Thomas J.J. Altizer - The Death of God

April 2, 2010

Host: Robert M. Price

Thomas J.J. Altizer burst onto the religious scene in the 1960s with his book The Gospel of Christian Atheism. He was one of the "Death of God" theologians discussed in the famous TIME cover story, "Is God Dead?" Altzier holds an M.A. in theology and Ph.D. in History of Religions from the Universeity of Chicago. Now 83 years of age, Altizer remains a Young Turk among radical theologians, insisting that only Christians can be true atheists and must proclaim the death of God.

In this conversation with Robert Price, Altizer delves into Death of God theology. He explains the difference between saying "There is no God" and "God is Dead." He discusses his interactions with other theologians and what they thought of his work. Altizer gives his opinion of contemporary public atheists and what he likes and dislikes about them. He relates stories from his career involving other thinkers such as Paul Tillich and Mircea Eliade—including a personal "initiation" experience. He explains how he formerly debated evangelical Christians and how Death of God theology can be used when doing so. 

Books Mentioned in This Episode:


Living the Death of God: A Theological Memoir Thomas J. J. Altizer, Mark C. Taylor

Comments from the CFI Forums

If you would like to leave a comment about this episode of Point of Inquiry please visit the related thread on the CFI discussion forums

What a crock of manure. I had to turn it off after a while. I wanted to vomit.

Posted on Apr 02, 2010 at 4:14pm by NewEnglandBob Comment #1

This weeks podcast is the most unlistenable bit of gobbedly gook that I’ve come across in a long time.  If this is an indication of the future for POI and CFI then the loss of DJ Grothe is probably fatal for the organization.  A specific example: the definition of an atheist as someone who thinks god is dead?  Are you kidding? Did I just not get the April fools joke?

Posted on Apr 02, 2010 at 6:00pm by vinny Comment #2

I’m a long-time fan of Robert Price, both from his bible geek podcasts and his books. I’m also a fellow Lovecraft fan and got a chance to meet him at The HP Lovecraft Film Festival last October. So this is coming from a place of love:

I just had no idea what was going on in this episode. None.

I think it needed to be about an hour longer and have some straight forward explanations about what the theology really was. Straight forward assertions like, God Really Died and only Christians can be atheists needed a lot more reason and inquiry before I could even understand the premise on which the discussion was based.

Clearly both men knew their topic well and had a great deal to discuss - so much so that there was a ton of jumping around from topic to topic, each of which assumed a lot of knowledge about people like Eliade that I think most listeners don’t have. It was frustrating because I wanted to understand and I could tell there was something interesting going on, but there was no way inside for an outsider.

Also, the cheap, dismissive shots at the New Atheists came off as haughty. I’ve got no problems with people criticizing them, but there needs to be an argument there. Just calling them weak thinkers or whatever it was Mr. Altizer said rubbed me the wrong way.

I remain super-excited that Mr. Price is part of the podcast, but in the future I hope more care will be given to both making the topics accessible to all listeners and being less cavalier with the dismissive ad hominems.

Posted on Apr 02, 2010 at 7:41pm by Rick Dakan Comment #3

I agree almost entirely with Rick. Both this episode and the last suffered from Mr Price failing to adequately explaining the background to the topic, I noticed he did a bit this week but it’s not enough when discussing these theological topics in depth. I was really fascinated by the Jesus seminar and Christian-atheist theology interviews but I just can’t follow a lot of the discussion and I suspect many other listeners are having the same problem.

When Mr Price dismissed the quality of new atheist thought on theology what he doesn’t seem to realise is that many of his listeners think along the same lines and don’t have a formal theological training. A bit more time setting up the discussion with the guest might seem a bit boring to Mr Price but it would make his podcasts vastly more interesting and informative to the lay listeners.

Posted on Apr 02, 2010 at 8:38pm by Aught3 Comment #4

The claim that “only Christians can be true atheists,” and that they must believe that God is dead, is patently absurd. It sounds like one of the criticisms I have read of the New Atheists, which is basically that they haven’t suffered enough angst in coming to their atheism (contrasting them with Nietzsche, Camus, Sartre and other “old atheists). (Victor Stenger quotes Becky Garrison and John Vaught as making such complaints, in his new book.)

My guess is that Price went through a painful struggle of believing in God and then deciding that He was dead. If so, he appears to feel that this is the only way to really understand the pain of there being no God. He appears to be mistaking the journey for the goal. There are many paths to becoming an atheist, and it is certainly not necessary to believe that there ever was a God who has since died!

In any case, I’ve listened to too much bullshit from theologians and philosophers who make absurd claims and then weave a web of complex ideas around them, trying to confuse and impress you so much that you decide the absurd is true, after all. I have no need to listen to more.

Posted on Apr 02, 2010 at 8:39pm by Stanley Dorst Comment #5

When Mr Price dismissed the quality of new atheist thought on theology what he doesn’t seem to realise is that many of his listeners think along the same lines and don’t have a formal theological training. A bit more time setting up the discussion with the guest might seem a bit boring to Mr Price but it would make his podcasts vastly more interesting and informative to the lay listeners.

Of course, Mr. Price, being a theologian, would think that it is important for people to understand theology. However, I don’t understand why it is necessary to understand theology in order to decide that there is no personal God. The fundamental problem with all theology is that it has no fundament. Theologians make all sorts of claims about the nature of God, but they never answer the question of how they know that any of those claims are true. Since God has not revealed him/her/itself to humankind in an objective, interpersonally verifiable way, every claim about the nature of God eventually comes down to a statement that person X (or persons X1, X2, ...) said this or that about God. Even if it weren’t the case that there have been a great many such persons who have said quite different things about the nature of God, the argument from authority is simply not a valid argument. So, unless theologians first come up scientifically valid evidence that God even exists, I see no point in wasting my time trying to read and understand their claims about the nature of a non-existent entity.

Posted on Apr 02, 2010 at 9:05pm by Stanley Dorst Comment #6

@Stanley
My point is that on one hand Mr Price thinks a lack of theological training does not allow atheists/skeptics to take part in discussion on theological topics and on the other hand he proceeds to have an in-depth theological discussion to an audience composed primarily of atheists/skeptics. Like any field of study, theology has it’s own jargon which can make it hard to understand. You may not be interested in what Mr Price’s guests have to say, but I am.

Posted on Apr 02, 2010 at 10:23pm by Aught3 Comment #7

I’m glad I’m not the only one who found this episode baffling.  I wanted to turn it off, but felt that I had to listen to the whole thing in order to complain about it.  I really don’t like this direction that Point of Inquiry is going.

Posted on Apr 02, 2010 at 11:26pm by Taylor Comment #8

Count me as another totally baffled person. I have been a long time listener of this normally wonderful podcast. I feel a little guilty that it took this episode to make me want to register on this forum. The first time I listened to this episode I felt like I was enduring torture. One second I was full of indignation, the next I thought that maybe there is something to what was being discussed and that it was just My lack of knowledge of philosophy or theology that made me not able to comprehend. I could not however get away from the fact that I really thought it was one huge bunch of crock.  I have listened to many podcasts of topics that I am definitely not an expert in, presented by eminently qualified experts. They usually go out of their way to embrace the listener and present just enough relevant and easily digestible information in order to take one along the path of their presentation. Even Dr Dawkins has spoken about evolution, DNA, genes etc in such away that I can say I understand what the topic is about and I understand what he has wanted to present.  Heck I have even listened in fascination to a one hour presentation of Quantum Mechanics , String Theory and M Theory.  I may have concluded that most of the stuff was beyond me, but it never made me feel angry at guest and presenter as This episode of POI.  I checked the Date of the Podcast .. it was the second of April, If it was the First, I would have been relieved and satisfied.  By the way , the second listening to the episode did NOT make me feel or think any better. (Maybe I am not at their intellectual level, but hey I am in good company)

Posted on Apr 03, 2010 at 1:04am by JoeZap Comment #9

I do want to recommend that people check out Mr. Price’s Bible Geek podcast series that was part of the Infidel Guy show for a while. I found these to be very interesting and accessible. They do a great job of putting the bible in historical context, pointing out inconsistencies, and generally viewing it all with a rational, skeptical eye.

Obviously in this episode Bob is talking with someone he has admired for a long time and I think he maybe gets swept up in the excitement of getting to talk to Altizer. I imagine that if he’d had a chance to chat for an hour first before hitting the record button, it might have helped.

I think he should have S.T. Joshi on and they can discuss Lovecraft’s atheism and atheism in science fiction. That would be awesome, especially since I know they don’t agree on everything but still seem to get along well.

Posted on Apr 03, 2010 at 3:40am by Rick Dakan Comment #10

This weeks podcast is the most unlistenable bit of gobbedly gook that I’ve come across in a long time.  If this is an indication of the future for POI and CFI then the loss of DJ Grothe is probably fatal for the organization.  A specific example: the definition of an atheist as someone who thinks god is dead?  Are you kidding? Did I just not get the April fools joke?

It actually is kind of a coup for Robert Price to get this guy to interview.  Just like Chris Mooney, Price has access to some of the top theologians.
But he needs to interview these guys in a Time-magazine type way that gets the point across to non-theologians…..
It MIGHT be that just as Mooney’s podcasts are bringing in new people primarily interested in science and a rationalist view to public policy,  Price’s podcasts will bring in folks primarily interested in religion and religious philosophy. This will help POI—except you are suggesting that folks who like column 1 on the menu might hate column 3 and vice versa….

Thanks for the one example, and for the reference to “gobbedly gook”...

http://mb-soft.com/believe/txn/deathgod.htm

Thomas J J Altizer believed that God had actually died. But Altizer often spoke in exaggerated and dialectic language, occasionally with heavy overtones of Oriental mysticism. Sometimes it is difficult to know exactly what Altizer meant when he spoke in dialectical opposites such as “God is dead, thank God!” But apparently the real meaning of Altizer’s belief that God had died is to be found in his belief in God’s immanence. To say that God has died is to say that he has ceased to exist as a transcendent, supernatural being. Rather, he has become fully immanent in the world. The result is an essential identity between the human and the divine. God died in Christ in this sense, and the process has continued time and again since then. Altizer claims the church tried to give God life again and put him back in heaven by its doctrines of resurrection and ascension. But now the traditional doctrines about God and Christ must be repudiated because man has discovered after nineteen centuries that God does not exist. Christians must even now will the death of God by which the transcendent becomes immanent.

I haven’t listened to this one yet, and it sounds like it could be a tough commute that day…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_J._J._Altizer

On a pure level, Altizer’s religious proclamation viewed God’s death (really a self-extinction) as a process that began at the world’s creation and came to an end through Jesus Christ—whose crucifixion in reality poured out God’s full spirit into this world.

If your conclusion is that it is gobbledy-gook,  at least you listened and gave him a chance.  I think Robert Price needs to act as an “audience surrogate” and ask naive questions and get the interviewee to explain themselves so uninformed listeners come away with the gist (which still might be unfavorable). I think Price needs to decide what his audience is.  Chris Mooney has an analogous challenge if there are non-science listeners.

Another reference to a book summarizing Altizer.
http://www.sunypress.edu/p-4004-thinking-through-the-death-of-g.aspx

Posted on Apr 03, 2010 at 4:51am by Jackson Comment #11

Jackson, I appreciate your thoughts on this. And it’s a fair thought that each of the new hosts needs to find their voice.  I’m not a huge fan of Mooney, but I thought his outings so far were strong enough that I’d listen to his shows.  But I’m sort of confused about what POI/CFI is all about.  I’m not sure that

Just like Chris Mooney, Price has access to some of the top theologians.

is a good thing.  Theologians don’t strike me as spokespeople for a reason-based world view.  Am I looking at this wrong in some way?

Posted on Apr 03, 2010 at 5:28am by vinny Comment #12

I do want to recommend that people check out Mr. Price’s Bible Geek podcast series that was part of the Infidel Guy show for a while. I found these to be very interesting and accessible. They do a great job of putting the bible in historical context, pointing out inconsistencies, and generally viewing it all with a rational, skeptical eye.

He’s still doing the bible geek, just go here and enjoy.

But I agree with the previous comments. I’m a Price fan, but this show sounded like “gobbedly gook”, either because it really is that, or because the interview didn’t explain the basic points on this subject.

I remain optimistic and think that future interviews Bob conducts will be great.  :-)

Posted on Apr 03, 2010 at 5:56am by Mus Ponticus Comment #13

@Stanley
My point is that on one hand Mr Price thinks a lack of theological training does not allow atheists/skeptics to take part in discussion on theological topics and on the other hand he proceeds to have an in-depth theological discussion to an audience composed primarily of atheists/skeptics. Like any field of study, theology has it’s own jargon which can make it hard to understand. You may not be interested in what Mr Price’s guests have to say, but I am.

Aught3,

I hear your point, but I think he needs to step back even further. I think he needs to convince me (and apparently others, given the posts in this thread) that it is worth our time to learn enough theology to participate in such discussions. A thoughtful discussion on “Why Does Theology Matter to on Atheist” would be a great way to start. Without that, he reminds me of a professor I had during my graduate studies in philosophy of science, who “taught” a course on Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. I use the word “taught” in quotes, because he really had no interest in helping us learn. Instead, he spent the time showing off how profound he could be when discussing the book, and carrying on a discussion with those in the class who already knew how to speak Kantian. I was actually very interested in learning about Kant’s views on epistemology, but that course did absolutely nothing to help me in that quest. I dropped the course, and have never regretted doing so. (I have, on the other hand, regretted that I never learned about Kant’s views on epistemology!)

Stan

Posted on Apr 03, 2010 at 9:31am by Stanley Dorst Comment #14

It’s clear from the comments that most people felt the same way about that podcast as I did.  Frankly, the only thing I understood was that Richard Dawkins and his ilk are not deep thinkers, though apparently, I’m not a deep enough thinker to understand why not.

I actually would have been very interested to hear what is meant by ‘the death of god’.  Too bad I couldn’t figure it out from the podcast.

Posted on Apr 03, 2010 at 9:33am by Kathy Orlinsky Comment #15

Jackson, I appreciate your thoughts on this. And it’s a fair thought that each of the new hosts needs to find their voice.  I’m not a huge fan of Mooney, but I thought his outings so far were strong enough that I’d listen to his shows.  But I’m sort of confused about what POI/CFI is all about.  I’m not sure that

Just like Chris Mooney, Price has access to some of the top theologians.

is a good thing.  Theologians don’t strike me as spokespeople for a reason-based world view.  Am I looking at this wrong in some way?

Okay—I listened to it while spring-raking this morning in summerlike weather—usually the first couple days of April are cold and rainy so fishing season requires dedication…

First *.mp3 was this interview.
Second was [ This downlink from RichardDawkins.net of talks by Dawkins / Myers / Singer at Atheist conference in Australia].  Everyone on this thread who hated the Robert Price interview will enjoy this 2nd one because Dawkins /Myers are easy to understand, speak logically, and use a vocabulary typical of college-educated adults.  Singer is harder to follow—he has a philosophy which is nonstandard and I won’t get into that. But these comments by Dawkins are helpful because both Altizer and Price seem to criticize Dawkins for no good reason.

I agree with Vinny that the Price-Altizer starts with gobbledy-gook reminiscent to an outsider of the “Sokal affair” where an NYU physics professor got a paper published in a “post-modern” academic journal.  And it doesn’t really get a whole lot better. Many of these theologians are remarkably self-centered and don’t seem to understand the need to communicate and perhaps justify their opinions. The [Randy Olson “Don’t Be Such a Scientist”] book could be re-written as a “Don’t be Such a Theologian” book, explaining how a theologian needs to include a little substance and explain terms.

What Robert Price really needs, unfortunately, is a sidekick who can act as an AUDIENCE SURROGATE and ask questions which would naturally arise from audience members who are slightly clueless and very skeptical.  D.J. was good at taking this role himself—he put himself in the ROLE of the audience and asked basic questions to clarify stuff.  Price is too knowledgable and doesn’t realize that he needs to keep reiterating basic points.

In general I thought I saw Christianity as dividing into “metaphorical” Christianity and “literal” Christianity—“literal” Christians think that certain key things described in the New Testament actually happened and that the Nicene Creed represents agreement that these things happened. This is a much easier Christianity for most participants on this forum to understand, and I THINK this is mainstream Christianity.
The other category viewed the Bible stories as metaphor but was using Christianity as a framework for a liberal humanist ‘vision’.
This guy Altizer seems to be something else —I don’t understand whether he actually thinks any of the key events in the New Testament are “true” in the sense that it happened.  He doesn’t think that Jesus was literally resurrected. But He believes in God—at that point he sort of loses me like everyone else who has posted.

The audio is useful for highlighting the chasm between theologians and the atheist discussion of Dawkins—Dawkins alludes to this in the God Delusion and this is really an excellent example. I hope it can be cited in books in the future, and in that sense Price has done a great job in documenting this.  Why does Altizer think Dawkins is on the wrong track?  He never makes it clear. I think he could if he wanted to.  This would be a good focused topic for Price to dig into in a further interview—what is the chief criticism that theologians have with Dawkins?

I think Dawkins is saying the “emperor” has no clothes, and the “emperor” says that if Dawkins can’t see the clothes, he is not qualified to discuss them.

Posted on Apr 03, 2010 at 10:31am by Jackson Comment #16

I think Dawkins is saying the “emperor” has no clothes, and the “emperor” says that if Dawkins can’t see the clothes, he is not qualified to discuss them.

I think there is some justification to that, and I can’t really recall whether Dawkins strays into that area.  I don’t think that arguing against the existence of God is theology, but it is when you start discussing God’s attributes.  You can’t even move into that area of discussion without at least granting hypothetically God’s existence, which, for an agnostic/atheist, hands somewhat of a victory to their opponents.  For a theologian, God’s attributes are not constrained by evidence and they can make up whatever they wish in order to make their assertions seem internally consistent.  That’s alien territory for scientists and they’d better stay away.

Posted on Apr 03, 2010 at 10:49am by Taylor Comment #17

I’d like to add my voice to the chorus of disapproval. I actually do know something about the “death-of-god” movement- I studied it when I was trying to find some way to hold on to a God-belief. But Price should have challenged Altizer more, especially when he said that the New Atheists weren’t serious thinkers. Maybe they’re not, but is it too much to ask the guest to provide some grounds for saying that?

Posted on Apr 03, 2010 at 11:29am by Lucretius Comment #18

Hi, POI-

This episode really cracked me up. I get that it is fun to mess with theists. But then the fawnery and contentlessness of the interview started to drag, and I realized that Price and Altizer were actually serious- that god once existed, that theology isn’t just an enormous, great big steaming pile of hooey, and that this show might be interviewing theologians on an ongoing basis. That would be a problem, frankly.

The most telling bit was when Price asked about the new atheists. Altizer said he couldn’t read them. Can you say cognitive dissonance? If theology is much ado about nothing, (or, at best is a matter of psychology/anthropology), as real atheists hold on the basis of endless evidence, then Altizer might just have this kind of defensive psychological reaction to arguments that destabilize his entire life’s work, even though as Price comments, he can find nothing wrong with the truly atheist arguments. A personal problem for him, perhaps, but hardly the makings of an informative interview.

Sincerely- Burk

Posted on Apr 03, 2010 at 11:35am by burkbraun Comment #19

@Stanley
My point is that on one hand Mr Price thinks a lack of theological training does not allow atheists/skeptics to take part in discussion on theological topics and on the other hand he proceeds to have an in-depth theological discussion to an audience composed primarily of atheists/skeptics. Like any field of study, theology has it’s own jargon which can make it hard to understand. You may not be interested in what Mr Price’s guests have to say, but I am.

I agree—I was struck by this—-  why take a such a condescending attitude to the people who are downloading the podcast?

Price should have a lot more references attached to the basic site referencing this interview—something closer to “Altizer for Dummies” because the interview was not addressing the natural questions of the audience (many of which show up in this thread)

Posted on Apr 03, 2010 at 12:17pm by Jackson Comment #20

As a long time POI listener I have to say - What a Brobdingnagian load of irrelevant drivel.  Doubtless it is very artfully arranged irrelevant drivel if one probes deeper but that does not change its nature.  In order for god to die he would have to have lived and there is insufficient evidence for that assertion.  End of story.  Like some others I have been interested in the Good Doctor Price’s exposition on Christian history and unusual biblical gems, but this, this was impenetrable crap. 

These theologians are so disconnected they don’t even realize how disconnected they are.  How much of their deep theology do they suppose reaches the people in the pews?  You know, to the masses half of whom don’t realize the Earth revolves around the sun. This is just mental auto-eroticism, and I hope to see no more of it.  I don’t care how big this guy’s name is.  He said nothing relevant nor interesting.  Show him back to his tower and let him spit on the real atheists from there not here.

Posted on Apr 03, 2010 at 3:17pm by Thameron Comment #21

I was a bit worried when Bob Price became part of the rotation of POI moderators, and unfortunately, those worries have come true.

I am grateful for CFI’s creative efforts to replace DJ Grothe in the anchor’s role. All of the other interviewers have performed with aplomb.

Dr. Price, however, while he is a great interviewee, has always needed someone to rein in his enthusiasm for matters that, to the rest of the world, don’t matter at all.

His recent POI episode contained the unfettered theological name dropping for which he is well known and poorly regarded. (The Paul Tillich story gravitated toward unembarrassed ghoulishness.) When he returned to genuine content, Dr. Price showed undeserved glee when he identified an esoteric tittle of philosophical high ground, one that to others would seem like nothing more than a speck of dust on the prairie.

Give Dr. Price his best role, one where he can occasionally come on the show to expound on his latest book, and disallow him the unbound tedium he is capable of inflicting on the rest of the listening public.

Posted on Apr 03, 2010 at 10:24pm by NH Baritone Comment #22

I was thrilled.
At 10 minutes in I figured out that this was an April Fools’ joke.
I’m a little embarrassed that it took me 10 minutes.

Look! Somehow Price even got Amazon to cooperate with fake books written by this fake author.
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0791467589?ie=UTF8&tag=poinofinqu-20&linkCode=xm2&camp=1789&creativeASIN=0791467589
I was kinda worried about Price hosting the show.
This joke showed my fears unfounded :)

More from Robert!

RonH

Posted on Apr 04, 2010 at 6:17am by RonH Comment #23

reminiscent to an outsider of the “Sokal affair”

Jackson, I hadn’t thought of it at the time, but that is excellent comparison.

Posted on Apr 04, 2010 at 10:46am by vinny Comment #24

I am a longtime fan of Point of Inquiry and I stopped by here to see if I could learn some more about the “Death of God” episode.  I just didn’t get it.  It looks like others had the same issues as I. 

If found there to be no point and no inquiry.  None that I could see anyhow; I will do some poking around to see if there is something I missed. 
Thanks!

dc

Posted on Apr 04, 2010 at 11:30am by dannyc12 Comment #25

Is this the guy who also appeared on the Atheist Guy’s show? Have not listened to this episode yet, so can’t comment.

Posted on Apr 04, 2010 at 12:58pm by Mike from Oz Comment #26

I listened, I hung in there for 6 excruciating minutes until he postulated that only christians could be atheists. What a load of bollox! What a waste of 6 minutes of my life that I will never recover! I tried to give the podcast a chance, but from the above posts, I refuse to waste another 22 minutes listening to more incomprehensible drivel.

Posted on Apr 04, 2010 at 1:54pm by asanta Comment #27

I’m a long-time POI listener (since episode one!), and am pleased that apparently every other listener was just as baffled by this episode as myself.  If Mr. Altizer does indeed have substantive arguments, then they require significant preface and explanation.  Judging by his language, however, my guess is that he falls into the trap of making pseudo-profound statements with no real meaning behind them.  I’m reminded of the style and (lack of) substance of the postmodernists - make utter rubbish have the appearance of something profound.  Only Christians can be true atheists?  Sounds like meaningless pseudo-babble to me.

If anything, this episode helped to confirm my suspicions that theology is the study of nothing.

Also, I never though I would ever hear Derrida and his ilk being praised on POI.  Yuck!

Posted on Apr 04, 2010 at 2:35pm by voxmachina Comment #28

I’m am disappointed in this podcast episode too. Maybe it would help if the staff or a select few where able to listen to episodes prior to publication. I think CFI needs to remember that with all the available podcasts on the internet that it’s better just to not publish a bad one, since if a first time listener happened to listen to this episode they might just not want to listen to another one.

Posted on Apr 04, 2010 at 3:40pm by alex Comment #29

This is easily the worst I’ve ever tried to listen to!

Posted on Apr 04, 2010 at 5:07pm by asanta Comment #30

I’m am disappointed in this podcast episode too. Maybe it would help if the staff or a select few where able to listen to episodes prior to publication. I think CFI needs to remember that with all the available podcasts on the internet that it’s better just to not publish a bad one, since if a first time listener happened to listen to this episode they might just not want to listen to another one.

Alex has a good point.  They are more likely to give up and not try again than log on here and find out it isn’t really the norm

Posted on Apr 04, 2010 at 5:11pm by Jackson Comment #31

After being a fan or POI for such a long time, it is unfortunate that I am compelled to register on the forums to express my dismay with the most recent podcast.  Much of it was gobbledy gook and some of the statements on the face it were patently absurd…perhaps I am missing something.  The concept that you have to be a Christian to be an atheist was one that leapt out, I have never been a Christian (having being raised in a secular home) and I do not believe in the biblical god or any gods that have ever existed - what does that make me?

When one has devoted so much of their life to the research of a myth, perhaps they fail to see how unimportant such myths are in the context of a discussion about the existence of deities.  Dawkins comment that “do you have to read up on leprechology before disbelieving in leprechauns?” springs to mind.  Furthermore, his the way he dismisses of the new atheists seemed off hand…how could Altizer comment on them or describe them as not being thinkers when he admits to not reading their books.

I have enjoyed Robert Price as an interviewee on the Infidel Guy’s show, but so far he has been too cosy with his guests.  He needs to stop being a fanboy and start being an interviewer by facilitating the discussion so that the listener not only enjoys the discussion, but actually understands it!

Posted on Apr 04, 2010 at 7:06pm by Xiaan Comment #32

Like others, I feel compelled to post to this forum to register my frustration at this podcast.  It’s just too bad that all I wanted to say has already been well-said. 

I tried desperately hard to grasp the argument, but there was none, only assertion after assertion and name-dropping - all without explanation. We might well have been listening in on a private chat between two long-lost mates for all the audience mattered, we were treated with disdain.  However, what really riled me was Altizer’s contemptuous dismissal of the ‘New Atheists’ (whom he doesn’t even read) as non-serious thinkers.  This was a flat insult to writers like Sam Harris, whose latest foray into the Moral landscape is quite fascinating as he expounds his reasons for fastening morality to hard science - and its all perfectly comprehendible to the educated lay-person - that is what communication is all about.  POI needs to apologise to its listeners (while it still has some) and to Messrs Harris, Dawkins, et al for this insult.

Posted on Apr 05, 2010 at 1:54am by junemax Comment #33

Like many others I felt I had to register just to complain about this episode. I’ve been listening to POI for over 2 years now and this was some of the most unintelligible ‘philosophical’ rambling I’ve ever heard. Completely inaccessible to someone not already steeped in this nonsense. I turned it off just over halfway through. “You can’t be an atheist without being Christian”? Give me a break. The interview was just filled with these pseudo-philosophical statements which were never justified or explained. Claiming that God has literally died is no more an unsupported bald assertion than saying God exists.

Bob Price needs to work on his interview skills. These episodes have been absolutely terrible to listen to. A good interviewer puts himself in the shoes of his audience, plays devils advocate, and clarifies important terms and definitions. Price does none of that. What kind of an interview question is asking whether or not some random theologian is a “death of god” theologian, a guy that I guarantee 95% of your audience has never heard of at a point where you haven’t even really explained what a death of god theologian is. As soon as you do that, you might as well be having a private conversation because you’ve lost me. I learned more about Christian Atheism and Death of God theology in 5 seconds on wikipedia than I did from this episode and that is just shameful. Price gets one more chance to redeem himself. I guess one benefit of the new format is that you will only lose 33% of a listener if he fails to do so.

Posted on Apr 05, 2010 at 6:45am by lakren Comment #34

“The Death of God”? Sounded more like “The Death of PoI” to me. What a load of hogwash.

Posted on Apr 05, 2010 at 8:49am by George Comment #35

Well a few things. First of all, for the people baffled by this, terms such as “crock of manure,” “gobbeldy gook,” and “hogwash” do little to contribute to your understanding or anyone elses. Instead of jumping on the “I hate what I don’t have the understanding for” bandwagon, pick up a book and have at it.

Secondly, most of you are admitting you fall under the “new atheist” heading. I don’t think you realize that most of the podcasts with new atheist interviewees contain equally esoteric language and just as obscure name dropping for those unfamiliar with the speakers. But like many of you said, many of you are used to thinking in that manner so what someone would see as an absurdity uttered by Dawkins, you see as perfectly in tune with your line of thinking. And thats fine, this podcast caters primarily to that crowd, and is listened to primarily by this group of people. But not all of POI’s subscribers fall in line with this mode of thinking, and I for one found this podcast to be a welcome reprieve.

So on that note, I’d be really interested to engage in an actual discussion of the contents of the podcast. I’m not familiar with the works of Altizer at all, but I have read some of Derrida and found the relation of deconstruction to this Death of God theology quite interesting. I’d be interested to hear from someone more familiar with this topic.

Posted on Apr 05, 2010 at 1:55pm by Crazywumbat Comment #36

I like some others registered to discuss this given episode. I can appreciate that being a new interviewer on a prestigious show might inspire one to want to bring forth novel points of view, and so feel compassion for him at reading some of the harsher comments above. For the most part however (for as long as I could bear to listen), I found the interview incomprehensible. I look to Point of Inquiry to help me think more clearly, in new ways and to discuss points of interest in a new light.

One of the reasons I’m atheist is that I’ve observed that religions and their theologies often push people’s minds into realms of utter non-sense; this last podcast is rarefied example thereof. I found it to be a bit akin to junk food chemists enthusing over the value and composition of various chemical flavourings while on a health food podcast.

Surely this was merely an unfortunate subject for the interviewer and look forward to further ones to learn more.

* Of Note! I’m sure this episode has caused more people to register than most- Good job! :)

Posted on Apr 05, 2010 at 2:18pm by Frank M Comment #37

I felt the need to register to give POI my feedback.

I have loved POI for almost 6 months since I discovered it.  I can safely say that this is was the worst show I have listened to.  I even listened to the introduction 2 times to try and get prepped in some way for what the discussion was about.  Too much name dropping that I do not know.  It was more like he was having a chat with the man and we happened to be eavesdropping rather than him interviewing someone.  Like others have said before I needed the commentator to ask questions to actually help me understand what was being discussed. 

I even wiki’d death of god theology.

“God is dead” never meant that Nietzsche believed in an actual God who first existed and then died in a literal sense. It may be more appropriate to consider the statement as Nietzsche’s way of saying that the “God” of the times (religion and other such spirituality) is no longer a viable source of any received wisdom.

A common atheist idea is that religion does not provide us with morals as it is very evident because we do not believe in god and we do not go around just indiscriminately killing and stealing etc. like religious people think we would.  I receive no wisdom from god and never will because he does not exist.  Nietzsche wanted a way to prevent nihilism from spreading when religion was lost in some way is why he said this phrase(from what I understand) and it only makes sense if you are a christian who is losing faith or something to me.

From my limited understanding it seems like a strange idea.  Does anyone have a better way to explain it?

Posted on Apr 05, 2010 at 2:19pm by Drunkhobo Comment #38

You know how most of us get annoyed when someone with a fundamental approach to a given religion chimes in on, say, a thread on evolutionary biology and claims to be an authority in a field they have no formal understanding of? Just saying…

Dogmatism and close-mindedness are dogmatic and close-minded regardless of who is doing the preaching. And despite its explicit implications, preaching goes on in environment like this a fair deal more than it should. If you don’t understand a topic, you should probably educate yourself about it before you dismiss it. I believe that would be a rather rational approach, no?

Posted on Apr 05, 2010 at 2:45pm by Crazywumbat Comment #39

I am one of those who found the Podcast to be gobbeldy gook and I normally have no issue with listening to theological discussions about religion, but as issue for me is more in the delivery of this particular podcast.

I admit it, I am lazy (or perhaps to busy) to go away and read up on many of the topics presented on Point of Inquiry and so I do put some faith in the interviewer asking the right questions to make it clear to me at an introductory level.  This discussion was pitched to high and assumed a lot of prior knowledge of the part of the listener.  I would have been interested to know exactly what Altizer meant by the ‘Death of God’, why you have to be a Christian to be an atheist, and why Altizer was so quick to dismiss the New Atheists.

I hope that Bob listens to the feedback here and makes his future podcasts more accessible.

Posted on Apr 05, 2010 at 3:36pm by Xiaan Comment #40

Well, I used to be a Christian who actually bothered to study the Bible and now I’m an atheist, so I am fully qualified to say Thomas JJ Altizer is full of shit. “God couldn’t be dead if God didn’t exist.” What utter rubbish. Proves nothing except that Altizer and Price want to believe their ideas are truth.

Posted on Apr 05, 2010 at 3:37pm by DarronS Comment #41

Well a few things. First of all, for the people baffled by this, terms such as “crock of manure,” “gobbeldy gook,” and “hogwash” do little to contribute to your understanding or anyone elses. Instead of jumping on the “I hate what I don’t have the understanding for” bandwagon, pick up a book and have at it.

Secondly, most of you are admitting you fall under the “new atheist” heading. I don’t think you realize that most of the podcasts with new atheist interviewees contain equally esoteric language and just as obscure name dropping for those unfamiliar with the speakers. But like many of you said, many of you are used to thinking in that manner so what someone would see as an absurdity uttered by Dawkins, you see as perfectly in tune with your line of thinking. And thats fine, this podcast caters primarily to that crowd, and is listened to primarily by this group of people. But not all of POI’s subscribers fall in line with this mode of thinking, and I for one found this podcast to be a welcome reprieve.

So on that note, I’d be really interested to engage in an actual discussion of the contents of the podcast. I’m not familiar with the works of Altizer at all, but I have read some of Derrida and found the relation of deconstruction to this Death of God theology quite interesting. I’d be interested to hear from someone more familiar with this topic.

You completely missed the point of just about every comment in this thread. If Point of Inquiry wants to be a podcast that seeks to educate people about pseudoscience, the paranormal, and the role of religion in society, this is not the way to go about it. It’s completely fair to label that interview as gobbledygook because to anyone who doesn’t already have a solid understand of what they were talking about, that’s what it sounded like. If the majority of your audience is just as clueless about the topic at the end as they were at the beginning then you’ve failed in your mission. It has nothing to do with “I hate what I don’t understand”. You made that straw man up all on your own.

I don’t see how your second point has anything to do with this discussion. If estoric language and name-dropping is not a good way to discuss issues with a lay audience then how does “but… but… the new atheists do it too!” going to help anyone?

On a pure level, Altizer’s religious proclamation viewed God’s death (really a self-extinction) as a process that began at the world’s creation and came to an end through Jesus Christ—whose crucifixion in reality poured out God’s full spirit into this world. -Wikipedia

The charge of close-mindedness is the typical, plaintive whine of the crank. When Altizer can actually produce some evidence that a literal God existed and died and that he poured his spirit out into the world, whatever that means, then we can talk.

Posted on Apr 05, 2010 at 4:43pm by lakren Comment #42

I don’t see how your second point has anything to do with this discussion. If estoric language and name-dropping is not a good way to discuss issues with a lay audience then how does “but… but… the new atheists do it too!” going to help anyone?

My point is that we should be consistent with our criticism, and if we find it permissible for one person to forgo such base considerations then we should extend the privilege to all.

The charge of close-mindedness is the typical, plaintive whine of the crank. When Altizer can actually produce some evidence that a literal God existed and died and that he poured his spirit out into the world, whatever that means, then we can talk.

And I would argue that overt hostility and baseless dismissal are the typical responses of the ignorant and the incompetent. Furthermore, a single sentence taken out of context from a very short Wikipedia article is hardly a respectable way to go about critiquing someone’s line of thought.

Posted on Apr 05, 2010 at 5:35pm by Crazywumbat Comment #43

If you don’t understand a topic, you should probably educate yourself about it before you dismiss it. I believe that would be a rather rational approach, no?

Probably as rational as feeling the need to study 19th-century French history to figure out that the guy who claims to be Napoleon on the subway is a mental patient.

Posted on Apr 05, 2010 at 5:40pm by George Comment #44

Argh.  Its really good I wasn’t born a fish.  I’d be dinner since I find rising to the bait irresistible.  It seems that Crazywumbat the concern troll is concerned.

Since I’m the one who used gobbledy gook first I thought I might comment.

Crazy wrote:
Well a few things. First of all, for the people baffled by this, terms such as “crock of manure,” “gobbeldy gook,” and “hogwash” do little to contribute to your understanding or anyone elses. Instead of jumping on the “I hate what I don’t have the understanding for” bandwagon, pick up a book and have at it.

For starters, I’m not baffled.  There was a total lack of clarity in the introduction.  And it didn’t get better as the podcast went on.  One of my favorite things about language are some of the shorthand expressions that we use.  Simple.  Declarative.  Pithy.  Easily understood by all.  I’m a particular fan of Yiddish for just that reason.

When I said gobbledy gook, everyone with English as a first language understood what I meant.  They may not have agreed, but my opinion was clear.

Crazy wrote:
… pick up a book and have at it…. So on that note, I’d be really interested to engage in an actual discussion of the contents of the podcast.

Pick up a book?  Back at you.  You made no argument that added to the discourse.  And then you had the nerve to task those you dismissed to do it for you.

Crazy wrote:
Secondly, most of you are admitting you fall under the “new atheist” heading.

So?  That implies?

I have a very different take away from the types of posters.  I think is fair to say that many (or even most) were new posters.  Folks like me who look forward to POI, who don’t normally participate in the online discourse and were motivated to say “Hey, what? Huh?”

For what its worth, I’ve never been sure what the “new” part of the moniker means, but I’m an atheist (about a 6.3).  The kind that sees that the god hypothesis has failed based ever expanding evidence.  Simply that.  Someone who believes that god lived and died is clearly a theist.  With a twist perhaps, but still a theist.

And that’s an argument that some other posters made quite well.  If you are going to go far afield from topics of interest to people who look to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values then do it in a way that is accessible to the audience.

Concern troll is a schnook.

Posted on Apr 05, 2010 at 6:31pm by vinny Comment #45

Pick up a book?  Back at you.  You made no argument that added to the discourse.  And then you had the nerve to task those you dismissed to do it for you.

The fact that you equate argument with discussion or discourse speaks volumes. I tasked no one, and thought I made it quite clear that the type of person I was looking to have a discussion with was quite different than the kind of person who would presume to have the authority to dimiss a man’s life work because he did not understand the subject matter. And gobbeldy gook what you will, it is quite apparant your objection was that you did not find the material adequately presented for your understanding.

I have no time for people that cherry pick from quotes, and you know very well what I meant in reference to the new atheism comment. I was also unaware that we have amended “freedom of inquiry” to read “freedom to inquire within the limits of Vinny’s comfort zone.”

The ease with which one can dismiss a line of reasoning is directly proportional to how little one truely cares about understanding the world at large.

Internet-authority-on-worthy-subjects troll is a schmendrick.

Posted on Apr 05, 2010 at 6:50pm by Crazywumbat Comment #46

Maybe crazy wombat is actually Altizer or Bob Price… :) Just sayin’!

Posted on Apr 05, 2010 at 6:52pm by asanta Comment #47

.....  I think is fair to say that many (or even most) were new posters.  Folks like me who look forward to POI, who don’t normally participate in the online discourse and were motivated to say “Hey, what? Huh?”
.....

I agree with vinny—thanks to all new posters for the reality-check

Posted on Apr 05, 2010 at 7:35pm by Jackson Comment #48

CW, this is from the Center for Inquiry’s mission statement:

At the Center for Inquiry, we believe that evidence-based reasoning, in which humans work together to address common concerns, is critical for modern world civilization.

Nothing in this episode of PoI constituted evidence-based reasoning. It seems I can speak for others in this thread when I say I do not subscribe to PoI so I can listen to religious apologetics. Altizer’s views about god dying in the form of Jesus (I guess that is what he was saying, it was kind of hard to tell) are ridiculous. He offers no evidence, but rather jabbers on about stuff that has nothing to do with science, reason and secular values. This episode of PoI was a waste of bandwidth, drive space and time.

Posted on Apr 05, 2010 at 7:42pm by DarronS Comment #49

The ease with which one can dismiss a line of reasoning is directly proportional to how little one truely cares about understanding the world at large.

Nah, the reverse is true.  Certain modes of reasoning have been shown historically to lead nowhere.  When you recognize them, you can stop listening and go spend your time on lines of reasoning which have been shown to be productive.

So, if you truly care about understanding the world, you won’t give any attention to those that are clueless.  Go read a science book.

Posted on Apr 05, 2010 at 8:22pm by Taylor Comment #50

Maybe crazy wombat is actually Altizer or Bob Price… :) Just sayin’!


`
*giggling*  you voiced the thought just as it was materializing in my own head :)


`

Posted on Apr 05, 2010 at 8:26pm by Axegrrl Comment #51

Science and technology have given our species both choices and understanding.  The choice to talk to a person on the other side of our planet.  The choice to board a ship or a plane and go see that person on the other side of the planet.  Soon it will give us the choice to fly into space to see a person there should we so desire.  Through technology we have come to understand when we are, where we are, what we are and how to cure or mitigate many of the conditions that afflict us.  Our homes are lit with electric lights because of science and technology (Amish exempted).  Science and technology have even given us this very means of communication.  Science and technology have given and will continue to give us dominion over matter and energy and a greater understanding of them.  It will continue to alter our choices and our freedom in a profound way.

And Theology has given us what exactly?  A means to keep irascible old men off the streets?  And I need to devote my very limited time here on the planet to learning one very specialized corner of it because…?

Irrelevant, uninteresting and unnecessarily convoluted I don’t think I’ll be spending any heartbeats on it.

Posted on Apr 05, 2010 at 8:34pm by Thameron Comment #52

Also new to the forums and a long time listener, “The Point of Inquiry is the podcast of the Center for Inquiry, a think tank advancing reason, science and secular values…” There was nothing reasoned, scientific or secular about this episode.

I don’t listen to POI to hear theologians insult scientists, sorry.

Bob Price was a regular on The Infidel Guy show, which I used to listen to. I remember being impressed by his biblical knowledge, but once you come to understand that he’s basically the Rain Man of useless facts and information about the Bible, and doesn’t really have much more than that to offer, well, just makes you wonder who’s making decisions over at CFI.

This is a sad day for me, but my consolation prize is that DJ is still on my Ipod once a week.

Posted on Apr 05, 2010 at 9:11pm by erikthebassist Comment #53

I’m a new member of the Forum - so greetings to all - but I’ve been listening to the podcast for a long time and really enjoying it.  The discussion with Thomas Altizer began by very much confusing me because it was so full of non-sequiturs and I almost gave it up in disgust.  But after a while I became certain that Robert Price was just giving Altizer lots of rope with which to hang himself.  Honestly folks - just listen to it in that light and you’ll hear Robert Price feeding Altizer opportunity after opportunity to make a fool of himself.  It’s magnificently done.

Posted on Apr 05, 2010 at 9:18pm by MikeAtkinson Comment #54

CW, this is from the Center for Inquiry’s mission statement:

At the Center for Inquiry, we believe that evidence-based reasoning, in which humans work together to address common concerns, is critical for modern world civilization.

Mission statements are a rediculous concept. A few pretty word which create the illusion of something meaningful being said. I think at this point we’re all above being advertised to.

CFI, POI, CSI, etc all have the common thread running through them of secular humanism. Somewhere along the line of this though, we lost sight that the root word in this philosophy is in fact humanism, and instead put the bulk of our emphasis on the secular. But as humanism, its roots are intrinsicly in a blending of philosophy, science, and theology. Hell, even philosophy, science, and theology were all intrinsically linked up until recently in human thought. Forgetting or ignoring the roots, even if we move away from that starting point, does no one good.

I don’t listen to POI to hear theologians insult scientists, sorry.

Funny, neither do I, and I’ve never heard it. Altizer commended Dawkins for his work in evolutionary biology, and critisized him for thinking himself a theologian. Many of us feel that way, hell even Paul Kurtz echoed that sentiment in a recent podcast.

That being said Altizer and Price both did a poor job of elucidating Altizer’s work, and Price did come off as a fanboy. Although some of the relationships with other modern thinkers were interesting and would likely not have surfaced in a more traditional interview. Out of the relatively sparse information I could find online, I thought the most concise summation of Altizer was from http://mb-soft.com/believe/txn/deathgod.htm

But apparently the real meaning of Altizer’s belief that God had died is to be found in his belief in God’s immanence. To say that God has died is to say that he has ceased to exist as a transcendent, supernatural being. Rather, he has become fully immanent in the world. The result is an essential identity between the human and the divine. God died in Christ in this sense, and the process has continued time and again since then. Altizer claims the church tried to give God life again and put him back in heaven by its doctrines of resurrection and ascension. But now the traditional doctrines about God and Christ must be repudiated because man has discovered after nineteen centuries that God does not exist. Christians must even now will the death of God by which the transcendent becomes immanent.

Its an interesting view and one I’ll not likely find the time to get better acquainted with. However I would be interested to see if anyone on the forums is more familiar with it.

Posted on Apr 05, 2010 at 9:32pm by Crazywumbat Comment #55

Please, no more Robert Price.

Awful.

Posted on Apr 06, 2010 at 2:08am by MattD Comment #56

So let me get this straight:  in order to be an atheist, you need to believe in god, just that god died.  Hence in order to be an ateapotist, you have to believe in the teapot, just that it was smashed in its celestial orbit by a comet or asteroid.  Or the invisible dragon in the garage; he was really there, just slain by invisible St. George?

Epic fail.

If you must interview a theologian, soothsayer, or seer so invested in his own brand of self-delusion that he cannot imagine himself to be incorrect, or cannot afford financially to admit that he’s incorrect, at least employ an interviewer willing to call BS.

Posted on Apr 06, 2010 at 3:10am by doane Comment #57

I was wondering if we had our own personal troll or if we were sharing so I did a quick google search.  While this is totally meaningless, it did make me chuckle…

Crazywubat as seen on the interwebs >

Posted on Apr 06, 2010 at 3:15am by vinny Comment #58

in order to be an ateapotist

WHAT?!!! HERETIC! BURN THE WITCH!

Posted on Apr 06, 2010 at 8:45am by Frank M Comment #59

Terrible, I had to turn it off. I’ve been listening to the podcast for a long time and this is the first time I’ve been to the forums. I just had to know if the podcast had been hijacked. It’s good to know I’m not the only one who could not stomach the whole thing.

Posted on Apr 06, 2010 at 9:13am by DM Comment #60

I agree this podcast was not clear, but it was provocative, and it made me think.

If you were to argue that Hamlet was influential in the 19th century reception of Abraham Lincoln, and I to reply that he couldn’t have been because he’s a fictional character, you and most onlookers would likely feel that I missed the point.  Hamlet is real, even if he has no single, fixed existance.  Similarly God is real because people believe in God.  The question remaining, then, is to understand the nature of the existance.  Dawkins and other scientific critics of the idea of God talk about the God of the gaps.  The gap worth exploring, though, is the question of lived experience with a belief in God v. lived experience which lacks such a belief.  Many alcoholics and addicts in 12th step recovery (of which I am NOT one, btw) will tell you that no power on earth could stop them from their addition, but one power could—by which they mean God (as they understand him).  The reality of god for such a person is that so long as the belief of a personal relationship with God is real, things become possible which otherwise are impossible or unbearable.  And addiction is not an isolated example.

When Nietzsche announced the death of god, he was saying that our philosophy and science refutes God, and the idea of God no longer serves as THE organizing principle in people’s lives—and yet we have not accepted or adapted to that fact.  The culture of the 19th century (and to deny that this is true of the 21st century would take some argument) is primarily secular in its concerns, but we still live with the same morality and cultural mores that a God centered civilization created.  We live without God even though our collective cultural imaginations can’t imagine such a thing.

I liked the intro to this podcast a lot.  Some theologians want God to be a big daddy in the sky.  That big daddy has no cultural relevance—it is a dead idea.  The idea of God that is not dead is the existentialist idea—God exists because people believe, and has power exactly to the extent they believe.  Instead “I am that I am” today’s God is what it is.

Btw, to the question asked earlier, “what did theologians ever give us?”  Martin Luther King Jr.

Posted on Apr 06, 2010 at 9:37am by TJ Comment #61

Just registered to express my appreciation of this very funny April Fool’s Day joke from POI. Good one. Seriously, though, where’s the real episode?

Posted on Apr 06, 2010 at 6:49pm by macnamae Comment #62

Just registered to express my appreciation of this very funny April Fool’s Day joke from POI. Good one. Seriously, though, where’s the real episode?

That explanation makes as much sense as any other!!

Posted on Apr 06, 2010 at 6:58pm by asanta Comment #63

Btw, to the question asked earlier, “what did theologians ever give us?”  Martin Luther King Jr.

The main thrust of MLK’s message - that an entire group of people should not have their potential repressed because of cultural inertia and the color of their skin - did not require reference to a deity nor any theology.  At it’s core it is basic common sense and empathy.  He used a lot of Christian imagery and metaphors, but his message did not require them.  A goodly number of theologians argued for slavery (and certainly the bible accepts if it does not outright condone the practice) so you can’t praise theology for producing someone who was simply trying to erase its deleterious effects.  And as much as I admire him he really doesn’t stack up against the advances which science and technology have given us, indeed it was science and technology which allowed his message to reach many more people than it otherwise would have without it.

Posted on Apr 06, 2010 at 9:41pm by Thameron Comment #64

I have registered in order to express my opinion about the last podcast.

I have listened to this podcast for several years and have really enjoyed the topics and information that it provided.

I was somewhat surprised a few weeks ago by the episode on the Jesus Seminar and thought it had taken us to the edge of the subject matter I have heard on POI.  I still enjoyed it.  However, I think “The Death of God” has gone way over the edge.  I don’t see how it fits with the stated goals of the CFI or the past subject matter.  This might be of interest to a modern theology student, but how does it relate to “promoting science, reason, and secular values in public affairs”?  I see no connection at all.

I hope you will return to the areas you have covered in the past.

Thank you,

Ray Maxwell

Posted on Apr 06, 2010 at 10:44pm by Ray Maxwell Comment #65

I need to admit upfront that I started listening to POI because I found out that Robert Price was a regular interviewee and was very excited when I discovered that he would now be a regular interviewer.

So far I have enjoyed both of his episodes and had no problem understanding the conversation in either of them. However this is probably due to the fact that I am a Religious Studies major at UNC Charlotte and thus am already familiar with the subject matter and individuals like Mircea Eliade. But what really interests me here is not Robert Price’s interview with Altizer but rather the comments that have so far been left about it.

In essence the main complaint seems to be that listeners of this show don’t listen to POI to learn about theology or even secular religious studies like textual criticism or comparative mythology and the like. The users on the forum in fact seem to almost unanimously feel like this type of information is utterly worthless to them, a notion they seem to be parroting from individuals like Richard Dawkins.

If this is the case my question then is “How do you ever expect to engage the religious community if you know nothing about religion?”

For example to reduce religion, as many people here have, to nothing more than a set of erroneous beliefs about how the world works is to do a huge disservice to the entire notion of religion. Religion is much much more than just a set of beliefs, in fact for many millions of people its actually not about “belief” at all - in Religious Studies we actually never even use the term belief to describe religion, that’s how negligible we think it is - but about community, ethics, identity, power, economics and more. That’s why Altizer is right on the money when he says that people like Dawkins and Harris don’t know what they are going on about when they belittle religion to just being about what they see as foolish “beliefs” and treating all religious people like fundamentalists who think that everything in their religious writ is literally true.

Furthermore I have seen several posts saying that they want empirical evidence for all claims made and this why they can’t and won’t take theological claims seriously. But this is completely wrong headed. This is to confuse the notion of “facts” with “function.” In scientific enterprises “facts” are what is most highly esteemed, it matters significantly less what one does with these “facts” just that they know them. In religion however the “function” of an idea is much more important than whether or not it is empirically true. For skeptics to demand empirical evidence to validate faith claims is to be just as ridiculous as those Christians - like creationists - who try to provide empirical evidence to validate their faiths, something which they probably would have never started doing if ignorant atheists hadn’t started asking for it.

Again my point here is that if those of us who consider themselves members of the “free thinkers” community want any chance at winning “religious” people over to our way of thinking than we need to first understand who those people are and what it is they are actually doing. We will get nowhere by simply riding off religion as a bunch of silly beliefs or by demanding that religious people try and play the science game of empirical evidence with faith claims.

Posted on Apr 07, 2010 at 12:46am by TheFolklorist Comment #66

In essence the main complaint seems to be that listeners of this show don’t listen to POI to learn about theology or even secular religious studies like textual criticism or comparative mythology and the like. The users on the forum in fact seem to almost unanimously feel like this type of information is utterly worthless to them, a notion they seem to be parroting from individuals like Richard Dawkins.

If the majority of the criticism is that we are not interested in learning about religion (most of us have belonged to churches and had some religious teaching along the way), the second most common complaint (mine) is that the podcast conversation was so esoteric, that anyone not having an advanced degree in theology is unlikely to make any sense of what he is saying. They have to remember the audience they are speaking to. While (I like to think) we are not all stupid, this podcast would have been better served before a graduate theology class. It makes as much sense as me and a couple of the docs having a medical conversation using terminology and references none of you understood (and we could do it) and accuse you of not engaging the medical community, or a couple of the members with advanced degrees in philosophy, engineering….pick your subject. At any rate, the conversation had no place in a podcast to the general public. And, well, no, we are NOT parroting Dawkins, our complaint is valid. You are making a straw man argument.

Posted on Apr 07, 2010 at 1:37am by asanta Comment #67

For example to reduce religion, as many people here have, to nothing more than a set of erroneous beliefs about how the world works is to do a huge disservice to the entire notion of religion. Religion is much much more than just a set of beliefs, in fact for many millions of people its actually not about “belief” at all - in Religious Studies we actually never even use the term belief to describe religion, that’s how negligible we think it is - but about community, ethics, identity, power, economics and more. That’s why Altizer is right on the money when he says that people like Dawkins and Harris don’t know what they are going on about when they belittle religion to just being about what they see as foolish “beliefs” and treating all religious people like fundamentalists who think that everything in their religious writ is literally true.

Thanks for posting—we usually get a wider variety of opinion and your comments give some extra perspective.

1. In what way do you think Altizer exemplifies religious belief in the US?  I myself think that >95% of the folks at my church would also find this ‘gobbledygook’.
2. “religion is much more than just a set of beliefs”—there is agreement on this, but it hardly refutes Dawkins. Dawkins is talking about a particular aspect of religion which you cannot hide under the carpet by calling it “19th century”.  He never says this is the only aspect of religion. 
3. Are you saying that there is common ground between Altizer and Dawkins in that they both agree there is no God (and never was)  in the sense that there is no life after death, no Hell, no heaven.

Posted on Apr 07, 2010 at 3:18am by Jackson Comment #68

It’s clear from the comments that most people felt the same way about that podcast as I did.  Frankly, the only thing I understood was that Richard Dawkins and his ilk are not deep thinkers, though apparently, I’m not a deep enough thinker to understand why not.

I actually would have been very interested to hear what is meant by ‘the death of god’.  Too bad I couldn’t figure it out from the podcast.

Welcome Kathy.

I agree it would have been entertaining to hear them explain how a nonexistent deity died.

Posted on Apr 07, 2010 at 4:52am by DarronS Comment #69

Finally got round to listening to this podcast. The above commentary is on point: this was a train-wreck of a discussion. It’s an example of the corrosive effect of deconstructionism on the academy, I’m sorry to say, and wooly thinkers like Nietzsche and Hegel. It’s a prime example of scholarship as “creative sharing” rather than truth seeking. But perhaps the most disappointing aspect of it was the frank apologetics of the whole thing: no attempt to find out the truth, but in all an attempt to coopt the language of atheism for Christian ends without any serious attempt to make sense of any of it.

The whole notion that God literally existed in the past and is now literally dead is simply grotesque. So insofar as one takes people like Price and Altizer seriously, one has to assume they’re playing a silly sort of theater—games of sharing their creative reformations without any interest in figuring out anything real.

Re. the Folklorist’s points, indeed there is significantly more to religion than belief. I’ve said the same here myself. If this podcast had been about a serious attempt to discover roots of the “community, ethics, identity, power, economics” behind religion, I’d have had no issues with it. Indeed, I find such discussions themselves extremely fruitful. But we found none of that here. (Scott Atran, for one, has had plenty of much more interest to say on those topics in the past, in critiquing new atheism).

Further, although there is plenty of sociology and anthropology of religion that is very worthwhile, to claim that religion has nothing to do with belief is just as wrong as to say that religion is only a form of belief. All religious attitude is in part belief-based, and even so-called non creedal religions like Buddhism do have their own catechisms. So one shouldn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater, as they say.

Onto a related topic:

There are a few problems with the intersection between contemporary religious studies and the “new atheist” movement. First, many people in religious studies appear to accept (as Price said he did on the podcast) basically the entirety of the new atheist critique: e.g., that there is no rational foundation to Christian or even theistic belief. Insofar as that’s true, it would seem that the only difference between contemporary religious studies and new atheism is their interest. That is, the new atheists are interested in the rational critique, and the religious studies majors aren’t interested in it, although they profess to agree with it. OK, so then can’t we all just work together?

The second problem stems from those people in religious studies who profess to accept the rational critiques (as it seems Altizer did on the podcast, in agreement with Price) but at a deeper level do not, because they are not actually believers in reason or rational critiques at all—one assumes, due to the corrosive impact of a postmodern milieu on which reason itself is discounted, again in favor of spinning creative but factually worthless tales. And/or because they are believers of “faith” in Sam Harris’s sense. But then all of Harris’s critiques of faith are on-point.

The third problem here is that the new atheist movement is itself a form of frank proselytization: as much preaching to its own rationalist, atheist choir as are the religious folk. And to miss that point in people like Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens is particularly surprising in people who purport to study society for a living. The new atheists aren’t simply providing rational critiques of religion—for one thing, virtually none of the arguments they provide are novel. They are attempting to create a social, or even a socio-political, movement around the abandonment of religious forms of thought and organization. (Harris is a little different on this point, and seems to push for a more eastern-based spiritualism). At any rate, taking the new atheists as only scholarship isn’t correct. What they write isn’t only supposed to be a rational or scholarly critique of a set of beliefs, but also very clearly a call to action.

And although I do agree with the Folklorist that this call to action does miss a great deal that is essential to religion (and indeed, which any substitute to religion will have to eventually absorb or come to terms with), nevertheless I find the new atheist work significantly clearer and more well reasoned than anything Altizer had to say on the podcast.

Posted on Apr 07, 2010 at 4:54am by dougsmith Comment #70

The third problem here is that the new atheist movement is itself a form of frank proselytization: as much preaching to its own rationalist, atheist choir as are the religious folk. And to miss that point in people like Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens is particularly surprising in people who purport to study society for a living.

On this point, it occurred to me that perhaps the most charitable interpretation of Altizer and Price’s podcast here is that it isn’t so much an attempt at getting across any sort of scholarship about religion, but itself a form of proselytization for a “creative” and novel postmodernist and quasi-deconstructionist interpretation of Christianity.

And then it simply seems they’re broadcasting it to the wrong audience. They certainly provide no reasons nor evidence to accept any of the outlandish interpretations they’re providing.

Posted on Apr 07, 2010 at 6:10am by dougsmith Comment #71

Worst. Episode. Ever.

Setting aside the question of whether a discussion on the “Death of God” and how “True Christians” are actually “Atheists” as defined in this bizarre esoteric manner is a worthy topic for Point of Inquiry (seems to me it’s not), this was simply the most unlistenable conversation ever recorded!

I’m a smart guy, and I couldn’t make heads or tails out of half the sentences uttered due to the constant referencing of names which mean nothing to me. I don’t mind learning about writers and thinkers I’m unfamiliar with, but simply referencing names doesn’t teach a thing. One would have to be steeped in this obscure theology already in order to follow this conversation.

On the other hand I suspect that there was very little if any real content here anyway, since the two speakers seemed to be mostly fawning over one another and complaining that their detractors don’t know the topic well enough.

As an atheist (in the “there is no God to begin with” sense) and non-Christian, I don’t know the topic at all! Nor do I care. Nor did this episode elucidate any reason I should care. Shall we have a POI episode next about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? I hear that’s a burning issue for some.

If this Death of God topic holds any relevance to CFI’s mission, then it should have been made clear what that was at the opening of the podcast. Instead we got what I’m guessing was a quote from Altizer, which was so nonsensical we may as well have had a quote from Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky. At least that would have been more entertaining.

Like another recent poster, I started to turn this episode off after listening vainly for a few minutes for any explanation of “why this topic,” but then I felt I needed to hear the entire thing in order to complain properly.

I love Point of Inquiry. I’ve gotten a lot out of listening for the past two years or so. The least I can do in return is get on here and shout about this mistake in the hopes of preventing more of the same.

D.J. was awesome. I wouldn’t expect anyone to be able to fill his shoes completely. But please, stick to the original intent of the podcast. I’m interested in lucid conversations about relevant topics. I want to hear opposing viewpoints expressed and explored. I want to be given relevant background information before diving into an obscure topic.

Robert Price, you are not your own audience. Try to keep that in mind.

Thanks!

Posted on Apr 07, 2010 at 7:20am by gbmh Comment #72

I plan to read the other responses later and to offer more from my corner if appropriate.

For now, I listened to this POI segment yesterday in my car.
In short, while to me the entire “death of God” notion is highly questionable, I feel very certain that segments like this one could be the death of Point of Inquiry.

Among the problems with it, in brief:

1) Unexplained esoteric terms.
2) Ad hominem cheap shots coupled with self-congratulatory chortling.
3) General self-righteousness from both interviewer and interviewee.
4) Poor audio quality and uneven levels.

Good grief.
While I’ve have high regard for several of Mr. Price’s books, I feel certain that even I could do a far better job of interviewing and of selecting interviewees.
If CFI would like to give an unknown a try, please send PM.

Posted on Apr 07, 2010 at 7:22am by Trail Rider Comment #73

Another first time poster complaining about this episode. I’m actually a fan of Robert Price and listen to his podcast, but this was out there even for him. I still have no idea what “Death of God” theology is, nor what any of the names they dropped have to do with the conversation. Where was the “Inquiry” in this episode?

Posted on Apr 07, 2010 at 7:44am by JFHalsey Comment #74

In essence the main complaint seems to be that listeners of this show don’t listen to POI to learn about theology or even secular religious studies like textual criticism or comparative mythology and the like. The users on the forum in fact seem to almost unanimously feel like this type of information is utterly worthless to them, a notion they seem to be parroting from individuals like Richard Dawkins.

If this is the case my question then is “How do you ever expect to engage the religious community if you know nothing about religion?”

Let us reverse the roles for a moment. If I wanted to communicate well with say, fundamental christians who aren’t aware of the theory of evolution and think that satan put fossils in the earth to tempt me into denying a god, would I use a podcast between two biologists talking shop about matters that requires years of study to have the fundamental facts to open the subject? Or would it make more sense to take Dawkin’s or Neil Tyson DeGrass’s simpler explicative approach? I might have found it more tolerable if a more basic approach were introduced to show me the relevance. There was zero footing for those without religious erudition. And further—I just don’t care!

The other side of the matter is why do I have to learn the arcane trivia of a superstition, no matter how widespread it is to simply engage someone? I don’t crusade for atheism, I’m not anti-theist, I don’t have arguments and debates with religious people. I simply don’t believe in gods, and I appreciate it when people keep these matters to themselves. I don’t need to know the rarefied nuances of some obscure religious point of view to enjoy a barbeque with someone. I study science because it interests me, not to find logical “gotcha’s” to embarrass the religious. I enjoy astronomy because it’s cool. I don’t have to master astrology and debate astrologers to get on with my life and my neighbors.

POI, to me, is about far more than religion. It’s about “clean thinking”. I’m far more interested in knowing why our brain has a component that seems to be attracted to ghosts, religions and aliens to begin with, rather than hearing clunky explanations used to attempt to get other to ratify their point of view. I’m far more interested in the biological origins of our morality than whether the moral writings of some ancient desert religious sect hold validity or not. I like to base my life knowledge on the most factual evidence I can find, not the sophistic arguments of people who believe in gods and aliens.

The short of it, is the reason I listen to POI is because it’s usually a very professionally done show, with interesting guests, and frankly, DJ Grothe spoiled us with his professionalism and approach. He could introduce a subject that I knew nothing about and give me the 20 minute overview for me to figure out if I want to buy the book.

This is not a criticism of the interviewer, but of the subject matter and how it was handled. If POI wants to do religious education, fine, but make up another show, or for me, the value will simply no longer be there to listen to it.

Posted on Apr 07, 2010 at 8:12am by Frank M Comment #75

Out of curiosity, do the regulars here know if the people from CFI who manage POI ever participate in these forums?

Posted on Apr 07, 2010 at 8:26am by vinny Comment #76

Out of curiosity, do the regulars here know if the people from CFI who manage POI ever participate in these forums?

Chris Mooney does, although for his own podcasts. DJ used to from time to time. Other members of CFI will also read through the forum postings but tend to interact rarely. It’s a relatively small organization, however, and I would be surprised if they aren’t aware of the discussion here, even if they may prefer not to comment.

Posted on Apr 07, 2010 at 8:32am by dougsmith Comment #77

Furthermore I have seen several posts saying that they want empirical evidence for all claims made and this why they can’t and won’t take theological claims seriously. But this is completely wrong headed. This is to confuse the notion of “facts” with “function.” In scientific enterprises “facts” are what is most highly esteemed, it matters significantly less what one does with these “facts” just that they know them.

I suggest you spend more time studying science, as you obviously have no idea how science and scientific thinking work. Simply knowing facts may get one through high school science, but anything beyond that requires actually understanding science and knowing how to conduct basic research. Also, your take on religion reduces religion to social studies, nothing more. When religious institutions quit spreading lies, harboring child rapists and trying to dismantle public school science classes then I, for one, will stop denigrating religion. In the meantime you might want to open your mind and learn what science has to offer.

Posted on Apr 07, 2010 at 9:11am by DarronS Comment #78

If the majority of the criticism is that we are not interested in learning about religion (most of us have belonged to churches and had some religious teaching along the way), the second most common complaint (mine) is that the podcast conversation was so esoteric, that anyone not having an advanced degree in theology is unlikely to make any sense of what he is saying.

All I’m saying in response to this is that having attended church - any church, I don’t care how liberal or conservative - is not the same as having spent time studying religion from a scholarly anthropological perspective NOT having studied theology at seminary or anything like that.

Finally got round to listening to this podcast. The above commentary is on point: this was a train-wreck of a discussion. It’s an example of the corrosive effect of deconstructionism on the academy, I’m sorry to say, and wooly thinkers like Nietzsche and Hegel. It’s a prime example of scholarship as “creative sharing” rather than truth seeking.

I’m really interested in everything Dougsmith had to say here and I wish I had more time to go through and break it down bit by bit, but what gets me here is this whole notion of “truth seeking.” Its obviously predicated on the idea that there is some singular “truth” out that we can find if just have the right tools (science) to go looking for it. This strikes me as a very religiously minded notion. In my time at college I have been and have heard other students frequently reminded that we are not hear to find truth, since that would assume that truth exists to begin with, but rather that we are here to seek enlightenment and understanding. 

Re. the Folklorist’s points, indeed there is significantly more to religion than belief. I’ve said the same here myself. If this podcast had been about a serious attempt to discover roots of the “community, ethics, identity, power, economics” behind religion, I’d have had no issues with it. Indeed, I find such discussions themselves extremely fruitful. But we found none of that here.

Further, although there is plenty of sociology and anthropology of religion that is very worthwhile, to claim that religion has nothing to do with belief is just as wrong as to say that religion is only a form of belief. All religious attitude is in part belief-based, and even so-called non creedal religions like Buddhism do have their own catechisms. So one shouldn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater, as they say.

I didn’t say that belief had nothing to do with religion, just that you can’t reduce religion to being solely about belief. Plus you need to ask the question “What does it mean to believe something?” Belief is a very complex mental state that can take on a wide variety of forms including the willing belief in things that one recognize as untrue or absurd.

Also I didn’t say anything about the “roots of the ‘community, ethics, identity, power, economics’ behind religion” but rather was raising attention to the fact that religion can be understood AS community or AS identity not as a catalyst for these things.   

There are a few problems with the intersection between contemporary religious studies and the “new atheist” movement. First, many people in religious studies appear to accept (as Price said he did on the podcast) basically the entirety of the new atheist critique: e.g., that there is no rational foundation to Christian or even theistic belief. Insofar as that’s true, it would seem that the only difference between contemporary religious studies and new atheism is their interest. That is, the new atheists are interested in the rational critique, and the religious studies majors aren’t interested in it, although they profess to agree with it. OK, so then can’t we all just work together?

The second problem stems from those people in religious studies who profess to accept the rational critiques (as it seems Altizer did on the podcast, in agreement with Price) but at a deeper level do not, because they are not actually believers in reason or rational critiques at all.

While I certainly don’t want to speak for all of the thousands of men and women, students and professors who have spent the last 40 to 50 years working in the field of Religious Studies I am inclined to think that your two problems are actually way off base. Religious Studies is not about making truth claims the way religions or the “new atheists” do. It is about studying religion and religious phenomena from an scholarly perspective. There are people in the field who are impassioned believers, skeptics, atheists and everything in between. As far as the “rational critique” is concerned it is something that in my experience doesn’t get a lot of mileage in the field of Religious Studies because it assumes that religion is irrational while the majority of experts feel the exact opposite, that religion is a completely rational response to the world we live in and that we couldn’t have very well gotten as far as we have without it.       

The third problem here is that the new atheist movement is itself a form of frank proselytization: as much preaching to its own rationalist, atheist choir as are the religious folk. And to miss that point in people like Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens is particularly surprising in people who purport to study society for a living.

I don’t think those individuals working in the field of Religious Studies have missed this point at all. In fact, some like Stephen Prothero - the chair of Religious Studies over at Boston U. - would actually say that the “new atheists” are as much a religion and those they criticize.

Posted on Apr 07, 2010 at 10:00am by TheFolklorist Comment #79

If this is the case my question then is “How do you ever expect to engage the religious community if you know nothing about religion?”

I don’t see how studying theology would be of any help here. Perhaps psychologists or neuroscientists may have an idea or two, but I wouldn’t count on it either. Not yet. There are probably several reasons (most likely independent of each other) why people turn to religion and we are only beginning to understand what some of those reasons may be. I completely fail to see what theology has to add to any of this.

How does knowing the answer to the following question help to engage the religious community?

Jesus’s father was:

A) God
B) Jesus himself
C) Holy spirit
D) Joseph
E) All of the above

Posted on Apr 07, 2010 at 10:17am by George Comment #80

I’m really interested in everything Dougsmith had to say here and I wish I had more time to go through and break it down bit by bit, but what gets me here is this whole notion of “truth seeking.” Its obviously predicated on the idea that there is some singular “truth” out that we can find if just have the right tools (science) to go looking for it. This strikes me as a very religiously minded notion. In my time at college I have been and have heard other students frequently reminded that we are not hear to find truth, since that would assume that truth exists to begin with, but rather that we are here to seek enlightenment and understanding.

The notion that there is an objective truth that can be found by rational investigation is the foundation of all meaningful discourse. The rejection of it is the problem with academic postmodernism. Once one rejects the very notion of truth, then anything goes.

One may well say that truth is a difficult issue, and that we all have our biases, and that what one person claims as true may not in fact be true. Just so. But it is only with an eye to getting at the actual truth that we can overcome these obstacles, at least to the extent that any imperfect beings can hope to.

Finding enlightenment is not an academic or a scholarly enterprise. Finding understanding comes with finding out the truth of the matter. If not, it is not true understanding, but only wishful thinking or common illusion.

I didn’t say that belief had nothing to do with religion, just that you can’t reduce religion to being solely about belief. Plus you need to ask the question “What does it mean to believe something?” Belief is a very complex mental state that can take on a wide variety of forms including the willing belief in things that one recognize as untrue or absurd.

Also I didn’t say anything about the “roots of the ‘community, ethics, identity, power, economics’ behind religion” but rather was raising attention to the fact that religion can be understood AS community or AS identity not as a catalyst for these things.   

Agreed. But again, none of that was apparent in the podcast. If one wants to study religion as community or as identity (viz., in an anthropological or sociological way), well and good. But that doesn’t obviate other approaches, such as looking at its cognitive aspects.

While I certainly don’t want to speak for all of the thousands of men and women, students and professors who have spent the last 40 to 50 years working in the field of Religious Studies I am inclined to think that your two problems are actually way off base. Religious Studies is not about making truth claims the way religions or the “new atheists” do. It is about studying religion and religious phenomena from an scholarly perspective.

It is not possible to study anything from a scholarly perspective without making truth claims about it. The problem here, as I stated in my above commentary, is the problem with contemporary postmodernism. Once one gives up the search for truth, one gives up all pretenses to scholarship or indeed to meaningful discourse.

. As far as the “rational critique” is concerned it is something that in my experience doesn’t get a lot of mileage in the field of Religious Studies because it assumes that religion is irrational while the majority of experts feel the exact opposite, that religion is a completely rational response to the world we live in and that we couldn’t have very well gotten as far as we have without it.

Well, this critique of new atheism is not accurate. They do not assume that religion is irrational, they demonstrate that it is, by demonstrating the irrationality of certain very prominent religious beliefs. Now, people like Scott Atran will, as you note, come back and say that religions are in some sense a rational response to life, but they are not talking about the content of the particular religious beliefs, instead they are talking about the religious form of life in some sense. And then we do get into an area where there is room for interesting discussion and debate.

Just to bring us back to the podcast again, Price did at one point make clear that he (and I believe Altizer assented on this point, though in passing) agreed with the “new atheist” critiques of the rationality of religious discourse, at least as regards Christianity. So we do not need to talk past one another on this topic.

The third problem here is that the new atheist movement is itself a form of frank proselytization: as much preaching to its own rationalist, atheist choir as are the religious folk. And to miss that point in people like Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens is particularly surprising in people who purport to study society for a living.

I don’t think those individuals working in the field of Religious Studies have missed this point at all. In fact, some like Stephen Prothero - the chair of Religious Studies over at Boston U. - would actually say that the “new atheists” are as much a religion and those they criticize.

Ah, well on that we disagree. While the new atheists do preach a certain sort of message, it is frankly non-religious. But then we get into a discussion of the definition of “religion”, which is typically a loosey-goosey sort of discussion. I take it that what defines religion is some sense of submission towards the supernatural, and some deep problem within humanity that must be solved by the religious rites and rituals which otherwise have no particular use or purpose. Needless to say, the new atheists do not go in for these sorts of things.

Posted on Apr 07, 2010 at 10:22am by dougsmith Comment #81

(I should add that I know my definition of religion is cognitive. But at the very least one’s definition of religion, if it is to be of religion as a social enterprise, must work to distinguish it from other forms of social organization such as clubs or teams, or other nonreligious pursuits such as mountain climbing, that may give one a sense of connectedness and the “meaning of life”. Any definition of religion in which sports teams, glee clubs or stamp collecting are religions is a nonstarter).

Posted on Apr 07, 2010 at 10:49am by dougsmith Comment #82

If this is the case my question then is “How do you ever expect to engage the religious community if you know nothing about religion?”

Dear “TheFolklorist”

I was raised a Southern Baptist.  I studied the Bible more than half of my life.  I am familiar with many different theologies.

1. I am not worried about the hand full of people that believe in “God is Dead” taking over the government and taking away my rights to engage in debate on any number of topics. They are a small group of “intellectuals” and they love open debate.  I am worried about right wing fundamentalist taking over the government and turing the U.S. into a theocracy.  This would be followed by all kinds of irrational laws that harm people who are different than them.  They operate from fear and intolerance.

2.  Do you think that suggesting to the right wing fundamentalists or Islamic terrorists, that “God is Dead” would cause them to be “enlightened” and give up there practices?  Do you think that this kind of discussion would get their interest and cause them to become more thoughtful in there religious pursuits.  They would either run away in fear that you are the devil himself and/or suggest that you be burned at the stake.

3. The stated goal of CFI is “promoting science, reason, and secular values in public affairs”.  Please explain how the “God is Dead” episode forwards any of these goals.

4. I left the Church because it has become a corrupted political movement promoting evil and irrational practices.  This caused me to become a “doubting Thomas” and question the entire area of religion.

5. If you want to get the right wing fundamentalists attention, quote scripture from the Bible and show them that they are not following the teachings of Christ.  Show them that they are hypocrites.  This is very easy to do for any one who has read and studied the Bible. Sometimes this will get their attention and make them think.  This assumes that the person you are talking with can think rationally and use reason.  Once you get their attention, you can sometimes move on to rational scientific discussion.

I still don’t believe that the “God is Dead” episode did anything to promote the stated goals of the CFI.  It may be interesting to some, but I don’t think it belongs in this podcast.

Thank you,

Ray Maxwell

Posted on Apr 07, 2010 at 11:18am by Ray Maxwell Comment #83

Although I did not find the podcast very interesting or enjoyable, I do not view it as total “gobble-y-gook”, as many others have.  That said, I can understand the frustration in the earlier posts. This podcast does suffer from a major, major flaw: there is no decent explanation (for a well-educated, non-specialist public) of their main topic: what the so-called “death of god” is or means.  For Altizer, though not the other “death of god” theologians, it does mean a literal death.  He believes, I think, that Jesus was god incarnate and let himself be killed to provide a perpetual (moral/spiritual(?)) message for future generations of humanity.  It’s kind of like Deism only that our dislocation from god is more recent history.  The other so-called “death of god” theologians, are probably more closely aligned with a more Nietzschean view, viz. that there never was really a literal god.  Rather people believed so until humanity matured enough to know better.  Then, the realization creates a sort of existential crisis:  There are no transcendent meanings or values for human life.  Some theologians naturally tried to ignore this realization and go on pretending in such absolute values (of course we know the type: they claim to know exactly what god wants), even though those values are just stone-age, distorted human-made values.  In the face of the same existential crisis, other theologians, like the “death of god” theologians, admitted the absurdity of a transcendent, personal god and the concomitant absence of absolute values and tried to make sense and meaning where there is none by examining the religious spirit and religious texts of the past. 

Anyway, FWIW, that’s my attempt at an interpretation.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_god_theology#Death_of_God_Movement_.28Theology.29

Posted on Apr 07, 2010 at 4:47pm by Pragmatic Naturalist Comment #84

This crap wouldn’t have flown with DJ, pick up your game PoI.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, or some evidence at least!

Posted on Apr 07, 2010 at 9:45pm by Floodski Comment #85

Well a few things. First of all, for the people baffled by this, terms such as “crock of manure,” “gobbeldy gook,” and “hogwash” do little to contribute to your understanding or anyone elses. Instead of jumping on the “I hate what I don’t have the understanding for” bandwagon, pick up a book and have at it.

But, the interview did nothing to inteise enough interest to want to pick up his book.

If it would have tried explaining some of Altizer’s catch phrases instead of being an insiders back slapping fest,
maybe… but really isn’t an Atheist someone who does not believe in God, period?

Altizer makes it sound like you need to jump through theological hoops to “achieve” that status.
I wish we had the ability to put stars next to posts we support, because I’ve seen a parade of them I’d like to ditto.

Posted on Apr 08, 2010 at 12:23am by citizenschallenge Comment #86

Although I did not find the podcast very interesting or enjoyable, I do not view it as total “gobble-y-gook”, as many others have.  That said, I can understand the frustration in the earlier posts. This podcast does suffer from a major, major flaw: there is no decent explanation (for a well-educated, non-specialist public) of their main topic: what the so-called “death of god” is or means.  For Altizer, though not the other “death of god” theologians, it does mean a literal death.  He believes, I think, that Jesus was god incarnate and let himself be killed to provide a perpetual (moral/spiritual(?)) message for future generations of humanity.  It’s kind of like Deism only that our dislocation from god is more recent history.  The other so-called “death of god” theologians, are probably more closely aligned with a more Nietzschean view, viz. that there never was really a literal god.  Rather people believed so until humanity matured enough to know better.  Then, the realization creates a sort of existential crisis:  There are no transcendent meanings or values for human life.  Some theologians naturally tried to ignore this realization and go on pretending in such absolute values (of course we know the type: they claim to know exactly what god wants), even though those values are just stone-age, distorted human-made values.  In the face of the same existential crisis, other theologians, like the “death of god” theologians, admitted the absurdity of a transcendent, personal god and the concomitant absence of absolute values and tried to make sense and meaning where there is none by examining the religious spirit and religious texts of the past. 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_god_theology#Death_of_God_Movement_.28Theology.29

Well, why didn’t they say so?

Weird.  But, you’re making sense in a logical, if unreal, fashion.
Reminds me of trying to make sense out of the music Phish puts out,
i gotta admit there’s brains behind it, but damn if it makes any sense to me or is anything I want to subject myself to.

Posted on Apr 08, 2010 at 12:32am by citizenschallenge Comment #87

....
3. The stated goal of CFI is “promoting science, reason, and secular values in public affairs”.  Please explain how the “God is Dead” episode forwards any of these goals.
....

It has gone off track so badly that everyone realizes it and ultimately that might help get things “on track”

Posted on Apr 08, 2010 at 3:14am by Jackson Comment #88

...
This is a sad day for me, but my consolation prize is that DJ is still on my Ipod once a week.

Found it - thanks for mentioning this!
It’s called For Good Reason.

Wooooohoooooo!

Posted on Apr 08, 2010 at 5:42am by Trail Rider Comment #89

Add me to the list of those who registered specifically to express disapproval with this episode.  Does PoI just let its hosts pick whatever topic they want without any kind of filter?

To those who were defending “theology,” I recommend Daniel Dennett’s talk on theology: The Evolution of Confusion (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_9w8JougLQ).  To put it simply, the emperor has no clothes.  The ad hominems lobbed at Dawkins, for those who found them convincing, certainly do not apply to Dennett.  He is a philosopher well familiar with theology and all the outdated philosophers this guest name-dropped.

I expect better from Point of Inquiry.

Posted on Apr 08, 2010 at 9:43am by banyan Comment #90

The whole notion that God literally existed in the past and is now literally dead is simply grotesque. So insofar as one takes people like Price and Altizer seriously, one has to assume they’re playing a silly sort of theater—games of sharing their creative reformations without any interest in figuring out anything real.

The second problem stems from those people in religious studies who profess to accept the rational critiques (as it seems Altizer did on the podcast, in agreement with Price) but at a deeper level do not, because they are not actually believers in reason or rational critiques at all—one assumes, due to the corrosive impact of a postmodern milieu on which reason itself is discounted, again in favor of spinning creative but factually worthless tales.

It has taken me a few days to get online, and I find that many of the posts in this thread express exactly my views about the dreadful POI that I downloaded last Sunday.  I am indebted to dougsmith and many others for their excellent rebuttal of this type of content, which has no validity in a podcast purporting to promote science, reason, and secular values.
If we hold those values then we cannot even approach the discussion since it is founded upon a basis that is in opposition to those values.  The discussion began by stating so many false premises that the whole thing resembled a castle built on sand.  “You have to be a Christian to be an Atheist”!  Indeed?  This astonishing piece of hubris went unchallenged in the interview, but this is no surprise given the tedious mutual reverence that characterised the discussion.
Coupled with the Jesus Seminar, which also dwelt in the unilluminating mire of theology, these two podcasts represent a troubling lurch in the wrong direction.
There is plenty of good content out there, and I don’t want to waste any more of my precious bandwidth downloading the equivalent of a discussion that concerns itself with the number of angels that can dance on a pinhead.

Posted on Apr 09, 2010 at 2:33am by WetaMan Comment #91

I hated this podcast so much, I registered here just to vent. This episode was total rubbish. Bring back D.J.!!!!

Posted on Apr 09, 2010 at 8:26am by billycrystalmeth Comment #92

Maybe I am in the minority but I never thought Altizer really believed that God had ever literally lived or died. I thought he was describing an interpretation of a flawed and irrelevant story book of bronze age stories. The podcast was rather entertaining to listen to with that in mind.

My only complaint was the way it was cruelly ended after only 27 minutes.

..Ch:W..

Posted on Apr 09, 2010 at 3:56pm by chuckwolber Comment #93

Maybe I am in the minority but I never thought Altizer really believed that God had ever literally lived or died. I thought he was describing an interpretation of a flawed and irrelevant story book of bronze age stories. The podcast was rather entertaining to listen to with that in mind.

My only complaint was the way it was cruelly ended after only 27 minutes.

..Ch:W..

I think it is telling that he never said this, and that if it was his intention to convey this massage he used an arcane and wilfully obscure language in which to convey it.  To say that there is a flawed and irrelevant literature which doesn’t amount to proof of anything much, is different from saying “God is Dead”.
But it’s not the sort of clarity theologians seek.  They ply their trade in the semantic shadows, why use clarity of speech?  The emperor is naked.

Posted on Apr 09, 2010 at 4:19pm by WetaMan Comment #94

I think it is telling that he never said this, and that if it was his intention to convey this massage he used an arcane and wilfully obscure language in which to convey it.  To say that there is a flawed and irrelevant literature which doesn’t amount to proof of anything much, is different from saying “God is Dead”.
But it’s not the sort of clarity theologians seek.  They ply their trade in the semantic shadows, why use clarity of speech?  The emperor is naked.

I guess for me, when it comes to the bible, the closer you get the stranger it gets. So it is no surprise to me that scholars like Altizer, who appear to have spent a lifetime looking at it in intricate detail, can come up with the most entertaining interpretations. Pretty much the same as the bible code folks, but not nearly as stupid sounding.

..Ch:W..

Posted on Apr 09, 2010 at 4:28pm by chuckwolber Comment #95

Add me to the list of people who registered with the forums just to respond to this podcast. I’m only halfway through the episode, and I still felt that I should come read the comments to see if anybody else was able to figure out what was going on. I see I’m not alone in my confusion.

My chief criticism so far is that Price and Alitzer have begun from the assumption that the normal PoI audience ought to know what they’re talking about well enough that they won’t mind being plunged directly into an insiders’ reminiscence of the academic theological debates and politics of the 1960s. This is probably the innocent mistake of a couple of old men with a shared history, not an act of deliberate obscurantism. But it does make for a bad podcast for most of the audience, I suspect.

(Incidentally, I have nothing against the idea of using a CFI podcast to educate the skeptical community about existing branches of academic theology. I wouldn’t mind knowing what this is about, if it were presented well. But to present it with the assumption that I should find it edifying and plausible is arrogant and counterproductive.)

There’s another assumption at work here that I’d like a point out; it’s an assumption common to nearly all discussions of atheism that involve a Christian theologian, in my experience. That assumption is this: the rest of the religions in the world don’t really count.  For example, the idea that you have to be a Christian to be a real atheist—in addition to being silly on its face—ignores all nonbelievers that come from non-Christian cultures. I’m tempted to call it a kind of racism, except I think it’s more a matter of stupid ignorance than actual malice.

Another example: at one point the interlocutors mentioned that Jesus should be treated as a kind of bodhisattva. This sounds superficially like a pluralistic perspective, but what it actually does is ignore the huge elephant in the room, which is that if Buddhism (or any other religion) actually matters, then Christianity might well be entirely superfluous, and any serious Christian theologian needs to start first by justifying his entire field of study and explain why he shouldn’t be a Hindu, Buddhist, or Norse theologian instead. Or, for that matter, a scholar of comparative mythology from a completely anthropological (i.e., non-theological) point of view.

Follow-up: Just finished the podcast. Price signed off by apologizing for not being critical.  What can I add to that?

Follow-up #2: Here’s what I can add: citing Nietzsche in defense of death-of-god theology is like citing Darwin in defense of homeopathy. It’s an intellectual obscenity.

Follow-up #3: Maybe this show can be taken as an object-lesson in what-not-to-do. If skeptics are producing a large amount of material that is so self-referential that it completely fails to explain what it’s actually about, and if this podcast is an accurate example of what skepticism sounds like to non-skeptics, then maybe that’s a lesson to be taken to heart.  I would need to be convinced that this is the case, however.

Posted on Apr 11, 2010 at 11:29am by mslongjr Comment #96

I agree with most of the critics, but I nonetheless did enjoy the programme. I enjoyed it primarily because I find Bob Price to be highly entertaining. I’ve read about the Death of God theologians and it was interesting to hear this purely from the perspective of someone interested in the history of religion. That said, I have a degree which included a fair amount of study of theology.

I can see why the podcast would be confusing to someone who isn’t familiar with the people referenced. To be fair, I find this a difficult point: I read an article by Alan Saunders, the host of Philosopher’s Zone, where he said that he had exactly the same complaints about “name-dropping” guests. He said that he fixed it by interjecting like this:

- Guest: ...as Hume pointed out.
- Host: That is David Hume, the great eighteenth century Scottish philosopher.
- Guest: Yes, as Hume said…

He then pointed out that the attribution makes no difference at all! It was a sort of intellectual placebo - supplementing “Hume” with his full name, nationality and historical era doesn’t actually mean that the listener knows any more about what, for instance, was said in Hume’s work. It doesn’t affect the substance of what is being said - the discussion of, say, causation could be made without reference to Hume. But, Saunders says, it actually sort of works and reduces confusion, even though it seems difficult to actually say why. It feels like a sort of intellectual pause for breath…

It’d be great to have these kind of interviews on some kind of “skeptical theology” podcast - like The Bible Geek. Basically, a place for slightly more freeform discussion from theological radicals and borderline atheists. Bible Geek does this, as well as Common Sense Atheism (where Bob Price was recently interviewed) but it’d be nice if there was somewhere for those of us with an academic interest in what it is theologians get up to.

I do hope that Bob Price gets to do more interviews on Point of Inquiry because he has a lot of interesting things to say. I do wish he was slightly more critical of Altizer - but it was very interesting to hear two radical theologians reminiscing - it felt more like Entitled Opinions than Point of Inquiry! (I say that as a fan of both.) Point of Inquiry definitely needs to mix it up between science, philosophy and religion - all from skeptical, humanist perspectives, but hopefully not tightly bound by that requirement.

Posted on Apr 13, 2010 at 12:21pm by Tom Morris Comment #97

As others have pointed out, this episode had very little content. It mostly consisted of Altizer telling a little story about his interaction with another theologian, and Price saying “wow.” However, there was one moment in the interview when there actually was some content. As the Folklorist has pointed out that calling this interview gobbledygook does not lead to a productive discussion, I thought I would attempt to look at this portion of the interview in some detail.

Early in the interview, as a followup to Altizer’s statement that he considers Nietzsche, Hegel, Blake, and others to be sources for his views, Price says, “One of the first things I question, though I think I understand it better now, is how do you know these thinkers are telling us the truth? What gives them such revelatory authority in your thinking?” Altizer’s response was to say, and I quote:

“Hegel gave us the most purely and comprehensively logical thinking that has ever been created, and it’s all grounded in an absolute self-negation. In Hegel we have this conceptual enactment, this incredible, logical, purely conceptual demonstration of an absolute self-negation, which pervades all of his thinking. In Hegel you have a total realization of the death of God, which is simultaneously a total enactment of reality itself and of totality itself. So that here we can realize a total conception or a total vision of everything, which is inseparable from absolute self-negation and the crucifixion. To me, these are enactments of Christianity, realizations of Christianity.”

Mr. Price seemed to believe that this was actually an answer to his question, because his response was to say, “That does make sense. Why, I wonder, are you the only one or first one to say these things?” I hope that he has the insight, at least in retrospect, to be embarrassed by how obsequious and fawning this response was.

From my point of view, I can’t fathom how this is in any way an answer to Price’s question. I admit that I don’t understand what Altizer means by a “conceptual enactment,” or a “conceptual demonstration.” Perhaps the Folklorist would be willing to explain these terms to me?

Even without understanding this terminology, though, what does seem clear to me, is that nowhere in Altizer’s response is there any appeal to evidence outside of the mind of the philosopher. Altizer knows that Hegel is telling us the truth because his thinking is so “purely and comprehensively logical,” and possibly because this thinking is “grounded in an absolute self-negation.”

It seems that Altizer and Price have a totally different idea of how one arrives at truth than I do. They appear to believe that one can discover truth simply by thinking deeply about things, without having to bother with anything so mundane as evidence. They seem to be blissfully unaware of the history of philosophical thought, which clearly demonstrates that philosophers and other deep thinkers have come up with vastly different conceptualizations of the nature of reality. Of course, since “Hegel gave us the most purely and comprehensively logical thinking that has ever been created,” he must have gotten it right, while everyone else got it wrong. Unfortunately, Altizer does not tell us how he knows that Hegel’s thinking is so superior to everyone else’s. Is it because Altizer also thinks more clearly than any of the other philosophers and theologians who don’t agree with him?

From my point of view, Altizer provides absolutely no reason to believe anything he says. Neither he nor Price give us any reason to think that it is worth our time to attempt to understand it, either. I don’t believe that one can penetrate to the truth simply by thinking. I believe that one needs to have evidence supporting one’s claims. If Price had used Altizer’s response to probe deeper, and clarify for the listeners what Altizer was saying here, this could potentially have been an interesting interview. I would love to know whether Altizer would actually be willing to state that he believes that truth can be discovered simply by thinking about something, without any reference to the physical world. If so, it would be interesting to know how he came to have such an absurd notion of truth. What does he say about the thinkers who have come up with totally different truths? Is truth totally relative, or is there some way to ascertain that one person’s thoughts are better than another’s? There are some interesting epistemological issues that could be explored here, but Price completely dropped the ball.

Posted on Apr 13, 2010 at 10:30pm by Stanley Dorst Comment #98

how do you know these thinkers are telling us the truth? What gives them such revelatory authority in your thinking?” Altizer’s response was to say, and I quote:

“Hegel gave us the most purely and comprehensively logical thinking that has ever been created, and it’s all grounded in an absolute self-negation. In Hegel we have this conceptual enactment, this incredible, logical, purely conceptual demonstration of an absolute self-negation, which pervades all of his thinking. In Hegel you have a total realization of the death of God, which is simultaneously a total enactment of reality itself and of totality itself. So that here we can realize a total conception or a total vision of everything, which is inseparable from absolute self-negation and the crucifixion. To me, these are enactments of Christianity, realizations of Christianity.”

Mr. Price seemed to believe that this was actually an answer to his question, because his response was to say, “That does make sense. Why, I wonder, are you the only one or first one to say these things?” I hope that he has the insight, at least in retrospect, to be embarrassed by how obsequious and fawning this response was.

From my point of view, I can’t fathom how this is in any way an answer to Price’s question.

Nicely done, Stanley. You picked out a detailed quotation that really does reveal the problems with this podcast, purporting as it does to promote reason and critical thinking.  A question that demands clarity is met with a response that adds complexity.  It was an act of deliberate obfuscation, a misuse of language, the smoke and mirrors of theology.  The more penetrating the question, the more evasive the answer, the more obtuse the language, the more mysterious the references.
In short, it was gobbledygook, and thanks to you we now have a good working example.  You are right to take a section of the talk and to hold it up to the light. :-)

Posted on Apr 14, 2010 at 2:28am by WetaMan Comment #99

I’ve been reading this post, and thinking - I listened to the actual podcast a while back, and I’d also agree with many of the criticisms.

Having said that, I think the new hosts and format is good, and while this is a misfire I wouldn’t write off Price. The opening to the podcast was a bit of a chant, and was off putting, especially to an audience that is used to a more “sceptical” examination of topics.

I don’t have an issue with religious people being interviewed, provided the format is balanced and asks probing questions while letting the other interview subject express their views clearly.

Posted on Apr 14, 2010 at 4:54am by Mike from Oz Comment #100

Two comments:

This podcast was incredibly bad.  There was far too much jargon tossed around which neither Price nor Alitzer bothered to translate for the laity.  Alitzer made assertions without bothering to provide the slightest evidence.  Price’s fawning sycophancy got quite annoying at times.

Why are atheists required to learn about theology in order to argue with theists?  Theology is the study of the thoughts and attributes of a fictitious, make-believe character.  It’s all a matter of opinion and for n theologists there are n+1 opinions.  We don’t have to know whether angels are waltzing or doing the macarena on the heads of pins to not accept the concept of angels.  I believe the whine “ya don’t know ‘bout theology so ya can’t dispute gawd” is an attempt by theists and their accomodationist lickspittles to sidetrack arguments about the existence of deities.

Posted on Apr 14, 2010 at 3:38pm by Ambidexter Comment #101

<snip>
I don’t care how big this guy’s name is.  He said nothing relevant nor interesting.
<snip>

I agree completely.

He also had a very odd (and to me, annoying) habit of repeating himself. It reminds me for some reason, of people who speak slower and louder to “make” someone understand the language they are speaking. ;)

Take care,

Derek

Posted on Apr 16, 2010 at 2:27pm by harry canyon Comment #102

I wish we had the ability to put stars next to posts we support, because I’ve seen a parade of them I’d like to ditto.

Are you suggesting we need a “Like” button for posts? :D

Take care,

Derek

Posted on Apr 16, 2010 at 3:50pm by harry canyon Comment #103

Nicely done, Stanley. You picked out a detailed quotation that really does reveal the problems with this podcast, purporting as it does to promote reason and critical thinking.  A question that demands clarity is met with a response that adds complexity.  It was an act of deliberate obfuscation, a misuse of language, the smoke and mirrors of theology.  The more penetrating the question, the more evasive the answer, the more obtuse the language, the more mysterious the references.
In short, it was gobbledygook, and thanks to you we now have a good working example.  You are right to take a section of the talk and to hold it up to the light. :-)

Thanks! As a brand new member of this discussion group, I’m glad to be able to make a contribution.

Stan

Posted on Apr 16, 2010 at 8:54pm by Stanley Dorst Comment #104

Long time listener, first time poster…

I was incredibly disappointed by this episode.

What is “death of god theology”? Why is it relevant? Just two of the questions that weren’t answered in this back-slapathon of an episode, but would have been really interesting for people who have a genuine interest in understanding why people believe what they believe. However, in this episode, we were treated to the mocking of people who don’t believe the same things, and name dropping like an apple tree in November.

And, coincidentally, I was deeply offended by some of the comments, but that’s fine, offence suggests there’s an opportunity for me to develop the way I think. However, in this case, the argument went something like this:

Afairyists don’t understand the depth and knowledge revealed by fairyology.
Afairyists criticise fairyists.

Therefore: afairyist’s arguments are ignorant and should be ignored.

However, I think the reality is more like:

Fairyologists believe that fairies exist.
Fairyologists study the fairies that they think exist.

Therefore: if fairies do not exist, fairyologists have wasted their entire lives.

Afairyists reject the existence of fairies.

Therefore: afairyists are a threat to fairyologists.

This, for me, explains why the clearly intelligent contributors defended their field of study in a way which was entirely based on argumenta ad homina and doesn’t attempt to address (or even acknowledge the existence of) the points of stasis.

I’ve a feeling that I will avoid this presenters episodes in the future, but I would love to know what “death of god” theology actually is, if anyone fancies explaining it…

D

Posted on Apr 17, 2010 at 8:04am by DavidW Comment #105

....I thought I would attempt to look at this portion of the interview in some detail.

Early in the interview, as a followup to Altizer’s statement that he considers Nietzsche, Hegel, Blake, and others to be sources for his views, Price says, “One of the first things I question, though I think I understand it better now, is how do you know these thinkers are telling us the truth? What gives them such revelatory authority in your thinking?” Altizer’s response was to say, and I quote:

“Hegel gave us the most purely and comprehensively logical thinking that has ever been created, and it’s all grounded in an absolute self-negation. In Hegel we have this conceptual enactment, this incredible, logical, purely conceptual demonstration of an absolute self-negation, which pervades all of his thinking. In Hegel you have a total realization of the death of God, which is simultaneously a total enactment of reality itself and of totality itself. So that here we can realize a total conception or a total vision of everything, which is inseparable from absolute self-negation and the crucifixion. To me, these are enactments of Christianity, realizations of Christianity.”

Mr. Price seemed to believe that this was actually an answer to his question, because his response was to say, “That does make sense. Why, I wonder, are you the only one or first one to say these things?” I hope that he has the insight, at least in retrospect, to be embarrassed by how obsequious and fawning this response was.

....

vinny and I discussed how some of the dialog was reminscent of the Sokal Affair perpetrated by Alan Sokal in about 1996—he submitted a fake article to the journal Social Text with post modern/quantum gobbledy-gook and the meaningless paper was accepted for publication.  One might ask whether Robert Price knows this is baloney but as part of the interview encourages the interviewee to express himself. D.J. Grothe did this in a POI interview of Michael Behe.  However—I have to agree—if Price is skeptical he fools the listener as well.  I remembering wondering about the line “why are you the only one or first one to say these things”—- this can be viewed as a very indirect challenge to Altizer.

Thank you for actually going back and listening to the audio multiple times and transcribing this.  A lot of work. I have only listened to it once and what I remembered was hard to follow gobbledy-gook a la Sokal—but the transcript makes it much clearer.

What does self-negation mean anyway?

Posted on Apr 17, 2010 at 8:19am by Jackson Comment #106

I’ve a feeling that I will avoid this presenters episodes in the future, but I would love to know what “death of god” theology actually is, if anyone fancies explaining it…

D

IMHO if one of these guys sat you down and went through it with you, you would still be none the wiser.  Someone I had to be professionally polite to the other day tried to explain auras.  Same thing.

Posted on Apr 17, 2010 at 10:12am by WetaMan Comment #107

vinny and I discussed how some of the dialog was reminscent of the Sokal Affair perpetrated by Alan Sokal in about 1996—he submitted a fake article to the journal Social Text with post modern/quantum gobbledy-gook and the meaningless paper was accepted for publication.
...
What does self-negation mean anyway?

This is a very pertinent analogy.  With Sokal, his paper came loaded with the authority of his his professional standing, the obscurity of his language, key catchphrases, and mutual credulity.  This was the mix that got Sokal’s brilliant (and unreadable) parody into publication.  This is also the mix that propelled this podcast to it’s sticky conclusion.

Posted on Apr 17, 2010 at 10:22am by WetaMan Comment #108

I did found this interview interesting. It should have been longer and more “newbie” friendly - explaning more some basic points before jumping into de discussion.

The interesting thing with Robert M. Price is that he interviews people that we’re not used to hear on skeptical podcasts. And frankly, I love that. I’m tired of hearing always the same people in rotation in skeptical podcasts (one week on the SGU, the following week on the “For Good Reason”, the next week on “Point of Inquiry”...).

That kind of interviews are fresh, and brings new ideas on the table.

All that to say: keep up the good work, Mr. Price. :-)

Posted on Apr 19, 2010 at 8:19pm by Venom Comment #109

I just listened to this podcast this morning, and I just had to laugh when he said you have to be a Christian to be an atheist. What an incredibly stupid notion.

One of the ears on my headphones is broken and I was listening on the bus so I couldn’t hear that well at times, but was it just me or did Altizer say he accidentally became a theologian when he said he was a professor of theology instead of religion?

I just don’t see the value in theology, if this guy is a respected theologian, what do they have to offer? It was a short podcast but it would have been nice if Altizer had backed up a single one of his statements.

I love Robert Price so I’m hanging in there with his episodes in the hopes that he’ll read the feedback on this forum. He’s so knowledgeable about the Bible that I almost wish he would have religious people on as guests to challenge him on his non-belief. I agree with previous commenters who said he’s better as a guest on podcasts than as an interviewer. Hopefully he’ll learn to play the devil’s advocate more and take more of a back seat to let his guests explain what it is they’re all about.

I can have some fun from this episode in that now if I want to annoy a Christian I can say that if they’re a true Christian they believe God is dead…Jesus is God, Jesus is dead, God is dead. And I have a theologian to back me up! Honestly though I wouldn’t care to do that if it involved reading up on Altizer. I often end up buying the books of POI guests because they’re interesting, but this guy did not spark my interest in the least. He was so smug in his confidence in his silly ideas that are dismissable after 5 seconds of critical though! He didn’t bring anything to the table in this episode that would make me want to learn more.

Posted on Apr 23, 2010 at 9:04am by EnlightningLinZ Comment #110

I absolutely HATED this episode.  Complete and utter rubbish.  I am an A..THEIST.  As in, I don’t believe in a god.  So how can someone who never existed die??  AAAAAARG I got even more annoyed than I do after listening to Skeptico.

Posted on Apr 27, 2010 at 6:10am by saffagirl Comment #111

AAAAAARG I got even more annoyed than I do after listening to Skeptico.

Just checked it out. The host is absolutely obnoxious.

Posted on Apr 27, 2010 at 9:47am by George Comment #112

I just well… Originally I signed up to voice concern for the choice of hosts for the podcast, never got around to that but… C’mon… this podcast was ghastly. This and the wonderful blogging that is being done from the soap boxes CFI is handing out these days just makes me really sad. And seeing as POI is representing CFI out and about it makes me even sadder to not see some sort of… response… from CFI on this. Well besides the always popular “atheists call us soft, theists call us hardliners, therefore we are the golden mean” crap.

Posted on May 03, 2010 at 11:33am by Clever Plant Comment #113

I have to admit that this episode has really put me off on POI and CFI. My skept-o-meter nearly broke from pinging. I was trying really hard to relate to the out of hand dismissal of Dawkins and Harris on the one had with the same out of hand dismissal of Christian and religious fundamentalism layered over with some other undefined mysticism and woo.

Really unsatisfying.

Posted on May 09, 2010 at 10:17am by Bill Goodwin Comment #114

I have to admit that this episode has really put me off on POI and CFI. My skept-o-meter nearly broke from pinging. I was trying really hard to relate to the out of hand dismissal of Dawkins and Harris on the one had with the same out of hand dismissal of Christian and religious fundamentalism layered over with some other undefined mysticism and woo.

Really unsatisfying.

Bill, other POI subjects have generated pages and pages of controversy on this site, but this is the only one I have heard that has generated so much universal dislike. You will find a few supporting posts on this thread, but they are few, and far between!

Posted on May 09, 2010 at 2:21pm by asanta Comment #115

I feel that if POI is going to include interviews with misty-eyed new-agers: the podcast should be hosted by a true skeptic. Although I am accustomed to hearing the work of The Four Horsemen maligned (the sad shaking heads; the tut, tut, tut, followed by the nearly inevitable “There’s something that they just don’t understand”). I would have expected any POI host to politely suggest to Thomas Altizer that, perhaps there were significant gaps in his understanding of Dawkins, Hitchens &c. The icing on the cake came for me, when, Altizer said he found the books of the new atheists impossible to read. I couldn’t have been the only listener left wondering: had he?

Posted on May 11, 2010 at 7:10am by eplommer Comment #116

I’ve a feeling that I will avoid this presenters episodes in the future, but I would love to know what “death of god” theology actually is, if anyone fancies explaining it…

D

IMHO if one of these guys sat you down and went through it with you, you would still be none the wiser.  Someone I had to be professionally polite to the other day tried to explain auras.  Same thing.

Hmm. ‘Death of God’ can and usually does mean several things; the lack of precision is part of what makes philosophy so difficult. Some consider mutual contradictory bits of information to mean a paradox, while in the material world we see paradoxes as what they are - invalid evidence, incorrect assumptions or invalid theories. Philosophers, and especially theologians spend an inordinate amount of time focused on apparent paradox. It’s not that philosophy is valueless, but rather the field is littered with worn and useless constructs that confuse the issue. A good weeding is in order…

In this case Nietzsche meant literally that the concept of god was holding us back; by killing the concept of god we could advance to become the ‘overmen’. Altizer means something else entirely, that god as pure spirit was somehow separate from the world he created and was unified with it by the sacrifice of christ. This leads to some interesting, if wildly improbable ideas like the continuing death of god by his own hand in order to maintain immanence.

I must say his (Altizers) theology appears to be mystical more out of attempts to confuse more than anything else, and aside from a surge of popularity in the 60’s (recreational drugs may have helped this) is little regarded. The assertion that only christians can be atheistic is provincial nonsense, and the snobbish insistence that ‘only philosophers can understand this’ is vanity run amok. The thinking persons rejection of theology after study is a common, and completely understandable (although not inevitable) position. Only in theology, especially Christian theology is the nature and existence of god given a free pass on rules of evidence we apply to everything else in life.

Posted on May 16, 2010 at 4:55pm by Randy Grein Comment #117

I’ve a feeling that I will avoid this presenters episodes in the future, but I would love to know what “death of god” theology actually is, if anyone fancies explaining it…

D

IMHO if one of these guys sat you down and went through it with you, you would still be none the wiser.  Someone I had to be professionally polite to the other day tried to explain auras.  Same thing.

Hmm. ‘Death of God’ can and usually does mean several things; the lack of precision is part of what makes philosophy so difficult. Some consider mutual contradictory bits of information to mean a paradox, while in the material world we see paradoxes as what they are - invalid evidence, incorrect assumptions or invalid theories. Philosophers, and especially theologians spend an inordinate amount of time focused on apparent paradox. It’s not that philosophy is valueless, but rather the field is littered with worn and useless constructs that confuse the issue. A good weeding is in order…

In this case Nietzsche meant literally that the concept of god was holding us back; by killing the concept of god we could advance to become the ‘overmen’. Altizer means something else entirely, that god as pure spirit was somehow separate from the world he created and was unified with it by the sacrifice of christ. This leads to some interesting, if wildly improbable ideas like the continuing death of god by his own hand in order to maintain immanence.

I must say his (Altizers) theology appears to be mystical more out of attempts to confuse more than anything else, and aside from a surge of popularity in the 60’s (recreational drugs may have helped this) is little regarded. The assertion that only christians can be atheistic is provincial nonsense, and the snobbish insistence that ‘only philosophers can understand this’ is vanity run amok. The thinking persons rejection of theology after study is a common, and completely understandable (although not inevitable) position. Only in theology, especially Christian theology is the nature and existence of god given a free pass on rules of evidence we apply to everything else in life.

Thank you for this very clear and non-inflammatory summary. I understand this much better now.

Stan

Posted on May 16, 2010 at 5:38pm by Stanley Dorst Comment #118

I’ve a feeling that I will avoid this presenters episodes in the future, but I would love to know what “death of god” theology actually is, if anyone fancies explaining it…

D

IMHO if one of these guys sat you down and went through it with you, you would still be none the wiser.  Someone I had to be professionally polite to the other day tried to explain auras.  Same thing.

Hmm. ‘Death of God’ can and usually does mean several things; the lack of precision is part of what makes philosophy so difficult. Some consider mutual contradictory bits of information to mean a paradox, while in the material world we see paradoxes as what they are - invalid evidence, incorrect assumptions or invalid theories. Philosophers, and especially theologians spend an inordinate amount of time focused on apparent paradox. It’s not that philosophy is valueless, but rather the field is littered with worn and useless constructs that confuse the issue. A good weeding is in order…

In this case Nietzsche meant literally that the concept of god was holding us back; by killing the concept of god we could advance to become the ‘overmen’. Altizer means something else entirely, that god as pure spirit was somehow separate from the world he created and was unified with it by the sacrifice of christ. This leads to some interesting, if wildly improbable ideas like the continuing death of god by his own hand in order to maintain immanence.

I must say his (Altizers) theology appears to be mystical more out of attempts to confuse more than anything else, and aside from a surge of popularity in the 60’s (recreational drugs may have helped this) is little regarded. The assertion that only christians can be atheistic is provincial nonsense, and the snobbish insistence that ‘only philosophers can understand this’ is vanity run amok. The thinking persons rejection of theology after study is a common, and completely understandable (although not inevitable) position. Only in theology, especially Christian theology is the nature and existence of god given a free pass on rules of evidence we apply to everything else in life.

Thank you for this very clear and non-inflammatory summary. I understand this much better now.

Stan

I think what you meant to say is “Thank you for this very clear and non-inflammatory summary. I DON’T understand this much better now.”

Posted on May 16, 2010 at 6:32pm by Bill Goodwin Comment #119

Okay, so god is dead as a source of moral guidance. Cool. That’s exactly what the new atheists are also saying, and trying to move that along into common acceptance.

He did drop one interesting nugget about how the resurrection and ascent negates the whole point of this evolution in morality. That completely contradicts salvation. Tough sell that, but needed.

Edit - Saying that only Christians can be atheists seems short-sighted. Weren’t there several god-murders that pre-dated Jesus? Have we been trying to kill god off all along so we can step up to the plate and be responsible for our own morality?

Posted on May 16, 2010 at 7:15pm by Tom Wood Comment #120

Well, this episode got me to register, but that’s pretty much the only good thing about it.

Dr. Price,

I actually have studied theology, and even I found this episode very hard to listen to. You got so caught up in engaging with Altizer that you ended up not challenging his views with secular ideas. Sure, his theology is super interesting—what does that have to do with critical inquiry???

You need to start making your interviews more relevant to this audience.

Posted on May 16, 2010 at 8:39pm by TheExaminedLife Comment #121

Thank you for this very clear and non-inflammatory summary. I understand this much better now.

Stan

I think what you meant to say is “Thank you for this very clear and non-inflammatory summary. I DON’T understand this much better now.”

Good point. :-)

Actually, what I think I REALLY meant to say was that now I have a much clearer understanding of why there’s no point in attempting to understand what Altizer said.

Stan

Posted on May 16, 2010 at 9:17pm by Stanley Dorst Comment #122

Actually I would say that, while the degree to which I don’t understand what the hell Altizer was/is talking about has probably not actually changed (though I may have exchanged some lack of understanding for another), the quality with which I don’t understand it has improved as a direct result of this forum post, and more importantly the degree to which I am content to continue to not understand has been elevated to what I believe is at least a tenuous level of equilibrium with my capacity to give a shit.

Thanks everyone.


-edit- @stanley. I was posting this follow on while you were posting, which basically says the same thing except I said it like this (*makes a chopping action with his right hand)

Posted on May 17, 2010 at 5:13am by Bill Goodwin Comment #123

Jackson, Theologians don’t strike me as spokespeople for a reason-based world view.  Am I looking at this wrong in some way?

Not at all. Theologians start with the assumption that “faith” RATHER THAN “reason” are all that’s necessary to understand ANY religious perspective. That’s been the case for thousands of years.

God to a Hindu is not the same as God to a Jew or the same as God to a Christian and so on.

The existence of a supernatural entity is intrinsically unprovable. Yet at least half the world is convinced otherwise. They are the breathing definition of “True Believers” also known as “zealots”.

The so-called “atheist” is convinced that there isn’t now, nor ever has been, a God. A supernatural entity that is omniscient, all-powerful, eternally existent. And to be followed - in whatever formal religion - or face eternal damnation or at least return after death as ... whatever!

Self-appointed religious authorities are utterly lacking in credibility - as are those who see rationality in simply NOT believing.

Thus, the Pope (for believers) and someone like Dawkins (for atheists) have no credibility.

Further, consider this: every ‘fact’ we’ve discovered about the “known universe” has been of reasonably-predictable, natural phenomena. Absolutely NOTHING supernatural!

Reason dictates that the supernatural - if anything other than a silly word - is unknowable!! Therefore of zero value.

Thus, both true believers and unbelievers are similarly lacking of an evidentiary base.

And, to me, that makes them equally boring in their speeches and writings.

Posted on May 22, 2010 at 8:59am by Analytic Comment #124

Thus, the Pope (for believers) and someone like Dawkins (for atheists) have no credibility.

They only have no credibility when speculating on the existence or non-existence of God (in whatever form that God may or may not exist).

Thus, both true believers and unbelievers are similarly lacking of an evidentiary base.

I personally prefer to be referred to as a “disbeliever” because I think “unbeliever”, for my purposes, is too passive. And again, they (the Pope, Dawkins and such) are only lacking in evidence when speaking of the existence or non-existence of God. Dawkins and others like him are quite grounded in evidence when speaking to archaeological, geological, physical, cosmological, evolutionary, genetic, etc etc evidences that contradict and/or compromise the dogma of revealed religions et al. And I would like to reiterate that I believe that “studying God” can/could be like studying a black hole, which is unseen but can be studied indirectly by the effects it has on its surroundings. Hence, the studies of God (ie through prayer, healing, etc) have revealed “no effect” so that even if God exists, he appears to have no effect on his surroundings (or at least not on our surroundings) which means he may as well not exists.

And, to me, that makes them equally boring in their speeches and writings.

I would agree that the argument over the existence/non-existence of God is a tedious and annoyingly old subject. However, to the extent that religious leaders and people of faith are affecting public policy regarding such areas as education (especially science education), civil rights, medicine and social justice I think it is important for the voices of reason to be heard and check any and all religious groups capacity to skew society toward their own personal brand of mythology.

Posted on May 22, 2010 at 9:42am by Bill Goodwin Comment #125

You wrote: “However, to the extent that religious leaders and people of faith are affecting public policy regarding such areas as education (especially science education), civil rights, medicine and social justice I think it is important for the voices of reason to be heard and check any and all religious groups capacity to skew society toward their own personal brand of mythology”.

Sir, with politics, I believe in a “no holds barred” approach. At best, a few national politicians - “public servants for LIFE” - give a hoot about anything other than re-election and continuance of a lavish lifestyle on my taxes.

So I trust none of them and have as much regard for them as I do for a skunk - although being an actual skunk comes naturally to the actual skunk!

They are the worst hypocrites - most recently NATIONALLY apparent in the behavior of Arlan Specter (R, I, D; PA) who has spent 30 years extolling himself.

The Founders could not have dreamed of a Senator lasting 30 years!

Politicians consider their own future success and to a far lesser extent the views - and success - of their constituents.

But I have no opposition to their spouting religious balderdash and/or promoting religious balderdash to suit the biases of their constituents.

However, if I am most lacking in compassion - aka, “political correctness” - for other human types, it is ten-fold for the hypocrites on the national stage.

Most of whom never served in the defense of our country, especially not in dangerous components of the military, yet delight in bad-mouthing the United States, its Constitution, and its long-time traditions.

What’s with treating such people in a civil manner?

Posted on May 22, 2010 at 10:45am by Analytic Comment #126

...
Thus, both true believers and unbelievers are similarly lacking of an evidentiary base.
...

This sounds a little post-modernist.  This sentence makes it sound like you equate the positions.  I don’t think the “lack of evidence” is similar for believers (who believe in something in spite of lack of evidence) and unbelievers (who don’t believe in something for lack of evidence).

Posted on May 22, 2010 at 11:36am by Jackson Comment #127

HUH!!!

Posted on May 22, 2010 at 2:22pm by Analytic Comment #128

What a crock of manure. I had to turn it off after a while. I wanted to vomit.

It did sound a bit crazy to me, but once again, I must warn folks against vomiting inappropriately.  It could give you throat cancer.  :)

It sounded like Altizer (All Mighty Teaser?  Is that for what his surname is a contraction?) was saying that there was a god but he committed suicide by turning into Jesus and letting himself be crucified?  Nietzsche had a few interesting things to say, but most of Altizer’s comments went “whoosh” over my head.  The above executive summary is what I took away from his discussion… along with an impression that Altizer had a general disdain for people who failed to appreciate his pseudo-intellectual claptrap…  It sounded like a continuation of the medieval discussions about the number of angels dancing on the head of a pin which occupied the thoughts of monks who had way too much time on their hands and too few young boys around to keep busy buggering.

I have faith (based on statistical reasoning, which as we all know, can be wrong no matter how convincing it appears) that there is not now nor was there ever a god.

Maybe we are a simulation in some other dimension’s teenager’s PS/100000000 gaming computer with Planck length scale bits, but there is not nor was there ever a humanoid, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, omnicruel, omni creator of the universe.  Maybe a teenager whose “image” on earth might be the kind of kid who enjoys frying ants with a magnifying glass.  That would fit more closely with what we’ve discovered about our universe so far.

This episode gave me a new appreciation for how truly weird Robert Price is.  I did come away from this episode feeling that it was a bit of a waste of time, but I’ve enjoyed all of Robert’s other episodes that I’ve listened to so far, so I won’t think less of him for this.  Every one is, IMHO, entitled to be weird in their own way.  They can’t help it for starters, and more importantly, it is our diverse ways of being weird that has made the human race so successful.  If one person runs into something they can’t figure out, maybe someone who is weird in a hugely different way can.

Posted on Jun 04, 2011 at 3:47pm by ullrich Comment #129

Thus, the Pope (for believers) and someone like Dawkins (for atheists) have no credibility.

They only have no credibility when speculating on the existence or non-existence of God (in whatever form that God may or may not exist).

Thus, both true believers and unbelievers are similarly lacking of an evidentiary base.

Atheist doesn’t mean you “know” there is no God.  It means you have no belief in the existence of God.  “Knowing” either that there is or is not a God is a leap of faith.  I choose to believe there is no God (based on what I know of the world, not on what I read in a 2000 year old compilation of contradictory remarks by people who were innocent of any clues as to how 90% of their observable world worked).  In this, I’m not just speculating.  I’m making a reasonable hypothesis which has so far passed any tests that have been thrown at it.  I have all sorts of other, more fanciful origin hypotheses, none of which are likely to be testable any time soon, which I don’t believe as firmly, but which I hold in my mind as possibilities.  Some of them appear in the works of Douglas Adams :)  I don’t think I’m lacking in an evidenciary base in either case.  There is evidence for all sorts of origin hypotheses, just none that is even close to conclusive.  There is, IMHO, no credible evidence for the christian God.

If God appears to me in person, I’m prepared to change my belief.  One of the strongest evidence for God’s non-existence is His reluctance to reveal Himself to anyone who is not certifiably nuts.  :)

Posted on Jun 04, 2011 at 4:05pm by ullrich Comment #130

I stopped listening to POI specifically because of these kinds of noncritical unskeptical episodes.  :zip:

Posted on Jun 04, 2011 at 4:13pm by asanta Comment #131