Posted: February 15, 2011.
Video: The Atheist Experience
Transcription of the call by Redditor tommyg_99 http://www.reddit.com/r/atheism/comments/fnlge/ive_transcribed_matt_dillahuntys_beautiful_rant/
Caller: Well, um, I actually go to church here in Austin and there’s been a bit of a discussion about your show lately at my church and if you were at church if there was a show like your show, what would you have thought about it, do you think?
Matt: Concerned about the effect that it might be having on people; I mean, my parents think that I’m working for Satan, leading people to hell, so you know, I can kind of use their assessment as a barometer, and I would have been concerned for the souls of the individuals on the show, for fear that they would be lost to hell as well.
Caller: Well, that’s just a perfect answer. My church believes that heaven and hell are real places. And chuckle guess which one you’re going to if you keep this up.
Jeff: Oh yeah, see? Here you go. Why do you want to be our enemy? Why do you on purpose choose to think bad things about us? What’s wrong with you?
Caller: I’m sorry, the Bible is really clear-
Jeff: Never mind the freaking Bible, do you want to be a person who can get along well with others or not? Or do you want to partition yourself off into some little subgroup, where if people aren’t in that group with you then they’re bad? What’s wrong with you? Why is this appealing? You want to believe that me and Matt - we’re not hurting anybody, we’re just stating our opinion on TV - that we deserve to be tortured forever? That’s what you want? Cut it out! Relax!
Caller: We’re a New Testament church and the book is pretty clear-
Jeff: Well there’s your mistake!
Matt: Ok I understand your position, I understand that you believe this and that you believe it because the Bible says so; why should anyone else believe it?
Caller: ...Well I guess that’s the reason I called, is 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 you, 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 am no longer a Christian is because I finally came to the understanding that my beliefs were without rational justification and without evidenciary support.
And I’ll go a step further, 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 worshipping out of anything but fear of a monster that is grotesque and wants to punish people for its old problems. Now setting aside all that, why should anybody believe what you believe?
Caller: There are a million different reasons-
Matt: Give us your best.
Caller: -To believe that not only God is real, but that Christianity is the only way to God.
Jeff: Give us your best reason.
Matt: What’s your best reason?
Caller: exhale, well, um, it’s sorta, what exactly, um, what exactly
am I trying to demonstrate here, uh, just that uh.
Jeff: Why are you a Christian? What is the main reason why you are a Christian?
Caller: Well, um, there’s uh, a lot of evidence that the Bible was divinely inspired.
Jeff: Such as?
Caller: Uh, there is prophecy-
Jeff & Matt: No no no, such as.
Jeff: Where is, give us a piece of evidence that shows that the Bible is divinely inspired.
Caller: Ok, the Bible says things about, about um, about nature that weren’t widely known at the time.
Matt: How do you know? Give me an example first of all.
Matt: Because we’re talking about a book-
Caller: You could have a look on carm.org.
Matt: Oh no no, first of all Matt Slick’s called in, the nonsense at carm.org has been refuted I don’t know how many times, but we’re talking about a book that, if you actually take it literally - do you think the world is 6 to 10 thousand years old?
Caller: Well um, there’s a lot of interpretation-
Matt: That’s an easy yes or no question; do you think the world is closer to 6 to 10 thousand years old or closer to 3.5 billion years old?
Caller: Well, uh, I guess, if you, if you, um, if you take it literally, yeah the world is closer to 6 to 10 thousand years old.
Jeff: Matt asked you specifically what you believe. Cause we’re trying to get at ‘what is the main reason you’re a Christian?’ and you’re dancing all around, why can’t you tell us?
Matt: If you listen back to the way you just answered that, or tried to answer, or tried to avoid answering that last question; all I was asking was what 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 to 10 thousand years old, so clearly either you think it’s 6 to 10 thousand 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 to 10 thousand years old?
Caller: Yeah, I’m aware of that.
Matt: Ok, so how do you reconcile-
Caller: It doesn’t prove there’s no God though.
Matt: You’re right! You’re right, did I say it did? I’m not saying that that proves there’s no God, what I’m saying is: [cupping his hands] Here’s something we’ve learned about the universe, and it doesn’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 favour of the Bible saying ‘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, and so (by the way) does the entire idea of a Revelation in the New Testament. Because your position (to the extent that I understand it cause 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 out; 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 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?
Caller: I think you do need faith to believe it.
Matt: Sure. And why would you believe anything on faith? Faith isn’t a pathway to truth. Every religion has some sort of faith, people take things on, you know, - 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 endeavour 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?
Caller: 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. If you can come up with something that I believe and don’t have evidence for, guess what I’ll do? I’ll stop believing it! That’s the nature of a rational mind. That is the goal.
My only 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 actually 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, the only answer they ever offer is the one you did, which is ‘Well, you just got to have faith.’ Well sorry, but I don’t. Well 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.
Caller: Well I think the 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 tonnes and tonnes of benefits for the in-group, and some of them even have benefits for the out-groups with you know, feeding the homeless although I really 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. 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 acheived by purely secular means and there’s no 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 in 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’ve decided to believe in Christianity; you are compelled to think all kinds of horrific things about us. And tell us, or come at us with these threats of eternal torment which just draws an insurmountable line between us. And 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 fiancee sitting in the room who is essentially estranged from a good portion of her family who 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 the best 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 would say, so who knows? - but the absurdity of the divisive nature of Christianity in particular (and by the way, I am an atheist in 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+ 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 is 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 have letters from people who said ‘We can no 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 you could 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 can have a proper understanding 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 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 dependant on faith, then we’ve got nothing to talk about. Because I don’t think that that’s a good thing, 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.
Caller: ... (exhales deeply) [Terminates call].
Jeff: I think he’s gone again.