You probably don’t want to see Saw.

Discussion (104)¬

  1. steeve says:

    Maybe holy books in general are just as you say, but surely you can just pick out the bits you agree with and ignore the rest.

  2. JohnM says:

    Must be getting old. This one has left me bemused. Enlightenment , please

  3. The_Ghost says:

    It’s a play on words – don’t you remember, that Muhammad is always mentioned by muslims with the “(saw)”? Meaning “peace be upon him”?
    Here’s a clue:

  4. steve oberski says:


    In this case you are better off bemused than enlightened.

    Let’s just say that if you see Saw you won’t feel like saying hee Haw.

  5. The James Christ Story says:

    Aww, I was hoping for the punchline,
    “I nicked most of it of your lot, I was just following your lead J”
    or the classic childish response of
    “I know I am , but what are you?” as he reads “Believer’s wives”
    Or for the more murdery,
    “That’s a bit rich coming from you – one word, “flood””

  6. mary2 says:

    Author: Eewwwwww – but probably explains a why a lot of the new Christian sexts are so hung up about sin and punishment.

  7. Gil says:

    “surely you can just pick out the bits you agree with”

    Well, that’s the big problem innit. Everyone agrees with different bits. And they want to kill all those who don’t agree in the same way with the same bits.

    Religion’ll kill ya!

  8. I haven’t seen Saw. I think I’ll keep it that way.

  9. Necessary Evil says:

    I think it’s a question of ‘in the beginning was the word’. Some guys, who hadn’t had much schooling, found out about writing. They wrote stuff down and could read it back, which really impressed other people. So much, in fact, that the people who could read and write were accorded god-like status. They didn’t have a vested interest in teaching anyone else to read and, by virtue of their monopoly on learning, became a priestly class. Ultimately more people did learn to read, but the words that had already been written down carried a special significance, and the priests (or imams) who had gotten the power and who promulgated these words claimed that the text was god-inspired and therefore above criticism. It didn’t matter that what was written was a load of ignorant bullshit. Isn’t that the situation we’re in today? Today Christian priests have made a bit of a mockery of themselves and woishippers are falling away from the Church like autumn leaves. Similar will occur, no doubt, with imams, and then the Din of Allah will universally be seen to be just so much din, but when?

  10. Sondra says:

    Happy Vernal Equinox! 😀

  11. jean-françois gauthier says:

    the old testament has its moments… fire and brimstone anyone?

  12. WalterWalcarpit says:

    Mo’s got some shades!

    Or is it a case of the blind leading the blinded?

  13. Suffolk Blue says:

    WalterWalcarpit – they are 3D specs!

    Steeve – by what criteria do you suggest we pick and choose the bits we agree with from the Word of God? Wouldn’t that be a bit presumptuous of us?

  14. Nassar Ben Houdja says:

    The problem with many Muslims you see
    Is they refuse to rise out of illiteracy
    Repetitious strains
    retained in their addled brains
    Drive them to acts of utter lunacy.

  15. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Nice one, Author, you are a genius at making these connections. My cap is well and truly doffed.

    JohnM, Jesus’ plot synopsis in panel 2 could apply equally to the Koran and the Saw series of extreme ‘slasher’ films, and in panel 3, ‘berating the infidel’ is interchaneable with ‘watching slasher movies’. The unasked question is; what type of person would even want to believe / watch this sick shit? Not to mention enjoy it.

  16. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Yes, I saw it. Interchangeable.
    Ah bollocks!

  17. Peter says:

    I mustard mitt. I see sawed before seeing saw


    The lovely authors recent tweet. This ALL will understand I’m sure!

  19. …might have helped if I explained the image is what you would see if trying to look at this site in the UAE!

  20. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Somehow it’s just not so funny in Arabic! Thanks, EinsteinsGhost.
    By the way, you might enjoy the last half-dozen or so comments on the last strip. The Isle might be getting busy!

  21. jerry w says:

    In the past I took “berating the infidel” to mean the same as “punishing the pope”, cheerful terms for masturbation. I guess nothings sacred anymore….

  22. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    ” I guess nothings sacred anymore”
    You’re so right, Jerry. They’re the exact words used by the bishop I was bashing recently.

  23. Old or just disconnected from pop culture. I have no idea what the punchline is about in this one. JohnM, I share your bemusement. You are too subtle for me this time, Author.

  24. Holms says:

    It’s more likely that you simply have not seen the Saw series of movies – all of which are torture porn. The tie-in to Mo is that the ‘peace be upon him’ related salutations are sometimes abbreviated to SAW from their arabic words.

  25. Trine says:

    I wonder what is Mo doing with his left hand behind the box…

  26. Mary2 says:

    My take on this cartoon was a focus on “why spend so much time … fantasising about their punishment” then next scene Mo is suspiciously occupied with the 3D version of a movie which, as Holms says, is “torture porn” – maybe ‘berating the infidel’ is similar to ‘batting the bishop’: see Trine above.

    Hence my earlier link to some of the more fundamentalist protestant sects – people who are not supposed to have any sex lives themselves but seem endlessly obsessed with the shenanigans of others – I am sure some of them ‘get off’ on the vicariously lived actions of the sinful.

    I must admit to ignorance about the SAW pun – not versed in Islam.

  27. WalterWalcarpit says:

    Holms, SAW is Arabic for PBUH? Really?
    I don’t wonder if Author knew that but ain’t se confident not giving us a hint.

    So Mo (SAW) saw Saw because se saw ‘SAW’ on the cover and not because se wanted to see “Saw” just to see people being sawn? And se is seeing Saw through sunnies cos it would be sore on people to see Mo (SAW) seeing Saw for some self-SAW?

  28. WalterWalcarpit says:

    Ah! Perhaps they are not sunglasses nor 3D specs – perhaps Mo has gone blind as a consequence of too much ‘berating the infidel’. Or is that only from the other book?

  29. WalterWalcarpit says:

    Hey Guys, if Creationist is a term for one who believes the world began according to Genesis what is a term for one who believes an ending according to Revelation? Revelationist? Apocalyptist?
    Serious question – although I am sure to get some creative answers.

  30. Suffolk Blue says:

    Bashing the Bishop, Punishing the Pope, Berating the Infidel … this page is an education, I tells ya.

  31. WalterWalcarpit,
    I have heard “end timers” and also “left behinders”.

  32. arki7 says:

    This really made me laugh

  33. Wrinkly Dick says:

    All the sick violent stuff in the Koran is possibly it was collated from the recollections of soldiers. Mo of course being an illiterate paedophile camel dealer. A sort of 7th century Arthur Daley, nuff said?

  34. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Suffolk Blue, we haven’t even started in on the more general terms yet. There’s the five-knuckle shuffle; Mother fist (she never gets angry, never gets bored); beating the meat; polishing the helmet; sliding the skin…Christ, I think I’ve been on this planet too long; whatever happened to a plain old wank?

  35. hotrats says:

    I’ve always thought that ‘milking the lizard’ says it best.

  36. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    As age marches on, hotrats, it’s increasingly more along the lines of ‘raising the Titanic’.
    Or even ‘resurrecting the Saviour’.

  37. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Just been browsing at and came across Why I am an atheist, a short but beautiful letter from a young woman to a newspaper in Kentucky in 1903.
    Just one brief snippet;

    In fact, I found in the scriptures the origin of woman’s slayer, and that it was one of God’s main points to oppress women and keep them in the realms of ignorance.

  38. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Not to mention Einstein’s famous God is a product of human weakness letter to Erik Gutkind.

  39. omg says:

    Lot of people think that Atheism is new. Like me, I was not aware of how much people share my view before reading about the Atheism Bus Campaign in London. I did follow this campaign from the start and also looked to other such campaign in the world (that cost me a few pounds also, but it was money well spend). It was amazing.

    Now, to return to the you link to the letter “Why I am an atheist”, I think that it is very important that people know they are not alone to be atheist and also to know that in the past, some people express they view with very good arguments.

    The letter from Einstein is very nice to read also. A very good letter to show when people say that Einstein was a believer.

  40. Beggars Belief says:

    Thank you AoS. I was annoyed by the recent FB resurgence of the “meek student slams smug atheist professor with killer arguments on religion, and that student was… wait for it… Albert Einstein” bollocks of a story. (A mercifully shortish version here: if you’ve managed to avoid it completely.) Good to have that letter to refute it with should it ever come up IRL. Also loved the first letter- Minnie O’Parrish was much wiser than I was at 26 years old, and I had a whole century on her…

    Finally, ‘milking the lizard’. HA!

  41. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Beggars Belief, I’m afraid it’s too late to buy the letter, it was sold at aution last October to an anonymous bidder for a shade over three million dollars.

  42. Acolyte (I think I shall start using your first name since AofS is so… cold) thank you for directing me to Einstein’s letter. I’ve sent it on to a friend. When I told her I’m an atheist, she responded with “So you think you’re smarter than Einstein.” Apparently she’d bought the “Einstein believed in God” claim that believers like to spread around. So cool to have that claim refuted in Einstein’s own words.

  43. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Acolyte’s fine, I trust you don’t mind ‘DH’; I’ve always thought there’s a certain panache to an instantly recognisable monogram that needs no elaboration to identify the owner.
    I’m always bemused by the argument from fallacy, and the two most common appear to be that Einstein was clever and believed in God (when discussing religion) and the ‘congratulations, you just killed Mozart / Beethoven / whoever (in abortion debates). My favourite rejoinder to the latter is to spin a tale of two desperately poor Austrian peasants, ill health, yadda yadda and ask ‘would you recommend abortion?’, followed by ‘congratulations, you’ve just allowed Hitler to be born’. It never convinces them but I always enjoy seeing the cognitive dissonance set in.

    On a more serious note, Haggis For Brains has been conspicuous by his absence* for over a fortnight. I sincerely hope that everything’s OK with him and Mrs. Brains, but sadly – and I may be (and hope I am) way off beam – his last post here is making me think things don’t bode well at the moment.

    *As has FreeFox, but we’re more used to his sporadic visits. He comes and goes ‘as a thief in the night’ (best said a la James Brown’s Reverend Cleophus James from the classic Blues Brothers).

  44. botanist says:

    AoS I also hope all is well in the Brains household. I hope they are just on holiday 🙂
    Memo to self – leave instructions with heirs to stand a round at the Cock and Bull.

  45. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    You’re probably right, botanist, and it’s just me being gloomy (my own pain’s been singing soprano for a few weeks, and SNOW* at the end of March, for Christ’s sake, so it’s little wonder really). Still, I can’t help but worry about our friend.

    *On a lighter note, I think I almost made my GW denying neighbour’s head explode earlier when I was trying to explain how this unseasonal weather is the result of, and not proof against global warming.
    It’s the little things that raise one’s spirits, I find. 😉

  46. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Shit! I’ve been meaning to correct an error, but every time I drop in I get sidetracked.
    The link I supplied for the Letters of Note homepage is wrong; there’s a missing ‘e’ from note, so it goes to the wrong place.
    The correct address is

  47. JoJo says:

    I saw Essau sitting on a see-saw Essau, I saw him…

  48. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    JoJo, your little tongue-twister (and boy do I have a filthy joke based on that phrase, but I digress…..again) has brought on a little quiz.
    Can anybody tell me who or what inspired the tongue-twister She sells sea-shells on the sea shore?

  49. botanist says:

    Ah-ha I think it was the lady fossil hunter on the south coast? Finding the dinosaur fossils way back when ‘ladies’ didn’t do such things. It’s not the Jurassic Coast for nothing 🙂

  50. botanist says:

    Shells, shells, ammonites not dinosaurs 🙂

  51. Jobrag says:

    It’s supposed to be about Mary Anning a Dorset girl who, when she was 12, found a six feet long skull of an ichthyosaur, she went on to become an authority on fossils but because she was a working class woman was denied recognition.

  52. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Yup, virtual choccies all round 🙂
    Anning also found the first plesiosaur – spending ten years excavating it, along with one of the first, and still one of the best pterodactyls, yet since she lacked the correct genitalia she was largely ignored in ‘polite’ paleontological society. She did indeed supplement whatever meagre income she had by selling fossils to tourists and visitors, living in poverty for virtually all of the 35 years she hunted fossils.

  53. HaggisForBrains says:

    Hi guys, and many thanks for your concern. Sadly, you were right first time, AoS. Isobel’s funeral was last Friday. She was diagnosed with stage four metastasised breast cancer four years ago (there is no stage five). At that time the prognosis was 2-5 years, so we set about her bucket list with great resolve, and managed to get all the main ones and most of the minor ones completed. As is often the way with cancer, she managed to remain relatively fit until the final treatment stopped working, last November. She managed Yuletide with all the family, and New Year with a crowd of friends, and then managed visits from all of those close to her over the final month. Mercifully the final decline was quite swift. She has been a supporter of assisted dying for some time now (see for an obituary), but fortunately she died without suffering much pain or indignity. She had a good death, and for that I shall always be grateful.

    Her funeral was led by a humanist celebrant, who gave a wonderful summing-up of her life, with a lot of her humour coming through. There was no black permitted to be worn, and the coffin slide down to the strains of the guitar intro to “Stairway to Heaven” – as a lifelong atheist she loved the irony. The assembled friends were also told that if anyone prayed out loud or mentioned the g-d word, she would come back and haunt them!

    Later on this year her ashes will be sent back to the stars, whence we all came, by way of a fireworks display.

    I’ve been following the chat as usual, and enjoyed some good laughs, but just didn’t feel in the mood to join in; I hope to change that soon.

    I am deeply touched by the concern shown here and elsewhere by people I’ve never met, but feel I can count on as friends. I’ve said before that the Cock and Bull is the best pub to be in for good natured ribbing, friendship and great craic. Thanks to you all.

    “I’ll be back…”

  54. Author says:

    I’m very sorry for your loss, HFB.

  55. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    I can only echo Author, HFB, I am very sorry for your loss.
    It’s good to hear that Isobel had the time to (almost) complete the items on her bucket list; maybe when you feel up to it you might share some of them, but for now my thoughts are with you.
    Just remember, we may be an irreverent bunch of miscreants but we’re here if you need us, if only to vent some steam.

  56. WalterWalcarpit says:

    Just been enjoying this final episode from Mark Steele’s radio series Revolution
    The radical comedian re-assesses Darwin’s description of the development of life.
    It was superb as one might expect and pertinently answers somewhat Leon Zitzer’s aparant trolling the other week
    But if the BBC only has it available for a week there is only an hour to hear it. Sorry for that, but it is well worth a try.

  57. botanist says:

    Thanks Walter – very good.
    So sorry Haggis, my thoughts are with you. You know where to find us if you need a chat.

  58. Mary2 says:

    HaggisFB, My thoughts are also with you in this horrible time. You do indeed have friends across the world sending you their well-wishes. We may not know each other by name or face and we may only speak via the comments section of this cartoon but we have been sharing intimate thoughts for several years and that is a indeed a worthy connection. Take care of yourself – it’s going to be tough.

  59. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    I’m about to blow my own trumpet here, so anybody hating self-aggrandisement had better look away now! 😉

    I’m sure you’ve all heard by now that Pope Jim Bowen (check google images) Francis has made big noises about helping the poor.
    All very noble and what-not, but wherever could he have got his inspiration for such a charitable (and very un-Pope-like) idea?
    Well, let us go back to January, and my poem to Nassar, particularly the lines:
    And just because we know no gods he thinks that we are greedy
    Yet ornate mosques and churches divert fortunes from the needy.
    We strive to send them what they need to live another day

  60. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Shit, that failed!
    The lines:
    And just because we know no gods he thinks that we are greedy
    Yet ornate mosques and churches divert fortunes from the needy.
    We strive to send them what they need to live another day
    While churches lock the funds away and tell the poor to pray.

    The point:
    The new Pope is (or was, maybe the Vatican blocks it) a J&M reader, his policy obviously was motivated by that poem, so Author has the World’s most influential website, and I am the World’s most influential living poet.
    Author, shall we fly out to Geneva together to pick up our joint Nobel Peace Award?

  61. HaggisforBrains, I’m so sorry for you loss. The price of love is inevitable loss and sorrow, but you obviously found a brave and intelligent woman to make that price worth paying. I shall drink to you health and her memory this evening. Hold fast,lad.

  62. Damn typos. Your, not you. your your.

  63. WalterWalcarpit says:

    Dear Haggis,
    My thoughts to you and yours.
    I am so pleased you achieved so much of the bucket list. Perhaps there is something to be said for having a deadline (honestly no pun intended).
    I find it strangely comforting to know that I am wishing well towards the surviving partner of a couple of atheists. That is novel enough for me to presume to welcome you to the rest of your life. Vale! And have a drink on me.
    Peace and blessings.

  64. WalterWalcarpit says:

    DH, are you missing an apostrophe? I posted a few spares a while back.
    But you’re not alone so I’ll leave a few more.


    Gosh! If I was a nerdy type I could leave a graphic load of punctuation.

  65. hotrats says:

    Haggis old friend:
    So sorry to hear about the loss of Mrs. Haggis, but it was good to read of the moving secular send-off, just the kind I would like for myself. My thoughts are with you.

  66. Walter, I’m unaware of missing any apostrophes. Unless you are suggesting that I meant to write “you’re”, meaning “you are” instead of the possessive “your”, in which case you are mistaken. I intended the possessive. “I’m so sorry for your loss.” and “I shall drink to your health”.
    It feels strangely insensitive to be discussing apostrophe use at a time like this. But Haggis, my grieving friend, as a founding member of UPAWA I’m sure you understand. Be well, my friend. We all feel your loss.

  67. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    ” UPAWA”? What is this mystery organisation, DH?

  68. Acolyte, I thought you too were a founding member. United Pedants of the World Association. Oh dear, did I put up the wrong acronym. UPWA. Oh, that is unforgivable.

  69. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    That’s a relief, DH. For a mo (sic) I was fearing that, in the finest tradition of religion, you had started a UPOTWA* splinter group 😉

    *That is, if memory serves (and I really am too idle to go back through a year or more’s worth of discussions to check) we decided in the end that our acronym would be pronounced ‘Youpotwa’. If not, then it’s a self-imposed potwa for me, as typo’s aren’t a potwa offence (not only forgivable, but perfectly understandable) but trying to correct something that is already correct most certainly is.
    Have I just shot mself in the foot?

  70. WalterWalcarpit says:

    Darwin, you’re absolutely correct if that was your meaning. I read it as a pun, as in you’re your. My mistake. Mind you, if that was your meaning, I am not sure that I get it.

    As for insensitivity, while I don’t doubt for a moment dear Haggis would expect us to disrupt our pub behaviour for much longer that it took to raise a toast in tribute, I rather thought my spontaneous posting last night, halfway through the manufacture of my first ever chicken & mushroom pie, might have been read as the height of insensitivity.
    It was not until this morning that I read Botanist’s response that I realised that Haggis had dropped in with his sad news. I even thought of apologising but that would have been daft.
    Another round of Hugs for Haggis!

  71. WalterWalcarpit says:

    Hey! On the subject of punctuation I have a UPOTWA quizz question born of, or bourne by my <a href="; above.
    Question: in what circumstances should one use double quote marks and in what should use single? I.e how do they differ?

    If that link works, my thanks go to Haggis for his Brains

  72. WalterWalcarpit says:

    Ah! Bollock (sic).

  73. hotrats says:

    The basic convention is that single quotes are used to refer to text by a different author than the document’s, for example an extract from another printed source, and for reported speech. Double quotes are mainly used to represent conversation in fiction, though many publishers now use single quotes for this too; and they are used for quotes within other quotes:
    John said, ‘I heard him shouting “No, stop it!” from the next room.’

    Preference for single or double quotes varies between countries and publishers, as does whether or not punctuation gos inside or outside the quote. As long as they are used consistently, it doesn’t affect readability.

  74. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Walter, if I remember correctly (which is by no means assured nowadays) the double marks – or the ’66’ and ’99’, as my primary school teaacher taught us, and that I do recall with clarity – are speech marks, and are used as in the following example;

    My wife asked “What’s for dinner tonight, love?”

    The single is used chiefly for bracketing a quote from a written piece, so an extract from a book or newspaper, etc, and to wrap around a book title or similar in place of italics, as in;

    I was reading about Mary Anning yesterday, and read that she ‘….found her first fossil aged 12, 13, or 14, depending on which version you hear….’, which I found amusingly honest of the writer, Bill Bryson, The book is ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’. </blockquote
    The single is also used for signifying sarcasm; so I might ask "Oh, so your God is 'different' to the one the Fundies believe in?", or even "Have you seen Ken Ham's new 'book' on evolution denial?".
    There are probably more uses for the single quote mark, but I'm just too old to care.

  75. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    And I really should have closed that second blockquote with a >.
    Ah bollocks!

  76. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    I notice you were posting as I was composing, hotrats. That sort of timing makes me think you were watching the delectable Ms. Bruce Antiques roadshow too.

  77. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Ophelia has an excellent post over at B&W.
    It seems Gnu Atheism ain’t quite so Gnu after all!

  78. hotrats says:

    The ‘scare quotes’ used for sarcasm are more often double quotes – the ‘air quotes’ people make with their fingers always seem to be doubled. As for Ms. Bruce, the phrase ‘Antique Hunt’ doesn’t do her justice.

  79. WalterWalcarpit says:

    Behave yourselves, Boys.
    But a pint of real ale to you both.

    I think the key lesson is ‘As long as they are used consistently, it doesn’t affect readability’. And that last point illustrates what I had thought was indeed a punctuation dilemma. And both answers serve to suggest that there was little help that quote differentiation could help communicate the meaning of my aforementioned post – with or without my opportune use of gender neutral pronouns.

    Here’s another one.

    I have long been of the opinion that an exclamation mark is more often than not a sign of one laughing at one’s own joke. But I have always liked colons – and indeed dashes – and perhaps I should add ellipses … I love that iOS offers them to me if I press and hold the full stop (period, or in the modern lexicon, a dot).

    Recently I happened on this quote by Kurt Vonnegut: ‘Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.’

    I am mortified!

    So, pedagogically speaking, when might it be appropriate to use a semicolon?

  80. HaggisForBrains says:

    Hi friends. Many thanks to all of you for the kind words and hugs.

    DH, you had me worried about a schism for a moment there; I’m glad AoS put you right (note the careful use of a semicolon there, Walter). On the subject of semicolons, Mrs Brains had had half of her colon removed surgically many years ago, and used to tell folk that she had a semicolon; I won’t tell you how she used it.

    Walter – unstated apology accepted :-), and thanks for all the toasts. Life goes on for the rest of us, and I’d hate to put a damper on the erudite proceedings here.



  81. Interesting discussion guys. I’ve always steered clear of single quotes. Never saw any need for them, and couldn’t understand when they should be used. Still don’t, even after your pointers. I’m very fond of dashes and ellipses too, Walter. I’ve started to use semicolons on occasion; they are a good way to link two independent clauses and I’ve got nothing against transvestites hermaphrodites; in fact, I’m rather fond of them.

    Acolyte, thanks for putting me straight on the correct acronym and pronunciation of UPOTWA. It’s been a while since we have visited that concept.

    Now I have to tell you my one original grammar joke: When I get into thick discussions of grammar with another academic, I like to throw in the following little rant just to see if they are paying attention. I tell them: You know how homonyms are words that sound the same but have different meanings, and antonyms are words that sound different and have the opposite meaning, and synonyms are words that don’t sound the same but mean the same thing. It’s the samonyms that give me the hardest time, you know, the words that are spelled the same, sound the same, and mean the same thing.

    If I manage to rattle this out smoothly enough, nine times out of ten I get a head knodding in distracted agreement and the other academic rushes on to make whatever point was festering in his brain while he waited patiently for me to finish. (Yes, I’ve taken to spelling “nodding” as “knodding”. It’s strangely silly looking but somehow full of sarcastic meaning.)

    Must say it is really fun to sit a round at the Cock and Bull. Haggis, you probably know this but grieving can show up in strange and unrecognizable ways. My father also died of cancer, and we saw the end coming two years before it arrived. I thought I was ready. But after my father died, I had a couple of years when I was haunted by childhood memories. They had nothing to do with my father, but were always accompanied by a terrible sense of sadness and loss. I felt like I was going crazy. Finally I made the connection – my father’s death was the end of my childhood.

    I’m not wanting to make your loss about me, Haggis. But if you feel like you are going a bit squirrely, drop in for a pint with us, okay. I’m sure any one of us would be glad to give you a private connection if you don’t want to be so public. You can reach me anytime at [email protected]

  82. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    You’re welcome, HFB. We’re keeping your bar stool warm for you.

    Hotrats, ‘air-quote fingers’ are one of my biggest bug-bears; the ‘fingerers’ always manage to look patronising somehow. I do know that my English teachers insisted that the double marks were speech marks only (’66’ and ’99’ for speech, ‘6’ and ‘9’ for everything else, including speech within speech).
    But that’s a Secondary Modern education for you.

    “So, pedagogically speaking, when might it be appropriate to use a semicolon?”
    Well, as in the example supplied by HFB, I tend to use them when a full stop is overkill but a simple comma is not quite enough (it signifies a pause for effect, if you will), but I do admit to never being quite sure of the purpose of the double full stop (:).
    Again, that’s a Secondary Modern education for you.
    Oh, and the exclaimation mark is solely there for BLOCK-CAP CHRISTIANS to use at the end of every sinle sentence !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!. Just like that.

  83. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    ‘single’, you pratt, ‘single’.
    Ah bo….well, you know!

  84. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    DH, your comment “If I manage to rattle this out smoothly enough, nine times out of ten I get a head knodding in distracted agreement and the other academic rushes on to make whatever point was festering in his brain while he waited patiently for me to finish” reminds me of a point I’ve often made about conversations, namely that there are two sorts of people; there are those who listen to you, and there are those who simply wait for their turn to speak. Your ‘distracted dons’ obviously fall into the latter group.

  85. AoS,
    I just got excited and thought this might excite you too. Recall that I told you that I thought that Jewish people hadn’t been monotheistic (possibly monolotrous, but not monotheistic) until after 150 BCE. I just read on ChristianityDisproved that the concepts of heaven and hell weren’t invented until about 165 BCE! “The post-exilic apocalyptic, book of Daniel (c. 165 B.C.E.) diverged from Sheol introducing everlasting life and everlasting contempt” Sheol was the pre-heaven/hell afterlife of good and bad people are the same in death, just dead.
    Right now I haven’t chased down the relationship (if any) between monotheism and the existence of heaven and hell, but the dates seem too close for this to be merely a coincidence.

    Sorry for the non-sequiter, but I really felt the need to share.

  86. omg says:

    I’m out of topic, again, but I just found this conversation between Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett. Both are very interesting, so having then together is quite interesting to listen. I hope you will enjoy.

  87. Dear Godless People,

    I Like this site and drop-in from time to time, not just to see the strip, but read your debates. I don’t really get involved due to severe learning difficulties. However, if anyone here is aware of a current little “Fatwah” that has been launched against the esteemed author of this site, may I just add my own highly intellectual and insightful opinion? Mo Ansar, your a big Knob.

  88. PS. Should have said the Fatwah blew up on Twitter Re: @MoAnsar
    Told you I was a bit dim.

  89. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    FKS, an interesting find. It would be nice to be able to find out where they got the notion of Heaven and Hell in their final guises from. We know that all religions are cherry-picked amalgamations of older belief systems, tribal tall stories, myths and legends, along with a little creative re-writing and the addition of new characters (and exclusion of unwanted ones) and plots where neccessary, so it should be possible (given enough original source material) to trace the idea back just to see where the precise details first started to emerge.
    Of course, the idea of an afterlife is probably as old as modern humans, as is the notion of deities, and seemed to occur independantly to peoples worldwide, although the details differed enormously. There is also the possibility – one that probably doesn’t hold water but still worth mentioning, I think – that the seeds of religious thought left Africa with the very first modern humans, and what we were seeing at the time of the O.T. was the result of a vague concept being passed down verbally to an increasingly dispersed population over tens of thousands of years; like a game of Chinese Whispers, except the first person tells two people; each of those tell two people, each of those tell two people, and so on for up to100 000 years.
    As I said, the idea probably doesn’t hold water, but on the other hand it could help explain so many variations world-wide of one basic concept; a creator god(s) with a dark side, and particularly could help us understand why there seem to be geographical ‘blocks’ of similar religious ideas.
    It could explain why the early European gods were so different to the Middle-Eastern gods, who were different again to the Asian gods, who were different to the African gods, or Native American or Aboriginal Australian gods. As the peoples of various continents were isolated from the others (by mountain ranges, oceans, etc, so the stories were allowed to diverge unchecked from the archetype.

    I’ve been pondering on our original conversation regarding the evolution of the O.T. monster. You’ll recall that my initial thoughts focused on the control of the populace by positing a wrathful, all-seeing and all-powerful god, but a second train of thought occured to me recently. On top of the ‘policing’ element, could religious one-upmanship have played a part?
    “My god kill you if you defy him”.
    “Oh yeah, well my god will kill you and your family”
    “So what? Mine will wipe out your tribe”
    “Big deal! Mine will stick red-hot pokers up your arses for eternity”
    Basically, the religious version of the playground “My dad’s bigger than yours” game.

    You know, I’m becoming more convinced that there is a book in this somewhere after all. I couldn’t be the world’s most influential writer as well as its most influential poet, could I. And all due to Author’s inspirational comics and the Cock and Bull regulars.
    Heh, heh. Author, fellow miscreants, send your best bib and tuckers to the dry-cleaners. We might have a Pulitzer to collect to go with our Nobel 🙂

    omg, you’re not ‘out of topic’, simply ‘off-topic’. But yes, an interesting video (even though I much prefer to read Dawkins rather than listen to him; his voice just seems to grate like fingernails on a blackboard).

  90. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    WOAH! A fatwah on Author?
    If you feel you need protection, I know some very good, bad* people. I was one of them until old age and respectability came along 😉

    *Good because they never get caught; bad because of the things they never get caught for; ’nuff said.

  91. botanist says:

    EG – a bit dim – I think not 🙂
    Again off topic but I’m (on another site) embroiled in ‘debate’ about Lucy Meadows. She commited suicide after being hounded by the UK press after gender reassignment surgery.
    IT IS DISGRACEFUL that our press still allows a person to be treated with such contempt. Makes me ashamed to be British.
    Sorry all – it’s late, I’m tired and I’d better stop before our lovely Author bans me 🙂
    Get back on topic the rest of you – rant over, goodnight.

  92. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Botanist, beloved Author is, as HFB said recently, the perfect landlord; as long as you abide by the rules (no sexism, racism, or homophopia) he’s happy for the conversations to go where they will. It’s what makes His comments sections the Carlsberg of comments sections.
    I assume you’ve seen EG’s piece on Littlejohn , the ‘Tin Man’ of British muckraking journalism?
    Strange how the Mail website suddenly ‘lost’ all of his pieces pouring vitriol onto this poor woman.

  93. Jobrag says:

    AOS When people suffer a near death expeiance they often describe a feeling of euphoria, and an illusion of white light, I suspect that in our far past the following exchange was common enough for it to accepted that there was an afterlife.
    “Thought we’d lost you there mate”
    “The undertow got me I was drowning till you pulled me out, thanks chum.
    Mind you this dying thing isn’t so bad I felt really good and this bright light was calling me, I reckon that when you die you go somewhere nice”

  94. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Jobrag, I hadn’t even considered the classic NDE, but yes, there may be something in the idea that could go toward the idea of Heaven (or even of gods) as being a place of pure light and love.
    Although the details evade me for now, there was recently a book written by a doctor who was, if memory serves, atheist until he had his own NDE which convinced him of an afterlife. You’d think a doctor would recognise the symptoms of a dying brain producing ‘feelgood’ chemicals – particularly adrenaline in massive amounts in a frantic attempt to restart a stilled heart; any adrenaline junkie will tell you of the euphoric high a sudden and massive dose gives.

  95. Jim Roberts says:

    According to Richard Carrier, the Jews picked up Heaven and Hell from Zoroastrianism. It’s in one of his Skepticon presentations, but I expect he’s said it more than once.

  96. WalterWalcarpit says:

    The suggestion of the involvement of near death experiences in the evolution of a belief in an afterlife seems quite plausible; especially the way Jobrag tells it.
    And I think there is something to be said also for the divergent evolution of thoughts previouslly held in common due to geographical dispersion and separation; just like Darwin’s observations on the Galapagos islands.

    So if monothesim and heaven/hell develop simultaneously in the middle east some 150 years BCE it might explain why most of the others continued to evolve as pantheistic.

    What other monothestic religions are there? And what other heaven/hell ones are there apart from the Abrahamic ones? And is there a religion anywhere that does not believe in an afterlife or is that what intrinsically defines a thought as a religious one?

  97. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Walter, I would hazard a guess that the concept of an afterlife is pretty much at the root of most – if not all – religions, but probably pre-dates them all, with the Heaven and Hell / punishment and reward aspect coming much later.
    In his book Cosmos, Carl Sagan puts forward an idea that our earliest ancestors may have interpreted dreams – particularly those in which the dreams involve interacting with dead relatives or tribe members – as a kind of afterlife, leading to such ideas as the Native American ‘happy hunting ground’ or the aboriginal Australians’ ‘dreamland’; it’s why they buried their dead with their hunting weapons and tools (reaching its peak with the Egyptian and Chinese burials of rulers where they sacrificed slaves, animals, even family members to accompany and serve them, along with food and drink, jewellery; pretty much everything they had in life went with them into the afterlife). Initially it wouldn’t have been ‘heaven’ as later conceived, but simply the place you went when you died and carried on as before.
    Put simply, the afterlife was likely a primitive belief system (as opposed to a religion) of people with no real understanding of what constitutes life and death, or of what dreams and hallucinations were.

    Even though the concept of god(s) at that early time was most likely a very vague idea of an unseen creator, it wouldn’t have required too great a leap of the imagination to link them with the afterlife notion, then to develop the theme, extend the power and influence of the god(s) – and along came religion, and for many religions, somewhere in all of that the afterlife switched from just being the place you go to when you die, to a place that you have to earn your way into, and as those refused entry to the ‘good’ afterlife must have done something wrong to be refused admission, there became a need to find somewhere else for them to go as a punishment.

    As for whether there are other heavens and hells, it would be strange if there weren’t others. The very notion of h/h is simply an extension of the hopes and fears of the people creating them, hence the Abrahamic heaven is a bountiful land of plenty as opposed to the harsh environment the desert-ramblers had to cope with, whilst their hell was an exaggeration of the intense heat; of the pain and diseases they battled against in life. On the other hand, for the early Nordic religions hell was a land of intense cold.

  98. oldebabe says:

    AofS, thanks for your thoughts, re: religion being an aberration of the original simplistic views of an afterlife. ISTM that that change was not for the better.

  99. no facebook says:

    @WalterWalcarpit you might like to check Tenrikyo—it’s a Japanese monotheistic religion.
    As far as I know, it’s completely unrelated to the Abrahamic ones, very unrelated if you take into account that it was founded by a woman! And it does have a concept of afterlife, although I have my doubts about including reincarnation on the same list as going to heaven or hell.

  100. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    You’re welcome, oldebabe. It’s only conjecture, of course, since there’s no real way of knowing what the early modern humans were thinking. Our best guesses have to come from interpreting the earliest known human artefacts, such as the cave paintings at places such as Lascaux; from what meagre remains of burial goods are found; from looking at the beliefs of the living ‘primitive’ cultures such as the remote Amazonian tribes, preferably before they’ve had enough contact with the outside world to corrupt their belief systems – in other words, it’s mainly educated guesswork.
    That said, if anything can be said to be logical about religion I believe that it’s the likely way it developed from primitive ideas about understanding the world to the more modern attempts to control it.

  101. omg says:

    Here you have a very interesting account for the origin of religion from Christopher Hitchens 😉

  102. DragonsDream says:

    Of all the saws I ever saw, I never saw a saw like that saw saws!

  103. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    DragonsDream says:
    March 27, 2013 at 1:31 pm
    Of all the saws I ever saw, I never saw a saw like that saw saws!

    I like that, but you’ve missed couple of a ‘saws’, I think.
    Of all the saws I ever saw saw, I never saw a saw saw like that saw saws!

  104. WalterWalcarpit says:

    OMG, Thanks for that. I always enjoy hearing someone creatively assemble thoughts in my head. Actually that’s one of the things I like about hanging out in the Cock n Bull. And Authors way of putting into form thoughts that I haven’t even had yet.
    It is off topic but quite fun; here’s one that I came across after a long surf that started with Author’s cheeky tweet.

    On that note, Author, when might we expect Mo to ask “Who can object?”


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