Saturday, June 25, 2011

A fairly typical email

Nothing extraordinary here, no comedy, no ridicule. This is just a typical sort of message that we receive on a regular basis, and today I decided to give it a thorough reply. I thought I'd blog my answer today because it is a long form version of a conversation that lots of you probably have often, if you're an out atheist who knows some theists.

The original message is in block quotes; my replies follow each section.

I've been watching clips of your show on Youtube, and I have to say you've done a pretty good job in debating with theists thus far. It's a shame many of the ones I've heard on there don't slow down enough to think for a moment. Many of the points you guys have made appear to make sense to me as well.

Glad to hear it. We'd always rather be reaching out to a receptive audience with some disagreement than exclusively "preaching to the choir."

To start off, I'm going to say that I consider myself an agnostic theist; I believe in God or the possibility thereof, but in no position to make the assumption that there is one with no doubt. So I'm relying on the whole faith thing, which can only do so much for you.

Personally, I'd go farther than that. Not only can faith "only do so much for you," but deciding to maintain faith in something that can't be demonstrated is very likely to mislead you. I think there should, at a minimum, be a basic standard to decide whether something is likely to be really true or not. This isn't the same as "absolute proof," just some sort of reasonable evidence.

You might've answered this question in one of your episodes, I don't know, but you've repeatedly asked for evidence in proving the existence of God, which I perfectly understand and agree with. My question to you is what evidence would you need that would convince you to believe in "God", or better yet, just know without doubt? I don't expect you guys to know, as I wouldn't even know for sure.

Carl Sagan used to say that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." If someone came to you claiming "It rained every day in Seattle last week," you'd probably be comfortable believing them just on their word. If someone said "It rained every day in the Sahara Desert last week," you probably would not believe them until you looked up more information (corroborated news reports from multiple sources, pictures, etc). The more unusual the claim, the more information you need to confirm it.

With "God," at least in a traditional sense, we have an infinitely powerful being living outside of time and space who creates entire universes by saying a few words, tracks the lives of every human being on the planet, answers their prayers, and bends the rules of time and space to suit his will. I think you'll probably agree that if people didn't grow up assuming that being existed, they'd find that quite an extraordinary claim to process. It would need some pretty impressive evidence to back it up.

I confess I do not know exactly what sort of evidence that might be, although I would point out that God, being omnipotent, would probably know what to do if he existed. In the Bible, God does all sorts of impressive tricks: appears in front of people, performs miracles, parts seas, turns folks to salt. Unfortunately, the only source we have for the claims that those things happened is a very old book of questionable origin, so that doesn't help us much today.

If those sorts of things happened on a regular basis, it would help. Some atheists would say that even that's not enough to demonstrate INFINITE power, but I say it would be a good start. An example I always use is that if the stars one night spontaneously rearranged themselves in the sky, spelling out "I am the lord thy God, you fools, everything in the Bible is true" that would be a good effort. Arthur C. Clarke wrote that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, so we couldn't really rule out the possibility that superintelligent (though not actually omnipotent) aliens were messing with us. But I still say I would be much more willing to consider the possibility that it's a god.

This is all academic speculation, however, because the evidence that people give for believing in God is nowhere near that interesting. As you said, people generally rely on "faith," which obviously wouldn't be necessary if there was anything approaching a good reason to believe in God. When they do try to present convincing evidence, it tends to be of a very mundane sort: They couldn't find their car keys and then they turned up; an earthquake happened in a place full of people they don't like; somebody was very sick and then got better; and so on. It's not enough. Not even close.

I think you'd have to start off with figuring out what exactly God is and work from there, which is difficult since there are so many interpretations that assume to be true. If I had to toss a theory for the sake of debate, I would guess "God" is just energy, which would explain the whole "eternal" or "always existing" part since it cannot be created or destroyed, according to the Law of Conservation of Energy. I won't add on the idea that this energy or "God" has to have a self-thinking conscious, which seems to be what many of us like to attribute when discussing the concept of a "creator."

Okay, if that's what you want to call "God" then you're welcome to do so. I think it's unnecessary, though. We already have a perfectly good word for energy. It's "energy." Why call it God? What new information does that label convey? If the god you're envisioning isn't intelligent or purposeful, then in what sense is it useful to apply such a loaded term? How is a universe where all energy is God different from a universe where energy is just energy?

I might've just gave the answer you would give (or a variant thereof), but if you have a different response, I'm curious to know, via email or on-air. Like you guys, I seek to know the truth, whatever it may be.

I don't see any reason to try to define God myself. If even the billions of people who believe in the concept can't agree on what it means, then why would I spend time trying to define something I don't believe? For any individual God claim, I'll be happy to discuss whether it seems to have any merit or not. What I've found so far is that the most impressive and specific definitions of God have no evidence for them; and for dull and uninteresting meanings of God (such as energy) I would say they may exist, but so what?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Seven Heroes updated.

There seems to have been some confusion (some on my part, some on the part of people who read or skimmed my last post).

The first error was mine. The post from David Silverman was a blog post and not an American Atheists press release, as I had represented. That said, it was a public statement on the subject from the President of the organization and I think it carries similar weight...but perhaps not.

Some people have mistakenly assumed that AA was planning legal action over this. They're not. I never thought they were and I thought I was clear about that when I wrote:

American Atheists does a great job of making sure that they only take legal battles that they're likely to win and they've been critical of Michael Newdow, and others, who risk setting bad legal precedent by challenging things we aren't likely to win. I'm not in complete agreement on every decision about which cases we take and which we don't, but I recognize that we have to be careful.

I really wish, though, that the same sort of careful thinking went into decisions about which issues to challenge in the court of public opinion.

Evidently, that wasn't clear enough and I apologize. There is no legal action being taken here, it was simply an editorial piece.

Additionally, some people, rather ironically, took this opportunity to over-react and beat up on David or American Atheists or whatever...

That's a mistake. David is a friend and while there may be one or two fine points on which we disagree, that's true for all of my friends including ACA members, co-hosts on the shows and even Beth. I'm encouraged by the changes he's made to American Atheists. I'm also supportive, optimistic and eager to work with him and AA on almost any project that my schedule allows for.

This was about one very fine point of disagreement. What I should have done was also link to comments and statements by other people that I disagree with (CFI NY was on Fox news, evidently, essentially agreeing with the AA blog post). That would have helped to ensure that this didn't turn into a "beat up on Dave and AA" theme...because that's a bigger mistake than the post I objected to.

Suffice it to say, I'll take a slightly different approach in the future to avoid confusion. My opinion on this subject hasn't changed - but discussing these differences benefits all of us. Or at least I'd hope it does.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Seven Heroes...and press releases.

Atheists aren't always going to agree. That's just an undeniable truth. I am, perhaps, a bit abnormal because I actually like the fact that we often disagree. Among my atheist friends, it's often the ones I disagree with that I most value and the disagreements often help us all more than we realize.

For example, I like and value David Silverman and American Atheists. In general, I support what they're doing...but there are going to be times when we don't completely see eye-to-eye and today is one of those days.

Here's the AA press release...go ahead and read it, I'll wait.

American Atheists does a great job of making sure that they only take legal battles that they're likely to win and they've been critical of Michael Newdow, and others, who risk setting bad legal precedent by challenging things we aren't likely to win. I'm not in complete agreement on every decision about which cases we take and which we don't, but I recognize that we have to be careful.

I really wish, though, that the same sort of careful thinking went into decisions about which issues to challenge in the court of public opinion. Today's press release is just a monumentally bad idea.

First of all, heaven isn't a strictly Christian concept. Many people who don't adhere to any religion hold to this concept in a cultural fashion that is probably more strongly tied to our fear of death and our desire to think and say nice things about the dead than to any specific religious doctrine. Plenty of other religions have heavens and heavenly concepts and plenty of non-religious people will use heaven in a metaphoric or poetic sense.

Second, many Christians would point out that admission into heaven, according to their doctrine, isn't tied in any way to the heroic actions of those firefighters or the quality of their character. There are many Christians who would point out that, according to their beliefs, the overwhelming majority of those firefighters left the fires of the twin towers and proceeded directly to the fires of hell. Though few would make this claim with the glee of the members of the Westboro Baptist Chruch, it's still part of their doctrine and they'd also note that the conventional concept of heaven being a place for 'good' people is a cultural convention that is only loosely tied to Christianity by way of misunderstanding.

On those grounds, it's just factually incorrect to repeatedly assert that this reference to heaven is an explicit linkage of Christianity to these individuals. (I'm not denying that it will be viewed that way by some Christians, I'm simply pointing out that it's the sort of statement that is sufficiently nebulous that it will automatically mesh with the internal concepts of each individual reader...which is why, I suppose, Dave and other atheists are instinctively objecting; their concept places it firmly in the realm of "legitimizing Christianity".)

More importantly, this is a recipe for being viewed as reactionary curmudgeons. We're talking about something meant to honor the heroic sacrifice of firefighters during the 9/11 attacks. Even a blatant violation of the constitution might be viewed negatively, but this is going to be viewed very negatively and the constitutional issues are hardly clear, if they even exist. There is no real upside to this - especially if we're making statements that demonstrate we don't really understand that there are some cultural references that aren't an explicit endorsement of any religion.

It's a bit like objecting to Christmas trees by claiming that they're explicitly Christian when they most definitely aren't.

I'm a pretty confrontational guy. I'm an advocate of challenging first amendment violations and religious stupidity and harm at almost every opportunity. I generally support the direct, confrontational direction that Dave and American Atheists have been taking. I mostly liked most of the billboards. I've gone after the accomodationist buffons on a regular basis... but this is just a bad idea.

In this case, I'd have opted for no press release, but if I'd done one, I'd have made sure that it was one that was structured in such a way that those who complained about the release would look foolish. Some statements that might work a bit better:

"While atheists don't share the religious optimism of heavenly afterlives, and we think that something like "Seven Heroes Way" would have been a less contentious and more accurate representation of the fallen, we are pleased to see the memory of these heroic individuals honored.

These firefighters, through training and dedication, overcame our natural, human instincts for self-preservation and charged directly into a deadly situation in an attempt to assist others.

On a day when the divisive conflict between religious ideals resulted in the death of thousands, these individuals focused on the value we place on human life irrespective of religious views and other divisive constructs.

As they moved into harm's way, there was no consideration of whether the individuals they were saving were Christian, Muslim or atheists. There was no consideration of whether those individuals were gay, straight or transgendered. There was no consideration of whether those individuals shared their personal political views...there were simply people, in need of assistance. We should honor them on those same terms.

In the chaotic aftermath of the ruthless and shameful attacks of 9/11, the character of these individuals truly represented those traits that define heorism and the sort of character that we should all hope to instill in future generations.

Seven, of many, heroes...have shown us the way."

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Gia Madonna of the Esoteric Order of Dagon

Here is godless geekette Gia Grillo, known to Atheist Experience and Non-Prophets fans for co-hosting guerrilla NPR episodes 9.6 and 9.9 with me last summer, and for terrorizing Christian sidewalk evangelists on the streets of Hoboken, all decked out in cephalo-chic finery for the Coney Island Mermaid Parade (that link may not be worksafe, btw, heads up). Who says atheists don't have fun, especially when honoring the majesty of the Old Ones just to be on the safe side? Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn and all that. So while PZ would I'm sure wholeheartedly approve, the whole affair does look kind of gay, so I imagine Charlie would totally stay home. (Or...not?)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Open thread on Episode #713

Oh, looks like people are piling onto the #712 thread because they have no outlet to discuss Jeff and Matt on episode #713. Here you go! Matt and Jeff discussed cosmology, a lot, and decided to give EvolvedAtheist / self-styled homophobic rapper hero Charlie Check'm, another round.

For people writing to request that Charlie never get on the air again: We heard you, and agree.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

In which Martin and Tracie give Gavin the respect he's earned. (Long one, sorry.)

It may seem pointless dealing with the contemptible behavior of trolls, an activity annoying enough for any hundred people. Especially when the troll in question takes this pitifully dishonest tack of assailing us with the most repugnant insults he can come up with (and if you ask me, Matt could hardly be blamed if he knocked Gavin Chandler's teeth down his throat over the things he wrote about Beth, though of course Matt won't, because he's a bigger man than that, and both Matt and Beth have already dismissed Gavin as beneath their notice, let alone their contempt) only to shift gears, apologize profusely, and try to claim that all he was doing was trying to teach us a lesson about how horrible it feels to be abused so awfully, which he seems to think we do to all our callers, and to which he also seems to think his disgracefully juvenile behavior is somehow analogous.

In short, Gavin's a despicable creep whose failure to make his point effectively — if in fact that's what he was all about — is so epic it's hard to wrap your mind around it fully. I didn't think it was possible, but he's actually been worse than the lamentable Yomin, whom I did almost sue for libel (and whose life has since spectacularly fallen apart, as he's currently facing misdemeanor domestic violence charges). Gavin's like someone who notices that his neighbors have allowed their trash cans to spill over onto his yard, and responds by burning their house down, then saying, "There! You see what it's like having your property line violated? Be more respectful next time!"

Gavin wrote what he calls his "final" email to us — though there have been several after that, which I won't read, even though the subject line on one of them is "I am deeply ashamed of myself." (He should be, but a burnt bridge is a burnt bridge.) Still, with this one, he promised that if we posted it, he'd go away for good. I doubt this, and he's still commenting like mad on our Facebook page. But here's the letter, with responses from both Tracie (reprinted from Facebook with permission) and myself, in the hopes (eyeroll) that he'll live up to his promise.

Yes, I know, feeding trolls only makes them come back for more. But I weigh the instructive value of doing this kind of thing to be worth something, if only so that people know what's out there awaiting you when you do what we do, and how desperately people will distort the facts to make a point that really wasn't all that earth-shaking to begin with. Still, I'll understand anyone who thinks any more attention given this kid is unwarranted, and chooses to skip this post.

Gavin's subject line on this one was "AETV - A Respectful Presentation of My Actual Concerns."

I decided to gather my thoughts, take a hot bath, and write a message free of insults and hate, to clearly explain my concerns. This email is the result.

Tracie: I can hardly wait.

There's more to life than the first amendment. What about being calm and collected when you take viewer calls? You should try that. You'd reach more hearts and minds that way.

Tracie: Very insightful from the guy who submitted nothing but letter after letter full of laughable lists of ridiculous slanders as his input to reaching hearts and minds.

Martin: The Atheist Experience has run continually since 1997, when I suspect Gavin was still playing with Transformers. For most of that time it has been a live call-in show. The entire time, it has been a learning experience. One of the things about live television is that you never know what you're going to get. A call can start well then go south in a hurry. A theist you thought might be a jerk may turn out to provide interesting conversation, while a self-described atheist (lookin' at you, Charlie) may turn out to be a total douchey troll.

When I was host, I lost my temper a couple of times, which I'm not proud of. But you know, that's all part of learning. I also recall many heated debates with Christian callers — and before the days of YouTube and streaming, most of our callers were Christian — that nonetheless never collapsed into name-calling and rage.

Still, discussions between Christians and atheists can get heated simply by their very nature. For believers, their emotional attachment to the faith is so powerful that it's hard for them not to blow a gasket when confronted by a confident atheist argument. And no two callers are the same, even when, as today, most of them are fellow atheists.

Gavin is trying to claim that being rude and insulting to callers is our modus operandi across the board, which any honest viewer who's watched more than a tiny handful of fan-posted YouTube clips knows full well is just plain false. So if Gavin's starting out his "respectful" presentation with a total misrepresentation of the show, how does he expect to reach our hearts and minds now?

Only a child would...

Tracie: EMOTIONAL MANIPULATION ATTEMPT FLAG: If you do what I'm about to say, then you're a "child." What he doesn't get is that this only means it's his personal assessment that only a child would do what he's about to say. And he doesn't get that it requires buy-in from the other party in the conversation to have any real impact. In other words, if I disagree that only a child would do it, it takes the wind out of the proverbial sails.

...defend screaming and swearing and belittling someone by wrapping it in the Constitution. Sure, it is OK to do it, under law...

Tracie: That would mean that it is, in fact, defended by the Constitution — and so does not require "wrapping" in anything — it is legal. It is Constitutional. We agree.

Martin: Gavin has this odd idea that, by acknowledging the Constitutional rights of groups like the Phelpses to hold protests at veterans' funerals — something every one of us finds a loathsome exercise in attention-seeking — somehow equates to endorsing that activity. Frankly, anyone so stupid as to not grasp that basic distinction is beyond communicating with, IMO.

We ran into this same stupid attitude last year from some people, when we acknowledged the rights of the Cordoba Initiative to construct Park 51 in Manhattan on property they owned. A handful of folks accused us of being "soft" on Islam. Honestly, how willfully ignorant and dishonest do you have to be to equate the one thing with the other? Acknowledging a right is not the same thing as supporting or endorsing the person(s) exercising that right. I mean, freaking duh! (And anyway, all those people protesting what they falsely call the "Ground Zero Mosque"? We acknowledge their rights too. Fancy that!)

but you seem to think that something legal is also MORALLY acceptable.

Tracie: Not quite — because I'd have to first see the clip in which we reacted so horribly to a caller that it could be unambiguously labeled as "immoral." Unfortunately, Gavin supplied no examples. But next, I want to note that when a behavior by others is labeled "immoral" — the onus is upon the one labeling to demonstrate it. Many actions have no moral quality at all — such as eating a berry. Is it moral or immoral? It's simply eating a berry — there is nothing moral to judge there. And could someone on the other end of a phone say an "immoral" thing to me? They can say things that are rude. Things I may not like. Things that may prompt me to hang up. But "immoral"? I'm not quite sold that raising your voice and using an expletive is "immoral."

You're confusing laws and morals.

Tracie: I think you're confusing "uncivil" with "immoral." Rude is not immoral. The bar for immoral is rather higher than rude.

They aren't the same thing.

Tracie: And nobody at AETV has ever said law is morality. In fact, we've often pointed out to callers these are two separate things — law and morality. So, no argument there.

Many things that are legal could be considered immoral.

Tracie: I wouldn't say "many" — but certainly some.

It's legal for a person to lie, so long as they aren't entering a contract or aren't under oath... but most people find it morally wrong to lie... how many relationships have been destroyed by dishonesty?

Tracie: Duplicity is something I would agree is, in some circumstances, immoral. Fortunately where it causes real damage, we do generally also have laws against it — such as fraud (which was mentioned). Is a lie that does no harm immoral? Can lying break relationships? Yes. I agree it can. But is dishonesty that harms a good comparison to rude honesty? If his only point is to say law and morality aren't the same, then no dialog needed, since we agree.

Martin: There are immoral lies, then there are totally moral lies. (If I know where Anne Frank is hiding, I'm going to lie my ass off to the Nazis.) Beyond that, I need no lecture on the morality of lying from a contemptible little fuck who repeatedly accused Matt of stealing money from the ACA to pay for his wedding.

Aw, was I being insulting again? You're welcome.

It is legal to cheat on your spouse, but most people find it immoral. It hurts the other party greatly, usually, and often destroys the relationship (where children are sometimes involved). But should freedom to cheat trump these other things? Since cheating is legal, is it also morally acceptable?

Tracie: See above.

It is legal to swear, call people names, and publicly humiliate them. But is it morally right?

Martin: Physician, heal thyself.

Tracie: And here I fail to see the comparison. For example, there was a lot of ink spilled when a woman called AETV to defend her beliefs and ended with an assertion she didn't need to defend anything to AETV. Matt asked "why the fuck did you call, then?" — and I found it to be a legitimate question and a fair expression of exasperation. Some people were upset that the woman excused herself from the call at that point, and felt Matt chased her off. But really, at the point she is asserting she isn't going to defend anything, wasn't she pretty well done? So, was the swearing "immoral," simply because this one caller said she was offended by it and hung up? I'd have to say "no."

Can I humiliate someone else on AETV? If so, how? I don't see this. If you think it's possible to verbally publicly humiliate a person by expressing your honest opinions about them (and bear in mind callers call us and can hang up any time), how are they humiliated when they're totally cloaked from public view and nobody even knows who they are but for the name they choose to give the phone screener? Additionally if you and I were in public and you tried to humiliate me, how would you go about it? Let's say you begin hurling insults. I think you'd come off looking like a loon as I walked away. But I'd hardly be personally "humiliated" by some wingnut hurling names at me publicly.

Such treatment can cause a person to have a nervous breakdown, become depressed, or even have thoughts of suicide. It can destroy a person's self esteem, cause them to withdraw into themselves, and make them lose all hope.

Tracie: Ah, OK, here is the core of our difference. I don't have a magic wand that gives me power to make people give a shit what I, as a total stranger, think of them. Anyone on this planet can say and think "I don't care what this woman thinks," and I have zero power to force them to care. So, no, I can't "cause" any of those things listed above by either having or expressing my negative assessment of a person or their beliefs. No matter how rude I am (and in fact, the more rude I am, the more they should realize I'm not a person whose opinion they should bother with), why should anyone care what Tracie thinks or says? Who am I? How does my opinion impact their lives if I do nothing to impact their lives, only express my assessment of it? Isn't their decision to internalize it and make it powerful theirs?

Martin: Essentially Gavin is chiding us because we are not sufficiently psychic to know in advance whether or not the caller on the other end may have such profound psychological distress in his life that he might just haul off and blow his brains out because Matt calls him an idiot. Well, gee, guilty as charged.

But what is Gavin's alternative there? A world where everyone is walking on eggshells, not speaking an opinion for fear that the person whose feelings they hurt might just jump off a bridge? How can we control another person's emotional state? And how is any choice they make our responsibility? We are a bunch of folks on TV taking about a subject — atheism — most people find socially unacceptable anyway. How exactly does Gavin propose we present it in a way inoffensive to everyone, even those predisposed to be offended as much as possible?

I do not deny the power of suasion. It is possible to be an irresponsible public figure whose words do harm. There are at least two incidents where men have been arrested while on their way to commit mass murders (one at the offices of the Tides Foundation, one at Planned Parenthood), who confessed to police that they were inspired to do their crimes after listening to Glenn Beck. While I don't hold Beck to blame for their choice to commit murder (he's very careful that way), I do think Beck is deliberately irresponsible in the way he creates a tone of fear, hatred and paranoia that a mentally imbalanced fan can run with.

Still, there's no remote comparison to that, and anything we've ever done on AETV. And as far as telling a stupid and arrogant caller that he's being stupid and arrogant, well, I say that's fair game. The vast majority of our calls are civil and pleasant. The crazy ones just make for the most entertaining and popular YouTube clips.

But since it is legal, that makes it ok?

Tracie: No, what makes it (not "OK," as it would be generally rude to swear and scream at people, but...) not immoral is that the "damage" caused is self-inflicted. You're basically willing to do self-inflicted damage in order to try to frame me for it. I think that is closer to immoral than calling someone an idiot. Trying, unabashed, to be an emotional manipulator is about as low as one can get.

It is ok to destroy someone's self esteem, peaceful mind, and hope for the future? It's legal, but is it morally right?

Tracie: The problem is that words can't do this in the context we're discussing. A subjective assessment of me by a stranger who has talked with me for a few minutes over the phone, while I remain anonymous to everyone, can hardly really harm me. Any "harm" I suffer as a result is at my own hands/brain.

I believe that with my few short examples, I have demonstrated that even something allowed under the law can be harmful to real human beings. This is the essence, the core reason that I object to the way you handle some of your callers.

Tracie: Gavin did give a couple decent examples of things that are legal that can mess up lives. But name-calling or swearing, in the AETV context, wasn't one of them. That's the problem.

Martin: The adult world is harsh. AETV isn't Romper Room. We don't seek to hurt anyone. But we have a duty to all our viewers to be as honest in our opinion and our communication as we can. Take yourself as a prime example, Gavin: We didn't make you feel the way you feel about us. We didn't make you troll the hell out of us with crazy emails full of threats and personal attacks. You chose to do those things, and the derision you're now enduring on Facebook and at this blog is the result of that choice — your choice. And the moment you have the epiphany that lets you understand that, you'll probably understand why your sanctimonious preaching about "moral" behavior is meeting with such universal derision, and why I set your words in Comic Sans, and why no one has gotten your "point," which you buried under a wave of petulant assholishness.

When you guys fiercely defend the first amendment, you are missing the larger picture.

Tracie: I guarantee you, we're not. And we don't use the first amendment as a defense for our responses to callers, anyway, because generally we don't even agree there's a basic moral problem with our caller responses. So we don't even need to get into legal defenses of it. The "harm" you're claiming isn't real. You can't call it "immoral" when the only "harm" it causes is genuinely self-inflicted discomfort. That's the caller's choice, not our doing or intent.

Words sometimes can, and do cause harm.

Martin: Says the piece of shit fucktool who wrote this: "Matt, by the way, Beth is an ugly fucking goon. Jesus Christ, you couldn't do any better than to find some ginger-haired pug-faced neanderthal for a potential wife? You can tell by the slanted aloof look on her face that her daddy definitely boned her in her ginger asshole a few more times than was necessary." Speaking from experience, Gavin?

Tracie: Not when they're honest assessments handed out to anonymous callers by people who have no authority over them or desire to interfere in their lives.

Martin: And it's my honest assessment that Gavin is a piece of shit fucktool. It would be tragic if he were to jump off a bridge. Not to me, but to someone.

What you are promoting by your unwavering support of the first amendment over all else is that respect, human decency, common courtesy, and polite restraint are worth nothing, and count for nothing.

Martin: (Breathe... count to 10...)

Tracie: Wow. So, unless we gut free speech (for the speech that most needs defending — offensive speech), we're against human decency: false dilemma fallacy. Fred Phelps may be indecent, but I can guarantee you that someone somewhere thinks what you have to say is indecent...

Martin: I'd say those someones number in the thousands by now.

Tracie: Should we only talk, then, about the weather? The fact is, you don't pass laws protecting speech that are intended to protect small talk and compliments. What sort of speech needs legal protection? That would be speech that is in danger of being silenced. Like him or not, that would be Fred Phelps.

That, to me, is shameful. Whether the Constitution says it or not, with freedom comes responsibility.

Martin: I think your very existence is shameful and irresponsible, Gavin. That's the thing about life. You gotta take the bad with the good.

Tracie: And maturity. Learn that you're hurting yourself. Stop blaming others for your childish offenses and attitude. Learn to not be so sensitive to what other people think. You really can choose to not care or worry about it. Try it. You'll be amazed how simple it is.

There is an element of verbal abuse that you have totally ignored, and that is the emotional element.

Martin: I think I'm just going to stop buying irony/hypocrisy meters. When they explode so frequently they get expensive to replace.

Tracie: When a person is, again, anonymous, and has a capacity to hang up at any time, you can't verbally abuse them beyond what they agree to accept. Again, if they don't like what they get, click, and we're shut down — it's that easy. How can I abuse anyone, beyond what they agree to accept, who has the capacity to shut me down that easily at any time?

Words can be strung together in such a fashion that they are considered abuse, legally. Ask psychologists about the effects of emotional abuse. Sometimes the effects can be as profound as the effects of physical abuse.

Martin: Did you consult a psychologist before composing that impressive string of remarks about Beth, you cockwart?

Tracie: Yes, and these studies were done on the short-term exposure (couple minutes or less) of AETV callers who where otherwise stable and had a host they don't even know say to them, as they were totally anonymous, "that's ridiculous." This is what destroys lives and damages psyches for a lifetime: not abusive parenting over many years, but an arguably rude two-minute phone conversation with a complete stranger, over which the caller has complete control, and can hang up at any time.

I've avoided insults in this email...

Martin: If there are any insults, the more offensive and hurtful the better, that I have failed to inflict upon you in answering this email, the oversight was unintentional. I invite our readers to make up the deficit.

Tracie: I'm guessing because you used them all up in your prior lunatic rants. But what you held back in insult, you made up for in inanity. lay out in specific language exactly why I have a problem with hosts on your show verbally abusing callers.

Tracie: I think your complaint is unmerited, for reasons expressed above.

Martin: Good job replacing "self-righteous dishonest bullshit" with "unmerited" there, Tracie. Sounds much more polite and civil. Goodness knows we wouldn't want Gav to go running off in tears or anything.

It is immoral.

Tracie: No, you're saying that, but you haven't demonstrated it. People need to take some personal, adult responsibility at some point in their lives and stop blaming others for how they feel and react.

Martin: And by "people," we mean "Gavin."

Tracie: If you go fetal and require 20 years of group therapy because an Internet show host called you "ridiculous," I think your problems existed before you called our show.

Martin: You think?

It hurts people more than you likely realize.

Tracie: Only immature, codependent "adults" who like to saddle others with their emotional responses and needs. If it were small children, who aren't fully emotionally developed, calling us, you might have a point.

Martin: I think Gavin has pulled off the remarkable feat of belonging to both those categories.

Sure, it gets a few laughs from the less-mature people amidst your viewers... but some of us take offense to it

Martin: Because Gavin is, of course, one of our more mature viewers...LOLOCAUST!

Tracie: And I should care, why? Some viewers aren't immature, and don't see a problem with it, and aren't just giggling over it.

...and rightly so.

Tracie: Says you.

Martin: And you are more worthy of being taken seriously than any other tone troll how, again?

All else aside, you're supposed to be mature adults conducting a discussion program.

Martin: No! You can't make me!

Tracie: Says the guy who can't even take responsibility for himself and his emotional reactions, the guy who wrote a list of immature idiotic libelous garbage to a group of strangers on the Internet. Yes, you're the poster boy for judging "maturity." If I, or anyone, go fetal because I am called "idiot," that's not the problem of the person who assessed and described me as an idiot. I need to work out my own some self-esteem issues. But I can't expect others to live their lives walking on egg shells, worried that every person they meet is a fragile, emotional basket case. People deserve more credit than that.

You ask people to call in.

Tracie: And if they want to, they do.

You invite them to contact you,

Tracie: Yes,and they know what the score is when they call.

Martin: Is this pitiful stupid boy somehow equating "invite" with "force"?

...only to abuse them in many cases.

Tracie: I call Shenanigans. If you call in and are unreasonable, and you're called "unreasonable" (or some facsimile thereof), that's no more "abuse" than calling a red-head a red-head. I've said it 1,000 times, and here is 1,001: If you don't want to be called "stupid," the best way to avoid it is to not make stupid comments to us on the phone. Being stupid, and then getting angry when you are described as "stupid," is...well...stupid.

Martin: Really, we only pile on the abuse when it is earned. Take you, for instance...

That isn't illegal, but is it morally acceptable?

Martin: I can honestly say that there is coliform bacteria slaloming around my toilet bowl that gives more of a shit (see what I did there?) about what you think is "morally acceptable" than I do. And you lost your right to take any kind of moral high ground on any subject about 10 emails ago. Tone trolling from such a contemptible and dishonest hypocrite is only good for a laugh, or a sneer of disgust.

Tracie: It's not morally anything. Comparing an AETV host who says to an anonymous caller after a couple minutes "you're being an idiot" to people damaging their kids using verbal abuse on a forming, immature just...well...stupid, again.

Even further, do you think such behavior paints you as a respectable organization?

Martin: We have 14 years of establishing ourselves as a respectable organization, and have achieved global acclaim thereby. Matt has engaged in public debates with clergymen. Some of the rest of us have represented ACA in both formal and informal capacities, and met with uniformly friendly responses. We get several emails a week from viewers who thank us for helping with their personal crises of belief and conviction, for helping them deal with religious family members in ways that don't alienate them from their families altogether, or just to say thanks for all we do. So, we're not worried about being perceived as a respectable organization, because we know we are. And it's because — pay attention to this point closely — the overwhelming majority of our viewers are not emotionally stunted adolescent hysterics who hear the occasional rude word on our TV show, and get their panties so bunched that they feel sufficiently justified to bombard us with repeated baseless legal threats, risible bragging about "exposing" us in a "documentary," and vile insults about people's fianceés that are so far beyond the pale of decency that any possible chance of recovering any level of respect for yourself is beyond hope. In other words, total pieces of shit like you, Gavin, are a thankfully rare breed, and I hope you live up to your promise now that this email has been posted and fuck. off. forever.

Couldn't that behavior actually discourage some people from joining your organization or watching future episodes of the show?

Tracie:Possibly...but on the other hand lots of people like the show for the same reasons you're complaining about it. Changing the game to gain viewers at the potential cost of losing those who enjoy the current format would be robbing Peter to pay Paul, to borrow a Bible metaphor. This is your view, your opinion. Others disagree and write in to praise the very behavior that apparently upsets you.

Martin: It is my sincerest hope that you have been dissuaded from all of those things, and from contacting us again in any form, and perhaps even from living anywhere on Earth other than a small rocky desert island where no one has to remember you exist. But I'll take the first two in a pinch.

Many times, the harsh treatment of a caller might be somewhat justified, if they begin yelling, swearing, or being disrespectful.

Tracie: I don't see how that works. If I think yelling and swearing are wrong, I don't see how it is suddenly justified with "two wrongs make a right"? That's unreasonable. It isn't like throwing punches, where I might actually have to be violent in response to violence for self-defense. Screaming at someone screaming at me has no benefit, is not required for self-preservation, and therefore has no "justification." But it does demonstrate the immature framework you're operating within.

Martin: Hold on, you mean, suddenly, now, Gavin is twigging to the very basic point that sometimes, it's the caller who's rude, and that it may happen that we treat them rudely in return? Which is what we've been explaining all along? Christ, I knew he was slow, but seriously. Still, Tracie's right. If a call is descending to the level of a screaming match, it's easier to just hang up.

But often enough, you begin yelling or insulting even when the caller has been totally calm, collected, and respectful the whole time.

Tracie: Really? You used Jeff's responses to callers regarding Hell as an example in prior notes. Is threatening someone calmly with "hell" moral? Is it kind? Is it "respectful"? Calling you human garbage that deserves to be tortured forever, is fine, if you don't yell it? I disagree.

You paint me as a fool,

Martin: Oh no, I paint you as much worse. And I just call 'em as I see 'em.

Tracie: No, you paint yourself as a fool. We just publicized it, because you said you were going to publicize it anyway, yourself.

and I partially deserve it,

Tracie: You own all your own words, fully, not partially. Other people control none of them.

Martin: Yes, like all moral hypocrites, you'll use a scorched-earth policy of utter condemnation against others, while cutting yourself plenty of slack. Have you considered a career at Fox News?

but I do have a mature message underneath all the BS.

Tracie: And when you get done defending childish codependency, I look forward to hearing to this more "mature message."

Martin: Because from our vantage point, we see BS underneath, and on top of, all the other BS.

My message is: With your show, you have a tremendous opportunity to open hearts and minds to the fallacies of religion.

Martin: Man, and here I thought we were a cooking show.

Tracie: Oh, that I know. I know because we get mail daily from people telling us we've helped them with exactly that.

Martin: Just from the last couple of days:

Don't know if this show is still on in the US, but I think it's great! It's
so rare to see people who have really thought about the whole god think. I'm
in Australia so I can only watch on Youtube..Thanks a lot for your time..Cheers, Peter C.

I don't make much right now in terms of income, but no doubt when I get my proverbial shit together I will be donating. You guys have changed my life in a way that seriously brings tears to my eyes. I hope you can continue to spread the real good news haha. I haven't gotten to call in but I will next week. Thank you so'll never TOTALLY understand just how much you've helped me. (Jonathan Haggerty)

Please know that you are some of the most moral and virtuous people I've ever known, and also know that I'm not one to make bold statements like that disingenuously. Not only do you, unlike most, make moral behavior a top priority, you use reason to answer the tough moral questions that many others would prefer just to dismiss and ignore. You pursue truth, you deeply value intellectual honesty, you're willing to admit when you don't know something and also willing to admit when you were wrong, and you give me hope for the future and inspire me to pursue morality and virtue as you do. As disheartened as you surely must become from time to time when you see all that goes on around you, please never forget that your efforts are not in vain. You are heroes to many of us, and I thank you enormously for your service to humanity--you are champions of all the things that are most valuable in this world. (Logan Vanover)

In many ways, you squander that opportunity by resorting to insults, name calling, ridiculing callers or swearing at them, etc.

Tracie: And yet, we get mail from people saying we've helped them. Is it possible that some people respond to seeing stupidity called out openly and honestly, and other people prefer a less direct approach? This is why we have different personalities presenting on AETV, by the way. Different strokes and all. Let me assure you we do reach people. And if you think you'd rather see people reached in a different format, which is the same every time, may I suggest that rather than threaten to spend your time making documentaries to slander Internet strangers, you put your unique talents to work making your own show using your real name and location — like we do at AETV. Then you can do it how YOU prefer.

Atheists are supposed to be intelligent and mature, aren't we?

Martin: It would be nice to think so, which makes your situation all the more tragic.

Tracie: I looked up "atheist" in the dictionary, and it says nothing of the kind. So, I don't know where you got that these are atheist attributes.

When you exhibit certain behaviors on the show, you appear immature, sometimes petty even.

Martin: And you have frankly lost any chance that I would have any respect for or interest in your opinion of my behavior or anyone else's, since your own has been unforgivable.

Tracie: Your opinion. You're entitled to it. Others disagree and write to tell us the opposite of what you're saying.

You have a responsibility to your viewers that I believe you take too lightly, or not at all.

Martin: And what you believe is both provably wrong, as it's taken from a gross misrepresentation of how we actually conduct the show, and immaterial, as you've demonstrated yourself and your opinions to be unworthy of respect. Really, you could have handled all this so much better.

Tracie: And other viewers, again, disagree with you. So why should we disregard their input and go only with yours?

People aren't just calling in, unprompted. You are inviting them to call.

Tracie: Yes, we get that. And they make a decision to call or not. Are they going to say something stupid or not? It's up to them.

You state that you want productive discussion.

Tracie: Right: don't call up to talk about your beliefs and then say you've no intention of defending them. You'll be asked "why the fuck did you call, then?" Be prepared. Don't call up and say you think all humans are such scum they deserve to be tortured forever; you'll be told you're a dehumanizing, evil person. Be prepared. But even if you're not bright, if you try to be kind and honest, you'll get a good reception almost 100 percent of the time on AETV, I can promise you.

The way you frame everything when asking viewers to call in implies that some level of respect and decency will be observed during the conversation.

Martin: A concept you don't seem to grasp works both ways.

Tracie: And "some level" is. If your claim is that we are a free-for-all and exercise no judgment regarding who gets what sort of response, I beg to differ. We're not perfect, and mistakes are made, but for the most part, we talk to people who are interested in talking openly and honestly, and who can reason, and we drop those who can't. And those who are dishonest or disrespectful (and bringing up hell IS disrespectful) get a boot out the door on occasion, it's true.

When you begin angrily swearing and insulting people, you have contradicted the implications you made when you asked people to call in.

Martin: Oh, you mean like when I call you a miserable piece of shit fucktool and cordially invite you to go blow a charging buffalo? Yeah, I guess, but sometimes it just feels so right.

Tracie: Unless you can show me where someone was honest and reasonable and respectful and a host just went ballistic on him/her, I beg to differ. Again, "calmly" telling Jeff he's utterly vile is hardly "respectful."

You don't only do this with theists, though. Occasionally you also belittle and denigrate a non believer.

Tracie: That's because we're equal-opportunity when a caller is an idiot. We're examining their beliefs and ideas and reasons. If they suck, they suck. We're not trying to be biased against theists with regard to being stupid. Any idiot who calls, and insists on being an idiot, can expect to be branded an idiot. If they're not called out for it, they've had a lucky call.

Martin: Indeed, it would be the nadir of hypocrisy for us to let atheists (like Charlie the Homophobe) get a pass saying stupid and contemptible things while excoriating theists for it. We don't do that.

Surely you can see how that kind of behavior can be counterproductive, and how it can potentially cast your organization in a bad light.

Martin: Except we don't engage in that behavior to the degree you're whining about, and we know already that our group is in anything but a bad light. So your concerns can be dismissed.

Tracie: What I see is that you think this. And you're not the only one who thinks this. But we get a lot more letters from viewers who enjoy the format than ones like yours, which are only very occasional (and almost always, as this one, defending their position by defending sick, codependent attitudes as something we should all bend over to accommodate.) I disagree with that attitude.

I also believe it discourages people (particularly believers) from calling in at all.

Tracie: And yet they call. And they write. And they post at our blog.

Martin: Yup, no decrease in any of that traffic. Even a little bit.

There are many people who might think about calling in, but decide not to once they observe you screaming and swearing at someone on the air.

Tracie: Only if they don't grasp what inspired the rant. And if they can't decipher that, then they're probably not reasonable. We're not psychotics at AETV. We use discernment. Even the most volatile hosts on their most angry days, still explain why they're ranting as they rant. If I can't pay attention to the substance, because I'm style-obsessed, then I shouldn't call AETV, because AETV wants substance. Style doesn't matter. As I said, calmly calling me "reprobate" as one threatens me with Hell is not "respectful," just because it's stylistically calm. The substance is still disgusting and vulgar. I'm not really impressed with the calm delivery.

Ask yourself, do you really think such behavior is going to get you more calls from believers, or fewer?

Tracie: I don't you? If so, how? Again, I suggest you use your real name and location and start your own show doing it your way, and show us how it should be done. Prove your point. Test your assertion. If you think you can build a better mouse trap, nobody at AETV is stopping you.

Martin: Again, we didn't start this show last fucking week, assclown. (Oops, naughty Martin is swearing again! Doesn't he know how much that drives people away?) We've been doing it since 1997. And it has only gotten bigger, and bigger, and bigger. So unless you can show us we've been suffering some drastic drop-off of our viewership simply because Jeff calls some guy an idiot for threatening us with the imaginary wrath of an imaginary magic pixie in the sky, I see no reason to concern myself with this "crisis" that exists only in the swirling vortex of confusion between your ears.

This particular email lays out my concerns adequately. If you are truly interested in representing me honestly in your posts to facebook and the blog, I ask that you post this email as well, in a new and separate post.

Tracie: Done.

Martin: ...and dusted.

If you can do that much for me, you will never hear from me again.

Martin: Hope springs eternal.

Tracie: As the full text of your message was included above, I hope you are a man of your word. I expect no one at AETV to every hear from you again. And at this point, if you contact TAE, we have no obligation to reply, as you will have demonstrated that your commitment meant nothing and was simply a hollow, false promise.

I guess if you don't, I can only conclude that you want to spin things once again by leaving out the real message I've been trying to get across. This message is exactly what I've been trying to say all along.

Martin: (sarcastic look) Oh really? Then what, pray tell, were all the threats of lawsuits and exposés, libelous remarks about financial malfeasance, and unconscionable personal insults — all of which we reproduced in full without any alterations of any kind — in aid of? I fancy you think you were "teaching us a lesson" of some kind, when in fact you were literally demolishing your reputation online as thoroughly as any one human being could hope. Really, what would a prospective employer have to say about someone who comes so thoroughly unhinged over views that differ from his own? The degree to which you've damaged yourself in this whole series of exchanges is possibly considerable. But again, we didn't make you do it. Your own choices in life are what come back to haunt you.

Tracie: Good. Then you've made your statement publicly via AETV. I hope that satisfies you, as you said it would. Again, as I included your full text in this response, I now declare the right to ignore all your future letters, which you have promised not to write (but I doubt you'll hold to your word on that; call me a pessimist). And another EMOTIONAL MANIPULATION ATTEMPT FLAG: Your final attempt at such, again a sign of your codependent nature, is to play what is generally known as "chicken." Basically like a kid in a school yard saying "if you don't do X, you're chicken." Just to confirm, I didn't post your letter in order to avoid your assessment of me as someone who only wants to "spin" things. Frankly, you're an idiot, and I don't know who you are, wouldn't recognize you on a street in broad daylight. So you're literally nothing in my world. But, your stupidity merits a good calling out and a breakdown, a demonstration of how stupid is as stupid does. Also, I'm sick of your flood of ugly, pointless, vile garbage in the AETV in-box, and if posting this latest bit of trash will end your disturbed stream of consciousness insanity to AETV, as you promised it would (but we'll see if you abide by your own promises, right?), it's totally, totally worth it. I hope you will keep your word and never contact anyone at AETV again.

Martin: And though we heathen types don't often say this...Amen!

Friday, June 10, 2011

The crazy, it's coming!

So, we've had a series of e-mails from some little troll (who may be a Poe or genuinely in need of psychiatric treatment) who clearly hates me. The brief summary (of what must be closing in on many dozens of printed pages of nastiness) is this:

1. Guy writes to explain how much I suck and how great everyone else on the show is.

2. Jeff and a few others rip into him, a bit, for some of his comments.

3. Guy writes in to explain why he hates me so much. It turns out he thought I was too nice to Ray Comfort and that I'm disgusting for letting this vile individual who protests soldiers' funerals get off without a rant.

4. I explain that he's a supreme idiot, because he stupidly confused Ray Comfort and the Phelps family and that he should try to know what he's talking about before he opens his mouth

5. He writes back, falling all over himself to apologize for the mistake and notes that he's especially embarrassed that he'd already contacted a lawyer to try to get me off the air or force the ACA to fire me. (Seriously. He was trying to legally limit my free speech because I wasn't enough of an asshole to someone whose free speech he found offensive.)

6. I send back a quick note explaining that given his complete misunderstanding of 1st Amendment rights, I'd rather have Shirley Phelps on the show than continue talking to him. This puts him over the edge and the lawyer threats are followed by threats of making YouTube videos to expose us...

And now, we got this. I'm posting it, unaltered and my only comment (other than LOL) is: aren't you glad you don't have to deal with this? (Apologies to some of my friends who probably do have to deal with stuff like this.)

The irony that this was spawned by an accusation that he didn't understand free speech is particularly amusing. He reminds me a bit of a Bond villain, thwarting his own plan via exposition:

You know what, you guys are right... Free speech conquers all!

Angry sickening hateful people should be able to dance on the coffins of dead veterans at the funeral, according to you. In fact, they should be able to piss on the coffins, right in front of the grieving family. According to you, people should be able to do whatever they want, no matter who they hurt, so why not, right?

You're absolutely right about everything. It's ok to verbally abuse people. It's all right to call them every name in the book, swear at them, belittle them, etc. So I suggest that you start treating your children in such a manner, if you truly feel there's nothing wrong with it. Free speech, right?

Would you treat your children in the same way you treat some of the callers? If not, then... why not? It's fun, evidently, and those spoiled little brats probably deserve it.

If you believe totally in free speech, then you won't mind if I write up an internet article exposing Matt Dillahunty as a 4-time convicted pedophile who has a thing for little boys, Russell Glasser as a transvestite who loves to sniff old men's armpits, and Jeff Dee as someone who likes to fuck cows and then roll around in their shit.

You want to take this to extremes? Fine. Get ready for the greatest demonstration for free speech you've ever seen.

Forget the show. I'm not even going to mention it by name. You don't deserve the publicitiy. Any clips I use in my documentary will have the title of the show and organization blurred out. Any vocal mention of the names will also be removed.

But as far as the hosts, I will name names. First and last, and their home addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, etc.

I will provide all those details. Free speech, right?

This is going to be fun!

According to you guys, my free speech trumps all your other rights, so don't you dare worry about those. You wouldn't let me worry about other people's rights when it came to OTHER PEOPLE. So now that this principle is going to be applied to you PERSONALLY, you have NO RIGHT TO COMPLAIN.

Fair is fair, right?

You want to mock people's other rights so badly, or minimize them, or pretend they don't exist... fine. The gloves are coming off. You're going to learn the hard way just how important your OTHER rights are.

You want privacy? Fuck that. Your full contact information is going up for all to see, as well as your relatives' information. We wouldn't want to leave them out. I've already got it all looked up and saved in Word document, for the 3 hosts I will be focusing on.

I could focus on Jen Peeples, too, since she is a lesbian who was once a girls swim coach, convicted of sexual abuse after she was caught fingering one of the underage girls after practice...

And let's find out what happens when the job market learns that Russell Glasser CHEATED to get his Master's Degree!

What will the public do when they learn that Jeff Dee once robbed a convenience store at gun point, and then beat up the OLD WOMAN minding the store, so badly that she was hospitalized for SIX WEEKS. He got off on a technicality after only 30 DAYS IN JAIL.

You want to see free speech, well you're going to get a huge dose of it!

And if, incidentally, the rage of the public mounts against all of you... oh well, at least my right to free speech has been upheld!

I'm going to dig up (or make up) stories about all your family members, too, young and old, to expose them for the nazi-loving, terrorist supporting little delinquents they all are.

Free speech, right?

You have nothing to say against any of this. You condone and support the right of sick religious scumbags to harass a veteran's grieving family, so you have to support my rights now, to do what I AM GOING TO DO.

Don't tell me I can't do this. I am doing it whether you like it or not.

I know the law surrounding slander and libel, and I know exactly how to frame and phrase everything so that it is legal and untouchable in a court of law. Sometimes a question mark in place of a period in the right place is all it takes! So don't think for a second that I haven't considered all the angles.

You obviously think that free speech is more important than other rights. Good.

Support my free speech in my documentary and internet expose... or you are all hypocrites.

See you at the movies!

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Open thread on episode #712

I'm not Hitchens, and so I'm often not as articulate when I speak as when I write. But here, after some thought, is what I find annoying about Charlie the Atheist Homophobe's arguments.

His obsession with words and their proper definitions would be a lot more persuasive if he weren't being so self-serving and hypocritical about how he argues his position. When he called Tracie and me two weeks ago, the burden of his argument was that the word homophobia has a colloquial meaning that has changed and evolved from its dictionary definition, so as to incorporate such things as "disgust" rather than strictly "irrational fear" (the meaning of "phobia" in a nutshell). Charlie was supportive of this evolution of homophobia's meaning, of course.

But he is not similarly supportive of a change and evolution of the definition of marriage. While homophobia gets to expand its meaning to include a variety of emotional states, marriage does not get to expand its meaning to include a variety of relationship commitments, including same-sex couples (even though the almighty dictionary says it can). And Charlie's whole justification for opposing any expansion of marriage's definition is an appeal to tradition and consensus, the very things he thinks should be ignored in the case of homophobia.

It's a pure double standard, of the sort that people who are smart enough to know better often hold, so as to convince themselves that an intellectually and morally offensive point of view is in fact intellectually and morally justified. But as Russell said, if the guy isn't actually out to impinge on anyone's rights, then his word games are just so much noise.

I personally still don't get why people so desperately latch onto these kinds of justifications. I'd find it ridiculously presumptuous of me to instruct a couple of strangers, who happened to be consenting adults, on what term they were allowed to apply to their personal relationship commitment, because "traditional" terms made me uncomfortable. If gay people want to be married and call it "marriage," how does that harm me? How does it negatively impact my life in any degree whatsoever? What's it got to do with me anyway? Nothing, that's what.

And yet Charlie is so desperate to justify his folly that he'll call my position irrational. Whatever. Seems to me the dude's on no more sensible, let alone honest, ground than Tony Perkins.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Torrential torrenty torrents!

A fellow named Brian Wilson (not that one) is currently hosting a colossal torrent of MP3s of Atheist Experience shows from 2004 through 2010. No idea if this includes my final episodes with Ashley Perrien from when I originally hosted (but it might as I left in March of '04). But it will include all of Ashley's shows and the first ones with Matt. So, you know, go grab 'em, seed 'em, spread the love happening. Thanks to Brian for hosting this.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

We get email

The Atheist Experience audience has made me extremely paranoid, since it is a virtual guarantee that every single theist caller or commenter who expresses their two cents will be called a Poe by somebody. To listen to them talk, you'd think that there is not a single True Christian to be found anywhere in the world, while the hills are teeming with atheists wearing jester caps who are keeping up a massive worldwide conspiracy to make you think that most people believe in God.

Even so, this email really takes the cake, so can you blame me for being a bit suspicious?

Subject: Please Read. Excuse my typos. This is what God spoke to me about personally. Heres my phone number , please call me anytime. [phone number redacted]

The Begining/Origin of Sin
Angels in heaven communicate using a different form of communication.
While speaking the celestial language,the form(the phonological or
orthographic sound or appearance of a word)of pronunciation, they
spoke in harmonys and understand eachother in harmony.They were
congruent with one another. Lucifer, Spoke in a very distinct harmony.
His language was not any different, but he regarded it with wonder
and delight. We become individuals do to the pace and speed in which
we process an idea or thought. Vision is a secondary form of sound; a
visable aspect whether inferior or superior, the apearence of sound.
In the celestial city, we are able to see at the sight of sound(Romans
10:17;So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of
Christ).Sound and vision travel at the speed of light, light bieng the
condition of perfect awareness which is translated or restated in our
realm as a form of energy. Lucifer was created perfect. Lucifer brung
into existance the first contradiction by convincing himself that the
speed in which he processed a thought was superior to all other angels
and brung into existance this idea, that the quantity fulfilling his
desire to contradict God by bringing such a thought into existance was
sufficient and enough to lead(take, carry out, replace) all others.
This idea is the origin of sin, and how it became extant. How can he
speak a perfect language and still confuse and attempt to convince
others against God? Lucifer gave a secondary definition to every word
he came across while attempting to nullify the barrier and extent of
knowing given to him by God which was spoken in the celestial city.
Angels were given ideal structure that impedes greater extent of
knowing. Created to worship, and praise God Almighty knowing of
nothing more, never under an unsatisfied state. Prefixes were made by
lucifer, found in over 6900 languages in the world, they give a
secondary definition. By presenting all the content of his newly
created cognition which apeared to be orginized he convinced a portion
of the angels of God to turn against the creator and originator
Himself, figuratively assuming he will reach a perfect state of
imperfection, creating choices in the way we regard situations or
topics, presenting perspectives, placing in our surrounding the option
of his false wisdom. We perfectly make decisions, we accept
imperfection by choice. Musical compositions that do not worship God
Almighty become the voice of the beast which speaks a language that
ravels and convinces to turn against God and steadily keeps the soul

The Conscience
Genesis Chapt. 1 Genesis Chapt. 2
Create Form
Male/Female Man/Woman
Angels(Perfect Word) Demons(Demonstration
of what not to act in)
Good(Beneficial for ones salvation) Bad(To be against,
contradict that which saves)
Right Wrong
Spirit Flesh
1st Corinthians 15:47
The FIRST man(Flesh,wrong doing) is earthly.The SECOND man is heavenly(Spirit)
Genesis Chapt 2:4
These are the generations/origins/account/
period) of the heavens and the earth when they were CREATED. In THE
DAY that JEHOVA God MADE earth and heaven.
"The Father, The Son, The Holy Spirit/ Satan, The Beast, The
False Prophet"
"For the mind of the flesh is death, but the mind of the
Spirit is life"
"the body is dead because of sin, but the spirit is alive because of
"But indeed, O MAN, who are you to reply against God?"
"Will the thing formed ask him who formed it"
"That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of
the Spirit is spirit"
"For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh;
but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit."
"Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are [these]; Adultery,
fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,"

Ask yourself, Why would God contradict himself? Genesis 6:6
"And it repented the Lord God that he had made man on the earth, and
it grieved him at his heart"? God "created" something He regrets
making? That would make Him imperfect! Jeremiah 26:13 "The Lord
repented him of the evil which he had pronounced against them." Exodus
32:14 "And the Lord God repented of the evil which he thought to do
unto his people." Impossible. Lucifer does not dress in black, He is
beautiful, and tries not to be LIKE God, but to be God himself. The
speed in which he processed any of his thoughts were created favorably
and delt with distinctively. These anthropopathic verses were inspired
NOT by God, but have been interpreted by a faulty mind over the years
and have changed and has given a different significance to the
original meaning/definition. Our insignificance doesnt allow us to
accept that because we have been clothed with this flesh, a formation
of the enemy, it is not possible for the enemy to "create" anything or
any sort.

I reply:


Please forgive me, all the Bible quotes made my eyes glaze over and I couldn't read your message thoroughly enough to see if you were serious.

You see, we get self-styled comedians writing in all the time, atheists who think it would be funny to imitate a crazy person who claims to personally speak with God. Unfortunately, "Poe's Law" very much holds true in the sense that you cannot fake the crazy so strongly that you can't be taken seriously. Hence, if you're trying to be funny, the humor is being lost on your audience.

With that in mind, would you be so kind as to tell me whether you're just pretending to be a crazy person who talks to god, or you're the real deal?

He replies:

Excuse me? How faulty can your way of reasoning be! You think I'm kidding around with you? A JOKE? Please read what I wrote, that's is absolutely nothing more than my attempt to understand what Love has spoken to me. What I say is in no way a joke..

I think we got ourselves a genuine loon here, but I'm sure the Poe Theorists among you will be eager to disagree.

Final hours for CampQuest - $10,000 matching offer!

So, CampQuest has announced that the The Stiefel Freethought Foundation has pledged a matching offer of up to $5,000 per team!

At this point, only CampQuest can really "win". PZ has played the "heads I win, tails they lose gambit" and it looks like I'll be doing a show in drag. (That'll be a great opportunity to make a few points that I've wanted to make for quite some time.)

If you haven't donated, now is the perfect time. If you have donated, thank you very much and don't hesitate to maximize your happiness by donating again!

And luck...I'm sticking the widgets right here!