Sunday: Hili dialogue

It’s Sunday, January 8, 2017, and as you know it’s English Toffee Day and, in Malaysia, International Typing Day.

On this day in 1697,  Thomas Aikenhead, a 20 year old student at Edinburgh, became the last person executed in Britain for blasphemy.  Here’s what he was charged with—something that happens almost daily on this website, and most of which is true (my emphasis):

That … the prisoner had repeatedly maintained, in conversation, that theology was a rhapsody of ill-invented nonsense, patched up partly of the moral doctrines of philosophers, and partly of poetical fictions and extravagant chimeras: That he ridiculed the holy scriptures, calling the Old Testament Ezra’s fables, in profane allusion to Esop’s Fables; That he railed on Christ, saying, he had learned magick in Egypt, which enabled him to perform those pranks which were called miracles: That he called the New Testament the history of the imposter Christ; That he said Moses was the better artist and the better politician; and he preferred Muhammad to Christ: That the Holy Scriptures were stuffed with such madness, nonsense, and contradictions, that he admired the stupidity of the world in being so long deluded by them: That he rejected the mystery of the Trinity as unworthy of refutation; and scoffed at the incarnation of Christ.

It’s a sign of moral progress that, at least in the West, this is no longer a criminal offense. (One exception: stuff like the Charlie Hebdo massacre, which happened two years ago yesterday.)  In other places, of course, it can still get you murdered or executed.

On January 8, 1912, that African National Congress was founded, and in 1973 the trial of the Watergate Seven began. Exactly five years ago today, an assassin tried to kill U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona, shooting her in the head. She lived, but five others died.

Notables born on this day include Alfred Russel Wallace (1823), Albert Bierstadt (1830), Gypsy Rose Lee (1911), Soupy Sales (1926, one of my favorite childhood t.v. stars), Elvis Presley (1935) and David Bowie (1947). Those who died on this day include Galileo (1642), Eli Whitney (1825), Paul Verlaine (1896), and François Mitterrand (1996). Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is being histrionic:

Hili: I’m a tragic cat.
A: What happened?
Hili: I tragically do not feel like doing anything.
In Polish:
Hili: Jestem tragicznym kotem.
Ja: Co się stało?
Hili: Tragicznie mi się nic nie chce.

Today’s funnies, from Reality Check by Dave Whamond (h/t: reader jsp) show a Jehovah’s Wolfness:


And a related cartoon sent by reader gravelinspector:



  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    Stephen Hawking born this day in 1942.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted January 8, 2017 at 6:48 am | Permalink

      A number of quotes are well worth looking at, especially for WEIT readers.

      • Christopher
        Posted January 8, 2017 at 9:15 am | Permalink

        “It’s (also) important not to become angry, no matter how difficult life may seem, because you can lose all hope if you can’t laugh at yourself and life in general.”

        -SH, 2016 Reith Lecture

  2. Diki
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 6:46 am | Permalink

    Scotland wasn’t formally united with England and Wales until 1707 so this was a Scottish judicial murder.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted January 8, 2017 at 8:28 am | Permalink

      Religious confusion was the name of the game during the good old days. Not a good time to be of the wrong religion or an atheist. Similar to today in the middle east.

  3. Posted January 8, 2017 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    Love these excursions into history. A link from the Aikenhead Wikipedia article leads to the story of John William Gott, imprisoned for blasphemy in 1921-1922! Among his offenses was dirtibuting info about birth control. The court’s ruling sounds very much like the sort of thing that both right-wing Christians and the regressive left say today:

    “It does not require a person of strong religious feelings to be outraged by a description of Jesus Christ entering Jerusalem “like a circus clown on the back of two donkeys”. There are other passages in the pamphlets equally offensive to anyone in sympathy with the Christian religion, whether he be a strong Christian, or a lukewarm Christian, or merely a person sympathizing with their ideals. Such a person might be provoked to a breach of the peace.”

  4. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    If Hili is tragic, all cats are tragic…

    Glad we have made moral progress! Aikenhead was a strident atheist, I will remember “Ezra’s fables”. Much like the fables of Huff&Puff Wolf (sounds like the magazine) and his interest in religious pork.

  5. colnago80
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    Also, Nat Hentoff died yesterday, although his death was not announced until today.

  6. Hempenstein
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    Always wondered how Soupy Sales came up with that name, and now you’ve prompted me to look it up. Oldest brother in the only Jewish family in town is Ham Bone, then Chicken Bone and he became Soup Bone… Oy!

    • Christopher
      Posted January 8, 2017 at 9:26 am | Permalink

      I’ll bet many on here are too young to know who Soupy Sales is/was. I only know of him from my parents, and from a bloopers video that included a clip of his show when, as a prank, a topless woman of very ample endowment walked on camera, dancing and jiggling, as I recall.

      and as it is Malaysian National Typing Day, I’d imagine that’s another generational cut-off point, typing on computers vs. type writers. I think I may have been just about at that particular point in history. I’m 39 and in my 9th grade I had to take a semester of typing, on electric type writers, with a teacher who, I kid you not, still wore a beehive hairdo. I think she retired after that year, due in no small part, I’m sure, to the student who would stick a paper clip through a pencil’s eraser, then jam that into the power outlet, shorting out the bank of type writers, thus disturbing the work until the janitor could go reset the breaker.

  7. Gregg
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    I’m confused–how is the Charlie Hebdo massacre an exception to the modern trend of blasphemy not being a criminal offense in the West?

    • DrBrydon
      Posted January 8, 2017 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

      The victims in this case were not tried and convicted of a charge in their own country. A difference between prosecution and persecution.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted January 8, 2017 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

      Plenty on the regressive left made excuses for their murder on the grounds that their cartoons were offensive to Muslims. Same with the Danish cartoons of Muhammed.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted January 8, 2017 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

      Agreed. Religious terrorist thugs are not the law.


  8. Posted January 8, 2017 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    Why are Jehovah’s Witnesses like wolves? One can disagree with their views, but they seem pretty harmless to me.

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted January 8, 2017 at 10:00 am | Permalink

      Not to their children in need of a blood transfusion.

      • Claudia Baker
        Posted January 8, 2017 at 10:49 am | Permalink

        No religion is “harmless”.

      • Posted January 8, 2017 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

        + 1

    • rickflick
      Posted January 8, 2017 at 11:25 am | Permalink

      I think the reference is to their persistence in prosthelytizing. It can seem quite annoying.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted January 8, 2017 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

      I think it’s just a riff on the Three Little Pigs fairy tale. Don’t read too much into it.


    • Helen Hollis
      Posted January 10, 2017 at 2:40 am | Permalink

      They do seem pretty harmless don’t they? That is how my mother ended up joining their cult, and I found out later that if I needed blood she would refuse to allow me to have it to live. That’s just for starters.

      • Posted January 10, 2017 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

        I don’t know much about these people. I see them out on the streets standing besides a lot of magazines they produce. The people are very dedicated, they stand out there presumably without pay, without pressuring people to talk to them. They may very well be very aggressive once you join them.

        • Helen Hollis
          Posted January 10, 2017 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

          I live in the USA, and can speak to what the dedicated JW’s do in order to fill in their required hours of service.
          The issue is not about how aggressive they are once you join. It is about how they take over your life as you know it.

  9. Pital
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    At least in Spain they don’t openly kill you. But several of us suffer –even and perhaps mainly from police– threatens and sabotage. In my case my bike´s tire was punched 9 times of 10 trips those months. Yesterday I published an opinion on a newspaper and again my bike was punched. Those happens from many years ago. I know: each opinion, a new sabotage. They try to silence you by fear… I read another person –openly atheist– that even wrote to politicians (socialist) asking for protection. He ended migrating to Sweden.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted January 8, 2017 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

      That’s awful! It’s disgusting that you should have to put up with this. 😦

    • Posted January 8, 2017 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

      I am shocked, didn’t expect it in Spain.

  10. DrBrydon
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    As Diki notes above, this would have been a Scottish affair. Scotland seems to have been a little late in these things. In the same year of 1697, four witches were burned in Scotland. The last witch to be burned in Scotland was in 1727. An ancestor of mine, Edward Wightman was the last person to be burned for heresy in England in 1612 (fortunately, after he had children). There appear to have been no executions for blasphemy in England after the reign of Elizabeth.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted January 8, 2017 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

      “Scotland seems to have been a little late in these things.”

      About a century, from the look of it. I seem to recall they had a decades-long battle against Sunday trains.

      But to be fair, most of the legal enforcement was by ecclesiastical courts, which faded away in the 1900’s, so (to quote ‘A History of Everyday Life in 20th-century Scotland’) “in the 1960s and early 1970s, when the social pressure for opening of facilities … grew very rapidly, there was no legal impediment” “the Scottish sabbath went from being unusually strict before 1960 to being after 1980 one of the most liberal in the whole of Europe”.

      (Note: I am not a historian)

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