It’s not the coffee; it’s the act of drinking coffee which is abominable.

Many thanks to today’s guest scriptwriter, Cardinal Keith O’Brien.

Discussion (137)¬

  1. Dave N says:

    I’ve taken to drinking green tea in my local pub.

  2. Kahomono says:

    That guy drinking coffee RUINS MY BEER!

  3. Author, I think this particular brilliant strip works a lot better if you include the link and credit the inspiration. Or is it hiding someplace?

    ‘Those of us who were not in favour of civil partnership, believing that such relationships are harmful to the physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing of those involved, warned that in time marriage would be demanded too.”
    So, just how exactly is it “harmful to the physical, mental and spiritual well being of those involved” when two people who love each other and want to make a public commitment to each other do so by becoming married?
    As for the definition of words, who gets to define the word “family” in such a way that it excludes people who very much seem to be a family?
    And how in hell are you “demolishing a human right” by giving it to somebody to whom it has been denied.
    Once again, in the eyes of the world, Cardinal O’Brien, President of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland and Britain’s most senior Catholic, demonstrates his implacable insistence on being on the wrong side of history, along with his perverted and far from “holy” church.

  4. Author says:

    @DH – You’re right. I should credit the guest scriptwriter. Thanks.

  5. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    “You can’t just change things willy-nilly”.
    Observant as always, Author.

    The punchline reminds me of my days working the doors at the pubs and clubs. A regular trick would be to ask a punter “What do you think of those shores”?
    The usual response would be “What shores”?
    “That’s very kind of you” I’d say, “A whisky, as you’re asking”.

  6. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    And now the link’s been added, it’s even better.
    As Bowie once said (well, one could hardly call it ‘singing’); “Turn and face the strain. Ch-ch-changes”.

  7. Mandy says:

    This can be used as an analogy so many things, I love it

  8. Henry Ford says:

    I really want to cuddle Jesus and Mo

  9. All is not lost. I’m quite impressed by this comment under the article.


    03/07/2012 10:48 AM

    As a Christian priest I utterly repudiate Cardinal O’Brien’s comments. They create an impression of a church which is intolerant and bigoted. Gay people are welcome at my church and I look forward to the day when we are allowed to conduct gay wedding services.
    One wonders how a young person would feel growing up in a church or school community underpinned by the bigotry which Cardinal O’Brien expresses. My heart goes out to them. Gay young people are, and will continue to be, bullied and humiliated by those who feel their homophobic attitudes are sanctioned by the church. For him to say that the child’s point of view is being ignored by those who seek equality is breathtakingly stupid.

    It’s so good to hear Christians speaking out against the bigotry that’s expressed in the name of their religion.

  10. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    DH, the response you quote is indeed refreshing on the surface, but is this not just another instance of the ‘That’s not the God I believe in” defence of religion?
    As Jesus says in the third frame above, “You can’t just change things willy-nilly”. Surely it’s the height of hypocrisy to claim a belief in God whilst feeling at liberty to re-interpet His laws to suit ones own agenda. One can either believe and therefore follow the Bible to the letter, or see it for the nonsense it is and walk away.

  11. noreligion2 says:

    Author, please forgive me. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery so here’s a cartoon I imagine:

    J: What!? Now you’re telling us we can’t smoke?
    M: In a pub! I’m incensed!
    BM: Second hand smoke is giving me asthma and I’m tired of my hair smelling like an ashtray. If you want to light up, you can go outside.
    M: No one will want to come here anymore.
    BM: As a matter of fact, business has picked up considerably since we’ve instituted the no smoking policy.
    M: Clearly, you’re prejudiced against fags.
    J: You should be ashamed of yourself.

  12. Oh come on, Acolyte of Sagan, let’s cut them just a little slack and applaud when they say something sensible. I’m not hearing this guy making any theological argument. He’s just recognizing bigotry when he sees it, and actually saying so.

    Personally, I have no idea how any “Christian priest” can reconcile the cognitive dissonance caused by their stupid dogma, which is at its core misogynistic and perverted, giving us centuries of sexual repression and guilt. But when one of them is willing to speak out against bigotry, I’m willing to cheer.

    And there is a good chance he’s actually an atheist, but has too much invested in his current career and its nonsense to just, as you suggest, walk away. I mean, a guy with a theology degree is pretty much unemployable in the real world. Maybe he has kids to feed. Show some compassion. 🙂

  13. @noreligion2 If Author ever decides to turn over a strip to a guest author, you’re in. Good one. But quick question. Can you still smoke in a British pub? I know Canada has gone non-smoking, much to my relief. I can finally drink again when I visit that country.

  14. Author says:

    @noreligion2 – Nice work! 🙂
    @DH – No, you can’t smoke in a British pub.

  15. flicky says:

    I like this comic, but I’m astonished at how offended I am by the way some of the commenters treat religion as such an abomination. The problem is with people, like Jesus and Mo in the strip above, who think that other people should obey the rules they give themselves. I was on board with what Darwin Harmless was saying about the Christian priest right up until “their stupid dogma” and “there is a good chance he’s actually an atheist”. If being an atheist means thinking all non-atheists are idiots, then atheists are just as bad as Jesus and Mo.

    (And before you make any assumptions, I am an atheist myself.)

  16. Mahatma Coat says:

    As is usual in, let me say rants of this kind, unsubstantiated claims are made left, right & centre. Would the Cardinal say where I might find the evidence claimed in “…the evidence in favour of the stability and well-being which this provides is overwhelming and unequivocal. It cannot be provided by a same-sex couple”.
    Author, if you will permit me, “serving” in Barmaid’s first speech balloon is a gerund and needs the pronoun “my”. “…about my serving…”

  17. HaggisForBrains says:

    @ MC – On behalf of Pedants Of The World Association (POTWA), welcome!

  18. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    DH, don’t get me wrong, I applaud the guy for speaking out against the bigotry so deep-rooted in his religion, it’s how he reconciles his views with his faith – and his position within that faith – that I’d be interested in knowing.
    Your suggestion that he may be leaning toward atheism is interesting, but for me that would make his continued participation in religion at best hypocritical, at worst reprehensible. If his actions as a ‘man of the cloth’ gain just one more recruit for a religion that he himself doesn’t believe, then that single action would negate the good he may have done by speaking out. Yes he may be limited in career choice with just a Theology degree, but as far as I’m aware there’s no age limit on learning. He sounds like the type of genuinely caring individual that Social Services are crying out for; he just needs to decide whether he’d rather help people in this life, or continue to fob them off with empty promises of rewards in the next.

    On the point of smoking, there is a blanket ban on smoking in all enclosed public places throughout the UK*. Sadly, the opposite of what noreligion2 says in his otherwise funny sketch is occuring with pubs. They’re closing at an increasingly rapid rate, largely because, with the exception of about 3 days in August, Britain is just too cold and wet to make standing around outside desirable, never mind comfortable. Also, unless the pub has an enclosed outdoor space, the laws state that drinks may not be taken outside, which means somebody has to be left inside to guard the drinks. Throw in the massive taxes on alcohol, inreased VAT and crippling business rates that make a pint of beer ridiculously expensive, it’s easy to see why more and more people are now doing their drinking at home, as is reflected in the increase in alcohol sales through supermarkets.

    *If you have anybody visiting your home in a work capacity, your home then temporarily becomes their place of work, and as such is included in the smoking ban, even if both you and the visitor are smokers. An Englishman’s home is his castle? Yeah, right.

  19. Nassar Ben Houdja says:

    Coffe, once called “Muslin wine”
    Served in pubs, resembles turpentine
    As prepared in Great Britain
    resembles piss of kitten
    Or that of an elderly swine.

  20. Lakabux says:

    @DH: I’ve often wondered how many priests/ministers/whatevers actually believe the nonsense they spout, but as you say, are too heavily invested in their profession to actually “come out.”

    I was listening to an interview on the radio a while back with someone who claimed to have interviewed a number of Catholic priests about that very subject, and found a significant number of them were closet atheists.

  21. Honestly, just because I had a diluted orange juice in the bar at QED! I was thirsty, that’s all.

    Hee hee hee.

  22. Author says:

    @OB – Even the barmaid wasn’t sure about that!

  23. FreeFox says:

    As a queer father I would like to give a reason why civil partnership is not enough (and why I was always opposed to it): the discrimination between straight marriage and queer partnership is a way to make clear that only straight couples love each other, that only their togetherness is sacred. Us faggots on the other hand only deserve a kind of rutting permit, since we are hardly better than horny beasts. That is what peeps like the Bishop mean, even if they are too cowardly to say so openly. Well, I am capable of loving my man more truly than my fucked up heterosexual parents ever could and I am a far better father than my own dad had been. (There, sorry for the rant, but I had to get that of my chest here.)

  24. FreeFox says:

    @AoS : what exactly is disingenuous or fallacious about “that is not the God I believe in” position? There are thousands of religions and hundreds of christian can are value in the bible without having to see it as immutable literal and sole expression of God’s will just as one.can be a fan of Benjamin Franklin without having to agree with his views on slavery or see greatness in Jane Austen without thinking her view on women’s role in society as definitive. Even science progresses without former scientists becoming per se stupid and contemptible.

  25. Jobrag says:

    Shit I’m having to tie myself in the kind of intellectual knot that clerics are used to over this one, I think that Jesus and Mo are correct on this, a pub is no place to serve coffee the smell of coffee is the wrong smell for a pub, however a pub is a physical entity so shouldn’t change, but marriage is an idea that can be open to interpretation.

  26. noreligion2 says:

    AoS, I had to consult wiki
    to see how badly the no smoking laws affect local pubs. I’m sorry there’s a loss of business, but as a non-smoker I can’t say I’m sorry to have a place where I can breathe and drink at the same time. A pint is truly a thing of wonder, and a barmaid a source of great pleasure (I married one). I hope business will eventually bounce back stronger than ever.

    If you can stand to go to this link,
    you’ll see this guy took his “chain” smoking to another level.

    DH, I’m an American, so I have to thank Author for answering your question. I can’t wait until I’m able to check out a real pub for myself in the not too distant future.

  27. Chip Camden says:

    Freefox — both of your last two comments make me want to yell “spot on!” Methinks I’ll go subscribe to your blog.

  28. joe says:

    This is great:

    “If same-sex marriage is enacted into law what will happen to the teacher who wants to tell pupils that marriage can only mean – and has only ever meant – the union of a man and a woman?”

    So, this schmuck’s problem is that a teacher will be denied the right to believe in and TEACH objectively untrue facts?

    Oh dear — what will happen if teachers are “forced” to simply teach the fact that marriage has evolved over time like every other social institution, adapting to the time and place, sometimes being monogamous heterosexual relationships requiring children, and sometimes being a network of relationships not connected to child-bearing, monogamy, or even gender?

    This kind of outright stupidity — frank incompetence in debate — comes from the most senior Catholic in the UK? Sheeet, Pat Robertson is more clever than this — the Catholic church is doing some shark jumping.

  29. RavenBlack says:

    My favorite segment from the linked article:
    “But can we simply redefine terms at a whim? Can a word whose meaning has been clearly understood in every society throughout history suddenly be changed to mean something else?”

    Answer: clearly yes, because historically marriage had several meanings including things other than just one man and one woman, but since the introduction and enforcement of Christianity has been “suddenly changed to mean something else”!

    A more reasonable question for him to ask would be “can people *other than us* simply redefine terms at a whim?” Since it’s already been well proven that the Christian ‘we’ to whom he refers can do so, and have done so.

  30. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Noreligion2, if you want to try a real pub you’d better hurry before they’re all gone. The ‘lucky’ ones that aren’t being demolished to make way for the next (not very) much needed Tesco/Asda/Waitrose store, are being bought for peanuts by the big brewery restaurant (allegedly) chains serving a standardised menu of factory-made heat and serve muck and so-called Real Ale – yet strangely full of chemicals and produced in quantity enough to supply 500 outlets. Nasty!
    And the smoking ban has had one more, very unwelcome effect. Without the need to exract smoke from the pubs the air conditioners are used far less, leaving the pubs -and to an even greater extent nightclubs – reeking of stale beer and body odour. Interestingly, a similar thing has happened on aircraft. Without the need to extract smokey air and replace it with fresh air as they used to, the incresingly stale air is now simply pumped around the plane. So like it or not, you will end up breathing the farts of that fat bloke five seats back.

  31. Guzío says:

    No one has noticed yet that this has to be one of the very few strips (if not the only one) on which Jesus and Mo aren’t talking about a topic related to religion? I think that’s a funny thing, even if their arguments were taken from a religious opinion, they aren´t talking about it at all.
    Jobrag: A pub may be a physical entity, but the concept: “coffee is the wrong smell for a pub”, is just an idea 😉

  32. Acolyte of Sagan, sorry. I can’t bring myself to weep for the effects of a smoking ban in pubs. The body odour and farts were not improved by an overlay of tobacco reek. Smoke stinks. Smokers stink. I can smell one outside walking toward me from ten feet away.
    I do a fair bit of flying these days, and I can tell you that compared to the old days when there was a smoking section on every airplane, rather like a peeing section in a swimming pool, the air inside them is much improved. I once gave up a seat in first class because there was no restriction on smoking in first class so if I wanted a bit of a break from the stench I had to move back into the non-smoking section of economy. And no, they did not give me a refund on the ticket price.

  33. I can smell one outside walking toward me from ten feet away. Even when they aren’t actually smoking.

  34. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Darwin Harmless, to echo your comment towards the top, show some compassion:-)
    Of course I accept that a lot of people find the smell of smoking offensive and shouldn’t have to be exposed to it unwillingly, but a lot of livelihoods have been ruined by a poorly thought-out piece of legislation, the main benefits of which are being reaped by the supermarket chains’ in increased alcohol sales.
    Far better would have been to leave the option for pubs to have a ‘smoking room’, as long as it was properly sealed off from the non-smoking areas with no risk of cross-contamination. I’m sure that in this great technological age of ours, such a thing isn’t without the boundaries of possibility; it would also create jobs for making the changes, rather than the current opposite situation where the changes are forcing job losses.
    Just as you have the right not to be exposed to smoke, shouldn’t others have the right to have a smoke with their pint if they so wish, so long as they’re not violating your right not to smell it?

  35. Evil Little Thing says:

    I can see the good cardinal spinning in his grave when the robots start demanding their rights to marry at the turn of the next century!

  36. @Acolyte of Sagan I see your point, and stand abashed. I guess I’ve just been so happy to have formerly offensive places become accessible to me again, I forgot to think this through.
    Back in the days when I was a heavy smoker, I would have been as upset as anybody at the current rules and regs. Now I’m just happy to be able to walk into a bar again without coming out smelling like an ashtray. Except where I’m currently living, this still isn’t possible. Sigh.
    But you’re so right. I should show some compassion.

  37. @Evil Little Thing Especially when they demand the right to marry humans. 🙂

  38. JoJo says:

    I find myself using the issues of gay marriage and female bishops as a litmus paper to test the moral integrity of any given religious person. To paraphrase George W. Bush (and to say what he ought to have been saying himself,) if you’re not for love then you’re against love.
    Look at Jesus. He was so big on love he apparently died for our sins. Don’t worry. He got better.

  39. Myrrhine says:

    That is my father’s actual view on coffee in pubs. He considers it indecent to order coffee in a pub and will get agitated if he’s asked to buy it for someone else.

    @ Freefox: I am completely in favour of legalising gay marriage but I think civil partnerships were a good moved politically. It solved an immeditate problem for those who badly needed the legal recognition (for immigration purposes, for example) and I think it has paved the way for gay marriage by making it normal for same-sex couples to formalise their relationship and thus achieving greater public support for gay marriage.

  40. mary2 says:

    Author, thank you. This has so succinctly summed up the arguments against marriage equality that even a catholic bishop should be able to understand. After a week where the continual onslaught against glbt people has really begun to depress me your cartoon was a true delight. Thanks again.

  41. Evil Little Thing says:

    @DH- I think it will be the meat computers that are first to make any demands;)

  42. prd says:

    “Can a word whose meaning has been clearly understood in every society throughout history suddenly be changed to mean something else?”

    Actually yes, Cardinal. We linguists do indeed have a technical term for it: language change. Non-linguists also have a technical term for it, but I can’t exactly recall if it’s called “common sense” or “just being in touch with reality”.

  43. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Darwin Harmless, the effect on the pub trade is my only objection to the smoking ban, and I can’t deny that it’s had a positive effect elsewhere. Offices, factories, shops, theatres, (proper)restaurants, public transport and so on are all the better for it. In fact, as it’s been many years since I worked in the trade, and because I’m all but teetotal I rarely have cause to go into pubs myself anymore, so I’m not even affected directly by the ban, but I do have several good friends who have now lost their livelihoods for a second time through no fault of their own.
    Many of them were originally miners until the evil that is Margaret Thatcher waged war on the unions in 1984-85, forcing the closure of mines despite there still being huge coal deposits which could have kept them open for many years to come. Obviously in mining areas the pits were the main source of employment, so once they were gone (along with the bulk of the manufacturing industry countrywide) thousands of working men and women were virtually thrown onto the scrapheap. The friends I mentioned, and hundreds if not thousands of others across Britain, sank everything they had into buying their own pubs and worked hard to make them a success, and after having had one living torn from them by the heartless Tory government of the ’80s, the last thing they expected was Blairs ‘caring’ Labour to snatch away their second. And it’s not as if the effect of the ban was unexpected. In the years before the ban, as smoking became more and more
    un-pc, enterprising business people tried opening dedicated smoke-free pubs; none of them stayed in business for very long. Additionally, when the possibility of a ban was touted by the government, the vast majority of publicans voiced their support for a partial ban along with their fears over a total ban, but Nanny Blair basically told them they were being silly, he knew what was best for them and even if there was an initial downturn in trade, well, it was bound to pick up again once people became used to it. Wouldn’t it? If he’d only listened to the people who knew what they were talking about there would have been a win-win all around.
    To put it briefly, I’m glad that the air in public places is cleaner, I’m happy that those like yourself who genuinely hate smoking can now go wherever they want, I’m delighted taht as a nation we are smoking less and are subsequently healthier. But I hate what it’s done to my friends and the thousands like them who told the government what would happen to their businesses, were proven right and lost everything they owned as a result, and all because Blair was was convinced of his own infallibity and deaf those who suggested otherwise.

  44. Unruly Simian says:

    I don’t understand why there can’t be a SMOKING pub. As long as everyone know that’s whats going on inside and the people who visit/frequent/work there should understand. I myself do not smoke but think people have the right to imbibe any publicly sold product. I am sure that not 1 single non smoker would ever enter and the problem is solved. Simply banning smoking for ALL pubs is rediculous. Same for planes. I am surprised that there isn’t a SMOKING only plane service. Just saying

  45. Aykavil says:

    “Things will never be the same again”

    Is the author a fan of Melanie C & Lisa Lopez ? A hit of 2000, iirc.

  46. @flicky “I like this comic, but I’m astonished at how offended I am by the way some of the commenters treat religion as such an abomination. ”

    Fortunately I have the right to offend you, though I’m sorry you chose to reacted that way. I do happen to feel that religion is an abomination, an affront to reason and a blight upon humanity that prevents people from taking responsibility for their own thoughts and actions. If this belief of mine offends you, that’s not really my concern.

    “I was on board with what Darwin Harmless was saying about the Christian priest right up until “their stupid dogma” and “there is a good chance he’s actually an atheist”. If being an atheist means thinking all non-atheists are idiots, then atheists are just as bad as Jesus and Mo.”

    News Flash: I know all non-atheists are not idiots. This is why I find it so amazing that they claim to believe “their stupid dogma”. If you think I’m being intolerant by saying that their dogma is stupid, I would ask you what adjective you would use to describe a belief in virgin births, original sin, transubstantiation, seer stones in hats, talking snakes, men living inside giant fishes and emerging unharmed, and all the other tenets of Christianity. Please give me a better adjective to use, and I’ll be happy to use it. Until then, I think “stupid” is a perfect description of their dogma.

    I suggested that there is a good chance that the priest in question is an atheist because, well, it appears there’s a good chance that he is given recent revelations about the priesthood. He seems far to charitable, tolerant, and compassionate to actually be a Christian believer. In my experience most Christians are none of these things. Just check out which group is most in favor of the death penalty in America, or which group is most vocal in fighting same sex marriage, for verification of this point.

  47. @Acolyte of Sagan I take your point, and I sympathize. I think I was conflating pubs with the restaurant trade, which actually has benefited from the total smoking ban, much as they protested when the new rules came in. The reason being that smokers used to sit around after dinner, chatting over coffee and taking up table space whereas now they leave and make room for other diners. But I do see the pub situation as different. I have also experienced problems with the partial ban, mostly that the smoking room occupants seem determined to keep the doors open and smoke spreads. Allowing smokers pubs has a similar problem – it’s asking non-smoking pubs to compete with smoking pubs while the majority of pub goers are also smokers.
    It’s not a simple issue. In some places, pubs have stayed in business by becoming specialty restaurants that served boutique beer brewed on the premises. Unfortunately they’ve hardly been within the average working man’s budget.

    I’m truly sorry that your friends lost their livelihoods and businesses. I suppose the fact that I now frequent pubs again is small compensation. Hopefully we will someday see that damned killer weed irradiated from society and pubs will attract patrons for the charm of their ambiance once again.

  48. Oh hell. too charitable, of course. I’ll be expelled from the UPOWA. I need to proo fread before I hit submit.

  49. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Darwin Harmless, “I’ll be expelled from the UPOWA…..need to proo fread”? Surely you mean ‘UPOTWA’, and didn’t mean to hit the space bar a character too soon? A deliberate pair of errors for comic effect, or a self-fulfilling prophecy? Either way your membership should be safe; we’re pedants, not priests!
    Which reminds me:-
    How many pedants does it take to change a light bulb?
    None. You don’t change light bulbs, only the dark ones.

  50. @Acolyte of Sagan six of one half a dozen of the other. UPOWA was a real mistake. Proo fread is one of my favorite mistakes.
    BTW a good part of my hatred for smoking comes from the fact that it killed almost the entire last generation of my family. Father, uncles and aunt all died from smoking related cancer. If corporate executives came to my town and used guns to kill my family members, people would expect me to be a bit pissed about it. But since they took forty or fifty years and used tobacco as their weapon, I’m supposed to be okay with it. Mass murderers walk among us, receiving high salaries for killing their customers. My irony meter is beyond repair.

  51. Steve says:

    Will someone please explain why it is that the simple observation, “Same again?”, causes Jesus and Mo to abruptly let go? For some reason I just don’t follow. Thanks!

  52. machigai says:

    It’s too cold to smoke outside in Britain?
    Try winter in Canada.
    I pretty much stopped going to pubs when our smoking ban was implemented.
    But I still smoke outside :/

  53. FreeFox says:

    @DH (& AoS): I wish you’d stop equating being religious with automatically being a flat-earther literlist creationist which-burner. It’s cheap and dishonest, and you know it. Bash stupidity all you want, but be honest enough to back up generalising statements with arguments and proof, or take them back and be specific. (You never answered my question, AoS.)

  54. machigai says:

    “Same again?” means “Do you want another drink?”
    They know what’s important.

  55. ShaunOTD says:

    Excellent, as usual. And for those of you who didn’t know and want to register their opinion – the Home Office consultation questionnaire on same-sex civil marriage is here:

  56. Phil says:

    @ acolyte … The rhetoric re. Pub closures and loss of business comes from failed/failing pub owners. You rightly point out that they warned govt. about the consequences of a ban, yet they carried on without acting upon what was written on the wall. What did they expect other than to fulfill their own prophecy? I too am sorry they lost their livelihood, but I am REALLY happy for those who flourished by embracing the law.

  57. IanB says:

    @shaunOTD thanks for the link; answered from my POV as a straight male. I am a 100% certain my views are pretty well the opposite of both the CoE and the RCC at least as espoused in the UK press recently.

  58. Mary2 says:

    @DH, Don’t you love the way they get offended when (on an atheist site) we call their beliefs, especially those most religious don’t even believe, stupid but feel quite justified yelling continually and at the top of their voices that GLBT people are unfit to raise children, our relationships are not as valid as their own, and we deserve to be tortured for all eternity for the sin of our love/sex?

    Now if that sentence is not so convoluted and confusing as to get me immediately excommunicated from UPOTWA, I don’t know what is! Apologies.

  59. FreeFox says:

    @Mary2: Who exactly is “they”? ^_^

  60. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    FreeFox, I did compose a response to you last night, but a ghost in the machine stole it somewhere ‘twixt hither and thither, so I’ll try again.
    But first, I can’t fault your ideas on marriage and parenting, though I must admit that I’ve never seen the argument phrased quite like that before 🙂 It usually runs along the lines of ‘it’s the love that’s important, not the lovers’.

    So, back to your question.
    You asked “@AoS : what exactly is disingenuous or fallacious about “that is not the God I believe in” position? There are thousands of religions and hundreds of christian sects. one can are value in the bible without having to see it as immutable literal and sole expression of God’s will just as one.can be a fan of Benjamin Franklin without having to agree with his views on slavery or see greatness in Jane Austen without thinking her view on women’s role in society as definitive. Even science progresses without former scientists becoming per se stupid and contemptible.”.

    You’re damn right that we can pick the nice bits from the Bible and ignore the nasties, but only if you view it in the same light as the philosophy of Franklin and literature of Austen; you cannot do this if you also claim a belief in God. Why not? Because the Bible is then supposedly THE WORD of God, and that’s not how Bible God works. He’s not open to negotiation; he says “This is me, the one true God, these are my laws, follow them or else”! What he doesn’t say is “Feel free to ignore the bits you disagree with or add anything I may have forgotten”.
    It logically follows that if the god that is believed in differs even slightly from Bible God, then it cannot by definition be Bible God. It is in fact nothing more than an idea of what an individual or sect WANT their god to be. Put simply, you cannot deny that God is a construct of humanity if the god that you believe in has only the qualities and attributes that you want it to have.
    As far as I’m concerned “That’s not the god I believe in” is no different from saying “I don’t believe in God”. The Bible tells you that you can’t have it both ways (MY creation, MY rules), and it’s arrogance of the highest order to claim a belief in God as well as the freedom to impose your will upon Him.
    The honest person is the one who accepts that god is nothing more than a projection of his own moral code and treats it as such, the clever one will go on to question the need to invent the god in the first place; but to understand this yet continue to worship as a god the reflection of his own mind is self-adulation on a whole new level.

    My apologies to all if that was rather long-winded, but it’s always best to try and cover all the bases when debating FreeFox. Not that it does any good of course; you’re not one to let logic stand in the way of your unique take on religion are you, my friend?

  61. FreeFox says:

    @AoS: answering this on a fone so please forgive some editing errors. I certainly hope that while I may often ignore tradition, grammar, or even politeness, I never ignore logic, and count on you to point out where I fail. ^_^
    Why is it not a valid position to see God as the description of something real but complex, like consciousness or ecosystem, and holy books as man written attempts to understand it? Couldn’t one then choose which parts of the books hold up best to real experience and which are revealed as ancient cultural biases? Just as one keeps the good bits of Newton’s mechanics while fitting it in with relativity and quantum mechanics?
    I say the Bible is (amongst other things) an old attempt to describe certain experiences, often garbled and mostly in poetic imagery, always filtered by local culture, but sometimes nevertheless startlingly accurate.
    Please, my friend, show me the logical fallacy in this.

  62. @FreeFox I do not, emphatically do not, equate being religious with automatically being a “flat-earther literlist which-burner. ” (I know. I shouldn’t make fun of your typos, since I make enough of my own, but which witch are you thinking of?) I don’t know what gave you the idea that I do this.

    I make very granular distinctions among the religious. I am fully aware that intelligent people are believers, even well read and literate people. I am fully aware that some believers have hearts filled with love and compassion. I am fully aware of your own level of eloquence and intelligence. None of this stops me from thinking that anybody who identifies with religious belief is avoiding reality, and inevitably when I ask them to clarify their beliefs and their reasons for belief, I get bafflegab and contradictory nonsense.

    When I call the beliefs of ALL Christians “stupid”, it’s because they ARE stupid. If you believe that Christ was sent down here to take your sins, which was part of the best plan God could come up with to redeem your soul, you are believing something incredibly stupid. If you are intelligent and don’t see that the belief you profess is stupid, then you are in denial. Because the central tenets of Christianity are all stupid, starting with the creation myth and proceeding through original sin and into the virgin birth and its aftermath. That goes for young earth creationists, but it also goes for the most intelligent eloquent and literate person who calls himself or herself a Christian.

    Oops. Okay. I see it now. I guess I DO equate “being religious with automatically being a flat-earther literlist creationist which-burner,” but only in the central core of the belief structure. In that, all Christians are equal. Deluded.

    To put it another way, as an analogy, I do not equate all Americans with the Fred Phelps or the industrial military complex, but I do recognize that they are all Americans.

  63. Aw Hell Naw says:

    Oh my. The Telegraph comments section.


    Wankers everywhere.

  64. hod says:

    @ Acolyte of Sagan
    Please show me a pint that is not “full of chemicals” I hope mine has some H2O and C2H5OH in it!

  65. fuzzy says:

    FireFox said: “Why is it not a valid position to see God as the description of something real but complex, like consciousness or ecosystem, and holy books as man written attempts to understand it? ”
    And I’m trying to understand what that means. Heres how I see it.
    (1) God describes something real.
    (2) Holy books are man’s explanation of God.
    That would imply holy books are man’s explanation of something real.
    Have I got it right so far?

  66. @FreeFox “I say the Bible is (amongst other things) an old attempt to describe certain experiences, often garbled and mostly in poetic imagery, always filtered by local culture, but sometimes nevertheless startlingly accurate.”
    Startlingly accurate if describing schizophrenic delusions. Otherwise please give me an example of this startling accuracy.

    Freefox, please show me some evidence, any evidence, for the existence of God.

    If you want to translate “God” into “some kind of human experience we can’t quite get a grip on”, that’s a very watered down version of the Christian God. You know, the God who sees the little sparrow fall, answers prayers (or not), cares who you sleep with (or doesn’t), or any other supposed attribute of this being. Seems a bit more than “something real but complex”.

    All the religious give this being qualities and characteristics that are simply a reflection of their own, conscious or subconscious, desires or biases. There’s nothing real there. It’s all stuff people made up, and then elaborated. Repeat it all often enough and it starts to feel real, especially when you start with the children. “I believe in God the father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ his only son our Lord who was born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried. On the third day he rose again from the dead….” Four year olds made to recite this before they have a clue what they actually believe. You’re telling me this is real?

  67. FreeFox says:

    @DH: You do not only call all Christians stupid, but all religious people. Pretty often. And again and again you equate them with people believing in literal interpretations of “virgin births, original sin, transubstantiation, seer stones in hats, talking snakes, men living inside giant fishes and emerging unharmed”. I, too, think that a literal belief in these things is pretty stupid, given access to a modern, western education. But being religious ISN’T automatically the same as believing that sort of childish flat earther crap. Hence my insistance that you either actually take up points with a more sophisticated form of belief, or make certain that your scorn is directed only at specific forms of dogmatist idiocy. Otherwise I have to concur with flicky and wonder how your position is different from exactly the sort of unsubstantiated dogma you attack.

    @fuzzy: Yep. At least that is my understanding. God, the soul, sin, magic, and eternal life (and yes, also Shiva and Papa Legba and Odin and Minerva and Ares) all describe something real about the interface of humanity and the physical world. Those images may be crude or distorted by local, cultural bias, but they are attempts to capture a complex understanding about the world and about humanity. And holy books, just like fables, myths, and legends are human attempts to explain and understand these things.

  68. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    FreeFox, what you’ve done is agreed with me….by disagreeing.
    Your post (edited) in respose to mine “@AoS: Why is it not a valid position to see God as the description of something real but complex, like consciousness or ecosystem, and holy books as man written attempts to understand it? Couldn’t one then choose which parts of the books hold up best to real experience and which are revealed as ancient cultural biases? Just as one keeps the good bits of Newton’s mechanics while fitting it in with relativity and quantum mechanics?
    I say the Bible is (amongst other things) an old attempt to describe certain experiences, often garbled and mostly in poetic imagery, always filtered by local culture, but sometimes nevertheless startlingly accurate.
    Please, my friend, show me the logical fallacy in this.”

    Well, that was my point exactly when I said to you “You’re damn right that we can pick the nice bits from the Bible and ignore the nasties, but only if you view it in the same light as the philosophy of Franklin and literature of Austen….” then later in the same post “…The honest person is the one who accepts that god is nothing more than a projection of his own moral code and treats it as such”.
    So the logical fallicy comes from the recognition of ‘God’ as an abstraction of human hopes and fears, of pre-scientific explainations for natural phenomena, whilst simultaneously insisting that the god is real and worshipping it as such.

  69. @FreeFox All I get from you is evasion. You are a religious apologist, and that’s fine by me. What actual sophisticated forms of belief would you like me to address? Give me an example?

    Really, what I find stupid is belief with no evidence, also known as belief based on faith, also known as superstition. If this opinion of mine amounts to unsubstantiated dogma in your opinion, well, we disagree. You tell me there are Gods or gods, show me some evidence. If you can’t, then don’t accuse me of being dogmatic. You’re the one who is supposed to come up with some arguments.
    If you postulate that there are beings, entities, that influence human lives, created the universe, answer prayers, or any of the other things which I understand by the term “religious belief” then it is up to you to provide some evidence. Until you do, I’m going to assume you are making stuff up, or repeating stuff that others have made up. If your only evidence is stuff that people in the past have made up, then I shall discount it. It isn’t evidence at all. It’s just stuff people made up.

    I know nothing of Gods, or gods or any of the other mythological creatures. I really know nothing about how we ended up with something rather than nothing. But so far all explanations that involve a creator strike me as just moving the goal post back a step, i.e. who created the creator? If the creator is timeless, outside of time, some other dimensional intelligence, what makes you think it is an intelligence? What makes you think it exists?
    Freefox, you are brilliant at arguing and evading. You have called me intellectually dishonest. Is there a pot calling a kettle black around here?

  70. jb says:

    Ah yes, proof by analogy. It isn’t important if a pub starts serving coffee; therefore is isn’t important if marriage, perhaps the most central institution of any human culture, is radically redefined to become something that has never existed in the history of the human race. How could anyone not be persuaded?

  71. noreligion2 says:

    jb, there’s history and then there’s your severely retarded perception of history: love and sexual attraction have been around since before we were even human (that’d be millions of years). Culture “defining” relationships is an effort to explain what already IS and HAS BEEN. Humans were having babies and raising children and creating societies long before language even existed. Homosexuality is surely older than any religion and is certainly not a threat to our existance. Please, free your mind from the confines of religious pretzel logic.

  72. Stephen Turner says:

    @DH: Speaking of why we have something rather than nothing reminds me of the
    Grandi series, which is the (divergent) series
    1-1+1-1+1-1 ….

    If you try to calculate the sum you get either 1 or 0 depending on how
    you group the terms. Anyway Grandi claimed that God must have used
    a technique based on this series to create something out of nothing!

  73. noreligion2 says:

    Stephen, who’s to say there ever was a “nothing?”

  74. jb says:


    First of all, I am not religious.

    Second, you haven’t addressed my complaint about the cartoon. Do you in fact believe that “proof by analogy” is a valid form of argument?

    As for the rest, it’s hard to even figure out what you are trying to say. I never claimed that homosexuality was “a threat to our existance,” simply that the definition of marriage is a far more important matter than the choice of beverages in a pub, and shouldn’t be trivialized. (Also, although it’s irrelevant to the point I’m trying to make, just for the hell of it I will point out that it is not even 100% certain that “homosexuality is surely older than any religion.” I have seen claims that it is rare to non-existent in hunter-gatherer societies,” and serious arguments that it may be related somehow to the transition to agriculture. Or… maybe not. But as long as we don’t understand why homosexuality exists, we need to keep our minds open).

  75. Dan says:

    That Cardinal Keith O’Brien is quite satirical when he puts his mind to it.
    I wouldn’t have thought he was so witty from his other output.
    You really live and learn.

  76. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    “hod says:
    March 16, 2012 at 10:16 am
    @ Acolyte of Sagan
    Please show me a pint that is not “full of chemicals” I hope mine has some H2O and C2H5OH in it!”

    Nice pedantry hod, UPOTWA needs you 🙂

    But OK, I’ll clarify. ‘Real’ Real Ale is brewed from water, yeast, sugar, hops and barley, and occasionally also fruits, herbs, and spices, and is left to brew naturally to allow the fermentation process to turn the sugars into alcohol (and CO2) and for the flavours to develop.
    Obviously this takes time, but the industrial ‘brewers’ don’t want their vats tied up for weeks on end for just one poxy batch of ale. Fermentation is the most time-costly part of the process, so they skip it altogether. Instead, they mix up a liquid which, by the use of artificial flavourings, atificial flavour enhancers, artificial sweeteners (do you see where this is going?) etc. is a close approximation to a beer taste. They then add industrial alcohol to the desired strength, stick it in barrels, pump in the required amount of gas and Hey Presto! Not very real ale in just a fraction of the time it would take to make real Real Ale.

  77. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    jb, the only person here who’s mentioned ‘proof by analogy’ is you, which suggests that either you’ve really missed the point of the strip or you don’t understand the use of analogy.
    Try looking at it this way; whenever a long-standing institution, tradition or custom is threatened with change, there will always be resistance to that change, very often for no better reason than ‘it’s always been that way’, or because ‘it goes against what I believe’, which are invalid arguments and so can be dismissed as such. It doesn’t matter what it is that’s changing, no matter how important or trivial the issue, the same rule applies across the board; if you believe that something shouldn’t change then you have to give a valid reason to keep the status quo, whether that’s the serving of cofee in pubs or same-sex marriage. There are many more examples that Author could have used as analogy, coffee in pubs was the one he went with, but here’s a few other changes from recent history that were resisted for the same ‘I don’t like it/always been thus/don’t believe in it’ non-reasons;
    Women voting; ending slavery; ‘Marathon’ chocolate bar to ‘Snickers’; the de-criminalising of homosexuality; ‘Jif’ to ‘Cif’; analogue to digital; interracial marriage; girls going to Eton; gays in the military etc. etc.
    Author could have used any one of those examples and his point would still have been the same, because with analogy it’s not what you use, it’s how you use it.

    So, bearing in mind that a man marrying a man, or a woman marrying a woman doesn’t require a redefinition of ‘marriage’, which at it’s most basic is simply the union of two people (only convention says it should be people of opposite sex), exactly what is your objection to same-sex marriage.

  78. @jb “the definition of marriage is a far more important matter than the choice of beverages in a pub, and shouldn’t be trivialized.”
    The analogy of this strip isn’t trivializing this important matter. It’s simply stating that convention/tradition is not a good enough reason to maintain a definition that many people don’t like. In the sixties, manliness was defined as having short hair and no earring. That definition was altered because we found it restrictive and repressive. You’ll find you are powerless to impose your definition of any word on society. Especially when the definition is relatively recent and ignores a lot of history. In this case, marriage has recently been defined as between one man and one woman. It’s had many other definitions, mostly involving one man and several women.
    The point of this strip, argued by analogy not proven by analogy, is that we make definitions and we change them as we see fit. Definitions are changed by popular usage. Go ahead and scream that “gay” only means “happy” and see how much agreement you can generate.
    I’m less concerned about efforts to restrict the definition of marriage than I am by efforts to define family as requiring a man and a woman as the core. That leaves out a huge percentage, possibly the majority, of modern families.

  79. machigai says:

    Marriage as “most central institution of any human culture” has for most of human history been about two GROUPS creating a connection.
    The actual individuals used to make the connection were rarely important and their actual wishes were irrelevant.
    Romantic marriage is recent.

  80. Dan says:

    @Acolyte of Sagan.
    The arguments ‘it’s always been that way’ and ‘it goes against what I believe’ are valid arguments – as far as they go.
    All social arguments on all sides eventually boil down to “I want it to be that way” or “I don’t want it to be that way”.
    The religious problem is that people try and use the god they have invented/adopted (to give their prejudices and preferences external legitimacy) to give their prejudices and preferences external legitimacy.

  81. HaggisForBrains says:

    @AoS & DH Great stuff! I put you well ahead on points, but then, as a scientist (well I was once), I would, wouldn’t I?

    @ Mary2 – UPTOWA: United Pedants of the World Association. This group arose in an earlier J&M discussion, and has been known to issue edicts against offenders who mangle our language. These edicts are known as POTWAs, though they generally do not involve stoning to death. Unlike those who issue Fatwas, we do make allowances for differing cultures and non-native English speakers, and of course we have to take account of transatlantic variations (even if people from the USA are, of course, wrong by definition ;-)).

  82. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    HaggisForBrains, “UPTOWA”? Sounds like the end of a conversation in Yorkshire to me.
    “So vicar, where does tha want t’bell putting”?
    “Up ‘tower lad”. 🙂

  83. mary2 says:

    @Free Fox, I was replying to Flicky’s claim of being offended by our trashing of religion. Upon re-reading I discovered Flicky is an atheist. I still stand by my criticism of of the type of religious person who claims offence or persecution whenever a ‘shrill’ or ‘strident’ atheist questions their beliefs while they simultaneously publicly condemn to hell all who don’t agree with them. A sore point with me at the moment, I am becoming demoralised by being constantly told through the media how dveiant and deserving of second class status I am and how my 12 year marriage with the love of my life (Mary1) is greatly inferior to a ‘real’ marriage.

    @JB, “as long as we don’t understand why [lefthandedness] exists, we need to keep our minds open.” What difference does it matter what the ’cause’ of homosexuality is?

    It is either a practice that is harmful to society and should be stopped, or it is something that makes some people happy, hurts no one and is none of anyone else’s business. How is it relevant to whether my relationship is given the same status as yours whether over 500 species of animals have been documented to engage in homosexual behaviour or whether it was a lifestyle choice I decided to adopt yesterday?

  84. @Mary2 Funny you mention left handedness. I’m left handed, and militantly so. At one point in history, left handers were scorned, feared, distrusted, generally persecuted and driven from their villages to become the minstrel class, carrying news from one village to another and incidentally developing all the stringed instruments, which are all easier to play left handed. (Think about it. Which hand does the heavy lifting on a guitar or violin?) Cack handed (shit handed). Gauche. Sinister. All words used for left handedness.

    It is my contention that someday being gay will be accepted, hardly given a moment’s thought, just as left handedness is today, and people will find it hard to believe that gays were ever persecuted. The day will come when making fun of a gay will be as ridiculous as making fun of a leftie. In the meantime we still have a few medieval villagers to contend with.

  85. Second Thought says:

    You talk as if there is a single agreed upon definition of marriage that has existed for all of history in all cultures. This idea simply does not hold up to even a cursory look at anthropology.

    There have been many cultures where marriages were between one man and many women (ancient China, the early Mormons, or even just flip through the Old Testament in the bible). There have been polyandrous marriages (one woman and more than one man). These are much rarer but an example is the Tibetian Nyinba.

    There are even cultures where same-sex marriages had a place such as the Nuer in Africa where “A barren woman can even take a wife of her own, whose children (obviously biologically fathered by men from outside unions) then become members of her patrilieage, and she is legally and culturally their father” (see

    There have also been group marriages in some places (more than one man with more than one woman) such as in the Kurnandaburi of Australia.

    And then there are arrangements which defy easy definition such as the Nayar in North Eastern India where “a woman could entertain an indefinite number of lovers, usually between three and eight, without any public concern over sexual fidelity or paternal responsibility, the two basic features of marriage in European societies. Women would assume the responsibility for raising children within matrilineally constructed households, focusing on mothers, daughters, and sisters.” (

    Just because marriage between one man and one woman is what we had been taught to expect in modern day cultures which Christianity has had a lot of influence does not mean that they are the only type of marriages that have ever been.

  86. Steve says:

    Thanks machigai.

    Interesting thread. What I take away is further validation of the ideas that people are not good at knowing their own motivations, and that intelligence makes for better rationalizations.


  87. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Dan, you said “The arguments ‘it’s always been that way’ and ‘it goes against what I believe’ are valid arguments – as far as they go.
    All social arguments on all sides eventually boil down to “I want it to be that way” or “I don’t want it to be that way”

    Of course they do, but nowdays we have learnt to ask “Why? Give us your reasons”. It doesn’t always work, sometimes they have a good reason, sometimes they don’t, and sometimes the answer takes the form of a show of strength, be it physical or military, which negates the qustion in the first place, but when questioning the status quo does work the results can speak for themselves. For example, until fairly recently in the UK (1960’s I think), it was perfectly legal for hotels and lodging houses to display signs saying “NO BLACKS, NO IRISH” Eventually someone decided to ask “Why not, what’s your objection”? With nothing better than “We don’t want to” as an answer, the law was amended and the signs came down.
    On a more personal level, if all it took to get one’s own way were “Just because”, then a pettier version of me would stop the spread of those new-fangled computer-book gadget things in a heartbeat. I mean, there was I thinking that ‘kindle’ was something used to light a fire, and it turns out to be a horribly sterile-looking little plastic tablet that’s supposedly going to replace books one day. Now, I love books and always have; I have hundreds of them and treasure every single one. Some of them that I’ve had for many years are books that I’ve learned from, my children have learned from, and my grandchildren will learn from; my 2 year-old grandson already loves looking through my Attenborough collection with me. I love the smell of books both new and old, I still feel a sense of reverence in a library, something that no church or chapel has ever invoked in me. There’s something comfortingly personal about a book that a plastic tablet just cannot compete with. And what’s more, I’ve never had to plug a book in to re-charge it nor yet have I dropped a book and smashed it, and I find backlit reading tiring, so the infernal reading machine won’t be on my list to Santa anytime soon.
    Be that as it may, my argument boils down to “I don’t want books to change because I don’t want them to” and so isn’t a reason protest against the Kindle or i-book, or whatever they’re called, and rightly so. Although I’m at a loss to understand why, I’m told that many people rather like the things. I’m also aware that they’re a valuable educational tool, especially where books may be unavailable. And I also realise something that the opponents of same-sex marriage, or coffee in pubs, seem unable or unwilling to accept; nobody’s forcing me to have one, others having them won’t have an effect on me, I’ve no grounds to protest the things; they’re here whether I like them or not.
    And that’s good enough for me.

  88. WalterWalcarpit says:

    Author was so quick off the mark, if started by the cardinal’s poor shot, that it was by means of the arrival of coffee (before almost being derailed by the departure of smoking) that I first heard of this proposal for ‘equal civil marriage’.

    For a while I wondered if the change might lend itself to my partner and I ending our 25 year consensual refusal to be marry.

    Having followed the link (thanks @ShaunOTD) I realise we were irrelevant; equal pertains to same-sex and it turns out that the word civil also is critical, indeed the proposal expressly precludes changes to religious marriage just in case a couple are gay and stupid ;).

    Frankly I’m beginning to wonder what all the fuss is about.

    So might I revisit our principles to see if there is an opportunity for polemic in this consultation? Probably not: “… points raised in responses that are out of scope of the consultation and the consultation questions will not necessarily be considered”

    And have I missed something somewhere, but are civil partnerships really only available to same-sex couples?

  89. WalterWalcarpit says:

    Steve, Machigai, I enjoyed ‘Same again’ as a double pun. J&M grieve for it.

  90. @Acolyte of Sagan Going way off topic here but… To my surprise I find I now prefer reading books on my iPAd. Lots of reasons for this – no need for the inadequate bedside lamp to be on; the ability to change the font size instantly; search functions that let me find passages really quickly; most of all, the ability to pack a HUGE library around with me, a collection of books that would take at least a minivan to carry in dead tree version.
    I share your nostalgia for libraries, the smell and feel of real books. I’m reading two conventional books right now (Douglas Hofstadter’s “I am a Strange Loop” and Bruce Schneier’s new “Liars and Outliers” if anyone is asking), and one (Jerry A. Coyne’s “Why Evolution is True”) on the iPad. Sad to say, the iPad is winning the ease of use and comfort contest. As for sterile, the book reader on the iPad gives the visual impression of turning pages. Covers are still full colour. It’s a bit like reading a book behind a glass plate. Books in the PDF format are not nearly so visually enjoyable, but still have advantages over paper. The charge on the iPad lasts longer than I ever do, so charging it is not a problem. And then there’s the ability to instantly bring up pictures of the grand kids, or take a language lesson, watch a video clip, play or record a fiddle tune, check the email, drop in on J&M or Pharyngula.. It goes on and on. Much as I detest Apple’s attempts to dumb things down and remove control of file storage, I’m using the damn thing constantly throughout the day.
    All of this aside, your response to @Dan is spot on. George Carlin once called people “real assholes” because they like fancy coffees. He lost me there. That’s carrying curmudgeon too far. I’m delighted to read that you don’t feel a right or need to impose your sense of bibliophile aesthetics on others.

  91. WalterWalcarpit says:

    @AofS On the subject of manufactured real ale:
    As one who considers lager an abomination far worse than coffee or cigarettes (the reason it has to be served so cold is that otherwise one might be able to taste it) I reckon I could tell the taste of a real ale from a chemically constructed facsimile.
    Perhaps you refer to a high street bitter? I have been alarmed by the new found propensity of certain brands to instruct one to ‘serve chilled’, a development that I had until now attributed to a misconceived ‘if you can’t beat ’em, join them’ marketing ploy.
    Please, and without offence, would you be prepared to name one?
    I’d like to put myself up for the challenge.

  92. WalterWalcarpit says:

    @DH, remaining off topic (or continuing to avoid the post I really sat down to …) I have found the iPad to deliver all of its launch event superlatives. But SJ did not warn me that it would take an extra 2 hours to get to sleep nor that various joints below my shoulder would complain. And both because it does so much that I cannot put it down.
    I have effectively quadrupled the number of unfinished books currently on the go.
    Seriously though, @AofS, for a coda to your homage to what paper books offer, watch this from about 10 minutes in, it really is something else:

  93. @Stephen Turner Grandi “claimed that God must have used a technique based on this series to create something out of nothing!” This sounds like one of those sophisticated arguments for the existence of God that FreeFox was talking about. My only question is, why did Grandi assume it took God to do this? Stephen Hawking says it will happen spontaneously, no God required.

  94. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Test post.
    Is anybody else having problems seeing the latest comments or do I need to update my valve set? I’ve just opened this site and it said there are 93 comments, but when I clicked on that to read them, I’m only seeing 86, which is where it was last night before I added my ‘i-book’ comment. Refreshing the page doesn’t reveal the missing 7 comments, so I’m hoping that posting this will.
    Heh-heh, with I.T. knowledge like mine, is there any surprise I don’t want a computerised book? 🙂

  95. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Yay, it worked!
    Firstly, WalterWalcarpit, I love your new word ‘consensual’; surely a Freudian comment on 25 years together? The pedant in me wants to issue a ‘potwa’, the old romantic in me says “No, he’s coined a term that I will delight in using” and for that I thank you.
    To your question re. beer. Real Ale must never, absolutely never, be served chilled; it destroys the complex flavours. Nor should it be stored in steel casks (or bottles); a CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) member once told me “It’s oak or nowt”. When poured, it must be hand-drawn, not forced through pressurised plumbing, and should have a loose, ‘soap suds’ head, not a tight ‘Guiness’ head, the beer should settle almost instantly, and the aroma should be predominately of malted hops and barley. That said, take yourself along to a ‘Wetherspoons” (other chains are available, the products rarely vary) outlet and order any one of the ‘guest’ beers. Remember to warm a little to give your taste buds a fighting chance.
    But don’t say I didn’t warn you (insert ‘throwing-up’ smiley here).
    Incidentally, my view of lager changed during a visit to Belgium. Their ‘micro-breweries’ produce some excellent ‘Real’ lagers on a par with Real Ale.

    Darwin Harmless, I am, of course, all for progress. I can see all of the advantages of the i-books and can’t help but be impressed by the fact that something that looks like a deluxe Etch-a-Sketch for the 21st Century can do so much, and I have a feeling that were I still doing a lot of travelling then my opinion may well be different, but as I spend most of my time either at home or very close to it, I simply don’t want or need one. I feel the same about those ridiculously expensive machines that just make coffee; my 20+ year-old filter machine works just fine.
    I still can’t help feeling an irrational sadness that within a few more generations books will be lumped together with 8-tracks, Betamax tapes and gramophones, mere relics of a more primative age, but my borderline luddite outlook is no cause to spoil the fun for everybody else.
    And they’re a very expensive way of remedying a wobbly table:-)

  96. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Shit! WalterWal, I did of course mean that you should allow the ale to warm a little, my typo suggests that you should be the one doing the warming up.

  97. WalterWalcarpit says:

    @Acolyte of Sagan Lol! I was wondering which part of me should be warmed as I maintain my taste buds at their perfect temperature.

    As for beer I like to drink it at cellar temperature i.e. cool rather than cold, definitely not warm as the denigrates slander. And if presented with obviously chilled taps I ask for a warm glass when ordering a pint and if presented only with lager in those taps, I walk out. Simple really. So I’m a bitter drinker, ale from pale to dark, playful or pragmatic, novel or ancient and always the more real the better.
    Sure if it’s pumped out of oak i’d be delighted, and to live within range of a microbrewery *swoon* but as the inexorable onslaught of lager forces downward in temperature, taste and even price I have to find cheers in any ale that survives at all.
    And for all its bland ubiquity, Weatherspoons does champion taste, variety and curiosity. Are you really telling me their guest ales have not even been brewed?

    Crikey! I feel like I’m defending a defunct, debunked & discredited status quo for the sake of tradition, prejudice and preference! For a moment I thought we had gone off topic.

  98. WalterWalcarpit says:

    BTW I forgot to mention that I also was experiencing odd comment loadings yesterday. This ones from an iPad which still won’t load beyond about 73. This is it’s first post and I can tell from your expression that it worked.

  99. WalterWalcarpit says:

    Yay, it worked!
    I opun, writing roughshod over my own joke.
    Why settle for one meaning when three will do?
    All comments are now loading and I can read my own writhings.

    Is being too flowery a defence against a FOTWA?
    And does a typo get an on-the-SPOTWA?

  100. FreeFox says:

    @DH: Whoah, gone for 2 days and I got to go hunting for your response. Who’d a thought that coffee in pubs would generate such intense discussions. ^_^

    Um, you seriously want me to go into this again? I thought we’d hashed that out before and you’d thrown the towel. But okay, on your head be it. Still, I suppose I better just post a few links instead of carrying the entire content into this board again.

    What God(s) are (in the words of Neal Stephenson)

    On the Sweet Hereafter

    Why I am not a Christian (but believe in God, Magic, and Salvation):

    On prayer (starts about halfway down)

    I could go on, but I suppose this should be enough, since you won’t actually read them anyway. ^_^ The basic point of it is anyway that what I refer to as God (and gods, and magic, spirits, the soul, and all the other stuff you do not believe in) are patterns in the interaction between the human mind (not yourse, obviously, but those of quite a few) and the physical universe. In that way that a bunch of trees becomes a forrest, a bunch of sick people an epidemic, a bunch of pixel an image, a bunch of events a history, a bunch of letters a tale, a bunch of people a nation or a bunch of assumptions a culture, or a bunch of neurological functions the illusion of consciousness and awareness.

    You don’t have to use it, you don’t have to like it, but I’d say to equate all religion only with literal belief in supernatural stuff and to call all forms of religious perception and experience stupid is a claim that requires for you to prove it. So, if you want to go through the links argument by argument and statement by statement and disprove them all, I am up for the debate. If not, I’d still think it’d be more scientific and honest to stick to calling dogmatism or magical thinking dumb instead of resorting to overgeneralizing insults. ^_^

  101. FreeFox says:

    Oops. Too many links. Hey, um, Author, I was trying to answer DH without getting too long winded, but it seems your systems feels six links in one post are a bit too spammy. Would you please be so kind… ? (I did swear the oath.)

  102. fuzzy says:

    Woke up this morning wondering “What if two hermaphrodites want to marry each other?” How would theists respond to that? And can a hermaphodite marry his/her self? If so, what’s the term for it (can’t be monogamy)?
    Hmm, more interesting is how do such thoughts get into your head. I suppose they begin in the subconscious and then somehow the important ones, based on recent input, are promoted. Are there any good (simple) books on this?

  103. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Matt, my mistake. The worst thing is that I know it’s a word, that the root of ‘consent’ is ‘consensus’, but for some reason the grey matter decided not to recognise it as such. Maybe seeing the unusual juxtaposition of ‘sensual’ and ’25 years together’ made my pun function kick in before word recognition woke up. I’ve no idea where my brain goes sometimes, it used to be so much more attentive So a potwa on myself it is 🙁

    I still think the joke was a corker though.

    And I’m still having a problem loading comments; this morning it stated there were 103 of them, but when I clicked to see them there’s only 97; Matts post at 8.04pm yesterday is the last I can see, but once I post this I know that it’ll ‘reveal’ the missing 6. What’s happening?

  104. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    FreeFox, would it be fair to say that you believe in belief?
    And against my better judgement I’ve got to ask; “…what I refer to as God (and gods, and magic, spirits, the soul, and all the other stuff you do not believe in) are patterns in the interaction between the human mind …and the physical universe.”

  105. Author says:

    Sorry about the weird comments behaviour, everybody. There’s something odd going on with my cacheing system. Will look into it. The Wibya toolbar at the foot appears to be broken in Chrome, too. This whole place is falling apart!

  106. FreeFox says:

    @AoS: “would it be fair to say that you believe in belief” Um. Er. No. I mean, I don’t think so. When you mean by belief “faith in something unproven”, like some Christians mean it, then no. Of course there is shitloads of stuff I believe that have never actually been proven to me. I believe all manner of stuff about black holes and electrons that I only know about because I read popular explanations of mathematical models that are utterly beyond me from people I never met. But I mostly hope that the context in which I read them gives me sound reason to believe that they are at least very well informed guesses by highly qualified peeps. And so most of my religious beliefs includes a certain amount of guesswork and intuition that is in that sense unproven belief. But I expect my belief to work out in real life and try to alter it when it begins to diverge. (All examples I can think of right now are a bit complicated and intimate to put here… I have to say though that over the last 5 years I’ve come to trust my intuition quite a lot, it turned out to be surprisingly dependable. But of course not infallible.)
    “Eh?” is hard to answer in any concise way. Did you read the first link (the Stephenson quote)? It’s a lot less mythical than I’d be willing to go, but the basic principle of that pattern thing – including a Plato’s Cave ref, “The Veg-o-Matic” of metaphors” – is summed up pretty perfectly there.
    I’ll try to explain better if you can focus the question a little. ^_^

  107. @Freefox I’m slowly working my way through your links. Must say it isn’t my kind of stuff, and either I’m not smart enough to understand what these people are on about (a distinct possibility) or I’m not interested enough to make the effort. Whenever I find something that isn’t too slippery to get a grip on it seems very, shall I say, ordinary and not anything I would call religion at all. For example:

    “God does not work through these patterns or meaning, he is those patterns: They are the shadow on the wall, or perhaps the light reflected from the wall outlining those shadows – they are what we perceive and, for lack of a better word, name God.”

    This sounds to me like the writer is just renaming reality, or the reality we dimly perceive but can’t understand, as God. No doubt there is a reality outside of us. No doubt it is stranger than we understand, indeed stranger than we CAN understand. This is no reason to give reality human attributes of any kind, or to call it God for that matter.

    I shall muddle on a bit with the links you have sent. So far it all goes over my head, a bit like reading Stephen Hawking when he talks about advanced physics. In Stephen Hawking’s case I have some faith that what he is saying actually means something, but that’s mostly based on reputation and the fact that he has radiation named after him.

    By the way, I do not see our discussion as any kind of a contest. I’m certainly not trying to persuade you that your imaginary friends don’t exist. I’m seriously looking for those “sophisticated religious concepts” you spoke of. So far, the closer I get to them, the more they seem to melt into non-religious speculation about the meaning of perception and reality. If you go about defining religion to say that most of the things I’ve been told religious people believe are stupid, yet there is a sophisticated kind of religion that isn’t stupid, I’m still looking for it.

    More later, once I’ve read more of your links.

  108. WalterWalcarpit says:

    @AoS Please do not adjust your settings – pun functions on presumptive please.

    Consensual was partly a pun, thanks, but mostly it was in acknowledgement of the happy circumstance that there is no imbalance between my partner and I in our antipathy to all that a marriage was, is and appears destined to continue to be in this cultural milieu. If marriage is what it is said to be on the tin then moving it to a registry office had been not enough for us. Thus this current ‘consultation’ intrigued me – might we find ourselves in a position where our principles are no longer contradicted by an institution whose membership positively lubricates interaction with bureaucracies in particular and much else besides.
    Is it really just a proposal to change the ingredients but not the concoction?
    (trigger thoughts of unreal ale …)

    So it would be a pity if my wordplay obscures the topic, because even if fun, like our bitter discussion (did you see what I failed to do there?) I really do have some philosophical interrogatives that I’d like to explore.

  109. Polk Under Prayer!

    “Last week, Polk Under Prayer campaign members buried bricks that were engraved with Psalm 37:9-11 beside the 12 major roadways leading into the county, praying for criminals to become Christian or be incarcerated, according to WFTV.

    Scott Wilder, a spokesman for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, said this claim was so ridiculous he’d rather not comment.”

  110. JohnM says:

    Now you’ve all gone and got the nasty Cardinal’s bigotry off your collective chests, it’s time for some action to counter his obscene, homophobic petition.

  111. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    FreeFox, you asked me to focus my question a little, apparently ‘Eh?” didn’t convey all that I hoped. 🙂
    Well, the statement of yours that I questioned was
    “…what I refer to as God (and gods…etc) are patterns in the interaction between the human mind …and the physical universe.”
    I was going to say something about my recognising and understanding the meaning of the individual words there, and have no doubt that they could be constructed into a perfectly legible sentence, but not when written in that particular order (as Eric Morcombe said to a bemused Andre Previn; “I am playing all the right notes…just not neccessarily in the right order”).
    I have absolutely no idea what “patterns in the interaction between the human mind and the physical universe” means. I’ll hazard a guess that it’s something to do with making sense of what we sense, but you could just as easily be talking about that cable they used to plug Keanu into the matrix in the film called …ah…nope, can’t remember it now .
    So I was going to ask you to clarify that particular part, but decided first to look at the links you supplied in case they could lift the scales from my eyes. I got through the first two just fine. In fact I was actually quite enjoying ‘ripples’, until I came to “..Because you do not need your own body and your own brain to be aware or to feel.” Really? Sad really, because that one line spoilt an otherwise nicely written item.
    But then I took a look at rikkiontherun, and now my head hurts. “Patterns in the interaction between the human mind and the physical universe” is just a warm-up. Just as with Darwin Harmless above, I find myself at a loss to comprehend much of what the blogger* says; maybe it’s me just not getting it; maybe the old mystics were right when they said that the whole concept of gods could only truly be felt – but not understood – by the human mind; or maybe those ‘sophisticated’ arguments are just the old ones re-wrapped in fresh obfuscation.

    *So THAT’S what you look like!

  112. PSMeacham says:

    What the heck?!? Don’t get the last frame at all.

  113. HaggisForBrains says:

    @ PSM – See Machigai above:

    “Same again?” means “Do you want another drink?”
    They know what’s important.

    “Same again?” is a fairly standard way in a British pub for a barmaid to offer another drink, while showing that she is familiar with their favourite tipple.

  114. FreeFox says:

    @DH & AoS: Apologies for your respective headaches and confusions. If the Stephenson link is really already too foggy, I am a bit at a loss as how to proceed.

    As for the patterns, well, they are patterns. I dunno. Collective nouns? No, not really, of course, but… I am not redefining anything. I am coming from the perspective that if there is a word for something, something must have caused the word to appear. That doesn’t mean that people haven’t been taking the word either too literal or simply been misunderstanding it, or that the word hasn’t been caused by entirely wrong assumption, like, say, luminiferous aether. Of course even that term came from correct observations, only filtered through incorrect assumptions. But as a rule, people are less stupid than we usually credit them. A word only actually makes it into the language if it usefully describes something people experience as real. And people usually only collectively experience something, when there is something to experience. Where there’s smoke, there is usally some kind of fire.

    The real pattern causing the word “soul” for example is the uniqueness of objects and the combined effect they have on any consciousness encountering them. The soul of any book or piece of music is the effect it has on its readers. The soul of a person is that which is in a way unique to that person alters the “soul” of any person s/he encounters.
    Hence the soul lives on. Not in some magical, otherworldly sense, but in as souls alter the “consciousness-sphere” of the world. And yes, AoS, since such a soul is mostly software, it can live on (as a fragment) in other people. You have bits of your rents inside you, for example, and they sometimes are in conflict of other bits of you – for example when you suffer from a pang of conscience, some internalised bit of someone else is pissed off or disappointed at something another bit of you chose to do. That is an emotion, experienced by someone who may long have passed away in that bit of himself copied into your consciousness.
    If you know a better term for this complex pattern than “soul”, I won’t argue. But neither personality, conscience, consciousness, awareness, morals, emotions, intention, or any other one I can come up with matches exactly this pattern. Soul does, however. So I use that term, without implying magic, but to describe what I am convinced is the original experience that lead to all the magical ideas about “souls” to crop up.

    God is a bit trickier to define (so if you didn’t get what I meant to say about souls, this will make even less sense), but I think that most people experience their lives as being directed by some inherent pattern. You can call it fate, or providence, or fortune, or destiny. I know that it is mostly caused by a combination of various biases – expecting patterns, remembering what seems important and forgetting what doesn’t, seeing wishes or fears fulfilled because we wait for them – so in many ways this sense of fate is more a mirror of our own expectations than of any external force, though sometimes it is also caused by cultural, societal, political, or individual trends and agendas of society around us, and sometimes it is caused by emergent processes. Of course this not only happens to individuals, the same “fate” or “destiny” effect works on groups, nations, economies, etc. Even on non-human processes, like ecologies. But since the effect I am talking about is a sense of purpose or direction (often ironic or just – or injust), it CAN only manifest to a (human) consciousness. So the fate of the earth is only a “fate” to the humans living on it, to the earth itself it’s just meaningless events.
    Please note that I do not imply any objective causality or intent. The experience of God is not the same as the scientific study of cause and effect, and therefor the only purposes I can find in prayer is that of meditation and intuitive perception, no magical short-cut to actual change.
    Maybe I’ll try an example (bear with me): In 2009 my carreer as grifter wound down. A combination of misadventures and the personal sense of emptiness, loneliness, and self-loathing that lifestyle had caused had made me wish to get out. But at the time I had made myself so dependent on this way of earning money and getting around, that I felt I couldn’t stop. Finding a way to begin a new life AND to keep ahead of the avalanche of claims and obligations I had incurred seemed impossible. And then the boy I had allowed myself to love and trust completely did something that proved to me beyond any doubt that he had played me like nobody had ever played me before. I was devastated. I cannot begin to describe the agony I felt at this realisation. I got through it, but after the first bout of acute despair (and the corresponding killer hangover of a one week binge of liquid forgetfulness) had begun to pass, I found I couldn’t cheat any longer. I mean, I still knew how, but I couldn’t bring myself to. Every mark looked at me with my own eyes in the moment I understood I had been had. So, want it or not, I went cold turkey on thieving and cheating. It was hard, and it cost me a couple of… well… let’s say a couple of teeth. But I got out, and I ended up with a foster son to take care of, and raise honestly. The killer was that it turned out I had misjudged the boy. He never had betrayed me. Well, he left me in a lurch, but that was about the worst of it, and he even had a kind of reason for it.
    So, did I only wait for something to push me out? Was it dumb luck that it happened at the precise moment and I remained ignorant of the truth just long enough, so I could pull it off? Was it just my conscience that made me stop? Was it some complex function of society’s rules and values that caught up with me belatedly? Was it the looming threat of “fatherhood” and all the values and obligations that implies that worked on me and the rest was just a show for my consciousness to trick myself into turning a new leaf?
    I am certain that if anyone should go and look at every detail, there is no magic required in any way to explain what happened to me. Call it coincidence if you like. I don’t really care.
    To me it was clear that “life” (fate, destiny, God) didn’t want me to go on like that. I understand that “God” is just the mask I give this complex pattern. But I am equally certain that had I forced myself to go on as a crook, more and more events would have cropped up pushing me out of there. I do not care if that “will” I encountered was my own subconscious, or social pressure, or some emergent effect of a number of different societal subsystems… where it interfaced with me, it took this shape.
    This effect – of sensing a will beyond one’s own conscious will and beyond any single person or clearly identifiable group – on one’s life, is what (I am quite convinced) caused people to come up with the idea of a personal, all-powerful God. Of course, the idea that He is benign is only wishful thinking caused by the sense of helplessness when confronted by Him. 😉

    And if you shout “but it’s only metaphor” again, I can only repeat what I said before: Sure, it is. As are consciousness, conscience, will, personality, resonsibility, and everything else describing agency. You don’t have a will or even a self. I don’t. The world doesn’t. All there is are complex processes that create the illusion of meaning and intent. With people just as with God. But if it is useful when describing other people, why should it be less useful when describing the world itself?
    Anyway, here too, I do not see how I redefined anything. As far as I see it I only try to unearth the original phenomenon that caused the mythic idea. But the term coined for it to me still applies. And quite a lot of what has been written on the subject even by religious authors – if read with a discerning eye.

    As I said, you certainly do not have to share these ideas, but please, explain to me how this approach is stupid on the same level as literal belief in virgin births or walking on water, or crying for the Inquisition when someone violates some dietary rule written millennia ago.

    It is possible to see the world in religious terms – God, soul, sin, salvation, prayer, magic, miracles, fate, eternal life – without disregarding science or becoming dogmatic or intolerant. ^_^

  115. FreeFox says:

    And anyway… are you trying to tell me I can’t just redefine things willy-nilly like that? ^_^

  116. @Freefox I think I understand your experience and your reaction to it. The only thing I don’t understand is why you call it religious, or stick the label “God” on it. When people talk about God they usually mean a being, an intelligence, a personality, some “person” other than themself who is running the show. That doesn’t sound like what you have described here. It sounds more like you are describing the swirling forces that toss us about in life. Why call that God? Doesn’t that just confuse the issue?

  117. Terry Collmann says:

    Acolyte of Sagan – “malted hops and barley”? I don’t know what beers you’re drinking, but they’ll be none I’ve ever come across.

    Walterwalcarpit – your prejudice against lager is as ludicrous as prejudice against gay people. Throw away your blinkers, and try a Jever, a Paulaner Helles, even a Harviestoun Schiehallion. You don’t know what you’re missing.

  118. FreeFox says:

    @DH: Hmm. I seem to have a hard time explaining well.

    Why do you stick the lable “Freefox” to me or “Darwin Harmless” to yourself? When people talk about other people (or themselves) they usually mean beings of more or less intelligence, personality, a “person”, which isn’t at all what neurology tells us is here. Science describes rather several different (lastly mechanical, deterministic) chemical and electric processes of perception, reaction, filters, and adaption. Why call that a person? Doesn’t it just confuse the issue?

    To me the way the world interacts with me is personal. It has personal meaning. When it wears the mask of God (and of various spirits, and lower-case-g gods – I am great worshipper of both cunning Athena and mindlessly bloodthirsty Ares, as well as Loki, Ganesh, Coyote, the Moriggan, and Papa Legba) I can pray to it, talk to it, and most of all listen to it. Just as understanding the actions and reactions of those carbon-and-oxygen slugs called people around me through the metaphors of personality and intention helps me interact with them, so does understanding the world through the metaphors of divine will, of spirit influence, of prayer and sacrifice. I do take care that my metaphors match reality, just as we all try to take care that our metaphors of other people, or of laws and morals, and all the other metaphores we all use all the time, match the way reality works. But often times seeing the forest instead of just the trees helps create order and make sense of things.

    I really think that is why people started seeing things in “religious” and mythological metaphors – as a way of ordering rather complicated and hard to grasp patterns and connections in a way that makes them easier to handle. They just often got seduced by their own metaphors. They started to think that Adonis/Tammuz/Osiris/Christ actually was Jesus of Nazareth, that the rebirth of light into darkness was a literal virgin birth in a flesh-and-blood woman. As the gnostics say, when Jehova started to think of himself literally instead of poetically he fell and became Samael and imprisoned Himself and all of us. But that doesn’t mean he never existed in the first place. ^_^

  119. FreeFox says:

    In case I was too vague and mythic again… yes, I think that the world has a personality, it has a will, it has a sort of intelligence… or at least as much as you and I have any of that. And I call that will the will of God, because that is what I think the word actually means. I think I mean by it the same thing that most religious people mean by it, only that most of them do not understand that the will of God is an emergent phenomenon, just as most people do not understand that your or my will is an emergent phenomenon and not actually a “cause” in itself. And because most people misunderstand God, they use the crutch of ancient writings to make sense of His will, and so further their mistakes by failing to grasp that those ancient writings are the subjective, often poetic descriptions of other people’s understanding of God’s will. And so they deify the interpretation of people from long dead cultures instead of looking God into His actual, current face and trying to understand and deal with Him on their own.
    There. I hope this explains where I see the religious significance in an otherwise perfectly natural universe… (^_^’?)

  120. lol says:

    the caption could be phrased far more precisely: it’s not an addiction to caffeine, nor a desire for coffee (as opposed to a cola drink which you have purchased in the eyes of the law) as its source, that is abominable, but the drinking of said coffee.

    this pattern is not atypical among attitudes towards sin or even crime (in that generally you have to begin plotting something to be taken down; desiring, say, violent revolution does not – i hope, anyway! – itself constitute treason), nor does the fact that statistically-significant numbers of people habitually drink coffee, even scheduling meetings with people expressly for that purpose make coffee-drinking really affect its abominable status.

    i’ve long entertained the idea that bothering to mention that certain things are sinful or immoral or otherwise undesirable involves an implicit anticipation that there will be at least some who will tend towards performing those acts.

    where you stand on any particular one usually depends on what arbitrary – to everyone else, anyway – set of axioms you’ve settled on.

  121. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Still having problems I see, Author.
    I’m only posting this in order to see past #114. Move along please. There’s nothing to see here.

  122. JoJo says:

    And since we are on the topic of the Roman Catholic Church’s attitude to homosexuals, it appears to have been pretty extreme.
    They weren’t alone, of course. Just remember what happened to Turing. A horrible example of what happens when political and legal institutions take this religious crap seriously.

  123. @Freefox “Why do you stick the lable “Freefox” to me or “Darwin Harmless” to yourself? When people talk about other people (or themselves) they usually mean beings of more or less intelligence, personality, a “person”, which isn’t at all what neurology tells us is here. Science describes rather several different (lastly mechanical, deterministic) chemical and electric processes of perception, reaction, filters, and adaption. Why call that a person? Doesn’t it just confuse the issue?”

    Uh, no. It doesn’t just confuse the issue. We stick labels on these things, and call them people, because they exist, we perceive them, reliably seem to communicate with them (more or less), can introduce them to friends and family, fall in love with them, be hurt by them, marry them, have sexual intercourse with them, produce baby units with them, even discuss religion with them. These all seem like good reasons to give them names such as FreeFox or Darwin Harmless.
    If you are telling me that the existence of everybody else, including you, is an illusion comparable to the belief in God, then I can only repeat what I’ve said before. You’re either disingenuous or bonkers, or a combination of both.

    Oh, it occurs to me there might be one more possibility. Maybe you are reading too much into the literal understanding of reality, like the military officer who who tried to walk through his wall because science tells us that matter is almost entirely empty space. But come on, FreeFox. There is a reality. A common reality. We can’t walk through walls, even though we know they are mostly empty space. People, with intelligence and personality, exist even if we know that at an electron level they don’t manifest the qualities we identify with being a person or a personality. God doesn’t exist. That’s just more illusion and nonsense. Dress it up in convoluted phrases all you want, you know you’re having yourself on, along with the rest of us.

  124. mary2 says:

    FreeFox, I enjoyed your links and loved your descriptions of soul and god. If I may say so, you have the soul of a poet, my friend – even if I would replace the word ‘soul’ with ‘essence’ although even that may be too metaphysical for some of our other friends on this site. I may be more inclined to call your worldview a metaphor than a religion, but it is a lovely way to describe the relationships between people and between people and their lives. Thanks for sharing.

  125. WalterWalcarpit says:

    Terry, Ha! Stuff & Nonsense!
    Some of my best friends drink lager.
    Frankly I don’t mind what people do in the privacy of their own homes but when they wantonly flaunt their wicked ways in public houses I have to speak out to defend my tradition.
    It’s called Real Ale for a reason, you know.
    I said at the time that lager was just the thin end of the wedge and that if we let it in they would be wanting coffee next.
    I blame the government.
    Prejudiced? Moi?

  126. notjarvis says:

    Haha liked this cartoon.

    New news incoming.

    Selling Coffee in the Pub turns all Beer into Coffee.

  127. flicky says:

    @Darwin Harmless: Your comments about Christianity seem to be directed at a relatively small group of Christians – those who blindly except every word of the Bible without applying any rational thought. I’m aware that these people exists, and are even a majority, in some places, but no Christians I know are that stupid. For a start, it only takes a minute of thinking to realise that, if God really did pass down a message to humanity all those thousands of years ago, there’s no way it has survived without some modification by humans, so someone can easily be a Christian without thinking that God really did, for example, have something against homosexuality. As for the things such as virgin birth and miracles like you listed, I would agree that there is no evidence that these things happened, but if someone can believe in God then I see no reason why they couldn’t believe that Earth, in the past, did have things like this happening on it, and that it’s down to God that these things aren’t happening now. I know it sounds like a cheat, but if you get into the mindset of someone who believes that God exists there isn’t a contradiction there. The only thing that makes it look irrational is our own belief that there isn’t a God, which is where you argument falls down – you’re calling people stupid for something which is only stupid if you look at it from the point of view of someone with our beliefs, rather than theirs.

  128. WalterWalcarpit says:

    But flicky, it is stupid: It lacks intelligence or common sense. Stupid might be a more emotive word than irrational, but why can’t one call a spade a spade if it clearly is a spade?

  129. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    FreeFox, you show a very clear undersanding of how religion developed from their all too human beginnings to the distorted myths they became, yet you are still compelled to throw a veneer of mystery over it. It’s as though you feel the need of some ‘other’, a dimension to reality which you freely admit isn’t really there, so you transpose your religious feelings onto everyday life. Unfortunately your hypotheses, poetic though they are, seem to be more about countering objections than explaining why you believe them, and as such are no more or less mystical than the Abrahamic religions, and offer as much in the way of evidence.
    I recall a quote I once read from a 19th Century theologian whose name I forget. The reason it comes to mind now is that it has the same ‘cover all bases’ feel to it;
    “The proof of God’s omnipotence,” he wrote, “Is that He doesn’t have to exist to have an effect”.

  130. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    WalterWalcarpit, you’re spot-on.
    Flicky’s last line says it all really; “you’re calling people stupid for something which is only stupid if you look at it from the point of view of someone with our beliefs, rather than theirs”, which is no way to look at things really. Try that line again with one minor change.
    You’re calling people paedophiles (or murderers, or square-earthers etc) for something which is only paedophilia (or murder, or obviously wrong, etc) if you look at it from the point of view of someone with our beliefs, rather than theirs.
    Not quite the good argument it first appeared, eh flicky?

  131. machigai says:

    I can’t comment at the new comic.

  132. FreeFox says:

    @AoS (and DH): I didn’t know I had to justify my belief, only that belief was possible without being on the same level as crude literal supernaturalism. I never wanted to convince any of you that my way to see it is right or necessary, simply that it is possible without having to be ignorant of science.
    I do not mean to “to throw a veneer of mystery over it”. I had hoped that my explanations had done exactly the opposite, taken the hokey-pokey from it. Which is why you now accuse me “to be more about countering objections”. *Sigh*
    The thing about illusions is that they ARE subjective. Hell the nature of perception is subjective. And I really don’t think I am “reading too much into the literal understanding of reality”. You are used to your illusion of self, of free will, of agency, AND of teleology in respect to those carbon-and-oxygen slugs of which you are one. You actually believe you do thing for a purpose, that they are aimed at a goal. But they really are not. They really are just the sum of occurrences and consequences. But it wouldn’t do you any good to see the world that way. That has nothing to do with misunderstadning the “emptiness” of atoms. After all their magnetic repulsion more than counters it. As can be tested.
    But when I pray, God answers. Not in miracles, but in guidance. And when I step back and look at the Synchronicity in my life – not causality – when I look at “God’s hand” working in my life, without having to ignore the cognitive biases and cultural patterns that create it, it makes it easier to make sense of it and find direction. And when I pray to Papa Legba, he too helps me find the way. When I chanel Ganesh, I solve problems easier. (I make a living being an avatar of Ganesh ^_^) When I talk to the ghosts of my sister, or others, (i.e. to the part they left inside me courtesy of my mirror neurons), it helps me. When I summon my spirit guides, they help me be more honest and more true to myself, especiall where I try to hide and cheat myself and where it is hard to do so. And all of their answers aren’t “imaginary”, not in the sense you mean that. They come from true, intuitive knowledge of those people, from an intuitive understadning of the “pattern” behind those gods.
    You do not have to see the forest with me, friends. I will not object if you say there are only trees. You are right. But I have my reasons to see the forest as well, and it makes my life better and my understanding of the world deeper, without making me a bigot, or blind to reality.

  133. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    FreeFox, I wasn’t asking you to justify your belief but rather clarify what it actually is that you believe, preferably without the post-modern metatwaddle about reality being subjective and truth being whatever one desires it to be.
    Knowing that a rock is mostly composed of space doesn’t stop it hurting when I kick it, whether or not I know it’s there. Likewise knowing that my mother is dead doesn’t stop me from seeking her advice, as do you with your sister; we both know that we do so because we know from experience what advice we’d get from them, the difference is that you give it some – as I see it unneccessary – spiritual dimension; what I would call meditation, self-reflection, or simply concentration on a problem you elevate to prayer status, of asking questions of gods that you know don’t exist except as metaphors of your own making; what I call self-awareness you describe as the soul.
    This is what led to my comments about your avoiding of objections and mysterious veneer; you can say that of course the gods aren’t real, not in the everyday, ‘normal’ way of things, but at the same time you slip into post-modernism’s ‘anything goes when truth’s subjective’ mode which makes the metaphorical gods as real to you as the rock I kick is real to me.

    So no, I’m not asking you to justify your belief, not least because I have no right to, I was just hoping to get a handle on what was being said behind the flowery rhetoric.

    By the way; the pedant in me has to point out that ‘hokey pokey’ should read either ‘hocus-pocus’ if you meant ‘spooky’ stuff, or ‘hokey-cokey’ if you meant the dance…UPOTWA left arm in, your left arm out 🙂

  134. FreeFox says:

    *stands corrected*

    … on the hokey pokey


  135. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    FreeFox, looking back on the conversation so far I think that I may unintentionally have come across a little harsh; if it seems that way to you I apologise, though in my defence you can make it hard to understand what you are saying at times.
    It’s obvious now that the gods you talk of aren’t the ‘standard’ bible gods, aren’t the gods that wars are fought over or in whose name people are persecuted, sainted or martyred; yours is a personal belief system centred around your own experiences and expectations, and as such is one that requires no justification to anybody else, although it would if you tried to ‘convert’ others to it, but you don’t, so it doesn’t. Having said that, if the mainstream religions had developed along the same lines as your philosophy then maybe they wouldn’t be the thorn in the side of humanity that they’ve always been.
    Of course, none of this means that I agree with you on religion, as I’ve said before I don’t see the need – or indeed the usefulness – of adding a ‘spiritual’ dimension to understand the world . For me, talk of metaphorical ghosts and gods and souls hinders rather than helps my understanding of how and why things are as they are.

  136. FreeFox says:

    AoS, still not agreeing either ^_^ I think my God and gods are mostly pretty much exactly the ones that have been fought over. Or rather – if You read the Stephenson link – my mental representation of Yahweh, Ares, Loki, and Ganesh have been caused by exactly the same patterns that caused them in those people who gave them those “divine” names back then when. Only, like Randy Waterhouse, my piece of Platonic wall is a bit smoother than that of those you’d probably call “really religious”, so I am aware that I am looking at a shadowplay of a complex interplay of forces and biases and synchronicity.
    Just because I understand that the parts of my gods that I percieve are masks doesn’t make them either different from those who see them as literal faces, nor less divine in the power and pattern being channelled through them.

    And yeah, I know that people like You and Darwin Harmless and Prof. Dawkins do not see the need to interface with those masks but to either take the forces behind them apart and only recognise their components as “real” or simply ignore them as romantic, poetic, subjective balderdash. And I really am perfectly okay with that. Personally I think you do hinder yourself and you do impoverish your life for excluding such a point of view. Not because the bits and pieces you focus on aren’t completely real and important, but simply because it isn’t just the physical nature of the individual dots of pigment on an impressionist painting that constitute its full being and meaning, but also the image they produce and the connotations and associations and things it does inside the soul of the viewer.

    But all I set out to argue for was that – while indubitably zillions of wafer munchers and rug butters and so on use religion to totally obscure understanding of reality and are about as smart as bread – it is possible to be religious and still neither intolerant, nor ignorant, nor dogmatic, nor stupid in the narrower “not admitting that the earth coagulated out of stellar dust 4 billion years ago driven mainly by the forces of gravity” or “clamouring that it is just cause for death to eat clams on sunday because some poorly translated 4000 year old million times hand-copied piece of writing might say so” kind of stupidity.

    The “I think anyone who wears a hat or sunglasses indoors is stupid” kind is harder to prove or disprove empirically and we might simply have to agree to disagree on the matter there. ^_^


NOTE: This comments section is provided as a friendly 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. As such, comments of a racist, sexist or homophobic nature will not be tolerated.

If you are posting for the first time, or you change your username and/or email, your comment will be held in moderation until approval. When your first comment is approved, subsequent comments will be published automatically.