Monday, August 29, 2011

Open thread on Episode #724

Don and Russell talk abortion and sex ed, then Mike in Detroit tries to make the case that following God's law fixes everything. Fun time had by all. Have at it.


  1. Just finished listening to it, very good episode. Mike was one of the best callers I've heard in a long time, typical old school crazy caller, every time you got him in a corner he made an excuse. I would have been happy if you had kept him on for the full episode.

  2. Well, if everyone would just stop driving then auto accidents would stop happening. Banning normal and healthy human behavior is impossible, and in any case we have solutions to avoid the worst of the consequences, so just saying "follow my imaginary friend's rules and the problems go away" just sounds stupid and thoughtless.

    Also, in what "context" is ripping fetuses out of pregnant women an acceptable action?

  3. That was a wonderful ad hominem he made.

    Also, if we spayed/neutered everyone, that'd end the abortion issue as well, AND unlike the abstinence-only approach that he's advocating, this would actually be 100% effective, all without having to degrade our mental capacity to accomplish it.

    Let's do that!

    What's that you say about freedom? Oh. I forgot, we're not a totalitarian state where we can force draconian measures to solutions, so there's no point in suggesting it.

  4. I also loved his rationalization that the reason that religious regions have worse abortion rates is because they aren't "true christians".

    .. so then it's not about following a set of rules, but rather being a "true christian"?

    Talk about impossible goals... how about we sit down like adults and actually deal with reality on reality's terms?

  5. I hear the phrase "out of context" so often in regards to Bible passages that I'm starting to think that believers just don't know what that phrase means. Like Joe said, what context is ripping fetuses out of pregnant women acceptable? It's like their pastors have instructed them "whenever someone quotes any verse of the Bible to you in an attempt to discredit it, just respond by saying 'out of context.' That will at least confuse them long enough for you to change the subject."

  6. I.J. You nailed what I was hoping the hosts would say, but I think they were too carried away by his nonsense- I wanted to hear what Mike would say if they asked "well what do you think we should do when people don't 'avoid fornication' and there is a pregnancy?" Just saying "it wouldn't happen if..." isn't realistic and is just a cop out to avoid dealing with the problem. If everyone followed the laws and didn't steal anything, we could cut our police force by a radical amount, should we go ahead and do that?

  7. I think they use "out of context" incorrectly, too. They mean something more along the lines of "in between the lines." In other words, he needs someone to come in and say "well, I see how it looks, but what he really meant was this." My parents would try to "put things into context" but saying "this was written 2000 years ago in a way people back then were able to comprehend." Which is obviously selling God's communication skills dreadfully short.

  8. "Which is obviously selling God's communication skills dreadfully short."

    I'm keeping that one!

  9. And ultimately, it is all a cheat! The Bible says what it says, and yet we're supposed to understand a "context" that explains away the contradictions, the evil bits, the obvious nonsense, and the unscientific parts. Yet there's little in the way of objective guidance as to how we're supposed to figure out which bits are fact, which are parable, which rules are still in effect and which aren't, who we should or shouldn't stone to death. "Big Book of Multiple Choice" barely begins to cover it.

    And the best part is what h8uall pointed out, which is that claims of things being "out of context" are never followed by any explanation of what the passages are actually supposed to me, laid out in a rational and logical manner. It is just a way to duck having to deal with the fact that the Bible is a fairy tale written by a superstitious, bloodthirsty Bronze Age cult, and reflects the views and values of its authors.

  10. It should be a rule of thumb that if an apologist brings up the "out of context" get-out-of-jail-free-card that they are asked to explain the context for which it makes sense/is good, and to not let them continue until they've done this.

  11. This was definitely one of the best shows. The hosts are always great, but the callers make the show, and this time they did not disappoint.

  12. Augh, that "abortion & HIV is down to fornication" argument: INFURIATING!

    According to this guy, the "christian" plan, as I understood it, is to only have sex with one person (of the opposite gender) AFTER saying some words in front of some people in nice clothes. And then bam! unwanted pregnancy isn't a problem, and neither are STDs!

    I'msorrywhat? Is he unaware that even married couples don't want a baby *every time* they fuck? Most people are not quiverfull devotees, and most women would suffer severe health problems and/or death if they carried that many pregnancies, even with modern medicine. Many married couples choose abortion as a family planning option when/if their primary form of birth control fails.

  13. I have to disagree, the way first caller was handled was painful. You guys bounced around from radioactive dating, genesis to the age of the world to quoting scripture and everything in between without addressing his point.

    I think the correct response would have been agreeing with him to a certain extent. If everyone practiced abstinence, the STD rate WOULD go down!

    The response should have been A - How often does that pan out? And B - That doesn't lead to a happy marriage - look at the divorce rates!

    Theists poke fun at us for 'worshiping science'. The way the caller was handled invites that criticism.

  14. I had never heard of the Ica stones the caller mentioned and for anyone interested has a really good article about them...they are the usual psuedohistory drivel, but it's still pretty interesting

  15. The show was great fun. But I think you let Mike slide at the beginning by not asking him why he believes the bible in the first place.

    A second quibble will probably sound like nit picking, but I think it would be best if you guys would not laugh out load at what callers say (unless they are trying to be funny of course). As absurd as some of the comments are, it sounds smarmy and unprofessional. I know their ideas are ridiculous, but no one will be convinced by snickering.

  16. I know their ideas are ridiculous, but no one will be convinced by snickering.

    Fe fi fo fum, I smell the blood of an accomodationalist!

    Being laughed at is effective on some people to wake them up.

    (An in case it's not clear, I'm joking about the accomodationalist part)

  17. After watching this week's show I have to admit I think the first caller wasn't answered properly. He asserted that if we all followed (his) god's plan there would be no more abortions, but instead of giving an answer you argued back-and-forth over other dubious aspects of the bible which, although important, weren't pertinent to the question.

    A better answer would be to point out how a Christian-based birth control plan will ultimately fail because it doesn't take into account the behavior of the human animal, known more colloquially as "human nature." By separating man from animal, Christianity ignores the evolutionary behavior in all of us, including the need to procreate, along with many others.

    People will have sex whether or not they're married or indeed even ready to assume the responsibilities of child rearing, and just saying "Don't do it because God says so" isn't enough to stop that urge. As Don's statistics showed, even the most pious and devout Christian society can't overcome our evolutionary tendencies, and putting a Christian birth control plan in place leaves transgressors without anywhere to go to get help.

    A secular birth control plan says, "Here are the rational, logical reasons why you shouldn't have sex before you're ready to accept the responsibilities of child birth, but if you want to do it anyway, use some form of contraception." It also says, "If you didn't use contraception and find yourself with an unwanted pregnancy, here are the choices in front of you to deal with it." A Christian birth control plan ignores this and will therefore always fail.

  18. Were you there? *pounds head*

    Moses wasn't there, either. The Bible is true because it says it's true.

    "It keeps changing." Uhhhh yeah, that's how science is SUPPOSED to work! How would it change my day-to-day life if evidence came about that changed the date of the origins of the universe, Earth, or human race? Not one little bit. but... if you believe that all of the Bible is correct (despite being full of errors), then changing a "fact" is devastating.

    This is why China is beating the crap out of us economically. They aren't fettered by this nonsense.

  19. @John: Come on John; Listen to it again and properly this time. They did say that and he responded to it by tossing out the no true scotsman fallacy.

  20. @Petr: I'll have to watch again. Maybe it just got lost among the other comments. And to be fair, I was watching it at work, so maybe I was a little distracted.

  21. If everyone would just stop overeating, there would be no obesity problem! After all, anyone who overeats isn't following the "don't overeat diet plan". It's 100% effective! I just the solved obesity problem!

    Oh wait, a lot of people won't do that due to human nature, so my plan is unrealistic. Rats.

  22. "Doc, it hurts every time I do this."

    "Then don't do that!"

    Hey, I have an idea...instead of evryone on Earth being horny and miserable, let's go with what works and promote safe health practices. Pretty simple if you ask me.

  23. I know you probably didn't have the statistics in front of you (and neither do I), but he seemed to think that married women don't have abortions. He said this over and over, and it was never addressed. I think the figure is around 16% nationally in the U.S.

  24. Two things; the earth is 4.5 billion years old, or thereabouts. The quote about the Precambrian rabbits is JBS Haldane.

  25. Well, if everyone would just stop driving then auto accidents would stop happening.

    Great minds, Joe. That is exactly my go-to rebuttal whenever anyone starts an "abstinence is the only safe sex" line of reasoning. I'm hereby advocating abstinence-only drivers-ed programs.

    It's like their pastors have instructed them "whenever someone quotes any verse of the Bible to you in an attempt to discredit it, just respond by saying 'out of context.'

    Are you, by any chance, a fan of NonStampCollector, h8?

  26. Of course Mike the caller was talking about disease from sexual content. Why did God give us other diseases like smallpox? What commandment were we breaking when people were dying of that? And did the Christians complain about getting rid of smallpox because then people would (fill in the blank). What commandment are people breaking when they get malaria? Did God command that everyone sleep with netting over them?

  27. And did the Christians complain about getting rid of smallpox because then people would (fill in the blank).

    Some did, yes. See "A Sermon Against The Dangerous And Sinful Practice Of Inoculation," delivered by Rev. Edmund Massey, July 8, 1722, re: smallpox vaccination.

    In a nutshell, vaccination denies YHWH the ability to smite us with infections whenever he so desires. Almighty, indeed.

  28. About the Ica stones that one caller mentioned. Basically, in some prehispanic grave sites in Peru, stones were found depicting dragons and giant snakes and all kinds of mythological creatures. Later, stones appeared depicting dinosaurs and ancient astronauts. These have all turned out to be fakes created by locals to sell to tourists.

  29. I also wasn't in love with the responses given to Mike (almost wrote Mark, whoops) but then, I wasn't the one sitting in front of the cameras having a live debate with the guy.

    Ideally, I think, I think it might've been interesting to rebut his whole "if we just did what God tells us, this wouldn't be a problem" with examples of biblical law being absolutely reprehensible.

    ...Oh, but they did try that, specifically bringing up the "So a woman should marry her rapist" thing, and he accused them of taking things out of context. I remember that verse; it wasn't an allegory, it was one of the numerous nonsensical laws and regulations, written as literally and factually as the specifications for how priests should dress. So I guess that might not have worked. Hurm.

  30. Just wanted to point out an error when Mike from Detroit was speaking on the last episode of the show.

    Don and Russell both argued and stated at least three times the earth is 14 billion years old. Now the universe might be (give or take a bit) but the Earth isn't, the evidence tends to point nearer to 4.5 Billion years or so.

  31. The first caller kept on saying that if everyone stopped "fornicating" before marriage then there would be no AIDS, abortion etc. Being that such a suggestion has no bearing in reality (try getting teenagers to not have sex with each other when their bodies are a hormonal tempest)we can simply counteract it with another ideal, and arguably more probable and practical, situation: if everybody used condoms outside of committed relationships, there would also be none of those social ills. Plus, everybody gets to be happy by having lots of sex and having a set of bedtime skills by the time they hook up with their life partner.

  32. Here's what gets me about the first caller:

    1. Someone mentioned it before, but yes, while he kept stating that basically "everything would be fixed if we followed God's laws" what he was actually stating was that "everything would be fixed if we were all true Christians." He finally had to admit this when cornered. Blatant shifting of the goal post.

    2. He plays the oh-so-typical tact of saying "yeah I know that verse, yeah I know that argument, yeah I've heard that one before" but then just completely ignores the argument or point, says it doesn't matter, doesn't even begin to address it, and claims victory in his own mind. It's beyond frustrating.

  33. I looks up the DinoStones.

    Thanks second caller guy, I needed a good laugh.

  34. The problem with the Mike conversation is that I believe Russell and Don overestimate his intelligence.

  35. Of course he contradicts himself--at one point he insists that if everyone followed God's law, there'd be no need for abortion, but BY HIS OWN ADMISSION, all those Christians who fail to live up to those standards aren't true Christians, and he hand-waves it away by claiming the bible says "narrow is the gate."

    Dude, EVEN THE BIBLE says abstinence only doesn't work!

    Here's a good rundown of the supposed "accurate depictions of dinosaurs." They ain't.

  36. I don't care what the "Context" of a law is. The point is:
    There is NO context that makes forcing a rape victim to marry her rapist moral or justified.
    I don't know how he backs track into "You have to look at the context, history, meaning".

  37. Will people stop the "the victim is forced to marry the rapist" already? Please do some fact-checking. That's not what the passage says. It says the exact opposite: The rapist is forced to marry the victim. Just look it up. (Deut 22:28-29 if you didn't know.)

    Why is the rapist forced to marry the victim? The context is quite clear (even if you disagree with it): The man robbed her of her virginity, and nobody will want her as their wife anymore, so the rapist has to take care of her from that time forward. The form of the command implies that the victim can refuse if she wants.

    You can justly argue that this law doesn't apply nowadays anymore, but that's a different issue. The question is about what the passage says, not if it's a good law nowadays.

    Please concentrate on the *real* problems in the bible. Concentrating on straw men only gives good counter-arguments to the apologetics.

  38. @Warp

    Does the victim have a choice? If not, its equivalent. If the rapist has no choice but to marry the victim, does that not mean that the victim has no choice but to marry the rapist? Typically, the women don't have a choice. In fact, that passage says (at least in my ESV) "..and she shall be his wife". It doesn't say "unless she doesn't want to". Sounds pretty forced to me.

    .. which is part of the point. It's not a question of whether a context exists. It's question of whether the context makes it right.

    The Bible could have promoted a set of morals where women weren't mere property, who have the ability to continue in life undiminished despite not being a virgin anymore. The Bible does the opposite and focuses way too much on virginity and ownership.

    The context for that passage makes sense only in that it's repairing a screwed up context for which the Bible helped propagate. In this way, the "context" has failed to right the wrong.

    I realize that society itself had that mentality, but if we're going to discuss whether the Bible itself has good moral rules, it should have tried to address the problems incurred for women, at least.

    So the answer is, yes, the victim is forced to marry the rapist, and no, there is no context within the Bible for which it's made good.

  39. The man robbed her of her virginity, and nobody will want her as their wife anymore

    If that were the case, Deut. 24:2 would be moot.

  40. ...nobody will want her as their wife anymore...

    So why didn't god do somthing about that instead? Why didn't god just say that rape doesn't count towards losing your virginity? After all, Mary was raped and she's still counted as a virgin.

  41. that passage says (at least in my ESV) "..and she shall be his wife".

    26 English translations, none of which contain any provision allowing for the victim's refusal of compulsory marriage.

  42. What I found funny about the call was that Don had just finished a presentation in which he made it clear that abstinence-only programs are ineffective. So the caller advocated 'avoiding fornication', as if somehow changing the wording magically makes it effective.

  43. Interesting presentation by Don. However, I think this presentation, as with the position of many atheists on the issue of abortion, ignores the fundamental issue of whether abortion is right or wrong. You presented info about abortion laws in Europe vs US, and positions on contraception and sex education, and debated passages from the bible. All interesting, but all dodge the basic question - is abortion simply removal of tissue or is it murder. I don't know the "right" answer, but I'd like to hear more rigorous debate on that question rather than liberal talking points or biblical nonsense. I offer some starting points to the discussion. The fetus is alive and it is the product of human sperm and egg. Is it, therefore, a living human and killing it is murder? Can we define a limit when the fetus assumes its humanity? Perhaps. I personally don't believe that one minute after conception it is a human being as it has no defining characteristics of a human - no brain, no heart, no nerves, no thoughts, etc. On the other end of pregnancy, one minute before full-term birth, it clearly is a human being. At some point in the process it transformed from "tissue" to human being. At what point, ethically, does the the right of the newly-minted human to live (the ultimate human right) surpass the mother's right to control what happens within and to her body (also a fundamental right)? I don't know the answers to these questions, but this is the crux of the debate. Stats about Europe and debates about biblical passages, while interesting, sidestep the fundamental issue.

  44. Marc,

    Don was not presenting a case for or against the morality of abortion. His point was: If we accept that abortion is something to be avoided, how best would that be accomplished?

  45. @Warp

    Leaving out the woman’s consent is a glaring omission. If the law is “kill anyone who works on the Sabbath”, then a proviso like “unless they apologize” has to be explicit. Even if the extreme liberty is given that the woman’s consent is needed, the poor wording precedent is very problematic in believing other biblical verses at face value.

  46. This comment has been removed by the author.

  47. No kind of STD/AIDS problem would be solved if everyone were limited to one sexual partner. Some people have AIDS so even in a perfectly monogamous partnership, one person can obviously still contract AIDS if their partner has it. If they have children, the children my be born with AIDS which they will pass on to their perfectly monogamous lifetime partners. AIDS still spreads, just more slowly. I can't think of any way to reverse this other than a cure, preventing people with AIDS from having sex, or protection (gasp!).

    Unsurprisingly, the "no fornication" argument makes no sense.

  48. @marc
    While I somewhat agree with what the gist of what you are saying, a line needs drawn somewhere near where there is a consensus opinion. I don't know how the morality can be discussed with people who think that morality can only be derived from a super being who only speaks through vague and contradictory ancient literature.

    I don't think it would be a legitimate "interpretation" to assume that the victim of rape had the choice of declining marriage. I don't doubt someone would claim this, but it ignores both what is written and the greater context of women's rights at the time. You claim a rapist being forced to marry is the exact opposite of the victim being forced. I disagree. there is no difference from the perspective of the victim. If a marriage is forced, it's forced on both, even if the intention was supposedly good. The road to hell and all. I understand the pedantry, and I agree we should be careful in explaining our objections. But no amount of reading between the lines makes this a good rule.

  49. What I'm trying to say is that putting so much emphasis in this particular verse is not the best approach at debating the Bible's morality. The interpretation "the victim is forced to marry the rapist" is too easily dismissed because it's completely plausible to note that "what the law is actually saying is that the rapist must take responsibility for his actions: He 'soiled' the woman, who is now much less likely to find a husband, so now he has to take care of her. It's a question of responsibility. The right for the woman to refuse is implied by this. Nobody is forcing the woman to the marriage. It's a law aimed at the rapist, not at the woman."

    You can discuss the literal meaning of the verses all you want, and cling to the lack of explicit mention of the woman having a choice, but that's not very convincing to a believer at all.

    In other words, this is not one of the best verses to attack when discussing the Bible's morality. It's not very convincing.

  50. He 'soiled' the woman, who is now much less likely to find a husband, so now he has to take care of her.

    Which, again, is thanks for the morbid context that the Bible helps set up. If it had a commandment or other rule saying that women were people too and that they weren't worth less because they weren't virgins, then this "fix" wouldn't be necessary in the first place.

    It's a question of responsibility. The right for the woman to refuse is implied by this.

    How in the world do you figure that? I have no idea how you get from A to B.

    Nobody is forcing the woman to the marriage. It's a law aimed at the rapist, not at the woman.

    The entire context of the Bible is such that women are property. They're often given away by their fathers as bribes or gifts.

    The Bible is forcing the rapist to marry her (and vice versa). What part of "the man who lay with her shall give to her father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife" implies any kind of choice whatsoever, on either side?

    You can discuss the literal meaning of the verses all you want, and cling to the lack of explicit mention of the woman having a choice

    Yes, how dare we think that just because there's no mention, or implication or any kind of hint of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the Bible, that it isn't somehow magically "implied" that they're in there.

    It's very much a valid point to make, for those who are saying that the rules are "Good" to point out one that isn't. And yes, it can help some people out of their religion to point out atrocious verses that they hadn't considered. It happens all the time. It might not work for everyone, but you don't know who that'll be until you try.

  51. JT, you are missing my point. Please read what I wrote again. All of it.

    (And btw, you are acting in a very dogmatic way. One would expect better from a rationally thinking skeptic.)

  52. @ Warp
    Upon deeper reflection of this, what sane woman would EVER consent to marrying her rapist? Given any other reasonable option, how can marriage be considered the default desire of a rape victim? What a grand lifetime commitment that will turn out to be.

    As JT and I both point out, bible verses cannot be defended with additional unstated “implications”. The version you are defending is vaguely defensible, but it is not what the bible verse says. “Shall” does not mean “if the woman is agreeable”, and it is bizarre to think that she ever would be in any case. This is getting perilously close to the "out of context" excuse, used when you need the Bible to say something other than what it does.

    “Say, your daughter is very beautiful!”
    “Oh, thank you”
    “Here is $50.”
    “Why did you . . . Hey! Where are you going!?”
    "Don't worry, she can marry me afterwards if she wants to."

  53. @Warp

    I get your point -
    1) We've got the verse wrong
    2) ..such that it's not useful to use
    3) ...and there are better arguments.

    I don't doubt the third point, but here's the thing.

    1) You're wrong about getting the verse incorrect - as has been clearly explained to you by actual evidence, that has only been countered by baseless assertions about fantasy implications that you are apparently unable to explain.

    2) You're wrong about not having any effect for the cause.

    So you're missing my point - your point is invalid.

    I'm curious why you think I'm being dogmatic. Sure, I'm discussing Christian dogma, but pointing out that you're making assertions that have zero manifestation in a chunk of text and clear contradict the overarching context isn't dogmatic any more than science is when refuting someone who makes an absurd statement that's not backed up by any evidence.

    Skeptical conclusions are necessarily established with evidence, not because someone thinks that something is implied for no particular reason.

  54. I wish he called when Matt was on. Matt who understands the bible better than Don or Russel would not have let him use the "out of context" copout and would have made him clarify the context. He would have destroyed the fundie.

  55. Hey guys, love the show, you do a great a job and I'm always impressed with everyone's handling of the live calls.

    I do feel that you let that dominionist piece of sh*t get away with the "if everyone followed god's law there would be no abortion" BS.

    Let's grant him the first part and say that everyone is following god's law, no matter how unrealistic it is in practice, which according to what I could tell from him means:

    1. No sex before marriage and 2. all sexual relations are for reproductive purposes only.

    Even following those practies does not prevent ectopic pregnancy, extreme fetal abnormalities or other life threatening complications that arrive during pregnancy that threaten the life of the mother and leave the fetus dead in utero.
    And with 10-25% of all pregnancies ending in spontaneous abortions a.k.a. miscarriages that makes god the biggest abortionist of all time.
    So even under god's law abortion would still be a reality.

  56. my band sings a song about abortion. it's called 10 seconds. Our website is it's the #1 best secular argument against abortion and beautifully worded. I will always be pro-choice but anti abortion. Martin, i hope you don't axe my post. Enjoy a nice song dude!

  57. Wow! Spam alert, guys.

  58. @marc
    There are laws that dictate the time limit a pregnant woman has in order to do an abortion (23 weeks from conception, IIRC), because if you go beyond that point, the fetus has a chance of survival outside of the womb. From week 24 and on, the woman cannot get an abortion unless her life would be in danger due to her pregnancy.

  59. I think that the FIRST thing you should have said to the caller who claimed that we only need abortion because of extramarital sex should have been "say what?"
    Married couples also need to practice birth control, and married couples also need to use abortion to end pregnancies when they cannot support another child, or when there is a medical problem with the pregnancy. We can't all reproduce like the Duggars. There just isn't enough space and resources for everyone to have 20 kids.


PLEASE NOTE: The Atheist Experience has moved to a new location, and this blog is now closed to comments. To participate in future discussions, please visit

This blog encourages believers who disagree with us to comment. However, anonymous comments are disallowed to weed out cowardly flamers who hide behind anonymity. Commenters will only be banned when they've demonstrated they're nothing more than trolls whose behavior is intentionally offensive to the blog's readership.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.