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Discussion (88)¬

  1. This is yet another splendid strip from J&M. The archery is spot on.

  2. ProgMan says:

    What a brilliant summation of the capacity of mankind to suffer mass delusions.

  3. Heh heh heh. “Just human.” But Jesus isn’t “just human”…but you have to believe the book to believe that…but there’s no reason to believe it…but they do because they’re “just human”…but

    Excellent closed loop.

  4. NSPike says:

    Welcome back barmaid, it’s been a while! A worthy return, brilliant as always.

    Totally OT but I found a page earlier that I feel several members of the C&B would appreciate, it’s been keeping me laughing in work for a while now. Perhaps I should stop browsing and actually do some work soon…

  5. And when I say archery, I mean toxophilicicity. Take that, Jes & Mo.

  6. Tomas says:

    Why isn’t there an option to donate using paypal on the patreon-site? I have the more or less irrational belief that it’s a good thing to keep the number of sites I give my creditcard number to, as small as possible…
    PS. I do swear, occasionally.
    PPS. Is that a really worn out “joke” by now?

  7. Nassar+Ben+Houdja says:

    There is very little wrong with most books
    Until they get manipulated by crooks
    For any philosophical writ
    The don’t give a shit
    But quote from them to gullible schnooks

  8. cosmicstargoat – Is that a city full of archers?
    Tomas – Yes! Author stopped the requirement to swear some time ago. Pay attention at the back, there!

  9. Tiger One says:

    All religions may be equally delusional but a short survey of the international press, will quickly reveal that not all religions are equally dangerous. Example; the easily offended jihadi types have a tendency to self detonate when gently prodded with sarcasm! Regardless of their race or sexual orientation BTW.

    Should I stand for election in Tower Hamlets?
    All answers to be submitted on the back of a £20 note and sent to the usual address.

  10. Michael says:

    Mark Twain described the Book of Mormon as “chloroform in print.”

  11. Ephphatha says:

    Barmaid, who, pray tell, is “everyone else”?

    “It’s a big, fat myth that all scientists are religion-hating atheists.” http://www.theguardian.com/science/occams-corner/2013/mar/04/myth-scientists-religion-hating-atheists

    “…over half of scientists (51%) believe in some form of deity or higher power; specifically, 33% of scientists say they believe in God, while 18% believe in a universal spirit or higher power.” http://www.pewforum.org/2009/11/05/scientists-and-belief/

    “… the majority of elite scientists see no conflict between science and belief in God.” http://randalrauser.com/2013/06/are-top-scientists-overwhelmingly-atheists/

  12. Author, thanks again. I shall add “just human” to my list of insults for religious people, though I think it comes out as “just barely human” all too often.

    One if the things that really annoys me about religious belief is the idea that humans are NOT “just human”, that we were created in God’s image and thus have an aspect of the divine to us that sets us apart from all other life on the planet. This, along with original sin, is one of the most poisonous doctrines of Christianity.

    NSPike, Thanks for that OT link. Brilliant captions had me laughing for all available discretionary time.

  13. Ephphatha, it should be obvious that reality is not a result of an opinion poll, that truth is not a matter of popular belief, and that widely held beliefs can be totally stupid. In a country where nine out of ten people believe in some form of a god, it’s not surprising that many scientists have not shaken off the indoctrination of the dominant culture. What is interesting is the proportion.

    “Indeed, the survey shows that scientists are roughly half as likely as the general public to believe in God or a higher power. According to the poll, just over half of scientists (51%) believe in some form of deity or higher power; specifically, 33% of scientists say they believe in God, while 18% believe in a universal spirit or higher power. By contrast, 95% of Americans believe in some form of deity or higher power, according to a survey of the general public conducted by the Pew Research Center in July 2006.”

    I don’t really care whether elite scientists see a conflict between science and religion. For many areas of science, such as mathematics or chemistry, any conflict is probably irrelevant. Still the conflict should be obvious, and is to me at least. Science is a system for overcoming our human tendency to delude ourselves. This system insists that observation and evidence support the accepted theories. Beliefs held widely by the public and the religious, such as belief in the power of prayer, are not supported by any scientific evidence.

    In contrast, religions are all based on the concept of revealed knowledge, knowledge with no evidence, that must be accepted on faith. The power of prayer can be accepted as fact and no evidence is required. A confirmation bias, something that science takes great pains to avoid, is all that’s needed.

    It’s hard to imagine a more contradictory pair of underlying approaches to reality. Polar opposites. They may not conflict in many situations, but to say that they are compatible is plainly wrong.

  14. Mary2 says:

    Ephphatha, why do you equate atheists and scientists? They are not the same thing. Not all scientists are atheists and not all atheists know anything about science. Most of the commenters on this site (I assume) like to think they use reason and logic to work out things – therefore are big on the scientific method of observation and evidence (as beautifully described by Darwin Harmless). Quite a few of us seem to be big on Stars Wars too but I bet many religious people are also. The idea that ‘science’ is some kind of atheist religion is really hackneyed. The cartoon doesn’t even mention the word science.

  15. Chiefy says:

    Thanks for putting Ephy in her (his) place, DH. You said it better than I would have.

    Cosmic, do you just mean Author hit the mark, or am I missing something? Anyway thanks for bringing toxophilicity to my attention. Now I know I’m a toxophile, as well as a bibliophile. I’d better stay away from Ray Comfort’s comments.

  16. Haggis, no it is simply a love of archery. Little known fact, but the Apostle Thomas, the disciple that I have the greatest respect for was killed when an aristocrat put an arrow through him, mistaking him for a peacock. Check my link from “T” in my ABCs http://www.ruthlessreviews.com/20429/abcs-evangelical-christians-2/

  17. botanist says:

    Lol Chiefy. Ray Comfort has met our Author. Lol again. And 🙂

  18. Author says:

    @Tomas – Someone on Twitter had the same problem, and figured it out:

  19. hotrats says:


    Barmaid, who, pray tell, is “everyone else”?

    It is obvious from the general form of address “To believe…”, that more than one believer is implied; it is clearly aimed at both J&M (and anyone else who also believes it). So ‘everyone else’ is simply those who don’t believe that a particular book is ‘holy’.

    Glad to clear that up for you. If you should have any other problems interpreting a simple English sentence, do post again.

  20. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Well, Ephy, I’m sure you think you’ve made a point, but unless it’s that scientists are human too then I really can’t see what you are trying to tell us.
    Now go and check how many of those religious scientists have had the courage of their convictions and actually put their beliefs up for proper (so no Christian Science liars for J.C) scientific investigation. More pertinently, how many found that science confirmed their beliefs?

    Religion: It’s why science is important.

  21. Chiefy, thanks for that link to the Ray Comfort exchange. Best laugh I’ve had in weeks.

    “Still learning” – Ray Comfort

    And does he ever have a lot to learn. Could take him a while.

  22. JohnM says:

    Hey, Chiefy. That Ray Comfort link, with RC’s crass comment about a cross between paedophile and bible, has left me with an indelible image of said bibliophile ‘swaffling’ his Bible.
    P.s. If you don’t know this word, it’s in the Urban Dictionary.

  23. Graham ASH-PORTER says:

    Just Human! Don’t they know I’m the son of God?

  24. Macha says:

    As we now seem to be in the game of offering up dubious methodologies to make irrelevant points shoring up unsupportable conclusions, what about this?


    It suggests that religious people are stupid, dim, not the sharpest knife in the drawer, delusions of adequacy.

    BUT – it says in the Holy Book …

    “The fool hath said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” Psalm 14:1

    Now FOOL=STUPID right? Ha Ha Ha – so it’s you fundamental atheists who are STUPID!!

    Chew on THAT – how does YOUR religion answer THAT???!!!

    HA HA HA!!!

  25. Macha, that’s one of my favourite bible passages, proof that atheists have always been scoffing at the religious. It’s also interesting what the religious come back has been – totally unsupported claims that atheists are bad people. Here’s the complete quote:

    “The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”
    They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds;
    There is no one who does good.”

    Yeah, right. Fuck ’em all.

  26. John B Hodges says:

    The Author is more charitable than I. I learned a long time ago that, to varying degrees, but often to a large degree, people believe what they want to believe. In my ‘teens and twenties I believed and was disillusioned by a series of religions, and after enough repetitions it sunk in that I was believing for primarily emotional reasons and not for primarily rational ones. Having learned that, I began to see that lots of other people did that too; most of politics and all of religion was done that way. So, to that extent, believers are “just human”. BUT, At least some religious leaders I believe are conscious frauds. They are making it up out of whole cloth (or making a revised version of the existing literature) and claiming to have gotten it from God. Most believers may be willing, eager fools, but at least some of the leaders are knaves.

  27. LindaR says:

    Ray Comfort. Proving the Author’s point

  28. Back to St. Thomas, the doubting Apostle. I’ve done some research and there are some myths created about his death (Oh how we know the Religiously Impaired™ love their martyrs!). Anyway, a myth was created and this myth shows up in some fairly credible sources, that Thomas was speared to death by a High Priest in India, upon order of a king, dying a Christian martyr. Accounts from Hunter, William Wilson (1886). _The Indian empire : its peoples, history, and product_ and Marco Polo himself state differently. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, all but ONE of the Apostles died as martyrs. The re-writers of history were not shy about making the fledgling new religion more interesting for recruitment purposes. The ultimate lie may have been transforming the Jesus into a real, physical entity, as the writings of the Apostle Paul indicate that he did not worship a physical Jesus. I know I’m rambling, but when dissected, much of the rock-solid foundations in the Bible simply did not happen.

  29. floridakitesurfer says:

    Ramble away cosmicstargoat. I don’t believe there is a single historically accurate statement in the first ten books of the old testament.

  30. Ephphatha says:

    “Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become ‘fools’ so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight” 1 Corinthians 3:18, 19

    “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3



  31. Ephphatha: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3
    I have never understood this. Surely your religion is not telling me that I must give up any attempt to use my own brain and become like a child, totally trusting and gullible. Surely your religion wouldn’t have the gall to tell me to do that. That’s what a con man tells his mark, or a Hollywood director tells the hapless actor. Trust me? No less an authority than Burt Reynolds told me that translates to “Fuck you” in Hollywood.

    Since my interpretation of Matthew 18:3 can’t possibly be correct, could you help me out here and tell me what it’s supposed to mean. In what way am I supposed to become like a little child in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. Becoming shorter is out of the question.

  32. Ephphatha says:

    I think that your question is answered (or the premise shot down) within the first two links. However, here is more food for thought, for your edification, in answer to your sincere(?) question, DH.

    “First let the children eat all they want… for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” Mark 7:27


  33. Darwin, I think that the MT 18:3 is imploring those that are seeking the kingdom of Heaven to be more GODLIKE. Of course, being more god-like means having the caprice of a small, temper-tantrum prone child.

  34. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Of course, ‘just’ human does not neccessarily mean ‘only’ human; it could also mean ‘barely’ human, which sounds about right for people who would force a woman sentenced to death for apostasy to give birth whilst chained up.
    Yeah, God is great and His mercy is without limit. Ain’t that right, Ephy?
    Oh sorry, wrong god, huh? The one you love wouldn’t condone that sort of goings-on, I suppose?
    Ephy, you can wriggle and squirm and post your links all you like, but nothing will change the fact that the passage Darwin refers to is saying that a head free of knowledge is easier to infect with religion. Y’see, old fruit, the pedlars of myths have always known (even for thousands of years before your god created the Cosmos and fake fossils. Mythology; how does it work, again?) that in order to imprint religious belief on the mind, it has to be done early while the mind is still a blank slate, unsullied by anything so dangerous to the fairy tales as independant thinking or a sense of reality.
    It’s why people rarely change religions in later life, or if they do it’s usually between denominations of the same holding religion rather than a switch of gods completely. It’s why people rarely develop bigotry later in life; bigots either tend to come from bigots and so have been indoctrinated into bigotry from birth, or they have otherwise been exposed to bigotry whilst still at an impressionable age.
    Suffer the little children indeed!

  35. WalterWalcarpit says:

    Well said, AoS.

  36. Ephphatha, is this your idea of explaining Matthew 18:3 to me? A folk tail and a dissertation on the wisdom of children? Total bullshit. Have you spent any time with children lately? There are many qualities of children that I love dearly, but wisdom is not among them. Every child goes through a period when everything hurts them. They pull on a kitchen cabinet door and it won’t open so they pull harder and it slams them in the face. They pinch their fingers in doors and drawers. My son put a stool down on his foot and then climbed up on it. He was stuck, unable to get off the stool without putting more pressure on his foot, so he was wailing for rescue. And this is just dealing with physical reality. When it comes to human relationships or envision the future, which surely is part of wisdom, children have to learn to delay gratification, they must learn how to share, how to cooperate, how to empathize. There is no more terrifying place than an unsupervised childrens’ playground.
    This crap you are peddling is similar to the idea that it is the insane who are really in touch with reality, and the normal people who are insane, ala “King of Hearts” and a host of other films and stories. Again, bullshit. The insane are dysfunctional humans and almost invariably incredibly tortured and miserable.

    So these links do nothing to “shoot down” my premise, nor answer my question. It seems to me your religion is telling me to ignore everything I have learned about life, to stop using my brain and my reason, and you are simply refusing to own this.

    Of course it is ONLY by not using my brain and my reason that I could come to believe the kind of nonsense you lot promulgate. It is so obviously silly stuff.

    Think for a minute. “The Lord is my shepherd.” Psalm 23. Really? Are you a sheep? Do you want to be sheep-like? Do you want to have a shepherd watching over you? Or would you rather be an adult human being, capable of assessing reality and making choices for yourself? Isn’t it time you grew up and put away childish ideas?

  37. ShallowEnder says:

    Just to piss off the “Darwin was wrong” brigade we have some new species of insect. Well, not quite new species as they can probably still interbreed with the original stock but they are well on their way.
    I like how the quiet ones need the noisy ones to attract women-bugs. It’s similar to me having a chance at a human party with celebrity guests.
    It does show that MRSA and the peppered moth aren’t the only modern examples of evolution in action.

    Acolyte, millions of devotees of one version of the Abrahamic god of the books change to support another version when they get married, especially if they marry into Islam or Jewishness. I’m not sure how often this happens with Hindu, Shinto, Buddhist and other faiths but it is compulsory in some places.
    Whether you count those three as different gods or merely different shades of the same one, different denominations, is debatable.
    Well, it’s debatable in countries where debate is allowed.

  38. Macha says:

    One of the things that bugs me about the Bible with reference to children (other than their God-sanctioned slaughter on several occasions), is the command to “honour thy father and mother ..”. I mean why? I can see where it came from (the safe-keeping of aged men in a patriarchal and misogynistic tribal context), but it’s pretty meaningless to modern society.

    Surely nowadays it should be the other way round? Children don’t ask to be born and questions of honour, respect and so on should be directed from the parents to the child. If a consequence of this is that children, growing up as adults, grow to love and respect their parents, then that’s a bonus and not a right.

    For me, this is yet another example of why the bible is simply irrelevant.

    I’m sure a Sophisticated Theologian ™ can come up with all kinds of caveats, alternative quotes from different parts of the text, obscure interpretations of the original Hebrew and so on. But what’s the point? It’s not relevant. The Bible should spend its life on the bookshelf, on the “B” section, in between Descartes and Epicurus, to be consulted only when the origin of a popular saying needs to be confirmed.

    It’s not a manual on how to live, behave and think.

  39. hotrats says:


    Ephphatha, is this your idea of explaining Matthew 18:3 to me? A folk tail and a dissertation on the wisdom of children?

    Well, what were you expecting? Reasoned, informed debate? Having your questions taken seriously? On-topic links? Dear me no. Eph posts here to instruct us on revealed truth, not to waste time on the impertinent minutiae of our fundamentalist atheism.

    Your initial response to Eph was criticised for its brusqueness, but I’ve come to agree that ‘Just fuck off in good order’ is the only rational response.

  40. Tomas says:

    Thanks for the tip on adding paypal on my patreon account page. It would have been much easier if paypal was a choice at registration, though…

  41. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Ephy, if you want to be taken at all seriously around here you might want to try responding to us in your own words. Linking to biblical quotes to back up your biblical belief just won’t do, you need to give us your opinion, your reasons for thinking that you are correct in what you believe, just as we miscreants have given you many reasons in our own words why we think religion is bollocks.

    If you are unable to do this, then I suggest you take the advice originally offered by Darwin Harmless and merrily fuck the fuck off to somewhere that your bible quotes might be seen as something other than a lack of ability to think for yourself.

  42. JohnM says:

    Sorry, AoS but I don’t think religion is bollocks. I have a gut feeling I know it is bollocks. It’s the only instance when I allow myself to be led primarily by intuition, something essentially forbidden to a scientist.

  43. Okay, I just had to share this, OT though it is. (Do we have a topic on this thread? Oh yes, “Just human”. I’ll get back to it as soon as I finish beating on Ephphatha.) I sure wish I could write like this guy does.

  44. Ephphatha says:

    “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” 1 Peter 3:9


  45. Chiefy says:

    And yet another meaningless Bible verse in lieu of thinking. I propose we ignore the troll until such time as it either leaves or decides to respond like a human being.

  46. Macha says:


    From somewhere in your book, probably …

    “Take thyself henceforth and multiply”

    … or words to that effect

  47. Mary2 says:

    CosmicStarGoat, I never knew that all bar one of the apostles died as martyrs. You are dead right – that certainly improves the selling point of the new religion. It doesn’t have quite the same zing if you learn as a new recruit that Simon died of syphalis caught in a brothel, Thomas was killed in a ploughing accident and John died of old age while watching the telly in his slippers!
    Ephphatha, I have no problems with your quote from 1 Corinthians. I think that is sound advice if you take it to mean that we should always keep an open mind that we don’t know everything and the knowledge gleaned by future generations may mean they look back on our understandings as being very limited. We see this all the time – when I was a kid it was ‘fact’ that dinosaurs had scales. Now we know many of them had feathers: how freaking cool is that!?! It was also a ‘fact’ that Pluto was a planet – I’m not so happy it has been downsized but that is probably nostalgia.
    DH and CSGoat, although I giggled at CSG’s interpretation, I assumed that ‘child-like’ meant open-minded and trusting but I agree with DH that, given God’s desires as expressed in the rest of the book, it is sensible to assume it means ‘do as you are told or I’ll slap you into next week’ kind of parent/child relationship.
    Macha, while I agree that the ‘honour thy father and mother’ bit needs some serious caveats: ‘unless they are abusive or morons etc’, it was probably quite important to people living in little family groups being nomadic goat herders etc. that children did learn from their elders how not to get eaten by wolves or let the crops die. I still think that in the modern world most kids could do with a good dose of the discipline of ‘do as you’re told because I said so’ (I’m not a huge fan of the free-range, get everything you want version of child-raising) but this should be tempered with teaching the kid to think for itself and there is still the huge caveat that many parents are just plain bad and should not be revered in any way shape or form. I don’t think slogans, even if they are bible-based, are a good foundation on which to base you life’s values. The real world is a little more complicated – but, I guess, ‘Honour thy parents or, if they are useless, other wise people with lived-experience in your family group or culture’ just wouldn’t fit on the stone tablet.
    AOS, I have tried to gently explain to Ephphatha why we don’t find quotes from an old book compelling but I don’t think she/he bothers to read our responses. She certainly doesn’t often respond to responses.
    Ephphatha, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing” I have seen a fabulous version of this idea and I can’t remember where (maybe Stephen Fry?) that basically said that one should always be kind to one’s enemies – because nothing else is as guaranteed to piss them off.

  48. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    ShallowEnder, re: “Acolyte, millions of devotees of one version of the Abrahamic god of the books change to support another version when they get married…”
    A fair point – though I’d question millions – but I don’t think that a change of faith in order to marry is neccessarily the same as changing religion through serious contemplation of the veracity of the original faith of the switcher. In fact, I’d go so far as to suggest that a switch in order to marry shows a lack of real belief in the gods in the first place. I’m not sure that a true believer would dare to ditch their vengeful god for a mere human.

    JohnM says:
    May 30, 2014 at 3:57 pm
    Sorry, AoS but I don’t think religion is bollocks. I have a gut feeling I know it is bollocks. It’s the only instance when I allow myself to be led primarily by intuition, something essentially forbidden to a scientist.

    Amen to that, John. 🙂
    I take it then that you’re not one of those religious scientists that Ephy seemed to think made a valid point about…errr….something or other?

    Darwin, thanks for that link. I haven’t laughed so much in a long time.

    Chiefy, seconded. Until he comes up with something he actually thought of himself, he’s off to Coventry.
    Which leads me to Macha’s quote; Macha, for the love of sanity don’t ask him to multiply!

  49. steve oberski says:


    Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.

    Proverbs 17:28

    It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.

    Mark Twain

  50. Acolyte, you’re welcome. Or as they say in America, your welcome. But whatever you do, do NOT follow the link to that writer’s website. I’ve been trapped for hours and see no way to escape and my face hurts from smiling and laughing. Fair warning.

  51. Mary2 says:

    AOS and DH, David Thorne put out a couple of books. They are the most hilarious things I have ever read. That is one angry man who just does not give a f*ck who he offends.

  52. Macha says:

    Perhaps I should explain a previous post ..

    I think the phrase “take thyself henceforth and multiply” originated from a comment by David Frost. It’s a poshing-up of the Biblical misquotation “go forth and multiply”, and oft used as a more polite, albeit obscure way of saying “f*ck off”.

    Now I’m pretty sure neither saying is to be found in the babble, but wouldn’t it be great if it was? Perhaps it should be included as a 21st century revelation? I would suggest it could fit nicely in Ecclesiastes, maybe ..

    “take thyself henceforth and multiply” Eccles 13:1

    It could be used in many a quote competition and I’m sure none of the godbots would be any the wiser.

    Perhaps I’ll send the suggestion to the Archbish of Cant …

  53. steve oberski says:


    I was pretty sure you were telling good old shite for brains Ephphatha to “f*ck off” by way of literary allusion but given the amazing (even by the standards of fundies) ignorance of that target audience it’s always best to make this explicit.

  54. JohnM says:

    @AoS I take it then that you’re not one of those religious scientists…

    Correct. My spiritual side is most easily seduced by the wonders of fine art, good music and wild nature – and not at all by incomprehensible prose spouted by blokes in stupid-looking hats. Apart, that is, from the enjoyment derived from wondering why anyone sane could be drawn to religion, then subsequently finding like-minded people in the C&B.

  55. ShallowEnder says:

    Acolyte, 31st at 0055:
    Point taken. Being forced to change one’s observances does not necessarily mean one changes one’s religion. People do lie about these things. I’m not sure of the “millions” either but it’s certainly in that order of magnitude. People keep moving around, meeting other people and wanting to hook up, and here’s an awful lot of them around.

    Ephphatha, please explain why the boss would send his scouting parties out looking for three hundred and fifty species of these buggers and the crickets they ride out in. He’d need forty or more “companions” as well as his immediate family to find all of the disgusting things within even his extended lifetime. But the question is not logistics, however insane those are on a ship-sized scale but one of reasonableness. Why would any maker want to preserve more than one of those things? Or even one? To show off its skill set? It could do that with something a lot prettier like a fungus.
    Actually, I can fully understand keeping seven of these cuties. They are funny. And sort of sad. (I have, unlike the article writer, never done mean things to worms and other beasties. I reserve all my meanness for much lower lifeforms like priests and politicians.) (Joke alert.)
    As well as the fairy pink armadillo, I can well understand why the boss sent Noah’s collectors to save these guys. They are quite beautiful. Like butterflies only more lethal. Sort of segmented cats. I wonder if they have relatives with mouths large enough to swallow human-sized objects? Or did the family baulk at adding them to the boat’s passengers? Not that it would be easy to drown such things but the sudden addition of fresh water to their habitats could harm them.
    Okay, so I just wanted to share those remarkable beasties with everyone. I don’t really care how darling Eppy rationalises their continued existence. That was just the hook.
    Life on this planet is amazing. And often quite horrible.
    And I haven’t even mentioned those orifice-diving fish.

  56. two cents' worth says:

    JohnM, from time to time I’ve also wondered why anyone sane could be drawn to a belief in god(s). One of the ideas I’ve heard about the psychology behind religion is that many human beings have an unconscious longing for the time when they were infants, when their mothers knew and met all of their unspoken wants and needs. (If I remember correctly, I read this in The Skeptical Feminist: Discovering the Virgin, Mother, and Crone, by Barbara G. Walker.)

    There also seems to be a biological basis for religion. When the human brain functions in a certain way (for example, during meditation), it’s subjectively perceived as a religious experience. (This is discussed in Why God Won’t Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief, by Andrew Newberg, et al.). Newberg explicitly sets aside the question of whether religious experiences involve perceiving something that is real (like the Lego under my bare foot) or hallucinating something that is not real (like the one-eyed, one-horned, flying purple people eater). Perhaps it’s just that some people are susceptible to religious experiences, just as some people have an especially keen sense of smell, or perfect pitch. Or maybe the susceptibility to religious experience is more like synesthesia. Either way, if someone tells me that s/he has had a religious experience, I won’t argue over whether or not it was real (just as I won’t argue with someone with synesthesia who tells me that 2 is green). All I ask is that I not be forced to espouse religious beliefs, to engage in religious practices, or to donate my time or money to religious institutions.

  57. Mary2 says:

    two cents and JohnM, I totally understand religious belief and have often envied the believers. During the bad times of life it must be so very comforting to ‘know’ that a big, kindly father-figure was out there, not only keeping an eye on you but with a plan for you that would (some how) all turn out for the best. So much more comforting than the atheist version: shit happens and life is unfair and sometimes sux for no reason. Now I wouldn’t really rather have an untrue comfort than a less comforting but more real version of reality but I can understand why people who do have it cling to it no matter what. As for religious ritual: it’s always nice having someone else do your thinking for you and not having to decide what’s right and wrong by yourself.

  58. UncoBob says:


    One problem for the believers in relation to having ‘someone else to do your thinking for you’ is that for most significant human problems there are not often reasonable answers obviously available.

    I can thing of three obvious ways of getting answers: Check a sacred text for a precedent or advice; ask your church authority figure; or pray until you get an answer. Mohammed’s wives pointed out the problems with the last idea – usually the answer he got was consistent with what he had wanted in the first place. Asking an authority avoids thinking, but your answer depends on the authority’s wisdom, thoughts and prejudices and you surrender your responsibility for your life to someone else. Checking out and following precedents or advice in some good book or other is fraught with traps and difficulties. Denizens of the C&B have produced thousands of words about the negative aspects of doing so.

    Better to make your own decisions based on your own understanding of the best thing to do – probably what you were thinking in the first place until you got into a bit of wishful thinking.

  59. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Mary2 says:
    June 1, 2014 at 8:47 am
    two cents and JohnM, I totally understand religious belief…..

    I understand why they choose to believe, Mary, it’s what they believe that often befuddles me, and that goes for all types of mysticism and mumbo-jumbo, not just the Church approved ones.
    For example, I have in front of me a book called Life from Light: Is it possible to live without food?, by Michael Werner – a Doctor of Chemistry – and Thomas Stockli, 2007. Werner claims to have lived a perfectly normal and healthy life since giving up eating in 2001, and drinking nothing more nutritious than the occasional glass of orange juice, water, or cup of coffee.

    Of course it’s a load of metabollocks, but it’s the sort of thing I like to read on occasion both because I tend to find them funnier* that most books written deliberately as humour, and because they’re a reminder of why real science matters.
    True to form, the promised scientific investigation is nowhere to be seen, replaced instead by claims such as ‘spiritual beings’ are responsible for sunrises, sunsets, pretty cloud formations, and rainbows, but the ‘spirits’ cannot see these natural phenomena themselves unless the humans thay are attached to see and appreciate them first.
    However, the basic premise of the book is that all matter is composed of nothing more than compressed light, and that once we understand and accept this, we can then go on to receive all of our nutritional needs from light itself; not sunlight, though, but the ‘all-pervading light that fills each corner of the Universe’.
    Yup, he’s talking about God for the new millenium.
    Now, how’s this for a dangerous and stupid statement from a man who is, after all, a scientifically qualified teacher and director of a serious Swiss research institute (he doesn’t say which one); talking about why people die from starvation or dehydration, he claims that it’s because they believe… if they stop eating, or don’t get anything to eat, or don’t want to eat, they too will starve. This is a dogma that has been drummed into us by education, by our culture and by our religion. Normally..we are convinced that if we don’t eat anything we will unavoidably die. This generates an environment of causes and effects that leads to our starvation! (emph. mine).
    He then goes on to claim that if you simply believe you can live on light alone, then you can, and the first step is a 21-day programme in which for the first seven days you must neither eat nor drink anything, and after that just the occasional sip of diluted orange or water – not for hydration purposes, just to deal with bad breath! After 21 days, he claims, you need never eat or drink again.

    I wonder how many people have ended up in hospital – or worse – because of fucking idiots such as this?

    *Needless to say, I soon found that the unintentional humour in this particular book gave way to horror. Still, to redress that, I have also just bought How to Understand the Creed, a book written by three priests in order to explain the intricacies of the Nicene Creed. I’m bound to get some genuine belly laughs from that one.
    And before anybody accuses me of wasting money or putting money in the hands of the idiots who write this guff, I only ever buy books destined for the ‘Nonsense’ shelf from charity shops, and this pair, along with a 1960’s book on witchcraft, cost me a total of one pound.

  60. Acolyte, I applaud your hobby, sir. Delightful. Really takes me back.

    In years gone by I had an Aunt Ida, since deceased, known affectionately in the family as Crazy Aunt Ida. She also swore she could live without eating, although she did not claim to get her nutrition from light. Not at all. She was a Breathairian. She had a perfectly reasonable scientific explanation for being able to live without food. It went like this: When you cook food, ninety percent of the nutrition is lost. It can’t just disappear. It has to go someplace. Where does it go? It goes into the air of course. A person doesn’t need to eat food if they simply learn to breath properly. They will get all the nutrition they need from the air.

    This was one of her firm beliefs, and it made perfect sense, at least to her, but I think she actually did eat normal food in the normal way, rather than trying to aspirate it. She lived for a number of years beyond my one meeting with her at any rate.

    Aunt Ida also claimed she could leave her body and astrally travel around, but said it was too much trouble to bother with.

    I look forward to your next book report.

  61. What? We’ve regressed to the dark ages. The plus sign is back and the edit function we all loved so much is gone. Only now do I realize how much I had come to depend on it.

  62. JohnM says:

    You could try morphing into ‘DarwinHarmless’, then reading your comment carefully for a further 5 minutes before affirming your non-spammer status 🙂

  63. Author says:

    No editing? I have no idea how that happened. I’ll look into it.

  64. John, that’s what we had to do in the bad old days before the edit function. Now that I know it’s gone I shall go back to that protocol.

    I only had one tiny change I wanted to make to my previous post anyway. I wanted to insert “That would be silly.” between “Not at all” and “She was a Breathairian.” Now that I look at this some hours later, I see that this would not have added anything significant to the story, though the idea that Crazy Aunt Ida could find anything “silly” rather tickles me.

    Thanks for your suggestion. Not the lack of a plus sign between Darwin and Harmless. I’m proo freading with great care now. 🙂

  65. Mary2 says:

    AOS, I’m with you in being befuddled by WHAT people believe. While I understand the appeal of an invisible, loving father, I entirely fail to see how someone can believe that spirit beings cause sunsets when it’s patently obvious to anyone who even knows someone who has been on a plane that the planet does not need beings of any sort to make the sun disappear over the horizon!

    I am all in favour of idiots believing that they do not need to eat and the sooner they all put this into practise the better.

  66. NSPike says:

    I also totally get why someone would believe – I really want to sometimes. Last year there was a bit of a family crisis, the first I’ve been through since deciding for definite that I was atheist, and suddenly I felt a little more alone than last time, and at one moment of weakness found myself saying something that verged on being a prayer. Having read about some Eastern religions, some of the ideas and beliefs they hold are beautiful and elegant, but also are complete and utter bollocks.

    That said, there was one “Eastern” (in inverted commas because I think it’s more Eastern-origin but Western-appropriated New Age stuff) belief system I started to read about – Reiki – but only got around 3 pages in before the repeated insistence of spelling love as LOve annoyed me too much to even find it funny. I’m sure there was some reason behind that particular spelling, but I’m also sure that the reason was totally fabricated to make it look more ‘spiritual’.

    I understand why people believe, but wish they’d apply some reason and thought to it – it all quickly falls apart. Not eating food is a new one to me, and particularly baffling. How can they lie like that to so many people? Because it has to be lies doesn’t it?

  67. floridakitesurfer says:

    Proo freading is hilarious.

  68. yahweh says:

    AoS, don’t be too quick to cite Islam for shackling pregnant prisoners during childbirth.

    I was ashamed, years ago, when I read that this happens in the UK prison system. When I just tried to find a reference to this report (I believe it was HM Inspector of Prisons) but google came up with pages of references to the same practice in the US at the top of the list.

  69. yahweh says:

    Apologies for my illiterate typing above. Here’s the article: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/holloway-regime-shocks-prison-team-1526427.html

    For context, the then inspector of prisons (General Sir David Ramsbottom) was chosen as a tough, no nonsense, ex-military, boot-camp loving disciplinarian.

  70. Macha says:

    That would be the delightful Anne Widdecombe …

    “In 1996, Widdecombe, as prisons minister, defended the Government’s policy to shackle pregnant prisoners with handcuffs and chains when in hospital. Widdecombe told the Commons the restrictions were needed to prevent prisoners from escaping. “Some MPs may like to think that a pregnant woman would not or could not escape. Unfortunately this is not true. The fact is that hospitals are not secure places in which to keep prisoners, and since 1990, 20 women have escaped from hospitals”

    She eventually defected from CofE to the RC variety.

  71. IanB says:

    Macha says:
    “That would be the delightful Anne Widdecombe”

    AKA Doris Karloff although I unremember who gave her that rather cruel nickname. Well known for her homophobia, support for capital punishment and blasphemy laws although it must be said she was bang on about Michael Howard “”there is something of the night about him”.

  72. hotrats says:

    And she couldn’t even get that right; there is, in fact, nothing of the day about Howard (I loved Rory Bremner’s portrayal; “Don’t worry, I’m not going to hurt you. Not this time…”). Doris Karloff is spot on.

    When I’m feeling depressed, I re-watch the Intelligence Squared debate, in which C. Hitchens and S. Fry roast Anne and her Catholicism over a roaring bonfire. When she tries to defend the church over slavery, by saying that back then people didn’t realise how wrong it was, Steven impales her with, “If you couldn’t know better because nobody else did, then WHAT ARE YOU FOR?”; the look on her face when she realises she has no answer is guaranteed to raise my spirits.

  73. ShallowEnder says:

    hotrats, thou shall not kick cripples when they are down and bleeding.
    Anne Widdefook may be a monstrosity on the close order of a Boko Haram priest but it is entirely possible that she truly believes in her little girl’s god. That she is sincere in her dislike of all of those “liberal” things she opposes. That she has a true and deep trust in the moral foundations of her religion and she needs it to live. She may never have considered that her trivial little cult is entirely irrelevant in the real world, that her deity only matters in her insular little cliques and that the Big Picture is so very, very much bigger than she and her kind have ever imagined.
    Smacking her in the face with the cold, wet, dead fish of her own and her gods’ utter lack of importance could have damaged her for life.
    Does even Anne Wide-as-a-barn deserve that?
    Should we really waken them up to the cold, lonely meaningless we live with every day?
    Isn’t it cruel to kick an intellectual and moral cripple?
    Eppy, dearest, should we be more attentive to your small feelings?

  74. ShallowEnder says:

    Note: I did say: ” … may be …” . I’ve never met her and am relying on third hand rumour and reportage by biased, sensationalising “journalists” [or writers who were rejected by comic-books as not good enough.] She might be a fine and lovely lady. I have absolutely no idea and will probably never meet her to be able to form one.
    There are many, many people I’ll never meet.
    Most of them are quite happy with this arrangement.

  75. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    yahweh says:
    June 3, 2014 at 5:12 pm
    AoS, don’t be too quick to cite Islam for shackling pregnant prisoners during childbirth.

    I was aware of the handcuffing of women to hospital beds during childbirth over here – and am happy to say that the practise has been outlawed – and would include those who insisted on it happening in my ‘only-just human’ comment.
    However, I would add that women giving birth in prison hospitals would not have been ‘cuffed as a matter of course, just those transferred to a public hospital, and although it’s a minor distinction, in the case I linked to the woman gave birth in her prison cell, so the chance of her fleeing with her daughter still attached by the cord was minimal to say the least!
    To return to the practise taking place on these shores for a moment, the S.O.P. is that any prisoner being taken to a hospital should be restrained at all times when outside of the prison walls (though they are un-cuffed when under general anaesthetic – or needing an electric boost for the heart!), and I do wonder if the issue with women giving birth in ‘cuffs was down to the accompanying guards following the standard procedure a little too zealously, and the Home Secretary was defending procedure more than the actual practics. Then again, Widdecombe (un-Fair) does seem to be one of those woman-hatingChristians and lower-class-hating Tories, so one never knows.
    Any way up, though, it was and is a barbaric thing to do.

    Darwin, I think I would have loved your Aunt Ida, and ‘That would be crazy’ did enhance the story.

    Now for something really scary. Having read Life from Light a little further, it turns out that Werner’s directorship is of a cancer research institute in Arlesheim, Switzerland – or at least he was at the time his book was published – and at least one of the testimonies from his fellow ‘light-livers’ contains a claim that her ‘incurable’ cancer was cured through the process of living on light.
    I wonder how the death toll from Jonestown compares with the death toll of believers in Werner’s little cult?

    Mary, re: I am all in favour of idiots believing that they do not need to eat and the sooner they all put this into practise the better.
    Normally I’d agree, but thinking about it Werner’s book is the kind of thing that would really appeal to those with mental illnesses such as anorexia, and whilst I’m all for natural selection I do think that some people do need protecting from themselves, and from irresponsible ‘scientists’ such as Werner.

    I do apologise to the tl:dr* crew for the length of my posts, but theses days I’m so busy that I get about ten minutes a day to myself – if that – so have to get it all down whenever the chance arises.

    *I assume that tl:dr is an acronym for ‘too lazy, didn’t read’?

  76. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Shit, I can’t spell ‘practise’! No time to proo fread, y’see. 🙂
    And I’ve spotted the same problem as Darwin; the dreaded plus signs are back and the edit function has buggered off.

  77. Acolyte+of+Sagan says:

    Me again!
    I mis-quoted you, Darwin. ‘That would be silly, not bloody crazy.
    Bedtime, methinks. And I’m leaving the pluses in!

  78. Mary2 says:

    AOS, tl;dr = too long; didn’t read. i.e. the fault is with the author not the lazy bastard. I enjoy everyone’s long posts – keep it up, folks.

  79. two cents' worth says:

    ShallowEnder asked, “Should we really waken them up to the cold, lonely meaningless we live with every day?”

    Speak for yourself 🙂 ! Atheism allows me to be my own authority on the meaning of life in general, and the meaning of my own life in particular.

    Of course, I can only say what the meaning is to me. The meaning of life in general, and of my life in particular, depends on who you ask. I assume that, to the vast majority of people in the world who don’t know me, the meaning of my life is the same as the the meaning of the life of any other human being whom they don’t know, and that to many of them the lives of unknown humans have no meaning at all.

    But life in general and my own life in particular are not meaningless to me.

  80. two cents' worth says:

    I thought I’d carefully proo fread the above comment before submitting it, but managed a double “the” despite myself. This warns me that sleep deprivation is taking its toll, so I’m going to follow the good example of AoS and toddle off to bed now.

  81. Chiefy says:

    Shallow, I agree with two cents. I used to feel that way, before I abandoned faith. Nothing is colder, lonelier, or more meaningless than when the most important being in your life is invisible and never touches you or talks to you. Life gets better when you realize that that being was imaginary the whole time, and you can focus on real beings, like your friends and family.

    But then, you were probably being ironic.

  82. Macha says:


    The reason Widdles left the CofE for the Pope was the issue of women priests (she was agin ’em)

    The bit in the IQ2 debate I like is her response to an audience question along the lines “what’s wrong with women priests?”. She explained – in all seriousness – that when the priest offers up the sacrement, he becomes “In Persona Christi” and obviously this requires a male person, females lacking the required appendages.

    The look on Hitch’s face at this bizarre notion is priceless.

  83. ShallowEnder says:

    Chiefy, “irony”? Isn’t that something like being a steely-eyed missile man?
    NO, I was being serious [-ish].
    The fairy-tale believers have a lovely, small, warm little planet with a cloak of starry goodness and a burning centre. We have an empty, cooling, vast darkness lit by the sparkles of quintillions of stars. They have a tiny, pathetic, ultimately futile war between the giant daddy and a minuscule bad robot, we have an entire cosmos where we and only we supply any meaning we have and where our loves, compassion and fellowships are all the “meaning” of the worlds.
    There is “really” no warmth and no meaning in the cosmos we see as reality. Grind down the universe, sieve it finely and you will find no particle of meaning, justice, mercy or love.
    We create those.
    We are all the love and warmth of the universe.
    In itself it has none. The cosmos needs us. Perhaps more than we do it.
    My assessment stands. The cosmos per se is dark, cold and meaningless. We are the light and the warmth and The Way.
    And the future.
    If the universe has one.

    Was that too long to read?

  84. ShallowEnder, elegantly put and spot on.

  85. hotrats says:

    Should we really waken them up to the cold, lonely meaningless we live with every day?

    Good question, even if it seems to have a noun missing – if they spend their lives denying the Matrix, is there a case for force-feeding them the red pill?

  86. ShallowEnder says:

    hotrats: ” … the cold, lonely meaningless …” is the noun. It’s called poetry, or artistic licence or hominy grits or something. I could have used ” … meaninglessness …” but that felt too long and grammatical, also assonant.
    Which adjective has little to do with donkeys, though they, too are very.

  87. Walter says:

    RE: Red Pill

    Yes, because if they don’t take the red pill, they will keep their children and wurst other people’s children from the red pill.


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