I came across this clip of February 13th’s episode of The Atheist Experience and decided to share it with you.
Not only that, but I decided to transcribe it. One of the commenters on the video page wanted a transcription of Matt’s response, to be translated by himself and shared with others. Since I am in full support of this cause, I decided to take it upon myself to transcribe certain parts by hand.
MATT: I understand your position. I understand that you believe this, and you believe it because the Bible says so. Why should anybody else believe it?
Well, I guess that’s the reason I called, really, was to defend the faith, and the Bible says you should defend the faith.
MATT: I understand that, you know 1 Peter 3:15, I got ya. We’re on the same page there. I understand what the book says. What I asked was, why anybody else should believe it? Because the reason that I’m no longer a Christian is because I finally came to the understanding that my beliefs were without rational justification and without evidentiary support. So, now, and I’ll go a step further, that even if the Bible were true, even if it were — and I don’t for a second think it is, and nobody has yet been able to come close to demonstrating that it’s true — that still does not put one in a position where they are worshiping out of anything but fear of a monster that is grotesque and wants to punish people for its own problems. Now, setting aside all that, why should anybody believe what you believe?
MATT: If you listen back to the way you just answered, or tried to answer, or actually tried to avoid answering that last question, all I was asking what was you think, and we were going to go from there. But I’m happy enough with your answer that, yes, a literal view would make it 6–10,000 years old. So clearly, either you think it’s 6–10,000 years old, or you’re not completely a literalist. But irrespective of what your position is, do you at least acknowledge that all of the scientific evidence points to an Earth that is vastly older than 6–10,000 years old?
MATT: What I’m saying is, here’s something we’ve learned about the universe, and it does’t match with your literal view of the Bible. Now there’s a conflict there, and we need to resolve that. And some people resolve it in favor of the Bible, saying that the Bible’s absolutely right, and ignore whatever actual evidence is presented there. I find that to be patently absurd, because it turns Christianity into a self-contradictory proposition, which is — and so, by the way, does the entire idea of a Revelation is the New Testament. Because your position — to the extent that I can understand it, because you haven’t got kind of a straight answer yet — is one where there is a God who has an important message for mankind. And somehow, he only reveals it to certain individuals who then write this down, and thousands of years after this initial Revelation we have to rely on copies of copies of translations of copies by anonymous authors with no originals, and the textual testimony to a miracle — for example, the loaves and fishes — there’s no amount of reports, anecdotal testimonial reports, that could be sufficient to justifying that this event actually happened as reported — no amount. And anything that would qualify as a god would clearly understand this, and if it wanted to convey this information to people in a way that was believable, would not be relying on text to do so. And this, for me, is the nail in the coffin for Christianity.
The god that Christians believe in is amazingly stupid if it wants to actually achieve its goal of spreading this information to humanity, by relying on text, by relying on languages that die off, by relying on anecdotal testimony. That’s not a pathway to truth. And anything that would qualify for a god should know this, which means that either that god doesn’t exist, or it doesn’t care enough about those people who understand the nature of evidence to actually present it. Now, which of those possibilities do you think is accurate?
MATT: Why would you believe anything on faith? Faith isn’t a pathway to truth. Every religion has some sort of faith. If faith is your pathway, you can’t distinguish between Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, any of these others. How is it that you use reason as a path to truth in every endeavor of your life, and then when it comes to the ultimate truth, the most important truth, you’re saying that faith is required. And how does that reflect on a god who supposedly exists and wants you to have this information? What kind of god requires faith instead of evidence?
Well, I think you probably have faith about a lot of things, too.
MATT: Like what? I have reasonable expectations based on evidence. I have trust that has been earned. I will grant trust tentatively. I don’t have faith; faith is the excuse people give for believing something when they don’t have evidence. I mean, if you can come up with something that I believe that I don’t have evidence for, guess what I’ll do? I’ll stop believing in it. That’s the nature of a rational mind. That is the goal. My goal was to be the best Christian I could be, and represent this to people who didn’t believe. And what I found, because I actually cared about whether or not my beliefs were true rather than whether they felt good, was that my beliefs weren’t justified…try as I might, and pray as hard as I could. No answer comes, no evidence is forthcoming, and when I talk to people about this and the only answer they ever offer is the one you just did, which is, “Well, you just gotta have faith.” Well, sorry, I don’t. And not only — I’m not sorry that I don’t, I’m sorry for others that think that I should have. Because faith is not a virtue; faith is gullibility. It’s evidence that determines whether or not your perception of reality is reasonable, and in conjunction with the world as it is.
Well, I think church gives a lot of people some community and some values.
MATT: Sure, so what? That has no tie to the truth of the supernatural claims. Religions and churches have tons and tons of benefits for the “in” group, and some of them even have benefits for some of the “out” groups, with, you know, feeding the homeless — although I wish, as many of the atheists do — we have the Atheists Helping the Homeless group in Austin, where we will actually help the homeless without making them sit through a sermon first. Um, you know, we’re not holding their sandwich ransom in the name of Jesus. There’s no good thing that a church or religion does that cannot be achieved by purely secular means. And there’s no benefit, positive benefit, of churches and religions that necessarily demonstrates the truth of their supernatural claims.
JEFF: But there is — this is my personal hobby horse today — there is a cost to deciding that you’re going to take — in particular Christianity — on faith, and that is that when you run into folks like us who don’t believe it, you are compelled — because you have decided to believe Christianity — you are compelled to think all kinds of horrific things about us, and tell us that — or come at us with these threats of eternal torment, which just draws an insurmountable line between us, where we cannot be friends because of what you have decided to take on faith. That’s the cost.
MATT: Yeah, and I’ll tell you, that divisive cost plays out not only in the previous caller who had to give up his job because of good-intentioned Christians, but I have a fiancée sitting in the room who is essentially estranged from a good portion of her family, who’d consider me to be the devil.
Now, I may not be a perfect person — far from it — but I’m generally a good person and a caring person, and I do whatever I can to live the best life I can. I certainly am not — well I guess if I was the devil, this is exactly what he’d say, so who knows — but the absurdity of the divisive nature of Christianity in particular — and by the way, I’m an atheist with regard to all gods, but since you’re kind of representing Christianity — it breaks my heart. People who actually understand what love is, people who actually understand what morality is, people who actually understand reality… it is almost unbearable to watch the people that you love be so absolutely duped into a divisive, hateful religion that they think is not divisive; they think it’s inclusive, and they think it’s positive.
It kills me, and it’s one of the reasons that I do this. Because I, for 25-plus years, believed this stuff. I am so happy — so happy — that I no longer think that my former roommate is destined for hell. I am so happy that despite the fact that my relationship with my parents — the nature of it has changed — I don’t have to worry about them. The division is entirely one-sided. I didn’t end relationships when I became an atheist; Christians ended those relationships. And it was because their particular religion cannot tolerate… I had letters from people who said, “We can longer associate with you. You are of the devil.”
Now, it’s possible that they’re right. It’s possible — I don’t know under what circumstances — but the only way that you can demonstrate that is with reason and evidence, not faith. And I don’t know how we can fix a world where people have been so convinced that they are doing the right thing out of compassion and love and trying to help people, when it is absolute poison, when it is absolutely destructive. I wish everybody could go through what I went through, so they could have a proper understand of, “Wow, how the heck could I have believed those things that I believed?” and how much better life is when you want to deal with reality on reality’s terms.
I mean, I know that we didn’t give you a huge opportunity to express your views, but every time I asked I got kind of a dance, and I’m happy to have you call back in, but if your whole position is that the foundation of your belief is necessarily dependent on faith, then we’ve got nothing to talk about. Because I don’t think that that’s a good thing, and until you demonstrate that faith is a good thing, how could you possibly convince somebody? And, by the way, how do you go about demonstrating that faith is a good thing without evidence? It all comes back to reason and evidence.
(Heavy sigh. Silence.)
JEFF: I think he’s gone again.