SkepSun #173 (01_17_2016)

On Freethought Radio, legal fellow Ryan Jayne updates Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor on FFRF’s New Jersey lawsuit challenging millions of “historic preservation” dollars handed to churches, many for the purpose of worship. They discuss a cross on a Kentucky city water tower, another one on an Illinois war memorial, and government censorship of freethought speech. Then they interview feminist atheist author Sikivu Hutchinson about her new book, White Nights, Black Paradise, about Jim Jones’s People’s Temple and the 1978 massacre in Jonestown, Guyana.

We’ll hear an excerpt from Sam Harris’ “Waking Up” podcast in which he responds to the attempts of some to blame atheism for mass shootings that took place in 2015. Harris reminds these folks that atheism is simply the absence of belief in gods and has no ideology, tenets or scripture that sanction violence, unlike a few religions we know.

Starting off hour two of the show, Gordon Bonnet of the Skeptophilia blog marvels at how it seems no amount of evidence that the HPV vaccine Gardisil is safe will ever satisfy some parents.

In the final segment of the show, Bo Bennett and Kim Ellington speak with Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Tampa, Ryan T. Cragun about the sociology of religion on the Humanist Hour podcast. What accounts for the meteoric rise in the number of Americans who don’t identify with any religion since 1990? Cragun has  theory. He’s the author of two books: What You Don’t Know About Religion (but Should) (2013), and How to Defeat Religion in 10 Easy Steps: A Toolkit for Secular Activists (2015).


Sociologist of religion Ryan T. Cragun


SkepSun #161 (10_25_2015)

On Freethought Radio one Texas sheriff tells the FFRF to “go butt a stump” and another tells them to “go fly a kite” after they complained about “In God We Trust” bumper stickers on police vehicles. Annie Laurie Gaylor recites Emily Dickinson’s ode to “Indian Summer” and Dan Barker sings “Beware of Dogma.” Then we hear excerpts of Ron Reagan’s speech accepting FFRF’s “Unabashed Atheist” award at the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s 38th Annual Convention two weeks ago.

Gordon Bonnet of the Skeptophilia blog tells us about “orbitally rearranged monoatomic elements,” or ORMUS. Perhaps it is a bad sign when even the acronym doesn’t work.

For some of us, our first lesson in being skeptical of claims came on the back of comic books that promised a 7-foot remote control ghost, x-ray vision, and happy smiling sea monkeys, all for a dollar? Brian Dunning on Skeptoid has a look at some of the most memorable of these.

In hour two, Greta Christina, Atheist activist, blogger and author, presents, “Resistance is Not Futile – Is Arguing About Religion Worth it?” from the CFI Summit in October 2013.

Classic comic book products marketed to kids: first lesson in skepticism?

SkepSun #154 (09_06_2015)

Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker get us caught up on the news, for instance the FFRF victory declaring the Ten Commandments unconstitutional at a Pennsylvania high school, a county clerk refusing to grant gay marriage licenses, group baptisms on the high-school football field, “In God We Trust” on police cars, a Jesus statue in a federal park, and a year-long nativity scene in New Mexico. Their guest is Kansas biographer Vickie Sandell Stang,l author of Etta Semple: Kansas Freethinker and “Ideal” Woman. 

Plans for the rest of the show changed this week as I learned of the death of Cornell University Emeritus Professor of evolutionary biology, William B. Provine. Will Provine died at his home on Tuesday, September 1.  He had been battling brain cancer for many years. Will Provine was a rare combination of intellect, courage and humanity who touched the lives of many students and colleagues during his decades at Cornell.  He also became a nationally known figure from his public debates with prominent creationists and even some debates with his fellow evolutionists. He never swayed from the view, unpopular with most of his colleagues, that accepting evolution by natural selection as the engine of biological innovation and diversity necessarily implies the falsity of theistic religion and other cherished beliefs such as human free will.  His scholarly contributions to the history of evolutionary biology for which he won many awards were equalled if not surpassed by the difference he made in the lives of his many students and colleagues. I interviewed Will Provine at his home in Marathon, New York in January of 2013.  I will replay that interview for you today.

William B. Provine (February 19, 1942 – September 1, 2015).

William B. Provine (February 19, 1942 – September 1, 2015).



SkepSun #151 (08_16_2015)

On Freethought Radio we hear about FFRF’s Ron Reagan ad on the penultimate Jon Stewart Daily Show, a Jesus sign in an east Texas town, bible verses removed from an Arkansas city webpage, and “In God We Trust” challenged on municipal vehicles. After hearing Bo Burnham’s anti-religious rap song “Rant,” Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Baker talk with author, poet, and critic Katha Pollitt about her new book Pro (about abortion rights), and her previous book Learning To Drive, which has became a major motion picture released this week starring Patricia Clarkson and Ben Kingsley. Then Skeptophilia‘s Gordon Bonnet has a look at how certainty works in science and how some in the public misunderstand the uncertainty that’s baked into scientific theories to mean that scientists “don’t really know what they’re doing.” Last week we honored 19th Century orator and Freethinker Robert Ingersoll, whose birthday was last Tuesday. In the latter half of that Century Ingersoll was the face of religious skepticism and his arguments were the ones that caused people to question their faith. Today, the most prominent figure out on the front lines actively debating theists is the public speaker and internet personality, Matt Dillahunty, host of the weekly show the Atheist Experience. Bo Bennett, host of the Humanist Hour podcast interviews Dillahunty in hour two of the show and asks him how he got to where he is and what he’s learned after more than a decade of debating theists.

Public speaker, debater and host of the Atheist Experience TV program, Matt Dillahunty

Public speaker, debater and host of the Atheist Experience TV program, Matt Dillahunty

SkepSun #132 (03_29_2015)

Annie Laurie Gaylor is flying solo on Freethought Radio this week and she reports on the FFRF’s successful commercial by Ron Reagan on CNN, salutes Robert Kastenmeier, a former member of Congress who died last week, and reports on March Madness complaints over basketball chaplains at state universities. After celebrating March 29th birthday of Eric Idle (we’ll hear two of his irreverent Monty Python songs), Annie Laurie interviews Harry Shaughnessy, president of the Triangle Freethought Society whose family was featured this month in a CNN online story about “The Atheists Next Door.” We’ll hear a couple tracks by atheist rapper Tombstone Da Deadmna and then Gordon Bonnet of Skeptophilia considers”Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson’s appalling prayer breakfast rant against atheists. It’s been a century since recreational drugs have been banned in the USA.  How’s that been working out for us? A skeptical look is long overdue. In hour two, Josh Zepps, host of the Point of Inquiry podcast, interviews Johann Hari who has spent the last several years traveling and researching the war on drugs for his new book Chasing The Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on DrugsHari discusses the troubling beginnings of the drug war and argues that everything we thought we understood about drug addiction is wrong.

SPECIAL NOTE: There’s still time enter the drawing for a free signed copy of Dan Barker’s new book, Life Driven Purpose. The deadline: Wed., April 1, the official publication date. To enter, send an email to with Subject “Free Book,” providing your name and mailing address and how you listen to Freethought Radio (radio station or podcast provider). There’ll be two winners: one for broadcast listeners and one for podcast listeners. Winners announced on next week’s show. It would be great to have a WRFI listener win! Tell them that you listen to Freethought Radio on Skeptical Sunday.

Billie Holiday, early casualty in America's failed war on drugs, as detailed in Johann Hari's new book.

Billie Holiday, early casualty in America’s failed war on drugs, as detailed in Johann Hari’s new book.




SkepSun #128 (03_01_2015)

After celebrating the 100th birthday of freethinking biologist Peter Medawar, Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor, hosts of Freethought Radio talk with Douglas Marshall, the victorious plaintiff who sued the city of Warren, Michigan, and won the right to display a Reason Station next to the Prayer Station in city hall. Then they speak with journalist Jeffrey Tayler, of The Atlantic (calling us from Russia), about his “It’s Time to Fight Religion” article and the problem with the media’s hesitation to criticize religion itself for the violence it creates. Afterwards, we will hear the thoughts of Brian Dalton, sometimes known as “Mr. Deity” on the hypocrisy over the Chapel Hill murders. We also have Skeptophilia‘s Gordon Bonnet who will urge us to reconsider our assumptions and stereotypes about people in a piece entitled “the myth of the moral high ground.” The grandaddy of all skeptical podcasts celebrated its 500th episode recently with a house party where the skeptic rogues were joined by some illustrious guests. In hour 2, we’ll hear the skeptic rogues Steve, Jay and Bob Novella and Evan Bernstein along with special guests Massimo Pigliucci, Jon Blumenfeld Larry Fitzgerald, Joe Novella and Joshie Berger.  Topics range from Brian William’s memory issues, to Gwyneth Paltrow’s peculiar hygiene regimen to Joshie Berger’s entertaining spin-off of their regular feature “science of fiction,” entitled “Jewie or fiction.” The full episode is available here.

Ex-Hasid Joshie Berger of Williamsburg, New York.

Ex-Hasid Joshie Berger of Williamsburg, New York.

SkepSun #111 (11_02_2014)

It’s the first of our two fall fundraiser shows done live in the WRFI studio. On today’s show I interview “Miss Zoologist,” founder of the Ithaca Atheist Meetup, the first and perhaps the best atheist meetup in the known universe and then I talk with Kate-Lyn Capelli, Cornell junior and co-founder of Pastafarians of Cornell. What is Pastafarianism (otherwise known as the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster), what are its origins and why does the Cornell student body need such a group? On Freethought Radio, the radio show of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker tell us about football baptisms, proselytizing teachers, Fox & Friends lecturing FFRF on “culture of the South,” and USA Today acknowledging FFRF’s accomplishments. Then they talk with John Figdor, Humanist Chaplain at Stanford University, about his new book Atheist Mind, Humanist Heart: Rewriting the Ten Commandments for the Twenty-First Century.

This week call 607.319.5445 to pledge your support to keep WRFI and Skeptical Sunday on the air.  Check out for details and to see the to two great t-shirt designs that are available for pledges of $60 or more. Everyone who pledges gets a WRFI bumper sticker.

Next week (11/09)  I’ll have another live show with Trumansburg high school teacher, skeptical blogger and science fiction writer Gordon Bonnet.  Tune in, call in and pledge!

Pastafarians of Cornell co-founder Kate-Lyn Capelli, Cornell junior, talks with John Sullivan in the WRFI studio

Pastafarians of Cornell co-founder Kate-Lyn Capelli, Cornell junior, talks with John Sullivan in the WRFI studio

SkepSun #105 (08_24_2014)

On Freethought Radio, Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor celebrate Women’s Equality Day, and observe the 100th anniversary of the predecessor of Broadway’s “Book of Mormon,” a musical entitled the “The Girl from Utah,” that included the first hit  by freethinker Jerome Kern, then we’ll hear the audio from 20 short videos from FFRF’s new “Out of the Closet” Freethinker video campaign. After Freethought Radio we’ll hear  the late Christopher Hitchen’s response to someone who asks him why, if he doesn’t believe in a god, does he spend so much of his time arguing against the belief. We’ll hear Carl Sagan, reading an excerpt of his book, Pale Blue Dot, that is used in a new tribute video entitled “A Universe not made for Us.” We’ll hear Dr. Steven Novella reviewing a recent study looking at the association of strokes with chiropractic cervical manipulations from last weeks Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe podcast. Then finally, Daniel Fincke is a professor who has moved out of the university setting to teach philosophy online using interactive video conferencing technology (Google Hangouts) to offer affordable, private philosophy classes to people around the world. He joins the hosts of Atheist Talk, a radio show and podcast produced by Minnesota Atheists and talks about his personal journey from faith to a naturalistic worldview and how he’s pioneering this new model of instruction.

Dr. Dan Fincke, proponent of philosophy for everyone, online.

Dr. Dan Fincke, atheist & proponent of philosophy for everyone, online.


SkepSun #100 (07_20_2014)

On Freethought Radio, Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor celebrate the 166th anniversary of the Seneca Falls Convention called by agnostic Elizabeth Cady Stanton, then talk with newsmaker and freethought activist Dan Courtney, a Lifetime FFRF Member, who just became the first atheist to give an invocation in Greece, N.Y. — site of the governmental prayer dispute at the center of this spring’s Supreme Court ruling. Then we’ll hear two Skeptoid podcasts.  First, Brian Dunning looks at polygraph and other lie detection techniques and then at so-called “12-step programs.”  Then we’ll hear an address by Matt Dillahunty, co-host of the Atheist Experience call-in television show out of Austin Texas entitled “Theistic Reasoning: Fallacies and Faith.”


Matt Dillahunty, host of the Atheist Experience television program

Matt Dillahunty, host of the Atheist Experience television program

SkepSun #93 (06_01_2014)

A Christian pastor has a falling out with his Church, doubts his faith, loses his job and decides to try on atheism for one year.  I’m talking about Ryan Bell who until March of 2013 was senior pastor of the Hollywood Seventh-day Adventist Church. Currently he’s a researcher, writer and speaker on the topic of religion and irreligion in America. In January 2014, Dr. Bell began a year-long journey exploring the limits of theism and the atheist landscape in the United States. He blogs about this experience at Year Without God. He’s interviewed by Bo Bennett on the Humanist Hour podcast. We’ll find out what results he’s gathered to date from his experiment in the second hour of Skeptical Sunday. But First on Freethought Radio, Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-presidents of the Freedom from Religion Foundation update us from the frontlines of the battle of church and state: FFRF’s Raleigh conference was covered CNN Belief Blog, new billboards in Ohio billboards and a Christian park in Iowa sparks protests. Then they talk with Greece vs. Galloway plaintiff Linda Stephens and get her response to being labeled “demonic” by a politician for trying to stop city prayer in Greece, NY. Also, we’ll hear a Skeptoid with Brian Dunning on which Brian looks at possible examples of conspiracy theories that may have actually turned out to be true.


Ryan Bell, former senior pastor at the Hollywood, CA Seventh Day Adventist Church, is trying atheism for one year.

Ryan Bell, former senior pastor at the Hollywood, CA Seventh Day Adventist Church, is trying atheism for one year.