About Rationally Speaking

Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Jesus, the comedy!

We should have expected it, the fundamentalist/evangelical march on America is now expanding into the realm of sitcoms! ABC's Good Morning America just had a segment on a new sitcom, "Pastor Greg," featuring a born-again Christian and his comic adventures.

The show is produced by Christian Cornerstone Television for 100 markets, and written, directed and guest-starred by born-again Gregg Robins (the first episode airs later this week, if you'd like to catch it).

Now, if I were a fundamentalist Christian hearing about a new overtly atheistic show to be aired on TV, what would I do? Well, I'd start writing to the TV studios threatening a boycott, I'd organize a protest march in front of the studios were the show is being filmed, I'd write hate letters to the writer and to the producer, and I'd be going around all day mad as hell. That would be the (fundamentalist) Christian thing to do.

Instead, I'm simply amused and a bit saddened. I'm amused by the fact that the "culture wars" have expanded to include such a pathetic attempt at making converts (one of the stated goals of the new show); I'm saddened by the fact that it will probably work, at least for some people. Such is the regrettably low level of spiritual maturity of a large section of the American people.

Spirituality, in the broad sense of the word, is a serious matter, and even Jesus (if in fact he ever existed) had something interesting (if a bit muddled) to say about it (better by far to go with Socrates, however). Spirituality is something that any well-adjusted person has, included godless atheists such as myself, but it has very little to do with the simplistic worldview of people who claim to take the Bible/Gospels literally (because, you know, it's the Word of God), and yet refuse to stone people who break the Sabbath. Tsk, tsk, what would Jesus say to that, I wonder?


Incidentally, I ain't making the stoning thing up. Here is the original Word of God (Numbers, King James Version):

32And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day.

33And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation.

34And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him.

35And the LORD said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp.

36And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the LORD commanded Moses.


  1. Firstly, I happen to agree (I think) on the Christian comedy. My mother placed a high value on us not being sacrilegious and not saying things we didn’t mean, so I’d be surprised if the “sitcom” didn’t trivialize the Christian message and real peoples real life issues. Most tv is worthless anyway.

    It’s a shame that the only Christians you’ve ever encountered have been the threatening, rights oriented type. But this is exactly what the bible said would occur towards the end of “time”. (that the ‘hearts of many would grow cold’ - and that is not indicating “non-belivers”,btw) It’s true that some people do behave spoiledly in spite of calling themselves Christians. But I’ll make no attempt to convince you that others think differently. I will only tell you that each person is accountable before God, experience exclusive.

    I had a kind of bizarre, unfair thing happen to me at 4-5 yrs of age at the hands of people who were presumably “Christian.” But I know God permitted this. So after the fact, and all through my life, I have a variety of choices I could make. Will I become hyper-religious in an effort to beat out and actually attempt to compete with the self-righteous people I’ve ever encountered? Will I turn my back on God, and prove to them that I was the worthless, evil little child that someone presumed I was anyway?
    Either path taken, the self-righteous religionists win. I won’t do any of the above. So forget the rhetoric that religionisim and atheism spouts, Massimo. In the end, in spite of all the acts of “offended” and offensive people, you are accountable only for you.

    And why the seemly harsh penalty for collecting sticks on the Sabbath? Because [before] God sacrificed something of himself that was very important, he wanted mankind to understand the seriousness of being sacrilegious (ie. the trivialization of important matters) And that such actions will, like a universal accounting principle, cost us something very dear to us.

    When persons trivialize deeply serious matters even now, it costs us something, doesn’t it.


  2. When persons trivialize deeply serious matters even now, it costs us something, doesn’t it.

    I've not observed the Sabbath my entire life and it hasn't cost me anything. As far as I can tell, the only way it would cost me something would be if someone decided to stone me to death over it.

  3. Anonymous might well change his/her "name" to The Great Rationalizer. Is there no end to the convolutions that religious people will go to in order to justify their belief "in what they know ain't true". Thank you Samuel Langhorne Clemens.

  4. There is some psychology/psychiatry research to the effect that when people are depressed they view the world more acurately, i.e. have depressive reality testing.
    And also that when non-depressed people are similarly examined/tested their view of reality is not as sharp, ignoring reality as it were.
    So, psychologically as with religion, life is more tolerable if we trade off reality for peace of mind.

  5. BUT what of empathy, hope and sincere love for another person who might appear to us as undeserving, even when there are not positive signs that the person in question will ever change?

    We would maintain that this is part of the reason that faith exists for. And the fact that people who are "faithless" do not understand it and cannot appreciate it, is completely consistent with what not "believing" in things one cannot see evidence of has to be like.

    Now tho realism may have its few useful functions for certain aspects of life, most would agree that one of them is certainly not the offer of the necessity of hope, love and lasting peace.



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