In which we co-opt a creationist caricature

May 8, 2012 • 3:55 am

Last week I posted about a contest at the Intelligent Design Creationism website Uncommon Descent, which asked readers to find a word for one of the themes of this website:

We need a new Coynage. What should we call Coyne’s battle for incivility toward – and distortion of facts about – traditional religion?

Some of the entries were funny, some lame, but the winner was “The Gnusades”.

In a comment on my post, reader Mandrellian urged us to claim that monicker for our own—a word to be proud of:

Time we claimed “Gnusade” as quickly as possible – let’s steal this bit of smart-arse thunder and make it a badge of pride.

Hell, sign me up for a GNUSADER t-shirt right now!

JAC – time you opened a shop :)

Well, unlike others who will remain unnamed, I don’t aim to profit from my site, nor purvey kitschy, self-promoting memorabilia, so there will be no shop. Nevertheless, reader Shuggy took up Mandrellian and suggested this image (which, he claims, has too many copyrighted elements to sell). Click to enlarge:

I particularly like the shield.

There’s a smaller online version here, and a locale-appropriate version here.  In the end, I deny that I’m uncivil in general (though I occasionally can’t restrain some mockery at the craziness of religious belief). The faithful’s definition of “incivility” when it comes to religion is this behavior: “You criticize religion, ask for evidence for God and the tenets of faith, and denigrate some of those tenets.” And I’m not sure which facts about “traditional religion” I distort. Whenever possible, I give polls documenting the large percentage of Americans who believe crazy things.

49 thoughts on “In which we co-opt a creationist caricature

  1. If I recall, the “Scarlet A”, now common to denote atheist websites, also started off as a suggestion from a religious website!

    They suggested that atheistic websites should be forced to brand themselves with a Scarlet A (originally a mark of an adulterer) as a warning. The atheists adopted the badge with pride!

    1. From what I can tell, the scarlet letter of atheism was a joint creation between PZ who used it metaphorically in a response to Mooney/Nisbet accommodationism, Josh Timonen who came up with the design after reading PZ’s writing, and Dawkins who approved of it wholeheartedly for his foundation’s efforts and released it for free for everyone to use. I have documented it on the Pharyngula Wiki under New Atheism. I’ll try posting a link to the documentation below.

      1. As I suspected, links to the wiki (at wikia) are considered spam, so you’ll have to get there by using a search engine. The post where PZ used the term which sparked Timonen’s creative genius is titled: “Nisbet and Mooney in the WaPo: snake oil for the snake oil salesmen” 😉


    The file name for that picture is ‘gnusader6 (1)’ – so close.

    In any event, given this documentary, photographic evidence, I think I can see why TSA is always feeling Jerry up . . .

      1. As well they should be. Now that the secret is out we’re on a Gnusade, I think we can finally start admitting to the high level operatives we’ve had infiltrating the highest levels of government. For a taster, anyone else remember Spiro Agnew? Even his wikipedia page has long hinted that something was amiss. It reads, “Spiro Agnew began his “political career” as the . . .” Scare quotes in the original – need I say more?

    1. Sorry, so close to what? I’m too close to see. I called it “gnusader6” because it’s the 6th version (I keep old ones in case I make a mistake and have to go back). Jerry or his computer must have added the “(1)”.

  3. And I’m not sure which facts about “traditional religion” I distort.

    These are the people who push undefined ideas like “specified complexity” and an “intelligent designer”. Making specific assertions isn’t part of their game. Makes it harder to shift the goalposts.

    1. I look forward to the look on Jerry’s face after walking a mile in real chain-mail boots. they’d be heavy!
      (history of armaments question : did anyone ever really make chain-mail boots anyway? Normal leather boots would probably have done the business perfectly well.

  4. Well, unlike others who will remain unnamed,

    Why, apart from the length of the list, should they remain nameless?
    Why, apart from the length of the list, and the tedium of compiling it, should they remain nameless?
    Why, apart from the length of the list, the tedium of compiling it, and the likely bullshit lawsuits, should they remain nameless?
    And what did the Romans ever do for us, anyway.
    (Apologies to the Life of Brian scriptwriters.)

  5. the crusaders stopped to loot, rape, plunder, and murder easter orthodox peoples in the Byzantine empire, I hope the Gnusaders spare the agnostics any collateral damage. save maybe a Hitchslap once in a while.

  6. Well, we can “Coyne” a word too, one for the crusade of The Goddidits to misinform, disinform, misconflate and generally discredit empirical science’s fast-growing mountain of objective knowledge of the godless nature of physical Nature and natural history; perhaps (as starter suggestions):



    We’re Gnusaders, they’re Obfuscaders — Something like that…

  7. Desktop, background! Thanks Shuggy!

    Well, at least for now unless I get tired of looking at the out of focus background. Not complaining about it as a picture it just doesn’t make for a perfect desktop background but, not too bad either.

    However, I may not be a Gnu much longer as this picture has revealed a potential secret plan of the manipulating and deceptive christian gods. There may have been a reason for the routing of the recurrent laryngeal nerve, that is, to make a Gnu steed slower in response to the requests of its Gnu friend.

    1. But don’t overlook teh important differences, which are that Stallman’s GNU is in all-caps and is said with a hard “G”.

      (Everything old is gnu again.)

      1. “…and is said with a hard ‘G’.”

        Are you suggesting we should say it with a soft “G”?

        Clearly the ‘G’ is not meant to be silent. The native word from which “gnu” derives must have had some initial consonant (probably a click or glottal stop) that got transcribed as “G” in our alphabet.

        1. Unlike the “G” in Stallman’s GNU, the “G” for the animal (and for atheists like us) is actually silent (thus its perfect fit as a substitute for new)–much like the evidence for the capital-G god.

 House Dictionary lists its origin as such:

          1770–80; < Khoikhoi, first recorded as t’gnu; probably to be identified with ǂnû black, as applying orig. to the black wildebeest

          1. All the etymological dictionaries I checked show it deriving from the San word !nu, where the ! represents a click. Although the “G may commonly be treated as silent by English speakers today, it definitely did not start out that way.

            1. Yes, the Khoikhoi are related to the San according to Wikipedia, and gnu might come to English from Georg Forster’s Dutch rendering of the Khoekhoe (a.k.a. Hottentot) word for wildebeest according to the Online Etymology Dictionary. Other dictionaries and encyclopedias have slightly different language origins for it.

              Either no one knows or no one studying its etymology cared to list if the “g” in gnu was ever commonly spoken in English, however, though it may have been and may still be quite audible in other languages.

      2. As someone who’s been using GNU/Linux for a decade now, I think it’s unfortunate atheists adopted ‘Gnu’, it has the potential to create much confusion between the two entirely different worlds. Admittedly as a Linux user I could be said to be a Microsoft-atheist, and I am never likely to worship in awe before the holy Gates, but that seems to be almost orthogonal to the question of whether Jehovah exists or what operating system He uses.

        I’m just waiting for the first Southern Baptist to get it spectacularly wrong and condemn Linux as a heathen Antichrist conspiracy masterminded by atheists…

        1. Admittedly as a Linux user I could be said to be a Microsoft-atheist, and I am never likely to worship in awe before the holy Gates

          Nice one! LOL.

          Yes, it seems that the potential mix-up with GNU is a common grievance, which is why I like to stress the difference in pronunciation between the two (hard “G” for the OS vs. silent “G” for the animal/atheist). And while they have separate origins, they both came out of people having a bit of fun.

          If you look at the Wikipedia page for The Gnu song by Flanders and Swann which Hugh Intactive mentioned above, you will see a link to an interview with Stallman where he references the silliness of that song as inspiration for the name of his operating system project:

          CPU: We know the acronym GNU is recursive and stands for “GNU’s not Unix,” but is there some other inspiration behind the word “GNU?”

          Stallman: No, nothing other than the system it’s the name of. Why did I choose GNU instead of BNU or LNU? Because GNU is the funniest word in the English language, and the others are not words.

          CPU: Why is GNU the funniest word?

          Stallman: Because of all the wordplay it’s used in. Ever hear the song “I’m a Gnu” by Flanders & Swan? [sic] You should look for it.

          So it is only natural that his GNU stresses the “G”.

          Anyway, I can’t imagine anything funnier than Christian protesters screaming about the g’news.

          1. Thanks! I’d never heard that about RMS and Gnu before.

            Incidentally I have a speculation (for which I have no evidence whatever) that the incidence of atheists might be higher among Linux users than among the general population – based solely on the fact that I imagine atheists and Linux users both to be more likely to have anti-authoritarian tendencies. I don’t know if anyone’s ever done a survey of that though.

            1. Well the GNU project has been going since 1984. Arguably the computer industry and the internet would look totally different without it.

            2. Richard Stallman is an atheist, although I don’t know his positon regarding the Gnu atheists. Stallman’s position on software is that it should be free as in freedom but not necessarily free as in beer, although I’m certain that he would be against denying software to anyone due to financial cost.

              Stallman and the GNU project find that there are major errors in the notion that corporations and government should control the operation of what could be considered a helper app for the human brain. Gnu atheists find major errors in the notion that religious fantasy should dictate to reality.

              The anti-authoritarian label is only tangentially true and is more likely promoted by the detractors of either the position of the GNU project or the Gnu atheists position than by the supporters. It might be more correct to frame both as against authorities that promote stupidity. The Tea Party is closer to an anti-authoritarian labeled position.

              1. I’d intended ‘anti-authoritarian’ as a more or less neutral description (personally, I regard it as a positive, but that’s just me). More likely applied to left-wingers than the Tea Party, I would have thought. Maybe I should find a better adjective.

              2. Well then, I’m wrong about anti-authoritarian, I was thinking of it as being strictly opposed to authority. Thanks for the correction.

                The Free Online Dictionary says this about authoritarian – Characterized by or favoring absolute obedience to authority, as against individual freedom

              3. @ Notagod

                Hey, I’m not the expert on current usage! I know what I mean but that doesn’t always mean I’ve used the correct words. 🙂

  8. Wait…they do know they are parodying their own violent traditions right? I mean jihad and crusades really ARE religious inventions…

  9. “…and denigrate some of those tenets”

    When one of the tenets is “submission to the will of God”, and that will can ONLY ever be understood through a “holy” book and/or its interpretation by pastors, reverends, imams and mullahs, our denigration has to be quite comprehensive.

  10. Their use of the word “traditional” caught my eye, as it turns up often in the opposition to marriage equality for same-sex couples.

    While a lot of the anti-gay crap (e.g. NOM, National Organization for Marriage) is actually aimed at ousting that black guy from the White House (as documented by leaked strategy papers), suddenly the light dawns: a lot of people are unhappy with change and want things to stay exactly as they used to be (or, to parenthesize again (a vice of mine), as they imagine they used to be).

    IOW, we shouldn’t institute same-sex marriage equality because we never have before. We should keep believing the fairy tales of the bible (or other scripture) because we always have before.

    And maybe it’s all due to future shock: change, particularly technological change, taking place faster than it can be digested and uncontrollable by those affected.

    Cue Alvin Toffler.

  11. Beautiful ride! Although the withers have got to be a tad uncomfy, especially for a gentleman. Still.. a more realistic scenario than bibbel myths

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