Op Ed

Takedown: How to suck at your religion

You know when something bothers you just a little bit, and you ignore it, and then it bothers you just a little bit more, and you ignore it, and then it bothers you just a little bit more, and you ignore it, and then BAM you can’t ignore it anymore? That’s what this week’s Takedown is about. Specifically, smug atheists.

Don’t get me wrong, I fall on the atheism side of the fence, or, because I think it more accurately describes my viewpoints and doesn’t sound so much like I scoff in the face of believers, the naturalist side of things. I like to call myself a naturalist. It feels more comfortable, and more importantly, it reminds me that I, too, have a belief system, one that is rarely challenged because my beliefs (that the world is operated by the laws of nature, rather than anything supernatural) are also held within most religions as secondary rules. But the truth of the matter is that nothing is really knowable, and the fact that I know that the earth revolves around the sun doesn’t mean that it actually does – it just means that that’s as much as we’ve been able to prove given what we know and understand about the laws of physics (i.e., according to my belief system, it is true). When I think about that, that is not really different from somebody else knowing that Jesus came back from the dead. For all anybody really knows, we could all be some weird figment of non-reality that happens to follow a specific set of rules, we could all be some supernatural being’s science experiment, maybe I’m real and the rest of you are just holograms created for my amusement (come on, fess up). We don’t know anything.

Which is why smug atheism makes me cringe. I have a set of beliefs that I feel very strongly about, and I can back them up because I believe that they can be proven. Others have a set of beliefs that they feel very strongly about, and they can back them up because they believe they don’t need to be proven. Neither system is inherently better than the other.

So, this week’s Takedown may be haunch-rankling. Be warned.

It comes from a comic at The Oatmeal. It is entitled “How to suck at your religion.”


Here’s the thing: what is shown in the comic isn’t that religion makes people judge people, but that there are many religious people who do not listen to their doctrines. The doctrine says that people should not judge. Religion doesn’t make people judge other people; instead, it is a characteristic of human nature that many religions try to restrict.

And, speaking as a naturalist, the entire cartoon is about judging religious people for being stupid and backwards and brainwashed. So far, according to this cartoon, many naturalists “suck” at their religion, because of things like this cartoon.


What this is assuming is that the religion of science is superior to any other religion. That other religions should bow down before naturalism, and if they don’t, they are doing it wrong. Actually, they are doing it right, even if I personally think it’s terrible. I think religions should bow down before science, but that’s because that is my belief system. Other religions should think that science and nature are less important than their doctrines, because that is their belief system.

ChoiceI learned science for years and years and years in the public school system. And you know what? Telling a five-year-old that the earth revolves around the sun was easy for me to believe. Had I believed otherwise, telling me such when I was 25 would have been a much harder concept. It’s not about forcing your belief system on to children and therefore brainwashing them – it’s about teaching your children things that you know to be true. Of course this seems ridiculous to naturalists, but that is because we are busy teaching people about things we know to be true, i.e., science. There is plenty in science which seems ridiculous: I challenge you to listen to this episode of RadioLab about the Multi Universe (it is more weird than Noah’s Ark, and it follows the belief system of science, and it will blow your mind).


Actually, parents do this all the time. Not so much with preferences, but with basic, everyday choices. Sofia wants to drink Coke and sleep in a barn, and she gets very upset when we don’t go swimming during thunderstorms. “No,” I say. “If you’re thirsty, you’re going to drink milk, and that’s FINAL.” One of the main jobs of parenting is guiding children to make decisions that are good for their overall wellbeing.

Try this

This seems like a great idea to me – as a naturalist. But this is because I don’t know that the Christian doctrine is true. If I did, if that were my belief system, of course I would be trying to nudge Sofia in that direction. I make choices for her all of the time – what to eat, what to wear, how often to bathe, what behaviors are okay. If I truly believe that eternity lies in the balance, it would be practically abusive to not teach her about it.

Teaching your children about your belief system, as I fully intend to do with Sofia and science, means you are doing it right. It means that you believe fully in what you say you believe in.


Well, I’ve heard the “biology” argument about homosexuality more times than I can count, so this isn’t restricted to the mainstream religions. I think many religions are too restricted when it comes to many things, but that is because it is not my belief system. If you really believe in your particular religion, and that is what the doctrine says, then that is what you are going to go with. The fact that scratching at my skin can give me infections gives me weird anxiety about my urges to scratch at my skin – but my doctrine tells me it’s a bad idea.


Ugh. If I had a nickel for every impassioned argument I have gotten into with anti-vaccine advocates… oh, yeah. That’s the same thing. I know vaccines are effective because science proves it. Or, at least as much science as we have. And I can’t resist the urge to try to spread these beliefs, just like many naturalists, such as the one who posted this comic.



Seriously, go listen to that RadioLab, and tell me science isn’t just as absurd.


I mean, this is true about just about anything – not just religion. If somebody is voting against Mitt Romney because 20 years ago he put his dog on top of his car, they probably aren’t super informed. Or, they believe that that one small fact tells a fundamental truth about a candidate, which will color all of their policies, in which case, more power to them. Democracy!


There is a big difference between “problems with religion” and “problems with extremism.” This cartoon mixes and matches, and the smug naturalist walks away thinking, “Wow, religious people are ridiculous! Terrible!”, even though this applies to a very small percentage of the population. Yes, extremists are upsetting, but that is true if they are religious extremists, greed extremists, pop culture extremists, or animal hoarder extremists.


Let’s exchange the word “religion” with the word “children.” Would you die for your children? If so, does that mean that you are parenting wrong? No, it means that you feel very, very strongly about your children. If somebody is willing to die for something they believe in, how is that so awful?


This is tough for me, because I am a pacifist, and I really, really hate the idea of people hurting in the name of religion. But if “religion” were replaced with “children,” what would we think? Would people kill to protect their children? There are laws on the books saying that that is okay, and certainly hurting, hindering, or condemning in order to protect those that you love is okay by society’s standards.

It’s not that I think that killing (or hurting) in the name of God is okay – but I don’t think that killing (or hurting) in the name of anything is okay. People do it. People also hurt, hinder, or condemn for lots of reasons, many of which are far less consequential than a system that they know to be true.

If science were at risk – if the government decided to strike all science from the books and teach children nothing about the natural world, and instead, only religious stories to explain everything – I can’t say that I would kill, but I would absolutely condemn. Science is dear to me. It is critical to me that it not be ignored. It is rarely challenged, because it is held within religions as secondary, but if it were…

It’s hard for the naturalist to see things from the point of view of the theist, because naturalism isn’t challenged. But if it were challenged in the same way, if what you know with your whole being as truth is put up for debate, reactions are strong.

DieCarry on

Here’s the thing. I agree with a lot of this, but that’s because my belief system tells me that it’s true – just like a Christian’s belief system may tell them that Eve was created out of Adam’s rib. The thing that a lot of atheists forget is that atheism is also a belief system. It’s based on observation, this is true, but there is no reason, other than the fact that it’s always been that way, that how things have always been is how they will always be. If there is a God, or many, they control physics and math as with everything else. Here’s another RadioLab podcast, this one dealing with the Decline Effect, that is… puzzling. We think that science tells us everything we need to know, but what happens when observations simply fail from within the belief system?

This comic isn’t about how religion is crappy, or about (as I think it intends to be) how atheism is superior. It’s about the way an atheist sees theism, minus any self-awareness. Everybody thinks that their belief system is superior, because otherwise they wouldn’t believe in it – and the biggest problem that this cartoon seems to have is that theists keep on insisting that their belief system is superior. Much like the comic itself.

By Susan

I am old and wise. Perhaps more old than wise, but once you're old, you don't give a shit about details anymore.

60 replies on “Takedown: How to suck at your religion”

What bothered me the most was the political part, because it’s just such an egregious display of false equivalency to try to make it seem like “both sides are equally bad!” when they’re not. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a liberal say “I’ll vote for Candidate B because he mentions God less than the other guy,” but because Candidate B supports the separation of church and state, which is an actual policy that affects people’s lives, not just a non-entity designed to get people’s votes, like the frequent mention of God to appease conservatives often is. Likewise, with the social issues: if you’re a gay person or close to someone who is and you vote for someone based on support for gay rights, that’s an issue that effects your life. If you’re a woman and you vote based on abortion and other reproductive rights, again, those effect your life. And a clean environment affects everyone. On the flip side, anti-abortion people and anti-gay people who vote based on those issues are not voting based on things that actually help their lives, so there’s criticism that it could be used to deflect from the policies that actually do (as it often is). But it doesn’t really go both ways.

Hmn. This was an interesting read, but I felt at times it was covering more than just the “smug atheist”. I don’t know, I’m coming at this from the perspective of a Humanist, not an atheist. My suggestion would be that what may at times be perceived as smugness, is in fact just a complete comfort with where a person’s beliefs are. Atheists haven’t all had epic struggles with religion to arrive at where they are, they just believe what they believe. Also that a belief in science isn’t the same as a belief that science is superior, either. The Amsterdam Declaration is really interesting on these points, too.

As a final point, I don’t think atheists have a “right” to be smug, or to be jerks, but generally, they’re a part of the population that doesn’t issue death threats against the rest. It must be pretty nasty to have your religion declared worthy of being killed by another, but neither is it fun to have most major religions feel the best action is to at least make sure the atheists are dead. And, as a final, final point, my tolerance of smug atheists is pretty high, when I consider that it’s not long ago I saw a study which suggested American’s felt rapists had better moral values than atheists.

I’ll be honest and say that part of what has me grumping about this is that I already think The Oatmeal is kind of an ass. Without my predisposition to dislike him I probably could have ignored this full force. The point he makes at the end is pretty solid (minus the asterisk but hey, whatever). But I’m getting a little sick of his self righteous shit.

That said, I don’t think atheists aren’t entitled to have some bones to pick with religion. Hell I believe in a God and I have bones to pick, how many more they must have.

He’s had some missteps, for sure, but 1) I thought that movie theater one was pretty funny because I hate going to the movies due to an overabundance of dome people and 2) I know he has at least once rethought and apologized for a post people called him out on (I believe it was about female gamers). So he definitely has some white dude privilege to work on, but he gets points for at least being open to learning when he screws up.

Maybe I buried my lead, but I linked to two other comics there. If the first one doesn’t bother you, maybe the one where he says fat people should have to run on treadmills for the entire length of their flight, or the one where he says a good way not to be insulted by cunt is to pretend it means a type of car will irritate you more. He routinely comes off as self absorbed and entitled to me. I do not care for him or his humor.

For sure, the comic writer doesn’t have the best attitude, but in this case, I think he’s made some valid points. It’s unfortunate that he wasn’t able to perhaps “edit” the way in which it was conveyed. Also, there has been a lot of atheist bashing going around, and I think it’s reasonable that sometimes the response to religion can come across as less than polite.

I don’t want to play tone police on the issue in general. Atheists get some really rude and nasty shit flung in their direction and I won’t be the one to say they need to be nice about it. But this guy is already on my shit list for fat shaming, and saying shit like a good way to not be offended by the word cunt is to imagine that it means a small poorly made car. I’m really not gonna feel too forgiving about the shit where he is in the wrong, such as with the martyr issue. I kinda feel the same way about Penn Jillette. Sometimes, if you are a big enough douche nozzle I’m gonna stop giving you the benefit of the doubt and stop assuming your rudeness is due to frustration with shitty theists. At a certain point I’m gonna start reacting to you being a twit.

Smugness, in general, is an unpleasant attribute. Smug theists and smug atheists are all the same, imo. They condescend to others for “not knowing” and their smugness stems directly from arrogance. Knowing that you know something doesn’t give you the right to be an asshat about it.

Oooooh, oooh, I’ve got a story of when I started sucking at religion:

In kindergarten, I asked a nun why Jesus was white during an afternoon mass for Assumption Day.  My parents got called in after school, and my teachers were yelling at my parents, asking why I was so poorly disciplined, and told them what had happened.  As soon as they heard, my parents laughed in their faces.

End scene.

I was in elementary school and I asked the Sunday school teacher how we all came from Adam and Eve since they only had sons.  And then I asked what Noah would have done if any of the animals died on the ark, and where all the animal poop went.  I was not a popular girl in church.

Fun story, it wasn’t until a few years ago that I learned that apparently Eve had her own grandchildren, according to doctrine.

I’m not comfortable with conflating “science” and “religion.” I think it’s a false equivalency, and that saying something is a fact because you believe it (religion) and saying something is a fact because it’s a fact (science) are not the same thing at all. Science isn’t a religion, at least not for the vast majority of people. Belief in something because your belief system tells you it’s true isn’t the same as belief in something because it has been proven true through a series of universally accepted tests and criteria.

Me either. That would go down a rabbit hole of ultimate relativism, where nothing is workably true. Plus, science is a method, not a set of beliefs that must be held to at all costs.

Also, if these cartoons were from the perspective of another minority group railing against the majority, would Susan have the same perspective? Because non-theists are distrusted – sometimes to an astonishing degree – almost everywhere in the world, especially the US.

I see your point, definitely.  I don’t know if I can explain how I feel about this, because I don’t know if I *know* how I feel – but I am starting to feel like science *is* a belief system.  It’s a belief system set up based on the facts that can be proven in the observable world, but – like that RadioLab podcast on multiple universes – those facts might include an enormous amount of knowledge that we have no understanding of.  And if somebody really believes in their faith, there is nothing to say that science couldn’t be overturned in a few seconds just based on God’s will or whatever.

Your point is a good one.  I’m actually closing my eyes as I type this because I’m trying to visualize how I feel, and test it out, and see if it makes sense.  Science has been proven again and again, so that makes it more factual than religion, it’s true.  But at the heart of science is the absolute belief that what has always been, the rules of the universe, will always BE – they will continue in that same manner.  And *that* is something that has to be taken on faith.  And so at the very core of science is also faith in something that can’t be known.

Am I making sense?  I’m not sure if I’m making sense even to myself.

But at the heart of science is the absolute belief that what has always been, the rules of the universe, will always BE – they will continue in that same manner.

I’m no physics expert, really, but I don’t think this is actually true. As far as I know – again, no expert at all  – there is debate in physics over what the laws of the universe were at and before the Big Bang. And also, what we know as fact from scientific investigations can change based on better experimentation and theory.

Also no expert, but what I mean is: if you take 100 people and give 50 of them Ibuprofen and 48 of them get rid of the headache and the other 50 people get a placebo and 20 of them get rid of the headache, that proves that Ibuprofen is more effective than sugar at getting rid of headaches.

But only if you believe that the rules aren’t going to change in the next ten minutes.  To believe in science you have to believe that what you have proven means something for the present and the future.  And so far, that has always been the case – but that is only fact in so much as you are willing to accept it as such, because it isn’t provable.

Yes… but the whole ‘you can’t prove a negative’ comes to mind here. I’m not sure what you’re getting at with this, compared with people who consider their religious tenets superior to scientific reasoning:

To believe in science you have to believe that what you have proven means something for the present and the future.

How does that contrast with, for example, a Catholic scientist? What would s/he believe?

I guess what I’m saying is that as a mostly atheist, my instinct is to say “but this is based in science, and science is fact, and everything else is conjecture and based on faith,” when *everything* is based on faith when it comes down to it.  That you can only really have gradients of facts, and scientific facts are much higher on the provable scale than religious beliefs, but everything we know rests on faith in things that we don’t know or are unprovable.

Which is what you said about a rabbit-hole, but I think it’s worth looking at said rabbit-hole, and admitting that atheists’ truth is not necessarily better than theists’ truth.

For me, “better truth” is the one that’s more accurate, i.e.: higher on your “provable scale”. Yes, there is uncertainty about the nature of existence etc. etc. and no-one, no matter what their beliefs or lack of them, has the final word on what the universe is like, but when it comes to truth, surely accuracy is better.

You might consider reading Wlliam James’ stuff about how belief works. I find it really useful for thinking about both religion and like day to day life.

I feel like your counter argument, that our belief in science is all faith too, is weak. It would just not be possibly to go about our business in the world as if experience made no difference. We assume the right turn that leads to Grandma’s house will continue to lead us there, even without checking. Otherwise no one could ever get anything done. And the reason science is separate from faith is that the organizing principles of biology, physics, etc are constantly consistently true all day every day. For many people of deep faith, their knowledge of their God is also tested and proven all day every day, and they can choose to believe that way, but the difference is that the findings of science are replicable for everyone.

I think your instinct is great, to respect religious beliefs you don’t hold, but there’s a false dichotomy between religion and science here, and equivocation I think about what faith is.

But as always I love the thoughtful discussion here.

This, exactly. To me, people who say science is the same as religion are either (as QoB pointed out) going through a useless philosophical exercise in ultimate relativism, or they don’t really understand science and where they get their ideas. As you said, it goes through many cycles of rigorous testing before it’s accepted as fact. It’s not just something people believe based on nothing.

Am feeling all sorts of conflicted about this post.

To be honest, I found myself actually agreeing with most of the comics here…  up to a certain point. After the seventh one, things started to take a turn for the worse — that is, the more judge-y.  (I’m not really an atheist though; I’m more spiritual/possibly agnostic, and try to be tolerant and accepting of other religious viewpoints/worldviews.) I don’t particularly like the idea that science and religion can’t coexist, and that it has to be one or the other. But what I really hate is when atheists get really smug and judgmental, and imply or even say outright that just because such-and-such a person happens to believe in God, that person is an idiot. Basically, it just really pisses me off when people try to force their worldviews on me (theist or atheist, it doesn’t matter) without letting me figure it out for myself. The first few comics did have some good points, but once they brought the judginess into it, I just couldn’t take it seriously anymore.

A very insightful piece. I sort of categorize myself as ‘permanently between religions’. The way I see it, if I cannot find something that I can one hundred percent get behind, better not to get behind anything. It is not that I have no beliefs, it is more along the lines that no one place has *everything* I’m looking for. Rather than believing in nothing, I prefer to say I sort of believe in everything. :) I love the drawings. They definitely drive your points home. :)

I get tired of atheists saying we should all be rational. Humans aren’t rational. I especially am not. Our well-developed, complex emotions, and our ability to ascribe agency where there may or may not be agency–basically, our imaginations–must serve some purpose, right?

This may seem a littlle off topic, but I was fascinated by an essay I read by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow about model-dependent realism, which said that there is no point discussing what’s “reality” and what isn’t, and that an objective or absolute reality (that is, one independent from our point of view) can’t be proven. The best you can do is see whether the model or theory you have agrees with observations.

Thank you for writing this Susan. I did really enjoy it.

Like Kellsbells, I’ve tried to articulate a response, but keep erasing it. I’ll just say that as someone who falls on the theist side of the equation, I appreciated this takedown on something that truly frustrated me. Many thanks.

Gotta be honest here: this time I got mad AT the takedown itself, rather than at the thing being taken down. I really agree with some of your points, especially the extremism one. But you lost me around the vaccine argument- to me that’s comparing apples to oranges. Trying to convince others that vaccines are safe is not a matter of belief because it’s demonstrably true, it’s education not belief. Teaching certain elements of religion (the earth is only a few thousand years old) is something that is a matter of belief, and that example is also demonstrably wrong. Spreading science =/= spreading belief, apples. Bearded sky man vs. there are no higher powers = spreading belief (one way or the other)= oranges.


I hope this didn’t come off as overly critical or nasty at all, I was just trying to explain why I disagree. Getting angry at PMag is very uncomfortable, and I don’t want to do it again :-(. It was well written as always, and I look forward to future Takedowns, but this we’re gonna have to disagree on this one.


Don’t apologize for disagreeing!  I thought it might be not super-well received by some.

The thing about demonstrably true is that…it’s only demonstrably true given the confines of the world that we know.  Vaccines work because we’ve seen them to work, and studies have proven it, but if you believe in a higher power, the rules can change at any time.  Am I making sense?

I 100% believe in science.  But if somebody believes that science operates within a system in which a higher power is in control – it doesn’t matter that it’s provable.  Because it’s only provable because the higher power made it that way.

To be totally honest, it’s hard for me to think that way, because I KNOW that vaccines work.  But I also know that there’s a shit-ton of stuff that we don’t know, and one of the things I like about science is that it is willing to be wrong, that hypotheses can be changed when new information appears.  If that’s the case – can anything ever really be 100% true?

I think I was trying to get at that same idea in my (way to long) response as well. Comparing an atheist’s belief in science to a theist’s belief in a deity doesn’t make sense to me. Many theists believe in science in almost the exact same way that atheists do, they just believe in a spiritual component to life that is difficult, possibly impossible, to measure empirically that atheists don’t. It’s the wrong argument.

Edit: Unless you are dealing with those directly opposing science, (vocal minority imho) then you have a leg in the science vs. religion argument.

I think between the two of us we might be able to explain that thought in a coherent way! I think my family is a good example, using “know” for science instead of “believe” for extra clarity: I personally know science, and I believe that there is no god. My mom and my sister know science, and they believe in a Christian God. Science has never been in doubt in my house, even though there is both an atheist and a devout Catholic living here.

It probably isn’t a perfect solution, but it’s close. I would argue that I have some know moments with faith, but I have never in my life felt compelled to deny something when all physical evidence points to it being true on the grounds of faith. and I feel like most people are where I am. I am also mystified at the concept of a faith that would demand such blindness to facts. I really have no idea how you could believe that the earth was made in seven days. I have no idea how you could believe that the King James translation of the Bible is specially blessed and somehow more true than others. I have little trouble challenging those beliefs, and those like them, because for me there is no reason good reason to hold them dear. Changing timeline for how earth was made does not decry the existence of God. I don’t see that kind of blind faith as a positive. I won’t totally lose my shit over it, or make patronizing cartoons about it, but I do think that sort of thing is dumb.

Imma go ahead and borrow a quote from Carl Sagan’s Contact (specifically from the character that comes around from being a fundie) for explaining how I feel about this:

“I’ve been searching, Eleanor. After all these years, believe me, I know the truth when I see it. Any faith that admires truth, that strives to know God, must be brave enough to accommodate the universe. I mean the real universe. All those light-years. All those worlds. I think of the scope of your universe, the opportunities it affords the Creator, and it takes my breath away. It’s much better than bottling Him up in one small world. I never liked the idea of Earth as God’s green footstool. It was too reassuring, like a children’s story… like a tranquilizer. But your universe has room enough, and time enough, for the kind of God I believe in.”

Pitting religion and science as alternatives to one another just isn’t helpful.

I love that book! I need to reread it one of these days. And I didn’t mean to denigrate religion by using “know” just for science- it was just the first word I thought of as an alternative to “belief” when I thought it would be confusing to use it for both.

I didn’t really take it that way. This is kind of a weird one to pin down in a linguistic sense, but there is a difference between what I know because I have experienced it, and what I know because it can be shown in repeatable experiments to be true. The two don’t really conflict with each other, but they don’t really compare well either.

Opifex – proving that she and KellsBells are the same person since 2011.

THIS.  This is exactly what I was trying to articulate only I couldn’t get it out without playing the whiny Christian no-really-i-don’t-hold-to-every-antiquated-tenant-of-my-faith card.

Oh!  To be more articulate.  Thank the God I happen to believe in that you’re around.

I’ll be square with you, this crawled under my skin, but for a slightly different set of reasons.

First it pits religion against science and I think that you will find that a very large majority of theists don’t think this is an argument that needs to be had. Sure you have your young earthers, and your intelligent design camps, but pretty much every theist I’ve ever known feels that science is for understanding the natural world and religion is for the spiritual. Particularly I think the choice of Catholic distaste for embryonic stem cell research is an odd choice for “denying science.” Catholic hierarchy haven’t decried embryonic stem cell research because they think nothing can be learned from it, they just think it’s unethical to use human embryos. You can debate if that is true or not, but it isn’t really a question of science. It’s a question of do embryos deserve the same respect as more developed human life forms. The head astronomer of the Vatican has gone as far as to say that Intelligent Design isn’t science and that if you are going to teach it in schools it needs to be taught in with religion and cultural history. It seemed an odd point to pitch the tent. I don’t think religion and science need to prove themselves against each other, nor do I think that athiests should compare their belief in science to a theist’s belief in a deity. Most thiests believe in science just as much as atheists to, they just happen to believe in things that are not part of science on top of the science.

Secondly it does the smug atheist thing wherein it is assumed the only way to have faith is to be a childish moron who believes everything they hear. No theist would ever engage in self reflection or examine what they believe and why and come out a theist still, right? No. Not right.

Thirdly, the would you die for your religion panel paints a really misleading picture of martyrs. I don’t think I’m too far off the mark when I say that most people who have died for their religion didn’t get a lot of say in the matter. I’m having a real hard time thinking of any relgion that dosn’t frown upon suicide. I’m gonna go ahead and say I think most martyrs over the years have been killed by other people who wanted them dead.

And finally, the last little asterisk pisses me off more than it probably should. Look. I get not wanting to have a big ole heart to heart about how accepting Jesus as your lord and savior will save you from the hell fires, but I think that saying people cannot talk about religion at all is little asinine and childish. I think most non-shitty people can manage a basic “no conversion attempts” rule while still allowing the fact that they are religious to come up in conversation. I would go a step further and say most non-shitty people can talk about what they believe and why without being patronizing dicks or bringing it up at inappropriate times. This isn’t something I think people need to “keep to their fucking selves.”

I especially like what you wrote at the end.  I have some very dear Mormon friends, and I have always heard that Mormons are pushy about religion.  The *only* time they talk about religion is if I bring it up, and then, they are absolutely willing to speak frankly about their beliefs.  Maybe I’ve just met the good ones, but I have a sneaking suspicion that good people are good people, regardless of religion, and pushy people are pushy people, too.

I suspect this one too. People will be the sort of person they are. Behaving like a pleasant, mature grown up is a skill we all need to have. Part of having that skill is learning how to talk to people you don’t agree with. I’m optimistic in believing that we can all get there if we are willing to put in a bit of effort.

I don’t agree about the pacifist bit. I think there are plenty of people, religious and non-religious, who think that violence is never the answer. When you’re protecting your children it’s one thing, but protecting an ideology (science or religion) is simply too different to compare. In the mind of an extremist perhaps not, but I think you rightly pointed out that those people are a special case when talking about these things. There are extremists on both ends who would die for their ideology.

Otherwise I agree. The comic is to make Smug Atheists laugh. It’s not meant to get “through” to any religious type person. The end bit is sweet but really just there to wipe away the guilt the Smug Atheist has for reading, laughing and hating on religious folks. It’s the atheist version of, “I’ll pray for you.”

You have a good point about pacifism, and the difference between protecting your children and protecting your ideology.  At the same time – when it comes to your children, saying “I’d die for them” is an expression of love, right?  And I think that saying “I’d kill for X” is never going to be an expression of love, but there is a (very, very small) part of me that can understand why that might be a sign of strength rather than weakness.

I think it’s more important to know what the variable is. If it’s your kids, then I get it. If it’s your ideology, then I don’t get it. The only way I can think of killing as a strength is if it’s killing to protect. You can’t kill someone to protect an ideology, because that ideology will exist whether someone else believes it or not. But you can kill to protect a kid, because that kid can be killed. But again, that’s an easy point to make because I don’t think comparing the protection of kids to the protection ideologies is fair.

Thanks for writing this, Susan.

I’ve been trying to write a reply for about 15 minutes now and I keep erasing everything but the first sentence which means that I should probably leave it right there.  I really appreciate this takedown – more than you know.  Many and sincere thanks.

I read this Oatmeal layout (is that the right term? Cartoon? Rant?) and cringed for all of it until I got to the bottom.

That last section is ALL that needed to be said. Everything else seemed a little ‘hatey’ (not the country).

Oh, and I could do without the asterisk at the bottom. If you do find a way to be happier about living on a spinning rock in the middle of the vast nothing of space, by all means Share. But be fucking nice about it (don’t force that shit). Don’t mock others, tell them they’re stupid, or whatever.

Whoever thought being mean to someone as a way to get them to do something for you or with you was a fucking moron – and why people CONTINUE to think this is equally moronic.

But that’s just my belief I guess. Do with it what you will.

Oh, and when I die, I want to become a tree. Thank you, that is all.

I recommend a “green burial” with an acorn. (Acorns do turn into trees, right?) That’s what I plan on doing. I know its macabre but I made sure my folks know, if my parents or siblings outlive me, I want all my organs donated to whoever can use them, then bury the rest in a cloth in the dirt with an acorn =D

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