Jesus ‘n’ Mo ‘n’ amputees

The new Jesus and Mo strip, “limb2” is actually recycled from a decade ago, and refers to a website familiar to many of us (see below):


From the email:

This one’s ten years old. The only difference is Mo speaking a little bit of French (I don’t know why I think that’s funny), and the flip-take pigeon at the end.

I know, we’re early. Normal service will resume next week.

(Comic inspired by an old website which hasn’t been updated in a while)

I’ll add one bit from p. 117 of Faith Versus Fact; I was quite proud of having tracked down the Anatole France quote:

More convincing forms of healing [compared to the usual medical “miracles”] are simply never seen. Anatole France brought this up in his book Le Jardin d’Épicure:

“When I was at Lourdes in August, I visited the grotto where innumerable crutches had been put on display as a sign of miraculous healing. My companion pointed out these trophies of illness and whispered in my ear: “One single wooden leg would have been much more convincing.”

Indeed. The question, “Why won’t God heal amputees?” is almost a cliché of atheism, but isn’t it reasonable to ask why wooden legs and glass eyes aren’t on exhibit at Lourdes? France had a response:

“That seems sensible, but, philosophically speaking, the wooden leg has no more value than a crutch. If an observer with true scientific spirit witnessed the regrowing of a man’s severed leg after immersion in a sacred pool or the like, he would not say ‘Voilà—a miracle!’ Rather, he would say, ‘A single observation like this would lead us to believe only that circumstances we don’t fully understand could regrow the leg tissues of a human—just like they regrow the claws of lobsters or the tails of lizards, but much faster.'”  [JAC translation]

Here France rejects the supernatural in favor of natural laws that we haven’t yet discovered. Such healings, for example, could be the work of altruistic space aliens with advanced abilities to regrow tissue. But it doesn’t matter. If we consider the regeneration of limbs or eyes not as absolute evidence for God, but—as a scientist would—provisional  evidence, then it points us toward the divine. And if these miracles occur repeatedly, are documented carefully, and occur only under religious circumstances, then the evidence for a supernatural power grows stronger.


  1. Randall Schenck
    Posted February 8, 2017 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    They may say that seeing is believing. However, having seen Trump the past few weeks the only thing we know for sure is that nothing is true. He has far less than a leg to stand on and if a strike of lightening is g*d’s answer to lying, there is no such thing.

  2. Sastra
    Posted February 8, 2017 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    There are two common, contradictory apologetic responses to “why won’t God heal amputees?”

    1.) Doing this would make it too obvious that God existed, atheists would be “forced” to believe that God existed, and God doesn’t want to “force” anyone to believe He exists. He wants people to come to that conclusion because they WANT to, not because they HAVE to.

    2.) Why should God bother? Atheists still wouldn’t believe God exists anyway, they’d just find an excuse to ignore it or explain it away.

    Although these two assertions are making opposite claims, they do seem to share one major factor in common: a moral epistemology. Meaning, it’s assumed that believing that fact X is true isn’t because one reasons to a conclusion; one believes because they make a moral choice to believe. They choose good over evil. They choose God because they want God. And, by the same token, if someone does not believe ‘fact X is true,’ then it’s because they’re motivated by immoral intentions: they choose evil over good. They reject God because they don’t want Him — perhaps they think they’re better than He is.

    Personally, I think the debate against what I’m calling ‘moral epistemology’ is more relevant to defending both atheism and reason as a whole than the free will debate. It gets closer to the issue.

    • Paul S
      Posted February 8, 2017 at 8:57 am | Permalink

      Um, g*d won’t heal amputees because he doesn’t want to force anyone to believe? Doesn’t that put a dent in the compassionate g*d thing?
      I can see g*d sitting on her throne; screw that kid, I’m not healing her, I’m more concerned about that jerk diss’n me!
      G*d won’t help a child because I’m an atheist, my power is immeasurable.

      • Sastra
        Posted February 8, 2017 at 10:01 am | Permalink

        The problem of the little girl without a leg is generally dismissed with a wave of the hand: there are very good reasons, moral reasons, long term benefit culminating in a perfect divine plan reasons, why that little girl had to lose her leg in the first place. God’s choice to heal or not isn’t usually aimed at stopping suffering, since He obviously could have prevented that suffering in the first place.

        No, God heals whom He will to inspire faith, reveal faith, test faith, or do something or other having to do with people putting their trust in Him. Which is hellava more important than a little girl with only one leg.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted February 10, 2017 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

        Doesn’t that put a dent in the compassionate g*d thing?

        Why do I have a mental image from Monty Python and the Holey Grail? The beheaded and comprehensively disarticulated knight shouting from ground level that “I’ll ‘ave you. It’s only a scratch.”
        The Black Knight, that’s the scene.

    • JohnE
      Posted February 8, 2017 at 9:00 am | Permalink

      The argument that god “making things too obvious would destroy the need for faith” (like all other religions arguments) is utterly preposterous. First, god knows EXACTLY how much evidence I would need to believe in him (what with him being omniscient and all), and yet he chooses not to give me that evidence. Second, why did god seem to think it was perfectly fine to make it “obvious” to primitive people during the time of Moses and Jesus (parting the Red Sea, raining manna from heaven, curing the blind and the lame, raising the dead, and a thousand other “miracles”), and yet for some reason he won’t work any mind-blowing miracles for us 21st Century folks who have justifiably become a bit more skeptical. Instead, in his infinite wisdom, he thinks it’s perfectly appropriate that if we want to avoid eternal damnation, we 21st Century folks should be forced to rely on the writings left to us by those primitive people(as subsequently edited, redacted, supplemented and mistranslated through the ages) — people whose ignorance and superstitiousness would be simply stunning by modern standards. Sure, makes perfect sense.

      • Sastra
        Posted February 8, 2017 at 10:16 am | Permalink

        It often seems to me that the whole relationship between evidence and faith is built on a hidden assumption: everyone already knows God exists. Once that’s in place, the preposterous scenario in which God withholds clear evidence because it’s just too damn convincing and we can’t have THAT takes on a new twist. God is calling faintly, but you hear Him: it’s up to you to choose to respond or not.

        The image is analogous to a father leaving a lawn mower out. His son sees this and realizes he’s supposed to cut the lawn. Will he take the cue and do so? Or will he instead argue that his dad should have come over and dragged him to the lawn mower, demanding that he cut the lawn and cut it now? By making his request subtle, the father is making use of a technique which will reveal whether his son is obedient and eager to please — or not. Whether this revelation is for him, his son, or just the general cause of justice, who’s to say?

        There’s no real rational relationship between this situation and deciding whether God exists or not. That’s why I think the rot sets in with moral epistemology. How we know what we know is getting mashed together with being good. And it totally screws things up.

        • eric
          Posted February 8, 2017 at 11:23 am | Permalink

          It often seems to me that the whole relationship between evidence and faith is built on a hidden assumption: everyone already knows God exists.

          Or sometimes not so hidden. I’ve dealt with at least three fundies on blogs who will quite plainly assert that anyone calling themselves an atheist really knows God exists, and is just denying His existence out of desire to sin. If you ask them how they arrive at that position, they’ll point out that the bible says exactly that in Romans 1 18-20 (as well as less directly in the Psalm quotes about what the fool says in his heart).

          I think Ken Ham and William Lane Craig have also publicly expressed this “hidden” assumption, but I could be wrong about that.

          • Sastra
            Posted February 8, 2017 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

            Yes. Maybe I should have called it an “implicit” assumption, often expressed explicitly.

    • jeremy pereira
      Posted February 8, 2017 at 11:27 am | Permalink

      I have never heard apologists use either argument. The one I usually get is “healing doesn’t necessarily mean regrowing limbs. Who is to say amputees aren’t healed spiritually to accept their condition”.

      • Sastra
        Posted February 8, 2017 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

        If this excuse comes from the same folks who offer up miraculous healings as evidence for God — healings which are more like “the cancer suddenly disappeared” than “the cancer patient accepted their illness with good grace” — then I think they’re equivocating in order to set up a case of special pleading. If someone DID regrow a limb, you wouldn’t be hearing about how spiritual healing is such a deep and wonderful miracle.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted February 8, 2017 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

          More like a form of self-brainwashing. (Also found in parents of disabled children). They have to believe that their impediment isn’t really so bad or little disabled Timmy is really a charming child who they wouldn’t want ‘cured’, it helps them get through the day.

        • jeremy pereira
          Posted February 9, 2017 at 2:14 am | Permalink

          Yes, they are. It’s totally obvious to anybody who hasn’t “drunk the koolaid”.

  3. sensorrhea
    Posted February 8, 2017 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    If Catholic masses routinely produced real blood and flesh every single time the service is done correctly in every church I’m pretty sure I’d become a Catholic.

    I’d still wonder about it, but that would be quite a lot of evidence for their claims to divine presence.

    • Nell Whiteside
      Posted February 8, 2017 at 11:16 am | Permalink

      Somewhat cannibalistic perhaps?

    • Posted February 8, 2017 at 11:48 am | Permalink

      They would claim it already happens, unfortunately.

      (That their philosophy of chemistry is Aristotle run through a blender is of course why it doesn’t seem to be.)

    • Philip.Elliott
      Posted February 8, 2017 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

      I might believe the claims, but that does not mean I would follow the religion or worship that god!

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted February 8, 2017 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

      Be interesting to do a DNA analysis on it, wouldn’t it? Might tell us quite a lot about who the ‘real’ JC was…


      • sensorrhea
        Posted February 9, 2017 at 7:57 am | Permalink

        I’ve always thought it would be cool to create a kind of Christ-shaped golem out of communion wafers and wine and then perform a mass. If my theory is correct it would create a brand new Christ right in the church!

        The real question is what happens after. Could you create an infinite number of Christs this way or would masses no longer work since you now would have all the Christ?

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted February 10, 2017 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

          Well, that is the Golem legend, but just using some other Biblical mumbo-jumbo.

  4. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 8, 2017 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    Mo speaks French?

    Zut alors!

    • tony in san diego
      Posted February 8, 2017 at 10:55 am | Permalink

      even the French didn’t speak French back then!

    • Mark R.
      Posted February 8, 2017 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

      I always wondered what Frank Zappa was alluding to in his album named Zoot Allures. Shucks, shoot, holy cow!

  5. Kevin
    Posted February 8, 2017 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    I envision Crocodile Dundee saying, “That’s not a miracle.”

    “That’s a miracle.”

  6. Karl Withakay
    Posted February 8, 2017 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    “That seems sensible, but, philosophically speaking, the wooden leg has no more value than a crutch. […]”

    He misses the point and dodges the question.

    Even if the presence of a wooden would hold no more value than a crutch, the ABSENCE of wooden legs speaks very loudly.

    Why crutches but NO wooden legs?

  7. eric
    Posted February 8, 2017 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    France’s point about a single regrown limb is reasonable. However, IMO reproducible instances of limb regrowth under controlled conditions, where other factors (such as ‘something in the soil’) are ruled out through controls, and the only strong correlation remaining is between regrowth and the religious invocation, would do it.

    At that point science would have to say “there’s something about doing this religious ritual that seems to cause limb regrowth.” Now, the die hards could truthfully claim that this doesn’t prove the theology. Maybe it’s just a coincidence. Or maybe Christianity discovered some pre-existing working magic ritual and incorporated it. However, I think we would have to be unreasonably curmudgeonly to deny that such a pattern, observed in nature, would be evidence more supportive of and consistent with theistic claims than atheistic ones.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted February 8, 2017 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

      Real scientists wouldn’t be content with the observation that the ritual works consistently. The obvious next step is to decompose the ritual into its components and isolate the “active ingredients”, just as we do with folk medicine.

      And just as with folk medicine, it seems unlikely that the folk theology surrounding the ritual would turn out to be an accurate account of the reasons for the ritual’s effectiveness. Repeatable effects argue for impersonal, quasi-natural causes rather than for intervention by a conscious supernatural agent.

  8. kevin7alexander
    Posted February 8, 2017 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    I promised a late friend that, if I ever get to Lourdes, I would leave a toupee.

    • sensorrhea
      Posted February 8, 2017 at 10:31 am | Permalink


    • eric
      Posted February 8, 2017 at 11:14 am | Permalink

      Fun idea. Now you’ve made me want to go there and leave my wedding ring. 🙂

    • jeremy pereira
      Posted February 8, 2017 at 11:33 am | Permalink

      As usual Monty Python got there first

      I am afflicted by a bald patch

    • cornbread_r2
      Posted February 8, 2017 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

      Here’s a link to a 24/7/365 live stream of the Lourdes grotto. I presume it exists to document any miraculous events and/or for security.

      The sponsoring website probably doesn’t have any official ties to the RCC.

      You can’t buy Lourdes holy water from them as that would be a violation of canon law forbidding the sale of blessed/sacred objects, but you can buy some very expensive plastic jugs that contain free Lourdes holy water.

  9. Heather Hastie
    Posted February 8, 2017 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    I wonder about this huge pile of crutches. France’s health system being similar to ours in NZ, I assume people get crutches etc for free but have to give them back when they no longer need them.

    Most of the countries close to Lourdes probably have a similar system.

    The Catholic Church is potentially stealing from various countries by keeping all those crutches. And they don’t pay taxes to help pay for mobility aids in the first place.

    Another example of the hypocrisy of the Church.

  10. johzek
    Posted February 8, 2017 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    There surely comes a point where the regeneration of a limb would be so fast as to rule out natural processes and what about a case of the instantaneous appearance of a new limb. Such an occurrence would strongly indicate a supernatural explanation.

    • RossR
      Posted February 8, 2017 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

      “Such an occurrence would strongly indicate a supernatural explanation.”
      To me it would strongly suggest identical twins!

  11. Syfer
    Posted February 8, 2017 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    I feel like Terry Pratchett is one under-quoted atheist in the final paragraph context, his “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” fits perfectly.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted February 8, 2017 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

      That was Arthur C. Clarke, and I think he had it backwards anyway. Once scientific method is applied, any sufficiently studied magic becomes indistinguishable from technology.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted February 10, 2017 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

        Third version : “any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced.”

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