When Religious People Explain Their Beliefs, They Sound Ridiculous

To no one’s surprise, I don’t think it’s productive for atheists to call religious people names. You want to attack the arguments, not the people making them.

Sometimes, though, the religious people make a better case for atheism than we ever could… just by not shutting up.

The more they explain (or we expose) all their absurd beliefs, the easier it will be for others to say they don’t make sense and maybe none of it is true.

Bill at Atheist Cartoons makes the point well:

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  • jasonorlandohawk

    And yet again, atheists don’t know what they’re making fun of in the first place. I could say so much, but I’ll just have fun on the “dunk me in a pool” portion.

    1: The vast majority of Christians don’t actually dunk, they sprinkle. (see Catholicism, almost any Orthodox church, & roughly 40% of Protestants) Dunking is more common in Evangelical branches, but it is not a universal practice.

    2: No variation of Christianity (that I am personally aware of) thinks Baptism “protects you from the devil.” In Evangelical (“dunking”) communities, it’s usually considered a way of imitating the death, burial, & resurrection of Christ. Non-dunkers & dunkers alike view it as a form of public identification as a Christian.

    3. No self-respecting preacher would wear a clown disguise into a Baptismal. The makeup would run off and make the water filthy. :)

    If you’re going to make fun of my religion, at least have the decency to get the facts strait.

  • Richard Wade

    How about you re-write the nine brief statements in the cartoon to succinctly and briefly represent your religion in the way you think is accurate? I understand that there will have to be much abbreviation to keep them from becoming nine sermons, but if you give it a try, maybe people will understand what they are getting wrong according to you.

  • Brad

    If I explained quantum mechanics in cartoon form, it would sound absurd too. The fact that you find a belief absurd or ridiculous says very little about the truth of that belief.

  • Thilina

    If I explained quantum mechanics in cartoon form, it would sound absurd too.

    Please do so and we’ll see how absurd it is.

  • wall0645


    True or false: If you aren’t baptized, then you go to Hell.

    If the statement is true, then baptism is a lot more than “a way of imitating the death, burial, & resurrection of Christ” or “a form of public identification as a Christian”.

    However, more importantly, I think you are somewhat missing the point about this comic. The funny part isn’t the first 8 panels (well, they are funny, but that isn’t what the point is), but rather the last panel: “hey, why won’t you take me seriously?”

    This is something Christians don’t tend to get when talking to atheists. Around other Christians these beliefs are considered normal and sane. But just as Christians find Hindus or Muslims or Jews or Jains or Pastafarians to be horribly misled (and probably crazy), other people find Christian mythology crazy too.

  • Alan E.

    My first step to walking away from the Catholic church was when I was at a religious camp one summer. I was in a small group, and our assignment was to explain every step of Mass. The kicker was that we had to pretend we were explaining it to a newly arrived alien from another planet. that day, I discovered that religious dogma is very similar to a conversation between a 3 year old and his mother:

    Mom: “…and that’s what we believe.”

    3yo: “Why?”

    Mom: “Because we do now do what you’re told and stop asking me why!”

    3yo: “Why?”

  • Alan E.

    Also Brad, quantum theory has testable results. We don’t say that tiny particles act one way when observed and another when not observed because god/preacher says so. There are reasons behind why stuff happens that can be tested empirically and retested without requiring blind faith. Putting it into a comic just makes it entertaining and fun while learning at the same time. See “Magic School Bus” adventures for just one example. Bill Nye also wore a crazy bow tie. It’s not the look, it’s what is being said that provides the appearance of being crazy.

  • brad

    “quantum theory has testable results.”

    Duh. That is exactly why I picked that example.

  • Aj

    jasonorlandohawk ,

    Lazy kneejerk defences of faith, haven’t heard these before. It may astound you but the comic wasn’t made to be: a) representative of all Christians, or b) only appeal to your knowledge base.

    1. I missed the part of the comic that says that the character is representing the majority of Christians. The character might not even represent any one person or group.

    2. It’s refering to the beliefs of Martin Luther who did believe baptism protected against the devil.

    It’s interesting that if the comic was representative of Protestants, Catholics or Orthodox you wouldn’t think it was as absurd. It certainly would be absurd.

  • jasonorlandohawk

    Though I feel as if I’m being set up…

    Before I begin, a quick note to AJ: I guess you’re right, the cartoonist doesn’t actually say “all Christians” in the comic or on his website. As such, it might not represent “all Christians.” With no such guidance, I might just go with Hemant’s statement of “religious people,” which wouldn’t necessarily be all religious people, but which is broad enough to apply to non-Christian religions… man, I think there’s going to be some really ticked Muslims whining about misrepresentation in the future…

    My main point is this: over-exaggeration of Christian theology, either in detail or applicability to theists in general, shows a lack of knowledge & respect, neither of which fit well with a site known as “friendly” or “atheist.”

    As to your 2nd point…

    I’ve been checking on that statement, and I’m going to have to ask for a reference, if you don’t mind. I’ll take your word on it for the time being, but while you get back to me on that, let me ask something:

    -Is that the primary belief that Martin Luther associated with Baptism? Or, was it secondary & possibly even trivial?

    Even if Martin Luther did believe that Baptism protected people from the devil, he probably had other, more important beliefs concerning the ritual, which have been… “conveniently ignored” by our cartoonist.

    There’s several places where details & big pictures can make a world of difference:

    -Is communion literally “eating flesh & drinking blood,” or is it a meal designed to remind Christians of the Cross?

    -Does Jesus literally “come into your heart” and help move blood vessels all day long, or does the Christian convert adopt a guiding belief system in line with Christian theology? (This question is even funnier when you use the other famous emotional imagery from the NT: the bowels.)

    -Does Baptism “protect you from the devil,” or does it represent your belief in the death, burial, & resurrection of Jesus Christ?

    Of course, as you said, the comic also doesn’t intend to appeal to our “knowledge base.” Still, I have to wonder about the ethical considerations of attacking opposing view points while conveniently (deliberately?) misrepresenting the main points associated with those belief systems…

    One of my main complaints concerning this “friendly” site is that most of the links to “Christian” beliefs that are posted on the opening scroll… tend to be distorted re-writes done by Atheists.

    Richard, I’m splitting my reply to you into a second post.

  • http://noadi.blogspot.com Noadi

    I can’t answer all of your points but one really stood out:

    -Is communion literally “eating flesh & drinking blood,” or is it a meal designed to remind Christians of the Cross?

    I guess I can assume you aren’t Catholic because their dogma is that the wafer and wine do literally become the flesh and blood of Christ. Nothing metaphorical to it for them.

    It’s totally ridiculous, there’s no way around it.

  • jasonorlandohawk

    Alright, on to my comic (though notably less entertaining) rewrite:

    1: I believe in God. (probably should say something specific like Yahweh or Adonai, but that’s good enough for my purposes, I suppose. Still, if there is one edit that is needed: I have blond hair & blue eyes, not brown & black, respectively.)

    2. *slight editing needed, add following points* “The Bible describes God as being all (powerful, present, benevolent, knowing, loving, & just), as well as mysterious & beyond human comprehension due to the nature of sin.”

    3. *edit to include 3rd member of the Trinity: the Holy Spirit*

    4. One member of the Trinity, the “Son,” was incarnated (born) as a human to perform two important functions:

    a) To reveal the nature of God (remove at least some of the “mystery”)


    b) to address the issue of sin that was destroying humanity, both physically & spiritually.

    To accomplish this, he performed miracles, taught moral lessons, challenged evil behavior (within society & within the religious institution), & spoke prophecy. He was eventually killed, but later rose from the dead.

    (might have to split that into several panes or something…)

    5. By believing in Him, confessing my sins, and keeping his commandments, I can counteract the effects of sin in my life, and ultimately live forever in Heaven with him. (I want to nuance this a little better, but words escape me at the moment…)

    6 & 7. The first commandment I follow is Baptism, which demonstrates my belief in the death, burial, & resurrection of Jesus Christ, and affirms my public identity as a Christian.

    (If you want to throw in a “protect me from the devil joke, you’ll have to resort to prayer, fasting, or actively avoiding evil behavior… but you might be stretching, even then. Also, when I perform Baptisms, I usually don’t wear a robe… my church is pretty poor, so I just go with a white shirt & swimming trunks.)

    8. *note: this pane should probably be moved up to #4, with other slides moving down a spot*

    Humanity knowingly & deliberately performs dangerous/rebellious actions, known as sin. (Quick note: there are a lot of sins out there. Could you please complain about something other than homosexuality for once? How about vanity. That doesn’t get enough negative press these days.) Sin has catastrophic effects on our physical health, mental/emotional well being, & ultimately separates us from God (Yahweh, Adonai, El Shaddai, you get the point…)

    9. Why do people make fun of me? People hardly need God to make themselves look like a fool. In fact, they hardly need God to trap themselves inside pride, greed, lust, wrath, etc… The enemy isn’t God, it’s us.

    (Some final design notes)

    1: I don’t really like clown costumes. I’m a Star Wars fan, so can I get an Emperor Palpatine cloak instead? It’s probably a better allegory for religion poisoning everything it touches anyways…

    2: You should probably include a foot note on every pane stating there are branches of Christianity that disagree with some of the specifics mentioned in each pane. Also, don’t use the term “religious people,” because these statements are pretty specific to my stance as a moderate Southern Baptist.

    And while it may not be as humorous, if the comic were redone in this manner, there would be several benefits: 1) I’d actually be staring in a web-comic. Sweet! 2) You’d actually have material written by a Christian, without deliberate distortion, which people could respond to, negatively or positively, as the case may be.

    Ooh! Ooh! Can I get a co-star for this comic? Maybe I could be making these points over a nice meal… maybe eating babies with Hemant or something. :)

    (The preceding post may have included some light-hearted hints that my response to this comic is more concerned with healthy, friendly dialogue, and less with the specific commentary offered by the original comic. If you missed, these pointers, please feel free to request additional clarification…)

  • jasonorlandohawk

    True enough. Not Catholic. Don’t take that verse literally. However, even for Catholics, the meal’s association with the Last Supper & the Crucifixion means that they still have some symbolic meaning attached to the ritual as well.

    I’d comment further, but my disagreements with the Catholic branch of the Christian faith are probably to much of a side-track for this particular portion of the blog.

    Oh, & Noadi, you gave me a bit of a shock at first: you look almost identical to one of my friends from college, that I haven’t seen for a couple of years. Obviously, you’re not the same person… but it did throw me for a bit.

  • Alan in CA

    ahh sorry Brad I misread your statement. It seemed like you had the opposite viewpoint. Sometimes it’s so hard to read through sarcasm on forums when it is subtle.

  • brad

    I wasn’t being sarcastic. I was just making the simple point that just because a belief sounds absurd doesn’t mean it is untrue. Quantum theory was my example of that.

  • Aj


    I’ve been checking on that statement, and I’m going to have to ask for a reference, if you don’t mind.

    To put it most simply, the power, effect, benefit, fruit, and purpose of Baptism is to save. No one is baptized in order to become a prince, but as the words say, to ‘be saved.’ To be saved, we know, is nothing else than to be delivered from sin, death, and the devil and to enter into the kingdom of Christ and live with him forever. - Luther's Large Catechism

    -Is that the primary belief that Martin Luther associated with Baptism? Or, was it secondary & possibly even trivial?

    a) I didn’t realise there had to be a heirarchy, b) I don’t understand why it should matter as long as that’s what he believed, and c) I can’t believe you’d suggest anybody would think such a belief would be trivial.

    Even if Martin Luther did believe that Baptism protected people from the devil, he probably had other, more important beliefs concerning the ritual, which have been… “conveniently ignored” by our cartoonist.

    Yes, and I’m sure many of them are equally absurd.

    …conveniently (deliberately?) misrepresenting the main points associated with those belief systems…

    Where? The comic doesn’t mention who the character is although we can assume he’s some sort of Christian. There’s no misrepresentation, some Christians actually believe what’s in the panels. Just because you don’t believe them isn’t the point. The majority of religions have absurd beliefs, including the majority of Christians that would just as well make the comics point.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Beth


    We get it. You can stop now.

  • http://encyclopediadramatica.com/The_God_Delusion paceminterris

    Friendly Atheist and then this. Irony.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    I prefer the zombie jesus joke.

    The belief, that some cosmic Jewish zombie, who is his own father, can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him that you accept him as your master, so lie can remove an evil force from your soul, that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree.

    Makes perfect sense.

    The summary is slightly more ridiculous. Also I’m not sure the evolution into a clown is fair. He’s not getting more ridiculous in his statements. I’d like a reversal style comic where a clown sheds these beliefs and becomes fully human.

    JasonO, it’s a 9 panel comic. By necessity it is a caricature. Caricatures will be inaccurate for a lot of the target being mocked.

  • Autumnal Harvest

    Hemant, this post doesn’t make a lot of sense. To summarize what you say in your post:

    1) I don’t think it productive to make fun of religious people

    2) When religious people explain their beliefs, they themselves make their beliefs sound ridiculous

    3) I will now make fun of religious people, by the route having an atheist explain a religious person’s beliefs.


  • Aj

    Autumnal Harvest,

    I don’t think it productive to make fun of religious people

    Name calling not ridicule. Not of religious people, religious beliefs. Criticism or ridicule towards beliefs are not personal. Hemant often makes fun of religion on this blog, most of the pictures posted are meant to be funny.

    2) When religious people explain their beliefs, they themselves make their beliefs sound ridiculous

    3) I will now make fun of religious people, by the route having an atheist explain a religious person’s beliefs.

    Yes, the comic would make a hell of a lot more sense if he quoted religious people. They do tend to long winded though, I think the concept of the comic is flawed. It’s unusual because most comics are extremely self aware, sometimes they become metacomics.

    Hemant however has hedged with “(or we expose)” somewhat changing the meaning. Allowing room for atheists to abbreviate and explain in their own words. Making the point “atheists couldn’t make this stop up”, religionists are constantly thinking of ways to make them sound more absurd.

  • http://awakeanddreaming.org Roshan

    My only concern here is that most Atheists only seem to be questioning Christianity. Guys, Hinduism is equally religulous!

  • http://www.facebook.com/anita.burns1 Anita Burns

    I agree. The only difference is that Hindus aren’t trying to make me believe and become a Hindu. Christians are the most annoying pests. Maybe that’s why they are singled out. 

    When was the last time a Jew knocked on your door wanting to tell you about Yhwh or Jehovah. Muslims, except for the lunatic fringe are also equally quiet about their stuff. You have to ask to become a Muslim. I’ve never been accosted by a Shinto, or Buddhist, or any other religion. Although, I did have an American Sikh friend  try to convert me once. When I declined, she stopped trying and remained my friend.