How to suck at your religion

January 21, 2014 • 5:17 am

The title above is also the title of a strip from The Oatmeal, which, curiously, ends with the same sort of nihilism evinced in yesterday’s SMBC strip. But this one is much funnier, though it’s too long to reproduce here. So go to the link and start the day with a chortle.  (I started mine with a frozen face: the weather is wicked cold here and I don’t have anything to protect my visage.)

I’ll put up a few panels so you get the drift.

It ends with a flowchart you can follow to determine whether you suck at your religion. (That won’t, I suppose, be relevant to most readers here.)

Picture 1

Picture 2 Picture 3

h/t: Merilee

50 thoughts on “How to suck at your religion

  1. No face covering in this weather! You need a scarf! I always get a chapped face but a frost bitten face! Yeeesh!

    One thing you may not want to do, O parents, is tell your kids that everyone dies, and they will one day die and that’s that then leave them alone to ponder it at age 4. That happened to me and I was an anxious wreck for years! I don’t think my brain had developed enough to grapple with things like this and I became a little stress ball.

    1. I agree. That never happened to me that I recall, but I would not be so honest to my kids about that subject when they were so little. We talked about science and Spiderman and stuff.

    2. Not sure how it worked with your parents, but when my son asked about that age, I gave him the facts as I know them (everybody dies, usually when their kids are pretty old themselves, and the important part is what you do with your life until then, also, if nobody died, there wouldn’t be any space for new people and I’d rather have his kids take over for me than hanging around forever, but anyway, it’s not something he has to think a lot about right now and that we could talk about it whenever he liked). I also told him that some people think the dead live on in some nice place, but that I don’t see any reason to believe that.

      He took a few days to think about it and moved on. I am sure we’ll have a few more of these chats.

      1. My kids were 3 and 5 when the first “near person” death happened (their maternal grandmother). I don’t remember exactly what the conversations were like but I’m sure we were straight with them… no heaven talk, etc. Both seemed to handle it without any stress or special anxiety.

        1. Kids do take things very literally though. I recall reading (must have been about 5 at the time) that the average person broke one bone in their lifetime – which I interpreted to mean I was inevitably *going* to break a bone some time. I had that belief for years. I just hoped it would be a small one and not hurt too much.

    1. PS. All those boots and no muffler?

      Alligator-skin Balaclava with a butterfly pattern stitched into the cheeks?
      Sorry, but I’m channelling somebody … the “tailor” in Silence of the Lambs, perhaps?

  2. Funny. Although I am not sure that answering yes to “would you kill for your religion?” etc. necessarily means one sucks at one’s religion. It could just mean that the religion sucks and the person is good at following it, or even more likely that both person and religion suck. Unless the author equates sucking at one’s religion with following it to the letter.

    In any case, I couldn’t agree more with the sentiment expressed in the final note: just keep it to yourself.

  3. I don’t know. On the one hand I’m okay with “if your religion makes you nice and happy and helps you cope with death then that’s great (just keep it to yourself!)”

    But on the other hand it bothers me that all of a sudden, here in the topic of religion, it no longer matters if what a person believes is true or not. It’s certainly not supposed to matter to me. But isn’t it even supposed to matter to the believer?

    I don’t see how that last question can be “No.” As in “No, for while I try as hard as I can to have faith in the tenets of my religion I personally couldn’t care less if any of that crap is really, truly, actually true. I’m just going for a loosy-goosy sort of half-assed make-believe belief which I will then focus my entire life on as if it was the most important fact in the universe and the meaning of my and everyone else’s life.”

    I suppose I could play the same game with every single belief. If it makes you happier to believe the earth is 6,000 years old, space aliens built the pyramids, the holocaust was a Jewish conspiracy, homeopathy works, and Bigfoot lives in your garage then I’m fine with that — just delighted and tickled pink — as long as you KEEP IT TO YOURSELF. Yeah, sure.

    But what does that mean? That I don’t find out about it? That you say it and then quickly reassure me that it’s “okay” if I don’t agree? You tell everyone you know about it but keep it out of the public schools? I’m not sure what the limits of “keep it to yourself” are, so that before that point I’m rude to say anything … but after that line is crossed I’m now allowed to disagree.

    Something tells me that line moves. A lot. So I’m not sure how useful it is to fall all over someone reassuring them that if a belief makes them HAPPY and NICE then it can be the most ridiculous implausible bullshit ever and nobody will dare breath a word of criticism of it as long as you “just keep it to yourself.” Sounds to me like it already snuck out some.

    1. Exactly what I was thinking.

      If you want to delude yourself with happy thoughts, knock yourself out. Same deal if you want to get drunk out of your gourd or otherwise escape reality.

      Just: don’t do so in a way that puts others at risk, and don’t be surprised when people think lesser of you for your irrationality.

      Or, shit. I don’t care. Go ahead and be surprised. It still won’t make people think you’re smart; nor will any other wishful thinking (or mind-altering substance) change anything outside of your own skull.

      If, though, for whatever reason, you actually care about what happens outside of your skull, then you’d be wise to bring what happens inside into the closest alignment possible with that what happens outside — and escapism is the diametric opposite activity. It’s fine in small doses, but it becomes a big problem when it’s the normal state of affairs.

      But only if you give a damn about reality, of course.



  4. Reminds me of that saying about how religion is like a penis: it’s fine to have one, it’s fine to be proud of it, but don’t whip it out in public etc…

  5. Posts like these restore my faith in humanity. I’m a Christian born to an atheist family and I was left to make my own decisions about life to a great extent. That doesn’t mean I didn’t find it difficult to tell my parents but I think everyone should be offered the freedom to come to their own conclusions about what they personally think or they’ll never be confident in what they believe anyway. If you’re interested in how I came to my own conclusions, you can read about that here:

    1. and we have yet another in a very long string of “no morality without an afterlife”
      arguments bald assertions

      This conscience is unexplainable, inconvenient and unpleasant for a nihilist and gives reason for them to help others, to satisfy the discomfort and gain a sense of well-being from the empathetic response.

      nihilist being atheist, of course

      1. Understandable, although it would be logical to aim to overcome one’s conscience and live only for your own needs. The sheer logic of it made/still makes me uncomfortable.

        1. Per Alex Rosenberg (An Atheist’s Guide to Reality) I am a moral nihilist, but the idea that it is logical to live only for your own needs is quite bizarre. Aren’t the potential punishments in this world for “immoral” (socially deleterious) behavior — and rewards for “moral” (socially advantageous) behavior — quite enough to dissuade you from such selfishness?


  6. I wouldn’t say those were my exact thought processes, no. The conclusion I eventually came to was both evidence-based and experience-based, whilst conforming to my original belief that the human consciousness operates above anything that our knowledge of science can explain.

    Oh, and also his name is Jesus.

        1. What would make you wrong?

          Meaning, can you give us an example of the sort of thing (evidence, experience, scientific discovery) which would change your mind about “human consciousness operates above anything that our knowledge of science can explain?”

            1. I didn’t ask about “proof.” That’s for math and whiskey.

              I asked what sort of evidence or experience COULD change your mind and persuade you that you were mistaken about “human consciousness operates above anything that our knowledge of science can explain?”

              I do hope you’re not going to say that in your whole life you’ve never been wrong and changed your mind about anything at all. I would be surprised to learn that. My guess is your friends would be startled, too.

              So if you are wrong about THIS — how might you learn that, hypothetically? Imagine an example and give me an idea.

              1. In this instance I don’t believe there is any evidence that would change my mind. And yes, I have been wrong many times and admit that I could be wrong in this instance. I just believe it to be too abstract for me to be convinced otherwise.

              2. That’s a shame. Supernaturalism — and that especially includes Christianity and the notion of an incorporeal “soul” — is the purest form of quackery, no better than perpetual motion machines and snake oil as a cure for all that ails you.

                And it’s not at all difficult to demonstrate it so.

                Claiming that you’re not capable of the abstract thought necessary to understand these basic principles of modern science is doing yourself no favors.



              3. Yes and it is a pernicious way to think. If humanity as a whole did not stop thinking this way, we’d still be living in small hunter-gatherer groups and dying at 30.

                In the modern world, something as common place as business could not function using this way of thinking; a business cannot run by believing what the CEO wants to believe is true. Businesses need data to make decisions. Few if any businesses are consistently successful because they made gut decisions.

              4. moralessence wrote:

                In this instance I don’t believe there is any evidence that would change my mind. And yes, I have been wrong many times and admit that I could be wrong in this instance. I just believe it to be too abstract for me to be convinced otherwise.

                Then this is a serious problem for you. You care about the issue, there are (at least) two views, you might be mistaken on your own conclusion — and yet you admit that even if you ARE mistaken, nothing could change your mind even in theory. You are forever fixed on one conclusion and cannot be corrected. That’s dogmatism and it’s going to conflict with any desire you have to be humble and cautious in what you believe and why you believe it.

                It also entails that you don’t care much about the issue; what you really care about is being right. Otherwise, you’d make sure that you don’t place yourself in a position where you can’t learn that you’re wrong — even if you are. If you want to be “spiritual” because you think you’re closed-minded if you’re not, then you’ve got an internal conflict, right here.

                Consider: If the issue is “too abstract” for you to become convinced it’s wrong, then maybe it’s also “too abstract” to believe that it’s right. If you hold any opinion at all, it ought to be “I don’t know.” Or “I don’t care.”

                If you DO care, then change your method.

        2. But assertions don’t make you right either. You need evidence – it can’t be because you “know it”. That is not evidence. Researchers in this field back up their claims with evidence that is falsifiable and reproducible.

          1. You don’t need evidence to believe something. I’m not trying to convince anyone and I’m not saying I’m definitely right. It’s just how I see things. Is that okay?

            1. You can believe what you want but if you don’t have evidence it isn’t necessarily so. What’s to stop you from believing all sorts of false things if you accept truthfulness only on what you choose to believe?

            2. It is OK to believe in unicorns, but if you talk to others don’t be surprised when they dispute their existence.

    1. So you hand-picked all the evidence and experiences that support your presupposition and arrived at Christianity.

      I’m convinced, but I’d like to see some of this supporting evidence. I’m sure it is very ancient and popular.

  7. moralessence – “In this instance I don’t believe there is any evidence that would change my mind.”

    I’m shocked, shocked I say at this reply. I’ll bet doughnuts to quatloos his philosophy of evidence applies to many things.

    I poked around his joint a bit and there’s a post about the irony of faith in science, again conflating trust in evidence with faith in revelation.

    Basically, we can’t know everything and so Teapot.

    There’s another post extolling the virtues of doG giving you cancer to bring you closer to Him and help you to be the person you were made to be.

    He does provide an uplifting example, but it is the same old story. doG gets the credit for the young man’s energy and drive. Somehow, it is more humble to say The Great Maker favours you.

    And we also find that evangelists are only trying to help.

    I’m reminded of a former co-worker, convinced he’s gonna make a zero point energy source with magnets, despite all the evidence showing it can’t be done and all the previous failures along the same lines.

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