Sunday, February 28, 2010

Smuggie, from Tooth Paste for Dinner

Thanks, aspyre!


  1. Sorry, Will, but personally I'm really sick to death of this stereotype. Atheists think they are right. This is obvious. When one holds an opinion, one is usually at least somwhat sure of it's truth. But atheists get nailed with being "smug" for daring to speak their opinion. Christians can proclaim their certainty in the existence of God, in their absolute belief that Jesus was the son of God, and they are not smug. They can declare atheists to be misguided and lost or even downright evil for denying it. But they are not smug, They can declare every other religion to be wrong and they are not smug. They can use "Christian" as a synonym for "good and moral" and they are not smug.

    Give me a break. They think they are right. Atheists think they are right. Both speak their minds, and that's as it should be. But one side regularly gets tarred as being "smug" because they're the minority position, and a vilified one at that.

    Stereotypes can be good humor, but not here. There's no "kernel of truth" in the stereotype that fits atheists (at least in any other sense than it could fit all people everywhere who's ever had an opinion about anything). You could do the same lame cartoon about Christians, or Muslims, or Jews, or whatever (I've known smug Buddhists).

    For all your talk about civility and not spreading anger and hate, you managed to spread a little bit of hate and intolerance here. I'm not sure the internet needs more of that.

  2. Gregory, sorry you took it that way. For me, smug is smug, whether you're sure god(s) exist or not. I'm an agnostic, and one of the names for my personal faith is the Church of Doubt--though I prefer the Way of the Seeker.

    Also, I think Snuggies are funny, so just about any parody of them will make me smile.

    And if you only expect a joke to be applicable to one group of people, there'll be fewer jokes in the world. Which, I'll grant, might be a good thing.

    If it's any comfort, any "believing" religion calls me an atheist. If you've read Dogland, the scene where the kid has to sit in the sun after telling his teacher that he doesn't believe in God is entirely autobiographical. I was a proud atheist for a good chunk of my life, and I paid some dues for it which I would happily pay again.

    That said, so long as atheists call themselves "brights," I'll grin at jokes that call them "smug."

  3. Gregory, and I'm speaking as an atheist-friendly theist, no atheist has any right to complain over being made fun of given the actual amount of smug, asinine behavior and rude theists-are-idiots jokes pushed out by the atheist community.

    Playing the "vilified minority" and "how dare you" cards in this circumstance is about as short-sighted as a Christian complaining about atheists attacking their religion.

    Because atheists don't get to make vicious fun of everyone else, and then complain that they should get special treatment because they are the underdog.

    Ultimately, I think: truth hurts. And that's why both sides become so incensed when you point out their terrible flaws and childish attitudes, as a joke or not.

  4. Being a Pagan, and therefore catching it from both sides, I can tell you how I see it.

    Christians know I'm wrong. A small number think I'm an unwitting Satan worshipper; that I don't think so merely shows how easy it is for the father of lies to fool anyone who denies Christ. They all pity me for being Hellbound.

    Atheists think I'm an idiot. I would say "a number of", but even among those that make an attempt to play nice, if they've written more than a thousand words on the subject the attitude is quite clear. Books like No one believes in God are quite up front about it, dividing the world into "we intellectuals", fools, and liars. Merriam Webster defines "smug" as 1 : trim or smart in dress
    2 : scrupulously clean, neat, or correct
    3 : highly self-satisfied
    Is there a better description of the "we intellectual, you fool/liar" attitude than "highly self-satisfied"?

  5. Yep, Joel, that's the thing right there (same boat as you, I catch flak from both because I'm an "ignorant, deluded" theist, and from other theists because I'm an "ignorant, deluded" non-Christian). I have long since passed the point where I see any difference at all between fundamentalists and atheists.

  6. greyorn -- playing the vilified minority? I think you misunderstand something quite basic -- 1)atheists are a minority. 2)they do get vilified. A lot. And you show, in your answer, exactly what I'm talking about. All atheists are this, all atheists are that, and all atheists can stop complaining because of what "comes out of the atheist community."

    I am not the atheist community. I am Gregory. Just as no Christian is Christianity, and no Buddhist is Buddhism, etc, etc.

    You also miss the whole point of my complaint -- the "smug" bit doesn't really apply to "atheism." It applies to individual people, and they can come from all walks of life. If you think atheists have a corner on the smug market, you really aren't paying attention to the way a lot of Christians and others act in this world. I've known smug atheists. I've also known a lot more who were kind, decent, compassionate, wonderful folk. And those two statements can be applied to any group you care to name, Christians and Muslims and you name it.

    And frankly, if you can't see the difference between atheists and fundamentalists, its' because you're seeing your caricatures of both, not the human beings that make up those groups. You might try looking at the humans sometime. Unless, of course, you'd rather stay with your comfortable little caricatures that let you write off a whole group of people at once.

    Will -- that last comment of yours about brights. See, that's just the thing. If you knew more about the many folk who call themselves atheists, you'd know one important fact -- most laugh their asses off at the "bright" thing. It has no traction, never did, and is a footnote. So Dennett, who is otherwise a rather interesting and challenging thinker, had a moment of stupidity. Most atheists and humanists never bit at it. We laughed, or actively raged against it as a stupid choice of a term, and moved on. This would be in the category of "If Christians don't want us to judge them by Jerry Falwell, they can do us the favor of not judging us by those small number of idiots." By all means, laugh at those people. We do, too. But this comic? It just lumps everyone together. Its target is clear: atheists. Not "some atheists." Just atheists.

    And regarding agnosticism, well, if you were more aware of that "smug" atheist community, you'd know that the default stance of most atheists is an agnosticism inspired by scientific skepticism -- it's why Dawkin's wrote about "Why there is almost certainly no God" and not "why there is certainly no God." It's agnostic in the sense of "I see no evidence, and there's still plenty for us to learn, so maybe. But given what we know, I think the hypothesis is dead in the water. Show me some evidence and I'll reconsider." Or, as I like to put it -- I don't believe in God in the same way that a scientist doesn't believe in life on Mars.

    I wonder how many Christians, say, make such a qualification of their belief in Jesus? A few, I imagine, and those are people I respect and honor among the religious.

    I think ultimately what bugged me was the caricature -- caricatures can seldom be more than cheap, mean-spirited shots that ignore the reality of the human lives they mock. I'd love for that cartoonist to have to confront some atheists who have gone through pain and suffering in their journey to non-faith -- sometimes losing family and friends in the process. He/she might be a bit less smug about assuming what an atheist is.

  7. Gregory, atheists are a minority that gets vilified. Too many of them then vilify others. They may not be representative of the community, but they can be mighty loud.

    I think part of what amused me about the Smuggie blanket is you have to buy it. If you don't buy it, it's not you.

    But I'm sorry it offended you. The Buddhist one bugged Ted and Andrea. Now I'll have to find a pagan one for Raven, and an agnostic one for me, and then I'll stop. (Uh, joke. But if I find a pagan and an agnostic joke that I like, I will post 'em.)

  8. Hey Gregory, speaking as someone whose last relationship ended because he couldn't get past the dogmatic atheist definition of Christians as idiots, I laughed at the TPFD comic & posted it as a comment on to the AtheistCartoons about Buddhists. I don't think it's a generalization that gets much exposure in modern culture, I rarely encounter the issue outside of Chesterton & Lewis, but it's a dismissive attitude many theists encounter.

    I don't discount humour poking fun at Christianity, even though most of it is not representative of Orthodoxy, because I understand the frustrating reality of dealing with Christians in this society, and yes, I would argue about their definition of themselves as such. "Brights" have large groups all over FB, which looks like traction to me.