An old one today, from 2008, stressing the importance of interfaith dialogue.

Discussion (93)¬

  1. Alfie Noakes says:

    A beaut!

  2. pete says:

    Snort!, knitting accident? New keyboard please

  3. mary2 says:

    Pete, I’m with you!

  4. bear47 says:

    Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant. BRAVO author.

  5. sosusk says:

    And the irony meter breaks again.

  6. Hobbes says:

    Masterful! Reminds me of the quote I read somewhere, “When you come to understand why you reject other religions, then you will understand why they reject yours.”

  7. floridakitesurfer says:

    Yes, religions should be respectful of one another. Well, at least until they can beat back atheists and godless science. THEN the holy wars can reconvene and we can finally find out who is telling the truth when they say, “My magical sky daddy can kick the magical sky ass of your magical sky daddy”.

  8. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    sosusk, don’t bother getting that irony meter mended just yet.

    Just to prove that they have a sense of irony as well-developed as any religion, the United Nations went and made Tony B. Liar their Middle-East Peace Envoy.

    OK, sosusk, you can get it mended now.

  9. Humans eh! says:

    Just splendid!

    ‘a fucking knitting accident’

  10. Nassar Ben Houdja says:

    One cults definition of philosophy
    Is another’s definition of blasphemy
    To live and let live
    And always forgive
    In some cuts is the definition of apostasy.

  11. xuvie says:

    Happy halloween!!

  12. Rand Huso says:

    According to one major Christian-Gnostic tradition popular in that area at that time (Manicheans), Jesus wasn’t sacrificed. A substitute was. Gnosticism was the earliest form of Christianity. Mo wins this round.

  13. botanist says:

    A little bit early xuvie!
    Also I want to see what time is attached to this post, at my clock says it’s 6:38pm, ie before xuvie’s 🙂

  14. botanist says:

    Aha, lol, The Cock and Bull hasn’t put it’s clocks back 🙂

  15. Maggs says:

    Do imaginary friends knit then?

  16. hotrats says:

    shame about the typo (cuts for cults) because this verse is spot on!

  17. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Botanist, this is an old-fashioned boozer. We have no need of that new-fangled daylight-saving shite.

    psst, Author, put the clocks back, I don’t think they’re buying it 🙂

    Hotrats, I couldn’t agree more. When the lad gets it right, he gets it right.

  18. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Maggs says:
    October 30, 2013 at 8:12 pm
    Do imaginary friends knit then?

    Yes, Maggs. They make all of the Emporers new clothes.

  19. E.A. Blair says:

    If blasphemy is an insult to the deity, isn’t calling an insult to Mohammed blasphemy itself an act of blasphemy since it elevates a human prophet to the status of deity?

    Ambrose Bierce said it best: “blasphemy, n. YOUR irreverence to MY deity”.

  20. Chiefy says:

    NBH, I thought I would never say this, but that was an excellent verse. You played a little loose with the rhyme, but the way you did it works. Nice.

    FreeFox, if you’re around, I fixed my rules so you can comment on my older blog posts now. I’d like your input on my latest update, which happens to coordinate well with this week’s J&M strip. 🙂

  21. Chiefy says:

    “If blasphemy is an insult to the deity, isn’t calling an insult to Mohammed blasphemy itself an act of blasphemy since it elevates a human prophet to the status of deity?”
    Well said, E.A. May I steal that?

  22. My wife knits, and I can assure you that a knitting accident is at least as likely as any of the other explanations.

  23. UncoBob says:

    Another toon that’s too true to be funny.

    But I chuckled anyhow.

  24. white squirrel says:

    the 2 problems for muslims in relation to mo being the ‘last ever prophet’
    1] joseph Smith [ who also claimed to hear Gabriel] is clearly seen as a ‘prophet’ by his followers and therefore mo is already not the ‘last ever’ prophet
    2 ] the fact that the bible clearly state that ‘god’ can change it’s ‘mind’
    eg repent making humans can also change it’s mind and send another ‘prophet’
    regardless of anything it might have promised before

  25. E.A. Blair says:

    Chiefly, you may borrow that, as long as you give credit where credit is due and mention my name.

    E.A. Blair.

  26. Chiefy says:

    E.A., I absolutely will. Are you on the Daily Banter, or is that a different E.A. Blair?

  27. hotrats says:

    There are quite a few E.A. Blairs on the net: it was George Orwell’s real name, so ironically it has become a favourite pseudonym. In my misspent youth I used it myself to sign up to a mail-order ‘Book Club’ to scam the introductory gift – a copy of 1984 – and apparently no-one noticed.

  28. Chiefy says:

    Hotrats, you are incorrigible. Or used to be; maybe you have been corriged by now. Yes, that’s why I wanted to see if I could get some additional information on E.A.’s identity, so I can make sure to credit the right source. 😉

  29. hotrats says:

    Not entirely corriged yet, but at least consolate, gruntled, feckful, gormy, effable, ert, ruthful, couth, gainly, kempt, ruly, and toward.

  30. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    You forgot gusting, fensive, and (one hopes) eased.

  31. botanist says:

    i before e hotrats, i before e 🙂
    AoS – I’m still laughing, thanks!

  32. Chiefy says:

    Gormless? Oh, “chiefly British.” There’s my problem, I’m too ‘Merkin to get it sometimes.

    Thanks for catching that, botanist. I’ve also been called Chiefly. Hey, in the past I’ve been called much worse. Sometimes for good reason.

  33. hotrats says:

    …and mayed, mantled, bashless and hapful…
    One nicely fascinating pont; we have no comparable opposite words for ‘nice’ or ‘fascinate’.

    Well spotted typo, and I agree that the rule should just be ‘I before E’, which is statistically sound. As noted on QI, the ‘…except after C’ addendum has more exceptions than instances, by a huge margin; according to the Official Scrabble Word List, there are 923 words spelled with ‘-cie-‘, 21 times the number which conform to the stated exception by being written with ‘-cei-‘.

    Chi for short, but not for long?

  34. Undeluded says:

    I marvel at (and very much enjoy) the capabilities of this forum to have so much literary fun triggered by the cartoon – but having very little topical relevance. “Knitting accident’ – indeed a funny line, but hardly the point (ooh, I stepped into it there, didn’t I?).

    The satire here is in the relationship of the three last panels to the first one – there is no “understanding” or “respect” given by either protagonist to the other. Their notions are so bizarre that neither can accept the other – and yet, that is exactly what they demand from everybody else!

    I am so urged to call on them (and I’m paraphrasing the adage) “Show me what each of you rejects about the other, and I’ll show you why I reject yours.”

  35. Don’t get worried about me, folks. I’m here. Lurking. It’s just that sometimes I have nothing to say. As usual I’m enjoying the banter.

  36. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Undeluded, for an alternative view of the cartoon, try reading it again, but this time replace ‘Tony Blair’ with ‘marriage guidance counsellor’. You’ll see the boys (and religion) in a whole new light.

  37. botanist says:

    🙂 DH

  38. Undeluded says:

    AoS – I’m sorry, but I’m afraid I have missed your point. According to the cartoon, Tony Blair (or any other so-called adviser) was commenting on promoting harmony between religions with the aim of peace through understanding and respect. As with married couples, this is relevant only when they need to live alongside each other. Unlike religions, if a married couple do not understand each other they can either reconcile (by understanding each other) or, if this doesn’t work, they may either (sensibly) part ways, or (insensibly) fight and maybe cause damage. Religions, on the other hand, have no way of reconciliation with another religion, and parting ways is also not an option. We are left with one type of delusion battling another type of delusion as the only way of sharing space.

    That has been my view all along – there is no applying of reason to the entrenched – even when it obviously for their own good. So what is the “whole new light” you’re trying to shine my way?

  39. hotrats says:

    Parting ways is not an option? What does that make Israel’s borders? Or did you mean J&M?

    Tony Blair’s facile hope, as pitiful as any of his pronouncements on ‘Faith’ schools, is a delusion about the nature of religion. Every religion defines an ‘in-group’ and an ‘out-group’; their collective intolerance is what gives each its particular identity. The all already ‘understand’ why the other religions are all false, or even heretical.

    TB’s suggestion presupposes that religion can be understood in an empirical way, like a circuit diagram or a recipe, and that this understanding will have unspecified benefits. Buddhism aside, nobody understands even their own religion, because its central tenets are mystified and put beyond rational explanation or analysis.

    If people were really willing and capable of understanding each other’s religions, they would become alert to their mutual absurdity in claims and dogmas; it would make them at least think twice about their belief systems.

    ‘Understanding’ between religions is limited to areas of existing agreement (collective mistrust of women, one ‘God’, no pooftahs) and a tacit agreement never to discuss their fundamental doctrinal contradictions.

  40. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    As usual, Undeluded, I didn’t make myself clear enough; I really should have added ‘….and take religion out of the conversation’. Do that and we have the stereotypicical ‘long-suffering marrried couple’ for whom bickering has become a way of life. Think Andy and Flo Capp, Stan and Hilda Ogden, Jack and Vera Duckworth, Al and Peggy Bundy, etc. (although I suspect that the situational comedy aspect of J&M owes more to Morcambe and Wise than to any of the fore-mentioned).

  41. Undeluded says:

    Hotrats – I agree with all you claim. To paraphrase House – “if the religious could listen to reason there would be no religion!”

    Parting of ways: I was talking of co-existing religions parting ways by reasoning or by counsel – not by imposition from outside or a military standoff! I don’t recall that ever happening! Israel has no borders with the Palestinians – Jews and Muslims are mixed and still fighting. The “peace talks” supposedly aim at territorial separation between the religions, but I don’t think that’s going to happen – I hope I’m proved wrong! Sure, there won’t be any Jews in Muslim territory (they have very efficient methods to ensure that), but there will be Muslims in Jewish territory – angry, bitter and clamoring for everything the Jews have – it’s in their religion. Other Israeli borders were secured by force or by outside dictates.

  42. Undeluded says:

    AoS – crystal clear now.

  43. mary2 says:

    Undeluded, apart from the actual comics, the tangential topics of conversation are the best thing about visiting all you folks. While always funny, sometimes there is just nothing to add to the punchline. Also, ya gotta admit, the stigmata as knitting accident IS damn funny.

  44. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Mary, considering that the Romans nailed their criminals to the cross through the wrists, the idea of the stigmata as ‘scars’ of his crucifixion is pretty damn funny too. Had he been nailed throught the hands, the weight of his body would have caused the nails to tear through the flesh of his hands (enjoy your sunday lunch, folks) whilst the one through his feet would have held fast; centred on his feet, his body would have fallen forward through 180 degrees and he would in all likelihood have smashed face-first into the base of the upright post. Gory, but pretty damn hilarious in itself (unless, of course, one has had a similar experience in recent months! Sorry, Mary, please feel free to look away now 😉 ) in a Pythonesque kind of way. Now that would leave facial stigmata on a John Merrick scale, and I doubt even his closest friends would have recognised him after his resurrection.
    “It is I, Jesus”.
    “Fuck off! Jesus was a handsome chap with a proud Jewish nose. You ain’t even got a face.”

  45. hotrats says:

    I think the strength of this forum is embodied in its statement of intent: “…to talk, to exchange jokes and ideas, to engage in profound philosophical discussion, and to ridicule the sincerely held beliefs of millions”.

    This makes the concept of ‘off-topic’ more or less meaningless, preventing a lot of pointless nit-picking, and gives contributors huge scope for expressing very personal and idiosyncratic responses, which helps maintain momentum when, as you point out, the cartoon sometimes says it all.

    Anonymous as we are, I certainly regard the regulars at the Cock and Bull as people I know well enough to regard as friends, and catching up with the gossip ‘down the pub’ is often the most rewarding part of the day.

  46. HaggisForBrains says:

    Hey, how ya doing guys!

    I’m really enjoying all the recent exchanges, but, like Mary 2, have been out of action for a bit following some surgery. Mary, that was a close call – you take care. Thanks to you all for keeping me entertained during my recuperation, which in my case was from elective surgery, so no-one to blame but myself ;-).

    It’s good to be back – it’ll be my round, I suppose.

  47. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Welcome back, Haggis, hope you’re recovering well. So, with Mary’s and my failed attempts at flying, and your surgery, that’s the traditional three out of the way for the superstitious.
    Don’t worry about the round, we’ve left a couple behind the bar for you.

  48. dpcinh2013 says:

    Mankind can only live in peace if we forsake religion for spirituality

  49. hotrats says:

    Elective surgery, eh? I’m offering 11/4 on for varicose veins, 5/1 for liposuction, 100/8 for a facelift and 200/1 for circumcision… get well soon mate.

  50. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    dpcinh2013 says:
    November 3, 2013 at 4:45 pm
    Mankind can only live in peace if we forsake religion for spirituality

    Ohh, purleeeze (as I believe the modern vernacular would have it). Wishful thinking, soppy thinking, potayto, potahto.

  51. dpcinh2013 You ain’t from around here, are you? What the fuck is “spirituality” and how does it differ from any other emotional/sentimental nonsense? I think we can all get behind social justice, fairness, equality before the law, human rights, and progressive social policies. But “spirituality”? Really? Just fuck off. There’s no room at this table.

  52. IanB says:


    I’ll have butt implants for the builders bum at 500/1

  53. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Had it not been for his offer to get the next round in, I might have offered even money on Haggis having had his wallet opened 😉

    D’you know what? I think this is the only site I visit regularly on which I would even consider making that joke.

    Darwin, there’s always room for one more to sit at this table, else what was the point of getting the ejector seat fitted?.

  54. Undeluded says:

    Well, DH – I wouldn’t pooh-pooh spirituality so readily. True, there is lot of “emotional/sentimental nonsense” going around, but I’m sorry you don’t see the emotional/sentimental NOT-nonsense all around us. Perhaps we have differing definitions of spirituality, but for me it is the catch-all term for the experiencing, enjoyment and appreciation of beauty – whether in a sunset, a symphony, a baby’s laugh, a portrait, a good joke, a sculpture, a novel, a landscape, the cosmos, and much, much more. I’m sure you’ve been there – give it any name you like, share it with us, and who knows, I may even adopt your term as more appropriate than mine.

  55. Sorry folks. Something turned loose my inner curmudgeon and it just felt so good to give it some air. I am not usually so rude, and perhaps I am judging dpcinh2013 too quickly and too harshly. No doubt he/she is a good person with something to offer the conversation.

    Undeluded, I myself am a sentimentalist. I’m all for love and caring, appreciation of beauty, awe and wonder at the natural world. My heart beats faster at the sight of a glorious sunset and being hugged by a grand child or licked a puppy is number one on my favourite things to do list.

    I’m still trying to understand why this sentence: “Mankind can only live in peace if we forsake religion for spirituality.” got up my nose so badly. I think it’s because it is vacuous and simplistic and really says nothing. Getting rid of religion would be a good start, but what are the chances of that happening anytime soon? And do you really think that, sans religion, we would have peace? There wouldn’t be power struggles? Resource wars? Back stabbing politicians? Sociopathic neighbours? I suppose not if they all got “spiritual”.

    You are right to correct me. I lashed out in a totally inappropriate way, and possibly discouraged a newcomer from joining us, thus cutting down on the Cock and Bull’s profits. Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.

    dpcinh2013, sorry. Don’t be offended by this grumpy old fart and his nasty reactions. Have a pint on my and tell us what “spiritualilty” means to you. To me it conveys some vague sense that there is something special about human beings, something mysterious about the way things seem to always work out for us, some group mind connection and “nothing is a co-incidence” woo age thinking. But maybe it means something different to you. You opened a conversation with an assertion. Please elaborate.

  56. Blattafrax says:

    I’m entertaining myself in hospital trying to get their sysadmins to unblock jesusandmo. It occupies my time quite nicely and I get to practice my German, while feeling I’m doing something useful.

    It’s blocked for profanity. I told them it is rarely profane – relative to the comments section of a Justin Bieber video for example.

    So I’m pissed off that for this week’s comic there’s a fucking in the last panel. Sigh.

  57. Author says:

    Sorry about that, Blattafrax. Get well soon.

  58. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    What’s going on here? J&M is turning into a convalescent home!
    Get well soon, Blattafrax.

  59. hotrats says:

    there’s a fucking in the last panel.
    So there is – and now there’s one in the comments section too, which, unlike the comic text, is machine-readable.

  60. Blattafrax says:

    Author: Well, they didn’t notice or didn’t care so I am pleased to report that Basel University Hospital is a well-behaved upholder of freedom of expression as well as a good place to get your back fixed. I recommend the place highly, just don’t have the lasagna.

    AofS: Aw thanks. Going home today – I see the tide of tedium turning.

    Hotrats: There’s at least one fuck further up. We’re on three fucks now. Bugger, sorry, make that four f-#RECURSION_CONTROL_INTERVENTION#-ks.

  61. Blattafrax says:

    Author: and of course I was no more criticising your use of language than I was the timing of my operation. If I was being analytical, I suppose you need the profanity to contrast with the mundanity of knitting as a dangerous occupation.

    Anyway, I laughed. Thank you.

  62. HaggisForBrains says:

    Hotrats – way off target with your odds. As a good atheist, I gave up eating babies for a few days so that I could have a kidney removed and sent to someone whose need is greater than mine (after all, we really only need one). It was really easy (I slept through the whole thing), and I can recommend it to anyone. Don’t let anyone tell you that you have to be religious to help others.

    Anyway, it’s great to be back, and mine’s an Aberlour 10yo, AoS, but I’ll settle for a Glenmorangie (my sporran has a coded lock, and I tend to forget the combination after a few malts).

  63. Wow, HaggisForBrains. That is incredible. You are going to single handedly destroy the carefully developed reputation of atheists with generosity like that. You have my sincere admiration, even more so than before. You pass it off as nothing much, but any time they are going to poison you to unconsciousness and remove an organ, it’s life threatening and a big deal. Pat yourself on the back, my friend. Shoulder level I assume.

    Further to my one sided conversation with dpcinh2013, PZ has some interesting things to say about switching from religion to “spiritualism”. As usual, I agree with him.

  64. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    HaggisFor Brains, I lost a very young niece to multiple organ failure, so I can fully appreciate the enormity of what you’ve just done for somebody. You, sir, have my thanks, admiration, and complete respect. Enjoy the Aberlour, you’ve earned it.

    Blattafrax, glad to hear your back’s been sorted, you lucky sod. My doctors have written mine off but I’m philospophical about it: I may indeed be old, knackered, and beyond repair, but it took one Hell of a lot of fun to get this bad.

  65. hotrats says:

    (backing away, bowing deeply) Not worthy, not worthy! Wow – good man yourself. There’s elective, and then there is downright altruistic.

  66. hotrats says:

    Oh dear, UPOTW reminds you that ‘enormity’ generally means ‘great wickedness’, and is a mixed synonym for magnitude, which is presumably what you had in mind. I appreciate this is a proscriptivist view, and as such doomed to failure, but in the meantime, ie as long as anybody cares, the distinction is worth maintaining. History suggests that in the fight against tyranny, we need to preserve and protect words that accurately describe human wickedness against Newspeak-style dilution.

  67. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    A good point well made, hotrats.

    Those of you masochistnic enough to read my longer posts may recall that in a recent conversation with Undeluded, I made the point that it is virtually impossible to repeat what believers actually believe back at them in plain English without making it sound ridiculous.
    My point in a nutshell.

  68. Mary2 says:

    Dear God (so to speak). My bump on the head has been seriously upstaged! You have some serious courage HFB and I take my hat off to you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Blattafrax, sorry but a garden-variety stay in hospital just can’t cut it around here anymore! 😉

    DH, I agree with your first response re use of the word ‘spiritual’. I have empathy for the need to have a word which describes the warm, fuzzy awe we get when looking at a sunset or that feeling of empathy and connectness to the whole universe but why try to repurpose ‘spiritual’? Unless someone can show me that it is connected to actual spirits or anything supernatural then I will stick to describing that feeling as ‘just fucking awesome, man’ or something just as classy.

  69. Undeluded says:

    Mary2 – isn’t it just a matter of word definition? We need it in our language. If you do not acknowledge the existence of a “spirit” or “soul” (in non-religious connotations) to help define what our emotions pertain to, please come up with something better than “just fucking awesome, man.” (Just consider how the religionistas themselves use the word “awe” as fear and reverence)! Believe me, I’ll seriously consider adopting it into my vocabulary. I realize how tough it is not to associate the term with religion, but so are words like “transcendental, incorporeal and ethereal” – yet we use them in everyday speech with the (perhaps limited) meaning we apply. The same goes for “holy, sacred.” etc. which I have discussed elsewhere.

    As a musician, I certainly enjoy a good rendition of a spiritual (no quotation marks).

  70. HaggisForBrains says:

    Thanks for the kind words, guys, but I didn’t post that for praise, but to make everyone aware that kidney donation is something anyone can do, and the survival odds are very good (at least according to my surgeon, and would he lie to me?). During the process of evaluation, you can get the most thorough medical you’ll ever get, free of charge, as they only let you donate if you are in excellent health. I even had a psychiatrist check to make sure I wasn’t doing it because the voices in my head told me to (I told him that the voices in my head told me not to tell him about them!). It was done laparoscopically, with an extra cut to squeeze out the kidney, and I was able to go for a two mile walk ten days after the operation.

    During the process I got to meet some lovely people who were fading away waiting for a transplant. I couldn’t personally help any of them directly, as it is all down to tissue matching, but the more people donate, the more people survive – it’s as simple as that.

    Of course, it’s not for everyone, and I’m retired with no dependants. I consulted my sons before proceeding, and had their agreement. All expenses are paid by the NHS here in the UK, and it is against the law to accept payment for the organ. More info here.

  71. two cents' worth says:

    HFB, thanks for your donation and for encouraging others to donate! You are an example to us all!

    I can’t go so far as to donate an organ now, but I have donated a lot of blood over the years. For those of you who have never donated blood, I encourage you to give it a try. Not only do you feel the satisfaction of helping others, you also have to eat a snack after donating. This may be the only time a health care professional provides you with donuts and tells you that you must eat at least one before you can go home 😉 !

    Now to jump back a bit in the thread. . .

    After poking around in, I would rephrase dpcinh2013’s statement as Mankind can only live in peace if we set aside particular systems of faith and worship, and instead focus on things of the spirit (as opposed to material or worldly interests).

    I take “spirit,” to mean “that which gives life to the physical organism.” My spirit is what I now have that my corpse will not have.

    It’s hard to come up with good terminology to discuss things of the spirit, because so many of those things have to do with emotions, and so many words for emotions have fuzzy meanings. I dislike using awe and its related terms, because the root meaning of awe is fear. When thinking about emotions concerning things of the spirit, I prefer the terms appreciation (“favourable recognition of worth or excellence”), admiration (“regard for someone or something considered praiseworthy or excellent; esteem, approbation; appreciation”), reverence (a sense of deep respect), wonder (a mix of surprise, perplexity, and curiosity), and marvel (a mix of surprise and admiration). Things of the spirit often strike me as transcendent (“going beyond the ordinary limits”).

    I still don’t have a good word to describe how I felt when I became a mother and had the sense that I had joined the ranks of mothers stretching back into the mists of time.

    Does anyone in the pub know the word for the feeling one has when one is thinking of oneself as part of something good that is greater than oneself? Can anyone recommend some good reading material that discusses things of the spirit apart from religion and theology?

  72. IanB says:

    Two Cents Says “This may be the only time a health care professional provides you with donuts and tells you that you must eat at least one”

    In the UK it’s usually biscuits and tea or crisps. I try and go for a pint afterwards in the hope that having less blood it may work quicker 😉

  73. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    two cents’worth, “I take “spirit,” to mean “that which gives life to the physical organism.” My spirit is what I now have that my corpse will not have.
    That’ll be bioelectricity.
    I really cannot be doing with the whole ‘spirituality’ nonsense, mainly because its meaning is now so intrinsically religious that its use in any other context still carries the stigma of religion*. Is it really so embarrassing to have emotional or psychological needs that we have to hide the words behind pseudo-religious frippery?

    *but also because I associate it strongly with Zen, and the Art of Motorcycle Maintanance, possibly the most self-obsessed, self-aggrandising, self-pitiful, vainglorious, incredibly dull book I’ve ever had the misfortune to read outside of the Bible. Admittedly I’m no writer myself, but then I’ve never tried to display my lack of literary ability by writing a book, something which Pirsig did do, and so successfully too. Metaphysics of quality? Metabollocks!

  74. two cents' worth says:

    AoS, thanks for telling me about bioelectricty. I looked it up in, and found that it means “electricity produced by a living organism.” As the old song says, I “don’t know much biology.” Has bioelectricty been found to be what gives life to physical organisms? Can you recommend any reading material aimed at non-specialists (for example, a book along the lines of Bioelectricity for Dummies) that could help me learn more about this?

    If we want to avoid hiding behind pseudo-religious frippery, what secular terminology should we use to discuss the emotional/psychological experiences and needs that Christians, Muslims, etc. consider to be religious in nature?

    Undeluded, what terms do you use when debating borderliners about what they would call religious experiences?

  75. Undeluded says:

    2¢Worth – I attempt to use their own terms, but only after understanding and accepting their definitions of them. If we cannot agree that we both share the same meaning, we at least understand that usage of that term by one side could be meaningless to the other. A borderliner would understand that his “religious experience” (revelation? rapture? miracle?) would be meaningless to me unless he could use terms I could accept. Using a common dictionary is quite gratifying.

  76. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    “Don’t know much about the science book
    Don’t know much about the French I took.”

    Now that’s what I call music.

    Two cents’ worth, we’re not that different from an electric toaster really; turn off the electricity and we stop working. Unfortunately, unlike toasters we can only be switched off for a very limited time as our cells start to break down very quickly without a source of energy (a design flaw from the perfect designer? Perish the thought 😉 ). People don’t actually die from heart attacks, they die because the brain is no longer supplied with oxygenated blood to fuel the internal ‘power station’ that allows the neurons to fire and synapses to open and close, sending electrical impulses via the nerves all around the body, which is why we perform CPR – it keeps the fuel lines open and the generator running, and so keeps the rest of the body alive.
    The only real mysteries we have left in this regard is how it happened for the first time – one that proponents of Intelligent Design just love – and whether it has happened elsewhere in the Cosmos.
    I can’t recommend a specific book off the top of my head, but I’m sure others here can.

    what secular terminology should we use to discuss the emotional/psychological experiences and needs that Christians, Muslims, etc. consider to be religious in nature?

    It depends on who I’m talking to and how polite I’m feeling at the time 😉
    I don’t have a problem with ‘awe’ if used correctly. I remember seeing the stars properly for the first time when I was eight (until then, I’d only ever seen the sky through the smoke and smog and the glare of lights of an inner-city powered by coal. Based purely on the evidence of my own eyes, I used to think that moon was a dirty, sulpurous yellow. It looked grey on TV, of course, but remember this was in ancient England where colour television was nought but rumour. Even during power-cuts, the hundreds of furnaces that surrounded us kept churning out their thick smoke round the clock. As Les Dawson once said, I used to awaken to the sounds of the birds coughing in the trees) and I was awestruck in a very real sense. I remember having some understanding of the vastness of what I was seeing whilst at the same time having none; I felt both enormous and miniscule, excited and terrified; I laughed and I cried, all at the same time. I still get a vestige of that feeling even now on exceptionally dark, clear nights. I felt exactly the same seeing my children being born, and again on being presented with my grandchildren.

    But enough rambling. To answer your question in short, I’ll do what I was taught never to do (unless dealing with one’s children, or going into politics or law) – I’m going to answer a question with a question.
    What’s so wrong with simply calling them for what they are, ie. emotional and / or psychological wants, needs, interpretations, and reactions?

  77. mary2 says:

    I don’t have anything better than ‘spiritual’ to offer because it describes exactly what we mean. Unfortunately it is so tied to ‘new age’ “I’m not religious, but. . .” rubbish that, I think, to use it plays into the tacit acceptance of pseudo-religious twaddle “there may be no god but there is a life force which is connected to the intelligent ether. . .” stuff.

    Didn’t Richard Dawkins write a beautiful paragraph about the ‘spiritual’ feelings that atheists are not immune to? I find it difficult that he would have used religious-type language?

    Two cents, What you have that your corpse will not? That would be called ‘consciousness’, ‘sentience’ or ‘life’. 😉

  78. mary2 says:

    AOS, you may have just beaten the Dawkins paragraph I was referring to!

  79. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    That’s very kind of you, Mary, thank you.
    I think the passage you referred to is in The God Delusion; he was wondering why two people would be influenced in completely different ways by similar experiences, and if memory serves he described how seeing the microcosm of life in the grass of his school-field led him to science, whilst a similar experience lead another young boy to religion (he was possibly talking about the boy who became his school’s chaplain, but I can’t check just now as my copy of the book’s in the loft).

    I don’t have anything better than ‘spiritual’ to offer because it describes exactly what we mean. Unfortunately it is so tied to ‘new age’ “I’m not religious, but. . .” rubbish that, I think, to use it plays into the tacit acceptance of pseudo-religious twaddle “there may be no god but there is a life force which is connected to the intelligent ether. . .” stuff.

    That’s the problem, Mary, ‘spirtual’ and ‘woo’ are inseperable – and it’s a slippery slope: one day you’re talking spiritual, the next you’re buying magic pebbles and ‘Native American Dreamcatchers (made in China, of course) and hiring feng shui practitioners and personal astrologers (it’s true; I saw it all in the tea-leaves that Derek Acorah left in his cup when we were ghost-hunting last week. It was a crazy night, the streets were full of child-sized ghosts and vampires and all sorts of supernatural beings).
    At its most basic level, spirituality can be described as nothing more than those things that go on in the head, and which feel real to the individual experiencing them but which are detectable to science only as a recording of electrical activity in the brain corresponding to the ongoing processes therein. In that respect, it is nothing more than a fanciful way of describing our non-material experiences, and I prefer to have a ‘non-material’ side rather than a ‘spiritual’ one. It covers emotions, psychological states, a multitude of senses (of awe, inquiry, mystery, worth, being, and so on) and it comes with the advantage of being free from religious baggage.

    Right, it’s bloody late, so I’m away to bed. G’night all.

  80. Undeluded says:

    Good argument, AoS. I shall attempt using ‘non-material’ versus ‘spiritual’ in my next debate (no idea when that will be).

  81. FreeFox says:

    Don’t you think that in the grip of religiophobia you are starting to destroy the poetic together with the bigotted? “The other night I had an awesome non-material experience… it made me appreciate aethetic and moral aspects of interpersonal relationships in a whole new way.” When are you going to get rid of words like love or despair and replace them with descriptions of hormonal imbalances?

  82. two cents' worth says:

    Thanks, AoS, mary2, and Undeluded! I’m perfectly happy with calling the non-material what it is 🙂 . I’m just looking for words without (or with a minimum of) god-related overtones that I can use when talking about emotions and non-material experiences and concepts. For example, in Terry Pratchett’s Nation, after a natural disaster, one of the characters mentions that he is grateful to be alive. Another character asks, “Grateful to whom?”

    It’s time for a new J&M, so I won’t ramble on about how humans look for patterns (even when there aren’t any), and lean towards thinking about things in terms of causes and events (even when the events are random), and may perhaps experience emotions due to a sort of Pavlovian effect. (My grandparents would have felt grateful to a person who had warned them about the washed out bridge they were about to cross, so when they were driving through rain that was pouring so hard that they couldn’t tell where they were, and my grandfather happened to stop his car just before a washed out bridge, they felt grateful to God.)

    What I will do is to put The God Delusion on the list of books I plan to borrow from the library this weekend. And maybe I’ll ask one of the librarians to recommend a book on bioelectricty.

  83. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    FreeFox, is it really so bad to refer to the emotional rather than the spiritual? We should be proud of what our minds are capable of rather than crediting some un-named (or in the case of religion, named) external intelligence that clearly does not exist.
    And I doubt any of us would want to do away with words such as love or despair; we just need to understand that there is nothing ‘other-worldly’ about them. Our minds are marvels of nature, so let us celebrate ourselves for a change, and leave spirituality as a failed hypothesis.

    I’m working through your book, by the way. I’m enjoying the writing, but have to admit that reading from the bottom up can be somewhat disorienting. I have no idea how blogs work, but would it be possible to invert the posts to put chapter one at the top?

  84. FreeFox says:

    Start here and move on with the “Newer Post” button underneath the comments section under each entry. Or look into the sidebar, directly under the football pic and the google oogle you find a directory, named “The Beginning is the End is the Beginning” (after the Smashing Pumpkins song.) If you click the years and month you get all chapters in reverse order, so start at the bottom. ^_^

    I can’t have the blog reorder it for you, though.

    Of course I can refer to the emotional. I think you will find I do that quite often. Or did I ever strike you as a particularely unemotional chap? But the spiritual doesn’t refer to just the emotional. It refers to a relationship between the individual’s emotion and the world. The spirits – that moron’s admitedly may mistake for a supernatural entity – are the spirits of a place (the genius loci), or of a group (like this here), of a family or an era. Or of your own life. Yeah, you can call it mood or group dynamics, state, or process, and I am certain that if you analyse it, you can figure out all the little bits inside that make it go tick-tock. But the fact that it’s loaded with springs and cogs doesn’t make something less a clock, and the fact that it’s formed by a natural complex process doesn’t make it less a spirit. And spirit is often the most concise and precise term for it in the english language. I can call a clock a gear-driven time-telling device, but that doesn’t really make me more rational than calling it a clock.


  85. FreeFox says:

    Mispelling “morons” as “moron’s” was totally intentional. it was, er, ironic. Or something. Shut up. ^_^

  86. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Cheers, fella. I could navigate my way around the world if neccessary, but when it comes to the internet I’m a lost cause.

    …did I ever strike you as a particularely unemotional chap?
    I don’t think I’d ever make that mistake. I just think that certain words, spritual being one, that are too open to mis-interpretation.

    A final pedantic point; that clock of yours, if it doesn’t have a mechanism to sound the hour it’s not a clock, it’s a timepiece. A clock by definition has to sound the hour – a point that most dictionaries no longer recognise, but the Horological Society (and if anyone knows the difference it’s them) would have their members guts for garters for using the misnomer.

  87. FreeFox says:

    Cheers right back atcha, AoS. I stand correct and can call a clock a spring-and-cog-driven time-sounding device, but that still doesn’t make me more rational than when I call it a clock. Better?

  88. FreeFox says:

    Argh. COR-BLOODY-RECTED! Sheesh…

  89. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    You’re bloody impossible, FreeFox. It’s why I love ya 🙂

  90. mary2 says:

    Freefox, I do love your definition of spirituality. I do agree that the world is lessened without the poetic language to describe such feelings and connectedness. I do like to think that my front of unadulterated cynicism hides a streak of romanticism. Maybe we just need a campaign to reclaim the words.

  91. WalterWalcarpit says:

    I propose that we consider this discussion as unfinished. (oh, how I wanted to drop the ‘un’). It might be a matter of coining some new language but there remains a difficulty describing that sense of wonder that leads one set to religion and another to science.
    My own personal moment took place some thirty years ago when prowling London at night as part of a personal photography project (a 24 Hours thing) when I stumbled upon the Victoria Memorial outside Buckingham Palace. I was so struck by the sheer quality, care and love of the craftwork that I felt there must be something more. Som
    If awe comes from fear, what word of similar power comes from love?

  92. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    If awe comes from fear, what word of similar power comes from love?



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