Jesus ‘n’ Mo ‘n’ Karen Armstrong

Once again the mysterious Jesus and Mo artist proves him/herself a diligent reader of the atheistic blogosphere. Earlier this week the ever-slippery Karen Armstrong, whose continued writing career proves that you can fool some of the people all of the time, published a musheaded defense of religion. (For a decisive takedown of this piece, see P.Z.’s post on Pharyngula).

You can read Armstrong’s piece to see the breathless hauteur with which she claims to know exactly what God is.  Like Robert Wright, she deliberately uses the word “God” when she means “the idea of God,” so that her readers can move seamlessly from the notion of God to the reality of The Bearded One himself:

But it is only since Sept. 11, 2001, that God has proven to be alive and well beyond all question — at least as far as the global public debate is concerned. With jihadists attacking America, an increasingly radicalized Middle East, and a born-again Christian in the White House for eight years, you’ll have a hard time finding anyone who disagrees. Even The Economist’s editor in chief recently co-authored a book called God Is Back. While many still question the relevance of God in our private lives, there’s a different debate on the global stage today: Is God a force for good in the world? . . .

Homo sapiens is also Homo religiosus. As soon as we became recognizably human, men and women started to create religions. We are meaning-seeking creatures. While dogs, as far as we know, do not worry about the canine condition or agonize about their mortality, humans fall very easily into despair if we don’t find some significance in our lives. Theological ideas come and go, but the quest for meaning continues. So God isn’t going anywhere.

But Armstrong didn’t fool the J&M artist:

2009-10-23

9 Comments

  1. newenglandbob
    Posted October 24, 2009 at 6:00 am | Permalink

    Ophelia Bensen had a few words about Armstrong and I like her conclusion about Homo novoatheiensis.

  2. santitafarella
    Posted October 24, 2009 at 6:22 am | Permalink

    “People who pretend to know the answers.”

    Ah, doesn’t this Jesus and Mo cartoon then cut both ways? Atheism is also a conclusion about the ontological mystery in excess of the empirical. Like religion, athiesm is concerned with the larger questions of existence (such as whether mind is prior to matter, and whether mind can be reduced to matter). Atheism draws conclusions about such matters, and has promissory elements, don’t you think?

    Isn’t this Jesus and Mo an implicit endorsement of Socratic and ironic agnosticism (the position I advocate)?

    —Santi

    • newenglandbob
      Posted October 24, 2009 at 7:13 am | Permalink

      No. Not at all.

      Atheism is the lack of belief in any deities. (Stating this here for the fiftieth time.)

      Atheism is NOT a conclusion about any ontological mystery.

      Hardly anyone but Santi thinks mind precedes matter. Atheism is NOT about whether mind can be reduced to matter.

      Atheism does NOT draw conclusions about such matters, and has NO promissory elements or any kind of assurance.

      This particular Jesus and Mo is strictly making fun of the pronouncements of Karen Armstrong.

      Socratic irony is not agnostic. It has a definite purpose of letting others learn by being asked leading questions.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted July 20, 2010 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

      “athiesm is concerned with the larger questions of existence (such as whether mind is prior to matter, and whether mind can be reduced to matter)”

      Atheism isn’t concerned with those questions, but biology has already found the answers (they are “no” and “yes”, respectively).

  3. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted October 24, 2009 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    The Guardian headline is a nice touch.

  4. ennui
    Posted October 24, 2009 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    We do not find meaning; it has no objective or independent existence. We make our own purposes and meanings, and this seems to terrify some people.

  5. Posted October 24, 2009 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    It’s the respect behind the respect that we must respect. Don’t laugh.

  6. mconrsullivan
    Posted October 24, 2009 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    I love how her argument (which is represented by Mo’s last comment) is kind of a threat: “when we treat religion as something to be derided, dismissed, or destroyed, we risk amplifying its worst faults.”

    so her argument on behalf of religion is, “you wouldn’t like them when they’re mad.”

  7. S. Nuri Erbas
    Posted November 5, 2009 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    The material/physical aspects of human cognition and intelligence are being revealed increasingly (and most interestingly) by hard clinical research on the human brain. Perhaps, as David Linden, a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins University, argues from a rather clinical point of view, the brain is an evolutionary “kluge” (Linden’s term), a haphazard machine that has evolved over time, which somehow works (The Accidental Mind). How that has happened and how the brain actually works calls for answers and, it seems to this commentator, that, increasingly, the answers will come from clinical research rather than philosophy. It seems that philosophy needs to absorb findings from clinical research and then proceed with the universal questions. For example, in the field of Economics, we owe a lot to behavioral economists (no doubt, Prof. Kahneman and others) for pointing out that Economic theory may explain more, if it started from how humans actually make economic decisions, rather than starting from the “philosophy” of rationality axiom and proceed to build theories from there. Finally, it is noteworthy that Prof. Linden argues that the human brain has evolved to create narratives, among them, religion. Linden’s book is highly recommended.


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  1. [...] vs. Armstrong No contest.  As you may remember, a while back the “theologian” Karen Armstrong wrote an article in Foreign Policy [...]

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