I’m once again only posting an update in response to another podcast appearance – but it’s a little different this time.

A few months ago David at The Graceful Atheist podcast reached out to me about doing an episode after I had endorsed his show in an earlier post. I put it off for a while but then in early April my dad suddenly passed, and I realized that doing the show might be a helpful step in the grieving process – for me, and possibly others. You can listen to the episode here.

As hinted at in the podcast, I don’t know what the future holds for this blog. My dad was a force for good in large part because of his faith, not in spite of it. I don’t want to participate in potentially taking that away from anybody, so I don’t expect to be engaging with apologetic type content in the future. But I also don’t want to bury the past, so I don’t foresee taking anything down. I don’t know what the path forward here might look like, but I do know that I want to error on the side of building up, not tearing down.

Me and my dad, 41 years ago
Me and my dad, c. 1979

13 thoughts on “Update

  1. Oh man I’m sorry to hear about your father passing Travis, I wouldn’t have asked you about doing a Podcast with me so soon had I known. That said, I look forward to listening to this and I hope that doing it was helpful on your end 🙂

    If it was helpful, then just know that I’m having you in mind for upcoming shows on RSM once I’m ready as I know you missed out on the Klaas Kraay show. but again, only if you feel up to it, if not let me know and I will be happy to give you any time you need.

      • Awesome, yeah you’ve done a lot for me in terms of coming on Podcasts and just fault out bringing some substantive sanity from the Skeptic’s side of the debate since I started up on S&S, so I got your back as you go through these struggles. I will for sure keep you in the loop and support whatever you decide 🙂

        I know it doesn’t mean much on your end given you don’t believe in God, but for what it’s worth I will be praying for you during this tough time.

        Til then, take care and all the best my friend 🙂


  2. Hi Travis, I too want to send my best wishes and sympathy for the loss of your dad. And as a long term reader of your blog, and occasional protagonist, to encourage you in your decisions about its future. I have never seen your questioning of my faith and your arguing for a different view as negative or tearing down. Of all non-believers I have engaged with, you are one of the friendliest, most thoughtful and most open-minded, and I never thought of you as the “enemy”. I have learnt a lot from our discussions and your blog.

    But I also think the scene has changed in the last decade. 15 years ago it seemed like there was antagonism and bitterness between christians and atheists, and others in between, but we can be glad that now seems to have mostly passed. New generations seem to be more tolerant and less argumentative (probably because more postmodern). And the whole forum and blog scene has changed, with far fewer people wanting to engage in the way we all did back a decade ago. So that too changes the potential for blogs like yours, and mine.

    So I wish you well as you work through your feelings about your loss, and what is constructive to the human race and to you. I would hope we would run across each other from time to time, but maybe that won’t happen. (e.g. I seem to have lost contact with Nate, which makes me a little sad.) All the best!

    • Hi Eric,
      Thank you for the kind words and well wishes. To be clear, I am not concerned that I am being adversarial, but rather that simply by putting the information and arguments out there to be discovered by others, I could be contributing to the “tearing down” of somebody’s faith despite the fact that it may be important to their well-being and to the good that they’re doing in the world.

  3. Thanks for sharing that Travis. I think what was most heartening to me is how you and your wife have been able to maintain a strong relationship without trying to change the other, and even if things were rocky for a while. To me that shows a rare depth of character in each of you.

    I was never truly indoctrinated myself, though my parents did take my brother and I to church occasionally. Things got serious for me at 8 or so when a good friend in a highly religious family informed me that our kind eventually go to Hell. With this motivation I decided that I did fully believe, though by the time I was 13 or so I found too many cracks in the narrative for it to make sense. So I came clean to my parents about this realization, telling them that I didn’t think there was a God. It turns out that my dad had become a full atheist in his college years, and my mom was at least agnostic!

    I think there will be progress in science regarding consciousness, and even given structural difficulties in our mental and behavioral forms (not to mention philosophy), which make them “soft” today. Just as past ignorance regarding topics in physics and chemistry can seem amusing to us today, people in the not too distant future should smile at our current ignorance regarding consciousness. They should have a hindsight perspective regarding how science eventually worked much of this out.

    I personally suspect experimental evidence will demonstrate that consciousness emerges through the electromagnetic radiation associated with certain types of synchronous neuron firing. One way to test this would be to see if technological EM radiation that mimics the frequencies and magnitudes of actual neuron firing, can noticeably alter someone’s conscious experience (since if consciousness exists as certain kinds of EM waves, then similar waves should alter someone’s consciousness for report). In any case we naturalists suspect that science will find a brain based explanation “of this world” some day.

  4. So very sorry to read this, Travis. Unfortunately, we lose the ones we love far too soon. Sending healing thoughts.

  5. Just wanted to give my condolences, Travis. I lost my mom last year, but it wasn’t sudden, so I can imagine how hard that must be.

    Wishing you the best, brother!


  6. Travis
    I think your dad is proud of everything you are doing. (Yes I am a Christian and believe he is in heaven and knows everything about you now) I really don’t think anything you do or have done is something that would maliciously pull people from their faith. You raise great questions about faith that religious people should think about. Your blog and your comments are some of the best I have read. I hope you continue to share your thoughts. It is people like you that help these conversations.

    As for the “Graceful Atheist” I am sorry to say I think he does not live up to his name. He becomes very angry at people that disagree with him and repeatedly asserts that the apologists are just being dishonest.
    “Rather than an intellectual contest, I want to have an honesty contest.”
    That is not graceful. When I insisted I am being honest about the reasons I give for my faith and the reasons I do not agree with his reasons he became angry and I believe even banned me from his site because he thought I was dishonest. You may think I am pig headed but I hope you realize I am not being dishonest.

    But I don’t want to dwell on the “graceful atheist” after hearing about your amazing father. I know different faith traditions focus on faith and belief in “what is” questions. But I think “faith” is more about faith Jesus’s teaching about “what to do.” As the Pope said atheists can go to heaven. I don’t mean these verses to try to make you a believer in God but rather just to help explain why I think you and your father have quite a bit of common ground when it comes to Christianity in ways that Christ himself thought was important.

    “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you..”
    John 15:10-12

    “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”
    1 Peter 4:8

    “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

    34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

    37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

    40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

    41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

    44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

    45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

    46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

    Matthew 25:31-46

    Christians are supposed to “believe in Jesus” but what does that mean? I believe Jesus meant that we are to believe his teachings and live by them. I really don’t think it has much to do with beliefs about “what is” or is not.

    • Hi Joe,
      Thanks for the kind words. I really do appreciate the sentiment.

      As for David, I took a peek over at his site and I think I might be able to offer some insight. This search shows that after the initial contact, you kind of bombarded his site with comments over a several day period and, I mean no offense, but your stream of consciousness comments can sometimes be daunting. I recall that many of our early interactions involved me trying to restate your argument in a few short sentences to make it manageable. I suspect that this bombardment had much to do with his statement that “I need you to do better”. I don’t think he was accusing you of being dishonest. I also don’t think you were banned. I suspect that your comment which included an email address was automatically spam filtered.

      • Travis
        I’m glad you took my comments as good natured and appreciate them.

        On Graceful atheist you may be right perhaps I wasn’t banned but when I know people are intentionally leaving out my comments after I draw their attention to them (which I did) I treat it the same. If he wanted to leave my email out he could but I think it is rude and a waste of my time – which is very precious to me as I get older. There are some other issues with him but no need to go there. Is the comment showing up to you? It says it is still awaiting moderation.

        I always appreciated that you would take the time to make sure you understood the arguments and points I was making. Many people not familiar with the philosophical language never do – and meta-ethics pulls from many different areas of philosophy. I believe I also tried to make sure I understood the points you made. Because even for people who have done and read philosophy for decades the concepts are often not clearly delineated by language.

        I will openly admit I am trying to pull you back into these discussions even against your will because I miss discussing points with you and found our discussions fruitful. 🙂 You may not think so but we definitely reached points where we understood exactly the premises the other did not accept try as we might to get the other to accept it. That may not seem like much to you, but I think it was great.

        One impasse we had was just the importance we both placed on trying to figure out what morality requires of us.

        And this was again brought out by a comment you made along the lines of secularists are sorting out morality. It wasn’t so much whether they are or not, but rather your tone suggested that was less important than the probability of God existing etc. I sort of understand that thinking as I used to think that way too. But now I find that I am much less interested in assigning a probability to God existing (or anything existing) but rather much more concerned with giving myself the best chance of living a moral life. The probability arguments (does God exist, does morality exist etc) were beaten to a dead pulp. But there was still the question ok “what I am going to do with my life?”

        There was a time where it all came to a head and I consciously made the switch. I still remember being up at night and thinking about God heaven hell and the evils people have done in the world and thinking “God or no God heaven or no heaven I just want to live a moral life.”

        So I continued to think about morality and how I might know what it requires. That OMR might not hold is certainly a possibility maybe its even probable but to me that was like saying free will probably doesn’t exist. Ok maybe it doesn’t but I don’t know what to make of what to do if that is the case anyway. It doesn’t seem a live option.

        So my intellectual pursuits became focused on using reason and logic to find out what a morally good life requires. I may not get it (and it may not even be real) but at the end of my life I will certainly say I tried to learn what is morally required and I tried to do it.

        Since then my passion has been to develop and intellectual moral foundation. I long ago stopped thinking my goal was to fill my head with beliefs that were “more probably than not true” and expunge beliefs that did not meet that standard.

        Indeed in pursuing my goal to lead a moral life I have often considered it is unlikely that there is objectively real morality and even if does exist out there I may not have access to it. So the probabilities of success may be small. But I do not think they are zero. And I have to live my life now so this is what I consider the most pressing intellectual question anyone can ask.

        So when you talk about morality as though some other people might eventually get it sorted out, I wonder how you think that happens and how you could pass that off to others. What is more important to you than living right? Do you think others have moral data you do not that will help them solve this in a scientific way? Is Sam Harris and Peter Singer going to figure this out for us? Muhamad, Jesus and others claimed their moral teachings came from God. Ok maybe the chances are very slim that is the case. Maybe the chance we have any real free will is very slim etc. But it is not zero. So likely we are not in a position where we can say we will live according to what we believe is more likely than not the morally correct way. Rather we have to settle for saying we will live by what we think has the best chance of being the correct way. But isn’t trying to figure that out a central question for you?

      • Hey Joe,
        I will let you pull me back into a discussion on morality, but here’s my request: post a new comment on the Moral Ontology page and give me a specific question you want me to answer. You can provide context, but I just don’t have time right now for lengthy discussions that branch off into multiple rabbit trails.

What do you think?

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