One final contribution from Joe McKeever.

Discussion (54)¬

  1. Trevor H says:

    I hope no one laughs at this – might break their misconceptions 😛

  2. Max T. Furr says:

    As I’ve said many times, blind faith sees no irony.

  3. Ben in Herefordshire says:

    That was a proper laugh out loud

  4. Bodach says:

    Author, you’ve done it again! The wry humor tickled me to my atheist bones. Thanks!

  5. Mockingbird says:

    I can hear her laughing. – Poor old McKeever. Lets hope his god protects him better than the mighty Allah protected Osamar bin Liner.

  6. Smee says:

    Atheists would give as much to charity if they didn’t have to pay tax either!

  7. Caliban27 says:

    Mo’s statement is the first of “Seven Reasons Why …” Joe McKeever did not choose Atheism over Christianity. I love No. 3 “Historic and Scientific Validity” in which his sole argument is that “I sat in the room with Dr. Carl F. H. Henry on a university campus as he said, “Christianity is the only world religion that has come through the scientific revolution and emerged intact.””

  8. Someone says:

    Religion, for laughter, is the gift that keeps on giving.

  9. raymondm says:


    Hey Mo! Atheists are believers, too!


  10. M27Holts says:

    Aye. Raymond. I believe that if I attempt to stop the 3000 tonne freight train (that passes thru my local station at 1330 every day) by stepping in front of it I will cease to exist and become like strawberry jam plastered on to the front of the diesel locomotive. I think physics has proved that beyond reasonable doubt….invisible sky fairies less so proved methinks…

  11. Troubleshooter says:

    J & M have a very simple (and yet not-so-simple) problem: they can’t see both sides of this equation, whereas a lot of us have. We’ve known what it’s like to believe, then later, learned that those beliefs were unfounded, indeed harmful, and abandoned them. Those two are still married to their religion and can’t imagine their lives without it.

    I suspect that the barmaid was laughing at least in part out of the joy she felt at being free of that baggage … and yeah, a bit at our two lads as well. The question becomes: could J & M ever see the barmaid’s life through HER eyes? Personally, I’m dubious.

  12. M27Holts says:

    ^ I suppose I did once believe in Father Xmas…until I was about 6 years old. I seriously cannot imagine how an adult can seriously still be immature enough to not realise that human constructs like Santa, Satan, Jehova or Shirlock Holmes are all equivalent…

  13. M27Holts says:

    And only a knobhead would draw equivalence between the belief in gravity to that of a belief that a tyrannical sky faerie thinks that you shouldn’t eat bacon…

  14. raymondm says:

    POLYtheism: belief that there are many gods

    MONOtheism: belief that there is one god

    Atheism: belief that there is no god

    Nombrilism: …

  15. Troubleshooter says:

    No, Raymond. Atheism is NOT the belief that there is no god. It is the rejection of belief in a god. There is a difference.

  16. Laripu says:

    raymondm, thanks for introducing me to a word I didn’t know before: Nombrilism.
    Is it solipsistic in here, or is it just me?

  17. M27Holts says:

    RaymondM you whopper…Even IF your invisible friend does really exist that does not prove that any of the bible or the koran is true. As somebody once said extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence…and as always the emperor is stark bollock naked…

  18. M27Holts says:

    Laripu. The philosophy joke made me chuckle….I spend more time gazing through my telescope than I do at my navel…such heavenly bodies to behold on a clear night…

  19. raymondm says:


    What makes you believe I have an “invisible friend”? Why do you believe I think the Qoran or the Bible is “true”? What is the basis for your belief that I define “truth” in a particular way?

    So much faith, so little evidence.

  20. Choirboy says:

    “Atheism is a belief in the same way that not collecting stamps is a hobby”
    “ Atheism is a belief in the same way that bald is a choice of hair colour”

  21. Troubleshooter says:

    And as it comes to the issue of “belief,” my stance is this:

    I don’t want to believe; I want to know.
    — Carl Sagan

  22. Son of Glenner says:

    Choirboy: I have seen “non-stamp-collecting” before, but not “hair colour choice”; I like them both. Not bald myself (yet!), but precious little natural colour left.

  23. M27Holts says:

    SOG. I have a 10 pence size bald patch on the top of my head and my hairline has receeded quite a lot
    Thus I shave my head….been doing so for 10 years…
    Raymond. You wrongly assert that atheism is a belief. You also like to propose philosophical claptrap about any belief being equivalent because you cant disprove any of them. You are definately a catholic. Based on the evidence that you used whataboutism to protect your faith. You pretend to distance yourself from the actions of the paedophile priests, but how do we know that you say one thing yet think another? We only have the excuse to go on….so we have to assume you lie…..

  24. jb says:

    Atheism is NOT the belief that there is no god. It is the rejection of belief in a god. There is a difference.

    I don’t think this is right. Belief is belief. The same thing is going on in your head whether it’s belief in the existence of something of belief in the nonexistence of something.

    What differs is the nature of the evidence. One believes that there is a God because one thinks that there is good evidence supporting the existence of God. One believes that there is no God because one thinks that there is no good evidence supporting the existence of God. But whether the evidence is positive or negative, either way the result is belief. The opposite of belief would be agnosticism or indifference. If you asked me how many American cities had mayors named Fred my answer would be that I don’t know or care. That’s what true absence of belief looks like.

  25. Troubleshooter says:

    As long as we’re doing atheism similes:

    Atheism is a religion like abstinence is a sex position.
    — Bill Maher

  26. jb says:

    However I’ll note that many believers make a big deal about having faith, which they themselves define as belief in the absence of strong positive evidence. I think this is where the difference is. It’s perfectly fair to say that atheism is a belief, but religious believers sometimes try to characterize it as a belief based on faith, no different than their own beliefs, and I don’t think that’s fair at all.

  27. Troubleshooter says:

    I don’t see that a rejection of a belief constitutes a belief, in and of itself. If someone makes the positive claim: “God exists,” and I state, “I don’t accept that claim,” that doesn’t mean that I believe there is NO god. ALL that is is a dismissal or rejection of the stated claim.

    Matt Dillahunty uses the example of someone claiming that there is an even number of gumballs in a jar. To that claim, there are three possible responses:

    1. I agree, the number of gumballs in the jar is even.
    2. I disagree, the number of gumballs in the jar is odd.
    3. I DON’T KNOW, meaning I am ambivalent about whether the number of gumballs in the jar is odd or even.

    My own personal attitude is that I don’t believe in any form of god because there is no positive evidence indicating that such a being exists. If positive, testable evidence WERE to be discovered, that would change the entire conversation. To date, there is no such evidence. It is worthy of note that there is also no evidence for the existence of a left-handed zindlefinger [my own invention], and I am quite comfortable in saying that there is no such thing as a left-handed zindlefinger. The only difference between my zindlefinger and god is the ubiquity of the god-concept, and ubiquity does not equate to confirmation of existence.

  28. Author says:

    M27Holts, Raymondm has been commenting on and supporting this comic for a many years. You should not be calling him a liar.

  29. Anonymous says:

    JB. You are making a common but false misinterpretation of the Greek prefixes, ‘mono’, ‘poly’ and ‘a’ used before ‘theism’. The first two clearly qualify types of beliefs while the third simply indicates ‘without’.
    ‘Asymmetrical’ simply means without symmetry but by your tortured logic an asymmetrical triangle is actually symmetrical as its asymmetry is really a kind of symmetry. As I quoted previously, you are attempting to make not collecting stamps a hobby.
    Had humankind been rather more enlightened from the outset and not felt the need to create imaginary friends which we have been brainwashed with for so long we would all be atheists anyway, except the word would be redundant. As it is it only exists because history has obliged us to define ourselves in terms of the beliefs of others.

  30. M27Holts says:

    Ok. I say he is being economical with the truth…A proposition that may or may not be true…However I cannot prove it either way…So I shall add the caveat…Raymondm is yet to be a proven purveyor of un-truths… the jury is still out. Over and out….

  31. jb says:

    Anonymous — In common English usage the word “atheist” describes someone who actively believes that there is no God. For example, me. I base my belief on what I consider to be the lack of good evidence for God (there is plenty of bad evidence though!), as well as my understanding of both human nature and the natural world. I am aware that I could be wrong, but I believe that I am right. So if I am not an atheist, then what would be the proper word?

  32. Troubleshooter says:

    jb, there are PLENTY of people who would disagree with you, Matt Dillahunty among them (and pardon me if I cite him again). From his perspective (and mine, for that matter), A-THEOS means WITHOUT GOD. The definition, as it has evolved, states that an atheist does not BELIEVE in a god, whereas an A-GNOSTIC is A – without and GNOSTIC – knowledge of god, so we’re talking about two separate tracks: belief [atheist] and knowledge [agnostic]. From this you can get into a whole other quadrant of being an agnostic atheist, a gnostic atheist, an agnostic theist or a gnostic theist, which mostly, I don’t bother with, myself.

    Speaking purely for myself, I am a gnostic atheist with regard to the Abrahamic god, because the bible and the quran are far too problematic from far too many points of view to be credible, on top of other problems regarding evidence of said god. Now, is it possible that there is SOME form of deity which is NOT that described by the Old or New Testaments or the later writings of Islam? Sure, anything is POSSIBLE. Whether anything is PROBABLE or not is a completely separate issue, and once again, I have to fall back on EVIDENCE, of which there is NONE regarding any deity you care to mention.

  33. raymondm says:

    jb & troubleshooter

    Below is an article which pretty much reflects my use of the words “atheist” and “agnostic,” “theist” and “deist.”

  34. Choirboy says:

    JB and raymondm (my last post as anonymous for some reason) I can only repeat that saying that having no belief is having a belief is an unsupportable contradiction. Atheism means without belief in that particular area, a vacuum, but not that you have no other beliefs. It seems from what you say that you are a Rationalist or a Sceptic, which do not define you by the negation of other beliefs. You may well be an atheist as well but that is not a belief.
    Raymondm, I have to say I find it hard to take seriously an article claiming authority on definitions associated with philosophy which begins with the obvious misuse of the term ‘beg the question’.

  35. Laripu says:

    It’s too easy to divide people and argue because of tiny differences in language. But it’s stupid. Yes: stupid. Rather than use any of those words one can just say “I don’t believe in god”. It doesn’t really matter whether you’re an atheist of Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, or Christian heritage. It really doesn’t matter whether you “believe that God does not exist” or whether you “have no beliefs concerning the existence of god”.

    You’re a tiny speck in a universe that doesn’t have the ability to give a shit about your little disputes.

    The damn definition doesn’t matter!

    Imagine you have a child raised, given no information about gods, theism, atheism or anything relating to those beliefs or lack of beliefs. Not even the words god, theism etc. The child reaches 16, never having heard anything except naturalistic explanations. Never having read sci-fi involving deities. Having neither the words nor the concepts.

    Is that child and atheist? Does that child have a “belief that there isn’t a god”? There can be no belief about a concept where the concept doesn’t even exist.

    Be nice to each other. Inquisitions and jihads are for goddists.

  36. Son of Glenner says:

    Laripu cuts through the Gordian knot!

    Hear, hear!

  37. Choirboy says:

    Wow, Laripu, that was a fair expense of time and energy (and vehemence) on something that doesn’t matter.
    You are right, of course, that at the Heat Death of the Universe or even when our little lives are rounded with a sleep nothing much will matter.
    In the meantime, though, we do not live in your lovely imaginary world where nothing is influenced by pernicious unsupportable beliefs backed by all powerful supernatural beings but in this one; where currently people of influence push for Creationism to be given equal status as science in schools, Faith Schools in this country (UK) supported by tax payers money are on the increase against the wishes of local people, millions blackmailed to avoid contraception struggle to feed large families and the creator of this valuable cartoon has to hide his identity for obvious reasons.
    The prompt for the current cartoon is the mindless burbling of one Joe McKeever, a ‘believer’ who like most of his ilk tries to manipulate language to lead the unwary astray. Orwell of course, in inventing Newspeak, warned of the dangers of the corruption of language and its misuse to manipulate ideas.
    Penn Jillette, in coming up with the ‘hobby’ analogy was engaging directly with this corruption, where ‘believers’ claim that ‘atheism’ is only a ‘belief’ like any other.
    It is not a belief; it is the absence of one. As an atheist I believe in rational, logical, evidence based, peer reviewed science which is willing to adapt and develop.
    If you bundle all that into the term ‘atheist’ and accept it as just another ‘belief’ then you are giving equal weight to Creationism and Science, which is exactly what the God botherers want.
    They are not equal. Precision in language is important, especially in matters with far reaching consequences, and I’m not sure I see why pointing that out is any more argumentative or divisive (or stupid) than creating a cartoon to satirise woolly thinking is.
    Believe me, the very last thing I would want to do is to offend this august company!

  38. raymondm says:

    “Atheism is a religion like not collecting stamps is a hobby.” Penn Jillette

    Religion. Not belief, religion.

    “Precision in language is important”

    Isn’t it, though. (And in attributing quotes.)

  39. Choirboy says:

    Raymondm Touché! Thanks for the correction. Quoting from memory at my great age when I avoid pausing on the stairs for fear of forgetting whether I was going up or down clearly has its dangers.
    Fortunately I don’t think my error has any serious far reaching consequences or substantially undermines the thrust of my argument.

  40. jb says:

    Atheism is a belief, but it is not a religion. This is where I think the confusion lies.

  41. Donn says:

    I find “disbelief or lack of belief” in my dictionary, so as expected it looks like the term has been used both ways.

    I consider “lack of belief” the sensible meaning, for the following reason.

    As far as I know, there isn’t any such thing as “belief in God” generically. The actually existing beliefs are in specific gods, to the extent that the term has practically no meaning when considered outside one of those frames. To belief there “there is no God” would require me to first define what I mean, by “God”. The easy thing would be to say “the sort of Gods that are commonly believed in” – but here I’d presumably be in the majority, because for each religion it is apparently the case that the believers in the all the other religions would agree that there is no such God. If I try to extract some underlying principle from these contradictory narratives, I’m back in the same spot, trying to define something in order to not believe in it.

    I could however say that I’m highly unlikely to hold any belief that requires me to take otherwise preposterous things on faith.

  42. jb says:

    There certainly are people who believe in God generically — they are called “deists.”

    And again, if not “atheist,” then what would be the proper word for a person who, like me, actively believes that there is no God?

  43. Sitting in the dark says:

    First: It is very weird to watch what looks like Raymond Holt from Brooklyn 99 arguing with himself. It was good for a cheap absurdist chuckle. N.b. everything that came before and after this doesn’t matter.

    Second: is hardly the most reliable authority on the definition of a word, especially when the article providing the definition is not very consistent – “””An atheist doesn’t believe in a god or divine being. The word originates with the Greek atheos, which is built from the roots a- (“without”) and theos (“a god”). Atheism is the doctrine or belief that there is no god.”””
    (my take on the lack of consistency depends on the connection that atheism is that line of thinking to which an atheist adheres.)

    You (Raymond) can argue that being an atheist means that atheists believe there are no gods, and you will be as accurate as someone claiming that Cristians believe in Muhammad, Jews believe in Gilgamesh, and ancient egyptians believe in electric blenders. Atheists (and most other people) operate from the position that Christians and other religious types believe in god or have faith of some kind because those so described claim it themselves. I’m not putting words in their mouths, the faithful happily claim it themselves.

    So why Raymond, do you dispute what someone is telling you about their perception and experience with a lack of faith?

    I use faith here to clarify, because it seem like you are intentionally using the word “believe” due to it’s colloquial vagueness. It can mean ‘has a general understanding of’ or ‘commits to an idea as an article of faith.’

    If you want to use ‘believe’ to describe how I think about gravity and the apparent lack of the supernatural, fine. However, if your intent is to imply that means I have absolute faith in the non-existence in something that I’ve never seen, then you are misrepresenting the perception that I hold. Since you seem to be insisting that atheists have faith in the absolute non-existence of gods, I have to tell you that for this atheist, you are wrong. And so it would seem for every other atheist present speaking up to dispute your claim.

    A second question for you Raymond, would you describe yourself as an atheist, or are you a religious person or a person of faith? I ask because I’m curious about you and would like to understand your motivation for arguing your position.

    This moment brought to you by the need to crawl 10 minutes closer to oblivion.

  44. Same B99 guy says:

    jb, I think the term you are looking for is “anti-theist”.

    I suggest you google the term as there are many sources on it and you can decide if it describes your stance.

  45. Laripu says:

    Choirboy, the vehemence wasn’t about the content of the dispute. The content doesn’t matter. It was about the dispute itself, which is silly because the content of the dispute doesn’t matter. It’s a big fuss over words.

    If there is contention involving people who believe in god, then it isn’t helpful for the other side of that contention to argue about what’s dancing on the head of a pin.

    But I do like the stamp collection analogy. It’s a useful tool in discussions with believers.

    It reminds me of an old Woodie Allen joke. A couple decided not to marry. He was an atheist and she was an agnostic. They couldn’t agree about what religion in which to not bring the children up.

  46. Donn says:

    Deists believe in the Christian God, though they dispense with all the doctrine, is my opinion.

    Sit down with a Deist, if you can find one (not so easy in recent centuries), and inquire into the details. I’m sure you (and I) would disbelieve. But have we in so doing disbelieved in every possible God? No.

    What if the next candidate takes the Pantheist position that God is identical with the universe? In this case we have to disbelieve in the universe? Maybe we could argue that neither do they believe in God, because it isn’t obvious that it makes any difference either way, if there’s God-Universe or just Universe, it adds up the same either way, but the Christians believe in three gods but only one and that seems to be important to them however little sense it makes. I don’t know. Maybe you can get out of that one, but have we exhausted all the possibilities such that you can definitively say that you disbelieve in them all? I think not. I think it’s very common to consider God “unknowable”, beyond human conception, and I hope you aren’t going to assert with a straight face that you actively disbelieve in anything that you can’t conceive of.

    What I’m saying is that when you “believe there is no God”, you must inevitably have some notion in mind, that was constructed by some religion, and you’re then just in the company of all the other people who don’t believe in that God. If that’s all you’re up to, I think heathen could be the correct word.

    The positive, unambiguous position is to lack any belief, in any God.

  47. Choirboy says:

    JB, there is no confusion. Atheism is neither a belief nor a religion and to suggest the latter is even more egregious than the former. To keep reasserting that asymmetry is a kind of symmetry will not make it so.
    To believe is an active not a passive undertaking as you suggest so the prefix ‘anti’, as has been suggested is probably the one to choose. ‘Atheist’ shows you have no belief while ‘anti-theist’ shows an active belief against the existence of a god. It seems to me that you are both, and quite right too!
    Laripu, the Woodie Allen joke is a good one, isn’t it?
    I’m glad that you refer to a ‘useful tool’ when dealing with believers as, far from intending to be ‘jihadist’ in discussing what I feel is far more relevant today than angels dancing on pinheads, for reasons I alluded to in a previous comment, it is important that when we come up against the witch doctors we are singing from the same hymn sheet ( so to speak!)

  48. Laripu says:

    Here’s a thought. If an intelligent person from 2000 years ago were to witness what we are currently able to do with technology, they would probably conclude that we were incredibly powerful wizards, or demons, or possibly demigods.

    They’d be in awe of the simplest things, for example automatic doors. But how about directed energy weapons?

    Knowledge, and therefore technological capability, increase exponentially. In 5000 years, if humanity survives, won’t humanity’s future capabilities be vastly father ahead of ours than ours are ahead of Julius Caesar’s? So far ahead that they’d appear to us to be as gods, if we could see the workings of their tech?

    If you want something done right, do it yourself. You can’t depend on wishful thinking. Humanity will blunder along, developing knowledge, until we, ourselves, supply the answers to the yearnings that still lead people to the false hope of religion.

  49. Same B99 again says:

    “””So far ahead that they’d appear to us to be as gods, if we could see the workings of their tech?”””

    I think you mean *until* we could see the workings of the tech. But even then, I wouldn’t consider new tech magical, as I am aware of the pace of progress (and notably, its rate of acceleration). So while I would be astounded and amazed, perhaps for several days even, new tech novelty wears of *quickly* with people who grew up adapting to new tech on an almost daily basis. I think Jim Jeffries happens to provide the most useful statement (wildly out of context, but usefully phrased here): “This is me now.”

  50. Dr John the Wipper says:

    As Arthur C. Clark wrote repeatedly:
    Sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic and Magic is indistinguishable from sufficiently advanced technology.

  51. Mockingbird says:

    Jim – Good cartoon, thanks for that.

  52. Donn says:

    Nah. I mean, you can present technology as magic, but that’s fraud. The difference is the same, no matter how advanced. I don’t understand a lot of things about, say, electric motors, that were well understood a century ago, but I know that if I cared to remedy that, there’s a clear path. The same will always be true, if and only if it’s technological.

  53. OtterBe says:

    Attention, fellow nerds*!

    You should follow the freefall link posted by Jim Baerg above to a comic about an engineer who happens to be a genetically engineered wolf. The comic has pie-fights, ninja waiters, an alien corrupting a not-too-bright robot, and other fun and silly stuff. All amid discussions of ethics, morality, polity, and exploration of AI and its ramifications.

    Great stuff, but not dry: it’s a fun surface-read. Plus, the artist works hard to get orbital mechanics right. I highly recommend it.

    * apologies if anyone is offended by the label, but, if you see this you’re reading to the bottom of the comments in the J&M archives. I postulate that it’s kinda a self-defining set. 😉


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