Heresy in the funny pages!

Someone in the Bible belt is going to open up their Sunday paper to read Peanuts or Blondie or BC or one of those other bland, dull, tired, dead strips, and they’re going to get a shock:

That’s pretty much a standard atheist understanding of how religion works, and one of the characters is able to plainly say that he is an atheist. Progress in the mainstreaming of godlessness!


  1. dick says

    I’d be mighty surprised to find out that this comic really was published in the USA press. And even more pleased. Although, the reference to “Releejun O’ Love” & even crocs, (think Nile), does kinda make it seem to be aimed squarely at Islam. I’d prefer to see it aimed more at all religions.

  2. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    current events make me think, that crocodile, is a caricature to denigrate the Muslim religion: as fools being told by “their god” to kill all unbelievers. The final panel a way to “explain” the rise of atheism in this god given country. In God We Trust, after all.
    This cartoon will shock no one in the Bible belt as it feeds directly from their prejudice.

    as this atheist sees the constituents of the Bible Belt.

  3. Vivec says

    Yeah, I’m not buying that the religion of peace/religion of love thing was just a coicidence rather than a dogwhistle.

  4. says

    Dick @ 2, it was in my LA Times this morning, for what that’s worth. So Cal isn’t the bible belt, but it was published.

    slithy tove, that particular croc is amazingly stupid. He’s generally the horrible example in the strip.

  5. birgerjohansson says

    Not a dogwhistle.
    The crocs are consistently depicte as stupid carnivores, who try to trick the zeebras to come out using really dumb tricks eveyone else can see through. The dad in the croc family is a kind of crocodilian Homer Simpson.
    Another dumb carivore in “Pearls” is a lion. I don’t think he is a dog whistle either, it is just that most big carnivores come from tropical places.
    The rat in “Pearls” is a cynical but clever opportunist. He wuld be politician material if he was not so goddamn violent.

  6. birgerjohansson says

    “Pearls” also has a Guard Duck. He is some kind of NRA nut, always looking for excuses to shoot or blow things up.

  7. Vivec says

    Maybe you guys don’t have much experience talking to fundies/alt-right types? The overwhelming majority of times I see the phrase “religion of peace”, it’s a sarcastic dogwhistle referring to islam.

  8. birgerjohansson says

    “Peace” makes me think of “The Lord of Peace” aka The Anointed One (hebrew;_ messiah. Greek; christos).

    “Islam” means “subjugation [under god ]”.

  9. says

    Lets see, typical responses by faithful to criticism:
    1) They are talking about some other faith, not mine
    2) There they go again, persecutin’ me. I’ll commiserate with the hive.
    3) That cartoonist is possessed by Satan.
    4) Those are just animals.
    5) Damn liberal newspaper.
    6) See what Obama has done to this country !

  10. birgerjohansson says

    I am speaking from a European perspective. I have mercifully few interactions with fundies and zero with alt/right types.
    But in the context of “Pearls”, no, I have not spotted any sign of bigotry. And the writer has plenty of self-irony, which is practically a litmus test for *not* being an extreme bigoted douchebag.
    Just look at the Trumpoids.

  11. Vivec says

    “Peace” makes me think of “The Lord of Peace” aka The Anointed One (hebrew;_ messiah. Greek; christos).

    Okay, but your ignorance of a dogwhistle doesn’t make it not so. Ten bucks says pretty much any non-moderate christian or conservative just interprets this as a jab at islam.

  12. birgerjohansson says

    “Damn liberal newspaper.”
    and damn librul TV.
    And librul Hollywood. (or “the world went to hell after John Wayne died”)

  13. sayke says

    I don’t know anything about this strip, but the way the croc talks definitely makes me uncomfortable, in like an “early Warner Bros cartoon” kind of way. Like the croc’s heaven might be called Pair o’ Dice or something.

  14. birgerjohansson says

    It is also possible for cartoonist Stephen Pastis to be ignorant of dog whistles. Stephan Pastis is from San Marino, California, not really the fundie “heartland”.
    He got help from Get Fuzzy cartoonist Darby Conley (Conley apparently taught him how to color the Sunday strips and add gray tones to the dailies).
    I don’t know how close they are, but Conley is pretty much what Americans call “liberal” using Bucky Katt as a cartoon prototype of low-information voters who get their worldview from Fox News.
    Daddy croc in “Pearls” serve pretty much the same role.

  15. Vivec says

    Stephan Pastis is from San Marino, California, not really the fundie “heartland”.

    I’m not far off from there.

    Trust me, we have plenty of fundies and conservatives.

    I’ve heard the “religion of peace” thing in both my hobby shop and local Sprouts checkout line.

  16. sugarfrosted says

    I’ve never heard referring to Islam as “A Religion of Love”. Even as someone who formerly listened to Fox News and right wing talk radio. “Religion of Peace”, sure. Though it’s possible that I just never noticed it, you know being a white kid raised catholic.

  17. robro says

    Dick et al…Pearls Before Swines is a regularly daily strip. The central characters are Pig, Zebra, Goat and Rat (not shown). Also, Stephen Pastis includes himself in the strip fairly regularly, usually when the other characters criticize him for his bad puns.

    The crocs (there are several) are an occasional story line. They are always trying to kill and eat Zebra (the only one). There is a croc family with Larry as the dad, a mom, and their son, Junior. The mom and son are very peaceful. Junior is a vegetarian and abhors his fathers blood lust. Larry and the other crocs are idiots.

    Pastis regularly satirizes American lifestyles, as do other American comic strips…think Doonesbury. So, it’s not that unusual. Bill Griffith did an extensive series on god in his strip “Zippy the Pinhead” not too long ago where god is depicted as a conniving, narcissist, weirdo trying to manipulate and terrorize Zippy.

  18. sugarfrosted says

    Addendum: (Sorry for double post.) In fact my mind read it as referring to christianity because of the stupid “God is love” meme.

  19. says

    I don’t think Pastis intended this to be about just Islam, but I think you’re right, you’ve stated why there won’t be brains exploding all over the breakfast table in the Bible belt this morning: they’ll just assume it’s only about their boogey man religion, Islam.

  20. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    rereading that strip, I see the croc is spouting all the Xian memes (“mystereeeoius wayz” being one).
    The Zebra is interpreting them as fauxMuslim memes (“kill all unbelievers”).
    While artist may be dissing all religion with this strip, it could be read either way.
    So I’ll stick with my earlier comment@4: that this strip will probably not shock no one in the bibblebeltz, as they’ll read it as saying exactly what they want to hear. — or so my anti-xian prejudice says

  21. dick says

    That reply of mine didn’t make any sense. I got carried away thinking of bible bashers’ brains exploding over their breakfasts. (Good.) Grits & brains. (Bad.)

  22. petesh says

    Sometimes a dog whistle is just an attempt to communicate with a canine. If you read Pearls regularly (as I do) you’ll know that Pastis doesn’t pull punches in language. It is in fact possible to project a projection about what other people might project …

  23. Knabb says

    The argument about this being a dog whistle would be a bit more convincing if the actual term “religion of peace” ever showed up. “Religion of love” is used, but that’s aimed more towards Christianity than Islam. On top of that, there’s the small matter of the crocodile showing up at the door to try and convert people (routine among JW and Mormon churches, not so much within American Islam) wearing stereotypical Mormon missionary garb.

  24. raven says

    I don’t see any dogwhistle aimed at Islam.

    Modern Mainline xianity invented the god of love, which isn’t really found in the bible. At one time they were the dominant form of US xianity but have been sliding downhill for decades.

    The Prince of Peace is a common name for jesus. He is the Mainline and sometimes Catholic jesus. The fundie jesus is quite different, a misogynistic, violent, gay hater, everything but them hater.

  25. Vivec says

    I don’t think that the cartoonist was specifically dogwhistling Islam, I think that it will shock exactly zero christians, because it mirrors the exact same dogwhistles they use for Islam.

  26. robro says

    I read this strip as Pastis satirizing all religions, not a particular one. And do note that Zebra identifies as an atheist… publicly. That word is rarely seen in the comics, and that word alone will generate letters to editors.

    Incidentally, when Pastis first introduced Larry and the other male crocs, he was criticized for the patois they use as racist. I see it more as dumbed down, jock, rube American, but I can see the point. Junior and the mother do not speak this way.

  27. leerudolph says

    Since you’ve brought up crocodiles, I will take this opportunity to report the sentence that was in my mind when I woke up a couple of mornings ago:

    ‘Truth’, for crocodiles, is compromised by issues of posture, but a good proxy is
    “Have you been eaten or not?”

    (In the immediately preceding dream, I had been helping an old friend—a social psychologist whose research included work on how people’s affect can be influenced by, among other not obviously related things, their postures—write a screenplay for a comedy about politics. However, the sentence didn’t seem to be directly related to the screenplay dream; it was just there.)

  28. dick says

    Knabb @ 28, Raven @ 29, I wasn’t aware that Xinanity was called the Religion of Love. However, Islam is referred to as the Religion of Peace. This is because it’s supposed to induce a feeling of being at peace with oneself in its adherents.

    I thought the comic was referencing the Religion of Peace, without coming right out with it.

  29. enkidu says

    Dick @ 33, I can’t prevent you from torturing the English language, but the conjunction of crocodiles and “feeling of being at peace with oneself in its adherents.” presents such a grisly image that I’ll have to go lie down for a while.

  30. magistramarla says

    Darn! I immediately checked my comics section (haven’t gotten around to reading it yet), and found that “Pearls” wasn’t in there this week. As I recall, it is there sometimes. The editors must decide whether to run it or another more obscure one like WUMO or Rhymes with Orange each week. Mustn’t upset the xtians, right?
    Of course, Mallard Fillmore is there every week, and is always offensive.

  31. Saad says

    raven, #29

    I don’t see any dogwhistle aimed at Islam.

    There isn’t one. It’s aimed at religion in general and the idea that religion claims to be love and kindness. The crocodiles always speak with bad English in the strip.

    Anti-Muslim Christian bigots will see it as aimed at Islam while leaving Christianity alone. That’s their problem. They’d do that with any critique of religion as long as it doesn’t mention Christianity by name specifically.

  32. says

    Incidentally, this isn’t the first time atheism has been mentioned in Pearls. IIRC, Rat once went to a funeral for free food, where this happened:

    Other Person: “I don’t remember ever seeing you. How did you know Bob?”
    Rat: “We worked together.”
    Other Person: “Bob never worked a day in his life.”
    Rat: “I mean we did the Lord’s work together.”
    Other Person: “Bob was an atheist.”
    Rat: “That made it difficult.”

  33. chuckonpiggott says

    #34, Giliell. The crocs have always spoken with an accent. It can’t really be placed.

  34. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    I would say the crocs’ accents fall into a general category of “Stupid cartoon character dialogue.” Some examples are clearly racist and some aren’t (they remind me most acutely of “Prince Graydrake” the Tarzan parody from Ducktales, but there are others).

  35. wzrd1 says

    Bleh, crocs are known for their poor command of English, it’s an issue with the teeth. ;)

    Me to our Qatari liaison officer one day, out of the blue.
    Me: “My god can beat up your god any day!”.
    Him: “But – but, he’s the same god!”
    Me: Timing my reply to his sipping his tea, “Why, of course! Who else could beat him up. It’d not be my place in questioning him on why he’d do such a thing.”.
    Tea promptly poured from his nose.

    Most of our conversations were not revolving around him drowning in his own tea. ;)

    Although, once, he regaled me on how our base commander had attended a local marriage ceremony. Apparently, the new commander was unaware of the custom of celebratory gunfire.
    So, when the men pulled out their firearms and opened fire into the sky, the commander dropped to the floor and proceeded to low crawl among the tables, to much mirth of the attendees.
    Him: “Your commander crawls very well”.
    Me: Awaiting a sip of tea, “That’s what his wife tells my wife”.
    Tea ran from his nose again. Some people never learn to not drink around me.

  36. johnhodges says

    I’ve been an atheist for 35 years, perhaps that is why I’m stunned that anyone would see this strip as aimed at Islam in particular. To me, it seems obviously aimed at religion in general; in particular, at “revealed” religion, religions that feature some living person standing up and claiming to be the local speaker for God. As Thomas Paine, and others, pointed out long ago, the Almighty would be perfectly capable of speaking directly to anyone they wished; if a god wants me to do something, they should tell me, not you. Any alleged “revelation” that you hear about from human beings is presumptively fraudulent.

  37. woozy says

    I always figured the idea of the crocodile’s speech was that their speech balloons were supposed to appear as though they were physically written by a 7-year old with bad handwriting who can’t spell.

    The “religion of love” and “kill all non-believers” was a very loud dog whistle for me but as the crocodile in his new clothes going door to door promoting his religion is clearly some generic christian witnessing type, so I do think it was unintentional.

  38. birgerjohansson says

    “bland, dull, tired, dead strips”

    Methinks PZ need to curl up with an album of Darby Conley’s”Get Fuzzy” to get a big dose of rudeness and (feline-administred) violence.

  39. birgerjohansson says

    More examples of the cat/Republican convergence of values! (courtesy of Darby Conley)