my horse is higher than your horse

my horse is higher than your horse April 15, 2013
my horse is higher than your horse cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward

I was invited to join an atheist network of bloggers. I was totally opened to it. But then I noticed some of the other atheist bloggers, upon seeing that the nakedpastor, as well as some Christian bloggers who are open-minded, were invited to join, responded with comments such as, “It wouldn’t hurt to have a few village idiots around I guess.” I don’t like being mocked. It’s a dangerous and harmful sport. It’s fruit is division. You may not agree with my ideas, but that doesn’t necessarily make me an idiot. Calling me one keeps me away from the debate. A debate where everyone agrees is not a debate but mutual masturbation. No babies forthcoming.

I realize atheists have been the brunt of mockery from Christians for a long time. It’s still going on hardcore. It embarrasses me. We also have atheists mocking Christians. That embarrasses me too. It reminds me of high school. Because it is soooo high school. It’s like these two guys laughing at each other, each sitting on their respective high horse. What’s funny is what they can’t see the obvious: they’re both weak and on the same level. They don’t contribute anything to the peace effort.

It is important to differentiate between mockery and satire. I believe I am a satirist, not a mocker. There is a difference. Mockery is insulting or contemptuous action or speech that maliciously intends to humiliate, shame or make fun of the other. Satire is an art form that critiques the others’ vices, follies, abuses and shortcomings in order to provoke them to improvement. Okay, maybe I’ve mocked something I thought was truly ridiculous a few times. But I always hope the one I’m addressing can laugh at it too. I aspire to be a mature satirist. That’s because I think it is fruitful and useful.

I don’t dismiss atheism because I have an inner one and I appreciate such things as the rich intellectual, scientific and humanist developments it brings to the table. I don’t think Christianity should be dismissed either because it also brings such things as a rich heritage of intellectual achievements, ethics, and spiritual care to the table. Let’s not mock each other. But let’s satirize each other to abandon the worst and encourage the best of what we have to offer.

Chesterton, in his book “Heretics”, suggests three kinds of great satirists. He says these are people who are able to laugh at our weaknesses without losing their souls.

The first great satirist first of all loves himself and then loves his enemies. So the more and more his enemies become enemies, the more he loves them. He has an “aggressive happiness in his assertion of anger”. This kind of satire is voluble, violent, indecent, but not malicious.

The second great satirist is one whose passions are released by an intolerable sense of wrong. He is mad about how mad we’ve become. The tongue of this satirist is an unruly member and testifies against all mankind, including himself.

The third great satirist is one who “rises superior to his victim in the only serious sense which superiority can bear, in that of pitying the sinner and respecting the man even while he satirizes both.” Consequently, he enjoys pointing out his enemy’s strengths as well as his weaknesses. Chesterton believed this was the highest and most honorable form of satire.

Mockery is often motivated by arrogance and ignorance, and in that order. When someone thinks they are superior to another, they also feel no need to understand the other. For example, I’m a Canadian who used to make fun of rednecks… until I married a girl from southern Alabama. Now that I understand the culture, I appreciate it and respect it. I still love a good redneck joke though. So does she! Duck Dynasty is for real!

I try to understand that which I satirize. Because I’m after the idea or the deed. I do not wish to shame. But I do wish to provoke people and institutions to change. I’m like a political cartoonist is to politics and government who hopes to expose the weaknesses in order to provoke change. I hope to be the same with Christianity and the church.

Stay tuned for more satire!

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  • CassandraToday

    I have been in conversations with atheists who assert that there is nothing good in religion, which makes the sort of dialogue you’re speaking of impossible. And to be “fair and balanced”, there are certainly plenty of religious people who see nothing good in atheism.

    Me? I think life is hard enough that we should respect what people do to get through it, and lend a helping hand when we can. Heh. That doesn’t really tell you if I’m a theist or an atheist, does it? Good.

  • Mel

    Well said nakedpastor. Thanks.

  • There are strong, widespread strains of self-advocated superiority running through both Christianity (and other religions) and internet atheism/”New Atheism”. People on opposing sides of the barricades so often view the other as a living defect in the fabric of humanity. We humans excel at drawing lines of tribal conflict.

    There are strong, persistent currents of anti-theism running through internet atheism and “New Atheism”. Although they have arisen in response to the dehumanization and hatred manifested by Christian supremacists, these currents embody a reflexive sense of supremacy. One social pattern of othering is met with another social pattern of othering.

    And interestingly, both sides seek justification in these actions in analogous ways: hate the sin, love the sinner, attack the person’s deeply held faith, not the person. Regardless of the justification, both sides plunge their swords deeply into the other, pretending not to notice the crimson ground beneath. (The main difference being one of power, for one side has far more rapiers and soldiers than the other.)

    I’m not sure where the solution lies other than encouraging empathy and understanding where one can.

  • kathy

    I love science. I love scientists. I sleep beside one every night. I especially like looking at pictures of outer space. Often there are neat galleries posted online, but inevitably they are accompanied by a long and contentious list of comments divided equally between atheists and various kinds of believers. Personal attacks abound. One time someone posted the comment “Who needs God when you have this?” in reference to some awesome pics of outer space. I simply responded “I do.” Make of that what you will. He then responded something indicating he could respect my need if I wouldn’t ‘force my religion on him.’ Deal, I said. And we’ve been online commenting friends ever since. It should be so easy with everyone.

  • Pat

    And then there’s the one-horsemanship of different Christian denominations. But what I have found, is like you said, David, a lot of comes from knowing only limited information or stereotypes.

  • Psy

    “I realize atheists have been the brunt of mockery from Christians for a long time.”

    Atheist, Jews, Gays, ect. have been the brunt of mockery, 9/11 was the turning point and for many of us it wasn’t the Muslims so much as the US Christian response for nuking the whole Middle East, going along with attacking Iran and cries for war and bloodshed. I noticed the same people making the same calls on my favorite forum in response to the Boston Marathon bombings today pointing at Iran and North Korea. Its political and secular groups are pushing back on all fronts, legal, debate, mockery, what ever and its working. As for love thy enemy, why do you insist on having enemies? The pendulum is swinging towards secularism, when it swings back lets see if we can find a balance. I see daily in the media religious schools closing their doors, people leaving the pews. A Catholic I enjoy debating with recently admired he hasn’t been to church in 2 years as he was tired of the ant-gay rhetoric. As a secularist its in my best interest that religious leaders keep pushing against non-believers, gays and anyone else they need to demonize in their vain attempt to bind the church membership together against imaginary enemies.

  • As long as it is just words and flags. — Otherwise reminds me of Don Quixote on Rozinante.

    We need to realize that we all have “gods”. The question is “which is your god”? — The usual one of egotism, money, fame, fun, sex, a myriad of addictions, via whatever means we ethically approve, or lower ourselves to approve for as means for our goals. Or is he the God that has served you with giving you life, family, friends, community, forgiveness, nature… all the things you value. And are we willing to serve him and our neighbor? Whom and what do we worship, expect good from, live under?

    (Pitting science vs. religion is about the most useless discussion of all. Science can only explain so much and barely anything that really matters to being human and consciousness. And the constant harping of atheists that Christians hate science is pretty ridiculous. Christians are not against science though some dare question the prevailing orthodoxy of Darwinism.)

  • It’s been my experience that we generally become that which we hate. When I look for the evil in others what I usually find is the evil in myself (whether I want to admit it or not). We all have a choice as to what we want to focus on the glory and goodness of God in others (which has nothing to do with religion or theology or whether you believe or don’t believe in God) or you look for the bad. God honors all people – regardless of race, religious beliefs, sexual orientation or political affiliation. And real honor isn’t lip service; it a deep respect for the glory of God in all of creation. So instead of using our difference as the staring point, lets use those things we do agree on and begin the conversation there.

  • CassandraToday

    @Psy, why do you feel that, as a secularist, it’s in your best interest for religious leaders to abuse their followers? Or did I misunderstand your last sentence?

  • Psy

    CassandraToday, I would prefer they just stop the hate speech against gays and other minority groups. The trend seems to be keep attacking gays, women’s rights, secularism, non-believers while playing the victim. Its gotten old and the members are starting to see through it and are leaving the churches that do this. I think there membership will dwindle until they only have the extremist left and will find themselves marginalized unless they change their path.

  • CassandraToday

    @Psy — it wasn’t clear to me at first that you were only referring to some churches, the ones that keep attacking various groups. It sounds like we both actually agree with David, and would like to see the worst of atheism and religion wither away, and the best of atheism and religion blossom and shine.

  • Psy

    “It sounds like we both actually agree with David, and would like to see the worst of atheism and religion wither away, and the best of atheism and religion blossom and shine.”

    OMG!!! You is a secularist too!!!

  • CassandraToday

    Who?? Where?? What?? Holy moley, we better not let that get out to the church I’m preaching in this Sunday!

  • Adam

    I’m going to put any personla remarks aside – took me a while to get over the image that had counjoured up in my head after the mutual mastubation comment – thanks for that one David!

    I hear you defending what you do and wanting to promot it as satire not mocking as you have defined both. Perhaps you have felt you have been attacked and this is your response to that. Perhaps, and perhps not. There will be no dounbt different views held abuot what you have expressed in defense of what you do. Some valid, some not valid.

    I do comedy too, and on my first day in a comedy workshop, the professional comedian running it saw i was wearing an International Christian College hoodie. He laid into me about being a Chrisitan, took no prisoners, did what would be mocking as you have defined mocking to be. But then I wasn’t the one singlesd out for that treatment. He did similarly with others. Eventually it was a bonding expereince for the group. We all got him back by embarrasing him by singing a version of The Commodors “You’re onece, twice three times a lady and [we] love you”. I personally got him back by saying thanks for sharing with the group, teasing him about his alcoholisim as he shared, as he had teased me about Christianity. This was treated as all OK within the workshop under the umbrella of “if you are going to do comedy, you need to get a thick skin”.

    I think so much of this kind of thinng is subjective, just as pain is subjective. On person’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist etc. Where there is wounding that occurs, that’s where I would draw a line. Comadians are constanntly faced with the challenge of finding that line. Cross it and it becomes offensive, play too safe and it just plain isn’t funny. Society has a fluidity about whare the line is drawn. And some Christians would take offense at some thigns that others would not take offense at. Consider the following URL. Was Widdecombe appropriate to say maocking the Lord’s supper was wounding? Or was the Daily Telegraph right in its approach to critique her emotional response asa “astonishing” to a non-believer, that she was undermining her own argument and appropriate in saying she “failed to suggest any remedy”. I genuinely would be interested in responses to this article.

    I too have been embarrased at the way some Christians act in public debate. And I fell sorry for the way some Aithests do too. I pity both of them. i say embarrased when Christians do it because of the reflection that makes of Jesus. I have to say also though that there have been some excellent speakers in both camps that have made me laugh and have been thougth provoking for me.

  • Chester MvMackin

    You have my agreement ( whether you like it or not ). A huge amount of my satire,Cynical skeptic, skeptical cynic nature has evolved over many years . People need people like us ( self assessment ) ,because we offer others an opportunity to engage in the oft-times idiotic nincompooposity which headlines much of what we say. I hope you will not perceive the “WE ” I use as a personal criticism. Only approval is intended.

  • John Figdor

    This is really thoughtful, Dave. I’ve been “reading” your work for years on Hemant’s site, and decided to drop by and show my support. Even though we atheists often have to bear the slings and arrows of cruel religious bigotry, that is no excuse for smug, condescending, judgmental behaviour. Put differently, even though the Atheist on his high horse happens to be correct, smugness and hyper-judgmentalism (in this case, assuming that the Christian is a moron, which is clearly untrue) never looks good.

  • Thanks John. Good to hear. I saw The Friendly Atheist posted my cartoon. I hope I didn’t come across as a whiny baby.

  • Gary

    “Put differently, even though the Atheist on his high horse happens to be correct, smugness and hyper-judgmentalism (in this case, assuming that the Christian is a moron, which is clearly untrue) never looks good.”


  • John Moriarty

    loved that cartoon image! so funny, and more than a grain in it!