Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Another Goddamned Podcast #9:
April 3, 2008

THIS WEEK – Atheists, Agnostics, Antitheists ... and Superstitious "Rationalists"

Listener Venjanz asks the Herd to explain what we mean when we say "atheist," "agnostic," or "antitheist." We begin a discussion of these terms, not in reference to their dictionary definitions, but in reference to what they mean to us when we use them in our writing and our conversation. We briefly examine the concept of evidence. (0:00)

The discussion continues. Ex wonders if we shouldn't call ourselves "a-fideists." SI claims that "god" is a term for the entire supernatural realm. But OG points out that everyone, atheists included, may have some superstitious beliefs. (16:52)

More on atheists and superstititon. Philly thinks it's possible to be an atheist and still not be a skeptic. Do any of us carry a rabbit's foot, or wear a lucky shirt? Evo is skeptical about that. Somehow the conversation comes around to Mac vs. PC, vanilla vs. chocolate, and rationalizations in general. Knock on wood, it stays pretty lively. (31:23)

Poll results. Ex fulminates about the poll-takers and accuses them of irrational rationalizing. Evo disagrees. (48:49)

Opening Music [00:00]: excerpt from "Another Goddamned Draft"
Bridge Music [16:03]: excerpt from "Heathen Boogie"
Bridge Music [30:27]: excerpt from "Latin Down the Hatches"
Bridge Music [47:36]: excerpt from "Crouching Christian Hidden Atheist"
Closing Music [57:08]: excerpt from "As Jazzy as I Get"
(All music: copyright 2008 by Rachel Murie)


Venjanz said...

This was a great discussion y'all, probably your best yet, and I'm not saying that just because I suggested the topic.

I really liked the term "afideists" and the ensuing discussion.I have to ask, did you come up with that on the fly?


I also would like to give kudos to whoever does the music for you guys, it's really good.


The Exterminator said...


Hey, thanks for the topic suggestion. I really enjoyed the discussion, too. Please continue sending us questions.

I can't take credit for "afideist," but I don't remember where I heard it. When I googled it after the podcast, the only results I received were for sites I don't read.

The music was composed and recorded by Rachel Murie, whose name is listed on this blog as the copyright holder. You may know her better as Babs. She hasn't joined our discussions lately, but it's her voice that you hear at the very beginning and end of the podcast.

the chaplain said...

FWIW (not much, I'm sure), a term I've come across for those who don't care one way or the other about god and religion is "apatheist."

the chaplain said...

Were communists, Nazis, etc., required to have faith in their leaders, or simply to be, or at least behave as if they were, loyal to them?

Venjanz said...

You guys touched on politics a bit, and I was thinking about something today.

Maybe you guys could discuss more in depth about Left-Right politics, and how that relates to atheism?

With the notable exception of Hitchens, most atheists who are public figures in America are Liberals if not Leftists. And I think that this, more than anything else, is why Conservatives tend to distrust atheists.

Hitchens is a media darling of the Right, even though he smacks-down Christianity just has hard as Islam or Judaism, hardly a day goes by where you don't find one of his videos or commentaries on one of the popular Right-Wing blogs.

I haven't thought this all the way though, but I think you get what I am saying.


AV said...

Re: your discussion about irrationalism . . . you may be interested in a recent episode of the Australian science/philosophy podcast "All In The Mind," featuring behavioural economist Dan Ariely who argues that we're more irrational (moreover, predictably irrational) than we like to think.

Anonymous said...

The Atheist/Agnostic/Theist definition is easy.

Give a 1 word answer to the following question

Q. "Is there a god?"

Yes = Theist
No = Atheist
Maybe = Agnostic

Kinda cuts to the chase :-)


The Exterminator said...

I guess you didn't actually listen to the podcast. But thanks for commenting.

Anonymous said...

LukeRazor again

I think an important point to be made about the atheist regimes (Hitler, Stalin, et al) is that they did not commit their crimes because they were atheists.

They each had another world view that drove them to kill and dominate.

Even persecution of the church, the most "atheistic" of their actions, can be seen in the light of the idea of alternative power structures that threatened to take the populaces attention away from communism, or facism or whatever.

Theistic attrocites on the other hand generally have some element of "This is what god wants me to do"

Ex I have listened to every one actually >-(. My point was all of the fecking about with "agnostic atheism" or trying to define increasingly complex definitions is a little "over engineered". While those discussions are valid and potentially useful, my little test is a good, quick "rule of thumb"

PhillyChief said...


First, thanks for chiming in. Second, you've made some fatal errors in your comments.

To your first comment, no one can honestly answer your question because no one CAN KNOW if there is a god. Theism is the belief that there is one, atheism sees no reason to believe. The casual definition of agnostic as "I don't know, maybe" is really not the actual definition of agnostic, which is "without knowledge". With that in mind, we're all agnostic in that none of us, atheist nor theist, has actual knowledge that there is or isn't a god. Now the way to perhaps rephrase your question to get the one word answer you desire might be to ask, "do you think it's possible there might be a god?" to which you'd get
Theist - Yes
Atheist - No
Agnostic - Maybe

Your objection of being "over engineered" will lead you into quagmires dealing with theists for they LOVE to split hairs and find openings in your arguments. In recent years, knowing that their arguments are essentially indefensible, they've taken the offensive by attacking ours. The angle is to try to undermine our emphasis of logic and reason by finding flaws of logic and reason in our own arguments. With this in mind, it behooves us to tread carefully and ensure our comments are as air-tight and defensible as possible.

Now to your second comment. You're correct by saying "they did not commit their crimes because they were atheists" but you're mistaken by claiming either Hitler or the Nazis were atheists. They were not.

Once again, thanks for both listening and chiming in. We are a fledgeling podcast so we benefit greatly by comments from listeners. If you have ideas or suggestions for future podcasts, feel free to let us know. Also, if you find us worth listening too, please let others know. Maybe even leave a comment on iTunes (hint hint). ;)

Anonymous said...

LukeRazor here again

If you want a topic how about Free Will.

I have always found this question interesting because it poses a problem for both atheists in a deterministic universe and theists with an omniscient god

This came out recently
and could act as a starting point

The Exterminator said...

My point was all of the fecking about with "agnostic atheism" or trying to define increasingly complex definitions is a little "over engineered".
I think all of us would agree with you about that. I'd classify myself, for instance, as an atheistical atheist.

I don't think your rephrasing of Luke's question works, either. All of us on the podcast said that it's possible there might be a god -- even though, in light of the total lack of evidence, we highly doubted that possibility. It's also possible that my atoms will recombine to make a duck. But it's not likely.

How about:
Do you readily admit that there's no evidence for any god?
Atheist: Yes
Theist: No
Agnostic: Huh? Wha'?

boredbeyondbelief said...

I enjoyed this conversation a lot.

I think there is a false dichotomy raised by some atheists about rational thinking and religiosity. Just because someone takes reason as the basis for his or her understanding of the world (vs. a supernatural POV) doesn't mean that person is no longer irrational in his or her thinking or choices. That doesn't mean that s/he will accept a supernatural claim although at the same time s/he may use less rational motivators for making a choice to buy a PC vs MAC, for example.

I see "irrationality" as a part of our species in that we often make choices based on hunches, intuition, and emotion - perhaps these behaviors and emotional responses helped survivability for our early ancestors. That doesn't mean I now believe in the supernatural; it just means I'm a member of a species that uses irrationality in its repertoire of behaviors and motivations.

I also think it's possible that people choose to participate in religion for rational reasons. For example, a person finds a sense of hope, which helps him or her to remain optimistic and thus survive better, in an environment that is perpetually unstable (e.g. impoverished areas prone to civil strive or warfare). Or another person is part of a religious community due to its meeting affiliation needs for someone who belongs to a species that tends to be gregarious and interpersonally oriented (regardless of we Americans' propensity for individualism including in the atheist/agnostic/humanist world).