Episode 21: Damage Control

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Special Guest: Kyle Demming! Kyle does the Skeptical Christian podcast and is the first Christian guest on the Reason Driven Podcast. Kyle was a great sport dealing with us heathens. It was a great discussion which will be enjoyed by theist and atheist alike. Enjoy!


Summer Squirrel, FCD said...

Very interesting and enlightening pod cast. I found myself liking Kyle until he started describing heaven, hell, and who he thinks will be eligible for each one. It sounded as if he was describing fantasy lands which existed in the minds of ancient people. I hate to say this but that's when Kyle sounded a little crazy and I felt sorry for him.

This insight into the mind of a Christian will be helpful for me in dealing with my family and friends. I was especially enlightened when Kyle stated he would still teach a Muslim about Jesus even if it meant he would die as a result of it. I realized instantly that what's important to Christians is not this life that is ultimately important, but the unprovable afterlife. I found it both immoral and somewhat arrogant. But Kyle doesn't see it that way. Sad.

I gained a new understanding about Christians from this podcast and having Kyle on was a stroke of genius. I've learned a great deal about how the mind of a Christian works. Thanks guys!

Anonymous said...

I found the way Kyle twisted logic to fit his world view very disturbing.

Danny Schade said...

Do you remember a specific example of Kyle twisting logic?

Anonymous said...

He was insistant that they universe has "purpose" and therefore there must be some intelligence behind it.

It was also in his comments about human consciousness (I cannot recall his exact statements atm). Just the implication that because things are the way they are = God.

Note I am not saying he is unintelligent, he is probably way smarter than me but that can allow a person to create complex explanations so as to retain a particular world view where the simpler answer leads to the opposite view.

Your comments at the end reflected my feeling that he lacks basic scientific knowledge. Whether he would be open to that knowledge is questionable.

I also wonder how many other Christians would take his views on heaven/hell as they seemed to be quite unique.

Danny Schade said...

Yes, I think you're right. I agree that it's no personal attack on Kyle to attack his logic, that's what we do in debates. Kyle is very smart and he's the kind of guy who, I think, would be open to changing his logic and his mind.

Also, I have a feeling that Kyle may get flack from both sides because of his views on heaven and hell. There are many Christians who insist on a literal, fiery hell.

Anonymous said...

"There are many Christians who insist on a literal, fiery hell."

I'm Australian so I'm used to warm weather :-D

Anonymous said...

Sorry for a second post so soon after the first.

Like many Christians I have met, his whole end purpose is to get himself and others into heaven.

To me this has the appearance that the only reason they believe is for the reward, not because its the right thing to do. You would also think that an all-knowing God would see that your belief was insincere.

Its like a large company donating money to charity only to turn the whole thing into an advertising op - "Aren't we great giving these orphans money". I have a lot of respect for those who give without expecting kudos for the act.

gaytheistic said...

Kyle's fantasy-driven riff on heaven and hell exemplifies the problems I observe with all of Christian apologetics: they speak as if their education neglected to include (or allow) the phrase, "I don't know."

As nature abhors a vacuum, Christians like Kyle appear to abhor a question that cannot be answered. It seems not to matter that the answer (and often the question) are nothing more than pretentious prattle. A question necessarily means an answer. What you don't know, simply make up. In truth, the longer Kyle went on, the more my respect for his intellectual strengths diminished.

Since he started the guessing exercises, I will carry them forth by speculating that he is convinced of Christianity solely because of his personal emotional experiences. The ersatz intellectualism of apologetics does nothing more than allow him to justify his Christian interpretation of that experience, just as a Muslim would lean on Koranic apologetics, a Hindu on Hindu apologetics, or a Jew, Shamanist, Baha'i, etc.

His view of hell includes immortality and life akin to our current existence, probably because he doesn't "feel" comfortable worshiping the God described by Jesus who sends people into fiery torment. (See Matthew 3, 5, 10, 13, & 18, Mark 9, & Luke 3, & 16 for examples). And as with all apologetics, he first decided on his stance, then went looking for scriptures to justify the conclusion he had already reached. These practices shred the very idea of intellectual honesty.

Now let me end my speculation with a statement: in truth I have very little idea of how Kyle's Christianity was born. I have just engaged in a made-up fantasy. I only wish that he could have given the rest of us the courtesy of a similar disclaimer.

All that aside, I'm sure you guys had a reason to avoid challenging him on these thoughts, even kindly. You're well read and could have exposed a number of the holes in his arguments. But even if you want to remain respectful, asking a few more questions regarding the formulation and implications of his ideas would have been beneficial.

Danny Schade said...

I understand your speculations, but we should always remember to keep them at that. I find it viciously circular to argue back and forth about the motives of one or another's position rather than the argument at hand. Simply for the fact that we can't crawl into anyone's head and really see what's going on.

But I don't know if you're fair to Kyle's explanation of heaven and hell, he said quite clearly that he really didn't know, he was going out on a limb and making guesses as to what it's like. I heard Kyle say "I don't know" several times. I agree that the position is a little post-hoc and does have some underlying assumptions that can and should be challenged. My goal in the discussion was merely to find understanding of Kyle's perspective. This is, I believe, first necessary before we can begin refuting it. In other words, the more I know about Kyle's position, the more rhetorical and philosophical ammunition I'll have in order to challenge that position.

gaytheistic said...

Hi, Danny

One of the reasons Carl Sagan won the respect of so many (myself included) was his willingness to give speculation its due place in the dialogue:

I'm often asked the question, "Do you think there is extraterrestrial intelligence?" I give the standard arguments -- there are a lot of places out there, and use the word billions, and so on. And then I say it would be astonishing to me if there weren't extraterrestrial intelligence, but of course there is as yet no compelling evidence for it. And then I'm asked, "Yeah, but what do you really think?" I say, "I just told you what I really think." "Yeah, but what's your gut feeling?" But I try not to think with my gut. Really, it's okay to reserve judgment until the evidence is in.
First published in Skeptical Inquirer, vol. 12, Fall 1987

If only ...

Danny Schade said...

Right, I understand and cherish Dr. Sagan's thoughts as well. But don't you think Kyle had that same spirit when he was discussing his theological views?

gaytheistic said...

Danny --

I went back to listen to Kyle's discussion of hell again, and I understand why you're defending him. Technically, there were a couple of times he admitted to speculating.

However, he also said people who believed differently than he did were "inaccurate" and "mistaken." Further, he went on so long about what he considers the nature of hell, and gave such poor answers to the very good questions you and Mikyle raised that I still felt he was trapped in an anti-intellectual bubble. He just kept justifying his beliefs without acknowledging his ignorance.

When he did say his thoughts were speculative, it was only after you asked about the origins of his beliefs. (You had to get that out of him.)

My impression remains that he far overshot the mark that would qualify him any form of skeptic. He has no more reason to believe his beliefs heaven or hell (or about any other Christian dogma) than the Christians who disagree with him. For that matter, his basic faith has no greater basis in reality than any other religion on the planet. And by not acknowledging that, both upfront and often, his claimed skepticism becomes a mockery.

Kyle Deming said...

Hello all,

I wasn't going to respond to these comments at first, but I would like to clear up a few things. When I was discussing the doctrine of hell, my main point was simply that the torture chamber view is by no means the only Christian view of the afterlife available. I don't believe in torture or literal flames, and I think that there are good reasons for my view. For example, in the book "Hell: Four Views," William Crockett ably defends what he calls the 'metaphorical' view, according to which hell is not simply a place where nonbelievers burn for all eternity. Speaking off-the-cuff in the podcast, I was unfortunately not all that well prepared to offer resources and arguments for my position, but I was not simply making all of it up, though I do admit that there is a great deal of speculation when it comes to this topic.

Personally, I believe that hell is eternal and that individuals are conscious in hell, but I don't think that this point should be a huge stumbling block. There are plenty of Christians who hold different views on these issues. For example, Annihilationists believe that those in Hell are either immediately or eventually extinguished from existence. Universalists hold that nobody actually goes to Hell, or that anybody who does eventually gets to heaven. I think it is entirely possible to be a Christian and to hold these types of views. Unfortunately, Christians regularly get blasted for their supposed belief in an eternal place of torture and fire. My point is that this is no reason to reject Christianity, because not all Christians hold that view.

There are several comments about my depiction of hell being 'fantasy-driven,' delusional, etc. I would just point out that there is nothing logically incoherent in my concept of an afterlife, at least nothing that anybody has mentioned in these comments. While commenting that I am crazy or backwards-thinking may be rhetorically effective, it does little to actually address my views, let alone undermine them. Note that in the show I never actually defended the existence of the afterlife, I was merely trying to offer my interpretation of the afterlife from within my Christian perspective. Also, I tried to make it clear that it was just my best shot at describing what I think the afterlife is like, and so isn't by any means something that should be written in stone.

Thanks for the comments everyone, I appreciate the constructive criticism.



Anonymous said...

Hi Kyle , I am glad you are posting here.

I was hoping you could tell me the non-biblical sources for the evidence of Jesus that you mention in this podcast.

As far as I was aware there were no eyewitness accounts of Jesus outside of the Bible so I was be interested in reading these accounts.