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the film criticism aspect of cyber | by maryann johanson

has Roger Ebert gone off the deep end?

WTF is this? Roger Ebert appears to be coming out in support of creationism. Is it meant to be satire, and if so, where’s the satire? This has got to be a joke. Please someone tell me this is a joke. And then, please someone tell me where the joke is.

Choice excerpts:

Creationism: Your questions answered

// / September 21, 2008

By Roger Ebert

Questions and answers on Creationism, which should be discussed in schools as an alternative to the theory of evolution:

Q. What about bones representing such species as Cro-Magnon Man and Neanderthal Man?

A. Created at the same time as man. They did not survive. In fact, all surviving species and many others were created fully formed at the same time. At that moment they were of various ages and in varying degrees of health. Some individuals died an instant later, others within seconds, minutes or hours.

Q. Was there a Noah, and did he have an Ark?

A. Certainly. There are many unverified reports of a massive wooden vessel on Mount Ararat. The Arc contained eight people, from whom we are all descended. It also contained two of each kind of animal. Since living species were obviously not created through an evolutionary process, every surviving land-based mammal species (about 5,400) had both ancestors on the Arc.

Q. How long did the Great Flood last?

A. We know that Noah was 600 years, two months and 17 days old when he sailed. Using that as a starting point and counting forward, Genesis tells us it lasted for 40, 150, 253, 314 or 370 days.

Q. Why would God create such an absurd creature as a moose?

A. In charity, we must observe that the moose probably does not seem absurd to itself.

Whether it’s satire or not, why doesn’t it have anything to do with movies?



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  • Andy

    My guesses: 1) it’s in advance of Ebert’s treatment of Bill Maher’s upcoming Religulous, or 2) it’s a semi-passive response to Sarah Palin’s affiliation with a church that fully supports the 6,000-year-old Earth or 3) a response to something else that I’ve missed in the news lately. Or maybe he’s a young-earther.

    When I first saw it earlier today, I read it to be putting forth something intended to seem ridiculous to most readers.

    This part in particular:

    We know that Noah was 600 years, two months and 17 days old when he sailed. Using that as a starting point and counting forward, Genesis tells us it lasted for 40, 150, 253, 314 or 370 days

    seems to be there to reinforce the non-serious intent.

    Though simply summarizing actual arguments of that side is more mockery than satire, and does seem below Ebert’s usual level of discourse. I’d still doubt that he’s coming out as a young-earther. I hope he’s working on an essay or something to build on this Q&A.

    Also notable: the tagline to his Great Movies entry for Adaptation this week is “Evolution is God’s intelligent design”.

  • JoshB

    I’d be willing to bet money that this is a joke. Why he’s writing about something unrelated to movies I don’t know, although to be fair you do too :P

  • Doa766

    it has to be a joke, taking the bible verbatim to show crazy it is

    Ebert is too smart and classy to be religious

    it reminds me a little of a this famous letter:

    A Letter to Pat Robertson
    Dear Mr Robertson,

    Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I have learned a great deal from you and understand why you would propose and support a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage. As you said “in the eyes of God marriage is based between a man a woman.” I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination… End of debate.

    I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God’s Laws and how to follow them.

    1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?

    2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

    3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanness – Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

    4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord – Lev.1:9. The problem is, my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

    5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2. clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

    6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination – Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this? Are there ‘degrees’ of abomination?

    7. Lev.21:20 states that I may ! not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle- room here?

    8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

    9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

    10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16. Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

    I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can help.

    Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging

  • Nathan

    He’s being absurd and is probably as frightened as any reasonable person should be of the rise to (potential) power of Sarah Palin. The photograph he uses is most likely the one that Palin has cited as proof that Creationsism is valid. The mention of the moose at the end reveals his inspiration, I think.

  • MaryAnn

    I feel like the whole thing is like that New Yorker cover with the Obama caricature, though: Is it satire if it merely regurgitates what idiots say?

    Why he’s writing about something unrelated to movies I don’t know, although to be fair you do too :P

    I was counting the posts till someone said something like that. :->

    I write about non-movie stuff usually in some movie-related context. I don’t see that here.

  • Maybe he’s just trying to convince himself there is a god, and getting creationism into schools is his way into heaven?

    Admittedly I was a little disturbed at first, until I remembered that I don’t give a fuck about Roger Ebert or his beliefs.

  • Ebert is too smart and classy to be religious.
    –Doa766

    I could have sworn Ebert once described himself as a former altar boy in one of his movie reviews.

    And even if he didn’t, since when does intelligence and class have anything to do with being religious?

    I suppose the notion that only dumb and low-class people are religious must seem flattering to some people, but it’s not the type of notion a smart person should be promoting at this time. Not all religious people believe in creationism and I can’t help but find it funny to see people fuel such a stereotype that would normally be perpetuated only by creationists.

    Palin’s supporters have enough of a martyr complex as it is. Adding fuel to that fire while at the same time ticking off religious people who aren’t particularly fond of the GOP does not seem like a smart idea.

    Or even a classy one.

  • There was some talk of this elsewhere. It’s probably a Poe’s law instance, where the satire is so close to actually held positions, that it becomes indistinguishable from the real thing.

    Regardless of Ebert’s personal beliefs, he’s made it pretty clear in the past that he’s pretty knowledgeable about the current research on evolutionary theory and disdainful of the Intelligent Design option. So my vote is for fall-flat satire.

  • MaryAnn

    I could have sworn Ebert once described himself as a former altar boy in one of his movie reviews.

    Doesn’t mean he can’t be lapsed, agnostic, or atheistic now.

  • bitchen frizzy

    My reaction to the article is, “Why?”.

    It’s a regurgitation of standard creationist answers to questions. Even as satire, that’s not funny. It’s like listening to someone read from the phone book. Maybe I’m not easily entertained.

  • Henry

    I’m with bitchen frizzy — this is just weird. If he’s serious, it’s offensive, because he’s using the noteriety he garnered as a *movie reviewer* to appoint himself as some kind of spokesman for all creationists (which is also the difference between what Ebert does here and MaryAnn). If it’s satire, it’s not funny.
    I don’t get it.

    BTW, I love how all things lead to Sarah Palin, as if she invented lipstick, glasses, and God. Ebert writes a not-funny Q&A? Well, the only explanation is that he must fear awesome power of Sarah Palin. I don’t get that either. What’s everybody’s fascination with her? How is she any more threatening/Messianic (depending on your camp) than any other uber conservative politician?
    Rhetorical questions, not trying to hijack the thread. Just throwing it out there.

  • JoshB

    Ah, but MaryAnn has http://www.maryannjohanson.com/ where she posts opinions that have nothing to do with movies. And if you actually look where Ebert’s article is posted, it’s not in the movie section, it’s listed under ‘Commentary’ where you can find other articles of his such as:

    http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080828/COMMENTARY/808289997

    Why is Ebert suddenly not entitled to speak on any subject but movies? I seriously don’t get the indignation.

  • Jerry Colvin

    Ebert has written many, many non-movie columns over the past few decades.

    In any event, the dude is old and has had many life and death struggles over the past couple of years. So the religious wackiness may have just been inevetible.

  • JoshB

    Speaking of Ebert’s commentary section, I have definitive proof that this article is a joke.

  • bitchen frizzy

    Actually, Ebert wrote an article about Palin (also totally non-movie-related):

    http://www.suntimes.com/news/otherviews/1156080,091008ebertpalin.article

    You can read his take on her. Interestingly, he says nothing of her religious beliefs or their relation to her politics.

    So I don’t think the article we are discussing is about Palin.

    Yes, he was a Catholic altar boy. He doesn’t currently practice his childhood faith, though he doesn’t say he’s become atheistic or agnostic either. My source for this is his review of The Passion of the Christ.

    As Tonio pointed out though, even if he were still devout that wouldn’t preclude him satirizing creationism.

  • roisred

    Nice find, JoshB.

    I was pretty sure that Ebert had at least some religious views from his review of “The Last Temptation of Christ”, but the sense that I got from that review was that whatever faith he had did not preclude common sense. Not sure what was up with that column, but to accept it as truth doesn’t strike me as consistant with his other writings/interviews.

  • AlanM

    Ebert has mentioned cosmology and Darwinism when asked about his hobbies, so, unless he has had a last minute conversion, I think we can assume that it’s a joke (the link to it is still on the front page. If he didn’t approve of it it would have been removed by now). I think it is a failed attempt at satire (although creationism is particularly difficult to satirize because they believe nuttier things than you can invent) and failed satire is easily misread as support of the position you are satirizing.

  • MBI

    I’m also putting my two cents in for saying that it’s a failed attempt at humor. Perhaps he’s unfamiliar with the creationist debate, and he thought this was hilarious over-the-top satire and not simply the facts of the case.

  • millie

    I think he was going for extreme deadpan, thinking that creationism is so inherently absurd that the best way to mock it is to play it straight. I agree that it wasn’t very successful though.

  • Erbear1980

    Ebert finally sets the record straight in his newest blog entry. http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2008/09/this_is_the_dawning_of_the_age.html

    Looks like he was being satirical after all. What a relief.

  • MaryAnn

    Why is Ebert suddenly not entitled to speak on any subject but movies? I seriously don’t get the indignation.

    No one is indignant, and no one has said Ebert is not entitled to speak on whatever the hell he wants to speak on. We’re just trying to figure this out.

    Ebert explains himself thus:

    It is to discuss the gradual decay of our sense of irony and instinct for satire, and our growing credulity.

    To which I say, Bullshit. Ebert likens his essay to Jonathan Swift’s “Modest Proposal.” But no one was actually eating Irish babies in Swift’s day. But Ebert was regurgitating what Creationists actually believe. There’s no comparison.

  • Andy

    Ebert likens his essay to Jonathan Swift’s “Modest Proposal.” But no one was actually eating Irish babies in Swift’s day. But Ebert was regurgitating what Creationists actually believe. There’s no comparison.

    Spot on. Ebert might have been cramming all of the literal creationist absurdity together in slightly more preposterous combinations than are usually compiled, but he wasn’t building on that. It was pretty much just mockery with a couple of Ebert’s typical deadpan winks thrown in.

    His likening himself to Swift was pretty disappointing. His original piece could have been a starting point for a discussion of something other than diverging societal paths toward irony and literalness (Simpsons did that better and more concisely–of course–in the Hullaballooza episode, anyway), but he used it instead to continue his recent musings on the importance of a critical monitor to one’s tendency toward literal observation.

  • Andy

    Sudden addendum: Ebert’s original post is closer to Meet the Spartans or Family Guy style “satire”.

    “Oh look! It’s creationism! I remember that from the commercials, and now there’s a moose!”

  • JoshB

    “Oh look! It’s creationism! I remember that from the commercials, and now there’s a moose!”

    You’re wrong. You couldn’t be more wrong. Even after reading his explanation, which I assume you did, you’re still missing his explicitly stated point.

    Ebert wasn’t satirizing creationism. He was satirizing credulity. He wanted to see how many people would unthinkingly jump to the most absurd conclusion, and his experiment yielded interesting results.

    It’s really too bad he didn’t save this adventure for April 1st.

  • Alan Slipp

    The point seems to me to be that Ebert’s piece merely LOOKED like a typical creationist screed at first glance, but c’mon: didn’t the “fossil shoe print” and the listing of contradictory lengths of the Great Flood give the game away? No young-earther would admit to Biblical contradictions, and the “fossil” was just silly.

    None of what Ebert offered up is what creationists actually believe. Of course, Poe’s Law is in full effect.

  • bitchen frizzy

    –“…didn’t the “fossil shoe print” and the listing of contradictory lengths of the Great Flood give the game away? No young-earther would admit to Biblical contradictions, and the “fossil” was just silly.”

    The fossil shoe print was kind of funny, but it wasn’t hyperbolic compared to some creationist “evidence”. Read their explanation for the Grand Canyon, for instance. Satire falls flat when the made-up stuff isn’t as exaggerated as the real stuff.

    Creationists don’t claim Biblical contradictions, but they do have angels-on-a-head-of-a-pin debates over their various interpretations of Scripture. They do indeed debate amongst themselves the exact length of the flood, the exact age of the earth, etc. Again, the satire here falls flat.

    –“None of what Ebert offered up is what creationists actually believe.”

    Actually, much of it is. That’s the problem, and that’s the pitfall of writing a satirical article on something when you don’t know what you’re talking about as well as you think you do.

    I know what Ebert was trying to do with this article, but it turned out lame.

  • bitchen frizzy

    P.S.

    I googled “fossil shoe print.”

    Turns out that’s not even hyperbole, either.

  • TheGaucho

    This is what the esteemed Mr. Ebert has to say for himself (copy-pasted straight from his website):

    Some days ago I posted an article headlined, “Creationism: Your questions answered.” It was a Q&A that accurately reflected Creationist beliefs. It inspired a firestorm on the web, with hundreds, even thousands of comments on blogs devoted to evolution and science. More than 600 comments on the delightful FARK.com alone. Many of the comments I’ve seen believe I have converted to Creationism. Others conclude I have lost my mind because of age and illness. There is a widespread conviction that the site was hacked. Lane Brown’s blog for New York magazine flatly states I gave “two thumbs down to evolution.” On every one of the blogs, there are a few perceptive comments gently suggesting the article might have been satirical. So far I have not seen a single message, negative or positive, from anyone identifying as a Creationist.

    What was my purpose in posting the article? Can you think of a famous Creationist? Perhaps I was trying to helpfully explain what Creationists believe. The article, although brief, was accurate as far as I could determine, which explains why there have been no complaints from Creationists. What was there to complain about? Nor have I received any praise from Creationists, which speaks well for their instincts; they’re apparently more canny than the evolutionists who believe I have lost my mind.

    But the purpose of this blog entry is not to discuss politics (a subject banned from the blog). Nor is it to discuss Creationism versus the theory of evolution (that way lurks an endless loop). It is to discuss the gradual decay of our sense of irony and instinct for satire, and our growing credulity.

    Let me take you back to 1997, and a conversation I had with Paul Schrader, author of “Taxi Driver,” director of “Mishima” and “American Gigolo.” He told me that after “Pulp Fiction,” we were leaving an existential age and entering an age of irony.

    “The existential dilemma,” he said, “is, ‘should I live?’ And the ironic answer is, ‘does it matter?’ Everything in the ironic world has quotation marks around it. You don’t actually kill somebody; you ‘kill’ them. It doesn’t really matter if you put the baby in front of the runaway car because it’s only a ‘baby’ and it’s only a ‘car’.”

    In other words, the scene isn’t about the baby. The scene is about scenes about babies.

    To sense the irony, you have to sense the invisible quotation marks. I suspect quotation marks may be growing imperceptible to us. We may be leaving an age of irony and entering an age of credulity. In a time of shortened attention spans and instant gratification, trained by web surfing and movies with an average shot length of seconds, we absorb rather than contemplate. We want to gobble all the food on the plate, instead of considering each bite. We accept rather than select.

    Were there invisible quotation marks about my Creationism article? Of course there were. How could you be expected to see them? In a sense, I didn’t want you to. I wrote it straight. The quotation marks would have been supplied by the instincts of the ironic reader. The classic model is Jonathan Swift’s famous essay, “A Modest Proposal.” I remember Miss Seward at Urbana High School, telling us to read it in class and note the exact word at which Swift’s actual purpose became clear. None of us had ever heard of it, and she didn’t use a giveaway word like “satire.” Yet not a single person in the class concluded that Swift was seriously proposing that the starving Irish eat their babies. We all got it.

    What you do is, first, consider the source. Jonathan Swift was not a noted cannibal. Then you look for little giveaways, or triggers. Did I supply any triggers in my Creationism piece to inspire such a process? Yes, although they were not waving flags and calling attention to themselves. Possible triggers have been identified in the comments I’ve read. The most cited was the Q&A about the moose. I didn’t want to be obvious, because I hoped to reach readers who were uninformed about Creationism and would find the information interesting. If I had used an obvious slant, readers might have responded according to their pre-existing beliefs. I wanted to fly under the radar. I seem to have been all too successful.

    I have something like 10,000 articles on my web site. I don’t expect most people to have read even 100 of them. I have forgotten some myself. But I hoped my track record might have provided a gentle nudge in the ribs. And there was a bold trigger in plain view, elsewhere on the same page, in this headline: “Evolution is God’s intelligent design.” Yet intelligent readers, even in comments on Richard Dawkins’ own site, didn’t see the quotation marks. Would Dawkins have? Of course. I can’t prove it, but I’m certain.

    Let me give another example of credulity. The following paragraph appeared this week in a New York Post review by Adam Buckman of the season premiere of “Heroes.”

    This show, which was once so thrilling and fun, has become full of itself, its characters spouting crazy nonsense. Here’s one I wish someone would translate for me: “There’s a divinity that shapes our ends–rough hew them how we will,” spouts the enigmatic industrialist Linderman played by Malcolm McDowell, who should win an Emmy for keeping a straight face while reciting these lines.

    Perhaps McDowell kept a straight face because he knew he was quoting one of the most famous speeches in Hamlet. I don’t expect everyone to have read Hamlet, but I would hope a New York critic might have run across it once or twice. Still, we all have our blind spots. After I once quoted Dr. Johnson, I had an editor who asked me who the doctor was, and whether he practiced at a Chicago hospital. So let’s assume Buckman knew Hamlet by heart, but had forgotten that one sentence.

    Let’s go to work as perceptive readers. It might be a two-step process. (1) As he requests, we can translate: “Fate determines how we end up, no matter how crudely we try to control things.” (2) Does anything about those words suggest they might be a quotation, appearing as they do in the middle of otherwise standard TV dialogue? Buckman went to the trouble of writing them down correctly. If a red light had gone off, he could have Googled them. See what you get. There is a third possibility. He had invisible quotation marks around his paragraph. I confess I cannot see them. (To be fair, reader Glenn Fleishman believes there

    These days, there is no room for ambiguity, and few rewards for critical thinking. Now every word of a politician is pumped dry by his opponent, looking for sinister meanings. Many political ads are an insult to the intelligence. Here I am not discussing politics. I am discussing credulity. If you were to see a TV ad charging that a politician supported “comprehensive sex education” for kindergarten children, would you (1) believe it, or (2) very much doubt it? The authors of the ad spent big money in a bet on the credulity and unquestioning thinking of the viewership. Ask yourself what such an ad believes about us. No politics, please.

    The adventure with the Creationism article has been enlightening, and a little depressing. I expected better from evolutionists. Thank goodness for my readers like Anna, Mike S., Mark Dottavio, Martin Wagner, John McFerrin, and Robert of Taiwan. They could see the quotation marks.

    A postscript and confession. As I said, everyone has blind spots. Many of my supporters cited Poe’s Law, which I was unfamiliar with.

    P.P.S. I posted this comment on PZ Myers’ Pharyngula blog: “Let me suggest that while satire was certainly my purpose, creationists were not my intended audience. By stating their beliefs accurately, my hope was that on a site such as mine they would reach a wider readership that might have heard about creationism but didn’t realize what it actually believes. Only 4 percent of Americans are creationists. Do you have any idea how many Americans don’t know what it teaches? I don’t. I know the original article was linked far and wide, which is encouraging.”

  • Ide Cyan

    Oh, Roger Ebert. Irony and satire aren’t the same thing. And it’s not satire if you’re repeating what some people are actually saying in earnest. Those gullible evolutionists who thought you might not be kidding have serious reasons to be worried, and the headline on the “same page” is a context absent on the webpage where your article is reproduced.

    (NB: the preceeding is what’s called a rhetorical apostrophe.)

    I totally agree with you, MaryAnn.

  • Shreck

    Harumph.

    I am a so-called “Young-Earth Christian.” No, I do not have a cup to catch my drool. Yes, I do have more than a cursory understanding of Darwin’s original Origin of Species as well as modern science related to Evolutionary Theory. No, I do not have Multiple-Personality Disorder nor did I live next to a chemical plant as a child.

    Most of my difficulty with Atheists comes from the derogatory and dismissive nature of the off-hand comments they make in regards to Creationism-related beliefs. Why do you feel it necessary to berate a person’s beliefs? I have often found that upon calling someone out for an insulting or condescending comment I am usually presented with a suddenly contrite, well-resoned individual ready for an intelligent discourse on species/universal origins. Why is this person, who is obviously not an ingrate, allowed to insult me brazenly? Why do I have to be the apologetic one for my beliefs? It is a constant frustration to me that Creationism (by association with Christianity) is subjected to overwhelming derision by “reasonable” people.

    Perhaps the belittlement is a knee-jerk reaction to abuses by religious talking heads and politicians who are full of words but have so little to say. And for that I suppose I must pay. Is it too much to ask, though, that reason win out over insults?

    Harumph.

    As far as Ebert and his blog I am not surprised by the results of his, well, “experiment.” It is my opinion that he is right in his diagnosis of credulity, I see it every day. Society is less tolerant of the religious fundamentalist than ever before and has, for the most part, become actively hostile towards it. What is so bad about believing that Noah was 600? What is so wrong about thinking there could be an alternative to the natural erosion of the Colorado River being the cause of the crevasse known as the Grand Canyon? Would it also be a crime to think that the world had a molten cheddar core? Or that the universe began at the great sneeze and we should beware of the coming of the great handkerchief? I would posit that while these beliefs may seem outlandish, possibly childish and maybe even utterly preposterous to you that the simple fact that you are experiencing those opinions demonstrates that those opinions are not fact but instead are perspective. Your perspective has no bearing on the veracity of Creationism , Evolution, or the gooey goodness of the Earth’s core.

    Furthermore, a significant portion of the facts presented were obviously satirical to a reasoned Young-Earth Creationist (yes, I can hear your oxy-moron comments) because they were absurdly presented or utterly irrelevant to Creation Theory. Creationism is not a solely Christian or even Judeo-Christian belief and much like Evolutionary theory often is religiously agnostic. Noah, Psalms and God’s attitude towards moose are irrelevant to Creationism as it is understood today. Creationism, well, at least my version of Creationism, is closer to the Orthodox views of the past in its “Atheistic” tendencies. While my brand of Creationism diverges from my peers in the “Young-Earth” area I still feel that it is not religious in nature notwithstanding that it is religious in origin.

    Well, I want to write much more of my opinions on the subject but I’m sure I’ve already said more than MaryAnn’s readers want to hear. Thank you, as always, MaryAnn for your highly entertaining reviews. I hope your trip to England is safe and fun!

    Shreck

  • amanohyo

    I’ve never really “berated” anyone’s religious beliefs Shrek, but the reason I occasionally make fun of them is because they are insane and that insanity is creeping closer to the heart of institutions that are important in all of our lives. Most people, religious or otherwise, behave irrationally from time to time and have a few irrational beliefs, but the average atheist has a sense of humor about the things they do that don’t seem to make sense. They’ll usually even try to give you a rational explanation for their actions.

    Religious beliefs, on the other hand, are so dogmatic that the average religious person can’t afford to have any sense of humor on the matter. Is it any wonder that we can’t help but make fun? As someone once said, “people who don’t want their beliefs laughed at shouldn’t have such funny beliefs.” It’s also partially a defensive mechanism. If we don’t ridicule, we fear humanity will start to take your insanity even more for granted than they already do. The more we accept the moderately insane, peaceful religious people, the easier it becomes for the extreme nutjobs to slip through the cracks and gain protection from criticism.

    bitchen frizzy, I’m not sure you should have cut and pasted that huge chunk of content. Not that Ebert’s hurting for traffic, but I think it’s common courtesy to link to his site or cut and paste the address (correct me if I’m wrong).

    Ebert pretty much told a joke that flopped, then retroactively claimed it was all an experiment and we poor lab rats were the ones who disappointed him. It’s okay though, we’re forgiven, since he expected most of us to fail to appreciate his clever satire in the first place. I do agree that people have lost their ability to discern subtlety, but his joke/experiment was a poor vehicle for his point as it is amusing to practically no one, irregardless of their reading comprehension abilities.

  • MBI

    “I would posit that while these beliefs may seem outlandish, possibly childish and maybe even utterly preposterous to you that the simple fact that you are experiencing those opinions demonstrates that those opinions are not fact but instead are perspective.”

    Look, we all live with our delusions. I’m going to be a famous rapper someday. That guy was totally flirting with me. That promotion is right around the corner. I am lookin’ hot tonight.

    But there’s only so much ignorance one should tolerate. You are free to believe there’s cheese at the Earth’s center, but why shouldn’t that open you up to mocking? Ignorance is not and has never been an attractive quality. The fact that you seem to be able to effectively communicate just indicates that your ignorance is willful, the worst kind. Why shouldn’t you be mocked for that? You certainly can’t be admired for it! Because the fact is that ignorant people make ignorant decisions, and too many of them in one spot can do a great deal of damage. Whimsy and fantasy lands have their place, but it’s not in the adult world.

  • bitchen frizzy

    –“bitchen frizzy, I’m not sure you should have cut and pasted that huge chunk of content.”

    Are you sure I did?

    I think Ebert’s missing a key point about credulity. The more people surf teh intarweb, the more they come across stranger-than-fiction stuff. When I read his article, I figured it was a lame joke, and I didn’t conclude that he had become a fundamentalist Christian. I didn’t completely discount the possibility, though. Overnight conversions do happen. Likely to happen in Ebert’s case? No, very unlikely. Impossible? Well…

    Take his example about comprehensive sex ed for kindergarteners. Now, if I read a claim like that about Obama or McCain, I would seriously doubt its veracity. But I would not be at all suprised to read on the internet that a politician somewhere in the U.S. actually did endorse that idea. In fact, I’d be more suprised to learn that no one has ever called for that. Does that make me credulous? No, it just means that just when you think you’ve seen everything on the web, think again.

  • JoshB

    Shreck, your entire post is an ode to anti-rationalism, the belief that there are no facts, only opinions, and all opinions are equally valid. I don’t care if you believe in God, Shiva, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, you’re gonna get mocked for that.

  • Ide Cyan

    (Are we sure Shreck’s not trying to test the credulity of the commenters here?)

  • Ide Cyan

    (…’cause I think the great sneeze line is straight out of Douglas Adams’s Viltvodle VI.)

  • amanohyo

    Oops. I meant to scold TheGaucho about the cut and paste thing. Sorry frizzy.

  • Shreck

    Yes Mr./Ms. Ide, I am a Douglas Adams fan. However I am neither clever enough nor do I believe it is worthwhile to try to construct a poorly farcical response to a poorly satirical article. I am simply expressing my frusration at a public that seem to have learned nothing since the Scopes trial some eighty years ago.

    In the Scopes trial a largely religious public was offended that someone would try to teach these crazy ideas about a theory of evolution by natural selection. They were incredibly defensive of their Creationist teachings that were obviously self-evident and they were offended by any assertion that their long-held beliefs could be wrong. People were violently opposed to such teachings nation-wide and several states even passed anti-evolution laws. This was in response to a largely liberal national media who had portrayed anti-evolutionists as yokels and hillbillies for their actions. So on one side you have abusive, mocking media while on the other you have a defensive, religious public. The end result: years of intolerance and legislation and even a mistrust that persists to today.

    And here we are again, for the first time. You (or everyone else, or whatever) sit here and mock Creationists and the Fundamentalists come right back spewing whatever vitriol they can to try to defend their position. What good has your derision brought? Certainly you are no closer to eliminating this “ignorant” position that you most assuredly know very little about. At the same time the larger Creationist community has turned off their hearing to anything you say because with any comment you make comes an insult.

    My opinion regarding the Scopes trial is that, in the end, it had nothing to do with science or religion and had everything to do with politics. The same problems that plague our two-party system – reactionary speech, win/lose tactics, non-rational defensiveness – plague any discussion on religion and science that I’ve participated in in any open forum. And your participation typifies that. Mocking is one of the lowest forms of human interaction, just above bullying and willful manipulation. They take little effort and are often our natural responses due to years of training. Sympathy, empathy and open-minded discussion are much more difficult, but in the end much more rewarding. Try it some time. You might be surprised. You can even do it on the Internet!

    On the topic at hand, I am truly a Young-Earth Creationist. Honestly, though, I probably do it because it is the harder choice, the one with less “scientific” reason at this point, the choice that challenges me to learn more and to understand the argument at successively deeper levels. I fully admit that, on the surface, Evolution is a far superior theory for describing the natural world around us. That is why for quite some time I would have described myself as a Neo-Creationist. Upon deeper inspection, though, that position lacked the ability to account for many “truths” that I have come to believe. So I have adjusted my beliefs on origins to compensate for that. In the end, however, it is my earnest belief that far too many Christians spend too much time worrying about things that are peripheral to the central beliefs of our faith. Whether we evolved or poofed into existence, whether it was the Flying Spaghetti Monster or the Great Green Arkleseizure or my dog Skip, and whether nature is its own creator or it’s just a God with a great sense of humor is largely irrelevant. The human condition is far more important for a Christian, or at least that was what the guy who got nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change said.

    Well, I don’t know why my rant knob got turned to 10, but I feel the need to shut up now. Thanks for listening.

    Shreck

  • bitchen frizzy

    But to those Creationists who keep their beliefs in play as a political issue, Creationism is not peripheral to their central beliefs.

    The guy who got nailed to a tree was mocked by his detractors, even as he hung there. Anyone who takes a controversial position in the public arena will be mocked. Comes with the territory, and not just in the case of religion. Look at Palin and Obama endure for getting uppity and crashing the old boys’ club.

  • Shreck

    Oh, I have I have no misconceptions about that. If I’ve given the impression that I’m surprised by the mocking I apologize; I only meant to say that it frustrates and disappoints me. And you’re totally on target with the Palin/Obama point. I just really think we’re better than that.

    Shreck

  • MaryAnn

    This is what the esteemed Mr. Ebert has to say for himself (copy-pasted straight from his website):

    I’ve said this before: Do NOT copy and paste material from other web sites. Post a link.

    Regarding mockery: When religion pretends to be science, it deserves to be mocked widely, loudly, and publicly.

  • blake

    Someone pass me some tissues, I’m gonna do something very un-manly and cry for the planet.

    “Regarding mockery: When religion pretends to be science, it deserves to be mocked widely, loudly, and publicly.”

    yet another great T-shirt line that, sadly, will never be.

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