CPBD 028: Eric Reitan – Christianity Beyond Fundamentalism

by Luke Muehlhauser on March 17, 2010 in Podcast


(Listen to other episodes of Conversations from the Pale Blue Dot here.)

Today I interview philosopher and theologian Eric Reitan. Among other things, we discuss:

  • Why are conservative Christians obsessed with gays?
  • Religion as an essentially contested concept
  • the value of progressive christianity
  • why God cannot ground morality

reitanDownload CPBD episode 028 with Eric Reitan. Total time is 1:03:27.

Eric ReitanĀ links:

Links for things we discussed:

duck-rabbit big

Note: in addition to the regular blog feed, there is also a podcast-only feed. You can also subscribe on iTunes.

Previous post:

Next post:

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

NagelWattage March 17, 2010 at 6:25 am

Thanks for finding so many interviewees.

BTW, you are right. Rockstart Recovery is THEE best energy drink out there. It has fueled many a reading of philosophy articles.


Steve Maitzen March 17, 2010 at 9:06 am

Interesting interview. Progressive religion, indeed! It’s Christianity way beyond fundamentalism. In his interview, Dr. Reitan sounded to me like a noncognitivist about religious discourse. In particular, his discussion of the duck-rabbit picture and of “seeing the world as x” vs. “seeing the world as y” sounded noncognitivist to me. After all, anyone is simply confused who asserts that it’s really a duck or really a rabbit. It’s not really one or another, and so on this view of religion it would be uncharitable to interpret religious folks as asserting that the world really is one way or the other. According to noncognitivism, religious folks aren’t actually making truth-apt assertions, even if they may claim to be doing that. Any takers for noncognitivism?

I enjoyed hearing his objections to divine-command theory. It’s always good the more such objections are aired. I share Dr. Reitan’s doubts about neo-Kantian moral theory, doubts I’ll continue to have until neo-Kantians (very contrary to Kant himself) find a way of permitting me to deceive a murderer to save an innocent victim. My permission to do so is a moral datum I find awfully hard to give up.


Justfinethanks March 17, 2010 at 9:15 am

NagelWattage: BTW, you are right. Rockstart Recovery is THEE best energy drink out there. It has fueled many a reading of philosophy articles.

I’m personally fond of 5 hour energy extra strength. Downing is like drinking a magic potion that gives me +10 to my Javascript coding skill.


Bill Maher March 17, 2010 at 12:09 pm

I agree Luke. Rockstar is great. :-)


lukeprog March 17, 2010 at 12:20 pm

Bill Maher,

I don’t like to do the sugar ones anymore, though. Only Rockstar Recovery.


Rhys Wilkins March 17, 2010 at 1:55 pm

MOTHER is my fav energy drink of all time. I would not be in university if I did not have MOTHER.

Actually I think I might go get one now.


Bill Maher March 17, 2010 at 3:13 pm


I will have to give those a try.


Lee A.P. March 17, 2010 at 6:30 pm

Luke and anyone else would do good to read the late, great ROBERT ANTON WILSON, the “model agnostic” who was well aware of various “reality tunnels” that humans have.

Though, it seems Luke has his life, readings, postings and shit takings for the next several years already mapped out — so maybe he would be able to google Robert Anton Wilson in his late 30′s. ;)



Lee A.P. March 17, 2010 at 7:19 pm

There is really no big secret to energy drinks. its CAFFEINE! They put B vitamins and crap as well as ginseng to look all cool and shit, to create the illusion that it is a unique elixir — but CAFFEINE is by far the major active ingredient. B vitamins can give you energy — if your diet is full of them and only over long perioda of time but not in one dose in an energy drink over the counter.

Nope, its the caffeine that gives you the energy. And none of those crappy, shitty drinks do a better job that this magical, ancient energy drink called COFFEE.

Jeez, for a bunch of materialists you guys were sure taken in buy some marketing scams.


Bill Maher March 17, 2010 at 7:53 pm

Lee, Rockstar tastes delicious and gives me energy.

The only coffee I like is Turkish and I am not in a place to get it.


justfinethanks March 17, 2010 at 8:30 pm

Lee A.P.: There is really no big secret to energy drinks. its CAFFEINE!

I don’t know. I know that there’s a lot of crap in energy drinks that’s in there for marketing purposes (like the B vitamins you mentioned), and I know there’s very limited value in anecdotal evidence, but I really defy anyone to try and drink a 5-hour energy decaf and still claim that only caffine has energy enhancing properties.

I certainly try to be a skeptical consumer (I actively discourage people I work out with from drinking Gatorade, for example)but the energy I get from certain energy drinks feels more focused and long lasting than just a triple espresso. If that’s due to some sort of placebo effect, it’s still worth it just for the increased daily productivity.


Jake de Backer March 17, 2010 at 9:13 pm

The lemon-lime and lemonade flavored Rockstars are a way of life. The reason Rockstar is light years ahead, is because they figured out that energy drinks taste like ass and have had the ingenious maneuvering skills of moving in the complete opposite taste direction. Using juices and now “cola” to mask the taste of what otherwise tastes like caffeinated cyanide. Monster has like 8 “flavors” and they all taste like fucking Red Balls bullshit to me.


Those five hour things, and there lame-ass “energy drink’s make you crash” campaign ads, don’t do SHIT for me. I’m happy they help you. And when I’m 40 with liver-spots my happiness will surely turn to envy.



svenjamin March 17, 2010 at 9:31 pm

I have never tried this energy drink stuff before, I never trust something with that much excitement on the packaging. Well, not when it comes to food. I did buy that hula hoop though… I also don’t deal well with caffeine. Maybe I will try some of these non-caffeinated energy drinks.
The fighters in Thailand drink tons of weird stuff, like “Commando Bear” energy drink. I just went for the electrolyte drinks when I was over there training- I’d drink a gallon or two of water a day and still be pissing dark. Just wasn’t possible to stay hydrated when sweating that much.


lukeprog March 17, 2010 at 10:23 pm

Lol. Nearly all the comments on this post are about energy drinks.


AlexG March 18, 2010 at 12:33 pm

lukeprog: Lol. Nearly all the comments on this post are about energy drinks.  

Perhaps it’s time to take the blog in a new direction?


Bill Maher March 18, 2010 at 2:49 pm

lol @ Alex.


danielg March 22, 2010 at 2:35 pm

1. Inerrancy

I like his quote on inerrancy, though I entirely disagree with his position on homosexuality. This is probably why he is ignored – because he is seen as ‘just another liberal theologian.’

2. Homosexuality and Conservatives

Homosexuality, like other forms of sexual perversity like pedophilia, or beastiality, are mentioned fewer times in scripture, not because they are more or less heinous than, say adultery or promiscuity, but less *prevalent* as part of the human condition.

Also, homosexuality is biblically viewed as the most common outward manifestation of the perversion of human nature by sin and rebellion against God, and is seen, for example, not as the ‘primary’ sin of Sodom, but the primary *sign* of a culture that has reached the pinnacle of debauchery (as is child killing). This is why Romans 1 unambiguously condemns homosexuality – not as the worst sin, but as a sign of deep depravity.

Of course, other types of ‘depravity’ such as failure to love, help the poor, or follow God are also mentioned in scripture.

Second, homosexuality is focused upon by evangelicals in RESPONSE to the aggressive mainstreaming of it by activists – they are active in the issues of our times, and believe that legal sanction leads to educating our children and normalizing promiscuity.

Sex abused has real and dire consequences for both children and adults. Homosexuality is epidemiologically dangerous (at least for men) in comparison to heterosexual promiscuity, which is also risky.

To conclude, conservatives aren’t being myopic or warped by focusing on homosexuality or abortion/premarital sex – they have REAL impacts in the real world.

And Christians are more active in the other works of compassion you see to think they should be involved in instead – it’s just not in the news everday. Seen ads for Compassion Intl or Feed the Children? Or Samaritan’s Purse? Or Catholic Charities? Shames secularists who do so much less by comparison.

3. Bible and Capitalism

The bible says little against capitalism or wealth, any more than it says such things against sex or drinking. It talks about the abuse of such, the lure of their abuse, and the deception of the pleasures of the flesh, the world, and the devil.

In fact, many would argue that the principles of free will, freedom of conscience, personal responsibility, industry, and charity lead TO a capitalistic view, and AWAY from socialism, which undermines these virtues.

Capitalism is not flawed, it’s that when you put non-virtuos people into a system without checks and balances, you get fraud. But WITH such checks and balances, as with our free society rather than the tightly controlled socialist models that rob people of reward for their labors, the system not only works, it is more biblical, imo.


lukeprog March 22, 2010 at 3:01 pm


Did you just say that capitalism is Biblical, or did I misread you?


danielg March 22, 2010 at 3:16 pm
Qohelet March 23, 2010 at 7:32 am

Great episode. Eric Reitan is a good exponent of liberal Christianity, someone who would counterbalance the inanities of Pat Robertson et al.

BTW, I think you should downsample the episodes to 64 kbps. 112/128 kbps is overkill for a podcast (it’s mostly voice). With a lower sample rate, the file would be smaller and easier to download, and would fit devices with smaller memory. :)


danielg March 23, 2010 at 9:20 am

Daniel,Did you just say that capitalism is Biblical, or did I misread you?  

I said it is *consistent* with biblical principles, moreso than socialism, because the latter violates many scriptural principles, those I mentioned.

Capitalism works when people are free and virtuous. Of course, unfettered freedom is not what I am advocating – fallen human nature (and scripture) demand a system of government to protect the innocent, promote and support virtue, and punish evildoers, for “where there is no justice, people become unrestrained in doing evil.”

The same can be said for our form of government – while not specifically prescribed in scripture, it seems the most consistent. Or as well said in Democracy and Terrorism: Two Faces Of The Same Evil:

“The Constitutional Republic our forefathers crafted was an ideal form of government designed to maximize our liberties and minimize our potential for evil.”

Greed is the problem, not capitalism per se. But totally unfettered capitalism is flawed in that it fails to take into account man’s fallen nature. Socialism takes away too much freedom in trying to deal with man’s fallenness, and forces him to do what is right, rather than merely restraining him from evil and giving him the freedom to do good as his conscience allows.


danielg March 25, 2010 at 10:57 am

I meant to write “I *meant* it is consistent” not “I *said* it is consistent” since I really didn’t say that explicitly. You buy my reasoning?


Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }