Welcome to this week’s episode. Everything is fine. In this episode, I am joined by my good friends Aaron Rabi and Bethany Futrell to discuss NBC’s The Good Place, a show which is a testament to the fact that sitcoms can actually be philosophically robust and make people think deeply about morality and ethics. Who knew? Created by Michael Schur, The Good Place is a fantasy-comedy that explicitly incorporates ideas and concepts from moral and ethical philosophy via the narrative vehicle of a story about a group of people who die and find themselves in an afterlife.
In our conversation, Aaron, Bethany and I discuss moral contractualism, utilitarianism, the famous trolley problem, the moral and ethical implications and consequences of existential crises, the role of moral luck in the lives and actions of the show’s characters, whether or not eternal beings are capable of human morality as we know it, whether it’s morally justifiable to kill sentient A.I in order to upgrade their capabilities, and finally, the question of moral valence and why Aaron is ready and willing to pass moral judgment on Bethany for eating a banana for lunch. We also speculate on possible future directions for the show. Will we get our wish and get to see Jason Mendoza throw a Molotov cocktail at God?
Aaron Rabi’s podcast “Embrace the Void”: https://voidpod.com/
“Embrace the Void” on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ETVPod
Aaron Rabi’s other podcast “Philosophers in Space”: https://0gphilosophy.libsyn.com/
Thomas Scanlon 2013 lecture on morality and contractualism: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eXrVyVqqzJ0.
The Trolley Problem Experiment in Real Life by Vsauce: http://thenerdweb.com/trolley-problem-experiment-in-real-life-by-vsauce/
Join the official discussion group of this podcast at www.facebook.com/groups/aleapofdoubt
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Thanks to Jeff Prebeg, Jeanne Ikerd, Torsten Pihl, Chris Watson, and Kim Bojkovsky for being my patrons!
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The opening clip is an excerpt from the audiobook “God is Not Great” by Christopher Hitchens, courtesy of Hachette Audio. Text Copyright 2007 by Christopher Hitchens. Audio production copyright 2007, Hachette Audio. Used with permission.
The opening and ending music is “Jade” by Esther Nicholson and is used under license. The editing was done by Rich Lyons of the “Living After Faith” podcast.
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In this episode, we are doubting the historical existence of a man you may have heard about: Jesus of Nazareth. Ever since critical biblical scholarship began in the eighteenth century, largely a product of the Enlightenment, the consensus among mainstream historians and religious scholars has been that a man named Jesus did historically exist in Palestine and was crucified by the Romans in the first decades of the Common Era. Although these biblical critics did doubt and challenge the reality of the New Testament’s portrait of Jesus as a miracle worker and divinely appointed savior, they did think – or, more precisely, assume – that there was a real man named Jesus upon whom theological legends were later based. But there has always been another school of thought. The mythicists argued that not only was the Christ of faith a theological fantasy, but the Jesus of history was also a fiction. Jesus, said the mythicist scholars, never even existed historically.
Eastern mysticism clashes with rural America in this episode, as we recount a tale of religious bigotry, government paranoia, bombings, wiretapping, poisonings, assassination attempts, and airplane chases. I am joined by my good friend and patron the show Chris Watson, host of The Podunk Polymath Podcast, to review and discuss the six-part Netflix documentary series Wild Wild Country. The series chronicles the rise and fall of Rajneeshpuram, the once-thriving city established in 1981 in central Oregon by the Indian guru and mystic Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and his followers.
In this episode, we explore the topic of fantasy role-playing games (RPGs) within the context of the moral panic and cultural stigmatization that surrounded games like Dungeons & Dragons and Vampire: The Masquerade during the Satanic Panic of the 1980s and 1990s. My special guest is Joseph Laycock, PhD, assistant professor of religious studies at Texas State University and the author of three books, including Dangerous Games: What the Moral Panic over Role-Playing Games Says about Play, Religion, and Imagined Worlds. He has also written a book about vampire mythology and the communities that form around them and several journal articles on subjects which include Otherkin, parody religions, and paranormal beliefs.
My guest for this episode is Carly Gelsinger, author, writing teacher, and freelance editor. She holds a bachelor’s in psychology from William Jessup University and a master’s in journalism from Boston University. Her work has appeared in local, regional, and national publications. Her first book, which was released this month, is called Once You Go In: A Memoir of Radical Faith, a book about her life inside a fundamentalist Pentecostal church, where she was on fire for the Lord, as they say, until she found the courage to leave and forge her own path free of the toxicity and fear that fundamentalist religion so often breeds.
In this episode, there is plenty for us to doubt, because we’re talking about philosophy of mind with some moral and ethical philosophy thrown in like sprinkles on top. In what may well become a recurring theme on this podcast, we’re doing another philosophical deep-dive into a television series. This week, we’re analyzing HBO’s Westworld, a cerebral, high-concept series which explores the emergence of artificial consciousness in a theme park modeled after the American Old West and populated by highly sophisticated robots that look and act just like humans from that era.