Skepticism

In Which I Provide 24-Hour Customer Care

Many times I forget to respond to emails all together, so when possible I try to respond as soon as I receive a letter. Like, at 2am Saturday night/Sunday morning.

========= THE SKEPTICS GUIDE EMAIL SYSTEM =========

Subject: I’m stopping the download.
Sender Email: (REDACTED)
Sender Name: Peter (REDACTED)
Country/Location: USA
Date/Time(Eastern Time): 9/21/2008 12:55:37 AM

Email Purpose: FEEDBACK / SUGGESTIONS

Message: Skeptics: I’ve greatly enjoyed the podcast but I’m turning off the download. I saw Rebecca’s youtube about the Holy Spirit and also her consecration of beer and pretzels.

I’m not a believer and have not been for many years; but I think Rebecca should at least respect the views/faith of others. I do.

She clearly does not respect people’s beliefs about religion and she shows a regrettable lack of maturity. Mocking others heartfelt beliefs for flying saucers or creationism is fine with me but you all should draw the line somewhere. Rebecca was obnoxious and insulting to people of faith.

Peter (REDACTED)

Dear Peter,

I’d like to offer my heartfelt apologies for mocking beliefs that you would prefer I not mock. In the future, I will only mock the beliefs that you mock as well. To aid in this effort, please forward me two lists titled “mock” and “do not mock.” I will keep these lists in my pocket so that I can be ever-vigilant, even when not recording the podcast. Here, I’ll get you started using the information in your email.

MOCK
flying saucers
creationism

DO NOT MOCK
the holy spirit
beer and pretzels
religion (minus creationism, see above)

I trust that once I have your complete lists and I’m able to “draw the line” in exactly the same place that you draw the line, you’ll resubscribe to the podcast. That would really please all of us on the SGU, since right now we only have 45,000 listeners or so and we’re trying to reach 50,000, so obviously every person counts . . . much like every sperm is sacred!*

Thanks,

Rebecca

*Am I okay to mock the Catholic doctrine that jizzing into a sock is a sin? Please advise.

UPDATE!

On Sun, Sep 21, 2008 at 10:42 AM, Peter wrote:
I am sure it doesn’t mean much to you.  One suggestion:  Don’t mock the prophet Mohammed–they burn your apartment down.

Peter

Hi Peter,

Just so I’m clear, are you now suggesting that religions deserve our respect because otherwise their adherents will hurt or kill us?

Thanks,

Rebecca

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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60 Comments

  1. You could mock that Catholics reserve the right, even from a legal standpoint, to police their own when dealing with child-molesters.

    Well, I do. And it makes people feel uncomfortable.

    Then again, I bet the little boys felt much more uncomfortable. And their families when they learned that the priests weren’t going to jail, but to another diocese.

    Did I just go off on a completley unrelated rant there? Probably. The point is, good response.

  2. This is funny. I’m reminded of the time when Ringo Starr was being questioned once about whether he was a “mod” or a “rocker”, to which he replied, “I’m a Mocker”. I’ve always drawn inspiration from that. ;)

    The idea that someone, let alone a deity, would take items of food and drink off the table and offer them as parts of their body for others at the party to consume, always struck me as vampyrik and creepy, not even getting into the schoolboy humour of “eat me”. I saw the YouTube video he is referring to and I thought it was hilarious and taken as seriously as was warranted. And this one time… at geology field camp… I had a professor that gave a “sermon” one sunday to commemorate and mourn all the lost “souls” from the Permian/Triassic extinctions. It was moving and hilarious at the same time – and I got a similar feeling listening to IT as I did watching your YouTube with the beer and pretzels. ::::shrugs:::::

    I literally can’t wait each week for a new SGU podcast to come out – it’s like the next installment of your favourite serial when you were a kid … well, at least when I was a kid… you’re mileage may vary. It is such a wonderful blend of information, myth-busting, humour and geekiness! You, Rebecca, were the one who really stands out though – every group needs a mocker and a dissenter. Even if the dissension is for the sake of argument or furthering the silliness. I remember thinking, who is this person? And even though I like all the other “guys” on the panel, I didn’t really feel motivated to find out more on them.

    You can’t have foreknowledge of what will offend/upset/hurt/anger/please/amuse everyone. Just be you. It will be enough.

  3. I agree with all that PopeCoyote said about the SGU. I just finished listening to all the old episodes and don’t know how I’m going to deal with only one episode a week.

    In early 2008, when I started listening, there were times when I thought Rebecca said things about Jay that crossed the line from friendly kidding into really insulting. But luckily I follow Carl Sagan’s advice that it’s okay to reserve judgment until the facts are in.

    Now I realize that two or three episodes didn’t give me a real feel for the dynamic there. Plus, I know I can be over-sensitive about things like that. So, after months of listening and consideration, my conclusion is that Rebecca’s level of rocking cannot be overstated.

    Maybe Peter would be happier if he looked at the big picture instead of focusing on one thing he didn’t agree with.

  4. I don’t really listen as much to SGU podcast anymore though i still download it for some reason (I guess thats all that counts for the ratings chasers). The main reason is, although it promotes skepticism, it has veered more and more into the condescension realm. Seems as much a vanity exercise as a result as a useful source of information. I wouldn’t pin it on any one person. Just my opinion.

  5. “Mocking others heartfelt beliefs for [things I think are ridiculous] is fine with me but…I think Rebecca should at least respect the views/faith of others.”

    Wow. He’s reached critical mass in total contradiction.

  6. @Ken Hahn:

    I too had a hard time when I first started listening, as I thought both Rebecca and especially Perry could be a bit OTT to fellow rogues.

    But after about five episodes (I’m really slow on the uptake), I realised that Rebecca rocks, and Perry was a truly wise wonderful person whom I still miss, every time I hear a new episode.

    But Rebecca, you very much are filling the Perry shaped hole, as much as any mortal can.

    As for the hole that is in Peter (Redacted)’s brain, meh, what can ya say? Many times lately, I find myself in really uncomfortable positions, listening to SGU, or Penn and Teller, or reading SWIFT, when things that I possibly still cling to are criticised. But I never feel mocked.

    I certainly don’t whine and complain at the SGU, Penn and Teller or Randi. I acknowledge that if it’s still ‘biting’, it’s because there is some truth in it. Nothing hurts like the truth… Especially when you’ve had to adjust to your whole world view and 40+ years of faith being completely turned upside down. Perhaps his royal redactedness is also on this new path and reacts less kindly to new truths. But the mock these things and don’t mock those things, smacks of all the “Christians” who told PZ to go and desecrate the Koran. Sigh. Such a shame you have to deal with such assholes.

    Rebecca, you show yourself to be a much nicer person than I would have been in that situation. My response from the heart would have been something to do with sex and travelling…

    Both my husband and I cannot wait every week for the latest podcast. It’s like meeting up in the pub with a group of old friends. I wonder sometimes if you are truly aware of the joy that you and your fellow SGU presenters bring to so many people. Not only the feeling that “I am not alone in thinking the way I do” but also just the fun of laughing out loud at the banter and especially Science or Fiction. You even make me snort coffee through my nose on occasions…

    All the best to you, and remember your last new years resolution to rock even harder!

  7. In reading what I just posted, I feel honour bound to admit that I still yell rude things at Penn when watching certain episodes of Bullshit (ie recycling and second hand smoke), as on some occasions I really don’t agree, but that’s mainly due to differences in what’s happening in Australia and what’s going on in the USA.

    @wytworm

    Having listened to all of the podcasts, and in many instances multiple times (I listen to repeats as background when I’m working), what I am hearing more of from the cast, is a rising frustration at the level of credulity in the general populace. I certainly don’t get the feeling that the whole thing is a vanity exercise.

    I am particularly sensitive to being ‘condescended to’ and would choose not to listen if that were the case. Sometimes my eyes may widen at some particularly cutting remark that is made about a person, but again, I see that more as borne out of frustration than a sense of intellectual snobbery.

    But, different strokes for different folks, and I totally respect your opinion.

  8. Why is no one mentioning that this guy is clearly off his rocker? He has no idea what he’s talking about. Rebecca NEVER consecrated a pretzel. It was a cajun french fry.

    I think Rystefn can back me up on this one… if she were any closer to either of us when she did it, she would have been sitting in our laps.

    Peter,

    FYI, I’m not mocking Rebecca sitting in anyone’s lap… I totally think that’s hot. Unless it’s Santa’s lap, then I totally mock it.

  9. @Rats Acre (Love the icon and the name)

    I for a living, am put into situations where I have to propagate my point of view across entrenched and sometimes hostile positions. I guess it makes me sensitive to the issue. It comes down to the purpose of the SGU or any ‘Skeptical’ movement. Are is it there to influence, or is it there to entrench one position? ‘Skeptic’ tribalism if you will.

    If the intention is to influence, the air of condescension or the appearance of such would be a potential barrier.

    Anyhow again, just my opinion.

  10. FYI, I’m not mocking Rebecca sitting in anyone’s lap… I totally think that’s hot. Unless it’s Santa’s lap, then I totally mock it.

    Although Rebecca in Santa’s lap would still be kinda hot.

  11. Communities always have shades of “correctness”. Carl Sagan was a great ambassador for the skeptical community and I enjoyed his stuff greatly. But Richard Dawkins is good at telling it like it is, or at least as many of us see it, in a way where he puts all the cards on the table – read ’em and weep. Penn Gillette is in your face and up yer arse and doesn’t seem to really care too much how you feel about it, at least in his stage personna. And there are all flavours in between them.

    Skepticality is a good science podcast. I like it but I don’t ENJOY it like I do SGU. If you want just the facts, Skeptoid or 60-Second Science are great! But sometimes you just want to listen to some folks sitting around and talking about things you are interested in. Kind of like in school when you sat around the coffee pot or communal beer pitcher all night and talked about anything and everything. That is what SGU is to me. ::::shrugs::::

    In trying to be all things to all people, you end up being nothing at all. When Rebecca comes up with a crude remark to some sloppy statement, it is just like one of my friends would have done to me in a discussion. Good clean (usually) fun! It is good to tailor for outsiders sometimes but it is also good to cater to insiders. I guess that is how I look at it.

  12. Also, just after replying to Peter’s email last night, it occurred to me that “jizzing” might not be the funniest/least mature word I could have used.

    The only reason I remember my conflict over that word is because this morning when I opened the laptop, the Google search bar still had the most recent search terms: “ejaculating euphemisms.” Huh.

  13. @PopeCoyote:

    I agree 100% I suppose I would have hoped there was an intention to inform and push the boundaries out rather than an intention to cater to insiders and building the walls higher.

    It is certainly an interesting problem to figure out how to resist what one considers to be the negatives about (in this case) Roman Catholic ritual in such a way to illuminate without seeking to inflame.

    It would be one thing if the world were 99.99% ‘Skeptic’ and all the ‘Skeptic’ apes were bone-tool smashing in the heads of the tribe of the one person who had mouthed the word ‘Mystery’ for the first time, but I don’t think anyone here thinks ‘Skeptics’ are winning on numbers.

    Given that, is it the mission statement to re-arrange deck chairs on the ‘Skeptical’ Titanic, or is it to influence and convert?

    I guess this should be in the evangelicalization thread.

  14. *Am I okay to mock the Catholic doctrine that jizzing into a sock is a sin? Please advise.

    You’re mocking the Holy Writ!

    23Thou shalt not jizz unto a sock as unto a Kleenex; it is abomination. 24 A consecrated tissue thou shalt use and keep it holy, 25 for the CAT, whose name is Ceiling, is a Ceiling Cat.

    There are new translations, but those are blasphemous.

  15. It’s a classic case of Hayes Disease. Heh heh, making fun of religions is cool WAIT YOU’RE MAKING FUN OF MY RELIGION*???!? THAT’S AN OUTRAGE!!!!!11!one

    BTW, when I first read Rebecca’s followup (@Rebecca), I thought it said “ejaculating eucharists.” That’s a concept I’m having a difficult time wrapping my head around. Wacky Catholics!

    * I use “religion” lightly here since we’re talking about Scieno**.
    ** Although it’s not really any less “legit” than any other religion, their motives are just more plainly obvious.

  16. I know I’ve posted my share of religious rants and have made fun of a lot of things, but really I’m not sure what good mockery does, except to make us feel superior because our beliefs are so much more logical, in which case how are we any better than the religious folks who feel superior because of their beliefs?

  17. @writerdd:

    Excessive mockery can be assholeish, sure. But the point is to make light of the fact that no beliefs should be considered special and respected just because they’re old and religious, or even just because they say you should respect them. Or for any other reason.

    Religious beliefs enjoy privileged, protected status for no good reason. Everything should be examined critically. Those beliefs that don’t stand up are open to ridicule because, let’s face it, they’re silly.

    This touches a bit on the Dawkins/Hitchens/Myers vs. the religious appeasing atheists debate… I don’t denigrate either side, because both are needed. You won’t win everyone over with Dawkins, but you’ll win some. Same goes for the other side.

  18. I’m still not sure what the dilly is with the mockery. I made a YouTube video where I repeated a list of things I don’t believe in. I think it’s so sad that in this day and age people still condemn something like that. I can’t even imagine what it would have been like to stand in Mark Twain’s or Jonathon Swift’s shoes. Just mockery, indeed.

  19. Writerdd
    <>

    Mockery is a counter punch to the dangers of fundamentalist religious beliefs and actions.

    But it accomplishes nothing productive. It’s just two people throwing punches.

    Spirituality, should be personal, should be private, should be a guiding light of morality based on an intrinsic world view. It need not be tied to religion, but rarely is that the case. Instead it’s bastardized by organized religions everywhere, where some combination of groupthink, fear, and/or ignorance rule people’s lives and where those in religious power manipulate the populace for their own well being.

    I never mock those who are religious if they are merely innocent members of a flock, but one can critique the foundations of religion , those who are malicious or devious shepards, or manipulative followers . I will always attack with these with logic, science and history. Unfortunately, just like mockery … logic, science and historydoesn’t work either.

  20. Rebecca-
    I am also a Skeptics Guide listener. If you stop mocking these aforementioned things, I will also stop listening, making it a zero sum game. So, unless Mr. Unstable can come up with more current listeners supporting his side, you’re just as well off changing absolutely nothing. Although I’m sure once he realizes that it was just a fry this whole thing will blow over. Keep up the scathing, dripping with sarcasm responses they make me happy inside

  21. For some reason I had never felt much compelled to listen to the SGU, but now I downloaded the latest podcast and I’m listening to it right now. I’m finding it very interesting and very funny! And I can understand spoken English better that I thought! May I please take Mr. Redacted’s vacant place?

  22. @halincoh, wytworm and in general

    I don’t mock individuals or like to see individuals put upon unless they are the leaders of a movement that deserves it. As an educator, I would never mock a student for their beliefs. I usually don’t get into “debates” about beliefs vs science in class though I have after class sometimes. You would be amazed at how many people have no idea the fossil record exists and what its significance is.

    I think the leaders and the organisations are fair game – doesn’t matter if it is the 700 Club, the Holy Roman Church or the Dalai Lama. Being contrite hasn’t won many converts to skepticism, although there are some. Personally, I’m much more encouraged to talk openly about my skepticism and atheism since Dawkins and others have taken the gloves off. If nothing else, it allows forums like this where we can share ideas. Mine are merely my own and I crave hearing what others think, even when I don’t agree.

  23. Mocking others heartfelt beliefs for flying saucers or creationism is fine with me but you all should draw the line somewhere. Rebecca was obnoxious and insulting to people of faith.

    Right then… what’s the difference between a heartfelt belief and faith? What makes him think that UFOlogists and creationists aren’t going off of faith?

    What is so respectable about faith, anyway? It’s just believing in something you have no good reason to believe in and without looking for evidence to believe in it. To me that makes you unreasonable, close-minded, and simply uninterested in truth.

  24. Creationism, for crying out loud. When is creationism not a matter of faith? So, we can mock people for believing what the Bible in their hand says, but not for believing in traditions which have grown up around a few Biblical passages?

  25. Rebecca, sorry if it sounded like I meant that you were promoting mockery… I just meant to post the question “is it really leading to the desired results” to those who made comments in the vein of “mock on”!

  26. Rebecca: I have a pretty good memory, and I’m fairly sure that for you to be sitting in both of our laps, we at least one of us would have had to be in the other’s lap. If I managed to forget something as awesome as that happening, please shoot me now…

    Or at least let’s reenact it and make good a certain I don’t forget a second time.

    Joshua: Where do I sign up to be Santa for this?

  27. I suspect that part of the problem is that mockery is (in principle) easy. Good analysis, critical thinking and rational responses are, by comparison, hard.

    Mind you, good mockery is hard. Anyone can say “X is dumb”, but a nice, creative mock is quite something else.

    I figure there’s no problem with dumb mockery so long as you don’t mind being dumbly mocked in return. Then you can mock their mockery, and they can mock your mockery, and the limit of this process is that the world has become that much less rational.

    I find mockery in the name of skepticism just as cringe-worthy as the YouTube videos of “Christian comedians” that occasionally get trotted out. (The similarities are, after all, too striking to ignore.) But I’d never tell Rebecca what to say in her own podcasts. If you don’t like it, just stop listening.

  28. Natefoo. Though there are MANY definitions of spiritual I’ll go with Webster’s second definition with a touch of morality thrown in, but morality based on ethics, not the “soul.” See below:

    Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, © 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc.
    CITE THIS SOURCE|PRINT
    Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary – Cite This Source – Share This
    Spiritual

    Spir”it*u*al\, a. [L. spiritualis: cf. F. spirituel. See Spirit.]

    1. Consisting of spirit; not material; incorporeal; as, a spiritual substance or being.

    It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. –1 Cor. xv. 44.

    2. Of or pertaining to the intellectual and higher endowments of the mind; mental; intellectual.

    3. Of or pertaining to the moral feelings or states of the soul, as distinguished from the external actions; reaching and affecting the spirits.

    God’s law is spiritual; it is a transcript of the divine nature, and extends its authority to the acts of the soul of man. –Sir T. Browne.

    4. Of or pertaining to the soul or its affections as influenced by the Spirit; controlled and inspired by the divine Spirit; proceeding from the Holy Spirit; pure; holy; divine; heavenly-minded; — opposed to carnal.

    That I may impart unto you some spiritual gift. –Rom. i. ll.

    Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings. –Eph. i. 3.

    If a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one. –Gal. vi. 1.

    5. Not lay or temporal; relating to sacred things; ecclesiastical; as, the spiritual functions of the clergy; lords spiritual and temporal; a spiritual corporation.

    Spiritual coadjuctor. (Eccl.) See the Note under Jesuit.

    Spiritual court (Eccl. Law), an ecclesiastical court, or a court having jurisdiction in ecclesiastical affairs; a court held by a bishop or other ecclesiastic.

  29. Agree with Dale on this one. SGU brings everything to the table and as someone else stated the dynamic just works and is …awesome for lack of a better word. This is what sets this podcast apart from all the others imho.

    As for mocking individuals, a hobby of mine, much to annoyance of some of my friends is to point out just how bad the science is in most sci-fi movies. Pointing out how ignorant some people can be is an inevitable part of being a skeptic. I don’t remember anyone on the show calling anyone a fucking idiot even though i can think of a few individuals in the public spotlight who would deserve such a title, so i think I’ll keep download the show =D.

  30. I’ll agree with Dale, there should be nothing so sacred it can’t be mocked or examined.

    However, I am not sure I would appreciate a private communication being made into a blog post…that is pretty tacky. IMO

  31. Good job, Rebecca. I think someone out there by the name of Peter (redacted) needs to get some perspective.

    Most adherants of religious belief have a line (usually their own religion) that they think should not be crossed. You obviously know that in these cases; when a line is drawn in the sand, it’s a good idea to step over it.

    I don’t buy the “religion should not be criticized” line any more. Too much evil is covered under the rubric of “…but my religion says so.” Too many bullies (read fundamentalists) get away with too much because people fear them. That has to stop. That way lies al-Quaida (sp?) and the Taliban.

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