And it is only figuratively a metaphor.

Currently reading Believing Bullshit.

Discussion (66)¬

  1. steeve says:

    It’s really a simile

  2. JohnM says:

    Love it. Author, you’ve been reading “Pseuds Corner” in “Private Eye”, haven’t you

  3. Nassar Ben Houdja says:

    Another metaphor theologic
    Tried to be defined by merely logic
    Analogies to explain
    The apparently insane.
    Definitely a subject for a comic

  4. Hobbes says:

    Love it! Metaphorical logic! LOL

  5. David Amies says:

    Love it.

    The boyos are going round in such tight, philosophical circles that they are in danger of disappearing up their own fundaments.

  6. How is Karen Armstrong these days, anyway?

  7. two cents' worth says:

    The “concept of an atemporal, omniscient, omnipotent, benevolent deity” is the basis on which the rest of The Book (Bible or Koran) stands, right? So, if that concept should not be taken literally, that also means that all of the other concepts in The Book should not be taken literally. J & M, when will you get around to explaining this to your fundamentalist followers?

    Now I have an ear worm: “It’s just a fantasy; it’s not the real thing.” Sorry if I infected you 😉 .

  8. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    two cents’ worth, every believer will tell you that their holy book is not to be taken literally. Well, apart from the bits that are supposed to be taken literally, that is.
    Treating their books as a metaphorical (or is that allegorical?) pick-and-mix is how they maintain so many sub-cults within the big ones.

  9. Really it’s a a puzzle wrapped in an enigma surrounded by a mystery.

    My father told his children of a riddle he claimed was the funniest riddle ever invented.

    Question: Why is a mouse when it spins?
    Answer: The higher the few.

    Of course we didn’t get it. Father insisted that when we did get it, we would find it hilariously funny. And eventually i think I did get it. The joke being that there is nothing to get.

    Reminds me of religious discussion of the nature of god, describing a metaphor of an analogy of a simile of a vapid fog of nothing. Oh, did I miss the tautology?

  10. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    DH, that reminds me of the unsolvable riddle: what’s the difference between a duck?

  11. Dan says:

    Acolyte of Sagan,

    The answer is neither of them have a bill except for both of it.

  12. martin_z says:

    Hmm. I always thought the answer to AoS’s riddle was that one leg is both the same.

  13. Undeluded says:

    Thanks Author – now we know what theological sophistication is! In their own simple, no-nonsense sophistry, J & M have managed to “eschew obfuscation!”

  14. Chiefy says:

    Yep. An atemporal, omniscient, omnipotent, benevolent deity makes perfect sense. I agree with the idea that God exists outside of time and space, in other words, no place for zero time.

  15. eddy says:

    I think it’s somewhat more specifically of a quasi-allegorical, figuratively symbolic, non literally analogous metaphor.

  16. Undeluded says:

    Everything that follows J’s opening statement is just word-play gobbledygook, triggered by M’s rather grammatically-incorrect “analogy” statement (if the terms J used are not to be taken literally they are figurative metaphors; Barmaid would have challenged “metaphors for what?”). Fun, but meaningless.

    I hope there’ll be a follow-up on this strip. J is not advocating the existence of god, only the concept! I think we can all live with that. The question is – where does this concept lead us?

  17. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Undeluded, The question is – where does this concept lead us?
    It leads us onto the Penrose stairs, aka the paradox of pitch circularity, which is the perfect analogy/metaphor for the mind of the theologian. And we don’t want to go there.

  18. JoJo says:

    AoS – the difference between a duck can be measured by a voltmeter once the duck has been attached to an appropriate power supply.


  19. Undeluded says:

    AoS – that was the best answer I could expect for my (rather rhetorical) question. But why don’t we want to go there? Personally, I am fascinated by your comparisons (analogies, metaphors – oh, never mind). But what a great way to expose an illusion! It just isn’t enough to merely claim that our mind works in ways that attempt to make sense out of patterns, and sometimes coming up with ‘evidence’ for phenomena that defy physics, logic and past experience. Today we can usually give a valid, scientific explanation as to why we may be tricked by illusions (the easiest way is by exposing them, of course, but that isn’t always possible). And those who “don’t get it” remain, unfortunately, deluded.

  20. Love you folks. Best local in the world.

  21. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Undeluded, But why don’t we want to go there?
    Into the mind of the theologian? For the same reason I wouldn’t want to drive around a roundabout for ever. There’s only so many times one can go round in circles before getting bored of the scenery and dizzy enough to puke. I like my journeys, whether by road or by mind, to take me to pastures new.

    DH, couldn’t agree more.

  22. Undeluded says:

    AoS – I see now: you (singular) don’t want to go there. Pluralis majestatis. Well, I bow to your wishes, and I can hardly blame you. I abhor vertigo as well, and tackling a religionista on this issue (or, for that matter, on any other religious issue) is a waste of time (I may have mentioned this before) and could well qualify as an emetic. But when I do debate a borderliner, I like having more ammunition in my magazine. Dispelling illusions is one of my favorites – be it through exposure, grammar or logic – and sometimes I actually succeed!

  23. Mary2 says:

    DH, with you totally.

  24. Andrea says:

    So, where’s the cat?

  25. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Undeluded, it’s one thing knowing where the opposition is arguing from, but another thing altogether to immerse oneself in their theology.
    I’m reminded of the story of one of the great actors (possibly Larry Olivier, but don’t quote me) listening as a young actor (possibly Daniel Day Lewis, ditto the quoting) told of the agonies he had suffered in preparation for a particularly bleak role by immersing himself in the world of his character, all in order to get his role spot-on.
    Eventually, Olivier turned to the him and said “You really should learn to act, young man, it’s far less painful, and believe me, the audience can never tell the difference”.

    Andrea, So, where’s the cat?
    Is it just me or is Mo’s headwear looking lumpier than usual?

  26. JohnM says:

    @ Andrea. “So, where’s the cat?”
    Schrodinger accidentally ran him over on the way down t’ pub. Recent circumcision had slowed him down a bit (the cat, not S.)
    @ Chiefy “I agree with the idea that God exists outside of time and space”
    There’s now a piece of experimental evidence from quantum mechanical experiments to show that time may be an “emergent phenomenon” only for observers inside the Universe. Outside observers could see it as a static place.

  27. Chiefy says:

    Interesting article, JohnM. I haven’t begun to understand entanglement. Their toy universe experiment has an inherent limitation, in that the observers and the toy are part of the same universe; the observer can be outside the toy, but not outside of time and space. I am working on the idea that there could be “something” that could contain time and space. That would be necessary for there to be an observer “out there.”

    I can’t prove there is no god-like observer outside of time and space, only that I haven’t seen any supporting evidence for such a thing. Unless it’s seen as an imaginary construct. I’m fine with that.

  28. Acolyte, I believe that exchange took place between Olivier and Dustin Hoffman on the set of “Marathon Man”. Hoffman stayed up all night, possibly drinking, to give himself a haggard look.
    I’m not sure I agree with Olivier on this question. There are certain physiological conditions that are impossible to fake. Anyway, that was a case of a classical actor working with a method actor. Both can be very effective. I think the method actor gets more verisimilitude.
    Of course it could have happened more than once, with different actors, or not at all. 🙂

    That viral video of Hitler’s rant that everybody keeps putting silly subtitles on always strikes me as classical acting. It’s like the rage formula – clench jaw, ragged breathing, reach for glasses with shaking hand. (See “The Art of Course Acting” by Michael Green And yes it’s effective when it works, but to me it often seems… contrived.

  29. hotrats says:

    I got ‘The Art of Coarse Acting (or ‘How to ruin an Amateur Dramatic society’)’ as a Christmas present at about age 13, and it has to be one of the funniest books ever written. Green points out for instance, that having a small role is no obstacle to sabotage. A messenger with only one line can scupper a production of Macbeth – “The queen, my Lord is not dead.”

  30. JohnM says:

    @ Chiefy
    My understanding of the experiment was that the two parts of the device are watching the same quantum event. One half sees time emerging, the other half doesn’t. The external observer (experimenter) merely collates the separate results from these two. And as for any proof – well, science doesn’t do proof I’m afraid.

  31. lol says:

    Is this a reference to a specific book or article? I don’t think I’ve ever heard a theist arguing that these attributes of the deity aren’t literal. I’d be really surprised to hear it from anyone but an agnostic or particularly exotic form of deist. or maybe that scandinavian atheist vicar i once read about.

  32. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    DH, you’re right, it was indeed Hoffman.
    I was using the example in response to Undeluded, who seemed to be saying that one needs to immerse oneself in theology to debate religion (But when I do debate a borderliner, I like having more ammunition in my magazine). To my mind there is no need to study the nonsense to debate even the most s’fistikated of theologians as long as one has a good general overview of the subject matter, and more importantly the ability to recognise logical fallacies and circular arguments when they are deployed, since these are what s’fistkated theology really boils down to.

  33. Undeluded says:

    AoS – (sorry for the delay). I find myself having to counter your claims about me, which seem to habitually rephrase my words and intentions in a skewed perspective. When I say “…I like having more ammunition…” I do not mean “…one needs to immerse oneself in theology to debate religion.” I have no idea why you would want to portray me that way, so let’s say I misunderstood you, and my message wasn’t clear enough. I hope the following clarifies matters.

    First – as I have stated numerous times on previous strips, I engage in debates with the borderline religious. Why? Why does Author publish this strip? He is definitely far more talented than I, but we both (and many others, too, I believe) think that doing something constructive to promote atheism is better than doing nothing. Otherwise this strip would just be derision for derision’s sake, and I would stop visiting the website.

    Second – I always aim at convincing my counterpart that at least some of my arguments are valid, and that at least some of hers are not. I have had an average amount of success with this, much to my satisfaction.

    Third – in order to give myself better ????, I enhance my knowledge by learning lessons from previous debates. Also, I read Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett, Harris, et al, listen to other debates and occasionally even address relevant passages from the Bible and the Koran. I attempt to approach my next debate with more confidence and knowledge.

    Fourth – mind you, I am a far cry for being a scholar on religious topics! The only time I have ever put my thoughts in writing on these issues is here – at J&M! I do my research for pleasure – it really interests me! I also have great interested in music (my profession), drama, science, computers, the opposite sex, good food, puzzles, and a host of other things. I do immerse myself in music, to the level of dedication, and I would go out of my way to improve myself there. However, I do not go out of my way to debate potential converts regarding religion. Neither do I deem it necessary. Exchanges of ideas happen haphazardly, with opponents of intelligence comparable to mine and probably better-informed on other topics, and I get the impression that both sides enjoy this.

    Unlike you, I do not thumb my nose at religion. You were jumping to conclusions about me when you mention “immerse” and “theologians.” I do not think I gave cause to connect my views to these terms. Obviously you do not debate religionistas (of any kind), and I believe the reason for this is that it cannot be done effectively with just “…a good general overview of the subject matter.” I’m pretty sure that you give voice to ridicule and mockery – quite legitimate in the appropriate circles, I’ve done it myself several times – but if that’s all there is to it, it carries just about the same weight as blonde jokes.

    Blonde jokes and the like will not get legislature to view schooling, immigration, political platforms, etc., in a more understanding (realistic) light. Dispelling delusions just might.

  34. Undeluded says:

    Those ???? up there should read “odds.” Sorry!

  35. Chiefy says:

    Quite right, JohnM. I don’t advocate for the proof concept, certainly not in science. I was merely pointing out, with regard to your comment from the experiment, “Outside observers could see it as a static place,” that such outside observers of the universe are hypothetical.

  36. John Wagner wrote to me (Perhaps he didn’t post it on the thread because it’s so far off topic, but I think it’s worth sharing.) with the following:

    “Re. the spinning mouse riddle: Just so you know, I’m pretty sure that the riddle and its answer have been so contorted over time that it can never make sense.

    However, a “mouse” is the informal name for the spinning thing with the balls on its arms on an old stationary steam engine. Those arms were attached to the engine’s steam supply valve. Technically, it is a centrifugal speed controller. By properly positioning the balls on the arms, as the steam engine’s speed increased, the spinning “mouse” arms would come up to more and more horizontal and as this happened, the steam supply valve would be throttled back more and more. At some equilibrium point, the speed of the mouse would control the steam to exactly the desired engine speed. (Some devices had the arm arrangement in a parallelogram with the weights attached to two opposite corners of the parallelogram.)

    So, the faster the mouse turns, the slower the engine spins. The riddle needs rewording, if I’m correct in identifying what the mouse refers to.”

    This makes sense because my great uncle, who may have been the original source of the riddle, was a railway engineer and certainly would have known what a mouse was when related to a steam engine. The answer makes sense because the higher the balls go, the fewer revolutions of the engine. Hence the answer: The higher the few.

    Thanks, John. This is a little piece of my childhood that now snaps neatly into place revealing an unsuspected meaning.

  37. botanist says:

    OK, get that DH or John,


    why was it called a mouse??

  38. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    ‘ere, I could have sworn I just posted a lengthy-ish piece. Have I been sent to moderation?

  39. JohnM says:

    Actually, the higher the mouse goes, the lower the acceleration. The maximum possible revs correspond with the highest point the centripetally-lifted mouse is capable of maintaining against the opposing force of gravity.
    Happened to me. I suppose I slipped an additional character or so onto my handle.

  40. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Ah well, it was mainly a response to Undeluded, so I’ll have to re-do it later.

    re botanist’s question above: “why was it called a mouse?
    Metered Oscillating Unit for Steam Engines, maybe?
    Or possibly they were just prone to squeaking.

  41. Author says:

    @AoS All your posts go through automatically, and there is no comment of yours awaiting moderation at the moment.

  42. PhysicsRoolz says:

    Andrea on Octember 25, 2013 at 5:54 pm was heard to type:

    “So, where’s the cat?”

    When the experimenters finally opened the box they found neither an alive cat nor a dead cat. The cat, being exceedingly miffed at being both gassed and not gassed, finally wandered off through a cat-tunnel and left in its place a highly confused dog.

    If you mean J&M’s cat, that is obvious: he is too young to visit a public house.

  43. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Thanks, Author. Now there’s a mystery, a whole post swallowed up by the luminiferous aether – or the files of MI5 :-0

    Undeluded, it was rather a long post, so as I’ve had the grandsons using me as their personal climbing frame / punchbag / chef all day I just haven’t the enrgy or concentration span to re-do it tonight.
    Something to look forward to, eh?

  44. Joihn M. yes, I understand the principle. The higher the balls of the mouse, the slower the motor turns, i.e. the fewer revolutions, i.e. “the higher the few.” Makes perfect sense to me now.

  45. John M. Just to beat the dead mouse further, here’s how I now interpret the original riddle:

    Question: Why (i.e. what is the purpose) is a a mouse when it spins?
    Answer: The higher (the balls) the few (fewer RPM)

    Oops. I just re-read John M.’s post and realize I did not read it correctly. No, John, it isn’t the acceleration that is lowered, it is the RPM. But even if it were the acceleration, the riddle would still apply. The higher the few (RPM/sec/sec.)

    I think Mr. Wagner nailed the original meaning of the riddle, which may have been lost by the time it got to my father who quite possibly never did get the real meaning and just assumed it was meaningless nonsense. If he knew of it’s reference to steam engines he never told his kids.

    I mentioned that riddle as something which was passed down to me as meaningful but which, when more considered, dissolved into nonsense. Turns out it may not be quite as nonsensical as I thought. I don’t think this means that other things I was taught, like church dogma, also have a kernel of profound meaning to them. All the dogma and rituals obviously had origins, which are all lost on me, but that has no bearing on the central truth they were celebrating.

  46. Undeluded says:

    AoS – can’t wait! 🙂

  47. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Author, what is happening with my posts? I’ve tried several times to respond to Undeluded but every time I submit the post I’m re-directed to a ‘captcha’ page (a ‘cloudflare’ page, or somesuch, whatever that means). I’ve just tried again, was sent to the ‘captcha’ page, filled in the neccessary and submitted, only to be told I’m duplicating a post – that isn’t here!. Yet I can leave ‘test’ posts on earlier comics with no problem.
    Was I right about MI5?

  48. Undeluded says:

    AoS – well, THAT one went through. Try changing a word or five, and see if that helps.

  49. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Nope! Just tried and it went straight to the ‘captcha’ thing again. Could be a character limit, so I’ll try the first half, and if that works I’ll do the second half.

    Here goes…..

    Undeluded, I’ll have another stab at my response. For clarity, I’ll italicise quotes from your comments.

    You were jumping to conclusions about me when you mention “immerse” and “theologians.”….
    I apologise if I’ve mis-represented what you’re saying, and if I have then I assure you it isn’t intentional by any means.
    …… I do not think I gave cause to connect my views to these terms.
    Hmm, that was my reading of
    AoS – I see now: you (singular) don’t want to go there. (the ‘there’ in question being the mind of the theologian. AoS) But when I do debate a borderliner, I like having more ammunition in my magazine…
    which seemed to suggest that a knowledge of theology – as opposed to a knowledge of the contents of the Bible, which is a different beast altogether – is essential in order to argue effectively with the religious.
    Obviously you do not debate religionistas (of any kind),….
    What was that about jumping to conclusions?
    …and I believe the reason for this is that it cannot be done effectively with just “…a good general overview of the subject matter.”
    Which pretty much makes my point – that you seem to think a knowledge of theology is essential – a valid one, rather than a jump to a conclusion. I think that you give religion, or at least the religious, far too much credit. However, I didn’t just say that an overview of the subject was all that was required, I was careful to include the ability to recognise logical fallacies and circular arguments when they are deployed, since these are what s’fistkated theology really boils down to..

    Now, fingers crossed that this post arrives. And I thought Royal Mail was bad 😉

  50. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    (part two)

    I’m pretty sure that you give voice to ridicule and mockery ….
    That, I’m afraid, cannot be avoided, since the act of simply stating their beliefs back at them in plain English cannot sound like anything else but mockery and ridicule.
    ….but if that’s all there is to it, it carries just about the same weight as blonde jokes.
    Again with the jumping to conclusions. That isn’t all there is to it by any means. I am more than capable of taking the religious arguments to pieces using cold, hard logic.

    I think that you and I differ in that you seem to give religion, or at least the religious, far too much credit. There is nothing at all difficult about destroying the arguments of religious apologists with nothing more in one’s armoury than, as I stated earlier, a working knowledge of the Bible, the ability to recognise theological argument for what it is, namely an assortment of logical fallacies (please do follow that link, it makes debating the religious so much easier), and the mental agility to be able to think on one’s feet to counter those fallacies.

    There really is nothing difficult about debating religionists; a simple rule of thumb is that if their argument is not taken directly from the source book then it is no more than personal opinion. If I remember correctly, the god of the Bible doesn’t give a short shit for personal opinion, so whatever it is they’re arguing for, it isn’t the god of the Bible, and if they’re not arguing for the god of the Bible then they’ve left the realm of religion and are simply making personal claims. And if their arguments do come from the Bible then they’re simple to counter using empirical evidence-based science, logic, and a good dose of common sense.

  51. Undeluded says:

    Ah, there you are, AoS – glad you found the glitch.

    When we attempt to clarify our thoughts, it results in better understanding. Thanks – you were very coherent, and made it easy for me to pinpoint where I believe we’ll need (eventually) to agree to differ.

    I have, and want, no truck with theologians. I’m not one, and I cannot expect to beat one at his own game. He is a religionista (if he were not, he would accept the fact that religionistas are deluded), and I do not debate that kind – neither do I carry with me the ammunition needed for such verbal exchanges (they cannot be called debates at my level). So, as far as I’m concerned, theologians are off the plate, okay? Waste of time and effort.

    Perhaps Dawkins or Dennett have, in addition to vast scientific and philosophical knowledge, a thorough familiarity with the bible/koran and a theological background. If so, good for them – I concede they are far better debaters than I am.

    I admit that suggesting you did not debate the religious was premature. I should have first clarified how you define ‘debate’ and ‘religious,’ though I believe I have a pretty good picture (that’s an assumption, not a conclusion). In my mind, you debate to prove the other guy wrong (or partially wrong), and that other guy could be any type of believer. Well, I hope it’s as much fun for you as my rather limited scope of these terms is for me. I debate only borderliners with the aim of validating (some of) my points and invalidating (some of) hers. And I do it with respect, not scorn or ridicule (oh, yes, this can be avoided – that’s what I do), because that kind of approach never won a debate. I have not heard from you that you have ever aimed to convince a religious person – and that’s quite legitimate. But for me, that is what I’m after, even partially.

    I am not giving any credit to the religionistas – they could be smart or stupid, but they are all, IMHO, deluded. But when I’m concerned with borderliners, you are absolutely correct – I give them credit for respecting me and listening to me as I do to them. With some of them, basic logic and reasoning suffice to get them thinking for themselves a bit more. For others, either brighter or better-read or both, a wider swathe of knowledge is necessary on my part. Indeed, it has happened (rarely) where I need to excuse myself with “Could I get back to you on that?” followed by a little more research on my part. Subsequently, I feel I have learned something – beyond that ‘general overview’ – something I never tire of.

    Blonde jokes – please notice the “if” in my statement. Apparently you do not think this holds for your type of debating – that’s fine with me. However, you state you are able to “…recognize logical fallacies and circular arguments when they are deployed…” I think most atheists (including me) have this capability, and no doubt you excel at it. Your goal, on the other hand, is not shared by me – I do not perceive the debate as proving I am right; I would probably fail (unless I was in conversation with other atheists, “preaching to the choir,” as it were). My aim is to get my counterpart to start thinking for herself – perhaps even getting a “Let me get back to you on that” from her. What a compliment that is.

    I am quite familiar with the list of logical fallacies, and employ them when deemed necessary – and yes, sometimes they suffice. But not always – sometimes my counterpart knows them as well as I do.

    Your final paragraph makes a good point. I really like your ‘rule of thumb’ summary. I wonder how many debates you’ve won using just those arguments (which you claim are sufficient). Don’t you distinguish (as I do) between the hard-corers and the borderliners? The former will dismiss your arguments claiming that logic does not apply to a deity, that the so-called contradictions in the scriptures are deliberate and for a reason, and that opinions are just a manifestation of free will – the greatest gift any deity could bestow on us lowly mortals. Borderliners, however, just might listen and not make these dismissals right away.

    I think you and I are addressing different audiences, and both our methods seem to work for each of us. Perhaps we should leave it at that?

  52. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Undeluded, I think you and I are addressing different audiences, and both our methods seem to work for each of us. Perhaps we should leave it at that?
    We could if you wish, although it’s always interesting (to me at least; my apologies to anybody who’s been bored into a stupor by our exchanges) to see different approaches to the same problems. In that sense, it’s easy to see how our methods differ. To use a painfully tortured metaphor, we might both use a nutcracker to crack a nut, the difference is in the nuts we crack; you prefer the hazelnuts and I go for the Brazils, and I’m not above using a sledgehammer for the particularly tough ‘uns.
    But seriously, I’m not interested in ‘beating’ anybody, I’m perfectly happy just to get them thinking. An instant ‘de-conversion’ is as rare as an instant conversion, so to go into a discussion with that as the goal is an exercise in futility, which is why I approach it in the manner of a guerilla gardener; know your ground, get in, plant the seed and leave it to do it’s stuff.
    As for the bit about blonde jokes, since you mentioned that I’ve been wracking my brain trying to make them work for the religious, but just can’t seem to do it. I mean, how many religious people do you know who, after sex, turn the light off by closing the car door? 🙂

    Another interesting chat. Cheers.

  53. Undeluded says:

    AoS, I’m relieved to learn that to “get them thinking” is what we have in common. Really. And that we respect each other’s methods for doing so – probably a character trait in both of us.

    No instant conversion for me, I’m afraid. But on several occasions I have had the pleasure/thrill of recurring debates with the same person, which sometimes resulted in conversion. Sometimes I even get the credit for that…

    “… turn the light off by closing the car door…” Forgive my detection skills if I misunderstood – but from the evidence you provided: a) it was night (otherwise why the need to turn off the light after sex); b) sexual activity occurred in a car with an open door and the light on; c) two people were involved (this is an assumption – all alternatives make me cringe and would strengthen my following deduction) – therefore: the car occupants were crazy! This is a common description of the religionistas. So, in answer to your question: I don’t really know anyone who would do this, but I would bet on someone (or two) from the religious crowd. Or maybe not. 😉

    I enjoyed this. See you next strip!

  54. mary2 says:

    Undeluded and AOS, Not bored at all. I find your discussions very interesting.

    I think that ‘the atheist movement’ not only benefits from but needs both approaches. You might argue over the various benefits of a baritone versus a tenor but the opera would be pretty boring without both voices. With the (seeming, to me) increase in fundamemtalist and political religion I believe it is necessary to get our concerns into the public spaces by as many approaches as possible.

    When I was a young, radical, animal rights activist (sometime in the 1800s) I used to ponder the merits of the two approaches I saw. There were people who politely organised protests, waved placards and wrote letters to politicians. The aim of these people was to change laws – and theirs was the best way to accomplish this. The other group believed in direct action. They had no problems breaking the law and would destroy private property and rescue caged animals. They were never going to get laws changed because they were unpopular and no one wants to negotiate with ‘terrorists’- but law was not their goal. These people wanted to save lives, stop pain and cruelty and force the public to see what was really happening with their food and makeup and they were much more successful at this than the letter writers would ever be.

    To bring the analogy/metaphor/whatever back to challenging religious thinking: sometimes a gentle and reasonable chat to alert someone to errors in their thinking is the way to get through to an individual; sometimes the strident, angry atheist is the best person to alert the politicians to the lines they should not cross . . .

  55. Undeluded says:

    Thank you, Mary2. That sums it up very nicely!

  56. Dan says:

    I don’t think the comparison with blond jokes holds.
    Blond jokes stereotype and ridicule a diverse group of people in many cases unfairly.

    Religious jokes ridicule religion. Religion is ridiculous without known exception.
    It’s not only OK to ridicule the ridiculous it’s necessary and important.
    As soon as people pretend to take religion seriously it starts demanding credibility.
    That can’t be a good thing for something as ridiculous as religious belief.

  57. Undeluded says:

    Dan – I think you’re taking a rather extreme perspective. You and I know that religion is a delusion, therefore ridiculous. However, there are a few billions who would take exception to this. I believe in trying to do something to affect a diminishing in these numbers, even if it’s only one by one. We can jeer and jibe in our own circles, but that’s not going to convince anyone to change his views and join us. Mutual respect for the other’s views does give a chance for this.

    Blonde jokes are funny (sometimes). Religious jokes are funny (sometimes). Name calling with intention to insult isn’t funny. Some would consider all of them offensive. And none of these are effective in the conversion effort. So – not my cup of tea, unless both sides inject a modicum of mutually agreeable levity into our discussion.

  58. mary2 says:

    Behaviour should be appropriate to the circumstances to affect the desired outcome. Blonde jokes can be funny as can Irish jokes and jokes using any other group of people for the punchline but they need to be told only in appropriate circumstances. My friends and I can get together and use whatever marginalised group we like as the butt of our jokes but only because we are all certain that the joke is actually about the stereotype (blondes are vapid) not the actual group and the joke is in no way representative of real world attitudes or actions. This is very different than me as a Caucasian person walking into a group of Aboriginal people and starting to crack Black jokes.

    I take Dan’s point that jokes about religion ridicule ideas, not people, and these ideas DO need to be challenged: sometimes ridicule is an effective (and even, perhaps, gentle) way of doing this. I think that single panel internet memes can be particularly effective: a reduction of 3 hours discussion into one picture and two sentences. But their effectives still depends on circumstances and desired outcomes: there is no point trying to have an intelligent discussion with a member of the Westborough Baptist Church but ridicule increases public awareness about the dangers of this kind of thinking. On the other hand, ridicule is not going to convince one of Undeluded’s “borderliners” to re-examine the basis of their beliefs.

  59. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Mary, I know it’s just my peurile, schoolboy sense of humour, but whenever I hear mention of activists releasing animals I get a picture in my head of packs of beagles acting like delinquent teenagers with nicotine cravings, hanging about near tobacconists waiting to mug the customers. 😉

    I fully agree with your last paragraph. I wouldn’t neccessarily describe myself as an ‘angry’ atheist (I’m jollier than Santa Claus, for fuck’s sake, and don’t you dare say otherwise 🙂 ) but from being a child I’ve always been one to get straight to the heart of the matter. When a gang of bullies tried it on I’d go straight for the ringleader; put him on his arse and the rest of the mob tended to have second thoughts: likewise when I was a bouncer, if a gang started to give trouble I’d give the mouthpiece a clout to the inside of the forehead, and more often than not, with their leader seeing stars the rest would lose their puff rather quickly. Nowadays, I follow the same principle with religion (not physically, of course). Tearing the arguments of the one making the most noise to shreds in front of others will not change his/her mind because that person tends to be the most fundamental of the group (just as with bullies and gang members) and so most resistant to change, but it does give pause for thought for the rest of ’em.
    undeluded; “Mutual respect for the other’s views does give a chance for this.”
    I disagree there. I can respect their right to hold their views, and in discussion will respect their right to air those views uninterrupted (though strangely, the religious tend not to reciprocate the latter; they just cannot seem to be able to stop themselves from butting in as soon as they hear something they don’t like. I put it down to short attention span – if they wait until the end of the sentence, as polite people are wont to do, they’ll have forgotten all about it) but that in no way suggests respect for the views themselves.

    “two people were involved (this is an assumption – all alternatives make me cringe and would strengthen my following deduction) – therefore: the car occupants were crazy!”
    That’s quite an insight you’ve given us there. Forgive me for saying this, but there’s a touch of the puritanical about that sentence.
    Admittedly, group sex doesn’t particularly interest me, whether in a car or elsewhere, but I wouldn’t describe it as cringeworthy, or those who do participate as crazy. Solo sex, however, is the safest form of sex there is. In fact, had Max Bygraves’ You Need Hands been written a lot more recently than 1958 (when, incidentally, it was runner-up for that years Ivor Novello Songwriter Award), I daresay masturbation might have been granted a line of its own alongside holding babies and those you care for; it certainly merits it.
    Anybody fancy a pop (no pun intended….honest) at attempting a re-write?

  60. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Hey, Mary. We’ve got to stop meeting like this.
    Liked your contribution at pharyngula t’other day.

  61. mary2 says:

    AOS, gotta love a man who tells me how gentle and jolly he is and then lists the fights he’s been it! 😉

    You have to allow me some artistic licence with the descriptions so I can make a point. I have never actually thought of you as Richard Dawkins with a Creationist between his teeth!

    What were we talking about at Pharingula? I’m not brave enough to go back in and watch the bashings my comments will have taken. I am happy to be corrected when I am wrong (it does happen occassionally) but those guys will tear a person limb from limb if they only agree 95% of the time. It took me years of reading to work up the courage to post at all – while we are having this mutual admiration society I do admire your tenacity in this arena.

    Thank Zeus we are due a new comic: the topic of group sex in cars just leaves me with the image of clown suits and the Benny Hill theme music – big red feet sticking out of windows, face paint smearing on windscreens . . .

  62. Undeluded says:

    Let’s see if i can a last word in here…
    AoS – re “mutual respect” etc. – you keep forgetting who my target debatees are. Them, I respect. The rest fit your description nicely.
    Re “sex in car” – hey, man (I assume, though your references to Mrs. O’Sagan are not conclusive 😉 ), you brought it up! If you wanted to convey a different image, you shouldn’t challenge my imagination – and look what you did to poor Mary…

    Just kidding!

  63. Dan says:

    To me the issue is religious power and influence rather than belief.
    We are in a real position now to move religion further and further to the status of Astrology. Astrology isn’t banned but anyone who tries to deploy it in any public discourse would be ridiculed and sidelined.
    All religious belief has the same validity as astrology (nil) and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t also be a kind of embarrassing secret.
    I’m not suggesting that ridicule is the only thing to deploy against religion but it’s important to make it clear to the large body of people who aren’t religious and have no interest in religion why we shouldn’t be treating the preposterous notions of religion as worthwhile.
    The form of distressingly accurate satire such as that offered by our dear author is a very valuable tool in communicating that message.

  64. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Mary, the pharyngula item was the one about the retail sexual value ‘test’ that PZ had found on some MRA site, and believe it or not your comment wasn’t bashed at all, although a certain AoS did express disbelief at the notion of you going out looking for a man 😉

  65. mary2 says:

    AoS, stranger things have happened 😛

  66. Peter of Califia says:

    Please excuse me if this has been answered already.

    Q: What is the difference between a duck?
    A: One of his legs is exactly the same.


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