Those annoying New Atheists


I was amused lately to be reminded of this debate between John Cleese and Michael Palin, on one side, against Malcolm Muggeridge and Mervyn Stockwood, the Bishop of Southwark, on the other — arguing over The Life of Brian…in 1979. It’s two smart, open-minded people with the ability to critically evaluate truth claims against a pair of pompous old farts who are indignant at the lack of reverence for their ridiculous dogma.


Nothing has changed, has it?


In case you needed it, here is a rebuttal.

Comments

  1. brianwestley says

    Tsk, the Pythons aren’t even wearing sackcloth or groveling on the floor, those effete snobs…

  2. comradebob says

    Christianity is a rather benign religion and those like Cleese seeking to replace it with a Jonsian-Totalitarianism Belief system are, in my opinion, making a fundamental error. Paganism and a deep appreciation of Natural Law is the healthiest path upon which our innate faithfulness may tread. The rational observer must, however, concede that Jonsian-Totalitarianism has made great strides since 1979, given the relative high verbal IQ interactions that were allowed to be broadcast on the TeeVee back then. In this manner, we can observe that things have changed and that Man is, for now, regressing.

  3. Rob Grigjanis says

    Ah, Muggers. Always a pompous twit, but a decent writer.

    “Christianity is a rather benign religion”

    Thanks for my morning larf! I’ll bet you look a treat in your Druid robes, comradebob.

  4. pacal says

    I remember Malcolm Muggeridge from his series A Third Testament. In the part on Tolstoy he said the term “c-c-carnal p-pleasures”, like he was about to have a third degree migraine headache.

  5. Tabun says

    A lot of it sounds similar to what I’ve seen/heard in recent years. There’s even a bit of fatwa envy in there as well, ~6 minutes into the first video.

  6. consciousness razor says

    What you are seeing is not one of the greatest teachers of the world. I mean, granted, lots of people, the majority of people, wouldn’t accept him as the son of God as I do; but surely, most of us would see him as one of the greatest teachers of the world. Now, you wouldn’t guy [mock] Socrates or make him appear as a clown.

    Aristophanes sure did in The Clouds, and that was before Socrates was executed, not two millennia later (assuming there was a historical Jesus). I’m not sure which of them is supposed to play the part of the new atheist though, maybe both. Neither was like the bishop (or Jesus), that’s for sure.

  7. twosheds1 says

    Now, you wouldn’t guy [mock] Socrates or make him appear as a clown.

    Of course, they did just that, with the Greeks vs. the Germans football match.

    I love how they never really address the fact that Jesus barely even appears in the film, yet somehow it mocks him. I remember the brouhaha when LoB came out. All the protestors were simply proving the Pythons right.

  8. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    There’s even a bit of fatwa envy in there as well, ~6 minutes into the first video. – Tabun

    More than a bit: Muggeridge’s whine that if the same film were made “about Mohammed” (Muggeridge and Stockwood believe or pretend to believe Jesus is the central character in Life of Brian) “all the anti-racialists would be up in arms” might have been said yesterday. Muggeridge was a festering swamp of religiously-inspired bigotry in his later years.

  9. comradebob says

    An eternal voice, the Jonsians grow their numbers by communicating a message of Hope, which is a powerful thing. However Hope in the face of Biology remains Hope. When Hope is confronted by Nature, Jonsian reaction follows a typical pattern; first deny (screw you guys, I’m going to Guyana), then censor (hang the Heretical kiddies upside down in dungeons), then violence towards others, then by necessity confronting the cruel Mother in less than an honorable way.

    Nay, Christianity is benign and most merciful. It is best to celebrate it and ourselves as we are rather than follow those who speak with false tongues. Promising Utopia, enriching themselves, and delivering sadness and demise.

    http://www.petrusboots.com/images/jourpics/obama_hope_lg.jpg

  10. la tricoteuse says

    Doesn’t it eventually come out in that very interview that they turned up late and missed the bit that clearly points out that Brian is not Jesus but nonetheless doubled down on their insistence that it was mocking him because Brian is clearly supposed to be Jesus (despite the fact that actual Jesus is actually in the actual film as himself and therefore Brian is not him, which they would have known if they hadn’t missed the beginning?

  11. Jubal DiGriz says

    Actually I think there HAS been an important change since then. Nowadays if this sort of discussion is given air time at all it’s a 5 minutes segment and within the first 30 seconds people are shouting at each other.

  12. johnmarley says

    OK, I’m now entirely convinced that bob is trolling.

    I think you’re right, but I can’t follow that word-salad well enough to be entirely sure.

  13. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    Really? Malcolm Muggeridge and Mervyn Stockwood, Bishop of Southwark? What, Pompington Pufford, First Earl of East Worcesterhamptonshire couldn’t make it?

    O,o

  14. doubtthat says

    @11 Twosheds

    I love how they never really address the fact that Jesus barely even appears in the film, yet somehow it mocks him.

    I guess we can draw the fine line they were attempting in the video and distinguish between making fun of Jesus and making fun of the religion, but we’re all smart people here, Life of Brian is obviously mocking Christianity. Specifically with Jesus, one of the more enjoyably expressed ideas in the film is how much bullshit can be built up around such little substance, and the implication for Christianity is pretty clear. That’s why I love the movie, by the way, but it seemed like Palin and Cleese, to a lesser extent, were trying to run away from the truculent aspect of the film. It was the Jon Stewart defense, “I’m just a clown.” It’s more than that.

    Something completely different: one of my pet peeves in this debate is the attempt to identify the foundation of Western society with Jesus. Wrong. It was Athens: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle…etc. Western civilization has been an ongoing struggle between Athens and Jerusalem. Jerusalem gets the upper hand, it’s called the Dark Ages. Athens is rediscovered, it’s called the Renaissance. The tradition of thought of science of moral progress of uncensored art…all of it has it’s legacy in Athens and had to battle against the stupidity of Jerusalem to gain ascendency. This is, by the way, why our contemporary Bible-thumpers hate the Enlightenment so much. That was the final triumph of the Athenian tradition.

  15. adrianjohnson says

    Mervyn Stockwood, yet another Dirk Bogarde of the anglican church: everyone new, he never said.

  16. doubtthat says

    OK, I’m now entirely convinced that bob is trolling.

    I thought he was trying to bring back the random argument generator.

  17. Jubal DiGriz says

    @19 doubtthat

    [quote] That’s why I love the movie, by the way, but it seemed like Palin and Cleese, to a lesser extent, were trying to run away from the truculent aspect of the film. It was the Jon Stewart defense, “I’m just a clown.” It’s more than that.[/quote]

    What I heard them say was “It’s supposed to make you [i]think[/i]”. And sure it mocks Christianity, but going over the film in my memory most of it is mocking religious followers and pointing out how little we know about any supposed religious leader.

    When “The Passion of the Christ” came out all the godbothers treated it like another gospel, even though a fair amount of the content was apocrypha, theologically controversial, and was essentially artsy torture porn- plus there was almost nothing in the way of who this character Jesus was. In “Last Temptation of Christ” Jesus was given an extremely sympathetic portrayal combined with a a hypothetical that asked people to reevalute how they might of thought of Jesus as a person. The film was literally burned in some places.

    What “Life of Brian” and “Last Temptation” have in common is that they strongly encourage the viewer to reconsider their preconceptions about their religion. That is of course horrible to clergy.

  18. sqlrob says

    Nay, Christianity is benign and most merciful.

    Really? Hiding child molestation, trying to force raped women to bring a fetus to term, Crusades. That’s merciful?

    Or are you going to bring out “No True Scotsman”?

  19. screechymonkey says

    I could only stomach part one, but I was struck by the contrasting demeanors. The Pythons went out of their way to be nice to these bozos, while said bozos couldn’t squeeze in enough insults — the film was “tenth-rate,” the Pythons are ignorant, Cleese is being dishonest, etc.

    Now, as a screechy Horde member, I don’t think that “nice” wins debates, or that blunt speaking loses them. This is just another illustration of how it doesn’t matter how nice or civil or polite you are — if you’re criticizing religion, then expect to get nastiness in return. “Tone” may be the club of choice for beating New Atheists over the head, but if they didn’t have that, they’d just use a different club.

  20. Sastra says

    While they were not overtly making fun of Jesus, by putting forth the message “don’t trust revealed religion” Monty Python was setting the cultural scene where it is okay to mock Jesus and his purported message. Although the popular modern concession is that “Christianity is a benign religion” and Jesus’ message was all about tolerance and love, it doesn’t take long to figure out that this is just more conciliatory bullshit: any belief system which holds that the meaning and purpose of life is to separate the damned from the saved using supernatural criteria is bound to end up divisive, violent, and dogmatic.

    Christianity becomes more benign the more it adheres to humanism. That is not a point in its favor.

  21. dsabine says

    The difference between then and now is that at the time, this was a lively TV debate and, yes, the church in the UK got all worked up, but the public mood was and remained relaxed. There were no angry scenes – not even in this debate. Maybe due to the fact that the Pythons were (and still are) very much liked and admired.
    I remember watching this live with a group of flatmates who came together (and away from the pub) especially for the entertainment that this debate would provide. We were not disappointed. The stress was on debate and if I remember correctly, the outcome was all in favour for the Pythons.

  22. says

    @ Jubal DiGriz #22

    And sure it mocks Christianity, but going over the film in my memory most of it is mocking religious followers and pointing out how little we know about any supposed religious leader.

    My favorite part (it happens so quickly and Cleese speaks so softly and quickly you might have missed it) is when the Godbotherers, yet again, express their outrage over insulting and demeaning Jesus/christianity then Cleese replies “Actually, we were having a go at you

    You can’t state it any plainer than that.

  23. says

    And here I thought I couldn’t love Cleese or Palin more. Wrong.

    The whole discussion was one side presenting a huge straw man (You were mocking Christ) and the other side saying “What movie did you watch?” It’s ridiculous. I remember the same reactions to the Last Temptation of Christ. People would swear up and down how hateful and disrespectful it was. When I asked about a particular scene, they’d say they didn’t NEED to watch the movie to know it was wrong.

    Yeah, I gave up at that point.

    Life of Brian is one of my favorite movies precisely because it’s an amazing game of Telephone. The ‘message’ could have been anything. They picked Christianity because that resonates with people in our culture. *sighs*

  24. Anisopteran says

    What I find most ridiculous in this debate is Muggeridge’s fatuous assertion that many 14 year olds knew nothing about Jesus. What, after 9 years of compulsory indoctrination at school? (Although as JC rightly says, most of it was pretty banal stuff – my main recollection is of lots of colouring in).

  25. k_machine says

    The whole debate is available here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CeKWVuye1YE

    As for Christianity being a benign religion, for the majority of the history of the religion, Christianity has been spread and enforced by violence. If you look at a map of the world religions Christianity was spread by force everywhere it exists today. From the moment it became the state religion of Rome to the 19th century or so it was simply the law that you had to be Christian. So it never succeeded on its own, by the strength of its message and as soon as freedom of religion was introduced it started to fail. Contemplate the fate of the Cathars, for instance, the Catholic church launched a crusade to exterminate them and they were not even non-Christians but only had a different view of it. If the Cathars had been led by a military genius and had defeated the church, we’d all be complaining about the Cathar church instead of the Catholic. So a Christian today cannot go on about how wonderful the Christian faith is when the doctrine was decided by force of arms and mass killings. Take a Christian of today in a time machine to meet any Christian from the first 18 centuries or so of the faith and the older Christian would probably tell you to get the atheist maniac out of his face very shortly.

  26. latsot says

    Three things in particular struck me about this:

    1. The religion side was not accustomed to being attacked in those days. I think this is why they showed absolutely no respect for the pythons or their arguments. They knew they could bluster their way through because the public in general were only beginning to realise they could criticise Christianity in public. The slippery way the religious side conducted itself makes this perfectly clear.

    2. The religious side were absolute horrible fuckbags. They must have seen the frustrated looks on the faces of Cleese and Palin and that enticed them only to interrupt more and say more and more deliberately insulting things.

    3. Holy fuck, that’s kind of how lots of people view us British, isn’t it?

  27. juliestahlhut says

    PZ, you should track down the BBC Four production Holy Flying Circus, a bizarre and wonderful tribute to that incident — historical fiction in the most off-the-wall Python tradition. You’ll need brain bleach before, during, and after some of the scenes, and I mean that in a good way!

  28. Owlglass says

    And I thought how come that Richard Feynman in purple vestment discusses with the Phythons? But the church side always disappoints.

  29. lostintime says

    I hate how that obnoxious old man keeps deriding 14 year olds and their reasoning abilities. Watching The Life of Brian is a much more liberating experience for a young person than any of the bullshit that often foisted upon them by religious vultures. The way he keeps returning to people, as if they are the possession of Christianity, I find especially chilling.

  30. doubtthat says

    @22 Jubal DiGriz

    I think we’re picking nits at this point, but I realize they said it was to make people think, but that’s sort of a cop-out. Yes, they want people to be critical and use their own reasoning skills, but they were also making a clear point. They weren’t just presenting information and letting people decide, they were presenting satire and commentary.

    They weren’t running away from the responsibility of being a satirist like Stewart does at his most frustrating moments, but yes, they really were being critical of religion. Make up your mind, certainly, but you’re kind of a dumbass if the way you go is with the silly stories. That part of the argument came out when Cleese started getting justifiably angry and the absurd sanctimony of the grey-virgins.

  31. la tricoteuse says

    doubtthat –

    Do you allow for a distinction between “making fun of religion,” and “making fun of the religious”?

  32. doubtthat says

    Of course. In Life of Brian they CLEARLY engage in both, regardless of what they said in that interview.

  33. doubtthat says

    The more I think about it, I suppose you can make a distinction between “religion” and the “religious,” but unless you think there’s some underlying truth to “religion,” what is it save the collected nonsense generated by the “religious?”

  34. Sastra says

    The fury which comes from the idea of “making fun of the religious” has its roots I think in the belief that one’s religion is a basic identity: it stands for who and what you are. You can say “Bob is a nincompoop for being a democrat — but he’s otherwise a smart, fine person.” But you’re not supposed to say “Bob is a nincompoop for being a Christian — but he’s otherwise a smart, fine person.” No. To attack someone’s religion is supposed to be like attacking their humanity, their basic self-identity and worth. Why? Because religion is so important, that’s why.

    Otherwise, it would just be a bunch of conclusions and opinions, like anything else.

  35. tbp1 says

    If you had actors play Muggeridge and the Bishop the way they play themselves, you’d be accused of insulting stereotyping. They do Python’s “upper class twit of the year award” characters better than the Pythons themselves.

  36. la tricoteuse says

    doubtthat – Give an example from Life of Brian in which they engage in mockery of religion as distinct from mockery of the religious. It isn’t about whether there is underlying truth to religion or not. It is about whether the mockery is of the institution/belief or of the behaviour of the adherents.

  37. glodson says

    This debate with the Pythons and the godbrothers shows how little respect these religious leaders deserve. Those two acted like children in the face of intelligent adults.

  38. Uncle Ebeneezer says

    I’m surprised there was no pushback on the claim that Secularism made it so that 14 year olds knew nothing about Jesus. I have a tough time believing that that was the case in the UK in the 70’s. Indeed, the big problem is that Jesus is force-fed to children from birth. A world where humans developed some critical thinking BEFORE exploring the issues of God/religion, would be, in a word; Heaven. And precisely the kind of world the clergy wants to prevent.

  39. sonofrojblake says

    As to the status of the film’s offence, it was best summed up by another Python, Oxford English graduate Terry Jones, who proffered that it is not blasphemous, it is heretical. Its target is not the religion called Christianity, it is ALL religion, indeed all uncritical thinking.

    It used Christianity simply because regardless of what the fool Muggeridge might have said, the majority of the audience had absolutely no handle whatever on any other religion’s tropes. Most British people of the time knew next to nothing about Islam, because Muslims hadn’t (yet) started pronouncing sentences of death on our citizens, or burning books in our streets while screaming abuse and throwing bricks at policemen. We had to wait until the 1980s for that.

    That said, I doubt the Pythons would have made a film attacking religion by using the tropes of Islam, because they’re none of them fucking idiots.

  40. skeptuckian says

    I think that the religious were missing the take home message of “The of Brian”

    Some things in life are bad
    They can really make you mad
    Other things just make you swear and curse.
    When you’re chewing on life’s gristle
    Don’t grumble, give a whistle
    And this’ll help things turn out for the best…

    And…always look on the bright side of life…
    Always look on the light side of life…

    If life seems jolly rotten
    There’s something you’ve forgotten
    And that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing.
    When you’re feeling in the dumps
    Don’t be silly chumps
    Just purse your lips and whistle – that’s the thing.

    And…always look on the bright side of life…
    Always look on the light side of life…

    For life is quite absurd
    And death’s the final word
    You must always face the curtain with a bow.
    Forget about your sin – give the audience a grin
    Enjoy it – it’s your last chance anyhow.

    So always look on the bright side of death
    Just before you draw your terminal breath

    Life’s a piece of shit
    When you look at it
    Life’s a laugh and death’s a joke, it’s true.
    You’ll see it’s all a show
    Keep ‘em laughing as you go
    Just remember that the last laugh is on you.

    And always look on the bright side of life…
    Always look on the right side of life…
    (Come on guys, cheer up!)
    Always look on the bright side of life…
    Always look on the bright side of life…
    (Worse things happen at sea, you know.)
    Always look on the bright side of life…
    (I mean – what have you got to lose?)
    (You know, you come from nothing – you’re going back to nothing.
    What have you lost? Nothing!)
    Always look on the right side of life…

  41. doubtthat says

    @la tricoteuse

    Take the scene at the end with the shoe vs. gourd. I would love to hear how you can view that as anything but satire at the notion of religious sects. Protestant-Catholic, Sunni-Shiite…etc. The entire scene is satire about the stupidity at the very source of the deep divisions within religion.

  42. doubtthat says

    It is about whether the mockery is of the institution/belief or of the behaviour of the adherents.

    That’s a distinction without a difference. Is there a Catholic-Protestant divide because the religion is silly or because religious people are silly. Religion is nothing more than the behavior and beliefs of the religious. There are doctrinal differences between the sects, but those were created because religious whack-a-doodles willed them into existence.

    You seem to be arguing that there is something to religion beyond the beliefs of the religious, what is that?

  43. doubtthat says

    @sonofrojblake

    That Jones quote is on the money. That expresses how I understood the film.

  44. David Marjanović says

    That said, I doubt the Pythons would have made a film attacking religion by using the tropes of Islam, because they’re none of them fucking idiots.

    Indeed: a satire of religion in general that took its examples from the belief system of such a minority could only be misunderstood as satirizing Those Wacky Outsiders. Not being idiots, the Pythons took their examples from the religion that was (and still is) most widespread where their audiences were.

    Christianity is a rather benign religion

    After all the above comments, do you still think so?

    a Jonsian-Totalitarianism Belief system

    Please explain what that Means, uh, means.

    Paganism and a deep appreciation of Natural Law

    Uh – polytheistic European religions worshipped thermodynamics and E = mc²? Is that what you’re saying???

    is the healthiest path

    What, why?

    upon which our innate faithfulness may tread.

    Our innate what?

    The rational observer must, however, concede that Jonsian-Totalitarianism has made great strides since 1979, given the relative high verbal IQ interactions that were allowed to be broadcast on the TeeVee back then. In this manner, we can observe that things have changed and that Man is, for now, regressing.

    I wouldn’t call the Internet a regression… despite your attempts to turn it into one.

  45. David Marjanović says

    Is there a Catholic-Protestant divide because the religion is silly or because religious people are silly.

    Do silly people make silly religions, or does religion make people silly?

  46. mattand says

    Just to add to the “is Python making fun of just Christianity?” fun:

    Just watched Life of Brian for the first time in ages over Christmas. Included on the Blu-ray edition (not sure if they’re on the regular DVD) were several deleted scenes with commentary. One of these involves a whole scene with Otto, the leader of the Judean People’s Front.

    In the film proper, the JPF makes a brief appearance as Brian is being crucified, “selflessly” killing themselves to make a point. About something.

    The deleted scene is an extended conversation between Otto and Brian, in which Otto offers to drive all of the non-Jewish people out of Israel. What’s hilarious/disturbing about the whole exchange is that Otto sports a toothbrush mustache, speaks in a German accent, and wears a helmet whose symbol combines both a Star of David and a swastika.

    If this sounds like a very pointed critique of how any religion can go quickly around the bend, you’re right. IIRC, Terry Gillian states that he was in favor of leaving it in, but everyone else got cold feet about the whole scene in general.

    One can only imagine the uproar over the film had that scene been left in. At least the Christians would have company in their outrage.

  47. la tricoteuse says

    doubtthat:

    Take the scene at the end with the shoe vs. gourd. I would love to hear how you can view that as anything but satire at the notion of religious sects. Protestant-Catholic, Sunni-Shiite…etc. The entire scene is satire about the stupidity at the very source of the deep divisions within religion.

    Once again, though, it’s about the behaviour of adherents, not the instition or beliefs themselves. If you can show me something that isn’t about the behaviour of the adherents to the religion, rather than about the institutions or beliefs or deities themselves, then you might have a point.

  48. chigau (違う) says

    People’s Front of Judea
    Judean People’s Front
    Judean Popular People’s Front
    Campaign for a Free Galilee
    Popular Front of Judea
    are those meant to represent religions?

  49. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    Something completely different: one of my pet peeves in this debate is the attempt to identify the foundation of Western society with Jesus. Wrong. It was Athens: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle…etc. Western civilization has been an ongoing struggle between Athens and Jerusalem. – doubtthat

    What, Athens with its extreme misogyny, institutionalised rape and child sex abuse, mob justice, imperialistic foreign policy, and tens of thousands of slaves coughing their lungs out in the silver mines to fund it all?

    Seriously, your Manichean view of history is absurdly simplistic, and (though I do not have any reason to believe this is so in your case) often found in conjunction with antisemitism.

  50. zmidponk says

    One thing that really stuck out for me was, when they started discussing the crucifiction scene in the second video, Muggeridge agreed, at about 12:11, that crucifiction was NOT exclusively done just to Jesus, but then argues that Jesus was crucified between two thieves and that if you think the experience of those three people was the same because they went through the same physical experience, you’re utterly misunderstanding what the Crucifiction means and why it’s had such an enormous role in people’s lives, which it wouldn’t have done if it was simply one of innumerable men being crucified. Well, given that the crucifiction depicted in this film is quite specifically NOT that of Jesus, as Palin told him in so many words, and if, as Muggeridge said, there’s something unique about the crucifiction of Jesus which sets it apart from all the other crucifictions that were happening (apart from the ‘he got better’ bit), what’s the big deal? This then means that the crucifiction depicted in this film is merely one of the dozens, if not hundreds, that were happening around that time that Muggeridge finds so inconsequential, so, from where I’m sitting, by making this point, Muggeridge appears to have quite neatly eliminated any reason for there actually being any uproar or offense about this scene.

  51. brianwestley says

    What, Athens with its extreme misogyny, institutionalised rape and child sex abuse, mob justice, imperialistic foreign policy, and tens of thousands of slaves coughing their lungs out in the silver mines to fund it all?

    Sure sounds like western society (as in early America) to me (though the silver mines were further south and owned by Spain).

  52. John Morales says

    [OT]

    Bruces’ Philosophers Song (Bruces’ Song) was a popular Monty Python song written by Eric Idle, and was a feature of the group’s stage appearances and its recordings.

    […]

    Socrates ([was] the only one mentioned twice in the song)”

    SOCRATES, HIMSELF, WAS PERMANENTLY PISSED…
    […]
    Yes, Socrates, himself, is particularly missed; A lovely little thinker but a bugger when he’s pissed!

  53. la tricoteuse says

    chigau:

    People’s Front of Judea
    Judean People’s Front
    Judean Popular People’s Front
    Campaign for a Free Galilee
    Popular Front of Judea
    are those meant to represent religions?

    political resistance movements.

  54. chimera says

    *delurk*

    I found myself rolling me eyes and clutching my eyebrows almost every time Muggeridge spoke. He uses so many words to say so little. It’s disrespectful, especially in a debate situation with a time frame.

    Bishop Stockwood: “Well, you’ll get your 30 pieces of silver.”
    Yeah, you probably know all about that, Mr. Collection Plate.

    *relurk*

  55. dorght says

    “Life of Brian” led me to atheism without even seeing it. I was 17 when it was released but still constrained within a catholic family and school. Church attendance was mandatory on Sunday, and while I had already started asking fatal questions, the end for organized religion came during a homily about the “Life of Brian.” I was very familiar with Monty Python’s Flying Circus (only viewed at a friends house and in color too!), so when the pastor announced that Mr. Python was evil, I almost burst out laughing at his ignorance on the subject. No longer could I take the church as an authority on anything.

  56. vaiyt says

    Nay, Christianity is benign and most merciful.

    It takes a special kind of chutzpah to say that in a blog full of atheists and still expect to be taken seriously.

  57. Janine: Hallucinating Liar says

    No one has taken racistbob seriously at all.

    You must have missed him yammering about verbal IQ and suggesting that we all watch a reality show about a pawn shop.

  58. johnlee says

    Muggeridge was scared about people showing disrespect to his beliefs.
    This is the big difference between religious people like him, and rational thinkers. I don’t want people to respect my beliefs. Why should I? If I’m wrong, I’d like someone to point it out, and to show me why. If my ideas can’t stand up to scrutiny, then I should change them. If it takes satire and mockery to make me see that I’m wrong, that’s OK. It beats being burned at the stake any day. If your ideas can’t be questioned or criticised, how the hell can you be sure they’re right?

  59. says

    When I worked doing ad layout I got an ad to set from a church advising people not to go see the blasphemous film “The Last Temptation of Christ” only the handwritten ad copy called it “The Temptation of Jesus.”

    Do you think maybe they were calling this film blasphemous despite never having seen it? I kinda think…

    Anyway, we ran the ad as they had written it, I didn’t correct it.
    I’m sure it worked, too. I bet nobody reading it went to see “The Temptation of Jesus.”

  60. michaelpowers says

    Well, there went my afternoon. First, the debate, then Rowan Atkinson’s parody of it, then his “Welcome to Hell” skit, which was followed by his “sermon” skit (and they all applauded loudly in the kitchen), then on to Graham Chapman’s funeral (he had ceased to be), then a few others, all ending, of course, with the parrot sketch.

    I blame you, primarily.

  61. doubtthat says

    If you can show me something that isn’t about the behaviour of the adherents to the religion, rather than about the institutions or beliefs or deities themselves, then you might have a point.

    If you can show me something about religion that isn’t about the behavior or beliefs of the adherents, you might have a point.

    What came first, Protestants or Protestantism?

    This is getting silly. Please explain what you’re looking for. Give me an example of a religious institution or belief that can be separated from the “behavior of the adherents.” Are you suggesting that the gospels were divinely written? Otherwise they’re just rules written by religious dudes. The adherents make the religion, not vice versa.

  62. doubtthat says

    Nick Gotts (formerly KG)

    Oh please, of course I was speaking broadly. You might have a point if I suggested that Western Civilization was without flaw. Of course there’s bad along with the good, but if you watch the video, the accomplishments of Western civilization that the religious folks are trying to claim as derived from Jesus simply aren’t. They’re ideas from an intellectual tradition that ran from Ancient Greece, through Rome, through the Muslim world during the Dark Ages, then back to Europe in the Renaissance, then the Enlightenment…etc.

    Yes, that’s painting broadly, but reading the Bible doesn’t result in Galileo. Following the methods of inquiry popularized by the Greeks lays that intellectual foundation.

  63. doubtthat says

    @60 chigau (違う)

    I sincerely don’t know what you’re asking me. Is the entire movie about religion? No. That portion is a hilarious take on political factions and in-group rivalry.

    Or are you able to separate the ideals of the Judean People’s Front from the behavior of its adherents?

  64. DLC says

    I remember this “debate”. Cleese and Palin made the two churchmen look like a pair of prize twits.
    I wish every adherent to the Abrahamic traditions would sit down and watch this movie.
    But then, if they were open-minded enough to watch The Life of Brian they probably would have long since left their ancient superstition in the dust.

  65. kyoungers says

    This is the funniest thing I’ve seen on the internet in I don’t know how long. Thank you.

  66. foliage says

    I love the “christianity inspires great art argument”. Walking though through the louvre I got so bored of pictures of fucking jesus, reaching anything different was a godsend; if you will.

  67. Fred Salvador - Colonialist says

    The thumbnail of the second video – the bishop looks a bit like Richard Feynman.

    Also holy fucking shit this is exactly the same argument we’re having today, albeit with far less eloquence and competence. If you’ll excuse me I’m going to go and read Juvenal’s Satires, eat sugar out of the bowl with my hands, and cry.

  68. randay says

    Malcom Muggeridge is the stupid old fart who was largely responsible for making another stupid old fart and criminal, Mother Teresa, a world figure. I wonder about his expressed interest in 14 year old boys. I would have thought he liked them younger than that.

  69. Janine: Hallucinating Liar says

    Pictures of Jesus made my life so wonderful
    Pictures of Jesus helped me sleep at night
    Pictures of Jesus solved my childhood problems
    Pictures of Jesus helped me feel alright

  70. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    the accomplishments of Western civilization that the religious folks are trying to claim as derived from Jesus simply aren’t. They’re ideas from an intellectual tradition that ran from Ancient Greece, through Rome, through the Muslim world during the Dark Ages, then back to Europe in the Renaissance, then the Enlightenment…etc.

    Anyone claiming intellectual or technical advances due to Jesus is obviously wrong; but much of the route from ancient Greece (and not just Athens) to the Renaissance and Enlightenment goes through Christian (Rome and Byzantium – from which the Renaissance derived more of ancient Greece than from any other source) and Muslim cultures – both obviously heavily influenced by “Jerusalem”.

    Yes, that’s painting broadly, but reading the Bible doesn’t result in Galileo. Following the methods of inquiry popularized by the Greeks lays that intellectual foundation.

    I agree. But I’m currently reading about how the medieval “Schoolmen” (all Christians, all men, I think all clerics), in striving to reconcile Aristotle with St. Paul, invented much of the apparatus of modern scholarship (indexes, references, chapters…)

  71. stuart_ says

    Twosheds1:

    It later turned out that one or both of them turned up late to the viewing cinema and missed the beginning of the film. Therefore they were unaware that Jesus appears in it at all

  72. stuart_ says

    Twosheds1 said:
    I love how they never really address the fact that Jesus barely even appears in the film, yet somehow it mocks him. I remember the brouhaha when LoB came out. All the protestors were simply proving the Pythons right.

    It later turned out that one or both of them turned up late to the viewing cinema and missed the beginning of the film. Therefore they were unaware that Jesus appears in it at all

  73. la tricoteuse says

    *cough* Me @ 15:

    Doesn’t it eventually come out in that very interview that they turned up late and missed the bit that clearly points out that Brian is not Jesus but nonetheless doubled down on their insistence that it was mocking him because Brian is clearly supposed to be Jesus (despite the fact that actual Jesus is actually in the actual film as himself and therefore Brian is not him, which they would have known if they hadn’t missed the beginning?

    *cough*

  74. bradleybetts says

    “*usual rubbish about artists being inspired by God*”

    Cleese: “Artists in Arab Countries will be Muslim, Artists in Oriental countries will be Buddhists, what about them?”

    Muggeridge: “Oh that doesn’t matter”.

    Bah, moron. Cleese and Palin owned that debate. It just goes to show that Theistic arguments haven’t moved on in decades.