Have You Had This Conversation Before?

Gary DeSomber, a member of the Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers, made a short film about an atheist trying to explain to a religious friend why God’s existence is no more factual than the Easter Bunny.

It’s well made and the dialogue is as honest as you’ll ever see. (I know I’ve had similar conversations before.) And I appreciate that it’s not mean-spirited — just a pleasant dialogue between two people with different beliefs… at least until the end:

I’d totally watch a longer version of this.

(Thanks to John for the link!)

  • Juno

    It’s like every conversation I’ve had with my friends over my lack of faith.
    :\

  • http://www.correntewire.com chicago dyke

    very nice. if there’s one thing, ok a couple of things i’d add to ‘perfect’ this and help it go viral, it would be:
    -speak more about religious hypocrisy. the gay preachers getting caught with male prostitutes, the anti abortion preachers who had some woman in their lives terminate a pregnancy that was inconvenient, the preachers who preach in support of war despite “thou shall not kill,” super rich pastors with private jets taking monthly donations from the very poorest in our society, etc
    -talk about how religious leaders manipulate people for money, and other things they want people to do, give or think. catholic leaders who supported the nazis, islamic imams exhorting people to become suicide bombers, religious leaders blatantly participating in politics for their own personal advancement, etc.

    but yeah, i’d watch another or longer version of this too. oh, and i wish he’d been more sarcastic when he said “yes i am.” i don’t like even tacit agreement that hell exists.

  • http://criticallyskeptic.blogspot.com Kevin, Critically Skeptic

    Yea – a longer version would have been nicer, although it did kind of bother me a little bit, I’ll admit.

    And the ‘yea, I know’ seemed to be more in reaction to Bernie saying he was going to Hell, like ‘yea, yea. You tell me this every week.’

  • http://thegreatamericandesert.com freelancer

    Wow, it’s like me vs. parents about 3 times a year (1 religious holiday, 1 occurrence of violence by a religious whacko that gets national attention, and 1 if there’s a death amongst their friends or our family).

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    I thought it was well done by both Gary’s performance and Bernie’s smug arrogance. I’m sure this conversation has repeated itself often.

  • Guest Pest

    The audio of the dialog could be a bit louder. I really had to crank it up in order to hear it.

    I agree with chicago dyke, the ending could have been better.
    Other than that, it was pretty good.

  • http://hryun.com Vinícius E.

    Wow, great video and it’s a little strange to see this right now because last weekend I had exactly the same type of conversation with my Christian girlfriend… well, ex-girlfriend now :-/

    At the end of our conversation she asked “Will you ever believe in god?”. When I answered “Nope, for me your god is like Santa” she said that I was very “disrespectful” with her beliefs. Like Bernie, I’m pretty sure she thinks I’m going to burn in hell.

    Lovely!

  • http://primesequence.blogspot.com/ PrimeNumbers

    Well done, and very nice production values. The use of magic was very well done, and really helped the story.

  • Rich Wilson

    I would have liked for the grandfather and the girl to have found out that Mark is an atheist, and for the grandfather to be a little uncertain as to how to deal with an atheist who has just done something moral. Perhaps returning his wallet that he leaves behind or something. This whole notion that morality requires religion is what annoys me the most.

  • Potco

    The only critique I have is that it would be nice to have a series of these, put together as a longer movie.

  • http://www.meaningwithoutgodproject.blogspot.com Jeffrey A. Myers

    The only change I would have made is the portion where he asks ‘What harm does it do? Why try to kill the myth?’ I think that could have been greatly expanded. Otherwise, great video!

  • Digitus Impudicus (formerly Aaron)

    I have had the first 30 seconds of that conversation. Second 31 usually involves getting yelled at.

  • Silent Service

    I’ve had that conversation more times than I can count.

  • RJ

    It’s deja vu all over again…and again…and again…….

  • Eric

    I kind of found mark to be a bit smug.

  • ButchKitties

    I wish they would have gone into the “God’s giving you a choice to escape Hell” thing a little more. That defense would never fly in a criminal trial.

    “Your Honor, I gave that woman a choice. She could either stop resisting me and keep quiet, or I would shoot her in the face. So as you can see, the sex we had was clearly consensual. After all, she had the choice of letting me shoot her in the face instead.”

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Hmm there’s something familiar about all this. What could it be…

  • http://crunchygods.posterous.com Joel Bass

    I sort of wish this had been written by an atheist and a believer, rather than an atheist and the straw-man religious doofus in his head. The atheist character seemed very well-spoken, whereas the religious character just spat out random bible quotations. Too bad — the religious folks I usually argue with are much more intelligent.

  • JustSayin’

    Not bad, but I have issues with the atheist’s non-sarcastic usage of the phrase “more truer.” Yeah, I’m a grammar Nazi.

    Also, Israel’s not a theocracy, even though it definitely has a vocal religious faction within the halls of government. I mean, hell—they don’t even have an issue with gays in their military!

  • http://www.correntewire.com chicago dyke

    israel’s gays must serve, but not the “ultra orthodox.”

  • Laura

    I sort of wish this had been written by an atheist and a believer, rather than an atheist and the straw-man religious doofus in his head. The atheist character seemed very well-spoken, whereas the religious character just spat out random bible quotations. Too bad — the religious folks I usually argue with are much more intelligent.

    What would the more intelligent religious person have said?
    Are there any intelligent religious arguments?

  • En Passant

    Yes, I have had this conversation before. With a more respectful tone than this atheist had. And yet somehow I seem to alienate every person who knows I’m an atheist. I don’t get it. I wish I had a Bernie who would come back the following week. :(

  • http://www.iowaatheists.org Pimp Daddy J

    I would have liked for the grandfather and the girl to have found out that Mark is an atheist

    The grandfather in the video is actually Gary, the person that made this video and I believe that’s his actual granddaughter he’s sitting with.

    Gary did an outstanding job on this video. I can’t count how many times I’ve had conversations exactly like this myself.

  • http://arkonbey.blogspot.com Arkonbey

    I agree with Joel that the believer was too flat a character.

    My favorite part was when Mark responded with “God, don’t!” when Bernie offered to pray for him.

    I’ve managed, through hard work, to work the phrases “Oh gods” and “Oh my gods” (ala’ Terry Pratchet) into my daily life. I’m not religious at all, but it’s slightly funny.

  • Vanessa

    @chicago dyke

    -speak more about religious hypocrisy. the gay preachers getting caught with male prostitutes, the anti abortion preachers who had some woman in their lives terminate a pregnancy that was inconvenient, the preachers who preach in support of war despite “thou shall not kill,” super rich pastors with private jets taking monthly donations from the very poorest in our society, etc
    -talk about how religious leaders manipulate people for money, and other things they want people to do, give or think. catholic leaders who supported the nazis, islamic imams exhorting people to become suicide bombers, religious leaders blatantly participating in politics for their own personal advancement, etc.

    What does this have to do at all with the video? It was a discussion of the naivete of a belief in god.

  • http://www.iowaatheists.org Pimp Daddy J

    A high quality MP4 of this video is available here to anyone that wants it.

  • AxeGrrl

    JustSayin wrote:

    Also, Israel’s not a theocracy, even though it definitely has a vocal religious faction within the halls of government.

    Then why can’t people with no religious affiliation get married in Israel?

    “A person who is neither halachically Jewish nor connected to another approved faith community cannot marry in Israel”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marriage_in_Israel

  • Whit

    Great video, though in the end when he shows the egg trick to the little girl I was half expecting her to make some funny gesture, as if to say “Screw you, it’s in your sleeve”
    I know some children who make great freethinkers, just think if that “But why?” game.

  • http://carrionluggage.com Adam

    This is not very good. Sure the message is spot-on and all, and the arguments are valid, but the film is made in the exact same way the fundamentalists make there films to “prove” the existence of a God: shitty dialogue, a resolute but pushy protagonist, and the confounded antagonist, it’s just so trivial.

    And when have you ever seen a religious person stay so calm and allowing when their beliefs are being all-out attacked?

    Every counter-argument to religion was presented and counter-argued in this, which is just unrealistic.

    As a filmmaker, even though I agree, I do not support this kind of coy and redundant brand of film.

  • Laura

    And when have you ever seen a religious person stay so calm and allowing when their beliefs are being all-out attacked?

    Oh yes. What people do when they have no rational argument is to come out with a personal insult.
    Or they get threatening and angry.
    I’m still waiting for the “more intelligent, rational” pro-religion argument :)
    The best one I know of is “it helps me in life”. That isn’t an argument for the truth of it, but rather an argument for the usefulness of illusion in life.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000586562927 muggle

    Meh, I really wasn’t impressed. The whole exchange seemed so forced and phony, rather unnatural. It talked like people on the internet, not people face to face.

    Am I the only one going to call that smug asshole out on the towel head remark? !!! No, tell me he did not really go there. But he did. I heard it. How can you place any value on this film after that bit of bigotry?

    Did the Christian actually come back with honor thy father and mother as “proof”? Seriously. Would have loved to be there to tell him to grow up with my mother and father and then freaking talk to me about honoring parental units.

    It sucked. Just because platitudes that our non-believing asses liked were uttered for 8 minutes doesn’t mean it didn’t. It did.

    And when have you ever seen a religious person stay so calm and allowing when their beliefs are being all-out attacked.

    Um, I have. Many a time. Most eventually get to we’ll have to agree to disagree but there was Christian coworker once that he and I use to have fascinating discussions each defending our view but neither of us grew angry. For the nine months I worked in the cubicle next to his. If anything, he outclassed me. I still miss those conversations. When I left, we were in a deep discussion re AA vs. RR and we got there via a discussion of does religion do harm or good? Another Atheist was in the cubilce across from me and he was likewise respectful to him. I was temporary and they had both been working there for years and got along fabulously and I suspect still are. Maybe he could be calm because we didn’t treat him like he was ignorant to believe. Oh, and he was a classy guy period.

  • Chal

    Yeah, this was pretty weak. Closer to religious videos than I’m comfortable with.

  • Carlie

    I sort of wish this had been written by an atheist and a believer, rather than an atheist and the straw-man religious doofus in his head.

    Wow, you just called all my relatives straw-man doofuses. Thanks a lot. Maybe you have friends who are all into “sophisticated” theology that dresses up the imaginary in fancy words, but every Christian I know has basically those same arguments used in the video.

  • Laura

    I think worshipping cows is relatively a very sensible and beautiful thing to do.

  • http://crunchygods.posterous.com Joel Bass

    Laura, my grandfather was a very intelligent religious person. He’d been a professor at a Baptist seminary, and was somewhat drummed out of there because of his belief that the Bible was more useful metaphorically than literally. That said, he was definitely a believer in God, and in the works of Jesus, and he and I had a lot of wonderful discussions, even though he knew I was an atheist. He told me to “keep an open mind,” and I asked him to do the same.

    As a fan of science, I strive to think scientifically, and therefore I can’t go around insisting that there IS NO GOD. All I can say is that I see no evidence of a God. And that, in fact, I’m not sure the word means much anymore, now that everyone has a different definition. Intelligent Christians I talk to often have problems with the Bible and with organized religions, and freely talk about these. But they do believe there’s more “out there” than just the natural world, and we respectfully disagree.

    To me, a good theological chat is (almost) always enjoyable, especially if both parties go away thinking about the possibilities.

  • pansies4me

    I have only ever come out to some family and my best friend. So far the conversations have been respectful, and I think part of the reason is that I don’t ever imply that I think their faith is childish. I get the lame excuses as to why they believe, but I tell them that I have found no convincing evidence for any gods and they’re OK with that. My sister-in-law even pointed out that it’s usually analytical people like me who come to that conclusion (she meant it as a compliment). They all readily admit that they have faith for emotional reasons, so I feel no need to attack them for it. They know it makes no logical sense, but they value the comfort it brings. I find comfort in the thought that there probably isn’t a god or gods, so I have an emotional investment in my belief just as they do. I’ve come to the conclusion that if someday there was incontrovertible proof that the Universe had a Creator, I would be terribly upset, and would find it difficult to give up my atheism. I would have no choice, of course, if I truly believe that lack of evidence is what led me to this state in the first place. What I’m having a terribly hard time saying is that I think beliefs have a strong emotional component to them, even if it feels like we adopt them on a totally rational basis.

  • AxeGrrl

    Pansies4me wrote:

    I’ve come to the conclusion that if someday there was incontrovertible proof that the Universe had a Creator, I would be terribly upset, and would find it difficult to give up my atheism. I would have no choice, of course, if I truly believe that lack of evidence is what led me to this state in the first place.

    But even if there were a ‘creator’, the most you’d ‘have to’ do is acknowledge it…..you wouldn’t necessarily have to worship it or ‘defer’ to it.

  • pansies4me

    @AxeGrrl

    I guess I was thinking more along the lines of a personal god/creator that I find so distasteful. I really don’t want to think that there is something out there that has a plan for me, lets crap happen in the world, etc. More like the Christian god with which I’m most familiar. Even a distant god who set things in motion and then walked away doesn’t give me the sense of wonder I feel when I think that there may not even be a need for a creator of any type for the universe to have come into being.

  • pansies4me

    By the way AxeGrrl, you are the first person to ever respond to a comment I’ve made on any blog, ever. This sounds stupid, but thank you! I was beginning to think I just had nothing interesting to say. :(

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    pansies4me

    I really don’t want to think that there is something out there that has a plan for me, lets crap happen in the world, etc. More like the Christian god with which I’m most familiar. Even a distant god who set things in motion and then walked away doesn’t give me the sense of wonder I feel when I think that there may not even be a need for a creator of any type for the universe to have come into being.

    Reality is pretty awesome without adding gods to the mix.

  • pansies4me

    Reality is pretty awesome without adding gods to the mix.

    Precisely what I’m getting at…

  • http://www.iowaatheists.org Pimp Daddy J

    The only critique I have is that it would be nice to have a series of these, put together as a longer movie.

    I had lunch with Gary this Sunday and he’d like to make a series of these and maybe a even a full length version. Gary plays the grandpa in the movie and that’s his real granddaughter with him.

    He’s retired and makes these videos as a hobby. I personally think he and his friends did a great job.


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