Today’s link: Ophelia Benson not submitting to a sophisticated theologian.

Discussion (45)¬

  1. Occam's Machete says:

    I’ve lost count of the number of time’s I’ve had this conversation. Almost verbatim.

  2. Oh wow. You did it again. I give up. Perfect. Perfect answer when faced with the willfully illogical and stupid. The only answer, really. I’ve said it myself many times. Perfect.

  3. jerry w says:

    I’ve been carried away to a deeper dimension of reality, but it wasn’t from surrendering my entire being. In the late 1960’s we just called it “acid”, but the end result was remarkably similar.

  4. Postman says:

    Before I got through the first panel, I expected today’s link to be Deepak Chopra.

  5. FedupwithR says:

    Yes, excellent. The argument against reason that I’ve heard dozens of times by modern theologians.

  6. Kristian says:

    There are probably very good neurological reasons for the mystic experience… Especially considering the fact that religious-like experiences can be induced by the chemicals of which speaketh jerry w.

  7. Alex Young says:

    @ jerry w: Absolutely right; in fact, it would be an interesting exercise to see exactly how comparable ‘sophisticated’ theology is to hippy bullshit about the hidden dimensions they find while on LSD or psilocybin. (Not that I’m against those experiences; I’ve had some myself, yet I despise the amount of bullshit people talk about them.)

  8. @AY I listened to a TED talk last night in which Jill Bolte Taylor, neuroscientist, described her stroke. It was amazingly like an acid trip. She felt she experienced nirvana as the left side of her brain shut down and stopped interfering with the right side. Pretty obvious that all religious experience is a drug trip of one kind or another.

  9. Bodach says:

    But if transcendence can come in the form of a drug, what’s the point of religion?
    Where’s the submission and self trickery? Wait: never mind.

  10. KSA says:

    Not all religious experience is trippy drug-ish stuff. There’s also straightforward negative reinforcement, via the guilt-> confession/prayer -> release of guilt motif.
    If religion wanted some new converts, they could use a variable schedule/ variable reward reinforcement. What if confession only absolved an average of 1 in 20 times, in “payouts” ranging from partial absolution to full absolution + indulgences? It would be like a Holy Slot Machine.
    Maybe I shouldn’t be giving theophiles any ideas. We should give them acid instead.

  11. NewEnglandBob says:

    Done. Well done.

  12. I catch glimpses of one source of religion – residual guilt from parental criticism. I’ve been trying to figure out what the drawing power of original sin could be. It must resonate with some people when they are told that they were born sinful, born in sin. Every child is criticized by it’s parents. Could this be where that residual feeling of being unworthy comes from. And then when God or Christ is presented as a father figure, and offers redemption, what a relief. Finally I’m good enough to please mommy and daddy. Oh, praise the lord. Is this making any sense?

  13. Alexis says:

    KSA – that sounds like prayer. Pray that your sickness will be healed, or that your situation will improve, and it will! At exactly the same rate as chance occurrence!

  14. kikainonakanoyuurei says:

    Another great strip !!! Too true to be funny though ~ LOL

  15. Jaime says:

    I hate when apologists always say that science cannot address god or the existence of such a thing. It’s always this whole other thing that exists outside of science/reality so scientists should never comment on the existence of god because they deal with the material world. It drives me nuts. Like, what does that even MEAN??? Outside of science, reason, reality, the natural world, etc…..???? Infuriating!

  16. You don’t have religion all wrong when the stumbling block is subjugating your self to an authority that there’s no evidence it exists

    religion seems to be a way to remove responsibility and thought for you

  17. Stonyground says:

    The mention of mind altering drugs reminds me of a radio interview in which Paul McCartney claimed that Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds was not about LSD. My thought at the time was, ‘Yes Paul, I meet rocking horse people every day on my daily commute and those plastacine porters are so helpful.

  18. colluvial says:

    @Darwin Harmless: “It must resonate with some people when they are told that they were born sinful, born in sin. Every child is criticized by it’s parents. Could this be where that residual feeling of being unworthy comes from.”

    Or perhaps it levels the playing field – everyone else is unworthy, too.

  19. James says:

    Religion is an ingenious tool that allows people to control other people without them ever realizing it.
    Priest: “HEY! YOU’RE GOING TO HELL!!”
    Guy: “What?? OH NOES”
    Priest: “But good news! The lord loves you! Submit your will to him and ye shall have eternal bliss in the afterlife!”
    Guy: “The lord?”
    Priest: “Ya he’s the omnipotent ruler of all creation. Don’t try to understand, as he is far beyond your ability to understand
    Guy: “Well I guess that makes sense..”
    Priest: “But don’t worry, we of the church do have a basic understanding, and can guide you too!”
    Guy: “BONUS”
    Priest: “Now, while we’re on the subject, if you’re going to heaven, you don’t need that gold, do you? In fact why don’t you surrender your possesions to us, and join us as we travel from land to land spreading the good word, and destroying those who would disagree!”
    Guy: “Gotcha boss!”

    And an army of brainless worshipers is born

  20. Blondie says:

    Never give up! Never surrender!

  21. MrGronk says:

    In a nutshell: if you’re religious, believing is seeing

  22. jerry w says:

    You’ve nailed it, the flip side to “I’ll believe it when I see it” is and has always been “I’ll see it when I believe it” for those unable to deal with the real world.

  23. Nassar Ben Houdja says:

    How is submitting to nothing any different to submitting to something? If you don’t believe in anything, than why do you need anything? If you believe in something, you already have it.

  24. Stephen Turner says:

    Could the reference to hidden dimensions of reality be physics envy? Maybe that’s where god lives, in the tiny extra rolled-up dimensions.

  25. Tumsup says:

    That’s it!! Religion is on a higher plane!

    The one with the snakes.

  26. steve oberski says:

    @James And an army of brainless worshipers is born

    As Voltaire put it:

    The first priest was the first scoundrel to meet the first fool.

  27. The great news is, this dimension of reality is way deeper than science – so scientists can’t get at it – but theologians can. This is great news because it means scientists have to sit in the corner and stfu.

  28. […] | By Ophelia Benson Category: Notes and Comment Blog Just a little more John Haught. If it’s good enough for Jesus and Mo, it’s good enough for me.He really does have a little bondage thing going here – one […]

  29. Here’s a little more sophisticated theology for you.

    ‘Faith, as theology uses the term, is neither an irrational leap nor “belief without evidence.” It is an adventurous movement of trust that opens reason up to its appropriate living space, namely, the inexhaustibly deep dimension of Being, Meaning, Truth, and Goodness.’

    That boy does love him some deepness, don’t he.

  30. MrGronk says:

    Ah yes, high-sounding waffle that sounds poetic and lovely till you ask what it actually means. In reality: there’s heaps we don’t know – and that’s great, because otherwise scientists, explorers and people with normal levels of curiosity would have nothing to do. There may well be stuff that our finite minds cannot understand, ever (we cannot, for example, picture what an 11 dimension universe actually looks like). Will theology and mystical woo ever allow us an intuitive shortcut to the great unknowable whatever-it-is? I’m putting my money on “NO”.

  31. sweetpityfulmercy says:

    Really just photoshop Dinesh Desouza’s head on Mo here for full effect.

  32. plortho says:

    @Nassar: If “point-missing” was a sporting event, you’re winning the triathlon.
    1) Submitting to superstition IS submitting to nothing. Ignorance wins the day.
    2) Who has claimed they “don’t believe in anything”? It’s such a banal, asinine argument to suggest atheists [et al.] lack beliefs. How would you react if someone who believed in goblins, unicorns and orgone accused you of not believing in ANYTHING because you didn’t share their “beliefs”.
    3) “If you believe in something, you already have it.”?!!? Yoink, that is some lame-ass, motivational poster drivel. I guess we can all just lay around believing in things to satisfy our needs and wants. sweet.

  33. Daz says:


    “How is submitting to nothing any different to submitting to something?”

    Why is submitting to something good if that something doesn’t exist?

    “If you don’t believe in anything, than why do you need anything?”

    I believe in lots of things. ‘Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens,
    Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
    Brown paper packages tied up with string…’ The list goes on. And on. And on.

    “If you believe in something, you already have it.”

    Wow! I’ll just give up work and start believing in large monthly cheques then…

  34. Daoloth says:

    You are onto something interesting here. A lot of theists do talk about their faith being like trust in a friend, rather than belief without evidence, which is why our (fellow atheists) demands for evidence don’t find a mark with them.
    Of course the theists typically get very shifty-e.g. happy to take beautiful sunsets as marks of their imaginary friend’s generosity, but unwilling to see children dying of hydrocephalus as evidence of same IFs psychpathy.

  35. Does anybody want to venture a guess at Nassar Ben Houdja’s age? I get really strong teenager vibes from everything he writes. Nassar, you’re not playing with kids here. We’re not impressed by your apparent delight in slinging words around, not when the thought behind the words is so vacuous and insulting. Talk about straw man arguments, characterizing atheists are believing in nothing takes the cake. We believe in evidence, often evidence that results from a lifetime of observation, measurement, thought and privation. Read “The Beak of the Finch” and get an appreciation of science. Start educating yourself and stop talking nonsense.

  36. Daoloth says:

    @DH. I can’t make up my mind. First thought was that NBH was a troll and that if we stopped feeding it it would go away. Now, not so sure. I think it might be an Eliza program that superficially looks likes it’s talking to you but actually just rearranges phrases randomly to give the appearence of sentience. Look carefully. It never actually engages with anything said. As an AI amateur from the old days– I find it fascinating. I want to know its code.

  37. dragon74140 says:

    Long time reader, first time poster but I too have been intrigued by NBH; how about it Nassar, could you respond to a comment with an original thought just to show the sceptics you are not of AI origin?

  38. author says:

    To be fair to Nassar, he made a good joke a couple of weeks ago about straw men evolving from straw monkeys.

  39. dragon74140 says:

    Oh, I remember that Author, fair enough!

  40. Unruly Simian says:

    I thought I was the only one who was getting tired of his inane ramblings

  41. I think I’ve mentioned that I value Nassar. There’s a lot of preaching to the choir going on here, and it’s nice to have a dissenting opinion. But unfortunately as a devil’s advocate he’s a bit deficient in the reasoning department. Sure, the joke was okay, But I don’t think he meant it as a joke. He was, after all, making fun of the idea of evolution. This guy still thinks evolution is a fraud, and that is one definition of pure ignorance.

  42. dysamoria says:

    Re: Nassar
    On most forums there is one person that presents themselves in a very limited and carefully worded manner, with only brief glimpses at real opinions but great amounts of linguistic flair, careful sarcasm, staying just outside engaging but maintaining an air of superiority over all other posters. I like to pretend it’s the same dude everywhere I go but it’s just a type of very specific online personality some people present based on their own very specific personality type. In fact, the less they actively engage, the easier it is for them to present as a superior position… or that’s what it looks like to me. Sometimes I actually wish I could be as restrained as “that dude,” because it seems rather dignified compared to my emotional rants 😉

  43. Acolyte of Sagan says:



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