Thoughts on the Rational Responder Brian Sapient's Appearance on the Laura Ingraham Show

This morning, I was listening to the Laura Ingraham Show on KRLA radio when she mentioned that Brian Sapient of the Rational Responders would be appearing on her show at 9:30 in the morning. My first thought was, Why is she giving an platform for these people? After all, they are simply a group of Internet atheists who think that they are smarter than everyone else, but they haven’t backed up their claims in any material way. They seem to be more of a group who uses rhetorical trickery more than actual logic to make their case. (See, for example, my earlier posts The circular reasoning behind claims that the apostles were biased, The great high church of my own intellect and Layman’s very entertaining post Foolishness from the "Rational Responders" in their Jesus Challenge.) Thus, I was interested in what Mr. Sapient would have to say.

Not unpredictably, Mr. Sapient said nothing new. It was the same old garbage that people of his ilk normally throw out. For example, he attributed love and the willingness to help others to self-interest. He analogized the situation to a bunch of people living in a cave who need each other to survive. Thus, helping the others is simply a matter of extending self-interest to those who are needed. A very utilitarian view of compassion in my view.

The problem with this view is that it gives no warrant for a person to love another person. Recognizing that another person is needed or useful to ones own end doesn't mean that that person will be loved. It hardly seems as if there is any necessary connection between love and usefulness. I can find someone useful without developing an emotional attachment to that person, can't you? If his argument is that spending time with another person will result in love, I find that argument to be a failure for a couple of reasons. First, that assumes that love is already somewhere inside and will come out when the situation arises. This, of course, raises the question of where that love came from? What is there in our evolutionary history that accounts for love? As I said before, usefulness doesn’t seem to be the same type of thing.

Second, I think history demonstrates that humanity doesn't come to love people we spend time with. While I am not a fan of Jean Paul Sarte’s philosophy, I do think he had tremendous insight in recognizing that "hell is other people." When we are thrust together with other people for long periods of time, we are just as likely (perhaps more likely) to commit murder as to love that person.

I should add that this approach provides no reason to love other people who are not useful to us. Arguably, if Mr. Sapient is correct in his evaluation of where love comes from (which I think is not possible), then it is also reasonable to conclude that xenophobia is the result of the evolutionary process and therefore natural. After all, we only have a need to love those people who are around us and useful to us. On what basis do we argue against our evolutionary distrust of those who we don't need or who are not useful to us because they live outside the range of our contacts? Why send people to help the poor and downtrodden in other countries or even other cities? They aren't helpful to us, and it doesn’t advance our self-interest to do so. No, there's something inside us that makes us love other people and recognize that it's right and good to love other people that evolution doesn't explain.

Interestingly, when the discussion on the Laura Ingraham show turned to the topic of missionaries, Mr. Sapient seemed to suggest that there were more atheists involved in helping the poor and needy in other countries than Christians. Personally, I find that hard to believe (Laura certainly didn't believe it). But even if it were true, the simple fact is that Christians were the first to do the benevolent act of helping others for no reasons other than to help them and to spread the Good News of Jesus. Mr. Sapient reacted to this by saying that missionaries were killing more people in other countries by their stand against teaching the use of contraceptives. Obviously, there is a reasonable debate about whether we should be teaching the use of contraceptives, but to claim that Christian missionaries are killing people is to lower the level of rhetoric inappropriately. There’s no question that even if he is correct that we should be counseling the use of contraceptives, the net positive from these missionaries greatly outweighs the negative.

Mr. Sapient, of course, accused God of all kinds of evil, and Laura appropriately called him back to the idea that the Bible teaches to love your neighbor as yourself. The idea that if we followed the Bible we would have killed everyone (as Mr. Sapient suggested) is so completely ludicrous as to be not worthy of more than a mere mention.

Mr. Sapient absolutely missed the point that Laura was making when she was asking him if he thought certain brilliant thinkers of history were smarter than he is. (By the way, Mr. Sapient, despite the belief you stated on the show you aren’t smarter than Saint Thomas Aquinas -- you aren’t even intellectually worthy of tying his shoes.) Rather, she was making the same point that I made in my post entitled The great high church of my own intellect that the skeptic judges Christianity based on their own limited intellect.* Simply because Mr. Sapient doesn’t understand the Trinity doesn’t mean it isn't understandable. Just because Mr. Sapient looks at the account of Noah in Genesis and sees God committing mass murder doesn’t mean that other people can't see beyond his stunted viewpoint. In other words, the fact that Mr. Sapient finds a belief in God irrational is every bit as likely a statement of his own limited thinking faculties as it is a statement of reality.

He also fell back on the "you have to pick the right God" argument claiming that there are thousands of gods from which to choose. Yes, it's true that you have to pick the right god. But it's always incredible to me that people like Mr. Sapient can't see that there’s a reason that the God of the Bible has become one of the main contenders for the title. People don’t believe in Zeus, Apollo, Thor, Ra or any number of other gods from antiquity because there is widespread agreement that there exists insufficient evidence to believe in their existence. God -- the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who has come to us in the form of Jesus Christ -- has left us sufficient evidence for his existence that many people who examine the truth are satisfied that the claims that Jesus is God and that He is the same God as described in the Hebrew scriptures is true. So, the claim that there are thousands of gods is merely a rhetorical device used by skeptics like Mr. Sapient to discount the Christian claim.

Overall, I found Mr. Sapient's appearance on the Laura Ingraham Show to be sad. He is an average skeptic with a below average website that doesn't deserve the publicity that he got from the appearance. Too bad that the people who take positions contrary to the popularly held views get publicity for no other reason than they are oddities.

* Note, I am not saying that skeptics are more limited intellectually than Christians, but rather saying that all people are limited intellectually. It is the pronouncement that the skeptic is the only one who is being rational (hence, the name "rational responders") that brings me to point out that they are being rational only in light of their limited intellect.


Frank Walton said…
No-talent Sapient was on Laura Ingraham's show?! Yup, I share your sentiments, what's a dude like that doing on a show like that. Hopefully Ingraham read my previous post on him.
Aaron Kinney said…
And the reason you obey Gods commands is because if you dont, you will be cast in to Hell.

But THATS not self-interest? Baloney.

Go ahead and keep ridiculing RRS and other atheists. And we will keep deconverting Christians. We are the ones winning the hearts and minds. Atheism is on the rise, and Christianity is in a freefall.

Good luck saving your mythological superstition. Maybe you should pray harder.
BK said…
1. No, I don't obey God's commands out of fear of being cast into hell. I didn't say that in my response. Please don't put words into my mouth.

2. I wasn't ridiculing RRS and other atheists. I was pointing out apparent flaws in what they said. If you think that's ridicule, then no one can critique what another person says without ridiculing them.

3. The rest of your comment is simply ill-informed bravado, and I leave it to that.
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
BK said…
One of the other blog administrators removed the last comment, but I wanted to respond when I saw it. The commenter said:

"What was sad was the fact that Laura Ingraham muted Brian all the time. Didn't let him respond and generally shouted over him. It was clear that she was not interested in a debate. The points she raised where typical theist nonsense that might convince or resonate with the terminally stupid but are laughable to anyone with half a brain."

1. Sapient had more time than anyone else to talk. Ingraham simply tried to cut him off from terminal filibustering.

2. It was Sapient who wasn't interested in debate. He was only interested in rhetoric.

3. I agree that people with "half a brain" would find the Christian position to be laughable.
Sara said…
I know I am coming to this waaaaaaay too late, but I just today discovered this blog, and I felt the need to respond.

You said "...the skeptic judges Christianity based on their own limited intellect.*"

Well, of course! All any of us have is our own limited intellect! If God does exist, surely he would understand that we can only use our "limited intellect" to make judgements about the world. You rightfully admitted that ALL people, theist and atheist alike, have only limited intellect, but I feel the need to go one step further and say that simply because a theist can't comprehend how the universe could have come to exist without god (something I hear from thesists quite often) doesn't mean that it couldn't have happened that way.
Also, in regards to the evidence that sets Christ apart from Zeus, Thor, Ra, etc...what is that evidence? You can respond here, or even e-mail me at


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