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What's in the name

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May 15, 2007


Zack Calhoon

Ha ha ha!!! I love it.

I don't know what all this hoopla has been about to tell you the truth.

Maybe it's just something to get people going. To get people talking and listening to each other. I hope that's what's happening. That is what we need. Paula Vogel decries the loss of civil discourse in our society through the entertainment in our cineplexes and the new trends in dumbing down of theatre. I fear that is the direction we are going. A world where people react before they think.

Moxie the Maven

I've always secretly felt that people who believe staunchly, absolutely, and literally, in religion basically believe in magic. "Miracles" sounds better than "magic", but at the end of the day, for me, it's the same thing. Of course, this doesn't include every religion, or every person of faith, but I generally hold to my conviction that belief in organized religion is pretty much akin to belief in magic. Spirituality is a different bag, natch.

I agree about the evolution of morals. Good for you for sticking to your guns in the public forum and not making any apologies for your beliefs. The other side certainly doesn't budge on their stance.


I may not have read everything in this conversation, so I ask your pardon if this is an obvious question, but which argument of yours has been misrepresented?

Rasheed Sprewell

My, my - a little touchy and defensive, aren't we? I can't help but think you knew that what you were writing would be inflammatory. Personally, I don't think that kind of commentary belongs in a theater review in the first place. It suddenly makes the review about the reviewer, not the show. But, if you insist, fine. Just remember: if you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.


1. A good defense responds to offense, and there's been a lot of it, in our culture and government, hiding behind what's good in religion, to use what's bad about it, for more power.

2. This is not a theatre review; it is a comment regarding religion's prevalence in our culture and theatre.

3. This is his kitchen, and we are invited. if you feel faint, well, you know where the door is?


If the last two comments were in regard to my review of Church, yes, it was a theater review, and the inflammatory comment was made in the context of a review about a show that, to me, was partly a critique of the formal absurdities and attractions of a prototypical Christian service. It was a theatrical exploration of the relgious mechanism. As such, I felt my comment, however epigrammically blunt, was warranted.


And how is articulating my position the same as escaping the heat of the kitchen? If anything, I'm still here, stirring the pot.

Kimwa from the Epsilon Nebula

I don't know how you found out about the Ukrainians but rest assured, we have not given up our plans!!

Joshua James

This line:

"It’s not okay for me to say that men have nipples in the same way that batteries have two ends: positive, negative. "

I am still laughing about. Jesus Hamilton Christ, that hit my funny bone.

Dude, I hope my post didn't go to far . . . not only do I think you have the right to ridicule organized religion, I think you're doing society a service as such . . . .


I don't think you should father a child, lock her in a small dark room and psychologically abuse her for years. Try not to do that. It's not Christian.

Scott Walters

Nobody argues with your right to believe or disbelieve whatever you want. But there is a thing called civility that is the grease that allows a pluralist society to function. That is the line you have crossed. Perhaps you don't care about a pluralist society functioning. Perhaps you would prefer it to be a homogeneous society of people who believe exactly as you do, so you would never have to deal with beliefs that run counter to your own. But that isn't America, a country built on the mixing of cultures and ideas. I would also not condone an anti-gay person calling someone a insulting name. It is an issue of basic civility. And I'm not certain why you can't quite grasp that.

David Cote

Oh please, spare me the sanctimonious ad-hoc patriotism. I crossed no lines—although you're the kind of guy who makes me want to. I simply exercised my civil right to freely express social criticism in the context of review that was making a point about the work and the world. If someone cried over it, too bad. If someone found their faith shaken, too bad. If someone's faith was staunchly reinforced, ah well.

Joshua James

Scott, you're a jackass.

David, remember, one can't reason with someone who doesn't speak the language.


This reminds me of the use of "contrarian" to describe Garrett Eisler the other week. "Ad hoc" suggests that Scott has only adopted the idea of America that he described above for the purpose of criticizing you, David - the suggestion being, he never held that conceptualization of America before he used it today. Do you have a reason for believing this about Scott? A piece of evidence?

You wrote above, "don't misrepresent my argument." Is "Church is bad theater for stupid people" the argument? If so, who misrepresented it? Do you have a link to the misrepresentation?

David Cote

Mac: I'm being dismissive and snarky of Scott's censorious flag-waving, as if he were trying to tar me as a bad citizen or something. I'm sure Scott is a perfectly nice American. As for the misrepresenting of my argument, maybe I should have written: distorting my message. (I sense you don't think I have an argument) I feel like comments by Scott, Jacobs and Nick have tried to paint me respectively as a classist hatemonger, an immature provocateur and an anti-democratic jerk who maybe shouldn't be a critic because he doesn't agree with 80% of Americans who believe in God. I have been trying to simply articulate a rational rejection of religious belief. I find myself attacked as someone who wants to silence and censor innocent believers.


Well, I'm sensitive to the accusation of late, having misrepresented another blogger myself recently. As far as your argument, it's not that I think you don't have one; you clearly have several, depending upon which review or blog post one is talking about. It's just that I wasn't able to follow the line of reasoning in your post above, and since I'm very interested in this topic, I'm looking for clarification.

Scott Walters

Thanks, Joshua -- it had been several days since you had last called me a jackass, and I was starting to miss the ad hominem attacks. You seem to think if you say something often enough, it becomes true; and if you say it in capital letters, it becomes true even faster. It's a theory...

David -- I am starting to understand a bit better. You are not just an atheist, but a libertarian atheist who believes that freedom of speech means that it is socially acceptable to say anything and everything that comes into one's mind, regardless of effect, value, or truth. No doubt you would agree with Margaret Thatcher's assertion that there is no such thing as society. Me? I am a communitarian --I believe there is a balance between one's freedom as a citizen, and one's responsibilities as a member of a community. The line you are crossing is the latter, and apparently it is one that you do not acknowledge. Fair enough. I disagree, obviously, and I find your behavior inappropriate, narrow-minded, and just plain ugly.

Joshua -- I hope you will post again saying I am a jackass. It is so becoming.

David Cote

My argument has always been that religion is a social-historical phenomenon, with no basis in reality since God does not exist, and that believers believe due to a combination of wish-fulfillment, ignorance, fear and uncritical consumption of theatrical/artistic "cookies"—scripture, iconography, religious service and ritual. In the worst cases, religion legitimizes and encourages hatred and violence. This particular post was simply my way of demonstrating what I see as the inherent absurdity of religious belief in a modern context. I think I've been pretty consistent in my views. I've been trying to unpack the many thoughts that were compressed into: "Religion is bad theater for stupid people."

Joshua James

Actually Scott, it's been two days.

And it's not my finest moment, I'll admit.

But I came onto your turf and engaged you as reasonably as I could, and left frustrated . . . as I said, I don't know that you either understand reason or have difficulty communicating or what.

But I don't have these difficulties with other people I disagree with . . . that is, theatre bloggers (I rumble with neo-cons quite often) - can you say the same?

Rob Kendt

David, you're a fiercer and more opinionated man than I. I admire your tenacity and enjoy your sarcastic wit--really, I do. I posted about that line in your "Church" review because, as a Christian whose faith is somewhere in that huge (very huge) middle between "all in my head" private faith and the Crusades, I felt personally attacked by it, which is of course no big deal, as I've got thick enough skin not to lose sleep over it, but worse than that I felt that it dismissed out of hand many of the finest, smartest, and loveliest people I've had the privilege to know and be inspired by, people from various spiritual traditions (including non-theistic ones), both personally and virtually (like, in books and stuff). We need provocateurs and courageous truth tellers among our critics, both mainstream and otherwise, and I will always relish your definitive takedown of "Rabbit Hole" with a smile...but in this case, I'd respectfully suggest that classing all religious people as "stupid" is, if not quite a form of bigotry in itself, then at the very least willfully blinkered about a vast and deep swath of worthwhile human experience.

Joshua James


Respectfully I must point out (as I did in my post) that the Christian view of all those who do not believe in God is that they are condemned to suffer torment in eternal damnation.

That may, and probably isn't, your point of view toward David (and myself) but that is the Christian word on the subject, in any definition by most Christian authorities, be they reverend or pastor or priest.

Again, which is worse . . . someone calling someone else stupid, or someone else condemning another to eternal torment?

Is that not bigotry? Or is it just plain stupid, as David maintains?

Joshua James

And just to underline, I think it's a bit wrong to call out David's view of church-goers as disrespectful without acknowledging the disrespectful view church-goers have toward non-believers . . .


David, your number is wrong. The polls have 90% of Americans believing in God and 80% of that number as Christian. But who’s counting? With either number, you are still the elite.

Isn’t at least part of the story here the fact that neither you nor Leonard would be allowed your anti-Christian rants as representatives of the publications of TimeOut or BackStage?

If this escalates into a real scandal, for which mainstream media is always in search and willing to exploit, the “stupid people” might come back to bite you in your elite smarty pants ass. Mac has asked you a couple times here about your claim on being misrepresented. So he’s probably planning to submit the story to New York Magazine. Oh-oh.

The public that you have summoned here in the blogosphere is fond of you; they are not seeking your downfall (or your damnation). The bravado of your stance has had no real test as yet. So maybe it’s time to tie you to your atheist Rock of Ages for a real show. Summon that Culture Vulture of scandal to descend on you in all its godlike glory to peck at the flesh of your belief and expose its bone.

Our core beliefs are not often tested, only in that time/place of ultimate crisis. All of us are just so much talk here. To walk the walk of one’s belief is a whole other ballgame.

"Where there is truth, there will be no peace. Where peace abides, you will find no truth." Pilate in The Gospel According to the Son: A Novel by Norman Mailer

David Cote

Nick, if your numbers are correct, then I am not exactly the elite, more like a dissenting minority opinion, a voice crying out in the desert, a mosquito buzzing around a numinous, crucified elephant. And last I checked theater critics in NYC were not exactly the awesome taste-makers and respected public intellectuals they once were, um, never. If statistics equal the Way Things Really Are, then clearly I am stark raving mad, calling black white, cats dogs, peanut butter grape jelly. As such I may be fit for removal from my post, but I leave the determination of my insanity to my employers. As for the job/blog editorial double standard you imply, it's not my job (nor my desire) to publish rants against religion in Time Out New York. I do that in my free time! Lastly, I wouldn't mind a little more attention from Mac on the NY Mag blog, but they are competition and this is getting embarrassing!

Joshua James

So Nick,

Are you saying that if a person doesn't hold christian beliefs in the highest regards, they either need to keep that shit to themselves and pretend otherwise or forget about ever writing criticism or blogging?

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