The boys are disturbed by this article.

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Discussion (72)¬

  1. Alien Christ says:

    Spot on as usual

  2. Jim+Roberts says:

    I’m surprised – I expected better of unbelievers.

  3. Mark says:

    Are there any such studies for real? Someone must’ve done some kind of research.

  4. Does this refer to a single study, or to a composite? Either way, I would greatly appreciate the original literature reference(s), for a book I am writing on creationism, as implicit refutation of the claim that accepting the fact of evolution undermines morality. An extremely damaging claim, since people misled by it will then resist scientific reality at all costs.

  5. Author says:

    @Mark & Paul – Article linked under the comic.

  6. Jerry Coyne says:

    Dear Jesus and Mo artist:

    That “article” you linked to is a blurb for the real article, which one can find here:
    The full reference is this:

    Hofmann, W., D. C. Wisneski, M. J. Brandt, and L. J. Skitka. 2014. Morality in everyday life Science 345:1340-1343.

  7. be+reasonable says:

    Hmm. So people behave more ‘ethically’ towards their co-religionists. Tajfel’s social identity theory covered that ground 30 years ago. Meanwhile, there’s this apology for religious violence:

  8. Author says:

    @ Jerry – Thank you!

  9. jb says:

    Have serious religions thinkers (well, you know what I mean) ever actually claimed that believers are more moral than unbelievers? I don’t remember any such thing from my rather conservative Catholic upbringing. I remember a lot about how everyone was a sinner, but nothing about how we were less sinful than anyone else — in fact I’m pretty sure I was explicitly told otherwise. It most certainly was not an “essential part” of the way we thought about being Catholic! (Although we certainly did feel our religion itself was superior to others, in that we were the true church of Christ, while those Protestants had strayed. I don’t remember thinking much about non-Christian religions at all).

    In fact I had two relatives who were priests, and I remember them acknowledging that the Church itself was not immune to sin, that it had behaved badly at times in the past (they were thinking of the Middle Ages), and that unbelievers could use this against us if we claimed our religion made us better people than them. These were not liberal priests, not at all, and they were well aware that unbelievers could be good people while believers could be bad people.

  10. John B. Hodges says:

    To jb … I wouldn’t call them “serious religious thinkers”, but the “holier than thou” attitude is rampant among USA evangelical Protestants and Fundamentalists. Just yesterday in the comments in an article in AlterNet a Christian was making the argument, which I have heard many times before, that if there is no God then there can be no “objective basis” for morality, hence atheists cannot have any “moral foundations” and cannot do any better than ” Cultural Relativism”, forgetting that there is nothing more “culturally relative” than religious belief, and that nothing that you have to take on faith can be called “objective”.

    Religion does not provide any such “objective basis” for goodness or morality. Religion offers a hearsay account of some guy claiming to have had the subjective experience of meeting a really big ghost who claimed to be the Creator of the Universe, demanded obedience, and offered promises and threats. We have to take on faith that the account is correct, that the “prophet” was telling the truth about his subjective experience, that he was not hallucinating or dreaming, AND that the ghost he encountered was telling the truth, was not some local shade playing a practical joke, or a demon who feeds off worship and sacrifices. Nothing that you have to take on faith is an “objective basis” for anything.

    For an “objective basis” for ethics, look at the consequences of actions for real people in this world. Because we are social animals evolved by natural selection, who survive by cooperating in groups, the great majority of people are going to value the health (survival-ability) of their families and the peace of their communities. A “good person” is a desirable neighbor, desirable from the point of view of people who wish to live in peace and raise families. If you want to maintain peaceful and cooperative relations with your neighbors, don’t kill, steal, lie, or break agreements. This is objective. As Shakespeare wrote, “It needs no ghost, Milord, come from the grave, to tell us this.”

  11. E.A. Blair says:

    This is nothing new. The following references show that these sorts of studies have had similar results going back almost fifty years:

    Churchgoers’ intolerance: G.W. Allport and J.M. Ross “Personal Religious Orientation and Prejudice” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (5:432, 1967)
    Episcopalians: C.Y. Glock, B.B. Ringer and E.R. Babbie, “To Comfort and to Challenge (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967, 182-83)
    College Males: R. W. Frederichs, Alter versus Ego” American Sociological Review (25:496-508, 1960)
    The 1965 Interviews: V.B. Cline and J. M. Richards, Jr. “A Factor-Analytic Study of Religious Belief and behavior” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (1:577, 1965)
    Biblical Literalists:: L.V. Annis “Emergency Helping and Religious Behavior” Psychological Reports (39: 151-58, 1976)
    Volunteering and Cheating: R.E. Smith, G. Wheeler and E. Diener, “Faith Without Works” Journal of Applied Social Psychology (5:320-30, 1975)
    Neighborhood Involvement: S. Georgianna “Is a Religious Neighborhood a Good Neighborhood?” Humbolds Journal of Social Relations (11:1-16, 1984)
    Rescuers: S.P. Oliner and P.M. Oliner, “The Altruistic Personality” (New York: Free Press, 1988, 156)

  12. FSM rules UK says:

    Wow – a confluence of 2 of my RSS feeds – JC and the author

    I am truly blessed!

  13. I suppose the alternative to lying about it, i.e. folding their con game and going straight, would never cross their minds. Nailed it again, Author.

    Be reasonable, thanks for that link. A very interesting article. I don’t see it as so much of an apology for religious violence as a reminder that it has a cause which has little do do with religion. When a culture has established norms, which include religious elements, and a culture with superior technology that tries to alter all of those norms by force intrudes, one can expect a reaction.

    I found this lecture very persuasive. We don’t have to approve the actions of fundamentalist resistance fighters to understand where they are coming from.

  14. Nassar+Ben+Houdja says:

    This helps to explain the dogmatic schnooks
    Who believe everything regurgitated from books
    Those brain dead pig monkeys
    Willingly become submissive flunkies
    Of passionate, manipulative crooks.

  15. docmfan says:

    I smell a straw man argument.

    jb nailed it: religious people don’t typically claim that believers are more moral than unbelievers. Self-denunciation as a “miserable offender” and frequent acts of confession serve to underline this.

    Moreover, the study appears to put all religious people in a single category, so it’s fruitless to argue “but this group claims greater morality” because we cannot know whether that group is present/absent/over-/under-represented in the sample.

  16. Robert,+not+Bob says:

    People like to equivocate theistic morality (obedience to god) with, ah, real morality (wellbeing of conscious beings). Note the common “words have absolute meaning” fallacy. When they say atheists can’t be moral, they’re invoking the theistic definition and applying it to the other definition.

  17. Chris+Phoenix says:

    DarwinHarmless, if you want to understand where Jihadis are coming from, here’s a pretty interesting perspective:

    TL;DR: He almost became a Chechen rebel because of his Reagan-era Western values.

  18. Nassar, by Jove I think you’re improving. I can almost read that one out loud without stumbling, despite your plethora of syllables. Good one.

  19. Chris Phoenix, interesting article. The comments under it are also interesting. This was a kid who could accept being told that his mother would burn in hell for eternity simply because she wasn’t a believer, and then go on to take advice from the people who told him this, accepting their credibility. Incredible.

    I think the recruits from western countries going to join ISIL are probably motivated by romantic notions of fighting for a good cause, plus the adrenalin of going off to war. They are being sold a bill of goods, and they are buying it. They remind me of Canadians rushing off to Spain to fight Franco, except that was a better cause.

    ISIL is just another nation state struggling to stabilize and legitimize itself at any cost. It it isn’t destroying the infrastructure of occupied territory. It’s preserving it, making money off it, stealing oil and selling the oil back to countries it is attacking.

    I always wonder what is going to happen in the Middle East when the oil runs out or we finally kick our addiction to fossil fuels. Will they go back to herding goats? I think some of them can see that day coming, and are trying to diversify. But when your only natural resource is oil, there’s a crunch coming.

  20. hotrats says:

    And now for something completely different.

    In his excellent Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay, The (Dodgy) Business of Popular Music, Simon Napier-Bell reveals the origins of the massive 1923 hit, ‘Yes, We Have No Bananas’:

    To make a new chorus, the writers had taken two out-of-copyright musical phrases, one from Handel’s‘Messiah’, the other from ‘‘My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean’’. It was an extraordinary hotch-potch – a Handel chorus, a banana insert, and the last line of a folk song; ‘Hallelujah, (bananas), oh bring back my Bonnie to me’.

    As is so often the case, the stroke of genius was inserting the bananas.

    DH: (from previous thread)
    Hotrats, your scholarship intimidates me and makes me feel unlearned. Please stop displaying it. 🙂

    But dear boy, that’s what it’s for. 😉

  21. Lewis R. Lowden says:

    The research is from the journal Science and was written by Emily Underwood, 11 September 2014. The opening paragraph follows:

    Benjamin Franklin tracked his prideful, sloppy, and gluttonous acts in a daily journal, marking each moral failing with a black ink dot. Now, scientists have devised a modern update to Franklin’s little book, using smart phones to track the sins and good deeds of more than 1200 people. The new data—among the first to be gathered on moral behavior outside of the lab—confirm what psychologists have long suspected: Religious and nonreligious people are equally prone to immoral acts. (For the rest of the story goto:

  22. be reasonable says:

    I see where you’re coming from, but I can no more separate religion from its violence than I can separate the slave-trade from race. Each depends on the separation of humanity into an ‘in-group’ (us) and an ‘out-group’ (them) which permits, even demands, the committing of unspeakable acts by the in-group against the out-group. The al-quaeda group didn’t cut the French tourist’s head off because they didn’t like his shirt.
    In addition the article refers to ‘the myth of religious violence.’ The crusades, the holocaust, the violence between Sunni & Shia – hardly the stuff of myth, and hardly a response to secularism, as the author suggests. She says herself that before the 18th century there were no secular societies, yet these examples have roots that pre-date secularism by millennia.

  23. be+reasonable says:

    Argh! Got cut off!
    Anyway, she has invalidated one key plank of her own argument; religious violence predates secularism by millennia, so it cannot simply be a response to secularism. Of course, religion isn’t the only casus belli – the out-group often has other things that the in-group want as well; money, power, land, oil, women. But religion, being seen as something of a ‘nobler’ cause, will often provide the push that sets the ball rolling.

  24. Mary2 says:

    jb, I have heard that claim many times – usually phrased as ‘but where do you atheists get your morals from’. The scary part of beliefs like this is that they imply the believer would be raping and pillaging without a god to tell them not to!

    John B. Hodges, while I agree with the ‘we are social animals’ idea as a basis for morality, I think an even more simple partial explanation comes from the idea that humans are capable of empathy. I wouldn’t like whatever to happen to me, so I shouldn’t do it to someone else. Of course, this only applies to general principles – murder, theft of property etc. – and more nuanced morality is more of a gray area (as it is within religions).

  25. hotrats says:


    Good to hear from you, but what happened to your avatar? I miss Miss Piggy!

  26. be reasonable, I haven’t taken the time to check, but I think the “myth of religious violence” may be only in the headline. I’ve often noticed that editors attach a very disingenuous headline to articles as click bate. Often the headline is contradicted by the article itself. Maybe when I have more time I’ll check out this particular instance, but I didn’t read the author calling religious violence a myth.

    In any event, I do see your point. I just found the history of the concept of secularism to be very interesting. Also, the bit about Martin Luther being very much an authoritarian was also interesting.

    Mary2, yes. I almost missed your comment, or rather missed noticing that it was you who had written it, for lack of Miss Piggy. You must correct this situation. What was it, a copyright violation or something? If that’s the case, you need to create a new avatar for us to fall in love with.

  27. RossR says:

    “But when your only natural resource is oil, there’s a crunch coming.”

    … particularly when you don’t properly educate even your sons because THE BOOK is so much more important.

  28. Robert,+not+Bob says:

    I suspect Saudi Arabia’s post-oil plan is to convert enough of the world that they can live on pilgrims.

  29. LastResort says:

    Robert, not Bob, that is a terrible plan, the numbers don’t work. There are too many contradictory versions of the one and only true truth coming from too many would-be boss priests for Islam to ever be united. They will never have one voice, not when sheep-shagging illiterates scream from their phallus-shaped towers about all the other boss priests being fake priests. They all want to be caliph. They all dream of being petty little tyrants who can drug-up, kill when the mood takes them and rape anything with a depression.
    This is fundamentally why they split into three or so major schisms. Like the Arsey Popes of old, they all want to be the one true Pope.
    Such people need an evil, a devil, a great satan. That has to be an enemy agent and agency working against the little boss so he can climb the bossness ladder and become the truly great super-boss.
    That means the UK and USA need to exist in some form. Broken, reduced, harmed beyond measure with millions dead but the societies have to be there and real and more evil than the other Islamics.
    The bad Islamics who aren’t “True Believers”.
    Converting the evil great satans does the little bosses no good. All they get from that is more money, more virgins and more bodies for their churches and armies. That’s all good and lovely but it doesn’t elevate a tiny boss into s caliph. What does that is laying waste to an enemy, having successes, killing the satans and their evil minions. Killing us.
    The Islamics need a few thousand of us, a large enough bunch to be a credible (or at least a “not-in-the-class-of-dragons-and-vampires-crazy”) threat to the one rue faith and the one true bunch of true believers. Most of us are, to them, expendable mulch, the remnants are tools to be paraded as daemons in a new dark age that they wish will last forever.
    They will, of course, turn on one another, too, but that is incidental, a side-show, the salad and bun that provide continuity of hatred. They need the dressing to keep their flocks fired up between wars on the greater empires of evil but we are the main events, the elevation to Pope and Super-Pope can only come over the bodies of outsiders.
    So, yes, they will convert many of us. They will recruit the weak-minded, small-souled and vacuously mediocre among us into their squads of suicide-bombers and “armies”. They will try to increase their congregations and the flood of sex, power and money that comes from all of this but most of all every tiny, little micro-boss will “win” micro-wars against us that they will tout as huge victories for the one true faith.
    They will hunt us like deer and slaughter us in the millions. Until there are no millions, then they will execute us by thousands …
    And this will be life on Earth for the rest of Time.
    Or that is how they see the future.
    An endless dark grave filled with he corpses of milliards and the hopes of us all. A sump of hate and torture and horror.
    Where not one of the evil little shites ever succeed in becoming the sole arbiter of true belief.

    For when they run out of us, even temporarily, they must inevitably go after one another.

    Endless war. Endless hate. Endless suffering.

    Until the Sun dies.

    That is their vision of “heaven”.

    And we can not win.

  30. Mary2 says:

    Hello good people. I have missed you – been a really crappy few months. For some reason my home computer has decided it will not post my comments to this site (it must be God’s punishment) so was sneaking a look on my work computer. Miss Piggy will be back, I promise.

  31. hotrats says:

    LR, you really should be taking more water with it.

  32. Mary2 says:

    Oh look, home computer worked! Woo hoo. I must be in God’s good book.

    As far as ‘after oil’ planning goes, my country can’t even plan for ‘after coal’ and we have a pretty good, secular education system. People in power are by nature short-term thinkers and generally that thinking only goes as far as how to keep and maximise power. Australia’s post-coal boom planning includes pretending there is no such thing as global warming so we can keep digging up coal and branching out into digging up uranium to sell to countries which have not signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Our government justifies this by insisting that India will only use Australian uranium for electricity plants – as if this doesn’t free up their own uranium for bombs! In a country like Saudi Arabia, the Sauds are so wealthy they don’t have to give a flying f*ck about The Economy because they don’t share the wealth with the rest of the population now.

    LastResort, I don’t agree with your picture of the motivation of Muslims in general. This war like fundamentalist version is a new development – it has only really existed since about the 1960s. Have a look for photos of Egypt, Iraq or Afghanistan in the 60s and 70s and you will see ‘Western’ dress, very few niqabs, and modern ways, including secular education.

    The Sauds only got friendly with the Wahabis (a branch of fundamentalism dating from C19 I think) because they wanted to maintain the power of their royalty and used support of religious leaders. In Iran it was the democrats and students who were integral to overthrowing the corrupt (but not religious) Shar and the Ayatollah and co were able to step into the power vacuum because a religious opposition always has the advantage of existing hierarchy and organisation. In Afghanistan the Mujahedeen was initially a ragtag group of opposition to the Russian occupation but funding from outside sources (including the USA) introduced the new religious element which became the Taliban. Iraq used to have a multi-religious national identity (minus the Kurds but that is ethnic rather than religious) but Sadam’s Baath Party (sounds much more fun than it was), although very secular, promoted the minority Sunni population above the majority Shia. When he was deposed this ethnic schism quickly became a religious divide but again with assistance from outside political (rather than true religious) assistance, i.e. a proxy war between the Shia power of Iran and the Sunni of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Here endeth the lecture.

  33. Mary2 says:

    LastResort, I should add that your description perfectly fits the groundroots religious nutjobs like Al Qaeda, ISIL (or ISIS or Islamic State or whatever it is called this week) etc. The description also perfectly fits non-religious nutjobs like the Kims of North Korea and (somewhat watered down) fits the West e.g. the Reds under the Bed Cold War guff.

  34. Good to see you again, Mary2. Missed ya.

    LR “And we cannot win.” I’m not even sure what winning looks like any more. But cheer up. We have this moment. I think I’ll have a scotch to wash it all down.

  35. Robert,+not+Bob says:

    LastResort, not to worry, Islamists of whatever stripe couldn’t run a world civilization anyway, even if they avoided smashing it to bits fighting each other. And with all the easy ores mined out, no new advanced civilization will form. So there’ll be plenty of places for the miserable primitive descendants of today’s infidels to hide. I’m more worried about the Christian fundies myself-remember they’ve been busy colonizing the US military. I don’t think Saudi Arabia will make it to post-oil, even if they start using birth control tomorrow, which they won’t.

    DH, I’ll tell you what winning looks like. It looks like the Muslim world reaching a tipping point where such a large number of people realize they don’t believe that the religion starts to evaporate. ‘Course that’s exactly what terrifies the fundies, and what they’re trying to prevent…

  36. Robert not Bob, thanks for that vision of winning. ‘Twould be nice indeed.

    I think that’s just a small part of winning though. For me, winning would involve an enlightened world in which racism, sexism, misogyny, homophobia,intolerance and inequality (Care to add anything to this list?) are all instantly recognized and scorned. Given the current divisive fracturing of the so called atheist movement, this vision of winning seems a little naive.

    But then, I’ve never believed there is an atheist movement as such anyway. Just a growing community of people pointing at religion and laughing. Hard to abandon a movement that isn’t one.

  37. Empiricist says:

    R,NB, I suspect LR‘s point was that they do not want to run a civilisation. That is our job in their eyes. They just want to ruin it, destroy it, kill it, kill those in it and set it alight for it is TheGreatSatan. The fundies just want their holy wars.
    LR is a little bleak and pessimistic (or he sees further than I do, which is possible) but a ruined remnant of civilisation with a few million diseased, malnourished, filthy, relict human beings scrabbling out a slightly higher than Neolithic existence would suit them as an enemy.
    Big enough to be a realistic “threat” but small enough to be vulnerable and to allow them to run their followers their way without us sneering at them.
    Unlike LR, I agree with you that the fundie Mary-worshippers are just as dangerous as the Islamics should we ever let them off the leash. A decaying, dying, rubble existence would be just what they, too, need and desire.
    Ragnarøkkr. Armageddon. They all lust for it.
    A peaceful, happy world where everyone is fed and clothed and all have total freedom of travel, communication, assembly and education is the very antithesis of religion and the hard-line, demented fundies can not stand the idea.
    They hate us laughing at their absurd, temporary little cults and their fairy tales of rampaging big daddies in the clouds. They can’t stand us standing out in the warm Summer rain watching the sky light up: they want us cowering in fear of their petty thundergods.
    Three is a great war going on. It has been going on since the first fire was lit and the darkness banished. It is a war between the true believers in darkness and the grave and the Bringers of Light, Love, Reason and Life.
    LastResort thinks the army of dread and darkness has already won.
    He could be right.
    But there is a chance he may not be.
    We’ve had ten millennia of growing civilisation in an expanding circle of light and joy and reason; it could last forever.
    Which would truly piss off the joyless cretins in the churches.
    All we need is more beers.

  38. Micky says:

    We’re doomed!

    A billion and a half fundamentalists bombs strapped to torsos are heading this way, run for the hills!

    Alternatively, a billion and a half PEOPLE of muslim heritage held hostage through ignorance and/or fear.

  39. LastResort says:

    Mickey, funny cartoon image, a milliard screaming jihadis invading homes, power-plants, HQ’s, parliaments (send in three, they get caught, send in second wave … continue until they run out of security then send in the real hammer) and AOL and Google server farms. Civilisation crippled in seconds. It would work but it would be a nightmare to organise and a push that big would be infiltrated by our spies.
    Funny? Well, I immediately had this image of a jihadi cartoon “arab” running around with a cartoon bomb labelled “bomb”, sweating and trying to find somewhere to put it before the fuse runs out. Obviously I watched too many “T&J” toons in my ill-spent youth.

    Empiricist, I do not “think” the jihadi/would-be-caliph axes of evil have won, I see that they have. It is not theory or prediction. When they can have music videos banned because a little, ignorant girl thinks some bling is cute and the can have “Mustafa Fart” jokes banned then they have seriously won. A balance of power or us winning would have been when we could have told them to fuck off.
    Can anyone really imagine the BBC, ITV, CNN, ABC or anything else running something the Islamics complained about and defying their riots to still run it even in the face of their demented death threats and threats of boycotts?
    They have won.

    Mustafa BaconButty.
    I’m hungry.

  40. two cents' worth says:

    LastResort, you mentioned imagining a jihadi cartoon “arab” running around with a cartoon bomb labelled “bomb”, sweating and trying to find somewhere to put it before the fuse runs out. That image reminds me of the scene in the 1966 Batman movie where Batman has found a bomb with its fuse lit and is running around a pier trying to find a place where he can put the bomb so it won’t harm anyone when it explodes. No matter which way he turns, he sees innocent bystanders– insensate bar patrons, members of the Salvation Army, two nuns, a baby stroller, lovers in a boat, and ducks in the water. Finally, Batman turns to the camera and says, “Some days, you just can’t get rid of a bomb!”

  41. Mahatma+Coat says:

    A secular basis for reality (well, mine anyway)? If I have a choice between actions, I choose the one which makes me feel better about myself.
    The return of the pedant – R not B, equivocate doesn’t mean what the context in you post requires.

  42. LastResort says:

    Apologies to anyone who find it offensive but I thought this one is very funny.
    They do start them young in USAlia.

  43. LastResort says:

    two cents’ worth, yes, I remember the Batman movie. It was shown on UKland TV a couple of years back. But I have definitely seen an arab or turk or something in a cartoon sweating the burning fuse on a bomb he was holding. I don’t remember the rest of the cartoon.

  44. Robert,+not+Bob says:

    Last Resort, could you elaborate? Using arguments relating to one definition of a word against (or for) an entirely different definition isn’t equivocation? Well, the word may not fit exactly… (I wasn’t an English major.) Enlighten me.

  45. hotrats says:

    People like to equivocate theistic morality (obedience to god) with, ah, real morality (wellbeing of conscious beings)….Well, the word may not fit exactly… (I wasn’t an English major.) Enlighten me.

    With pleasure, always happy to arbitrate a quibble.

    equivocal comes from aequus vox, equal voice. It means capable of double meaning; ambiguous; non-commital (as in taking both sides of an argument), or by extension, misleading or evasive.

    I think the word you are after here has to mean ‘confuse’, and the most precise and elegant word in this context is conflate – to force together, to mistakenly consider as equivalent (from aequus valens, of equal worth).

  46. JohnM says:

    @Mary2 “People in power are by nature short-term thinkers…

    In Australia, maybe. Here in the Old World it’s nothing like that long.

  47. Poor+Richard says:

    Since “morality” is absolutely relative (cough cough), we must be living by contract, both spoken and tacit.

  48. I’m feeling mellow in my old age. Thanks to everyone who supports Author and his Patrons. That means me too at Ruthless. Be well.

  49. Hotrats, I’m trying to introduce a friend to UPOWA, United Pedants of the World Association as I remember it but I’m not sure that’s the acronym we settled on. I’m very proud of being a charter member, and I see by your recent post you are keeping up the traditions.
    Do you know how to find the thread in which our group originated by any chance? Also, what is the correct acronym for our UPWAS or whatever when we censure an egregious error? I think I credit you with that one and I’d like to get it right.

  50. Mary2 says:

    I’m not Hotrats and I don’t know how to find a particular thread but, as a founding father (so to speak; founding mother doesn’t sound right), I can tell you the acronym is UPOTWA – we were playing with the idea of issuing Fatwas as concerned Grammar Nazis. I think we issue Potwas.

  51. Shaughn says:

    Happy International Blasphemy Day to all!

  52. hotrats says:


    Please take notes. There will be a test later.

    The organization is UPOTW (pronounced yoo-poh-too) for United Pedants of the World. Membership is open to all with a working understanding of the concepts of pedantry and irony.

    Its rulings are POTWAs (Pedants of the World Adjudications) which unlike FATWAs, can be overturned if issued in error, or if the miscreant concerned makes a grovelling self-criticism.

    POTWAs are issued for semantic imprecision, logical fallacy, or being a smartarse at someone else’s expense.

    Spelling mistakes, typos and poor grammar are usually ignored (aquila non capit muscae, as we are fond of saying) unless from someone who should, or who claims to, know better.

    Please extend my hearty welcome to your new inductee.

  53. Mary2 says:

    Hotrats, if UPOTW had a chief, you’d be it.

  54. JoJo says:

    Technically speaking, I think you are more of a quibbler than a pedant.


  55. hotrats says:


    As you say, if. The best one can hope for is primus unter pares – first among equals.


    Touché. UPOTW welcomes all new members.

  56. hotrats says:

    Unter? Shades of Dr. Stragelove… inter, of course.

    Author, please bring back the edit function!

  57. two cents' worth says:

    If I remember correctly, there are multiple J&M cartoons with info. on UPOTWA and POTWAs. Here’s the URL for the one I bookmarked:

  58. hotrats says:

    Re-reading the old posts, (and where are they now, the miscreants of yesteryear?) I find that my memory has served me poorly. It is of course UPOTWA – although it could be argued that specififying a union of all the pedants of the world in the first five words makes ‘Association’ redundant. What else could it be?

    As far as I know the only extant POTWA is against using the @ sign as a mode of address, on the basis that we don’t post ‘at’ each other.

  59. Mary2 says:

    hotrats, I vaguely remember we had the same argument about the redundancy of union and association when we first started playing with the idea and, I must admit, albeit with a sneaking giggle, that when I typed my previous comment I knew there was a good chance that you would make the same observation. 😉

    I’m with you about the @ or # used in conversation but I must admit emoticons are very useful for taking the edge off a sentence which could otherwise be read as snark.

  60. Thank you Hotrats, Mary2, and two cent’s worth.
    We haven’t had a membership meeting or issued a POTWA for a long time, but it’s good to know the association is still intact.

    Checking that URL that two cents worth linked to, I realize how much FreeFox used to contribute to our discussions. I do miss that lad. Hope he is okay.

  61. HaggisForBrains says:

    I haven’t posted for some time, and I miss many of the “old crowd”. Your comments about the origin of POTWAs sent me searching, and I think that “Many” first posted on 5th January 2012, is where it all started. Chigau first used the phrase “Pedants of the world unite”. There followed a discussion involving Darwin Harmless, Acolyte of Sagan, FreeFox, Mary2, and me* (hereinafter “The Founders”), the outcome of which was, I believe, general agreement to call the movement UPOTWA (United Pedants Of The World Association). I think the tautology was ironic, and also allowed the use of the POTWA, an edict against perceived poor usages of English and excessive use of “textspeak”. The term POTWA was a deliberate parody of the word “fatwa”, to mock those who issue such mediaeval edicts. Of The Founders, I haven’t seen chigau for a while, and of course FreeFox, whose contributions I also miss. I’ve been simply lurking for a while, unable to think of anything to add to recent discussions.

    Perhaps it’s time for a Founders’ meeting at the Cock & Bull – I’ll buy the first round (no doubles).

    *Please don’t start a flame war about the use of the Oxford (Harvard in the US) comma.

  62. HaggisForBrains says:

    Strangely, the link didn’t work – Try this one:

  63. Mahatma+Coat says:

    How did Last Resort come to get the accolades for pointing out that equivocate wasn’t the word needed? I did. I say that equate fits best.

  64. HaggisForBrains, thanks for that link and great to hear from you. I’m glad to hear you were just slouched over your pint and listening to the conversation, and not avoiding the C&B.

    Going back to the link you provided and reading over that thread, I can’t help the feeling that we were a livelier, wittier crowd back then. We do have some more recent and erudite contributors, such as LastResort. Maybe what I’m feeling is just nostalgia for an imagined golden age. Very common among the senile. But I do think there are flashes of pure brilliance burried back in the past threads.

    Mahatma Coat, no. Conflate is the right word. And cheers, mate. Good to see you here. I’m feeling very maudlin toward the old crowd today.

  65. hotrats says:


    Good to hear from you again. I’m curious – what was/is your view on Scottish independance?

  66. Mary2 says:

    Thanks HFB. I went back to your link to muse over old times and was hugely entertained to see that, on the 5th January 2012, Darwin Harmless was congratulating Nasser on the improvement in quality of his limericks. DH, is he still improving or do you just offer encouragement every six months or so? The more things change, the more they stay the same? (Hotrats will be able to fill in them fancy forren words which say the same thing. I’m not game to try with all that talk of POTWAs in the air)

  67. HaggisForBrains says:

    Hi guys, good to hear from you all. Hotrats, I guess I was one of the relatively quiet, if not quite silent, majority. I consider myself a True Scotsman, so don’t let anyone tell you that No True Scotsman would vote no. The separatists loved to characterise the referendum in these terms, and tended to make it simpler to keep one’s head down if one intended to vote “no”. As a Scot first and a Brit second, I nonetheless strongly believe in the value of the Union to both sides, and tend to think that splitting the Union would have been a retrograde step. I personally believe that much of the support for separation came from the sort of nationalistic fervour that we generally see from Scottish football supporters abroad, coupled with a desire to vote against the Conservative party in general, and David Cameron in particular. Fortunately, good sense prevailed in then end :). That’s my very simplistic summary of a complex situation.

    Mary2 – Plus ça change, plus c’est la mème chose.

  68. hotrats says:


    And you were doing so well. It is, of course, a circumflex accent on même.

    I always thought that the strongest aspect of Scottishness was robust common sense, and I anticipated that an atmosphere of tacit intimidation of ‘No’ voters would skew the polls, as seems to have been the case. The threat of endless confusion, waste and disruption from breaking up the armed forces, the NHS and the financial base seems to have been enough to get out the sensible vote.

  69. The leader of my fiddle group is an ardent supporter of the “Yes” side, and I’m sure was quite disappointed by the vote. Of course she is now living in Canada and wouldn’t be directly affected by the aftermath. Good to hear you feel okay with the result, HFB.

    Hotrats, I am in awe of you catching that mistake. You are indeed a shining example to the rest of us humble UPOTWA members. I can sometimes manage excessive pedantry in my native language, but in French as well? I bow deep from the waste. Or is that waist?

  70. Henry Ford says:

    I have just spent time humming “yes, we have no bananas” in complete disbelief. I shall return to my databases for comfort and support.

  71. HaggisForBrains says:

    Hotrats – Rats!! I blame Windows character map ;). I must have pr00f [sic] read that post a dozen times, then added my “smart” comment to Mary2 at the last minute. Your analysis of the referendum pretty much agrees with mine.

    DH – It’s easy to see only the patriotic side of this issue when you don’t have to live with the consequences, as I’m sure your friend will realise.

    That’s it; I’m off the the next cartoon, “Latte”, now – see you there.


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