The Museum of the Wrong Side of History

(In response to this and this)

About M J Shepherd

Matthew graduated Louisiana State University in 2009 with a BA in studio art and a minor in art history. He has been drawing cartoons and comics online for several years.

  • James Henline

    And will happen, just as we look back with disgust those who would try to legislate the color of skin which you could marry, so too will we look back (and for me look at) those would would try to legislate a private and personal choice.

  • Matt Eggler

    Kudos, MJ.

  • Guest

    Ancient thinking is not always absurd. There is an ancient saying that change is the only constant in the universe. Thinking and fashion changes all the time, forward and backward.

  • aateist

    I find the comic strip a little too oversimplified. We humans do always use off-topic arguments when trying to convince, secularists are no exception, nor are they any exception when it comes to using prejudices in argumentations. actually we humans are quite similar in discussions regardless of our different faith and approach/philosophy to life. Most of the christians I know, don’t use their religion in politics, the ones working in christian parties don’t do it either, as they use political philosophy or real arguments.

  • Fmfalcao

    You don’t watch American politics much do you?

  • S_in_Tokyo

    The comic isn’t saying that ancient thinking is always absurd. Why did you think that it is? 

  • C Peterson

    Yes, change is a constant in human behavior. It is the religious who have problems accepting this, and are therefore always in the position of seeming ridiculous as the last holdouts against change when the rest of society has moved on.

    The “ancient values” that this cartoon is making fun of were not absurd in the context of their time… but are, in fact, absurd today- because society has changed, except for a minority of “ancient values” holdouts. Museum pieces.

  • aateist

    Of course I do, as the news are quite global today, and of course I get your hint, but if we want to be true to science and also global politics, we also have to broaden our views: I.e. In what ways are we similar, in what ways are we not?

    If we look at the last US election many Europeans disliked Romney not for having bad ideas for the future of US, but because he is of a member of LdS. Of course you could both use and not use off-topic arguments (e.g. faith/reigion) in politics, but then we first of all have to know that it’s possible.

    On the other hand Religion in the US is also a general social force with a slumbering God anonymous possible to be used even by atheists. (He only seems too awake when it comes too LGBT and abortions…as if…)

  • C Peterson

    Sure, most Christians use political philosophy to describe their politics. What else would they use? The point is, that philosophy is heavily molded by their Christianity. If that weren’t the case, there wouldn’t be such a profound correlation between Christianity (particularly of the fundamental variety) and political viewpoint.

    This is completely different from the way atheists develop their political philosophy. While Christians tend to be politically conservative (because their religion makes them so), atheists tend to be atheists because of their innate skepticism and open mindedness- things more associated with being politically liberal.

    Put more simply (but not overly so, I think): religion tends to make people conservative, but liberalism tends to make people non-religious.

  • jdm8

    I thought Europeans disliked Romney because he was very poor on foreign relations. His tour of Europe and Israel showed very poorly on his campaign.

    I really don’t care about his religion, I don’t think he would have been a good leader.

    The fact that religion has been politicized so much is a very bad thing. and Republicans did this to a very strong degree too, some Republican presidential candidates invoked god in nearly every speech, one made a big deal about is faith guiding everything he did, saying the idea separation of church and state is offensive and sickening to him. Also, take a look at almost all the Fox News pundits making a big deal about the Democratic platform not containing enough instances of the word “God”, even though it did talk about religion and faith in more vague terms.

  • aateist

    Maybe our different opinions are due to  our different native culture
    In Sweden, and most of reformed Europe, Christians are politically divided into three different groups.
    Right wingers, Left wingers and the mixed group.
    The largest group is the undecided group with people of all denominations and parties but with low interest in both theology and politics, the second largest group is the left wing group with people with radical opinions and political affiliation to any liberal or left party. As their political opinions are synonymous with the non-religious, they seldom form any Christian party but work through the ordinary parties. These two groups are pro-choice and pro LGBT.
     The smallest group is the right wing group which forms their own Christian parties with conservative ethics and theology, and act as you say.
    This group only seems to be the largest as the members shout the most and “walk in line”, and alas, by this they create most of the prejudices about Christian politics.
    I know this differs from the US, but the overarching question is whether you could be Christian and non-conservative? Of course! When Left wing and liberal you don’t tint your political philosophy through your religion and faith, when conservative you do.(To some extent this also goes for European moslems)

  • aateist

    “..invoked God…”
    Hehe! If a swedish politician got that idea, he would loose much of his credibility and democratic possibilities.

    At least in Sweden people like Obama and dislike Romney because Bush was republican and not too popular, and as I said above: Romney is of LdS.

    I think it’s better with religion visible in politics, as this make debates more translucent and intelligible. Of course democracy should be as open to religious people as to non-religious people.

  • C Peterson

    Certainly, the situation in Sweden is quite different from that in the U.S. That said, you’re certainly correct that one can be Christian and non-conservative, even in the U.S. None of these theist/atheist religious/non-religious Christian/non-Christian generalizations work well when considering individuals. But like many generalizations, they are effective in viewing how entire cultures operate.

  • jdm8

    I don’t have a problem with religious people being in government, most Americans are.  However, the feeling I get from the Republicans is that they have a goal to use government to *advance* the cause of religion. Some of them are even very open about that point too. Romney even made it a point, without being prompted, that he still wanted God proclaimed on our money.

  • aateist

    Generalisations as instrumental simplifications work, as long as we don’t take them as the only reality.
    I’m sorry to have missed the election in NYC because of Sandy, but when we get there after X-mas instead, I’ll try to ask people what they thought and think and what they know of the European politics.

  • aateist

    It’s better to be open with the presence of God than sneaking him in through the back door.  God (instead of Mammon) on the coinage is silly and will only be a symbol of “The american way”… I guess.
    In Sweden the christian members of the social democratic party made an happening of the possibility for moslem membership.

  • Pseudonym

    It would be more accurate to say that people have trouble accepting that change is inevitable and unstoppable.

    It depends on the religion, actually. Hinduism was probably the first religion to embrace change at a fundamental level. Christianity, however, was the first religion designed with change in mind. Religious groups have often been at the forefront of change.

  • Deven Kale

    Well, no.

    Christianity often claims responsibility for change, after it’s already happened. The truth, though, is that they are generally the primary stumbling block for any worthwhile change. Right now it’s with women’s rights (bodily autonomy), gay rights, and science (global warming). Before that it was with womens rights (again, but this case voting and divorce), slavery, and science (again, with evolution). Before that, science (again, with heliocentrism)…

    The list goes on and on. So while Christianity can claim forward thinking all they want, it’s really just them retro-actively pretending to be progressive in spite of the facts. You don’t even have to look very hard to see this, and I’m surprised you think nobody here is going to call you on it.

  • Pseudonym

    It might help to know that I’m not American and I don’t live in the US. This means that I get to take the long view.

    The first nation to outlaw slavery was Hungary under its first Christian king. Copernicus, who proposed heliocentrism, was a Catholic priest. The suffragette movement was, in its earliest days, indistinguishable from the Christian temperance movement.

    I’m sure I don’t need to go on. You get the idea.

    What you’re seeing is a local extremum in the very long and complex relationship between religion (specifically Christianity) and social change.

    The current US religious landscape is highly unusual, historically speaking. Only 35 years ago, US evangelical thinkers were arguing that abortion was sometimes a necessary evil, and US evangelical clergy were telling their congregations not to vote.

    That’s not to say it’s not a problem. But I don’t see it as an insurmountable problem. It’s certainly nothing a good old-fashioned reformation couldn’t fix.

  • Deven Kale

     To me, this just looks like a list of people who did the right things in spite of their Christianity, but I admit I may be biased. I don’t know too much in terms of History, especially religious history.

    I just know that official positions of most Christian churches rarely change until after the actual issue has moved well past their ability to suppress it any longer. What I mean to say is, Christianity rarely changes it’s official position on anything until forced to by it’s members, who have already moved past it. It’s either change those positions (or sweep them under the rug, which also happens), or else lose their membership altogether.

  • C Peterson

    Christianity, like most religions, is virtually fossilized. It certainly does not embrace change. When change occurs, it does so in the form of yet another sect.

    Fragmentation is not the same as “designed with change in mind”.

  • Pseudonym

    To me, this just looks like a list of people who did the right things
    in spite of their Christianity, but I admit I may be biased.

    In one sense, you’re right. These people did the right thing in spite of religion in much the same way that atheists do the same thing in spite of their lack of beliefs.

    I don’t think that religion makes you a better person as a general rule, despite the existence of a few famous examples. However, I suspect it can have the effect of amplifying your traits and spurring you into action.

    If you are nice person, religion may turn some people into actively nice people, who will do far more good for humanity than an inactive nice person. Similarly, if you’re a complete arsehole, religion may turn you into a truly nasty piece of work who will ruin everything for the rest of us.

    I’m sure you can think of examples on both sides.

  • Deven Kale

    I’m sure you’ve heard this quote before, but it’s relevant here:

    “With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things
    and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil
    things, that takes religion.”
      -Steven Weinberg.

    This is essentially my view of religion, but especially Christianity. It corrupts those who are the strongest believers in it to the point they don’t even know the harm they’re doing. In fact, they believe their immoral, harmful acts are actually doing good. This is what I’m referring to when I say somebody is good in spite of their Christianity: that they’ve somehow risen above it’s corrupting influence and are still able to do the right thing.

    So, to me, your claim that atheists can act good in spite of their lack of beliefs is nothing close to what I mean when I say the same about Christianity. I actually find it a little insulting that you’d even try to equate the two, as if atheism has the same corrupting influence as Christianity.

  • aateist

    Could ‘eating’ be fossilised as activity? Certainly not, but eating habits could surely be out of date. The same goes for religion. We change taste and habits without stopping the need for a God. Of course we always have to adjust details in our religions to every “today”, but to call religion in toto fossilised is basically un-scientific, and actually untrue. Why it’s easy to see religion as fossilised is partly because religion moves like a sloth and partly because religious organisations always get corrupted by peoples fighting for power (and that is a real weakness in religious organasations). There are numberless changes in our big religions. The sects actually often try to embrace the old ideas from before change.

  • Russian Alex

    Living in a Bible-belt red state that decidedly voted Romney (Georgia), I happen to know plenty of people that I’m sure voted for him, or at least hoped for a conservative president (how much of a conservative Romney is, is a topic for another debate). The day after the election I felt genuinely sorry for them. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t feel bad about Obama winning, in fact, I still feel pretty damn awesome about it, but I do know what it feels like to be defeated (doesn’t everybody?), and I just wanted to somehow express sympathies and not come off as a douchebag. What I ended up doing is simply avoiding the subject, though.

    In that light, I don’t necessarily approve of all the schadenfreude that is accompanying these elections. Disgusting homophobic theocratic fascists crying, though? Delicious.

  • Russian Alex

    I think dismissing or disliking Romney simply because he is a Mormon is no better than opposing John Kennedy simply because he was a Catholic. Religious beliefs are in most cases silly, but as long as the candidate can distinguish fantasies from reality and keep irrational personal convictions to themselves, I say, let them have it.

  • C Peterson

    Well… let’s not overanalyze a colloquialism here. Being “fossilized” means pretty much the same thing as changing glacially. My observation was only meant to challenge the idea that Christianity was somehow “designed” with change in mind.

    In fact, it is a boat anchor on society, and always has been. Nothing can stop societies from changing, but Christianity slows change and seeks to stop it, and is seldom if ever the driving mechanism of change.

  • aateist

    We all act and think silly from time to time, and religious people are neither mor nor less silly than others, nor do they live more in fantasies than non religous people, but of course they use narrativised relations with the godhead, and personalised narratives when finding answers, but that doesn’t make religious people  less linked to reality, that would be an unscientific conclusion.
    On the contrary: As their transcendents are quite known to people all over society, its easier to understand their thinking. To believe that JFK was guided by the pope and Romney guided by Thomas Monson is also a fantasy.    

  • quirkeegurl

    Would love to know if Matthew has a collection of his cartoons available for purchase/ subscription, his work always provokes and entertains.

  • aateist

    Well, If you see Christianity as a whole, which in fact is impossible, you could always stress your opinion. But If you looked deeper into the history books you would find that theologians and ordinary church members are ahead of their leaders. The leaders are sloths trying to keep power and awaiting a good debate, but a n organsation is more than it’s leaders. Especially when it’s a global organisation with different ideas.

  • aateist

    They did the right thing out of their faith, just like the keaders who didn’t want to change. That is the big problem with “organisations” like a global religion. Unfortunately many atheists/ignostics don’t want to acknowledge that the good religious people act in faith as the acknowledge the bad religious people. That’s to be biased.

  • aateist

    This is not a question of being insulted, it’s about whether people with or without religious faith could be corrupted in ideas and action, and of course all can. We just get corrupted different ways and by different things. Not to see ones own problems, over stressing problems of others could be problematic, and in that case I would rely more on A. Pope than S. Weinberg, as the aphorism of the later are mere  rhetorics, because: “…for good people to do evil things, it takes hubris” (And hubris could be either religious or non religious).

  • aateist

    “But you who seek to give and merit Fame,And justly bear a Critick’s noble Name,Be sure your self and your own Reach to know.How far your Genius, Taste, and Learning go;Launch not beyond your Depth, but be discreet,And mark that Point where Sense and Dulness meet.”
    (An Essay on criticism: Alexander Pope 1709/11)

  • Deven Kale

     I think you’ve actually just proven my point, that the official positions of churches are actually used as tools to hold back progress, but there are some good people within those churches that are able to do good in spite of the official teachings. Only after the change has occurred do the official teachings undergo any sort of change.

    Amazingly, I think you and I actually agree, we’re just using different words to describe our perspectives. Whether this means that Christianity was created with change or control in mind is debatable, but I’m glad to know we could at least agree on some level.

  • Deven Kale

    But your equating the corrupting influence of religion with that of atheism implies that atheism itself is enough to corrupt, when it isn’t. Not believing something can neither strengthen nor corrupt. Not believing in leprechauns doesn’t corrupt a person. Not believing in the Jersey Devil doesn’t corrupt someone. A lack of belief cannot corrupt.

    In order for an atheist to be corrupted by something, there must be something they believe beyond just their atheism. Anti-vaccination, alternative medicine, paranormal/supernatural phenomena, etc. can all corrupt the atheist, but they can also corrupt the religious as well. For these, a belief in a religion means nothing, and they can corrupt anyone regardless of religious beliefs.

    I guess my real point is this: any person can be corrupted by any number of different beliefs, but the religious person adds one more level to it. An extremely dangerous one at that, which has a much stronger ability to corrupt the believer than nearly any other beliefs they could ever hold.

  • Deven Kale

     And now you resort to thinly veiled insults? Not very mature, I’m afraid…

  • Pseudonym

    I have heard that quote. In turn, I’m sure you’ve heard of Stanley Milgram’s experiment, which pretty conclusively disproved it.

  • Pseudonym

    I’m not ateeist, but if you replace “churches” with “all institutions”, I think we do have agreement.

  • Deven Kale

     Not quite. A proper study of the experiment shows that those people knew what they were doing was immoral, but were doing it because they were told to by an authority figure. The difference with religion is that the religious believe their immoral acts are actually good. They honestly have no idea that what they’re doing is actually wrong, whereas in the Milgram experiment they knew it was wrong the whole time. That’s what I mean when I say religion corrupts, it distorts a persons sense of morality.

  • aateist

    Why get insulted? Of course these words by Pope even goes for me.

    And maybe even you wrote insulting words in your posts, and as I said: This isn’t a competition on being insulted.

    But OK. As long as you (atheists) refuse to acknowledge faith as sth good per se, you will hurt people. And to persevere in opinions hurting a whole group of people is not mature either 

  • Deven Kale

     Well, some institutions (if you include non-religious ones) really are agents of change. I would concede though, that most institutions would strive to work against it.

    And sorry for getting the two of you confused. Since you were saying such similar things it got difficult to tell who had said what in my head.

  • Deven Kale

    Tell me your definition of faith, and then we’ll see if it’s a good thing.

  • aateist

    My definition of faith is not interesting as faith and religion are collective movements for ideas and action, always has been and always will be. If you only compare a belief in the existence of  a godhead (eg) and an atheistic non belief, then it will be an unscientific reduction of faith, as faith also is a matter of culture. If you on the other hand compare cultures of christians and cultures of atheists, it would be more difficult scientifically, but closer to reality and “truth”. 

    Otherwise we would end up defining atheism epistemologically and theism culturally, and of course never make an understanding  possible. 

  • aateist

    That’s totally OK! confusion always dissolves.

    And I could also totally agree on your post above if we could say that even religious movements could be agents of change (active agents working change based in faith), otherwise I see it as an idealistic interpretation of reality, partly true, partly untrue to reality.

  • Deven Kale

     So basically, what you seem to be saying is that faith and religion, to you, are the same thing. If that’s the case, then yes I will gladly say that faith is not only bad, but dangerous, and for reasons that I’ve already explained.

    it’s also very easy to scientifically compare theistic cultures and atheistic cultures. Compare the USA, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, etc. to much of Europe and Scandinavia. I think you’ll find a very strong correlation with religion and repression and control.

    Admittedly there are a few outliers such as North Korea and China. If you really look deeply in North Korea though you’ll notice that there is a religion of sorts there, in the form of a deified leader that they all worship. Unfortunately for me though, I don’t have an explanation for China. It’s still a mystery to me how it got that way.

  • Pseudonym

    Whichever way you understand the Milgram experiments (and they can be understood in several ways), the lesson is clear: for good people to do evil things does not require religion.

    On the flip side, religion has also inspired good people to do great things.

    Religion and evil are independent. That’s bad news for apologists on both sides. For the religious apologist, your religion doesn’t make bad people good.

  • Deven Kale

    You seem to be willfully ignoring exactly the point that I’m trying to make. Maybe this is my fault in that my original Weinberg quote doesn’t actually include the caveat I’ve been assuming. So I’ll change it to actually say what I’ve thought it was. “For a good man to willingly do evil, that takes religion.

    Hopefully that better summarizes what I’ve been trying to put across. If not, I can’t think of any other way to get you to understand what I’m trying to say.

  • aateist

    Countries are no mono-cultures, hence you can’t compare US and Iraq, you have to choose a christian culture and an atheistic culture on basis of the same premisses. I’d agree that N.Korea has it’s state religion as did DDR with an communistic atheism, but at least for DDR there were many cultures present, and the strongest reason for repression both in the DDR and eg Saudi is social power, though they use religion in totally different ways to acknowledge the power and hide the social power.

  • Deven Kale

    Finding what you call a “mono-culture” to study would indeed be very difficult if not impossible, I agree. That’s why one has to settle for the second best option, which is studying the dominant culture in an area. As I said before, the best way to do so is to study the countries which officially support certain religions and see how the influence of that religion play out on the people who live there. When/if that is done, there is a strong correlation with religion, repression, and control.

    Now I really don’t think there’s anything more to be said in this discussion that’s not just repeating ourselves, so I think it’s a good time to end it. I enjoyed this little discussion and look forward to your response, but don’t expect me to respond back.