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Discussion (55)¬

  1. Friendly Extremist says:

    Am I the first one?? A dream come true!

    I don’t mean to be pedantic, but I think there’s a missing question mark on the 1st panel.

    As always, great work, Author.

  2. HaggisForBrains says:

    Well spotted FE. you are now a fully-fledged member of the Pedants Of The World Association (POTWA), and as such licensed to issue POTWAs (like Fatwas, only less painful).

  3. HaggisForBrains says:

    AAARGH. No edit button just when I need it most!

  4. Author says:

    Thanks, FE – fixed now.

    Haggis – I don’t know what’s happened to the edit function. I’ll look into it.

    Edited to add: it works for me!

  5. E.T. says:

    Ha, ha, ha… this made my day! I finally got a clue into the psychology of America’s president 😉 Brilliant!

  6. Brilliant again. Obviously fake news is always real. Sigh.

  7. Friendly Extremist says:

    @HaggisForBrains I am so proud to be a new member of POTWA!

    I will keep doing my best to be picky 🙂

  8. HaggisForBrains says:


    Yes, the button is there now. Typical!

  9. WCorvi says:

    I think we should commend Mo for his restraint. Waiting three years to consumate the marriage?

  10. Plainsuch says:

    Specifically, her second period.

  11. […] Today’s Jesus and Mo strip is called “six,” is a day late but the first one to address the American political situation, all the while bringing up an incident that pious but moderate Muslims prefer to ignore: […]

  12. Matt says:

    Doesn’t that make Mo a paedophile? Just asking.

  13. Deimos says:

    Plainsuch – arghh – TMI.
    What I’m trying to work out is how these “religious leaders” have the time ? I’m thinking specifically about Mo and Brigham Young – how do you manage all those wives plus all the assorted deity bothering, scripture writing and general awesomeness? OK so Mo had a flying horse and BY had magic stones and golden plates but were did they get the time?

  14. Plainsuch says:

    There is historical evidence that BY actually existed. I suspect that Mo was a Dread Pirate Robert operation and it took many lifetimes.

  15. Son of Glenner says:

    Was it not Joseph Smith that had the magic stones and golden plates? Then Brigham Young was innocent – just one of the first generation of suckers.

    Am I now also a POTWA member?

  16. FreeFox says:

    I missed out on the great debate last week, but I had a few things to add. (All of this refers to

    About theists not understanding what atheism is: Yeah, of course they don’t. Most of them are clueless, uneducated, biased morons. Almost no theists understand what God is, either. Or what faith is. Unfortunately, almost no atheist does either, though. You are all rejecting something you understand no more than theists understand atheism. If you disagree (and I am guessing all of you will), try to explain why the vast majority of people throughout all ages believe in some higher power or another, and while there are indubitably many smart true atheists, there are also without doubt quite intelligent and highly educated religious people in all cultures. And to be clear, I do not propose at all that the existance of faith proves any literalist idea of a deity. Quite the contrary – I think the objective evidence is so much in favour of atheism that you cannot get around genuine puzzlement why in spite of this humanity has made it to the moon and will soon make it to Mars and probably create true artificial intelligence and STILL the vast majority of people remain convinced of the existance of one or more deities. Nothing is easier to refute than scripture. Star Trek has more internal logic and moral cohesion than any major religion. And yet… look around you. You remain in the minority. I don’t think you can claim you understand what the word God actually refers to until you have truly understood this contradiction.

    Also continuing from last week: Please do not think that I at all believe that you need God to be good. (I don’t even think He helps. Like, at all. Being pretty religious sure didn’t keep me from being a criminal. Nor did ceasing to be a criminal involve God all that much.) But I still would like very much to know from all of you, Darwin, Acolyte, Haggis, Two Cents, Helena, Glenner, Plainsuch, Dr John and the rest of the C&B crowd – where DO you get your morals from? By what measure do you tell good from evil? And do you have some mechanic by which you think a common morality could be constructed from all the seperate individual ones?

    Okay, I would like to know that from all of your except Dr John. I already know your answer will just make me want to shoot somebody, John. ^_^

  17. Deimos says:

    I’m sure BY existed but I must admit to never having thought of Mo as a “created person”, its a fascinating idea.

  18. Deimos says:

    I get my moral guidance entirely from watching “Death in paradise” on the BBC. Hence I’m totally unguided and naughty for 10 months of every year. During those months I follow Libertarian ideals and try to avoid getting caught in the henhouse.

  19. Alexis says:

    Hello FreeFox,
    I think most atheists in the U.S. were raised in religious households and have as good an understanding of religion as any theist. The Pew Foundation found that we have greater knowledge of the bible than Christians do. I think we also have greater knowledge of world religions as well.

  20. two cents' worth says:

    I love the headline on J’s copy of The Mail! It reminds me of the conundrum that, if someone who tells only lies says he is lying, is he telling the truth? (See also ) Perhaps if the liar used pen and ink to write, “I am lying,” Mo would say that the writing is real but the content is fake.

  21. Nassar Ben Houdja says:

    Historically, the qur’an is fake news
    Abrogated to even more confuse
    On every page
    Is something to outrage
    To follow it, is to constantly lose.

  22. Nassar Ben Houdja says:

    Historically, the qur’an is fake news
    Abrogated to even more confuse
    On every page
    Something to outrage
    To follow it, is to constantly lose.

  23. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    FreeFox, your first questions are, I think, pretty easy to answer.
    Why has the majority believed in a higher power throughout recorded history? I’d suggest a lack of alternative evidence. Basically it boils down to the question of who made everything, where the Universe came from, and so on. It really wasn’t until we understood the Doppler Shift effect on light, and the production of truly massive telescopes to observe the shift in distant galaxies that we could really begin to understand how the Universe came into being without needing to interject a creator into the picture. From then onwards the evidence against a creator has mounted to the extent that the current believers either haven’t seen the evidence, have seen it but failed to understand its significance, or have seen and understood but choose to ignore it or tie themselves up in theological knots trying to fit the evidence in with scripture – wanting the best of both worlds, if you like.
    As for really understanding what a god is, we can only work on the definitions supplied by the religions themselves, and there’s yet to be one that stands up to scrutiny. How are we supposed to understand what a god is when those who believe in it can’t agree among themselves.
    That said, I would probably define a god as being the lazy thinkers’ alternative to ‘I don’t know’.

    Where do my personal ethics come from? I don’t know! But I’m not so lazy a thinker as to shortcut straight to ‘God’. To answer that question fully would require a knowledge of the workings of the brain that quite frankly nobody has as of yet, and quite possibly never will have, but I will continue to reject the God hypothesis until evidence suggests I ought to look in that direction.

  24. Bruce Vereshagen says:

    FreeFox: I get my morality from the same place that the writers of the various religious tomes got theirs; from my inate human nature with a dollop of evolved social constructs thrown into the mix. I think a common morality could be constructed if we simply followed the rule that we should try to minimize the suffering of sentient creatures. Or maybe just become Scientologists.

  25. FreeFox says:

    Wow… Okay… so first Alexis. I agree that usually atheists know more about scripture and history of religion than untempered theists. But that’s exactly my point – scripture is obviously bonkers. Knowing about scripture tells you next to nothing about what religion is actually about. That’s like saying reading lots of Star Trek scripts and Looper news about behind the scenes of the shoots makes you automatically an expert on why Star Trek works for the audience. You don’t if you restrict yourself to the writing side of the equations. What none of you atheists ever look at is the audience side. People don’t believe the scripture you give them, they pick the scripture that speaks to them. But why does it?

    Next, Bruce: Really, you replace “God” with “inate human nature”? That’s beyond lazy thinking. Might as well say “I don’t known and I don’t care.” At least Acolyte is honest.

    Which brings me to you, AoS. Best answer so far – as I’ve come to expect of you, you least disappointing of atheists 😉 – but still very problematic. In the history of religion the “story for lack of science” step may have played an important role, and that may have informed some of the early choices in particular religious stories, but haven’t we just spent a bunch of years in the C&B seeing the often obvious holes in those explanations? The empty tomb? Two of each animal on a boat? We’re not talking about explanations for lighting and thunder for bronze age people. By now it is way, way easier to accept, indeed to learn scientific answers than deal with the muddled mess religion offers. Just like the belief that flies come from horse apples has died out, so should religion have, if that was all there was to it.

    The problem is that you all take people’s answers at face value. Ask a theists why he believes and he’ll give you the God of Gaps or some other such nonesense, simply because the part of his mind that is capable of answering rational questions isn’t the part that believes in the first place, and that part can’t come up with anything better. But that doesn’t make the answer any more true than the story of the flood and the arc.

  26. FreeFox says:

    Also, before I choke on my own smugness, let me please stress that I don’t have those answers either. I do have theories. Well, more like hypotheses, I suppose. But I do appreciate the problem. And I really want to know your thoughts. ^_^

  27. Bruce Vereshagen says:

    FreeFox: If you don’t like “innate human nature”, how about “biological programming”. We behave the way we do for the same reason that dogs behave the way they do or whales behave the way they do. They (and we) are evolutionarily programmed to behave that way. We just decided that we are something special and different so we call what we do morality.

  28. dr John de Wipper says:

    I will take the gamble that you are not the marksman you claim to be.
    So, I will answer anyway.
    I was raised as a “good” catholic. My grandddad (where we lived the first years) was the parish church-master. My father had promised at his marriage to raise his children as good catholics. My primary school was attached to the nunnery, and some of the nuns were my (our) teachers. The first (at least, religion-related) conflict came in the autumn of my first year there.
    Of course I was to be an altar boy. But. living some kilometers outside of town, my mother decided that I (6 years!) was NOT to be allowed to go to church by bike while it was still dark. She asked the church-nun (in charge of the schedule) to arrange no duty in winter, and feel free to allot double duty once it was daylight early enough. Apparently a no-go, so I escape altar boyihg.

    We were a rather poor household, but the parents were very leniant as long as there was not any money invlved. All-in-all that is why we grew to be a rather wild, but popular bunch; because anything went, and if our friends had any accidents that would get them in trouble with there parents, my mother would somehow make things much less messy.
    (I am not proud of some of the things we did in those days; and very glad in hindsight that nothing really bad happened, by shear luck. I remember flaky ice and homemade fireworks. And my dad had a 9mm rifle for agricultural use which we knew how to get our hands on).
    By the time I went to secundary school, I had more non-religious teaching, and more importantly, access to non-religous literature. And I always have loved reading!
    My religion qiuickly dwindled, and when I told my father I left religion it was quite a struggle. But this good thing ended well: two years later the last of my brothers had this same discussion with dad, but with a surprisingly different ending: “Son, I am SO glad! At marriage I promised to raise you all as good catholics, and I intend to keep my promises. But now all of you independently said farewell to the church, releasing me from my promise.” He never ever would have anything to do with religion.

    FF, I deserve your shot, but I would prefer it to be delivered by Barmaid. She knows my preferences.

  29. two cents' worth says:

    FreeFox, you asked where I get my morals from. I’m a recovering Roman Catholic. My mother, a very devout RC, brought me up from birth to be one too, and sent me to parochial schools. I assume that at least one source of my morals is unconscious, and is what I internalized at an early age. What I am conscious of are the church’s teaching to love thy neighbor as thyself, and my mother’s frequent reminders that I need to be considerate of others. As an adult, I read Bringing up a Moral Child, which makes the point that the basis of sound ethical decisions is empathy. My brain is wired (as most human brains are) to empathize with others. If the cookies I bake bring a smile to someone’s face, I feel good; and if someone is in need, I feel moved to help them if I can. I am also wired to look out for my own well-being and survival, which depend in part on how others treat me. Experience has shown that if other people like me, then (more often than not) they’ll treat me well; and if I treat them well, then (more often than not) they’ll like me. In addition to how others feel about me, I am influenced by how I feel about myself. My personality, upbringing, human nature, and/or other factors have led me to form an image of myself as a good person–not a perfect person, but good enough. To the degree that I meet my own ethical standards, I reinforce this self-image and feel good about myself; to the degree that I fail to meet them, I feel disappointed in myself. My ethical standards for interacting with other human beings boil down to treating them kindly and fairly. In practice, this means following one of the variations of the Golden Rule ( or following the Platinum Rule ( The rule I follow depends on the situation. For example, An it harm none, do what thou wilt applies when I’m deciding what I want to do in my spare time, but Treat other people the way they want to be treated applies when I’m looking for a gift for a friend.

    FreeFox, your other questions included why “the vast majority of people remain convinced of the existence of one or more deities” as well as “By what measure do you tell good from evil? And do you have some mechanic by which you think a common morality could be constructed from all the separate individual ones?” I’ll have to give these questions some thought before I can answer them. I’ve enjoyed reading the answers that have been posted so far, and look forward to reading others’ answers to your questions. Thanks for sparking a great conversation!

  30. DC Toronto says:

    FF – I think part of the problem may be that YOU are taking peoples answers at face value – both theists and atheists. Despite what anyone says, you can’t know their true feelings. Stories abound of regular church goers who are there out of duty but who have no theist belief whatsoever. We have a United Church minister in Ontario who openly proclaims she doesn’t believe in god. I believe there is a large number of people who don’t believe in the scriptures but find that the church is such a large part of their life that they continue to attend regularly
    It’s the same for “atheists”. I’ve seen studies quoted that show a large portion of those who identify as atheist are at best agnostic.
    The bottom line is that accurate statistics are hard to come by. And at the end of the day I think AoS was correct about earlier societies lacking the ability to find objective answers to phenomenon. (and the world has some pretty amazing phenomenon to be explained). I think that for many people the answers are still pretty murky. I’ve read some of the pop physics on the origin of the universe … a universe from nothing? Neat idea but leaves a lot of room for being wrong. I can understand some scepticism in this regard.
    In the last strip, Mo said “but those are the best bits” …. I think he’s correct. Those are the best bits … if you want to fool the masses and need a mechanism to exert influence or control over others.

  31. DocAtheist says:

    Was it really her second period, or was that blood from breaking her hymen after the first period?

  32. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    FreeFox, I could have added that historically to proclaim oneself a non-believer (or a believer in the other tribe’s God) was likely to end rather messily – and still does in certain quarters. In fact, to see why so few came out as atheists one has to look no further than fundamental (ie traditional) Islam for the answer. The bulk of history’s atheists either kept it to themselves or were permanently shut up.
    Also, as I’ve said before, religion will continue to be desirable to those who don’t want to be dead when they die; the afterlife is possibly the cleverest lie that religion has ever come up with.

  33. Someone says:

    Would it be fair to lump in these fake news verses with the Satanic Verses? They are also real yet fake, though I would argue they make more sense.

  34. GodlessToo says:

    Matt says:
    March 2, 2017 at 3:25 pm
    Doesn’t that make Mo a paedophile? Just asking.

    No it does not necessarily make him a pedophile. It makes him a child molester according to current standards. Pedophilia is a psychological/medical condition where one has sexual thoughts about children. Child molestation/sexual assault is a criminal justice designation upholding societal rules concern age of consent. Not all pedophiles are child molesters and not all child molesters are pedophiles. By conflating the two, psychologists have problems studying and obtaining accurate data on the causes of pedophilia due to the “ich” factor and since their subjects are typically drawn from convicted child molesters. I would venture to say that Mo probably was a pedophile but I’m not sure there is adequate evidence to say it with 100% certainty. He may not have been a child molester given the laws of that time and considering he was the one writing the rules. What he most definitely was, then and now, is morally reprehensible.

  35. Graham ASH-PORTER says:

    Mo, having it both ways!

  36. Sunny says:

    By way of Garrison Keillor, I am a member of POEM (Professional Organization of English Majors). Do I qualify as an honorary POTWA?

    (I did double major in English and use Oxford commas and semi-colons with ease.)

  37. Son of Glenner says:

    Re the antiquity of atheism, I love the psalm opening “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” (KJV) Insofar as the translation is correct, I take that as evidence that openly declared atheists did exist at the time the psalms were composed. Otherwise there would be no no need for the religious powers-that-were to issue such a counter-blast. When religious fundamentalists throw that quote at me in this era, it is proof that they have no valid argument.

  38. HaggisForBrains says:

    FreeFox, well done for starting another interesting debate! Late to the discussion, I can’t add much to what has been said, and particularly agree with AoS and two cents’.

    Sunny, you sound eminently qualified. All you need to become a full member is to gratuitously correct someone else’s grammar or punctuation. Correcting apostrophe misuse or neglect may even earn you Distinction. Take care that you don’t fall foul of Muphry’ Law, as I did in the second post, above.

  39. Ian says:

    Al-Ma’arri lived at the time of the Muslim invasion of the Middle East and further. He was a freethinker, when they were allowed to live. He had an interested view of Islam and all religion:

    O fools, awake! The rites you sacred hold

    Are but a cheat contrived by men of old,

    Who lusted after wealth and gained their lust

    And died in baseness—and their law is dust.


    A Spoken Lie Enforced by Blood

    Had they been left alone with reason,

    they would not have accepted a spoken lie;

    but the whips were raised to strike them.

    Traditions were brought to them,

    and they were ordered to say,

    “We have been told the truth”;

    If they refused, the sword was drenched with their blood.

    They were terrified by scabbards of calamities,

    and tempted by great bowls of food,

    Offered in a lofty and condescending manner.


    The Two Universal Sects

    They all err—Moslems, Jews,

    Christians, and Zoroastrians:

    Humanity follows two world-wide sects:

    One, man intelligent without religion,

    The second, religious without intellect.


    Creation Reveals A Lack of Sense

    You said, “A wise one created us “;

    That may be true, we would agree.

    “Outside of time and space,” you postulated.

    Then why not say at once that you

    Propound a mystery immense

    Which tells us of our lack of sense?


    al-Ma’arri was born near what is now Aleppo C975-1058

  40. Son of Glenner says:

    Haggis: I almost fell into your Muphry’s Law trap (btw you omitted the “s” in your post at 2:21! Deliberately?). I had not heard of Muphry’s Law, but looked it up. Now I know what it is, but I’m not going to say for the benefit of other readers – they can look it up for themselves, same as I had to do.

  41. the beagle says:

    The Mohammad was a pedophile story has a bit of a problem. There are two ages for that wife on record. The younger age that makes her a child bride is 6 years younger than the other one and comes from her when she was an old lady (lieing about her age?).

    Now if you accept the younger age then you must accept a documented fact that would be a miracle. The year that she converted to Islam and by her eloquence converted her parents is known. If you accept that younger age she was 2 years old and understood Islam, accepted it and eloquently converted her parents to it.

    So which do you choose? The miracle AND Mohammad was a pedophile or no miracle and no pedophile?

  42. wnanig says:

    FreeFox, regarding the appeal of believing and morality:

    A while ago I read about research that found that your perception of obstacles depended on whether you have company. A hill that you need to climb for example looks much steeper if you are by yourself, not quite so steep when you have company and even less steep when your company is a family member or someone you really trust. This apparently correlates with energy consumption in the brain. You are able to relax more when potential help is present. God has to be the ultimate solution to lowering the energy consumption of the brain. Omnipresent. Omnipotent. Relieving you of depending on unreliable homo sapiens only.

    Experiments with virtual reality apparently also suggest that things can be real to the brain without actually being real. The brain of people who are subjected to rejection by fake people, even knowing that it’s fake, still experiences pain and releases endorphins to cope. Stabbing a virtual arm that is nowhere near your real arm still causes a reaction of pain. The ability to imagine, anticipate and prepare in advance might have given us an evolutionary advantage, but you could perhaps speculate that it could also have side effects in that your internal reality may not always correlate with the outside world, and since we generally seem quite keen to lower anxiety levels, the brain might try to help.

    As for morality, there is still enough religion around in most places that it is probably hard to determine exactly where your moral ideas come from. Jonathan Haidt defines five primary moral foundations that also have a bearing on the liberal-conservative axis. According to that everyone has two: compassion and fairness. This should be possible to explain in terms of flock animal interaction and would correspond mostly to what two cents’ was describing, I guess. The other three are not important to everyone (especially those who are defined as WEIRD – Western Educated Industrialized Rich and Democratic) and are defined as loyalty, authority and sanctity.

  43. IanB says:

    It may well be that moral behaviour is a result of evolution, certainly some other species particularity those that are more highly social exhibit behaviour we would regard as evidence of a form of morality.

  44. PeterWol says:

    It seems that the Nearthandel strain died out, and out lot won, because the Nearthandels were rather solitary guys, and in early times ‘having a tribe to give mutual support was very good for survival. So morality may have originated from the fact that cooperation with ones’ fellow humans is found to be a good thing for the tribe’s survival, and the rule “do to others as you would wish to be done by” therefore makes sense.,

  45. hotrats says:

    You can be a probationary member of UPOTW, but a POTWA is an accusation that language or punctuation has been misused. Typos and charming infelicities of phrase by non-native speakers don’t count; aquila non capit muscas. Previous POTWAs have concerned mistaking enormity for magnitude, fulsome for sincere, envy for jealousy etc. Use with care.

  46. pink squirrel says:

    Re There are two ages for that wife on record. The younger age that makes her a child bride is 6 years younger than the other one -surely it would not matter what the actual year was – what is important is how old she remembered being

  47. jb says:

    There have in fact been studies that suggest that some animals have a basic moral sensibility. See, for example, here, and here.

  48. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    To add to jb’s links, studies have shown that vampire bats returning to the roost after successful hunts will share their food with unsuccessful bats, but if yhe favour is not returned in the future by the individuals they helped then they will ignore their pleas in the future.

  49. Mahatma Coat says:

    Mr Brain, does welding split infinitives back together count for pedantry?
    Someone accuse a friend of mine of pedantism. Friend was quick to reply, “It’s not pedantism, it’s pedantry.”
    I thought that Murphy’s Law was, “What can go wrong, will go wrong.” The sense it which it is being used above would seem to be a subset.

  50. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Mahatma, look again; it’s Muphry’s Law being described above, which I’m afraid makes your comment fall foul of said law.

    I do wonder how HaggisForBrains feels about being addressed as Mr Brain; it certainly tickled this old git.

  51. HaggisForBrains says:

    Calling me Mr Brain rather misses the point of my pseudonym 😉 Friends just call me Haggis or HFB.

    I was taught at school over 50 years ago that splitting an infinitive was a terrible crime, possibly punished by application of the Lochgelly Tawse. However, nowadays it is accepted that the whole idea of not splitting infinitives was totally misguided, and now it is OK to boldly split infinitives throughout the galaxy.

    I like the pedantism joke. Just don’t get it mixed up with pederasty, or, to get back on topic, paedophilia.

  52. Someone says:

    Meanwhile I am still waiting to wake up to the news that DC has been engulfed by a mushroom cloud, whilst the Tweeter-in-Chief reclines in sunny Florida and dismisses the event as fake news, it was a tornado, and Obama is behind the bad weather.

  53. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    I read a piece by Rachel Maddow earlier that said as of sat. night, Trump – the same Trump who vowed that he would rarely leave the White House if he won the election ‘cos he’d be busy busy busy making America great again unlike Obama who had a couple of days off now and then – has spent 31% – thirty-fucking-one percent – of his presidency at his fucking $200,000 per punter per year golf club in the drained swamps of Florida.
    That’s the place he owns and profits from but isn’t a conflict of interest.

  54. Someone says:

    It’s all too easy to dismiss it with “he’s a billionaire, they do what they want” because that kind of mentality allows shits like him to be elected and to do (of course) what they want.
    They haven’t learned otherwise and when reality appears, they throw a tantrum until they’re purple in the face and they only way to pacify them is to let them have their bottle.
    One can point out that it’s a common trait among the rich, the right-wing and highly religious (respectively or individually) but it practically goes without saying. Especially when one or all of the above are fucking insane.

  55. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    I’ll bet Maddow only knew that ‘cos she’s in cahoots with Obama Wire Tap Inc!


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