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Dan Barker appeared on Gene Cook's "The Atheist Hour" show this past Sunday. The week prior featured Dr. Bob Price and Dr. Bob Morey, along with Reggie Finley and Gene. Bob and Bob, despite being on polar opposite theological positions, really got along quite well on the show. It was very obvious that they were disagreeing with each other, but they were respectful of each other's position (particularly suprising from Dr. Morey), that the conversation proceeded virtually continuously.


Derek Sansone and I were very impressed by this new feel on the show, and Derek called in on Gene's Tuesday night show to comment on this. Gene agreed with him there, and suggested that the episode in question represented the way he wanted the show to progress.


Unfortunately, his conduction of Dan's appearance contradicts that intent. Once again, Gene slipped right into his script going toward the TAG, and although Dustin was a reasonable guy, Paul Manata attacked Dan right off the bat with such ferocity that you couldn't even follow what he was saying! It really was a poor decision for Gene to let Paul on the program, or even to go on as long as he did.


It really didn't seem to me to be any type of show that encouraged dialogue between atheists and Christians. It seems to me to be a show that

seeks to bait and trap atheists into making fools of themselves for the benefit of Gene's ministry. I'm starting to have second thoughts about my own appearance on the show in December- although I have no problem communicating my thoughts, I don't relish the idea of him taking advantage of me like that.


At any rate, Dan was very good, and I'm always glad to hear a well-communicated atheist viewpoint, on any show.

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It really didn't seem to me to be any type of show that encouraged dialogue between atheists and Christians. It seems to me to be a show that seeks to bait and trap atheists into making fools of themselves for the benefit of Gene's ministry.
I could have told you that. I mean, I'm not even as good at making moral arguments as most people, but I could have definitely told you a long time ago that Gene has no interest in actual well-mannered dialogue. His arguments are structured around luring atheists into his presuppositionalist bullshit argument.


And I'll tell you something else about Gene that makes me question the intent of this program. Gene has a way of twisting people's words that I don't like. I just can't listen to the guy because of that. And you know when it's coming, because he'll slip into his standard intro to bullshit, which is "It sounds to me like what you're saying is...".


I call that the Gene Cook recap. He goes out of his way to "clarify" what his guest is saying, and he's almost always completely off the mark. Like the last show where he was talking to Bob Price about stopping Hitler, and Gene says something like, "It sounds to me like you're saying might makes right." I heard that, and I was like, "HUH!??!?".


I just started listening, and I've already gotten to the part about the root canal. I mean, the refutation is so obvious, that I can't believe Gene is even trying to make a case out of this.


Oh, and I can't wait to hear Paul. :rolleyes:

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That was an interesting show. I always like hearing Dan Barker in debates like this because he knows how to handle refutations that christians give. It is annoying when strange logic and ideas are thrown at you and your opponent wants you to refute it. What is one to do? For example, the root canal analogy lost me and if I was in that debate I would have done this.. :shrug: . Then by default, in their minds, I don't have the answers to the universe, therefore, their worldview is correct. :shrug::shrug:


The people who called in were entertaining. Of course, Paul went on the offensive and another guy Derrik brought up evolution and the "we are nothing but chemicals" argument. The atheist, Brian, seemed a bit :close: over the top. I almost wonder if he was planted in the show... :scratch: I mean he was the perfect nonbeliever that all Christians want to meet and save. It was hard listening to Gene talk to Brian like a little child, but unfortunately Brian fell right into the stereotype of the nonbeliever.

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The atheist, Brian, seemed a bit  :close: over the top.  I almost wonder if he was planted in the show...  :scratch:   I mean he was the perfect nonbeliever that all Christians want to meet and save.  It was hard listening to Gene talk to Brian like a little child, but unfortunately Brian fell right into the stereotype of the nonbeliever.

Brian is a regular poster (Brian37) on www.infidelguy.com, he wasn't a plant. In a thread about the show, he said "I have to admit that I lost it. Listining to Gene's retoric[sic] over the phone just made me hot under the coller[sic]." He generally admits to his instability. Although, in his signature, he says, "I admit my shit stinks. But, I don't automatically asign my shit to Satan anymore than you should asign your saintlyhood to God."

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Brian is a regular poster (Brian37) on www.infidelguy.com, he wasn't a plant. In a thread about the show, he said "I have to admit that I lost it. Listining to Gene's retoric[sic] over the phone just made me hot under the coller[sic]."
Precisely why I never call in.
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...although I think Gene Crock had at least half a point about Calvin. I thought his involvement in the execution of Michael Servetus was always overstressed, though he was by no means a nice bloke - read about Pierre Ameaux and Jacques Gruet.

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For those interested, Gene received the following email from a listener, and plans to comment on it during this week's edition of "The Narrow Mind."


Dear Gene, I listened intently to your discussion with Dan Barker the other night on 'the atheist hour', and I wish to make some observations and comments about it.


I feel that Dan took considerable care to clearly and concisely explain his beliefs and philosophy to both you and your callers. For example, his definition of ‘evil’ was so clearly articulated, that I find it difficult to see how an 8-year-old child could have misunderstood it. For this reason, I can't help wondering why it was that so often, you seemingly misunderstood what he was trying to say. It was absolutely clear to me, as I’m sure it was to the vast majority of your listeners, that Dan defines evil as, ”the act of intentionally causing un-necessary harm”, and that a 'good' person is one who, "acts in such a way as to minimise un-necessary harm". I personally cannot bring myself to believe that you genuinely misunderstood these definitions.


I have therefore come to the reluctant conclusion that you were being intentionally disingenuous, when on several occasions during your conversation, you pretended to misunderstand him. There were occasions during the show, when I heard either you or one of your callers, grossly distort one of Dan's statements, then throw the distortion back at him to defend, as if it was his own. These distortions forced him to repeat certain concepts, which he had articulated clearly and unambiguously earlier on in the show. In doing this, you were about as subtle as a house brick to the side of the head. Are you familiar with the term 'straw man' argument? This behaviour was so blatant, that at one point, Dan complained that you and your caller Paul Manata were twisting his words 'like a pretzel'. This seemed to have no effect on you, and you blithely continued to do so at subsequent times throughout the show. At the end of the show, Dan could not help but express his frustration and disbelief that you could possibly be SO non-comprehending.


The absolute low point of the show for me though, was when, by twisting his words, both you and your caller Paul Manata virtually accused Dan of endorsing Paedophilia, or at the very least being ambivalent towards it. This was a transparent and unwarranted slur, which I found to be as ridiculous as it was offensive. Are there no depths to which you and your fellow believers will not sink, when attempting to score some cheap points against a non-believer. To my way of thinking, this is a profoundly dishonest and dishonourable way to conduct an argument, and I hope that you will never again disgrace yourself in such a manner with future guests.


Another low point in the show was when you openly expressed your doubts about the honesty of Dan's testimony regarding his reluctance to leave Christianity, because he now openly criticises the Bible. It is a serious matter to accuse an opponent of dishonesty in a public forum, and I would like to know why you would choose to question his sincerity like this, when it is obvious that he was a deeply committed Christian for many years. After all, as Dan said to you himself, "By their fruits you shall know them", and during his time as a Christian, Dan manifestly displayed all of the supposed fruits expected of a sincere and committed Christian.


You intimated at one point during the show, that Dan may be somewhat deficient in his understanding of the 'Christian perspective', with regards to certain moral issues. That you could imply such a thing after having heard his testimony, beggars my imagination. You proceeded to expound a version of what can only be described as introductory level Christian psycho-ethics to a man who, during his life has been an ordained minister, a missionary, and a musical evangelist, as if he were some wayward adolescent who was totally unacquainted with such ideas. In doing so, were you perhaps obliquely imputing that Dan was never really a 'true Christian', or that he has never really possessed a clear grasp of such basic Christian doctrines? For the record, I found your attitude in this matter to be condescending, smug, and supercilious. These characteristics, I am fast becoming convinced, are an inevitable consequence, of a person making the decision to become a 'true believer'.


Your defence of John Calvin’s role in the murder of Michael Servitus was as shocking to me as it obviously was to Dan. If Calvin really had Servitus' best interests at heart as you asserted during the show, how do you explain the following statement which he made some seven years prior to Servitus' ill fated visit to Geneva?


"If he [servitus] comes [to Geneva], I shall never let him go out alive if my authority has weight." - Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (Baker Book House, 1950), p. 371, or the fact that during Servitus' trial, he is reputed to have written, "I hope that the verdict will call for the death penalty." - Walter Nigg, The Heretics (Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1962), p. 328.


The year after Servitus' execution, Calvin wrote a defence, in which he heaped vitriolic insults upon the man whom he had recently helped to kill. "The procedure against Servitus served as a model of a Protestant heretic trial.... it differed in no respect from the methods of the medieval Inquisition.... The victorious Reformation, too, was unable to resist the temptations of power." - The Heretics pp.328, 329


Cleary, Calvin held no love for his ideological opponents, including Servitus. To assert that he did, seems to me to demonstrate a wilful ignorance about the facts of history. By any reasonable standards, John Calvin must be viewed as a ruthless and vengeful tyrant, whose attitude and behaviour deserves to be roundly condemned by all decent people everywhere.


Your analogy of people deserving to be sent to hell for the equivalent of a minor traffic violation was completely ludicrous. Our traffic laws have been put in place with the general consent of our communities, to help ensure the mutual safety of all road users. In other words, we as communities enact such laws with the aim of ensuring the greatest good for the greatest number. No competent judge would ever consider sentencing someone to life in prison, with the additional punishment of continuous torture, for a minor speeding offence. If he did, the defendant would be perfectly within his rights to argue against the decision by appealing to a higher court. In doing so, he would undoubtedly succeed in getting his sentence reduced to one that more appropriately fitted the crime. In addition, any judge who handed down such a sentence would be severely censured by the relevant legal authorities, and hopefully forbidden from presiding over any future cases. Also, he would more than likely be forced to undergo a compulsory psychiatric analysis, to determine the precise extent of his mental imbalance, as he would have clearly demonstrated by his actions that he was insane at the time when he made such a judgement. You seemed to further imply in your use of this analogy, that he should not be held to account for his actions because of his position of authority at the time.


During the show, you seemed to espouse the same view about the actions of your god Yahweh. You clearly indicated that where your god is concerned, you consider that ‘might makes right’. That when it comes to God, anything goes! Since when has a person in a position of absolute power, been justified in mercilessly persecuting all non-conformists? Joseph Stalin took this approach with the Russian people living under his regime, and it is worth noting how the vast majority of people now living in the free world, view him and his actions. In my view, you are simply making feeble excuses for your god by defending the notion that the infliction of torture, or any other form of prolonged physical violence, is an appropriate way for him to deal with his creations. You stated during the show that it is not you who sentences people to hell, but rather the god Yahweh, to whom you profess allegiance, who does this. Hell, as it is portrayed in the Bible, can only be described as a never-ending state of murder and torture. With this thought in mind, I wonder if you would mind honestly answering the following question.


Do you personally agree with, or endorse, either of the following two statements?


1) All non-Christians deserve to be condemned to Hell.


2) This condemnation is a just and reasonable punishment for any who doubt the inspiration of the Bible.


If your answer to either of these questions is yes, then I believe that your worldview IS as morally bankrupt as Dan Barker accused it of being during the show, and in my opinion, you would be doing humanity a great disservice by promoting such ideas. You would also be doing yourself a great disservice by allying yourself with any god, or man, who would do such a thing.


I will listen with interest to future episodes of 'the atheist hour', if for nothing else, than to familiarise myself with the current thinking in Christian apologetics. Although, judging by what I have heard so far, I have little expectation that it will in any way sway me from my current position as a scientific rationalist.


I look forward to viewing your response these observations and comments?


Yours sincerely,


David Armstrong

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