Friday, February 18, 2011

God, $20, Skepchick, Dickishness ...

This is long, has quite a few links - and I'm going to call some skeptics out for being decidedly unskeptical...

The Religious Antagonists, Mike Lee, posted a new video on January 25th and the response has been mixed.

The short description is that he offers a homeless couple $20 to remove the word "God" from their sign.

Hemant Mehta, at Friendly Atheist, offered his thoughts.

Mike and I had a private e-mail exchange where I pointed out that I'm on the fence about this particular video.

I wrote:

"I'm somewhat torn. On the one hand there's a very important point made in that video. On the other hand, it seemed like a bit of a lose-lose. You're going to appear overly antagonistic as it's hard for a homeless couple to appear anything other than sympathetic especially when they have a kid and especially to the majority of Christians who would probably be cheering them on.

I've been thinking about it off and on all day - which is great - but I don't know who the target audience is and whether or not they'd give it the same thought. To someone like my parents, you just look like a dickish, agent-of-Satan who is harassing homeless Christians. I wouldn't be surprised if someone like the AFA used your video to drum up more donations.

That said, I wouldn't be surprised if they used many of my videos to drum up donations and my parents think I'm a dickish, we're in the same boat.

I'm still completely undecided on this. It'd be hypocritical of me to complain about Christian homeless ministries who offer food in exchange for a sermon while endorsing your actions. Right now, the only thing that might trump that issue is that you were making a point and aren't (as far as I know) starting a campaign with this as the default reaction to homeless people with religious messages on their signs.

The commentary certainly makes me favor the video a bit. The more I think about it, the more I'm leaning that direction...but this one is still far from settled, for me."

Mike responded and I asked him to sit in on a future episode of The Non-Prophets so that we could openly talk about all aspects of this, including the response.

And then, just a short while ago, Masala Skeptic from Skepchick posted her thoughts on the video and I had to wonder if she actually watched the video and thought about it for a few minutes before posting.

As I started reading the comments, hoping someone would point this out, what I saw amazed me. Several of these skeptics simply refused to watch the video and made up their mind based on Masala's comments.

So, I'll point out the problems with her commentary, in the hopes that discussions about this video (about which I am still undecided) might be a bit more thoughtful and relevant to the content.

- doesn't seem to understand that Mike flatly acknowledged he was being a jerk.

- discusses the video with no acknowledgement of the clarification and commentary that Mike added.

- doesn't seem to get the important meaning behind this (that religion encourages poor decision making - to the point that a starving family will turn down money)

- doesn't seem to realize that Mike never asked them to stop believing (she wrote: "Mike tries to get the couple to give up their faith in a higher power for the temptation of $20." Mike specifically states the opposite. Did she watch the video?)

- doesn't seem to realize that they acknowledged that they weren't putting their soul on the line. (She wrote: "An offer of $20 simply isn’t going to make someone put his eternal soul on the line if that is what they believe is at stake."...when it was made clear in the video that this wasn't REMOTELY the case. Did she watch the video?)

- doesn't seem to realize that those people got the money and got to keep their "god" at the end of all of this

- doesn't seem to think that Mike would say that he believed in god for $20 - I would if it was obvious that I was just uttering words to get cash, rather than stating my honest beliefs. I suspect Mike would, as well. If I was homeless, I most definitely would.

- takes an irrelevant and silly shot at Mike's sweater

- completely misrepresents the video as if it were intended to be a "funny" video.

- pulls the passive-aggressive 'probably can't see the irony of thinking he's right' bullshit while explaining why Mike is wrong and she's right...

As I said, I'm still torn on the video and I'd like to see more discussion about it, but I'd rather discuss it with people who have actually seen the video and with people who are open to fairly and intelligently representing it. People who refuse to watch it, or watch part of it only to rely on other people's commentary for their unskeptical dismissal aren't helping the discussion. People who misrepresent the video definitely aren't helping the discussion.

The knee-jerk, "don't be a dick" crowd annoy me - mostly because they're hypocritically and blindly being dicks about not being dicks. (And almost exclusively on the subject of theism/atheism...)

Make no mistake - Mike is being a dick and he acknowledges it. Masala isn't.

I do like Masala's suggestion for alternate ways to handle this situation, but she doesn't seem to realize that Mike isn't advocating his method as the new de facto standard, it's a single incident constructed to highlight an issue. How can it not be an important issue?

So, what's your take on the video?


  1. I couldn't watch the whole video. It was vile.

    This guy was trying to get those people to humiliate themselves for $20. There's no difference between this and asking a homeless guy to flap his arms and cluck like a chicken for $20.

    This guy was not being a jerk. This was inhumanly sadistic.

    Religion is an enormous social problem in the United States. But this homeless family is not part of that problem. In fact, given the culture of the USA, their "God Bless" message is good marketing. Crossing it out would have made the sign useless to them for further panhandling.

    As a lifelong atheist — someone who does volunteer work and gives to charity because in the absence of a god, improving the world is the only way to ensure our survival as a culture and a species —  I cannot imagine having the state of mind required to psychologically abuse a homeless family.

    The atheist community should disavow any endorsement of this guy's activities.

  2. I like the point that was made through the video. I'm a little torn about it as well seeing that Mike sought out to utilize a homeless family to make his argument. But I don't know if there was a less dickish, but still as effective, means to achieve the same goal. Its definitely controversial.

    One thing I'd like to see Mike have done was to make a promise to the camera, prior to the encounter, that he was going to give the family the money regardless of the outcome of their conversation. Obviously he couldn't tell the family that because that knowledge would influence their decisions. That would assuage the "dick" part of the video a little bit more in my opinion.

  3. Well... I certainly like the video, and I don't see anything much wrong with what Mike is doing. I wouldn't even say he's a jerk.
    On the other hand, I think his point is not very strong. It doesn't seem to me that it's primarily religion's fault that they won't change their sign for money, I think it's more like... pride, which I kind of think is not necessarily a bad thing even when it seems irrational.
    This just isn't a very good example of what's wrong with religion, I think.

  4. @ Jim Royal

    "I couldn't watch the whole video."

    Did you read the whole post? Thanks for the honesty

    To your actual point:

    It's humiliating to cross a word off your sign?
    What if he'd have offered them the $20 to cross off any of the other words?

    I don't see that crossing a word off of the sign, after acknowledging that it wasn't a statement of belief and that they didn't think God would punish them is the equivalent of humiliation.

    Additionally - he did give them the $20 after they held their ground. If you'd have watched to the end...

    Which raises another curious question for consideration:

    What if a church did this and then gave them $20,000 for holding their ground? What sort of comments would that provoke?

  5. I'm sorry I haven't watched the video, but I plan to, probably by tomorrow. But here's something that bothers me about the concept:

    Even when it comes from our side, religious manipulation is religious manipulation. Last week when you talked to Mark, he said that churches do good things like feed the homeless. You said something to the effect that while we should acknowledge the good secular effect that this action has, it is better to feed the homeless without using religion to hold the sandwich hostage.

    Isn't that pretty similar what Mark's doing here? He's trying to make a point by offering the homeless people something they need ($20) but with strings attached. Sure, they don't have to profess atheism, but they have to eradicate a personal statement of faith to do it. I think it's a little cruel, same as I would think in the reverse situation came up. If a theist came up to a homeless guy and said "I will give you this crisp new $20 bill, but only if you ADD an acknowledgment of Jesus as lord and savior to your sign," how would we react? I betcha at least one person would bring it to the show and read it in a sarcastic voice, and scoff loudly at the insensitivity. I don't think we'd accept the excuse that the person was just trying to make a point either. Shouldn't we apply the same standards to those who are advancing our message?

  6. @Kazim

    You must be really busy. Not only haven't you watched it, but you asked:

    "You said something to the effect that while we should acknowledge the good secular effect that this action has, it is better to feed the homeless without using religion to hold the sandwich hostage.

    Isn't that pretty similar what Mark's doing here?"

    When I wrote, in the original post:

    "I'm still completely undecided on this. It'd be hypocritical of me to complain about Christian homeless ministries who offer food in exchange for a sermon while endorsing your actions. "

    " If a theist came up to a homeless guy and said "I will give you this crisp new $20 bill, but only if you ADD an acknowledgment of Jesus as lord and savior to your sign," how would we react? I betcha at least one person would bring it to the show and read it in a sarcastic voice, and scoff loudly at the insensitivity."

    I'd add Jesus to the sign, take the $20 and get a new sign that didn't have it.

    Just because we can imagine the inverse scenario doesn't mean that the point is valid. There's nothing about atheism or skepticism that would encourage someone to turn down the deal - and that's the point of the video.

    Which is why I'm still torn.

  7. Additionally, I'm willing to bet that a good portion of religious references on homeless signs are there because they're effective and not because the individual actually believes them.

  8. OK, I'm going to go do other things.

    Out of the first handful of comments, 2 acknowledge they haven't watched it (and those are two moderators here) and one gave up.

    What a monumentally embarrassing way to start off a thread.

  9. "This guy was trying to get those people to humiliate themselves for $20. There's no difference between this and asking a homeless guy to flap his arms and cluck like a chicken for $20."
    What if he just paid for the sign and crossed it off himself (which he tried to do) is that still humiliating them? I don't see how it would be. Then whats the difference if he crosses it off or they do?

    "Religion is an enormous social problem in the United States. But this homeless family is not part of that problem."

    He was just demonstrating how the xtian mindset can lead to counter productive decisions for no rational reason.

    "In fact, given the culture of the USA, their "God Bless" message is good marketing. Crossing it out would have made the sign useless to them for further panhandling."

    they could of just used the $20 to buy more sign material and still have most of it left. So taking the $20 they would of been better off. Yet they couldn't because of religion.

    "I cannot imagine having the state of mind required to psychologically abuse a homeless family."

    they were totally traumatized...

  10. Unlike most of the people commenting on it, I DID watch the video and feel he makes a valid point. He comes of like a jerk, and he completely acknowledges that, but the "homeless" woman is a jerk (sorry, but if you have an RV, you're not homeless), too, and irrational on top of it. He was actually nicer to them than I would've been.

    And if that woman or their child is starving, I'm Mickey Mouse.

  11. Sure. Just as a great many religious ministries are there because they're effective in enriching pastors, not because they actually believe them. But this isn't earth-shattering news.

  12. @Matt: Yes, I did read your whole post. And I also read Mike's response on the FA site.

    The video literally made me want to retch.

    "It's humiliating to cross a word off your sign?"

    It's humiliating to be asked to perform tricks for the amusement for another so you can feed your children. I know Mike gave them the $20. It doesn't matter. Of course the family got their backs up; they were being manipulated when all they wanted was a bit of compassion.

    @ßrono: You said, "He was just demonstrating how the xtian mindset can lead to counter productive decisions for no rational reason."

    As I pointed out above, these people refused to do as he asked not because of their faith, but because they wanted to hang on to whatever sense of self-worth they still had left. That's an entirely rational reason.

  13. I'll say the same thing I said in my email to ACA. I don't think this is primarily a demonstration of the problems of religion. It has to do with human nature to not want to be humiliated and toyed with. It didn't have to be about religion. He could have asked the guy to say, "I like to give hairy men blowjobs" or "My wife and daughter are whores" and it would be the same thing.

    The poor dude is already feeling like shit because he can't feed his family AND he has to beg. Why take advantage of this guy? He could have done the same experiment to a random person on the steet- "Rip up this picture of Jesus." But again, it doesn't prove anything because it's about a power play and pride.

    Lastly, I just think it's mean to stress out these destitute people for a dumb youtube video that provides no/little evidence for that which they were trying to show.

    Like the above poster said, it's like asking them to cluck like a chicken. Why should I care that he admits to being a jerk? If you saw kids on the street taunting a homeless man to do a silly dance for a buck, you'd call the cops and shame the kids. Why is this any different?

  14. I think a more important point (which I believe Matt is trying to make) is that how can we be acting truly skeptical about this video without first having it watched it for ourselves, as opposed to reading someone's comments on it and coming to our own conclusion?

  15. Now, he doesn't ask them to stop believing in their god. But maybe the symbolism is enough for these people? I think that's the point he's trying (perhaps in somewhat poor taste?) to make; will people put symbols before their own lives?
    I think they do. Should they, though? I'm not sure they should. Firstly, when defending an ideology, political, philosophical, religious or otherwise, the symbols SHOULD be irrelevant. Someone can burn the Green Party manifesto and it will not, for one moment, de-legitimise anything contained within.
    This is why I get a little confused at nationalists who will cry and moan about a flag being burned. What this person is doing is burning their own bit of cloth with the intention of getting a raise out of you. Now, if they'd stolen YOUR bit of cloth and burned that, then you have a different issue. ;)
    But I have to recognise that some people cling to symbols. People put a lot of their emotional investment in them. Perhaps it's easier that way? It's easier to think of a symbol than to think about the matter complexly all the time. One should worry when the symbol is held higher than the thing itself. Symbols are useful as time-savers. But they should never be more than that.

  16. In Mike’s commentary he stresses that it’s silly to not cross out “GOD” on a trivial sign. In his interaction with the homeless family he got sidetracked early in the conversation into arguing that God is a fairy tale, and because it is a fairy tale they should be fine with crossing it out.

    Mike even had Aaron defending himself by saying, “Faith is common sense.” Obviously the guy didn’t think they were discussing ink and paper.

    I think Mike makes his point that religion instills flawed methods of reasoning in its practitioners because he shouldn’t have to spell out the trivial nature of the sign. But it would have come across as fairer, or less dickish, if he hadn’t got sidetracked into challenging their beliefs.

    Overall, I like where he was going with the video, and I think he almost pulled it off.

  17. I actually think it was a pretty good experiment. In the end the homeless family agrees to destroy their sign (except for the little portion with "God" written on it) in exchange for $20. It really drove home the point that these people aren't thinking rationally when the woman was holding up the paper "God" and saying "We get to keep God!".

  18. I think if it wasn't for the explanation, I would think that Mike Lee was being unnecessarily rude. (in context to the guy being homeless and "holding the $20 ransom") I'm glad he explained the point he was trying to make, he succinctly made the point clear when he said, "A hungry homeless man with a wife and child won't cross off three letters for $20"

    I also think it says a lot that they gave away the important part of the sign that asks for help.

    I have a soft spot for homeless people so I personally would never do this, but all in all, I think he made a very interesting point it. I'm glad that he did end up giving them money.

  19. Dude, I think Matt's going to explode from frustration.
    If we want to talk about the Jesus folk holding sandwiches hostage being the same as this guy offering 20 dollars to take one word off a sign..
    The point is non-theists would set through a sermon about Jesus to get a sandwich they need to live; but a Theists wouldn't set through an atheist/devil sermon to get food they would need to live.
    It's irrational pride, and whats worse is thinking of they'd rather let their kids starve then participate in something that they admit wont cost their soul.

    I acknowledge it's a stretch to take the point made to the extreme of letting their child starve to death, but it's disturbing enough they'd let him go hungry for another day.

    But I think this point is shadowed by the idea that "God will provide." Their are people on this earth that would starve themselves to death then take food and have to set through a Devil sermon. Why? Because they feel God will either a) provide a food source that pleases the Lord or b) has it in the stars for them to die as martyrs to the faith.
    That's what I think this is about.

  20. After watching the video, I am also torn. The good that was done by showing them that the well being of their child (taking the money), was more important than their god was undone by the distastefulness of the methodology. Whats the worst is the little sign-off line at the end where he is like 'tune in next time' or something like just seemed in very poor taste. Although most of religion is in bad taste as well, so again I am torn.

    I would have used a smaller camera and made this a voyeur (for lack of another word) affair. Not made a big show out of their misfortune. And 20$ is kind of a joke. These people are desperate, and you are using them to make a point. A point that though valid, is worth more than what appeared to be a wad of twenty, one dollar bills.
    This does not bode well for wavering christians, who will see this as 'devil's work' or some nonsense like that.
    The golden rule can still be applied, and should be applied in all Atheist activism.

  21. I think the folks saying this was cruel are going overboard, including Masala Skeptic.

    But he is being a dick.

    And he is right.

    And you know what, if I were going to go on camera and espouse a belief I did not believe in, it would take a life changing amount of money.

    It isn't skepticism or religiosity that makes one refuse the offer, it's integrity. It is valuing ones beliefs and ones perceived truths more highly than money.

    They wouldn't cross off god for the same reason you and I don't sell power balance bracelets.

    In trying to demonstrate that religious thinking can lead to making bad decisions, he ended up demonstrating that some religious folks hold their beliefs very strongly which is not something that needed demonstrating.

    If you want to demonstrate that religion facilitates a poor decision making process you should make the decision one that isn't about religion. You are, after all, interested in the process and not the actual decision.

  22. I find it hilarious that many people on this thread are claiming that there are strings attached to the $20, and that this is no different than religious organizations proselytizing before helping out.

    Watch. The. Video.

    Watch it, then comment. There were no strings attached. He was asking a question.

    Again, watch the video first, THEN comment. It's as simple as that. Don't come on here saying, "Oh I didn't watch the video at all, but here's my skewed, misinformed opinion on the matter..."

  23. "As I pointed out above, these people refused to do as he asked not because of their faith, but because they wanted to hang on to whatever sense of self-worth they still had left. That's an entirely rational reason."

    The way it looks to me is that they're putting this god character above their own welfare. Like Daniel pointed out, they gave away the part of the sign that asked for help.
    I can see how the video is being interpreted as just
    Mike being a dick. But I see his point, maybe he could of found a way to make it more clear.

  24. I'm with Matt on this one. I think it's an interesting point that is being made in the video but the situation itself makes it a little iffy.

    I do have to say that when I first read the story on Skepchick I had the reaction of immediately thinking this was dickish and wrong but when I watched the video I actaully think it was rather well done. The way it was edited with the running commentary and the thoughts behind it all made it thoughtful. It almost seems as though some people have found a version of the video that only has the shots on the street and not the parts where Mike talks about it.


  25. "Like the above poster said, it's like asking them to cluck like a chicken."

    "It's humiliating to be asked to perform tricks for the amusement for another so you can feed your children."

    I disagree. Clucking like a chicken is obviously asking someone to do something self-degrading. Asking someone to cross out a three letter word on their sign is not. Is the man with a golden voice also being teased by having the reporter attach a condition for receiving his donation? That condition actually led him to get a job and help him get his life back together.

    I also can't say I agree with:

    "As I pointed out above, these people refused to do as he asked not because of their faith, but because they wanted to hang on to whatever sense of self-worth they still had left."

    That of course may be true, but you don't have sufficient evidence to claim that it is the case that they are defending their self-worth as opposed to defending their faith. Considering you didn't even watch the entire video by your own admission I don't understand how you can claim to have this knowledge.

  26. Okay, now that I'm showered, dressed, and caffeinated, I am currently watching the video. And I've deleted my earlier comment because it was wrong, and I shouldn't have made assumptions about what Mike was up to beforehand. Here's my informed take:

    "It is not a fairy tale, it is a Bible story!"


    It's pretty clear, even though Mike acknowledges he's being a jerk, that he isn't being that big a jerk. While he does come off as a guy out for a laugh, he definitely doesn't come off as abusive. And he presents a clear context for his overall point: that religion promotes irrational decision-making.

    Indeed, the woman in the video does come off as a defensive jerk. And this underscores the point that a believer, even in the most dire straits, can be so thoroughly indoctrinated that they will overlook their own well being in order to prioritize defending the belief system.

    So, no, I'm not actually torn about the video at all. I'd say, point well made. I don't advocating going around confronting homeless believers as a habit, but in this case, I don't see harassment in play.

    I only wish Mike had asked them why, in return for their devout belief in God, God hadn't sent them a miracle to get them out of their situation. They have an omnipotent friend. So why should they be out on their streets?

  27. Interesting video, but it's making me think of the possibilities. If offered $20, $100, $500 would they...

    Let me add a short phrase from another faith, like "Vishnu loves you"?
    Let me write "Hail Satan" over the sign using invisible ink?
    Let me perform an elaborate evil ritual curse to the sign and/or cash?
    Let me put my hands over the word "God" and think about molesting baby Jesus for 1 minute?

    Ok, maybe I'm just a sicko...

    But how is it wrong to present someone with a difficult choice? Especially considering they got the $20 in the end, and get to spend the rest of their lives telling their WalMart camping buddies about how they stayed true to Jesus and resisted temptation?

  28. I wonder if homeless signs that mention God or Jesus bring in more money than secular ones?

  29. The conflict is justified on this. I think using the desperation of destitute people to your advantage, to any end at all, is just not cool. As mentioned above, asking people to denigrate themselves in any way for money because they are desperate is hard to justify.

    On the other hand, Mike makes his point. These people are so afraid of a public display of disobedience to their god that they claim they would not accept even a million dollars to cross out "God" on their sign. I don't really believe them on the last point, but it is clearly a poor decision based on religious ideas.

    Was what Mike was asking so bad? It really depends on who you ask. If a theist asked me to record a message that I believed in god for $20, and I explained I would do so if the circumstances were made clear in his video, as the were in Mike's, I would do it tongue in cheek and collect the money.

    So, taking advantage of poor people, f'd up. Point about religious ideas causing harm, made. Skepchick posted a misinformed and bad article? Agreed.

  30. I think the video failed to provide much of value because of Mike's tactics. Everyone in the discussion seems to be assuming for some reason that for the homeless people, there were no strings attached to the $20 offer, even though the issue of being tested has come up a few times.

    Maybe it had to be this way because that's Mike's "thing", antagonizing people I guess, but when the homeless family initially rejected the offer, the argument was never "come on, believe what you want, just cross it off the sign". It was immediately "but religion is silly!" Mike turned it into the devil-test situation himself, and how else could a believing individual possibly react? As mentioned elsewhere, ESPECIALLY with the cameras?

    It would've been MUCH more interesting if they kept it to the issue of a word on a sign. In my opinion, though never literally or directly, the way Mike approached the argument, he WAS making it a decision between their faith and money.

  31. I like the video. I think people need a thicker skin. He wasn't being rude, which is completely different than being a dick, although not mutually exclusive.

    Take all that pride shit and shove it. I hate to sound like a dick but when you're so poor that you're begging on the street AND you have a child that needs to be fed you don't turn down $20 on such a silly principle.

    If the guy came up and asked him to smear feces on himself for money, or some similar act that would embarrass him or his family, then you'd have a point. But as has been pointed out here, he was only asked to cross something off on a sign that could in all likelihood be replaced for little or no money.

    I'd like to thank Martin for being honest and admitting when he was wrong; so many problems arise from people's inability to admit fault and the subsequent defense mechanism that results.

    The one thing I am torn about is whether Martin's brainpower comes from being clean, clothed, or caffeinated.

  32. I think there is a valid point to be made that, to the Christians Mike was confronting, he did not present them with a "positive atheist" message that would make them see him as a good guy who didn't need the motive of godly brownie points to help them out with a few bucks. But how could he have done that? If he hadn't offered them a "deal," and just given them the money and said, "Well, I'm an atheist, I didn't do this for God, I did it for you," they'd still have believed God was working through his heart and that he wasn't really an atheist at all. They'd have seen him as a lost sinner either way, though they're the indigent transient ones.

    Mike never told them to surrender their faith for the money, he only asked if they'd be willing do delete three words from their sign, which is not the same as asking them to delete God from their minds. They could always grab a new sign and write a whole new message with God all over it after Mike left.

    I do agree he went too quickly into "That's a fairy tale," though. His approach lost its nuance at that point, but then off-the-cuff sidewalk arguments aren't the kind of forensic debates you can plan. And it's clear he was surprised by the fervor of the woman.

    In the end they got the cash. So yeah. I hope the kid ends up in a better situation anyway.

  33. Error ^: "three words" should be "three letters." Durp.

  34. I thought that the video was a bit tasteless. I get the point and agree, but like you all, am torn on it's overall effectiveness.

    Mark Nebo

  35. I watched the video, and I'm pretty much with Jim Royal. That was an obnoxious thing to watch, it didn't demonstrate jack, and Mike is just patting himself on the back by making that "religious people lack rationality" interpretation.

    I don't have the reference for the moment, but there is a fairly well known study where some commodity got dealt out, and people had to choose if they would accept a new deal where they would get a larger absolute quantity, but the new rule of dealing out shares would be unfair. Most people refused such a deal. It's not an issue of simple monetary gain, it's an issue of a sense of justice. That may be irrational according to some definition, but it's common and not tied to religious views.

  36. As one of those who stated I haven't watched the video, I'd just like to say this: I do realise skeptics in general are expected to go to the source and judge for themselves. But do we ALWAYS have to do this? In this instance, I trusted Masala and the other Skepchicks' judgment on the video, as I think they have proven themselves worthy of my trust in cases like these. All people, even the most fastidious of skeptics, end up trusting the judgment or expertise of other people, as you can't always go to the source and find out everything for yourself -- there simply aren't enough hours in the day for that.

    Aside from this, I want to take the opportunity while I'm here to say I think Matt does great work in AE. :)

  37. @Jim Royal "It's humiliating to be asked to perform tricks for the amusement for another so you can feed your children."

    You'd love my job........

    When you're child is hungry, you do what you need to do to fill a belly. jussayin....

    On the video itself, I'm torn also because it's one of those videos where I can imagine Christians saying: "See, you can't take their faith away you evil Atheist!", and completely glossing over the point that RA was making. There's no positive way to spin this video when it only serves in the eyes of the religious to bolster their faith in God, and the "Evil Atheist" stereotype at the same time.

  38. I just viewed the video for the first time and read the comments. I didn't find him to really be such a dick. In the end they sold out, so they didn't even prove their point. Don't just pay attention to Mike, see how defensive and angry the "homeless" couple get. I find that to be one of the most poignant things in the video that all rationality goes out the window when they feel someone is questioning their god.

  39. I cant believe i just read through all the comments in the skepchick thread.
    Some mentioned tracking the family down to apologize on behalf of atheists. that makes me want to face palm so hard.

  40. Does anyone else think the wife was being a dick when she offered to "cross out" Mike and take his $20, when, if you remove xian euphemism, means "how about I murder you and rob you."?

    Seems like a little bit of an irrational jump in defensiveness for being asked to cross out a word.

  41. Given the way the argument went, all that was shown really was "Hey, people who believe in religion... actually believe it. And act accordingly." Not very interesting. Is this something that anyone wondered? His points about them acting irrationally don't make a lot of sense. I grant that when objectively considered, religion isn't rational, but in the context that he tells them they have no common sense, I think he's wrong. GIVEN their unfortunate miseducation, they're making a perfectly logical decision. Sure, the leap to "how about I cross YOU out" was a little much, but it seemed like a solicited reaction that wasn't much worse than Mike's leaps to demanding their beliefs are silly and they accept that and $20, with no argument, just the same insisting over and over.

    All we get is the meta-comment that these people consider God before their own wellbeing, and not a particularly good demonstration of that fact, as the choice is $20 or not. Not even to mention that they do eventually "compromise", and it seems entirely possible that largely occurred because they realized there wasn't the possibility of some fairy-tale reward for keeping the faith at stake. I mean, really, if they were homeless atheists, that was probably still the correct way to go as a gamble, other than maybe admitting it at the very end and hoping for some bonus buddy-bucks for being an atheist too.

    That was too many hypotheticals, but the fact that they compromise at the end almost defeats the point the video claims. Sure, they put up a fuss because they felt like they had to for their God. In the end, they rationally ate it and came up with a way where they could take the money though and still feel ok with themselves. Sort've childish as Mike says, but it also seemed like exactly what he was proposing to begin with. Success? And THEN what's the point? That they act according to their religion, just with exceptions?

    If you're simple about the video, then I guess it's sort've successful angry-atheist propaganda. If you think about it critically, the only points that you could conclude were conveyed are probably also ones that are trivial to you at this point. I think that means the video isn't for critical thinkers, and IS for bandwagoning, not based on some sort of legitimate education, but rather the conclusions Mike suggests and props up with crappy arguments.

  42. Hello Everyone...this is Mike from the Video.

    I want to thank you for checking out the clip and leaving your comments...even if they're critical of my actions. I'm certainly not trying to talk anyone into liking what I do...Let me just say a couple things:

    First, never in the video (or my other videos) do I claim to be atheist. I certainly don't want to taint a persons perspective on any specific branch of secularism - so I've chosen to keep that matter private in my videos. Although its safe to assume that someone who "antagonizes" religion is probably an atheist...that still ends up being a presumption.

    I've seen some comments regarding symbolism. Sure, the sign was a symbol of "god" to the family. But under a different name, wouldn't we refer to that symbol as an "idol?" I'm sorry, but when you put a sign (self-admittedly) worth 20 cents over a wad of cash - there's some kind of serious disconnect occurring. I just happened to be there to document and antagonize it.

    On a Facebook thread recently, someone made an analogy of this families dangerous rational. If this same fundamentalist mother and father were of a different religion and lived in a different country - its not a far stretch to see them strapping bombs to their chests.....maybe even to their child in the name of faith. That's a dangerous line of reasoning for anyone.

    People have asked me, was I going to give them the $20 anyway? Clearly I was. I did in fact. If you've watched the video - I lost the deal. They got their god, I gave them the $20. But clearly we had some zany legalistic hoops to jump through to find the common ground. But we did.

    And as far as an update, they were recently featured in a local front page newspaper article. They are still living out of the Miracle Bus - and were complaining about a proposed set of panhandling laws.

  43. @Matt: "You must be really busy."

    Look Matt, just because I reiterate and expand on a point that you brought up in the original post, and clarify a question on which you said you were undecided, doesn't mean I haven't read it. Lighten up, please.

    So I've watched the video too now, and while it was helpful in clarifying the many, MANY posts I have already read describing it, it didn't change my opinion. Everything that guy said could just have reasonably been said by the hypothetical theist I brought up. "Man, I'm just trying to offer you $20! Your family needs this! How could you be so irrational as to not paint 'Jesus loves you' on your sign? It costs you nothing!"

  44. As John pointed out, the wife in the video made the claim that not even a million dollars would be enough for her to cross off "God."

    Of course, she might change her mind if actually presented that sum of money... but her point is that there's NO value sufficient enough for her to "degrade" her god by crossing his name off.

    Indeed, it's possible that she made this claim under the pressure of there being a camera crew surrounding them - she wouldn't want to give in for any amount of money if she knew the video could be out there for anyone and everyone to see, as it would be blasphemous to give into temptation and betray God in this way.

    That IS part of the point. However...

    I agree that it's a point that really didn't even need to be made in the first place. Most of us know first-hand that THAT is the attitude that comes along with a religious belief structure. People don't want to degrade it for any amount of money, regardless of what their circumstances are (homeless, for instance).

  45. Hmm... okay, read through all these comments, and I have NOT seen the video yet (at work) but I am also NOT going to comment on the contents of the video (and whether he was a dick), rather I have a comment about the complaints about the video.

    The complaints seem to be along the lines of:

    1. he was being a dick.
    2. To ask them to do X for money was degrading.

    It also seems like the majority of the comments here are talking about the point of the video being that these people weren't willing to forsake their Christian belief (or even just a symbol of it) for they money they needed, and that this demonstrates something about the effects irrational belief.

    I would suggest there is another point which is illustrated by the comments complaining about his method, that being that 1. you shouldn't ask someone to do something in exchange for money; and 2. it was being sensationalized (done rudely) by doing it on camera is such an obvious way.

    Well, what about all those Christian soup-kitchens and hostels, etc. that require one to sit through a sermon, or perform some other religious requirement, in order to get food or money? How is that different? And what if a news station goes in with a camera to do a report about how the homeless people are finding god, and a sandwich, at the same time?

    Let's cut it down to the simplest form here.

    They were being asked to perform a task in exchange for money.

    I do that every day. I have a job, and my boss asks me to perform my task in exchange for money. If I refused to perform that task (for whatever reason, whether it's pride, or integrity, or I'm lazy) I will lose my job, and that money. Then I will lose my house, and become homeless.

    I imagine some might say that this is completely different, maybe because they are so needy? Our empathy can sometimes get in the way of honest debate.

    If I'm homeless, and someone offers me $20 to remove a word from a sign, it is, in fact, no different than if I'm homeless and I am offered $20 and hour to work in a print shop making signs that say "there is no god".

    For a moment, forget about whether or not he asked in a rude tone of voice, or a rude manner, or with rude words.

    Was it rude to offer x in return for y?

  46. Well, I've been a long time fan of the show and lurker of the blog, but I have to say I'm really floored. Here hosts 1 and 2 are offering their opinion of the events based on how they're described (and they're described pretty accurately, actually). My opinion on that doesn't really matter, and because watching the video gave me very little new info, watching the video didn't change that. But the part that's flooring is that host #3 gets irate at the other two for posting their opinions. This unnecessary divisiveness between hosts after such a famous clip where Jeff called out that Mark guy for being so arbitrarily divisive with Hell.

    Then he goes on to say that host #3 would absolutely promote and endorse religion if it gave him some amount of short-term personal gain. He's basically saying that he doesn't care about the long-term effects of influencing society, meme-spreading or promoting positive atheism if there's some financial gain for him elsewhere. How much money would it take for host #3 to ditch the ACA and pronounce himself a convert? That's a sort of selfishness that seems wholly ridiculous and really disappointing.

    Nobody should have to martyr themselves to atheism, but being so completely flippant about taking the $20 to add Jesus for someone else? That's just the same as being okay with someone else using "gay/nigger" as a derogatory slang or being okay with radio show hosts saying that god should smite liberals, or being okay with jokes about wanting to rape someone, or Chic-fil-A donating to hate groups. Sure, they have the right to do those things, and you have the right not to care, but not caring enough to even give a little bit of social disapproval? To just say that you don't care if you get something out of it? That's ridiculously self-centered. I applaud and thank the other more humanist hosts and readers who have a bit more sense.

    I am posting this public display of disapproval because it matters what you say and who you say it to, and I am showing you my disapproval.

  47. I posted the video on my personal Facebook and got a response from a Christian friend of mine. They said that "he simple fact is that if don't have Faith, you won't understand why the man couldn't cross God's name off that sign. Nor will you ever understand why thousands haven chosen death over uttering a simple phrase that they didn't have to actually believe. People who don't have faith will never understand it's importance." And then went on to assert that they did, in fact, consider their god to be 'more important' than their own life and well being and to be 'more important than anything'.

    Is there a point a which a religious person would say "okay, putting the god idea aside, I need to really consider this option"? Life and death situations, perhaps.
    Does the god idea trump all other concerns to the point at which human survival is meaningless? If so, I find it odd that so many Christians will claim that life is meaningless WITHOUT god, when compared to their god, their survival is meaningless.

    THIS, is the point I think the video raises. Do people really believe that god is more important than their own lives? Is that moral? Is that right (in the sense of being correct or factual)? We atheists would say no and with very good reasons.

    I don't want to sound like a slippery slope advocate, but the 'god trumps humanity' stance seems to me heartless. It's why people cover up corrupt clergy, defend outrageous atrocities, promote liars and charlatans rather than let them be exposed - all because to expose them and call them out might affect how people view their god.
    Because people equate religious leaders to god, perhaps. That these people claim to speak for their god, claim to be acting on their behalf. They claim to know who god is, what god is, what it wants, needs, won't tolerate, will do, for whom and under what circumstances and who god hates, and what he wants you to do to the people god hates.

    A religion, or philosophy, or ideology that says that a god, or some other being (not always shown to be real), is always more important than all of humanity is not one that I could respect. I love my fellow homosapians. To bow to some force, no matter how powerful, and allow it to trample people seems to me immoral.

    Even when considering another person that one loves deeply. If someone would willing kill themselves, or others, in deference to another person we'd call them crazy. "I starved myself because he/she is more important than my own life." On the surface, some may find it romantic. But when you look at it it's just... sad. And unhealthy. And damaging to the individual as well as those around them. It's the language of asceticism, where the needs and rights of humans are rejected as unimportant compared to some 'other' - some unidentified, unaccountable super 'thing' - usually anthropomorphic.

    One feels compelled to ask the question, often with boggled incredulity, weather the person really believes this. In practice, would the person in question really, when it came down to it, disregard the needs, rights and life of themselves or others because a god told them to? Even if this god is real and appears fully manifest to everyone and tells his faithful to, I don't know, starve themselves, shoot themselves, maim themselves or something equally ridiculous, would people think it was right just because the god said so?

  48. Hi! I watched the video. I don't understand how Mike gets his conclusions because this family never said that their situation is god's will, there was no talk of how they got into this situation, if they felt that they were responsible for their situation, or anything close to that. They were approached first thing to cross out the word 'god' for money. And then the discussion was about if they were going to do that or not. It would have actually been a more interesting video if this guy had sit down and talked to them, found out what their beliefs were, and how those beliefs are reconciled with their current situation. So Mike, I think that the video doesn't connect up with the commentary you made. And you don't have justification to extrapolate your comments from what this family said.

  49. Well, after watching the video and reading Skepchick I guess my take is this. I think the video makes an important point. The idea that people will actively compromise their own well being and that of their children for a false belief is somewhat saddening. However, this isn't exactly news either and the question is if anyone is going to even notice the point he is trying to make. So many people just react viscerally to the video, as skepchick did. So given this fact I think you can question the videos utility as the point it is trying to communicate is going to be lost in a sea of gut reactions. And if your point is lost then the communication was kind of a failure. I think it might be better if you could with some creativity make the same point but without the more visceral distractions? I dunno.

    As a tangent, at a stoplight we once gave $5 to a homeless veteran that camps out there often and he said "God bless you" as we pulled away and I have to say it kind of irked me a little. I know it was just a reflex appreciative statement but still made me feel/think "god had nothing to do with it, why can't you just appreciate people helping for it's own sake?"

  50. Okay, after watching the video I have to agree with the overall point that it is making and how clearly it made it. Their self righteous pride and stupendously blind faith have destroyed their ability to think, to the point where they will turn down something they and a Dependant child desperately need in lieu of nothing more than three letters on a quickly reproducible sign.

    I don't necessarily agree with how quickly Mike became patronizing (especially since, after showing him practically laughing in this guys face, it cut to him in his chair talking about convincing them to think rationally; He didn't attempt any such convincing). Though, admittedly, The wife was so full of shit I doubt I would of kept my cool for much longer than he did.

    Personally, I would of Got the footage needed to make the point and given them the money regardless of their decision. I know he still gave them the money in the end but it was still part of a compromise. The point was to show just how corrupting Religion can be, Not the defacement of the sign; there was no reason in making them do so After the intended point had been made.

    But, overall, I agree with the video and am glad it exists.

  51. Since I see that Mike himself is reading the comments, I want to address him directly.

    Mike: I don't think you're a dick. I don't know for sure if I think your approach was in the greatest of taste, but any disagreement I have with you is fairly mild. In my first post I compared you to a religious organization offering food with strings attached. I don't think they are horrible people; I just think they're doing a nice thing with a little bit of distasteful social manipulation connected to it.

    Having said that, I'm cool with you going out and making this video, and the ensuing discussion is interesting, but I don't think it really makes the point you want it to.

  52. 1.) Mike, the point you're making with the video is a good one, a valid one.

    2.) But, this is an unappealing (to me, personally) way to make a point. The juxtaposition between you in your nice office filled with high-tech gadgetry (plus the fact that you're rather well-dressed) and these down-and-out people living out of a bus right off the bat makes you look like the villain. The fact that you wave the money in front of their faces and carry on like a game show host, doesn't help either. Had I been in on the video, I would have suggested that you give them the money FIRST, telling them you wish them the best of luck, THEN ask them, hypothetically, whether they would have crossed-out "God" in exchange for the cash had that been the proposition. That would have given the whole encounter a different vibe. They would not have felt as if they were being fucked with, rather, they would have just been in an unusual conversation with someone---a nonbeliever!---who had just been extremely generous to them. (I know, I know---you've acknowledged that you're being a jerk in the video. I don't see the utility in laying it on so thick, is all. You could have made the same point with the hypothetical. That's what hypotheticals are for---making points.)

    3.) Martin: I don't think the woman comes off as a defensive jerk. I think she comes off as someone who lives in a bus and who is not at all used to defending her religious beliefs at a moment's notice with a camera in her face. I'm OK cutting her just a little more slack, given the situation.

  53. No matter what you think of this video, you can't deny that it hat been an effective catalyst for debate. And you could argue that its ability to promote discussion is reason enough.

    I agree entirely with the point being made. However, the execution of the offer makes it difficult to know exactly the reason for their irrationality. The addition of a crowd and cameras ups the ante and is only going to reduce the likelihood of them sticking to their guns so as to not be seen to be backing down.

    Was what Mike did offensive, degrading or unethical? I don't think so. They gave as good as they got. The woman even seemed to come across as if she believed she had the high-ground and was indirectly proselytizing.

    If it had just been Mike, the husband and no cameras then it may have been a better demonstration of religious fundamentalist irrationality. Then again, he may have taken the cash and crossed out the word!

  54. So I read the comments and then watched the video. Generally speaking I think the "self-worth" argument is a very interesting one in a vacuum, but I would not characterize this video as asking someone to perform tricks in exchange for money after watching it. Yes, technically you can say that's what it is when you read the description, but that's not the reaction I had to actually watching it and that's in large part because Mike does not really behave like a dick.

    I think Mike actually presented the idea very well and his initial pitch was very clear and sensible. I think he makes his point fairly early and ends up just going in circles (as he acknowledges in one of the narrative intermissions).

    People get defensive very easily and we see that not only in the video but in this thread. (And in the skepchick thread). Frankly I think one of the least defensive people is clearly Mike - he could have declared that the woman was a dick for ripping his sign (and she was - she was trying to have her cake and eat it too) but his point was already made and he wanted to close out the video, not get defensive about something. I hope the discussion here can avoid defensiveness too.

    Frankly I think he managed to perform a very relevant social experiment and did so without ADDING any "dick factor". He comes across as a dick largely because of the situation (asking a homeless person for anything in exchange for the 20 bucks) but that is inevitable if you're going to try this in any manner, whether as a psychologist or just as a blogger/vlogger trying to make social commentary. He didn't behave like a dick (beyond what I said above) and he was clear about what he was doing and made the extra effort to acknowledge the dickishness of the situation.

    Anyways, this is an excellent example of defensive behavior veering the discussion away from what it should be and I hope it can be re-focused. Mike was absolutely correct when he said that their behavior was not common sense. It would be interesting if it were possible to eliminate other factors and do this experiment consistently in a way that makes it clear that he's not asking these people (or whoever else participates) to give anything up except the word on this sign. I'm satisfied that for his situation as an amateur social commentator and not a social scientist he did the best he could to make that clear.

  55. I agree that, in the end, Mike might have come off less dickish to those who dislike the video if, once the family had made it abundantly clear they would accept no amount of money to cross out God, he'd simply given them the cash anyway saying, "Well, that's interesting you would make that choice. Thanks for talking to me." Getting them to agree to a "deal" like he did probably took the exericse farther than it needed to go to make Mike's point. So my assessment is a little different from Russell's. I think the video does make Mike's point. But then he needlessly overplays his hand, in a way that has opened himself up to some of the harsh criticism he's getting.

  56. Just finished watching it after reading several posts by people and honestly.... much ado about nothing. I wouldn't suggest doing this again or on a regular basis (not that anyone is suggesting that) but it was a semi interesting little test. Might have been more interesting if the camera etc wasn't as obvious... It does remind me of that story of the man on his roof in the flood waters I'm sure you've all heard.

    I guess really why I'm not that bothered is that he wasn't trying to take their faith away or convert them and at the end everyone seemed fairly happy about the way things happened. He probably strengthened their faith and resolve with a story of their fighting off the forces of satan. I think people are making a bigger deal of this then I personally would.

  57. I vigorously agree with the message but disagree with the method. (Part of that may be just because I'm a more passive kind of person and wouldn't be this in-your-face about anything with a person I don't know too well.)

    John K hit on my problem with his comment: "I think using the desperation of destitute people to your advantage, to any end at all, is just not cool." Commenters have tried to reduce this down to "Mike is paying them to perform a task," but that's oversimplifying it. He's paying them to perform a task, and in so doing, to make a point for him. It's a matter of using people as a means to an end rather than addressing them as ends in and of themselves. Even though I agree with the ends, I don't think the ends justify the means here.

    Besides, I don't know a single religious person who would get any sort of useful message out of this. Mike: it doesn't matter if you explicitly label yourself as an atheist or not. It's obvious that you are one, and religious people aren't going to care if they're being presumptuous in calling you one. I wouldn't want you to represent me - but then again, you're not, you're representing yourself. I'd like to tell you to change your style a little, but I know your goals are not necessarily the same as mine.

  58. And I forgot to add:

    I also think that the demonstration was a bit redundant. We've already seen people willing to fly airplanes into buildings and let their children die from curable diseases because of religious irrationality. The fact that somebody would turn down some money and perhaps have to wait a bit longer until their next meal is not a surprise in this context.

    Anyway, Mike: I liked the video and I'll probably be watching some more.

  59. First of all, not sure I gained and new insight or perspective regarding believers watching the video, but that’s not the point. I do not think Mike was in any way being a dick for two reasons: (1) Mike acknowledges that he was being a dick and (2) he clearly engages in friendly banter with the couple. Those people that think Mike was being a dick need to ask themselves if their opinion was influenced by the fact that the family was homeless. TEST: Would you still think Mike was a dick if the family was asking for donations for the local food bank, with “God Bless” on the sign? I too felt empathy for the family and might have called Mike a dick too if the family did not somehow end up with the $20. I vote, Mike was not a dick!

  60. I think in general people would judge most interesting instances of social experiment as unethical.

    I think if you take the emotion out of it the situation was as simple as asking for a task to be performed for cash: something that happens to us all. You could argue that flipping burgers is demeaning. However, I don't see people rallying against McDonalds...

  61. MikeTheInfidel: I don't think it was Mike's intent for this video to present believers with a thought-provoking conundrum. I think it was an exercise from an atheist to an atheist audience: how far will a believer go, even against his own interests and well-being, to defend his belief system? And not even the belief system, but a simple word on a sign that references the belief system.

    It's like saying to someone, "I know you're a devout Catholic, but if I gave you $X, would you get rid of the plastic Jesus on your dashboard?" What's under discussion is whether Mike was ethical and decent or not. I think he could have done it better, but in the end, everyone came out okay. Those "bumfight" those are some exploitation!

  62. I think this discussion is very thought-provoking. When I watched the video, I didn't make the connection to Church-based charity that has religious based conditions. I fail to see how crossing off a word is qualitatively different then mouthing a prayer or expressing belief. If we say that the Church's activities are charitable, then we must also say that this guy was charitable and vice-versa. Nobody seems to be suggesting this, so the conclusion can only be that the Church's' activities which are normally seen as charitable are actually not. Point well made, even if not the original point of the video.

  63. I think this is a lot more clear cut than what everyone else is making it out to be. Most of the people against this are making the claim that he's forcing them to deny their religion or something. He's just asking them to cross it off, God is not that cardboard sign, it's just symbolism. That $20 could buy them food, or fuck, they could even go and get another bible or something, they could something positive with the money, but because they see the word 'God' as the literal "God", they won't be able to positively use money for what I'm guessing is something they really need.

    I have a better question though. If the camera wasn't there, what would they have done? It seems to be that the lady is putting on a show for the camera because it will presumptively be seen by lots of people, she has to adequately represent the faith. With no camera, no documentation, I just wondered what would happen then.

  64. I think a more interesting approach would have be to, say, approach them and say "I am an atheist and I don't want to be blessed, so would you mind covering up the 'God Bless' while I give you money"?

    I think it was a no-brainer that these people would not remove "God" from the sign. Asking them to cover it temporarily, I'm not so sure.

  65. Matt, I appreciate the feedback on my article. Here are my thoughts on your concerns:

    - I fully understand that Mike acknowledged he was a jerk. Admitting it simply doesn't make the actions OK though.

    - I didn't discuss the 'clarification and commentary' that Mike made because I didn't think it was particularly relevant. I thought the gimmick itself was distasteful. My point was more: what was the purpose of it?

    - You're right, I don't get the important meaning behind what Mike did. Religion encourages poor decision making? Perhaps that is true; However, a homeless man saying no to $20 in the face of his beliefs simply doesn't convince me that's the case. If Mike had offered to pull him out of poverty entirely, perhaps the man would have reacted differently. We can't tell. Mike did ask him, but people respond differently to hypothetical situations than they do actual ones. We have no idea what sort of reaction the man would have made had Mike offered him a million dollars for real. And even if he did, one person's reaction can't be extrapolated to an entire religious population.

    - Yes, Mike never flat out asked the man to stop believing. However, he asked him to go against his beliefs (denying one's god is, as I recall, a pretty big deal in Christianity). At the end of the day, Mike asked the man to sacrifice his ideals for $20. I think that is simply an unpleasant way to behave toward another human being. They may not have been asked to put their soul on the line, but for a Christian, it likely felt that way. They felt they were being tested. Their faith was being tested. And they stood their ground in the face of that.

    - I do understand that they got the money at the end. After they were used as an example and made to look foolish for the sake of a YouTube video. My point was not about whether or not they got the money. It was about what hoops they had to jump through to do it. I would have felt the same way if someone asked a homeless man to dance a jig for $20 or to stand on his head. Other humans aren't our playthings. We shouldn't treat them that way.

    - I don't know if Mike would say he believed in God or not. I simply asked the question. My point was simply that everyone has things they hold dear and we have to understand that these things can be more powerful than the offer of a small amount of money. Would you burn a book for $20? Or a flag? Or your dead grandmother's photograph? What is, for lack of a better word, sacred to you? And what would you do to protect it? Ideas have power. Belief has power. You can't ignore that. And if you agree with that, you can't deny that the man was doing no more than any of us would do when standing up for an idea we believed in.

    - Sorry about the sweater thing. Although, technically, I called it 'snazzy' - that's a compliment, right? :)

    (To be continued)

  66. (SO sorry for the crazy long comment!)


    - I am sorry if the video was not intended to be funny. It sure seemed like Mike was being tongue-in-cheek and trying to solicit a laugh at these people's expense. Look at the video at 2:10 or so. The wife is talking, trying to explain her position, and Mike looks at the camera and laughs. It sure SEEMS like he is laughing at her. And he sure seems like he has a grin on his face through all the commentary. But maybe he just has one of those faces. (And yes, yes yes, I did watch the video. More than once)

    - Sorry if you think I'm passive-aggressive. Honestly, my initial reaction to this video was a lot more aggressive but I toned it down in the hopes that a more diplomatic response would be better understood.

    I guess my problem is simply that if you are a non-believer, it's important to still be a human being. These are people who are down on their luck and using them to prove a somewhat nebulous point simply doesn't seem appropriate. I am not saying that Mike should stop making videos; I am just stating my opinion about the content of this one.

    I would like to know: What is the actual, measurable purpose of this video? Who is the audience? What is the point and is it really demonstrably and effectively made?

    I haven't seen an answer to this that is satisfying to me. It just seems like an excuse to laugh at the religious. And that makes me sad.

  67. I disagree that Mike could be compared to a religious organization "holding the sandwich hostage." There is one major difference. Mike is not a charity offering to help the homeless. People can not seek Mike out and cross GOD off a sign for 20 bucks. This was a one time event to show that belief in a god can lead to some very bad decision making.

  68. Masala Skeptic makes some valid points. We all have things in our lives which, whether from stubborn love or high-minded, mean more to us than money. I own a very large personal library which is my pride and joy. And if someone offered me $100,000 to burn every last book in it, I would hesitate not a femtosecond to tell them, unequivocally, "No." It wouldn't matter that I could use the money to restock everything in full, with plenty of cash left over. It's a personal thing.

    But even so, I have my rational limits. A couple of years ago I went through a rough patch financially. How did I tide myself over? I sold several possessions, including some of my library.

    If I were homeless, panhandling on a street corner, passing the time between stop lights by reading The God Delusion, and someone offered me enough money to eat for a few days in exchange for being allowed to shred the book into confetti, I'd happily hand it over. After all, not only would doiing so not in any way compromise my acceptance of science, nor would it mean evolution had been disproved, but I could always get another copy of the book later. In the meantime, hooray, lunch money.

    So there, I think, is where the distinction is made. Did the Christian family stick by their principles? Sure. But perhaps they should consider that their well-being, not to mention that of their child, ought to mean at least as much as a religious principle.

  69. After watching the video, reading all of the attached articles, and reading the comments on this thread, I think I agree most with the sentiments expressed by Jim Royal @1.

    This video didn't make me want to retch. I laughed a bit in two places. And afterwards, I -- like Matt D. -- wasn't sure how I felt about it.

    But as I reflect on it, I think we're overanalyzing it. The homeless man, woman, and child in this video are Christians. I agree with Mike and everyone on this thread that it's pretty stupid to be a Christian, but hey, that's what they've decided.

    Offering a homeless person $20 to disavow something of great personal worth to them, a part of their identity -- even if that identity is objectively stupid -- is degrading. Even unintentionally, it's a way of saying "hey, I have $20 that I can just piss away, and this would mean everything to you, so let me see what I can make you do that's contrary to who you are." The cluck-like-a-chicken comment was spot on, even though I'm sure that's not what Mike intended.

    Let me amplify that last bit: I don't think Mike is an irredeemable asshole. I don't think he set out to try and humiliate a homeless family. But I do think that's the end result of what's happened here, and I think it's a function of the unimaginable power dynamic that occurs as a result of the drastic income inequality in our society.

  70. I think Martin's last comment nails it. It's not about sticking to principles in an abstract sense but the absurdity of sticking to this principle in these conditions. It's not aimed at changing a Christian's mind - as Masala Skeptic points out they find this word sacred.

    I made sort of the same point at skepchick (under my nickname ombak) but it seems that if anyone might be the target of this video it's the fence-sitter who thinks that religion is silly but at the same time doesn't see the harm in letting other people believe whatever they want to believe.

    Yes, it gets more complicated once you afford this families principles the same value as your principles, but why should we? It's religion. It shouldn't be afforded the value of real principles.

    As I sort of figure this out as I type let me try to conclude with just rephrasing the point I think Martin already made:

    If you think "Mike asked this family to give up their principles in exchange for 20 bucks" you see him as a dick. If you replace "principles" with what they actually held dear you see their choice as absurd.

    I think in the end it's about the fact that religion is seen as this sacred protected principle by so many who at the same time don't believe in religion themselves. This sort of example combats that compartmentalization, as long as you don't immediately take the defensive posture of "he was a dick, he asked them to give up principles for 20 bucks".

  71. Im really surprised that homeless lad or his wife didnt give you a good ol' face punch for jesus. It was a belittling situation.

  72. Considering they were being videotaped a face punch for jesus would probably have been a bad thing....

  73. First off, Mike wasn’t asking them to cross out God, take the money, then junk the sign. Implicit within his request to “cross out God”, was to continue holding up the sign with God crossed out. That’s really the deal here, and that’s how these two folks were interpreting him.

    Second, what does it mean to cross out God in such a way? How would that be interpreted by people who saw it? I imagine most people would interpret that to mean something along the lines of, “God sucks”.

    Third, there’s clearly a bit of marketing going on here. Sure enough the family believes in God, but they also know putting “God Bless” on there couldn’t hurt. I’m sure it drums up a little business.

    So how about an analogy:
    Suppose the sign ended with “America is great”, rather than “God Bless”. And suppose, following point two (considering also point three) that we were more explicit with our suggestion. e.g. instead of just crossing out “America is great”, we asked them to change the sign too, “America sucks”. I mean really, would the impact of crossing out “America is great” be any different than explicitly stating that “America sucks”?

    Essentially your sign (which is a marketing tool you’re using to get money) has been turned into a tool that also discriminates against (not to mention offends) your potential customer base, not to mention it also offends the sentiments and beliefs of the one holding it. Simply put, it’s not worth 20 bucks. The business you’ll loose as a result of the offensive sign far outweighs the petty 20 smackers.

    Mike wasn’t just offending they’re beliefs here (which he admits), he was also asking them to make a shitty business decision for next to nothing. So really he was being a jerk on two different levels. He may as well have just offered them $20 for their RV – how ridiculous would that be.

  74. First of all, to people commenting without watching it- you have to watch it as displayed here by like-minded people having quite varied opinions. I found it not that objectionable at all, maybe because I had read comments here first and was expecting the worst. I think Mike proved his point and I disagree that its the same as a Christian holding a sandwich hostage becausethis was a one-time test,and he gave the money anyway whereas x-ians hold stuff for ransom all the time! The fact that they call their RV the "miracle bus" shows how deluded the religious can be.

  75. Of course he ends by just asking them to cut God out of the sign, which if he started there I can’t imagine there being a problem as he wouldn’t be putting them in the position of advertising (or communicating) anything that offended them, or other people.

  76. The tone of the video was much less serious than expected, even light-hearted with some laughter. Mike did not directly call their beliefs silly rather he called it a "silly situation" If anything, the harshest words were from Aaron when he said "All I have to say is they (non-religious) are miserable beings for not accepting him" and his wife said she'd cross Mike out and take the money.

  77. My shot on this is I thought it was a good video. It makes the point, in general a rather simple one, that a lot of people who buy into religion (or if you want to be specific, the people shown int he video) that they would rather not cross off three letters to gain some money.

    Some people seem to think that this was cruel or think that if it were on the other side, and someone went to an atheist that was begging for money and asked him to add Jesus it would be issues. Let me tell you, if I was begging for money, and someone asked me to just write Jesus or God Bless or some other religion addition to a sign I was holding, I would do it in a heartbeat. Would it be a bit dishonest to have that on a sign that I was holding? Sure. However I need to eat.

    It seems insane that Mike was just trying to get them to cross it off, and (yes hypothetically but still) they would not accept any money. Now if Mike said "Would you take a million bucks to stop believing in God" and they said no, fine. I still think thats silly considering my personal thoughts on the matter, but fine. However, asking the same to just cross it off a sign that could easily be replaced seems crazy.

    Also, for those that are crying foul for "mocking/humiliation" of the couple, I submit that if you want money you should be willing to work for it. Dealing with some guy asking you some questions and wanting you to do something for a few minutes for the potential to get $20 seems well worth it. Besides, if I remember correctly it says somewhere in the Bible that Christians are supposed to be ready to defend their faith, which is what they were doing.

    And while I agree the fundy will view it as being mean and driven by Satan, I think it shows the rational just how irrational religion can be.

  78. Mike's a dick for doing the stupid video. The parents were dicks for not taking the $20 initially (and for being Christians, but that's incidental). I'm a dick for watching the stupid video and reading all these damn comments.

  79. I think it worked out pretty favorably for the christian couple. They got to keep their 'GOD' and got $20 with no integrity, souls or principles compromised. They probably just view it as a test of their faith like most christian's do. Imagine if you watched the video without sound..who would you consider the winner?

  80. I watched the video, and I don't think that he was was being a dick, but I do think that he could have gone in with a better concept. For example, in the video, the homeless wife says that she won't accept the 20 bucks because its from Satan, or somthing to that effect. I think a better strategy going in would have been to ask some questions to gain insight about just how religious they were, and then just offer them the 20 bucks as an atheist. He could have asked them if that was a problem for them, since they were Christians, and that could probably have proved the same points without coming off like a dick, which I could see where some people would get that impression.
    On a side note, however, I think its interesting since this point has sort of been brought up before, but with organizations having the issue. I think Matt posted awhile ago on facebook how the Salvation Army was not accepting Harry Potter or Twilight toys that were donated, because it went against thier Christian ideology. I could be wrong though, sorry if I am.

  81. I watched it. As far as Matt's point about commenting on something a person hasn't seen; I have to admit that having actually watched the video I found it to be not as bad as I heard it described. Mike was being a bit of a dick (as he admits) but he was trying to engage them and find common ground. It didn't come off as "Dance, peasant! Dance for your money!" At least not to me.

    As for the comments about the word "God" being just three letters and that's He was asking them to attack their own principles. Until you convince a theist that they're wrong, the word "God" holds weight with them, the same as any principle we would hold.

    In the end I just need to ask Mike what he hoped to accomplish. You provoked some thoughtful discussion among us unbelievers, but how's it gonna play later on the 700 Club?

  82. I don't really see how anyone who actually watched it could call this cruel. It's patently absurd that these people would refuse a tangible benefit for ink on paper. At no point does he ask them to renounce their beliefs or even say as much.

    I can't help but wonder if they've even considered what their defense actually implies. How can one possibly consider any entity that would punish its creations for something so trivial to be anything but evil?

    I put my original thoughts in italics after reading what Andrew Louis said.

    @Andrew Louis, that's a very good point about the potential turn-around that crossing god out would very likely cause. In retrospect I'm not entirely certain that their rejection was unwarranted, at least from an entirely practical stand-point.

    However, while it would certainly cause issues to do what he asked I do not believe, based on their arguments, that they were rejecting it for entirely pragmatic reasons. This, I think, is shown quite starkly by how they eventually do give up their sign and express a correlation between the ink on paper and their deity.

    All in all I believe the video makes a very good point. It shows how inherently destructive religiosity can be to personal accountability.

    Addendum for those expressing outrage.
    While the superficial premise, i.e. asking someone to give up their convictions for monetary gain, is certainly caustic, I think that viewing it as such is more than a little irresponsible. The point being made is deeper than merely testing this couples convictions.

  83. Tone and demeanor guys... most of the negative comments are responding to is his demeanor of arrogance. Had this been done more... I don't know... scientifically, we would be able to debate the actual dilemma, rather than the host who got in the way.

  84. It's late and there are a lot of comments on this, but I just watched the video, so I figured I'd throw my 2 cents (or 20 dollars) into the discussion.

    I skimmed around the comments briefly, and one sentiment I don't understand is what Mike did being equated to homeless shelters that trade services/goods for preaching or something to that effect. I think Russell brought this up, but I'm not 100% sure. In any case, Mike isn't starting up his own get-homeless-people-to-disavow-god-for-money business. He approached a couple, exchanged ideas, and in the end, it didn't even matter. He gave them the money even though the woman CLEARLY wasn't having anything to do with Mike's message. It was to prove a very valid point that people deep enough into their religion (miracle bus, anyone?) are usually willing to abandon common sense even to the detriment of their own children. All the couple had to do was take the money, cross god off of it, and go get a new sign once Mike left. She even said the sign MIGHT have cost 20 cents total, so who cares? Her crazy beliefs stopped her from thinking rationally about it. Nothing Mike said was demeaning in any way, and it's not the same as an organization baiting homeless people into their shelters in order to shove god down their throats. So that's my thinking. And you know what, he did have a snazzy sweater...we have similar tastes, apparently.

  85. I'll also add...

    I wonder what else these crazy asses have turned down because of their god beliefs. Mike should have asked them why they live in a miracle bus in the first place. Did they quit their job/s because of god? I certainly wouldn't put it past them. Of course, I'm basing this off a 5 minute video on Youtube, but there you have it. Mike didn't care if he was being a dick, the couple didn't care if he was being a dick, and I don't really think he was that dickish anyways. OK, sleepy time.

    And Martin, I thanked you in email already, but I'll just let you know that I'll be rocking the AXP hoodie like I was gang affiliated. Well, not quite that hardcore, but you know.

  86. Here's the thing: when you unexpectedly stick a camera in front of someone's face and put them on the spot it's easy to get them react irrationally. That's part of why I despise the whole Michael Moore approach. Who knows how these poor homeless people would have reacted if they were given a few minutes to think the situation through. If you confront somebody in this manner they tend to stick to their initial reaction and run with it, because they don't want to come off as insecure, backpeddaling or indecisive and have it for the whole world to see. So I'm afraid a video like this proves little to nothing.

    Matt says he would easily take the $20, alter the sign into something he doesn't actually believe in and just make a new one later. Would he also do it if it was caught on film and put on youtube five minutes later? Mind you, only the 'selling out for 20 bucks' part, not the 'making a new sign later' part. I wouldn't. Call me foolish, but I hope that something you might call personal integrity or plain old pride would kick in and I would tell Mike the ReligiousAntagonist to stick his lousy 20 dollars where the sun don't shine.

  87. Hmm, I'm finding myself more and more on the fence.

    You certainly raise some good points, though I believe that the feel of the video was more due to it's amateur nature as well as Mike's demeanor. You're right that it is perhaps unfair to make a generalization based on a single couple's reactions.

    However, I still find myself baffled by the mindset that would allow them to serve a deity which would allow them to suffer and then punish them for a superficial act. It paints their deity as tremendously narcissistic.

  88. I think its somewhat weird to call the family irrational 'in general'. They might be irrational about God (You could make the case that anything supernatural is irrational), but within their belief framework the actions they make are very rational:
    - They refuse to cross out the word, because to them it would be blasphemous
    - They refuse to give it out to Mike so he could cross it out
    - They see Mike as the work of the Devil, which is precisely how you should have thought, if your a believer and someone wants you to sell your faith. One (as Matt does) that its not about faith, its just about 3 words. Well, its not for THEM, ok? The moment they have been challenged, the 'God Bless' was instantly elevated to the level of God itself, that is a representation of everything in their faith, which is why they were so defensive about it.
    - Within that framework, it makes perfect sense to take the money, but do not let the word 'God' be 'crossed out' by Mike.

    Mike was trying to make the point that they were irrational and nonsensical because they belief in a fairy tail. And that is what this whole video is about. I believe it unnecessarily reductive to think that it was 'only about 3 letters' rather than about their faith in general. They were challenged, on what looked to them as their basic beliefs. In front of a camera, from their position, it is only NATURAL AND RATIONAL to come back to one thing they are certain about, and that is their faith.

    People really can sincerely belief in unwarranted and superstitious BS. If you think that that fact alone makes them completely irrational and deluded, then you Sir/Ma'am, have not been looking at your own actions enough.

  89. Did anyone consider that they are in a parking lot? The family is not going to starve or anything. I'm sure they have been making it in the "miracle bus" for some time now. If this story took place in say, the Sahara, and this guy Mike happened upon them with a deal (sandwich, water or something similar) and they turned it down, thaqt might say something about their decision making. As it is, they are in a parking lot with lots of people and traffic around. Odds are they can hold their moral and religious ground and still find someone with a heart to help them if Mike decides not to give them the 20 samoleans

  90. I watched it and I can say he doesn't seem too offensive to me. I am having my girlfriend watch it right now to tell me her opinion. I think if the only point of it was to show foolish a theist will be when it comes to defending their beliefs that point has already been made.

  91. Addendum to above.

    A lot of people are assuming that this family is neglecting their kid in favor of religious belief. Under the circumstances of the video I can't see this bing the case unless they were in the Sahara, alone and hungry with a hypoglycemic kid and Mike had the only Mars bar for a hundred miles and they rejected the candy bar for their son in favor of their belief. Then the case can be made for the desired effect Mike was going for. Other than that, epic filure.

    Next time Mike, you might want to do a rehersal before the big show.

  92. "They see Mike as the work of the Devil...Within that framework, it makes perfect sense to take the money"

    Do these two things go together? If you think someone is working for the devil, is making a financial transaction with them the first thing that comes to mind? I would have thought that in that framework, shouting Bible verses at him or running away from him would make more sense in that situation even if it would make them look crazier from other frameworks.

  93. Wow - I was really taken aback by the video. I was expecting some vitriolic attack by Mike, or else a tense combative conversation. Amusingly, I almost didn't watch it because of that, because that kind of thing really doesn't appeal to me, and I didn't think the conclusion was one I that would inform me of anything new.

    Instead, I found that it all seemed to be a mountain made out of a molehill.

    I have to say that I never got the impression that they (the homeless people) thought Mike was being a dick. They seemed more stubborn than defensive. They may have thought he was sent by Satan, but at no time did what they say or their body language suggest to me they thought he was being a dick about it. They seemed to think that he just not only didn't, but couldn't, understand their faith - that they had a secret he wasn't part of.

    Whilst I would never do what he did, I find it hard to call him a dick, when the people he was talking to didn't seem to think he was one.

    A couple of other things that come to mind however:

    1) The fact that it is on camera makes a difference - people are always less willing to compromise on their morals, if they know other people are watching. They may have been more willing to do what was asked if the camera wasn't there. However, on the flip side, they may have been less polite if the camera wasn't there, too.

    2) I really wish that Mike had put to them that they could just make another sign after he had left, and ask why they wouldn't just do that. (No doubt they did after ripping up the (then Mike's) sign at the end). I would have liked to see their response. If they would still refuse, I would have liked to know why. Do they think that their god would disapprove if they did? What if Mike had made it clear that he wasn't asking them to reject their god in any way, but just to cross out the word? Then would they refuse?

  94. I have just watched the video and I have to be honest: at first glance, I thought it was staged!

    But when I saw the guy's wife with all that rage, it convinced me.

    I thought it was an interesting idea.
    Mike Lee was not successful in his arguments because he did not take himself seriously.
    He was laughing all the time and that only made the couple feel ridiculed.
    The video could have been a powerful argument if it had been better prepared and have had more specific goals.
    I understand that Mike wanted to show that people make bad judgments and create subjective and meaningless values when clinging to religion, but I still think he could have taken the debate a step further and provided more money to the family, to try find out if they would abdicate their REAL needs in exchange for some traces made on a sheet of paper.
    I believe that if Mike came gradually to offer $100 and yet they deny the money, the point would have been made.
    $20 is too little money and I never expected that they gave up their subjective values for it.

    I'm sorry for my english, I'm in Brazil!

  95. @Daemon6, You stated:
    ”… that's a very good point about the potential turn-around that crossing god out would very likely cause… However, while it would certainly cause issues to do what he asked I do not believe, based on their arguments, that they were rejecting it for entirely pragmatic reasons.”

    Again though, understand that Mike didn’t start out with the idea of “just cutting the bottom of the sign off”. As a result you have to consider that in their mind they’re thinking not only have I crossed out God, but people are going to see it. It’s not enough to say, “Well, they could simply junk the sign”. Sure they could junk the sign, but I think there’s enough evidence in the video to infer that “holding the sign with God crossed off”, was part of the transaction (or was thought to be part of the transaction).

    It seems to me that those who find nothing wrong with what’s going on here are granting a notion/idea that the homeless folks were not. Namely, getting rid of the sign right after crossing out God and getting the $20.

  96. @Kevin

    Since they didn't sell the 'God' part of the sign, then they are fooling the devil. Fooling the devil (or a demon, or a witch or whatever) is encouraged and allowed by most religious people I know.
    I find it dangerous to try to go into the theist head, and extrapolate on such assumptions.

  97. I saw this post go up yesterday at lunch but because of the way the computers are at work i couldn't watch until this morning. First given all the hype I'm surprised what a dick this mike guy was NOT.
    More to matt's point (and why i didn't say anything earlier) is that without watching the video, one is not in a position to comment on it.

    A couple reasons why Mike was not a dick. First he didn't say they had no right to think the things they did. He didn't demand they renouce their faith all he asked was for them to wreck a cardboard sign which could have been replace in five minutes (plus four hours standing at the checkout in Wal-mart). The couples behaviour was made more ridiculous by the fact that they had a Miracle bus filled with the holy spirit. More specifically, from a certain point of view, they were asking for help from others, presumably they were praying for it too. God sent Mike in their to give them 20 dollars to test their faith. It's not like god wouldn't have understood (technically there is no way he could have misunderstood. There's a reason beggars must be choosers, these people had no bargaining chips, this isn't a guy standing outside home depot looking for under the table work, he wasn't picking bottles out of the dumpster (the way most homeless get income) he was standing outside BEGGING, relying on others to do the work for him.. that's fine if thats what you want, but this guy also has a kid. we've all been over the moral red herring about whether its wrong to steal a loaf of bread to feed a starving child. Necessity negates morality. I have to get up at 5am every day to get someone to pay me and i run my ass off until 5 sometimes 7 at night to accomplish everything, in short i do what it takes. Try telling your boss that his deadlines are unacceptable dickishness and your not going to tolerate him fucking with you like this and see what happens. I suspect you could end up living in a van in a wal-mart parking lot. The only difference is that you or I may have an out if we don't like the guy paying us, we could find another job. But if your unskilled, or high in debt, or the economy is shit (wink, wink) you just might have to put up with your bosses fuckery.

  98. Also the sign is a newton-cursed symbol, they weren't asked to deny the holy spirit, they weren't asked to burn a church down they were asked to cross a word of a sign. Having once had to survive on the breadline, I feel that while not homeless, i have some personal insight into what these people MIGHT be going through. And I can tell you if anyone had offered me a square meal i would have pissed on the flag, ripped up pictures of my family, burn a copy of The Origin, called Socrates a douchebag and taken a kick to the nuts to get it.. entering into a five minute debate about theology and wrecking a cardboard sign aren't even close to what this guy should have been prepared to do. Nor is it close to the real fuckery homeless people get. Look up Bumfights to see what I'm talking about. Some places have even trying fining people for being homeless, as though they could possible pay it. These people are in a position where a jail cell could be inviting, and after getting to keep their "god" and getting the 20 bucks SHE wrecked HIS sign, who is the dick here?

    oh and on the topic of dickishness, where is there frigging church community, how come nobody put them up in their basement, how come no one in the pews offered him 20 bucks a day to sweep out the floor of their shop? In instances like this churches act like insurance companies looking for any friggin loop hole to avoid paying out. Oh, you slept together before being married? get the behind me satan? You lost your job and became an alcoholic? you need to get right with Jesus asshole. If atheist are the moral predators, where are the Christians, and their giving up worldly goods to help a fellow man?

    There's only one answer no matter what you think about God, in the end its all "just business". That's why these people are on the street and thats why theres no dickishness in paying them to wreck a sign. I'm not blaming them for being homeless but when you want other people to put food in your mouth, dance a little dance and don't bite the hand that feeds you.

  99. My opinion...

    Firstly the video does not really demonstrate anything because its conclusion is obvious. If they generally believe what they do then the symbolism of taking off the god for $20 is obviously a bad deal. Factor in their child watching along with the cameras then their decision process becomes more obvious. The main issue though is the guys tone, I feel he would have differed if talking to people who were not homeless. Yeah he admits he is being a dick but does admitting something make it OK to do? Ultimately though does this video help atheism. No. Most reactions will be initial and negative and not get over the situation being played out. Even if you look more critically at the video he has not really shown anything that is not obvious and on the way has given atheists a bad image to people who take the video at first glance.

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  101. I still think this is not really about religion at all. It's about how any human becomes "irrational" when it comes to pride and dignity. This is very different from doing work for cash. Most people feel *pride* from working. Most people feel *shame* for being manipulated for money.

    How hungry would any of you have to be to give a hand job to a stranger or strip naked or dress up like Strawberry Shortcake and talk like Mr. Ed all day for $20 bucks? Would you take a dump on the ground for youtube? Would you say to the camera, "My little daughter is ugly and stupid." (out of earshot of her) Sure, many might do it eventually. But these people were not totally starving and living in box. Even if they were, would it be "irrational" to refuse to do these things on principle? I wouldn't really fault someone for refusing. Maybe in a strict sense it's irrational, but if you are going to feel like shit about yourself possibly for a long time about having been degraded by another human being in front of your family and on youtube, is that irrational?

    I get the point that the fact that they feel strongly about a symbol of God is what is irrational. Well, duh. But why is that irrational? That's the crux of the issue. It's irrational because there is no evidence to believe. Without addressing this why, the video is not making any point to anyone who doesn't already understand that. If you have to explain the point of the video, it is not effective.

    In contrast, if you want to prove religion is irrational, there is *plenty* of low hanging fruit out there that a) unambiguously proves your point and b) isn't ethically questionable. Take pretty much any of the videos by nonstampcollector or EdCurrent, or the bedside of a child dying because their parents won't get them medical treatment.

    Perhaps instead of offering them $20 he should have dressed as a man of God and asked them to *give their money* for the Lord's work. That would have been much simpler, and it's something many poor people do every day.

  102. The deciding factor in how people respond to this video seems to be whether you feel the act of crossing out God is demeaning or not. The majority of substantive comments have argued one side or the other.

    Let's face facts here people, I don't doubt for a second that people in desperate places do far more demeaning things for less money. If he'd offered that woman $50 to punch her husband, I'm pretty sure she'd have done it in a heartbeat. It's cold, the RV needs gas, and kids have to eat.

    This is a family that isn't too proud to ask strangers for money, but is too proud cross out the letters on a sign that represent an imaginary entity. Too them, crossing out that name was as demeaning, if not more demeaning than hitting a loved one.

    And now we arrive at the true effect of the video. How is it that a simple act of crossing out a name can be demeaning to a person? The full damage that indoctrination does is now plainly visible. What should be a simple decision is made complex because the family in question adheres to a ridiculous worldview.

    Should more people do things like this? Hell no, far more good is done by atheists just helping homeless people without strings attached. Is there any other way to show how deeply ingrained religion is in the minds of people? Sure, but the evidence of the efficacy of this particular method is shown by the contents and passion of this discussion.

  103. I think it's borderline cruel but beyond that it's very telling. I mean, they rather keep the God and give away the sign with the word "family".

    It's not how I would go about it, but the blindness of people who think God has some plan while living basically on the street.. wow.

  104. The problem in thinking about this is a conflation of issues. People keep focusing on the homeless part and even those who focus on the point being made are bothered by the homeless issue. What if the sign was being held by a protestor outside of an adult bookstore? What if the offer were made a patron on his way into the store that, if they would cross out the workd "God," he would not go into the store and would go home?

    I am also assuming that Mike obtained their permission to post the video without blocking thier faces. If so, they agreed to this "humiliation." And they probably agreed to it because they see it as quite the opposite of humiliation. They see it as being a victorious witness for their Jesus!

    And let's not forget that anoither issue highlighted here is the way christians "help" the homeless by giving them a place to sleep and food to eat but only if they listen to haranguing and preaching about becoming christians.

    I think it was a materfully done video to highlight a couple of issues in a setting that contained some emotionally charged particles to force us to react and think and sort things out without relying on knee jerk responses.

  105. I watched the video and read many of the comments posted.

    On cruelty:
    It seems like what is considered "cruel" is up to the individual. Attempting to overcome their objections of faith with reason and evidence of their actual living situation is not cruel. Threatening them would've been cruel, which is what Mike did not do.

    On comparing crossing out the word "God" to clucking like a chicken:
    Aaron and his wife did not defend their position out of pride or to not have their status lowered, they clearly defended their faith. Between 2:04 and 2:18, the wife tells Mike, "It's about, this is my god. And to me, what you're telling me is 'I am a worker of Satan.' Your $20 to me is the same as Satan offering Jesus bread when Jesus was starving in the desert." Their defense of their faith is further demonstrated when Mike tells them that he doesn't have enough money to get them off the street but if he did, he would, to which Aaron replied: "We don't want it." This was BEFORE the hypothetical!

    Could Mike have demonstrated his point about religion clouding people's judgment in a less crass manner? Perhaps. In utilizing a homeless couple with a young child, however, I think he was trying to make a hard-hitting point: ardent true-believers will refuse to help themselves AND THEIR CHILDREN for something as negligible as crossing out the word "God" from their signs. He didn't ask them to denounce their faith or to say that God is imaginary or anything like that. He isn't Daniel Plainview from "There Will Be Blood", asking them to say: "I am a false prophet and God is a superstitious delusion." Last but not least, any opportunities missed by Aaron and his wife to improve their situation is a cruelty to their son, who's the truly innocent victim out of all of this.

  106. To a rational thinking person, clucking like a chicken does sound more degrading than crossing out the word "god" for $20. For a religious person, crossing out that word, may be even more degrading. So the video may have been a bit iffy. Nonetheless, I shared it on my Facebook.

    The point though - as I understood it - was to try to make the couple think about why crossing out a word would be so bad. They have a kid to feed, and would rather not scribble on a bit of cardboard, than accept the $20.

    Personally, I much rather give money to people actually doing something, rather than sitting there with a sign. Even if it's just pretending to be a robot, to entertain people a little, if they have no instruments they can play. I see nothing degrading about that. That's called working - even if you aren't actually employed.

    In that sense, crossing out a word on a sign, isn't too much work to do for $20.

  107. I watched the video, and read some comments (not all) , and thought about this for a few minutes. What we need to understand is not the word God means to these people, but the concept of God.

    Does their integrity come from being true to their beliefs? Would you talk ill of your child for $20? Your parents? Your spouse? Remove them from the sign. Now these people love God more than they love themselves or their family.

    I'm not sure what I would do if someone asked me to cut my brother or mother out of a photo for $20 - sure it's a material object, but it's a symbol of how I feel. And to ask it, I would think you had an issue with my whole family and would thus react negatively.

  108. I've noticed a lot of the folks who disapprove of Mike — and again, I have heard criticisms I think are valid — are bringing up a false equivalency. They say things like, "What if someone asked you to [disavow/reject/deface a photo of] your [father/mother/spouse/child] for $20, would that be okay?"

    The thing is, family members and real-life loved ones are things that actually exist. It's utterly understandable why someone would resist doing this.

    God does not actually exist. And so while it's easy to sympathize with someone asked to deny a loved one for $20, it's less easy to do so when they're asked to cut the name of an imaginary being (be it God, Shiva, the Tooth Fairy or Gandalf) from a handmade sign for the same amount.

    You might say, "But to the Christians, God means just as much to them as a real-life loved one!" To which I respond, "And is that rational? Is it wise and healthy to have such an attachment to the imaginary? Does having such an attachment to the imaginary lead to good decision-making or bad decision-making?"

    Mike's video, while understandably criticized by many as a cheap stunt, is asking that question.

  109. @Martin, you said:
    ”God does not actually exist. And so while it's easy to sympathize with someone asked to deny a loved one for $20, it's less easy to do so when they're asked to cut the name of an imaginary being (be it God, Shiva, the Tooth Fairy or Gandalf) from a handmade sign for the same amount.”

    Right, which is why I gave the example above about crossing our “America is great” (see above), and I’m sure people would be faced with the same dilemma. Not to mention the fact that (at the bottom of it), not only would we all agree (all atheists anyway) that God doesn’t really exist, but neither does America really exist. So why wouldn’t we logically cross out “America is great” from a sign, and hold it up asking for money for all to see?

    In this way God and religious belief (like America and Democracy) are institutions, social institutions. To reject them, to cross them off a sign and thus communicate to the rest of the public that you reject them, is social suicide (well, maybe thats a bit harsh on the one hand. In the case of crossing out God, as I said, it’s certainly a bad business decision).

    Again, I’ve made these few points in earlier comments.

  110. PS Martin,
    You also jumped to the chase and went right to “cutting out the bottom of the sign” (in your comment), which they did agree to do. However that isn’t what he initially asked them to do, so in essence I don’t think you’re really appreciating the situation in full.

  111. PPS Martin,
    I think once you get past the initial crust of transcendentalism - those that think God actually has some sort of actual existence per se, or essentially – and if we can even cast that aside for a moment, you’ll find that getting people to drop God out of their discourse and asking them to abandon their religion is no different than asking someone to abandon their country (America) and democracy. But you seem to only be focusing on the perceived (and perhaps ridiculous) ontological status of the particular belief (which is quite widely varied) and completely ignoring the social status and institution where those beliefs are acted out in.

  112. Maybe I'm just cynical, but turning down this $20 may be a strictly business oriented decision. And a good one at that. Now every christian that sees this video will be much more inclined to line their purses. It may be a very rational and reasonable thing without having to invoke the supernatural. I wouldn't be surprised if they made more than me for a time. Weren't they on TV also? I don't think it's an urban legend that some more accomplished jobless sign holders make decent money, all under the table of course.

    I feel for the kid, though. I wonder what school district they park in? I'm sure he helps bring in the money. Does this make me jaded or just a dick? I can't see the people who deserve legitimate assistance through all the outstretched hands.

  113. Andrew I think you're missing the point.

    I and I think others that share Martin's opinion understand that to religious people it's like asking them to remove America or any other real social/cultural institution.

    If Mike thinks he is going to convince believers that their belief is absurd with this video I would say he's picked the wrong target audience. To me it's more likely that people who agree that god does not exist but think it's harmless for others to believe in god would be a better target audience. To them the difference is clear (valid principles vs. imaginary deity/principle) but they don't connect those differences to differences in outcome.

    That's not to say this is brilliantly effective at that but that if it does anything, in my eyes it simply offers one concrete example of harm cause by belief in something false - as long as they don't get stuck on "omg he's such a dick" in the first place. It's not there to convince believers that their belief is false.

  114. Andrew: You also jumped to the chase and went right to “cutting out the bottom of the sign” (in your comment), which they did agree to do. However that isn’t what he initially asked them to do, so in essence I don’t think you’re really appreciating the situation in full.

    Thanks Andrew, but I think I have it down pretty well. Crossing God out, cutting his name from the sign, whatever — it's all the same in the end. Revering an imaginary being over doing what's right for the well being of your family is an irrational decision, regardless of how big a jerk Mike may or may not have been in how he chose to make the point.

    You can't really consider God to as equally conceptual and imaginary as America (or any other nation) here. Inasmuch as it is a nation in a world of nations, recognized by other nations, with a Constitution and set of laws, and citizens and leaders and borders and what have you, America exists well enough. America may be just an idea that was brought into being by mutual consent. But unlike God, it's a tangible, natural, non-supernatural idea that you can find on a map. And its people created it, whereas theists claim their God created them. I'd call that a non-trivial difference.

  115. Martin, you state:
    "Crossing God out, cutting his name from the sign, whatever — it's all the same in the end.

    No, Martin, it's not the same, and that's the point you're missing. See my comments several posts back....

  116. Andrew: But you seem to only be focusing on the perceived (and perhaps ridiculous) ontological status of the particular belief (which is quite widely varied) and completely ignoring the social status and institution where those beliefs are acted out in.

    I'm not ignoring it. Quite the opposite in fact, I'm all too conscious of it, as I have been in 10+ years of atheist activism. I think it's the "social status and institution" that keeps such dangerous irrationality alive that people need to realize is false, and wrong, and should be disposed of. In other words, here are people who think revering an imaginary god is more important than doing what is practical and necessary for their family's well being. Instead of respecting and acknowledging and resisting any possible rudeness toward the institution that has legitimized and mainstreamed such lunacy, we should be exposing and moving to eradicate it through education and awareness.

    Naturally one isn't going to do that all at once, with a single book or blog or video. But the accumulation of all these things aids in consciousness-raising, and time will do the rest.

  117. I think the main issue is weighing up the benefits of this video versus the repercussions. Yes it makes the point about the rationality of religious belief. However I object to the video because the actual video along with how he conducts himself in it is going to do more damage to atheism than his weak point is going to change any minds. If he did the same to some highly regarded professor I think the video would have some merit, but as it is he just gets some people who appear to not be particularly intelligent to show their irrational decision making process. Have a medal!

  118. Ok, so I have watched the video, and i have read the full post, though i must admit i've only read about half of this comment thread. I personally didn't have a problem with the video at all, however i couldn't possibly tell you whether that is because there are no serious moral SNAFU in it, or whether i've just been so desensitized to this kind of thing by the likes of Jackass, UFC and the multitude of shitty wife swapping shows on television these days.

    What i will say is that i think it was a pretty weak point he was trying to make. Christians (particularly those who've fallen on hard times) don't want to give up their faith.... no shit... In fact, i think i need to call out Matt on something he wrote earlier on relating to this:

    "Additionally, I'm willing to bet that a good portion of religious references on homeless signs are there because they're effective and not because the individual actually believes them."

    Something like 85% of americans identify as being christian. And when you isolate sub groups at the lower end of the education and economic spectrum, that percentage only goes up. I think there are allot of homeless signs that have religious references because they're effective AND they also believe them. I have no doubt that some fit into the category of pure marketing but I think its a pretty unreasonable to think its "a good portion".

    Personally i think the video would have been far more effective and interesting if he had actually focused on the point that allot of other people are mentioning in response. Christians will regularly ransom a sandwich for a sermon, what would the reaction be if an atheist did the same thing. Even from the atheist community the backlash seems pretty severe. Why is it so widely considered socially acceptable for once group of people to act this way (christians) but not others (atheists)? I think this would have been a far more interesting point in my opinion anyway.

  119. Martin,
    Right, but once again cutting out God from the bottom of the page and crossing God off are not the same things.

    Earlier I stated:
    ”First off, Mike wasn’t asking them to cross out God, take the money, then junk the sign. Implicit within his request to “cross out God”, was to continue holding up the sign with God crossed out. That’s really the deal here, and that’s how these two folks were interpreting him.

    Second, what does it mean to cross out God in such a way? How would that be interpreted by people who saw it? I imagine most people would interpret that to mean something along the lines of, “God sucks”.

    Third, there’s clearly a bit of marketing going on here. Sure enough the family believes in God, but they also know putting “God Bless” on there couldn’t hurt. I’m sure it drums up a little business.

    So how about an analogy:
    Suppose the sign ended with “America is great”, rather than “God Bless”. And suppose, following point two (considering also point three) that we were more explicit with our suggestion. e.g. instead of just crossing out “America is great”, we asked them to change the sign too, “America sucks”. I mean really, would the impact of crossing out “America is great” be any different than explicitly stating that “America sucks”?

    Essentially your sign (which is a marketing tool you’re using to get money) has been turned into a tool that also discriminates against (not to mention offends) your potential customer base, as well as offends the sentiments and beliefs of the one holding it. Simply put, it’s not worth 20 bucks. The business you’ll loose as a result of the offensive sign far outweighs the petty 20 smackers.”

    Again, cutting God off the bottom of the page does nothing, and in fact they do end up doing that as clearly they see no harm in it. The many philosophical variations people have of Gods existence (ontological, transcendent, pragmatic, non-realistic, etc..) is irrelevant to the fact that Christianity as an institution (just like America) is a real thing that exists. To advertise God (struck out on a sign) is to cast aside the community you’re reaching out to (and are a part of) for help. My point is a pragmatic one – which is to say that not crossing God out is not irrational at all for the same reason it wouldn’t be rational to carry a sign saying “America sucks, could you please help my family by giving me money”. If Mike would have started his video by just asking them to cut God out of the sign, I wouldn’t even have jumped into the conversation. Understand that Mike wasn’t in effect asking them to deny God, or be purposely sacrilegious, he was asking them to alienate themselves from their community, their tribe, whathaveyou, in a time when they were most in need.

  120. Let me tell you a true story, I was out with a few friends, including a guy that I didn't know all that well, Rich(friend of a friend), at first he seemed like a nice guy, but then when we were walking down the street, a guy walked up to the group asking for money, he was clearly homeless, and Rich demanded he dance, the guy did so, and Rich held out a dollar, and when the guy went to reach for it, Rich threw it on the ground.

    Did he ask the guy to do anything all that dickish? After all, doing a silly little jig is nothing when you're hungry and its cold out. And all Rich wanted was a little laugh. Sure he's a dick, but he did give him a dollar.

    Is there anyone reading this who agrees with this last paragraph? If so, I sure hope I don't ever have the displeasure of meeting you, just as I hope not to see Rich again.

    I understand that it illustrates a point, but that doesn't make it right. Matt saying that the situation in reverse wouldn't bother him isn't anywhere near relevant. Clearly professing belief to him would be just a short silly lie. But to these people, their "fairy tale" is real. And this Mike guy is making them do something they don't like, and holding their need of his money over their heads in order to compromise their ideals. It doesn't matter how much sense their ideals make, it matters that they have them.
    If Matt really wants to put himself in their shoes, he should imagine himself having to do something that would shame him for compromising his ideals, not something that wouldn't bother him at all, like telling a little lie.

  121. It depends how you look at it. The person is trading dignity for money. And the other person is trading money for some sort of twisted humour, feelings of superiority or to make a point. Why's this not like any other trade deal. Both parties know the score. As a homeless person I am sure they would prefer to stay in the market for dignity trading rather than not receiving money at all.

  122. @Chris

    In the case of Rich, i think context and intention is relevant. Ricky Gervais has made a career of humiliating people for entertainment, and I'd personally love to hang out with the guy. The Chaser guys on CNNNN (or say John Stewart and the Daily Show for the American commentators) humiliate allot of people too with the intention of social commentary (which i think is similar to what Mike is doing here) and i wouldn't say either of them are comparable to Rich.

    Also, pointing out that a short silly lie is nothing to Matt is the point of the whole video. That they think the fairy tail is so real they will turn down much needed money to feed their child.

  123. @Jim Royal
    I honesty can't see the problem with this situation. Sure he could have been more polite about the whole subject but it's just one three letter word. True it's something they feel deeply about but so what? I'm deeply Atheist/Agnostic (I'm willing to accept said God if there is good solid evidence of it, not just a 2000 year old book full of horse sh*t) but I would say there are/there is God(s)for $20. I'd say the words emptily but I'd say em.

    You say it's just a way of getting them to embarrass themselves for $20; maybe it is and maybe it isn't. But regardless it goes against common sense not to when you need money that badly-you give the example of making a homeless guy act like a chicken for $20 in the middle of the street. I can tell you right now that for $20 I'd do that no questions asked.

  124. The video, and almost all of the commentary around it, show a terrible misunderstanding of religion by skeptics.

    The people in the video are not stupid. They know what a cheque for $1,000,000 means. They also know what $20 means. What this video shows is that the skeptic doesn't know what religion means that makes the three letters "G O D" more valuable than $20 or a cheque for $1,000,000. And, worse, it confirmed those people's belief in the value of those three letters when they were thus confronted with a (self-confessed) jerk.

  125. I think this was more of a stunt for the benefit of Mike's viewers rather than being an honest exchange with the people he confronted. From what we saw in the video he didn't explain himself very well at all. Mike made assertions and expressed general opinions but didn't back them up with careful reasoning in the portion of the video where he talks with the family. He didn't demonstrate how his ideas were the more rational ones and therefore why they should accept his proposition.

    I understand that from the narrow view of the video, this wasn't really about compassion and charity but it is a subject difficult to dismiss given the apparent circumstances of the people involved. What the homeless man was asking for was charity. What Mike was offering was money in exchange for them compromising a firmly held belief on camera in order for Mike to demonstrate a point about religious irrationality.

    What I think this farce turned into was a couple of underprivileged people in an unfortunate situation trying to maintain some semblance of dignity. To my mind, waving money in the face of a needy person while placing conditions on it is a form of abasement. I saw the tearing up of the sign in exchange for the money to be as much a demonstration of the right to be ungrateful for an act of "charity" as it was a determination to uphold a religious position. After all, an act of pure altruism negates the expectation of gratitude or acquiescence from the recipient of your charity.

  126. Undeserved reverence.... That is all.

  127. Hi i agree with alot of mat is saying here. i have watch the video alot (because mike asked me to comment on his videos and put it up on my site) and i find that he was being a slight dick and knows it. the homeless family wasn't being offered $20 for them to loose their faith thats asinine. all it shows is that even when Christians hits rock bottom they will still cling to their repugnant believes even to the point of letting themselves starve.

  128. I think the biggest issue with the video is this:

    Is his conclusion justified?

    They refuse to do what he asks, and he concludes that their religious indoctrination has clouded their judgement and stood in the way of what should have been a simple, pragmatic, utilitarian decision.

    The problem, as I see it, is that his experimental methodology, if you will, was not sufficient to draw said conclusion. There are other plausible alternatives that have nothing to do with religion.

    His conclusion, while not untrue in the sense that religion DOES lead to irrational, and even harmful decisions/actions, is, in my view, unsupported, and likely biased.

    As far as the 'dick' condemnation goes, I'm torn.

  129. YOU SAID "...doesn't seem to get the important meaning behind this (that religion encourages poor decision making - to the point that a starving family will turn down money"
    I have worked in social services and I can tell you those people are not "starving" They are probably on a housing list as we speak. They get WIC and if they are off of WIC as thier chidl is now 4.. they get food stamps. They make their money off of people like Mike, who want to show the poor uneducated, misguided homelss people a better way of living and think that offering them money to get them to stop at what they are doing will work...NEVER does. The "homelss" pan handelers are very good at their job, and it is a job. Can you make $200.00 in an hour; tax free? They can. And often do. I am surprised this video has not gone viral yet... look at the radio anouncer guy.... Mike is missing an edge some how...

  130. I think at this point (after reading many comments) I agree with Mic here. Mike wasn't really telling these people why he thought they were being irrational.

    And maybe he shouldn't have to but obviously religious people think that their thoughts are rational and just or else they wouldn't believe them.

    I'm also torn about my opinion on the video. I guess I would lean more towards getting the point of it if Mike had taken the time to explain why these thoughts are deluded.

  131. First of all, Jim there is a major difference between what Mike did and "asking a homeless guy to flap his arms and cluck like a chicken for $20."

    That being said the video is very dickish and in poor taste. I would never do it, however I am glad that some one is. I hate this whole attitude that "we athiest" must tip toe around and be respectful of others irrational beliefs. Theists have the right to believe. They are not entitled to respect.
    It is also kinda diskish for someone to beg in the name of "God". The "God Bless" line defiantly has the effect of pushing a believer towards guilt. From that view point Mike was only being a dick back.

  132. "It is also kinda diskish for someone to beg in the name of "God". The "God Bless" line defiantly has the effect of pushing a believer towards guilt. From that view point Mike was only being a dick back."

    And it could just as easily be what it appears to be: While meaningless (to us), for them, saying "God Bless" is a way to express well wishes, thanjs, etc. It's merely the expression of positive sentiments.

  133. I know this debate is like a month old...but I thought I'd throw in my two cents, anyhow.

    I completely disagree that this was dickish in any way. I do not think that he was degrading them at all. I had heard about this whole controversy from my fiance and I had been picturing the Phelps family or the God Warrior ranting and raving and resorting to the typical cursing and name calling that a lot of militant theists seem to resort to.

    Instead, I saw a very even-tempered debate! I read the comments in here before watching the video, and I feel as though a lot of you aren't looking past the "homelessness" of these people. But goodness gracious...they are still people! I don't think these people seemed terribly irrational. Yes, I do think it's dogmatic to think that crossing out the word "God" is equal to the complete denial of their faith, but I don't see this as Mike dangling a $20 bill over their heads and imploring them to roll over and speak. I think they debated in a fairly calm, reasonable, HUMAN manner. I thought the fact that Mike offered the debate to them in the first place was an awesome equalizer. It is very easy to dismiss people with signs that begging on the side of the road. Here in L.A. people walk past them, ignore them, treat them like part of the scenery. I think this is a great way to show that these people are real people, with real thoughts, and real beliefs. Yes, we may disagree with them, but how is believing in god when you're homeless so much worse than believing in god when you are a millionaire living in some palatial mansion?

    I didn't think Mike came off like a jerk. Sure, he approached them, but it's not like he got all up in their personal space and demanded they change the sign. He showed all his cards to begin with, and kicked off the debate from there. I don't see how it's really any different than debating people who call in to this show; only that this family is in reduced circumstances and he approached them.

    Neither party insulted the other. They made their cases reasonably. They didn't yell or scream or taunt. I have friends that won't debate me in such civilized tones. Heck...Ray Comfort isn't as civilized as these people.

    Personally, just from seeing this video, this family doesn't strike me as super militant. Sure, 20 bucks is great when you're living out of a motor home...but there are certain ideals that people won't shake from, even if they aren't fundamentalist or extremists. Some people who are rational about certain issues can have totally irrational reactions to others.

    My naval veteran father was on the muslim-hating, no "ground-zero mosque" bandwagon until I told him a story about a Muslim American soldier I know who is deeply upset over the hate spewing at him from the very country he is fighting to protect. My dad's strongly held racist views were swayed because of his devotion to the military.

    Sure, I think the family is terribly silly for holding their superstition up so high...I probably would have appeased Mike for the twenty bucks; however, I feel like the majority of the commenters here are only looking at this from their own non-homeless, computer-having, comfortably fed points of view and dismissing the possibility that they might have absolutely no clue as to these people's thought processes. Just because we think they should be salivating over a measly $20 doesn't mean that they should be. People are getting offended on their behalf when I think these folks handled themselves just fine. We cannot dehumanize these people simply because they are theists nor because they are homeless.

    "I should never mistake informality for insolence, one I rather like, the other nothing free-born would submit to, even for a salary.”
    --Charlotte Bronte

  134. After a fifteen minute debate with my fiance, he finally cowed me into conceding that I should have written "Jane Eyre" after Charlotte Bronte. He informs me that although Ms Bronte did write the quote, it is disingenuous to pull a quote from a novel without specifying that it is, in fact, from a novel, and not just something the author said. As an author, I am still reticent in my belief that she did write the words no matter what...but my head hurts from I'm admitting defeat anyhow.


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