Talk-Back with Radio Priest Transcripts
- A Sample of Five Calls -
A series of calls made by David Quinn, Dan Rowden, and Kevin Solway to Father John McEwin, host of a Sunday
night religious program on 4BC, from January to May, 1995.
For three hours every Sunday Night, Father John McEwin, a Catholic priest, hosted a talkback program which made the pretense of concentrating upon "religious" issues. It was advertized as an "open forum" in which people could ring up and discuss concerns about religious and social issues with Father John. Without exception, each show was utterly pitiful and an embarrassment to listen to.
Judging by his callers, the overwhelming majority of his listeners were the very elderly and/or the very weak, who used the show simply to indulge in the pleasures of self-pity and indignation, and to pat each other on the back for being so incredibly spiritual. Never did anyone ring up and discuss the nature of Reality, or the question of how one arrives at perfection, or the future of humanity. The subject of God, for example, was rarely broached, and even then it was only used to enhance the back-patting. Caller after caller would whinge about how their son or daughter wouldn't talk to them anymore, or about how upset they were over their father dying fifteen years before, or about how they had overcome cancer, or about how they had been visited by the Virgin Mary. In short, it was the most brainless drivel imaginable.
To be sure, the odd fundamentalist would ring in, quote scripture, and pass damning judgment upon the luke-warm Catholics; and the odd sceptic would pose some mild question about the sexuality of priests - but other than that, it was entirely insipid.
Given all this, it may be asked why Dan, Kevin, and myself would bother to make any calls at all to this program. As far as I was concerned, there were three reasons. One, entertainment. Two, to practice the art of teaching about God. And three, there was the faint hope a young person may be listening to the show.
This last reason was obviously the most important one. I made all of my calls on the assumption that there was a young, intelligent, thoughful person out there, a rare youth with a conscience, whose mind was desperately craving a few truthful words, and who was listening to a religious program in the valiant hope of finding some. It need only take one judicious phrase to plant the philosophic seed in good soil. Such a phrase, if heard at just the right moment, could mean the difference between a young person becoming a great spiritual hero, a dragon slayer who ruthlessly wages war against ignorance and delusion . . . and a non-entity with a mortgage, three kids, and a string of rosary beads.
CALL ONE - David Quinn
New Year's Day and everyone was ringing up and making a new wish for the year. These ranged from world peace to making more money to helping the homeless to hoping their daughter would one day ring them. I made a wish which was truly worthwhile . . .
Father John: . . . the beginning on the new year, 1995. 131332 is our telephone number. It's great to be with you here tonight. Hello David.
David: Yes, hello. I'd like to make a wish for the next year.
Father John: Great!
David: And that is, I want the entire Christian mentality thoroughly eliminated from the face of the earth.
Father John: Good idea, David! Now what's that going to accomplish?
David: Well, it will give more chance for there to be wisdom in this world. All Christianity does is foster mediocrity. It does everything it can to obstruct the individual striving for wisdom. Everything about it is totally the opposite of Truth, and is the opposite of Jesus's teachings. So, for example, the woman before who rang up about how Jesus came to the world and advocated a style of living, or a teaching we should follow . . . when I look at Christianity I see that it is the complete opposite of what he taught and how he lived. For example, Jesus spoke about giving up everything we hold dear for the sake of the Truth, but Christians preach the complete opposite - they preach the acquisition of material and emotional possessions, attachments to beliefs, to doctrines, to priests. They're the rich people Jesus spoke about . . . yeah . .
Father John: You got that off your chest now?
David: I'm dead serious. I think that Christianity is thoroughly evil, and not only Christianity but all religions.
Father John: Okay . . . well . . all religions? Not just Christianity?
Father John: Islam, Buddhism - we wipe the whole lot out?
Father John: So what do we believe in, David?
David: The Truth.
Father John: Right, good, that's very nice. What is the Truth?
David: The Truth is the ultimate reality of Nature. So, a life of Truth consists of opening your mind up to the ultimate reality of Nature, and to live in a direct relationship to it.
Father John: So what becomes the benchmark for Truth?
David: It is one's individual understanding of the Truth.
Father John: Alright, so, all of a sudden, you can have an idea of Truth, and I can have an idea of Truth, and your idea of Truth can be 180 degrees different to mine--
David: Okay, but I'm talking about a wise person's understanding of Truth, as opposed to an ignorant person's understanding of Truth.
Father John: Isn't that very, very subjective and therefore very, very dangerous?
David: Well, Christianity is very, very subjective and very, very dangerous. Christianity talks about having absolute morals, but ultimately it is just as subjective whether you choose to have these morals--
Father John: David? Excuse me, David?
Father John: We have to go to the news now, but I would very much like to continue this after the news. You happy with that?
David: Okay then.
Father John: Alright, back after the news. 131332 is our telephone number and we'll be back to take some more of all your calls and comments.
Father John: . . . Before the news we were talking to David about . . . well, David, you tell us what we've been talking about.
David: Well, the end-point of the last discussion was whether what I was advocating was totally subjective and--
Father John: Just to set the scene for those who may have just joined us - you were suggesting that a good idea would be to get rid of Christianity, and, not only get rid of Christianity, but also to get rid of all the major religions, or indeed all religions. This, I think, was what you said, yes?
Father John: Okay. And I suggested that . . . well, you then said . . . or I asked you, "What should we believe in?", and you said "Truth", and I asked "What is Truth?", and you said, "It's whatever anybody believes in", and I made the point that what you believe in could be diametrically opposed to what I believe in, therefore who's right and who's wrong? And then we went to the news.
David: Yes, but I didn't make the point that Truth is whatever you believe in.
Father John: Ah, okay - so what it is Truth?
David: It is a definite understanding of Ultimate Reality.
Father John: Truth is what you believe in.
David: No, it is what the wise person sees to be the Ultimate Reality.
Father John: So who dictates who is wise and who is not?
David: The wise person decides that for himself.
Father John: So what if you're wise and I think I'm wise?
David: Well, it's only up to the wise person to realize that for himself.
Father John: We both can't be wise.
David: Yes, but a wise person is wise and an ignorant person is ignorant.
Father John: So, you're wise and I'm ignorant.
David: Yes, absolutely.
Father John: Okay. I can live with that.
David: But going back to this idea of subjectivity: even though Christianity purports to hold absolute values, those "absolute values" are themselves subjective. They are created by our minds; we choose to adopt them - or Christians do - so it's 100% subjective. If we go back to earlier in the piece, when you were talking to somebody else about faith and knowledge, you were saying that faith is something separate from knowledge - it is apart from knowledge. So I say to you that this makes your faith 100% subjective and therefore arbitrary.
Father John: No . . . I'm saying that we seek faith through understanding, but we will never understand completely.
David: Well, I disagree. I say that the Ultimate Truth is there to be understood, and this idea that you were just speaking of, that we can't understand the Truth completely, is the very mentality which I am against.
Father John: Well, I'm not ramming it down your throat. I mean, as you say, we choose, and you're very free to choose whatever you choose. I can handle that. I mean, you've chosen tonight to tell me that you're wise and I'm ignorant. Well, I'm not blown up about that. I can handle that.
David: I think that every caller that's been on this program . . . except for the first fellow who rang - was it Len?
Father John: Hmm, hmm.
David: He was the only one who had a slight spark in him, and that--
Father John: No, he was the only fellow who agreed with you.
David: Well, I agree with him in the sense that he values logic and reason. Anyone who places value on--
Father John: So you don't think any of the Bishops who were on tonight value logic and reason?
David: No, not in the slightest degree.
Father John: Okay . . . alright . . well, you feel you had your say?
David: Yes. It's not for your benefit. It's just for young people who might be listening.
Father John: For sure!
David: I want them to value reason and Truth, and not submit to a belief-system.
Father John: Thank you very much, David.
David: Okay then.
Father John: Happy New Year.
CALL TWO - Dan Rowden
Here we see McEwin's powers of reason in full flight. They soared off into the heavens and beyond, leaving Danny spinning in awe. Danny, you see, made the crucial mistake of wanting to speak about the Truth, but, as McEwin made marvellously clear, this is something which only hinders the freedom of the soul.
Father John: Alright, back to your calls and comments here on 4BC. Lovely to be with you. Hello, Danny.
Dan: G'day, John. How ya doing?
Father John: Very well, thank you.
Dan: Yeah, mate, I was hoping to broach the subject of blasphemy with you.
Father John: Right.
Dan: I guess it's clear enough that Christians are want to charge others with the sin of blasphemy, but in my experience it is precisely they who are the worst offenders in the matter. Almost every time Christians open their mouths to actually speak about God, what issues forth is just utter blasphemy. I guess you're probably wondering what I mean by "blasphemy".
Father John: Well, I think me and many listeners, Danny.
Dan: Well, anything that is said about God which is false or inaccurate is blasphemous. In other words, anything which misrepresents the Divine Nature; that is to say, any statement which finitizes God. Whenever Christians speak about God, they finitize that which is, by definition, infinite. I mean, that to me is just sheer blasphemy.
Father John: Could you give us a practical example, Danny?
Dan: Okay, when Christians claim one notion or action to be the will of God, but not another, for instance; or when they speak of God as having some characteristics and not others.
Father John: Yes, but could you just give me an example, Danny? Like, can you just role play, for us, an example? Just say a phrase which you would consider blasphemous - we know that you don't mean it.
Dan: Okay. "God is love."
Father John: . . . alright . . .
Dan: That's a reasonably common one.
Father John: . . . okay . . I understand what you're saying.
Dan: But it's not just that. The fundamentalists are particularly at fault in this matter, because they have a tendency to try and tell you what is and isn't the will of God. But if God is infinite - and God most certainly is infinite, by definition - then you cannot say that. You cannot say that one thing is the will of God and not another. It's just absolute blasphemy. And there's--
Father John: Danny?
Father John: Can I just respond?
Father John: There would be a lot of people listening who would say, "Well, what's wrong with saying that God is love?" What you're talking about - correct me if I'm wrong, but I think I'm on the right track - you're talking about a philosophical stance here: that God is everything, and even by saying "God is everything", I'm limiting God to the concept of "everything" - and God is more than that. So what Danny is saying is that you can't say that God is love, because God is more than love; and you can't say that God is Truth, because God is Truth alright, but He's more than Truth; and you can't say that God is good, because, yes, He's good, but He's bigger than good - whatever goodness is. Is this what you're saying, Danny?
Dan: . . . um . . well . . yeah . . I suppose, the gist is right, but--
Father John: But you can't say that it's necessarily blasphemy. It's merely the inadequacies of the human language. It's not a blasphemous statement.
Dan: No, I don't agree, because every time we make those statements about God, we consciously finitize God. As far as I'm concerned, any statement which pertains to God directly, and which isn't a variation of "God is infinite", is blasphemous, because it misrepresents the Divine Nature. It's a sort of human egotism, a willfulness--
Father John: Well, Danny, you make a statement which doesn't misrepresent the Divine Nature. I think that's humanly impossible. That's the whole point - that we are finite and God is infinite. So how can we possibly comprehend, let alone articulate, the fullness of the Mystery?
Dan: You say, "God is infinite". It's as simple as that. End of story.
Father John: Well, that's a blasphemous statement, under your definition.
Dan: No, it's not.
Father John: Because you can't say that God is infinite, because God is bigger than being infinite.
Dan: . . . Well, no . . . You see, you have a finite concept of the infinite.
Father John: No, I don't. No, I don't.
Dan: Yes, you do! Yes, you do!
Father John: Alright.
Dan: "Infinite" means having no boundaries.
Father John: We'll agree to disagree on this one. I wasn't too bad a philosophy student at the old seminary. It's one thing I knew a little a bit about.
Dan: Well, academic philosophy is an absolute joke, in my view - whether it is a seminary that performs it, or a university.
Father John: Alright, Danny, we'll leave it there, but we understand what you're saying.
Dan: Okay then. Bye.
CALL THREE - David Quinn
The word "faith" was used many times each week on this program, but one never quite knew what McEwin or his callers actually meant by it. (I am speaking merely poetically here; it was blindingly obvious what they meant by it.) As a rule, they continually shifted their ground in order to make the word as nebulous as possible, and the reason they did this, of course, was to make the word "God" as nebulous as possible. This is typical of Christianity, a religion whose one defining characteristic is a vicious hatred of reality.
Father John: Okay, let's take our next caller. Hello, David.
David: Hello. I'd like to talk about something a bit more spiritual, and that is the question of faith. I've been listening to your program now for several weeks, and I don't have any clear idea of what you mean by faith. So I wonder if you could give me a brief definition, or just some sort of idea, of what you mean by faith.
Father John: What's the comment you'd like to make, David?
David: Well, again, I'd like to discuss faith, and I can't discuss it unless I know what you mean by faith.
Father John: No, but you can certainly make a comment about it, if you like to share it with us.
David: Okay. I have real difficulty with this term "faith", because--
Father John: I've worked that much out. So why do you ask me about my stance on it?
David: Well, because you're a--
Father John: Because you want to tell me your difficulties. So that's what I say: you make your comment and that will be good.
David: Alright. The difficulty I have with faith is that, on the one hand, you have hundreds of millions of Christians who believe in a God, and they believe in this through faith, and on the other hand, you have, say, hundreds of millions of Buddhists who don't believe in a God - it's a totally atheistic religion - and they use that as faith. They believe in no God, and that's their faith. So you have these two opposing belief-systems and they're both underpinned by faith. So there's the rub.
Father John: . . . yeah . . . I don't see any incongruency or inconsistency whatsoever.
David: Well, okay, we're talking about--
Father John: It's not the same faith, is it?
David: Not at all. So one of them, at least, must be false.
Father John: What do you believe in, David?
David: I believe in Truth.
Father John: That's right, we had that, yeah. So do you have a faith in Truth?
David: A faith in Truth. That's right.
Father John: There you go. You use the same word too. So there's the three of us - you, me, and the Buddhists use the same word. Faith.
David: Yes, but I have a different method to you and the Buddhists. I mean--
Father John: That's okay, too.
David: Yes, but my point is that there cannot be both a God and not a God at the same time. It's just not possible. So we have all these millions of people who are following their respective faiths, and, at the very least, one of them must be totally false. They're following a false faith. You see? Because they can't both be right.
Father John: . . . Well . . . I think you might be limiting God there.
David: God cannot exist and not exist in reality. You can't have both, or you're making a total mockery of your own reason.
Father John: I'm sorry? . . . We believe God exists.
David: Okay, the Buddhists believe that He doesn't exist.
Father John: They don't use the terminology of "God", but they still have a belief in the transcendent, which is exactly what our's is.
David: No, they don't. They reject all concepts of God.
Father John: Well, okay then, we have a different faith. What else is new? We've had it for thousands of years.
David: Alright, I'm trying to cast suspicion of this idea of faith. It has no value.
Father John: People have been trying to do that for eons!
David: Okay, but I brought up a very concrete case where there are two faiths, they're both exactly the same in that they're using faith--
Father John: Well, we can find two hundred faiths!
David: Yes, that's my point. Faith is useless.
Father John: It might be useless to you, David.
David: Yes, because I value Truth.
Father John: Okay. I respect that.
David: I value Truth, and I see faiths pointing out in all different directions, and, at the very least, all but one must be wrong.
Father John: Okay then.
David: Okay, so--
Father John: Thanks, David.
David: Is that all there's going to be?
CALL FOUR - Dan Rowden
With this call, Danny attempted to pick up where I left off, but he was faced with an almost impossible task - that of trying to talk sense to a man who loves nonsense. This was made even more difficult by McEwin's change of tactics, to play the man instead of the ball. Deciding to ignore rational discussion completely, he instead tried to make it as personal as he could get.
Father John: . . . if you're just listening to the radio lying in bed, half your luck, I hope you nod off to sleep shortly and rip into another working week on Monday morning. Hello, Danny.
Dan: G'day John. How ya doing?
Father John: I'm very well, thank you.
Dan: Mate, I caught your conversation with David a few calls back in regards to faith. Now I must admit that I'm kind of ambivalent over the nature of this thing called faith as well. I think the point that David was trying to make, in part, was that faith provides no rational basis for choosing one religion over another.
Father John: I think that's true.
Dan: Can I put a hypothetical situation to you? Imagine for a moment that I've just walked out of a jungle somewhere in the middle of South America and I've got absolutely no knowledge of any religion whatsoever, but I'm nevertheless an intelligent human being. What reasons could you give me for choosing Christianity over any other faith?
Father John: . . . . well, what's the hypothetical? . . . Am I meant to be dragged into a debate here where you have one faith and I have another faith and you belt me and I belt you and so it goes on. I'd rather, if people want to make a comment, go for your life. That's what the forum is for. I don't really see my role as being dragged into a no-win situation of endless debate.
Father John: So, Danny, by all means make your point, make your comment, you're very welcome, mate. What is it?
Dan: It's simply that faith, as I said a minute ago, really does provide no rational basis for choosing one religion over another. For that reason, it seems to me that religious persuasion is simple a matter of meaningless things, like hereditary, etcetera.
Father John: Okay, just moving on. Can I ask, are you with David there? Like, you're both at West End. I presume so--
Father John: Are you in the same room together?
Father John: There you go. How was that for a pretty simple deduction! Have you guys had a bad experience with the Church or something like that? I don't understand where we're going to with this one, you know? Fair enough, you fellows are a bit down on the faith side, and I think David's New Year's resolution, two weeks ago, was to wipe out all Christianity, and so it goes on. That's nice, but there are millions of people, in fact, there are billions of people throughout the world who hold on to their faith. Now what is the bad experience that you guys have had, or what is the cause you are pushing here? Where are we coming from, I suppose, Danny?
Dan: Well, I suppose the only bad experience we could say that we've had is not necessarily with Christianity specifically, but with the deluded nature of the human mind generally. And what we're pushing is--
Father John: In your opinion, the deluded nature of the human mind.
Dan: No, it's a matter of simple logic.
Father John: In your opinion. It's your logic.
Dan: Well, no, it's not really a matter of opinion, because it's just simple inescapable logic that the vast majority of human beings are--
Father John: Including our listeners here?
Father John: Including our listeners? I just want to let them know that you're making a comment about them. Is that what you're saying now?
Dan: Well, yes. Absolutely.
Father John: So any of our listeners are free to ring up and respond to this, right?
Dan: Of course.
Father John: The comment you're about to make is about the vast majority of 4BC listeners on a Sunday night.
Dan: The vast majority of people on the planet entirely are, by definition, deluded in terms of the important issues. And it's just a logical fact. To me, it constitutes a form of contempt for the human mind not to acknowledge that fact. I'm not trying to condemn, I'm trying to affirm principles like truth and knowledge.
Father John: Well, do you want to just tell our listeners how they are deluded.
Dan: Well, they have--
Father John: I mean, you've just finished telling us all that we're deluded. So, forget the rest of the human race, just talk to us 4BC listeners who are listening to you right now - how are we deluded, Danny?
Dan: Well, you have faith. That's how I know that you're deluded. It's the distinction between faith and knowledge. All beliefs--
Father John: There's not a whole lot of depth to this argument here.
Dan: All beliefs are, by definition, something other than truth and knowledge. That's why they're known as beliefs.
Father John: Well, Danny, I'll leave it with you. You can have another opportunity to get your case a little bit water-tight because that one wouldn't last three seconds in court.
CALL FIVE - Kevin Solway
The Pope had been visiting Australia during the week to beatify Mary McKillop and the subsequent show on Sunday night was filled with proclamations of love and adoration for the man. Callers were tripping over themselves to say what a great and holy man he was. Kevin thought otherwise and said so.
Father John: Hello, Kevin.
Kevin: Good evening.
Father John: Welcome to the program.
Kevin: Yes, I'd like to a comment about some of the things the Pope has being saying about Buddhism recently.
Father John: Go for your life.
Kevin: The first thing I'd like to say is that I'm not a Buddhist myself, but I do know a lot about Buddhism, and it's clear to me, after what I've heard the Pope say, that I know a lot more about Buddhism than he does. So I don't think the Pope has got any right whatsoever . . . he's totally unqualified to stand in judgment on other religions about which he knows nothing at all. For example, he says that all religions should unite, but he also says that Buddhism is atheistic. Now, for someone who holds God as the central tenet of his whole life, his whole belief, and the centre of his whole existence, for him to say that somebody else is atheistic is probably the most damning thing he could have thought of to say.
Father John: Hmm. Have you got the direct quote there, Kevin?
Kevin: No, but I've read his latest book, and "atheistic" is the word that he used. "Buddhism is atheistic", he said. I couldn't think of a worse thing he could have done. You know, Jesus said himself, "Anyone who is not with me is against me." This obviously is exactly the same philosophy as the Pope. He's basically saying that Buddhists are totally on the wrong track. He also says that Buddhism is "negative", and that it's "indifferent to the world". Now anyone who has studied Buddhism for more than about five minutes knows that that's not the case. The whole basis of Buddhism is compassion.
Father John: What he says is that "to indulge in a negative attitude toward the world is fundamentally contrary to the development of both man and the world, which the Creator has given and entrusted to man as his task." So he's not saying Buddhism as such.
Kevin: Well, he did say that Buddhism is negative in his opinion, and he thinks that the goal of Buddhism is a bad thing - the ultimate goal of Buddhism, which is enlightenment. You know, he says that he respects other religions "in so far as they are true". I mean, I find this quite funny. I don't know who he's trying to kid! I could say the same thing about Christianity. I respect Christianity in so far as it is true - the fact that I don't think it's true to the slightest degree is neither here nor there. I think he's just being a salesman. I can't take him seriously at all. He's got no right to do what he's doing.
Father John: He's certainly tried to . . . calm the waters, for want of a better analogy. He's in Sri Lanka at the moment, and he does seemed to have responded to the offence that many people in the Buddhist faith have taken.
Kevin: And so they should.
Father John: The Sri Lankan Catholics Bishops Conference have even issued a statement, but I'd have to say that it wasn't an apology. It was more an explanation as such.
Kevin: I think what he's trying to do is that he wants all the religions to unite, but he's stated that he thinks his religion is the best one, so obviously he wants all the religions to unite under him. This is exactly the same as all the crazy gurus that have ever been in the world. I don't know why people can't see through it.
Father John: A crazy guru, eh?
Kevin: Well, I'm thinking of the people like the Hare Krishna guru. He's probably one of the most corrupt people I can think of.
Father John: So you're going to tell us that Pope John Paul the Second is a crazy guru, Kevin?
Kevin: Well, he is! I've got no doubt about it. No honest person would behave in the way that he does.
Father John: Well, there's plenty of other Australians who've got a bit of a doubt about it.
Father John: Amazing, isn't it?
Kevin: Well, I'm amazed that more Catholics don't do something about it. I hear all the time, listening to your program, people complaining about what the Pope's doing: like he doesn't allow women to be priests. Well, why don't they just form their own religion? I mean, it seems like the obvious thing to do. If you don't agree with what the Pope is doing, then follow your conscience--
Father John: But our religion doesn't follow the Pope.
Kevin: But you do.
Father John: The Pope is the leader.
Kevin: It's not a democracy.
Father John: Well, does Paul Keating make every rule for Australia?
Kevin: Well, if he doesn't do what we like, we boot him out. But you can't do that with your Pope, can you?
Father John: Well . . . the thing about our faith is that we've got two thousand years of tradition about us. And, presumably, we believe and we pray and we hope and we trust that the Pope, and his advisors, and indeed all the way down to poor little us living in Brisbane, or wherever we're listening, that we are all trying to walk on the same steps of that tradition.
Kevin: The tradition is pretty horrifying. The Pope--
Father John: The tradition has a lot of flaws about it, but there are also a lot of good things about it as well. That's what the whole week has been about: celebrating some of the plusses of it.
Kevin: Well, I didn't hear him say anything which I would regard as being useful or helpful. For example, on the front page of The Australian, a few days ago, the Pope's advice for Australia was that we should "get together and make a better country" . . . I mean, thanks very much Mr. Pope! He says that we should try and see Christ in the stranger, but he doesn't explain what "Christ" is, and how on earth Christ can be in the stranger.
Father John: I thought he tried to explain a bit of that in his homily at the Beatification Mass.
Kevin: Well he didn't do a very good job.
Father John: He didn't, eh? Alright, well, that's your opinion on that one, Kevin, and you're certainly welcome to it. We'll see what the listeners have to say on that one.
Kevin: Thank you.
Father John: Thank you for calling.
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