Skepticism

The SGU: Mouthpiece of Satan

Alexander Cornswalled is a Midwestern Conservative Christian who is not particularly fond of The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe. Cornswalled says that he helpfully reviews podcasts that the kids in his church are listening to, and the other day he chose the SGU. I know, I was pleased, too! Let’s see what he has to say!

The hosts pretty much accept global warming as gospel truth . . .

If by “accept . . . as gospel truth” he means “engaged in serious inquiry followed by a healthy discussion of the facts and a careful examination of both sides of the issue before tentatively erring on the side of the scientific consensus,” then yes, yes we do.

. . . and they’re all unapologetic atheists.

That’s not true. Evan once apologized for not believing a god.

Just kidding . . . in fact, we rarely discuss our beliefs (or lack thereof), and depending upon your definition, the word “atheist” may not apply to all of us.

The podcast is as anti-Christian as they come.

Considering that we rarely if ever address purely religious matters, that’s certainly hyperbole. When a certain Christian belief can be tested scientifically, such as faith healing, we’ll address it. However, it’s not like we have an official SGU Jesus pinata, and every week we take a good whack at it hoping to finally release the delicious candy contained within.

The pinata is actually shaped like a festive donkey.*

Even if you set aside the wholesale endorsement of vaccination, their wholesale rejection of homeopathy . . .

Ah, now we’re reaching the meat of it. Not so fast there! Let’s not set aside those things, because they’re quite important.

Honestly, this bit surprised me — Corny certainly makes himself out to be the voice of everyday Christians. In my experience, though, every Christian I know (and I know a lot) separates belief in god from medical matters like vaccines and homeopathy. I’m glad they do, because otherwise they might fall for Corny’s brand of ignorance. See, Corny believes this:

If you don’t trust God to protect your family then don’t be surprised when God removes his protection and lets Satan strike your family down.

which is probably the greatest argument in favor of carefully examining religious faith. People who accept this uncritically are putting themselves at great risk, which is why we often hear of measles outbreaks among followers of the First Church of Christ, Scientist, who believe that very thing.

Luckily, I suspect most Christians believe that God blessed man with a very clever brain, and He expects that brain to be put to good use — like, by developing drugs and procedures that extend and enhance our quality of life. There’s the old joke of the man waiting in his home as his town floods, and when he is told to evacuate he says that God will save him. Eventually his ground floor floods, and when the lifeboats come to his window he turns them away, sure that God will save him. Eventually he must retreat to his roof, and a helicopter descends with rescuers reaching out to him. He waves them away, because surely God will help. When the flood finally washes him away and drowns him, he arrives at the Pearly Gates and finally meets God face to face. “God,” he cries, “why didn’t you save me?” God shakes his head and says, “You moron, I sent you a frigging helicopter.” Then God kicks him in the nads and tells him to go to hell.

Corny calls vaccines “liquid blasphemy,” which I always thought was reserved for booze. He believes that children who die from treatable illnesses deserved it, and are the natural result of God’s wrath.

Corny backs up his hatred of vaccines by suggesting they are part of a dangerous plot to kill millions of people. This conspiracy theory is not well-fleshed out, but he does back it up with a random anti-vaccination web page’s interview with an anonymous person who claims he was once in the “inner circle” of vaccine developers. I don’t think I have to go in-depth to explain why that’s not a reliable source of information.

Sorry, back to his review of the SGU:

. . . their complete lack of regard for anything supernatural and their unthinking acceptance of all things humanist . . .

True that we have a lack of regard, and not true that we accept anything in an unthinking manner. Regard has to be earned, and to borrow a common phrase around these parts, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” Once we see that evidence, we will regard a claim as highly as we regard any other newly supported scientific claim.

. . . there’s still their constant ridicule of Christ and his followers.

“Constant” is not the word. That would just get boring.

Though we’re only human and do occasionally kid around about a particular fraud or peddler of crap, we do our best to focus on the wacky beliefs, as opposed to the wacky believers. It’s a subtle distinction I imagine Corny (who I am, admittedly, ridiculing with the nickname) is unable to grasp or uninterested in grasping, because for him, exposing a belief as false is out of bounds. His faith is unshakable, because he won’t allow anything close enough to shake it. His mind is made up, and no amount of evidence for, say, the efficacy of vaccines will ever convince him.

There is nothing redeemable in this podcast. It’s a propaganda mouthpiece for Satan and his followers.

There’s nothing I can argue with here. That’s just pure hilarity and would go on our movie posters if we had such things.

The content is a lock step repetition of the same humanist lies that have plagued the United States since the invention of the “separation of Church and State” fiction.

This is the last thing I’ll really address in Corny’s “review.” He seems to be very interested in politics (and I get the feeling he’s a tad bit conservative), so I’m not sure why he would have such hatred for the founding fathers, who came up with the “invention” of separation of church and state. I’m also not sure why it’s deemed to be fictional — does that make everything else in the US Constitution fictional? You may have heard people like Corny claim that the words “separation of church and state” do not appear in the Constitution, which is correct. The exact wording is the following:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .

We could go on for days about all the misconceptions people have about the separation of church and state, as well as the idea that the country was founded by or for Christians, but I really can’t stand to spend much more time on Corny today.

He finishes his review by talking about how he feels sad for us, since as nonbelievers we struggle with the idea of death. He listened to our great but rather sad interview with George Hrab at TAM6, in which we have a deep conversation about the nature of death in a world without an afterlife. Corny would prefer the safe comfort of concrete knowledge attained with no inquiry and backed up with no evidence, rather than the more challenging real world, where we don’t know, and will probably never know, what happens to us once we stop living. Life is a grand adventure, and at some point we’re all going to have to close our eyes and step into the unknown. Man, that’s scary, and I don’t blame people for retreating to a safer fantasy, where they are guaranteed a place to live forever with all the pets they’ve ever lost. I may not blame them, but I don’t envy them, as Corny may think I should. John Stuart Mill suggested that it was better to be a “Socrates unsatisfied than a fool satisfied, and better a fool unsatisfied than a pig satisfied.” I’ll settle for being a fool, and while the metaphor is fresh and ready to be mixed, I’ll stop casting these pearls all over Corny’s front lawn.

As a bonus round, I dug into his site a bit to find out what he had to say about some other podcasts. Here are a few choice quotes for your amusement:

On This American Life:

From American Public Radio, it’s a blatantly liberal highly political “Stories about Liberals in distress” program. Think of it as the Lifetime Channel for Liberals.

Delete it if you see it.

Actually, it’s from American Public Media and Public Radio International, presented by Chicago Public Radio. And technically, it’s more like the Oxygen Network for Liberals.

On The Prairie Home Companion:

Delete it if you see it, but don’t panic. It just means your kid likes drivel or dislikes Lutherans.

I actually agree with that one.

On Polyamory Weekly:

This is easily the most dangerous and socially destructive podcast I’ve ever heard.

I thought the same, until I heard the podcast version of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

On Open Source Sex with Violet Blue:

My computer started showing a slideshow of naked people with whips when I hit “play” and things went downhill from there.

He’s probably right — when you start with pictures of naked people holding whips, the only place to go is down. He also mentions that “if you find it on your child’s computer delete it and bring your child to your pastor or a Christian counselor immediately,” presumably for reprogramming or to get a refund.

Thanks to Gordon for sending us the link, and for all the listeners who left hilarious and thought-provoking responses on Corny’s site after I Twittered this yesterday!

*With a pregnant Mary on its back.

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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56 Comments

  1. This is the greatest and most best article ever written.

    I have nothing to contribute. One question though: If the SGU is everything Cornswalled says it is, does that make him a propaganda mouthpiece for -God- and his followers? I know that title should register as positive somehow, but… it doesn’t.

  2. Do people listen to this….

    this…

    (hmm, what’s the right wording…)

    willfully ignorant, deluded, narcissistic crackpot?

    He’s a complex number with a real part equal to zero. He’s so far down the imaginary axis that he can’t see the real number line anymore.

    I listen to Dawkins or Hitchens speak, and I get the feeling that we’re about to turn a new page in human history, that we’re right on the cusp of a new age. I then hear people like this, and I can’t help but think we’re all, if you’ll excuse me, fucked.

  3. On the vaccine issue I wonder if he has been vaccinated? I think of this whole anti-vac thing as fairly recent or we wouldn’t have been able to make such huge impacts on the old diseases. If he has been then is he infected with liquied blasphemy?

    Also on vaccination I was watching the tube last night when a commercial with Amanda Peet came on. I was watching her and thinking about how hot she was when the commercial finally got my attention. She was making a wholesale endorsement of vaccination along with pictures of unvaccinated children and what happens to them when they catch a disease.

    Huraay Amanda Peet, Hot spokeschick for vaccination.

  4. Ugh. “Censor for the children! Their MINDS!!! Their precious MINDS!!!!!!! They might actually hear different points of view and have to think for themselves!” It really annoys me how people disrespect their own children.

  5. @thomtrue:

    It makes me sad that there are people out there.

    You know, same here. There always in the way, causing traffic jams, we need to do something about this ;) (I know what you meant to say, but when you forget a phrase or two, it’s unintended comedy!)

    I love the phrase “Liquid Blasphemy”, could be a name for an internet comic strip or something.

  6. Bahaha! This guy is so crazy Poe’s Law is almost in effect. I happen to know a bit about this guy, since he started harassing another podcast I enjoy, some years ago. Here are some facts:

    Alexander Cornswalled is NOT his real name. According to a source close to their family, it’s a name they use for some weird paranoid reason.

    If you listen to his podcast, the accent is also fake. It’s apparently his way of getting more bible-belter cred.

    According to a source, he got is brother to disown Cornswalled’s gay nephew. The source identifies as the gay lover.

    I’d be willing to bet that he could agree with anything from Landover Baptist if he didn’t know it was a spoof.

    BTW, the podcast we had been harassing was the infinitely tasteless Distorted View.

  7. Funny stuff. I thought it was particularly annoying that he’d choose to go after a fairly emotional and personal segment dealing with death and loss.

    That was one of the most memorable moments of the show, in my opinion. It was a brutally honest and intellectual exploration of complex feelings. At the time I heard it, I was dealing with fresh wounds from a recent loss (not death, but loss just the same) and I couldn’t keep my eyes dry.

    One moment among many during which the SGU helped me feel like I wasn’t alone.

  8. Dudes, Garrison Keillor bashing, really? I can’t stand the PHC music but I love all the skits. Come on, they mock English majors left and right.

    Also, are you considering changing the SGU name to “Mouthpiece of Satan”? Because that would be awesome.

  9. Sorry for those of you who are PHC lovers, but that show just fills me with annoyance and then puts me to sleep.

    @Kimbo Jones: Yeah, I forgot to mention in the post but the thing that gives me hope is that he said he was reviewing these podcasts because that’s what the kids in the congregation are listening to. If we have a bunch of fundie kids tuning in on a regular basis, I couldn’t be happier to be the mouthpiece of (skepticism) for them.

  10. This is easily the most dangerous and socially destructive podcast I’ve ever heard.

    Well, hell. I may have to check out the Polyamory Weekly podcast after all. (I’m poly, but I’m not a podcast listener by nature. I know, I know. I’m a square.)

  11. Clearly this guy is bonkers. Thanks to the internet, what would once have been some bloke in a bar (or London Taxi driver) ranting out loud at anyone passing by, is now out there on the internet seeming a lot more mainstream than is the case.

    Although if you play podcasts of SGU backwards at 33.333rpm…

    “Liquid Blasphemy” sounds like the name of a really good cocktail, perhaps containing ‘Sweetcorn and Spud Vodka’ distilled by Tykes (a kind of 6 toe’d Yorkshire hillbilly) and collected in used plastic coke bottles. “Hmm, the hint of Terps really brings out the flavour”

  12. SGU is a mouthpiece for Satan?

    Que lastima. That’s too bad.

    I personally don’t like the role of lackey in any endeavor. I will not be demeaned by being called anyone’s mouthpiece. That’s why I’m gunning for the Dark Lord’s job outright.

  13. “God shakes his head and says, “You moron, I sent you a frigging helicopter.” The God kicks him in the nads and tells him to go to hell.”

    My pastor once told us this story in exactly the same words. Except for that last line, which makes it priceless.

  14. He also mentions that “if you find it on your child’s computer delete it and bring your child to your pastor or a Christian counselor immediately,” presumably for reprogramming or to get a refund.

    Or an exchange…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wwo8qxUit00

    “If I go to Littlewoods and say that I’m not happy with a cardigan for example, they’ll change it for me and gladly.”
    “You want me to change your son?”
    “Well of course I do, mine is soiled now.”

    It was good fun watching (and contributing to) the unprecedented number of comments flood into his blog yesterday.

    Perhaps Satan is the SGU’s mouthpiece?

  15. Hmmm…He’s anti-vaccination, eh? This sounds like a self-correcting issue once the next pandemic comes around. I say, let ’em find out the hard way. If they survive, that is. Wait, that would be evolutionary, wouldn’t it?

    He sounds a lot like a “Christian Dominionist” to me. As in “We want to take over the US for Christ”… literally. Don’t laugh too loud at them – the Republican VP candidate is one.

    Garrison Keillor? Seriously? That’s about as dangerous as a vanilla milk shake. That guy’s certifiable.

    Nawww…If you play the SGU podcasts backwards at 66.6 rpm, “it screws up your needle!” (With apologies to the great frisbeetarian, George Carlin, where ever -if -he is.) :-D

  16. @Rebecca: #27

    I think it could be an age thang. Husband and I (old farts) listen to PHC occasionally, and like it a lot. Only in small doses mind you, and got to be in the mood… Usually too busy listening to SGU and Skeptoid though!

    Please work “liquid blasphemy” into a SGU podcast. Please.

    Great post.

    Makes me feel slightly hypocritical though, as I do my level best to ensure that my children (7 and 9) are not exposed to the sort of dangerous drivel that Corny and his fundie “Christian” ilk spew forth. Nasty little poisonous volcanoes.

    I’m not an atheist, more of a deist if anything, and I’m trying to find a way to raise my children to be in a position to make a decision by themselves, but I will not have them exposed to fundamentalists of any creed until they are old enough to have the critical thinking skills to make sense of it all.

    Bugger vetting podcasts, I’m off to see if I can put the Australian Christian Channel onto parental lockout on our Foxtel service. Can’t be too careful, as I accidentally landed on it only this morning to see a telly evangelist sprouting forth anti gay rhetoric…

  17. The tag end of his response is… interesting.

    “Finally, she goes over some of my previous podcast reviews and agrees with most of them. I guess there’s hope for her after all.”

    Either he’s an incredible troll, or his sarcasm filter is completely broken.

  18. It’s funny, because my biggest complaint about skepticism podcasts in general is how reluctant they are to pick on religion. They’ll target the low-hanging fruit (creationism, ID, Scientology) but generally go pretty easy on religion in general. I guess that’s why this guy had to focus your views about vaccination (huh?) to build a case for of your Satanic credentials.

  19. I really like this part:

    “If you don’t trust God to protect your family then don’t be surprised when God removes his protection and lets Satan strike your family down.”

    Quick translation:

    Threat?? No, no, me and Luigi ain’t makin’ no threats! We’re just sayin’ if you don’t keep up your — ah — insurance payments yer family could be in real trouble if an — ah — accident was to happen to ya. Know what I mean?

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