Podcast #252 – Frank Lambert (Separation of Church and State)

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Thoughts on the Orlando Massacre

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  1. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said (among many other things) that this incident was “something that we never imagined and is unimaginable.”

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Answering Dennis Prager’s “Two Questions for Atheists”

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  1. Do you hope you are right or wrong?

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It would also be a shame if such manifestly self-contradictory holy books as the Bible and the Quran actually described reality. It would make a mockery of the knowledge and progress humanity has made over the last 6,000 two million years. Anyway, as far as the God of the Abrahamic religions is concerned, I think I’m on pretty solid ground in saying that His existence can be easily dismissed on lack of evidence for and on preponderance of evidence against.

As for any of the other infinitely possible gods that have not yet been described, I can’t say if I hope I’m right or wrong, since I don’t know whether they are cruel or kind gods, logical or illogical gods, gods who offer a pleasant afterlife, or gods who make the nightmares of Lovecraft look like the Teletubbies. I hope I’m wrong about any potential bad gods and right about any potential good gods, but either way I withhold judgment until I have had an opportunity to weigh all the evidence. Right now the simplest explanation for the available facts is that there is no God (of any sort), there is no afterlife, and you make your own meaning for your life where you can. As far as the implication that a universe without your God is not worth living… the consequences of the truth offer no support for the truth. If it turns out that a godless universe is just a nihilistic hellscape, then that’s the way it is. (I don’t agree, but let’s just say.) It doesn’t make the God of the Bible real, and it doesn’t make it right to believe in Him.

2. Do you ever doubt your atheism? 

Again, if you mean my atheism toward any described version of the Abrahamic God, no. Not in a very long time. (And I don’t count as “doubt” the occasional emotional twinge in wishing I could live forever, or longing to see a deceased loved one, etc. Emotional states do not dictate reality.)

As far as a “universal atheism”–that is, a disbelief in any potential god or gods for whom evidence might be found in the future–show me the evidence. Then we’ll talk about doubt.


Okay, maybe those questions aren’t as interesting as I’d hoped they’d be. I’m sure Mr. Prager has gotten plenty of feedback on this, and if he reads the responses maybe he’ll learn that life is worth living, and living well, even without the promise of eternal bliss or the threat of eternal damnation. He’ll also learn that being an atheist is just one tiny aspect of a rational, science-minded, humanistic existence.

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I’m with Hillary

hillaryclintonCongratulations to Hillary Clinton, who last night all but sealed the deal on becoming the first woman to be nominated by a major party for President. (There have been other women at the top of the ticket for minor parties, beginning with Victorial Woodhull, who was chosen to lead the Equal Rights Party back in 1872, before women could even vote!)

Is Secretary Clinton a perfect candidate? No. She comes with a lot of baggage, including the ongoing shadow of her husband’s sexual misadventures, and questions surrounding her use of a private email server during her time at the State Department. She’s also more hawkish than I’d like, and has shown a level of hubris that I find unbecoming and potentially hazardous for someone who soon may be the most powerful person on the planet. But she’s spent decades as “senior advisor” to one of the most successful presidents in recent history; served eight years as a Senator and four as Secretary of State. If you don’t think she’s qualified, please stop reading now and don’t bother emailing me.

I suppose this is as good a time as any to confess that I ceased being a Libertarian several years ago, and have embraced the Democratic agenda as by far the best option in creating a free and prosperous United States. While the libertarian ideal of minimal government and maximum personal freedom still resonates with me, I have come to believe that the kind of laissez faire, every-man-for-himself, I’ve-got-mine-now-you-go-get-yours, devil-take-the-hindmost “society” envisioned by American libertarianism is unproductive, unrealistic and destructive to American progress. Plus, the Libertarian Party (like the Republican Party, but for different reasons) has become hopelessly infected with crazy people: gun nuts, racists, gold-standard fetishists, etc. The details of my “Big-L” Libertarian estrangement are a conversation for another time.

Bottom line: I’ve come to believe that it is acceptable (if not entirely ideal) to force people to do things and pay taxes for things they may not agree with, in order to achieve a far greater good for society at large. And I’ve come to believe that the Democratic Party is onboard with the project of creating a better America, while the Republican Party is hell-bent on dragging us back to a time when white men were at the top of the food chain, women stayed at home with the babies, blacks knew their place, and homosexuals were welcome to skulk in the shadows. Thanks, but no thanks.

Frankly, I voted for Bernie Sanders during the primary, seeing him as less corrupted and more idealistic than Hillary Clinton. But I am by no means Bernie-or-Bust. I’d much rather see Hillary in the White House than the fascist salesman she’s going to be running against. If Hillary is the lesser of two evils, it’s in a very unequal equation.

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Podcast #251 – (Almost) Live from Reason Rally 2016

David Driscoll offers his on-site observations from Reason Rally 2016, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. For more info on the event visit ReasonRally.com.

To listen to this episode click here.

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Podcast #250 – Mary Roach (Grunt)

gruntWhoo-hoo! It’s our 250th episode! We’ll celebrate by continuing to put out some more episodes.

Meanwhile, we interview Mary Roach, whose latest book is Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War (available in hardcover, audiobook and for Kindle). Roach is the author of other insightful and humorous nonfiction titles like Stiff (an exploration of the ethical issues associated with the use of cadavers), Spook (at look at scientific evidence for the afterlife), Bonk (the study of human sexuality) and Gulp (eating and digestion). We last spoke to Mary waaay back in episode #99 about her book Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void. For more about Mary Roach and her work visit MaryRoach.net.


Look for David Driscoll at the Reason Rally, June 4th at the Lincoln Memorial.

To listen to this episode click here.

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Podcast #249 – The Faith of Christopher Hitchens

faithofhitchensWe discuss Larry Alex Taunton’s new book The Faith of Christopher Hitchens: The Restless Soul of the World’s Most Notorious Atheist (available in hardcover, as an audiobook, or for Kindle). In this memoir, Taunton (a Birmingham, Alabama based minister and founder of the Fixed Point Foundation) recounts the friendship that developed between himself and Christopher Hitchens. Considerable controversy has arisen over Taunton’s insinuation that Hitchens, while he had no deathbed conversion, may have re-evaluated religion (if not Christianity) during his final months.

To listen to this podcast click here.

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May 23 in freethought history…

carllinnaeusMay 23, 1707 – Biologist and zoologist Carl Linnaeus is born in Råshult, Sweden. Known as the father of modern taxonomy, he pioneered the system of organizing (and naming via binomial nomenclature) all living creatures. Linnaeus created some controversy by grouping human beings and monkeys in the same category because of their obvious similarities. In response to pious protests, Linnaeus responded that theologians “decree that man has a soul and that the animals are mere [automatons], but I believe they would be better advised that animals have a soul and that the difference is of nobility.” He died in 1778, aged 70.

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May 22 in freethought history…

May 22, 2013 – Newly elected Pope Francis delivers a homily, in which he seems to imply that atheists may go to Heaven: “The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all! And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”

May 22, 2014 – An advertisement by the Freedom from Religion Foundation, featuring Ron Reagan (son of the late President Ronald Reagain) airs during Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report. He urges citizens to support FFRF and separation of church and state, capping his 30-second pitch by saying, “Ron Reagan. Lifelong atheist. Not afraid of burning in hell.”

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May 21 in freethought history…

May 21, 1921 – Nuclear scientist, Soviet dissident and human rights activist Andrei Sakharov is born in Moscow. He turned from designing nuclear weapons for the USSR to opposing their proliferation. He also advocated for human rights, including freedom of speech, for which he was persecuted. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975 and was named Humanist of the Year in 1980 by the American Humanist Association.

May 21, 1957 – Political scientist and philosopher Arthur F. Bentley dies in Paoli, Indiana, aged 86. He was named Humanist of the Year in 1953 by the American Humanist Association.

May 21, 2005 – The independent documentary The God Who Wasn’t There (written, directed, produced and narrated by Brian Flemming) is released. The film–which questions the existence even of a historical Jesus–features interviews with Sam Harris, Richard Carrier, Robert M. Price and others. Some praised the film for its bold critique of Christianity, while other criticized it for sloppy logic and poorly supported assertions.

May 21, 2013 – Arizona legislator Juan Mendez offers the first secular invocation before a session of the State House of Representatives. Republican legislator’s objected, offering (an unprecedented) second prayer for the day, one aimed at God.

May 21, 2013 – CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer concludes a live interview with Rebecca Vitsmun, survivor of a devestating tornado that killed 24 people in Moore, Oklahoma, by asking, “I guess you gotta thank the Lord, right? Do you thank the Lord?” Vitsmun awkwardly replied, “I’m actually an atheist,” but quickly added, “I don’t blame anybody for thankin’ the Lord.” Atheists around the country subsequently raised well over $100,000 in relief for the Vitsmun family.

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