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Apologies to the long-time readers who saw this one back in 2008. Real-world work is taking up all my energy at the moment. Will try to make a fresh strip next week.

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Discussion (92)¬

  1. Austin McGrath says:

    Many a true word is spoken in jest. Right on target!

  2. brent says:

    dude. stop apologising. we wait and are grateful.

  3. ronmurp says:

    Yes, hope apologies are just politeness and aren’t the result of any quasi-religious angst. New ones are always worth waiting for, and it’s good to be reminded of some of the old ones.

  4. Will Rubin says:

    “Do Theologians really have answers … made answers up”

    For GOD’S sake … Theologians simply interpret the data that is available based on the best understanding of that data at the current time. This defines an answer. As new data becomes available or the understanding of existing data gets better an new answer is defined and replaces the old. Why is this so hard for atheists to understand???

  5. Peakcrew says:

    @ Will Rubin – sorry, your comment doesn’t address the point made in the strip, though it does back it up. Theology is not bound by what the rest of us call “science”, and so any old explanation can be brought out of the ether and plugged in to give an “answer”. That answer may be as accurate as a child giving the answer that a leaf blowing in the wind is alive, because only living things move. In fact, the child is probably better than a theologian, because once s/he has been shown that the leaf is not moving because it is alive (science, reproducible evidence), s/he will change her/his opinion.

    Theology, by definition, does not deal with reproducible evidence. It is not possible either to prove or disprove the existence of deities, therefore the whole field is in the realm of woo. It is an art, not a science.

  6. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    @Will Rubin; Could you please let us know exactly what new data has become available to theologians? As far as I’m aware they are still working on interpreting ‘data’ that is around 1800-2000-years old, and all that the work entails is putting new interpretations on old stories.
    And this is what pisses me off about theology in general. They insist that the bible is made up of complex analogy, that it’s not meant to be read literally but has to be interpreted to be fully understood. WHY? When these stories were writen, do you really believe that the general populace was capable of interpreting sophisticated analogy? Of course not, they were almost exclusively illiterate and relied on the priests to tell them what was in the book, and the book itself WAS meant literally.
    All that theologians are doing is re-spinning ‘the word’, usually using tortuous metaphor, to try to make it fit with current SCIENTIFIC theory (that’s theory as in ‘fact as currently understood, proven and accepted’; NOT vague guesses).
    WHY IS THIS SO HARD FOR YOU BELIEVERS TO UNDERSTAND?.

    Unless you’ve just Poe’d us and are now giggling your tits off at the reaction, in which case, nice one!

  7. Dave N says:

    One of my favourite strips. A ruddy classic, in fact.

  8. Cosmicstargoat says:

    @Will Robin. What is this new data that points the the conclusion that god exists? I was under the understanding that theologians are still working on the “data” that was dreamed up by primitive animal herders a couple of thousand years ago. Please share.

  9. Jst says:

    Love the strip… As for Will Robin… my guess is that he was joking. And I thought his comment was kind of funny.

  10. Abe says:

    We made up those questions in the first place. Just because humans do things on purpose (well most of them) doesn’t mean natural processes have purpose. For example, what is the purpose of a volcano, a draught, a river? Things are just physical processes and don’t have any purpose behind them. We attach purpose to things because we think that way.

  11. Scientists make stuff up too – the ether and phlogiston come to mind – but then they have to find supporting evidence. That’s where they lose the edge. For religion, no evidence is required.
    Good to revisit this one, Author. Thanks.
    @Will Robin Yeah, good one. ROFL

  12. Dont be sorry, all fans of jesus and mo wait to a new strip cames out. We know you are busy with something in real life.

    i like this strip :-)

  13. wolf says:

    Scientists make stuff up very often. The stuff they make up are called hypotheses. The difference between science and theology isn’t the tendency to make up stuff, but the tendency to discard those that don’t make it to theory.

  14. Bodach says:

    “giggling your tits off”? Must be an old world saying but I will be using it (actually, I’d get beaten).
    Thanks, Mr. Poe and Author, no apologies; I’m old enough that old strips seem new to me…

  15. Nassar Ben Houdja says:

    Science attempts to debate
    In a class where it is under weight
    What it attests now to to be truth
    Tomorrow is proven to be goof
    Science, a dollar short and a day late.

  16. AegisLinnear says:

    Roses are red, violets are blue.
    Science: It WORKS, bitches.

  17. Number 80 says:

    “Theology is never any help; it is searching in a dark cellar at midnight for a black cat that isn’t there. Theologians can persuade themselves of anything.” Robert A Heinlein

  18. thalio says:

    For those who failed to notice, @Wiil Rubin’s tongue appears to be placed firmly in his cheek. And Will, that WAS funny.

  19. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    @thalio; yeah, we’ve kinda got that, but there’s nothing like a well-written Poe (and that was nothing like…etc, etc :->)to set the tone for a good old rant.
    Besides, by using the theologic method, I’ve deduced that the supposed Poe is a double-bluff, Will Rubin is really Christ incarnate and he wants his sandals back. NOW!

  20. DeafAtheist says:

    Yep I’m convinced Will is a Poe… a true theist would have spelled “atheists” wrong, as well as overused punctuation and capital letters.

  21. plortho says:

    Oh, NBH, just when i thought you’d turned over a new leaf, you went and got all wilty; playing that tattered card, “Science doesn’t know anything, it’s always revising itself.”

    How about:

    When clinging to capital T “Truth”
    Theologians are blind to real proof;
    They refuse to update. What makes our minds great?
    The ability to LEARN from a goof!

  22. Stephen Turner says:

    Ha! If those are big questions, then the biggest one of all must be “Why are theologians the best-qualified to answer the other ones?”

    (A response to that might be that theologians have spent time thinking about them. But of course their ideas never get off the ground as it’s all based on trying to confirm instead of to refute.)

  23. MRR says:

    This is my all-time favourite J&M (yes I read all the archives). It’s one of 6 comics on the wall of my office, and the last I’d take down.
    You made this comic, you may retire in peace. :-)

    About the black cat: that was the definition of metaphysics. Religion is searching in the dark for a black cat that isn’t there, and shouting “I found it!”.

  24. Tom (iow) says:

    You couldn’t make it up!

  25. Fuckerless says:

    Not near as phallic as the original but the beer… mm mm good!

    When I went through the archives I noticed some without comments. Going back and re-doing those would be great as we’d get another shot.

  26. FreeFox says:

    @DeafAtheist: I resent that. I don’t make more spelling mistakes than Darwin Harmless or use capital letters more than Acolyte of Sagan. ^_^

    (And I second Fuckerless’s suggestion!)

  27. FreeFox says:

    Well… I may make a little more mistakes than DH… but I’m not a native English speaker! That’s got to count a little. >)

  28. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    FF: Of course you’re not a native English speaker, you’re a bloody fox.

    Do I REALLY over-capitalise? :-)

  29. Some Matt or other says:

    plortho, that was really good!

    The thing that gets me about the “science is shifting sand” critique is that in reality, science’s past mistakes don’t show a defect in science, but rather show that science is an accurate reflection of the limits of human perception. By embracing those limits, science ends up being the most self-correcting and ultimately true path to knowledge.

    Religion tends to acknowledge those limits but then declare special cases where they don’t apply for no good reason. I once saw Ray Comfort say, “I may be wrong about God, but God is never wrong.” No sir, after the first half of that, the second is meaningless.

  30. Twain says:

    Will Rubin says:
    August 17, 2011 at 12:07 pm
    “Do Theologians really have answers … made answers up”

    For GOD’S sake … Theologians simply interpret the data that is available based on the best understanding of that data at the current time. This defines an answer. As new data becomes available or the understanding of existing data gets better an new answer is defined and replaces the old. Why is this so hard for atheists to understand???”

    To play Devil’s Advocate, ever since Josiah discovered the books of the Law, theologians have had to adapt the laws of a gang of bronze age hoodloms to a farming-mercantile society. This resulted in the Talmud, and, fifteen hundred years later, in the response to Enlightenment knowledge, to Reform Judaism. Christianity hasn’t done as well, but even the Pope admits Galileo and Copernicus were rights, and Big Bang cosmology was devised by a Jesuit trying to prove the First Cause aspect of God. Some Theologians do acknowlege science and try to deal with it, but these attempts are valid no longer than the current science.
    I prefer science, but I understand theolgies all too well for my peace of mind.

  31. Author says:

    @Fuckerless

    When I went through the archives I noticed some without comments. Going back and re-doing those would be great as we’d get another shot.

    This is a good idea. If anyone has any suggestions about which old strips you’d like to see resurrected – preferably one of the lesser-commented ones – please email me
    or leave a comment here.

  32. Jerry w says:

    The difference between the universe and fundamentalists ability to ignore that which they can not rationalize? The universe has limits.

  33. FreeFox says:

    @Acolyte of Sagan: That was kinda my point. You DON’T! :P And translating from vulpine to english is bloody hard. You have, like, two synonyms for carrion. How do you live?

    @Author: Yay! I want to re-see gay, tinks, and tomb!!!

  34. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    FF; Yes, I can see how Vulpine-English translation could be tricky. To your credit you speak the language better than our poetic friend Nassar, and he at least has the advantage of being human to start with :-)
    How do I live? In an almost constant state of either pain or morphine induced confusion nowdays; I just can’t seem to find a happy medium (And no, I don’t mean Derek Akorah)!

    @Author; I second FreeFox’s choices.

  35. FreeFox says:

    @Acolyte of Sagan: Morphine, pfft. Try carrion. I find it fills the belly, calms the nerves and replentishes the spirit. I never understood why those few humans who go for it at all insist on turning it into bread (thin, dry, tasteless bread that sticks to the roof of your mouth at that) first and then magically transmutating it back. Take it fresh from a finely rotted corpes. 3 days in a cave add just the right flavour. And not medium. Rare! I tell you, it sends you to heaven. ^_^

  36. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    @FreeFox; There’s not much carrion to be found around here, and what there is I like to leave for the wild fox family that lives in the woods behind my house. They’re quite partial to fresh meat too, as my near-neighbours found out to their cost recently. I mean, what sort of idiot puts their new pet rabbits (4 of) in a run with no top-cover, in a garden with only a hedged border and which is backing onto woodland? Especially when the said woodland is home to a vixen with cubs!
    I have no idea how I kept a straight face when they told me, particularly when they said they’d “no idea” how the fox got in!

  37. No I like this one. On the old one you said you probably got the idea from me. Naturally I like it! :- b

  38. Author says:

    @OB – I did, didn’t I? I’d forgotten about that!

  39. Ray's Discomfort says:

    “I may be wrong about God, but God is never wrong.” = classic!

    A bit like “The following statement is true: The preceding statement is false.”
    Or, the logic traps used to stop robots in sci-fi stories. — *bzzt*. d o e s not c o m p u t e.

    If only cognitive dissonance resulted in quiescence in humans, rather than nonsense! :)

  40. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    @Ray’s Discomfort (wouldn’t be piles, would it?):-)
    “If only cognitive dissonance resulted in quiescence in humans, rather than nonsense”
    I suppose that’s the price we (or at least some of us) .pay for our ability to think in the abstract. It’s just that the clever ones take the initial abstract idea and follow it right back to its logical root, whereas the dumb ones take the initial abstract idea….and stick with it. Which is why I can see god as nothing more than an abstract idea to explain life and the universe, but which can be traced back through evolution, chemical processes and ultimately the big bang; religious minds can’t see past the word ‘god’.

  41. Prithvi says:

    I think you would be glad to know that this piece has been translated into Bengali here- http://www.dhormockery.com/2011/08/blog-post_4382.html

    I was surprised to see the translation is quite good. The punch is usually lost in these translations…….

    Anyways, I didn’t really like this piece. Religious people won’t acknowledge that theologians make stuff up, so you won’t appeal to them with this quip. Had you caricatured the fact that most religious discussions about the ontology of the universe end along the lines of the theologian professing his ignorance in one way or the other(usually with remarks like “Only God knows” or “Who are we to question His intent”), you would have struck a nerve.

    What I’m trying to say is- you should take a premise that both sides can agree on and then take it apart to unbosom the folly that lies within. We know very well that theologians concoct lies, but believers will beg to differ. To help them see the light(or at least hope of doing so), you should break down what *they* clearly hold to be true.

  42. Dan says:

    I agree with Prithvi except I think it’s still funny.
    If people can’t see that ‘Only God knows’ is an admission of ignorance *not* a claim to knowledge then I don’t think four panels of badly drawn prophets is going to help them. But we can still laugh at them anyway. It is at least still a free country to do that so long as the more bonkers xians and muslims don’t get their way.

  43. spoing says:

    @nassar … … references to science should be replaced with theology and that would be a not-half-bad effort! :)

    I agree with Prithvi that the humour of this strip would be lost on religionists.

    Their retort would likely be something to the effect that it is science which makes up stuff, as do philosophers; however theologians (presumably including everyone from the apostle paul through Ted Haggard) are immune to this criticism since they are articulating “deep spiritual insights”.

    Scientists, mathematicians and other scholars have to resort to mere reason rather than to an inexhaustible well of spiritual insights, and as we all know reason has a comparatively limited scope in terms of its ability to provide definitive answers to stupid questions. ;)

  44. jude says:

    guys a year ago i googled ” harun yahya ” and came with few results . Today i googled him again and i was surprised that the first 200 pages and more are all about harun yahya ….. What’s more surprising is evolution-watch.com or darwinism-watch.com or something like that , which has the style of islam-watch.com…. Answering-christianity.com , answering-islam.com , lol yeah and replytodawkins.com atheistdelusion.com…. And many others!! It’s funny !! But annoying cos no one is replying to him…. Even if you googled rebuttal of the evolution deceit the results will come the other way round rebuttal dawkins dawkins lol

  45. FreeFox says:

    @spoing: I resent that remark, too. ; )

    I found this strip (as most J&M strips) very funny. And while there certainly is a certain amount of creativity needed to make a good scientist, I would never say that the result of good science is ‘made up.’

    Of course, I would also say that while a certain amount of creativity is needed to make a good theologian, he doesn’t make his “truth” up any more than a good artist. Of course, there are probably even less ‘good’ theologian than there are good artists, and it is really hard to tell a good one you just haven’t understood from one that’s plain bad. And, admittedly, practically all high ranking Christian or Muslim theologians I know of seem to fall firmly into the ‘bad’ category, except maybe Pope Paul VI:

    “Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows.”

    Spiritual insight is often much harder to verify than most facts science is concerned with. One, it deals with very complex issues rooted deep in human life with all its possibilities and vagaries, something most scientist would shy away from, exactly because the number of variables make it nearly impossible to come to a clear, verifiable conclusion. That makes it much easier for sharlatans and idiots to sell their crap as wisdom. Unfortunately, the genuine widsom – whether it comes from theologians or artists – is still necessary to understand life on the level it is actually lived.

  46. FreeFox says:

    Seriously, folks. While it is indubitably hilarious to make fun of the follies of religion, don’t you think you are, hm, sometimes making if not the same at least an almost embarrassingly similar mistake when you lump all believers of religion into one and make such sweeping, ridiculous generalisations?

  47. spoing says:

    @fox

    Humour seems to consist of steorotypes and exaggerations, possibly including a few sweeping ridiculous generalisations. I’m struggling to understand which subset of believers should be excluded from the humour. Would these be the more erudite ones, the Karen Armstrongs and Karl Gibersons perhaps ? I think not since their brand of intellectualized theology just restates the same absurdities except more eloquently.

    http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2009/10/24/jesus-n-mo-n-karen-armstrong/

  48. spoing says:

    @fox

    Further, that page I linked makes very good reading. I especially like “People who pretend to know the answers” – which seems to me to be a great definition of “Theologians”, or religious people in general.

  49. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    @FF; How can you not lump all believers together; religious belief is religious belief no matter what the flavour. The ‘sophisticated’ theologian, the backwater baptist, in fact anybody with a religious belief without the flimsiest shred of evidence for that belief, they all effectively sing from the same hymn sheet. In fact, I’d go further and include believers of ghosts, psychics, horoscopes, werewolves and all that bunkum. Give me good, solid, testable facts any day, you can save the woo for those without the courage or intelligence (or both) to face reality without their supernatural comfort blanket. In times of trouble I turn to real friends, not special invisible ones; I just find it more effective.

  50. spoing says:

    @fox

    an oldie but a goodie – essential reading on this topic:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/10/the_zombies_will_sup_on_karen.php

  51. methuzla says:

    “Why Are We Here?”
    I know the answer!

    It’s because we Aren’t Somewhere Else.

    But What is the purpose of beauty?
    Beauty doesn’t have a purpose.

    That’s the beauty of it.

  52. FreeFox says:

    @AoS: lol. Of course you can lump all belivers into the group labled “believers”. Like you can lump all billionaires into the group of “billionaires”, or all atheists into the group labled “atheists”. But just as not all billionaires are necessarily evil, just by dint of being billionaires (or so anecdotal evidence seems to indicate, I don’t have scientific proof of that yet :p ), and not all atheists are insufferably snobbish holier-than-thou know-it-alls, not all religious believers fail to grasp the humour of J&M, disbelieve in evolution, can’t see beyond the word ‘god’, think ‘god knows best’ is any kind of explanation, or, I dunno, run around thinking all the time of chopping off clitorises and foreskins. Since I do not have the resources to provide you with a scientific study, of course all I can do is offer myself as falsifying exhibit A to the hypothesis. ;)

    @Spoing: Good grief, no. Nobody should be excluded from humour. Ever. I’m firmly of the conviction that satire is allowed to do anything. (Well, you know, within reason… bombing someone for satire, while conceivably hilarious, is probably no more acceptable than bombing someone for God.) However, I didn’t get the impression that your and Prithvi’s remarks on “religionists” were satirical exaggeration. Sounded more like actual assments. If I misunderstood, my bad.

    And while I found the two links you provided highly entertaining (and only have to disagree with Mr. Myers on the issue of religion as cause of capitalism and, probably, his implicit general assertion that there is no sensible religious belief possible), that wasn’t my point. Of course there is zillions of religious crackpots and charlatans. There is of course also zillions of crackpots and charlatans having nothing to with religion, but I don’t even want to argue that religion isn’t particularely attractive to them. Just that the link isn’t automatic or that both goups aren’t congruent.

  53. FreeFox says:

    @DH: I miss the ether and the phlogiston. I want to be able to sail across the sky to Mars on an ether jammer, and swashbuckle against the sinister, canal-building Martians to free abducted human princesses (ok, princes actually), or to steamy young Venus and search for diamond mines in the dinosaur infested swamps. :(

  54. FreeFox says:

    @AoS: And I do believe in ghosts. And spirits. And werewolves. And demons. As for fairies, being one, of course I do believe. I do. I do. ^_^

  55. e^pi i=-1 says:

    Since Godel (and probably ealier on), we know of the limitations of logic. We can all talk nonsense with logic. “If frwgg then gugu. frwgg, therefore gugu”. Scientists come across as “arrogant”, but I have never met anyone who felt knew all the answers. What really annoys me, is that any sense of “sprituality” seems to fall in the hands of religion. Abrahamic intellectual monotheists tend to laugh at Buddishm or shamanism being considered “circular”. Considering the authority that these Abrahamic religions still hold in the world nowadays, no wonder humanists and atheists are a bit fed up! For those interested in the shamanic foundations of the Old Testament, please check http://www.rickstrassman.com

  56. spoing says:

    @FF you are mistaken in thinking that we non-magical thinkers lump all “believers” together in the simplistic way you suggested. What we do lampoon and lump together are the spurious beliefs themselves. The unfortunates who harbour the idiot beliefs are collateral damage in this, and indeed the people afflicted by belief do come in various flavours, some more revolting than others.

    While believers may “accommodate evolution etc”, magnanimous though that may seem it still doesn’t relieve them of the burden of proof for the remaining crazy things they DO continue to believe. Which will be lampooned and mocked both so that we can derive some pleasure from these misbegotten thoughts and in the hope that the penny might actually drop in some believers brains and they will exchange some of their worthless beliefs with rational insights.

  57. some Matt or other says:

    FF, maybe your “exhibit A” hasn’t gotten much traction because you haven’t defined what your theism is. (Or maybe you have and I missed it, in which case I beg your indulgence.) To me, you come across as essentially atheist with a smattering of there-are-more-things-in-heaven-and-earth that you refer to as the divine. Or perhaps a believer in conscious falsehoods a la Alan Moore; alternately, if you prefer, a Bokononist. At any rate, it seems so far out of the pale of most belief-isms as to be functionally nonexistent, like Hitchens’ supposed socialism. In fact, so far its only function I’ve seen has been to serve as an exception to all critiques of theism, which rings a little hollow if you don’t say why it should be considered theism in the first place.

  58. Peakcrew says:

    Just some thoughts on deities and believers that seem to come out of the discussion. Feel free to decide that they are irrelevant!

    Logically, I know that the existence of deities cannot be proven one way or the other. Therefore, it makes no sense to be either an atheist or a believer, since neither can be actually verified. However, because of that absence of verification, which essentially means that any deities that do exist cannot have any influence on this universe (okay, I’ve shortened the thought process there), there are, functionally, no deities to believe in. However, because there may be some somewhere (different dimensions, maybe), I cannot call myself an atheist. I tend to go for “rational agnostic” – and that baffled the Jehovah’s Witness I had at the door the other day, especially when I answered that it *does* give me hope for the future of humanity!

    However, we do take so much on belief that it is difficult to be completely down on theists. As my wife says, she has no real way of knowing that I love her – she just has to accept it through my behaviour, even when it is bad. If a theist sees the world around them as proof of their loving deity, then it comes to the same thing. However, that doesn’t give them the right to tell me anything about morality or any other aspect of living – that is where they cross the line.

  59. FreeFox says:

    @spoing: Um. Okay. Whatever, mate. If that is how you see yourself, um, ok. ^_^ But just to make this clear: I don’t “accomodate” anything. While I am aware that *all* scientific theory (incl. the theory of evolution) is just that – a set of tested and so far non-falsified hypotheses – I am quite convinced of the entire process and aside from the occasional apparent over-simplification or dubious operationalization, or unfortunate intentional fudging in the interest of commerce, quite sold on the results. Science yay! I love mobile phones and antibiotics!

    Also I have no interest whatsoever to convince anyone of my (admittedly highly subjective) theism. I can try to explain it, but I never would expect anyone to share it. I would only say it is *a* valid way to see the world. Not that it is the only one. Like impressionism, or utilitarianism, or counting the year from Jan 1 to Dec 31st with a leap year every four.

    I am open to criticism, i.e. anyone telling my why my belief might be *not* valid (as long as it actually adresses my belief and not the belief of the pope or some mullah or Carlos Castenad.) I don’t see how I am under any obligation to prove something I do not ask you to believe. I do believe in God, and gods, and spirits, though, and I claim that this neither makes me humourless, nor any more susceptible to logical fallacies or bad argumentation than anyone else. And if someone claims that by mere dint of believing in God I am… the burden of proof should be on that claimant, don’t you think?

    @someMatt: There is a touch of Bokonism/conscious falsehood in there, or metaphor if you will, but only if you call all beliefs into free will, human agency, consciousness, human rights, equality, ego, identity, etc. also conscious falsehoods and all use of language metaphor. So I don’t think the terms really apply. And yes, while my faith in its entirety is certainly a one-man religion, it includes a lot Old Testament, Sami Shamanism, Voudoun, fairy tales, Buddhism, and general Polytheism (I do believe in Zeus… :P ). And anyway, I never intended to defend the pope or Christian Science or Young Earth Creationists or so. All utter nonsense, quite silly, and fair game to be made fun of. I just hold up the claim that religious belief does not *automatically* equate stupidity, gullibility, charlatanism, intellectual dishonesty, lack of education, bad spelling, or overcapitalisation. And the way I understand science, a single counter example is enough to falsify an entire hypothesis.

    But if I ring hollow, feel free to test me. I can try to explain it, if anyone wants to know. I am kinda loathe to burden the board here with a long treatise on my personal non-denominational syncretistic part shamanic part gnostic faith. Don’t want to subject anyone to even more tl;dr stuff – do that too much as it is. So… suggest the forum, and I’ll let you cut me to ribbons. As long as you don’t, I believe my hypothesis remains unfalsified. ^_^

  60. FreeFox says:

    Um. What Peakcrew said. (Except for the cannot have influence part.)

  61. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    @FF; I’m not sure that I totally agree with you when you say @not all religious believers fail to grasp the humour of J&M,”. Surely if they really grasp the humour they’d understand that it’s funny because it’s true, which should make them see how ridiculous the whole belief thing is in the first place. To understand this yet continue to believe nontheless, suggests that they don’t see the link between the joke and the belief in a ‘it’s a funny joke, but MY religions not really like that’ kind of way; in denial (unlike Moses, who was in de Nile) if you will.
    Having said that, I get the feeling that you do indeed know how ridiculous it is, but being enigmatic is your nature; you’ll believe what you want to believe and if people don’t understand, that’s their problem.
    Why do I think this? You are obviously very intelligent and you appear to enjoy using your intelligence to play with peoples heads. You know deep down that it’s all make-belief, but you’d swear with your dying breath that it isn’t because you enjoy the reaction it gets, and so you project this deeply complex personality for your own amusement. I recall your recent discussions with Darwin Harmless about your beliefs, and I got the impression then that the more perplexed and exasperated DH became, the more you enjoyed it.
    Or have I totally misread you, and you really are as daft as you come across? :-)

    @some Matt or other; for an insight into our foxy friend’s belief, check back a few comics (only a month or two ago) for the discussion I’ve just referred to.

  62. FreeFox says:

    @AoS: Um. No. Mostly. Lol. (1) A lot of the punchlines in J&M are not really about religious experiences per se, but only about specific follies of some or many religious peeps, or general human follies exercised on religious examples. In this case, e.g., it pokes fun at anyone thinking that their scripture would give a straight answer for example to the question “who created the laws of nature” or “why are we here”, an answer that is comparable to, say, a scientific answer to the question “on what chromosome is the information for the colour of your eye”? And saying that the biblical god, taken literally, created the universe including the laws of nature in 7 days 3 thousand yers ago is of course a “made up answer”. I know people who believe this, and so I can laugh about the joke, and especially about the dry, direct way the barmaid (who is one of my great literary heroes, on par with the biblical Jacob, Huckleberry Finn, and Piggy from The Lord of the Flies) brought this off. But I would hold that there is enough evolutionary psychology articles around that are guilty of the same fallacy.
    How does this not apply to my religion? Well, for one, to me God is a function of the universe, in a way comparable to the relationship between, hm, beauty and a sunset. (This is kind of a riff on the final scene in Neil Gaiman’s “Season of Mists”.) So, while to me that which I call God is not a separate creator of the objective universe, it is the creator of my subjective experience of the universe, and thus gives my life purpose or is the basis of all beauty. On that level, the “purpose” of beauty is to make life worth living, a counterbalance to all the horror in the world. (Though in general my God isn’t all that teleological.) But that doesn’t mean that I cannot accept some evolutionary explanation of why humans developed a sense of aethetics. Is my theological answer made up? Hm. Maybe. In a way, sure. But at least for me it is a way to describe something that is very true. And that I hope would be verified by neurology, if neurology got that far. And when neurology falsifies my interpretation, well, then I guess I was wrong. But even if it confirms it, it will do so in a language far less accessible to me in those hours when I actually do need the beauty to help me bear the horrors.
    So, yeah, MY religion is not really like that. How am I in denial?
    (2) I can see that my point of view, if not fully explained, might sound ridiculous. And yes, if people do not understand me, that is their problem. I really don’t want to convert anyone. But so far I keep insisting that I am religious and still capable of being rational. I assure you that to me this is not “made-up”, it is a point of view come by through rather a lot of pain and despair as a means to understand the world as it presents itself to me and to come to terms with it. If it is deeply complex, that is because I think the world is deeply complex, especially when you enter human life into it. (And it is already pretty comlex to begin with. I recently read about the formation of Mars, and that sounded very complex indeed, without the least indication of any life being involved at all.)
    (3) I might take some enjoyment in intellectual debate just for the sake of the debate, but no, I really did not mean to “perplex and exasperate” Darwin Harmless (if that is what I did) out of any malicious playfulness.
    I guess I am as daft as I come across. ^_^

  63. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    @FF; A good response Sir, and one that explains why I tend not to think of you as religious in the conventional sense (and sense that you are not conventional in the conventional sense :-) ), which is why my ‘denial’ and ‘ridiculous’ comments weren’t aimed at you personally but at the conventional religionists. You recognise as well as I the ridiculousness of the stories taught by the churchmen, and you are in no way in denial simply because your concept of God isn’t one that your average ‘God of the bible’ believer would recognise You’ve just said that it is a god of your own making and it sounds more like your way of understanding what science can’t explain; ‘God’ is just a convenient shortcut to it and I can understand that. I also believe that Sagan and Einstein would understand you too, although they wouldn’t neccessarily call it God (well, maybe EInstein would but he did often speak before thinking). So I wouldn’t say that you were religious, you have a very spiritual outlook certainly, but that’s a long way from sitting in church on a sunday asking for the laws of physics to be suspended on your behalf!
    I now don’t think that you deliberately ‘perplexed, etc. DH, but I do think that you still enjoy your ability to do so. You can’t honestly tell me that you would have enjoyed so much getting the same reaction from a less intelligent mind than his, can you?

    And I’m still not sure about the werewolves.

  64. FreeFox says:

    @AoS: Um. Yes. And no. *ducks* Sorry… I said it was complex. Yeah, I recognise of course how ridiculous many religious claims are. But I hope my God is not the stop-gap for what I don’t understand. I hope it is an explanation for what I do understand. That is why I see no contradiction between science and (my) religion. Everything science tells me about the world is one more piece of the mosaic of what to me is God, and fate. It is one more bit that *helps* me understand God. I only believe in the parts of God that reflect reality as I can experience it empirically.
    When I put the barmaid into one series with Huck Finn, and Piggy, I should have added Job, not Jacob. Like Huck and Piggy and the Barmaid, Job asks necessary questions and leads me to surprisingly clear answers. When Job (basically) says to God: “But, but… it’s not faaaaair!” God finally, clearly answers: “So what? What are you gona do about it? Stand there and bitch all you want, I’m still God, and you just have to fucking put up with it.”
    I’ve been where Job was. And reading his story helped me come to terms with the simple, unalterable, horrible truth that flies in the face of everything children are taught: Life is not fair. In the words of the inimitable William Goldman: “Life is suffering and anyone who tells you differently is trying to sell you something.”
    That isn’t a stopgap God. And it’s not a made up answer. It’s just taking the world personally. The way Penn of Penn Teller put it: “Luck is probability taken personally.” To me God is life taken personally. And why shouldn’t I? My life is fucking personal to me.
    But yes, I don’t leap to the conclusion that because God can sometimes be a cunt, I can screw Him like a hooker if only I pay Him in prayer and donations. (God doesn’t go with the highest bidder. That’s the Truth. :P ) And my God doesn’t suspend the laws of nature. He uses them like a plumber uses his tools.

    As for werewolves. Hm. How to I explain that. A while ago I met a man. That was in Poland, though the man was French. Let’s call him Mr. Maugrim. Mr. Maugrim was the first werewolf I recognised as such, though I think I met a few others before. Mr. Maugrim was a man who dressed in expensive suits. He had acne scars in his well shaved face and kept his greying hair geled back the old style. I bet in his youth, when it was still just barely fashionable, he wore hats. He was well educated, polite, erudite, and I learned later, he had a family in Switzerland that apparently he actually loved very much. I don’t know for certain, but I got the impression he was a man who liked to have his grandchildren on his lap, playing grandfather games with them, and they loved him. But he was also a stone cold criminal. At the drop of his no longer exsistant hat he could draw a switchblade and turn into a killer. He could backstab his boss of 10 years in a heartbeat when it suited him. And he could track his prey for months (probably years), without ever giving up, faltering, or missing a beat, and come down on them like the wrath of God when he found them. He was literally two men. The kind, friendly conversationalist, and the ruthless beast. None was a sham. Both were real. And he could switch between them as will or necessity dictated.
    I am certain there are terms or classifications in the ICD or DSM for this sort of psychopathology. But seriously, who needs some new fancy term or acronym, when we all know what he was: He was part human, part wolf… and I don’t mean the shy, beautiful, furry mammals of that name, but the Big Bad Wolf from fairy tale and horror film. Mr. Maugrim was a werewolf.
    Not in the pelt, maybe, but certainly in the soul.

  65. spoing says:

    @FF

    You’re confusing proselytisation with apologetics. You may not be “trying to convince anyone of your theism”, but that doesn’t relieve you of the obligation to logically explain any theistic assertions you make, e.g. belief in things that go bump in the night, or “God is a function of the universe”. How exactly does that differ from saying that the universe is a function of the universe? Or, “God is not a separate creator of the objective universe, it is the creator of my subjective experience of the universe, and thus gives my life purpose or is the basis of all beauty.” Sounds like you’ve taken a leaf out of Karen Armstrong’s book with that bit of mystical sounding wordplay. An atheist could re-render it as “my life feels meaningful and purposeful when I subjectively perceive the universe to be beautiful”, jettisoning the God bit without sacrificing anything useful.

  66. some Matt or other says:

    @FF, thank you for explaining that. It seems to me that a – or perhaps the – key difference between your brand of theism and the kind that most atheists talk about is that the latter posits a divine that exists independently of us. If I’m reading you right, your gods, while embodied in external events and forces a la the story of Job, wouldn’t exist at all if there were no one perceiving those events. “If a tree apotheosizes in the woods…” Am I on the mark?

  67. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    @FF: Hmm. As I said earlier, I can understand ‘god’ as a metaphor, but in no way could I see it as a literal explaination for anything; but then neither do you. Your god (by your own admission) is your metaphor for “life personified”, it’s something to rail at when the shit hits the fan, or to marvel at on a clear night when a million jewels sparkle overhead. The clear answers that you are led to come not from god, but from the minds of Finn, Piggy, the writer of Job and of course Author (peace be on Him), which again you freely admit, so what I can’t understand is why you need to add a god in the first place. Yes, life can be tough and it can be beautiful, I know that as much as anyone, but shit happens and the night sky is awe-inspiring, it’s just the way it is. To apportion blame or credit to an admittedly invented deity just doesn’t make sense when, to paraphrase you, god is not the creator or cause of your misery, pain, joy, and happiness; your misery, pain, joy and happiness is the creator of your god.

    Now, your werewolf. Again, it’s your metaphor for a man with obvious psychopathic tendencies, Mr. Maugrim’s ‘Hyde’, if you will, and what you term his ‘werewolf soul’ is nothing more than his psycotic disposition. You show me a man (or woman) who doesn’t have a dark side and I’ll show you an illusion. To use myself as an example, I’m a husband, father, stepfather, and grandfather (and erstwhile foster parent until a crippling back problem, plus my wife’s severe arthritis, made any further fostering an impossibility). None of the kids have ever even seen me get angry; ask any of my friends and neighbours and they will tell you that I’m a ‘nice guy’, a big softie. When an old man from across the street went into hospital last year, it was my wife and I who took care of his housebound wife for a fortnight because their own family were ‘too busy’. I’ve taught my dyslexic wife to read and write where her school failed, and will happily help anybody who asks for assistance. Yet I’m the same person who once paid a late-night visit to the scumbag who tried to get one of my daughters to try heroin, and fucked him up so badly that he needed facial reconstruction, 3 months in hospital and will need to use a walking stick for the rest of his life; the same man who burst a pikey fucker’s left testicle (the right one slipped from my grip as I squeezed and it wouldn’t have been fair to have had another go) when he pulled a blade on me and my wife one night and demanded our valuables. So yes, I am a big softie, but there is no length to which I wouldn’t go to protect those dear to me, or to punish those who try to cause harm to them or me. And I don’t think of myself as a werewolf, I’m just a normal guy looking out for himself and those close to him.
    It would appear that you don’t believe in the supernatural at all, you believe in your own metaphors. I still think that you are a ‘spiritual’ person, but there’s no way that your beliefs could be called ‘religious’.
    You certainly are interesting though; if ever you find yourself in Nottinghamshire you’d be more than welcome here for dinner and good conversation. These forums are fine as they go, but I think that a proper tete-a-tete is neccessary to flesh out the bones of a topic like this and it’s easier to clarify your position in a real conversation, rather than a stilted, stop-start situation such as this.

    And now to bed. Bon nuit!

  68. spoing says:

    @Some Matt: isn’t that the same as saying that FF’s god is a figment of his imagination (like everyone elses)? What difference does this key difference really make?

    Prattle such as FF’s above contains nothing truly interesting or original, however what really gets my goat and identifies him as just another religionist is how he constantly presents opinions as statements of fact, as in:

    -Spiritual insight is often much harder to verify than most facts science is concerned with (really? how much harder? do we have evidence of any so-called spiritual insights at all, or a clear definition of what those might even be?)
    -God is a function of the universe (what does this mean exactly? God is the universe? The universe is god? God existence depends on the existence of the universe? or does it all depend on which side of bed we got out of this morning? And says who, anyway?)
    -that which I call God is not a separate creator of the objective universe, it is the creator of my subjective experience of the universe, and thus gives my life purpose or is the basis of all beauty (right … how exactly does that differ from saying that that which I call God inhabits the space between my ears, along with the werewolves and the fairies ?)
    -I do believe in God, and gods, and spirits (there’s a bit of that going around…)

  69. some Matt or other says:

    @spoing, there may be no difference at all, and in fact FF might not even object to that estimation. That’s what I’m trying to drill down to by asking the question.

    While ultimately all gods may be imaginary, the conceit surrounding them – i.e., whether the believer thinks he or she believes in an objective, external truth that affects everyone and would be true regardless of the existence of believers – is an extremely important factor, as independent reality is the basis for most atheistic critiques. If a theist claims that the divine only exists within his or her own perceptions, as a filter through which to make sense of the world, then the range of counterarguments narrows quite a bit. Some still remain, but if we can eliminate the rest, then we won’t waste time going down conversational dead ends.

  70. spoing says:

    @Some Matt: Gotcha. In that case it makes a very big difference indeed. A metaphorical God is very different animal from an objective external one. I would even go as far as saying that you would need a different word to identify these “metaphorical God allegorists” since they aren’t really theists at all. Since “semantically confused timewasters” is a bit of a mouthful we may have to come up with something snappier.

  71. FreeFox says:

    @AoS: Nottingham, huh? I kinda missed the Midlands when I made my way through the England, went from my aunt’s place in Gloucestershire north via Manchester/Leeds and Newcastle to Scotland. Thanks for the invite, would love to, but it’ll be some years before I’ll be in the UK again.

    I know and understand the metaphor point, but I am not convinced by it. As I said before in a way believing that you (or I myself for that matter) am a real person, that I can act as an individual, have a will, all that is just a metaphor for a complex autonmous system. We are all just machines fooling ourselves by passing the Turing Test. You are not the creator of all the things you do and think and say. All the things you do and think and say are the creator of what can be percieved as you. Neurology seems to be pretty clear on that.

    There have been situations in my life where significant events happened to me in just the right moment because a hugely improbably combination of coincidences occurred and which matched exactly my personal experience of, hm, God’s expectation/requirements of me. (I mentioned to DH how I sometimes, in prayer, hear God’s voice. I also actually see my spirit animals. Yes, I am that much of a religious nut. ^_^)

    No natural laws got suspended and everything can be explained satisfactorily through coincidence. And my own sense of divine presence was no doubt caused by my temporal lobe. Yet all put together created exactly the sense of personality and agency from “life, the universe, and everything” that I get from any person. I know there is no “sky daddy”, but I also know there isn’t really any “you”, or “Spoing”, or “me”. So why is it any more intentionally delusional to pretend you are a genuine person than it is to pretend there is a genuine God?

    Along similar lines, why isn’t “psychopathy” (or whatever the actual diagnosis might be on Mr. Maugrim) a metaphor for werewolf? Like Mr Hyde. What makes one word “true” and the other “metaphor”? Don’t they all adequately explain something? And yes, my friend, in my terminology, you sound as if you have something of a werewolf inside you. Though in your case it sounds more like a Berserker (in the Viking sense), which makes you man after my taste. Maugrim did it (I am quite convinced) because he loved the taste of blood and baying at the moon, not to for the strength it gave him in a just battle. It is probably easy to slip from one to the other. I have seen red in situations and come out of fights not remembering what I did. If you remember back to thse fights you mention you will admit that the slope towards becoming a monster is pretty scarily steep.

    (I only have slight issue with “pikey”. I travelled with Roma for a while, and while they were far from being above reproach, well, I feel quite protective and defensive about the travelling people of Europe.)

  72. FreeFox says:

    @Spoing & Matt: I am astonished at you. Just as humans developed the ability of pattern recognition to be able to find berries and see bears in a thicket of brambles, without having to actually go an clearly, consciously define exactly the nature or shape of either, have we developed the intuitive, emotional ability to “read” situations and people on a level that circumvents the much slower and more cumbersome conscious analysis. It is a gift from evolution.

    Of course both pattern recognition and intuition can be exploited for mental trickery, charlatanery, and self-deception. They are not without their pitfalls. Their results have to be fact-checked. But that doesn’t invalidate them as tools.

    The wisdom of, for example, William Goldman’s Princes Bride about the fairness of life and how to deal with it, or, say, the Fox’s gift to the Little Prince in Saint-Exupéry’s eponymous book, are pretty self evident. But please, show me how you would want to scientifically operationalise and verify/falsify these wisdoms? Can you imagine how huge such an undertaking would have to be, and how many objections could be made to practically every result you got? And to what end, when simple life experience and intuitive knowledge of human nature confirms it?

    For over a century the science of psychology has tried exactly that, and yet it has always either had to fall back on literary/mythopoetic devices or been able to produce only well documented, well researched banalities. Finally neurology is making a little bit of headway. And maybe one day it will be able to acually give us unquestionable scientific answers. I really do not think they are beyond science… just that current science is often still less capable then our evolutionary given gift of intuition. Once it gets up to speed it will be way more reliable though, so, yay, neurology away! I’m all for it.

    As for “God being a function of the universe”, I am not certain if I used that right in English. Also Him being the creator of my subjective experience. What I mean by that is that I am only capable of, hm, interfacing with the world from one particular perspective. Anything I experience or understand is by its nature subjective. As has been noted before (and I never tried to be “original”, I didn’t know that originality was a required attribute of truth) we all just interact with the projection of the world that our brain produces, and just have to hope that it is accurate. In that sense, of course, everything I know (and everything you know) just exists in the space between our respective ears.

    The scientific method is designed to percieve the objective world as far as possible. And it’s doing a pretty great job at that. But until neurology and sociology and all of those are up to speed and no longer have to oversimplify everything so badly it becomes quite useless in most real life situations, it isn’t enough. I need another model of the world that allows me to deal with it.

    So the only part of God (be it metaphor, interface, stopgap explanation, or just “taking life personally”) that concerns me is that which, well, concerns me. I leave the origin of the universe to the physicists and cosmologists.

    In my experience God seems to be the driving force behind events in the world, but as I said to SoA, your personality seems to be driving force behind the way you act towards me and others. Now, I know that it’s just the result of many independent and interdependent processes in your brain chemistry. But in the end “you” are that interface for me and what I react to.

    Your personality is a function of not only the complex system within your brain but also the way the brain is linked up to culture, language, knowledge, social rules, etc. It is not the cause of all that. But I still treat it as my main interface to deal with that portion of the world.

    But, Spoing, I gotta say: Smooth argumentative style. You are a credit to your camp.

  73. FreeFox says:

    Hm. Try this, maybe:
    http://www.lipstadt.com/athena.html
    “The pattern of human behavior that caused the internal mental representation known as Ares to appear in the minds of the ancient Greeks is very much with us today”

  74. spoing says:

    @FF

    Your example allusions (to The Little Prince etc) are interesting. You are suggesting that aspects of the existential circumstances we find ourselves in are less than tractable to the scientific method. Love, beauty, assurance of ultimate meaning and purpose are apparently not included in the things that science is equipped to explain.

    This brings us nicely back to the theme of the current strip. “Why are we here?” Jesus asks. “What is the purpose of beauty?”.

    Just because I, like you, appreciate the wisdom of The Little Prince and share the same sense of love, passion and wonder at the complexity and beauty of the cosmos that most others do (religious or otherwise) does not give me license to dream up a belief system around this such as “God made us, has a purpose for each one of us, loves us individually etc”.

    What I can definitively say is that my behaviour, including these feelings and intuitions, is the product of aeons of natural selection. I can hypothesize reasons why it might be important from an evolutionary point of view to love my close kin, or to behave in an altruistic way. And I can then subject these hypotheses to experimental scrutiny to see how they hold up.

    No insult to your intelligence FF since you understand this as well as anyone else here – which makes it all the more difficult to understand why you still subscribe to a God delusion. It’s difficult to see what value the God concept adds to your life, even just as a subjective metaphorical idea; since atheists are just as able to experience the full range of ecstatic wonder at the beauty of the cosmos as you are, and to appreciate the wisdom of the little prince, without needing to involve God at all.

  75. FreeFox says:

    @Matt: “If I’m reading you right, your gods, while embodied in external events and forces a la the story of Job, wouldn’t exist at all if there were no one perceiving those events. “If a tree apotheosizes in the woods…” Am I on the mark?

    Erm. I think one of the problems I always get talking to scientifically minded sceptics/atheists, is that I am always off balance by what they still seem to take for granted. They seem to think that I am suffering under this literallist illusion, while to me, they are.

    The real world isn’t cars and chairs and apples and people and suns and planets and bricks to stub your toe on. The real world is this whirling cloud of electrons and protons, with lots and lots and lots of nothing in between. Or actually the real world is being sung into existance, a symphony played on vinrating cosmic strings. Or actually maybe the real world is a holographic projections cast by something entirely outside of this illusionary universe.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hEn0Asz5GTc&feature=related
    Which is in a way pretty close to the Hindu idea that the world is continually being dreamed into existance by sleeping Brahman.

    All that around us, cars and chairs and apples and people, suns and planets, even time and space, are just our selective perceptions – metaphors, if you will – of particular patterns we make out in this whirling mist.

    You can look at a particular patch of land and see a part of the biosphere, or a forest, or a collection of trees, or a swirl of colours and patterns, etc. Which of that is real when nobody is looking? All? None?

    There is something real, we can argee, I suppose. But our concept of whats real is always just a selective model of what’s really real.

    My God is just a selective model. The question is only if it is true (if selective) to real reality. I think that it is. But it is a highly subjective model.

    @AoS, Matt, Spoing: What does my God add to a model of the universe? Agency, I suppose. Which is what our difference of opinion comes down to. I already stated that in a way all agency is illusionary. You can always go and analyse the cause-and-effect system behind anything that appears to have agency. Analysing an echo leaves not much of a personality. Analysing the behaviour of an fly a little more, but it’s still pretty mechanistic. Analysis of the behaviour of primates is can also dispell the illusion, but there agency/will becomes actually the better, more useful model to interact with them, than sticking to the truer model of seperate interacting systems.

    I can speak to God and sometimes He speaks back to me. He is pretty rude, curt even, and usually sounds bored, as if it is a bother He has to say anything at all, as if everything should be clear on its own. But He does speak occasionally. God has twice saved my life. He has helped me save the life of the boy I love (even though that saving cost me his love. God can be a real cunt.) God has helped me stop booze and thieving. Not because I found the light, or because booze is immoral. But because too much booze just as lying and thieving cuts me off from the world. And it seem that if there is one thing my God wants of me, it is to experience His world immediately and intensely, even if it hurts.

    As I said, I am perfectly comfortable with theories about the temporal lobe, coincidence, projecting patterns instead of merely recognising them, and my subconscious playing a role as a part of my cognitive functions trying to explain stuff to myself and to help me deal with them.

    Still, it comes down to the fact that is simply more practical to accept God’s agency as a model of reality than to constanty analyse all different possible subsystems.

    You don’t have to share that view. You can see a bunch of trees where I see a forest. But that is what I see.

    @Spoing: Just to be clear, I totally think that science is theoretically capable of explaining everything. But it’s also possible to explain the punchline of a joke. It is possible to explain Jazz or Impressionism. There are just occasions in actual life where it is not very practical. Where intuition or metaphorical thinking are the appropriate shortcut to an equally true and functional understanding of reality.

  76. @Aacolyte of Sagan et al. Been fun lurking on this discussion, and flattering the number of times I’ve been mentioned. But I think we’ve all got FreeFox’s number now. I’m staring to see the lad as a very intelligent and sophisticated troll, with an amazing need for attention.
    @FreeDfox “don’t you think you are, hm, sometimes making if not the same at least an almost embarrassingly similar mistake when you lump all believers of religion into one and make such sweeping, ridiculous generalisations?”. Nope. I don’t think that at all.

  77. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    @FF; In a bit of a hurry this morning so I’ll come back to your main points later, but I just want to clarify ‘pikey’.
    A pikey bears no relation whatever to genuine Romany, or Gipsy folk, whom I have also spent much time among and around. They (Roma) are fiercely loyal to the clan and will extend that loyalty to the ‘gorger’ (spelling subjective, but refers to an outsider) that shows respect and trust for the clan to the extent that they are accepted as extended ‘family’. It sounds as though we have both had that honour bestowed upon us, and I learnt many valuable skills from these honourable people (ever eaten hedgehog baked in clay or a trout that you’ve ‘tickled’ out of the stream?).
    A pikey on the other hand is the scum of the earth. They like to give the impression of being Roma but in reality have never even seen the inside of a caravan (except the static sort at holiday parks) let alone travelled with a clan or lived off the land. The genuine Roma despise pikeys because their reputation has been sullied by unfair comparison to them. A pikey wouldn’t recognise respect if you beat him around the head with it and has no sense of values like loyaly, either among themselves or to the community in general. They are nothing more than low-rent criminals, living off benefits and whatever they can steal; live in squallor in council housing, usually with huge broods of semi-feral children, each with a different father, and packs of half-starved mongrel dogs of a vaguely pit-bull heritage. They are no more Roma than you and I are seahorses.
    I hope that clears it up. :-)

  78. ronmurp says:

    You do realise that the number of unrelated comments will mean this strip probably won’t get aired again. Stop making comments!

    Oh shit.

  79. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    @ronmurp; Who died and made you the lawmaker? :-)

    “Comment¬
    NOTE: This comments section is provided as a safe place for readers of J&M to talk, to exchange jokes and ideas, to engage in profound philosophical discussion, and to ridicule the sincerely held beliefs of millions”

    Doesn’t seem to state that all comments MUST be related to the comic; the comic is a springboard for interesting conversation. And anyway, your comment was unrelated to any of the previous comments, whereas the bulk of the conversation was regarding FreeFox ‘making up’ his own version of god, which IS related to the comic.
    So there (imagine a raspberry-blowing smiley here).

  80. PB says:

    Definitely one of the greatest comic. Bravo!

  81. FreeFox says:

    @AoS: I’m even proud godfather of a little romani girl. Probably the greatest honour anyone ever bestowed upon me. ^_^ I never met an Irish Traveller myself, though I read a bit about (and by) them – though I once met an Australian (I think) con artists who claimed to be a Traveller. Not quite convinced your depiction can really be generalised, but there will indubitably be those your description fits. (And I believe you that the Roma don’t like them. But to be honest there is a lot of people they don’t like. Including queers. We’re mokadi to them, dirty. As are mokadi jook, i.e. dirty dogs, as they call foxes. I love my romani familia, but I take their prejudices with a grain of salt.) I just kind of have a soft spot for all the travelling people: Roma, Sinti, Yeniche, Sami, etc. Personally I only know some Sami and Roma, though.

    @DH: Of course you don’t. ^_^ I always thought my number was 7.

  82. some Matt or other says:

    @FF: Again, thank you for the explanations. I sense that you think I’m trying to limit or belittle your ideas by putting them in the “metaphor” box, but I’m not. I can’t speak for anyone else, of course, but my “tree apotheosizes in the woods” description wasn’t in any way a value-judgement; I’m just trying to sketch the shape of your philosophy for understanding’s sake.

    You remind me of a friend who loves atheist argumentation – he turned me on to Matt Dillahunty, as well as 3vid3nc3′s excellent autobiographical deconversion videos. He agrees with every anti-theist critique (the debate between Dillahunty and Matt Slick over the Transcendental Argument for God was like porn for him), but at the end of the day, no matter how intellectually certain he his, he can’t shake the sensation of the Other that he has always felt. Nor, I think, does he really want to. The (for lack of a better word) God he talks with in his head has never done him any harm; it’s just a part of the world as he knows it.

    Where he or you fall in the spectrum from theism to atheism, I don’t really know. You’ve made it abundantly clear that, as far as objective reality is concerned, you do not consider God a necessary hypothesis to account for anything in our swirling symphony of particles and forces and self-referential meat-machines. But subjectively, you’ve found your gods to be very useful, beneficial, even unavoidable. Maybe you didn’t “make things up” in the sense of sitting back and deciding one day to just start believing in certain deities (again, a la Alan Moore and his snake-puppet god), but rather you feel your experiences presented these gods to you in action, and you’ve run with them. Is there a threshold of self-awareness that should allow you a pass among atheists who would otherwise decry you as a wrongheaded accepter of unsupportable nonsense? And if such a pass is given, would it be as a “theist” as we understand it, or as some other category? I personally don’t really know; all I can say is that I find your conversational contributions enjoyable and your professed beliefs inoffensive and intriguing. But then, I’m not keen to judge people for their beliefs, since I used to be religious, and I don’t think I was fundamentally less rational or more gullible back then – I was just working with less data. Could there be more experiences or arguments or whatever in my future that would turn me back to theism? Maybe! But that admittance stems from the same uncertainty that keeps me away from most religions, whose pronouncements I recognize as too absolute to support. Absolutism seems like the farthest thing from your philosophy, so regardless of its veracity, it doesn’t set off my fight-instinct like many others do.

  83. some Matt or other says:

    @AoS: I know very little about the culture and prejudices surrounding the “travelling people,” but in form your arguments for the use of “pikey” look very much like the statement, “I only call the bad black people ‘niggers’; I would never call the good ones that.” Unless you’re black yourself, you don’t get to use such a loaded term, no matter how delimited your usage may be inside your head. Again, I don’t know the ins and outs of anti-Roma prejudice, but I’m just describing how it looks to an outsider, for your edification.

  84. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    @Matt; if you check back to my comment, you’ll see that I clearly stated that ‘pikey’ IN NO WAY referred to genuine travellers, that they are not travellers and they have no connection to the travelling community. Your comparison with what you THINK I said (“I only call the bad black people ‘niggers’; I would never call the good ones that.” ) is way off mark. Please tell me where I said that pikeys were ‘bad’ Romani? Oh, that’s right, I didn’t. A pikey isn’t neccessarily Irish, although the Irish have their share of pikeys, as does Scotland, Wales, and just about any country you care to name. You see, pikey isn’t a prejudicial word, it doesn’t refer to colour, creed or even community.
    Let me try and explain. Two large families live on the same council housing estate.
    Family one is father (let’s call him John), mother and six kids. The kids may or may not be by the same father but that doesn’t matter, they are all treated the same. The parents may or may not work, but either way they do their best with what they’ve got. They do what they can to try and bring the kids up properly, they teach them manners values, and respect, encourage them to work hard at their education, feed them properly and keep themselves, their kids and the house clean. They discipline the kids well and do their utmost to keep them away from crime and drugs. That’s a good, solid and respectable working class family, the kind of family in fact that I come from.
    Now, family two is also father (who also happens to be John’s brother), mother, and six kids, again the kids may or may not share the same father but that doesn’t matter, they are all MIStreated equally. The parents don’t work and have no intention of doing so as long as benefits keep them in fags and booze. The kids are a good source of additional benefits, but apart from that they’re just a reason to turn the volume up on the 64″ plasma tv that dad liberated on his last burglary. The kids are left to their own devices, the parents don’t give a toss where they are as long as they’re not in the house disturbing their viewing or nicking their fags (offences punishable by a good beating to teach the little fuckers not to steal… well, not from the parents anyway, anybody else is fair game). They only send the kids to school because they get a free dinner everyday, so they can make do with a bag of chips or jam butty in the evening, there’s more money for strong cider that way. Discipline is non-existant, unless the police bring them home; there’s too much ‘hot’ gear in the house for comfort so bringing the law to the door is a serious beating offence, even worse then nicking dad’s fags. To this end, the only things the parents teach them is how not to get caught. The house is always a squallid mess, the back garden’s a jungle and the front a dustbowl scattered with scrap metal, an old car on bricks and piles of shit from a half-dozen scrawny mongrels with string for collars and nasty dispositions. This, my dear Matt, is a pikey family, and because they tend to be regularly evicted from one house, or flit regularly to keep one step ahead of the debt-collectors and bailiffs, only to be given another house on the next street or in the next estate, they are constantly on the move, which is why others think that they are in someway ‘travellers’, and why genuine travellers despise them as much as anybody; they get an undeserved reputation because of them.
    So you see, anybody can be a pikey, and if you would kindly re-read my comment above where I explained the term pikey to FF (after he also misunderstood me but was polite enough to give me the chance to clarify,rather than calling me ‘prejudiced’), but read it properly this time, you might realise that I am not the prejudiced bigot that you seem to think I am.
    Irrespective of any offence I may have felt by your accusation, and despite the fact that I am feeling rather angry at the moment, I don’t want to foster ill-feeling or start a slanging match on this most excellent site, so I’ve been big enough to explain myself to you without resorting to name-calling; the question is, are you big enough to do the decent thing now?

  85. some Matt or other says:

    I’m sorry to have angered you. I’m not claiming to know anything about you personally or accuse you of actual bigotry; I was explaining how the statement came across. I don’t dispute that you have a specific definition of “pikey” that you apply to a particular range of nasty people regardless of their ethnicity. A certain variety of asshole lifestyle, if you will, which being hostile towards is hardly something I could call bigotry.

    But, as far as I can tell as an outsider to this cultural sphere, the word you chose has a common meaning that is bigoted. (Wikipedia backs me up here.) So when you use it casually according to your own definition, the distinction is… less than obvious, as evidenced by the need to explain it afterwards. If this is part of an effort to reframe the term in people’s minds, then I guess best of luck, but if you’re not part of the ethnicity that the bigoted definition targets, it’s shaky ground to stand on. And the thing is, I’ve known so many actual bigots in my life (mostly embarrassing family members) who claim that exact same rationale to defend the use of their own favored slurs (including, yes, saying that “nigger” can be anyone of any race, despite the fact that they’ve only used it on black people, and quite liberally at that), it now rings hollow no matter how much truth the claimant may be putting behind it. You seem like an intelligent person, and you apparently have some Roma-culture bona fides, but nevertheless I felt the need to let you know how it sounded.

    Again, I apologize for having upset you; I’m not saying any of this as an accuser, just as an observer of culture.

  86. FreeFox says:

    @AoS & Matt: If I may. I might have an idea where the misunderstanding comes from. AoS said he lived some time with Roma. The way I learned it in romany language the term pikey describes people who have been expelled from a kumpania, a romani tribe, for various offenses. Romani has many dialects, so could it be that with the kumpania AoS lived with the term actually means exactly what he says it means? That this is what he learned the term means?
    While Matt learned it to be a pejorative British slang term describing Irish Travellers (which is also how I ‘mis’-understood AoS) or “dirty gypsies” (i.e. implying all gypsies are dirty and sihonest) in general.
    I agree that the word mostly is understood as “nigger” for gypsies and thus not without risk to handle. Personally I’m not much for political correctness, and generally of course have to side loyally with a fellow Puyuria (non-romany traveller). ^_^

  87. FreeFox says:

    @Matt: About what you said regarding the theism-atheism spectrum and all that, yeah, I guess I can go along with all that. I certainly can empthasise with your friend. I checked out the videos by Evid3nc3, and liked them a lot – but then I’ve hardly ever met one of these “making my point” youtube vids that I didn’t like… the gentle muzak, the soft, intense voice, the clear, thought-through argument (even if it is a total crackpott argument, like those lovely 9/11 conspiracy videos)… hmm. So nice. Gives me for a second the illusion the world was simple and could be understood and explained in 3 minutes. But I think Evid3nc3 has a couple of very good points.
    Anyway, I think my basic point regarding any world view is that we all only deal with our own simulacrum of the world. We should take care to make certain that these simulacra actually fit the world, but their use comes from the way they fit the world from each of our respective perspective. Life from prison looks very differently from life in a loving family from life on the lungo drom, the long road, as the roma call it, it looks differently for a banker and for a farmer. Different things, different processes, different relationships have different levels of importance. We probably all live in the same physical universe of particles and forces, but what part of that universe matters to us depends on our position and direction. Any claim that one perspective is the only valid one is either ridiculous or useless, because it must come from either blindness to your own subjectivity, or blindness to the relevant perspective of others.
    Well, I enjoyed this conversation, a lot, and not only because of the attention I got and because I could troll you all so satisfyingly. ;)
    Latcho drom, my friend, safe journeys.

  88. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    @Matt; Apology accepted, thank you. This is why I enjoy conversations with rational folk, misunderstandings are very easily cleared up with no lingering aftertaste of bitterness.
    FreeFox; I’ve enjoyed it too, it’s been dordy you old jukla.

  89. some Matt or other says:

    Yay!

    We did the Internets right!

  90. MK says:

    “Theologians simply interpret the data that is available based on the best understanding of that data at the current time. This defines an answer. As new data becomes available or the understanding of existing data gets better an new answer is defined and replaces the old. Why is this so hard for atheists to understand???”

    It’s easy to understand that you’re wildly lying.

  91. MK says:

    Silly me got Poed AND didn’t bother to read the thread before responding.

  92. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Don’t worry, MK, it happens to us all from tme to time.

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