Good morning!

I’m off to Charleston today, on the last grueling leg of the Grand Evolution, Atheism, and BBQ Tour of the South. I have many pictures and much to report, but that must wait.  Let me just mention that after my lecture in Clemson, one female student arose, incensed, and accused me of not knowing anything about religion. I said, “What do you mean?”

She replied that my characterization of hell was erroneous. I’d given the statistic that about 70% of Americans believe in hell—as opposed to 16% who accept naturalistic evolution—and added that for many such believers hell was not metaphorical, but a real place of fiery torment. She asserted that “her researches” had shown her that hell was not like that, but rather a series of concentric circles with various types of punishment (had she been reading Dante?).

I thought “The Lord hath delivered her into my hands,” and of course asked her what researches she had done.  The point I wanted to make it that there is no way of finding out the truth about anything through religious “researches,” and of course she didn’t cite her sources or methodology. Rather than prolong what could have been an interesting exchange, I moved to the next question.

The pushback I got from both creationists and religious people was much stronger in Clemson than after my lecture yesterday in Columbia (same talk), which was in the biology department although still open to the public.

In the meantime, I need coffee, preferably like this one (there will be extra cat until I return to Chicago Sunday.)

awww

h/t: SGM

35 Comments

  1. Jay Blundon
    Posted February 7, 2013 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    Please let us know when you’re in Memphis Jerry. That is, if you want some real BBQ. I’m sure the Rhodes College Freethinkers, Atheists and Agnostics would love to hear you speak, as would I.
    Jay (unbuckling the Bible Belt in the Mid-South, one notch at a time)

  2. Posted February 7, 2013 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    Well, she clearly hasn’t been reading CS Lewis. Everyone knows that hell isn’t about fire and physical torture; it’s about eternal separation from God. I mean, come on.

    Interesting about Clemson vs. Columbia. I would’ve predicted exactly that, given that Clemson is a much smaller town and USC has a bigger science research base.

  3. gbjames
    Posted February 7, 2013 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    Nice cat, although I prefer mine black.

    • Posted February 8, 2013 at 8:59 am | Permalink

      Your coffee or your cats?

      b&

      • gbjames
        Posted February 8, 2013 at 9:02 am | Permalink

        I was wondering if anyone would pick up on that. ;)

        (I’ve never understood why people, including my wife, ruin perfectly good coffee by pouring other stuff into it.)

        • Posted February 8, 2013 at 9:21 am | Permalink

          Though there are certainly some delightful beverages made with coffee, I’m of the opinion that a coffee that needs to be adulterated in order to be made palatable isn’t worth drinking at all.

          I really like coffee, but I don’t care for what it does to me. So, every couple / few months or so, I’ll have a cup with breakfast and really enjoy it…and that’ll be enough until the next special occasion.

          Tea, on the other hand…the good stuff I have most mornings.

          And, again, just the tea, by itself. No cream, no sugar — just tea.

          Cheers,

          b&

          • Brygida Berse
            Posted February 8, 2013 at 11:07 am | Permalink

            Tea, on the other hand…the good stuff I have most mornings.

            Ben, are you familiar with this company:

            http://www.uptontea.com/

            If not, try it sometimes, for variety. A bit pricey, but they have an amazing selection of Darjeelings (and of other black teas as well) and great customer service (and no, I don’t work for them).

            • Posted February 10, 2013 at 9:42 am | Permalink

              I’m not familiar with them. Thanks for the recommendation.

              One of the nice things about Strand is that Mr. Strand himself generally answers the phone when he’s not abroad buying teas, and Mrs. Strand fills in for him when he’s away. And both are quite passionate and knowledgeable about tea….

              Cheers,

              b&

  4. Marjorie Spencer
    Posted February 7, 2013 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    Onward, Evolution soldier! (Charleston has better food).

  5. Posted February 7, 2013 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    Glad your travels have been safe! Here’s my funny Dante story. One evening I was reading in the “quiet” room while waiting for my daughter to finish cheer-leading practice, when two moms struck up a not so quiet conversation. They of course began talking about their high-school aged girls and in particular how each were doing in school. I picked up fairly quickly that one of the moms was an actual teacher. So the teacher mom says to the other mom that her daughter was just assigned a book that she is afraid might be satanic. My ears really perked up on that note. The other mother is appalled of course. The teacher mom continues that her daughter has shared how this book goes in to all of this creepy detail on hell and punishments and the devil. I’m now chuckling to myself. But I can’t stand the ignorance any longer. “Do you happen to know the author?” I inquired with feigned concern. They both look at me, I’m sure thinking that “ah ha, another concerned parent!” She said, “I think the name begins with a ‘D’.” I questioned, “Is it Dante?” “Yes! That’s it!” Ok, well, your daughter is reading Dante’s Inferno, a part of his 13th century epic poem called the Divine Comedy. Dante was simply describing his vision for hell but beyond that, it’s a cornerstone piece of western literature which I highly recommend you read as well.” They both looked at me like I was nuts.

    • jesse
      Posted February 7, 2013 at 11:02 am | Permalink

      But I bet both moms know who the Kardashians are.
      It is good you tried. Maybe something sunk in, for them to look up later. Maybe.

    • Posted February 7, 2013 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

      If by “funny” you mean depressing…

  6. Posted February 7, 2013 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    I’m guessing the woman who “researched” hell was also a virulent protestant and would have been horrified to find out her Dantean hell was ever so Catholic.

    and cutest latte ever!

  7. Markus Koebler
    Posted February 7, 2013 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    When I meet religious people I often ask them for their favorite God.They usually find this very insulting but it seems to me a legitimate question given the proliferation of deities on this planet.

  8. Sastra
    Posted February 7, 2013 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    She replied that my characterization of hell was erroneous. I’d given the statistic that about 70% of Americans believe in hell—as opposed to 16% who accept naturalistic evolution—and added that for many such believers hell was not metaphorical, but a real place of fiery torment. She asserted that “her researches” had shown her that hell was not like that, but rather a series of concentric circles with various types of punishment (had she been reading Dante?).

    Fail on many levels, including the one where her objection doesn’t even address what you were talking about. The issue has to do with correct statistics concerning what people believe about Hell, not what Hell is “really like.” It wouldn’t matter if “her researches” into Hell included a trip personally guided by Virgo. Many believers still consider Hell to be a real place.

    In fact, if she is arguing that Hell is a real place of concentric circles of increasing punishment — wouldn’t that make her part of that group?

    What the hell is her objection?

    • Sastra
      Posted February 7, 2013 at 9:13 am | Permalink

      Virgo/Virgil.

      I need a cup of cat coffee.

  9. raven
    Posted February 7, 2013 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    She asserted that “her researches” had shown her that hell was not like that, but rather a series of concentric circles with various types of punishment (had she been reading Dante?).

    They are so cute when they argue about which version of their mythology is the “real” version.

    At least they aren’t fighting bloody wars over it any more. Good thing we took away their tanks and heavy weapons a few centuries ago.

    It does sound like she was reading Dante. IIRC, he just made the 9 circles of hell up for his story.

  10. raven
    Posted February 7, 2013 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    She asserted that “her researches” had shown her that hell was not like that, but rather a series of concentric circles with various types of punishment (had she been reading Dante?).

    They are so cute when they argue about which version of their mythology is the “real” version.

    At least they aren’t fighting bloody wars over it any more. Good thing we took away their tanks and heavy weapons a few centuries ago.

    It does sound like she was reading Dante. IIRC, he just made the 9 circles of hell up for his story. It isn’t in the bible.

  11. raven
    Posted February 7, 2013 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    Many Americans don’t believe in hell, but what about … – USA Today
    usatoday30. usatoday.com/ news/…/2009-08-01-hell-damnation_N.ht…

    Aug 1, 2009 – Only 59% of Americans believe in hell, compared with 74% who believe in … Jesus, sometimes there’s a tendency to mute traditional Christian symbols,” he said. …

    What percentage of Americans believe in Hell and Satan varies a lot from poll to poll.

    Usually it runs around half the population.

    Hell never made much sense anyway and is a later invention, the NT authors borrowed from the Greeks who probably got it from the Zoroastrians.

    Infinite torture for finite crimes. Even we humans don’t do that any more. If god isn’t as good as the average person, why bother worshipping him?

  12. Gerard52
    Posted February 7, 2013 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    It is astonishing that 70% of the people in the country still belief in the concept of Hell …and you will be punished for committing alleged sins and face an eternity of pain and torture. These are people who may one day go on to be political, cultural, civic and intellectual leaders in the community and their minds are deluded by Bronze age religious ideas of heaven and hell.What a depressing thought.

  13. Brian
    Posted February 7, 2013 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    “Now with Extra Cat” should be on the header or sidebar.

  14. Mateus
    Posted February 7, 2013 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    “’d given the statistic that about 70% of Americans believe in hell—as opposed to 16% who accept naturalistic evolution—and added that for many such believers hell was not metaphorical, but a real place of fiery torment. She asserted that “her researches” had shown her that hell was not like that, but rather a series of concentric circles with various types of punishment.”

    I don’t see how her reply is in any way related to your statement.

  15. Posted February 7, 2013 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    Hell, schmell. The important thing is: where on Earth can I get a cup of coffee like that? :-)

  16. will
    Posted February 7, 2013 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    Jerry, I love when you travel and take the temperature (reaction) of the public.

    _____

    She asserted that “her researches” had shown her that hell was not like that, but rather a series of concentric circles with various types of punishment (had she been reading Dante?).

    —–

    You really have a lovely sense of deadpan humor that livens me up as much as any coffee. :)

  17. will
    Posted February 7, 2013 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Jerry, I love when you travel and take the temperature (reaction) of the public. You could sustain an entire book with lecture reactions like:
    _____

    She asserted that “her researches” had shown her that hell was not like that, but rather a series of concentric circles with various types of punishment (had she been reading Dante?).

    —–

    You really have a lovely sense of deadpan humor that livens the prose as much as any coffee. :)

  18. Jim Jones
    Posted February 7, 2013 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    “… and of course she didn’t cite her sources or methodology.”

    “Christianity: 2,000 years of everyone making it up as they go”.

  19. Diane G.
    Posted February 7, 2013 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    I thought “The Lord hath delivered her into my hands,” and of course asked her what researches she had done.

    Ha Ha Ha!

    “Lead me not into temptation,” my ass!

  20. Diane G.
    Posted February 7, 2013 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    Now I’m gonna lie awake all night wondering what would happen if hell’s circles weren’t concentric…

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted February 7, 2013 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

      That could be one hell of a Venn diagram.

      • Diane G.
        Posted February 8, 2013 at 3:34 am | Permalink

        :D

  21. Posted February 7, 2013 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    Good that you moved on to the next questioner. There’s no salvation for those stuck in the 9th circle of hell.

  22. Matt Bowman
    Posted February 7, 2013 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    In all my coffeehouse researches I’ve never seen a more adorable beverage.

  23. Pete UK
    Posted February 8, 2013 at 1:31 am | Permalink

    One of the most impressive examples of pareidolia I’ve ever seen…

  24. dorcheat
    Posted February 8, 2013 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    Of course, ceiling cat does not at all drink “de-cat-inated” coffee.

  25. dorcheat
    Posted February 8, 2013 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    Dr. Coyne, you mentioned that you received signfificant pushback from Christians at Clemson. Is there any chance of some sort of video posting of you during the Q&A session answering these questions and/or comments.


One Trackback/Pingback

  1. [...] Jerry Coyne’s blog post about a young lady in one of his BBQ tour lectures confidently describing hell as a set of [...]

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 27,678 other followers

%d bloggers like this: