accusations that even a fool should recognize as foolish.

I have heard theists confuse hypothetical uses of "god" with belief in god. But I find this utterly dishonest, because we all use hypotheticals routinely. There is no reason someone should suddenly be unable to recognize a commonly used method of examining a claim. I might say to you I think a problem with your car is that you have an oil leak. But you know of some reason that isn't correct. You say "If it were an oil leak, though, I would expect XYZ to be happening, too, right?" That does not mean you agree it's an oil leak. And nobody should misunderstand that. In the same way if an atheist says "If there were a god that killed all these people that would be morally inexcusable," the atheist is not asserting believe in god and belief in the claims of the Bible. It's clearly a hypothetical, and even more-so due to the fact he wears the clear label "atheist" to alert the theist he doesn't accept this god is real. There is no excuse for any misunderstanding in these dialogs. I'm convinced these "misunderstandings" are willful dishonestly and red-herrings to get the atheist off track and in a defensive mode so that the theist is then relieved of having to defend an indefensible position.

So, if it helps, save the link to this blog post. Whenever you're told you "hate god" or are "searching for god," copy-paste and tell them atheists are worn out arguing dishonest stupidity and unless they have something of actual substance to offer in support of their unjustified beliefs, you aren't going to waste your time debating people who can't grasp basic levels of communication such as how to recognize the use of a hypothetical, the meanings of common words ("atheist") or how to apply the simplest context ("I don't believe in god, therefore I cannot hate god").

*Correction: I updated the headline to reflect Jen replacing Matt today as host.


  1. I like this step. The calls from irrational theists are entertaining, and it is fun to see you box them into a corner. But "real world" arguments from "moderate" people are what I encounter the most. And these are people who just don't call Public Access Television Shows. The most common argument from "reasonable" people I encounter is, "You know... the Universe is just so... big... there's got to be something out there. I just feel sad that you've closed yourself off to the beauty of the Universe," or "Call it God, Jesus, Shiva, Buddha, Allah, whatever, you have to believe in something. What gives you strength? Your life must be so empty." There's no arguing against this nonsense. But it passes as "reasonable" and "moderate" in our society at present. This is the kind of stuff that I'd like to see brought into focus. But the people who hold these "moderate" views never speak up. I would say this is 75% of the population.

  2. There are situations where it makes sense to assume your opponent does not believe what he says. An example which might appeal to the left wing atheists is tax cuts - the republicans have been saying for years that taxing the rich is really bad for America, because the wealth of the rich people "trickles down" to everyone else. Past experience doesn't support this claim and it doesn't make any sense. The very rich invest a large amount of their wealth in stocks or other property, they spend a much smaller fraction of it on goods and services than low or middle income people do, so less wealth is available to "trickle down". We also know that Republican politicians have other reasons for wanting to avoid taxing the rich - namely they rely on campaign funding from wealthy people.

    (To any republicans out there: I'm not interested in debating taxation with you.*)

    From a believer's point of view, I think the situation seems very similar - it seems obvious that God is real (I don't know why it seems obvious to them, but it seemed obvious to me at some point in the past too so I know that happens). When someone is saying something that is obviously false, it's not entirely unreasonable to conclude that they don't believe what they are saying, especially if they might have ulterior motives. Hating god makes sense, it's a long tradition that goes back to the earliest book of the bible (Job). Wanting to sin makes sense, sin is tempting almost by definition. Searching for god... well it's very tempting to assume that anyone else would reach the same conclusion you did if they just sat down and thought about it.

    * You're probably nice people I could have a beer with and you probably have reasons for thinking all the crazy things republicans believe. I still don't want to discuss taxation with you.

  3. My rebuttal to the “hating god” argument has been as follows:

    “I “hated” Darth Vader for cutting off Luke Skywalker's hand...but then I walked out of the theater and forgot about it until the sequel came out.”

    Very often the reply is “That's no comparison! You know that Darth Vader is a fictional character”, and my answer is “And...?”

    Sometimes they make the connection, sometimes they don't. Those who do may be open to further dialogue; for those who don't, screw 'em.

  4. On the nonprophets yesterday Matt said he was sick, and he sure sounded like it. Have you made sure he's going to be on today?

  5. Jen is filling in for me today. Still too sick to do this.

  6. @ GMpilot

    I like your style.

  7. James:

    >the republicans have been saying for years that taxing the rich is really bad for America, because the wealth of the rich people "trickles down" to everyone else.

    This is not the same thing. Even if their reasons are questionable--they still support the core claim. I thought of it in terms of the unreasonable arguments against gay marriage. And asked if that wasn't the same thing? The idea that some people who are anti-gay rights are sometimes accused of being gay. And I think that's solid. BUT, the difference is, whether they're gay themselves or not, they're still CLEARLY anti-gay rights.

    What it boils down to is a person who isn't being honest about their _reason_ for hating gays, their _reason_ for supporting specific tax structures, their _reason_ for BEING an atheist. They still are against gay rights, against taxing the wealthy, a person who doesn't believe a god exists.

    While theists can speculate about my _reasons_ for not believing a god exists, and whether or not I'm being honest about WHY I DON'T believe a god exists--to assert I don't hold the core position that I do not believe a god exists, a position I clearly support, is unreasonable.

    I can doubt all day the reasons a theist gives me for their belief in god are their honest reasons for their belief--but I don't claim they don't believe god exists, just because their reasons for supporting that position are clearly or even demonstrably flawed. That would be ridiculous.

  8. There is definitely a logical disconnect, and because of that I don't believe that every theist is being willfully dishonest. I think they believe without question and do not give any thought as to what they are saying. For some of them to hear someone say they don't believe in god leaves them gobsmacked. It is as world shattering as a child hearing there is no Santa. I would even expect a similar response. "Are you angry with Santa? Did he not bring you something you wanted?"

    @GMpilot - I like the Darth Vader analogy, I have asked people why they hate Santa, or why they hate the Loch Ness Monster (Nessie is so cute, how could you?)

    @Tracie - I do agree though for a theist to conflate a hypothetical with an actual belief in god is unacceptable, and the more I read you post (just read it again) the more I can see it as them turning the tables.

  9. MAtheist:

    The reason I say it's willful dishonesty is connected to your point that they speak without thinking. One second of thought and they'd realize (be honest with themselves) that in any other circumstance, their rebuttal would be stupid. By throwing it out without thinking about whether or not what they're saying is reasonable, I think of that as willful stupidity/dishonesty. It's such a high level of irresponsible rebuttal--it's sort of like drawing the line between abuse and criminal negligence of a child. There is a level of negligence, that while it's different than abuse in a very hair-fine's not practically different. The person doing it should grasp what they're doing, should know better, and should not do it.

  10. Tracie:

    I still connect willful to intent, so someone that is willfully dishonest has the intent to deceive or misrepresent. I think someone that is delusional would lack the ability to be willfully dishonest.

    There is definitely something willful here. Willful stupidity, as you said, willful inaction, as in willful exclusion of other ideas. So while I agree that I can see it as an irresponsible rebuttal, there is something broken in the though process because of their delusional state. I don't know if they can get their head around the fact that what they are saying is asinine.

    Anyways, looking forward to today's show. I will miss Matt, but having you and Jen as hosts is one of my favorite teams.

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  14. I've had atheist bumper stickers on my vehicle before and had people accuse me of the following:

    "You don't believe in god because your gay or just want to sin." "You must secretly believe in God because you used a capitalized 'G' and not god." "You must secretly hate god." "You just want to murder, slaughter and kill people." "You must just secretly want to molest children."

    I'm sure the list of red herrings fallacies goes on and on but a few top the list.

    Somehow I tend to think by them saying these things it lends less credibility to their own belief in their god. It almost says they only believe in their own god because they are against the above statements.

  15. Show isn't even over yet, and yet I must say - Excellent!

    Great conversation with that guy.

  16. I really loved the conversation with that guy. This is one of those that seems to have done genuine good in changing someone's perception of what atheists are, what it means, what the organizations are about... You did a good job of reminding him that your objections to religion are not about him personally.

  17. I agree with Matt that it was excellently handled.

    Jen/Tracie kept him on task over and over when he kept trying to veer away in almost nonsensical tangents.

    It's like some villain trying to obfuscate in a tough spot by throwing an exploding smoke bulb to the ground, and it just ends up fizzing while he numbly stands there with a deer-in-headlights look.

  18. You both handled Mike amazingly well.


  19. One of the better shows I ever seen mostly due to the first caller. Also, towards the end of the show it could be pointed out that anyone who believe's in evil must believe in god because without god there is no definition of evil or so theist's claim.

  20. Matt was right: the show was great and the conversation with the theist one of the best calls. At first he was really defensive but then the ladies charmed him into an actual conversation. As soon as he realized that he wasn't there to be eaten alive and that Tracieh and Jen were actually interested in what he as a theist had to say he allowed himself to be argued with, not taking offense that his views were challenged.

    Moar women only shows pls!

  21. Great job on that call Tracie & Jen! It sounded like you really made the guy think. His beliefs have never been challenged before.

  22. I agree, the first call was handled exceptionally well. It should be studied to find out why exactly it went so exceptionally well!

  23. There's a couple things really sad about the guy you had a good conversation with. One, he eventually understood what he was saying is bunk but he'll keep on saying it nonetheless. Two, his community will ostracize him for not being a true believer.
    Formula for a future Atheist right there, if he would just try and be fully honest with himself.

  24. Great program! Though I think the guy that talked about understanding a computer program vs understanding a CPU made a false analogy and none of you called it on him. For one thing he may understands how a programming language works mathematically but if he doesn't understand the CPU then he doesn't really understand how a physical instance of a computer program works.

    And then if a concrete computer program gives results that he can't explain, how could he make any reliable explanations of any results it produces?

  25. Rod, the call went well because

    a) Tracie is remarkably patient.
    b) Tracie is very effective and well practised at engaging in the sort of arguments being presented
    c) And probably most crucially, the caller (despite not being one for "big words") was one of the more intellectually honest theists to ever call the show. He was quite willing to concede the arguments he made when the poor logic or faulty assumptions were pointed out to him.

    In the end he was forced to admit that the truth of his god claims are less important than their utility. Which, as the ladies pointed out, renders any discussion on whether any god exists pointless.

    One wonders if the significance of his admission will weigh on his mind from now on.

  26. @Tracie - The analogy would work perfectly if we were discussing a similar sort of claim. As an example, "The Atheist Community of Austin opposes mandatory prayer in schools". I don't think anyone has ever accused atheists of secretly supporting mandatory Christian prayers in school.

    As I see it not believing in god is a reason for opposing mandatory prayer in school. "I don't believe any gods exist" is a fundamentally different sort of claim to "Schools should not require their students to pray". I can't think of any way to demonstrate to someone that I'm sincere when I say the first claim, if someone doesn't trust me, I'm out of options. It would be easy to provide evidence that I'm sincere about the latter claim.

  27. James:

    >I can't think of any way to demonstrate to someone that I'm sincere when I say the first claim, if someone doesn't trust me, I'm out of options. It would be easy to provide evidence that I'm sincere about the latter claim.

    That's why we don't question people when they say they believe X or Y--they are the authority. It's up to the person claiming the belief is not sincere to show an ulterior motivation--otherwise, they're claim has no grounds/merit.

    In other words, Hitler made theistic statements. However he also made atheistic statements. And he had motive to lie about belief--since he was a leader. But he wrote about his belief early in his life, before he was well known. But he may have had political aspirations even then...and so on. If someone wants to say this calls his belief in god into question, I get it. But with the atheist generally, unless they can show similar support that they reject the claim of what the atheist does/does not believe, they are simply making up groundless crap. It would be no different than me saying to a theist, "That's so silly, you can't possibly believe that." While it may _seem_ so to me, to actually suggest it would be groundless, because I'd be saying that since _I_ think it's an odd believe, _nobody_ can possibly believe it (that is, nobody could hold a different view than I do) and that violates simple reality--where many people hold opposing views on just about any claim anyone can make.

  28. A-Astrologist:

    >c) And probably most crucially, the caller (despite not being one for "big words") was one of the more intellectually honest theists to ever call the show. He was quite willing to concede the arguments he made when the poor logic or faulty assumptions were pointed out to him.

    AMEN to that! I actually admire the guy for this. It was remarkable to have such an honest dialog like that. His level of "defensiveness" was minimal, and he easily accepted honest clarifications. He was a joy to talk to, actually.

  29. Once:

    >One, he eventually understood what he was saying is bunk but he'll keep on saying it nonetheless....Formula for a future Atheist right there, if he would just try and be fully honest with himself.

    I'm not sure he'll "keep on saying it." When I was a Christian, I was pwned a few times and never used those particular points again. And once you start seeing the flaws, I agree, it's a potential future atheist.

  30. Stenlis:

    My reply to that call bothered me. It wasn't until later I was able to formulate my thought better. The problem is we examine the SAME evidence, and they say it means what they say it means. If you say it looks like it means something else, they invoke "mystery _we_ can't understand." But they keep insisting it means what they say it means.

    The morality example is probably where I hear "we can't judge god" used most often, which is why I pulled that one from the hat.

    We see a bag of good and evil stuff god has "done" in the Bible. The Christian asserts "god is good." You ask why, and he points to the "good stuff." You then point to the bad stuff and say "OK, god is bad." And they say "We can't understand god."

    How come _they_ can point to "loving" things and say "this means loving"; but if I point to cruel things and say "this means cruel"--suddenly we can't understand...?

    But more importantly, if "we" can't understand what the "bad" stuff means, why it happens, what god's motives are...if we can't judge...then _how_ do "we" know it's not the evil it appears to be?

    At happy hour, I had a glass of water. I said, "It's like the theist pointing and saying _it's half full_. I point and say _It's also half empty_. They reply I can't say it's half empty, because we can't understand the glass."

  31. Tracie: Fair enough. I guess I'm not really thinking about it in terms of burden of proof, but I rather like the idea that the burden of proof is on them to prove that you're lying.

  32. @A-Astrologist

    I think we can concede that anyone on the show is B).

    I think what made the call more special than others was the witnessing of a paradigm shift while still on the call. He started with this false view on atheism, probably fed to him by others, and within a half hour seemingly changed his mind (At least, on that point). At the start when Tracie was providing answers to his questions/statements, he was defending his position and not listening, and then listened more, and more. That's pretty rare.

    I think Tracie's patience was a big factor. Not a single raised voice by either host. I think the fact that she just answered his questions in a calm and direct way was pivotal. I'm curious how much of Tracie explaining her coming to atheism story and if that resonated with him as well.

    I agree he may be more intellectually honest than other callers and that could be the key difference between him and others. But admit it, Tracie rocked the call and I think there might be nuances about it that could be used for any other atheist debating a theist.

  33. @Tracie

    "How come _they_ can point to "loving" things and say "this means loving"; but if I point to cruel things and say "this means cruel"--suddenly we can't understand...?"

    I kept thinking, if we can't point to evil stuff and say it's evil, then how on earth can we point to good stuff to say it's good. By what measure are they measuring this "good stuff", because as far as I see it, he is applying human measurements to it. If god is so mysterious, shouldn't we have no clue on either side of the coin?

  34. Tracie:

    Yes, part of the problem with the analogy is, as you said, 'examining the SAME evidence'.

    The other problem that I tried to point out is that the theist is trying to explain the 'external' behavior of god while the IT guy said (implied) he understands the 'internal' structure of programming languages.

    The correct analogy would be if the IT guy attempted to explain the external behavior of a program without seeing the code.

  35. @Rod

    I kept thinking, if we can't point to evil stuff and say it's evil, then how on earth can we point to good stuff to say it's good.

    It could be that god is evil. So when evil happens, it's because of his nature, and when good happens, it's just god working in mysterious ways.

  36. This kind of discussion is exactly why the theists think atheists are just lying when they say gods don't exist. In other words, if we believe God doesn't exist, then why are we arguing over whether he's good or evil?* Why do we make videos mocking the mythology on its own terms (like the press conference one on the front pages of Pharyngula and Friendly Atheist today)? I'm not advocating that we stop, I'm just saying that this contributes to the impression that we're just "angry at God".

    *The aim is usually to point out that the theists' beliefs are contradictory, inconsistent, and/or founded on indoctrination and dogma rather than evidence, but we often don't get to that point.

  37. I was saddened by a couple of things in the first caller episode. In the final analysis, his conclusion is that he is sticking to his beliefs because he has too much invested in them - his church, his friends, his life. "We are good people; we do good things. You are saying we are bad." I think/hope this may be one of those instances in which the ideas presented to him here will take root in his brain and develop.

    One other point re Gabby Giffords's recovery as a miracle: This is such an insult to the doctors and others who worked so hard to help her. Apparently they could have saved all that work and just left her lying there on the ground and god would have saved her.

  38. Great show -- it was amazing to hear someone bringing exactly the preconceptions you were talking about, and hearing how you handled them. It was also great to hear him understand your side by the end, at least somewhat, and how you weren't just angry atheists railing against gods.

    You missed an opportunity to drive home the point that the exchange in itself was the answer to his question of why the show exists -- to have the dialogue and clear up such false conceptions -- but it was still wonderfully handled overall.

  39. the first caller presented himself as an intellectual amateur and used the "you all haven't tried to debate a truly intelligent Christian" argument from the start.

    I wonder if he left that conversation thinking "damn those atheists are tricky and can really confuse people" or whether he accepts that some of the things he has been told actually aren't as valid as he assumed.

    From my experience, most religious people use this as a shield "well, the Atheist makes sense, but I am just not smart enough to see thru their deceptions" and assume their leaders are.

    I hope he calls again.

  40. Great caller, really enjoyed this episode!

  41. I've been listening to your show for years, and this was definitely one of the best episodes you guys have produced (and that's saying something). Bravo Tracie and Jen!

  42. @Minus - "Apparently they could have saved all that work and just left her lying there on the ground and god would have saved her."

    A lot of christian's I talked with believe, 'God only helps those who help themselves.' I remember hearing this saying back in 3rd grade.

  43. Kind of like "Trust in Allah, but tie up your camel"? Then wherefore trust Allah?

  44. @Martin. When I heard a fellow female student say that back in 3rd grade I thought it obvious as just another way to say god isn't real(an obvious contradiction). I think I realized since about age 6 god wasn't real so it's hard to understand how full grown adults believe in it.

  45. Tracie Harris said to one of the last callers that the personalities and crew on the AE are not professionals. That statement may be true in that you are all volunteers, but understand that any educated or intelligent fan of the show realizes and appreciates the caliber of the instruction and the content put forward by you "amatures". When I watch the AE, I feel like I am auditing Philosophy courses at our finest institutions of higher learning. Just yesterday, I stopped by Matt's Iron Chariots website for the first time, and I was so impressed that I felt guilty for not being able, at present, to send a contribution to the program, really!!! I want to do some writing regarding my views on Atheism, but I would like to educate myself better and get a handle on the terminology and concepts which you "amatures" toss about with all of the confidence and credibility of so called professionals, and I think that Matt's site is an excellent place to begin. The term professional is over-rated anyway. Let's not forget, Jimmy Swaggart, Bill O'Reilly, Kent Hovind, and His Eminence, The Venerable Reverend Peter Popoff are all, or, in Hovind's case, were, professionals.
    Thanks, guys, for all of your efforts. You deserve to be paid handsomely for what you do for us. Sincerely, Peter

  46. I thought I'd come along to say how much I really enjoyed this latest show, particular the first caller and the way that Tracie managed to steer the conversation to an uplifting conclusion. No harsh words were said, points were made clearly and acknowledged and, at least as far as this caller was concerned, preconceptions of what atheists are about and how they conduct themselves were shattered. I don't particularly promote the "don't be a dick" approach, and I love listening to some of the Dillahunty Demolition Jobs, but this was a positive, inspirational exchange of opinions.

    Good job :)

    Grant - UK

  47. What a wonderful episode! Tracie really handled the fist caller so well that was like seing a Steven Seagal's aikido movie sequence, but intellectual instead of physical. Besides Tracie did not lost her nerves even during the harder parts of the calls.

    I love how you did it. Did you train those arguing skills inside the ACA? Do you have any recommendation for books on how to learn arguing so well?

  48. Side note about the Austin Stone Church the first caller was pimping. They meet at Austin High School, and about a year ago, I would occasionally find myself between the high school and the MOPAC bridge (popular starting point for runners)on a Sunday morning. At some point, someone started blocking the entrance to the tennis center parking lot with their SUV to reserve it for church folks.

    Several calls to APD cleared this up, but it left a bad taste in my mouth. The Stone Church people are probably real nice to each other, but their consideration for outsiders is nothing they need to be bragging about.

    Good job on the call, and with the show in general.

  49. This is slightly tangential and I'm only part way through the early part of the show, but Tracie and Jenn touched on the apologist arguing style a little at around 10 minutes.
    It's something I've heard about before in vague memories. I don't know how accurate it is but there are apparently pamphlets or instructionals circulated around some christian communities to ministers and parishoners on how to argue and prozelytize to the unconverted. And these techniques contain exactly the things our hosts are complaining about. They tell believers to confront, to interrupt, to be as captious as possible and jump on any interpretation that might be spun into a weakness in their argument or an admission that they might be receptive to the idea god is real or christ is important etc. It isn't about honest arguing. It's to keep people off balance. Keep reinforcing the presupposition for god that can turn up in everyday language (not that these pamphlets explain it in such terms).
    It sounds a bit conspiratorial and secret society the way I've put it but, if it is the way I remember being told about it, this explains a lot of the approaches that non christians encounter. (Ray Comfort, for instance, seems to rely very heavily on this sort of thing when you watch him in one to ones).

    Maybe some folks who've had more church involvement around here know more about it?

  50. @Muz

    Do you think you could link to these pamphlets? I think a lot of people on this blog would be interested to read them first hand.

  51. Late comment, but that is what happens when I resign myself to listening by podcast.

    Was a pretty amazing (dare I say miraculous?, nah) coincidence to get the first caller so relevant to the topic. A lot of misconceptions toppled: Atheist do not think all theists are bad people. Atheists are not all angry with or hate god. Atheists groups do more than just protest. Atheists are capable of caring about other people and enjoying a sense of community.

    One of the best things the show does, in my opinion, is to brush aside the many misconceptions and present skeptical positions to everyday people. It was nice to see that come together so expertly. Callers that open seem to be a real rarity.

  52. John K: Sadly I'm only dealing in rumour and innuendo, really. It's remnants of memories from long ago.
    I recall that it explained a lot about the street prozelytisers my friends and I used to encounter quite a bit. But it was long ago.
    I was hoping myself that somone might have collected them, if they existed (a la the wedge document and other things)

  53. Thanks to all of the ACA peeps who produce and present the show, and thanks especially to Tracie for this episode. I have to agree with Matt (his phone comments) that the first caller has to be one of the best calls ever on the show and Tracie handled that with her trademark calm rationality and respectful persistence. I love Tracie's analogies too, she is so adept at illustrating the problems of religious faith using analogies that are understandable and very effective. Thanks all!

  54. I've been thinking and the only other argument I can think of along the lines of you're not an atheist you really believe in god is the you aren't a bisexual you don't really love men and women you just want attention etc.

  55. Last night I had a chance to listen to the rest of the conversation with the first caller. It was, indeed well handled. Most definately, I love Matt's demolitions and Jeff's rants. Certainly, some callers deserve those responses. However, as the goal is education, it is desirable to have a variety of communication tools at the ready. That, combined with knowing when to use which tool enhances the probability of success. This caller seemed to be sincere. The patient approach worked. I am sure he left with an understanding that atheists can be normal, thoughtful, intelligent people; and with a few nagging little questions that will make him think about what he believes.
    Tracie handled this caller exceptionally well. It was very obvious that she was enjoying the discussion. It is unfortunate though that in her enthusiasm she neglected to let Jen add her comments. A number of times, Jen was cut off mid sentence. That was not s good.

  56. This was an excellent episode, the talk with the first caller was great.

  57. Everyone's complimenting the first call, and rightly so, but I thought I'd throw in a thanks to Tracie for a well thought out, accessibly presented introduction that addresses a very real problem when talking to religious folk about why you don't accept their religion.

    I don't discuss it with people that often, but it's almost always come up when I do. Either directly stated or the entire tone of the conversation implying that I really believe and am just lying because I'm proud or arrogant or stubborn. It's one of those things that just makes me exasperated and far less willing to continue the conversation. If they think you believe already then their entire focus tends to shift not to justifying their claims but to appeals to emotion - most often guilt.

    I hadn't put enough thought in to what to do when that happens, and thanks to Tracie and the discussion here I can bring up a solid point of contention and ask nicely to have my opinion/belief/lack of treated with respect before we move on instead of getting bogged down in irrelevant emotional points.

    So... thanks!

  58. I agree Call bullshit where you see it.

    It's called being honest.

  59. I think that nearly everything I would say has already been said by other commenters, but I just want to add that I thought it was especially effective to use a bible story to illustrate the issue of atheists getting this one program for our point of view when there are already so many other programs devoted to the religious message.

    I hope that every time the caller hears the bible story of the prophet Nathan with King David and the parable of the ewe lamb, he remembers Tracie's use of it.

  60. Best episode in recent memory!

    The girl's style is the most effective IMO.

  61. I count myself among those who hope for episodes with Jen and Tracie at the helm. (Although I also cringed when it seemed Jen got cut off.) An important and effective way to get more female atheists out and outspoken is for more exposure to examples like Jen and Tracie.

  62. Definitely an amazing first call. I woulda cut him off and moved on, but you ladies were incredibly patient. My hat is off to you.

    Tracie- I always loved your comments on, before I realized you were on AE, too. You're one of my favorite people, alongside Hitch and Epicurus. Keep on rockin those calls, America will turn around someday.

  63. I feel I was wrong about my ideas of willful ignorance.

    After watching the intro, some of your comments clicked, particularly the notion that someone needs to be accountable for their worldview. I then went and checked out some older posts on similar topics, a couple of articles on ignorance of the law (also willful blindness), and even "St. Thomas Aquinas on the Sin of Willful Ignorance."

    I feel I may have been headed to the accommodationist's camp, I am so ashamed. ;)

  64. Just one thing to say. The call that Matt said was one of the best calls ever, I actually was so glad when he said that. Listening to it, I thought it WAS the best call ever made on that show. Full of information, showing the disconnect between what a theist believes and what atheists believe or rather, don't believe. That was perfectly handled, congratulations.

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  66. I agree also. Although I love the show, sometimes Matt and Martin seem to go a little bit too much on the offensive in the assumption, perhaps, that the mind of the person they are arguing with cannot be changed. I think the way Jen and Tracie handled the call was fantastic in keeping the argument focused without so quickly making the caller feel cornered, defeated, and resentful. I think by keeping the caller focused but not as defensive, they seemed to really open doubts in his mind that he will give serious consideration to.


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