Cartoons? I Live in a Goddamned Cartoon

I’ve been considering different angles on the Danish cartoon fiasco for a few days. Here they are, in no particular order of importance–and not necessarily exhaustively expounded upon. Food for thought.

+ Civility, manners, tolerance, and perhaps respect of the idiosyncrasies, traditions, beliefs, rituals, symbols, customs, etc. of others is reasonable behavior, but doesn’t that sword cut both ways? Isn’t it so, that the most outlandish, ridiculous, closed-off belief systems are the least respectful of others’ beliefs and symbols?

+ Keep in mind that this does not rise to the level of moral issue until the "offended party" threatens or initiates violence. Only then is it a moral issue, and the "offended party" is in the wrong. If I want to be a jerk in word and attitude, it is my right as it is the right of others not to associate with me. If, instead, they vow to kill me, then, well, don’t I have a sort of an ex-post facto justification for mocking them and their beliefs, symbols, and everything they’re about in the first place–particularly if I have good reason to know what their reaction will be? Anyone with the capacity to use violence against mocking words or images ought to be relentlessly mocked until they get over such a juvenile capacity, or until someone rightfully blows their brains out in self-defense.

+ Can anyone make a case for a moral imperative to make fun of or mock beliefs and their symbolic representations–no matter their power to inspire–that do not possess any demonstrated factual basis in reality, but which guide people’s behavior–often to the danger and detriment of others–nonetheless? Just for the sake of argument, assume that all religious beliefs are false. Given the history of civilization over the last 3 millennia, how do you suppose the "guiding hand" of such fantasies–having no essential correlation with reality–affected that history? How about the the general religious tendency of stifling and interdicting human knowledge and scientific advancement? For those individualists who lament that, "but for this (the state), we could be free," I say: but for this and that (the church), we could be free and living lives hundreds of years long, maybe longer. It is, after all, man’s life that is what this is all about, and there is a distinct difference between the Catholic terror of the Dark Ages and its 20-year lifespans and the 70 years we get today, now that that particular institution has been relatively put in its place.

+ If Islamic terrorism were just the work of a few isolated crazies, then that is a different context from that in which you have institutional Islamic terrorism, i.e., sponsored, promoted, and morally sanctioned by states, mosques, multiple sects, and reasonably large groups of people. At the same time, there is very little outcry from the the practicing Muslim population. Back up a few hundred years. Is anyone trying to tell me that the Catholic Church should not have been mocked and ridiculed right straight into the ground for its persecution of "heretics," its treatment of women in general, and its dictatorial reign over virtually the entirety of Europe?

It’s too bad, really, that some sane people didn’t mock and ridicule the holly hell out of that medieval evil insanity, the Roman Catholic Church (for instance; there are many other examples). Of course, they couldn’t, could they? They’d have been burned at the stake, right? Please, tell me what’s not to mock. Tell me what’s to respect and cherish.

It’s really simple: All religions, every single one, are completely and totally full of shit. What’s more, they all take themselves far too seriously, which is at the root of two millennia of "holy wars" that amount to nothing, NOTHING more than "my tooth fairy is better than your tooth fairy."

I live in a world full of children who believe in Santa Clause, all the while admonishing me how very important it is to help them in keeping this illusion propped up, because it’s so comfy and cute. Well, I ain’t buyin’ it, and I will ridicule, mock, and curse everything about it unto my very last breath.


Because for what could have been, but isn’t, and probably won’t be in my lifetime, which is the lifetime that happens to matter the most to me. And it’s all because of the church-state stranglehold throughout human history. They are two sides of the exact same coin. Individualists who aren’t equally condemning the church, along with the state, are only fighting half the battle.

It is principally through the epistemologic destruction rendered by the church and its parental agents and institutional allies that we live in a world that can’t really think.

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  1. Billy Beck on February 8, 2006 at 14:40

    What's not to mock?

    Let me tell you:

    The first authentic American patriot that I ever knew in my own life, Rich, was my father. He was an eminently sensible man, who burned for justice, and who knew The Right Thing. He understood freedom, and the difference between The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, in brief: the difference between the principles on which America set itself on a different course from the rest of the world, and what it's become. He was an accomplished musician and builder, among many other things. He worked his ever-lovin' ass off in order to keep a wife and five children, always seeing to his responsibilities ahead of his pleasures, and then he took them, too.

    And he was a practicing Catholic until the day he died. An actual, honest-to-god, "defender of the faith".

    I don't know, Rich, exactly what comforts he took from the Church in his last months, but I know he did. And for that — even though I will never understand it — I am quite thankful.

    You're not indiciting the essence of the thing, Rich. It should be none of your business whether others believe in nonsense as long as they don't impose it on you. Your stand here is something similar to people who hate guns, without making distinctions over how they're used. This is the whole point of my position on this "cartoons" thing: it should be enough to indict the bombs — per se — without smearing the entire religion with them.

    There is nothing wrong with other peoples' faith as long as they keep it where it belongs.

  2. Rich on February 8, 2006 at 15:04


    History is replete with good people who nonetheless held beliefs worthy of ridicule. That's just a fact, man. I think it's perfectly possible to celebrate a man's character while pointing out the absurdity of aspects of his knowledge.

    To state it another way, everyone is an ignoramus (including myself), relatively speaking.

    You're exactly right that it is none of my business–what people believe–so long as they leave me out of it. That's not what I'm talking about. Yes, people have a right to be stupid (in general, or possessing of "pet stupidities"). But the belief that something literally exists, when there is no evidence for it, _is_ stupidity, Billy. It is. That is a simple matter of fact.

    My pointing out stupidity; mocking it, even, is certainly nothing new. People have been doing it for centuries. But, look, religious belief is no less stupid than a million other things you’d agree were stupid in a heartbeat. Why should not I, as a conscientious person, not point this out, for the only reason that people are sensitive about it? Stupidity, in every form, ought to be regularly mocked and ridiculed. It's the only thing that shakes people out of their comfort zone.

    Looking at it another way: rational claims with basis in reality are impervior to ridicule. What does _that_ say to you? For instance, I could _try_ to ridicule your theory of ethics, and you'd just laugh at me, ignor me, of tell me to fuck off. Would you be the sightest bit concerned or offended. No. Why? Because you have a real basis in reality, even, if in the case of the example, I was too dumb to see or know it.

    If you ask me, the hyper-sensitivity is very telling (amongst the populace, not you). They dost protest too much. They know their beliefs are inane, but they don’t have the integrity to come clean.

    That, too, deserves to be mocked.

    BTW, I stand ready to be ridiculed whenever I deserve it.

  3. mandrill on February 8, 2006 at 15:27

    I'm in agreement with you Rich, Billy makes some good points, but you both miss something important.
    Faith and religion are two completely different animals. Faith is the simple act of belief. Faith is what makes visionary scientists try new things, because they believe it can work. Its what gets you out of bed in the morning, because you believe that today will exist. Our entire existence is built on faith of one kind or another. It does not come from anywhere outside our own beings, but is something inherent to us as human people. It cannot be dictated to us by a book, a man in a dress, or any outside force.
    Religion is an institution built as a means of manipulating large groups of people into doing things in its name. It is an abuse and exploitation of faith by charismatic and usually bad people, mainly to serve their own nefarious ends. Unfortunately the separation of faith and religion is something which even the faithful have trouble with.
    Religion should be mocked, at every opportunity. If some followers of a religion believe they need to kill themselves and others to fulfil their duties as 'faithful' people then it is the religion which has deluded them into thinking this. The truly faithful will see this for the corruption it is and will still have their faith, because it is theirs and theirs alone. Faith should be admired, cherished and protected. Its a important part of who we are.

  4. Billy Beck on February 8, 2006 at 15:29

    "Why should not I, as a conscientious person, not point this out, for the only reason that people are sensitive about it?"

    That's up to you.

    I don't do it because it's not necessary.

  5. Rich on February 8, 2006 at 15:44

    I don't do it because it's not necessary.

    Pointing out, and when necessary, mocking and ridiculing stupidy is absolutely necessary. It's necessary for survival, individually and as a species. Now, the scope of one's responsibilities and obligations in this regard depend on things. Things like knowledge, age, experience, expertise, abilities, etc.

    I believe that we should be smart, effective, and as tactful as possible, but ultimately, the message must be sent, if one truly adheres to reality, and there are limited was to sugar-coat the reality that people believe literally in fairy tales that do not exist, that they purposefully make life decisions and take actions based on their own delusions about what these fairy tales want, and so on.

  6. Billy Beck on February 8, 2006 at 15:50

    "…the message must be sent…"

    Once more, with feeling: "There is nothing wrong with other peoples' faith as long as they keep it where it belongs."

    It's none of my business, Rich.

    This is really quite simple.

  7. wally on February 8, 2006 at 15:38

    Cartoons? I Live in a Goddamned Cartoon. lmao i havent lol on a blog like this in a while rofl title rofllllllllllllllll

  8. Rich on February 9, 2006 at 06:19

    Once more, with feeling: "There is nothing wrong with other peoples' faith as long as they keep it where it belongs."

    If there is "nothing wrong" with it, then "where it belongs" must be an extremely small and confining box. "Nothing wrong" is to say: not a moral issue; amoral. That confines "faith" to the equivalent of a warm cozy feeling.

    I simply do not agree that there is "nothing wrong" with asserting a metaphysics (and that's exactly what it is, goddammit) that has no epistemological basis whatsoever, and in fact, is counter to everything we do know about reality. Ignoring reality, any part of it, is immoral if morality is actually to mean anything.

    Do people have a right to do it, so long as they "keep it where it belongs," i.e., not impose it on anyone? Sure. They also have a right to blow their own brains out or kill themselves slowly with various recreational poisons. Do I have a right to stop them? No, of course not.

    It's none of my business, Rich.

    But that's not the essential. If you or I think it important to generally point out that we're talking about utter stupidity, then that's our right too. I'm not talking about imposing anything on anyone. Those cartoons were not forcibly shoved in people's faces. They were published in a newspaper that anyone is free to buy or not, or to read, or not.

    I don't see the problem.

    You don't see a problem with faith, so long as it's not imposed. I see a personal moral (ethical) issue of evading reality, but certainly not a political issue. I see no problem whatsoever with speaking out against that personal ethical issue, so long as I don't impose it politically. You seem to have a problem with it, but I can't seems to grasp your justification. No one is talking about political "solutions," here.

    We're talking about two sets of values. Some people value faith and create symbols to represent these values. Others, like me, value strict adherence to reality. These sets of values are in conflict. They have their symbols. I have my anti-symbols. I have no right to impose, and neither do they.

    I'm free to ridicule and mock them, as they are free to ridicule and mock me. I invite them to do so. It's always fun to watch someone passionately assert a fantasy over reality. It's ugly, but certainly fun to watch.

  9. Billy Beck on February 9, 2006 at 06:35

    No one is saying that you're not free to do it, Rich, and least of all, me.

    The whole reason why I set out my father as an example in my first comment, is because his confidence in faith — this adherence to something that you and I reject on gounds of reality — didn't cripple his life. And if I had taken the tack that you're talking about, I would have necessarily had to insult the man. Like: systematically and often.

    He was worth a lot more than that. And you know what? I know a lot of people like that.

    Like I said: you can do it if you want to. I don't find it necessary.

  10. Rich on February 9, 2006 at 07:51

    And nor do I find any obligation for myself or anyone to trash other people's values, misguided as they might be.

    You are right, if what you are saying is that people can hold a whole range of values–rational ones, irrational ones, contradictory ones–and still be people you'd want to share a beer with, or be tucked in at night, so to speak.

    Imagine the state of the world if that were not so.

    Another clarification I want to make is that creating and upholding values is not the same as tearing down the values others hold, and I certainly don't advocate nihilism of this sort. My only allowance is that when values contradict reality, then there is, I think, some virtue in tearing them down–howerver one may choose to do that, so long as imposition isn't involved.

    I do think that rational people have a moral obligation to uphold reality, which necessarily involves stepping on toes from time-to-time. How rational people choose to traverse that minefield is certainly up to them, and I would agree that in many cases, tipetoeing can be not only the most benevolent approach, but the most effective.

    I'll admit to being somewhat of a bull in a china closet in that regard.

  11. Mike Schneider on February 9, 2006 at 13:18

    A little background here:

    * There appear to be no objections to murals of Muhammed on public buildings in Iran:

    * I don't have the URL handy, but an Egyptian newspaper actually republished the Danish cartoons six months ago.

    * The Islamic Society of Denmark thought the twelve original cartoons too tepid for the purposes of inciting frenzy in their adherents, so they created three new FAKE cartoons for propaganda and agitation purposes:

  12. Andy Dabydeen on February 9, 2006 at 08:13

    Well said.

  13. Mike Schneider on February 9, 2006 at 13:24

    (TinyURLing those truncated links.)

    Muhammed on public buildings in Iran:

    The fakes, and their usage as propaganda:

  14. John Sabotta on February 11, 2006 at 19:16

    "…but for this and that (the church), we could be free and living lives hundreds of years long, maybe longer."

    Well, I'm glad to see you are confining your criticism of the Catholic Church to purely rational issues.

    What else have those scheming priests suppressed – the Philosopher's Stone? the Universal Alkahest? Perpetual motion? Anti-gravity?

  15. Rich on February 12, 2006 at 09:14

    Well, I'm glad to see you are confining your criticism of the Catholic Church to purely rational issues.

    What else have those scheming priests suppressed – the Philosopher's Stone? the Universal Alkahest? Perpetual motion? Anti-gravity?

    You're conflating things: magic with physical impossibility with as-yet unknowns.

    The rational approach is to regard reality and press on to gain knowledge without limitation. Of course, no one knows precisely what that knowledge will bring. The rational approach is to proceed on without fear or timidity, dismissing do-nothing nattering nabobs of negativity, like you. Moral issues will arise, they will get worked out, hopefully to individual satisfaction, and not to the satisfaction of some parasite in a robe, or yours.

    The evidence to date suggests that:

    1. Human beings can gain knowledge of reality.

    2. That knowledge builds upon itself in an exponential manner.

    3. That knowledge provides a means for more people to live better and longer.

    I'm just stating observable fact. You can nay-say and ridicule all you want, but one thing is for certain: you have no answers for anyone, nor will you ever.

    No one is likely to ever live a day longer because of your knowledge, John. I'd suggest you shut the fuck up and let those who know what they're doing proceed forth; and while you're at it, you might consider spending some effort to keep the parasites–who only want to assert their authority over humanity–at bay.


  16. John Sabotta on February 12, 2006 at 04:26

    “And what did it matter? It was needless to complain. This world was a foolish travesty, haunted with pain and with sorrowful memories and foreboding…What was the Emperor,the Peer of the Apostles, what even was Constantinople itself, the great City dear to God and to His Mother, compared to Christ Pantocrator and the glorious Courts of Heaven?”

    – from BYZANTINE CIVILIZATION, by Steven Runciman, 1956

    Well, your milage may vary, I suppose.

  17. Kyle Bennett on February 12, 2006 at 14:33

    And what, exactly, is the Church supposed to be doing to so grievously retard the march for medical progress?

    They have actively, and with a great deal of success – though not total – tried to suppress one of the things that enables all technological advance: capitalism. That's, of course, aside from how they very actively, and with great violence in many cases, suppressed science in all forms.

    You say they don't suppress science anymore? We should be fine now that they've mostly stopped? Well, as one scientist noted, scientists (and inventors) stand on the shoulders of giants. How any of of those giants were brutally cut down? How many that already were giants who could have gone even further? How many we've never heard of?

    The church (and all the churches) did it's damage over centuries, and this world will never fully recover.

  18. Rich on February 12, 2006 at 18:17

    K, John, y'know what? I'm never going to force your or anyone you care for to ever have an abortion, harvest and emryo, or assist in ending the life of a loved one when the prospect of a meaningful like is hopeless–and you love them and know that's what they'd have you do.

    I'd even stick up for you if someone else would force such things upon you.

    But there's a great thing about humanity. They have their selfish side, no matter church-state edicts. They fundamentally understand the difference between human life and not human life.

    Some day, we'll grow spare organs and other body parts, just ready to be used. Who knows, we may even grow entire spare bodies??? Speculative, sure, but it's simply a matter of knowledge, and I know one thing: The church offers no knowledge of reality. None. Nada. Zip. They may offer inspiration, authority–for those who need it or falsly believe they can't do without it–and/or comfort for those who can't find it in reality, but they offer not a whit of knowledge. Never have.

    Yep, your mileage may vary.

  19. John Sabotta on February 12, 2006 at 13:05

    What with all the legitimate criticisms of religious belief available, it seems a little unfair (to say the least) to attack the Church on the basis of hypothetical scientific advances. Why stop at "living hundreds of years longer", if that's how you're going to make your case? Why not blame religion for the fact that you can't float off into the sky like a balloon?

    And what, exactly, is the Church supposed to be doing to so grievously retard the march for medical progress? Are fetuses not being slaughtered fast enough? Are too many people on life support not being murdered easily enough? Are scheming prelates fiendishly objecting to treating human life as something disposable? Oh noes!

    In this connection, my friend S. A. Nelson made an interesting comment. In reference to the current craze to sacrifice unborn children to the God of Eternal Life (i.e. stem cell harvesting) she pointed out that in old folk stories, the concept of evil sorcerers who sacrifice children in order to attain some end – like wealth, or say, immortality – seems mere fantasy. But that the irony of history is that progress has made such a fantasy into horrible reality – that baby-killing rationalists are acting, all unknowing, like the evil sorcerers of old stories, as if there was some fatal template that they were conforming to.

    I guess I'm being all negative again.

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