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About jonbirch

animator, illustrator, character designer, graphic designer. music producer/recording musician. co-owner of PROOST. proost.co.uk
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67 Responses to 1056

  1. Naomi says:

    huge thumbs up!!!

  2. jonbirch says:

    you’re not a royalist then, naomi? :-)

  3. soniamain says:


    we were discussing at work yesterday what MBE could stand for ( other than the official title) came up with some good ones- but prob all too rude for here!

  4. buzz says:

    what is the actual function of having a queen in britain? a dumb question but i am miffed…

  5. Pingback: Jesus and recognition…… an MBE? « Transformational thoughts….

  6. The majority of offers of honours in the UK will be made by an ordinary Civil Servant. It’s only when the recipient accepts that the honours List is created, with the blessing of the queen.

    But my version makes for a pretty rubbish cartoon.

    Buzz, we need the queen, because without her, it would be David Cameron’s head on the stamps!

  7. subo says:

    wow, this just show’s how tiny a recognition an MBE is, who can name one?, (& Jesu’ MBE sounds a tad superfluous,) yet as a Muslim woman told me earlier – “every body loves Jesus”

  8. Mike Smith says:

    Brilliant post – my thoughts exactly!

    Very much enjoying your book Jon:-)

  9. soniamain says:

    I know several people who have been given MBE’s, but most of the people I know have got them for doing jobs they are paid for- that strikes me as curious- but I also know of some people who have them for years and years of voluntary work- I can understand that more!

    I sent your cartoon round the office today- caused lots of laughs!

  10. Sarah says:

    Ah bless him. He’s so lovely.

    And so’s she!

    She’s getting quite focussed on her faith as she gets older isn’t she? Has anyone noticed.

    Entirely natural and quite proper. Don’t think she’ll get exclusive though. She’s not the type (well aware many visitors to this blog share different feelings than that x)

    Take good care


  11. Joe Turner says:

    I’m imagining the Queen giving up all her palaces and wealth and going to live in a sheltered flat. Now that would be a miracle worth seeing..

  12. subo says:

    yep, I agree Sarah, I do think the Queen is quite successful in trying to communicate her faith. – no mean feat when everything you say is listened too by folk everywhere. though I find her more on the morality and work ethic side, than the abundant, overflowing love and grace of a God who wants to invite you to join us on the New Earth

    (guess, if she shared that kind of faith, she’d have to share a little more of the bounty?)

  13. jonbirch says:

    haha… i quite like the queen as a person, from what i see of her. she impresses me. she is unerringly dutiful and even as an elderly woman she still puts in the hours. god bless ‘er. that’s the queen as a person.
    i utterly hate the whole idea of a monarchical system. i find it impossible to square with my conscience and my politics. i hate medieval land ownership, lordships, sirs and ladies… i hate that privilege is written into this country’s constitution. i hate that prince charles (who may well be a nice bloke) owns all the farmland around me. i’d rather my farmer friends didn’t have to pay rent on the land they farm and keep up. the land was nicked in the first place.
    and now ‘honours’. they are a great way of the privileged classes feeling good about themselves. pat the good serfs on the back and issue a hearty ‘well done you’. also i hate the politics of it… if you lead a team or are the figurehead of a charity you are far more likely to get one than if you do all the real work.
    this country still has it’s upper classes and it’s cannon fodder even though it’s not engaged in war quite like it was.
    i also hate ‘empire’. i simply don’t like it. regardless of any arguments that many will make about the good done around the old empire by the jolly ol’ brits. the roman empire stank (regardless of their straight roads), the mongol empire stank, american imperialism stinks, the british empire stank. empires always have subjects and that stinks too. these awards are awarded in the name of the empire. to accept one you would either have to be a monarchist, an imperialist, or simply forgotten who you are. probably best just to get on with what you do and accept no reward so directly linked to so many questionable things.
    i’m afraid i’m with benjamin zephaniah and c.s. lewis.
    by the way. i have no problems calling someone sir… in fact i sometimes do… it’s just that i have to respect them.

  14. jonbirch says:

    i suspect a friend of mine may have been offered an award which he turned down… thing is, he’s not the sort of person to talk about it, so i’ll never know for sure. :-)

    another friend accepted one. i was, i must say, gobsmacked. as sonia said above… being given an award of the empire for work you’re paid to do seems ridiculous. surely your pay is your award. it all just seems a little unthinking. of course the organisation you belong to may get some coverage if you accept one… but is that really a good enough reason? to my mind, it isn’t.

  15. Yes, lots of good points here. Sonia made a brilliant point about people getting the honour because it goes with the job. As far as I am aware, I only know 2 MBEs on a personal level. Both got the honours on the basis of their job. That is ludicrous…as ludicrous as heads of banks on astronomical salaries getting huge bonuses for a job well done! You are getting paid to do that anyway – top salaries for ‘top people’. We expect nothing less from you!

    As much as the concept of monarchy discomforts me, I do admire the Queen. She can’t get up one morning and say, ‘Bollocks to this, I’m off to live out my days on the island of Mustique so don’t bother me anymore!’ Her commitment to her role is admirable, the like of which you seldom see elsewhere particularly from someone in their 80s who should be able to relax and enjoy their retirement. Can you imagine having a President Cameron? I’d be off to Zimbabwe to seek asylum! I sometimes shudder at what will fill the void when the Queen finally meets her maker. PM wasters may come and go but she has offered stability in her 60 years of reign.

  16. rithompson says:

    I don’t get MBE’s or other honours. From a Christian point of view, you don’t do good work for your own personal glory but for God and the rest of the world. From a human point of view, the letters mean nothing – it’s not like Her Maj is giving you your own corner of Cornwall to govern.

  17. jonbirch says:

    me neither, rithompson… when a football team honours a particularly wonderful manager as man utd did with fergy… that’s cool. but what he’s doing with a knighthood is beyond me. it’s the ‘empire’ bit and the class stuff that i find particularly obnoxious… but then you probably gathered that. :-)

  18. Sarah says:

    I think the honours list is there to encourage all those in the various fields- it certainly does me.

    Spirit didn’t want us to have kings and queens. But we’ve got em now so.

    I am a Queen and You are a Queen or a King. You are magical in your queen/ kingdom.

  19. Sarah says:

    Su- she’s a product of her generation. Just like we are of ours. :-)

  20. subo says:

    Ah, yes Sarah, that explains it. – except Brennan Manning can’t be that much younger

    However, I do very much appreciate the Royal Family’s approach to building friendliness around the world, fully fledged, gracious, bone china peace making, – oh and well done Kate for spotting the composer who’s name I’ve already forgotton – who wrote something for Gavin’s Military Wives Chior

  21. Pingback: Honours « Life With Da Man CD

  22. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    As much as I hate to disagree with the posters above, this strip clearly has nothing to do with the U.K. honours system and everything to do with the hypocrisy of religion. I mean, neither the C. of E. nor the R.C. churches are exactly poverty-stricken organisations by any stretch of the imagination. Between them they own vast tracts of valuable real estate, not to mention the billions upon billions of pounds worth of art, gold, silver and precious jewels and gems kicking around their various opulent palaces, cathedrals and stored in bank vaults. And that’s before we get to the billions of pounds of cold hard cash – tax-free of course – that they extort out of the gullible (and out of the mouths of the needy) year-on-year.
    Practice what you preach eh? Try getting your heads out of your darker orifices for once.

  23. theGreatFuzzy says:

    jonbirch : “i utterly hate the whole idea of a monarchical system”
    Isn’t JCs dad (which is himself of course) the head of a monarchical system? Or is the Kingdom of heaven actually a democracy?

  24. jonbirch says:

    acolyte of sagan… i guess if there’s anything human history can teach us, it’s that often people have been exploitative, greedy, selfish, violent, controlling in the name of religion, politics, ethnicity etc, etc… it’s as true now as it’s ever been and it ain’t good.

    thegreatfuzzy… good point. but then i don’t think the kingdom of heaven is an actual kingdom any more than i think god is a really a mother hen. if god is the name that we give to that which is behind, in and over all we see and don’t see, then it stands to reason that god has universal power and more. that’s very different in many ways to any king or queen that’s ever been. israel wanted a king, but according to the bible it wasn’t god’s option. mind you, the monarchy that we have now is of course a far cry from the days when kings and queens ruled by might and could chop off your head on a whim. so, in short, maybe the kingdom of heaven is neither and both a kingdom and a democracy… who knows what the best way of order is? all our systems are fraught with weaknesses and as a human it’s hard to see beyond that… we just trust in better days ahead.

  25. Always enjoy the Irony of people of religion dissing monarchial systems ( not a big fan myself to be honest) but OK with the whole supernatural dictator thing, which apparently demands constant worship and adoration.

    As Hitchens called it, ” like wishing for a kind of celestial North Korea”

  26. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    jonbirch (does nobody capitalise anymore?), I really wasn’t expecting a response but it was brought to my attention on the excellent http://www.jesusandmo.net and it would be rude to ignore it.
    Your counter to my point does nothing to defend the church organisations; instead it boils down to the standard argument I’ve heard a million times from my children when they were young, namely “Well, everybody else does it, why can’t we”.

    In your reply to Fuzzy, you’ve written “if god is the name that we give to that which is behind, in and over all we see and don’t see, then it stands to reason that god has universal power and more.”. Purely by coincidence that relates to a discussion I’m having on J&M, so I’ll just copy over a very salient quote, which I originally read in the excellent ‘Cosmos’ by Carl Sagan, by an 18thC natural philosopher;

    From ‘Systeme de la Nature’, Paul Heinrich Dietrich, Baron Von Holbach, 1770;

    ‘If a faithful account was rendered of Man’s ideas upon Divinity, he would be obliged to acknowledge, that for the most part the word “gods” has been used to express the concealed, remote, unknown causes of the effects he witnessed; that he applies this term when the spring of the natural, the source of known causes, ceases to be visible: as soon as he loses the thread of these causes, or as soon as his mind can no longer follow the chain, he solves the difficulty, terminates his research, by ascribing it to his gods…..When, therefore, he ascribes to his gods the production of some phenomenon….does he, in fact, do any thing more than substitute for the darkness of his own mind, a sound to which he has been accustomed to listen with reverential awe!’

    242 years later and it’s pretty much the same. Whether it’s Goddidit, Pandidit, MotherEarthdidit, or Vesuviansdidit, it’s all saying the same thing; “I’m either too stupid to figure out the truth for myself or too lazy to look it up. You might wish to call it god, but some of us aim a little higher in our enquiries.

  27. jonbirch says:

    hi david ashtron… allow me to assure you, i’m not wishing for a celestial north korea… nor anything else celestial for that matter.

    acolyte of sagan… i have no desire to defend the organisation or institution called church… i’ll defend some things some times, but would never wish to defend the often indefensible. i spend a lot of my down time watching documentaries on science and nature… i love the pursuit of truth, i love the theorising and the testing of those theories… i really enjoy the experience of learning from the hard pursuit of others, whether it be on the topic of what happened to the mayans or how the universe was made. i subscribe to much evolutionary theory and like many others find myself fascinated by the holes in it and look forward to seeing where it leads… and i’m very grateful that there are those whose skill sets enable them to do this amazing exploratory work. i am intrigued by the idea of a primordial soup and how such complex beings such as ourselves might have come about. i love science even though i am by no means a scientist. i love that it answers one question and opens up many others as a result. i am interested to see whether they pin down a ‘faith’ gene. i don’t buy the selfish gene theory at this stage, because it is in cooperation i see humanities greatest achievements, such as landing on the moon and controlling small pox. i try not to be lazy in my thinking, which lets face it happens on all sides of the god debate… i think david’s hitchens quote above is a lazy response to what he sees as a lazy unthinking belief, and i’m not saying he’s not right in his point to a degree. but individuals are so much more complex than institutions would like to squeeze them down to, humanity has the power to be so much more expansive in it’s imaginings and discoveries than institutions are ever comfortable with. some of the best scientific discoveries have been poo pooed with a religious fervour by their own institutions… institutions, which seem to be a natural human behaviour, a way of arganising ourselves, can become the enemy of that which they are there to safeguard, be it science, religion, sport, art. people are often getting battered by these institutions because they lack the flexibility of some individuals. others, of course, adhere to the every word of their chosen institution because there is comfort there and when people feel fragile they look for comfort.

    hmmm… that went a little all over the place… i was just introducing myself really as the bloke behind the blog. well, a little bit of the bloke behind the blog anyway. i think in a universe of dark forces, dark energy and dark matter, black holes, solar winds and things happening in unimaginable time frames on an unimaginable scale, that i wish to have a degree of humility. :-)

  28. FreeFox says:

    *really looking forward to AoS’s response to this one* ^_^

  29. FreeFox says:

    @Fuzzy and David: Do you “wish” for a universe of HIV, tsunamis, parasites, the irrationality of humans, a limit life span of the sun and an eventual collapse of entropic heat death? Do you cease believing in the results of science when you no longer like them? Why should the conviction about the existance of divinity be any more be dependent on whether one likes the choices of God? He either is or is not, including all the death and horror (and beauty and glory) this world brings with it. Which makes the dictatorship of heaven less that of North Korea and more on the same level as the tyranny of the cold equations present to us by science.

  30. FreeFox says:

    Oops… meant to say “eventual collaps OR entropic heat death” of the universe, of course.

  31. dragon74140 says:

    Hi freefox, often enjoy your contributions on j&m but you may have misunderstood me here; I don’t “wish” for or “stop believing in s science” . My comment was merely meant to point out the irony of those who do wish for a celestial dictator but recognize the unpleasantness of that proposition when it is here on Earth

  32. FreeFox says:

    @David: Um. Yes. That was kinda the point I was trying to make: Whether you believe in something has nothing to do with whether you wish for it. I may think God is real cunt, but that has no more impact on whether I think He exists than my feelings towards black holes have on my belief in them. So I don’t think there is much irony involved. ^_^

    (Of course, most believers also think that God is the dog’s bollocks, so they might argue that while any human dictator maybe bad, the divine one is like a wise and beneficial father to his small children, just the right chap to steer things with a firm hand… which – upon having a look at creation – sounds like a crock to me, but hey, it takes all kinds…)

  33. OK FF I see your point. What Hitchens was saying as I recall, was to the effect that he was glad that the whole proposition was not true, because if it were, it is a ghastly idea. You seem clear that whatever God is ( I of course don’t think there is one) there is nothing you can do to effect his/her character. If he is the equivalent of Kim Il Sung (sp?), then tough. I understand that but most of the religious see none of this and seem to welcome the idea of such a dictatorship. Willing slavery indeed.

    See you back on j & Mo

  34. FreeFox says:

    @David: Lol. Yeah, I don’t see anything convincing me that God (who after my own fashion I do believe in, albeit not in a Praise-Jeezus kinda way) is susceptible to badgering from individual humans (even if petitioning prayers worked on cancers and comas, which seems to have been disproved pretty convincingly, I really need someone to explain to me why God never helps amputees grow back limbs), though if God actually was this kinda wishing well accessible only to the faithful… the state of the world as it is is even more appalling than either if there was no interventionist God or if God is simply following His own “plan”.

    As an active and probably rather severe masochist and badass uke I can dig the whole willing submission thing, though. Life is fucking glorious, even if it hurts a lot. And who would it be more glorious to sub to than the Allmighty. So, call me a “Bride of the Lord”. ^_^

    (Seriously… thinking about this prostrate, worship, and submit… and then pray for this and that… it kinda smacks of topping from the bottom, don’t you think?)

  35. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Just a quick one for now. No.1 grandson stayed over last night and he’s ready for his lunch. At a month over 2yrs-old, he’s a typical toddler; the epitomy of the selfish gene writ large. Which brings me to the quick point I wanted to make to you Jon. If you don’t accept the selfish gene theory then I suspect that you haven’t read the book. In a nutshell, selfishness at the genetic level has nothing to do with selfishness of people in general. A gene will thrive in the environment that allows it to pass on to future generations, be that in a human or a shrimp. It may sound counter-intuitive, but the successful ‘selfish’ gene is the one that can exist in co-operation with other genes; any gene that tries to go independant will not survive outside of the co-operative, so will not be passed to the next generation.
    More later……

  36. daoloth says:

    @Jon Birch. Thanks for the cartoon. It will bother some folk who like to stereotype the religious just as much as they claim to hate being stereotyped themselves.
    In response to your post: Selfish genes do not imply selfish people. Genes are only selfish inso far as they are in a race to get replicated–often the best way to do this is to co-operate and they do this all th etime. We are the result of a massive cooperation (100 trillion cells all pulling together).
    You are not alone in conflating the two.–and Richard Dawkins has expressed dismary at the way the metaphor has be reified. You are also not alone in finding evolutionary theory troubling–but I commend your honesty about it. Many secular folk think evolution stopped at the neck but are utterly dishonest about their response to this. You might enjoy Jonothan Haidt’s recent book where he takes this issue head on and reveals one of the things that you might, as a conoisseur of “holes in theory” enjoy–namely group selection. Available here http://people.virginia.edu/~jdh6n/ along with a t=TEd talk that summarises. If it interests you then come over to the Jesus and Mo website and shake up some misconceptions if you have a mind to

  37. jonbirch says:

    acolyte is right, daoloth, in saying i can’t have read the book. i haven’t. not got around to looking at the selfish gene yet and what he’s really saying. i’m fairly confident though, that richard dawkins, in pretty typical fashion, has named it thus for a reaction. the reason he does a lot of things. i find myself agreeing with dawkins a lot. i do find he only argues against a fundamentalist position and controlling human religious structures. i often have no argument with that. but his lack of understanding as to how those with belief in god might think and operate i find to be staggering sometimes. great biologists are not necessarily going to be the best at understanding human behaviour
    i watched a fascinating program on the beeb iplayer last night about sodom and gomorrah. about the possibility of their real existence and how a huge catastrophe would have become folklore and what that catastrophe in actuality might have been. it was utterly engaging and proper explorative science. it was also evident that sodom and gomorrah as real places destroyed in the way the bible describes is amazingly plausible. it very much interests me how the scribes, after an event, bring meaning to their people through these ancient, passed down stories. noah, joshua etc… great stories, all with a real happening at their centre ascribed to their god. i love the history, the lore, the geology. the physics all coming together.
    i love the human yet dogged determination to find out the truth, to work on a hunch, through disappointment and heartache to get to the point of vindication… while other ‘experts’ scoff away. the joy of the discovery of the scientist is a joyous thing to for my eyes to behold… yet i still believe in god. :-)
    as much as i think dawkins is often good for getting debate going i do find him a bit silly sometimes, i’m afraid. i was listening to a radio 4 debate between him and one of the clergy of st. paul’s who’d just resigned from his post. dawkins said rather cheaply, something along the lines of, loose quote here ‘most people who call themselves christians in this country couldn’t even name the books of the bible in order.’ to which the clergy man responded, again loose quote ‘if that’s a measure for you, then you, as a darwinist, should be able to give me the complete and proper name of darwin’s the origin of species’… there proceeded to be a lot of, what i found hilarious flapping and wriggling… as dawkins failed, pomposity was pricked.
    i find pomposity and lack of humility, or the need to make oneself look or sound cleverer than another to be utterly unhelpful. it shows a lack of willingness to truly understand the position of another. one or two phrases in the above comments are deliberately there to insight… ‘heads up bottoms’ etc… well of course heads can be up bottoms on all sides of many disagreements, but i fail to see how insulting someone you’d like a conversation with is going to bring the conversation any further on. unless you’d rather not have the conversation. to be accused of being a lazy thinker, or silly, in such a lazy thinking and silly way is in itself a little… silly. and just means that everybody misses out on the possibility of an enlightening, edifying and ultimately helpful conversation.

    haha. i’ve ranted. thanks for the input peeps. :-)

  38. daoloth says:

    I wouldn’t read Dawkins, if I was you. A more measured approach is to be found in Dennett’s book-“Breaking the Spell”. I have to confess I sued to find Dawkins overly combative myself–then I worked in a school where the teaching of evolution was banned. Suddenly I realised what made him that way! Your cartoons reveal you to have a more nuanced view and you might find Dennett’s more congenial. Dawkins view is that religion would go away if people “just stopped being so silly”. My view–Dennetts too–I think, is that religion reveals deep and interesting things about the human psyche which we would do well to pay attention to. Some of my friends over at Jesus & Mo have so much fun feeling superior to people “they know are wrong” that they can miss what we have to learn from one another about ourselves. Similar remarks could pertain to other debates

  39. jonbirch says:

    thanks for that, daoth. i just, probably wrongly, have this sneaking feeling that when we die we’ll all find out just how wrong we all were. :-)

  40. @ff
    You might (if you haven’t already) like Tim Minchin’s “Thank you God” song which riffs on this very subject. The god who fixes his friend’s cataract but is largely unconmcerned with “the victims of the plague or the flood addled Asians”.

    You sound quite old fashioned Deist in some ways, in which case you keep some very good company but I rather feel that we should continue our chat at J&M which, no pun intended, is rather more my spiritual home, as it were. Would not like to think our earnest friends here feel we are hijacking their thread.

    But it would be nice to see and engage with Theist and Deist interlocutors more often, without it descending into insult and ultimately, farce as it does too often.

    Toodle pip.

  41. daoloth says:

    Well, its certainly a testable hypthothesis–the one thing we ca be certain of is that no-one gets out alive!

  42. jonbirch says:

    a dead certainty indeed. :-)

  43. theGreatFuzzy says:

    Following on from what daoloth said regards “Breaking the Spel”, this talk by D C Dennet (a great communicator) is enlightening regards religion and how it ‘works’

    I find his talks easier to follow than his books.

  44. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Now my view is that, in all probability, we won’t find out who was right! Which actually would be a blessing to those who’ve willingly lived a life of denial, or even given their lives, in the name of their god. I mean, imagine you were a martyr who’d just willingly sacrificed yourself for your god only to find out there isn’t one. You’d just want to..err..die….well, you know what I mean.
    Jon, I got the inferrence from your rant, but you really can’t say that I didn’t kick off a lively debate, can you? I’ve more to add to this but it will have to wait a while. I’m off to take my little monster home. See y’all later.

  45. jonbirch says:

    acolyte… i wasn’t offended, but can see how people might be, that’s all. as for me, i enjoy welcoming people to my blog. i also found your thoughts stimulated my thoughts,but i would have done so with no reference to heads or arses. :lol: hope you and the li’l monster had a good time together. :-)

  46. FreeFox says:

    @David: Sure thing. You might want to chip in on the convo AoS and I were having in the previous J&M’s comments. It’s kinda on this theist/deist/atheist theme. ^_^

  47. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Thanks Jon, we always have a great time, even though the great disparity in age (and my own rather severe spinal problems – an excellent rebuttal of the ‘designer’ god theory in my opinion; any human who designed something as prone to fault and damage as we are would be sacked) means that I feel every exhausting minute. And his little brother’s only 17 months behind him. It’s a good job I love the little brutes!
    Now, to be fair I never said ‘arse’, or even ‘bottom’, but I was hoping to shake the thoughts of those commenters that couldn’t see beyond the punchline. I suppose that my first post here could simply have been “And the Queen said ‘Ditto Jesus’, but the truth is that many people are ignorant of the immense wealth held by the big two Jesus cults and so my point could easily have been missed.
    The biggest drawback of internet debate is that it is easy to be misunderstood unless one litters one’s posts with a litany of smileys, frownies, ‘lol’s’ etc., so I’ll say now that whilst I may sometimes come across as, shall we say, brutally honest, any offence that might be taken is not intended. I just don’t sugar-coat my opinions just because somebody might not like the tone, especially when amongst intelligent adults. Believe me, just announcing oneself to be atheist is enough to cause offence to many, so whilst I rarely – unless severely provoked – set out to cause offence, I certainly don’t tip-toe around.
    So, I would love to continue this debate; with your apparently conflicting views you sound like the kind of chap I enjoy verbally sparring with (that great contrarian FreeFox will vouch for that I think. We have very differing opinions, yet have happily exchanged views on many an occasion, with no malice or ill-feeling either way), but I do hope that our voices will not be drowned out by tutting from the sidelines.

    Speaking of FreeFox; in case you’ve missed it, I’ve left a reply to you on J&M’s ‘Water’ thread. Surely we won’t be agreeing to disagree again….will we?

  48. daoloth says:

    Thanks for the link. I find the Big D a very clear thinker–which is not the same as always agreeing with him. I have always found it worth going back and checking if I find myself not agreeing though. Typically it means I have missed something.

  49. jonbirch says:

    haha! mr acolyte, sir… i stand corrected. i extrapolated arse and bottom from the word orifice and that was all my own doing. apologies. :lol: in truth, acolyte, i’m working it out as i go along… trying to shift from rigid positions of upbringing and indoctrination to find out what i truly believe. i see flaws everywhere and seem to have the kind of brain that would happily deconstruct anything… and that isn’t always helpful. what i try to do here is offer a safe place for those who, like me, do not find themselves to be an easy fit and come from a place of churching. somewhere safe to question, debate and think about those things we have been brought up with, subject to, influenced by, have problems with, etc. thanks for your thoughts… not much tutting goes on in these parts, except when the odd fundie pops up and starts trying to dictate what we should all believe from their position of absolute correctness… generally when this happens, most vote with their feet and don’t bother engaging… it’s not easy engaging with those who refuse to enjoy the listening part of engagement too… in fact it’s not much fun either. i expect that happens on your site too. glad you had a good, if tiring, time with monsters jr and sr… cheers for now. :-)

  50. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Jon, I suppose that I’m fortunate in that the indoctrination never took with me. It always struck me as strange that it was only the religious educaters that felt it neccessary to beat the ‘truth’ into me when I requested just a shred of proof.
    I’ve always been a ‘bottom-up’ rather than a ‘top-down’ thinker, so have always preferred to start with the effect to find the cause. The one piece of advice that I can offer to one in your position – and I’ve met many in my time – is to try – if only just as a one-off thought experiment – to take gods out of the equation when trying to figure things out and follow the evidence, wherever it may lead. As any scientist worth his/her salt will tell you, to start with a fixed presumed cause in mind can very quickly muddy the waters.

  51. jonbirch says:

    don’t you worry acolyte, i’m no pushover and am also a bottom down thinker to a point. but awe and wonder at the incomprehensible size, scale and beauty of it all is also something i relish greatly. i was always frustrated in biology at school when the teacher would have us dissect a bulls eye with no reference to what an incredible creature the bull was. i thought it showed complete lack of respect for the bull, plus (even though the workings of the eye fascinate me and i see no problem with dissecting it), it’s attachment to the bull seemed to me to be pretty fundamental in assessing its usefulness as an eye… so i was taking none of his nonsense either. as an artist and musician, mathematics and the sciences are inescapably connected to the things i love, yet in education the connections were never drawn… bottom down thinking disabled the educators from seeing the bigger picture and thus switching me on to subjects i’d thus far sidelined for their apparent lack of relevance to my own interests. i, for one am grateful the world is filled with different kinds of thinking. without balance too much important stuff gets missed.
    human exploits though marvelous cannot help but be person centric. all our discovery, all our invention comes from a human perspective. we are locked in to being human. so we will only ever understand anything based on how we see it and how it effects us. this is quite a limitation when it comes to understanding things on a cosmic scale.
    science is beautiful, maths is beautiful, art is beautiful… we’re human and it’s in our nature to discover and create and love those pursuits. but let’s not get too big for our boots and assume that our starting point in these ventures is it.

  52. jonbirch says:

    i guess i’m arguing that as human beings we do have fixed starting points, regardless of any belief in god.

  53. FreeFox says:

    Hey, Jon. Sorry for butting in there (Hi, my name is Jacob, I followed AoS here from J&S, where he and I were having a similar conversation, pleased to meetcha) but I gotta ask something here:
    What makes you think that your view on God is not just as much from a human perspective? That any spiritual or religious approach allows an escape from that “limitation when it comes to understanding things on a cosmic scale”? And/or how would you describe that “extra” that you seem to feel is lost when reducing the bull or the cosmos to the sum of its parts?

  54. daoloth says:

    Hi Jon. We were talking about Dennett. His new stuff is here:
    Would be interested to know your views. You might be an atheist if…

  55. jonbirch says:

    hey there freefox/jacob. good to meet you too. good questions both, which i shall attempt to answer as honestly as i can.

    Q. What makes you think that your view on God is not just as much from a human perspective? That any spiritual or religious approach allows an escape from that “limitation when it comes to understanding things on a cosmic scale”?
    A. i think my view of everything, including my ever evolving view on god, is very definitely from a human perspective. i don’t think i have any escape from my humanity when it comes to me trying to grasp anything. i, as a human, engage with everything as a human… in fact, it’s probably my duty to :-) . i have seen charlatans at work, people who have even convinced themselves that their chanel to the ‘divine’ is somehow purer. when i see their nonsense and the falsehoods and manipulation needed to maintain their position of power and authority, i am left in no doubt that it’s all hogwash. i think that is why i’m always asking for humility as we discuss any of these things. people behaving badly is no proof of the existence or non-existence of god… just proof that people can be stupid. i think the same for myself as i do for the scientist. as we learn more about our place in the universe i find myself more and more humbled… and i think that’s a good thing. so, in short… i would never claim that my view on god was anything other than just that, my view.

    Q. How would you describe that “extra” that you seem to feel is lost when reducing the bull or the cosmos to the sum of its parts?
    A. for me it’s about appreciation and in to that i guess you can throw respect and a soupcon of reverence. the bull, going to my illustration, is a magnificent beast… it has a function and an asthetic to perform that function. it has beauty and is fearsome. all things to be duly appreciated before plunging on into its eyeball to check out the mechanism. i can’t help thinking that we devalue our own learning when we fail to teach the average schoolboy/girl how to appreciate beauty. it seems to me that although the bull is a functional creature, to reduce it down to merely that we miss out on the asthetic for its own sake and the enjoyment of the view… and all for the sake of passing an o level. :-) maybe secondary education has improved since my day. i do believe the likes of leonardo and archimedes many centuries before him grasped these things quite naturally… the artist, the mathematician, the physicist, the biologist all connected in the case of leonardo in one person. i’m a big fan of enthusiasts… those people who love the drama, the visual, the sensory… who love then to explore the big questions of ‘how?’ and ‘why?’ through experiments, sometimes big, sometimes small… who exercise themselves with the workings out, the mechanics. these people have brought a richness to my life for which i am eternally grateful and have opened up so many possibilities for humanity as well as exciting this simple fellow which is me.

    i’ve probably wittered and wandered in my answers… but good questions do stimulate passion in me. :-) btw… i wouldn’t claim to be right in my thinking… i’m just saying what my thinking is as best i can… and am very suspicious of anyone who would want to indoctrinate me. i’m quite capable of doing that to myself thank you very much. :-)

  56. Robb says:

    I love a good sweeping generalisation as much as the next man. It is a lot of fun building up a caricature to then tear it down.

    People like doing it with pop music for example. Pick some profound lyrics from the 1960’s and then compare them to Mmm Bop and chart it as a sign of the decline in music.

    I wonder why David Wilkinson is never interviewed about this. Probably because he doesn’t conform to the caricature or provide handy nutty sound bytes.

  57. FreeFox says:

    Hey Jon. Thanks for the long answer. I still seem to miss your point (in comment #49519) then. If I understand you correctly your main beef with science and education is a) its lack of an outside POV and b) its lack of holistic appreciation.
    The outside POV, you say though, is just simply part of the human condition and cannot be overcome anyway. Neither religion nor art really offers any alternative there.
    You say that someone like Leonardo da Vinci taught you to the holistic perspective. But wasn’t Leonardo, too, endlessly fascinated with the details (case in point, see e.g. here, here, and here).
    There is this Zen koan, someone told me: “To the ignorant a mountain is a mountain. To the learner a mountain is not a mountain. To the wise a mountain is a mountain.”
    Isn’t the study of the part a necessary step on the path to understanding the whole? Isn’t that exactly why his chapbooks are filled with sketches of every concievable detail? To rush this step seems to me exactly to deprive oneself of the ability to truly and fully appreciate the entirety. Wouldn’t that mean that the best way to reach the truth is to sit through the biology class in patience and with undivided interest and to first dissect the bull’s eye, instead of waiting in frustration for the next step – putting it all together and looking at it from a distance in awe?
    Because while this may be more college level stuff, science can hardly be accused of not putting all those pieces back together again – e.g. don’t Geology, Ecology, Climatology, History, Sociology, or Astrophysics more or less epitomise taking a look at the “big picture”?
    *Thinks about what his own point is* I think I was irritated by your response to AoS (who I hold in high esteem but usually find myself on quite opposed sides with) and to my own request for clarification, because for all your words, I missed clarity in your own position. AoS clearly is a straight and rather single minded proponent of science, science, and science – and the “harder” and more empiricism driven the better. Anything smacking of the spiritual or magical seems to be anathema to him. You say you agree with his basic appreciation of the (reductionist) scientific bend, but you see or at least seek something more, something beyond that, something that – if I understand you – transcendsthe sum of those parts.
    But here you get awefully vague. Do you just seek, but have not yet found anything? Or have you found answers or at least clear indication of that “extra” that goes beyond a universe of LEGO blocks? If so, I would love to hear how you would describe or explain that “extra”.

  58. jonbirch says:

    hi freefox… sorry your post got caught in ‘moderation’… i think it’s because i set the links allowed to either 1 or 2 (can’t remember), because there’s a chap who always wants to stick a load of links to his own website in his posts, so i had to ration him. :-)
    i can’t answer in full now… hectic weekend… but will do in the next few days. just to say though, that i’m completely with you on needing to look at the detail. i’m an artist and a musician… i love detail. and yes, studying in depth the detail can and often does give one a much better understanding of the whole. my point was that ‘the whole’ was never looked at in my science lessons at school at all. it was looking up that made man first notice the stars… i’m assuming a sense of wonder came first, before charting and mapping and measuring and grasping a better sense of how it all works.
    sorry that my response to to AoS irritated you… his opening statement irritated me… something to do with heads and orifices. :-) but i’ve since enjoyed his company very much.

  59. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    I’ve only just seen these last two posts. I’ll be late for my own funeral.
    FreeFox, thank you for your kind words, the respect is mutual even if our opinions may not always be. I must admit I was pleasantly surprised to read those words, but if a tiny, unbidden bead of moisture did form in the corner of an eye – it was instantly evaporated when I read the follow-up. Do I really come across as the robot you paint me? I feel emotion too, dammit! (See? That was frustrated anger.). I’m not John Merrick. I am not an animal, I am a human being :-)
    I laugh and cry, feel joy and sadness, love and (occasionally) hate; I marvel that the gravitational pull of the Earth can keep a massive object like the moon from flying off into space; I’m awestruck by the fact that evolution has given the Japanese Heinke crabs shells that closely resemble scowling Samurai warriors; a clear, moonless night sky fills me with a sense of wonder that’s impossible to describe. I just see no need to assign mystical explanations to it all, and if I should sometimes come across at all ‘human-centric’ it’s purely unintentional. I appreciate that we’re incredibly lucky to be one of many species living on a tiny planet orbiting an average star, one of 200 billion stars in one of 200 billion galaxies, in what may just turn out to be one of billions, trillions – or even an infinite number – of universes. However, with that in mind, I also appreciate our significance. We are, as far as we currently know, the only example of the universe learning to understand itself, and if that isn’t something to have a liitle pride in, then nothing is. As Eric Burden sang “I’m just a soul whose intentions are good. Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood”

    Jon, we’re friends now. It’s time to let the ‘orifice’ go, man. :-)

  60. jonbirch says:

    “Jon, we’re friends now. It’s time to let the ‘orifice’ go, man.” hahahahahaha! :lol: it was, i have to say, ‘icky’ holding onto that orifice. :-)

  61. FreeFox says:

    @AoS: Hey, my man, once again I managed to make myself completely misunderstood. I apologise if you feel I made you look unemotional or, if you forbid the, er, “metaphor”, soulless. That was not my intention. But at the same time I want to gently protest your use of the word “mystic”, because even if how I try to explain the world may seem hard to understand or confusing to you, and the likes of Darwin Harmless, I assure that incense wafting, dimly lit mumbo-jumbo – what “mystic” has become to mean, instead of the original meaning of “deep secrets of the universe” that were meant to be experienced and explored to enhance true understanding – is not what I am after or trying to spread. I value clarity very highly, just not at the expense of complexity.
    I never doubted your moral values or deep emotions. Anyone who has lived with a romany kumpanaya must be a person of passion and humour (or masochistic beyond even my deep understanding ^_^). No, I was not referring to your character, but only to your intellectual stance, which for obvious reasons I do see a bit critical. I cherish solid empricism as the basis of hard knowledge, and I would not want my son’s medicine or the mobile phone’s technology whose dependability sometimes is as vitally important for me to be based on hunches, intuition, and “metaphorical” understanding of reality. So far, I think, we are in complete accord.
    Where your spirituality and my scientific rigour (and the respective lack thereof) part ways is how far we let intuition, and hunches, and “metaphorical” understanding guide our practical experience and decision making, and how we reflect on them, I think. It is exactly that you base your life on a non-human-centric understanding that makes it suspect and ultimately useless as a practical world view to me. Objective reality, as necessariy for science, for industrialisation, for law making, and other standardised procedures meant to be the same for large numbers of people – to me, the lowest common denominator of reality – is only relevant in as far as it intrudes on my personal experience and life. All too often, when I have to judge a person’s character in a split second, when I must piece together a puzzle on the fly, when I must decide who to trust, where to turn, I don’t have the time nor the “controlled circumstances” that make the slow, dilligent, double blind process of science at all useful. And evolution never meant me to use that – when the structure of my brain was designed, 50,000 years ago, and my ancestors fought cave bears and smilodons with rocks, hunted mammoths with bone spears, and made love in dark, damp caverns, they had to survive by a quicker, more comprehensive (holistic) comprehension of their world. Science is good for making tools and long term plans. To get by in a life full of wild variables, I need the gods and spirits, I need magic, and prophecy, and prayer. Not magical in the supernatural sense, but purely natural and intuitive: My brain doing what it does best – see patterns and connections and possibilities through metaphors and myths, let myself be guided by God’s will, to allow me to find the best way through without having to stop and reduce things to naked facts and figures.
    And THAT part of reality, THAT magic, you to all appearances are blind to. Which makes your “purely scientific” bend reductionist and short sighted to me.

    (Apologies, Jon, for the abduction of your thread, this has moved very far from Jesus and the Queen, but it had to be said. ^_^’)

  62. FreeFox says:

    And if I may say so, y’all have no appreciation of orifices. Straight sissies. >.<

  63. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    I’ll add my apologies for the de-rail, Jon, though I admit it’s nice to find another site that doesn’t send in the Mods (no, not the ‘Quadrophenia’ type) for every deviation from topic. And I hope you’ve washed your hands now you’ve put the orifice down.

    FreeFox, my ‘robot’ comment was made tongue-in-cheek – a little mock outrage and light teasing – and I think that the rest of the post was intended more to flesh out my character for the regulars here, who to date have only heard from the practical Acolyte. Now, having said that, your explanation @#63 has shown more than ever that you and I are not so dissimilar, we just attach different names to the same phenomena. What you refer to as gods and spirits, magic, prophey and prayer, I call instinct, intuition, experience, meditation, activity in my limbic system. I’m aware that my day-to-day actions and reactions are controlled as much by my sub-conscious rooted firmly in my amygdala – that primitive part of the brain that I share with all creatures with an instinct for survival – as by the scientific method; we just affix different labels. A rose by any other name and all that.

    And I appreciate a good orifice as much as anybody, even though we may utilise them differently. :-)

  64. FreeFox says:

    @AoS: But… if I may return to the point where to me this whole debate started a few months back between me and DH, and you and Marky-Warky and others chipped in on DH’s side… if you think that my perception here is basically sound, even if I maybe use more colourful language or older, more culturally charged images than you would, don’t you then have to admit that it is possible to be religious and spiritual without being, in short, a moron? That not all religious interpretations of the world must be fundamentally false.
    If I interpret my subjective interaction with the universe as one of angels, spirits, gods, and God, and even demons and devils, if I see in human nature something that can be called the soul, see an eternal life, see sin and salvation, hubris, the value of prayer and worship, isn’t that religious?
    If I see all these things as highly subjective (yet true), do not claim authority of some dusty book over the contemporary life of millions, go completely with the basic scientific method and am as willing to accept scientific findings as the next educated, enlightened person, and do not make claims to any supernatural, extra-scientific powers or influences, doesn’t that mean that religion and science, that spirituality and a reasonable intelligence (I claim no genius, only to not be lumped together with flat earther nincompoops) are not mutually exclusive?

    I must also sadly decline to believe your last claim (unless by anybody you merely mean avarage), but common rules of polite conduct forbid me to illustrate what I mean… >.>

  65. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Let’s deal with last first. I know exactly what you mean, you mucky cub. Further elaboration won’t be necessary here, it would cause more palpitations than my Catholic friends’ computer ‘virus’, and that nearly killed two elderly aunts! Suffice it to say we can appreciate different qualities in the same thing.

    I can’t deny it has taken some time for me to finally get even a loose handle on your particular interpretation of religion. I think some of that was down to English being your second language, but very little; your English is better than that of the vast majority of supposed native speakers one encounters. Mainly it was that you have a very poetic style of writing, beautifully so at times, and the interpretation of poetry can be very subjective. To put it simply, your posts are often very beautifully written and a pleasure to read, but one was no wiser to your beliefs at the end as at the start.
    I still wouldn’t claim to understand them, but for a different reason. Whereas until recently I didn’t understand the ‘what’ of what you were saying, now my problem is understanding the ‘why’. I think that your ideas of sin and salvation, for example, aren’t the same as those you’d hear from a priest; that they’re less about saying sorry to a god and more about earthly crime and love and rejection, punishment and acceptance and rehabilitation; that the benefits of prayer and worship are psychological in line with those of yoga and meditation, rather than spiritual in a literal ‘back-stage pass to heaven’ kind of way; that the soul is that part of us, our conscious- and sub-conscious minds, our emotions and thoughts and memories and so on, that as far as we are aware makes us unique among all animals. My confusion is with why you interpret all of this in a religious manner, especially when you understand the science behind it. In a way, I find it more surprising when somebody who does understand the science interprets it in a religious sense than I do when somebody who doesn’t understand it rejects it in favour of religion.
    I would suggest that your religious interpretation of the world (as opposed to holy books’ interpretations) isn’t fundamentally false, but I’d have to insist that it is certainly scientifically flawed.
    So, I guess you were partly right all along, old friend. Religion and magic at least are indeed anathema to me; I just wish there were less loaded words for that ethereal side of our nature (even mine!) that feels and embraces awe and wonder and beauty and love, than spiritual or ethereal.

    Jon, thanks for your patience with us, and for your hospitality. And before you ask; yes, we are always like this!

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