We need a few new terms to differentiate between moderate theists who oppose their religion’s fanatics, moderate theists who ignore their fanatics, and moderate theists who offer support to their fanatics. I say this because of a recent email sent in to my podcast The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe (SGU), complaining about our coverage of Helen Ukpabio, the evangelical Christian Nigerian witch-hunter who was recently successfully blocked from entering the US.

If you’ll recall, Ukpabio is the head of Liberty Foundation Gospel Ministries. She preaches a literal interpretation of the Bible and maintains that children and elderly women who act strangely are witches who should be driven from their homes and murdered. This has real-life consequences, as there are currently many women and children who are homeless, mutilated, and/or dead due to witch hunts. Ukpabio was meant to visit Houston back in April to spread her ministry, but skeptic and atheist activists launched a campaign that prevented her from completing her trip.

We’ve talked about Ukpabio a few times on SGU, including reporting on the most recent success from skeptical activists. Here’s the email we received last week (it’s copy/pasted so everything is [sic]):

Reason: Feedback/Suggestions
Email: [REDACTED]
First Name: Stan
Last Name: [REDACTED]
Location: [REDACTED], KY
Subject: Moving beyond Skepticism toward agendas
Message: Thank you guys/gals for years of entertainment, lessons regarding logical fallicies, interesting interviews, laughs and the ‘how-to’ in approaching a supposed “science-based” essay.

I continue to download your podcast weekly, though lately I find myself only to listen briefly to your science news, check who may be interviewed and skip to ‘Science or Fiction.’

Over these years (in MY subjective estimation) you have continued to drift toward an ‘agenda-based’ position forwarding not only skeptical thinking but actively pushing atheism.

It’s no longer limited to Rebecca’s consistant slam on organized religion, but seems woven through most your dialogues whenever the subject arises.

OK, example please! Late examples would be the story of a supposed Christian lady leader in Africa killing witches (the one coming or who came to Houston, TX). These acts of this organization in Africa are terrible. And so, you blame it on the religious group(s) for allowing or supporting this. In the same vein, let’s poke at the religious for our history segment on burning witches at the stake (last week). Skeptically, I think the anthropologists would look more at the local government structures at the time to be the culprit; but, religion is an easy target for you.

I wondered today, that say a man entered a local bank, loudly declared himself to be an athiest and proceeded to rob the bank at gunpoint, how you would spin it on SGU.

By what I see as of late, I think you would not deem it noteworthy, since 1) It’s not a topic driven by my afore mentioned agenda; 2) You wouldn’t accept that he was an athiest just by his declaration; and 3) You would NEVER associate his atheism (if he was) to this disassociative act.

If the last two reasons above seem sensible to you, why not apply that with inflamed news that includes religions?

I don’t think you can defend the position that you do give religious news the ‘fair skeptical look,’… and thus my first point (not your agenda) has grounds.

Though I may slowly drift from your podcast, I do thank you greatly for your lessons, and for introducing me to various energized skeptics across the globe who can keep focused on the “Science” and fair “Skepticism,” not focusing on groups to slam in order to feel good or more right.

My co-host Jay responded with this:

Stan,

As a listener of many podcasts, radio shows etc. I’ve had similar experiences where I thought I noticed agendas or changes in editorial positions arise. Now that I am 7 years into my own podcast I have a different perspective on some of the conclusions ive drawn about other shows. Shows evolve over time with sometimes little conscious decisions for course changes. We have never steered our show away from our original editorial position which is to educate our listeners not what to think but how to think. We also decided to only talk about religion when it crosses into the realm of science. Every news item that we discussed that has anything to do with religion is only being discussed to point out how it contradicted science. We don’t talk about religions for the sake of putting down religion. Most of us are not atheist. We are agnostic and as i’m sure you know there is a significant difference. I personally don’t have it out for religion and my feelings about it have only marginally changed. It would be far more accurate to come from the opposite perspective and say that I believe in science, critical thinking and education.

Thanks a lot for the honest email,

-Jay

However, I remained confused by the initial email. So I responded with this:

I don’t understand the complaint at all. Helen Ukpabio founded an evangelical Christian ministry based upon her interpretation of the Bible. She preaches to congregations around the world about witches, telling them that God hates these children and demands that they be cured or murdered.

Why on earth would we discuss that without mentioning religion? She is literally using religious belief to convince people to murder children. We never said that this is what all Christians do. We never even said that this is what all Christians believe or support. So what did we say that was incorrect?

Several days later, we received this response:

Jay, I appreciate your reply, and your clarification of your positions. I do think the response by Rebecca does speaks for itself, and I could not have illustrated my point more vividly, ever. The Helen U. news had nothing to do with science. And before we voice a knee-jerk reaction in defense, lets ask how many times has SGU covered beheadings or dismemberings taking place in areas dominated my the Muslim religion?

I do like your whole group, guys and gals, and with fairness you need to know that Christians have standards of measuring news too. For instance, when Steve cites this is a “small study,” the same logic applies when I read stories like Helen U., or what the Pope might say, and so on.

Atheism does not equal agnostic (as you said). Creationists don’t equal Christians. Christian does not equal Roman Catholic.

There are plenty of podcast resources for the just mentioned topics (I’d love to share them with you sometime….) but the point is, please stay with science.

Stan

At this point I realized that I had been mistaken. I thought his initial complaint was that we mentioned Helen Ukpabio’s religion while discussing the fact that she literally preaches that God wants parents to murder their children for being witches. After this email I realized that his actual complaint was that we discussed her at all.

I responded:

Apparently I don’t merit a direct response, but I’ll try once more, anyway. Witches are paranormal creatures that do not exist. Our podcast is called “The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe.” Skeptics often rationally discuss the paranormal.

Now, I’m very curious: please explain why we should not have covered the Helen Ukpabio witch-hunter story.

That was two days ago and there’s been no response. Perhaps he’s only interested in talking with Jay.

From what I can tell at this point, though, this appears to be a moderate Christian who won’t tolerate even the mention of an extremist from his own religion, even when that extremist is making very, very dangerous claims of the paranormal, even on a podcast devoted to discussing claims of the paranormal.

To me, that is the very worst kind of moderate Christian one can be.

And trust me: the day an atheist leader starts convincing the members of his atheist club to murder kids because atheism tells him that they’re goblins, you can be sure we’ll report on it.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org and appears on the weekly Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast. 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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193 Comments

  1. Profile photo of pzmyers
    June 21, 2012 at 11:11 am —

    How about this:

    Dangerous fanatics like Ukpabio are demented fuckwits, abbreviated DF.

    Moderate Christians like Stan are delusional fantasists, abbreviated DF.

    There. Problem solved.

    • Profile photo of brenda
      June 21, 2012 at 2:08 pm —

      “There. Problem solved.”

      Why yes, collective guilt is an easy solution. It doesn’t of course solve the social problem (if there is one) but it does help manage one’s reactionary fears of the Other to just lump them all together and make them a target for one’s anger.

      It is short lived however so you’ll need to build further walls to protect yourself. But that only gives you diminishing returns.

      • Profile photo of kagerato
        June 21, 2012 at 2:29 pm —

        Yeah, you’re right. There is no so-called “social problem” here. No one is killing anyone over accusations of being a witch. Witch hunts aren’t real. Atheists just made the whole thing up to attack poor oppressed Christians.

        Happy?

        • Profile photo of brenda
          June 21, 2012 at 2:46 pm —

          “Happy?”

          No, because I never said nor implied that. Try again. I don’t think that moderates of any kind are a problem. I think that extremists, religious or secular, are in fact the problem. But I understand, extremists usually do feel that moderates are more of a problem than their enemy is.

          • Profile photo of beatrice
            June 21, 2012 at 3:12 pm

            Moderates are the problem when they sit back and do nothing when more extreme adherents of their religion preach and do despicable things. When they complain about being tarred with the same brush instead of showing how different they are by condemning what the extremists do and fighting against them. Moderates are the problem when they enjoy the “benefits” of extremists’ actions while being able to claim that they had nothing to do with whatever horrid thing those did.

          • Profile photo of kagerato
            June 21, 2012 at 3:19 pm

            You still miss the point. It’s not “collective guilt” to identify the failures of Christians to call out their own people.

            You seem to be under the delusion that there is some one, true kind of Christian. That’s completely wrong. It’s excusing Christians for doing nothing about their community and the wrongs committed by its members.

            Trying to isolate the fanatics after the fact, saying that they’re not “true” Christians is nonsense. You should be doing that long before we have to talk about murders being committed, and should be aware that you’re changing the very old understanding of what Christian means. (Hint: it’s a series of supernatural beliefs, not a system of behavior.)

      • Profile photo of marilove
        June 21, 2012 at 3:54 pm —

        Do you know who PZ Myers is? He is the king of facetiousness and snark.

    • Profile photo of marilove
      June 21, 2012 at 3:53 pm —

      Man, PZ, I really wish you’d come back and wipe the floor with this Brenda person.

      • Profile photo of brenda
        June 21, 2012 at 8:24 pm —

        Really? Would that show me who is boss? Do I need to be taught a lesson? Is this how you resolve disputes? Do you really think these things?

        • Profile photo of Ing213
          June 23, 2012 at 12:09 pm —

          You could stand to be better educated. If you take that as hostility, well I think that is the crux of your issues

  2. Profile photo of Dale Husband
    June 21, 2012 at 11:21 am —

    Rebecca, that was not a “moderate Theist” who criticzed you. It was a bigoted backstabber.

    • Profile photo of Rebecca Watson
      June 21, 2012 at 11:26 am —

      I disagree – I think he is a moderate Christian. He’s someone who, if questioned directly, disagrees with the actions of extremists in his religion. I think that’s enough to qualify him as a moderate.

      It’s just that he thinks the solution to extremism is to pretend it doesn’t happen.

      • Profile photo of brenda
        June 21, 2012 at 2:17 pm —

        “It’s just that he thinks the solution to extremism is to pretend it doesn’t happen.”

        No, I suspect he doesn’t think she belongs to his religion at all and objects to your placing him in the same box with her. Just like putting the West Borough Baptist Church cult in the same category as the Metropolitan Community Church. Which would also be highly offensive.

        You don’t have the right to put people in little boxes to satisfy your ideological agenda. You have to deal with them and work it out between you both.

        That’s called politics.

        • Profile photo of Rebecca Watson
          June 21, 2012 at 2:20 pm —

          You know your comment makes zero sense, right? Seriously, I’m really looking forward to you providing one single example to support the bullshit emanating from your keyboard.

        • Profile photo of beatrice
          June 21, 2012 at 2:31 pm —

          You don’t have the right to put people in little boxes to satisfy your ideological agenda. You have to deal with them and work it out between you both.

          No, these people don’t mind being put in boxes. In fact, they are insisting on it, by making it clear that they do not belong to that other box where all the fundamentalists are. Nope, their box is a totally different box (remember, nothing at all to do with fundamentalists!), and the only thing they mind is that Rebecca didn’t pretend that all those boxes don’t come from the same fashion line, having just a slightly different style.

        • Profile photo of kagerato
          June 21, 2012 at 2:32 pm —

          That’s called No True Scotsman. It’s a logical fallacy, meaning you’re wrong by default. Look it up.

          The Bible explicitly supports genocide and slavery, so I have no idea how people can get away with claiming it can’t support witch hunts. Some serious special pleading is going on here.

          • Profile photo of brenda
            June 21, 2012 at 8:28 pm

            I’m a little confused about to whom you’re replying (me?) and what your argument is. Could you flesh it out a bit more?

          • Profile photo of kagerato
            June 22, 2012 at 1:23 pm

            People are not going to do your research for you, brenda. That’s unreasonable, especially when you pay so little attention to everything else they say.

        • Profile photo of mrmisconception
          June 21, 2012 at 3:21 pm —

          Exodus 22:18 (KJV)
          Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.

        • Profile photo of marilove
          June 21, 2012 at 3:56 pm —

          Here. Lemme help:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_true_Scotsman

          No true Scotsman is an informal logical fallacy, an ad hoc attempt to retain an unreasoned assertion.[1] When faced with a counterexample to a universal claim, rather than denying the counterexample or rejecting the original universal claim, this fallacy modifies the subject of the assertion to exclude the specific case or others like it by rhetoric, without reference to any specific objective rule.

      • Profile photo of skepticomposer
        June 28, 2012 at 5:53 pm —

        I disagree that he must be a moderate. Disagreeing with murdering children for being “witches” doesn’t make him a moderate; most fundamentalists I’ve met would probably disagree with that, too. It says nothing on his opinions about abortion, gay rights, whether the Bible should be interpreted literally or metaphorically, etc.

    • Profile photo of mikerattlesnake
      June 21, 2012 at 12:14 pm —

      Neither of those words are particularly accurate descriptors, nor are they antithetical to moderate religiosity.

  3. Profile photo of revmatty
    June 21, 2012 at 11:22 am —

    I suspect this is not the first time you’ve encountered someone who will respond to other members of the podcast panel but act as though you don’t exist. Those people do not rate a response from anyone on the panel and should be ignored entirely. If they feel that you are not worth acknowledging directly (either because you’re a woman or because you’re the demon wench Rebecca Watson) then there is no reason for them to get a response from anyone at SGU.

    • Profile photo of Rebecca Watson
      June 21, 2012 at 11:28 am —

      Oh lord no. I get emails all the time that are specifically addressed to the men asking them to shut me up or kick me off or somehow control me in my wild, wild ways.

      • Profile photo of revmatty
        June 21, 2012 at 3:52 pm —

        I’ve been listening to SGU since Episode one. You have been nothing but a positive addition to the show.

      • Profile photo of Rei Malebario
        June 22, 2012 at 5:51 am —

        We should send some emails where we ask you to boot Evan and the Novellas off or at least shut them up. I mean, not because you should. But, y’know, just for balance. :-P

    • Profile photo of kagerato
      June 21, 2012 at 2:35 pm —

      I wonder why people whose origin story has a woman causing the downfall of paradise might be dismissive toward women?

      Hmm…

  4. Profile photo of unity
    June 21, 2012 at 11:29 am —

    Ah yes, its the old ‘not my brand of god’ gambit to which the correct response is inform the complainant to quit whining and take some responsibility for their own fucknuts.

  5. Profile photo of noisician
    June 21, 2012 at 11:30 am —

    I think the more shocking revelation here is Jay’s statement that most of the Skeptical Rogues are not atheists!

    Really, are they falling back on the “I’m agnostic” cop-out? Of course we can’t “know” there’s no god, but I didn’t think any of them were actual believers.

    Surely they understand that theist/atheist is a binary proposition.

    So are some of the guys actually theists?

    • Profile photo of spokesgay
      June 21, 2012 at 12:18 pm —

      I thought the same thing. Super disappointing, and thanks for throwing atheists under the bus with a big ‘ol strawman, Jay!

    • Profile photo of Dale Husband
      June 21, 2012 at 12:35 pm —

      They probably define atheism the way I do and the way it used to be defined decades ago:
      http://dalehusband.wordpress.com/2010/08/09/misdefining-terms-for-purposes-of-propaganda/

      I say that only people who DENY outright the existence of any god is a “true” atheist and that atheism should be classed as a dogma, not an objective point of view. A person who merely says there is no evidence for God and takes a neutral position as a result is a non-theist and an agnostic.

      • Profile photo of Johnnie Furious
        June 21, 2012 at 1:38 pm —

        What word would you use for a lack of belief in god? Is it the same for a lack of knowledge? Does it make sense to make those terms distinct?

        • Profile photo of koberulz
          June 21, 2012 at 1:43 pm —

          This. Atheism/theism relates to belief, gnosticism/agnosticism relates to knowledge. So an agnostic athiest is someone who does not believe in a god, but accepts that there is no definitive proof for either case, an agnostic theist believes in a god, but accepts there is no definitive proof for either case, a gnostic theist believes there is concrete proof of a god’s existence, and a gnostic atheist believes there is concrete proof that no god exists.

          “I’m not an atheist, I’m an agnostic” is a cop-out, and it irritates me no end.

          • Profile photo of kagerato
            June 21, 2012 at 2:41 pm

            Yet when it comes to “knowledge” of the supernatural, the scale is slanted. Any random coincidence is counted as evidence, yet the utter absence of even the slightest formal or verifiable evidence counts for nothing.

            Believers have no answer to the questions “what would be counter evidence?” and “what would disprove God?”. Many (most?) of them explicitly disavow any answer, claiming this is about faith and not evidence. This shows complete disengagement with the argument and more importantly, reality.

          • Profile photo of Dale Husband
            June 24, 2012 at 9:44 am

            Sorry, but knowing that Thomas Huxley was the one who actually coined the term agnostic and knowing exactly what he said about both atheism and agnosticism (as documented in my blog entry above), I am not willing to throw his legacy under the bus just for the sake of making “atheism” look more acceptable and tolerable to the general public. Either use the term “agnostic” as Huxley did, or never use it at all. Huxley made clear that he was not an atheist, and that you could not be an “atheist agnostic” as he decribed both himself and others. Saying that nearly all atheists, and most theists, are also agnostics because there is no way to KNOW there is a God actually makes the word agnostic completely useless.

            Saying I am an agnostic and not an atheist is not a cop-out. It is going back to the original usage of those words for the sake of clarity and consistency.

            We already had a term for lacking belief in God long ago: non-theism or non-theist. Why does atheist and atheism have to mean that too?

            It’s OK to add new definitions for terms like “cool” (which originally meant only the opposite of warm, but now also means socially and culturally acceptable) but outright CHANGING a definition of a word from its original historical one should never be accepted. We did that with the word “gentleman” (which was a reference to owning property and having good social standing in the Middle Ages, but now merely describes a man of good behavior) and the original meaning of the term was lost to the collective mind of the general public, making it useless. I fear the same will happen to the word “agnostic” in a few more decades if we don’t stop abusing it.

          • Profile photo of koberulz
            June 24, 2012 at 5:49 pm

            “outright CHANGING a definition of a word from its original historical one should never be accepted”

            You do realise that’s happened to EVERY SINGLE WORD IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, right?

          • Profile photo of marilove
            June 25, 2012 at 12:36 pm

            but now also means socially and culturally acceptable) but outright CHANGING a definition of a word from its original historical one should never be accepted.

            Okay, Dale, I’m sorry, but this is stupid. Do you know how language works/ Because, uh, language changes. Constantly. As society and culture changes, so does language. That is how language works!

            My linguistic nerd friends would be howling with laughter if they had witnessed this claim of yours.

            I mean, the word “gay” historically did not mean “homosexual” — it meant happy!

            I could come up with some other examples, but … I imagine I don’t need to. Since this is just basic common sense.

      • Profile photo of mrmisconception
        June 21, 2012 at 3:14 pm —

        Dale – Definitions change, you don’t have to agree with the new usage but arguing every time someone uses the word in the new, and more common way is futile.

        Currently atheist and agnostic are used in the way @koberulz pointed out, dismissing that because it doesn’t fit what you wish it meant is like arguing that the Repiblican Party is progressive, after all Lincoln was a Republican.

      • Profile photo of Scott Vignali
        June 21, 2012 at 3:51 pm —

        Dale, please see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KayBys8gaJY

        To echo koberulez, atheism isn’t the position that gods don’t exist, rather, it is a response to theistic claims that they do, as unsupported by evidence. Simply put, atheism is the lack of belief in a god or gods.

        To lack belief in a god, one does not need to disprove the existence of one, any more than one needs to disprove the existence of garden faeries or unicorns to disbelieve their existence. When someone makes a factual claim, the obligation lies with them to support their claim. It is not the obligation of the skeptic to prove the claim false.

        Agnosticism refers to a claim to knowledge. The vast majority of theists are agnostic theists, in that they don’t claim to KNOW that a god exists; rather, they believe that one does, and go through life under that assumption, but are open to another possibility.

        • Profile photo of Dale Husband
          June 24, 2012 at 10:03 am —

          Thanks for that video. Ironically, the case of the validity of religions was undermined by Christian apologists like Josh McDowell writing such flawed and even outright fraudulant books as “Evidence That Demands a Verdict”, forcing atheists to examine and debunk all the apologists’ bogus claims. It would have been better for religious leaders and advocates to just be intellectually honest and admit from the start that there is no empirical evidence for religions. What they did instead only delayed the inevitable discrediting of religion and made themselves look even worse in the end.

          People just need to stop stating belief in God or gods or in the other dogmas one gets from the Bible, as if they are facts, period.

    • Profile photo of brenda
      June 21, 2012 at 2:39 pm —

      “Surely they understand that theist/atheist is a binary proposition.”

      Nothing in this world is binary. In fact that kind of black and white thinking is properly labeled a cognitive distortion and is a defense mechanism. Yes yes, I know, but I assure you it is.

      The reason it’s a defense mechanism is because people are not binary logic machines. But thinking that they *are* is an effective way to mange one’s anxieties about them. Well, short term, it all falls apart eventually.

      A better way is to understand that people exist on a broad continuum and that you can’t really pigeon hole people as being this or that. You kind of have things backwards you know. Words do not determine what people are. People determine what words *mean*.

      • Profile photo of kagerato
        June 21, 2012 at 2:44 pm —

        Nothing in the world is binary, says the person entering a message into a vast network of digital computers.

        All of the irony meters in the world just exploded.

        • Profile photo of brenda
          June 21, 2012 at 8:41 pm —

          “All of the irony meters in the world just exploded.”

          We are talking about people not machines. Black and white thinking still remains a cognitive distortion because life just isn’t like that. People are not like that. It is a fallacy to believe that people are either this or that. It’s a false dilemma.

          • Profile photo of mrmisconception
            June 21, 2012 at 9:05 pm

            They mean that you believe or you don’t believe, do you know how words work?

          • Profile photo of brenda
            June 22, 2012 at 2:10 am

            @ mrmisconception

            Yes I do and that is a false dilemma. It is simply an objective fact that the range of beliefs about god or gods are broad and varied and not at all limited to your binary choice.

          • Profile photo of kagerato
            June 22, 2012 at 1:30 pm

            OK, brenda. So it is apparently possible to partly believe in God, to be a partial Christian, to partly think Jesus was the savior of mankind sent to absolve us of our sins, et cetera.

            No. Don’t think so. Some principles reduce to a binary.

            By the way, it’s called a red herring when you divert the argument to something irrelevant. Whether there are different kinds of Christians or different kinds of belief has effectively no impact on whether they ought to condemn and isolate violent fundamentalists.

          • Profile photo of skepticomposer
            June 28, 2012 at 6:02 pm

            Colloquially, atheist isn’t defined as “just don’t believe.” It’s defined as I “believe there is no God.”

            God (lol) forbid people might want to use terms that reflect the way most people they talk to understand these terms, not just how people discuss them on a skeptics’ forum.

            It’s the reason I use bisexual rather than pansexual to describe my sexuality, and also why I use agnostic rather than atheist to describe my theological beliefs. I’m a 4 on the Dawkins scale, not a 6 or a 7, and I don’t feel the need to constantly explain to people what exactly I believe because they hear “atheist” and think something that I’m actually not.

      • Profile photo of Ing213
        June 23, 2012 at 12:12 pm —

        0101100101100101011100110010000001110100011010000110010101110010011001010010000001101001011100110010000001100100011101010110110101100010011000010111001101110011

    • Profile photo of revmatty
      June 21, 2012 at 3:56 pm —

      Yea, I was kind of surprised by that, though now that I think of it they have mentioned this in the past on the show. I believe, but could be entirely wrong, that the position some of them take is that they don’t have a solid view one way or the other on the existence of a god (possibly but highly improbably, soft atheist, etc).

      They also have made a point of not debating religion qua religion on the show but only addressing specific claims, this could well be an extension of that policy.

    • Profile photo of Edward Strickson
      June 23, 2012 at 8:17 pm —

      I know that this isn’t the way the cast of SGU discussed their agnosticism on early podcasts etc. but I take issue with the binary system claim.

      In my admittedly recent transition from Catholic to Atheist there was very long period where I genuinely didn’t know which side matched me.

      At that point I wasn’t a theist or an atheist, because I didn’t know whether I believed in God or not, it seemed like I was stuck in a place where I equally believed and disbelieved in God. Some of you may call that atheism, perhaps since I doubted enough to not commit myself to Christianity but in truth I was as confident that God existed as I was that he/she/it/shle didn’t.

      So, given that, I was more of a 0.5 than a 0 or a 1.

    • Profile photo of skepticomposer
      June 28, 2012 at 5:59 pm —

      Or why don’t you assume that self-identified agnostics on skeptics’ forums have probably heard the argument that it’s a “cop-out” before, and disagree?

      If they’re starting forums designed to combat superstition, including of the religious variety, they’re obviously not people who are too cowardly to stand up for their beliefs against religious persecution. Assuming that must be the case because you automatically assume that of everyone who calls themselves “agnostics” is pretty asinine.

  6. Profile photo of Buzz Parsec
    June 21, 2012 at 11:35 am —

    Does Stan also think it’s not acceptable to discuss water from a leaky sewer pipe, loaded with pathogens, seeping through a wall and exiting into a niche containing a religious icon, being treated as a magical elixir and panacea by ignorant poor people, most with limited or no access to modern science-based medicine?

    Is it also not acceptable to discuss creationist legislation, especially stealth creationism?

    The common element in all these things is paranormal fantasies being foisted on the public with dire real world consequences.

    This is exactly what I listen to SGU for. (And it’s really funny.)

    There are plenty more podcasts out there if all I cared about was Big Foot or other harmless delusions. Keep up with the good work.

  7. Profile photo of ajvs
    June 21, 2012 at 11:35 am —

    What is the name of the logical fallacy where you say, “If this hypothetical thing happened (though it never actually has), you would act differently. Therefore, you are a hypocrite.” Is that a variant of the straw man, or is it its own beast?

    • Profile photo of Pugg Fuggly
      June 21, 2012 at 11:49 am —

      It’s kind of a non-sequitor, isn’t it?. It’s also got some aspects of begging the question.

      Actually, I have no idea and I’m pretty bad at Name That Logical Fallacy. But it stood out to me, too, as an absurd line of reasoning.

    • Profile photo of marilove
      June 21, 2012 at 1:01 pm —

      It’s called “Making Shit Up To Fit Your Agenda.”

  8. Profile photo of hedgehog
    June 21, 2012 at 11:46 am —

    I don’t really have the opportunity to listen to podcasts, and have only recently started reading this site, so cannot speak to the topic directly at hand. But the topic of how to discuss religious-based actions (which seems to be the theme) is one that I have been thinking about quite a bit recently. I just finished The New Yorker’s June 18th article on Bryan Fischer. And honestly, he is an evil, evil man. But, I was thinking that the article was particularly effective for me because it presented what he was doing and his goals, which are for him religious, but without attaching it to religion as a whole. As a “delusional fantasist” who lives with a born-again atheist, I feel quite frequently under attack as things done in the name of religion are equated with religion as a whole. I am interested in the idea of what is the line, or where the line is between identifying people’s motivation as religious and condemning religion and those who believe in it as a whole, and also the kind of phrasing that can lead the discussion one way or another.

    • Profile photo of mikerattlesnake
      June 21, 2012 at 12:16 pm —

      If your have more concern for the image of your religion than the victims of the things done in its name then you are part of the problem.

      • Profile photo of hedgehog
        June 21, 2012 at 12:42 pm —

        Actually, I don’t have problems with the image of my religion. I’m interested in what are the particular phrases that make a discussion more like an attack. Because with an attack I feel thrown into a defensive position and cannot condemn/discuss a situation with the same freedom as I now feel more connected to the situation than I would like. Then it changes the conversation away from being directly about the topic at hand, to one that is much more guarded because it might be an opening to an all out assault on beliefs. I think it distracts and takes away from a more unified front on a number of topics that are important and need to be acted upon.

        • Profile photo of kagehi
          June 21, 2012 at 1:21 pm —

          With respect, if you can’t, or find it uncomfortable, or find you don’t have facts, to defend “belief”, by itself, in the face of someone saying, “And, while this might be a ‘big thing’, there are a lot of small things, that go on, all the time, which collectively are just as bad.”, then… frankly, maybe religion is the problem, and not just what the people who have a spotlight shown on them, are doing.

          Its a bit like politics. You get people making similar arguments there too. “Well, I and the people I know are not crazy, like the ones you mention.” Only, when you actually manage to talk to them, and figure out what they think, all of the necessary errors, flaws in thinking, ignorance of facts, unfounded presumptions about how the world, or the economy, or just people, work, are all there, just waiting for someone to present a “cause”, to be believed in, which could send the person right into some sort of injustice, false anger, abuse of power, of assumption of privilege, for their own group, because, well, their fears, and anger, and oppression, are “justified”, unlike the rest of those other people’s. Heck, all one has to do is look at the new post on PZ’s site, which points out that finances in churches are so mismanaged you could hide a drug cartel in them, and still manage to look “charitable” to the clueless, to see there is a basic problem, some place, in the whole thing.

          • Profile photo of hedgehog
            June 21, 2012 at 1:53 pm

            You know, defending my belief system and every other person who is not an atheist every freaking time the subject of religion comes up? Seriously, it is BORING, many are indefensible (like much of humanity) and I’m not interested in proselytizing. Speaking of which, maybe I’ll just talk to Jehovah’s Witnesses about keys to a respectful dialogue. They also think I’m wrong and need converting, but are a lot more polite about it.

          • Profile photo of kagerato
            June 21, 2012 at 2:57 pm

            There was nothing impolite in what kagehi said.

            Even if there was, you apparently came to discuss tone, not substance, and very few people here are interested in that.

            If you expect people to have a quiet and repressed tone in a discussion of life and death, where the causes of murder are partly mass delusion, you are expecting far too much. It’s actually oppressive to ask for that, though you have no clue.

            Your privilege has blinded you to such a degree that you believe that critical responses and hostile tone are as important as the fact that people are being murdered (and what to do about it). That’s an egregiously impolite and controlling thing to do.

            The comfort of all the privileged people in the world does not have the value of even one life.

          • Profile photo of mrmisconception
            June 21, 2012 at 3:07 pm

            @hedgehog – I’m confused.

            Are you being held at gunpoint and being forced to post here? Because you asked a question that I believe you knew would get a response you didn’t like.

            Are you a masochist or are you just looking for a reason to make a dramatic exit?

          • Profile photo of hedgehog
            June 21, 2012 at 4:30 pm

            Actually, just call me naive. This is something that is an issue for me in my personal life. I get a lot of exposure to the sect of Reddit, for want of a better descriptor. I separately was reading an article which covered in detail the “career” of a religious nut-job. However I was quite interested in how the article motivated me to find ways to act in opposition, as opposed to making me feel defensive and less likely to take action. I had thought from reading other threads on this website that this might be a good place to get a discussion on the difference, but obviously (as you said) this really isn’t the place.

          • Profile photo of hedgehog
            June 21, 2012 at 4:49 pm

            Oh, and kagerato, I do find tone important, because in discourse it leads to people coming together and from there action. That is how I think you get to fewer people being murdered, the organization of better distribution of food, better distribution of resources, of medication, etc. etc. It is to me a means to an end and not a matter of manners and repression.

          • Profile photo of marilove
            June 21, 2012 at 5:05 pm

            But how are you supposed to police tone? It’s so fucking subjective, and that’s part of the point.

            We can’t even talk about examples of sexual harassment *that have actually happened* without being accused of being mean. Rebecca can’t even say, very nicely, “Hey, guys! Don’t do that!” without getting lectured on her “tone”.

            It’s NEVER good enough.

            Also, don’t you see how problematic it is to tell women to be nicer and not so aggressive? Women get that shit constantly whenever they even dare to speak out against even obvious oppression. And it’s not cool.

      • Profile photo of skepticomposer
        June 28, 2012 at 6:03 pm —

        Exactly. Moderate/liberal theists who aren’t part of the problem don’t object based on how it “makes Christians look” every time skeptics complain about Christian extremists. They object to the Christian extremists existing, not that they’re being covered.

  9. Profile photo of Science Bulldog
    June 21, 2012 at 11:53 am —

    Most things consist of a spectrum. There are some truly wonderful, intelligent, pro-science theists who are simply incorrect with regards to the topic of religion. Then there are those that may be described best by the eloquence of P. Z. Myers, and everything in between. Generally, I begin with people by assuming the former, until they prove they are the latter. It usually doesn’t take long to distinguish between them.

    • Profile photo of kagehi
      June 21, 2012 at 10:33 pm —

      Obsolutely. And you will find such people online. Finding them in the real world, where the loudest voices are all too often the least educated about the subject they claim expertise on, or are among those most likely to lie about what is true, or claim truths, based only one their own prejudices, and not facts, is a lot harder. And, as such, you won’t find a whole lot of cases of people on blogs talking about how wonderful X group’s understanding of biology, or geology, or physics, or women’s health, or sex education, or economics, or… etc., is. Instead, what you find is a lot of people pointing out a) how bad some groups are, and b) why its nearly impossible to keep people from getting that bad, if their “primary” source of guidance, with respect to whether such things make any sense, is “faith”.

  10. Profile photo of Luna
    June 21, 2012 at 11:58 am —

    Obviously this person never read Skepchick’s criticism of sexism at Atheist conferences. I will say however that opposing views are often met with vitrol on atheist sites.

    I would SO love to name this site, but I’ll be grown up and keep it to myself. The point is, there have been religious visitors to some atheist sites who have been genuinely open to discussion, and were met with rudeness. I’m not talking about Creationists who are clearly in their own delusional world. I’m talking about open minded Christians who agree with much of the religious criticism.

    I commented on the site that maybe people should stop being rude and try instead to educate this person. I was called a tone troll. And what the hell does that mean, anyway? Since when is being polite or asking others to a crime?

    This “religion is the source of all bad things” isn’t the position of this website but there is a bit of melodrama about it on other sites. Remember that Wicca and Buddhism are also religions. Creationism, yeah that needs to go. But religion in general? Let’s be honest, it’s a matter of degrees.

    • Profile photo of Luna
      June 21, 2012 at 11:59 am —

      That was badly worded as usual, what I meant was at a DIFFERENT atheist site that is less moderate than Skepchick.

      • Profile photo of spokesgay
        June 21, 2012 at 12:16 pm —

        Oh cut the crap. You got upbraided on Pharyngula for tone-trolling. Diddums. You can say the name. Even if you say it three times in succession the blog won’t incarnate and eat your face.

      • Profile photo of nickandrew
        June 21, 2012 at 12:36 pm —

        Tone trolling is an attempt to derail a thread by complaining about the way that something was said rather than the content.

        If you’re wrong on Pharyngula, expect to be upbraided for it. If you act like an asshole, expect to be called one. But don’t expect to get away with making the thread all about you, how badly you were treated by those rude people, and how you expect a little respect.

        Religious people often get short shrift on Pharyngula because they act dishonestly or like brainless fools. It’s not the Pharyngulites’ job to educate them; if they want to be educated they should shut up and read, not spout bible verses or whatever.

        Honest religious folk often get a better reception.

        • Profile photo of Luna
          June 21, 2012 at 12:41 pm —

          ?? I’m sorry, did you just AGAIN suggest that I was ever on that website after I just said I never was? Do people read the comments, or just scan them?

          Another point you completely missed: I was trying to point out something not about me, but rather about someone else who made a pretty tame comment and asked questions, and was subsequently treated like shit by about ten commenters. I don’t bitch if I’m spoken to rudely. I just confront the person myself.

          I do the same thing in person, by the way. Which is what’s annoying about these online conversations. I bet most people who are rude would never have the balls to act that way in person. Annoying

          “Upbraiding” is pretty childish if it’s because someone made a comment. Why freak out over a simple comment? Sure, respond, but perhaps act as though you’re an adult and give the person benefit of the doubt the very first time you respond.

          • Profile photo of kagehi
            June 21, 2012 at 10:46 pm

            You have no idea how often I have wanted to slap some people over at Pharyngula.. I am of the mind that its always best to give someone enough rope to hang themselves, if for no other reason than, sometimes they actually do figure out that they are wearing a noose, instead of a tie. A lot of people are so burned out with having to deal with people that start with, “Bald creationist assertion #43 + pointless assertion about wanting to understand #10, with a dash of excuse #123 as to why they haven’t bothered to google anything that doesn’t contain ‘Answers in Genesis’ in on the title page”, that its a bit like throwing a steak into a cage with starving lions (or maybe a Christian..). Once in a while they get it wrong, and its sad to see the person used as a chew toy over actually not understanding why they are wrong, and looking for honest answers.

            Unfortunately, probably for all involved, this is usually about 1 in every 200 people that show up babbling stuff copied, nearly verbatum, from a long list of, “Stuff dishonest, or completely clueless, people, with an agenda, have posted in an attempt to prove to themselves that scientists don’t know what they are talking about.” So… Its sometimes hard, even for me, to have much sympathy, once it becomes really obvious that they are exactly what they appeared to be, from the first post.

    • Profile photo of mikerattlesnake
      June 21, 2012 at 12:17 pm —

      You have an interesting definition of “grown up”.

      • Profile photo of Luna
        June 21, 2012 at 12:29 pm —

        Are you able to articulate or do you generally stick to empty sarcasm?

    • Profile photo of cajela
      June 22, 2012 at 4:02 am —

      Wicca: a sex-role policing religion. Goddess and God, divine polarities, male and female mysteries, blah blah blah Yawn.
      Buddhism: a deeply sexist religion with added bonus extra homophobia, and just as much of a history of violence as other religions. Unless you close your eyes and pretend that only Californian zen counts as True Buddhism.

    • Profile photo of Ing213
      June 23, 2012 at 12:14 pm —

      “I would SO love to name this site, but I’ll be grown up and keep it to myself. ”

      *snicker* yes quite mature of you

  11. Profile photo of Luna
    June 21, 2012 at 12:33 pm —

    See, this is the childish shit I get on other atheist blogs (actually come to think of it, I get it more here in the comments sans the sexist remarks). I would never say “cut the crap” to someone I’d never met unless they had said something extremely offensive or hurtful to another person.

    I think some atheist culture is all about pretending that being rude somehow = being strong or correct. In my opinion that is sheer childishness.

    Full disclosure: I actually did link once to Pharyngula’s Decent Person’s Guide to getting Laid at an Atheist Conference. But never commented there.

    • Profile photo of spokesgay
      June 21, 2012 at 12:40 pm —

      OK. So you weren’t on Pharyngula. My bad, but a reasonable assumption. You’re still acting silly refusing to name it and complaining about how mean people were to you. Unless you’re very, very different from other such complainers (unlikely considering what you’ve written here) I’m willing to bet your passive-aggressive affected woundedness probably pissed them off royally.

      If you think “cut the crap” is beyond the discursive pale then you *really* need to cut the crap.

      • Profile photo of Luna
        June 21, 2012 at 12:43 pm —

        @Spokesgay (in case the reply button doesn’t work again) fine this time I’ll take responsibility because I worded the comment poorly.

        I was talking about someone ELSE who was treated rudely. A Christian. As I said, if someone is rude to me, I just confront them.

        • Profile photo of Luna
          June 21, 2012 at 12:46 pm —

          @Spokesgay no I don’t think what you said is exactly beyond the pale, but when the tone of a thread gets to a certain level of ugliness (in general), it strikes me as a hormonal high school level. Sorry, but that’s just the way I see it.

        • Profile photo of beatrice
          June 21, 2012 at 12:48 pm —

          What exactly does your complaining got to do with the topic of moderate theists and their hypocrisy?
          Unless “some atheists have been rude” is supposed to be an excuse for moderates… or something. I’m trying here, but I really don’t see a connection.

          • Profile photo of marilove
            June 21, 2012 at 1:34 pm

            Each and every post now has at least two people utilizing the tone argument in comments. Every post. Sigh.

      • Profile photo of Rebecca Watson
        June 21, 2012 at 12:46 pm —

        Hey everybody! Take two of these and chill the fuck out.

        Thank you. This has been a message from your admin.

  12. Profile photo of zylla
    June 21, 2012 at 12:42 pm —

    Yeesh. I like the guys, but Rebecca, you’re my favorite part of SGU (always a little sad when you have other commitments and cant do a show). Your critics always strike me as purely misogynistic (or actual misogynists) – try as I might, I just can’t see any other explanation for their reactions to any of your comments.

    • Profile photo of Felicity
      June 21, 2012 at 12:58 pm —

      Same here. My heart sinks a little when I don’t hear Rebecca at the beginning of the show.

  13. Profile photo of Luna
    June 21, 2012 at 12:54 pm —

    Did not mean to get off topic. I grew up in New Hampshire with plenty of religious folks who would participate in uproarious laughter about the dumbass Republicans and Creationists. So that’s all I’m saying.

    • Profile photo of marilove
      June 21, 2012 at 1:24 pm —

      You do realize that it’s incredibly hard to respond to “someone was mean somewhere on the internet!!” without specifics, right?

      Someone was mean to someone on the internet.

      How original to the atheist community! No one is ever mean to anyone on the internet! I am shocked!

      And how do we know the response was actually rude if we have no details, and can only take your clearly biased word?

    • Profile photo of marilove
      June 21, 2012 at 1:43 pm —

      Also, do you know how fucking ironic it is that a lot of people say, “just because someone was religious and did this or that or said this or that, doesn’t mean all of religion is terrible, or that all religious people are awful! Golly!”

      Of course, if an atheist is mean to someone on the internet (because no one is ever mean to anyone not he internet!), then suddenly, that one damn atheist represents EVERYONE IN THE ATHEIST COMMUNITY EVER!

      What the hell?

      • Profile photo of Luna
        June 21, 2012 at 2:22 pm —

        I could sit here and copy-paste what I was talking about, true enough. However there’s 2 problems: ONE, I consider that a violation of privacy. Unless I get permission from someone, I consider it pretty fucking blatant to take someone’s comment and plaster it everywhere. Yes, that includes offensive comments.

        I see a trend in atheist threads. Sure I could collect dozens and do a dissertation on it, Marilove, but I actually have a job and a family.

        So if you want to call my bluff or think I’m a liar, that’s fine. I’m just summarizing. I do, in all serioiusness, see a trend of rudeness on many atheist sites. That’s my opinion. You can tell me to shove it up my ass if you want, too. I value freedom of speech way more than politeness, but I don’t think the two are incompatible.

        • Profile photo of marilove
          June 21, 2012 at 2:56 pm —

          If it’s a public post in a public forum it is NOT an invasion of privacy to share that public post in that public forum to the public. That’s why direct links to discussions exist in most public forums! Invasion of privacy: You’re using it wrong.

          I see a trend in atheist threads. Sure I could collect dozens and do a dissertation on it, Marilove, but I actually have a job and a family.</blockquote

          When you make a grand claim, it is UP TO YOU to back that claim up. When someone asks for you to back your claims up, and you just go, "Naaaah. It happened! I promise it happened exactly as I said it did! But I'm not sharing!" Then we can rightfully call bullshit.

          You say you have a job … but clearly you have enough time to spew nonsense all over the place. Perhaps you should split some of that time up by backing up your claims.

          • Profile photo of marilove
            June 21, 2012 at 2:56 pm

            Closing html tags is HARD!

          • Profile photo of Luna
            June 21, 2012 at 3:15 pm

            Marilove, the term invasion of privacy is not a hard and fast term that means one thing. You have your personal standards, I have mine.

            Your last comment claimed that I said I was talking about the enire atheist community. If you want to misrepresent what I say, I can’t be bothered to respond to you anymore.

          • Profile photo of mrmisconception
            June 21, 2012 at 3:41 pm

            @Luna – When we contantly hear shit like this;

            Hagee: Athiests leave America

            we have reasons to bristle. But hey, as long as we aren’t mean to the poor majority Christians. Poor unrepresented bastards.

          • Profile photo of marilove
            June 21, 2012 at 3:59 pm

            Let me guess: It is suddenly an invasion of privacy because you can’t actually back up your claims.

            Look, if you’re not able or willing to back up grand claims … just keep it to yourself.

  14. Profile photo of Science Bulldog
    June 21, 2012 at 1:16 pm —

    The pandas picture remind me. Rebecca, you have the largest collection of sloth pictures I have ever seen on Pinterest, and I have seen almost two collections….On the topic of tone, to me, tone is not as important as being correct or informative. I do see that many times people do complain about the tone of a post while ignoring content which I find to be more important. However, I also feel tone is not completely unimportant. There are several different voices and ways to discuss a subject, to each their own…..But really, what is with the sloths?

  15. Profile photo of Jonathan Graham
    June 21, 2012 at 1:34 pm —

    I admit that I don’t really see Stan’s point either. Rebecca was using the term in it’s self-descriptive sense. e.g. The person refers to themselves as a christian. It wasn’t incidental either the person in question justified their belief by quoting the Bible. The principle document in just about any system of thought which calls itself Christian.

    I don’t really know what Stan would have people do? Not mention the horrible fact? Not mention they self-describe as Christian? Apply some set of criteria to determine if this person is in fact a Christian? If so, what criteria?

    If they don’t like that Rebecca’s article implied that Christians secretly tolerate this behavior. Then they really need to think hard about how the Evangelical Christian community in Texas, about 50% of the population. Who clearly has no problem protesting things:

    http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=christian+protest+texas&oq=christian+protest+texas&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&gs_l=youtube-reduced.3…51319.55857.0.55975.23.17.0.6.6.1.179.1613.8j8.16.0…0.0.842NicR__CE

    Needed the Atheist community to stop this horrible person from entering their country.

    • Profile photo of bibliotequetress
      June 21, 2012 at 7:54 pm —

      @JohnathanGraham @hellboundallee Absolutely.

      Ukpaio is not simply a sadistic child tormenter who happens to identify as christian, but she claims that the very acts of cruelty she commits are necessary in the name of christianity, and are in themselves christian actions:

      “…The ministry to evangelize the world cannot be complete without handling the spiritual problems of the people. In view of this, Helen concentrates in her Evangelical mission and delivering the oppressed, afflicted possessed and various bonds of wickedness. All she teaches demonstrates, and writes are all related to her calling.

      “She believes that all demonic problems of people must be handled if the people must go free serving God without hitches. After all Jesus Christ has given the power to the church (the Believers). This has made her to give in all her time for the service of humanity.”
      (http://libertyfoundationgospelministries.org/deleverance_world.html)

      Ted Bundy identified himself as a Republican, but he didn’t rape and slaughter women because he thought it was a Republican thing to do. Ukpaio uses christianity as the justification for her crimes. Any christian who disagrees with her should speak out and do everything they can to stop her.

      What they should not be doing is lodging asinine complaints being “lumped” together– I mean, if you call yourself a christian, and someone else calls himself a christian, then guess what, you’re both christians : Stan should put his money where his mouth is and show that he is different, preferably by loudly condemning Ukpaio and her followers and taking action towards stopping her. Can any of us imagine not confronting someone who hounds the vulnerable to death, literally, and claiming it as an “atheist act.” Despite being an atheist myself I will do nothing but condemn the imprisonment of the religious in countries that had regimes that enforced atheism and tormented the religious. Anything less is unethical and cowardly.
      {By the way, look at what her site says about Humanists,. She also claims that she “treats witches mercifully” which she equates with not stoning them. By which standard, I treat Mitt Romney mercifully.}

  16. Profile photo of hellboundalleee
    June 21, 2012 at 1:51 pm —

    I’m sort of feeling enlightened right now.

    I get dozens of emails and read numerous posts from Christians who feel it’s their duty to remind me and others that “we’re not all like that.”

    I always took this at face value. I would ask in response what I or any other atheist needs to do about that fact. I never get a response, and I always assumed they simply wanted it known, so that everytime an egregious act of a fanatical (or simply fundamentalist or even well-meaning) Christian, that we should keep in mind that those are simply bad apples.

    The more I get these messages, the more I am convinced that the aim of these “yes but” responses is to get us to “SHUT UP!” It’s sort of deja vu. Same thing happens if you report a harassment incident. If you do this, you’re demonizing and alienating all men. If you report on crimes or annoyances perpetrated in the name of Christ, you’re demonizing Christians, so SHUT UP!

    My answer to those Christians who report that they are True Christians and Better Christians than Them, is to take their complaints to those people who they think are sullying their idea of True Christianity. They should be the loudest critics of Wrong Christianity. They should be the ones to Take Back Christianity for themselves. After all, what are we supposed to do about it? We’re the enemy. They’d have to ask the “bad ones” how they feel about the “good ones.”

    • Profile photo of kagerato
      June 21, 2012 at 3:08 pm —

      Yeah, except that when we call them out to “come collect their people” we get called sexist/racist/anti-religious/whatever else.

      With some people, there is just no winning on matters of social justice. They are invested in the status quo, and will fight to get you to shut up by whatever means necessary. The sad part is, a few of them don’t even understand what they’re doing. They respond almost deterministically according to a pre-programmed cultural template that they don’t even realize was drummed into them from an early age.

  17. Profile photo of brenda
    June 21, 2012 at 1:58 pm —

    “After this email I realized that his actual complaint was that we discussed her at all.”

    That and the fact that you lumped her in with him. It’s likely he objected to you unfairly comparing her extremist beliefs with his. That you don’t understand that and that you make such sweeping generalizations is a reasonable complaint.

    “From what I can tell at this point, though, this appears to be a moderate Christian who won’t tolerate even the mention of an extremist from his own religion, even when that extremist is making very, very dangerous claims of the paranormal”

    That is not what I would conclude. I would think that he objects to the appearance of unfairness. That is how most people think. That he got it wrong doesn’t change that fact.

    (1) It is possible for someone to think another is being treated unfairly even if they do not share that person’s views.

    (2) Voicing an objection to what one perceives as unfair treatment by another does not indicate support for the person being treated unfairly.

    You need the support of moderate, liberal Christians, Jews and Muslims. Opposing them, which seems to be where this is all headed, is a very bad idea.

    “Skeptically, I think the anthropologists would look more at the local government structures at the time to be the culprit; but, religion is an easy target for you.”

    He’s right about that you know. The women accused of witchcraft were most likely to be elderly widows who owned property. So it is quite reasonable to suggest that the motive for witch hunts was financial not religious. Local superstitions were merely the vehicle.

    • Profile photo of beatrice
      June 21, 2012 at 2:11 pm —

      You need the support of moderate, liberal Christians, Jews and Muslims. Opposing them, which seems to be where this is all headed, is a very bad idea.

      I’m not sure if I would like to be associated in any way with people whose support is conditioned by my lack of scrutiny when it comes to their behavior.

      For example, it would be great if more moderates stood up and supported gay rights. But if they would withdraw their support because the rest of us don’t show them proper deference… that’s not the kind of people that you can have protecting your back.

      (the example came to mind because of this : A Christian Urges Atheists To Not Make it Harder for Her Side To Support the LGBT Community)

      • Profile photo of brenda
        June 21, 2012 at 2:51 pm —

        Support is not a lack of scrutiny, nor even of criticism. But it does matter *how* you go about it. Just think about how you would talk to a friend about a difficult issue and then apply that to this discussion of how one should treat “moderates who do not agree with me”. Then do that.

        • Profile photo of marilove
          June 21, 2012 at 2:57 pm —

          Bridgette and you are either best of friends or the same person. Because seriously. De ja vu.

        • Profile photo of beatrice
          June 21, 2012 at 3:05 pm —

          There is some difference between talking to friends and talking to potential allies with whom I disagree on some quite fundamental issues. Like reality.

          Also, if I am offered an ultimatum where I can either be nice or lose support, I’m not going to be nice. I’m going to be very much not nice. Because if someone’s hurt feelings are more important to them than human rights issues then they don’t deserve my niceness.

    • Profile photo of marilove
      June 21, 2012 at 2:12 pm —

      That and the fact that you lumped her in with him.

      HOW did Rebecca lump him in with the extremist? Rebecca has made it very clear that she considers him a moderate, and the woman an extremist. She even said so in the comments! How is that in any way lumping them together? She not once even implied “He is exactly like her!”

      “Unfairness.” How is it at all unfair to discuss an extremist on a podcast?

      The women accused of witchcraft were most likely to be elderly widows who owned property. So it is quite reasonable to suggest that the motive for witch hunts was financial not religious.</blockquote

      Do you have anything to support that?

      Also, how is Rebecca being unfair by discussing this woman when she actually said that she supports murdering children. Rebecca is only responding to what the woman ACTUALLY SAID. How is that unfair?

      Do you know what “unfair” means? Because I don’t think you do.

      • Profile photo of brenda
        June 21, 2012 at 2:57 pm —

        “HOW did Rebecca lump him in with the extremist?”

        I don’t know. Maybe someone should ask him and find out? I’m just giving an alternate version that I think is possible because that is how I would feel. I would not like being put into the same category as some ignorant, possibly even insane nut case from a foreign culture. So I suspect he wouldn’t either. But I could be wrong.

        How would we find out? It’s a mystery!

        • Profile photo of Rebecca Watson
          June 21, 2012 at 3:02 pm —

          How would we find out? It’s a mystery!

          Hm oh I dunno maybe you could read what I write and listen to what I said and then provide some evidence for that dumbass assertion you made? Oh ha ha or you could just not make a dumbass assertion you have no evidence for? Wow there are so many options.

        • Profile photo of kagerato
          June 21, 2012 at 3:13 pm —

          You’re lost deep in Just Asking Questions territory. Pay attention next time.

          For a hint of a clue, use this: the moderate Christians are not being called out for the witch hunt murders. They’re being called out for not policing their own community, for failing to denounce and isolate these fanatics.

          • Profile photo of Rebecca Watson
            June 21, 2012 at 3:16 pm

            Actually, the dude I wrote about is even worse than that. It’s not just that he’s not willing to denounce the actions of extremists, but that he’s trying to silence other people who are denouncing the actions of extremists, just because (by his own admission) those extremists are the same religion as him.

          • Profile photo of kagerato
            June 21, 2012 at 3:25 pm

            Indeed, Rebecca. I attempted to make the same point elsewhere but I don’t think it is getting through…

          • Profile photo of brenda
            June 21, 2012 at 9:00 pm

            “They’re being called out for not policing their own community, for failing to denounce and isolate these fanatics.”

            They don’t have to. Are you seriously saying that every Christian must renounce and shun Ukpabio for her crimes? You must attend more meetings of the Central Committee comrade! The Politburo misses your talents!

            See, that is how radical extremists of all stripes think. Normal people just don’t think that some nut who wants to burn witches is a Christian much less that she speaks for all of them.

            I sincerely hope you will continue your great efforts to defend the Glorious Revolution comrade!

          • Profile photo of mrmisconception
            June 21, 2012 at 9:15 pm

            @brenda – You have been insincere since you got here, you have misrepresented yourself, you have put words in people’s mouths, and you have now started insinuating that we are communists?

            I think another thing you have done is outstayed your welcome.

          • Profile photo of brenda
            June 21, 2012 at 9:47 pm

            @ mrmisconception — “you have now started insinuating that we are communists?”

            Whooooosh! – No hun, I didn’t. I insinuated that you act like they did. Don’t take everything so literally.

          • Profile photo of mrmisconception
            June 21, 2012 at 10:19 pm

            @brenda – First of all do not call me hun, that is reserved for friends and loved ones and you are neither.

            Second – Insinuating that one is acting like a communist (or more precisely a Marxist) or is actually a communist is no difference as the distinction is moot. (And we’ll just forget that you threw in a fascist insinuation later on despite them being nigh incompatible; oh that’s right you only said we were acting like fascist not that we were fascists)

            Third – Let me tell you something that you do not need to interpret. GO AWAY!

          • Profile photo of brenda
            June 22, 2012 at 1:59 am

            @ mrmisconception – “Insinuating that one is acting like a communist … or is actually a communist is no difference as the distinction is moot.

            Actually, being something vs acting like one are two very different things. Vigorously pursuing ideological purity and policing others who stray from the community or fail to denounce outsiders is exactly what was said and is very similar to how authoritarians on the left or the right behave. Totalitarianism from the left and fascism from the right are both manifestations of the authoritarian personality.

            “No one said that Ukpabio represented all Christians just that she is a Christian ”

            FALSE. Here is what I was replying to:

            “the moderate Christians are not being called out for the witch hunt murders. They’re being called out for not policing their own community, for failing to denounce and isolate these fanatics.”

            Calling out moderate Christians for not policing “their own” and failing to denounce fanatics in their midst is indeed Othering and blaming everyone in the group for the actions of a few. It is immoral and reprehensible.

            “Christians should call out nutjobs like Ukpabio but they do not have to”

            Sure, but that is not what Katerato said as I quoted above.

            “I don’t see too many in the African-American community complaining when Louis Farrakhan is criticized”

            True but they *do* complain when his name is raised and they are asked to “police their own” or called out for “failing to denounce and isolate these fanatics”. That kind of race baiting is “immoral and reprehensible” and it doesn’t matter if it’s over race or religion.

            “Are you sure you know how words work?”

            I have not engaged in personal attacks, you have. Again, why do you engage in such reprehensible tactics? They don’t help you as much as you think they do.

          • Profile photo of mrmisconception
            June 22, 2012 at 10:03 am

            @brenda – This ought to be fun.

            Could you please point out where I have used a personal attack? I have not been nice no doubt but I can’t find any personal attacks.

            I said (again in not nice language) that you would not last long at Pharyngula with these weak arguments, an easy to test fhypothesis if you would like to give it a try.

            I said that you were being insincere which is a reasonable estimation of describing oneself as agnostic while vigorously defending Christians from an attack that didn’t actually happen. Neither definition of agnostic affords this kind of fervency.

            I told you to go away, but that is a personal request not an attack.

            I said you could have found the definition of ‘No True Scotsman’ with 2 minutes of Googling, a fact.

            I implied that you are a Christian which could be what you are talking about since I would consider being called a Christian a personal attack, so if that was it I’m sorry. You are acting like a Christian however so you can understand my confusion.

            I said you had a religious boner which would imply that you have a penis which I suppose could be seen as an attack, but one would have to not know how rhetorical devices are used to take it that way.

            This brings me to the fact that I asked you repeatedly if you know how words work. This is simply because you have continually misused words including agnostic, atheist, binary, Christian, collective guilt, and many others and now you have done it with personal attack so it is a perfectly relevant question.

            This will be my last reply to you; I have a life and cannot spend all day dealing with trolls on the internet, especially ones that refuses to argue in good faith.

            Now go on, be gone with yourself and believe you won the argument, you know the one you refused to engage in?

          • Profile photo of brenda
            June 22, 2012 at 11:49 am

            @ mrmisconception — “Could you please point out where I have used a personal attack?”

            Sure, I’d be happy to:

            “I’m begining to believe that you were fibbing, because you seem to have the most raging religious boner I have ever seen.”

            So not just a personal attack, but a sexually charged one at that. Because one way to get women to shut up is to attack their sexuality. Yes, I take deep offense at you making false accusations about my genitals. You are a bully who is unable to handle it when people disagree with you on what you believe are important issues so you resort to the bullying tactic of making sexual remarks in order to shut me up and make me go away.

            Bullies are afraid. I terrify you. Why is that?

            “I said you could have found the definition of ‘No True Scotsman’ with 2 minutes of Googling, a fact.”

            To which I responded that I am not saying that Ukpabio is not a true Christian but that others are not responsible for her actions and are not morally required to defend or renounce her.

            “you have continually misused words including agnostic, atheist, binary, Christian, collective guilt, and many others”

            I have not and you have not demonstrated that I have. We disagree on some things and your response to my disagreement is to abuse and belittle me. You’re a coward and a frightened little man who cannot tolerate people, especially it would seem, women, with whom you have a strong disagreement.

            “Now go on, be gone with yourself and believe you won the argument, you know the one you refused to engage in?”

            When I scroll up I see a number of my replies in which engage you. All of them respond to the issue and do not address you personally (except for this one of course but then I think I’m allowed to defend myself from your sexual attacks). In all of my replies on this and all other comments here I respond politely and refrain from personal attacks. Unless… you consider disagreement itself to be an attack. Is that it?

            And I always give a reasoned response. Unlike most who oppose me I do not make blanket assertions or engage in ad homs. YOU DO.

            Why are people who call themselves skeptics unable to argue honestly and dispassionately? I think it’s because you have a tribal mentality and perceive disagreement as an attack on all. That is a very human reaction i suppose but it is a little disappointing.

          • Profile photo of marilove
            June 22, 2012 at 12:23 pm

            “And I always give a reasoned response. ”

            HAHAHAHAHHAHAHA *gasp* HAHAHAHHAHAHAH

            That shit was fucking hilarious.

            Reasoned response? Riiiight. Not so much.

          • Profile photo of kagerato
            June 22, 2012 at 1:45 pm

            brenda, comparing your opponents to communists, fascists, or any other kind of totalitarian while utterly failing to make any kind of argument is called ad hominem. You are attempting to discredit the argument by comparing the speaker to evil people. That is a strong act of bad faith.

          • Profile photo of brenda
            June 22, 2012 at 3:36 pm

            “You are attempting to discredit the argument by comparing the speaker to evil people.”

            No, I am saying and have said several times that believing people are either atheist or theist with no room for gradations in between is black and white thinking. It’s a cognitive distortion and defense mechanism.

            Seeing the world in rigid black and white terms, being adverse to ambiguity and disliking difference are all hallmarks of the authoritarian personality and I gave a humorous example. I am NOT saying that some commentors definitely *are* authoritarian. I AM saying that they are behaving very much like one and should probably knock that crap off.

          • Profile photo of Ing213
            June 23, 2012 at 12:38 pm

            “They don’t have to. Are you seriously saying that every Christian must renounce and shun Ukpabio for her crimes? ”

            Every PERSON should renounce and shun Ukpabio. That he identifies with Christians is ever the more reason way that shunning should be personal for them.

            Hell, I shun and renounce Amazing Atheist for far less, specifically because I don’t want to be associated with him. I don’t say he’s not a real atheist, I say he’s an asshole

        • Profile photo of marilove
          June 21, 2012 at 3:22 pm —

          Sooooooo you make an actual claim like it is the truth, but when we ask for you to back your claim up, you say, “I was just giving an alternate reason!”

          Seriously, Brenda, are you SURE you’re not drunk?

          You’re being so illogical in your reasoning, I don’t even know how you were able to find your way online, let alone to a Skeptical community.

        • Profile photo of swarly
          June 21, 2012 at 5:33 pm —

          This seems like the no true Scotsman fallacy. I dislike patrick greene (Atheist who sues a lot). I wouldn’t object if someone was talking about him and mentioned that his atheism contributed to his obnoxious behavior. Bottom line even if you don’t like having a child killer called a christian they identify as a christian and preach from the same book so christian seems like the most appropriate label.

          • Profile photo of marilove
            June 21, 2012 at 5:47 pm

            I wonder if Brenda will take into consideration that so far three or four separate people have pointed out that she is using the True Scotsman fallacy. (This has already been mentioned in other comments.)

            LOL

          • Profile photo of mrmisconception
            June 21, 2012 at 9:20 pm

            Yeah, she feigned ignorance and asked that we enlighten her.
            I personally don’t think it is worth it, as I don’t think she really cares to know after all two minutes on Google would fill her in but she needs to be spoon-fed.

          • Profile photo of brenda
            June 21, 2012 at 9:20 pm

            “This seems like the no true Scotsman fallacy.”

            No, it is sheer anti religious bigotry to claim that Ukpabio represents all of Christianity that all other Christians must be called on account for. Just as it is racist bigotry to claim that all blacks must renounce Louis Farrakhan. These kinds of smear tactics are flat out reprehensible.

            Why do you use such repulsive tactics? Do you really believe it helps your cause?

          • Profile photo of mrmisconception
            June 21, 2012 at 10:05 pm

            No one said that Ukpabio represented all Christians just that she is a Christian (which she is), something that Stan and yourself don’t like because you think it paints you with the same brush, which again no one said.

            Christians should call out nutjobs like Ukpabio but they do not have to, but if they fail to they should not expect others to give it a pass.

            I don’t see too many in the African-American community complaining when Louis Farrakhan is criticized, other than those who wish to associate with him, and only those most prone to racism believe him to represent all black people, just as all atheists do not believe that Ukpabio and her ilk represents all Christians despite Stan and your protestations.

            Are you sure you know how words work?

          • Profile photo of kagerato
            June 22, 2012 at 1:50 pm

            “[brenda]: No, it is sheer anti religious bigotry to claim that Ukpabio represents all of Christianity …”

            No one claimed that. That’s called a strawman, misrepresenting (badly in this case) your opponent’s position.

            I wonder, are you trying to trigger all of the ten most common logical fallacies? You’re easily on course to do so thus far.

    • Profile photo of marilove
      June 21, 2012 at 2:13 pm —

      Also, are you also “Bridgette”? I am having de ja vu. Different subject, same damn arguments.

      • Profile photo of brenda
        June 21, 2012 at 3:09 pm —

        “Also, are you also “Bridgette”?”

        No, also. She must be highly intelligent though. ;)

    • Profile photo of Rebecca Watson
      June 21, 2012 at 2:16 pm —

      That and the fact that you lumped her in with him. It’s likely he objected to you unfairly comparing her extremist beliefs with his.

      I’m really looking forward to you backing up this wack-ass assertion with a fact or two!

      • Profile photo of brenda
        June 21, 2012 at 3:05 pm —

        “Late examples would be the story of a supposed Christian lady leader”

        He obviously does not consider her to be Christian. Do you believe that the members of the Fred Phelps cult are Christians? I don’t and few people would. Insisting that they are is the fallacy of the heap. (Yes it’s real, look it up).

        • Profile photo of marilove
          June 21, 2012 at 3:24 pm —

          Uh, yeah, they are Christians. And so is she.

        • Profile photo of marilove
          June 21, 2012 at 3:25 pm —

          Also, “They aren’t REAL Christians!” is such fucking bullshit and a way for other christians to not take responsibility of the crap in their own community.

          • Profile photo of brenda
            June 21, 2012 at 9:41 pm

            People are not responsible for the things that other people do. We are only responsible for what we do. The attempt to judge a person by the actions of another is immoral, illiberal and inhumane.

            Collective guilt, holding entire groups of people guilty for the actions of a few is what fascist authoritarians do and I’m sure you don’t want to be associate with that.

            So knock it off.

          • Profile photo of kagerato
            June 23, 2012 at 2:52 pm

            brenda, that one is argumentum ad nauseam. Your claims won’t become true by mere fact of repetition.

        • Profile photo of Maki
          June 21, 2012 at 3:41 pm —

          Classic “No true Scottsman” fallacy. Of course, they’re christians. End discussion. No tip-toeing around responsibility for one’s fairy tale of choice.

        • Profile photo of mrmisconception
          June 21, 2012 at 4:06 pm —

          @brenda – In a previous post you said you were an agnostic and that athiests are extremists.

          I’m begining to believe that you were fibbing, because you seem to have the most raging religious boner I have ever seen.

    • Profile photo of kagehi
      June 21, 2012 at 11:16 pm —

      You need the support of moderate, liberal Christians, Jews and Muslims. Opposing them, which seems to be where this is all headed, is a very bad idea.

      Great idea. I think I will start with these:

      http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2012/06/20/clergy-project/

      Oh, wait, you meant “believing” moderate Christians, not like.. priests who have figured out its all bunk? Damn…

  18. Profile photo of canonical
    June 21, 2012 at 2:13 pm —

    I’m still reading, so my apologies if this has been said. In my experience, a large part of the problem is that people, particularly Christians, only identify others as Christian if they belong to the same sect. Lutheran points at Catholic, who points at Baptist, who points at LDS, who points at Ukpabio, who points back at Lutheran, each of them saying, “They’re not a *real* Christian, ergo you’re being rude to me by calling them a Christian.”

    They’re all equally nuts and Christian, mind you, but they will defend to the death the tiny points of Scripture that divide them and make each individual group the “real” Christians.

  19. Profile photo of Luna
    June 21, 2012 at 3:16 pm —

    To be honest I didn’t know Rebecca had a podcast. Look forward to hearing that. I wish it was on Sirius XM so I could listen in my car.

  20. Profile photo of SkepLit
    June 21, 2012 at 3:35 pm —

    Rebecca’s second response to the SGU listener says that the witch-hunter was fair game for the SGU because witches don’t exist and that makes her claims regarding them “paranormal”.

    Wouldn’t any claim for religious behavior be considered a belief in the “paranormal” and therefore fair game? If it were merely the “paranormal” nature of the claim I would actually expect far more criticism of religious statements/views on the SGU.

    There must be a more nuanced editorial stance at work than that. Degree of harm? Possibility of skeptical activism (like the witch-hunter coming to the US)?

  21. Profile photo of bibliotequetress
    June 21, 2012 at 5:02 pm —

    I rarely go to the SGU message boards, and my attempt a moment ago to look what I’m about to ask up failed because of screening software on my work computer.

    Here’s the question:

    SGU does touch on non-scientific topics which are nevertheless skeptical topics. In his second email Stan seems to reframe his complaint from being about SGU being anti-religious/Christian, to that SGU should “stay with science,” and presumably avoid addressing all skeptical investigation of all non-scientific issues and phenomenon, eg holocaust denial, 9-11 conspiracies, spiritualism, and so on.

    Has Stan ever complained about a Loch Ness monster segment, or maybe the bit on short wave numbers stations? Or any other non-science segment?

    That some people in the past have complained about SGU veering from science has stuck in my mind because, honestly, the non-science segments are often more interesting to me.

    • Profile photo of Malachi Constant
      June 21, 2012 at 7:49 pm —

      My guess (and it’s only a guess) is that he sees his religious beliefs as fundamentally different from paranormal beliefs, despite the paranormal elements present in his beliefs.

      So, people who believe in ESP are clearly wrong, but god really does hear your silent prayers because he is outside the realm of science. He’s god, he can do anything. Yeah, I know, it doesn’t make sense. Cognitive dissonance is a hell of a thing.

      You can see it happen in person if you ask a christian 1)”Does prayer work?”, which most will answer “Yes”, then 2)”Ah, so we can measure whether it works, right? Pray for one group, don’t pray for another…”

      Then watch their brains come up with reasons to answer “No” to question #2.

      Then keep in mind that you do this and I do this, too. It’s a really hard thing to spot in yourself, and worth watching out for.

      I can’t really blame Stan for falling into that trap. This is the problem with treating religion as something that just can’t be criticized. If you can’t criticize ideas they just become accepted, unthinking truths.

      Actually examining your fundamental beliefs is very uncomfortable, even among skeptics. Example number one is the boneheaded misogynistic attitudes that have been on display lately.

      It’s way easier and more natural to explain why you’re not wrong than to examine your beliefs and actions from an exterior point of view.

  22. Profile photo of Will
    June 21, 2012 at 7:56 pm —

    Just gotta nitpick a bit here….

    Skeptically, I think the anthropologists would look more at the local government structures at the time to be the culprit; but, religion is an easy target for you.

    Hi, Stan. If you were really thinking “skeptically,” you wouldn’t make claims like this because it clearly demonstrates you have no fucking clue what you’re talking about.

    Anthropologists who do their job well would not limit what they look at to either local or global institutions. They would look for the larger patterns both from insiders’ and outsiders’ perspectives. They would look at local government, but they’d also look at how religion intersects with those structures, how globalization and colonialism have informed beliefs in the area, and so on and so forth. We (anthropologists) do not just focus on “local government structures” and ignore everything else no matter what topic we are studying.

    • Profile photo of mrmisconception
      June 21, 2012 at 8:41 pm —

      But that doesn’t back up his point, what’s wrong with you?

    • Profile photo of kagerato
      June 22, 2012 at 1:58 pm —

      Well said, Will. When I read that, I wanted to say something about how narrow-minded and counterfactual it was, but then I got distracted by a certain someone spraying logical fallacies all over the thread like cheap lead-based paint.

  23. Profile photo of jamess
    June 21, 2012 at 9:22 pm —

    Who in the SGU cast is agnostic, and who is atheist? To be agnostic, you have to either believe that the existence of a god is likely enough to reserve judgement, or just not care enough about the question to make a judgement. I doubt the second applies to any of you.

    It’s impossible to prove that anything metaphysical doesn’t exist, but is that a good reason to withhold jugjement?

    If I had to guess, I’d say Steve and Bob are atheist, and Jay, Even, and Rebecca are agnostic. Is that right?

  24. Profile photo of Kaloikagathoi
    June 21, 2012 at 10:08 pm —

    I’ve always liked the term “apatheist”. I don’t think there’s a god, but I don’t care enough to bother arguing about it.

    • Profile photo of jamess
      June 21, 2012 at 10:24 pm —

      That aspect of reality doesn’t interest you?

      I don’t buy it. I get atheists who don’t want to argue with friends and loved ones who believe in magic. I don’t get people who say they believe there may or may not be a concious being that lives outside of the laws of physics and reason, but it’s not interesting enough to even consider seriously.

      • Profile photo of Kaloikagathoi
        June 22, 2012 at 6:47 am —

        I suppose I should have said that I have no doubts that there is no god. There is not a religious or spiritual bone in my body. But it is not something that I care greatly about. I don’t spend any time wondering about why I don’t believe in god. And I think I was always like this even when I was a church-goer with a theoretical belief in god.
        BTW, I do find religion interesting, since it means so much to other people.
        Apatheist is just a joke term, though. I find it funny, however, because it sort of fits my lack of anxiety about it all.

      • Profile photo of SkepLit
        June 22, 2012 at 10:54 am —

        I think it would be more correct to characterize deistic apathy as the understanding that it is irrelevent if there is or is not a god because all evidence indicates that it is not actively involved in its creation. If a god exists, it appears to be of the “divine watchmaker” variety. It doesn’t choose to upset the laws of physics or nature and we can count on those rules holding true everywhere in the universe.
        Whatever we choose to believe or not believe; what we chose to do or not do is simply irrelevent to it. If we can’t influence it through prayer or deed, why should we care if it exists?
        I see this as different than religious apathy. Pretending that religion is irrelevent in our lives is just plain silly. God may not exist but religion sure as heck does and we ignore it at our peril.

  25. Profile photo of criticaldragon1177
    June 21, 2012 at 10:22 pm —

    Rebecca Watson,

    How about liberal theists for those genuinely oppose the fanatics?

    • Profile photo of mrmisconception
      June 21, 2012 at 11:11 pm —

      That is good, but they aren’t the ones that are protesting the mere mention of nutty Christians. There very exsistance gives cover to the extremists but speaking out against the whackos is a good first step.

      • Profile photo of criticaldragon1177
        June 22, 2012 at 10:29 pm —

        mrmisconception,

        Based on that logic, the anti-theist give cover to secular totalitarian communist regimes that persecute people for being religious.

        • Profile photo of mrmisconception
          June 22, 2012 at 10:49 pm —

          Really? Where is our common 2,000 year-old rulebook?

          Your logic doesn’t follow as atheist are not the majority so every day “moderate” atheists do not give cover for anyone as they are already a minority whereas “moderate” Christians are the majority that allows the occasional nutbag to pass, especially if the moderates fail to call it out.

          Besides, I see plenty of atheists, humanists, etc. calling out injustice even when perpetrated by other atheists.

          • Profile photo of criticaldragon1177
            June 23, 2012 at 1:35 am

            Mrmisconception,

            There are extreme anti theists who call for banning religion outright. They’re not common, thankfully, as far as I can tell, but I’ve come across one or two. Some totalitarian regimes have banned religion, but even ignoring that the lack of a common rule book as it were does not make the analogy invalid. Liberal enlightened theists will ignore or reinterpretation the barbaric passages in their holy book. The religion in and of itself doesn’t make people violent fanatics. No religion does.

          • Profile photo of Buzz Parsec
            June 24, 2012 at 1:14 am

            It’s only 150 years old, but doesn’t Origin count? </snark>

        • Profile photo of marilove
          June 22, 2012 at 11:08 pm —

          Do you think those of us here that identify as atheists would think this was okay?

          • Profile photo of criticaldragon1177
            June 23, 2012 at 2:00 am

            Marilove,

            Most of you would not think it was Okay to persecute people because of their religion and I never meant to imply that any of you here would. I didn’t say that extreme way of think was mainstream among atheists, nor did I intend to imply that, if that’s what you’re getting at.

  26. Profile photo of cr8tive
    June 22, 2012 at 8:09 am —

    Some Christians may characterize all scientists as “the people who made nuclear bombs and artificial food and who are responsible for ruining the environment.” It’s not likely, but by selecting certain extreme cases and not giving credit to the good science has created, it could be an argument. By the same token, by only focusing on the extreme bad / ignorant / evil created by organized religion without giving at least a nod to some of the good, or at least well-intended social movements, that emerged from religion, we may weaken our stance. Are those goods outweighed now by the bads? Perhaps. Certainly from a skeptical & atheist point of view they are. But from the point of view of a ‘moderate Christian’ like Stan, you’re only focusing on the freaks and extremes and ignoring (to make an example) a local church’s breakfast and after-school basketball program, or whatever.
    I’m an agnostic, personally, and a fan of Rebecca’s work. But in this instance, I think Stan’s biggest fault is judging Rebecca, and perhaps too-narrowly defining “science.”

    • Profile photo of Kaloikagathoi
      June 22, 2012 at 8:52 am —

      If people who care about science refuse to acknowledge that bad scientists exist, or that bad consequences have come from some scientific developments, or that mistakes have been made even while people were trying to use scientific methods, that would be a problem.
      Just like it’s a problem when religious people refuse to express their objections to bad things being done for religious reasons.

  27. Profile photo of ragdish
    June 22, 2012 at 8:25 am —

    If Stan was truly a liberal theist, he would not have been critical of our anger towards Helen Ukpabio’s Christian evangelism.

    Folks, most of the liberal theists I know acknowledge the flaws of their faith as they cherry pick the progressive parts. Also, by and large they don’t seem to have a problem with my disbelief and I’d be preaching to the choir when I denounce the fundies.

    I think the key is for us to be on the offense/defense while at the same time build bridges with liberal theists who share our goals for science, reason and social justice. People like Stan will not be a part of that milieu.

    I am of course speaking from personal experience. Do all of you feel the same? Or do you think most liberal theists are similar to Stan and that forging alliances with them is like uniting fire and ice.

    • Profile photo of mrmisconception
      June 22, 2012 at 10:15 am —

      It’s a laudable goal as long as those who want to reach out don’t tell those with a more direct (or some would say mean) approach that they need to stop because they are “hurting the cause”.

      That is the crux of the Gnu Atheist v Accomidationist argument. We need all approaches, and some are more appropriate in different situations than others, but thinking one way alone will change anything is naive on both sides.

    • Profile photo of brenda
      June 22, 2012 at 12:17 pm —

      “I think the key is for us to be on the offense/defense while at the same time build bridges with liberal theists”

      Vicious personal attack and invective undermine any attempts at bridge building with liberal theists. Non-believers have been criticizing religion for hundreds of years. I think that is a good thing and should not stop. What is counter productive are not reasoned critique of religion but the unhinged attacks by the so-called New Atheists which are philosophically and theologically ignorant. That all religion is utterly evil and must be wiped off the face of the Earth to prepare for the coming Atheist Utopia.

      That kind of thinking isn’t just wrong, it’s dangerous and not at all “new”.

      What successes of the New Atheist assault on religion can people point to? What about Richard Dawkin’s petition to have the children of religious homes taken from their mothers and indoctrinated by the state? Or Sam Harris’ and Christopher Hitchen’s defense of torture? Or Dawkins’ suggestion that the ranks of professional scientists be purged of religion?

      How’s that working out for you?

      • Profile photo of ragdish
        June 22, 2012 at 2:07 pm —

        You took the words right out my mouth. I think we need to forge strong alliances with progressive theists like Cornell West or Karen Armstrong and present well reasoned arguments against religion. The Hitchens way only alienates us from the majority liberal theists who would benefit us in the long run.

        • Profile photo of mrmisconception
          June 22, 2012 at 2:18 pm —

          Bullshit, shaming the shameful has its place and Ukpabio is nothing if not shameful. The liberal religious will not see it as an attack any more than men who don’t wish to creep saw “guys, don’t do that” as an attack.

        • Profile photo of kagerato
          June 22, 2012 at 2:45 pm —

          Seriously? You might want to read the rest of brenda’s comments before agreeing with her.

        • Profile photo of brenda
          June 22, 2012 at 3:46 pm —

          That is very good ragdish and I wholeheartedly agree. The only thing I would add is that the demand of some here that liberal believers must denounce conservative believers is counter productive. People rarely choose to ally themselves with you if you place stringent demands on them.

          Besides, I know of no liberal theists who do not criticize conservatives both politically and on their religion. Demanding that they renounce their faith before you’ll work with them is childish beyond belief.

      • Profile photo of kagerato
        June 22, 2012 at 2:40 pm —

        Vicious personal attack? From the personal calling others totalitarian? Ha ha ha ha ha. Good one. Love it.

        Successes of the atheist/secular/humanist movement? There’s many, but they’re all in progress because we’re in constant opposition to theocrats. For example, we are bringing contraception and HIV treatments to Africa, and fighting to legalize the existence of gay and lesbian people (where in several countries it’s a crime punishable by execution). We are fighting against witch hunts, obviously. We’ve fought against burqas and other absurdly sexist standards of dress and behavior, against genital mutilation, against Sharia law, against stoning, among quite a few others.

        The conflict isn’t limited to foreign shores. Here we’ve fought for women’s bodily autonomy, against the creep of religion into schools, for free speech even when it offends religious sentiment, for adequate and effective sex education, and for scientific fact over authoritarian dogma in evolution, global warming, vaccination, and many other topics. There’s more; I merely list that which first comes to mind.

        You’d know about gains in these areas if you did your research, instead of spending your time baiting people into arguing about irrelevant topics.

        As for Harris and Hitchen’s lukewarm support of torture (for the ‘right’ cause), we’ve denounced them for it. I’ll do it again here; torture is despicable no matter the reason. Let’s keep in mind the government doing the torturing was conservative — indeed, one of the most conservative we’ve ever had.

        Oh, and Hitchens was a moron to support the Iraq war, but again this is nothing that hasn’t been said dozens of times before.

        You’re going to have to issue some citations for your Dawkins claims, because I haven’t heard of them. I will say that Dawkins was a colossal buffoon for issuing his dismissive “Dear Muslima” comment.

        These people aren’t authorities to us. There are no authorities in this movement, and we’re totally free to (and frequently do) reject any dumbass remark they might make.

        • Profile photo of ragdish
          June 22, 2012 at 4:33 pm —

          We are vastly outnumbered by liberal theists who are pro-gay marriage, pro-science, pro-vaccine, pro-evolutionary biology, pro-reproductive rights, etc… I know of such a liberal theist who is head of Cognitive Neuroscience at my institution who is conducting groundbreaking work on the neural basis of consciousness. She is also a powerful advocate of encouraging young girls into STEM. Now she may happen to be mum on the excesses of Christian evangelism or radical Islam in Africa but is she not the very sort of person that Skepchick or any other atheist organization would welcome? I am constantly engaged with these sorts of individuals and honestly, despite our theologically different world views (or lack of theology in my case), they are an incredibly tolerant bunch. They are not our foes. We need to engage with them on common ground for social progress.

          • Profile photo of mrmisconception
            June 22, 2012 at 5:04 pm

            Do you sincerely believe that we are alienating people like this when we call out Okpabio or the Pope or Islamic fundimentalists, because if so I would question their worth as an ally no matter how rational they are.

          • Profile photo of marilove
            June 22, 2012 at 5:47 pm

            And when the fuck did we talk badly about those people? Any examples?

            Or did you even bother to read this post? ‘Cuz this post was calling out EXTREMISTS and the so-called “moderates” who seem to think that calling out extremists makes everyone else look bad, which is bullshit and I think you know it.

  28. Profile photo of Jack99
    June 22, 2012 at 10:40 am —

    “If Stan was truly a liberal theist, he would not have been critical of our anger towards Helen Ukpabio’s Christian evangelism.”

    Exactly. I think Stan is only pretending to be a moderate.

  29. Profile photo of James Fox
    June 22, 2012 at 4:32 pm —

    I read a great description of what someone called “god as projection”. Most Christians have a view of god that amazingly fits their own view of the world a lot more than it fits the description of god in the Old and New Testament. And this sort of thinking is certainly what I did for many years as a “reasonable” believer in a Xian god, and it definitely prevented my head from exploding from the cognitive dissonance that was building up. And really, isn’t god and life much more manageable when the almighty is just like me? And when you realize that god is an internal or cultural projection he’s so much easier to dismiss altogether. And if you don’t think pictures red panda’s of any age can’t fix damn near anything on a Friday you are a sad sad person indeed.

  30. Profile photo of Ing213
    June 23, 2012 at 12:44 pm —

    Anyone wanting to defend these jokers as “not real christians” please point out where their biblical authority is wrong. Please note that them following the bible MORE strictly than you more likely means that you’re not the real Christian.

  31. Profile photo of ragdish
    June 24, 2012 at 1:07 am —

    Unfortunately there was no reply function below Marilove and MrM’s responses to my last message. I want to be clear that I am not defending Stan nor do I think that critiques of Ukpabio would alienate liberal theists.

    I don’t think Stan is a liberal theist based on my personal interactions which such individuals. I was simply responding to kagerato’s atheist self-congratulating over issues shared by many liberal theists. And our vitriol over Ukpabio would also be similarly shared by them.

    Now that said and done, would I go out of my way to engage in a discussion with liberal theists about how much suffering their supernatural beliefs can cause? In the setting of an organized debate among colleagues, then absolutely. Otherwise, out of politeness in a casual setting among friends I would not tell a liberal Christian theist that ultimately it is his/her religion that is responsible for Ukpabio’s twisted views. Why? While it is certainly true, it gets me nowhere in hurting that liberal theist’s feelings by openly proclaiming that his/her faith is wrong and has led to such sufferings in Africa. Why risk losing that friendship which in the long run would serve me well? Similarly, I’m not going to blast all those who are left wing on this site for holding socialist ideals because historically they morphed into Stalinism (ie. the socialist fundamentalist). I dare anyone here to walk among the poor and unemployed Occupy Wallstreet crowd clamoring for wealth redistribution and criticize them with statements like “well look what your kind did in Cambodia!”.

  32. Profile photo of bibliotequetress
    June 24, 2012 at 9:49 am —

    I’ve been thinking all week about what we should call truly liberal religionists, who
    1) are willing to forsake (one or some) tenets of their religion, &/or
    2) forsake (one or some) leaders or members of their religion,
    and then
    3) take action against those co-religionists or tenets, and/or
    4) are willing to assist those oppressed by the tenets or the co-religionists, and necessarily
    5) all the above choices are made for ethical and humanitarian reasons, and/or rational reasons.

    I nominate that we should call those religionists, “Huck Finns.”

    • Profile photo of Jack99
      June 28, 2012 at 6:15 am —

      I have been thinking too. My take would be:

      Those could also be called “budding skeptics” who we should and must engage in dialogue.

      Those who defend extremists are themselves extremists and should be condemned with vigour.

      Those in between could be termed “wishy-washy liberals” and could be safely ignored until they move into one of the other two groups.

      I kind of like the triage approach!

  33. Profile photo of Bobbykasparov
    June 25, 2012 at 10:31 am —

    Forgive me if my comment ends up repeating what someone had already written here, but I haven’t gone through all the comments, just a couple, and wanted to put in my opinion.

    I think moderate, and even liberal religious people are just as much a problem as the extremist religious people. This is because the liberal and moderates support the very same foundational methodology which the extremists use: Faith. The idea that belief without evidence(aka for those who don’t know, faith) is something to be sought after, admired, and coupled with a moral edifice is the bedrock on which both the wishy washy liberal religious beliefs, and the hard line, exclusionary extremist religious beliefs stand. In essence, the nicey nice liberal religious are a shield from public criticism for the extreme.

    With that shield in place, the only criticism we can really give, and be listened to by the public, is that we really find their beliefs distasteful, as in, they’re just not for us. Well, I don’t buy that kind of postmodern cultural relativist bullshit, and neither should any of you. Rather, we can attack the foundation on which those horrid beliefs stand(faith) and the whole thing falls. We can ask, “how do you know that some children are witches?” “oh, the Bible? Ok, how do you know that the Bible is reliable?” and so on, eventually revealing the essentially faith based(as in, motivated reasoning based) cause of their beliefs. And then, we can summarily dismiss them as we do any other non-evidence based belief. Skepticism applied consistently will always lead to atheism(as in, lack of belief in gods, not the belief in lack of gods. If you don’t see the difference, Google it). We in the skeptical community do the same thing with all sorts of other outlandish claims(homeopathy, UFOs, what have you), there is no reason why religious beliefs are exempt.

    So anyway, I guess coupled with my idea that moderates shield the extremists from the real criticism they should get, I think that for the SGU or any skeptical group to really be consistent, it has to apply skepticism to every field, even religion.

    • Profile photo of ragdish
      June 26, 2012 at 9:19 am —

      Therefore using you’re line of reasoning, do liberal social democrats provide a shield for Stalinism? Do libertarians provide a shield for the fascist state? Do social justice movements provide a shield for Louis Farrakhan?

      • Profile photo of Bobbykasparov
        June 28, 2012 at 10:44 pm —

        To your “questions”, perhaps in some cases, yes, although I think you are taking my “line of reasoning” too far, on top of it being a nice fat red herring.

        What I am saying, simply, is that faith, as a methodology, is held in high regard by both the moderate/liberal religious and the extreme religious. The very same methodology is used to justify the benign self-helpish kind of liberal beliefs, and the hardline, anti-women, anti-homosexual beliefs of the fundamentalists. Both types of belief are justified with faith, and so when people like myself, or others try to attack the hardline, fundamentalist type of beliefs in the strongest way possible, by pointing out that their belief is not informed by any sort of reason or evidence but rather on faith, the moderate and liberal types would want to de-fang our argument because it simultaneously assaults their foundational methodology as well. They would rather we just say something along the lines of, “well, I just don’t like your beliefs, and that’s just my opinion and stuff” instead of really showing how their horrid beliefs don’t hold water.

        Well, and they would also like to deploy the no true scotsman fallacy to distance themselves from the fundies, but that’s neither here nor there.

        Accomodating the liberal/moderate types’ unreason(faith) isn’t an option, in my opinion, as it gives support to the very same unreason that the fundamentalists use. Sure, we can be friends with them, and ally with them for a common cause(like Ken miller), but we should never give support to the methodology of faith.

        We can say to the moderates, “hey, I love how you want equality for homosexual people, and women, and want to teach actual science in the science classroom, and I am glad for your support and efforts and hope you continue to give it, but I just do not think that you are being consistent in your reasoning. I am telling you this because I am being honest with you, and honestly, I see faith as a huge problem.”

  34. Profile photo of Jannaeus
    July 9, 2012 at 1:42 pm —

    Rebecca,

    Helen U does not actually kill these witches. As far as I can tell her exorcisms are free and non-violent. However, her “moderate” position is fodder or faggots for the more militant scared people in her area who kill and torture these children.

    I would appreciate the distinction. Helen’s hands may be clean, but her lips lead to the blood bath that is Nigerian child witches.

    As another Christian, aside from sometimes losing the above distinction, I loved the story on the SGU. I posted several personal blog posts and it added to my general tirade against the child witch horror that is a sad part of West African Christianity.

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