A Catholic Reply to “How to Suck At Your Religion”

An anti-religious (and specifically, anti-Catholic) webcomic is making the rounds on the Internet right now. It’s part of a webcomic called The Oatmeal, and is called “How to suck at your religion.” I have to warn anyone clicking that link that it’s really offensive: profane, lewd, and blasphemous, all at once. Honestly, if you don’t have some reason to read it, just go ahead and skip it (and this whole post).  Whatever your religious views, this webcomic simply doesn’t enrich the discourse, or advance the debate in any positive or meaningful way.

You would think that something this over-the-top would cause even non-religious people to balk at posting it on their Facebook feeds as indicative of their own views. Apparently not. I’ve already gotten two e-mails from people who had friends share it, and who wanted to know how to respond.

There is a temptation to say, “It’s a webcomic, don’t take it so seriously!”  But the truth is, while it’s supposed to be funny, it’s also supposed to make a serious point. In my view, it fails on both counts, but I’m really only concerned about the latter.  Nearly every panel raises a different argument against certain types of religion, with most of the vitriol saved for Catholicism. Each of these arguments collapse on closer inspection, and it’s clear that the sheer quantity of arguments cannot overcome the dearth of quality of any given argument.

So here are my thoughts, by panel:

  1. The first panel depicts a Catholic priest (with a Roman collar) confidently damning all those who don’t belong to the Church. This is just a lazy straw man. While She’s canonized thousands of Saints, the Church has never declared anyone in Hell. On a related note, one of the obnoxious things about atheist attacks on Christianity is that they act as if Catholicism and Evangelicalism / Fundamentalism are basically the same thing.  On of the things that Dr. Mark Gray said, in the article I linked to last week, was that: “It’s interesting that so much of the rhetoric of New Atheism seems to really be directed at Evangelical Christians—those specifically who take the Bible literally word for word. Many New Atheists seem to think anyone who is religious holds similar beliefs. Yet, this cannot be equated with the mainstream Catholic point of view.”  If you’re going to argue against something, it helps to at least understand the thing you’re arguing against.
  2. This gets the Galileo affair completely wrong. A much-needed corrective here, or a thousand other places, for those who actually care enough about the facts to check them.
  3. Jewish twins kept alive at Auschwitz
    for the sake of human experimentation.
    Were those who opposed this barbarism “anti-science”?

    This also grossly misrepresents why Christians oppose embryonic stem cell research (and falsely accuses us of being against all stem cell research). But I suppose the author has to misrepresent the Christian view, because otherwise, it makes a lot of sense. If human life begins at conception (which, scientifically, it does…. and is the only reason embryonic stem cell research is even possible), we’re talking about doing medical research that profits off of mass killing. This has been done before, and those who opposed it on moral grounds weren’t “anti-science,” and aren’t today. The term you’re looking for is pro-life.

  4. So… religion is fine, unless you actually believe in it? Should parents not pass their political, ethical or moral views on to their children as well? What parts of parenting would be left if parents were to avoid passing their views on to their kids? The irony here is that silence is itself a statement. Avoiding any mention of God to your kids sends as clear a message as talking about God: specifically, it tells your kids that God’s existence is either untrue, unknown, or unimportant. Because if you knew Him to exist, surely you’d share that knowledge, right?
  5. This next section is probably the worst, because it’s just an incoherent argument. A kid asks, “Dad, what happens to us after we die?” The author compares providing the Christian answer to this question with correcting your kid for having green as a favorite color. What??  That just isn’t a coherent argument.  In what world are those two ideas parallel, or even comparable?

    According to the webcomic, good parenting is to pretend to be agnostic, and say that “no one really knows for sure.” Of course, if the Resurrection is true, that claim is false. So to be a good parent, you apparently have to deny the Resurrection and embrace agnosticism, treating beliefs about the afterlife as mere matters of personal preference like having a favorite color. This is just… stupid. There’s just no other way of describing it. Imagine if we treated everything that way. “Dad, what’s 3 x 3?” “No one really knows for sure. What do YOU think 3 x 3 is?”

  6. Raphael, Adam and Eve (1511)
  7. The idea that a religion is bad if it gives you “weird anxieties about your sexuality” is naïve. What I mean is that sexuality is much more powerful and truly awesome than the author lets on. If sex is just no big deal, recreational fun, then adultery’s no problem, right?

    Of course not. Agnostics and atheists have “weird anxieties” about sexuality, too, precisely because sexuality is powerful, and can cause a heck of a lot of damage when treated carelessly and casually. Everything from broken hearts and broken homes to rampant STDs and AIDS to millions of unplanned pregnancies and abortions would seem to have made all of that really clear by now.

  8. Religion is bad if you believe enough to try to tell other people that it’s true. Why, exactly? As a society, we freely try to convince each other of specific worldviews all the time, including really speculative ones, like political worldviews. Why is all of that positive, healthy democracy, while treating religion the same way is evil?

     The author specifically advocates that good religions are ones that make it hard to join. Again, why? If having the right relationship with God is the best thing, not only for me, but for anyone, then trying to prevent others from that right relationship would literally be about the worst thing that I could do.

  9. This just grossly misrepresents Christianity.  As I said before, if you’re going to argue against something, it helps to at least understand the thing you’re arguing against.  In Monday’s post, I mentioned that one goal we should have in inter-religious dialogues and debates is to be able to describe the other person’s position in a way that they would recognize, and acknowledge as their own.

    Needless to say, that’s not what happens here. Instead, there’s mockery and sneering of a ridiculous distortion of Christianity: mocking beliefs, in other words, that no Christian actually holds.  Edward Feser has a great response to this sort of cheap shot, showing that this same asinine approach could be used to make science look stupid (provided that no one bothered to listen to scientists about what they actually believed).

  10. Do you need to read the Bible to know
    that killing him is immoral and unethical?

    I don’t think anyone votes based solely on religious beliefs. I also don’t think that being against abortion is a “religious belief.” The belief consists of three propositions: (a) human life begins at conception, (b) the intentional ending of innocent human life is murder, and (c) murder is bad. Which of these beliefs requires being a Christian?

  11. Invoking the Muhammad drawing controversy is just a reminder that the reason Christians are targeted for this mockery instead of Muslims is that smug atheists are afraid of Muslims. They bully us precisely because we’re not the violent, intolerant psychos that they pretend we are. If there really were a “Christian Taliban,” folks like this would be too afraid to mock us, as they are with Muslims. So in this sense, all of this is a beautiful reminder that, for all our faults, there really is something to Christianity.
  12. In condemning killing for religion, the author conflates it with “hurt[ing], hinder[ing], or condemn[ing] in the name of your God,” right after a lengthy tirade condemning Christians. Not even a hint of irony.
  13. Good religion is apparently placebo religion, and it’s okay only as long as we keep it to ourselves. The author then indulges the mandatory use of profanity to show us how calm and reasonable he is.

In Scalia’s dissent from Lee v. Weisman, he accused the majority of treating religion as “some purely personal avocation that can be indulged entirely in secret, like pornography, in the privacy of one’s room. For most believers it is not that, and has never been.”  This really does capture two competing views of religion.

Lucas Cranach the Elder,
Head of Christ Crowned with Thorns (1510)

One view, the view taken in the webcomic, is that religion consists of a set of ideas that we latch on to, not because they’re true, but because we happen to like them. Because our religious views aren’t objectively true, but just subjectively nice, they’re as personal (and insignificant) as our favorite color. It’s just a way of coping “with the fact that you are a bag of meat sitting on a rock in outer space and that someday you will die,” and that all existence is utterly meaningless. But someone who takes this view of religion can’t even be reasonably described as religious. After all, they’re essentially saying, “I know religion isn’t true, but I wish it was.”

But the other view is that religion describes something, and Someone, utterly real… the very ground and sustenance of reality, in fact. What’s more, knowledge of this Truth is the most important knowledge we could possess – the only knowledge that makes an eternal difference, while all other knowledge fleets or fades. But beyond even this, a relationship with this God, our God, enriches our life here on earth, filling it meaning, not as some delusional placebo, but in the way that a story takes on new profundity when you can hear the author explain why he wrote it that way.  This is the only view of religion worth taking, since this is the only view of religion that treats it as true, rather than just a nice idea: that is, it’s the only one of the two views worthy to be called “religious.”

Beneath all the smugness, profanity, blasphemy, and sneering hipster irony, the webcomic falters in the face of this: true, substantial, real religion. The comic can mischaracterize and distort, but in the face of actual Catholicism, it’s silent. It has no coherent or compelling answer in response to the Catholic claim. Snark simply has no retort to truth.

Update: Marc Barnes (Bad Catholic) responds to the same webcomic, quite wittily.


Update: Thanks to all who have commented so far.  I obviously can’t respond to every one of you, but I’ve written a follow-up post responding to some of the general trends that I’ve seen.

1,109 Comments

  1. Roman Catholics need to own their evil shit instead of trying to convince people it never happened, or it happened a long time ago so it’s OK. The worlds largest collection of murderers, child rapists, torturers, thieves, and just plain bad people trying to keep us all living in filth and ignorance for centuries. I really don’t know why they think they deserve any civility, let alone respect. Magic Jesus might forgive you, but I sure won’t.

    1. Actually, its quite the opposite. It is mainly because of the Catholic Church that we have science and art. When everybody else was tearing down, the Catholic Church has always been building up.

      You can deny the truth and hang on to your anti-Catholic myths. But the truth remains true whether you believe it or not.

      1. Have you even heard of the Mesopotamian, Indus, Egyptian, and Mayan Civilizations? Do you have any idea a how far back they date?

        You still believe the Catholic Church gave the world art and science?!

      2. The Catholic church is against stem cell research, a form of science that could save many lives in the future. This isn’t an isolated incident either, as the catholic church has been against many scientific discoveries throughout its history. What you say is the “truth” is at best a misguided opinion.

      3. Actually, no it’s not the opposite.

        Do you find my argument “Actually, no it’s not the opposite” convincing? No? Well it’s about as effective as yours is; Simply stating what you believe to be true, as though it is fact, does not make it true.

    1. But what are you and other anti-Catholics doing about it? Our Pope sits atop the largest welfare organization in the world. The Catholic Church runs more charity hospitals, hospices, and gives more food and clothing, medicine and necessities to the poor than any other charitable organization and it continues to grow.

      So, please spare me the “you’ve got all this money and your doing nothing with it” line. Because atheists and anti-Catholics are way down on the “Love your neighbor” totem. In fact, most them resent giving anything to those children dying of dsyentery. They don’t consider it their problem. Abortion, the murder of innocent children, is their solution.

      1. Actually, abortion is done before any brain cells develop, therefore, the embryo is not yet a child and cannot feel emotion or pain. As well, would you prefer a child being born to a mother who can’t take care of it? Or a mother who was raped?

        1. Why don’t you ask a child born into poverty or as the result of rape whether or not they believe that they should have been aborted.

          1. That sentence requires a question mark, not a period. Please proofread before you submit a comment, or else I will pick apart the grammatical errors in your statement.

  2. This comic would not piss you off if it wasn’t true- its that simple. Whine all you like, cry to the heavens- it wont make it become not true. That angry feeling welling up inside you right now is the realization that your beliefs matter to no one else but yourself. If you you have any independent intelligence at all that fact will begin to make you feel free.

  3. “Invoking the Muhammad drawing controversy is just a reminder that the reason Christians are targeted for this mockery instead of Muslims is that smug atheists are afraid of Muslims. They bully us precisely because we’re not the violent, intolerant psychos that they pretend we are.”
    Okay. many statements here. smug atheists are afraid of Muslims?? Are you saying you can account for all of them? “because we’re not the violent, intolerant psychos”….. you mean to say Muslims are. ALL MUSLIMS?? Or the ones that you are shown on TV, in films as Kalashnikov touting hatred spewing murderous maniacs. You then went on t talk of a “Christian Taliban”. As if Taliban is what defines Islam! WOW! Reason #1 for all the hate against religions, right here!!
    Look, I get that someone who believes in religion to their core does not find that post funny. But when people turn to atheism, it’s disillusionment with religion. Now you can go on and pretend that your religion is all rosy rosy and it is the source of Truth with a capital T and whatnot, but to disrespect other religions so callously and vigorously defending anything that goes against your beliefs as blasphemous, abusive etc. is really, really narrow-minded.

    A sidenote on abortions: My mother is a consultant gynaecologist. And I have sat in her cabin as a kid and watched as countless women, sometimes teenagers were told that they had a baby they didn’t plan for. Some women had already had too many kids. Some were in their late thirties, some in early forties. A few had alcoholic, abusive and cheating husbands. A few were discarded by their families for marrying outside their caste, their village , against their parents’ wishes, whatever. They were so poor my mother would waive her paltry consulting fees of Indian Rupees 20(about 33 cents by current rates).
    When these people underwent an abortion, do think they were pleased with themselves? Do you think they relished killing a child? NO!! Hard as is was to admit, they were not equipped, in any sense of the word, to be a parent, to give the yet-to-be born child what he or she truly deserved.
    You want to call them blasphemous too?? Punish them? Tell them they are not in His good graces? In other words, that they are not going to Heaven?

  4. As an atheist, I only found two points of the cartoon to be intellectually dishonest:

    1) the science research point. While I do not believe that embryos are human life, I do understand that if you DO share that view, then of course you wouldn’t want research to be conducted on them, just like animalists who attribute the same rights to animals as they do to human beings don’t want animal experimentation to be carried out. So, dishonest, because anyone can see that “it advances science” isn’t argument enough to allow for anything, so obviously the discussion shifts on rather complex arguments of what is conscient, what deserves to be considered “human” (or from a religious point of view, what/when has an immortal soul, which is basically the same thing in different words);

    2) the part about politics because well, I think it’s more noble to have your vote motivated by ideals than by self-interest. Self-interest should matter only if it doesn’t clash with common good. However it’s true that people should follow these ideals critically, and not just parrot them because they’re “his side’s”.

    But about teaching to your children, well, it seems to me that even faith would be only more worthy if it’s confirmed by a completely adult, rational person, right? Teaching stuff to a child who’s 5 is easy. And by the way, the 3×3 example is wrong because THAT is exactly what I would do in that case too. I wouldn’t say “3×3 is 9” because that means nothing; I’d let the kid on the right road to experiment with bricks, or cubes, or whatever, forming a square of 3 by 3 sides and then counting the total. So he’ll actually understand. So if you really believe in the superior, manifest truth of your ideas don’t teach your kids concepts, teach them how to read and put a Bible in their hands. And by the way, one of my absolute favourite readings when I was a kid was the book of Revelations – what pushed me away from Christianity wasn’t that, but spending time with its actual ministers.

  5. This is so boring! Why does everyone feel the need to present their view of their religion i order to justify themselves and others in the public eye? Unfortunately the last line in that cartoon is quite accurate : if dveryone kept things to themselves the world would have suffered far less…

    1. It’s a very good point you have. People should also have intelligent discussions on religion, instead of trying to parrot their backwards reliefs.

  6. In other words, the author of this blog has zero sense of humor, zero ability to comprehend the difference between exaggerating for comic effect and making an “anti religion” argument, and responds to what he claims are inaccurate straw men with…a heap of inaccurate, ridiculous, fallacious straw men. Yawn.

    1. Because bible? You could give an actual reason why you think some one is wrong instead of invoking a “holy book” written thousands of years ago. He’s not mean. He’s just using something known as “free speech”

  7. That comic wasn’t anti-catholic!! Seen the ”can’t draw your prophet” section? Seen the Jews throwing books at people? Seen the ”tom cruise is crazy” section? That comic was definitely not against Christianity. It is against the dire consequences that religion as an entity has brought to humanity. It is about taking only the good out of your religion. It is about not believing something because someone said it was so. It is about thinking for yourself, not letting yourself be overwhelmed by all the propaganda and manipulative people behind the scenes. It is about taking the emotional guide lines (love, respect, help) and leaving the physical guide lines (no gay sex, no abortion, killing those who won’t convert). It is about relieving yourself from the negative burdens of religion to embrace the joys of it. It is about the long lost message of tolerance and love that all religions carry but seem to have forgotten or twisted for their own convenience. It is about using religion for its true purpose: foundation of social ethics and psychological coping-mechanism. Not as an excuse to hurt people because it’s written in a book that they are evil or because some ”moral authority” (who is as human as the rest of us) said so. It’s about not being an extremist and using your religion as a tool or an excuse to hurt other people. It is about being a decent fucking human being. So don’t get all worked up, or you just look like the extremist, raging people described in the comic.

  8. lmao….i find your response article to be more offensive than the original cartoon article….and your point was???

    i also must state that one of the most offensive bits was your statement “While She’s canonized thousands of Saints, the Church has never declared anyone in Hell.” REALLY??? as a woman i am absolutely horrified that you humanize the ‘church’ by labelling it a ‘she’…..IT is not a she….a woman is a real being, a church is an organized collection of overbearing fear mongering greedy self righteous narcissistic people….mostly men i might add….so drop the ploy of being the nice guy author….lol….you’ve done exactly what the cartoon describes ‘attempt to brainwash others’…good luck!

  9. The efficacy of the Oatmeal as satire (crude though it may be) is firmly supported by the humourlessly defensive response from this blogger, and the magnitude of outrage it has generated among the more vulnerable believers. All vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings should regularly be held up to ridicule; the more firmly held the belief, the greater the vigour of our testing, the sharper the instruments of its interrogation.

  10. This isn’t much of a refutation… more like a reaction.

    I’d like to think the collective faith of the Christian readers isn’t so easily shaken— and by a comic strip no less?? Do believers need such immediate spoon-feeding of what to say and think? It’s not that difficult for any level-headed member of society to distinguish right from wrong, true from untrue, serious from humor, and more importantly… knowing from believing. Ok, maybe that last part still has some grey area theists and atheists continue to struggle with.

    Which is more disrespectful: One who criticizes your beliefs? Or one who defends your beliefs on your behalf because they assume you’re unable?

  11. There might be a few facts off (we haven’t all been indoctrinated since birth) and I understand that the majority of Christians and Catholics aren’t all like this (it’s always the jerks who are the loudest) but I think the point he makes at the end about “if your religion causes you to hurt people (no, stem cells aren’t people. Abortion stops the cells from BECOMING a baby in the first few weeks. It doesn’t kill a fully formed one as your picture implies), then you suck at your religion, and if it makes you do good, then you are awesome at your religion” is a good one. You didn’t give any credit at all for that. Do you disagree?

  12. As an atheist, I’m a big fan of Jesus himself. People should focus more on being Christ-like and less on being Christian. It would solve a lot of the negative things that people like me (try not to) associate with all Christians.

  13. Hilarious. You were wrong TWO TIMES before you even finished the first sentence. The comic was neither anti-religious, nor anti-catholic. The offense you’ve taken is drawn from slights fabricated completely from your own imagination. Even your own pope would agree with much of the comic, and he’s smart enough to understand the meaning of the work as a whole. Isn’t that what you’re always telling the rest of us to do? To look at the message of the bible as a whole, rather than pick out specific parts? I would think you were better at it.

  14. This guy is arguing against the forms of religion he has been exposed too.
    Your version might be reasonable, but most Christians i have met have not training in reason. I’m sure its the same for him.

    (actually first some background on me. I identify as neither theist, atheist or agnostic. I know god exists but i don’t think any religion has the whole truth on the matter, but that most of the big ones have a significant portion of it. oh and im very dubious of the resurrection, that scene actually seems to have been added to the bible at a later date – ie, its not original text)

    Anyway..
    1. The church may never have declared anyone in hell, But individual Christians sure have!
    i don’t think he implies all Christians believe the bible word for word, its just that those are the ones he is arguing against. And the ones that force their beliefs on him time and time again.

    2. The article talks about the medieval mind. BS. the only reason the mind of the times would be like that is if they had been repressed. Pleanty of people at the time had a genuine desire to understand the truth of reality. and the only way to do that is to be willing to discard everything you have been told is true (by science or religion or ruling class or whatever) and think about it yourself and come up with your own conclusions. There has been genuine interest in knowing the nature of reality, not just making up for experiences, since at least the Greeks.

    3. There is no scientific consensus of when a human life starts. Different areas have different time periods which a fetus cannot be aborted after, (the fetus in the picture is well beyond any legal period for abortion.) And many of the ones used in research are still births. and this technology is not for profit but To Save Lives. so stem cell research is pro-life too. its just pro-choice as well.

    4. yeah fine, share you beliefs (on any topic, religion, politics etc.) with your children. but don’t force it on them. give them the information and let them make their own choice. “so i believe in x and this is why. but some people say that doesn’t make sense because y. so i say to them, X! but i just want you to think about the topic seriously and make up your own mind” Really he is confronting those who believe in x because that’s what they were taught as a child and have never really re-analised it or seriously considered other alternatives.

  15. 5. a simple substitution as follows. “i love Buddhism, Buddhism is my favorite religion”
    “no, your favorite religion is Christianity”… etc
    Problem is that anyone who was raised by their local religion will defend and reason for it and believe it as passionately as a member of any other. Krishna is just as real and important to a Hindu as Christ is to you. as hard as it would be to get you to change is how hard it would be to get them to change.

    6. he is talking for example at religious people condemning homosexuality. i think when Christians think gay they think gay-sex. homosexuality is a biological fact in many species. its seems to be a population control method of nature. Something a person has no choice about. yest they have the choice weather to have gay sex but no choice in weather they fall in love with people of the same of different sex. so long as they’re in a loving relationship, what they do behind closed doors is their business alone.

    7. ” The author specifically advocates..” no he does not. its just on joke on the fact that people want what they cant have, and the more you push something on people, the less they want it. instead of tell you to believe in god or go to hell (which is the most visible and loudest (even tho not the most sophisticated) version of Christianity to most atheists. it is they view they are bombarded with daily, and are damn tired of hearing). just Love God as you do and don’t be afraid to let them see you loving god, then when they see you they’ll be all like ” hey that looks pretty good, can i try?”

    8. basically if your going to believe in one religion, you have to right for making fun of any others, because from an atheist view they all look equally stupid and obviously make believe fairy tales (yeah that’s what most religion looks like to me, well not stupid but, out dated. important for a certain phase of social evolution, and an incubator for spiritual truth, which has absolutely nothing to do with belief.)

    9. Fair, but we could argue over where life starts to the end of the earth, and get no closer to the truth of it. there is no specific point. there are point where fetal life resembles a single cell organism, a lizard, a monkey etc. as it recapitulates evolution. ending a life at the single cell stage is probably only a little worse than killing an amoeba (because of the fetuses potential)
    And many people do vote based on their religion, or the idiosyncratic position of their pastor.

  16. 10. the reason most of the panel in the comic are targeted at Christians is that that is the religion the author is most familiar with. the panel in question is clearly targeted at fundamentalist Muslims. so i dont get where your coming from with the fear thing.

    11. he doesn’t conflate it, he just expands the question. and he nowhere ‘condemns’ Religion, he just criticizes certain forms of it. the title should make it clear he is not confronting religion as a whole.

    12. he says good religion is where you make the world a better place without negatively affecting others.

    if religion is a coping method for an individual, that individual would not be aware of that fact, or else the coping method wouldn’t work. hes saying that’s what it is even though you don’t know it.
    I think its a part of humanities evolution towards god. towards widespread recognition, in what ever cultural terms,that the kingdom of Heaven is indeed at hand. right here, right now, awaiting us. ’tis not in the sky, for the birds would proceed us, etc. BTW have you read the Gospel of Thomas? its gooood stuff.

    “But the other view is that religion describes something, and Someone, utterly real… the very ground and sustenance of reality, in fact. What’s more, knowledge of this Truth is the most important knowledge we could possess – the only knowledge that makes an eternal difference, while all other knowledge fleets or fades”

    Beautiful!! I agree wholeheartedly.

    But i don’t believe all that fairy tale stuff.. this i know, i see directly. water to wine and parting seas, you can see why people doubt this stuff right?
    God has spoken to people of ALL cultures. how could he send someone to hell that hasn’t had the opportunity to discover x religion? He told the truth to people of all cultures. But he was limited by the concepts available to the people he spoke too. That’s why it came out different, and all the versions don’t agree on everything.

    Love you All, and Love others regardless of beliefs, orientation or anything. Just LOVE, No qualifier!

    (wow, i think that was a bit long.)

  17. I think the problem here is that you are missing the comic’s entire point. It is not, as you say, an anti-religious comic. Its title is “How to suck at your Religion”, not “How Religion sucks”. Its purpose is not to denounce religion, but to denounce misinterpretation and misuse of religion.

  18. If you would kill for your religion you’re a psycho. If you would hurt for your God then you are a psycho. Plus: (quote start) […] “no one really knows for sure.” Of course, if the Resurrection is true, that claim is false. So to be a good parent, you apparently have to deny the Resurrection and embrace agnosticism, treating beliefs about the afterlife as mere matters of personal preference like having a favorite color. This is just… stupid. […] Two things: First that the argument that something is stupid is an argument Ad Personam (google it) so it’s not a fair and valid argument. (Like for example: “Dont talk because you are a kid”); Second: Please find me one man that “knows for sure” I thought it was a matter of faith not proof. Nobody knows for sure is the truth. You can talk about Jesus all you want just please speak the truth. “Nobody knows for sure” is true. The truth hurts. But it will enlighten you.

  19. This is funny. I started reading and it made no real response to the Oatmeal cartoon at all. Poor, very poor article.

    As an atheist myself and ex-Christian the cartoon is merely mocking the idiocies of religions around the world. I struggled with it first but it just becomes obvious when you exit from people spouting their religious views all the time and give yourself a chance to think about it rationally.

    Peace to you all, may you all live in happiness.

  20. The Oatmeal is “anti-Catholic”?

    That’s pretty stupid. It’s also pretty stupid to pick the one religion you subscribe to out of the huge number of religions pilloried in the comic and expect to be taken seriously.

    Of course, if you’re preaching to the converted, you can do what you like. The Oatmeal seems to recognise some need to appeal to people who might hold different views about things.

  21. i’m sorry to say, this reaction to the comic is just another confirmation of the narrow minded (by lack of a better word) views of most religious people. belief is almost impossible to explain to a non-believer as it’s almost impossible for (certain) believers to understand non-believers can have morals and ethics and can enjoy life without a deity. you accuse a comic by it’s informative properties(?), yet your comment to it is as one-sided as can be.

  22. If you believe hell to be a real place, and that people can go there if they don’t worship the right god, believe the right doctrines, honor the correct holy book, or whatever other “crimes” you allege them to have committed, then you have to admit that you also believe there are people there right now–perhaps even people you once knew and loved. In fact, Catholics and Protestants alike have always been fond of declaring that certain people are going to hell: homosexuals, prostitutes, rich people, illegal immigrants, anyone who doesn’t believe in Jesus, fornicators, Muslims, etc. The whole point of religion is that those who believe in it are in on some big-time, secret wisdom that the rest of the world does not possess, wisdom that will allow THEM to attain the glories of heaven while those not in the know will be sent to hell, purgatory, or be snuffed out forever (depending on which version you grew up with and/or your favorite preacher taught you). It produces an us-vs.-them mentality that does nothing to aid social progress or make the world a better, more cooperative place. Frankly, if the people who claim they are going to heaven actually all end up there, then it must be every bit as bad as hell, and no better than living right here on Earth.

  23. I’m not gonna get into beliefs as a non-catholic, although I grew up around many many catholics. The RC church in my area was pretty damn big for Long Island, the Temple…. not so big!

    *The only point which I’d like to articulate is the context of the point he’s making.
    *The vehicle was a comic, so it should be approached light heartedly.
    *He was using colloquial language and stereotyping religions for a reason…

    It wasn’t a serious indictment of religion at all…. It was explaining how people outside of the religion might see your views…that was just one of the two points – but here comes the main point:
    If you’re using religion to impose your will and beliefs on others, you suck at religion
    BUT if you use it because it makes you a better person. If your belief in God makes you connect with other people better, makes you charitable, makes you turn the other cheek, keeps you from straying from your spouse, makes you humble and respectful, then it’s good! Keep on doing it! Just don’t impose your views on others or talk in detail about it. If you say, I’m a devout Catholic, most people have a decently accurate view of who are what your beliefs are. I’m sure that there are plenty of misconceptions, but every religion has those. But throwing verse at a non believer is kinda like me playing gangster rap at your church…. no it doesn’t actually hurt anyone, but it’s still offensive and disrespectful to the beliefs of those being forced to hear something they don’t want to

    Nobody wants to eat bitter herbs or starve for 24 hours, but us Jews do it. I never complain or talk about it because people don’t like hearing religion…. most people know what they believe.

    The ones who don’t are often just looking for something to believe in. I’ve seen religion save people from absolute self-destruction or to rebuild their lives after self-destruction, but I have seen self-help forums do that, and I have seen psychology and philosophy do that. I’ve also even seen the military do that.

  24. I am an Atheist, although I would say that I am a Christian Atheist; insomuch as I am socio-culturally conditioned to feel at ease with Christian architecture and the trappings of faith. I felt no issue swearing an oath to the Queen before god, nor do I have an issue singing that the afore-mentioned god save our Queen. But I don’t believe, I am not offering an alternative, nor am I out to prove the improbability of religion, rather I believe in science and reason. The church plays a vital part in society and Christianity in particular is an essential bulwark against the more aggressive monotheistic religions. I found the cartoon exceptionally funny, and to be honest if the church wants to remain relevant and gain – rather than shed – followers, you ought to learn to laugh at yourselves and accept that you were not always so benign. If you are right, surely you need not defend yourselves, in fact I would advise against it, hearing people trundle out the old ‘straw man’ refrain in the defence of a belief system that based upon nothing tangible just evokes a never ending cycle of argument. Rise above it and keep up your good work… just keep it away from me!

  25. Oooo let me post a bunch of random pictures of religious stuff and babies in a uterus and that will make my nonsense argument against a hilarious cartoon a good one. If everyone just used their religion to make themselves good people, let their own children believe whatever they believe, and don’t use religion for political decisions the world would be a better place. because not everyone believes what you do… one of my biggest pet peeves is politicians quoting the bible for reasons for laws… NOT EVERYONE believes the same you do, you have no right to make laws based on religion. The bible DOES NOT EQUAL the constitution. It’s a book of stories. Use it as a guide to live a good life, don’t judge others who can live a good life without it, and that’s it. Then leave the rest of us alone.

  26. “-Has anyone provided a proof of God’s inexistence? Not even close.

    -Has quantum cosmology explained the emergence of the universe or why it is here? Not even close.

    -Have the sciences explained why our universe seems to be fine-tuned to allow for the existence of life? Not even close.

    -Are physicists and biologists willing to believe in anything so long as it is not religious thought? Close enough.

    -Has rationalism in moral thought provided us with an understanding of what is good, what is right, and what is moral? Not close enough.

    -Has secularism in the terrible twentieth century been a force for good? Not even close to being close.

    -Is there a narrow and oppressive orthodoxy of thought and opinion within the sciences? Close enough.

    -Does anything in the sciences or in their philosophy justify the claim that religious belief is irrational? Not even in the ballpark.

    -Is scientific atheism a frivolous exercise in intellectual contempt? Dead on.”

    -David Berlinski

  27. Though I must admit it’s in very poor taste and I certainly don’t applaud disparaging any religion.
    Lets look at a few things :
    I was raised Roman Catholic a.d I do remember seeing Cleary written in the Catechism:

    A) The Roman Church was the one true church.

    B) All others were schematics and heretics.

    C ) There was NO salvation outside the Church.

    D) Protestants if they lead a good life had a remote chance of making it to Heaven.

    If that’s mot condemning anyone to Hell then I don’t know what is. Aside from also being absurd and presumptuous.

    Likewise The Sacraments are often used as weapons to manipulate and enslave the minds of the faithful.

    Your posting up an image of the Holocaust to fit your agenda is a cheap, low blow as it’s also ANTI-SEMITIC. Which is something many Traditionalist Catholics hold so dear.

    Perhaps you could elaborate how the Roman Church that is the Vatican Hierarchy was complicit with Hitler. And though there individual cases of decent Catholics risking their lives saving Jews ….the great majority in the least liked the other way and most actively collaborated .

    Again, I don’t applaud disparaging any religion but your response is far from enlightened or charitable. Trust me if Jesus survived not only getting flogged and crucified but alo rose from the dead…I doubt this will affect him …stop making a wimp out of Jesus.
    And if such criticism “threatens” anyone’s faith then they need to check in and see what is really wrong.

    Ironically you portray very well “How to suck at your religion”

    I left the Roman Church long ago and became Episcopalian and seeing articles like yours make me realize I made the right choice.

    1. You “made the right choice” because you obviously are too full of yourself to actually understand the concepts and philosophy of the Church you left.

      Get over yourself.

  28. I AM UR GOD AND DESPITE ME SAYING I LOVE YOU ALL AND WISH THE BEST OF HUMANITY STILL INVENTED STILLBORN BABIES, DISEASE, DEATH, AND SO ON. XOXO says:

    I think,

    Even if to say, the Oatmeal exaggerates,
    he specifically states, “do you” or ,”does your religion?”
    He does not attack a certain religion or people, *though he mentions it.

    Also, if it offends you,
    why dont you do the right thing and ignore it?
    no need to make a hate blog about how the Oatmeal attacks and lies about Christianity.









    to tell you the truth though, I am being a hypocrite by stating this on this site, despite me having no idea about this blog…

  29. 1- You’re focusing specifically on the inference the Christians condemn people other than themselves to hell, which is only the surface meaning (and not the one to be taken seriously, since it’s hyperbole). Instead it’s making a general reference to how some theists will preach a certain religious rule yet their actions contradict this (eg. Saying one shouldn’t judge, but then going on to judge others). Matt doesn’t claim this applies to all theists, but asks if it applies to the reader- since his overall point of the comic is that religion in itself isn’t bad, but people can do bad things in the name of religion, and they should question whether the effects of their religion are positive or negative. Hence this panel is meant to make you question whether or not you are a hypocrite in regards to your religion.

    2+3- Again, you’re getting caught up in specific examples instead of the concept. The examples are just jokes to convey the point that sometimes religion can hold back advancement. Emphasis on the sometimes, since Matt makes it clear he doesn’t believe that all theists use their religion hold back advancement from the fact he’s asking whether or not your religion does. This is supposed to make you question whether your religion helps society advance, rather than telling you whether or not it does.

    4- …Are you seriously wanting to teach children NOT to think for themselves, or be critical about the ideas they hear? You want to teach children absolutes? You’ve actually managed to address the concept here, and it shows your absurdity. As an atheist I wouldn’t teach a child that my personal views are completely correct. I’d teach them why I believe what I do, but I’d also give them the tools to criticise my and other people’s ideas. Teaching children to just to and think as we say won’t help society progress- giving them the methods to evaluate different moral, political, and religious views or arguments does. Because then they can determine the weight of arguments, find fallacies and strengths in what people say, to ultimately help society come closer to the truth. People don’t tend to make advancements by just copying the previous generation- they do it by questioning what we have and what is possible.

    5- From the fact people have being arguing other what happens after death for thousands of years and there is still no agreement, and considering that humans are fallible beings, I think it’s pretty safe to say that nobody can be certain what happens after death.
    “Of course, if the Resurrection is true, that claim is false.” Um, no. Things can be true without us knowing they are true. Gravity was real before we understood it, history is an unchangeable fact of what has happened yet there are many historical events we cannot be sure of what happened because we don’t have enough evidence to prove what happened. If hypothetically the Resurrection was true, it would still be entirely possible for us not to have enough evidence to believe it absolutely, or even beyond reasonable doubt.

    6- You’re using a strawman yourself now, yet you complained in point 1 that Matt supposedly used a strawman… which would be hypocrisy. Ironic, considering the first panel was supposed to make you question whether or not you’re a hypocrite: seems you didn’t question hard enough.
    I’m really not sure where you got the idea that Matt doesn’t believe that “sexuality is […] powerful and truly awesome,” but does believe that “sex is just no big deal,” since these claims go against the idea of the panel. It’s because sexuality is ‘awesome’ and a ‘big deal’ that he’s complaining about how religion can teach people very limited views of sex and sexuality.
    For example, if one wanted to be abstinent that’s fine, however trying to force abstinence upon children is not only forcing your religion upon them (which is kind of violating their freedom of religion) but also dangerously unrealistic (looking at that correlation between US states with highest teen pregnancies and STD rates also being the ones with abstinence-only education). You can teach them why your religion may encourage abstinence, but you should teach how to have safe sex too, because guess what, not everybody agrees with your religion, they have freedom of religion, and so they’re not all going to follow the rules of your religion, and they should be given the knowledge how to follow other lifestyles safely, and not be made to feel guilty if they dare to not be abstinent. Many people have gotten STDs because they didn’t know how to have sex safely, because they were only taught abstinence as part of a religious belief which they fairly didn’t want to follow. As a theist you shouldn’t expect people to follow your religion, and so you should want the education system to teach people how to be safe regardless of their religion. Unless you don’t believe in freedom of religion or don’t care about the well-being of the younger generation, of course. Okay, I’ve gotten a little off topic with my example, let’s get back on track.
    (Note I’m not referring to your specific religious beliefs in my example, I was using a general version of ‘you’.)

    7- “Religion is bad if you believe enough to try to tell other people that it’s true.” Depends on how you’re telling them. If you’re engaging in a debate about religion with somebody who wants to have that debate, then there’s nothing wrong with that. Repeatedly trying to force your religious beliefs upon others even if they ask you to leave them alone is pretty rude, not to mention arrogant. I agree that you have the right to try and convince people your religion is true as part of freedom of speech, but that doesn’t mean you are free from consequence, and its reasonable that people will get annoyed if you are repeatedly rude with your speech. Matt doesn’t advocate religions that are hard to join, but rather is criticising religions that are hard to not join because the believers will frequently try to make people join when they don’t want to. This panel is meant to make you question your approach to how you try and convince others to join your religion, make you ask yourself whether you are forceful or polite.

    8- “There’s mockery and sneering of a ridiculous distortion of Christianity.” Yes, that’s the point, it’s hyperbole and satire. It’s not being serious, it’s humour. This part isn’t supposed to be part of a serious debate, it’s supposed to make you laugh. If it doesn’t make you laugh that’s fair enough, but you should be able to understand that this is comedy. Comedy with a point behind it, but still silly comedy, comedy which you are taking seriously when it is not being serious.
    Once again you’ve missed the actual point, which is that theists will sometimes mock other religions or atheism but then expect other people to not mock their own religion. It refers to the theists who will not dare to criticise their beliefs, and will dictate that they are the only ones with the truth rather than engaging in debate. If you are being intellectually honest, you should be open to the idea that you could be wrong- it doesn’t mean you should believe that you are wrong, but that you shouldn’t believe it’s impossible for you to be wrong. It’s a comment about how we may think of others as obviously wrong while not accepting that we can seem obviously wrong to others, and how we may refuse to open ourselves to other ideas.

    9- “I don’t think anyone votes based solely on religious beliefs.” That’s a nice opinion, but it’d be nice if you could provide evidence of that idea. Also, I think you’re forgetting the hyperbole part of the comic- solely doesn’t have to literally mean solely. It can just mean to an unreasonably large extent.

    “I also don’t think that being against abortion is a “religious belief.” The belief consists of three propositions: (a) human life begins at conception, (b) the intentional ending of innocent human life is murder, and (c) murder is bad. Which of these beliefs requires being a Christian?” The (a) bit is often backed up the religious (not necessarily Christian though) belief that we have a soul that one gains at conception, or that we gain some similar God-given intrinsic value. People may also back up the (c) part with religious ideas, such as the sanctity of life. So it is possible for arguments against abortion to be based upon religious beliefs. Granted this is not always the case, but it is common enough for the joke to work, and there is nothing claiming that being against abortion is always done on purely religious grounds. Seriously, you’re

    10- http://theoatmeal.com/comics/extremists Yes, he seems so scared in how he depicts Islam. (Since you don’t seem to be good at understanding comedy, I’d like to inform you that was sarcasm.)
    I don’t think that Matt is genuinely scared, but instead feigning fear as part of the humour. The point he’s making is that theists can perform cruel acts other mundane matters in the name of their religion. The extent to which each religion performs these acts isn’t relevant, since he’s only trying to make the reader question if their personal religion has ever lead to them being cruel in some manner.

    11- This comic really isn’t hurtful or hindering. I don’t see how you could take more than mild offence from the comic. It’s not serious, and it’s clear Matt thinks there are good religious practices. Matt is using the words “hurtful, hindering, and condemning,” in the heavy sense of the words, not the ‘ow I hurt my toe’ sense. If you are using your religion as an excuse to seriously inflict pain and suffering upon others, to take away another person’s rights, or to unfairly punish others, then he is encouraging you to re-evaluate it. Matt’s condemnation is no where near the level of what he is condemning. Would you find a court’s condemnation of a murderer to jail equal to a murderer’s condemnation of an innocent person to death? If the answer is no, it’ worth considering that Matt’s condemnation of religious extremists is not equal to those extremists condemning their victims to torture and death. I personally do not find the two very comparable.
    Also “lengthy tirade condemning Christians,” is unfair. He is asking you to question you if your religion, whatever it may be, is harmful to others. If the answer is no, then as Matt says at the end, he has no ethical issues with your religion, and encourages you to continue as you are. The comic contains a few light-hearted jokes about Christianity, but they are just that, light-hearted. I wouldn’t care if I had such jokes made about my beliefs, because it’s just a bit of silly comedy. Matt also makes it very obvious that he supports your religion if it makes you happy and helps others.

    12- Yet again you are taking a comic too seriously and literally. Do you honestly think that Matt is expressing that you should completely keep your religion to yourself and never share it with anyone else? Really? Matt is saying, in a joking manner, that he personally wouldn’t like to hear about your religion, being the convinced atheist he is, so he’d rather that when talking to him that you wouldn’t try to force your religion upon him (although knowing Matt he’d probably enjoy a bit of a debate about religion, depending on situation). I can’t believe I had to explain that to you.

    “Beneath all the smugness, profanity, blasphemy, and sneering hipster irony.”
    I think you’ve achieved smugness and sneering irony pretty well too. You act as if you and your ideas on religion are completely infallible, that only you have the truth. Your conceited attitude is truly comical, so thank-you.

  30. Ahahahahaha, I find you taking offense to a satirical comic hilarious!, Get on with your life, if you follow a religion then all the power to you it shouldn’t affect your beliefs if someone dosn’t decide to follow them and do their own thing (Make fun of them)
    Get over it, go to church or something.

  31. The cartoon isn’t depicting and mocking the “true” beliefs of the church, it is mocking how many people represent their beliefs to others. And if you read all the way to the end, it promotes the idea of religion making you happy, not angry, judging, and arrogant. The fact that you took the time to break down every cartoon in it to defend the Catholic religion shows you didn’t read it with an open mind, which is something I recommend to everyone. And I don’t mean just this comic. What I mean is, have an open mind throughout life–even if you feel like what you are reading is hateful or antagonistic. We can learn lessons from the least likely source from time-to-time. I’ve seen every one of the scenarios depicted in the cartoon happen in front of me. It’s the ugly side of religion. It is good to expose the ugly side so that it can be repaired and truely represent who or what we are.

  32. Try reading the comic all the way to the end before spouting off with so much butt-hurt vitriol.

    ‘[list of things religion might help you with, personally] … Does it help with that? Yes? Excellent! Carry on with your religion!* *Just keep it to your [expletive deleted] self.’

    There’s a big difference between being anti-religious (or anti-Catholic, even though the comic isn’t that, either) and telling you to carry on with your religion while keeping it to yourself.

    Don’t suck at your religion – quit cramming it down others’ throats, acting all self-righteous, and playing god by personally damning people to hell (fun fact: originally, hell was just the place underground for dead bodies, aka a grave or catacombs, and not some make-believe place where people are tormented for eternity. Life in the real world is where self-righteous jerks torment people; death is the end of that torment, because the dead are dead and cannot care). The religion might be perfectly fine, but the people who act like jerks to those who don’t belong to their religion are not.

    1. Nice. I’m adding this because I didn’t fully notice what your header said before finishing my original reply to your blog. I’ll switch to all caps while quoting it to drive home the point.

      ‘But if I should be delayed, YOU SHOULD KNOW HOW TO BEHAVE in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth.’ 1 Timothy 3:15

      Apparently, your god agrees with the comic. Both your Bible verse and the comic are telling you to behave yourself. So, when you claim the comic is against god and horribly offensive, you are essentially telling your god that you don’t give a crap about what your god has to say. You just like putting what your god has to say in your header because you think it looks pretty, not because it means anything to you or that you even intend to read it and follow it at all. Perhaps you should change the name of your blog to ‘Shameless Hypocrisy’.

      Do me a favor. If I’m wrong about there being some creepy perv in the sky stalking all of humanity and keeping a tally of ‘bad things each person did’, feel free to tell me all about it when you have actual proof to show me, which is to say, when we are both dead. Until then, do like your god told you and learn how to behave yourself.

  33. This is not a catholic response.
    This is a response of a brainwashed religious conservative. At least he doesn’t want to murder the author of the comic just yet (although it goes in that direction).
    As a Catholic i’m more offender by this rant, then by the comic itself

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