Congratulations, Matt and Tracie

Matt Dillahunty and Tracie Harris hosted the last episode of The Atheist Experience. Most of the show was taken up by a caller named Shane, arguing about morality.

Shane claimed that since he’s a human sinner, his moral sense is unreliable, which is why he follows God and God’s perfect morality. Tracie asked how Shane came to the conclusion that God is good, if Shane’s moral sense is unreliable. This led to the following exchange:

http://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/WrfWs52Kjk0

As Tracie correctly points out, if there is an omniscient, omnipotent, omni(or even just reasonably-)benevolent god out there, then every time there’s a rape, that god either causes that to happen, or stands by and allows it to happen. Shane starts saying that the victim in this case is as evil as the rapist (I’m pretty sure this is an instance of the “all have fallen short of the glory of God” doctrine, by which it doesn’t matter whether you’re Albert Schweitzer or Adolf Hitler: both are scum in God’s eyes), and Matt hangs up on him, calling him a “piece of shit”.

Anyway, congratulations to Matt, Tracie, and the whole Atheist Experience team, since this got picked up by Raw Story, AlterNet, and even Glenn Beck’s The Blaze.

I thought the exchange was pretty much par for the course: they’ve had lots of theist callers who make despicable claims like this. So I’m not sure what happend this time, but hey, the show deserves all this attention and more.

At any rate, I went looking through the comments to see what the Beck fans (is there a name for people who read The Blaze? Surely not Blazemongers) had to say.

Witness1974
Posted on January 10, 2013 at 2:55am

The first thing a Christian has to come to terms with is the fact that he or she needs to be saved from the wrath of a Holy God. People who merit God’s mercy, of which there are none, do not need to be saved.

tonykeywest17
Posted on January 10, 2013 at 2:28am

No son of adam is innocent . ALL deserve death and HELL. If God in his justice leaves men to what the deserve – who are you to question him.

sisserydoo
Posted on January 10, 2013 at 7:45am

Human beings make distinctions between sin, God does not. In God’s eyes, all sin is sin.

This seems to repeat Shane’s point: that the rape victim is evil, and deserve’s God’s wrath. I rebut it thus:
Flipping the bird

john vincent
Posted on January 10, 2013 at 12:26am

God did not direct a plane into the twin towers; He did not light the match which caused a house to burn down, killing all inside; He did not order young Adam to kill children in a Conn. school; […] He certainly did not order a raping.

Commander8080
Posted on January 10, 2013 at 11:24am

The caller got it wrong. God does not interfere with mans free will. Therefore, if a person rape or does evil to another, God will not stop the act because he loves us so much not to interfere with our free will.

God may not have directed the 9/11 attacks, or the rape in question here. But if he exists, he did sit by and allow them to happen. This is Tracie’s point.

DogTags
Posted on January 10, 2013 at 8:22am

The hosts presented a false choice: God either sends rapist or stands back and does nothing. Implying that God is not good who would do either. What they ignore is that God didn’t create robots but moral agents who he gave the choice to obey or to do evil.

This is the old “God won’t interfere with free will” apologetic. The problem is, if you see a rape being committed, the rapist wants to exercise his free will to rape the victim, while the victim wants to exercise her free will to just go about her day. Whether you interfere or not, someone’s free will is being violated.

Big_John
Posted on January 10, 2013 at 9:54am

all the evil actions of men, as well as every good action, was foreordained by God so that everything that happens on this earth has a good purpose behind it.

So child rape serves a greater good, so God sitting back and watching it happen is somehow the right thing to do. But neither God, nor this commenter, can be bothered to explain what this greater good is.

AntBrain
Posted on January 10, 2013 at 1:09am

I think it’s laughable that an atheist promotes the idea of child rape as being evil. It just so happens that social evolution has engineered a construct that pretends child rape is immoral … but if child rape could be shown to improve human survival, the atheist is stuck.

azitdad
Posted on January 10, 2013 at 10:42am

Whoever ‘Shane’ was, he was no Christian. Christians don’t think like that.

Ah, good old No True Scotsman. I’ve missed him.

sdd757
Posted on January 10, 2013 at 7:53am

I’m really getting sick of this whole argument. God does not just break in and stop crime and evil. If miracles happened everyday then they would not be miracles.

I wonder if we should apply the same principle to the police: “You can’t expect the cops to try to solve every crime they hear about, because then law enforcement wouldn’t be, you know, special.”

I’m not saying that all of these comments are representatives of all theists. But Tracie is right: either God causes bad things to happen, or stands by and allows bad things to happen, despite both knowing about them and being able to prevent them. If anyone else did that, they’d be acting immorally. But the running theme in these comments is that God has to be good, so they come up with excuses for why our usual moral reasoning or standards of civilized behavior don’t apply in this case.

And once again, congratulations to The Atheist Experience. I have no idea why this particular segment was picked up by so many sources all of a sudden, but I hope it helps spread the word about a good show.

Slick’s Transcendental Argument

Last week on
The Atheist Experience,
a guy named Matt Slick from
CARM.org
called in to present the
Transcendental Argument
for the existence of God. His version of the argument is
here.

When I read
Slick’s version of the argument,
my reaction was one that I often have when theists try to construct
purely logical arguments: as I was going through his bullet points, I
wasn’t nodding in agreement, even reluctantly. I kept thinking “well,
this is sorta-kinda-maybe true, given the proper definition and
starting assumptions”. Take, for instance, his point 1. C. ii.:

“I am alive” is either true or false.

This statement is true, but only if you define “alive” very carefully.
This is why courts spend time splitting definitional hairs: to decide
precisely where the line between “alive” and “not alive” runs or ought
to run, and by extension where the line between “legal” and “illegal”
runs. In real life, however, things can get much messier (Terry
Schiavo, anyone?). Now, Slick is free to divide the world up into 100%
true and 100% false statements if he likes, but he must then accept
that some of the 100%-true statements won’t feel 100% true.

This sort of sloppy thinking permeates the argument, which tends to
trigger my BS-o-meter.

Or take 2. C.:

Something cannot bring itself into existence.

I wonder how Slick deals with things like pairs of virtual particles,
which just pop into existence all over the place, and usually
annihilate each other a fraction of a microsecond later.

We can also apply this statement to 7. D.:

We call this transcendent, absolute, perfect, and independent mind, God.

Surely a mind is a “thing” in the sense of 2. C.. This means that God
cannot have created itself, and therefore raises the question of who
or what created God.

Don Baker, who was co-hosting The Atheist Experience on
the day that Slick called in, has a
fine rebuttal
including several points I would have made:

  • There is no universal requirement that a system of logic be complete, elegant, or even consistent. It’s just that we humans value these properties.
  • A lot of Slick’s “universal” laws, like the law of the excluded middle (a statement is either true, or it’s false) are not inherent to logic; they just happen to be true (as far as we can tell) in this universe, and in most of the systems of logic that we humans find useful.
  • Properly applied, logic is universal and absolute, but you have to be very very careful and rigorous.

In short, this version of the Transcendental argument is par for the
course, as far as purely logical arguments for God go: it looks okay
on the surface if you don’t look at it too closely, but the
construction is shoddy. The argument doesn’t tell us which statements
are assumptions for the sake of argument, which ones are assumptions
Slick thinks are obvious enough to be axioms, and which statements
follow from which premises. If this argument were a work of
carpentry, all of its angles would be slightly off from 90°, the
sides wouldn’t line up quite right, and there would be gaps between
the boards.

Color me less than impressed.