Thursday, June 23, 2011

Episode 86 The Man Who Didn't Sell His Soul on eBay

Hemant Mehta (author of the friendly atheist blog) was only looking to expand his horizons and raise a little money for a local freethinking student group when he came up with the idea that made him a media sensation. He started a page on Ebay where he offered to attend the church of the highest bidder. Stories quickly spread in the media of an atheist "selling his soul" on eBay, which drove the bid higher and higher. Soon Mehta was traveling across the country visiting different churches to make good on his commitment. These church visits became the basis of his book "I Sold My Soul on eBay"--which gave Christians a chance to see church through the eyes of a friendly but critical atheist. For this episode Hemant joins us in the studio to talk about what he saw and how Christian readers reacted to his book.

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Lausten North said...

“Wow, there are a whole lot of Christians who vote Democrat.” I’m glad you and others are seeing this. It makes the work of speaking to Christians much more difficult when you start with a pre-judgment. Hopefully that is obviously true about any conversation.

Hemant also noted that Christians are “good at community building” then went on to list some of the good things they do. This is the positive way to state it, but gang leaders and fascist dictators are also good at community buildings, the trick is to not get those confused. Community groups figured this out when they were started cleaning up their neighborhoods. They realized the gangs were giving kids a family that they didn’t have and part of solving the gang problem was to solve the family problem.

But it isn’t simply a matter of indoctrinating people to be “good”. It is that subjective “goodness” that needs to be teased out of secular AND religious education. Then we can talk about ethics without being interrupted with where the ethics come from or who is poisoning whom.

Seems like this book is a step toward that. Thanks for pointing it out.

Plain Simple said...

Good episode as usual. Really interesting interview.

Your offhand comment during the polyatheism item about doing a skit about hiring a god, reminded me of a similar scene in the book "And Another Thing..." by Eoin Colfer, which is a sequel to Douglas Adams' "Hitchhiker's Guide" to the Galaxy books. One of the characters in the book is leader of a colony on another planet and tries to hire a god for his planet.

Ruby Leigh said...

Hi - I just thought I would share something that relates the comment made in the interview about had anyone purchased the "I sold my soul on ebay" book and deconverted as a result. Obviously, there were a myriad of factors that contributed to my deconversion... but I purchased Hemant's book at a Christian bookstore (when I was a church-going Christian), which lead me to his blog, which referenced data that gave me something to think about.... and I also found this podcast through the FA blogs, which played a major role as well in my "loss" of faith.

I'm not sure if that is something that Hemant would want to know... as perhaps he would wish Christians to know that the book is largely benign... and it is, but I guess was in the "right" mindset.

Trout Fishing on Oahu said...

It seems particularly uncritical to simply lump all believers into one mega category, while also damning them with faint praise when they do something you approve of. Do you assume that all believers reject science and even evolution? That there are no critical thinkers among believers? Or that you've actually rationally thought out all you hold true? The comment “Wow, there are a whole lot of Christians who vote Democrat.” suggests that perhaps you have not.

Jeremy said...


We regularly note differences between religious perspectives,on this show...sometimes in annoyingly pedantic detail. As Regards Mehta's comments: when he said that, he was talking about how little he knew about the diversity within Christianity. The very point of his church visits was to get out and see what people believe instead of just stereotyping. The "democrat" comment was self-mockery directed at his previous ignorance. It was the entire theme of the conversation, not a subtle point easily missed.

Trout Fishing on Oahu said...

"We regularly note differences between religious perspectives, on this show...sometimes in annoyingly pedantic detail."

I hope to hear this; so far I've only mockery of obviously 'easy targets'.

I didn't miss the theme of the conversation; just heard it mainly from Hemant. That you're inclined to mock me in your response (not a subtle point easily missed) goes to my point.

Fletcher said...


You clearly have not listened to much of the show -- based on your comments I'm not entirely sure you even listened to the episode you commented on.

Yes, we can make jokes about "easy targets" -- right wing politics are especially rife with them. Sometimes hitting the easy targets is too much fun to pass up. But that's not the bulk of the show. I think you'll find if you allow yourself to listen to the show that we very much specialize in taking on "heavy hitters" and complex subjects.

Trout Fishing on Oahu said...

"based on your comments I'm not entirely sure you even listened to the episode you commented on." More mockery--you guys sure don't seem to like being challenged much.

I've listened to exactly three episodes, so you have a point. I'm certainly glad to keep listening and see how it goes.

I did listen to it and stand by what I've said. Perhaps you could consider that your message is not as clear as you image. Since you probably consider this unlikely, perhaps you could note the points you think I have missed, and which comments of mine indicate my 'obvious' misunderstanding.

Or better yet. Please tell in which episodes where you are 'taking on "heavy hitters" and complex subjects' and I'll listen to those next.

zacch.m said...

trout: try episode 41.

zacch.m said...

maybe you should listen to 68. but honestly, you just appear to be a troll. why else make such silly accusations? Also, what you're doing is hardly a challenge; it's just poor observation. maybe your view of atheists is clouding your vision. do you not understand sarcasm? i ask only because your example you based your accusation on was sarcasm. not because i go around stating lies as fact. not because i cannot note sarcasm. and not because i have preconcived notions of how people different from me actually think. i am simply making a just observation.

Trout Fishing on Oahu said...

"why else make such silly accusations? Also, what you're doing is hardly a challenge; it's just poor observation." Bit of an Ad Hominem response, wouldn't you say?

It's not so much my view of atheists that is coloring my view as my experience with atheists, which ironically I have found to be as dogmatic and self-congratulatory as many Christians.

And perhaps my observations are "hardly a challenge" but I've heard no response to them. Perhaps you consider them beneath you (how's that for sarcasm). I quite pointedly asked which points I missed. I'll ask again, which points? Which ones are silly?

No, I am not a troll (but I can see now I probably should have just left well enough alone). Nonetheless, I will listen to the episodes you have suggested. I'll admit that I've come at you pretty hard, but I'm waiting for something other than potshots at, as I said before, easy targets. Guan yu? Really? Okay, that's obviously you just having some fun. However, your approach to Mormonism seemed to have the same flavor, and unfortunately, these guys are no joke. Looking at and ridiculing the worst, most damning points of religion hardly recommends atheism. Anyone paying attention can see Scientology for what it is.

Tell you what, if I get a more substantive response, I'll answer. Otherwise, I'll do what I should have done in the first place, shut up and listen, see if my first impression was wrong.

zacch.m said...

they did an episode with counters to a few william lane craig arguments. those episodes i showed you are just friendly chats with christians who think differently than the christians you accused the doubtcasters of thinking the standard christian is. btw that sentence DOES make sense. if you have any great arguments in favor of the god you believe in i'm sure they would love to hear them *not sarcasm (i could see why you might think it is, but it isn't.)

Trout Fishing on Oahu said...

@zacch.m I'll this to that, thanks. As for my arguments in favor, I'll post them somewhere soon and send you a link.

zacch.m said...

sure its
maybe if the argument is good i'll pass it on to the doubtcast.

Trout Fishing on Oahu said...

@zacch.m Sure, though I'm not holding out for a positive response.

Trout Fishing on Oahu said...

Okay, I listened to Episodes 68 and 1 and have to admit that what I found objectionable in other episodes, I did not here in these.

zacch.m said...

thanks. i hope you now have a better idea of where they are coming from. will your email be coming soon?

Trout Fishing on Oahu said...

Listening to the most recent episode now; hearing some things I like AND some of the same kinds of pot shots I complained about earlier.

Still working on it; I've never written out my argument before, though considering the response I've received so far (you're a troll, your accusations are silly, your points are challenging), I wonder if it will even be worth the effort. Are you actually interested? Two of the above accusations did come from you.