81 thoughts on “Our god vs. theirs

      1. Bloody hell, I didn’t get the Monty Python ref and I’m a Brit!!!! BTW Jerry, if you really want to get upset please look up “Nahoul the bee” and “Gaza Zoo”. It was “Pioneers of Tomorrow” – a children’s programme on Gaza TV. Heartbreaking in every kind of way.

  1. In case of Islam, it would rather read like this, “There can be no peace until all disbelievers in our Duck God are eliminated!”

    1. Actually, that applies to Judaism and Christianity, too. The OT explicitly says to kill anyone who tries to talk you or your family into believing in other gods (one of the reasons Jesus has to do so much careful, elliptical talking in the NT).

      1. Jesus gets in on the cact, too. Luke 19:27. Not to mention countless other verses about peace and swords, rending families asunder, hellfire and damnation, self-mutiliation, and more.

        Guy’s really quite the violent sadistic motherfucking sonofabitch when it comes right down to it.


        1. Only if you subscribe to the notion that Allah = Jeovah = …..

          The implied message of the cartoon is “oh, if they only realised that they actually agree, they are only seeing the same thing from different angles”.

          I don’t subscribe to the aforementioned notion, and thus the cartoon falls flat for me. Two religions tend to be as compatible with each other as they are with reality. IE. not much. Not duck and rabbit, but duck and crocoduck, maybe.

      1. Which also reveals that both can be considered optical illusions, hence their god is also an illusion. It’s a brilliant cartoon!

  2. Similar humour already done by The Simpsons and South Park couple of years ago.

    Richard Dawkins made a “guest appearance” in that South Park episode

  3. It reminds me of the same-sounding, but somehow different, Palestinian-liberation factions in Life of Brian. I can still hear John Cleese’s indignation when his group is referred to by the other group’s name. Comedy gold.

      1. Hitchens used to say that there was more TRUE morality to be found in the pages of a book like George Eliot’s classic, Middlemarch, than in any of the tradition religious scriptures.

        I like to think there is a more telling and useful exposition of “theology” in Life of Brian than in the bombastic comments and obscurantism of the current crop of Sophisticated Theologians.

      2. I am just day dreaming of locking a number of the more rabid fanatics into a cage wiht continuous play of this scene and some of those Clockwork Orange eyeglasses.
        But … there are none so blind as those who Wilmot Sea? So it’d probably be more effective just to hand them to the tanners and bookbinders.

    1. My favourite line from that bickering was ” “I’m not oppressing you, Stan. You haven’t got a womb! Where’s the foetus gonna gestate? You gonna keep it in a box?”

  4. But Aslan and Armstrong say these are good disciples of Duck and Rabbit. They are only fighting for land and horses and oil (real things), never repudiating the peaceful doctrines of Duckness and Rabitness.

  5. No, it doesn’t remind me of Monty Python’s “splitters” so much as it looks like another faith-friendly version of the Blind Man and the Elephant. Duck = rabbit. It’s only different from perspective.

    The intent is ecumenical: we all worship the same God, we simply interpret it differently. Peace — real peace — comes when we finally see that.

    Armstrong might use it in one of her talks.

    1. I was reading this thread, slowly scrolling down, all the while planning to make this very point. Then I saw Sastra’s gravatar at the bottom of my screen. Before I scrolled further in order to read her comment, I thought “too late.” 🙂

      Yes, this comes off, to me anyway, more as “many paths, one god” bs than anything else. As we discussed in another recent thread, you can’t tell xians and Muslims that they actually worship the same god. There is no god to which you can point and say “see?” If they say they worship different imaginary things, then they do.

    2. Wikipedia has a,” Blind men and an elephant” article. I think it should be updated to; the blind men think they are feeling God but if they could see enough perspectives they would recognise that it is a white elephant. Maybe the Outsider Test of Faith by John Loftus would help them?

      Atheist Bible scholar F Stavrakopoulou of the University of Exeter retweeted the “There can be no peace until they renounce their Rabbit God and accept our Duck God” cartoon along with a clever graph which shows either a rabbit or a duck, depending on your perspective.

      Francesca Stavrakopoulou is professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Religion in the University of Exeter’s Department of Theology and Religion. The main focus of her research is Israelite and Judahite history and religion. There is a good Youtube video,”The Bible is mostly not factual” of her speaking on the BBC’s “The Big Question”, the question was asked “Is the Bible still relevant”. John Draper channel.

  6. That is so funny. At first I didn’t get that the religious symbol for both was an optical illusion rabbit/duck. It was even funny without that. With it it’s brilliant.

  7. There’s a Thurber cartoon addressing this. I think the caption says “This is either a rabbit or a duck backing up.”

  8. I don’t like it. The implied message is that a single god exists, and both sides worship it, but are so blinded by their terminology that they can’t see the fundamental “truth”.

    I refuse to accept the existence of either the duckrabbit OR the rabbitduck.

    1. That is exactly how I reacted to it. It seems to reflect Karen Armstrong’s view of religion… as long as they are really just fighting about politics or land.

      1. Also, the differences between the big monotheisms amount to a lot more than mere perspective. For example, the Christian concept of the trinity is entirely incompatible with the Islamic and Jewish concept of one god.

        1. And even within xianity there are denominations that claim god is three-in-one, and denominations that assert god-the-father, Jesus, and the holy spirit are three entirely separate entities.

          To these people these are not trivial differences; these are deal-breakers, and I don’t think they can be reconciled simply by some ecumenical type pointing out that a given pair of religions can be traced back to a common origin. As I wrote earlier, if two theists from different religions imagine there are irreconcilable differences, then there are. For example, Mormons, a three-separate-entities religion, don’t see Catholics (trinitarians) as worshipping the same god from a different perspective. Mormons see Catholics as worshipping a non-existent mistake.

          Theists don’t want to see their particular flavor as an evolved form of an older religion that also generated current competing religions. They want to see their flavor as the one religion that suddenly emerged hitting the truth nail on the head.

        2. A lot depends on how much you’re willing to privilege the religions’s perversions of the various terms.

          If Romulus and Remus are gods — and they most emphatically are — then so, too, are Isaac and Ishmael. And, if you can warp your noodle ’round that, then it instantly becomes obvious that most of the characters in the various Bibles and the Q’ran are also gods.

          Even if Jews will insist that Moses isn’t a god; the Christians that Mary isn’t a goddess; and the Muslims that Muhammad isn’t a god.



            1. Depends on the context.

              Within the religion in which they were worshipped as well as the literary and artistic culture that developed from them, you’re absolutely right.

              But, to an anthropologist, the distinction is secondary.

              The dilemma becomes obvious when we consider Jesus in the context of the Greco-Roman religion. It couldn’t be more painfully obvious that, in that context, Jesus is also a demigod. But, in the Christian context, a demigod is exactly what Jesus isn’t.

              It gets and stays pretty messy. The Heavenly Host are referred to as angels and cherubim and seraphim and the like…but their exact counterpart, the Olympians, are gods to the Greeks and Romans. Everybody’s just fine with calling Hades, Pluto, and Set gods…but try telling a Jew, Christian, or Muslim that Satan is a god and they’ll go positively apeshit on you.

              A lot of it has to do with this utterly bizarre insistence on holding to the incomprehensible pretense that the modern religions are all somehow supposed to be “monotheistic,” and that that’s supposed to be vastly superior to their indistinguishably-polytheistic precedents. It’s like a bunch of kids squabbling over whether the blue marble is better than the red or vice-versa. Or ducks v rabbits….


              1. Yeah Romulus and Remus weren’t really worshipped just as Aeneas wasn’t either even though both played a part in the foundation story of Rome. Venus, on the other hand, was worshipped as an important state god (as mother of Aeneas) but probably that was mostly after Virgil, as imperial poet and shill connected her to the Julio-Claudians and emphasized her role in Rome’s lineage, because Augustus was good at the propaganda.

              2. “Worship” is another fascinating bone of contention. Catholics insist they don’t worship Mary and Muslims insist they don’t worship Muhammad, but what they do do towards those figures only makes sense as worship.

                Romulus and Remus certainly got a lot of respect and attention and admiration. Probably even some rote incantations and invocations? I’m sure they would have been accorded a status at least comparable to a Catholic Saint, and I think most anthropologists would consider them (lesser) gods.

                And you make a superlative point…religion isn’t at all about the gods and their stories, but about the politics they prop up. Wish more people realized that….


              3. The saint stuff is why I think they never really took the “Roman” out of the “Roman Catholic”. Mary, Jesus, etc. those are all saints & reflective of not only the Roman pantheon but the Roman habit of worshipping all sorts of things, ancestors, household gods, gods they found out about from other places, state gods, those gods the Roman ancestors worshipped that inhabited every living thing….Catholics may mock the pagans but me thinks they protest too much.

              4. The ironing that especially gets me is that the Catholics do the exact same “adopt lots of local customs as your own” schtick as the Romans. Dia de los Muertos, anybody?

                It’s like insisting that one comic book superhero has nothing whatsoever to do with another one, even though they’re both in the same franchise and are frequently teaming up with / beating up on each other.


              5. They learned from the Romans well. Romans had a hands off approach to local government as well. It’s why Pilate thought the whole Jesus fiasco was a local problem – the washing the hands symbolism reflects that typical Roman attitude. They found people typically found it was good to get to know the Romans & learn Latin because it helped them prosper. No need to force it & end up having to spend efforts dealing with an angry mob.

                Of course, mess with the Romans & they not only kicked your ass but they made you financially compensate them for how much it cost them to kick your ass.

              6. I think we finally might have learned that last lesson…the reparations after WWI were in large part responsible for WWII, and after WWII we turned to reconstruction instead of reparations.

                But, hey…what’s a couple millennia amongst warring Europeans?


              7. “It’s like a bunch of kids squabbling over whether the blue marble is better than the red or vice-versa.”

                Or in music, a red v. blue egg shaker. I like to have a variety of colors, and tell students to not run and covet a certain color, to be glad they got to shake an egg in the first place. But always at least one who acts like a grasping “carried interest” Wall St. type about it. (Next batch I buy, I’m tempted to buy all the same color, say blue. Then have them in a container, the contents of which students can’t immediately see inside, and tell them, “Now don’t everybody try to get the blue one(s)!”)

        1. There’s a great reataurant in Quebec City ( capitalized:-) called Le Lapin Sauté ( apparently sauté means loco as well as jumped, or, well, what you do in a frying pan). They have a wonderful platter of 3 duck goodies and 3 rabbit ones.

    2. Funny as I interpreted it as both gods were optical illusions and whatever you called it was arbitrary & probably reflected who you were more than any truth because ultimately, there is no truth as to whether it’s a rabbit or a duck.

  9. Regarding the disagreement between Gamall (“The implied message of the cartoon is “oh, if they only realised that they actually agree, they are only seeing the same thing from different angles”) and Diana McPherson (“I interpreted it as both gods were optical illusions and whatever you called it was arbitrary & probably reflected who you were more than any truth because ultimately, there is no truth as to whether it’s a rabbit or a duck”)…

    Diana’s definitely got the better side of the argument, but to say that what’s involved are just optical illusions only scratches the surface of how *profoundly* brilliant the cartoon is (whether or not it’s what the cartoonist intended).

    We perceive the duck-rabbit figure as a having the property of “aboutness.” We see it as portrayal *of* something. Or rather, as a portrayal that’s ambiguous as to whether it’s or a duck or of a rabbit.

    But in reality, the figure is nothing more than a pattern of dark shapes against a light background. What we experience as a perception (whether of a duck or of a rabbit) actually is to a large extent a mental construct — a structure that is imposed by the mind on the environmental input. (For more on this, go here: http://tinyurl.com/DuckRabbit-Jackendoff.)*

    Returning to the cartoon, we see that what the combatants perceive as images of their Duck-God and Rabbit-God are really just patterns of light and darkness. The belief that the patterns represent deities is quite literally something that the believers have created in their imaginations.

    Which pretty well captures what most of us here think about the relationship between religious believers and the content of their beliefs.

    *BTW, Ray Jackendoff is a buddy of Pinker’s (they’ve co-authored papers) and in fact is a more important figure in cognitive science and linguistics than Pinker is.

  10. In my book, Pictures Making Beliefs (Carolina Academic Press, 2012) I use the duck-rabbit as an illustration of the cognitive mechanisms underpinning ritual and religion. I had no idea this cartoon exists, but it is a perfect illustration! I am keen to be able to use it in future academic work, but I do not see an attribution. Where does it come from?

    Thanks for posting.

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