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One Year and Counting

January 17, 2014 6 comments

by Noah Lugeons

I guess there are a few candidates for the anniversary date of the Scathing Atheist podcast.  While today marks one full year since the debut of episode one, in a sense I’ve already passed my one year anniversary, since I was already hard at work putting together the first episode weeks before it came out.

So for over a year, Heath, Lucinda and I have been living the podcasting dream; making fart jokes, recording and editing those fart jokes and sending them out into the world to act as an enduring testament to our time on this planet.

It’s been one of the most rewarding endeavors of my life.  The steady stream of emotional, intellectual and financial support has acted as an almost daily reminder that what we’re doing has value to someone out there and that we’re making the modest difference we set out to make (ensuring the Friday commute would suck less).

This year ended rough for me in a lot of ways.  As 2013 drew to a close I found myself quite unexpectedly unemployed and homeless.  And while the transition was tough, my wife and I are fortunate enough to have friends and family that helped us get back on our feet and by and large we’ve made it through the transition without too much stress or heartache.  And honestly, had it not been for this show, I don’t know how I’d have done it.

The other day we got a very generous donation from a listener in the Netherlands that sent along the following note:

I found that going through such upheaval in your personal life but that you still managed to entertain us quite amazing and very touching. I hope this helps you out.

We’ve received a number of similar messages through email, Facebook, Twitter and the like and every one of them has eased the burden of my midlife crisis.  I chose this one specifically because it illustrated the irony of all of these messages.

I suppose that our listeners would have largely forgiven us if we’d taken a couple weeks off from producing new episodes while we were moving, but the thought of doing so never occurred to me.  Why would I want to do that?  Producing the show every week was sometimes the only thing keeping me sane.

The hardest thing for me to cope with when I found out I was being let go was the psychological sting of realizing that I was expendable.  After a decade of telling myself “this company couldn’t survive without me” I was told in no uncertain terms that it could.  And it planned to.  It’s an emotional punch I haven’t dealt with since the last time I was dumped.

But when I felt my least valuable, our listeners were my solace.  Knowing that somewhere out there a perfect stranger was looking forward to the next episode; appreciating the fruits of our labor; that offered the solid bridge I needed to make it through.

So as much as I appreciate all the thanks, it really should be me thanking you.  So to everyone who supported the show over the past year, whether by donating, rating, promoting or just listening; thank you.  Sincerely and from the deepest corner of my godless heart, thank you for letting us be a part of your life.

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Categories: Feedback

Have Stupid, Will Traval

October 21, 2013 2 comments

by Noah Lugeons

This was just too damn fun not to share:

phelps convo

An Email from an Asshole

July 6, 2013 5 comments

by Noah Lugeons

I should admit that when I first started this show, I assumed that by now I’d be getting a lot more of my material from slobbering, frothing, angry Christians who were sending me improperly capitalized death threats.  Up to this point, I still really haven’t had an influx of hate mail.  Almost all of the feedback we’ve gotten has been frustratingly positive.

So considering that, it wasn’t going to take much to earn the title of the biggest asshole that’s emailed the show so far.  But thanks to Roger in Iowa, that bar has been raised.  And unfortunately, the title currently belongs to an atheist.  So how did Roger earn the coveted title of king of the rectums?  Here’s a brief sampling of the ranting bullshit he sent me:

Why does every atheist seem to think I give a fuck about gays?  Your show is supposed to be about atheism and you spend the half the show talking about fag marriage and how happy we should all be about that.  What the fuck does that have to do with atheism?  Atheism is just a lack of belief in god and I’m sick of people who try to make it into a political position.  So if I don’t support gay marriage I’m not a “real” atheist?

And it just goes on and on like that for seven paragraphs (and that’s not even a whole paragraph there).

Now, buried amid his horse-fart rambling is a legitimate point that should be addressed.  After all, the atheist movement often finds its weight being swung behind political movements that are only tangentially related to secularism.  I’m sure this frustrates the libertarian wing of atheism up a wall, as these issues are almost exclusively liberal-leaning, but before I make any attempt to justify it, I should point out that there’s no pope of atheism.  If the larger atheism movement swings one way or the other it’s only because a majority of its members swung that way.  Nobody has the power to move us by fatwa.

But, that being said, there’s still a pretty logical reason why the atheist movement tends to rally behind things like gay rights; the enemy of my enemy is my friend.  Most of the people who get active in atheism do so because they’re sick and fucking tired of watching people oppress other people in the name of religion.  I’ve yet to hear the “secular” argument against homosexual equality so when I see the gay community win a victory, I interpret it as a victory against religion and religion’s influence in our society.

In fact, the framing of the discussion in episode 20 should make that pretty obvious.  Heath and I hardly touched on the basic humanitarian justifications for full recognition of gay marriage.  Instead, we focused on the ranting, petty, insane reactions from prominent Christians.  We weren’t celebrating a step toward full human rights (though we probably should have been).  We were celebrating the group we rally against getting smacked in the face.

So that takes care of the “legitimate” part of Roger’s point.  Now let me address the larger “illegitimate” part.  This whole argument that “atheism is just not believing in god so stop trying to make it mean more than that” nonsense really needs to stop.  Yes, you pedantic fuck, that’s exactly what atheism means.  So let me stop making any point on my blog or my podcast that isn’t simply a restating of the fact that god doesn’t exist.  I’ll fill thirty minutes each week with not offering an opinion on anything except the existence of god.  That should be fun.

Just back the fuck off and let this movement be what it is becoming.  As atheism grows it will faction off and the people who want to just not believe in god can sit in their corner and just not believe in god.  But those of us who choose to take it a step further and offer secular alternatives to the traditionally religious magesteria (morality, community, music, etc.) would appreciate being able to forge our path without dodging your stones.

Categories: Feedback Tags: , ,

Freshly Boiled Blood

June 9, 2013 3 comments

by Noah Lugeons

My issues with religion are largely philosophical.  I live in a city rich with religious diversity and history among people who have long learned to overlook the demarcations of faith.  New York City hasn’t always been a pillar of religious tolerance, but today it’s home to at least some number of any devotion to any sect of any denomination of any religion you can imagine.  We have to share subways and sidewalks and parade routes and we’re constantly running late.  Most of us simply don’t have the time for religious friction.

The point is that if I didn’t seek it out, I would hardly ever have a reason to be pissed at religion.  I read the religious news, I seek out the abuses of religious authority, I immerse myself in religion’s festering underbelly.  But if I didn’t make an effort to do so, I’d hardly ever encounter the bad parts of religion in my daily life.

I constantly remind myself that this is probably true of most people in this country.  Sure, they know about the child rape and maybe they know about the fundamentalist camps, but what they see every day is religious people doing good things in the name of religion.  Unless they make an effort to see the ugliness backstage, religion comes off looking pretty clean and pretty most of the time.

Of course, much of it is simply slick PR.  When I was growing up, all I knew of the Latter Day Saints was from the heartwarming commercials they played during cartoons on Saturday morning.  A guy on bike would get splashed with mud by a guy in a truck.  Cut to guy on bike coming across guy in truck later.  Plot twist: Guy in truck is no longer in truck because his truck is broken down.  Resolution: muddy guy on bike stops and helps the asshole who splashed him.  Because Jesus.

But it would be petty of me to write it all off as a PR campaign.  Most of the sterling image of religion comes from the fact that most religious people are really awesome people.  I think this is probably because most people are awesome and any random selection of people will probably contain a majority of awesome ones.  But I don’t know that to be true.  What I do know is that when you give good people an outlet for their goodness, you usually get some good results.  You get some well fed homeless people or whatever.

Obviously I don’t think religion is necessary for charity, but I’m also not naive enough to overlook all the good.  When I step outside of my own perspective, I can see why atheists look like ranting assholes to a lot of people.  Why are they attacking this mostly good thing?  Why are they pissed off about bibles in cabins or god references on money or prayers at graduation ceremonies?  Why be so vindictive toward a mostly good thing.  After all, taking “In God We Trust” off the money isn’t going to stop any kids from getting raped.

But as I said, I seek out the bad.  And now that the podcast is starting to gain a wide audience, the bad is starting to seek me out as well.

If I’d really thought it through before I started the show, I should have seen this coming, but I didn’t.  I was ready for vicious hate mail and death threats (which I still haven’t gotten), but I was not prepared for some of the heart wrenching stories I now find in my inbox.

And for the first time today, I was moved to tears by one of them.  A fan of the show sent me an email detailing his personal experiences as a vulnerable child entrusted to the care of a sadistic Baptist minister.  He said he loved the show because it allowed him to laugh at the abuses of religion instead of simply welling up with impotent rage.

I’ve gotten a couple of emails like his so far.  None that detail such horror, but several from disowned sons, estranged spouses, alienated friends and psychologically tormented apostates and while I never expected them to come, I certainly welcome them.  I don’t want to hear these stories but I need to hear them.  They are the fuel that boils my blood.

I understand that a lot of people feel a need to share these stories.  I invite them.  I can’t help you much by listening to your story, but you can help me a lot by sharing it.  To keep up the effort this podcast takes, I sometimes need freshly boiled blood.

The T-Shirt Conundrum

May 31, 2013 4 comments

by Noah Lugeons

As I mentioned at the end of this week’s show, we’re going to be commissioning the design of three “Scathing Atheist” T-shirts in the near future.  We’ve been getting a lot of requests for merch and people are giving us money anyway, so we figured we might as well have something to give them in return.

Our idea on the shirts was for the back to simply say “Proud Sponsor of ” and then have the Scathing Atheist logo beneath it.  The front of each shirt would be an advertisement for one of our many fine sponsors.

We’re trying to get as much input as possible before we invest any cash in it, so we’re asking our listeners to let us know which sponsor they’d most like to see on a shirt.  We’re taking suggestions from Twitter (@Noah_Lugeons), on Facebook (/ScathingAtheist) via email (noahlugeons(at)yahoo.com) or here on the blog in the comments section.  Feel free to choose as many as you’d like when you tell us your preference (even if the stupid FB poll only lets you select one).

And to save you the trouble of double checking all the show transcripts, we’ve compiled all the eligible sponsors here:

  1. Jesus Pieces (Chocolate Covered Eucharist)
  2. 5 Hour Piety (Pious Energy Drink)
  3. Papalbee’s Neighborhood Restaurant
  4. Ameri-Quran-Line (Muslim Internet Provider)
  5. Tequila Savior (Anti-Semetic Liquor)
  6. Jeru-Salem Cigarettes
  7. Mormon Hammer (LDS Baking Soda)
  8. Let There Be Light Bulbs
  9. Penta-Douche (Biblical Feminine Hygiene Product)
  10. Homo-Momo.Com (Gay Mormon Dating Service)
  11. Jew P.S. (Jewish Delivery Service)
  12. Orthodoxy-Contin (Holy Book Analgesic)
  13. Celiba-Cyalis (Anti-Viagral Formula)

It’ll probably be a few weeks before we lock any of this down, so feel free to vote early, vote often and share.  Ask your atheist friends who don’t listen to the show.  Which of these T-shirts could they most see themselves in?  Ask your religious friends which one would most offend them.  We’re looking for all the data we can muster.

And we thank you for your help.

Going Too Far

May 24, 2013 4 comments

by Noah Lugeons

I’ll admit it; sometimes we go too far.

Between the two of us, Heath and I have no moral compass when it comes to humor.  We know in a academic way that there are things that are too offensive to make jokes about, but we’re not really aware of what those things are.

When we first started the show I was hoping that my wife could act as a “too far” barometer for us and point out the jokes that were just too over the top, but she had to drop out from that role.  Eventually she had to admit that almost every gag in the show was “too far” in her opinion and if we gave her full editing autonomy, I fear the show would often we 6 minutes long.

In editing, I often find myself weighing a particular joke or comment and trying to decided if it’s funny enough to make up for how horribly vulgar it is.  I hem and I haw and I almost always err on the side of humor, but once in a while, I do so with trepidation.  I include a joke that makes me wince a bit and I just have my fingers crossed that I didn’t just run off 20% of our listeners.

I found myself in such a position while editing episode 14.  After already making some horrible and border-line eugenic remarks about inbreeding in the Hasidic community, Heath doubled down with what I suppose may be the most blatantly offensive thing that ever made it passed the editing room.  He referenced Chris Rock’s infamous (and hilarious) “Blacks v. Word I Can’t Type Because I’m White” routine.

I tried to put out the fire on the spot by pointing out that his comment was a reference to that routine, but to be honest, that doesn’t exactly diffuse the offensiveness of the joke, it just gives it context.  When I was listening back over the headlines and we came to this bit, I stopped it and looked to Heath.  He shrugged and grinned so I looked to Lucinda.

“Was that too far?” I asked her.

She also responded with a shrug, “Yeah, but pretty much the whole show is.  I don’t know that it’s any more ‘too far’ than usual.”

With took that noncommittal reply as a semi-endorsement so I kept the bit in.  And then today when I listened back over it and we reached that part I realized that I probably shouldn’t have.  It was funny and if you understand the context fully it’s only kind of racist and only kind of antisemitic, but it’s still kind of racist and kind of antisemitic and it probably didn’t belong in the show.

I haven’t heard anything in response from any of our listeners so I can’t really say where anyone else fell on it, but if you bristled a bit when you heard it, I can assure you that you weren’t alone.  Sometimes things seem way funnier when you’re editing after midnight than they do when you’re a little more clear headed.

We will, of course, continue to go too far from time to time.  We’ll keep walking the tightrope of pushing the envelope without ripping it, but if you ever get the feeling like we’ve crossed the line from crude obscenity to pointless vulgarity, don’t hesitate to let us know.  We need all the help we can get with this moral compass stuff.

Categories: Feedback

Belittling Christians

April 2, 2013 35 comments

by Noah Lugeons

Sometimes people say, “Noah, you belittle Christians a lot.”

And I respond, “Yeah, I do my best.”

So no, I’ll be offering no apology for it here or anywhere else in the foreseeable future.  When people point out that I belittle Christians, I respond the same way that an Olympic sprinter would respond if somebody asked her why she was in such a hurry… After all, that’s kind of the point.

Now, there are those that would say that this is counterproductive.  They say that the caustic brand of atheism I subscribe to is antithetical to the goals of minimizing the role of religion in society.  They present a “circle-the-wagons” mentality that I might inspire if I’m too insulting.  They point out that the more attainable goals of keeping religion out of science class and the courtroom can be hamstrung by the more grandiose goal of stamping out organized religion altogether.

And what’s more, they might be right.  I still don’t care.

My goal as an atheist activist is to marginalize religion.  I work toward a world where anybody who believes in something without evidence is embarrassed to admit it in public.  I want reason by way of shame.

I think it’s a sad commentary on our culture that my unwavering belief that all truth-claims should be subjected to the same scrutiny puts me in the extreme wing of a minority.  That shouldn’t be a bold stance. It should be nearly unthinkable to take any other stance and that’s precisely what I seek.

To be fair, I’ll concede that it’s entirely possible to take that stance without belittling anyone.  A lot of skeptics do yeoman’s work by patiently walking sasquatch hunters, UFOlogists and homeopaths through the ladder of logic without a hint of condescension.  I admire that ability but I do not share it.

And of course, many skeptics are crass and dismissive of nonsense like sasquatch hunters, UFOs and homeopathy.  They don’t bother to spare anyone’s feelings and simply treat it like the demonstrable bullshit that it is.  In the skeptical movement the battle between “soft” and “hard” is a hell of a lot more muted than the one in the atheist movement, but it’s still there.  Some people just insist that the “kill-them-with-kindness” approach is the only valid one.

Many much wiser observers than me have pointed out that there probably isn’t one “valid” approach, so I’m not going to spend any time retreading that ground, but there is something I’d like to offer to the kindness camp.  Sure, it’s an anecdote and can thus be easily dismissed, but I think it’s illustrative of the justification behind the approach that I share with a number of other scathing atheists.

Arrogance is a powerful force.  Those of us who like to think or ourselves as intelligent don’t like to be told we’re stupid.  It’s the only insult that really gets under the skin of some people.  Now, when somebody says, “you disagree with me so you’re stupid” it’s meaningless, but if someone you respect intellectually lumps your beliefs in with a bunch of the other “stupid” ones, that has an impact.

I’m not saying there’s anyone out there that respects me intellectually, but there are a number of learned men and women in both the atheist and skeptical movements who sport intellects that are beyond reproach.  An intellectually arrogant person hearing that his beliefs are stupid from those people will have an effect.

Now sure, some people are arrogant enough to just toss off the insult and say, “what does that ivy-league professor know?”, but those people are all-but unreachable.  But for many if not most intellectually arrogant people, the root of the arrogance was real intelligence.  And there are plenty of intelligent, arrogant people out there that still believe in some really silly stuff.

Those people are vulnerable to the caustic attack.  I know because that’s how I arrived here.  I got to atheism through simple observation and the correct application of logic, but I became a skeptic and (more importantly) a skeptical activist because somebody with an intellect I admire told me I was a dumb-ass.  And what’s more, he didn’t try to cater to my ego by telling me how okay it was to still believe this dumb-ass belief.

Now I know that the research shows that most people are far more inclined to listen to and consider your viewpoint if you’re non-confrontational and I recognize that, generally speaking, this is the optimum approach.  Hell, it’s the one I usually employ when I’m talking to someone in person.  But just because it’s the most widely applicable approach doesn’t mean it’s the only correct one.  A person like myself would never be swayed by it, as they would take the agreeable demeanor as a sign of intellectual uncertainty.  They would toss off anything you said that didn’t crack the armor of their intellectual arrogance and the only way to do that is to be caustic.

My mother told me that if I didn’t have anything nice to say, I shouldn’t say anything.  And a lot of people have told me the same thing since.  I get it.  I disagree.  I feel that it would be intellectually dishonest to say anything nice and it would be socially irresponsible to stay silent.

And if you disagree with my approach, that’s fine.  I strongly encourage you to get involved and run as far in the opposite direction as possible.  We need all the help we can get.  And I believe that we also need all the types of help we can get.