Archive for July, 2010

Atheist in God’s Country….

Posted on July 29, 2010. Filed under: Astrology and Related Bunk, Atheism, Personal |

This week is ending with a bang.  I’m leaving tomorrow afternoon to head down to my best friend Greg’s Cottage for a weekend of golf and R&R.

Sunset: therefor God. End of Argument.

So other than checking comments, doing the rounds, and checking a few new friends blogs on Friday morning, I will be indisposed for the whole of the long weekend.  I understand that this will come as a bit of a disappointment to my 4 regular readers ( You know who you are), but rest assured that I will be back to the daily grind on Tuesday with a new post.  I might even include some photos of me relaxing out in God’s country. (I wish their were a better term for it)

I am really excited.  I don’t get a ton of vacation time during the year, and I relish the opportunity to get away from the daily grind.

"I can't imagine a chair without a designer"-Ray Comfort. "I can't imagine that chair without my ass in it"- George W.

So just a friendly reminder that I am not purposely ignoring you  or your comments, I’m just (thankfully) miles away from internet access.

To make Jason smile, here is a mini RCIMT for you.

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Why I Can’t Imagine A Christian Skeptic…

Posted on July 28, 2010. Filed under: Atheism, Personal, Religion, Science |

Note from George:It seems as though many of my normal blog stops are on a brief summer vacation, well deserved I’m sure, leaving me with not too much inspiration for posts this week.  So to pass the time I went to the WordPress home and searched for blog posts on “atheism” and stumbled across this.

I lurked a bit on this blog and must say that although the post in question is more direct and pointed, I envy her use of language even if many of the thoughts are “bad poetry” by a logical standard.  She is definitely worth a lurk or two if you find yourself in a fighting mood.

Can I Imagine A Worse Argument? No….  Did I Just Prove Her Point?

She writes:

In fact, I asked one agnostic friend of mine if there were any fears which might attend his entertainment of just taking a “leap of faith,” and believing a thing without empirical knowledge of that thing.  His number one fear was that he would be “giving up his ability to think critically” if he were to make such a leap of faith.

We like to believe that God is an imagined or invented thing.   There are plenty of postulated reasons for our having imagined or invented him, therefore he must be imagined or invented!

A little known fact: Einstein quotes make everybody sound smarter.

Where does this come from?  Is not every theory, every model, and every practical invention of man rooted first in the imagination—and NOT in reality?  Einstein is famous for equating energy with mass, but he is not unknown for his quote, “Imagination is better than knowledge.”  Whether god is invented by man we know not; but he is most certainly “imagined” by man.  Indeed, man has no other means of approaching such a reality, than through his own imagination.

………….(edited, full comment in original post linked at top)

So, I ask, where is it that we are “giving up our ability to think critically,” when we take that leap of faith?  Aren’t we opening ourselves up more than we ever had before, when we do?

I mean, let’s face it, the skeptic has better arguments.  However, the skeptic limits reality to that which he can perceive with his current senses.

The theist, on the other hand, has a broader sense of reality, albeit the aspects of reality which lie below the surface of his sense perception, exist primarily in his imagination.

 Is imagination limited in the atheist?  Really?  As a theist, are you not equally closing the door to the suggestion that there is no God?  As a Christian (which I believe I am safe to assume the author is based on this), do you not close yourself to the imagining that Krishna, Zeus, Allah, or (insert deity here) is responsible for all you see before you? Am I less imaginative to go one God further than yourself?

I can assure her that I can imagine a world in which God(s) exist.  I will tell you that it bears little to no resemblance to the reality in which I reside.

She is correct in stating that there is more to our lives, our history and our existence then what we can grasp with our mortal fingers.  Science tells us of forgotten pasts, distant places, the incomprehensible realms  of the microscopic and atomic scale.  These are places of magic and mystery.  They are witnessed by a privileged few, but available to all through the endless toil of these intrepid explorers.  Best of all, all this is reality.  It happened and is happening,  a whole reality beyond the scope of our limited human brains.

Einstein did indeed say that “Imagination is more important than knowledge, for knowledge is limited while imagination embraces the entire world.“;  I can assure you that he meant no ill will to reality.  The greatest of scientific discoveries started rightly in the realm of imagination, but we must be sure to separate those things that cannot survive the journey from our mind to reality from those that are dreamed to existence.

To claim that I am limited within the realm of reality is fatuous and near-sighted.

The Million Dollar Question:  Can We At Once Be A Skeptic And A Theist?

I believe that one could rightly be a deist and a skeptic, with no regard for any religious traditions.  I take issue with the claim that you can be a true skeptic and a true christian of any stripe.

Oxymorons- A sign of the times?

There is so much to be skeptical of in the claims of any of our major monotheistic traditions.  The schizophrenic nature of Yaweh and Allah, the blatant plagiarism of the holy books, the lack of any empirical evidence   of a Savior born during an era of good record keeping.  All these facts and countless others must be set aside in a quest to believe the unbelievable.

I too, wanted so hard to believe.  There has always been a part of me that can’t get past the discrepancies, can’t honestly bring myself to imagine a God that doesn’t just leave me without evidence but instead gives evidence to the contrary.  I have given this much thought, I have explored the realm of faith…and I have always found it lacking.

A true skeptic follows the evidence, no matter how uncomfortable or difficult a path it is.  I have trouble imagining a Christian following a truly skeptical path and ending up knocking on Heaven’s door.

But as you said, maybe I just lack imagination…..


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Truth: In Pictures…..

Posted on July 26, 2010. Filed under: Humour, Religion, Truth...In Pictures |

In Mexico, hundreds of clowns made their annual pilgrimage to the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City July 21.  The pilgrimage is reportedly to thank the Virgin of Guadalupe for helping to find them work through the year.

The Roman Catholic Church: Helping Employ Clowns Since The 3rd Century

The Catholic Church and Clowns- Finding common ground in an unhealthy fixation with pre-pubescent boys.

Left: Ronald McDonald's lesser known brother Ralph was forced out of the family business for his controversial stand on child rape. Right: Bozo shows off the before image from "Hair Club for Men who Refuse to Get a Real Job"

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Apologetics and Apostasy Pt. 3- Programming, Parenting & Progress.

Posted on July 23, 2010. Filed under: Atheism, Personal, Religion, Science |

Note from the Author: This is part three of my series on Apologetics and Apostasy.  Parts 1 & 2 deal with defining confirmation bias, cognitive dissonance, and credulity in their respective roles within the religious mind.

There are likely to be those who disagree with the statement that credulity, confirmation bias and/or cognitive dissonance are necessities of the modern religious mind.  I would argue that short of an ambiguous deism, one or more of these afflictions must necessarily be present in order to be a seriously practicing theist in the modern age.

Although we must all admit to cognitive bias, a very specific breed must be present in order to buy in “lock, stock, and barrel” with any of the major world religions.  If you are to believe in the inerrancy of the bible, for example, one has to believe several unimaginable things many of which, if not squarely contrary to modern scientific knowledge, fall short of simple tests of logic.

You must believe in “special creation”- that man was created in more or less his present state by God in the face of anthropological, archaeological, biological and genetic evidence to the contrary.   You must believe that each of these fields are colluding to reinforce the “false claim” of common ancestry.  In essence, you must don your foil hat and join the ranks of the delusional; believing in vast, systemic conspiracies perpetrated with the sole purpose of undermining the authority of your stone age history book.

It is not a position I envy. (more…)

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Harper, Hubris, and Hatred- Why Canada Must Fight For Freedom From Unreason

Posted on July 22, 2010. Filed under: Atheism, Canadian Politics, Personal, Politics, Religion, Social Justice |

From time to time I, like many of my fellow countrymen, exhibit a palpable pride at being in our blessed position North of the 49th parallel.  This to me is a well deserved smugness, the spoils of living in a society that has seemingly shed the shackles of intolerance and ignorance.

Every so often though I read a story like this and realize that this smugness is bordering on hubris, that the battles we believe are won are still being fought- while the vast armies of reason sit around patting themselves on the back, the minority “moral” jihadists keep the fires of fundamentalism stoked and at the ready.

An excerpt:

In the Grade 12 social-studies class at Riverside Secondary School in Port Coquitlam, 25 teenagers turn their attention from text messaging to the well-tailored retiree who is their guest speaker of the week. Immaculate in grey flannels and a buttoned-down shirt, he is far from an imposing figure, easily dwarfed by the tallest girls in the class, but as these students well know, this is no ordinary visitor dropping in on Social Justice 12, the controversial new course designed to combat discrimination in British Columbia schools. Murray Corren is its inspiration and driving force — one half of the gay couple behind the most provocative revamping of the provincial curriculum since the government first dared to inform students about the verboten subject of sex.

In online Christian chat rooms and the right-wing blogosphere, he and his spouse, Peter Corren, have been called every epithet imaginable since they launched a 1999 human rights complaint against B.C.’s Ministry of Education for “systemic gender discrimination.” Seven years later, just as the case was finally scheduled to be heard, the government settled, seizing on the Correns’ proposal for an elective course to combat not only homophobia but bigotry of every kind, including biases against the disabled, the homeless and the poor. To thousands of evangelical and Catholic parents, those topics were mere window dressing to mask the true aims of the course: foisting what some like to call a “homosexualist agenda” on impressionable teens.

This is not happening in the bible belt of America.  This is happening in Canada, a country that I thought had grown beyond the battle between what is right and what is holy.   While we sat around backslapping and basking in the light of reason, we failed to spot the clouds approaching, ever vigilant to obscure our rights under cover of religion.

We must concede now that we were naive to not see the cloud’s impending approach, that a perfect storm has been brewing in this country for the past few years.

Our Prime Minister has the dubious distinction of being a Jesus Zombie of the neo-conservative bent.  His Conservative Party governs under the false impression that their election was won on the strength of their vision rather than a reaction against a tired and arrogant Liberal Party.  Every religious conservative in Canada has it in their mind that Canada is ready to start that shameful trudge toward the quasi-theocracy so pervasive south of the border.

The B.C. Social Justice 12 course is a hard fought victory for reason.  It is not indoctrination- if anything it is deprogramming; freeing our future generations from the unhindered growth of intolerance planted by our pastors and sowed by society.  Telling children that LGBT people are still people, that disabled people are still able enough to feel, that poverty has a human face; none of these are indoctrinations.  They are facts.

Go get your intolerance from your pastor or your parents.  Schools are places to encounter new ideas, to expand our horizons, to make rational adults.

You have your pulpit to preach your stone age morality to your kids, just don’t expect society to be your complacent co-conspirator.

The world is not darkened to black by clouds, the light continues to find its way, and it shall always be thus.

In the meantime I’ll go get my umbrella.

Video via Camels With Hammers

Note from George-  If you are interested in helping fight intolerence, ignorance, idiocy and inaction here is a link to a group founded by my good friend Derek Forgie:

Heterosexuals for Same Sex Equality


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Daily Horoscope: You’re In A Circle Jerk With The Confirmation Bias Fairy

Posted on July 20, 2010. Filed under: Astrology and Related Bunk, Atheism, Irony in the Title, Personal, Religion, Science |

This will likely be my final post in the impromptu series Daily Horoscope based on our conversations with Jamie Funk and his astrology minions.  It might be resurrected for future discussions about astrology, but after calling the subject a wash over at Funk Astrology, I feel it is time to move on.

I must admit that I am a little underwhelmed by the whole thing.

The closest I came to gleaning anything new was in the  Dealing with Skeptics and Associated Trolls page at Funk Astrology.  There I got some insight into the lack of admitted predictive power in Astrology from Parin, where she corrected my misguided assumption that astrology believes the movement of celestial bodies directly correlates to seemingly unrelated events here on earth.

See, I Had No Idea

I honestly thought this was a good, albeit simplified definition of astrology:

Astrology:  The belief that the movement of celestial bodies has a quantifiable effect on people and/or seemingly unrelated events in people’s lives.

I am forced to walk away with a definition more like:

Astrology:  The belief that you can take any person or event and decipher possibly corollary traits or information in the movement of celestial bodies.  Any information deciphered may or may not be meaningful, impactful, or predictive.

That really leaves me believing that Astrology is no more useful or predictive than a “cold reading” by an astute observer.  Kind of like watching the Mentalist on T.V. where he uses astute observation to figure people out.  That, to me, seems a glorified parlour game, a fun round of friends “predicting” things about each other based on known or observable behavior.   Except these people stick a “Supernatural” label on it and charge money for their insight.

By these peoples own definitions, astrology is just guesswork and subjective extrapolation from known quantities.  It is not special.  It is not magic.  It is fun and games, and expensive at that.

A Glimmer of Hope Becomes A Ridiculous Joke

I also had a moment over at Jamie’s blog where I thought we were on to something.  A poster named James mentioned Polaris, a computer program that he described as being indisputably predictive in calculating birth times.   I should have caught on when the process was referred to as “rectification”, but the temptation of a program that was testable and falsifiable blinded me to its obvious flaw.

The process is called “rectification”, I know now, because it uses your built in confirmation bias to re-jig your birthtime based on past events in your life.  The idea is this:

Subject A either has no registered or confirmable birth time or feels that his/her birth time was miscalculated by timepieces at the time of their birth.

With the foreknowledge that astrology is more accurate at calculating birth times then, say, a clock or watch which was invented solely for the purpose of time keeping; Subject A gives a list of significant events from their lives and a list of probable birth times and Polaris extracts the most likely one based on a points system.

How eminently scientific!  I can still see how this program could be used to disprove itself though.

Let’s say someone bought the program, gathered birth time information on several individuals using clocks that are accurate to the millisecond, witnessing and documenting firsthand the indisputable birth times.  Wait say, 20 years and input events from those individuals lives and a wide range of birth times and voila, the indisputable birth time must surely emerge!

Not Fair?

I’d like to know why, without any confirmation bias “that was the time they were supposed to be born” bullshit that I can hear already spewing from the credulous assholes mouth.

I’ve already proposed how to use this program in a less scientific way to at least lend weight to it’s credibility.  I’m still open to takers.

Hi-jacking Science For Stupid’s Sake

The final comment in Jamie’s post at the time of this post was also cross posted at Lousy Canuck by “Chris”.  It is a tempting idea for astrologers, and one that is inevitability quite wrong.

I approach Astrology as an art in that I use it to “paint” a picture of a person, place or time. Some say that Astrology mirrors rather than predicts. Astrological forecasting is somewhat like meteorological forecasting- they look at jet streams and air currents and put it all together to give you their interpretation of the most likely outcome. Sometimes they’re wrong. They are as much of an artist as we are. As astrologers, we look at planets, stars, moons, (and a lot of astrologers use the transneptunian objects as well) etc. and notice unfolding patterns, and then give our interpretation. I think that eventually, with the study of fractals and chaos theory, scientists will be able to conclude that Astrology can be explained through the paradigms of those scientific standards. We don’t move around in space, we’re part of it. Everything has its own energy, and makes more of a difference than you think it does.

How do I know this is wrong?

Apart from the first paragraph which basically underlines my first point about astrology being nothing more than “guessology”, Chris goes on to co-opt some of the most counterintuitive and confounding subjects in physics and mathematics to lend magic where none exists.  To a layperson, conjuring chaos theory and fractals is just like conjuring magic, a surefire way to obfuscate a bunch of superstitious hooey under the cover of science.

If you believe that science will save Astrology,I can tell you it won’t happen.

  • Did science confirm the theory of a creator?  Well, no.
  • Did science confirm a flat earth?
  • A firmament?
  • How about a global flood?

You see, every time an ancient civilization desperately searches for a causal explanation for something they have no answer for…….. a myth is born.

To believe that this one time, ancient civilizations were on to something when every other causal agent they conjured of curiosity and imagination has been so squarely proven false; that is confirmation bias…that is credulity.

I still leave the offer open to anyone who wants to have a reasoned discussion, I just hold little hope of reason.

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The Periodic Table of Irrational Nonsense

Posted on July 19, 2010. Filed under: Atheism, Humour, Personal, Religion, Science |

Via Knowledge Begetting Confidence, origin: Science, Reason, and Critical Thinking

Priceless-and available as a t-shirt!

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Daily Horoscope: Pay Attention, There Will Be A Test.

Posted on July 19, 2010. Filed under: Astrology and Related Bunk, Internet Etiquette, Irony in the Title, Personal, Science, Trolls |

Author’s Note:This post is a continuation of my previous post Daily Horoscope which can be found here.

Over the past week I have been neglecting my readers (admittedly there are 5 of you or so) who have been waiting for my next post in the Apologetics and Apostasy series.  I apologize for being such an ungrateful host.

I have, for the past several days, been sidetracked by an ongoing debate with astrologers over at my friend Jason’s blog.  The previous post does a good job of explaining the basics for those readers who are new to this debate.

To this point, the astrologers have predictably stayed within the realm of the  “bob and weave”, effortlessly floating like a butterfly knowing that they have nothing to sting with.

Their core argument:

  1. You don’t know me.  Why you hatin’?  You don’t know me.
  2. You’re just hatin’ cuz you’re a sad, empty skeptic.
  3. You don’t know jack about astrology, bro. You can’t hate on what you don’t understand.
  4. I gots yo “evidence” right here, right behind this here zipper.

As I’m sure you’ve figured out, I’m not overly impressed with the quality of the debate thus far.

I’ll put this out there:

I am a skeptic, yes.  I do not believe the onus is on me to go brush up on astrology.  I admittedly know close to diddly friggin’ squat about boomerang yods, conjuncts, trines and quincunxes and what effect, if any, astrology assigns to these things.  I know this reads to the astrologer as “George can’t be bothered to learn about the subject” and to a degree, that is a valid criticism.

Every skeptic I have ever met believes in one core idea: Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

  • That stellar bodies several light years away from earth have a noticeable effect on the lives of humans is a pretty extraordinary claim, if only because it flies in the face of everything we can observe scientifically here on earth.
  • That the time I was born has a measurable effect on my personality or future events in my life is an extraordinary claim, not least because it has only been discussed anecdotal with a hefty peppering of confirmation bias.
  • That astrology is a repeatable phenomenon, that it can be used predicatively to gain insight into future occurrences, as opposed to anecdotally after the fact to “predict” that things happened just as they should; this too is extraordinary.

To Any Astrologer Reading This:

If you have evidence of any of these claims I am more than open to consider them.

Expect skepticism, expect questions, don’t just expect credulity.

I am open to new ideas.  I won’t discount real evidence on it’s face.  I will discount bald assertions and anecdotes.  I will rightly question beliefs that fly in the face of logic and common sense.  If you don’t have evidence, what you have is credulity, blind faith in something that you care not to question.

That’s not me.

That’s not how my brain works.

Explain it to me, please. Offer good evidence, useful falsifiable predictions, something more than “that’s just the way it is”.

If you expect me to invest hours upon hours of my time to prove/disprove a claim that is this fantastic, this counter-intuitive, this magical, then give me some hint that I’m not wasting my time chasing rainbows.  Offer me some hard evidence, then leave it to me to do the rest.

Here are a few ideas:

From James’ comment at Funk Astrology.

Hypothesis: That the time of a persons birth can be calculated with better than average accuracy using the dates of a series of unrelated events in their lives.

Experiment:  Provided with a list of ten (10) unknown subjects information including date of birth, place of birth, and several important events in their lives, the astrologer will be able to calculate their known birthtime within an insignificant margin of error.  These calculations are to be statistically more accurate than the guesses of 5 non-astrologers.

or

Hypothesis: That astrology can be used to predict some future events within a statistically insignificant margin of error.

Experiment:  That given time to pick fifteen(15) astrologically significant dates over the next two(2) years, the astrologer will be able to predict the location and nature of several seemingly random and unrelated events with a margin of error significantly less than that of the Null Hypothesis.

I’m offering you olive branches here guys, a chance to wow us with the veracity of your methods.

I know full well that there is no way to set up a completely scientific analysis of astrology in an internet forum.  I do believe, however, that in order for me to prove you “cheated” at any of these tests, I would at least be forced to make some pretty extraordinary assumptions.

That would count for me as “good evidence”, not irrefutable, but sufficient to require further study on my part.

You may also like to offer testable hypothesis of your own.  I am open to new evidence that I have been sorely mistaken about astrology for all these years.

You have the floor guys, make the most of it.

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Daily Horoscope: Saturn Is In Aquarius And Yet You’re Still A Giant Dick

Posted on July 16, 2010. Filed under: Astrology and Related Bunk, Internet Etiquette, Irony in the Title, Personal, Science, Trolls |

Jamie Funk has hijacked my favorite blog.

Jamie Funk is an astrologer, and by that virtue alone he is also a quack.  I’m sure he is a fantastic father, a loving partner to his spouse, maybe even a nice bloke to sit down with over a pint of suds.

None of these facts take away from the fact that he charges folks money to tell them what the heavens are doing in their lives, and the basis for all his advice is absolute crap.  It might be good advice, it might even be sage advice, but it is advice that is derived from drawing semi-random and completely irrelevant chords in a circle and then generating utterly vague predictions about their future.

Even better, he likes to make a habit of taking known events and explaining how his method predicts that they would happen.  It’s silly really, because:

  1. If he does have a teachable and consistent method, he can only choose those events that confirm his method and avoid those events that refute it.
  2. He can choose only those planets and movements that confirm the event and set aside those that are inconsistent with the event.
  3. If he has no consistent method, he can just make stuff up that sounds real astrologyish and show that his method explains any event.

My guess is that if someone asked him to pick a day in the near future, any day at all, that had lots of astrological significance happening, and make a real concrete, falsifiable prediction about what would happen that day he would dodge the offer or outright decline.

He should be able to make a prediction like:

On July 30, 2010 at 4:57PM PST an earthquake will strike the city of San Francisco, injuring thousands.

OR

The MaxMillions Draw for Friday, July 16th,2010  in Canada will be won by a Pisces, born on March 12th, 1979 at about 4:26 AM EST.

He won’t make any specific predictions, because he knows that they can be falsified, and as a result he would be proven false.  How about if he made 20 predictions over the next 9 months and he only had to get a hit on 25% of them?  I suspect he wouldn’t do that either.

Why?

Because Jamie knows that what he does is pure guesswork.  There is nothing more than entertainment value to the money he bilks from his poor shills.

I’m sure, if Jamie reads this, he will ignore it, or attack something other than my key points:

  1. You cannot make testable, falsifiable predictions using your method
  2. You can offer no peer-reviewed research backing up the claim that any method of astrology is accurate in making predictions
  3. You use your method to explain things we already know happened and therefor there is no way to independently verify the method.

So Jamie, if you’re reading this, understand that I am not attacking your methods, I’m not even attacking astrology, and I’m certainly not attacking you.  I’m calling astrology out for what it is-a giant load of bunk that is no more valid than just making up advice for people off the cuff.  I’m asking you to stop dodging the issue, “shit or get off the pot”, so to speak.   If you don’t want to answer these concerns, which are the exact same ones made by Jason in his post-then stop hijacking my favorite blog- go back to entertaining your audience.  Don’t be surprised though, if we call you out again for misrepresenting reality.

Jamie Funk’s Horoscope for Saturday, July 17th 2010-  There is a foreign body entering Uranus.  If you relax a bit more today, you might enjoy the experience.

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What The Hell Happened To My CBC Radio One?

Posted on July 13, 2010. Filed under: Atheism, Humour, Personal, Religion |

As I continue to polish up my next post in the series Apologetics and Apostasy I would like to pass the time by asking:

WTF Is Happening Over At CBC Radio?

Hitchens v. Hitchens- Friday Night Fights on Q

Picture this:  It’s Friday evening, and I am in my car listening to Q, a really great weekday program hosted by Jian Ghomeshi on CBC Radio One.  I love this show.  Thought provoking interviews, great guests, good music; all the things that make for good end-of-workday unwinding.  On this particular day, the guest happens to be Peter Hitchens, of same sperm-and-egg-combination as Christopher Hitchens fame.  Peter has written a book called “The Rage Against God”, partly  about his journey from atheism to Christianity and partly as a response to his brother’s best-seller “God Is Not Great”.

I listen with heightened interest.  I’m expecting the Hitchens trademark wit, the no-holds-barred, if-you-don’t-like-what-I-have-to-say-go-fuck-yourself attitude that would be so unbearable were it not for the strength of his logic. Instead,  I get the same whiny “Why does everyone hate Christians so much?” polemic that spurts from the mouth of every sad little apologist who writes a book or does an interview.  I have said here and other places that there is nothing new under the sun in the religion vs. atheism debate, but I was hoping for a refreshing framing of the theist argument from Peter Hitchens.

CBC has a Hitchens v. Hitchens page at cbc.ca/q that offers up interviews by both brothers.

I have never read “God Is Not Great” as Hitchens is not really my style but after listening to this interview I ran down to my local bookstore and bought a copy.  I intend to buy a copy of Peter’s book “The Rage Against God” as well and make a future post comparing the two books.  Perhaps Peter’s arguments will be more persuasive on the page.

More on the interviews in a moment.

Clearly Clairvoyant and Obviously Ignorant- Saturday Morning’s Being Jann

Saturday morning I had a business trip up north and again found myself in the car listening to CBC Radio.  Being Jann is a summer filler show hosted by Jann Arden, a popular musician here in Canada.  I like Jann Arden.  She’s funny and witty, she doesn’t pull any punches.  On her Saturday show, she had on as a guest Kim Dennis, an author and medium who “talks to dead people”.  The interview was uncomfortable, with Kim peddling her woo and Jann not just agreeing, but partaking in a circle jerk of epic proportions where each tells the other one how right they are.  I really wish the whole interview was available online, it would make any rational person’s blood boil.   Kim and Jann came to the inarguable conclusion that all people who do not believe in New Age Woo are “spiritually bankrupt”.  You read that right.

Comparing interview styles on the CBC

Here’s where I get to my point.  What the hell is happening at CBC Radio One?

When you host a show on the radio, you should never “pat your guest’s back”, even if you do agree wholeheartedly with them. Without a recording to give a verbatim account, the interview went something like this:

Jann: Kim, you are so fucking awesome, you commune with dead people.

Kim: Yes Jann, I do.  I must admit that I am pretty fucking awesome.  People who don’t believe in spirits that talk to me are stupid.

Jann:  Absolutely….complete and utter morons.  I mean, you did a reading for me and knew about my Grandmother’s orange stove pot.  How could you know that if you weren’t so fucking awesome?

Kim:  It really makes you realize how spiritually bankrupt people are when they don’t believe in my utter awesomeness.  I mean, if you don’t believe in ghosts and the afterlife you really are a sad, miserable human being who has no good reason for existing because no other way of thinking would make anyone happy or fulfilled.

Jann:  I agree, not just spiritually bankrupt, but pathetic as well. I don’t know how those people get out of bed every morning, or shave their legs without slitting their wrists, they must be so very sad and pathetic.  It really makes me wonder.  So when did you first realize you had the gift of super awesomeness?

Kim: When I was thirteen, my grandfather was super awesome too you know.

Jann:Wow, you really are fascinating.  My friend says you’re a quack, but she is sad.

Kim: So sad….being rational is for losers.  I mean, I knew about your Grandmother’s pot, right?  How do you explain that?

Jann: I don’t know Kim, I don’t know.

That is pretty much how the interview went.  I may have added a bit for dramatic effect.  There are no hard questions, no counterarguments, just a circle-jerk lovefest where each agrees with the other more.  If there were ever a subject which should be questioned and held to account, it is this.  Jann really disappointed me, I hope she has a future guest who tells her how ridiculous it is to believe this stuff and explain how truly satisfying sanity really is.

Now I come back to the Peter Hitchens interview.  This is how an interview should go.  I may not have agreed with Peter’s answers to many of the questions, I may even have taken him to task more on some of his points but at least there was a mediating voice from the interviewer’s chair.  Peter’s arguments seem silly when viewed through a North American prism.  I don’t know the culture of the U.K. too well, but I can speak from experience how things are on my side of the pond.

Religious people love to say silly things like:

  • Religious people are a mistreated minority.-sure, if by minority you mean more than half of the population and by mistreated you mean afforded special social privileges.  If that’s what you mean then… absolutely. A handful of people openly discussing how credulous you are is far from mistreatment.
  • Morality is only possible through religion.- I killed the last person who used this argument and pissed on his corpse.  Well, actually he was trying to stop me from eating the fetuses I had just helped to abort, but he mentioned something about my morality too.  You know us atheists!  That’s why we are so overrepresented in the prison population.
  • Atheists are sooo angry because we refuse to believe what they do- Yes.  That is why we get angry.  We want you to bend to our will.  It’s not because you call us heathens, or tell us we eat babies, or condemn us to your hell, force your infantile beliefs onto our children, get visibly angry when your church’s grip on society loosens, or project your beliefs into public spheres.  Nope.  It’s because we want you to forsake your God. That’s definitely it.

Each of these points was brought up during the interview.  I imagine that each will also be found in Peter’s book.  The difference is that Jian took the time as a host to question those assertions.

The interview with Christopher was shorter and to the point.  Similar pointed questions with the Christopher Hitchens trademark style of sound-intelligent-while-achieving-maximum-offense.  I hope everyone takes the time to listen to both interviews.

Especially Jann Arden, her producer, and staff, who all need to be schooled in the art of the interview.

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