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March 30, 2011 2:31 PM   Subscribe

Ray Comfort calls the Atheist Experience. The Atheist Community of Austin run a live call-in show on public access. Over the years, they have challenged Ray Comfort to call in. This week, he finally does, and talks to AE hosts Matt Dillahunty and Russell Glasser. The only banana joke is visual. Ray reacts. Matt D reacts. AE fans react.

Previously: The Blue on Ray.

Iron Chariots Wiki on Ray.

More on Evolution and Creationism.
posted by jenlovesponies (105 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Poor Ray is always going to be second banana to Kirk.
posted by kmz at 2:48 PM on March 30, 2011


Wait, that's a 60 minute amateur axe-grinding atheist video-blog that I'm not going to sit through.

Can you link straight to the money shot?
posted by orthogonality at 2:55 PM on March 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


Wow. Their bumper music is AWFUL. What genre is that? '90s pop-whine-core indie? I would think an athiest show wouldn't use christian-rock, but that's exactly what it. But Ray Comfort is fun: "We don't have belief... we have THE POWER OF CHRIST"
posted by fuq at 3:03 PM on March 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Debating with someone like him is rather pointless, because he doesn't agree on basic principles of logic, reason and evidence. He starts and ends with the Bible. You'd have to focus on attacking the Bible itself as a basis for knowledge to get anywhere, I guess, and there's 0 chance that he's ever going to go there.
posted by empath at 3:05 PM on March 30, 2011 [14 favorites]


Also, I suppose it's not worth pointing out that Ray Comfort makes a living from being wrong.
posted by empath at 3:16 PM on March 30, 2011 [6 favorites]


Southern Comfort on the rocks.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:18 PM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


> What genre is that? '90s pop-whine-core indie?

coupled with that horrific space-atom-earth-graphic I'm scared straight.
posted by dabitch at 3:22 PM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, I suppose it's not worth pointing out that Ray Comfort makes a living from being wrong.

How can a banana be wrong, yet feel so right (to fit in my hands, for peeling and then eating)?
posted by filthy light thief at 3:22 PM on March 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


My lumbar region would like to have a word with proponents of intelligent design.
posted by Stagger Lee at 3:24 PM on March 30, 2011 [12 favorites]


Man, as a Christian, I have to say: I sure hope they tore Ray Comfort to tiny, tiny pieces.
posted by koeselitz at 3:25 PM on March 30, 2011 [6 favorites]


To summarize Mefi's reaction:

echo, echo, echo.
posted by oddman at 3:27 PM on March 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


Heh. My father once told me, "Never get into a battle of wits with an unarmed man. It only ends desperately."

For the most part, these guys are incredibly respectful of someone that's talking flat nonsense and spinning around in a morass of fallacies and assertions, at least in the ten minutes that I've listened to so far.

The basic problem is that Comfort isn't arguing in good faith, and perhaps doesn't even understand what good faith argumentation means.

And it is galling that Comfort represents himself as emblematic of Christianity as a whole, or of Christian thinkers, or even of theists as a whole (in opposition to atheists) when his beliefs do not represent the best knowledge of his field. It's like listening to a Royals fan proclaim that the Royals are going to sweep the World Series based on the strength of his fandom and that he hasn't eaten any Fritos all off-season.

With regard to faith, attempts to "prove" faith will always be inherently impossible for anyone willing to take a reasonable approach to the issue, and should be clear on their face that this is an impossible, self-contradicting project. Live with faith or don't, but stop conflating the mish-mash of mythology, pre-modern ontology and various vestigial vagaries of contemporary anti-modernism with a coherent philosophy of being.

American theology in particular, but theology in general, would be much better served if the default realization was that faith is inherently unprovable. When they start asking him about why anyone should believe this stuff without a personal experience with it, he should simply say, "You're right. I'd like to have more people experience this, and it does take a certain openness, but there's absolutely no reason at all to believe it if you don't have the personal experience of faith."

There's just so much that follows from that realization — that practically nothing in the objective, outside world should be based on subjective experiences of faith, because you're going to be forced to deal with people who haven't had that feeling, and to be fair you have to govern them equally well. While this doesn't prevent people from acting privately in accordance with their faith, it puts a pretty high bar against any public action, and we'd all be better off for it.
posted by klangklangston at 3:27 PM on March 30, 2011 [57 favorites]


There must be a word for this, i.e. the sort of person (on both sides) who gets off on arguing with people who are operating in an entirely different sphere. I had little taste for it in college, and less for it now.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:28 PM on March 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


klangklangston: “The basic problem is that Comfort isn't arguing in good faith, and perhaps doesn't even understand what good faith argumentation means.”

Agreed. I'd go further; the problem is that Comfort doesn't understand faith at all. He's a heretic, plain and simple.
posted by koeselitz at 3:30 PM on March 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


Masochist? That sounds like the right word.
posted by tmt at 3:30 PM on March 30, 2011


Yeah, I could only listen to it for about 10 minutes. I just got tired of both sides talking right past each other.
posted by benito.strauss at 3:30 PM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's real easy to mock the banana argument without addressing it, but a lot harder to deny that bananas are clearly designed for us by a higher power.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 3:30 PM on March 30, 2011 [9 favorites]


benito.strauss: “Yeah, I could only listen to it for about 10 minutes. I just got tired of both sides talking right past each other.”

Gah, I got to seven minutes myself. This is just painful. The god Ray Comfort argues for is no kind of god at all; that god is a muddle, an enormous ball of silliness and stupidity. He's no Christian at all. I'd say he's a perverted sort of animist, but that would be an abhorrent insult to animists everywhere.
posted by koeselitz at 3:34 PM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Spoiler alert:



















No one changed their mind.
posted by Daddy-O at 3:37 PM on March 30, 2011 [21 favorites]


"Agreed. I'd go further; the problem is that Comfort doesn't understand faith at all. He's a heretic, plain and simple."

Contra my previous statement about acting on faith, I would support burning Comfort at the stake as a heretic. I'm a complicated person.

(The advice I got from my former roommate who was studying to be an Episcopal priest when I was canvassing for gay marriage was that when I got shit from conservative Christians to just call them heretics and remind them that it was only slinking off to the colonies that prevented them being dealt with the first time.)

"He's no Christian at all. I'd say he's a perverted sort of animist, but that would be an abhorrent insult to animists everywhere."

And perverts!

Yeah, he thinks God and magic are the same thing (a pretty common mistake) and confuses magical thinking with faith in God. They can go together, but they're not the same.
posted by klangklangston at 3:42 PM on March 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


No one changed their mind.

Ray Comfort is never going to change his mind. But if this interview instills doubt in just one fundamentalist, it has accomplished something.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 3:49 PM on March 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


I would support burning Comfort at the stake as a heretic.

Me, I would support burning Comfort at the stake as an alternative source of energy.
posted by benito.strauss at 3:50 PM on March 30, 2011 [8 favorites]


As a fan of The Atheist Experience and especially Matt Dillahunty and Tracie Harris, I was a bit disappointed they did this. Comfort is an absurd joke and a complete lunatic, and he just loves the attention. They shouldn't have given it to him. Even most Christians don't take the gibbering, ignorant fuckwit seriously.

There are many hilarious and occasionally wonderful clips of TAE out there. This, predictably, was not one of them.

And yeah, their theme music is fucking hideous. I wish they'd do something about that.
posted by Decani at 3:59 PM on March 30, 2011


By the way, on one episode of TAE, Dillahunty gives the best ever response to a caller who tries the "Bananas fit in your hand" line. He retorts, "They fit in your butt, too."

Come on. It doesn't deserve anything less puerile, does it? :-)
posted by Decani at 4:09 PM on March 30, 2011 [21 favorites]


I tried listening to this, but what they were doing is like trying to explain physics to a monkey. The monkey doesn't care, is incapable of understanding, and only wants to throw shit at everyone anyway.

I appreciate that they tried. But Comfort's basic premises are so warped, his knowledge of basic logic, rationality and science so deficient, that he can't even recognise when they have bested him.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:09 PM on March 30, 2011 [10 favorites]


I've said it before: bananas are intelligently designed, by humans. Wild bananas are gross and inedible.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 4:11 PM on March 30, 2011 [24 favorites]


To summarize Mefi's reaction:

echo, echo, echo.


What would you prefer? There's nothing to engage with here. Comfort is a joke to atheists and Christians alike.
posted by kmz at 4:14 PM on March 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


To summarize Mefi's reaction:

echo, echo, echo.


I apologise on behalf of MetaFilter for silencing your alternative viewpoint with our magical mind powers
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 4:17 PM on March 30, 2011 [10 favorites]


Wild bananas are gross and inedible.

Indeed. Pic here for those who want to see the difference.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 4:17 PM on March 30, 2011


Why do people insist on arguing with atheists? Gah.

American theology in particular, but theology in general, would be much better served if the default realization was that faith is inherently unprovable

Klangklangston is right. Besides, the minute faith is provable, it ceases to be faith.

Jesus Himself REFUSED to prove Himself to the Pharisees. He could have, but he did NOT.

So why do Christians think it's a good idea to argue with people about it????
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:24 PM on March 30, 2011 [6 favorites]


Never wrestle with a pig. You just get filthy, and the pig likes it.

Can't be said enough.
posted by tspae at 4:25 PM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think this is actually interesting, and worth everyone's attention because it is a case study in the Dunning-Kruger effect. Many people have commented that Ray Comfort doesn't have enough of an understanding of logic, science, whatever to know when he has been proven wrong, and thus keeps clinging on to his beliefs because, well, he doesn't know that he's too stupid to know what he is talking about.

I think the universe put him here just to give everyone a concrete example of this.
posted by daq at 4:29 PM on March 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


By the way, on one episode of TAE, Dillahunty gives the best ever response to a caller who tries the "Bananas fit in your hand" line. He retorts, "They fit in your butt, too."

Here's the full conversation.

Bonus: It was a prank call, and Matt and "Eve" (the caller) are now engaged to be married. Weird world, huh?
posted by teraflop at 4:30 PM on March 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Why do people insist on arguing with atheists? Gah.


posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:24 AM on March 31


Atheists are people too, you know. :-)

But seriously, why not? People argue about religion because it is huge, and it has huge effects on people, on progress, on the world. And atheists have a particular problem with the sort of unsupported faith (a tautology, I know) you describe because if we can demand something is true simply because we have faith it is... that way lies madness. Utter madness. Why is the person who says he has faith the Jews are evil or that Elvis is alive or that we must drink the Kool-Aid any less reputable than those who say Jesus died for our sins?

Religion and faith will cause arguments as long as they continue to exist. And that, sadly, will be for a very, very long time.
posted by Decani at 4:36 PM on March 30, 2011 [14 favorites]


daq: That is an excellent point, and...

They are actually having two different conversations here I think. Their unspoken foundations and criteria are so different that it is only by coincidence and mutual misunderstanding that they even think they comprehend one another.

The caller is talking about meaning and certainty, and the hosts are talking about practical tools for modeling the world.

The funny thing about meaning and certainty is that they are subjective and can be provided by mutually contradictory and bizarre sources (I am sure I don't need to say that Comfort is a living demonstration of this, but I would also include in this category the things I get my own meaning and certainty from. I am not so proud of my foolishness as to attempt to convince strangers of it though).

On the other hand practical tools can be tested, models can be evaluated and exchanged when appropriate.

As someone with an interest in epistemology conversations like the one in the video are endlessly disappointing.
posted by idiopath at 4:37 PM on March 30, 2011


Bonus: It was a prank call, and Matt and "Eve" (the caller) are now engaged to be married. Weird world, huh?
posted by teraflop at 12:30 AM on March 31


I love it.
posted by Decani at 4:38 PM on March 30, 2011


He's a heretic, plain and simple.

Who are you to say?
posted by empath at 4:39 PM on March 30, 2011


St. Alia of the Bunnies: Besides, the minute faith is provable, it ceases to be faith.

I'm curious: does this mean that people who witness explicit manifestations of God, like St Paul, or the people who witnessed Jesus's miracles, do not have faith? If so, are they allowed to go to heaven?
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 4:39 PM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


What everyone else said. You can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into.

I'd love to see an end to religion—but if I've learned one thing by talking to theists, it's that trying to convince them with rational arguments is pointless. It's not like the logical problems with the theist position are difficult to recognize. On the contrary—they're glaring and obvious. If theists cared about applying logic to the religious domain, they wouldn't be theists in the first place.

And, yeah, it's very weird to watch them insist that their position does have a logical foundation, offer these grotesque parodies of reasoned argument, and deny the yawning holes in those arguments no matter how clearly they're pointed out.

As I've said before: I might have some shred of respect for theists if they'd simply drop the charade and admit that their belief is not based in reason. I'd still think their belief is childish, ill-advised, and dangerous, but at least that's honest. And you can't have any kind of productive dialogue without honesty.
posted by ixohoxi at 4:48 PM on March 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


Why do people insist on arguing with atheists? Gah.

Matthew 28:18-20 (New International Version)
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Mark 16:15-16 (New International Version)
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 4:55 PM on March 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


It's real easy to mock the banana argument without addressing it, but a lot harder to deny that bananas are clearly designed for us by a higher power

The even worse thing about the misguided banana argument for me is that I seem to have developed an allergy to the highly modified bananas they're talking about in the last couple of years. I'm not sure where that places me in the eyes of the God who supposedly designed them.
posted by Hoopo at 4:58 PM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why do people insist on arguing with atheists? Gah.

Matthew 28:18-20 (New International Version)
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”


Indeed. There are a lot of people who mistake arguing for teaching or converting.
posted by The World Famous at 5:04 PM on March 30, 2011


The disconnect between those who believe in God on faith and those who say that believing things on faith is crazy is that the believers privilege the specific thing they believe in for some reason, usually because of upbringing. Everyone believes they're better off because of the way they were brought up; few people consider that they might actually be worse off because of it. Often it ties in with respect for some authority figure, such as parents.

The beginning of enlightenment, I think, is in recognizing and possibly discarding one's unexamined axioms. (This process in fact never ends; our minds are partly constructed of them.)
posted by JHarris at 5:06 PM on March 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


bananas are clearly designed for us by a higher power

... and that higher power is United Fruit Company.
posted by me & my monkey at 5:06 PM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


... and that higher power is United Fruit Company.

*gasp*

Do not dare to deny the Word of Chiquita in my presence again, you heretic!
posted by vorfeed at 5:11 PM on March 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


For those of us unfamiliar with Ray Comfort before this, can someone let us in on the joke?

Or for 'us' substitute 'me'.
posted by mephron at 5:14 PM on March 30, 2011


For those of us unfamiliar with Ray Comfort before this, can someone let us in on the joke?

enjoy
posted by cj_ at 5:20 PM on March 30, 2011


Do not dare to deny the Word of Chiquita in my presence again, you heretic!

Like the father and the son, Chiquita and UFC are two names in one divine Organization:
Chiquita Brands International Inc. was formed in 1871 by U.S. railroad entrepreneur Henry Meiggs as the United Fruit Company.
posted by me & my monkey at 5:22 PM on March 30, 2011


Wow. Their bumper music is AWFUL. What genre is that? '90s pop-whine-core indie?

Give 'em a break. They're from Texas, y'all.
posted by charlesminus at 5:24 PM on March 30, 2011


The arguments are not about converting those who believe strongly one way or another, it's about convincing those who are undecided, particularly young people. (hence all the fighting over school curriculum) I honestly think there will be a tipping point where holding silly religious ideas will be openly mocked and the general masses will not believe religious ideas. It's going to take a long time as most of the older generations die off. The internet itself is the greatest engine of idea exchange and little by little, conversation by conversation, logic, reason, and science will win out.
posted by jeblis at 5:31 PM on March 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


To summarize Mefi's reaction:

echo, echo, echo.


Wow, now that is an edgy, idiosyncratic response. Your reaction is part of Mefi's reaction so, you know, be the change you want to see, etc. etc.

I have little patience for lazy dismissals of lazy dismissals.
posted by joe lisboa at 5:32 PM on March 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


"What would you prefer? There's nothing to engage with here. "

Maybe, that's a really good reason to, you know, not post this.
posted by oddman at 5:32 PM on March 30, 2011


The "Atheist Community of Austin?" That's an oxymoron, like the "Libertarian Party of Texas."
posted by Yakuman at 5:33 PM on March 30, 2011


Give 'em a break. They're from Texas, y'all.

But Austin is supposed to be known for good music.
posted by jeblis at 5:33 PM on March 30, 2011


Maybe, that's a really good reason to, you know, not post this.

Maybe, that is a really good reason to, you know, flag this and move on.
posted by joe lisboa at 5:34 PM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


echo, echo, echo.

I see this type of comment a lot. I think it's an attempt to win by silencing the opposition.
posted by jeblis at 5:36 PM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Why is the person who says he has faith the Jews are evil or that Elvis is alive or that we must drink the Kool-Aid any less reputable than those who say Jesus died for our sins?"

Here, an excellent resource is Kierkegaard's "Fear and Trembling," where the explicit question is regarding Abraham's (near) sacrifice of Isaac. And the horrible answer is that we can't really know. We can look to all sorts of other clues in a constellation of meaning that will allow us to decide whether someone holds that belief sincerely, and we can make reasonable inferences on what seems more acceptable to act upon, but ultimately, that's a big part of why faith should always be treated as an extremely suspect reason to commit to any given action.

But generally, those statements of faith are tied up with many other things — Martin Luther King jr.'s faith led him to fight for equality and justice, but it wasn't just the bare act of having faith, it was also what that faith meant and how it tied into other ideas in his life. Because of that, the bare question of faith is generally pretty irrelevant outside of faith as confidence, and it's those other ideas and meanings that those who would like better behavior from the faithful should focus on.
posted by klangklangston at 5:38 PM on March 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


"I honestly think there will be a tipping point where holding silly religious ideas will be openly mocked and the general masses will not believe religious ideas. It's going to take a long time as most of the older generations die off. The internet itself is the greatest engine of idea exchange and little by little, conversation by conversation, logic, reason, and science will win out."

I honestly think that you don't have a very good perspective on history. People holding silly religious ideas (a delightfully underdefined phrase) have always been mocked. And the masses certainly don't demonstrate a lot of adherence to the conclusions that their premises entail.

Magical thinking doesn't require religion.
posted by klangklangston at 5:41 PM on March 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


For those of us unfamiliar with Ray Comfort before this, can someone let us in on the joke?

Depends on your viewpoint. He's a Christian with a really poor grasp of logic and argument (and bananas), so that's one joke. Personally, I think the better joke is that this post hasn't been deleted.
posted by rocket88 at 5:43 PM on March 30, 2011


Man, I'm totally going Delmoi on this thread, but:

"I'm curious: does this mean that people who witness explicit manifestations of God, like St Paul, or the people who witnessed Jesus's miracles, do not have faith? If so, are they allowed to go to heaven?"

Well, here's the quick answer in the form of a rhetorical question: Do you believe they witnessed real miracles or saw God?
posted by klangklangston at 5:45 PM on March 30, 2011


Matt Dillahunty is a better representative for atheism than most of the well known guys. He's almost always courteous, respectful and kind, and he thinks on his feet and when he gets fired up he speechifies in perfectly formed paragraphs. His talk with Matt Slick on TAG (the transcendental argument for God, or at least Slick's version of it) is worth listening to, if you have the patience for that sort of thing.

Also want to mention - Christians of MeFi, we atheists (I'm speaking ex cathedra) emphatically do not think Ray Comfort is representative of you.
posted by fleetmouse at 5:47 PM on March 30, 2011 [6 favorites]


klangklangston: Were the question non-rhetorical, I would answer nay! I am an atheist, but I was wondering what the response of a devout Christian would be.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 5:48 PM on March 30, 2011


interesting article about bananas in the new yorker
posted by beukeboom at 5:51 PM on March 30, 2011


Sometimes the voices in your head... are coming from inside your head.

Humans - we need parents, real, imaginary or otherwise. Perpetual children, we need the parental figure who will make us feel better, kiss the booboos, tell us everything will be OK, and keep us feeling safe. At a certain point, the more intelligent amongst us evolve beyond this need - some become atheists, others - like me - become agnostic, because we're willing to say that WE DO NOT KNOW what the heck is going on, or why - and some of us think that our brains couldn't handle the "truth", we're just not smart enough, or evolved enough, and this video is certainly proof enough that I'm not being unjustly mean or arrogant.

And just for disclosure, I was born Jewish, child of a Holocaust survivor, did not have a Bar Mitzvah, and yet have a Star of David tat on my arm, designed by none other than my dear friend Paul Mavrides. The only drummer I buy into in the religious bucket is Bob. Makes as much sense to me as anything else...
posted by dbiedny at 6:08 PM on March 30, 2011




orthogonal, even.
posted by smcameron at 6:20 PM on March 30, 2011


jeblis: "I honestly think there will be a tipping point where holding silly religious ideas will be openly mocked and the general masses will not believe religious ideas"

klangklangston: "Magical thinking doesn't require religion."

I think the important thing is the degree of importance we give magical thinking. I don't think anyone is free of some occasional (perhaps only past, perhaps recurring) private folly. When you get into the nuts and bolts of why we say we know something, we are all on pretty shaky ground. We all must take a horn of the münchausen trilemma. The real question, to me, is what checks are placed on that inevitable uncertainty, how we go about balancing the willingness to be corrected when we are wrong, with the confidence to do what needs done with the tentative information we do have.

Not being so arrogant as to think there is an absolute escape for irrationality is a great start. The next step, it seems to me, is identifying and explicating the least-worst of the various flawed alternatives. And no, I don't think argument from authority (especially such shaky authority as a book with improbable and unprovable claims of its own origin and importance) is a viable solution here.
posted by idiopath at 6:21 PM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the link, smcameron, it underscores my feeling that I am indeed an agnostic - there are only two things I believe in, the power of music, and the idea that life is a learning experience. Otherwise, one of my main philosophies in life, is that I don't want to believe a damned thing, I want to KNOW.
posted by dbiedny at 6:25 PM on March 30, 2011


dbiedny: "I want to KNOW"

The idea that such absolute knowledge is possible (outside meaningless tautology) is probably the strongest force perpetuating ignorance.
posted by idiopath at 6:35 PM on March 30, 2011


I never said I expected to know, I just want this more than belief. The only absolute in this world? All life comes to an end. That's what I know. Oh, and Radiohead rules.
posted by dbiedny at 6:40 PM on March 30, 2011


Wow. Their bumper music is AWFUL. What genre is that? '90s pop-whine-core indie?

Give 'em a break. They're from Texas, y'all.

They're from Austin - there's better music playing all over town every night of the week.
posted by EatTheWeak at 6:47 PM on March 30, 2011


[The address for MetaTalk is h t t p : / / m e t a t a l k . m e t a f i l t e r . c o m If you'd like to complain loudly about the thread, you can type that into the address bar on your browser, go there and post a thread about it. Please do not just stay in this thread and complain. Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 6:55 PM on March 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


dbiedny: "I never said I expected to know"

OK, yeah, that's how I took your statement, I guess I could have communicated more clearly that I wasn't trying to argue with you about whether you could KNOW things, but rather to point out the importance of recognizing that impossibility.

If I had any argument it would be regarding your self definition as agnostic. Atheism does not require certainty that gods do not exist, a lack of faith that they exist suffices (cf. Russel's Teapot - I don't have to believe in a lack of a teapot orbiting the sun. I have no reason to presume there is one, and that suffices).
posted by idiopath at 7:04 PM on March 30, 2011


American theology in particular, but theology in general, would be much better served if the default realization was that faith is inherently unprovable. When they start asking him about why anyone should believe this stuff without a personal experience with it, he should simply say, "You're right. I'd like to have more people experience this, and it does take a certain openness, but there's absolutely no reason at all to believe it if you don't have the personal experience of faith."

That's pretty much my takeaway from Kierkegaard.
posted by xorry at 7:12 PM on March 30, 2011


Metafilter: It's like listening to a Royals fan proclaim that the Royals are going to sweep the World Series based on the strength of his fandom and that he hasn't eaten any Fritos all off-season.

(Thanks, klangklangston)
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 7:29 PM on March 30, 2011


My take on faith is that it is inherently idiotic and dishonest.

Faith is deliberately attempting to be more certain about something than the available evidence warrants. If you are interested in finding out what's actually true, deliberately attempting to be excessively certain about one possibility is obviously idiotic. It is also inescapably dishonest because it involves lying to yourself about how certain you should be.
posted by smcameron at 7:31 PM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Matthew 28:18-20 (New International Version)
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”


Don't see a thing in there about ARGUING.


"I'm curious: does this mean that people who witness explicit manifestations of God, like St Paul, or the people who witnessed Jesus's miracles, do not have faith? If so, are they allowed to go to heaven?"


Well, first, in the example of Paul, he had faith FIRST, and second, not everyone who witnessed the miracles of Jesus believed in Him. The Pharisees saw the miracles and just wanted him dead. Interestingly, there is also a passage where Jesus went to a particular place and the Bible says He did not do many miracles there, precisely because there was little faith there. Apparently faith-on the part of at least part of the group- is a prerequisite for miracles, even if the performer is the Son of God Himself.

But to get back to the point of THIS thread, I submit that arguing with people who do NOT believe and do not WISH to believe is pretty pointless. I myself don't "witness" to folks who either don't want to hear it or just want to argue. Won't do it. It's a waste of time. We aren't talking about people with honest questions (and for the record I think it is possible for an atheist to have honest questions. I am not saying it is wrong to have a discussion with an atheist.) But I think that in general, going on a program like this is an utter waste of time for all parties involved.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:46 PM on March 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


Besides, the minute faith is provable, it ceases to be faith.

Ah. That explains the complete and utter lack of evidence for God. He deliberately makes sure there is none, lest He undermine the faith of His followers - or lest He disappear in a puff of logic.

Now whenever somebody points to the universe and says 'What other proof do you ne...", I can cut them off with an 'AHA! INFIDEL!'
posted by obiwanwasabi at 8:00 PM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Live with faith or don't, but stop conflating the mish-mash of mythology, pre-modern ontology and various vestigial vagaries of contemporary anti-modernism with a coherent philosophy of being.

This is my favorite sentence so far this year, it just sounds pretty.
posted by pickinganameismuchharderthanihadanticipated at 8:06 PM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I submit that arguing with people who do NOT believe and do not WISH to believe is pretty pointless. I myself don't "witness" to folks who either don't want to hear it or just want to argue. Won't do it.

Awesome, now if you could only convince the rest of your friends to stop knocking at my door during dinner.
posted by pickinganameismuchharderthanihadanticipated at 8:08 PM on March 30, 2011


Metafilter: an utter waste of time for all parties involved.

Sorry, couldn't resist that one.

There is, to my mind, a whole wide field between believing in something without ever bothering to examine the evidence and believing only those things which are 100% airtight proven to be true. Clifford's The Ethics of Belief (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry, the actual essay is here) has always seemed to be a vital prerequisite for dealing with this issue.

I think that it is perfectly reasonable to believe in God based on personal experience or with reference to certain philosophical arguments. But Kirkegaard's (or at least the way he's often interpreted) sui generis belief-as-virtue puts my teeth on edge - and I say that as a believer. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, God presumably likes brains since He fucking invented them.
posted by AdamCSnider at 8:08 PM on March 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


By the way, on one episode of TAE, Dillahunty gives the best ever response to a caller who tries the "Bananas fit in your hand" line. He retorts, "They fit in your butt, too."

The version of this retort I saw originally.
posted by ignignokt at 8:12 PM on March 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


But I think that in general, going on a program like this is an utter waste of time for all parties involved.

I am an atheist and I couldn't agree more.

There is a place for atheistic activism, keeping prayer out of school, keeping evolution in school, etc. but having logical arguments with the faithful is futile.
posted by Bonzai at 8:19 PM on March 30, 2011


The minute faith is provable, it ceases to be faith.

Unfortunately, the minute faith is proven definitively to be incorrect, too often, it just gets stronger. When the sun comes up on May 22nd, "Family Radio" will not lose a significant part of its audience.
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:30 PM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


St. Alia of the Bunnies, thanks for responding!

Well, first, in the example of Paul, he had faith FIRST

Do you have a citation for this? I thought the whole point was that Paul hated Christians, until Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus. Whereupon he experienced proof of Jesus's divinity, and so did not have faith by your definition.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 8:30 PM on March 30, 2011


having logical arguments with the faithful is futile.

I understand the sentiment, but I have actually talked a fair number of my friends into atheism through the shear power of logic. Many people believe because they grew up that way and never put much thought into it. When forced to consider what they purport to believe, many people put faith aside.
posted by pickinganameismuchharderthanihadanticipated at 8:31 PM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I understand the sentiment, but I have actually talked a fair number of my friends into atheism through the shear power of logic. Many people believe because they grew up that way and never put much thought into it. When forced to consider what they purport to believe, many people put faith aside.

Fair point. That hasn't been my experience but maybe my abilities to explain and persuade are deficient. Maybe your abilities to explain and persuade are superior.

Maybe my friends and family are just idiots.
posted by Bonzai at 8:39 PM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Paul was zealous for God as he perceived him. You are right about him getting knocked off his high horse....do remember he was blind for three days until a believer came and prayed for him and his sight was restored.

But remember, Paul didn't demand God prove anything to him-it was a matter of a sovereign God choosing to do what He did. Even with that kind of evidence Paul didn't have to believe. After all there were pharisees who had seen the dead raised (Lazarus-the brother of Mary and Martha) and they didn't believe.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:40 PM on March 30, 2011


Maybe your abilities to explain and persuade are superior.

I just shout and wave my arms around in the air.
posted by pickinganameismuchharderthanihadanticipated at 8:55 PM on March 30, 2011


I just shout and wave my arms around in the air.

Well, hell, that's what I always did too.

Did you put your face an inch away from theirs and then poke them with your finger and your face got all red and there might have even been a little spittle? Because as counter-intuitively as it sounds, that does NOT work.
posted by Bonzai at 9:11 PM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


After all there were pharisees who had seen the dead raised (Lazarus-the brother of Mary and Martha) and they didn't believe.

If you literally believe this transpired and they still failed to grok the metaphysical significance of what you believe happened, then, well ... God bless your heart.
posted by joe lisboa at 9:11 PM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


If a sovereign God chooses to let me have faith by revealing to me a similar degree of direct evidence, so that the modest intellect He gave me can find His existence more likely than unlikely, I promise to be a devoted follower. Until then, I promise to be much nicer to any Christians I meet than Paul was.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 9:14 PM on March 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


Until then, I promise to be much nicer to any Christians I meet than Paul was.

Oy vey, that Saul of Tarsus was, how do you say, an interesting psychological case study? Poor guy never managed to get over the prosecutorial impulse that initially paid his bills, so much so that, post-conversion, he at least managed to direct it inwards in a fascinating example of self-loathing rarely since replicated, hair-shirts notwithstanding. And Comfort? Really? His name is Comfort? Paging Ernest Becker.

Peace unto you all.
posted by joe lisboa at 9:20 PM on March 30, 2011


If you literally believe this transpired and they still failed to grok the metaphysical significance of what you believe happened, then, well ... God bless your heart.

If it literally transpired and you were a witness to it, how certain are you that you would grok the metaphysical significance of it? Everyone in the world interprets and understands what they see, hear, read, etc. according to their own subconscious and conscious personal interpretation, which is shaped by extraordinarily-complex combinations of cultural and personal factors. The same event that one person would view as an undisputable proof of divine power or intervention will, inevitably, be viewed by others as one of any number of other things, each according to their own set of preconceived assumptions and interpretive and perceptive filters.

The combination of experiences and other factors that contribute to any person's views and interpretations of really anything in life are so complex that statements like "My take on faith is that it is inherently idiotic and dishonest" are hopelessly ignorant and, frankly, just as idiotic as the faith they purport to criticize. The extraordinarily-complex network of factors that influence any individual's set of personal beliefs and worldview (not to mention the disconnect between what they believe and what they say they believe) is unfathomable, unmeasurable, and unknowable. To comment on it as if any certain conclusion about a person can be gleaned merely from knowing whether or not they affiliate themselves with some cultural marker or religious denomination or belief system is, in and of itself, a matter of arrogant faith.

Now, I agree with the general proposition that the vast majority of people - religious or not - are, in my own estimation, self-delusional, dishonest to themselves and others, and generally stupid about a great many things. But that's an indictment of humanity, not an indictment of religious faith specifically.
posted by The World Famous at 11:19 PM on March 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Meh. I preferred his work on The Joy of Sex.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:13 AM on March 31, 2011


This theism/atheism debate is really muddy and are like ice skating on a frozen lake, when they get heated everyone dies (in an infinite loop of defining terms).

Especially if you get to the level of discussing nested confidence intervals in bayesian nets about scientific knowledge based on correlations. Not too many x-tians are up on that stuff though.

More so the debate should be re framed to emphasize anti-dogma and anti-credulity. Religion is simply the most vociferous and in your face obviously retarded form of credulous dogma; such characteristics are insidious in most organizational structures (the -isms) actually.
posted by AndrewKemendo at 6:45 AM on March 31, 2011


I feel bad for Christians when they get represented by people like Ray Comfort (illogical, mostly saying "life is meaningless unless you force yourself to believe in God") or Kent Hovind (batshitinsane flavored pseudoscience that high school physics, earth sciences and biology tears apart).

But then I don't see apologists with more nuanced positions stepping up to the plate. And when they do, there's not much attention paid to them because they don't produce interesting sound bites. I think legitimate debates about belief are kind of less interesting than what we usually get. And also, I suspect people who bother to form really nuanced positions on belief find themselves also considering non-belief, and then end up having a more moderate position on non-believers.
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:24 AM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


"But then I don't see apologists with more nuanced positions stepping up to the plate. And when they do, there's not much attention paid to them because they don't produce interesting sound bites. I think legitimate debates about belief are kind of less interesting than what we usually get. And also, I suspect people who bother to form really nuanced positions on belief find themselves also considering non-belief, and then end up having a more moderate position on non-believers."

My old roommie had a pithy saying for that too: "We'd be on all the talk shows arguing with these people, except that we have soup kitchens to run and poor to minister to." And they did, too.
posted by klangklangston at 8:49 AM on March 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


Debating with someone who refuses to accept logic is a game you only win by not playing it. Dawkins understands this.
posted by caution live frogs at 9:30 AM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


As someone with an interest in epistemology conversations like the one in the video
are endlessly disappointing.
posted by idiopath at 4:37 PM on March 30


Wow, Id, that's a superior example of a garden-path sentence. I'm definitely gonna use it.

Carry on. . .

posted by Herodios at 9:59 AM on March 31, 2011


I don't think it's a garden-path sentence, because garden-path sentences are grammatically correct, and the sentence in question is missing a comma.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:27 AM on March 31, 2011


I don't think it's a garden-path sentence, because garden-path sentences are grammatically correct, and the sentence in question is missing a comma.

Also because idiopath presumably did not mean to say that "conversations" are "someone with an interest in epistemology."
posted by The World Famous at 11:36 AM on March 31, 2011


Thanks for the grammar lessons.

[I am speaking] as someone with an interest in epistemology [when I say that] conversations like the one in the video are endlessly disappointing.
posted by idiopath at 12:05 PM on March 31, 2011


Sorry, idiopath. What I intended as a bit of jokey ribbing came across as pretty dickish. My apologies.

For whatever it's worth, I agree with you. I, too, have an interest in epistemology and I, too, find conversations like the one in the video endlessly disappointing.
posted by The World Famous at 12:23 PM on March 31, 2011


This is the first time I actually listened to Comfort talk at length and I couldn't believe the "I don't believe in evolution because I don't take things on blind faith" and "but there is NO evidence for evolution" remarks. What a piece of work.
posted by getawaysticks at 1:31 PM on April 1, 2011


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