why I don’t agree with this cartoon

I don’t agree with this cartoon.

It’s message is that atheism has the key to unlock the mind from religion. In other words, atheism is the key to free thinking and even intelligence.

This is ideological elitism, an accusation that can be made against the three religions represented in the drawing… Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Proponents from any one of those religions would claim the same supremacy and that their religion alone possesses the key to unlock the mind from limited and erroneous thinking. They all claim to have the key to intellectual freedom. So this cartoon betrays itself by lumping atheism in with all other ideologies. It just expresses another kind of fundamentalism.

So in an accidental way, it actually expresses the way different ideologies and religions believe, but this time portraying atheism as the elitist, fundamentalist ideology. Wait a minute! Maybe this is satire?

Chris Hedges offers his opinion on fundamentalism:

“The blustering televangelists, and the atheists who rant about the evils of religion, are little more than carnival barkers. They are in show business, and those in show business know complexity does not sell. They trade clichés and insults like cartoon characters. They don masks. One wears the mask of religion, the other wears the mask of science. They banter back and forth in predictable sound bites. They promise, like all advertisers, simple and seductive dreams. This debate engages two bizarre subsets who are well suited to the television culture because of the crudeness of their arguments. One distorts the scientific theory of evolution to explain the behavior and rules for complex social, economic and political systems. The other insists that the six-day story of creation in Genesis is fact and Jesus will descend format the sky to create the kingdom of God on Earth. These antagonists each claim to have discovered an absolute truth. They trade absurdity for absurdity. They show that the danger is not religion or science. The danger is fundamentalism (I Don’t Believe in Atheists)”

I would redraw the cartoon with the mind chained by atheism along with any other religion or ideology. In my opinion, the best thinking atheists would agree. They would not say that atheism led them to the truth, but that the truth led them to atheism. Perhaps then they might say that atheism enriches the truth for them. Of course, the best thinking Christians, Muslims or Jews would say the same thing, that the truth led them to their particular religion which in turn enriches the truth.

(***The artist is Edwin Espinoza Andino.***)

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  • I don’t mind the cartoon too much, but when I see Judaism included the first thing I think about is the disproportionate number of Jewish Nobel prize winners. It has been my personal experience that Judaism is often practiced with an appreciation for the cultural benefits of community and tradition without falling into the pits of fundamentalism and intellectual suicide; not that Jewish fundamentalists don’t exist, they just seem to make up a smaller percentage of the overall population.

  • I like your comment reasonable one. It made me think of Nobel prize winners who were of a variety of religious persuasions as well.

  • BrandonUB

    I’m not keen on the cartoon, as I don’t think there’s something about
    not believing in deities that magically leads to more rational thinking in
    general. I’d like the key to be framing “logic” or “reason” rather than

    On the other hand, your argument treats a lack of belief as fundamentally equivalent to affirmative beliefs. That just ain’t so.

  • Hm. No, why would I make that claim that belief is the same as unbelief? I’m saying that if one believes belief is the way to truth and another believes non-belief is the way to truth, then they are fundamentally the same.

  • BrandonUB

    Sure, that’s right. I probably read you uncharitably.

  • no problem. but i think this differentiation is important for dialog. appreciated.

  • ragingrev

    The key should be held by Critical Thinking skills and a willingness to be wrong…or a yearning for Truth…what have you. I’m not sure how you might make a visual representation of that, but atheism is quite frequently accompanied by as much mind shackling garbage as fundamentalist religion is….most notably; group think!

  • i agree angry abbot.

  • ragingrev

    You agree because I’m right… 😉

  • yes we are

  • Al Cruise

    One truth we do know, is that no one alive today really knows what happens to you after death, no theologian, or scholar of any belief or unbelief theory.So much of religion is to try and give answers to alleviate the fear of that unknowable fact. Atheism is a clever way of avoiding the question entirely.

  • Dan Silverman

    I think, in context, the image is alright. Let’s look at it again. The three symbols that bind the brain, when taken together, represent religious thought patterns. Sure, the Star of David, by itself, could also represent the Jewish people (many of which are not religious at all), but in the context of the image would represent Judaism, the Jewish religion. If religion, then, is binding the mind, then what can free a person of that? The opposite of religion. If theism is holding one back, then what can set one free? Atheism.

    To me, the context of the image is not about intellectualism, free thought, etc. It is religions/theism vs. atheism.

  • Gun Nordström

    All religions have made the same mistake that an insight or a revelation (got by a master, teacher, gury or any person) can be handed over to another person in the form of a beliefsystem or dogmas to be understood and put in practise by the mind. This very belief hinders us to live in spiritual freedom as the prison is constructed by the mind itself. Therefore other belief- or unbeliefsystems are unable to unlock the minds cauth in any system. Nevertheless, if there is a heart eagerly searching for freedom to live a life in harmony, it will find the key by revealing that as my mind is responsible for making a prison of its own, it also is able to break it down.

  • Rain

    (***If anyone knows the artist behind this cartoon, please let me know and I will give him or her credit.***)

    ghost in the machine – Illustration by Edwin Espinoza Andino


  • Msironen

    “They would not say that atheism led them to the truth, but that the truth led them to atheism.”

    Wasn’t very keen on this article until this point. A very good distinction that mostly justifies the rest of it.

  • Adam Julians

    I like your thinking David.

    Good point made about cliches and insults being traded like cartoon characters. I describe such plemics and straw man argumnets ad being like a punch and judy show.It gets air time and sells popular media! And complexity, thoughfullness does not sell – yes.

    I guess we are all “fundamental” to some degree having our way of viewing the orld being influenced by personal expereince, social history, ecclesiastical and theologicel history etc. Which is why it is always freeing to have a healthy slef criticism and openness to differeing views as much as it is to challenge others views, in a spirit of mutual respect and value for the other.

  • Thanks Msironen

  • Great thoughts.

  • seanooski

    Perhaps atheism isn’t the hero of liberation the artist intends to convey, but it is true that religion tends to bind the mind and hinder the natural progression and development of cognition and reason, especially when one was indoctrinated in it at a very early age. Holding in your mind contradictions and circular reasoning patterns, clinging to dogmas no matter how much your mind begs otherwise, and repeating fairy tales to yourself over and over until your discomfort with reality finally goes away, is a sure recipe for mental illness and lifelong unhappiness.

  • Nick Gotts

    Sure. In just the same way, no-one really knows whether there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

  • Gary

    Actually ngotts…the fact that there is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is pretty easy to prove. These ridiculous analogies (reductio ad absurdum) are never helpful. In fact they tend to make the one using them look pretty silly.

  • Nick Gotts

    OK, supply the proof.

  • Nick Gotts

    Still waiting for that proof.

  • Al Cruise

    We have rain showers every day in my area, my buddy used some very accurate GPS survey equipment and located the end of a rainbow. We dug a hole and used a metal dectector, and low and behold no pot of gold. There’s your proof.

  • Nick Gotts

    Ah, but you were only at the end of the physical rainbow! If you had had sufficient faith to follow the rainbow’s spirit-path, it would have taken you to its heavenly end, where the pot of gold is – along with the souls of dead people. In just the same way, the dull materialist looks at a corpse, notes that it neither acts nor senses anything, and concludes that after you die nothing further happens to you – unless you count your body rotting away, or being burned, embalmed, frozen or whatever.

  • Al Cruise

    Pretty good spin, I’ve heard a lot better though.

  • Nick Gotts

    In what sense is it “spin” to point out that there’s no more reason to believe in an afterlife than in the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?

    Your original claim that “Atheism is a clever way of avoiding the question entirely” is just bizarre. The vast majority of atheists* take the view that there’s no reason at all to believe in an afterlife, any more than in gods, ghosts, vampires, leprechauns, miracles, or any other aspect of the supernatural. That’s answering the question, not avoiding it.

    *You do get atheists who believe in aspects of the supernatural other than gods.

  • Gary

    A clearly disingenuous and straw man metaphor will not elicit a serious response from me. You are still looking silly…even more so.

  • Nick Gotts

    I see you have no substantive answer. My analogy was exact, and not disingenuous, nor a straw man – I note that you cannot say in what way it was either of those things. Someone is certainly looking silly – but it’s not me.

  • Gary

    What the hell ever man. I suppose next you will throw the purple spaghetti monster at me.


  • Nick Gotts

    You said you could prove there was no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. You failed to deliver. Al Cruise at least had a sporting shot at it – and so gave me the chance to show that it was at least as easy to prove* that nothing happens to a person after their death. All you can manage is a few unsupported accusations and insults.

    *Of course it’s not an absolute proof: merely a demonstration that there’s no more reason to believe in an afterlife than in the pot of gold.

  • Gary

    Your entire premise was a silly insult. Smug intellectual condescension is insulting and I called you on it. I also did not say I was going to “prove” there was no pot of gold. In fact we both know such a silly exercise is not necessary. Your diversions are silly…period. They do nothing to add to the discussion of whether or not God exists.

  • Nick Gotts

    So why didn’t you call Al Cruise on the “smug intellectual condescension” of “Atheism is a clever way of avoiding the question entirely”? I guess you think smug intellectual condescension is fine when aimed at the atheist, but not when it comes from the atheist. True, you did not explicitly say you were going to prove there was no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but you claimed it was easy to prove. If you were not prepared to present a proof, you should not have made that claim. It isn’t easy at all, if one is allowed the kind of get-out believers in the afterlife use – which was, of course, the point of the comparison.

  • Gary

    And of course now this is becoming the last man standing exercise. Not going there with you. I have made my point and it is clear. You may have the last word.

  • Roshan Easo

    As a Christian, I first of all understand that Jesus is revelation of a gracious God, but before I saw that, I saw the needs of people met by evangelism, not Jesus. My problem is I don’t have a need for free thinking that isn’t met by Jesus. My only comment, being myself, warn people by the means grace enables, that hell might be real. Act like it is, hope that it isn’t.

  • Roshan Easo

    It’s kinda weird, but in our minds we see really selfish double-standards in all these shades. It’s weird. My question is how do learn to trust ourselves? As children or as adults? I guess hoping to find value and beauty in others is a lot smarter than going off in self-inflicited torment. When you’re in a hole, stop digging. 😀