The ‘Roger Ebert is in Heaven’ Cartoons Are Coming…

Even though Roger Ebert didn’t believe in God or the afterlife, that hasn’t stopped cartoonists from drawing him in a place he didn’t believe existed:

If you see any more, please send them my way

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • C Peterson

    Although he didn’t believe in an afterlife, and I certainly don’t, I don’t have any problem with cartoons like this. Their message is positive, and not what I’d call religious at all.

    • Nate Frein

      Yeah, they seem more interested in celebrating the work of the “Siskel and Ebert” pair than any other message.

      Which is kinda funny. The two hated each other.

      • vexorian

        They hated each other at days, but they also loved each other – In Ebert’s words – . It is not unusual at all in the human relationship world.

      • http://www.allourlives.org/ TooManyJens

        They hated each other at first, but later grew, as I think they both said, to love each other like brothers. I’ve seen those clips from the 80s, but I’ve also seen later clips where they show a strong connection and frank admiration for each other.

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        I think it would be funny to have a cartoon depicting one of their ACTUAL exchanges. Most of it was not aired, but some gag reals, and a few appearances on talk shows, and those two sure did not mince words.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xUMZjy8rXE4

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmnYCSwt2Js

        “Protestants. People who sorta want a religion”

        Shit, it’s been a while. That stuff is waaay better than their reviews.

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          “The only fucking religion to have a Reader’s Digest as a Prayer book”

        • http://www.allourlives.org/ TooManyJens

          “We were burning each other before they were a gleam in Martin Luther’s eye!”

          I love that clip so much.

    • Scott

      Yeah, those don’t really bother me. I don’t mind the “wouldn’t this be nice” cartoons, only the “Isn’t he surprised now! ha ha!” ones, and I haven’t seen those yet. (No doubt they’re out there, or will be; someone will feel the need to get a last kick in.)

    • kaileyverse

      While the last one doesn’t imply a “movie theater in the clouds” the first two I think implicitly suggest that Ebert is in heaven, and the last presumes life after death. “Honoring” Ebert by pretending he and Siskel are palling around is counter to HIS. Beliefs – which I believe is insulting to his memory. The fact that all three are not even creative tributes – I find all the more deplorable.

      • C Peterson

        Heaven isn’t just a religious idea, it’s an integral piece of most cultures, including our own. It is commonly used as a mechanism for presenting final looks at people’s lives, or at “what if” scenarios. What’s wrong with that? And you have to admit, the “heaven” in the above comics is pretty unreligious- no deities, no wings, no halos.

        I don’t think this is insulting to Ebert’s memory, anymore than a cartoon featuring him meeting Santa Claus would be (presumably in response to a review of some Christmas movie).

        • newavocation

          Believing in an perpetual afterlife cheapens this life, reduce its reverence and makes it much easier to kill each other and turn our planet into a wasteland.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kyla-Jones/818475374 Kyla Jones

            Not always. Depends on the religion in question. Paganism believes in AN afterlife, but not particularly one that “makes it easier to kill each other and turn our planet into a wasteland.” Rather one that values this life as a learning experience and an afterlife in which one is reviewed on what one learned about reverence, respect for other life, and walking gently on the earth. Just because I may believe I have someplace to go after this doesn’t necessarily lead to the conclusion that I believe that place will reward crappy behavior before I get there.

        • GCT

          “Heaven isn’t just a religious idea, it’s an integral piece of most cultures, including our own.”

          No, actually it is a religious idea. It’s a religious idea that has permeated the culture through religious privilege.

          • C Peterson

            Disagree. It probably has a religious origin, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t fit into our culture in many ways. And so what if it is religious in origin? Our culture is full of such things- Adam and Eve, Noah’s Ark, Jonah. None of these is real, but all are fair game for cartoons, rhetorical elements, metaphorical attachments in literature… the list is endless. Simply making use of such elements hardly constitutes endorsing their religious origins, and even less subscribing to them.

            • http://www.facebook.com/bernard.rieux.33 Bernard Rieux

              It probably has a religious origin….

              “Probably”? Along with deities, the afterlife is the sine qua non of religion. What are you talking about?

              And so what if it is religious in origin?

              The fact that it is religious–not just in “origin,” but in current existence, and in any and every imaginable incarnation of the concept in the future–means that promoting it protects and strengthens religion’s salience and power over all of our lives. It’s doubly offensive when it is promoted on the back of a wonderfully secular and humanistic man.

              It’s a damn shame that nonbelievers (or at least commenters on a nonbelief blog) openly condone the jackboot of religious privilege and power stomping on nonbelievers’ faces, yet again.

              • C Peterson

                “Probably”? Along with deities, the afterlife is the sine qua non of religion. What are you talking about?

                I distinguish between spiritual and religious. The former represents some sort of brain function or psychology that seem intrinsic to humans, while the latter is a human construct that exploits spirituality for social or political reasons. The idea of an afterlife may well have developed out of natural spiritual feelings or beliefs long before any sort of religion came along to define it more narrowly.

                I think you’re a pretty sorry person if you can’t see the metaphorical use of a heaven or afterlife as being quite harmless. If atheists start complaining about something like that, I don’t see how we can expect to be taken seriously. Comics are full of imaginary beings and places, and crazy things like talking animals. Shall we fight all of these irrational beliefs?

                • GCT

                  “I think you’re a pretty sorry person if you can’t see the metaphorical use of a heaven or afterlife as being quite harmless.”

                  It’s not harmless. It perpetuates religious privilege as we’re pointing out to you. That you don’t seem capable of getting it doesn’t mean that we are “sorry [people]“. It means that you have some unexamined biases.

                • C Peterson

                  Sorry, but I don’t see how a cartoon featuring a couple of guys up in the clouds with Zeus perpetuates any religious privilege.

                • GCT

                  Because you aren’t listening.

                  It reinforces the pervasive image of religious ideas in our culture. It perpetuates the idea that our religious ideas are the norm and that non-religious ideas are deviations. It assumes that everyone believes in heaven. All of these are ways of marginalizing atheists.

                • C Peterson

                  Get a life.

                  There are real problems that should concern atheists, secularists, and free thinkers.

                • GCT

                  I’m glad to see that you have such a measured and well-thought out response. Can I take it that you can’t actually answer what is being said and that is why you are lashing out?

                  And, don’t come back with the Dear Muslima defense. These are all tied together. Yes, there are other pressing concerns, but fighting against atheophobic bigotry is not a zero-sum game.

    • Ward

      I don’t think anyone doubts that the intention here is to honor Ebert. That isn’t the point. The point is that our society defaults to “they’re in heaven” as a way of dealing with tragedy and death, even if it means completely ignoring what the person in question believed. The underlying principle is that such tributes are actually less about the person who died and more about making the living feel comfortable, whether anyone wants to admit it or not.

      Finding ways to cope with death is natural, but there are ways to do it respectfully without dismissing the complexities of someone like Ebert. If I were a cartoonist, I would not depict a famous Christian who had died being in an afterlife that did not match his beliefs just because I don’t believe in the Christian heaven. But then, I would not depict him in any afterlife–I would honor whatever noble or just deeds he or she did to deserve being remembered in the first place.

      • C Peterson

        If I were a cartoonist, I would not depict a famous Christian who had died being in an afterlife that did not match his beliefs just because I don’t believe in the Christian heaven.

        Well, I guess that’s why you aren’t a cartoonist. Because I can see just that exact scenario producing an excellent cartoon.

        The message I take from these cartoons isn’t one of making death seem more gentle. To me, and I expect to many others, Siskel and Ebert are like conjoined twins, forever inseparable. These cartoons acknowledge that connection.

        • Ward

          If the point of the cartoon were to lampoon or make fun of that person, perhaps. I was speaking in the context of honoring or remembering someone.

    • coyotenose

      I’m a little torn on this point, but ultimately I’m too offended that people get paid for drawing cartoons this bland to have anything left over for the “Heaven” part.

    • Thegoodman

      I think we owe it to the respected deceased to remember them as they would see fit, not fabricate elaborate plots to set our own weak minds and hearts at ease.

      • C Peterson

        Well, I don’t think a cartoon has to respect its characters, even when they’re real, and even when they’re dead. However, I happen to feel that these cartoons (which are clearly intended as tributes, not humor) respect both men.

        • http://www.facebook.com/bernard.rieux.33 Bernard Rieux

          Then you’re shockingly blind to nasty religious privilege and atheophobia. I hope we never have to depend on you to keep the theocrats and inquisitors at bay.

    • trj

      Well, nothingness is easy to draw, but its entertainment value is rather limited, so it’s entirely unsurprising the cartoonists opt for the obvious alternative, even if it’s not in keeping with Ebert’s convictions. Though, with the exception of the last cartoon, it would be nice if their jokes were a bit more creative.

    • http://twitter.com/brundlefly Shannon Hubbell

      I agree. I can see the unintentional *humor* in depicting an atheist in this way, but I certainly don’t take offense in it. The only thing I’m offended by is the lack of creativity. Some of these use the exact same *language* for Pete’s sake!

      Heaven, St. Peter and angels are all cultural references. I’m not about to start treating New Yorker cartoons as religious texts.

      • GCT

        They are “cultural references” only because of the pervasive influence of religious privilege. This is similar to how theists assert that it’s OK to have “In god we trust” on our money, because it’s “cultural.” Or the 10 commandment in government buildings. Or “Under god” in the pledge of allegiance. Or “memorial crosses” on public lands. Or…well, the list is pretty lengthy.

        • C Peterson

          Your examples aren’t remotely the same. You are comparing an open government endorsement of religion to the metaphorical use of an afterlife (in most cases, an extremely non-denominational one) as a tool for creating a fantasy scenario where two people are reunited (a scenario that in no way even argues that heaven exists, any more than Peanuts argues that dogs actually think human thoughts).

          • GCT

            It’s the people who put forth those arguments (that crosses are secular) that are employing the same arguments as here. Heaven, St. Peter, etc. are simply cultural references now? As if they are devoid of their religious roots? As if they are devoid of the religious baggage that comes along with them? As if they aren’t part of culture only because of religious hegemony that has been used to brutalize and attack atheists for thousands of years now?

        • http://twitter.com/brundlefly Shannon Hubbell

          All of your examples are clear government endorsements of religion. These cartoons are private individuals using Heaven in creative works as a cultural shorthand for “this recently deceased person is fondly remembered.” Heck, in cartoons *specifically* there is a long history of Heaven as a cultural reference. Unless I’ve been misinterpreting The Far Side this entire time.

          Ebert himself gave rave reviews of creative works that depicted the supernatural/the afterlife and seemed to see no conflict between his Atheism and his enjoyment of those works.

          • GCT

            If you had read my follow-up reply to C Peterson, you’d have noticed that I already address this.

            The point is this: the memes of religion have entwined themselves in our culture making religion mainstream and palatable – and thus making atheism an “other” that is deviant and easy to dismiss as being wrong. It’s the same thing that society has done to all despised minorities from blacks to women to gays to transgenders to any group you can think of that isn’t WASP, straight, rich, and male. The cartoonists don’t need to worry about what Ebert actually believed, because most people will refer to their religiously privileged notions anyway and see heaven as the norm. This further brutalizes and marginalizes atheists…and you’re helping the process by agreeing with them that heaven and other religious concepts are fine to be pushed upon the rest of us.

            • http://twitter.com/brundlefly Shannon Hubbell

              I did read your follow-up reply. The arguments may be the same but the contexts aren’t.

              • GCT

                “These cartoons are private individuals using Heaven in creative works as a cultural shorthand for “this recently deceased person is fondly remembered.”"

                Cultural shorthand? It’s a specifically religious expression. These private individuals are reinforcing societal stereotypical tropes and are claiming (along with you) that it’s not religious, it’s cultural. That’s why the other examples are more of the same, only in those cases you see the issue, and here you’ve blinded yourself to it.

                Would it be OK in other instances? Do we think this sort of institutionalized bigotry is OK when it’s private television producers who routinely (“culturally”) show blacks as perpetrators of crimes, and we end up seeing blacks being shadowed in stores so that they don’t shoplift? Is that OK with you? It’s not like the government is enforcing it, it’s private individuals. It couldn’t possibly have some effect on society as a whole that perpetuates an atmosphere of oppression against blacks, could it? The only difference is that you’ve decided that you’re not open to the idea of your own unexamined biases in this case of heaven. Meanwhile, the hegemony of religious privilege goes unchecked because even atheists are too timid to stand up and say that it’s not OK for the majority to run roughshod over us.

                • http://twitter.com/brundlefly Shannon Hubbell

                  Are you seriously comparing depictions of Heaven in cartoons to negative, stereotypical depictions of racial minorities? Seriously? I mean, if these cartoons were depicting “Ebert the Atheist” as an amoral monster or something, I could see a comparison. But that’s not what’s happening here, and your comparing of this situation to *genuine bigotry* is more offensive than anything these cartoonists could pull off.

                  They’re expressing in an admittedly lazy way their sadness over Ebert’s death, using a cultural trope that is religious in origin and may be meaningful to them. They aren’t running roughshod over anyone. They aren’t oppressing anyone. They aren’t demonizing anyone. They’re just a bunch of other individuals living in a pluralistic society who have the right to use whatever cultural references they want.

                  You and I, likewise, have the right to object to those references. But as an atheist (albeit a “timid” one, evidently) I think there are much more important things to get worked up over. That is, actual cases of religious oppression. So I won’t be getting my shorts in a wad because somebody drew a film critic surrounded by clouds.

                • GCT

                  “Are you seriously comparing depictions of Heaven in cartoons to negative, stereotypical depictions of racial minorities?”

                  I’m saying that your excuse of it being private individuals could be expanded to include the example I gave. When it’s a racial example, you see it right away and condemn it. When it’s an example that is atheophobic, you d0n’t see it. But, the situations are analogous. Both are intended to uphold privilege by defining what is normal, correct, etc.

                  “*genuine bigotry*”

                  What? Because it’s not “genuine” when it happens to atheists? Or, does it have to meet your seal of approval before it can be “genuine?” Perhaps you have some unexamined biases that you are refusing to consider. Instead, you double down and lash out at me for pointing them out and call me offensive for trying to come up with examples that might help you see the issue, since you’re blind to regular explanations of the issue?

                  “They’re expressing in an admittedly lazy way their sadness over Ebert’s death, using a cultural trope that is religious in origin and may be meaningful to them. They aren’t running roughshod over anyone.”

                  Actually, they are, but thanks so much for ignoring all the points I’ve made in that regard to simply re-state the same argument that I’ve already addressed.

                  “They’re just a bunch of other individuals living in a pluralistic society who have the right to use whatever cultural references they want.”

                  One which completely brutalizes the actual beliefs of the person in question in order to normalize and “claim” that person for their own religious privilege. Next, they’ll be baptizing him into their religion.

                  “…I think there are much more important things to get worked up over.”

                  Yay, the Dear Muslima response rears its ugly head yet again. Because it’s not possible to point out this instance and other instances as well? Because if I fight this fight it means that I can’t also fight other fights or be passionate about other instances? Seriously?

                  “So I won’t be getting my shorts in a wad because somebody drew a film critic surrounded by clouds.”

                  Obviously not, and I hope we don’t have to depend on you to fight the other cases of “actual oppression” since I can’t depend on you to actually see any. What other blind spots do you have where you will turn on atheists and tell us to sit down and shut up?

                • http://twitter.com/brundlefly Shannon Hubbell

                  “When it’s a racial example, you see it right away and condemn it. But When it’s an example that is atheophobic, you d0n’t see it. But, the situations are analogous. Both are intended to uphold privilege by defining what is normal, correct, etc.”

                  No I don’t agree that they are analogous. The racial example is not simply upholding privilege, it is actively demonizing a group of people. Comparing the two trivializes one and makes the other seem ridiculous.

                  “What? Because it’s not “genuine” when it happens to atheists?”

                  No. If you’ll back up and read what I wrote, you’ll see I mentioned a hypothetical case of genuine bigotry against atheists that would be comparable to your hypothetical depiction of black people.

                  “Or, does it have to meet your seal of approval before it can be “genuine?”"

                  No, that would be silly. Clearly you are the arbiter of what people should be offended by.

                  “Actually, they are, but thanks so much for ignoring all the points I’ve made in that regard to simply re-state the same argument that I’ve already addressed.”

                  Because I don’t think you’ve made a compelling case for harm being done.

                  “One which completely brutalizes the actual beliefs of the person in question in order to normalize and “claim” that person for their own religious privilege.”

                  For Pete’s sake, “brutalizes”? Really? You know, an actual thoughtful discussion of religious privilege in this situation would have been interesting to have. But this kind of histrionic nonsense (coupled with your aggressive and condescending tone) nipped that one in the bud.

                  “Yay, the Dear Muslima response rears its ugly head yet again. Because it’s not possible to point out this instance and other instances as well?”

                  Yeah, of course. Feel free to object to anything you want. If you’ll go back and re-read what I’ve written, you’ll see that at no point did I tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. This thread started because I stated that I AM NOT OFFENDED. The rest of the thread has been me defending that position. PERSONALLY, I think this case is extremely trivial, and I’m not going to bother with being outraged by it. I am not obligated to be outraged by the same things you are.

                  “Obviously not, and I hope we don’t have to depend on you to fight the other cases of “actual oppression” since I can’t depend on you to actually see any. What other blind spots do you have where you will turn on atheists and tell us to sit down and shut up?”

                  Huh? Where have I told you to sit down and shut up? Your tone from the beginning has been condescending and (ironically) holier than thou. I know you feel like you are being oppressed by these cartoons. I don’t, but you are free to feel that way. And me disagreeing with you is not oppression.

                  I’m done. You can have the last word if you like.

                • GCT

                  “No I don’t agree that they are analogous. The racial example is not simply upholding privilege, it is actively demonizing a group of people. Comparing the two trivializes one and makes the other seem ridiculous.”

                  It also demonizes atheists when the culture is set up to make atheists into the “other.”

                  “No. If you’ll back up and read what I wrote, you’ll see I mentioned a hypothetical case of genuine bigotry against atheists that would be comparable to your hypothetical depiction of black people.”

                  Why is it comparable? You’ve given no measure for comparing them except your say-so. Sorry, but that’s just not enough.

                  “No, that would be silly. Clearly you are the arbiter of what people should be offended by.”

                  Except, you are the one telling me, by your decree, what is and is not “genuine” discrimination. I’ve told you why it is and your response is to simply assert, “Nuh-uh.”

                  “Because I don’t think you’ve made a compelling case for harm being done.”

                  “Othering” is done by alienating specific views (based on superficial/inherent/etc traits) as being outside the norm. That’s what is happening here. Heaven is being depicted as the norm, and someone who didn’t believe in heaven is being co-opted into that belief against their consent. That’s harm. That’s religious privilege. That’s not OK. Is it as bad as some other examples? Maybe not. Or, maybe it is, because these subtle examples fool even atheists.

                  “For Pete’s sake, “brutalizes”? Really? You know, an actual thoughtful discussion of religious privilege in this situation would have been interesting to have. But this kind of histrionic nonsense (coupled with your aggressive and condescending tone) nipped that one in the bud.”

                  What’s wrong with a descriptive word like, “brutalize?” It’s accurate. Atheism is being brutalized by religious privilege. It happens every day. Or, is it OK to demonize, other, etc?

                  “Yeah, of course. Feel free to object to anything you want. If you’ll go back and re-read what I’ve written, you’ll see that at no point did I tell you what you should or shouldn’t do.”

                  Anytime the rubric of “There are more important things to worry about” comes up…And, yes, you did say that.

                  “PERSONALLY, I think this case is extremely trivial, and I’m not going to bother with being outraged by it. I am not obligated to be outraged by the same things you are.”

                  I’ve made a case why you should not like it, you’ve simply refused to listen and stuck with your initial biases. C’est la vie.

                  “Where have I told you to sit down and shut up?”

                  Really? Invoking Dear Muslima and also telling me what is and is not “genuine” discrimination is nothing but a request for me to shut up. (I’d also add the idea that it’s improper to make analogies to other types of discrimination that you would readily recognize.)

                  “And me disagreeing with you is not oppression.”

                  More straw man tropes. Yes, of course, it must simply be because you disagree, thus ignoring every single rebuttal/reason/argument I’ve offered. No, it must be simply because I’m offended and can’t reason properly. If this is your idea of “thoughtful discussion,” then it’s probably better that you back out before further embarrassment. Rational and thoughtful is not synonymous with ignoring every point I’ve made, straw manning me, and being openly dismissive in favor of positions that you cannot defend and will not defend, instead choosing to cling tightly to them so as not to rock the religiously privileged boat.

  • Matt

    I want to see the next frame, where the movie starts and it’s just a giant Jesus standing there being awesome. That’s what heaven is right? Staring at a giant, awesome Jesus for eternity?

    • Aspaceformyheart Awesomeblog

      There’s more to it than that, and if you read the bible, you’d know it!

      You also get to eat fruits.

      I recall the biblical description being pretty sparse, and that made the inclusion of this detail kind of outstanding and peculiar.

      • randomfactor

        Well, that beats the 72 raisins the other guys are offering THEIR martyrs.

    • http://agmmusings.blogspot.com/ Alessia Lane

      and his abs…don’t forget the awesome Jesus abs….

  • funkotron

    Those comics are all basically identical, I guess we (the public) really only know one thing about Ebert.

    • http://twitter.com/someguynamedtom Tom Farrell

      And not one of them mentions rice cookers.

  • Lindy4

    So, in the first cartoon, they’re going to sit down, have some popcorn, and stare at the sun? Ow.

    • JohnnieCanuck

      For me the intent there was that they were about to watch a sunset, a trope of long standing where it is seen as a performance. Sometimes, by God or the Angels or sometimes the recently deceased. They even do it in children’s story books.

  • Claude

    So what? It’s just a trope.

    • http://twitter.com/someguynamedtom Tom Farrell

      No, it’s not. A lot of people very seriously believe in it, and form their entire lives around that belief, throwing away everything good in the world to pervert their lives to do what they think it takes to have that afterlife… and trying to force everyone else to do the same and destroy all that is good and beautiful in the process.

      • http://www.facebook.com/bernard.rieux.33 Bernard Rieux

        And apropos of this instance, Roger Ebert believed in a lot of those real things that are “good and beautiful”—and these hack cartoonists ignored (indeed reversed) the things he believed in favor of a brainless sop to majoritarian religiosity. And a bunch of commenters on this thread (many/most of them presumably nonbelievers themselves!) don’t have a problem with it. How depressing.

        No wonder atheists get so little respect; even when we’re openly marginalized and obliterated, all too many of us yawn and declare that there’s no problem with it. Learned helplessness indeed.

        • Claude

          “Obliterated”? I’ve been an atheist most of my life, and I find that a tad melodramatic. The culture is saturated with religious tropes, and many of them, like “heaven,” are innocuous. No need to be skittish.

          • GCT

            “The culture is saturated with religious tropes, and many of them, like “heaven,” are innocuous.”

            No, no, no. The Culture is saturated with religious tropes, and it is not harmless. The culture is saturated with religious tropes because of the pernicious effect of religious privilege pushing itself into public life and forcing out all others (atheists).

  • Carla

    These are sweet. They’re about two old friends being together in death. No crosses or pearly gates. I get that we’re supposed to be all about rationality and stuff, but feelings about death aren’t rational. These are sentimental coping cartoons, not offensive religious ones. This, to me, falls into nitpicky whining, not productive criticism.

    • http://agmmusings.blogspot.com/ Alessia Lane

      Sadly, I don’t think were as close as most people believe: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=rmnYCSwt2Js

    • Aspaceformyheart Awesomeblog

      Or if not two friends, then at least two former co-workers who shared a work space several decades ago.

      Even if the idea and execution of these comics weren’t so bland, so predictable and so dumb, I have to think that there’s got to be other people that Roger Ebert would be more interested in sharing an afterlife reunion with. Like a dead parent or something. Not just some guy he used to work with and didn’t like very much.

      These are as trite as they are mindless, and that’s saying something.

      • randomfactor

        Wonder how it would go down if the cartoon showed a horned devil selling tickets to Ebert at the Inferno Theater, with the choice of movies “Armageddon” and “Freddie Got Fingered.”

        • coyotenose

          Somehow having a choice makes it so much worse.

  • ortcutt

    These cartoons offend me, but not as an atheist. It’s the complete lack of creativity that offends me. Do they think that “phoning it in” with the most obvious cliche imaginable is a suitable memorial to Ebert?

    • vexorian

      I was about to say exactly the same. They owed Ebert creativity, and proof that there was no creativity at all in these cartoons is that all the three make EXACTLY the same joke!

      Anyway, Ebert once said that IF there was an afterlife, probably Citizen Kane would be the movie that play in its theaters. They could at least have made a reference to that.

      • http://www.allourlives.org/ TooManyJens

        Oh, I would have liked that. I think the question was something like “If there’s a heaven, what movie would be playing on endless loop and what snack would have no calories?” Ebert’s answers were Citizen Kane and vanilla Haagen-Dazs ice cream. So he was perfectly willing to engage with the idea of heaven as wish-fulfillment fantasy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/llance Lance Buckley

    I still like ‘em. It’s not what I think could happen, it’s just a way of expressing affection for the now-dead guys who I enjoyed watching so much. I don’t believe the fantasy stuff in the movies either, but doesn’t stop me thinking it’s a cool idea.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brian.westley Brian Westley

    Maybe a meta-cartoon showing Ebert reading all these cartoons and writing “These cartoons are trite and predictable; c’mon editorial cartoonists, show me something original!”

  • liu

    Heaven exists in cartoonland. Where better to have a made up place than in made up comics? It gives cartoonists a way to represent dead people as if they were alive, which I see no problem with. Heck, I don’t even see it as a religous statment.

    • http://www.facebook.com/bernard.rieux.33 Bernard Rieux

      I don’t even see it as a religous statment.

      This is why atheists are second-class citizens. We can be openly marginalized and have our very identities obliterated in favor of sops to majority religion, and onlookers yawn that it’s not “even … a religious statement.”

      Why should anyone shrink from abusing atheists, when the conventional wisdom—expressed repeatedly on this thread—is that it’s perfectly okay to do so?

  • Ward

    A major objection people are making to this post revolves around the idea that because the cartoons are tying to be nice, it doesn’t matter that they are imputing religious beliefs to a non-religious person.

    This is an excellent example of how good intentions do not necessarily lead to good actions, especially when someone is convinced that being “good” means forcing their subjective, unprovable religion on someone else whether they want it or not. Some infamous examples:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baptism_for_the_dead#Controversy

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgardo_Mortara

    Is this cartoon as serious as the above incidents? Certainly not. But let me ask you this, fellow agnostics and atheists: if you died, and someone dedicated something to you, what would you want it to be about? The good feelings other people will have imagining you with a harp and halo? Or what you did in life that actually made a difference?

    • http://www.allourlives.org/ TooManyJens

      If they were depicting me as still engaging in the things I did in life that made me happy and/or made a difference, I can’t say I’d get too upset about it. (Well, I’d be dead, so of course not, but thinking now about somebody doing that after I die doesn’t bother me.)

      The cartoons really are about Ebert and his life, just expressed in the religiousish way that is familiar to the cartoonists and their audience. Maybe they should have been more creative in order to do something that was more in line with Ebert’s own beliefs, but eh, I don’t expect much creativity in mass media.

      • GCT

        The cartoons are expressed in a religiously privileged way.

        • http://www.allourlives.org/ TooManyJens

          Yes. Because that’s what happens when people with a particular privilege aren’t very creative — they don’t think outside of their privileged perspectives because it doesn’t occur to them to do so.

          I just think these were done with affection and out of a desire to actually honor Roger Ebert, so I try to appreciate that and roll my eyes at the (really very mild) expression of privilege. And like I said elsewhere, Ebert himself willingly answered a question about what movie would be playing in heaven, so I think he understood the wish-fulfillment role that such a belief plays and wouldn’t mind so much.

          • GCT

            So, why should we not point out their religious privilege? By allowing stuff like this to go without critique, we allow this type of privilege to retain its hold on society.

    • Thegoodman

      I would ask that everyone remember me for how I existed and do not fabricate an elaborate story for how I might still exist, somewhere, somehow.

      We only persist in memory. One day all of us will day. Hopefully, after we die someone will remember our name. And better yet is many years after our death we are remembered fondly. Eventually everyone who has known you will die and your brief existence and even the memory of it will cease to exist.

    • Clalude

      As long as they don’t spit on my grave I’m happy.

    • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

      I’d be dead, soooo… whatever helps the living cope without my awesomeness is fine by me as long as nobody’s getting harmed. Then again, I’m not a thin-skinned douche, so, YMMV.

      • GCT

        Is it really necessary to call Ward a “thin-skinned douche” for pointing out the religious privilege that is going on?

        • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

          Oh no! Somebody said something mean on the internet! Call the whaaambulance.

          • GCT

            You’re calling someone a “thin-skinned douche” for pointing out the pernicious effects of religious privilege, which you seem to have bought into. I don’t think Ward is the douche here.

            • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

              Funny, I don’t recall saying I *wasn’t* a bit of a jerk. Also, I’m an atheist, sooo not sure how I’ve bought into religious privilege just because I find these examples harmless and Ward’s whinefest laughable. Nice job on the White-Knighting though. Go you!

              • GCT

                Atheists are also capable of upholding religious privilege. Just because you are an atheist doesn’t mean that you are helping.

                And, admitting that you’re a jerk doesn’t make it any better.

      • Ward

        Hmmm–I must have a thicker skin than I thought, because I really don’t care if you think I’m a douche. I think it’s fine that you don’t care about this or think it’s worthy of any attention. Just keep in mind that your lack of interest in something does not mean it isn’t important.
        I used to buy into the lie that if people are just trying to be nice, it doesn’t matter if what they are saying is factually incorrect or even misleading. We do a disservice to each other as a society when we adopt this attitude.
        Naturally we need to keep things in perspective. I doubt anyone is going to start a petition or protest over this, but an issue does not have to approach that level of concern before anyone has a right to talk about it.

  • A3Kr0n

    Is he an official Mormon yet?

  • Gus Snarp

    I don’t even care if the person depicted is a Christian or not. They’re just bad, lazy, cliched cartoons.

    Now if you were to do something original, with some humor and bite, you get something like this instead: http://www.mattbors.com/blog/2011/10/13/jobs-new-job/

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Evans/1017276335 John Evans

    See, I’d like to have at least one cartoon of a grave by a path in a cemetery ‘an isle seat’, with a bag of popcorn left in remembrance. Just one.

  • http://profiles.google.com/conticreative Marco Conti

    Boring cartoons. What did they do? Call each other before going to work?

  • Rain

    Is the front row supposed to be a good row? I never like the front row. I never liked the aisle seat either because people are always climbing over you.

    • allein

      I watched Jurassic Park from the front row, side section, aisle seat. So I can definitively say, No.

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        Dune for me, actually very far front corner. Horrid.

        But center front can be good. Top Gun e.g.

    • Anonymous Atheist

      Aisle seats are good if you plan on running in and out a lot for snacks and/or bathroom visits. If you plan on actually watching the movie, close to the center both horizontally and vertically is the best IMHO.

  • http://www.facebook.com/andy.acton Andy Acton

    Actually he didn’t claim to be atheist, agnostic or a religious believer of any sort but put himself in category of those who continually ask the big questions. He leaned more toward the idea that there is a higher power than not: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/s-brent-plate/roger-eberts-religion_b_3018344.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000008

  • kaydenpat

    I think the cartoonists are just being nice. I’m sure he wouldn’t be offended.

    • GCT

      Upholding religious privilege that brutalizes atheists is not “being nice,”

  • http://twitter.com/gman747 gary

    Who sits in the front row of a movie theater

  • HughInAz

    It’s a pity Ebert didn’t write his own cartoon caption – he apparently was quite good at coming up with captions.

    http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/cartoonists/2013/04/roger-eberts-caption-contest-entries.html#slide_ss_0=1

  • http://twitter.com/jordan_olsen26 Jordan Olsen

    Nice to know heaven is accepting atheists these days!

  • http://twitter.com/someguynamedtom Tom Farrell

    Somebody posted one of these things on Facebook, with a note “God bless Roger Ebert.” I replied “Roger Ebert was an atheist.” In less than a minute I got a notice that someone reported it as spam.

  • Farrelma

    One of my favorite webcomics did a lovely tribute:
    http://multiplexcomic.com/strip/795

  • risa bear

    Ra-men.

  • pszymeczek

    You ARE aware that Roger Ebert was an atheist, no?


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