Been seeing a lot of this on Twitter lately.

└ Tags: ,

Discussion (75)¬

  1. HaggisForBrains says:


  2. Sondra says:

    I second that.

  3. Myrhinne says:

    I’ve had conversation’s like that. But then I’ve been guilty of it as well. When I started my law degree a tutor warned me that I would never give anyone a straight answer again by the time I was finished.

    Was she right? Well, it depends what you mean by a “straight answer”, does a factually accurate but complex and nuanced answer fit the criteria? Can we exclude mundane conversation from the question…

    I could go on like that for thousands of words.

  4. MarkyWarky says:

    Couldn’t we define a straight answer as “a reply which makes every attempt to give the questioner the information they seek”?

    Of course, it does require a “straight question”. Oh bugger!!!

  5. WalterWalcarpit says:


  6. machigai says:

    That depends on what you mean by “spammer”.

  7. Great stuff. It’s the first refuge of the person with nothing to say, start to question the definitions of the words.

  8. jerry w says:

    We’re happy to be here honoring the teaching of organized religion, and for our opening song, we’d like to do a cover of one of our favorites, the Eurythmics “Would I Lie to You?”, followed by the greatest Beatles song ever, “Lies”.

  9. Russ Turley says:

    What happened to showing the comics in your RSS feed?

  10. Author says:

    @Russ – It still shows in my reader and on Feedburner site.

  11. Nassar Ben Houdja says:

    The musical duo dynamic
    Disciples inclined towards things Abrahamic
    To sit around and prevaricate
    To the sound of a guitar, musically masticate
    Hard to chew on, contemporary music is very thick.

  12. gobbycoot says:

    Lol. Impeccable timing. I just had a morning-passing (passing or wasting?) discussion where the definition of “supernatural” was unpindownable. 😛

  13. It’s a kind of fake whipped cream.

  14. durham669 says:

    Darwin Harmless, that is brilliant! And deserves to be repeated: “It’s the first refuge of the person with nothing to say, start to question the definitions of the words.”

    The religious and spiritual (woo-woo) love to change the definition of words. God is love and other such nonsense.

  15. maggs says:

    I love Jesus and Mo,
    I would always go to their show,
    When they chose to prevaricate,
    I just went home and came back tomorrow to see if they were still at it…
    Then took my autograph book round to the do’.

    It scans if you work at it, except of course the obvious obligatory non-scanning line…

  16. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    No idea why, but I always think that Jesus ought to be the guitarist and backing vocalist, with Mo lead ‘screamer’ at the mike. Just seems more natural somehow.

  17. JoJo says:

    The rule of thumb I live by is never say anything that’s less qualified than you are….. 🙂

  18. @durham669 Thanks.
    @JoJo I think I shall use that. But I’m not quite sure what it means. Does it mean that the more qualified I become, the more I should qualify my statements? Or does it mean that whenever I am unqualified I may make a direct assertion of fact? Either way it sounds very witty and I’m sure that anybody I use it on will be as confused by it as I am.

  19. durham669 says:

    Ran into this quote about god and it reminded me of this cartoon:

    “Even with the word “God” itself it presents a kind of deceptive cover. If people had to say every time instead “I believe the universe is controlled intentionally by a conscious superhuman that loves me.” I think they’d eventually be too embarrased to think it serious any longer. ” – Jack Vix

  20. Mahatma Coat says:

    OK, OK, I’ve ordered Folie a Dieu, so stop making with the cute pleas already.

  21. Cassandra says:

    Just thought I’d remind commentators that it is one of my joys that formal debating rules do not permit the citing of religious texts as logical proofs. However, defining one’s terms is essential if a rational conversation is to be supported. Not to permit prevarication, but to enable hidden assumptions to be flushed out. Such as that there is an entity outside the universe taking an interest in us. Define God.

  22. durham669 What a great idea. I’ve been having a hard time getting out of the habit of saying things like “Thank God for that.” just because they are so deeply imbedded in the language. “Thank goodness for that” sounds so wimpy and “Thank the FSM for that” requires explanation, so maybe I can learn to say “Thank the conscious superhuman entity that controls the universe and loves me for that.” It’s a bit of a mouthful, but I think I could roll it out smoothly with practice.

  23. durham669 further thoughts on your suggestion: Unfortunately, the people who take God seriously really do believe that he is “a conscious superhuman who controls the universe intentionally and loves me”. They tell me that Jesus is as real to them as I am (scary thought that) and that “Jesus loves me” is a literal truth. They could repeat your phrase endlessly and never feel the slightest bit silly doing so. Unfortunately, that phrase only sounds silly to us, and really no sillier than “Please, God, fix me dear old mom’s cataracts”.

  24. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    DH, there is a perfectly good, Anglo-Saxon alternative to thanking the big G, though it’s not one that’s always welcome in polite society. But “thank fuck for that!”, as I often say! I do occasionally say – when in aforementioned polite company – ‘thank Carl for that’, and when asked who ‘Carl is, just give an enigmatic smile and leave it there; maybe you could use the same tactic with the FSM?

  25. JoJo says:

    @Darwin Harmless: I would make my life rule less ambiguous, but that would be contrary to my life rule.
    Maybe I shall start a religion…

  26. FreeFox says:

    @DH: Well, why do you express thanks at all? If you do not feel any, it’s dishonest and you could simply do without the entire phrase. If you do, what do you feel it towards? The Powers That Be? The universe? Fate? How did Penn Jillette put it? Luck is probability taken personal? Doesn’t gratitude assume something personal on the other end? Why not, ahem, define what you really want to say – “to enable hidden assumptions to be flushed out” – and just say that? I am certain the English language will be up to the challenge. ^_^

  27. FreeFox in that instant I said thanks to @durham669 for paying me a compliment. Leaving aside whether his assessment is correct or not, I do feel gratitude when somebody calls me, or something I wrote, “brilliant”. Recognition and appreciation are scarce commodities, especially on comment threads. So thanks seemed appropriate. You sound like you are trying to pick a fight again when you suggest that I’ve been dishonest. Could that be another example of projection?

    By the way, I do think that you yourself are brilliant. But as my old Hollywood buddies used to tell me, “The most important thing in this business is sincerity, and the quicker you learn to fake that the better.” I think sometimes your brilliance gets in the way of your sincerity, to the detriment of both.

  28. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    “@DH: Well, why do you express thanks at all?”

    Well, if one should fall from a cliff and have one’s fall broken by the only bush thick enough to break the fall, it would be churlish at the very least not to be thankful for the stroke of luck that led to falling in exactly the right place. Obviously it would be wrong to thank ‘God’ specificallly; that would be assuming too much, not to mention presuming that one is worthier of saving than the poor sods who may, in the past, have fallen there but missed the bush. Maybe “thank random chance” would suffice, but it lacks the brevity of the established ‘thank God’.
    So, what alternative expression to ‘Thank God’ would you all like to see in common usage? Answers on a postcard; the winning entry gets a virtual prize of theoretically high value 🙂

    Good to see you around, Freefox, you’ve been conspicuous by your absence of late. Hope all’s well for you and yours.

  29. HaggisForBrains says:

    Thank doG? Garage Dragon? Ceiling Cat?

    Personally, I thank god I’m an atheist.

  30. Oh dear, it seems I totally misunderstood our friend FreeFox’s question and assumed he was referring to my earlier thanks, thanking @durham669 for the compliment, and not to my question about appropriate language when feeling that I’ve been the recipient of good luck. So now I shall try to answer his actual question.
    When I say something like “Thank God for that.” or “Thank Fuck for that.” (Thank you AofS for that suggestion.) it is a linguistic habit. Really what I am saying is “Well, that was good luck then, wasn’t it.” or possibly “I’m gratified that things turned out the way they did.” So you are quite correct. I should “define what you really want to say”. And that’s it. Thank you for helping me clarify my thinking on that, FreeFox. Sorry about the earlier confusion.

  31. I have heard people say, “Thank the stars” and “Thank my lucky star”. These both strike me as a non-religious or at least religiously unspecified “Thank God”

  32. hotrats says:

    Like the heartfelt, omnidirectional ‘Help’ if you find your boat sinking, a heartfelt, omnidirectional ‘Thanks’ can hardly go amiss should you survive.

  33. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    “floridakitesurfer says:
    December 14, 2012 at 3:56 pm
    I have heard people say, “Thank the stars” and “Thank my lucky star”. These both strike me as a non-religious or at least religiously unspecified “Thank God””

    Sounds too astrological for my taste. I’d hazard a guess that astrology was indeed the root of the phrase, along with ‘written in the stars’. “Thank the stars” implies that the sentence should continue “…that I was born a Capricorn; if I’d been born a week later I’d be an Aquarius and that car would likely have hit me.”

    Hotrats, I suppose that this discussion at least proves that we atheists are civil, well-mannered folk at heart, more than willing to show a little gratitude to what is often no more than simply a favourable coming together of circumstances.

    HaggisForBrains, I much prefer to thank ‘the gods I don’t believe in’ I’m atheist, won the pools or what-have-you. It does occasionally lead people to ask which gods they are; despite the rule that one should never answer a question with a question, I always reply “What have you got?”.

  34. UncoBob says:

    Trying to get to grips with this one. My understanding of ‘prevaricate’ is to deliberately not tell the truth without actually lying, but the context of this toon and subsequent discussion appears to be more about hair-splitting or logic-chopping. (Just got the latter word from Roget’s Thesaurus.)

  35. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    UncoBob, you’ll drive yourself mad trying to tie the comments in with the cartoons here. Our beloved Author is not as strict as most when it comes to staying with the topic, so we tend to go where the conversation takes us.
    However, you are right about prevarication in that it’s a way of deviating from the truth without actually lying: it does, however, imply an intention to mislead.
    Technically, I suppose, by delaying their performance for the judges with a seemingly pointless question (“Define ‘ready'”), Mo isn’t so much prevaricating, as procrastinating, which is of course putting things off intentionally and/or habitually. So, the average conversation with a religidiot will by neccessity (on the religio’s part) be heavy with both prevarication and procrastination.

  36. UncoBob says:

    The later strand of this discussion hasn’t looked at the other side of the coin. I.e. we’ve examined ‘What is the ideologically correct response if things come out favourably for us”, but OTOH what is the appropriate response when they don’t. The religious can look for the sins they (or more usually others) have committed to anger their deity/ies. Then they can either have a good confession with appropriate rending of garments and breast-beating, or declaim something self-righteous about the sins of the victims. I personally favour obscene language, but it has some disadvantages.

  37. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Well, when circumstances are favourable to me I appreciate it, when they’re unfavourable, then I don’t. Either way there’s no reason to attribute circumstances to a deity or mystical cosmic other’, it’s simply a matter of ‘shit happens’; sometimes it’s good shit, so enjoy; sometimes it’s not so good, in which case deal with it and move on.
    One of the lesser downsides to religion (the major ones are just too numerous to go into here) is that when circumstances are favourable it’s the gods that get the praise, when things go wrong it’s never their fault. It’s the gods wot makes the game, it’s the fools wot gets the blame, as the old song (almost) goes.

  38. HaggisForBrains says:

    @AoS –
    “It’s the same the whole world over…
    Ain’t it all a bloody shame.”

  39. HaggisForBrains says:

    Didn’t take long for the xians to blame the elementary school massacre on the fact that their god is not allowed in US schools:

  40. HaggisForBrains and think of the outrage if a Republican refused to send in a swat team because the school was in a Democratic area. But they think their God would act like that. What a hideous egotistical ass hole they take their God to be. (words are mine, but the sentiment is going around). Really makes me wonder why they worship Him.
    And no, I’m not an atheist who is angry at God. God doesn’t exist. I’m angry at the stupidity of blaming such a tragedy on separation of church and state, and claiming that their God let it happen because his nose is out of joint.

  41. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    A tragedy beyond comprehension; I’m not an overly emotional, weepy type by any stretch of the imagination, but my eyes are still sore from the tears I shed as the details of this latest mass-slaughter began to emerge. Kids, for fuck sake! Not college kids nor even high school kids, just little children; little children that were barely older than my eldest grandson. What a fucking horrible world we live in!
    Maybe it was because of my own emotional state at the time – though maybe not, as I still feel the same – but there were two items in the news coverage that to my mind were simply insulting to the dead.
    The first was the reporting of a vigil held at a church* near to the school, which had been filmed as the congretation sang ‘Amazing Grace’. Amazing? Grace? Will somebody please tell me how that particular hymn was even remotely appropriate?
    The second was an interview with a pro-gun lobbyist who, after saying that the guns used were legally owned under the ‘God-given right’ of the first amendment, stated that this latest multiple-slaughter is “not a gun control issue; it’s a mental health issue”! Funny how some Americans pick and choose which amendments to follow to the letter, and which to interpret to suit. The right to bear arms is apparently written in stone, seperation of church and state however….. I could have shot the fucker there and then, and I know that I’m sane – my stranger posts here notwithstanding.

    *It never ceases to amaze me that so many will respond to a tragedy of this – or indeed of any magnitude by giving praise and thanks to a god** that had presumably just allowed it to happen; even more so when they basically say that it happened because their god places greater value on being loved than on the lives of so many innocents, not only the dead but their families, friends, and communities, not to mention the survivors who will undoubtedly be scarred for life – both physically for the wounded, but to a greater extent mentally, by the horrors they were forced to witness.

    **I’m done with capitalising god, allah, jaweh, and the rest of the pantheon of ‘one true’ gods. Most of you know my views on the usage of the English language, in this case the capitalisation of a proper noun. However, a proper noun’s primary application refers to a unique entity, and I’ll have to lose my mind before I will ever again accept their malevolent figments of the imagination as either unique or an entity in any manner, shape or form. Fuck the lot of ’em. The invented ‘perfect’ gods, and their followers who continue to insist that their ‘perfect’ gods’ roles in such terrible events are……perfect. Because it’s god. Yep, fuck ’em all.

    I’m aware that most of my posts here, no matter what the topic, tend to contain at least an attempt at humour or light-heartedness. Some days, however, it’s impossible. This is one of those days.
    And I’m crying again.

  42. HaggisForBrains says:

    With you all the way, AoS.

  43. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Cheers, HFB.

  44. UncoBob says:

    Tragic events. I guess we all try to deal with the horror in our own way. Believers get together and sing their hymns and listen to sermons about their deity’s ineffable plans. We point out the illogic in this. The gun lobby say “It wasn’t our fault”. Politicians make empty promises. I fantasise about requiring the burial of the perpetrators under the urinal in public toilets. An effective way of showing disapproval. Might also deter some copycats if they knew they were going to be pissed on for eternity – Or at least some decades.

  45. FreeFox says:

    In ref to the early topic of gratefulness, DH, I think the reluctance even amongst atheists to let go of phrases like “Thank God” or all the variations thereof from “thank goodness” to “thank fuck” shows that to take how the universe treats us personally is seated very deeply. Maybe it is the religious basis of our culture, but I suspect it is rather this generally human point of view that is at least one central cause for religions. Of course there are gods of anger, and of business, of sunrise and of ingenuity, but concepts like winter, death, and fortune, in other words those experiences that have all of us rail against the universe again and again and that few can ever truly accept, live on as personifications, Old Man Winter, The Grim Reaper, and Lady Fortune, way beyond any organised religious thought. (Okay, I admit with the urbinisation I suppose Old Man Winter has become something of a childhood character, split between Father Christmas and Jack Frost, just as Oestra has become the easter bunny. But it just illustrates my point that it is only those aspects of the universe that forever vex and frustrate us and make us helplessly go through the stages of denial, anger, bargaining, and depression, that we need to keep personified, so that we can cuss and thank and try to bargain with them.)

    And keeping that in mind, I have a bone to pick with my good friend AoS (and btw no, I’ve not been doing well by myself and mine, I actually fucked things up pretty badly at the moment, giving me my own cause to try to deny, cuss, try to bargain, and cry about). Yes, 20 poor innnocent children were shot. But, seriously, boo-hoo. In 2011, so wikipedia tells me, 7 million under the age of 5 died, in 2009 it was 8, and in 1990 more than 12 million. That meant in 1990 it was 8% of all children of that age worldwide, in 2011 still 5%. One child in 20. Leaving aside that 2/3rds of these death could be easily prevented by low cost means and mostly are not due to corruption and the intense exploitation of the 3rd world that keeps your costs for coffee and petrol reasonable, God very obviously isn’t holding a protective hand over any of them. Do you walk around sobbing for all of them (think about it, 7 million last year, that is more than 13 every minute of the entire year)?! Didn’t think so. So keep your tears for those 20. You are just playing along in the media’s little circus about it.
    As for God… yeah… *if* there is one (or – as I would put it – that *existing* part of the universe we tend to take personally) OBVIOUSLY IS A TOTAL ARSEHOLE. There is no way around it: God is a cunt. Or dick. Or bastard. Or whatever expletive is acceptable to you.

    But the same things holds true if you view the universe impersonally. So it’s not God that is cruel, but the world. Fate. The cold equations. Even blaming human mismanagement for those millions of innocently dead toddlers doesn’t exculpate the universe any less than God. So God gave us a free will? Bad choice I say (and oddly contradicted in the story about pharao and the seven plagues). So it’s human agency? Well, then a universe including humans so greedy and selfish they place cheap coffee higher than the needs for survival for millions of babies seems to deserve appellations such as crappy, shoddy, or spinache (as in “and I’ll have none of it”).
    But, you might say, on the other hand it’s the same universe that has given rise to life itself, that is the cause for every child’s laughter, for every lover’s sigh, for ever eureka moment, for every gasp of joy, for every breathatking beauty, and for every mind (if terrestrial or extra-terrestrial) capable of appreciating it. The same human species that is capable of such greed and cruelty is also the origin for the caverns of catal hüyük and Michalangelo’s David, for the Edwardian architecture Edinburgh and of Istabul, for the plays of Shakespeare, the insights of Darwin and Einstein, the courage of Galileo, the flight to the moon, the recipe for chili fried lamb, and for the cartoons of our esteemed author.
    But if we allow these extenuating circumstances for the glory of a godless universe, the same could be said of an assumed God. He is truly glorious and magificent. But still a cunt.

    (As for capitalisation, isn’t that more of a name thing? I mean if call him “god”, it’s a descriptive noun, like potato, or unicorn. If you call him God it’s a personal noun, like Jesus or Timmy. Maybe our in-house nitpicker Hotrats could say something about this.)

  46. hotrats says:

    Not sure I’m entirely happy with the job description ‘nitpicker’, being more often concerned with full-grown bloodsucking board-lice, but to quibble further would be to make your point for you (and ‘in-house’ is gratifying).

    I have always wondered, if there is only one god, why does he/she/it need a name, like Allah, Yahweh or Jehova? We don’t say ‘Allah the God’ – whom else could he/she/it be mistaken for? (“I’m God, yes THE God, but you can call me Jehova, OK? Except if you do, I’ll have to kill you…”) For that matter, can it mean anything to be a Father without a Mother somewhere?

    God, with or without an initial capital, is a noun, a name for a thing. It is not a ‘proper noun’ like London or Sagan, so the capital G is a mark of respect and distinction, as are He, Thou, Lord, Father and Almighty, uniquely identifying the deity of monotheists, while other deities get only lower-case. The capitalization embodies the destructive meme that ‘there is one god (mine) who is not just A god but THE God, and all other gods (yours) are mere irrational superstition’, which as we know is but a doctrinal hop and skip away from, ‘Prepare to die in the name of the Most Merciful’.

    I would say there is a clear case, on a miscreant site such as this, for a small ‘g’, on the basis that what is being described is neither a personal name nor a unique identity, just a concept – one god among many comparable gods.

    But if we are to aspire to a coherent J&M house style, I would rather suggest ‘sarcasm quotes’ – ‘god’ when talking about any old deity, with ‘it’ as the pronoun – to bring out the illusory nature of the concept itself. Within such dismissive ‘air quotes’, you could continue to use capital G to point the finger at the monotheist culprit – ‘God’ – where applicable.

    This is established usage for disproved, obsolete or fraudulent notions such as ‘Phlogiston’, ‘Luminiferous Ether’, ‘Original Sin’, ‘Intelligent Design’, or ‘Piltdown Man’, marking them as category errors, dead ends to rational enquiry, and mocking their presumptuous capital letters.

    I already do this in my head whenever I find myself reflexively saying, “Thank ‘God’ for that!”.

  47. FreeFox says:

    You mean to say there is no luminiferous ether?! But how do light waves get from the sun to the earth then?!?! o.O

    (And the question still remains what you feel the gratitude towards, no matter where you place your quotes. After all, if you fall from a building and a bush breaks your fall you aren’t tempted to say “Thanks bush”. So the gratitude is directed at some kind of posited personality behind chance, that for examle might have caused the bush to grow there, or guided your steps so that the window you fell out of was the one above the bush. I am not suggesting you are secretly buying into any theology – just that in that instance you try to personally ise the universe.)

  48. FreeFox says:

    Stoopid “smart” keyboard: in that instant you are trying to personalise the universe

  49. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Sorry to hear you’ve hit problems again, Freefox, and I hope you get the chance to repair things.
    Now, my post about the shootings was not me “playing along in the media’s little circus”, and of course I don’t weep constantly for the millions of children that die worldwide every year, but that doesn’t make me the hypocrite that you seem to be implying.
    I once heard it said that a single death was a tragedy but a million deaths is a statistic, because people tend to be affected more by things that they can personalise, and it’s easier to personalise a handful of people than it is a million. That’s why, whenever you see a documentary about famines or televised appeals for organisations such as Oxfam or Save the Children, the voice-overs will talk about millions but the cameras tend to focus on individuals or family groups: it’s why the most famous WWII photograph, the one latched onto by peace groups worldwide, was the shot of the children fleeing Nagasaki, and centred on one little girl with her clothes burnt off, burns to her body and naked terror in her eyes: it’s why the most famous Vietnam War picture is almost identical to the Nagasaki shot, only this time the little girl is fleeing a napalm strike: it’s why the headline “250 dead in air crash” is invariably accompanied by a picture of a child’s shoe or a teddy bear lying among the wreckage. The voices can tell of the scale of death, but the pictures are the things that hit us where it hurts.
    That said, as much as the millions of deaths you chide me for not caring about may indeed be a statistic, I believe that first and foremost that they’re millions of individual tragedies, and of course I’m saddened by them. I’m also angered by the fact that most are preventable, and of course the guilt and frustration that comes from the knowledge I can personally do next to nothing to help them. It would be impossible to function as a human being if I allowed all of that to dominate my life, so I don’t allow it to. I don’t ignore it, but neither can I dwell on it too much, in much the same way that wartime soldiers have to very quickly become innured to the scenes of horror they witness.
    Of course, compartmentalising emotions in this way is all well and good, but it has to have a release. Now, when I first heard that there had been a shooting in an American school, my initial thought was along the lines of ‘Oh for fuck sake, here we go again, another nutter with a grudge and a gun!”, but then the details started to emerge regading the ages of the children, and suddenly my mind was back to the day over twenty years ago when my five year-old niece suddenly died. Just the mention of the victims’ ages personalised it for me, and those twenty kids became the focus – maybe even the outlet – of all of the anger and sadness and frustration and guilt. I was railing about the twenty, but I was crying for the millions, for my niece, and for myself. But what I was not doing was playing in a fucking circus, and you can stick your ‘boo-hoo’ where the sun don’t shine*.

    *You weren’t to know my reasons for being so upset over the shootings, of course, so as pissed-off as your comment made me, I’m not about to hold a grudge.

  50. Henry Turner says:

    If this god they talk about exists he is an arsehole and does not deserve our worship.I would gladly spend an eternity in the worst hell imaginable than give that ghostly twat any credit whatsoever.

  51. Henry Turner says:

    Sorry I would make that gender neutral but my wife refuses to claim it for her side. God, an equal opportunity fuckwit. Why would we suck the dick of someone so incompetent?

    Actually a few years ago I heard about something theologicians said that if you spoke it once you would burn in eternal damnation, irrespective of further prayer and confession. I would like to back this up with a tattoo but I have no idea of what it should look like (the Darwin fish is a bit of a cliché). Any ideas?

  52. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    FreeFox, I’ve just re-read my post to you, noticed that I referred to a ‘nutter with a grudge and a gun’, shortly followed by “You weren’t to know my reasons [for my reaction to the shootings]…….as pissed-off as your comment made me, I’m not about to hold a grudge”, and realised how that could possibly sound a little sinister; as though I might have been loading both barrels and going fox hunting if you had known. If you read it that way, I assure you it was unintentional. I may have been angered by your comment, but it takes a whole lot more than that for me to fall out with a friend.

    Henry Turner, re. your first comment; are you sure you’d rather spend eternity in torture than submit to a dictator god? I know I wouldn’t, and I’m prepared to bet that in the unlikely event that grim prospect turns out to be a very real choice we have to make, there will be very few people who would opt for ‘downstairs’. Torture hurts, eternity is one fuck of a long time, and I’ve got an inkling that the ‘worst hell imaginable’ to a human would be a stroll in the park compared to the hell that a god with no limits to its imagination could produce. It’s OK to talk tough, but it’s one thing walking around telling everybody that you’d tell Mike Tyson to go and fuck his mother in every hole if ever you met him, but do you really believe you’d follow through if your paths ever crossed?

  53. UncoBob says:

    Acolyte of Sagan raises quite a few interesting issues re: torture for eternity
    1) is the question of whether one can be tortured without having physical features such as a nervous system
    2) avoiding this is virtually impossible e.g. if you believe in a god and live your life according to your view of its rules, is your god the one that actually controls the torture. What if the real god is an obscure one from the Hindu pantheon, or the deity of an obscure New Guinea tribe?
    3) if the Christians are correct, let alone the Muslims, an eternity in the company of some of their prominent believers would probably be indistinguishable from torture after the first billion years – or indeed about a week. Imagine listening to some of those Taliban bastards gloating about murdering polio workers for the glory of Allah.

  54. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    I’ll have a pop at that quiz, UncoBob.
    1) In my earlier post to Henry Turner I made a comparison between the extent of our imagination and that of a hypothetical limitless god. When you consider that our fiction- sci-fi- and fantasy writers, following the trend started by religions, have dreamt up worlds where anything is possible as long as it can be imagined, then causing pain in a non-material ‘soul’ would be childs play to a god with infinite power.

    2) If there is just the one ‘true’ god then we’re pretty much all fucked regardless of the flavour of religion it heads. That said, it would be the supreme irony if the one ‘true’ god was one that judged us on what we did in our lives rather than on who loved it the most, and saved its severest punishments for those who claimed to have it on their side to justify their own naughtiness. Even funnier would be the discovery that ‘god’ was actually a cosmic scientist (a-la von Daniken) who introduced religion as an experiment to see just what our species would be capable of if they believed – or could convince others – that they were acting by divine right, and has been impassively observing ever since, just as we impassively observe bacterial cultures.

    3) I would suggest that the only way to make any idea of paradise bearable for any great length of time would be to strip out our ability to retain any information for more than a few seconds so that everything we experience will always seem as though it were the first time we’d experienced it.

    Since I’m atheist through and through, I’m as certain as can be that none of the above will come to pass. To my mind, there are just two negatives to that. A small, almost insignificant downside is that I will never get to know with absolute certainty that I was right;I will go to my grave believing that there is no ‘hereafter’, but there’s no way of confirming it once the lights go out.
    The massive downside is that the smug bastards that have caused so much misery in the world in the names of their gods will never get to know just how fucked-up their beliefs were, and that I can only imagine the looks on their faces when the truth hits them.

  55. Just want to say what a pleasure it is for me to drop in on this thread again. Best pub conversation I could ever imagine. FreeFox, your observations on the personalization of the universe are brilliant.
    By chance I got into a bit of shite today with friends on FaceBook. On of them posted an incredibly sappy story, about how things that seem bad only seem that way because ‘god’ is preventing something worse from happening. I rolled my eyes and said it was totally silly. Apparently that was an attack, and I’ve been roundly criticized for it. Religious people can tell us what we thing, but if we push back it’s an “attack”. Who’da thunk it? As part of that conversation I found a secular story from China that makes the same point, but in a Taoist kind of way:

    This farmer had only one horse, and one day the horse ran away. The neighbors came to condole over his terrible loss. The farmer said, “What makes you think it is so terrible?”

    A month later, the horse came home–this time bringing with her two beautiful wild horses. The neighbors became excited at the farmer’s good fortune. Such lovely strong horses! The farmer said, “What makes you think this is good fortune?”

    The farmer’s son was thrown from one of the wild horses and broke his leg. All the neighbors were very distressed. Such bad luck! The farmer said, “What makes you think it is bad?”

    A war came, and every able-bodied man was conscripted and sent into battle. Only the farmer’s son, because he had a broken leg, remained. The neighbors congratulated the farmer. “What makes you think this is good?” said the farmer.

    I guess this is the difference between a Christian world view and a Taoist world view. Must say I prefer the latter.

    I couldn’t respond to AofS tears at the time. Too much shit in my head, mostly about Obama crying over the dead children while he’s offered no condolences or regrets for the children his drones killed in Afghanistan and other countries, but also questions about the knee jerk call for stricter gun laws and stigmatizing the mentally ill. It’s a complex issue. It should be simple, but somehow it isn’t.

    Anyway, cheers folks and Merry Christmas, if that isn’t too out of place a wish on this thread. Have one for me.

  56. UncoBob says:

    Some random comments on AoS last post:
    I think we can exclude what an omnipotent god could do, when considering if post-mortem pain is likely (disregarding that the chance of any existence after death is virtually negligible anyway). Omnipotence and incompetence are surely contradictions in terms, and simple observation of the biological world shows that it could not have been designed by a competent being, given birth defects, congenital disease, mental illness etc. So if a god created the world, it couldn’t be an omnipotent creator. Still, I suppose you wouldn’t need to be omnipotent to create a painful after-life, just very powerful and malevolent.

    And on to the last two paras – have often thought the same thing. There are a lot of possibilities, my favourite being the suicide bomber having just enough time to realise ‘Oh, dear. No virgins’. Cases like that make it a pity there isn’t a hell for them, together with the perpetrators of the Spanish inquisition and their ilk, as well as all the unspeakable rulers and general baddies going back as far as we can learn about.

  57. Henry Turner says:

    AoS, thanks to your response to my rather immature posting. I say that I would rather spend an eternity in the deepest pits of hell than recognise the Abrahamic god of being worthy of me crossing the road to piss on him if he was on fire is a safe bet. There isn’t a god of any sort, because god is a human invention. There well may be beings not of this world with abilities beyond our comprehension, but I think it’s safe to assume they have no interaction with us foolish humans. Thus I can slander Jahblob or Mahsandwich or whatever his name is thought to be at the time without fear of actually spending an eternity in the throes of torment, although the risk of my cats being murdered and my house being graffitied is increased somewhat by whatever nutjob takes exception to rational thought.

  58. Henry Turner says:

    Addendum, even if it wasn’t a safe bet I would still do it, I’m a man (or woman) of principle and compassion, and any god that runs this planet like this is a joke and deserves a thorough arse-kicking.

  59. WalterWalcarpit says:

    Author, what with the timing being so perfect I have taken the liberty to put this strip on a particular page on my new website. I have made the whole image a link back to I trust that is OK and that you will let me know if it is inappropriate.

    (Said is at beta stage; if anyone would like to offer first, second or even 23rd impressions as feedback I’d be most grateful.)

  60. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Walter, it’d help if you gave us a link.

  61. hotrats says:


    Comparing your page with the original, the browser enlargement pixilates it a bit. Perhaps keeping the original size would look cleaner, and leave space for a line or two of text, say advising readers to further click on the ‘n Comments…’ link to reach your contributions, and the nick they appear under (at the moment you qualify for the 2012 ‘Light Most Hidden Under Bushel’ award). If you don’t mind the fag of keeping the cartoon current, you could update the link each time to the dated page, rather than the J&M root page, so comments would appear automatically.

    I am not a fan of having an ‘Under Construction’ page as a working placeholder, when I hit one I always feel due an apology for being lured into a dead link. Better to stay honest and deactivate links until there is something real for them to link to, and put the ’email update’ offer under a ‘Contact’ link where people will expect to find it.

  62. WalterWalcarpit says:

    @hotrats. Hey, thanks for the award. Most pertinent!
    And thank you for your thoughts. As the site is in beta there are lots of those waiting pages at the moment but I hereby commit to adding no more. Those that are there will be the first to be filled but I have one huge amount of metadata work to do on my photography before I can upload the actual galleries. Author’s cartoon was a timely opportunity to avoid adding another dead link – it could only have been better if ‘prevaricate’ had been the word.

    But, if as AoS pointed out I daftly neglected to place a link, how on earth did you find it?

  63. WalterWalcarpit says:

    Oops. Prevaricate is what it was, my purposes would have slightly been better served it it had been ‘procrastinate’. I wonder if my link could actually come here ie to this particular strip then visitors would get a real treat of the cross section of contributors as I do believe all the regulars are in this thread.
    Er … Mary2 where are you?

  64. WalterWalcarpit says:

    @hotrats again, a salute to your post on capitalisation.  It summed up my thoughts well. One is as conditioned to use G with god as one is to use ‘God’ with thanks. 

    May I request a favour? Could you please post a definition of a POTWA for us? You raised one recently and while I once came across it described I can’t bring it to the fore. 

    @FF I agree it is all about personalisation but I don’t have a problem with that. Indeed the sooner we cease to pretend otherwise the less screwed up we might be. As Mark Twain asserted we cannot help but do that which pleases ourselves; to others it may appear altruistic or quite the opposite but the motive is only ever just that; self service. 
    I am always directly above the centre of the Earth and I may as well thank the bush. (if I gave that a capital B it would look godawful (sic).)

  65. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Walter, UPOTW (pron. yoo-pot-wuh) is the acronym for ‘United Pedants of the World’, a completely ficticious organisation dreamt up by some of us pedants here. The ‘POTWA’ is our version of a fatwa, and is issued for serious mis-use of the beautiful language.

    If you fill in the ‘WEBSITE’ box when leaving your comments, your name becomes the link to your site, but that’s as far as my computing expertise goes.

  66. hotrats says:

    They seek him here, they seek him there – googling ‘WalterWalcarpet’ brought up your company name and surname, googling those brought up your site. But why not enter your site in the ‘WEBSITE’ box (below name and email) when you post, this turns your nick into a link (see DH and others).

    If you want your link to bring up this particular strip plus comments, just point it at

    As I understand it, UPOTWA is the United Pedants of the World Association, a loose cohort of show-offs, know-alls and hair-splitters among the J&M contributors, who are known to punish lapses in grammar, logic and semantics (mostly each other’s) by issuing the mischievously named POTWA – it isn’t a meaningful acronym, just designed to resemble ‘fatwa’.

    Although no cash prize is offered for the death of the culprit, the damage to their self-esteem and credibility on the site is incalculable. Just like a real fatwa, it can be issued arbitrarily by any self-appointed UPOTWAn cleric who finds a scriptural conflict (with ‘Fowler’s Modern English Usage’), and remains in force indefinitely.

    Like a Papal edict, the POTWA is infallible ‘ex cathedra’, so must be applied judiciously. By consensus, POTWAs for spelling errors and typos are considered frivolous and unfair to readers, not all of whom are native English users.

  67. hotrats says:

    Overtaken on the inside lane by AoS while writing, I stand corrected; it’s UPOTW not UPOTWA, although I have to take issue with his calling it ‘entirely fictitious’ – it exists insofar as people use the term and mean the same thing by it, and if entirely fictitious, how did everyone join?

  68. hotrats says:

    A imam in Saudi Arabia has called on women to wear a full veil that reveals only one eye. Laying down the law on live television, influencial rabid conservative sheikh Muhammad al-Habadan said showing both eyes encouraged women to use eye make-up to look seductive.

    Hard to top that, but Pastorius at Infidel Blogger’s Alliance points out that as this edict denies women depth perception, it will suit muslim men, as it makes it harder for their wives to see how poorly endowed they are.

  69. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Hotrats, I’m a little more cautious over describing something as real that exists only in the minds and the writings of a few people, and we all know where that sort of thinking leads.

    “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was capitalised so because it was a proper noun…”

  70. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    ‘ve just realised that today is the end of the world, and there’s less than 45 minutes left if the Mayans worked to Greenwich Mean Time. Better get the Christmas shopping done while there’s still time 🙂

  71. botanist says:

    I’m still here, and my poinsettia is still here. Am I alone???
    Is there anyone else??? ROFL

  72. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Yet another prophesied armageddon (and ah’m a geddon outta here) failing to come to fruition. Even the dolphins are still here.
    D’you know, I’m beginning to think that the prophets and doom-sayers might be just making this shit up!

  73. WalterWalcarpit says:

    AoS & hotrats – thanks for the reminders; I case of knowing what it meaning but not the expansion (or whatever an opened acronym is called).
    And once my site is launched I shall indeed put it up in the box but it remains in beta until I can get my galleries working the way I want them to. And of course after an enormous amount of metadata work and uploading of image files. It is getting exciting but im still hiding under the bushel but hopefully not much beyond the new year.
    And @hotrats I am most impressed that you bothered not only to find my site but also to find the particular page. No wonder you met so many pregnant links. Please accept my apology for all but the first one.

  74. WalterWalcarpit says:

    Heard on the BBC radio news on Saturday 22.12.12:
    “Yesterday we reported on a group who, following a Mayan calendar,  believed the world was going to end.” Followed by a perfectly deadpan  “It didn’t.”


NOTE: This comments section is provided as a friendly place for readers of J&M to talk, to exchange jokes and ideas, to engage in profound philosophical discussion, and to ridicule the sincerely held beliefs of millions. As such, comments of a racist, sexist or homophobic nature will not be tolerated.

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