FFrF Radio: Matthew Chapman & Matthew LaClair

Podcast Link.

February 9, 2008Matthew Chapman, Darwin’s Great-Great Grandson

February 12th is Charles Darwin’s birthday. More American’s believe in the devil (62%) than accept Darwin’s theory of evolution (42%) as revealed in a recent Harris poll. The good news is that the people in the US who do not believe in a god has gone up to 18%. Here’s hoping for that trend to continue. The episode also mentions Darwin’s restored autobiography and quotes from Inherit the Wind. (I really need to watch that film)

Matthew Chapman discussed his books Trials of the Monkey and 40 Days and 40 Nights: Darwin, Intelligent Design, God, OxyContin, and Other Oddities on Trial in Pennsylvania. I was quite moved by Chapman’s frank ability to get past the contentiousness of the issue, and to strike up friendships with people on both sides of the trial, and then discuss his insights in the interview.

It’s that kind of level-headed ability that I see in others that I most admire, because I’m probably never going to have a moment of it myself. Being able to have a discussion with William Jennings Bryan College students about how Charles Darwin is only slightly less hated than the devil. Nope, I don’t think I would be capable of keeping my temper in that sort of climate.

He finished up with a discussion of the need to inject more reason into seeking the next President of the United States, to which I heartily agree.


“No Gods, no masters.” Margaret Sanger

2007 Archive episode.

February 10, 2007Matthew LaClair: Exposing Teacher-Preacher

Theocracy alert discussion of Mary Cheney and her pregnancy; and how the religious right friends of her father all roundly denounced her for her actions.

Matthew LeClair is the student who recorded his American History teacher proselytizing during classtime. His interview is a rather enlightening journey into how a story morphs from the events that create it, to the time it breaks onto the news. This would not have been in the news at all if the teacher in question had simply admitted to his errors when confronted with them. Instead he denied it, and Matthew was forced to produce the recordings in order to defend himself. Luckily he was in the habit of carrying a recorder for the purpose of clear note taking, and had the forethought to turn the machine on when the preaching continued over several days.

National news stories reported on how this was an incident of baiting or entrapment, or how Matthew set out to get the christian teacher. None of which is true.

The sad footnote to the story? They banned the use of recording devices in classrooms, not disciplining the teacher. Matthew did eventually win his case.

A lengthy Freethinker’s Almanac finishes up this episode, including a mention of local Texas celebrity Molly Ivins, Who had died the week before.

FFrF Radio: Ellery Schempp & Robert Sapolsky

Podcast Link.

February 2, 2008Champion of the First Amendment

Parsing Bush’s state of the union address. “There was a notion that somehow there needed to be a clear separation of church and state.” as an example. (this mans lack of knowledge concerning proper government, AFTER 8 YEARS AS PRESIDENT, is shocking. Where is his brain?) Here’s hoping that congress stands firm and allows the Office of Faith Based Initiatives to die with the retirement of the sitting president.

Ellery Schempp was instrumental in getting bible readings and prayers stopped in public schools (he sent a letter and a $10 dollar bill to the ACLU, asking for their help, while a Junior in high school) Ellery’s Protest chronicles these events. The government is still trying to sneak prayer into the schools via as many different back doors as it can find, but I’d like to extend a word of thanks to Mr. Schempp for his brave stand. This is his second appearance on the show.

This is the first episode in which the name Madalyn Murray O’Hair has been mentioned, which I find odd, because the average American probably thinks the name and the word Atheist are synonymous; although they aren’t. I credit her antisocial behavior with the stunning lack of freethinkers in the otherwise ‘liberal’ city of Austin.


2007 Archive episode.

February 3, 2007Robert Sapolsky – “Hellbound Atheist” & Scientist

One of the more entertaining interviews, Robert Sapolsky discussed in a lively fashion everything from evolution, to the impact of testosterone on violence, to secretly wishing he could anestha-dart his colleagues at the university in order to study them.

The most interesting portion of the interview was the discussion concerning Schizotypal people, and the linkage to magical thinking; leading to the hypothesis that the ability to turn what would normally be a disabling mental problem into a leadership quality has lead a genetic mental problem (Schizophrenia) to be more predominant than statistics says it ought to be.

FFrF Radio: Ernie Harburg & Eleanor Smeal

Podcast Link.

January 26, 2008The Atheist Lyricist Who Put the Rainbow in the Wizard of Oz

50 members of congress have gotten together, at the behest of (the laughable) ACLJ (founded by Pat Robertson, who has managed to leverage a barely average ability in televangelism into an influential religious based series of businesses. If his followers would just quit giving him money, maybe he’d finally go broke and we’d be finished with him) to respond to the lawsuit requesting the removal of under god from the pledge of allegiance.

As ill founded as I think FFrF vs. Congress is (making children say the pledge is contrary to freedom) I find it hard to believe that an infinite number of congresscritters could find 80,000 Americans who gave a damn one way or the other about the contents of the pledge, let alone 50. I think all 50 of those members should be ashamed of themselves for letting themselves be manipulated like this. This pandering to the Religious Right has to stop.

This is the second appearance for Ernie Harburg on the show, talking about his father Yip Harburg, and the new Biography Who Put the Rainbow in the Wizard of Oz. His first appearance was on the first episode of the show.


2007 Archive episode.

January 27, 2007The Religious War Against Women: Ellie Smeal

Hard to believe that it’s only been a year since the currently endless road to the White House election cycle started. It feels like it’s been at least 10 years. The show starts with a clip from the Daily show (catch it when I can) lambasting Sam Brownback (who?) for his stance on the importance of religious belief in the selection of government officials.

“I mean, when I picture a zoning board that doesn’t understand that Christ gave His life for our sins, I can’t imagine how it could regulate land use within a mixed residential slash industrial zone.” -John Stewart

But then the progressive political dogma shows up again. I know that Bush, when he’s talking about school choice, thinks he’s talking about giving tax money to private religious schools. But Annie Laurie Gaylor should know better, she’s smarter than he is (a box of hammers is smarter than he is) a simple scan of private schools in your area will probably turn up several schools which are not religious in nature, most of which (if you live in a large city) will produce students of a superior caliber than the more costly government schools.

In Austin there are no less than 10 Montessori schools. And while Maria Montessori was Catholic, the schools that follow her methods are generally progressive in nature; that is, there is no religious teaching in the schools

[it’s funny, the only time I’ve experience a problem with religion in the schools has been when my children have been in the government school system. I’ve had to intervene when the schools have tried to impose silent or lead prayers as well as mandate pledging; or the time when the son’s charter school was actually housed in a Catholic church. The Montessori years, for both of them, were trouble free when it came to religion]

and the Montessori schools are just one type of private school in the average metropolitan area. If we’re going to cast aspersions here, I think the blind insistence that government schools are the only schools free from religion is a dangerously dogmatic opinion, and does a disservice to those parents and teachers who seek to be freed from the restrictions placed on them by heavy handed bureaucrats who have an agenda separate from simply educating children. I could go on, but then I’ve already said what needed to be said either here, or here.

Ellie Smeal was on to talk on the issue of abortion (Blog entries) on the anniversary of Roe. 70,000 women die each year from botched abortions. I wish they had stayed on the subject of family planning, rather than wandering around various issues related to feminism; too much material for a half hour interview. It’s a travesty, what’s been done to limit family planning all over the world, including in the US.

The discussion of the crimes of the Taliban against women was illuminating.

FFrF Radio: Katha Pollitt & FFrF’s political Dogma?

Podcast link.

Examples of why Huckabee is indeed the true religious fruitcake. He wants to change the constitution to bring it more in line with god’s teachings. You get the award Mr. Huckabee. (at least he’s now trailing in the polls. That’s a relief) Discussion of who and what Gideons are, and the latest decision against giving bibles to school children (I have one of those bibles myself. I prefer the Catholic version; more books) Gideon warning label. The former Cardinal Ratzenberger’s continuing war on science. The Misogynist nature of the Bible.

Kata Pollitt‘s third (?) appearance on the show, discussing her latest book Learning to Drive. Always entertaining.



2006 Archive episode.

January 20, 2007 –

The least interesting interview to date, Matthew Rothschild. One of the favorite phrases on Freethought Radio is “Beware of Dogma”; and if there is one thing that qualifies as dogma, it’s progressives embracing policies and practices that have been proven to harm those they are intended to help.

Such is Mr. Rothschild’s allegiance to the minimum wage, and his shocked condemnation of those who are opposed to it as conservatives. There are many people who are opposed to stealing jobs and money from the poor in order to aid those middle class workers who are union members (the true benefactors of a minimum wage hike) Fiscal conservatives are just part of that group, and very few of them are in evidence in the legislature these days.

That they let him rant on about the lack of ethics of those who would oppose the minimum wage is suspect here, but I’ll let it slide this once. I’ll not be paying much heed to what Mr. Rothschild has to say in future.

FFrF Radio: Atheists in the Pulpit & Katha Pollitt

Podcast link.

January 12, 2008Atheists in the Pulpit: Ministers Who Lose Their Faith

Discussion of HR 888 “American Religious History Week” Talk2Action says:

Falsified American history has already been taught to 190,000 American public school students via an elective Bible class curriculum with bogus American history ( here’s Chuck Norris and his wife, in a short video, to tell you about it) and on an even larger scale via falsified history – attacking church/state separation no less – that’s been inserted in the Army’s JROTC curriculum taught at public high schools nationwide.

This issue concerns more than a House Resolution endorsing fake history ; the core function of the falsified “Christian nation” historical narrative – which is built from many little history lies and distortions (and some big ones too) is to support Christian nationalism (link to an essay I did on how I think that works. What’s Christian nationalism ?)

The fight over the American historical record is a battle about whose version of history will be the dominant narrative that will get to shape the historical understandings of the next generation of Americans. The falsified narrative of the Christian right has been gaining ground for decades but now – with the letters and phone calls people right here on this forum have sent and made to their representatives in Congress – the fightback, to protect the integrity of the historical record, is truly underway.

The guests this week were Tom Reed (second appearance. his first appearance was longer) and Dan Barker. They were both featured in the Psychology Today article An Atheist in the Pulpit. The episode also features audio of Dan Barker’s appearance on Oprah. This is also the second time Dan has guested on his own show. Two of Dan’s songs are featured towards the end of the episode.


2007 Archive episode.

January 13, 2007 – Katha Pollitt – She’s on next week (this year) as well. This episode she’s discussing Virginity or Death, concerning the HPV vaccination that will avert nearly all cases of cervical cancer if given to girls before they become sexually active. Of course, the religious right don’t like the idea of saving anyone from gods righteous wrath, so they are foursquare against the vaccine.

Another issue I’ve discussed before, just not on this blog. Suffice it to say I was on the fence when it comes to requiring the vaccination by state law, as Texas nearly did. But then I’m on the fence about requiring any vaccination by state law. Otherwise, I don’t see the point in not requiring the vaccination, if you are going to require others. Of course, the Religious Right got their wish, and the only thing the sitting governor has done that I’ve agreed with was voted out by the legislature. Go figure.

There was a lengthy list of Freethinkers in the media at the end of this episode. Of special note was Ernestine L. Rose.

“Do you tell me that the Bible is against our rights? Then I say that our claims do not rest upon a book written no one knows when, or by whom. Do you tell me what Paul or Peter says on the subject? Then again I reply that our claims do not rest on the opinions of any one, not even on those of Paul and Peter, . . . Books and opinions, no matter from whom they came, if they are in opposition to human rights, are nothing but dead letters.”

Ernestine Rose, responding to religious heckler at Seventh National Woman’s Rights Convention

FFrF Radio: Litigants & African American Freethought

Podcast Link.

This week’s interviews are with current litigants in state/church lawsuits. This is a recurring show topic on the radio program; not that I’m complaining mind you. It’s just that they seem to blend together after awhile.

The quote this week that sticks out?

Concerning the lawsuit asking for the records of visitors to the White House (just another document made secret under the presidency of GWB) and why Ted Haggard was not on the list of people visiting the White House.

Dan Barker: “Ted Haggard was probably visiting Larry Craig’s office”

I’m sure Larry Craig was choking on that one…


2007 Archive episode.

January 6, 2007 – African American Freethought and Atheism

Marion the Barbarian (Pat Robertson) and his latest round of (completely erroneous) predictions for what will happen at the end of the year (that year has passed, and guess what? No Boom)

This weeks guest was Norm Allen, editor of the anthology, African-American Humanism. What can I say? I keep listening to the show because the interviews are generally quite engaging. This one is yet another example. I hope they have him on again.

The Porgy and Bess song “It Ain’t Necessarily So” sung by Sammy Davis Junior as Sportin’ Life is also featured.

FFrF Radio: Secular Songs

Something that I’ve actually enjoyed while listening to the program. Not so much Dan Barker’s singing, but the other artists who are free thinkers whose works get mentioned and played makes a list too long to get into here.

Podcast link

Amongst the regular recurring songs (Ain’t it the Truth, It Ain’t Necessarily So, etc.) were several other songs I’d never heard before, including one by John Lennon (Found Out) and one by XTC (Dear God) I’m going to have to pick up an XTC album.



2006 Archive episode.

December 30, 2006 – Steven Pinker – Ghost in the machine? He doesn’t think so. The staggering complexity of the neural network in the brain is enough to explain consciousness. I don’t know that I agree with his argument, but he makes a pretty good case.

Several songs featured in this episode as well. Dan Barker’s rendition of Die Gedanken sind frei most prominently. Also a tribute to Auld Lang Syne composer Robert Burns at the end of Freethinkers Almanac.

FFrF Radio: A Freethought Solstice holiday

Podcast link.

Freethought in the movies this week. Several good movies mentioned, including the aforementioned Golden Compass (which I enjoyed greatly, and I hope to read the book soon) O Brother Where Art Thou, Chocolat, Contact and Blade Runner all favorites of mine. There were also I few I hadn’t seen, such as The Contender, A Raisin in the Sun, Elmer Gantry, Inherit the Wind and several foreign language films whose titles I didn’t catch. More films are listed here.

“Fanaticism and ignorance is forever busy, and needs feeding.”

Clarence Darrow

I noticed that the hosts and guests to the show spend a lot of time correcting the usage of the word Christmas to the phrase “Solstice Holiday”. The word Christmas doesn’t have anything to do with the word christian as it is used in the US; and I’ve pointed this out before. I’m not giving up the word Christmas just because Santa is my solstice holiday icon; and I’m not going to change the date of Christmas to coincide with the actual solstice, so I don’t see the point of renaming it Solstice Holiday. It’s Christmas, and It’s going to stay Christmas, a secularized solstice holiday that features a jolly red elf. Get over it.

Although I did like the point (and have made this point myself before) that the Puritans who settled North America left England because they objected to Roman Catholic excess; namely the celebration of holidays not found in scripture. Like Christmas.

So much for the christian reason for the season.



2006 Archive episode.

December 23, 2006 – Confessions of a Lonely AtheistThe acknowledgment of Robert Ingersoll in the Freethinkers almanac segment reminds me of the so far unmentioned part of the show that I actually look forward to on each podcast. You actually don’t have to listen to the shows to get this information, you can find it here. The guest this week was Natalie Angier, discussing her article Confessions of a Lonely Atheist, and the advancing numbers of self acknowledging Atheists in the US these days. She also discusses raising a child in this religious fevered nation (no place like Texas for that, so I can identify) and what that entails.

Also the debut of the song Intelligent? Design? is in this episode.

Intelligent? Design?
by Phillip Appleman
Set to music by Dan Barker

Your eyes have seen a blurry scene
that’s only known to man.
You’re optic nerves are backward
and have been since time began.
That’s what the preachers tell you
is god’s very special plan.
Intelligent design!

Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!
The great designer knows what’s due ya.
Nothing else can stick it to ya like
Intelligent Design!

You wish a guy’s urethra did
The jobs that were proposed:
Both lover’s clout and waterspout
Is what you had supposed.
Alas, the Great Designer squeezed
A prostate ’round your hose:
Intelligent Design!

Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!
Nowhere does the Bible clue ya
That your glands would soon subdue ya:
Intelligent Design!

Your tummies sick, your heart goes tick,
your hips are giving in.
childbirth is a horror
’cause your pelvis is to thin.
when your appendix ruptures,
the designer only grins.
Intelligent Design!

Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!
Making do will have to do ya
flim-flammers cooked this up to screw ya
Intelligent Design!

Sung to the tune of “Battle Hymn of the Republic”. Too funny.

FFrF Radio: Scary Mitt Romney & Steve Benson’s first appearance

Podcast Link.
December 15, 2007Recent, successful state/church litigants

Scary Mitt Romney. Just listen to the speech. Sheesh.
…And I thought Huckabee was a religious fruitcake.

More talk about court successes. Not the kind of seasonal fare I’m after.


2006 Archive episode.
December 16, 2006Reason’s Greetings!

Theocracy alert features an expose on “Christian Embassy” within the military, which violates several rules governing the military.

Tom Flynn (the guest) is your average Christmas humbug (I’ve met several over the years. If I didn’t have children, I might have become one) I have a hard time paying attention to these types of people. Although he does go into the various myths that contributed to the Jesus birth myth that is tied to Christmas (Secular Solstice Holiday. I’ve said this before) it’s not anything that the average student of the holiday probably hasn’t heard before. If you haven’t, give it a listen.

FFrF Radio: The Golden Compass

Podcast link.
December 8, 2007The Golden Compass Rumpus!

The title says it all. I thought Phillip Pullman was going to come unglued when Dan Barker asserted that the books were not children’s books. I understand where both of them are coming from. Having heard several reviewers state that they did not think the film (and books) were suitable for children, I’m sure Pullman was anxious not to feed the fire of “inappropriateness” that seems to follow so many books that are popular with children these days (the Harry Potter series, just to name one) which lead him to object that the books were “most certainly children’s books”.

But I tend to agree more with Barker’s assertion that they are not children’s books; not because they are inappropriate for children, but because they are not written for children alone. The movie definitely appeals to adult audiences as well as children. I was there opening weekend myself, and I have nothing but praise for the film.

As far as story content goes, it’s hands down the best of the epic fantasy films I’ve seen (and I think I’ve seen all of them so far) and the effects are also top-notch. I can’t think of anything that I would object to, no matter the age of the audience viewing it.


Having now read the book The Golden Compass, I think I can see why hard core fans would object to portions of the film. The film doesn’t strictly follow the book. It doesn’t betray the spirit of the book (the way that Peter Jackson’s The Two Towers destroys one of the central characters, Faramir, of Lord of the Rings) but still, there are significant departures from the book by the film. I’d have a hard time saying one is better than the other, though. I think this is a good example of a Boovie.


2006 Archive episode.
December 9, 2006From “Latter-day Saint” to “Latter-day Ain’t”: Steve Benson

Steve Benson’s first appearance on the show. All of his appearances have been worth listening to. In this episode he speaks at length about his separation from the Mormon church. His description of the origins of the Mormon church is priceless.

Free MP3 download of “Salt Lake City Blues”