The webcomics blog about webcomics

Holy … Um, Maybe Not

So I spent some time over the extended every-religion-you-can-shake-a-stick-at’s holy season getting caught up on the webcomic at Russell’s Teapot. The name of the website from a quote by Bertrand Russell:

If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.

… so it’s not a surprise that the site is generally oriented to those who are (shall we say) unconvinced by theistic philosophies. Just as unsurprising, the webcomic features Jesus as a main character. Much like Shabot 6000, the focus at Russell’s Teapot is on what Binkley would have called the sneaky inconsistencies (and outright idiocies) inherent in religion(s). Okay, a lot of it probably counts as the same sort of impertinent questions that got me smacked back in Sunday school, but even the faithful (with a sense of humor) ought to enjoy the issues raised.

The art is the same sort of deceptively simple (yet expressive) stick figures that you find in strips like Order of the Stick. Curiously, following the navigation from “Start” to “End” results in strips that are progressively less polished and wobblier; given the focus on religion, an archive navigation that moves forward by reverting back to ever older and more primitive material makes for a surprisingly subtle commentary on rational thought. Either that, or they use the buttons in a sense that’s backwards from the usual convention.

Of note, the creator of the webcomic (and the contributor(s) to the other sections) is not named, so I can’t tell you even if it’s a he or she that’s drawin’ the doodles. In any case, new comics on Monday, pretty brief archive, and worth a look.

I draw the strip. And just to set the record straight, I’m a ‘he’. Thanks for saying the strip doesn’t suck. Your check’s in the mail.

Never seen zealotry with respect to atheism. Provides an interesting polar opposite to the dogmatic right. Not even that really. It’s the flip side of the same coin pretty much. Examples of bible verses taken out of context and used for a speaker’s agenda is fundamentalism, no matter the wrapper.

…And between the two shall we find the balance…

no I’m not a buddhist libra or anything.

ok I am.

…but Jesus was a pretty cool revolutionary. And you gotta respect any person of any religion who can get around the dualism/dogma/hatred-disguised-as-an-exclusive-hold-on-the-truth to find the loving embodiment of all that’s good about their choice of spiritual pathway. Take sufis for example. Amazing that they can see and experience love and oneness when you take a look at the terminology that the koran uses. Fire and brimstone for sure. But they know what’s up. They’ve got a sweet path to the peak of human potential.

Some very good questions raised in the comic though. Just a personal opinion that it’s a bummer you go so far in the other direction Chaz, when the “eye-openers” would be chewed on by a lot more people (who need them) if they weren’t turned off so quickly by the obvious opposing bias. You’d have more of an effect staying objective. The way it is, you’re preaching to a choir that shares your same beliefs rather than making a positive change in borderline folks.

…and I don’t think you’d be doing the type of comic you’re doing if you didn’t want to create change.

“Examples of bible verses taken out of context and used for a speaker’s agenda is fundamentalism, no matter the wrapper.”
I assume you’re talking about the ‘Know Your Bible’ section of the site.

This is the reason that I include the cross-referencing information.

Christians routinely “cherry-pick” specific verses of the bible to justify practices and policies, win arguments, or at worst fall back on an ultimate authority justifying their personal belief structure.

We simply looked at this through a different lens. If the book is infallible, and the literal word of god, then the sections we highlight are just as valid, poignant, and require the same call to action in everyday life.

It either is, or is not, the truth. Religion is not served buffet-style.

“it’s a bummer you go so far in the other direction Chaz, when the “eye-openersâ€? would be chewed on by a lot more people (who need them) if they weren’t turned off so quickly by the obvious opposing bias.”
You may be right about this but I really hope not.

For the sake of this conversation let me quickly divide all of humanity up into four ridiculously generalized groups:

1) Hardcore Atheists. I also refer to this group as ‘bumper sticker’ atheists. Those who wear it like a badge. These are people like me. These are folks who love the site and send me the ‘fight the good fight’ emails. This is the proverbial “choir”. As you pointed out, this group is on-board already and within this group I’m only preaching to those who already think like I do.

2) Agnostic / Non-practicing religious folks. This is a huge group of people who either don’t care that much about religion or just haven’t given it much thought. Maybe they say they’re Christian because they went to church as kids, but that’s about the extent of their religiosity, the ‘borderline folks’ as you put it. These are the ones I *desperately want* to get through to. The ones who need to wake up and really understand what the majority of their fellow Americans believe is the word of almighty God. These are the ones who, I hope, will react to controversial pictures attached to controversial Bible passages and feel it necessary to choose sides. Even if some of them choose a side other than mine, I hope the site proves to be a catalyst to turn on a brain or two. (For the record, my wife falls into this category. While looking at my site, she is frequently heard saying, “holy crap! Does the Bible really say that?” It is precisely that reaction, from those people that I’m after.)

3) The moderate religious community. This is a very large part of the population. These people are the moat around the fortress of fundamentalism. I suspect that it is this group whose sensibilities you think my site will most offend. And you’re almost certainly right. Let me quote Douglas Adams, because he said it much better than I ever could:

“Book critics or theatre critics can be derisively negative and earn delighted praise for the trenchant wit of their review. A politician may attack an opponent scathingly across the floor of the House and earn plaudits for his robust pugnacity. But let a critic of religion employ a fraction of the same direct forthrightness, and polite society will purse its lips and shake its head.”

The fact of the matter that any harsh criticism of religion is very strongly frowned upon by the majority of society. The only way I know of changing that is to harshly criticize religion. My mission is, in part, to unforgivingly normalize the bashing of stupidity. Some of the folks in this group may get it. Most will not. But I believe that to be the sad reality whether my opposing bias is overt or not.

4) The Fundamentalists. The fact that I have a website with the word ‘atheist’ on it is enough for these folks to want me dead and tortured for all eternity. The content and/or context of the posters is irrelevant to these folks, so we can pretty much forget how to best communicate with them. For sure, my site will only insult and enrage the Christian Right. But I don’t think it is possible to communicate my message, to create change and at the same time appeal to the better nature of the hardcore religious.

Yes, Robert, my site will undoubtedly turn off many in that third and fourth group. But I guess at the end of the day, I’m OK with that.

Thanks for your opinion. Nice to know what people think.

Hmmm. Religion, webcomics, and criticism. On the same site. On the internet.

I’ll be back in a few months.

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