They don’t help, do they?
I find the bible soft, strong and thoroughly absorbent.
don’t mean to defend the catholic church but i believe they do have an answer to the dilemma. they simply refuse it, in this case, claiming that all eleven lives should be saved at all cost. that’s how they rationalize opposing abortion even if the mother is at risk.
Now that really got me giggling. Especially Mo’s final wobble.
Nice one, Author
The issue of morality
Really isn’t very hard to see
Life is often unfair
Define or don’t, neither here or there
It is a bit of the composition of humanity.
@Alfie Noakes: Or just aver that if they had followed the church’s teachings, they wouldn’t have gotten themselves in that position.
Beautifully hinted at Author. (BTW why do I have to tell that I swear as well as that I am not a spammer?)
Jeez and Mo encounter the trolley problem. Cool.
I agree that in a more sane world “Jesus and Mo” would be syndicated in all major newspapers. “Jesus and Mo” is the atheist answer to the political insanity dealt with in the ‘Doonesbury’ strips. I’m gonna write my congressman…… like that means anything.
Author, so many of your strips would qualify as masterpieces, but this one is exquisite. Beautiful sense of rhythm, timing and understatement. Bravo yet again.
It’s true. I am NOT spammer. And I DO swear. Constantly. And loudly.
Such a perfect strip! Gets to the crux of problems with religious morality in such a succinct way.
Never thought about seeking this in the Holy Scriptures. My hunch would be that the Old Testament might be less squeamish about this problem, full of mayham anyway. Je comes with the sword, too, and in Mo’s environment, decapitations are too numerous to count. Conclusion: Maybe the problem didn’t seem a problem back then?! And I don’t usually swear a lot…
Taking a life that wants to live is immoral. Saving lives is neither here nor there. Give your own life for the sake of others, if that’s what you want, but don’t take mine! (Thanks, Author, for clarifying this for me. I have pondered the problem for years. Your cartoon somehow made me see the light.)
Whose filthy toenail is that on the boys bed?
@Oozoid, “Saving lives is neither here nor there”; really? I don’t have a conclusion to the conundrum, but I think all you have to do to see how complex the question is is to turn it around: is it right to let ten people die so you can avoid killing one? If you were one of the ten, should I let you die along with nine others, just to save one person?
Presumably today’s subject-matter alludes to the trolley car thought experiments, which prove that social animals like humans are hard-wired to make sound moral judgements – indeed need to be in order for society to survive. It’s rather scandalous that religion stole the moral high ground for so long, particularly as many of its dogmatic so-called moral rules actually go against our natural morality.
No but it helps with more pressing questions such as mixed fibre clothing and shellfish.
If the innocent individual is a Christian you can persuade him to kill himself with the quote: “No greater love has man than that he lay down his life for a friend.” As a bonus you can promise him heaven . If he’s Islamic then you can employ a similar argument; and while he’s at it suggest he blows up a bunch of infidels at the same time. And, of course, he get’s a heavenly bonus too. It’s not really a moral connumdrum – J & Mo just needed to think about it a bit more.
Barmaid didn’t specify if the Ten were innocent. But sure it’s not that confusing them
MarkyWarky, people are dying all around you all the time. Some die because you live. How many lives might you save by sacrificing yourself now to medical science? As I now see it so clearly, I have no moral duty to save ten people. Nor do I have the moral right to kill one. The 10:1 argument is valid only from an historical perspective, when the human species was struggling to survive. Now it makes no sense at all. If anything, the very reverse is true.
MarkyWarky, I meant to say: If I were one of the ten, it would just be between me and the martyr. The other nine wouldn’t figure in my moralising. Would I want another to die so I might live?
Peter Harris, innocent of what? Guilt and innocence are societal constructs, not absolutes. In a question of absolute morality, guilt and innocence should be ignored, since they are a matter of opinion.
It’s in the Bible. There’s a lot of time they sacrifice innocent people to save guilty people. There’s one really important one I can’t believe Jesus has forgotten!
I remember the first time I came across the railway-truck dilemma. My first thought was “what do the idiots expect when they wander onto railway lines”, and my second was “Darwin was right; some genes are just too stupid to be passed on”.
I would have shouted a warning though.
If a believer thinks to himself, does an idea occur?
Simple if you use the fundamentalist method, kill them all and let god sort them out. Hey, anyone else notice that you can’t spell fundamentalist with out spelling mental?
After spending a moment, I noticed that you also can spell fun, dam, dame, amen, men, ali, and last but not least, list along the way….. And that’s ignoring those two letter ones, am, me and is…
O.k., It’s time to take my meds.
As Sam Harris has pointed out–the Bible (and the Koran) managed to get the easiest moral problem we have had to face wrong. E.g. “Should people be allowed to keep others as slaves?”
I thought Jesus gave his life for everybody who were alive at the time of his demise and all those who followed. Not sure why he would confused by the question after all he was the most innocent (via omnipotency)!
@Author- Marry me!
I never seem to get the answers to stuff like the railway problem. The question is:
A train is coming toward 5 people who are standing on the tracks. You are standing at a switch that can make the train take a different track, but there is 1 person standing on the track there. If you turn the switch, that person will be killed instead of the 5. Should you turn the switch?
The first time I heard it, my thought was: You wait until the locomotive is actually ON the switch, then switch it and run away. The train will derail, and all 6 will be saved.
You ask: But what about the passengers? I’m in the US, so it is very unlikely to be a passenger train. I expect the crew to have seat belts, and so will be uninjured.
Further, we know the train is moving _very_ slowly — otherwise, the noise and vibration would make the idiots on the tracks aware of the approaching train. Even if they are blind and deaf, they will feel the ground shaking. Since the train is moving that slowly, the damage from the derailment will be relatively minor.
The only drawback is if it IS a passenger train. In that case, all 6 of the idiots are going to climb aboard the train and claim they got whiplash in the accident. The railroad will sue you for the damage caused by the derailment, and you won’t be able to produce any of the idiots that were standing on the tracks.
I don’t see how anybody’s holy book will help with any of this.
Jesus & Mo of course won’t get any answers to real questions about human well being from their respective holy books, but both of their books are quite unequivocal about what happens to 2 men sharing the same bed.
Mark S, there was another scenario in which there was no switch, but there was a large man sat on a bridge overlooking the track, the dilemma being would you be justified in pushing him off onto the tracks if you thought his bulk would stop the train and so save the idiots. My answer was, if he was bulky enough to stop a train, then even if I wanted to, what chance did I have of shifting his bulk off the bridge?
On a totally unrelated note, a proud Granddad story.
It was grandson number two’s first birthday on Tuesday and one of his uncles bought him a birthday card with a picture of a spaceship flying around a ringed planet. Grandson number one, just two and a half, said “It’s Uranus, Uncle Andrew”. “No, it’s got rings, it’s Saturn” came the reply. My little protege took a deep breath, looked his uncle straight in the eye and, sounding for all the world like he was the adult talking to a tot, said “No, it’s blue, so it’s Uranus”.
FreeFox, you know how on the last strip you couldn’t really find anything bad to say about the Sikhs? Well, they’ve gone and got all Islamic on J.K. Rowlings’ arse (as I believe modern parlance would have it).
AofS, maybe this woman should have a talk with her Indian fellow Sikhs: http://is.gd/4fcx8r
Fund a mentalist
If the ten are sinners you should let them live, as they will have a chance to repent.
Why don’t you just pray that the train will stop, BBMITS can do that.
A wonderful variant on the age-old paradox:
Can god devise a moral dilemma so confusing that even he can’t solve it?
#Innocent Bystander, you said this: “the trolley car thought experiments…prove that social animals like humans are hard-wired to make sound moral judgements.”
I don’t think the word “moral” has any meaning here. Social animals are hard-wired to make consistent judgments, but what is “soundly moral” about them, without reference to some other existing code? It’s like saying that humans prefer “beautiful” scenery.
Have a look at this one http://www.jesusandmo.net/2006/10/25/cozy/
They seem to have a get out.
In the article Nima posted it quotes a Sikh spokesman as saying:
Reputed authors like JK Rowling need to show respect to all faiths and communities
No they don’t. Why do so many religious people of so many beliefs have almost no grasp of free speech?
Nima, thanks for that; such dignity.
Dan, a relevant point, but I think you meant the link I supplied, not Nima’s.
# Why do so many religious people of so many beliefs have almost no grasp of free speech? #
Easy one – because their religion makes them doubt and fear any symptom of free, independant thought, without which free speech is only the freedom to repeat what you have been told. From the religious perspective, thinking for yourself is the greatest danger/sin/heresy – a paradox, because all religions are started by someone with an idea of their own.
“… because all religions are started by someone with an idea of their own.”
And generally an idea that would fail to gain acceptance unless it were attributed to a higher power.
“If it were up to me you could do what you wanted, but it’s God,y’see, my hands are tied”
Religion; the ultimate jobsworth.
AoS & Nima, Apols to both of you. AoS you’re right. You linked the JK story.
Thanks both of you for your links.
Hotrats, There may be something in what you say.
I always find Christianity particularly bizarre. A system in which one of the greatest gifts God made is free-will and we should celebrate that sacred power by NEVER EVER EVER EXERCISING IT.
What a massive c**k he would be and how reassuring that he’s the figment of some rather fractured imaginations.
Oddly enough Tuesday’s Thought For The Day on Radio 4 had a Sikh um, luminary praising Rowling for her portrayal of a Sikh family in her novel. Maybe he didn’t get the memo.
Throw the atheist infront of the trolley car and save 10 theists on their way to the discovery centre. It’s a win-win surely?? #poe
I once had some self-indulgent amusement baiting Biblical literalists on Answers.com (and if you’ve seen some of their questions, it’s hard to resist); in one guy’s case with the non-compossibility of A) God’s omniscience and B) the reality of free will (requiring that God could not know in advance what I would think of next). While it lasted, it was fun watching him trying to square the circle, but I had to defer to She Who Must Be Obeyed, who rightly pointed out that while he didn’t choose to be a credulous moron, I had chosen to waste my time arguing the toss with him.
Ian Jones, I’d much prefer to load up the train with Creotards and nitro-glycerine, after re-routing he rail tracks directly into their Museum of Un-Natural History. Win-win and fun to watch.
Now, where do I find a good team of navvies?
@AoS It’s hardly a fatwah is it – the whole Sikh thing? “We’ll read it very carefully and if it’s mean, then we’ll be a bit hurt” ? I have no idea why I started commenting on here as defender of all faiths. It’s a weird compulsion.
Starfeesh, it may start with hurt feelings but once they get a taste for it…..and don’t forget that the men carry daggers – legally. Which is crazy really; technically, if I had a Stanley knife in my pocket in a public place (on my way to help my daughter decorate, for example) I could be arrested for possession of an offensive weapon, but Sikhs can carry razor-sharp daggers because…well…..religion.
Have you had a go at defending Scientology yet? If you’re going to have a weird compulsion, you’d might as well make it a real challenge.
They gave me an M&S voucher once – on the condition I never attempted to join their – uh – faith. What’s not to like?
Scientologists love military sounding acronyms. I was declared a PTS years ago. That’s Potential Trouble Source. Damn straight.
Starfeesh, I hope you bought something nice.
DH, I thought that in light of recent revelations PTS would stand for ‘Please. Travolta’s Straight?’.
Does Marks and Spencer’s have it’s own army?
Starfeesh, they don’t need one; the shop staff are scary enough. Ten thousand middle-aged women on HRT? I’d rather face the Taliban.
Lovin’ your work. Please please do a strip about the Reading pineapple. I have no vested interest – it is just ripe for picking. : )
This pineapple? http://richarddawkins.net/news_articles/2012/10/4/university-atheist-society-ordered-out-of-freshers-fair-for-displaying-blasphemous-pineapple-called-mohammed .
Ironically, from the time it first appeared in Europe the pineapple has traditionally been associated with welcome and amity. They were so prized – and expensive – that to present somebody with one was deemed the height of generosity, and set the recipient over and apart from the giver’s more casual aquaintances.
Your stated policy is to not tolerate comments of a sexist nature. This middle-aged woman thinks that “Ten thousand middle-aged women on HRT? I’d rather face the Taliban” is sexist indeed. And questioning John Travolta’s sexual orientation is a wee bit dicey too, don’t you think?
@Cat Ballou – you are right, and I am sorry. The M&S women comment was sexist. I don’t read all comments, but this section is generally quite good at self-moderating.
@AoS – Do you have anything to say?
In other news today, an interesting letter written by Einstein is coming up on Ebay, with a starting price of $3m. Written in 1954 in German, a translated section reads, “The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish.” Other than omitting the word “honorable”, I cannot disagree. I hope this puts an end to the religious claiming that Einstein believed in god.
More details here:
AofS. Please say you are sorry. We’d hate to lose you. But not being a Brit I have no idea what HRT is.
I’m not a Brit either, but I believe that HRT means Hormone Replacement Therapy.
Re: Those idiots on the train track, I would choose to allow Darwin’s “Theory” to work its magic and remove them from the gene pool before they reproduce.
Author and Cat Ballou; I had no idea that my joke about the M&S staff ( a response to Starfeesh’s question) would be taken as sexist; it certainly wasn’t meant to be so if I offended anybody then I apologise sincerely.
Really? No idea at all? Never occurred to you that on balance, ‘middle aged women’ are not intrinsically scary or aggressive, and if on HRT are probably more comfortable, happy and sociable as a result of the therapy? (Certainly preferable to PMT!)
Do tell, what non-sexist whim made you describe the M&S staff this way?
What? Was my apology not enough for you, Hotrats? If you think I’m going to wiggle and squirm like a little boy caught with his fingers in the biscuit barrel, you’re in for a long wait. But no, I had no idea that it might be found to be offensive -especiallly here, where offence taken where none is intended is one of the most popular subjects for our derision (type ‘offend’, offensive’, or ‘offended’ into the ‘Search Transcripts’ box at top left of page for evidence of that).
I’ve apologised to Cat Ballou for my unintentionally offensive joke; I’ve apologised to Author as it was on his site that I made the joke; I have no reason to either apologise or explain myself to you, Hotrats.
Jerry. Thanks for that. I probably could have figured that out, or Googled it, if I weren’t so fixated on not being a Brit.
A0f S and Hotrats. I remember once at a party, years ago, I met a man who was accompanied by a beautiful woman. I said to him, “I’ll give you three bottles of whisky and a blanket for that woman.” I thought it was a compliment, if you can believe that. Talk about sexist and racists in one punch line. And I was surprised when they were both mildly offended. So yes, it is very easy to crack a joke without realizing that it is offensive. We live in a sexist, sometimes racist, sometimes misogynistic culture. It take conscious awareness to avoid reflecting that culture in our speech, especially when we think we are joking. So I understand and accept your apology, AofS. Hotrats, back off and stop being a self righteous jerk.
P.S. if I’d been in the shoes of that man at the party who got offended, I would have said with a smile: “Sorry. There isn’t enough whisky, blankets or money in this world could make me give up this woman.” Probably would have gotten him laid that night. There’s usually a better choice then being offended.
Isn’t the nature of humour to be offensive?
FreeFox, not necessarily. The best humour is surprising. It shows us an alternative view of the world, thinking outside the box. It leads our expectations in one direction, then turns them to another, equally logical but unexpected direction. I once read it defined as “disappointed expectation”, but I don’t like the word “disappointed”, which suggests… disappointment instead of delight.
Offensive humour is generally acceptable if it is punching up, making fun of the powerful, the bullies, the elite, the self satisfied and smug. Humour that punches down, belittling victims or rape survivors or the poor and powerless, is considerably less acceptable. So it’s okay to make fun of homophobic bigots, but the humour they invent to make fun of gay people is not acceptable.
Still one of my favourite New Yorker cartoons: The Lone Ranger is sitting at a desk, wearing his mask and a business suit, And he’s talking into a telephone saying “What am I talking here, Tonto? Am I talking chopped liver? No. I’m talking silver bullets. I don’t care how you get them, just get them.”
That’s funny because it’s punching up, making fun of the dominant roll the white guy had in relating to Tonto. A joke making fun of Tonto’s loss of heritage and family through genocide would not be funny, except to a racist bastard.
This structure is not the only form of humour, of course. Just the most common. My favourite type of humour is situational, in which you see somebody so delightfully satisfied with their situation, or excessively competent and inventive. Chaplin did a lot of that style. I’m also rather fond of absurdity. But the “anything for a laugh” type of humour of something like The Naked Gun or Airplane is very hit and miss for me, though thinking of the scene with the young boy being shown the plane’s cockpit and the pilot coming on to him with lines like “You ever seen a grown man naked, Jimmy.” and “Do you like gladiator movies.” really cracked me up. Again, surprise. We expect something different when a boy is shown the cockpit, and certainly don’t expect the pilot to be hitting on him.
I also like character driven humour, such as in “A Fish Called Wanda”. I mean, a girl who describes her dressage horse as “not fit for dog food” and wants him replaced, what a nice and surgical character set up to make us hate the spoiled brat.
British humour often pushes the envelope when it comes to offensive. Fawlty waking up in the hospital and saying to the nurse “My God you’re ugly,” is one example that leaps to mind. But then the Brits seem to accept that there is something very funny about a person being a honestly not nice, and usually the target of the humour is somebody we don’t much like ourselves.
The Americans are very careful not to kill a character if the audience has been manipulated into liking them. That was one of the best gags in “Galaxy Quest”, where Crewman Number 3 (I think it was) knew he was going to die because his character didn’t have a name.
@AoS – Thank you.
Author, No problem. It was a very badly worded punchline which conveyed the exact opposite message to the one intended, or to put it another way, I knew what I wanted to say about my experiences with M&S staff, and believe it or not the punchline was supposed to be complimentary to the staff and insulting to the Taliban! But either I lack your talent for condensing a long and convoluted back-story into a snappy punchline, or you have the advantage in as much as we are all pretty much aware of the back-stories to your punchlines so (usually) get them almost instantly whereas only I know mine. I think that in the future I will have to include the context where it may be neccessary to avoid misunderstanding.
DH, Fawlty Towers is my all time favourite comedy; only 12 episodes ever made (I have the box-set on VHS*) and every one a classic. The butt of most of the humour there was the stereotypically middle-class, middle-aged, pompous, arrogant, casually racist, class-conscious – rudely dismissive of those in a lower class, a fawning arsehole to those above – and highly repressed Englishman personified by one Basil Fawlty.
FreeFox, I’d say that humour needs a target; the secret is to choose the target carefully.
*VHS; kids, ask your parents.
AoS Yes, shocking that kids don’t know what VHS was. It’s over. I’ve got a rather large collection of unwatchable movies, including “A Christmas Carol” with Alastair Sim, one of my all time favourite character conversion stories, which is an odd thing for an atheist to say. I too love the Fawlty Towers episodes, and think it was a brilliant move to stop making them after the first season. They nailed it. It could only go downhill from there.
AoS (et al):
Oh dear, ruffled plumage – relax, I was just teasing, I didn’t suggest that what you said was desperately offensive, or that your apology was inadequate or insincere. I’m at least as culpable of unconscious sexism in my own sense of humour (I also didn’t spot it as such in your original post until CB pointed it out) and I would be the last to point the finger of moral disapproval, or demand any guilty squirming – as I hoped you would take for granted.
My turn to apologize if my high-horse, PC pose was taken in any other way than yours was obviously meant to be – a bit of harmless peer-group banter.
DH, “one of my all time favourite character conversion stories, which is an odd thing for an atheist to say”.
Not that odd really; Elvis’ ‘Crying in the Chapel’ and ‘If I can Dream’ are two of my favourites of his, and some of his Gospel recordings are incredibly moving; more, I think, for the emotion in his voice than the religious message. And for very personal reasons the hymn ‘Amazing Grace’ can very quickly turn me to tears if sung well.
Hotrats, thank you, apology accepted. As far as I can recall this is honestly the first time that I have ever been accused of sexism, so you caught me at a raw moment.
AoS, I don’t want to open Pandora’s box, but I thought your joke very funny.
I have a large tolerance for politically incorrect jokes. I think one has to be aware of the joke teller’s intent, and the teller has to be aware of his/her audience. A sexist/racist joke told amongst friends who know there is no malice intended can be hilarious. The target of the joke can be assumed to be the stereotype presented rather than the actual individuals behind the stereotype. From reading AoS’s previous posts I assumed the joke was meant in friendly fashion and it never occurred to me that it was meant to denigrate middle-aged women. In the same fashion Mary1 (my other half) thoroughly enjoys Jesus and Mo even though she is a believing Christian. You have to be able to laugh at the more ridiculous aspects of yourself or people like you.
See what happens when we all get a little too precious about being offended! We all start tip-toeing around each other desperate not to give offence, or start bristling at every innocent sentence looking for offence in every word!
(I have to admit to a weakness for Christmas movies – love the Natalie Wood version of Miracle on 34th Street)
(and Easter Eggs – but that may have more to do with the chocolate than the religious symbolism)
Mary2 Religious symbolism? Easter eggs? Named after Eostre, the goddess of fertility? You mean the fertility symbol that went with the day when parents sent their kids out into the woods to play doctor and have fun. That’s my kind of religious symbol, and I get totally pissed off when the Christian start telling me the “true meaning of Easter”.
Thanks for that, Mary2, although I have to stress that sexism was most certainly not intended.
To put it in a nutshell; I am a gent of a ‘certain age’, married and have grown-up daughters. For far more years than I care to mention I have been regularly dragged through my personal idea of Hell, namely accompanying the afore-mentioned familial females on shopping trips, and as such have spent an inordinate amount of time aimlessly hanging around whilst they – along with several potential purchases – were in the changing rooms. Having nothing else to do but wait, and never being allowed to stray too far from the changing areas in case my opinion was needed (I apparently have no fashion sense so the general rule was – and still is; if I approved of the outfit, it was a definite no-no) I tended to fill the time ‘people watching’, one result of which is that I have noticed that certain stores tend to employ a certain type of person. As it happens, Marks & Spencer shop-floor staff are predominantly female, middle-aged, middle-class, and almost invariably expertly formidable, able to reduce the most aggressive of complainants to quivering wrecks with just a withering glance and a carefully crafted sentence or two. They are not prepared to take shit from anybody, a characteristic that I can only admire.
But had I written all of that to put the context in, I’m sure the reader would have been bored long before the punchline were reached. I once quoted, on this site, one of Jimmy Carr’s observations on comedy, namely “A joke is like a frog; you can take it apart to see how it works, but the frog dies”. Unfortunately, I have just had to perform a post-mortem,
AoS, Fear not. Your description of the staff was just as much fun as the original.
DH, Good point about the Easter Eggs. If I still prefer just the chocolate – does that suggest I may be a ‘woman of a certain age’?
Time for the god-botherers to have another good laugh at the expense of atheists
#Cat Ballou wrote: “I don’t think the word “moral” has any meaning here”
I’m using ‘moral’ in the sense of “the differentiation of intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are good (or right) and those that are bad (or wrong)”. In the trolley car thought experiment most people, regardless of background, race, age, religion, etc. think that switching the points is right, i.e. save the 6 and sacrifice the one, whereas most people think it’s wrong to push the fat man off the bridge. A paradox: it’s not right per se to save the many for the one; it depends on the context. The puzzle is why is there this inconsistency. The important conclusion, though, is that people make their ‘moral’ judgements without reference to any taught religious morality. Indeed the thought experiment is chosen to portray a scenario about which there is no such religious guidance.
Is it moral to take one innocent life in order to save ten?
Yes. Life of an innocent Broccoli could be sacrifice.
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