Our god vs. theirs

A New Yorker cartoon tw**ted by Massimo Pigliucci. Remind you of a certain Monty Python skit?

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 12.31.53 PM

81 Comments

  1. GBJames
    Posted November 24, 2014 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    sub

    • francis
      Posted November 24, 2014 at 11:51 am | Permalink

      //

  2. Posted November 24, 2014 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    Yes, but I’ll still fart in their general direction of the splitters, anyway.

    Ha! Bet you didn’t expect that!

    b&

    • lwgreen1
      Posted November 24, 2014 at 11:47 am | Permalink

      Like the Spanish Inquisition, nobody expects farting in their general direction.

      • Posted November 24, 2014 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

        Bloody hell, I didn’t get the Monty Python ref and I’m a Brit!!!! BTW Jerry, if you really want to get upset please look up “Nahoul the bee” and “Gaza Zoo”. It was “Pioneers of Tomorrow” – a children’s programme on Gaza TV. Heartbreaking in every kind of way.

    • merilee
      Posted November 24, 2014 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      Fetchez la vache!!

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted November 24, 2014 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

      Go and boil your bottoms, sons of a silly person! I blow my nose at you!

  3. ANWAR ALI KHAN
    Posted November 24, 2014 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    In case of Islam, it would rather read like this, “There can be no peace until all disbelievers in our Duck God are eliminated!”

    • Scote
      Posted November 24, 2014 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

      Actually, that applies to Judaism and Christianity, too. The OT explicitly says to kill anyone who tries to talk you or your family into believing in other gods (one of the reasons Jesus has to do so much careful, elliptical talking in the NT).

      • Posted November 24, 2014 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

        Jesus gets in on the cact, too. Luke 19:27. Not to mention countless other verses about peace and swords, rending families asunder, hellfire and damnation, self-mutiliation, and more.

        Guy’s really quite the violent sadistic motherfucking sonofabitch when it comes right down to it.

        b&

  4. jimroberts
    Posted November 24, 2014 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    It reminds me more of Lemuel Gulliver’s visit to Lilliput.

    • Posted November 24, 2014 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

      The spread must be on the correct side of the bread; there is no compromise!

    • Posted November 24, 2014 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

      Blasphemer! Kill the infidel Swiftian! Python is great!

  5. drhack
    Posted November 24, 2014 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    Why do both sides have Duck on the banners?

    • Graham
      Posted November 24, 2014 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

      The shape could be interpreted as a duck or as a rabbit, depending on how you look at it.

      • merilee
        Posted November 24, 2014 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

        yeah, that’s part of the brilliance of the cartoon.

        • Gamall
          Posted November 24, 2014 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

          Only if you subscribe to the notion that Allah = Jeovah = …..

          The implied message of the cartoon is “oh, if they only realised that they actually agree, they are only seeing the same thing from different angles”.

          I don’t subscribe to the aforementioned notion, and thus the cartoon falls flat for me. Two religions tend to be as compatible with each other as they are with reality. IE. not much. Not duck and rabbit, but duck and crocoduck, maybe.

          • Posted November 24, 2014 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

            I don’t believe in any of them, but the cartoon’s still funny. Maybe bullshit=horseshit?

            • John Scanlon, FCD
              Posted November 25, 2014 at 9:22 am | Permalink

              Horseshit has coarser fibre and is generally more nutritious, but neither is my cup of tea.

              • Gamall
                Posted November 25, 2014 at 10:04 am | Permalink

                I sure hope you do not speak from experience…

              • Filippo
                Posted November 26, 2014 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

                To borrow from mathematics, bull is continuous; horse is discrete.

              • merilee
                Posted November 27, 2014 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

                +infinity

      • Posted November 24, 2014 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

        The war between the Sons of the Two Faces versus the Keepers of the Vase ended in similarly pointless bloodshed.

        • John R.
          Posted November 24, 2014 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

          Not to mention the massacre of the Ladies of the Aversive Young Woman by the Daughters of the Large Nosed Crone.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted November 24, 2014 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

        Which also reveals that both can be considered optical illusions, hence their god is also an illusion. It’s a brilliant cartoon!

        • Posted November 24, 2014 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

          Diana, you used the right term there: brilliant!

    • Grania Spingies
      Posted November 24, 2014 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

      It’s a well-known ambiguous picture:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabbit%E2%80%93duck_illusion

    • Jesper Both Pedersen
      Posted November 24, 2014 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

      You mean rabbits?

  6. MP
    Posted November 24, 2014 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    Similar humour already done by The Simpsons and South Park couple of years ago.

    Richard Dawkins made a “guest appearance” in that South Park episode

  7. Frank
    Posted November 24, 2014 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    It reminds me of the same-sounding, but somehow different, Palestinian-liberation factions in Life of Brian. I can still hear John Cleese’s indignation when his group is referred to by the other group’s name. Comedy gold.

    • merilee
      Posted November 24, 2014 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

      Yes, loved the Palestinian-group-bickering;-)

      • Frank
        Posted November 24, 2014 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

        Hitchens used to say that there was more TRUE morality to be found in the pages of a book like George Eliot’s classic, Middlemarch, than in any of the tradition religious scriptures.

        I like to think there is a more telling and useful exposition of “theology” in Life of Brian than in the bombastic comments and obscurantism of the current crop of Sophisticated Theologians.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted November 24, 2014 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

        I am just day dreaming of locking a number of the more rabid fanatics into a cage wiht continuous play of this scene and some of those Clockwork Orange eyeglasses.
        But … there are none so blind as those who Wilmot Sea? So it’d probably be more effective just to hand them to the tanners and bookbinders.

    • Posted November 24, 2014 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      Splitters!

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted November 24, 2014 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

      My favourite line from that bickering was ” “I’m not oppressing you, Stan. You haven’t got a womb! Where’s the foetus gonna gestate? You gonna keep it in a box?”

  8. Kevin
    Posted November 24, 2014 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    But Aslan and Armstrong say these are good disciples of Duck and Rabbit. They are only fighting for land and horses and oil (real things), never repudiating the peaceful doctrines of Duckness and Rabitness.

    • merilee
      Posted November 24, 2014 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

      Soon there’ll be a splinter group called Wabbits.

      • Posted November 25, 2014 at 12:27 am | Permalink

        Back to Daffy Duck being a household god! (Re the later Babylon 5 post.)

        /@ / San Diego

  9. Sastra
    Posted November 24, 2014 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    No, it doesn’t remind me of Monty Python’s “splitters” so much as it looks like another faith-friendly version of the Blind Man and the Elephant. Duck = rabbit. It’s only different from perspective.

    The intent is ecumenical: we all worship the same God, we simply interpret it differently. Peace — real peace — comes when we finally see that.

    Armstrong might use it in one of her talks.

    • Posted November 24, 2014 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

      I was reading this thread, slowly scrolling down, all the while planning to make this very point. Then I saw Sastra’s gravatar at the bottom of my screen. Before I scrolled further in order to read her comment, I thought “too late.” 🙂

      Yes, this comes off, to me anyway, more as “many paths, one god” bs than anything else. As we discussed in another recent thread, you can’t tell xians and Muslims that they actually worship the same god. There is no god to which you can point and say “see?” If they say they worship different imaginary things, then they do.

    • Posted November 24, 2014 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

      Wikipedia has a,” Blind men and an elephant” article. I think it should be updated to; the blind men think they are feeling God but if they could see enough perspectives they would recognise that it is a white elephant. Maybe the Outsider Test of Faith by John Loftus would help them?

      Atheist Bible scholar F Stavrakopoulou of the University of Exeter retweeted the “There can be no peace until they renounce their Rabbit God and accept our Duck God” cartoon along with a clever graph which shows either a rabbit or a duck, depending on your perspective.

      Francesca Stavrakopoulou is professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Religion in the University of Exeter’s Department of Theology and Religion. The main focus of her research is Israelite and Judahite history and religion. There is a good Youtube video,”The Bible is mostly not factual” of her speaking on the BBC’s “The Big Question”, the question was asked “Is the Bible still relevant”. John Draper channel.

  10. Curt Nelson
    Posted November 24, 2014 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    That is so funny. At first I didn’t get that the religious symbol for both was an optical illusion rabbit/duck. It was even funny without that. With it it’s brilliant.

  11. Mary L
    Posted November 24, 2014 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    There’s a Thurber cartoon addressing this. I think the caption says “This is either a rabbit or a duck backing up.”

  12. Posted November 24, 2014 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    I don’t like it. The implied message is that a single god exists, and both sides worship it, but are so blinded by their terminology that they can’t see the fundamental “truth”.

    I refuse to accept the existence of either the duckrabbit OR the rabbitduck.

    • GBJames
      Posted November 24, 2014 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

      That is exactly how I reacted to it. It seems to reflect Karen Armstrong’s view of religion… as long as they are really just fighting about politics or land.

      • Posted November 24, 2014 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

        Also, the differences between the big monotheisms amount to a lot more than mere perspective. For example, the Christian concept of the trinity is entirely incompatible with the Islamic and Jewish concept of one god.

        • Posted November 24, 2014 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

          And even within xianity there are denominations that claim god is three-in-one, and denominations that assert god-the-father, Jesus, and the holy spirit are three entirely separate entities.

          To these people these are not trivial differences; these are deal-breakers, and I don’t think they can be reconciled simply by some ecumenical type pointing out that a given pair of religions can be traced back to a common origin. As I wrote earlier, if two theists from different religions imagine there are irreconcilable differences, then there are. For example, Mormons, a three-separate-entities religion, don’t see Catholics (trinitarians) as worshipping the same god from a different perspective. Mormons see Catholics as worshipping a non-existent mistake.

          Theists don’t want to see their particular flavor as an evolved form of an older religion that also generated current competing religions. They want to see their flavor as the one religion that suddenly emerged hitting the truth nail on the head.

        • Posted November 24, 2014 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

          A lot depends on how much you’re willing to privilege the religions’s perversions of the various terms.

          If Romulus and Remus are gods — and they most emphatically are — then so, too, are Isaac and Ishmael. And, if you can warp your noodle ’round that, then it instantly becomes obvious that most of the characters in the various Bibles and the Q’ran are also gods.

          Even if Jews will insist that Moses isn’t a god; the Christians that Mary isn’t a goddess; and the Muslims that Muhammad isn’t a god.

          Cheers,

          b&

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted November 24, 2014 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

            Pedantry: Romulus & Remus were technically demi-gods.

            • Posted November 24, 2014 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

              Depends on the context.

              Within the religion in which they were worshipped as well as the literary and artistic culture that developed from them, you’re absolutely right.

              But, to an anthropologist, the distinction is secondary.

              The dilemma becomes obvious when we consider Jesus in the context of the Greco-Roman religion. It couldn’t be more painfully obvious that, in that context, Jesus is also a demigod. But, in the Christian context, a demigod is exactly what Jesus isn’t.

              It gets and stays pretty messy. The Heavenly Host are referred to as angels and cherubim and seraphim and the like…but their exact counterpart, the Olympians, are gods to the Greeks and Romans. Everybody’s just fine with calling Hades, Pluto, and Set gods…but try telling a Jew, Christian, or Muslim that Satan is a god and they’ll go positively apeshit on you.

              A lot of it has to do with this utterly bizarre insistence on holding to the incomprehensible pretense that the modern religions are all somehow supposed to be “monotheistic,” and that that’s supposed to be vastly superior to their indistinguishably-polytheistic precedents. It’s like a bunch of kids squabbling over whether the blue marble is better than the red or vice-versa. Or ducks v rabbits….

              b&

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted November 24, 2014 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

                Yeah Romulus and Remus weren’t really worshipped just as Aeneas wasn’t either even though both played a part in the foundation story of Rome. Venus, on the other hand, was worshipped as an important state god (as mother of Aeneas) but probably that was mostly after Virgil, as imperial poet and shill connected her to the Julio-Claudians and emphasized her role in Rome’s lineage, because Augustus was good at the propaganda.

              • Posted November 25, 2014 at 7:52 am | Permalink

                “Worship” is another fascinating bone of contention. Catholics insist they don’t worship Mary and Muslims insist they don’t worship Muhammad, but what they do do towards those figures only makes sense as worship.

                Romulus and Remus certainly got a lot of respect and attention and admiration. Probably even some rote incantations and invocations? I’m sure they would have been accorded a status at least comparable to a Catholic Saint, and I think most anthropologists would consider them (lesser) gods.

                And you make a superlative point…religion isn’t at all about the gods and their stories, but about the politics they prop up. Wish more people realized that….

                b&

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted November 25, 2014 at 8:21 am | Permalink

                The saint stuff is why I think they never really took the “Roman” out of the “Roman Catholic”. Mary, Jesus, etc. those are all saints & reflective of not only the Roman pantheon but the Roman habit of worshipping all sorts of things, ancestors, household gods, gods they found out about from other places, state gods, those gods the Roman ancestors worshipped that inhabited every living thing….Catholics may mock the pagans but me thinks they protest too much.

              • Posted November 25, 2014 at 8:51 am | Permalink

                The ironing that especially gets me is that the Catholics do the exact same “adopt lots of local customs as your own” schtick as the Romans. Dia de los Muertos, anybody?

                It’s like insisting that one comic book superhero has nothing whatsoever to do with another one, even though they’re both in the same franchise and are frequently teaming up with / beating up on each other.

                b&

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted November 25, 2014 at 8:54 am | Permalink

                They learned from the Romans well. Romans had a hands off approach to local government as well. It’s why Pilate thought the whole Jesus fiasco was a local problem – the washing the hands symbolism reflects that typical Roman attitude. They found people typically found it was good to get to know the Romans & learn Latin because it helped them prosper. No need to force it & end up having to spend efforts dealing with an angry mob.

                Of course, mess with the Romans & they not only kicked your ass but they made you financially compensate them for how much it cost them to kick your ass.

              • Posted November 25, 2014 at 10:20 am | Permalink

                I think we finally might have learned that last lesson…the reparations after WWI were in large part responsible for WWII, and after WWII we turned to reconstruction instead of reparations.

                But, hey…what’s a couple millennia amongst warring Europeans?

                b&

              • Filippo
                Posted November 25, 2014 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

                “It’s like a bunch of kids squabbling over whether the blue marble is better than the red or vice-versa.”

                Or in music, a red v. blue egg shaker. I like to have a variety of colors, and tell students to not run and covet a certain color, to be glad they got to shake an egg in the first place. But always at least one who acts like a grasping “carried interest” Wall St. type about it. (Next batch I buy, I’m tempted to buy all the same color, say blue. Then have them in a container, the contents of which students can’t immediately see inside, and tell them, “Now don’t everybody try to get the blue one(s)!”)

    • Curt Nelson
      Posted November 24, 2014 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

      I accept the duck as my personal savior. Although rabbit can be savory too.

      • Posted November 24, 2014 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

        🙂

        • Posted November 24, 2014 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

          There’s a great reataurant in Quebec City ( capitalized:-) called Le Lapin Sauté ( apparently sauté means loco as well as jumped, or, well, what you do in a frying pan). They have a wonderful platter of 3 duck goodies and 3 rabbit ones.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted November 24, 2014 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

      Funny as I interpreted it as both gods were optical illusions and whatever you called it was arbitrary & probably reflected who you were more than any truth because ultimately, there is no truth as to whether it’s a rabbit or a duck.

      • Posted November 24, 2014 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

        And some duck knight is lying awake by the campfire gripped with doubt: “What if it is a rabbit… ?!”

    • Old Rasputin
      Posted November 25, 2014 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

      The Duck-Rabbit is quite real. They brew extremely tasty beer.

  13. Ken Kukec
    Posted November 24, 2014 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    The Holy Crusaders of the Gestalt Shift.

    Interesting that the inability shift perception to see such competing images is one of the tests for organic brain damage.

  14. Posted November 24, 2014 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    By far the best site I know for optical illusions and visual delusions is Michael Bach’s: http://www.michaelbach.de/ot/

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted November 24, 2014 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

      Great site. Thanks!

  15. Posted November 24, 2014 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

    Regarding the disagreement between Gamall (“The implied message of the cartoon is “oh, if they only realised that they actually agree, they are only seeing the same thing from different angles”) and Diana McPherson (“I interpreted it as both gods were optical illusions and whatever you called it was arbitrary & probably reflected who you were more than any truth because ultimately, there is no truth as to whether it’s a rabbit or a duck”)…

    Diana’s definitely got the better side of the argument, but to say that what’s involved are just optical illusions only scratches the surface of how *profoundly* brilliant the cartoon is (whether or not it’s what the cartoonist intended).

    We perceive the duck-rabbit figure as a having the property of “aboutness.” We see it as portrayal *of* something. Or rather, as a portrayal that’s ambiguous as to whether it’s or a duck or of a rabbit.

    But in reality, the figure is nothing more than a pattern of dark shapes against a light background. What we experience as a perception (whether of a duck or of a rabbit) actually is to a large extent a mental construct — a structure that is imposed by the mind on the environmental input. (For more on this, go here: http://tinyurl.com/DuckRabbit-Jackendoff.)*

    Returning to the cartoon, we see that what the combatants perceive as images of their Duck-God and Rabbit-God are really just patterns of light and darkness. The belief that the patterns represent deities is quite literally something that the believers have created in their imaginations.

    Which pretty well captures what most of us here think about the relationship between religious believers and the content of their beliefs.

    *BTW, Ray Jackendoff is a buddy of Pinker’s (they’ve co-authored papers) and in fact is a more important figure in cognitive science and linguistics than Pinker is.

  16. Mark Joseph
    Posted November 24, 2014 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

    Awesome cartoon!

  17. Posted November 25, 2014 at 6:56 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Sprache und so Zeug.

  18. Posted November 25, 2014 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    The cartoon does illustrate the silliness of being fanantical about differences that are in your head, rather than the rest of the world.

  19. Camille Wingo
    Posted December 27, 2014 at 1:54 am | Permalink

    In my book, Pictures Making Beliefs (Carolina Academic Press, 2012) I use the duck-rabbit as an illustration of the cognitive mechanisms underpinning ritual and religion. I had no idea this cartoon exists, but it is a perfect illustration! I am keen to be able to use it in future academic work, but I do not see an attribution. Where does it come from?

    Thanks for posting.


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