Religious Orders


Posted: Monday February 16 2009 @ 8:30am

Religious Order: Science and Technology

I've been religiously walking 3 miles every day in an attempt to get my weight back down. (It had finally crept up enough to affect my blood sugar.) That leaves a nice 50 minute block of time open for listening to something. So I've been scouring iTunes for good podcasts. Here are some I've found:

MSNBC Countdown: Countdown is available in both audio and video forms. Keith Olbermann is obviously a bit of a dick. But his show is segmented into easily identifiable chunks which make it easy to scroll to what you like best. (In the video version, at least. I can't figure out how to move forward through an audio podcast.)

MSNBC Rachel Maddow: I like Rachel a butt-load more than I like Olbermann. But her show isn't as organized. It's really a case of either watch the whole show or just skip it. Often, I just skip it, particularly with the audio version. Which is too bad, because she's smart and funny.

Old Jews Telling Jokes: This one is a video-only podcast. And the video is high quality. That means that each minute of video takes up a decent chunk of disk space. Luckily, each episode is short. Each consists of an old jewish person telling a single joke. That's it. It's both incredibly funny and incredibly charming. I cherish each new episode.

The Onion Radio News: The Onion releases a daily short news item. Each one is less than two minutes. And each one is inevitably funny.

Pat Condell's Godless Comedy: If you're feeling like an angry atheist, then you'll love Pat Condell. He has a wonderful way with words. It's a combination of eloquence and bluntness. The man is extraordinarily quotable. If you're a person of faith, this probably isn't the podcast for you. Condell does occasionally qualify his remarkable rants as being directed towards those that push their religion on others, but his invective is painted with a large brush. Perhaps rightly so.

Point of Inquiry: This podcast is a series of interviews by skeptic magazine Free Inquiry. I've been an on and off subscriber to the magazine over the years.

The podcast is one of the better interview-oriented ones to which I've listened. The audio quality is always great. And they talk with a broad array of people. Sometimes that results in wonderful interviews. The ones with PZ Myers and with Neil deGrasse Tyson come to mind. Great talkers, both.

Sometimes, the interviews revolve around books. The interview with Guy Harrison was good enough to make me go out and buy his book. Similarly, the SciFi interview with Tom Flynn prompted me to buy some books. (Even if the guy's approach to Xmas is misguided.)

The host of the podcast is a guy named D.J. Grothe and he's quite good. He's really good at summarizing what his guests say. He's also good at playing devil's advocate. And he has a good knowledge of many areas, both in science and in atheism, so he can ask intelligent questions. (Unlike the science guy at NPR.)

One weakness I see is a hesitation to really point out when his guests are full of crap. Which is understandable, but still. In some cases, his guests have been so damaged by religion that they're unable to talk about it in an objective way. Two guests, Tawfik Hamid and Tory Christman, come to mind. Damaged by Islam and Scientology, respectively, they really can't step outside and talk objectively about either. Of course, part of their value as guests is their inside view of these religions. So that may be a necessary trade-off.

The only really bad interview I've heard so far was the one with a guy named Chris Hedges. He had written a book about how current atheists were just as bad as fundamentalists. Sure, that's a valid topic to pursue. But as the interview wore on, it was clear that this guy had based an entire book on the fact that Hitchens and Harris are hawks about the Middle East. He had absolutely no clue about the views of other atheists. He had absolutely no clue about other atheist issues. Nope. It was all about how Hitchens and Harris are hawks and how stupid that was and how they were fundamentalists about it and thus so were all atheists. Host Grothe mentioned how he himself was of an opposing viewpoint regarding the Middle East. But he wasn't able to get Hedges to see that the range of responses to the situations in the atheist community points to anything but fundamentalism. Then Grothe tried to bring in the views of atheists actually from the Middle East. But Hedges had worked as a war correspondent in those areas and actually said that his experience means that he doesn't have to listen to the views of anyone else. Honestly, that's what he said. Talk about fundamentalism!

Anyway, it's a good podcast. Except for the Hedges interview. That one blew goats.

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