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Many thanks to Mohamad Faiz Hamzal Ismail in the comments thread of the last strip for co-authoring today’s comic.

There’s a 20% sale at Lulu.com, btw. So if you want a J&M book, now is a good time. Enter the coupon code
SPLISH305
at checkout. Valid until tomorrow.
UPDATE: The above offer has been extended to April 4, 2011, 11:59 PM PST

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Discussion (86)¬

  1. HaggisForBrains says:

    Spot on! I hope Mohamad is still sitting somewhere fuming that he can no longer rant at us. Actually he’s probably beating his chest right now.

  2. Intelligent Designer says:

    I still want to know ‘the shape of pain’! I have no idea, but I reckon it’s bound to have an obtuse angle and a blunt side.

  3. You condensed him to a fine point, Author. Bravo.

  4. AegisLinnear says:

    @Intelligent Designer – the shape of pain is the pattern on an EEG hooked up to someone trying to parse Mohamad’s comments in a way that show him to be sane.

  5. Intelligent Designer says:

    BTW, I think one of the cornerstones of evolutionary theory that Mohamed was confused about was what drives evolution. He assumed that science believes it is inexorable, and follows a path from a to b, with man at the end of the journey: A simple organism evolves into a more complex/intelligent being.

    If you are reading this Mohamed, please try to understand that evolution has no ‘great plan’, it is simply a means for living things to adapt to their environment and further their own survival, and/or that of their peers and descendants.

    Sometimes evolution slows to a virtual stop, because the species concerned has no NEED to evolve further – it has done the best it can to adapt and survive, or it hasn’t yet produced a beneficial mutation in a viable population (mutations that create evolutionary change are chance events that are then ‘live tested’ in the environment, where, if they improve a species life chances, they may be retained). Many of these ‘living fossils’ exist today, virtually unchanged from examples found in fossil records. Look up ‘Ginko tree’, ‘Horsetail fern’, ‘Nautilus’, Horseshoe crab’, ‘Lungfish’, ‘Lamprey’, ‘Coelacanth’ and ‘Monotreme’ for just some of the best known examples. These are species whose evolutionary clock stopped, and nothing has come along to make them need to wind it up since.

    Sometimes evolution apparently ‘goes backwards’, like when reptiles or mammals return to a life in the water that their fish ancestors evolved to leave, and lost their legs and feet (or they became flippers); or when a bird loses the ability to fly and behaves for all the world like an avian shrew (see ‘Kiwi’ in your First Book of Allah’s Creatures for reference).

    So, why aren’t apes turning into humans? They have no need to. Humans evolved from apes that had adapted to exploit the plains of Africa. All the other Great Ape species are arboreal, so they do not have, or need, human traits of bipedalism and advanced tool use and communication skills. Maybe if humanity becomes extinct, mandrills and baboons might compete to fill the niche left by our absence and evolve human-like traits over time, or maybe humans are an evolutionary cul-de-sac. It would be ironic if baboons invented God all over again, wouldn’t it?

  6. Now I’m really envying the guy. I mean, HE got to inspire a J&M. That will probably be the biggest achievement of his entire life. And he won’t even appreciate it, is my guess.

  7. @Intelligent Designer Where were you when we needed you? :-)

  8. Lord Elric says:

    @author – From the first /ball/ to now…thanks for the last 5 years…and thanks for your contributions into the future…I promise to buy more stuff this year…

    @mohamad – I have a question, why aren’t you still a jew?

  9. Unruly Simian says:

    I am sure that mohamad is still trying to post comments and hasn’t figured out that he is being blocked. Yea he read the comment from Author saying he was blocked but hell he hasn’t believed anything not printed in the Qu’ran as of yet…..

  10. jaime says:

    oh my god!!! I read his comments. They were so painful… and not just because his english was so bad. Ugh!!! thank you for this comic today!

  11. Brother Daniel says:

    “Biggest achievement of his life … and he won’t even appreciate it”
    Darwin Harmless wins the thread!

  12. Satya Venugopal says:

    Sigh… I’d just like to say that not all Malaysians are that obtuse (or grammatically challenged when it comes to English). *Cringe* Unfortunately the Mohamad-esque lot seem to end up in parliament with disturbing regularity.

    Sincerely yours,
    -An embarrassed Malaysian-

  13. Nassar Ben Houdja says:

    Evolution is quite the thing
    If from your tail you no longer swing
    No more purple bums
    Sport prehensile thumbs
    And clothes over the ding a ling.

  14. Jude says:

    Mohamad ambushed the author, waited for him to get a new job, then executed his smart plan . Me watch you long time.

  15. beechnut says:

    Ah. Still Life at the Cock and Bull, then. My favourite pictures.

    I must admit that I never really succeeded in getting through – well – any of Mohamad’s contributions, and it seems now that I have entirely failed to discover some really inspiring thoughts. But at least I am wholeheartedly able to admire “Thank”. It’s so …. economical. Let that be his last word.

  16. Very tasty!

    Also, I like what “Intelligent Designer” said… but I hate your name as now I have to state:

    “I agree with that Intelligent Designer guy.”

    … you bastard!

  17. Stealth Ave says:

    Today’s strip, in particular, inspired me to click the “Donate to help pay for hosting” button. Will try to do so monthly. I hope it helps to keep this wonderful strip “on the air.”

  18. NateHevens says:

    Wow. That Mohamad dude is creepy in so many ways…

    Great strip!

    So… when are J&M gonna meet Ceiling Cat? :D

  19. HaggisForBrains says:

    @Stealth Ave – good idea.

    @ Author – how about a monthly subscription setup? Voluntary, of course.

  20. Vordreller says:

    Question: isn’t “descending” going to a lower state of being. While “evolving” is going to a higher state of being?

    And mo says “we descended from apes” while meaning “we evolved from apes”

  21. Exzanian says:

    No more nasty trolls. There should be an IQ “Captcha” type questionaire before commenting methinks, or perhaps rather than just clicking on “I promise I’m not a spammer” how about “I really think that”:
    Allah sucks Donkey Kong
    Jesus was gay
    Jehovah makes Hitler look like a saint

  22. Philip says:

    Vordreller,
    My understanding of the scientific use of “evolve” is that it implies no direction or progress, merely change. As for “descent”, think of it as descending from the past to the present, as in the branches of a family tree, the hominid family in fact.

  23. RavenBlack says:

    The “kennedys from the Irish” thing is almost feeding part of the misunderstanding though, since people don’t actually think modern humans descended from modern apes.

    The question is really more like “since my brother and me have the same father, how come my brother hasn’t turned into me?”

  24. Daoloth says:

    Intelligent designer. So, in essence you are proposing to explain the Hardy-Weinberg equation to someone who says “If we primate then how you explain still primates exist, lyers”?
    Good luck!
    I can hardly wait for your next project- “Teaching quantum mechanics to my cat.”

  25. Stephen P says:

    @Vordreller: the answers to your questions are both no. Indeed evolution is frequently summarised as “descent with modification”. (While creationism is dissent with mystification.)

    Descent in this case is as used on a family tree, with ancestors and descendants.

    The idea of evolution as advancement, “going to a higher state of being”, is a common misconception. It just implies changing to be more fit for the currently prevailing conditions. There is no intrinsic direction to evolution. Yes, sometimes descendants are what we tend to think of as “higher” organisms. But you also get cases such as wingless insect parasites evolving from winged independent-living ancestors.

  26. FreeFox says:

    @Daoloth: Cats already know a lot more about quantum mechanics than humans, silly. Ever notice them staring at things you cannot see? That’s them peering past the Everet-Wheeler or “Cheshire” barrier into other universes. ^_^

  27. Daoloth says:

    @Freefox. It’s all that time they spend in boxes waiting for wave functions to collapse.

  28. Insolito says:

    Be fair Daoloth, the cat in Shrodinger’s experiment knows more about the effects of quantum mechanics than its owner. Until said owner opens the box, that is. At least, I’m exactly 50 per cent sure it does.

    As for the whole Mohamed thing, I wonder what he’s read. If you keep someone in a box and just feed them the information you approve, they’re gonna end up believing things not through choice but because they literally have no alternative.

    Just in case he can still log on, other people have said this more sensibly than me, but the reason there are still monkeys, chimps, etc is because we didn’t evolve from them. We evolved from a common ancestor.

    The argument that evolution’s just a theory comes from a misunderstanding of the term ‘theory’, which is nothing to do with the fact that English is clearly not your first language (and your English is a great deal better than my Malaysian) because it’s made by those for whom English is the mother tongue.

    But let us pretend for a minute that it’s not based on a misunderstanding. Let’s pretend that when scientists talk about theories, they actually mean ‘assumptions’, as you and others seem to think they do.

    Well, the problem is that your belief (big being creates Universe, man, at same time – woman just after of course – then sits back and watches with only the occasional intervention every few thousand years) is also an assumption, and a weaker one than Darwin, Dwakins et al’s.

    The reason being that you can’t point to any evidence whatsoever for that being the case, except of course the very existence of the Universe itself. But if you accept that as proof you also have to accept it works just as well as the basis of a scientific view.

    And then science has further evidence. Masses of it. And really, you should read it, because it’s astonishing and beautiful. Even if you read it and think ‘oh what a lovely story’, it still won’t be a waste of your time.

    Now, I’m not saying that you believing in something that you yourself have to admit is less ‘proveable’ than any scientific explanation of the world is ‘wrong’ – though clearly I think it is – but it’s not fair for you to put questions you pretend are scientific when you can’t defend your own view on that basis.

    An-y-way. As we have said: 1. Apes don’t become men. An ancestor species of both apes and men steadily evolved, over a huge amount of time, until what we have is man and apes, all as seperate species.

    2. Evolution doesn’t work by things ‘getting better’. It works by species being forced/encouraged to alter by circumstances beyond their control. Apes don’t need to ‘become men’ (though such a thing is impossible anyway) because they are very well suited to their environment. Like squid don’t need to ‘become men’ because men are bad at living in the sea. It’s dangerous to think ‘humans are best’ – we are good at some stuff, bad at others. Ever seen a human fly? Ladybirds do it all the time. But then, ladybirds aren’t so good at maths, as far as I know.

    3. Evolution is not ‘progression’, but neither is it finished. Try to forget the idea of ‘man as the ultimate product of nature’ or even of God, if you prefer. In a million years, if we haven’t wiped ourselves out, we’ll probably be very different than we are now. So will many other species which exist today. Some will be identical, some will have changed beyond all recognition and some will have changed in a number of smaller ways.

    Phew. Sorry. Glad to have got that off my chest.

    Good cartoons, by the way…

  29. Insolito says:

    Hang on, also, does Mohamed actually know what the shape of pain is? Can we let him back in, if so? I’ll happily put up with more (for a while) if he’s willing to share that…

  30. HaggisForBrains says:

    @ Daoloth & Insolito – I should have been quicker off the mark – I was going to ask if the cat was called Schrodinger.

    @ Insolito – very well put. You should have been here a few days ago.

    Incidentally, I have now updated my spellcheck so it no longer wants to change Daoloth to “sackcloth” and Insolito to “insolvent”. Just thought you’d like to know :-).

  31. Author says:

    In case anyone is interested, Mohamad did see this strip. I informed him about it via email, and thanked him for his contribution (I admit I take a guilty pleasure in taunting morons). This is what he said:

    All of you have no answer for my question, but you bubbling such a garbage. All of you are coward, and afraid of the truth. You will never know the truth of the idiotic belief such atheism, the silliest theory such evolution theory, the stupid books such Origin of Species and The Greatest Show on Earth and the liar and fairy tale story such holocaust because you have a brain but you have no mind, you think by you knee. Advising a people who a stubborn and stupid such you and you friends will waste my precious time. Thank you.

    You didn’t really miss him, did you?

  32. Necessary Evil says:

    I’ve seen humans turning into apes, though. What does that tell us?

  33. steve oberski says:

    Author, my sole purpose in life now is to say something stupid enough to be a inspiration for a J&M strip.

    Perhaps Mohamad (piss be upon his name) could offer some pointers.

  34. Author says:

    Furthermore:

    All of you laughed as a bastard and idiot people.

  35. Peter Harris says:

    #at, surely, author?

  36. kiyaroru says:

    I bet Mohamad is just as stupid in his mother tongue.
    Although I do intend to steal “you think by you knee” as an insult.

  37. Poor Richard says:

    “Evolution mama, don’t you make a monkey out of me.”

    Oh Goddess, I think it’s happening to me as I walk out the door. It starts in the brain, especially after a lifetime of thinking by my knee.

    (Old blues song; various songwriters credited. Louis Armstrong recorded it, for one.)

  38. Insolito says:

    Ha ha ha. In my case, your spellcheck may be wiser than you know. Is there any way we can find out what Mohamed thinks the posts by Darwin Harmless, Intelligent Designer and others were, if not direct answers to his questions? I still want to know what the shape of pain is…

    I promise I am NOT a spammer.

  39. Some Matt or other says:

    Laughing as a bastard and idiot person is one of the finer pleasures I’ve found in life.

  40. Uncle Roger says:

    “All of you laughed as a bastard and idiot people.” – as I read that, “They’re coming to take me away” came on the radio (April Fool’s day). How fitting.

    I’m with @Steve — I need to say something incredibly stupid. Shouldn’t be too hard for me.

    Also, I think the next time someone asks why there are still monkeys I’ll tell them that the Mega-Monkey only performs a handful of “evolvinations” each year so the rest are just waiting for their turn. Just as the one asking the question is.

  41. oooo, I think that’s there’s some deserved chest beating going on in non-beleiver land with this episode.

    when you get down to the essential bedrock of each position, we truely are using the same words, but speaking a different language.

  42. ShaunOTD says:

    @Ravenblack – The Irish/Kennedys analogy is better, because evolution happens to populations, not individuals.

  43. dimbulb says:

    Come to think of it I’ve never seen the Irish evolved into Kennedys either. hmmm

  44. Blakey says:

    “Fairytale story such holocaust”, huh, Mohamad? Can’t say I miss the little prick. How awful.

    Wonder how the holocaust slipped into that comment? That one phrase sticks out like the proverbial.

  45. FreeFox says:

    I have to say I agree with poster “spoing” from last comic’s thread that Mohammad is probably just someone aping a rabbid Muslim. Everything, the diction, the utter refusal to even engage the least bit of an argument, the pushing of every expected button from Darwin to Hitler, and most of all the total lack of anything even remotely original (well, except the shape of pain thingy)… it’s just too pat. I mean, I live in a community with a lot of devout Muslims and I have been in arguments with them, and while many of them are indeed completely unwilling to even have education glance at them, I have yet to encounter someone so completely clichéd in real life.

    Though I do wonder, isn’t there at least one of all those fabled theist intellectuals out there willing to jouste with the collected minds here? Someone who can is reasonably competent in the english language (I’m no native speaker myself) and can do better than just shoveling insensible phrases into the comments as if they were camel dung? ^_^

  46. FreeFox says:

    Lol… okay, had to botch that sentence, didn’t I? “Someone who can is reasonably competent in the english language”

    L

  47. gobbycoot says:

    Freefox, try living in Pakistan or even go to the Dawn.com fb page…I’m afraid Mohamed falls right into what the vast majority (not quite all) of the Muslims I have encountered. I’m still looking for the intellectual and reasonable ones you have had the pleasure of knowing.
    To be fair, I also know a scarily large number of Christians and Mormons who also cannot have this discussion without spiralling into a circle of total illogic…

  48. FreeFox says:

    @gobbycoot: Oh, it wasn’t the lack of logic that convinced me of his faked-ness, but the lack of any attempt to approximate the seeming of logic. Even stupid peeps usually try to appear less stupid. But alas, we shall probably never really know.

    As for the reasonable and intellectual theists, I am myself – although quite the J&M fan – far less atheistic than most commentators. Hence it makes me cringe and blush with shame when I see only opposition of such epic ignorance. The thought of having to side with them has done more to cast doubt on my own “faith” (a word I am not very happy with) than any logical or scientific argument.

  49. Just want to say thank you all for being who and what you are. My community. Sadly, having just read of the fourteen year old Bangladeshi virgin who was grabbed by a forty year old cousin on her way to the outhouse, bound and gagged and raped, then ordered beaten by the local religious leader as punishment for her adultery, a beating that resulted in her death, I think Mohamad is all too real. Religion is the source of all morality for those who would beat a rape victim to death, and Mohamad is a perfect example of what religion can produce. Please, Author, don’t be tempted to let him come back. I know the shape of pain all too well.

  50. FreeFox says:

    @Darwin Harmless: Wow, quite a turnaround from the nigh endless patience you displaxed before. I suppose when it runs out, it really runs out, eh? ^_^
    “Religion is the source of all morality for those who would beat a rape victim to death” on the other hand seems a trifle unwarrented. Not that religion is not source for many horrific deeds, but “source of all [such] morality“, I dunno… or do you lump all -isms, like Fascism and Stalinism, and the nationalism of, say, WWI-era Japan, in with Religion? I’d be interested in the definition you use for the word, then.

  51. FreeFox says:

    Darn this keyboard. I meant WWII-era Japan. I have no idea what society they had 1914-1918…

  52. @FreeFox Yes, it’s a turn around. When I held hope that Mohamad could be reached, I felt a lot of compassion for him, an embarrassing missionary zeal and desire to save him from the ignorance into which he’s been immersed. He’s been terribly damaged by his culture. As @Insolito said “If you keep someone in a box and just feed them the information you approve, they’re gonna end up believing things not through choice but because they literally have no alternative.”
    But when I realize that he’s beyond hope, the compassion is replaced by loathing. He represents his culture, and perpetuates his culture. My comment about religion being the source of all morality was directed to those who make that claim, those who say that atheists can’t be moral, that without religion we would be barbarous. It seems such irony that those who make that claim include Mohamad in their ranks, and I’m sure Mohamad, with his rant about us atheists having sex in the road like animals, considers himself the most moral of people. These are the people who would beat a virgin rape victim to death as an adulteress.
    You say you are far less atheistic than most of the J&M fans, which means you must be far less atheistic than I, because I’m about as atheistic as one can get. It must really pain you to be in the same camp, no matter how peripherally, with the perpetrators of these horrors.
    Anyway, I think you took my comment beyond what was meant. What I meant was that Mohamad, and the Imam who ordered the girl to be beaten to death, got all their morality from their religion. They certainly don’t get any morality from their hearts, or their brains. Others may get a more benign morality from their religion, but religious belief is not a great predictor of moral behavior.
    Hitchens was once asked whether if he were approached by a gang of men on a dark street would he want them to be coming coming from church, or coming from a soccer game. Okay, that’s now quit how the story went but something like it. In response he listed off the cities, from Belfast to Beirut to Baghdad and had listed quite a few sites famous for religious violence before he got out of the b’s.

  53. @FreeFox I’m now under the influence of two double vente lattes and some nameless alcohol, so I’m not sure I’m being perfectly clear. I think you extrapolated my comment about morality and religion to somehow read it as if I thought religion is responsible for all the horrors of the past. Not so. Not at all. I’m not sure what lead you to Fascism and Stalinism and Japanese war crimes from my statement about religion. It’s not where I was going. But in the case of Mohamad and the Imams, it seems pretty obvious that their morality is coming from their religion. Their morality hardly deserves to be called morality.
    Damn but I can type fast on caffeine. Just wish these windows had a built in spell checker.

  54. gg says:

    @FreeFox: I think you misunderstood DH. He didn’t say that religion is the source of all horrific deeds, just horrific deeds associated with punishing rape victims. Death sentences to rape victims for “adultery”, however, seem to be seen only among certain religious people who derive morality and justify their actions using their Holy Scriptures.

  55. FreeFox says:

    @DH/gg: You’re right, mates. I sort of misunderrstood that one in its specificity. (The other -isms were just examples for – imho – non-religious value systems that lead to – imho – horrific moral judgement calls.) I would posit, however, that in most such cases the “morality” is not really caused by the religion in question per se, but rather that the religion is more of a system created to uphold the bizarre and usually self-righteousness/self-loathing driven “morality”. Being queer myself, I found normally totally not-religious peeps fall back on Abrahamic arguments to voice their distaste. I have come to the conclusion that the whole f*cked-up Judeo/Christian/Islamic sexuality (including punishing victims of rape) stems almost entirely from totally f*cked-up gender roles. And while religion certainly upholds those, culture transported them 100% into atheistic Communism and Fascism. I’m rather certain that if one only could get this idea of the manly man and the female virgin/whore polarization out of culture, religion would lose a big part of its immediate horrificness.
    @DH: Enjoy your delicious sounding caffeinated and alcoholic beverages! Cheers! ^_^

  56. FreeFox says:

    @Darwin Harmless
    Re: Being in one camp with religious nuts.
    Well, thankfully one can divide the world along more than just the one line dividing theists from atheists. So while my own conviction of the reality of an omnipresent and omnipotent God as well as the existance of spirits, angels and indeed several pantheons of lesser divinities does make me feel rather shamed by morons propagating a flat earth or attacking the theory of evolution with, like, no arguments at all (kind of like South Pacific Islanders attacking Ironclads and Aeroplanes with rocks and wooden arrows because they don’t even understand the principle of the thing they are attacking), I know too well that I do not share most theist’s (or, while we’re at it, atheist’s) “morality” anyway. Hence, I do not feel in any way “in their camp” when they go about looting, pillaging, and dismissing the pain they cause. I have made the experience that that which I would call (capital-G) God seems to be not very much concerned with morality. At least the world He has created very obviously in no way discourages “evil” (in whatever shade it may come, from fornication to mass murder) or encourages “good” (again, be it giving alms or stoning fornicators), nor vice versa. And any God who casually spread death and devastation through earthquakes, tsunamis, plagues, and draughts (even discounting those fostered by human population politics, something which always thought a very weak apologetic argument to begin with) clearly has lost any sort of moral high ground any way.

    But then I’m assuming it doesn’t pain you especially to be in the same theological camp as the Khmer Rouge, the perpetrators of the Great Ukranian Famine 1932-33, or my own ancestors when they executed the plan decided on the shores of Lake Wannsee.

  57. FreeFox says:

    @Lord Elric: While witty in this context, the idea that Muslims in any way evolved from Jews is not very, er, stable. Assuming some historicity of Jesus, I suppose, the argument could be made that Christianity “evolved” from Judaism, though even for its early membership it certainly drew mostly on Hellenistic and Roman Gentiles. But even if you accept the prophet Muhammad as a Hanif, i.e. a monotheistic pre-Islamic Arab and descendent of Abraham via Ishmael, it would be hard to argue an actual “Jewish” line before “Israel” (i.e. Jacob), a rather distant descendent of Abraham via Isaac. Any less mythological delineation of Islam will have to conceede that while there were some Jewish and gnostic Christian communities existed, Mohammad himself as well as the vast majority of the founding population of Islam comes from Arabic polytheists, not Jews.
    So the correct question would be: Why aren’t you still a worshipper of fertile Al-‘Uzzá, serpentine Wadd, the moon gods Amm and Ta’lab, or Dushara, Lord of the Mountain? To which, unfortunately, he could respond almost rationally “because the Archangel Gabriel came to my name-sake and set him straight.” (That is, if he were capable of responding rationally at all.)

    Please excuse the descent into religious geekdom, but as you all can probably understand, dismissing things without at all understanding them can be thoroughly annoying to those who take an interest in them.

  58. @FreeFox Glad we got all that straightened out. And pleased to meetcha. Wow. Literate and erudite and obviously intelligent but still a theist. The polar opposite of Mohamad, yet still a believer. Have we here the equivalent of the subtle Jesuit somebody suggested I spar with? I’m very curious about your theism. It doesn’t seem to be of the personal God type, the “he sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows when you’ve been good or bad so be good for goodness sake”, kind of big G god who takes an interest in human affairs and causes earthquakes if enough women dress immodestly, nor does it sound simplistic like the created the universe just as a playpen for humanity and placed us here because he loves us, the most important creatures in the all of creation with dominion over all the animals but don’t piss Him off or he’ll torture you for eternity because Hell hath no fury like our dear loving God scorned kind of a God. So is this God you believe in the original Intelligent Designer? Did God create everything and then turn his back? And given the newly discovered incredible vastness of the whole ball of wax, are human beings somehow important to your God, and should God be important to us? I’m not going to ask you for your evidence for the existence of this God, but I’m incredibly curious about the logic behind your beliefs. Is this the old omnipotent God? The God who can do anything? Or is this the even more complex creature that Richard Dawkins talks about who must be more complex than the complexity he/she/it created? So many questions. Please don’t descend into religious geekspeak to answer these questions. I am very ignorant of religious history, most beliefs of the past, the history of religion and theology in general. I always shut down at the door, at the initial assumption that God exists. Because to me that always seems so improbable, such a (pardon me) leap of faith. So tell me about this God of yours please, but keep it simple. You are talking to the atheist equivalent of Mohamad here, a closed mind, except perhaps a little more willing to listen.

  59. @FreeFox regarding being in the same camp as the Khmer Rouge, the perpetrators of the Great Ukrainian Famine 1932-33, or the planners behind the Final Solution, I don’t consider myself in their camp at all. Many people conflate atheism with nihilism. I am not a nihilist. I have very strong beliefs, among them that my morality comes from my evolution as a social animal, and that what makes me happiest is my emotional connection to others and to the whole of humanity. What makes me unhappy is doing something that damages that connection or creates a less unified and loving world. So I feel no affinity at all to the groups you named, just as you of course feel no affinity to the “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” crowd.

  60. MrGronk says:

    @Freefox
    Atheists are certainly capable of nasty things when they are under the influence of a sufficiently horrible ideology. Religions are a particular sub-type of ideology, so they have the same potential to completely take over your worldview and morality, at the cost of your humanity and sense. I’m not particularly bothered what you believe in; so long as you’re not into ideological self-lobotomisation (religious or other), you’re OK by me.

  61. @FreeFox. Echoing MrGronk, I’m not bothered by what you believe. Merely curious. It’s so hard for me to connect with any theist beliefs, so when somebody of intelligence confesses to owning them, I’m always… surprised. It’s like running into a functional adult who argues that Santa Claus is real. No offence, mate.

  62. HaggisForBrains says:

    As someone who is largely an interested observer, having insufficient education or erudition to do more than the occasional interjection, I am really looking forward to the prospect of a FreeFox/DH debate. I hope I speak for many of us watchers that I have enjoyed reading the perspective brought to this blog by both these people. Keep up the good work!

  63. FreeFox says:

    @Darwin Harmless: I’m not entirely certain what you are asking, so if I miss my mark, feel free to specify your question. I’ll try to keep it short, but that is bound to simplify things beyond what I actually believe in its entirety.
    I believe in a whole sh*tload of gods and spirits. Take for example (an example I’m partly borrowing from Neal Stephenson) Ares and Athena. Human behaviour can of course be explained truthfully in the language of sociologists, psychologists, and neurologists. But there is a whole complex of behaviour that deals with the desire to do damage, to revel in bloodshed and the destruction of others, etc, that to my mind can be very reasonably described as the realm of Ares. The same can be said about courage, cleverness, deviousness, and what in the olden days might have been called the “wisdom” of conflict and warfare. In other words, the realm of Athena. In my own life I certainly worship both of these gods (I have a preference for Athena, but it would be hyprocitical of me to claim I’m not a servitor of Ares also.) This is not just some theoretical idea or a mere mincing of metaphors: I find that meditating on them / praying to them helps me focus on corresponding deeds in a way a more secular form of preparation doesn’t.
    That is the small-g gods. I also have regular conversation with spirit guides (initially with the help of fly agaric, administered by a shaman-in-training, but since that first encounter just under the steam of my own brain chemistry.)
    As for capital-G God, yeah, the way I experience Him (I stick to the male pronoun here, though He definitely has a feminine side, I would use “it” if it didn’t have a certain irreverent and impersonal note that distracts me) I view Him as “the Creator”, though if I have to probe deep, I suppose I probably think He began existence together with or as a function of reality, rather than as a separate originator. He is omnipotent in the meaning that He is the guiding hand behind everything that happens, as well as omniscient and (sort of by default) omnipresent. In fact, if I had to sum Him up in one phrase, God is to me “that which moves the world meaningfully.” That is the main point where I diverge fom the default atheistic position, I think. We can agree that Epicurus was right: A look at the world makes it evident that there cannot be a being that is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good. Polytheists explain the story state of things by a multitude of conflicting divinities. Atheists see the world as being ruled by all-powerful and all-present natural laws, but without sense or meaning. For a monotheist (or polytheist with a supreme and present being) I am left with the interpretation that God, when He does exist, cannot be “good” by any human standard. But then that fits my life experience pretty much to the dot. God’s a bastard. But he still moves the world meaningfully.

    I could go on about why I believe this, or the details of God’s character, as I experience Him, but I’m afraid that wouldn’t overstepping Author’s hospitality and common board courtesy.

  64. @HaggisforBrains Thanks for the endorsement and encouragement. I hope I can think thoughts deep enough to justify your support, or at least entertain you a bit.
    @Author This could get sophomoric or tedious or both. I’d appreciate a warning if I’m getting close to either.
    @Freefox. Thank you for humouring me, and engaging this conversation. I don’t feel competent to argue theology, but I can talk about me, my beliefs and feelings. So here goes.
    Somebody in a blog post described atheists as the spiritual equivalent of autism, and I’m afraid that certainly applies to me. He went on to say that we are like a person who does not respond to music, sees no value in music, and dismisses music as meaningless. Since I am very much involved with music, both as an appreciator and as a musician, this really hit home to me. Somebody who doesn’t get anything out of music would be very strange to me, beyond my understanding. But that’s how I am toward religion, and belief in god, gods, or God. The result is that just about everything in your last post is meaningless to me. I struggle to find the meaning, but it eludes me.
    I thought I almost had it when you talked about Ares and Athena and their areas of influence. Aha, thought I, he’s speaking metaphor. It’s just a way to help him think about these attributes, the way we apply metaphors to certain concepts like time – time is distance, time is a river flowing past us, objects move toward us in time, we Christmas is coming, we’re getting close to the end of the month – meaningless really, all simply metaphors because we can’t consider time any other way. But then you say, “This is not just some theoretical idea or a mere mincing of metaphors: I find that meditating on them / praying to them helps me focus on corresponding deeds in a way a more secular form of preparation doesn’t.” This blows my understanding of your small g gods as metaphors right out of the water.
    You go on to talk about your big G God, and I can understand why you stick to the masculine pronoun, and all of your logic in terms of the way you talk about him. But where on earth did you get the idea that there is a guiding hand behind everything that happens? Don’t you think you just might be playing games with your subconscious? “that which moves the world meaningfully” seems to me to be a very human-centric idea. After all, it is only we humans who give anything meaning. The universe seems to be untouched by any meaning we wish to assign to it.
    I remember walking in the woods one beautiful summer day, back when I was in university and this kind of conversation was much more common. I was thoroughly enjoying the beauty of nature, Spring air ripe with new growth, and life when I came upon a large rock upon which somebody had spray painted the words “Fuck You”. My mood crashed. I was offended, outraged that somebody had inserted such ugliness into my day. But I sat and thought a spell, and realized that the beauty of the day, all of nature, the birds in the trees, the rock itself, nothing there but me gave any meaning to that paint on the rock. It was just meaningless to the universe. And it could be meaningless to me. If a bear had left a pile of shit on the rock, would I be offended or hurt? No. So why did I care if some other animal, in this case a human, had left some meaningless mark on that rock? We are part of nature too. A bear might scratch the bark off a tree to show how tall it is. A teenager might write “Fuck You” on a rock to show… I don’t know what. How angry he is. How literate he is. How little he appreciates the beauty of this spot. Whatever. It’s meaningless. And so are my feelings. There is no meaning to anything, unless we apply it.
    And what is that meaning, it’s activation of certain centers in our brains, certain neural connections, certain synapses snapping. That’s where our meaning comes from. So when you say “that which moves the world in a meaningful way”, I have to smile. You may think something is meaningful. Others might not agree. The universe doesn’t give a shit.
    So I’m left thinking, I just don’t understand this. You believe in invisible creatures and something you call God who is a personality and does things in a meaningful way. I see no evidence at all. Do you have any? Or do you just believe because you want to, because it’s easier than not believing, or because it gives you warm snugglies in your brain. Whichever it is, I just don’t get it.
    I rather like to think there is some reason for my beliefs. Some I hold simply because I haven’t taken the time to examine them. Others I hold lightly, because I realize that there is no rationality to the belief but I find the belief useful. There’s very little that I can say I believe absolutely, and that my world would crash if I were shown to be in error. In fact, I rather enjoy trying to find the errors. A scientist, I’m not sure which one, said that reality is not only stranger than we know, it is stranger than we can know. I believe this. I believe there is a reality out there. But I also believe it is largely unknowable to creatures at our level of size and perception. There is so much more we can’t perceive. All we can do is act “as if” reality is the way we think it is, and try to find ways that allow us to accept reality, work with reality, and learn more about reality.
    You certainly don’t have to justify your beliefs to me, but if you are telling me that you believe in the literal existence of Ares, Athena, a whole sh*tload (What’s with that apteryx anyway. Do you think we don’t know what the word is? Does putting a bag over its head make it more polite?) of gods and spirits capped off by the big G, God, I’m afraid I see you as self-deluded, childish, or just taking the micky out of those who take you seriously when you say you believe something. From what you have told me, it’s hard for me to believe you are sincere.
    Over to you.

  65. HaggisForBrains says:

    @DH – “Somebody in a blog post described atheists as the spiritual equivalent of autism, and I’m afraid that certainly applies to me. He went on to say that we are like a person who does not respond to music, sees no value in music, and dismisses music as meaningless. Since I am very much involved with music, both as an appreciator and as a musician, this really hit home to me. Somebody who doesn’t get anything out of music would be very strange to me, beyond my understanding. But that’s how I am toward religion, and belief in god, gods, or God”.

    Thanks for that quote. It helps me understand how theists see me. It also helps me understand what religion does for them. Don’t worry, though, I don’t think I’m missing anything, and am not about to undergo a conversion ;-).

    “A teenager might write “Fuck You” on a rock to show… I don’t know what.”

    I’ve often thought that graffiti like this are not so far removed from the bear shitting on the rock – it’s an atavistic way of marking territory.

  66. FreeFox says:

    @Author: Yes, please, tell us when we should take this conversation outside.

    @Darwin Harmless: Okay, this is going to be difficult, but I’m going to try to explain Jazz to you. I apologize if this gets technical, but I am now using metaphors to explain, well, metaphors. Though I suspect we each mean something different with that term.
    Let me first assure you that I quite sincere, and that I will never “defend” my belief, since the moment I would feel defensive about them, I suppose honesty would force me to admit that I had stopped actually believing them. I also have no interest in converting anyone, though I do like to exchange POVs on life, reality, and, well, meaning.
    Which brings me, I suppose, to the core problem between my understanding of the world and yours. We are agreed that meaning is something that exists primarily in the mind of the beholder. I say “primarily” since in most cases it exists there as a reaction to some outside stimulus. We need not agree whether the reaction is necessarily reasonable or functional, only that even in the case of, say, schizophrenia, the chemical imbalance in the brain is something that is still outside of the frame of reference of the unhinged mind itself, the way a physical computer damage is still outside of the software bug it might cause.
    Where we differ in is assigning meaning to that “meaning”. You say, it is meaningless, just as you say metaphors are “meaningless really”. I have to disagree. For one, as Standford researchers recently found out, the metaphors you chose very much influences your thought processes and decisions. It is possible to make yourself aware of that to lessen that impact, but for everyday life that seems to be rarely enough and really not very practical. For better or worse, we each live in a metaphoric universe, and picking the right or wrong is like picking the right or wrong colour wallpaper. Sit in an angry red room all day, and your chances of picking up a gun and blowing people away at random do not improve favourably. I don’t want to suggest any quantum mysticism, but the way one looks on the world does change it.
    Which is sort of my second point: Whatever happens in my mind is just as much part of the world as your rocks, birds, teenage tagger (isn’t it fascinating how we deduce from the medium and message a rather specific age?) and shitting bears. Actually both the meaning you assigned to the phrase and the emotion it provoced are also real: Real synapses snapping, real hormones cursing your blood, etc. After all, information is much a real part of the real world as matter and energy, and as much protected by the laws of conservation. So why should my subjective meaning be of any less relevance than the song of the birds, the verdant shade of green of the leaves, or the temperature and level of humidity in the air on that summer day that caused you so much joy before you encountered that accumulation of metal-based paint on the rock that interrupted your joy before you very actively thorugh a complex subjective process of self-mind-editing altered that meaning to one you preferred?
    Ideas matter: The bible and the koran are after all only collections of meaning (and pretty vague ones at that), but they have indubitably had a massive impact on the phyiscal world. Just stand inside a cathedral or mosque and tell me that faith cannot move mountains. Nuclear power stations are first and foremost an idea, given physical shape via brain chemistry and human labour, and now autonomously changing the real world. Fukushima is a pretty impressive monument to the importance of the tiny changes that happened in Mr Becquerel’s and Mrs Curie’s brain when they saw the glow in the darkness, eh?
    Is it really so absurd then that the act of worshipping Athena or Loki or even a tree or the sky (each understood to be a representative of a certain part of reality) alters my approach and thus the way I interact with it? You may find that childish, but how do you know that my approach is not actually more efficient and effective than yours? I am not claiming it is, but I am saying as a scientifically minded person, you should be careful about conclusions.
    In this light, I personally find your claim that “the universe doesn’t give a shit” rather amusingly quaint and very 19th Century. We are beyond that, aren’t we? If by “give a shit” you mean “change as an immediate and directed reaction” and by “universe” you mean the world as it impacts you, then of course any meaning you assign, even if that meaning has a value of zero, so to speak, alters it. The universe cannot help but give a shit.
    Of course it doesn’t have the morals of a repressed Puritan, nor the goals of Hezbollah. The world is far more complex than that.
    If I understand you correctly I rather share your approach to “belief” itself. I am not trying to argue that my way of seeing things is in any absolute way correct or inescapable. I do hold, though, that it is a valid possible way of seeing it, and as you said, a rather useful one. I try to adjust it to feedback from reality, be it my own immediate experiences or the reasonably trustworthy scientific discoveries, all the time. So, no, I don not have positive proof of my God’s existance, but I have “reasons” to believe in it.
    One reason is that I experience his presence, and that I can communicate with Him. And if you are going to refer to me to my temporal lobe and my own mind again, well, yeah, so what? Maybe my temporal lobe is one organ that allows me to experience this the way your eye and your visual cortex are the organs that allow you experience the data coming from your computer screen. Maybe the personality I experience as “God” is something put together by my subconscious mind from a plethora of little bits and pieces of information my other senses have collected.
    You see, it was a vital part of my, er, former profession, to “read” people, i.e. to develop a quick and hopefully correct Theory of Mind of my, uh, let’s call them “clients”. I am rather thrilled by the recent research results in the amygdala and mirror neurons, and I read everything about that with interest, but it had little practical impact on me. In the end, I simply trained my intuitive mind (incl. raw observation and also reflection on my success and error rates after each encounter) to be able to read minds as quickly and precicely as possible. I don’t really give a shit whether my ToM was “real”, only whether it allowed me to predict their behaviour. I think I was reasonably successful.
    Maybe “God” is nothing but my ToM of the world as it impacts me. I am aware that probably some objective universe exists. But frankly, I am only really interested in that part of it that impacts me, i.e. that moves meaningfully. I applaud research into quasars, but unless it improves the quality of my mobile phone or the chance of a CT scan to cure me or those that are meaningful to me from cancer, quasars have probably less importance on me than the fox, the stork, the scorpion, and the other talking animals from Aesop’s Fables. I know they are not “real”, and yet each of them tells me true and useful things about the world and the co-humans I share it with, after all.
    But as long as God and how He interacts with me helps me deal with the world, and as long as I keep up a reasonable mistrust towards His intentions and how He will impact my life (I do take pride that my belief is not a blind faith), why shouldn’t I believe in Him? It’s a bit like having the universe do a Turing test. If it comes out sounding like God, well, to all intents and purposes, it IS. I don’t let it stop me from looking behind the curtain… but even as a child I never though that the fact that the Wizard used loudspeakers made him less terrible and powerful. He did get Dorothy home in the end, didn’t he?

    PS.: The asterisks were just a reflex acquired on boards/chats that auto-ban the use of “official” swear words.

  67. Bravo. A very precise and impressive explanation, and I can certainly agree with just about all of it. Delighted to get your reply. I had fears that I had put you in the untenable position of either repeating that you believe in god, angels, faeries and God Himself, which might sound childish even to you, or agreeing that you are most likely playing hallucinogen inspired games with your subconscious. No fun either way. So it’s quite exciting to get this solidly rational and totally non-defensive response, which if I can paraphrase it as I hear it amounts to: it doesn’t matter what reality is because we can never know it, so I can believe anything that I find useful.
    I’m all for a useful belief, even if I know it’s quite silly. I just try not to dress my silly beliefs up in clothing that makes even me smirk at them. But that’s your privilege of course.
    I was once in a touchy-feely seminar in which the facilitator stated the guiding principle of the course by writing on the blackboard: “Everything in my reality is a result of my thoughts, beliefs, or actions.” I immediately stood up and in a loud and impolite voice (I’d paid fairly big money to be there.) said “Bullshit.” Stunned silence. “If I’m walking through the park and I get hit by a meteorite and killed, how is that a result of my thoughts, beliefs, or actions? Shit happens.” The facilitator said, “Okay, this may not be ‘The Truth’ with a capital T (making the quotation marks around the words gesture) But it’s very useful. The more you believe it, the more it will seem to be true. And the alternative to believing it is to be a victim.”
    That made sense, and the admission that it wasn’t “TRUE” settled me down a bit. So I tried it on for size. She was right. It is useful. Invariably, when I feel like a victim I can ask myself what I did to cause my current reality, and the answer is usually obvious. Since then I have tried to act as if this absurd belief IS true, and I have found it easy to maintain that illusion. It’s a tool for analyzing my behavior, for seeing events from a different angle, and deciding what I might have done to get a different result. I think this is the way some people think of religious belief. Maybe this applies to you.

    I suspect that you are just in the woo transition between belief in the sky faerie and atheism. Many atheists take a stop there. I paused there myself, briefly. One can’t see the great mystery without wanting to organize it somehow. We are meaning-making creatures. We want to believe that events have meaning, and that nothing happens by accident. So woo is a logical place to go after theism evaporates. It can lead intelligent people who once believed in God to say some very silly things. You seem to have landed in woo without even dropping God, so that’s an achievement.

    At a certain point we will have said everything there is to say about our beliefs. I would be embarrassed to be telling people that Ares, Thor, and God are actual real beings and that I believe in them as such, even if I’d met them and shaken their hands. I’ve had my own drug experiences. My brain is perfectly capable of creating very convincing illusions, and if I start to believe me brain, all is lost. You aren’t embarrassed at all, apparently. So go for it. As MrGronk said, “I’m not particularly bothered what you believe in; so long as you’re not into ideological self-lobotomisation (religious or other), you’re OK by me.” Couldn’t agree more, and maybe nothing much more to be said.

    But just to keep this discussion going one more round: You say you have reasons to believe in God’s existence. I don’t. None have ever occurred to me, or been explained to me. And now we get down to the bedrock of this discussion. This is where the rabbi hits the road. If you have reasons for your beliefs, please share them.

    P.S. thanks for explaining the asterisks. To me they are a symptom of our culture’s incredibly f*cked up attitude towards words and truth, a bit like saying gosh darn when you really mean God damn, childish even (I’m over using that word these days) but I suppose I would resort to that convention to stay in a forum that interested me. Been fun sharing with you. :-)

  68. FreeFox says:

    @ Darwin Harmless: I’m not certain *I* understand *you* correctly now, but I do not feel all that comfortable with your summation of “it doesn’t matter what reality is because we can never know it, so I can believe anything that I find useful.” I suppose it hinges on the definition of useful. The way you phrased it sounds a lot like, er, conceptual nihilism: If nothing is real I can make up anything I like. Because that certainly wouldn’t be what I tried to say. As you said about the meteorite, reality can be bloody solid. The example I always liked best is by SciFi author David Gerrold, who had one character say something like: “If you think there is no objective reality, go stand in front of a bus and tell it you don’t believe in it.”
    I find it strange that in the question of direct vs. indirect reality perception (i.e. do we experience the objective real world or just our subjective mental model of it) peeps tend to see it in an either/or extreme. To me it seems clear that while we can only percieve reality via our sense-fed mental model, evolution has evolved our senses to be rather accurate in depicting reality accurately (though, again, only in as far as it is meaningful for us. For example I assume that you, too, as a child made the discovery that while the 3m diving board looks terrifyingly tall – and the jump down from it’s edge looks even deeper – if you measure out 3m on the flat ground, it is a disappointingly short stretch; or, if you are into mountaineering, or just long distance travel by motorbike, or car I suppose, that is nearly impossible to correctly gauge the angle of a slope. Our mind experiences hights as greater than flat distances. Is that an illusion? Only if we assume some neutral, objective reality. If we view distance as something that is of subjective importance, then height IS longer than horizontal distance. Scaling it is more strenuous, and falling from it downright life-threatening. From that POV our perceptions are actually spot on.)
    Also, as you pointed out in a previous post, we have evolved as social beings, and as such, the way others experience reality, or indeed, experience us, matters so much that it has an influence on reality in that same way that it makes a difference whether a distance is horizontal or vertical. So even when I used my ability to read peeps to their disadvantage, I was only able to do so accurately because our realities have for all their subjectivity a lot of common ground and can bleed into each other.
    So I would not want my religious experiences to be understood as completely solipsistic (though as a JD I’ve had a shrink diagnose me as borderline sociopathic, so I suppose there is something in that.)
    My personal reasons to believe, eh? Well, for one there is my very subjective experiences. So, yes, while I believe in vampires, werewolves, curses, and ghosts, lesser divinities and even the faeries and unicorns so often quoted by atheists on a level you would probably dismiss as “only metaphors”, for example my spirit guides are very real to me on a sensory level. Both in deams and in waking reality, both when called in meditation and sometimes entirely of their own volition (and even in to me sometimes inopportune circumstances), any one or several of those three foxes appear to me. I can hear the clicking of their claws on the floor tiles, I can smell the mustiness of their fur or the foulness of their carnivorous and often carrion eating breaths, I feel the coarseness of their pelts and the burrs caught in them, the leathery toughness of the pads under their paws, see their red, white and in the case of the most scary of the trio anthracite grey fur, as well as the light caught in their eyes, and hear their rough, barking, yet humanly speaking voices as clearly and distinctly as those of my baby boy, or his mother, or my boss, or the muezzin calling the faithful to prayer. Yet I do know the difference between their reality and the more objective one immediately, at least once they are close enough. (With a fox hurrying by in the distance, I am never quite certain if that is now a subjective spirit fox or an objective scavanger of the wild). It is not that they are translucent or echoy or anything so hollywood, but rather that I experience a duality or biception of realities. And while they have often told me things I wasn’t aware of, they cannot spy for me or tell me independently verifiable facts I couldn’t have subconsciously gleaned by mundane means. So clearly, they are not magical beings in the simplistic, naive sense of the word.
    Hallunications? An extremely vivid imagination? Apparently my ability to fact check them discounts me as simply suffering from schizophrenia, or so I’ve been told. And since that first batch of muscimol it cannot be caused by drugs: The only drugs I consume are nicotine, caffeine, and sugar. I’ve even quite booze ver a year ago, and it hasn’t done anything to their sensory realism. In the end, I can only accept that they are real to me, and that conversing with them is extremely helpful to me, even if they more often than not tell me truths I’d rather not hear.
    In the same vein, I do speak to God. And he answers, if far, far less often than the spirit guides, and when He does, He usually sounds somewhat irritated, rather bored, and very distant. (Emotionally, not physically. Physically He sounds as if He was standing immediately behind me.) Again, I cannot use him to get tomorrow’s lottery numbers, though He has told me things (in an offhand, casual way that is very disconcerting) that proved true later that I have a hard time rationalizing as being purely extrapolations from facts I already knew. But I am willing to entertain the idea that the immediate version I percieve of God is fed entirely through my ordinay senses. Everything else smacks to much of complete delusions and madness.
    Besides that sensory presence it is also the experience of patterns in my life: The way choices sometimes make more sense in retrospect than they did when I made them, or the way things end in screw ups (often) or surprising harmony (seldom) that makes sense when viewed as a whole in the way a good story does, with beginning, middel, and end. I experience God as that which tells these stories. I see similar patterns in the stories of people close to me, though I am more weary there about my ability to recognize them, since my knowledge of them is perforce even more incomplete than of my own.
    I am not really troubled by the connection between my personal God and God the cosmic being. That, too, is something I learned from reading people: We show different (and sometimes conflicting) sides of ourselves to different people, the same way a hologram cut into strips (to borrow another image from another SciFi author, this time William Gibson) shows the same object but from different perspectives. If you imagine God that way, it is not really surprising that from my narrow perspective I get one narrow experience of Him, that is at the same time personal and a part of the vast universe.
    But I guess, yeah, in the end whether simple, if excessively powerful and special effects laden subjective metaphor or deep spiritual insight into the nature and truth of the universe, I have no more reason actual to believe in God than that it makes more sense to me to interact with the universe wearing this antropomorphic mask than to force myself to objectify it and strip all meaning from it the way you did with the message on the rock. Doing that seems artificial to me. It comes more natural to see the writing on the wall as meaningful. So to me the question really is, what reasons would I have to not believe.

    Any other questions? ^_^

    I am certain we are seriously breaking netiquette with these long posts, but now I would like to hear how you experience the world and your place in it, and how you integrate experiences of death, loss, fortune, courage, altruism, joy and pain.

  69. Tamfang says:

    If Afrikaans is descended from Dutch, how can there still be Dutch speakers?

  70. @Freefox I rather envy your the entertainment your brain gives you. More fun than anything on television from the sounds of it. And you seem rational enough to at least be considering all the various possibilities, so I suppose you are not Son of Sam.

    I am rather glad my world is not as complicated as yours. I don’t have to listen to, or interact with, beings whose objective reality I might doubt. Like that bus you mentioned, the beings in my life seem very real. All of them.
    The way I experience the world. Huge question. I’ll try not to be too long winded about it. For me the world is very simple, endlessly complicated and extremely fascinating. I understand very little of it, but apparently much more than many people. I try to live by some fairly simple rules, most of which are summed up by Miguel Ruiz in “The Four Agreements”. I believe that, within limits, we create our own reality, and I try to create a reality full of cheerful people having fun. Having fun is important to me. I like to have a project or two on the go to be excited about. If I’m not learning about something I feel stagnant, so I’m always trying to pick up new skills or information. Lately my website has taken a lot of attention, because there’s always something to rant about. I started it because I can’t say a lot of things on my non-anonymous site, and I wanted a place to say whatever is on my mind. I’ve given death a lot of thought, and the best I can come up with is that I was dead for billions of years before I was born, wasn’t bothered by that condition, and expect to be in exactly that state after I die. I thought this was original thinking, but like many things I’ve discovered that Mark Twain said it first. Anyway, it’s only the transition that worries me. A friend of mine once said something I found almost alarming. Not: “We’re going to die”, but “someday we’ll all have five minutes to live”. Interesting how that changed my perspective. I’m with Woody Allen – “I’m not afraid of dying. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” I love life. I love the people in my life, even the difficult people. In this day and age, if you aren’t excited you just aren’t paying attention because we’re living in yesterday’s science fiction. I guess I deal with most things the same way I dealt with that writing on the rock, which you said felt artificial to you. If by artificial you mean “using artifice” then I suppose it is. It’s how I deal with death, loss, and other unpleasantness of life, by trying to find a perspective that allows me to accept reality. And for me that’s the big key. I believe there is an objective reality out there. There’s no point fighting it. It is what it is. (The old cliche – if you drop your favorite coffee cup, you can be unhappy about it or okay with it, but in either case the cup is broken.) I try to accept reality. But I get my biggest kick out of taking a reality I don’t like and finding the place to push to change it into something more acceptable. This was the genius of Gandhi. He looked at that whole vast and complicated bureaucracy of the British in India and found the perfect place to push to send the whole machine off the tracks – the totally unjust law forbidding the poor to make salt from the ocean. I call this leverage. I’m always looking for leverage. And if I can turn an enemy into a friend, or an argument into a discussion, or pain into acceptance, that’s what I live for. I love to work with my hands. Love to make things. Love to drywall a room with no radio playing. Fortune? I’ve been rich, or at least had all the toys of wealth, the huge house on an ocean with a fifty foot yacht at anchor in my own bay. Currently I’m poor. Rich is better, as somebody said, but not by much. Just seems to confer more automatic respect. I’m a firm believer that we all have far more options than we are aware of having, and that another adventure is just around the corner. Looking back at the great losses of my life, they have all be part of getting me where I am now, which is pretty damn good. Courage? I’m not a brave person. In fact, I’m an incredible coward. But I also know that fear is the enemy of life, and that the worst that can happen is not as bad as we imagine. Or maybe it’s worse. But standing up to bullies is necessary. Standing up to what we want to see as right in this world is important. I hope I am never a witness to a stoning, because I’m fairly sure I’d walk in and try to stop it, and probably, almost certainly, get stoned myself. I have Rudyard Kipling’s “If” committed to memory, and as a philosophy of life it serves me very well. I know it’s simplistic, but it’s how I want to live – treating those two impostors both the same. I get great pleasure from my altruism, but I am very aware that this is why I do it. Some part of me could care less about the suffering of strangers. Joy and pain flow through me. Whining makes me feel better. I’ve got a lot of history. I’ve stood in the Parthenon, lain on the floor of the Sistine Chapel for an hour or so (but back before it was cleaned so I want to do it again) had a standing ovation in Alice Tulley Hall in New York, seen Darwin’s Finches, chewed coca leaves in the high Andes, watched schools of flying fish against a tropical sunset. Ah, the memories. If the party ends tomorrow, I can’t complain about anything. But I’d like to live forever.
    And that’s enough. I’m probably going to reprint this whole discussion on the Darwin Harmless site, so if Author ever gets tired of us we have a place to go. Unfortunately it will become a far more private conversation if we do that. I don’t have much of a following as yet, though I cherish the ones I do have. Most of them. Just told divineadvancedhumanbeings.com that he’d wandered onto the wrong site, so I guess I don’t welcome everybody. Don’t mind talking to intelligent faith heads, but nutters that tell me light is a chemical reaction get short shrift.
    Not nearly enough to explain myself, but should give you the rough pencil sketch version. Thanks for asking.

  71. Exzanian says:

    @ Freefox
    You can buy more of the amazing 4th dimensional Shamanistic experience on the best Peruvian Torch website (and don’t forget, we have a special on San Pedro Catus for this week only!) Google it and please, stop with this inane one upmanship, you showed your true colours, we get it, give it a rest….we want comix not your endless one upmanship ffs……

  72. Second Thought says:

    @Exzanian
    I don’t think you are being fair to Freefox. He didn’t start into the long posts until he was asked to share his beliefs and the reasons for those beliefs. He does not seem to be trying to convert anyone, just answer the questions he was asked. If what you come to this site for is just the comix then it seems to me that none of the comments fit that bill. Both FF and DH have invited Author to step in and shoo their conversation off of the J&M board if it is getting overly long or off-topic for Author’s tastes. They both seem to be showing respect to this comments forum.

    None of us have to read any of the comments that don’t interest us or comments from any of the commenters that we don’t enjoy. I, for one, have been finding the conversation interesting. Thanks to both FF and DH for sharing your thoughts here. This even brought me out of my usual lurker mode.

  73. gk4c4 says:

    I resent the use of name “mohammed” in characterising the actual troll!! The name is used by a lot of people, not many of them I admire at the moment, but I keep the option open that in the future (definitely NOT in the long past) some of them will become my friend !

    I propose the formal name: Homo islamicus fundii ….

    heh heh heh .. (this is not a troll speaking, just panting )

  74. gk4c4 says:

    I just read DH & FF interaction. Wow! These guys are knowledgeable! And honest! Upfront, in a continuum from FF to DH, I am more than a tad toward DH.
    But I understood what FF said. Actually, reading about spirituality (for me, exp Buddhism) teaches me that there is something in human psyche that’s is beyond the ordinary (of course I wrote it as if it is something new, while it’s just observation). Like FF said, if youo’re in a cathedral, or a big mosque – you could (not should!) be awed. Pyramids! angkor wat! borobudur! Human mind / faith can moved mountain!

    When they’re coerced into it, of course. The forbidden city, the great wall.

    Faith is a powerful weapon for the masses. Handled properly it is powerful and.. cheap! read the history of saud (&wahab) family in arabia. Or khaddafis.

    Then there are jungian archetypes, the athenas, ares, kali, bodhisatwas. saints and the counterparts of demons, vampires. The psychological baggages. In the past all of these are beyond understanding. Moreover if you throw in the charlatans, bogus witches, liar priests that crashed the party for cash.

    It still is beyond understanding. But nowadays, we carefully sorted out the mess. Psychologists, freudian clean-up, the jungian explanations to current practices. Now we know there are myriads of tricks our mind can play on us. Some of those tricks are very personal, like FF’s experiences (I have some of shamanistic experiences myself, I understand what FF said about foxes, even I do not share the same explanation).

    Some of them can be ‘leveraged’ into mass movements. Those who can would amass fortunes. Not just the Roman kings with Xtianity, also mohammed (the one) and his later kings with their khalifah. But also Hitler with nazism, Mussolini, up to rev. Taggart and Adnan octar. Machiavelism at work.

    All these mess with Mind.
    One thing I can be sure about: when you’re walking in the Truth Path, don’t stop. If you enjoy the foxes, the same way that you awestruck with the scenery. You become fixated. Then you stopped with the fox, or hate the wiseguy that wrote “Fuck you” on your path. You failed.

    There is some ‘metaphorical’ truth about the sitting under bodhi, the 40-days in the desert, and the cave-hira episodes. Even struck by lightning on the way to damascus. It happened to myriads..
    The irony is – when you stopped and enjoy yourself – then you’re it! Most of the Walker did that.

    What I like about the scientific approach – cosmology, physics, chemistry, evolution, psychology, sociology, politics, economics — we humanity for the first time ever, build a brick road on the true-land, we are going to be “there” on this brick road. Not easy, but much much easier than what the shamans, the sufis, the mystics, of the past have shown us (what I believe FF is on).

    That’s why I love science and scientific approach! A lot of people say that scientific approach is the most difficult (or even impossible), but it is not.

    Like late Sagan said “…. and it has the benefits of being true..”.
    Yes, sometimes scientists make mistakes, but we all will correct them.

    This brick-road is the surefire way to Truth, Reality or God, or whatever your shamans told you ….. within next 100 years or so?

    Cheers. I hope the Author got some idea from DH & FF posts!

    PS: I like FF’s comment about Islam and Jew. The history must be known. But don’t be small, all monotheistic ideas are coming from similar sources, moving around middle-east. All of them are borrowing (or plagiarizing) from each other. No holy-book is original. The same way with knowledge in general.

  75. gk4c4 says:

    Sorry, annoying typo: .. for me, especially Buddhism …

  76. Sorry everybody. That clever FreeFox pulled me off topic, which was to discuss the reality of God, angels, spirits, by asking me to talk about my favorite subject, namely me. I’m embarrassed by how quickly I jumped at his bate.
    FreeFox, you said: “I have no more reason actual to believe in God than that it makes more sense to me to interact with the universe wearing this anthropomorphic mask than to force myself to objectify it and strip all meaning from it the way you did with the message on the rock. Doing that seems artificial to me. It comes more natural to see the writing on the wall as meaningful. So to me the question really is, what reasons would I have to not believe.”
    You say this this after the most incredible set of artificial logical contortions so that you can maintain that you believe in faeries, hear voices, see spirit guides, and that God stands behind you and speaks in a bored voice (I can believe that.) and otherwise dive deep into woo while still claiming to be sane and logical. Sorry. I don’t buy it. Not for a minute. I think you know you are just playing games with your sub-conscious mind. If you don’t know that, the rest of us do.
    ‘Sbeen fun.

  77. Damn but I hate typos. That should be bait, of course, not bate. I could pretend I meant BATE, as in “obvious”, but then it should have been all caps. So I’ll just eat this one.

  78. FreeFox says:

    @Exzanian: Who am I trying to one-up? o_O?

    @Second Thought: Thanks, mate. ^_^

    @gk4c4: Love your image of science as the yellow brick road, or actually any kind of man-made, solid, dependable paved road, like those the Romans built all over Europe, to make travel independent of the season and the weather. There might have been good pathfinders before, trustworthy travel-guides, but most times people just got stuck in the mud or wandered into some bog or off a cliff (or into a predator’s trap). The roads of science may not yet lead past every hamlet and every glade one may want to get to, but wherever it does lead it’s a bloody comfortable and dependable way to travel.

    @Darwin Harmless: You sure are a fickle one. And I really wasn’t trying to bait you. I was just interested, and I enjoyed your telling. I thought it had been a friendly conversation, and not a contest. Shrug.
    “If you don’t know that, the rest of us do.” I’m happy for you. Knowledge is a good thing, innit? ^_^

  79. @FreeFox Not so much fickle as occasionally moody. Please put it down to bad brain chemicals. I apologize. I very much enjoyed our discussion, and was also not thinking of it as an argument. Just reacted to seeing myself so far off topic, an intemperate blurt which I now regret. To top it off, I should never presume to speak for the others.
    What I should say, speaking frankly without any attempt at wit, is that I’m drawn to the conclusion that you are either disingenuous or barking mad.
    I spent a fair bit of time in close proximity to a professional shaman at one point and came to the conclusion that he was an out and out con man. Your allusion to a previous profession that sound suspiciously like mind reading or mentalism inclines in that direction with you as well.
    In either case, fraud or madman, I applaud your ability to use language and your obvious intelligence. In either case, you provide great entertainment value. Perhaps not as much as Mohamad, excuse me @gk4c4 I mean homo islamicus fundamentalus, but still great fun.
    And as Schultz, the German guard on “Hogan’s Heroes” was wont to say, I know nothing. Nothing. Only you know what you are.
    It’s been a slice.

  80. gk4c4 says:

    re: FF’s yellow brick road, roman via appia. that’s an apt metaphor. In the past, no technology enough to build the road, so the brave souls try their best – like a lot of the Walkers of today. Most of them are lost. Those who banded together into a convoy – the organized religions – are the “most lost” the lostest :D

    Real Walker always walk alone, until they expire. Some believe they have achieved their goal. I seriously doubt it. Most of those “organized tourists” are in hell already (lucky that hell doesnot really exist ;) ..).

    In any case, I believe in the Walker’s creed. It’s your soul, your heaven, your hell. You do what you could, you reap what you got. Reading into the real human thinkers (including the famous human J&M) you will see that what they find from their Walks are very similar. Abidhamma is the most detailed travelogue for me, but even bible and koran (hadith esp) you can read the notes of a Walker. Just forget the all-too-human ass-licking sycophants, and the temporal cultural things.

    Lastly, we live in a very different world now, and the changes are very rapid. Very soon that via-appia is done. I just hope that I won’t be dead before that happens. Again from late Sagan: “.. we live in very exciting times …”

    What we now know is vastly more than whatever jesus, mo, siddharta, confucius, laotze, plato ever dream to know. Yet, we stilll don’t know.

    That “God” is the remnant of the thing that all human share : the idea of Father… Freudian jungian archetype father… it is part of the past. FF my friend, you have to keep Walking…. admire the snenery and the baubles you found on the way, but go on. Mohammed said ” I am the finger pointing, don’t be distracted with my hands, body, face, or even worse the ring I wear ..see the direction”. Laotse said succintly: Learn everything, and then unlearn, everything is changing. Siddharta said the best on his deathbed: Just walk – and if you faced buddha (meaning he walked inn opposite direction – disagreeing with you): Kill Buddha! ( read: forget what I teach – if you find yourself the truth).

    That’s what a real Walker should say, not the crazy homo fundii themes. And nowadays, the path is definitely scientifically woven, I believe if siddharta and laotse live today, they will be scientist, or at least scientifically literate.

    Howgh! :D

  81. FreeFox says:

    @ Darwin Harmles: Fickle. Moody. I knew it was one of those. And for someone who knows nothing, your analysis is pretty spot on. For a while I did indeed earn my bread as a thief and con man (though I prefer the term confidence artist), though I never stooped to something as low and cruel as duping folks with magic, miracles, or divination. I preferred grabbing them by their greed and sometimes lust and then letting them dig their own pit. (I don’t want to sound too apologetic, though. Picking pockets and lying for money is not a victimless crime, unlike prostitution or selling dope. I have no illusions about that. It just tickled me to use their own vices against them.)
    But no more. As far as I can give any trustworthy assurance via a more or less annonymous internet board I want to assure you I have not taken an unfair penny off another human in over a year. And I don’t plan on returning there.
    In the end – this may or may not interest you in the conext of our conversation – it was my amygdala and my mirror neurons that made me quit, if by a certain circumlocution: I fell in love with a bloke – even though I fought it tooth and claw, but sometimes the heart conquers the brain – only to find evidence that he’d lead me on. Not for money, just for fun. And I found that afterwards I just couldn’t do it anymore. The very thing that got my adrenalin flowing before, the joy of deception and manipulation, it was simply gone. I had grown a bloody conscience. Let me tell you: That sucked! And I had to find me another way to make a living, which I am happy to say, with the help of very friendly and good people (Muslims at that), I did… so far.
    Of course, the last thing I would advise is to trust me or my word. But then, for a con I can’t see the percentage in this. (But if you find me popping up on your own website and trying to rope you into some enterprise, promising you big riches for just a small investment, well, you don’t need my warning, seeing your own experiences with that mindset.)
    Also, I really, really don’t want to give God any of the praise for that turnabout on my road to Damaskus. He never bothered me about being a crook, and if I ever got any kind of reaction about quiting, it was at best a divine shoulder shrug. Nor do I believe that my islamic friends reached out to me out of their faith and devotion. They’re just simply good people, and they’d be good people no matter in what country or under what faith or lack thereof. I’d hate if you thought I was trying to do any proselytising.
    Chalk it up to me being two stations short of Ockendon, if you will. I can live with that. Although, and call me a Neo-Platonist if you will, I still think you underestimate and undervaluate the power, importance, and reality of metaphors.
    Don’t know if you know a chap called Sapolsky. Check out this article and this video. There is more to reality than rocks and more things can run you down than busses.

    @gk4c4: Aristotle was convinced that his generation was close to finding out everything there was to be known about the world. Obviously I don’t know this any more than you do, but I have a hard time believing that humanity is close to finishing that network of brick roads, or that it is even possible for humanity to do so… though, yeah, now that I think about it, I suppose that knowledge might be finite, in the sense that space, matter, and energy might be finite in this universe. There is of course the question of other universes, and if their total number is finite, etc. Anyway, it seems to me a rather distant and theoretical boundary.
    I am killing Buddhas right and left, mate, Tarantino style. And I have the sneaking feeling that that is a habit atheists shouldn’t give up entirely either, although they still seem to be in the danger of doing so. But I agree that the scientific method has very beautifully and effectively ritualized that principle.

  82. @FreeFox “To live outside the law you must be honest.” – Bob Dylan.

    For the record, I absolutely detest a con man, and calling one a confidence artist degrades the word “artist”. I don’t feel this way for any reason connected with morality, since who can justify a system wherein one man is born knowing he will never have to do a lick of work in his entire life and will still life in luxury with all the toys humanity can bestow on him, while another is born to scratch and scrabble and suffer knowing that there is no way out except death, if the religious freaks don’t poison his mind to even that possibility. I detest con men because they lower the amount of trust between people. It can always be justified, of course, as taking advantage of a persons natural greed, and thus teaching a lesson. But usually the victims of con men are the weak, the helpless, the foolish, the widows and orphans. And often the people the con are good hearted, buying into trying to help them.
    I had a good friend who inherited three million dollars. Within weeks a con man showed up and took it all away from her, not because she was greedy but because she fell in love and wanted to help him get his business started. Bastard.
    So, I hope your conscience stays healthy and grows stronger. It is a bitch having one, I admit. But I’m also reminded of a friend of mine who was a “bad” kid, always in trouble, always catching shit for something. One day the concept of “virtue” flooded over him, the very idea. He was knocked flat by the idea of what it would feel like to feel “good”, to be a “good person”. That road to Damascus experience changed his life.
    So, good luck on your recovery. A year is not a long time. Recidivism is a distinct possibility. But as I told my dear brother, if you want to be respected, you have to be respectable.

    I think this thread is now dead. Few people read the comments once the new strip is up. I’m going to reprint it to the Darwin Harmless site, and you’re welcome to visit anytime. I have personal issues I’d enjoy hearing your views about. Look for “The Other Side of the Knothole” as one example.

  83. gk4c4 says:

    @FF: Yeah, you got my drift.

    I am killing buddha, mohammed, jesus, laotse, plato left and right too!
    They’re all human, some have more understanding than others, but all of them are less knowledgable about nature as we are now.

    I will never know if the brick road is ever finish, yes. But we know really a lot now about the universe, the cosmos. The large structure of the universe, the microscopic worlds of atoms and quarks, and the mesoscopic world of men, women and children … :D
    We know helluva lots more about countries, economics of societies, about human tendencies, characteristics …. we even know tad more about dreams, memories, sensory perceptions.. not in (only) shamanic ways of the yore, but also from fMRI readings of the brain …

    I would say the thing that I meant when I say spirituality – is closer to wisdom, sophia. Knowledge in its wide sense. Science is the road builder, not just because it is true, but because it works, it already is. We can communicate this way – internet – not because of a holy man spelled it out :D
    And indeed, I agree with Sagan and Dawkins – the truth (through science) is awe inspiring, numinous wisdom-inducing or whatever you want to call it. Hubble pictures, microscopic pictures, swarms of animals are all numinous as the smile of fairies in the past ….. The holy men of the past never mention these because it was not available before science and technology enable it.

    A lot still to be known, but a lot – much much more than ever been in the past – has been known of late. As a man thriving for wisdom it will be impossible to denounce these ..

  84. NotAProphet says:

    Late to the party I’m afraid, but did anyone else notice that, in his reply to Author, Mohamad now classes Greatest Show as a stupid book, despite having had no knowledge of it just last week?

  85. fenchurch says:

    @NotAProphet – all books other than the holy one are stupid, QED. Even the ones which haven’t been written yet.

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