Episode 8: Partial Transcript
by Noah Lugeons & Heath Enwright
This week’s episode of the Scathing Atheist is brought to you by Mitt Romney’s new brand of baking soda, Mormon Hammer. Guaranteed to keep your fridge as free of odor as it is of alcohol, caffeine and gender-equality. So send one of your wives to the store and tell them to look for the whitest baking soda on the shelf: Mormon Hammer.
And now, the Scathing Atheist…
It’s Thursday, It’s April 11th and bananas are my worst nightmare.
I’m your host Noah Lugeons and from climatically-schizophrenic New York, New York, this is the Scathing Atheist.
On this week’s episode,
- A Louisiana legislator tries to teach kids about religious freedom by taking it away,
- We’ll use the word “fuck” more times than there’s any real need to and
- My wife and my best friend will join me for the most disappointing threesome of all time.
But first, the Diatribe…
“How Hubble Saved My Soul”
I rejected religion at an early age. My parents were religious but they weren’t church-goers and they only made a half-ass attempt to brainwash me. I can’t tell you exactly when I out-logiced religion, but my earliest atheist memory is at the age of 8 when my 3rd grade teacher settled an argument between me and some other kid by affirming that there was too a god.
Now, I’d say I was proud of that fact, but atheism is nothing to be proud of. Outsmarting a book that starts contradicting itself in the second chapter isn’t very hard. And, as I proved for many years after rejecting my parent’s faith, you can be both an atheist and a gullible dipshit simultaneously.
See, I didn’t do the whole religion thing, but I was every bit as irrational in my puerile new-age hippy tie-dye, goatee, anything goes, neo-pagan spiritualism. I dismissed all the doctrines, but I still had a soft spot in my brain for ancient wisdom. What’s more, I wanted magic and eternal life. I just wasn’t willing to get them from a church.
So I alternately identified myself as a Wiccan, a spiritualist, a Thelemite or, my personal favorite, a Pangeantheologist. I read books on witchcraft and Kabbalah and chakras and high magick and low magick and herbal magick and color magick and chaos magick and shamanic magick and Enochian magick. And I read the I Ching and I read Tarot cards and I read runes and I read palms. And I read Aleister Crowley and Raymond Buckland and Donald Kraig and Israel Regardie and Peter Carroll. And I went to pagan communes and I met gurus and I went on silence retreats and I danced naked around bonfires and I called upon ancient spirits and I invoked undines and deep down I knew the whole time that it was a load of shit.
The cognitive dissonance wasn’t that hard at first, because I was getting laid. But it got harder and harder as I learned more and more about this stuff. There was never any substance. It never made any more sense. There were never any deeper secrets and there were never any results.
My friends would all say, “Oh, you’ve gotta meet this guru” and when I do, I figure out five minutes in that he knows less about what he’s talking about than I do after reading three books on the subject. I would get together with some coven for a big communal spell and I would happen to catch them on one of those rare nights when nothing happened at all. Or worse yet, you would know the ceremony was over when the most gullible jackass in the room says, “Did you feel that?!”
And as I’m going through this whole five year acid trip of the soul, something else was happening too. And even though I wouldn’t realize it for a quite a while, it was steadily eroding the foundation of my bullshit; I started to see the images being returned from the Hubble Space Telescope.
Like practically everyone, I fell in love with these images as soon as I saw them. I was fascinated and I couldn’t possibly see enough. I wanted to know more about what they were and the incredible universe they revealed. But more than that I wanted to know how we got them and what they meant. It was slow and sometimes painful, but that was the origin of my love for science.
Somehow underpaid, uninspired public school teachers had failed to instill any real appreciation for something as fascinating as everything in my developing mind and it took seeing the universe in this scale for me to truly appreciate the wonders of human curiosity.
But it sure made that cognitive dissonance harder. After all, if science said what I believed was bullshit and they could back it up with pictures of the entire fucking universe, who was I to disagree? How could I cocoon myself in some arrogant worldview that places humanity in the center of it all when there were things like the Hubble Deep Field Image to contradict me?
Even the young religions had a multi-century head start on science when it came to this whole “heaven” thing and they were happy to tell you what it was like and who was in charge and how you could get there, but they never managed to take pictures. We never glimpsed the earliest stars through the power of herbal supplements. We never saw a cloud of dust four light years across through proper breathing techniques. We never saw galaxies forming with color-infused water. The methods and practiced that all my hippy gurus promoted had been around for centuries and sometimes millenia, and yet knowledge of their deep and mystical secrets had never managed something as stupefying and eye-opening as even the lowliest of Hubble’s observations. And yes, I’m talking about the blurry shit before they fixed it.
Sure, you eat enough mushrooms and get in a sweat lodge, you’ll see all the bright lights and pretty colors Hubble has to offer, but there’s nothing there. Just like every other silly little spiritual distraction, there’s nothing there. It’s all empty, hollow, meaningless, unsatisfying, Chicken Soup for the Brain drivel. It demands that you suspend your disbelief even to the point of suspending your own senses. It demands that you practice for years at something you can’t actually get better at. It demands that you nod along with every stupid post-modernist notion some yoga instructor blurts out because you don’t want to be the only one at the party wearing incredulity.
But science, as Carl Sagan said, brings the goods. The appeal of all the spiritual mumbo-jumbo was rooted in my desire to be part of something larger, but when I glanced at the universe through the eyes of a space telescope, I saw that science was offering me something larger than any new-age guru could dream of. And what’s more is that it was real; tangible; provable. Unlike the “truth” offered by faith, science demands nothing in return.
And that’s how Hubble saved my soul.
Joining me tonight for headlines is my fidus Achates, Heath Enwright. Heath, are you ready to, um… I don’t know, feed us?
In our lead story tonight, the state of North Carolina decided to declare a state religion last week, then the ether wore off and they wondered who that lump in the bed was and where that tattoo came from and what the fuck they were thinking.
This story starts in Rowan County, North Carolina (go Mustangs!) where a lawsuit threatened to stop county commissioners from opening their meetings with a prayer. They had two choices, one was concede, give up the prayer and not look like stupid assholes. The other was to try to rewrite the constitution.
- They were trying to invoke a silly little idea that I remember my 10th grade history teacher asserting. The idea is that the constitution only forbids congress from establishing a religion, not the individual states.
- I’m not sure if there’s any real constitutional ground for that argument but I’m skeptical and so is North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis, who killed the bill once the national media started to make a stink about this. Which suggests to me that somehow North Carolina legislators didn’t realize that people were gonna make a stink about this.
- And that’s why we need watchdog groups.
LEAD STORY: The North Carolina State Religion: http://news.yahoo.com/could-north-carolina-actually-declare-state-religion-130700725.html Follow Up : http://www.goddiscussion.com/108691/north-carolina-house-speaker-kills-bill-that-would-have-allowed-the-state-to-create-a-state-sponsored-religion-in-violation-of-first-amendment-to-the-constitution/
And in “I’ll see your state religion and raise you twelve pounds of raw bat-shit” news, Louisiana State Representative Katrina R. Jackson has proposed a new bill that would force students to recite the Lord’s Prayer along with the Pledge of Allegiance every morning.
With an inspiring effort to yet be the most destructive Katrina in Louisiana’s history, Representative Jackson attempts to justify the bill with some of the most Orwellian language since Orwell. She actually says:
- “Students shall be informed that these exercises are not meant to influence an individual’s personal religious beliefs in any manner.”
- The recitations shall be conducted so that students learn of America’s great freedoms, including the freedom of religion symbolized by the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer.
Louisiana state rep proposes a prayer-in-school law: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/04/05/louisiana-state-representative-students-should-learn-freedom-of-religion-by-reciting-the-lords-prayer-every-morning/
And following up on a story we covered back in episode 4, the big Jesus picture in Jackson, Ohio is coming down. You’ll recall a flurry of defensive posturing by the school board, who insisted that nothing on heaven or earth was going to make them take down their beloved Jesus pitcher.
Well, it turned out that all it took was an insurance company deciding that Jesus was a liability. And this goes to show you how heartless we atheists are. They tried to compromise. They offered to take the picture down from the Middle School and put it up in the High School but that wasn’t good enough for those secular humanist jackoffs.
But I do think it’s worth pointing out what a signpost this really is. It doesn’t take too many successful lawsuits by atheists to convince insurance companies to pull the plug on shit like this before it ends up wasting a truckload of taxpayer money.
Follow Up: School in Jackson Ohio agrees to remove Jesus painting: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/04/03/the-giant-portrait-of-jesus-is-finally-coming-down/
And in more shameful news, a new poll finds that 13% of Americans think that Obama is the anti-Christ. Many of our listeners will have already heard about this survey, as we’re not the only media outlet that found that number interesting. In addition to that statistic, the study also found that:
- 20% of Americans believe that childhood vaccines are linked to autism,
- 9% believe that fluoride is added to the water to control our minds,
- And 4% believe that shape-shifting lizards secretly control our government.
I find some of those numbers hard to believe and I hope that there was a lot of the “these questions have gotten so stupid I’m gonna start fucking with the interviewer” effect in it, but the fact that David Icke’s lizard theory is even well known enough to be included on the survey is plenty of evidence of some horrible failures in public education.
– I’d still be ashamed if only 13% of people believed that there would be an anti-christ.
Studies show that 13% of Americans think Obama is the anti-Christ: http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/pdf/2011/PPP_Release_National_ConspiracyTheories_040213.pdf
And sometimes you’re combing through news sources and you see a headline so promising you know it’s gonna make the show even before you read the article. A headline on the Christian Newswire caught my attention the other day. It said, and I quote, “Stephen Hawking Solves Bible Creation Mystery Proving the Bible Accurate”.
And basically what we’ve got here is every bit as stupid as what you expect when you read it. This apologist Paul Hutchins is trying to employ one of the Muslim apologist’s favorite tactics, the one where you say, “look at all the science that my book of bullshit predicts.”
This is kind of a dubious tactic in my mind, since all but eight words of the bible are contradicted by science, but nevertheless, he’s trying to say that the creation account in Genesis is in keeping with our current beliefs about how the planet formed.
Now, I’ll give him the credit of saying that he does get there, but he asks for a few huge favors when it comes to interpretation, including but not limited to:
– When the bible talks about 6 days they just mean “6 unequal periods of indeterminate time”
– When the bible says “Let there be light” what they clearly meant was “Let the sun transition from a protostar to a main sequence star.”
– When it talks about god making the sun 4 days after making day and night, they meant that he made the sun visible through the cloud of pre-solar system planetary fragments.
- He keeps talking about how these things “correspond exactly” to the Genesis account.
Stephen Hawking Solves Bible Creation Mystery Proving the Bible Accurate (I shit you not, that’s what the headline says): http://www.christiannewswire.com/news/2911771800.html
And finally tonight, The Foundation Beyond Belief has announced is 2nd quarter beneficiaries. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Foundation Beyond Belief, it is a most excellent secular charity that gathers donations in the name of atheism and then distributes them to a number of deserving charities.
Basically, they do all the hard work of confirming that none of your charitable dollars are going to support one of these half-charity/half-proselytizing funds. Which is helpful if you’ve ever wondered exactly how much of the money you gave to the Salvation Army was spent opposing gay rights.
The five charities selected for this quarter are:
- The One Acre Fund
- The Innocence Project of Texas
- Bernie’s Book Bank
- And Trees, Water & People
To learn more about these charities and all the news items discussed on this episode, be sure to check out the shownotes at Scathing Atheist (dot) com.
Foundation Beyond Belief Announces its 2nd quarter beneficiaries. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/04/03/foundation-beyond-belief-announces-q2-2013-slate-of-charities/
That does it for headlines tonight. Heath, appreciate your help as always.
And Heath, please stick around. When we come back, Lucinda Lugeons will join Heath and me for a little Bible study.
Writer: Hey chief – Did you get a chance to look at the draft I sent you of “The Bible”?
Editor: Oh yeah the fictional allegory book . . . I looked it over . . . Why don’t you have a seat.
W: Sure, how did you like it?
E: (Sigh) I didn’t love it. I’m just a little worried people might take some of it literally.
W: Come on, seriously? The stories are absurd. How could someone take them literally?
E: Well… whenever the scripture department releases something, readers tend to get a little too carried away. Remember the shit show after we printed the Torah? Which actually brings me to my next concern . . . and if I’m way off base here, I’m sorry . . . But it seems like you pretty much plagiarized the entire Hebrew Bible for this first half. Is that what you did?
W: Listen, the Jews are not a very litigious people, so it’s not look they’re gonna sue us. But maybe I’ll add a few footnotes to properly cite the direct quotes.
E: Don’t get me wrong, that thing’s way overdue for a sequel, but do we really have to reprint the whole first book with it? That’s gonna cost a pretty shekel.
W: I’ll be honest, I had a little bit of writer’s block, and I couldn’t seem to get the ball rolling. I added some stuff though. Judith, Wisdom… um… Maccabees…
E: Yeah, we might have to trim that part.
W: Are you sure?
E: Not really no. Look, I understand borrowing from it, that’s not a huge problem. It’s not like a religious text is just going to pop into your head, divinely inspired, ready to print.
W: Right, I’m not just gonna find a bunch of golden plates with the words of god etched into them. So I did some research, and the Torah had a lot of stuff very similar to what I was looking to write myself. One god, omnipotent vengeance scenarios, get really mad at any future religion that also likes the Middle East. It just made sense as a jumping off point.
E: Okay let’s circle back to that. Open up your copy to the Leviticus section.
W: I’ve gotta stop you right there. I know what you’re gonna say. That was a really weird time for me. I had to stone my 4th concubine AND 3 slaves to death that month. Lots of mixed emotions. And my normal guy was out of town, so I had to call this delivery service I never used before, and I’m pretty sure they laced the frankincense with something crazy.
E: Listen, it’s understandable. I’m thinking maybe just a little disclaimer at the beginning. Novelty purposes only, or something.
W: I really think you’re underestimating the intelligence of our readership. It’s not like a giant population the world over is going to get swept up in some sort of crusade to make sure everyone agrees – word for word – with my little book here.
E: I guess you’re right. I’m probably being paranoid. I just had one other concern . . . Why all the hate against gays?
E: All the anti-homosexual passages.
W: Where are there any anti-homosexual passages?
E: Right here in Leviticus. “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is an abomination.” Then later in Romans and again in Jude. It seems like you’re at least tacitly allowing the lesbian stuff, but still…
W: I thought it was clear that this section was tongue in cheek. I guess I really didn’t sell the sarcasm. And I wasn’t even talking about the sex part, just the lying in bed after. Nobody wants to see 2 men cuddling. That’s just faggoty.
E: And what’s with all the Yoda talk, and the weird numbering. You really think people are going to refer back to this one book, line by line, and need reference numbers? Normal page numbers, like every other book, should be just fine.
W: That was a software issue. I wrote the thing in Aramaic, and when the word processor translated the characters over to Times Old Roman Latin, a bunch of random numbers showed up by accident.
E: Okay, let’s skip ahead to this “New Testament” part. I get what you’re going for here and I like the idea of god having a kid in the sequel, but that whole part seemed way off to me. The first four chapters just seem to be telling the same story over and over and none of them agree on the details. It’s just weird.
W: Yeah, I started off with a “choose your own adventure” concept in mind but eventually I just slapped everything together in that opening chunk.
E: (Big Sigh) Look, I’m gonna be perfectly honest with you. Religious texts are hot right now and the epic poetry division hasn’t had a best seller in centuries. There’s a lot of problems here, but we’re probably gonna roll with it anyway.
W: Good to hear.
E: Do you have anything in mind for the sequel?
W: I’m thinking illiterate, child raping warlord on a flying horse.
E: Not bad.
It’s time for the atheist calendar portion of the show where we set aside a few minutes to talk up some of the great atheist and secular meet-ups going on around the country and around the world.
We’ll start off with a Skepticamp event in Essex County, Massachusetts on April 13th. Runs from 9:30 to 4, has some really interesting topics lined up and ends out with a Skeptical Trivia event that should be a lot of fun.
On April 20th we have the South Dakota Conference of Reason in Sioux Falls. And I know that people who live in and around South Dakota have a lot of choices when it comes to atheist conferences, but this one should be worth the drive.
Facebook Page for conference: https://www.facebook.com/events/214700748667522/?fref=ts
On the 27th of April there’ll be another Skepticamp event in Denver with an equally impressive slate of topics including a pretty promising talk on pseudo-astronomy, woo in women’s health and teen atheist outreach.
And finally in Atlanta we’ve got a three day skepticamp conference starting on the 3rd of May and running through the weekend.
And how could I not mention the fact that the Brisbane Atheists are hosting a Pirate Party for their monthly meet up on April 30th. I’d love to go just to find out what pirate-speak sounds like with an Australian accent. And incidentally, if any of my Australian listeners want to settle that mystery for me, feel free to send an audio clip.
That’ll do it for the calendar this week, but I want to remind everybody listening that if you’re involved with an atheist, skeptical or secular event that could use some publicity, let me know. Also if you’re aware of any good online resources for such events, let me know about those as well. You’ll find all the contact info on the contact page at ScathingAtheist (dot) com. And remember, we’re weekly now so I need all the help I can get filling this segment.
I had a couple of quick announcements before we close out the show. We’ve been putting a few segments of the show on You-Tube so if you want to share one part of the show with somebody who might not be able to make it through the whole show, check out our You-Tube channel for some bite-sized pieces of The Scathing Atheist.
We’ve also added a donation button to the website so if you were anxious to give us money, you could do that. Those donations are tax-deductible, but unfortunately that’s only for residents of Tatooine, Mordor and the magical land of Hyrule. The rest of you still have to pay your taxes.
We’ll have the long version of the Holy Babble segment up on the extras page on the website soon so be sure to check that out. Wanted to thank everyone who’s made their way over to iTunes to leave us a five star review. Gotta thank Lucinda and Heath for helping out tonight.
And I want to give a big thanks to George Hrab for both providing the Farnsworth quote to start us out and for entertaining the shit out of my wife and I last Friday night. The guys an incredible musician so if you’re a fan of the music, find an opportunity to watch him live. It’s an incredible experience and I’ll have links to all his upcoming events on the shownotes for the page. He also has a really fun podcast that I’ll link to as well.
That does it for tonight, but if you want more be sure to check out our erratically published blog, follow us on Twitter @Noah (underscore) Lugeons, like us on Facebook, subscribe to us on You-Tube, listen to us on Stitcher and give us money.
If you want to learn more about the news items and events discussed on this program, check out the shownotes for this episode. If you have any comments, questions or death threats you’ll find all the contact info on the “Contact” page at Scathing Atheist (dot) Com. All the music used in this program was written and performed by yours truly and yes, I did have my permission.