Saturday, September 22, 2007

Todd Friel is a moral relativist and he doesn't even know it.

The WOTM crew is fond of speaking in terms of moral absolutes.  The whole "Good Person Test" is, of course, rife with them.  Occasionally, Mr. Friel will find himself witnessing to someone who disputes this claim.  He has some very clever ways of tripping them up, and he usually succeeds in making the mark look foolish.  But that's not the point of this post.

The point of this post is that the critics are right.  There are no moral absolutes.  There is no action a human being can commit that is intrinsically wrong in all possible contexts.  The moral value of an action is determined by its context.  For example, nearly all of us, regardless of faith or lack thereof, would agree that killing people is morally wrong...  Most of the time.  However, we would likely also agree that killing a person might be morally justified (or even morally imperative) in some rare cases.  We may quibble over exactly where the line is, but we agree that the line exists:  Killing people is usually morally wrong, but sometimes it's not.  The morality of the act is determined by the context in which it is committed.  This is true for all possible human actions.

Recently, while broadcasting from the Minnesota State Fair...

We interupt this blog entry for a trip down memory lane.  My first encounter with Mr. Friel was at the Minnesota State Fair in 2005.  Ah, those were the days.  Todd, if you're reading this -- and I know you are -- I was the guy who wanted to pretend Darth Vader was real on the grounds that he's a much cooler fictional character than God.  You also commented on my t-shirt, which read "Talk nerdy to me."  We now return you to your previously scheduled post.

...Mr. Friel witnessed to a young man who argued a similar case.  Todd, however, successfully tripped him by citing rape as an action that is intrinsically wrong in all contexts.  The young man, unfortunately, was unable to respond adequately.  Mr. Friel ended up looking right, and his victim ended up looking foolish.

But as we know, appearances can be deceiving.  Our young, anonymous friend was right, he just didn't know how to enunciate it.  Here's the response he was unsuccessfully floundering for:

Yes, rape is morally wrong in all possible cases.  However, it is still a matter of contextual morality rather than absolute morality because the concept of rape has contextual elements built right into it.  Strip the contextual factors from the concept of rape, and you're left with sex.  Now, it's a near-certainty that secularists and theists would quibble a whole lot about where the line between moral and immoral sex lies, but again, we can agree that there is a line.  Sex performed in a forced or nonconsensual context falls on the "morally wrong" side of that line.  But just like with killing people, it's the context that makes it wrong.

Now, I know some theist is going to come along and smugly ask about where atheists get their morality from in the first place.  And yes, there is an answer to that.  But it's a topic for another day.

Friday, September 21, 2007

WOTM Watchdog gets its own domain name!

Hi folks, BoxerShorts here.

Earlier this evening, we purchased the following domain names:,, and  The .org domain will be our primary base of operations.  For the time being, .com and .net will redirect to .org.  Please update your bookmarks.

We also have brand-spanking new email addresses:,, and  Please use these addresses when contacting us regarding WOTM or the blog.

Keep your eyes on this page for further developments.  While the blog will remain the primary focus of the site, we have some significant additions in mind.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Pascal's Wager vs. Losing Your Eyebrows

Hello everyone! Henwli here, the latest official contributor to WotM Watchdog. I'm an English major student from Finland with a strange fetish that involves iPods and Way of the Master Radio. Further introduction can wait as I tentatively stick my metaphorical toes in the virtual waters of online authorship with this little ditty:

Now, if you step outside of your house and get near a road, there's a chance you'll be wrestled into the back of a car, clobbered senseless and later wake up on a hill without your eyebrows. This stuff apparently happens.

Everyone knows (Blaise) Pascal's Wager, right? In short, the argument goes that if God exists, it's ultimately better to believe in Him, because if you don't you are headed straight to hell. The wager is based on simple math. Heaven is infinitely good, and hell infinitely bad. If you believe, either you go to heaven or nothing happens. If you don't believe, either you go to hell or nothing happens. So basically you're left with two choices:

A: nothing (0) or infinite good (+)

B: nothing (0) or infinite bad (-)

So, just in case God exists, aren't you really better off putting your money on the selection that will let you suckle angel teat for infinity after your time here is done? A fool would put their eternity on the line and willingly choose the hot poker up the bum option, surely.

Few people take the wager seriously any more. It's nothing more than a simple scare tactic. The WotM ministry has reinvigorated this old beaten battle horse and rides it's rickety carcass to town with their fishermen every day! Of course they don't present the wager in it's classic form, but sneakily implant it in their droning witness encounters.

If a person they're interviewing says that they do not believe in the Christian God, or they do not believe that they're going to hell, or they don't have a specific moment when they were “born again”, or hell, just happen to have one of the thousands of available attributes that makes them “not Christian” to a WotM advocate, they will be posed with a question:

“Rergardless of what you believe; if what I'm saying is true (that God judges everyone according to His standards), would you go to heaven or hell (implied infinity)?”

This is actually Pascal's wager in disguise.

By taking a person through the Ten Commandments, the WotM witnesser establishes that the witnessee (I'm making up words as I go!) has actually broken several of God's laws; that they are adultering, blasphemous thieves. Now in the theoretical situation that the supposed hell (and thus its counterpart also) exists, how screwed are you. Infinitely, of course. The question they pose always contains that one particle I can't quite understand – the “if”, which implies that the “nothing happens” scenario has also been taken into consideration. Why do they say “if”, if they truly, truly believe that what they say is a stone cold fact. Does it sound more persuasive? Isn't that being disingenuous toward you own beliefs? In essence the question posed is:

“You're a bad, bad person and I love you and God loves you, but if what I'm saying is true, would you rather choose:”

A: nothing (0) or infinite good (+∞)

B: nothing (0) or infinite bad (-∞)

The whole Pascal's wager is implied within this technique, and it works just as well in this guise: you still need someone who finds it in themselves to believe in these things. Non-believers, I believe, are called non-believers for a reason.

“Dear Henwli. I write in teary-eyed with shaking hands to thank, because you have saved my soul by converting me to believe in God with Pascal's super awesome wager! It totally rocked my socks right off my feet! And I was wearing shoes! But what did the eyebrow story have to do with anything? Thank you, you are a true angel! XOXOXOXO P.S. u r sooo hot"

It has been actually documented that there is a chance that someone will nab you off the street, beat you up and steal your eyebrows. We could go to the previous victim (who is, I am sure, the first victim in a long line of malevolent attacks that will keep all owners of eyebrows on their toes for decades to come) and observe his hairless ridge. If asked, he will most likely tell you that the event was very unpleasant. Now, the next time you go out, ask yourself is it worth the risk? There are two chances:

A: nothing (0) or you have a merry skip across the park and greet the birds that chatter the message of all-permeating happiness and universal love (+1)

B: nothing (0) or you get beaten up, lose facial hair (-1)

You'll notice that infinity does not appear in this scenario, but has been replaced by (arbitrary) finite numbers. Of course, one of these options is statistically more probable, but both options are based on the world we live in and are absolutely feasible. The infinity in the original wager is irrelevant, because it relies so much on speculation. Math that requires you to believe in the existence of a number didn't really apply last time I checked.

Living life under irrational fear brought on by a faulty mathematical equation sounds kind of exotic though, give it a shot and report back to me how it worked. And by the way, if you do send me e-mail or comment on this post, be careful not to be electrocuted by your computer.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Going Global!

As WOTM Watchdog welcomes a new addition to the team, we also take the opportunity to announce that we now have an international base of support!

The newest member to our group is Henwli, a native Finn whose intrigue in WOTM is on par with the current contributors. Henwli is an amazing writer and is showcased in the comment sections of some of the previous entries on the site. We are ecstatic to have him join the team and can't wait to read what he has to say.

If you haven't bookmarked/subscribed yet, now is definitely the time to do so.

Spread the word; WOTM Watchdog has gone global!

Point To Ponder

Do the doctrinal beliefs of the folks at Way of the Master and those of Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church really differ all that much? Aside from their approach and delivery, both use the ten commandments to show "sinners" their shortcomings in the sight of God as well as sharing their predeterminalism.

What's the difference between the Phelps clan and the Friel clan? Who's the heretic?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Todd Friel: Still A Liar

I am nothing if not fair and in fairness, I must retract a statment that I made in an earlier post; due to recent communication with Todd, a copy of the Evidence Bible is now on its way to my door via the United States Postal Service. I couldn't be more thrilled!

However, Todd is still a liar. He willfully misrepresents atheists as "God-haters" and, following Todd's logic, telling one lie makes you an untrustworthy liar. If Todd will lie about his supposed opponents, the atheists, what is keeping him from lying to his listening audience about salvation, redemption... even the very existence of God? Nothing, that's what.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Name That Logical Fallacy

For those of you who are still in the dark about this snake oil salesman, this will serve as a good introduction. Please watch this brief video and post your thoughts in the comment section. It will be interesting to see what everyone's views are.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

New Contributor...

A new talent has joined the team here at WOTM Watchdog and we couldn't be any more pleased to have him. BoxerShorts will be contributing new ideas and new content so bookmark this page or subscribe for instant updates, if you haven't already.

Boxershorts also has his own personal blog that is focused more on the Christian movement as a whole; please view "The Underblog" for scathing commentary on evangelical Christianity .

Stay tuned!

Todd Friel: Master Debater?

Hi folks, BoxerShorts here. I'm the newest member of the WOTM Watchdog team. Check out my own little corner of the web, The Underblog, for a different take on evangelical Christianity from an atheist perspective. There isn't much there yet, but I have plans. Oh yes, I do.

Anyway, now that introductions are out of the way, here's what you came here for:

Even among atheists, Mr. Friel has a reputation for being a skilled debater. While this is somewhat justified, it is mostly undeserved. Yes, he appeared to hold his own admirably against Dan Barker, and while I haven't heard the Eddie Tobash debate (I really need to download that one of these days), rumor has it he did pretty well there, as well. But appearances can be deceiving. Todd Friel is not a skilled debater.

Actually, let me qualify that. I don't know if Mr. Friel is a skilled debater, because I've never heard him debate. At least, not honestly. What he is skilled at is cheating at debate. I merely suspect, strongly, that he lacks skill at honest debate, because otherwise he wouldn't have to cheat.

Take a look at the Encyclopedia of Logical Fallacies. For all intents and purposes, these are forbidden in formal debate; a debater who uses them excessively automatically loses the debate by virtue of having used them. Likewise, they should be avoided in informal debate, but the rules there aren't quite as cut-and-dry. Let's take a look at a few that Mr. Friel uses frequently.

Arguments from Ignorance: Mr. Friel frequently challenges atheists to prove God doesn't exist. Well, in the most general possible sense, we can't. But we don't have to. As Isaac Asimov once said, "I don't have the evidence to prove God doesn't exist, but I so strongly suspect he doesn't that I don't want to waste my time."

Irrelevant Appeals: Mr. Friel uses these often, usually in the form of appeals to fear, pity, or wonder. While these can be persuasive, they have little to do with the matter at hand. In addition, they are irrational by their very nature, as they are designed specifically to exploit the listener's irrationality. Every time he brings up Hell, he's making an appeal to fear. This tactic is especially dishonest considering that the very existence of Hell is a subject of the very debate he's engaging in. Which also makes it an example of Circular Reasoning, also known as Begging the Question, a phrase that Mr. Friel frequently misuses, much to my annoyance.

Straw Man Arguments: Mr. Friel has a different Theory of Evolution than modern biologists. His version addresses the Big Bang, the formation of the solar system, and the spontaneous origins of life on Earth. The real Theory of Evolution has nothing to do with any of that, it addresses one phenomenon and one phenomenon only: The changes of populations over time in response to environmental pressures. The origins of the universe and of life on Earth are covered by other, separate (though related) theories. Todd's version of evolution also predicts that dogs can give birth to cats and monkeys to humans. Again, the real theory says nothing of the sort (rather, it states that monkeys and humans -- and cats and dogs, for that matter -- had a common ancestor, which is a much different claim). In fact, if either could be shown to have happened, they would disprove the Theory of Evolution as we know it. This is a Straw Man Argument: Todd claims that the Theory of Evolution is absurd, and indeed his version is. But since it in no way resembles the real theory, his argument has no relevance.

These are just a few examples of logical fallacies Mr. Friel has (knowingly, I suspect) engaged in. So how to we counter it? Well, that's the $64,000 question. As I said earlier, Mr. Friel is very good at cheating. He's very slick at sneaking these fallacious arguments past people. If I go through one of his shows line by line, I can catch a lot of them, but I'm not skilled enough to do it in real-time. We need to find someone who is, and send them off to go toe-to-toe with Todd.