I’m a fan of Mike Peter’s Mother Goose & Grimm comic strip. I’ve been reading the adventures of Grimmy, Atilla the Cat, Mom, Ralph and the many other side characters featured in Mother Goose & Grimm since I was a little girl too young to understand the jokes. Also, I agree with a lot of Mike Peter’s political cartoons and editorials.
But I was disappointed with yesterday’s MG&G.
The comic presents the idea that atheists worship Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection as Christians worship the bible. The joke isn’t funny because I would bet that a lot of people have this misconception about atheists. If it’s taken as truth, then it’s not really a joke. As one lovely gentleman from the comic’s online comments section wrote in response to a man who said the comic wasn’t funny to him:
As an atheist I am frustrated by the connection of my lack of belief in gods to evolution; while of course related, the two have little to do with each other. I learned about and accepted evolution over a decade before I embraced atheism (for a long time I was a fan of the idea that God created the process of evolution). This comic muddies the water about the relationship between atheism and evolution, and has the potential to negatively influence public understanding of the relationship between the two.
While it’s true that atheists can decline to swear on a bible, so can anyone. Before testifying, a person must assure the court that they will tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Traditionally people swear to Almighty God because we have a little (teensy tiny) issue with Christian privilege in this country. In that situation one is swearing under pain and penalty of God’s judgement that they will not tell a lie. If you chose to not swear an oath to God, you may solemnly and sincerely affirm, under the pains and penalties of perjury, that you won’t fib to judge and jury.
On a side note, the portrayal of the atheist as a middle-aged white male feeds into the stereotype that all atheists are…middle-aged white men (with lots of crazy facial hair). Not true.
And one more point: “Atheist” can be a scary word, and being known as an atheist is a scary idea for some people. There are notions that atheists are god-denying (we are), creation-denying (that one too) trouble-makers (not all of us) who would refuse to swear an oath on a bible in court (a lot of us in some situations might) just to cause a stir (but not for that reason). But I think that it would take some courage to refuse to “place a hand on the bible” in front of a room full of strangers who are expecting you to do just that. Swearing before god might make you look more trustworthy to a judge or jury, while refusing to swear before god might make you look less so, and could have serious outcomes for your case. The comic isn’t funny because we might be brave enough to ask for a secular affirmation before testifying. Or we might not. It’s a tough position to be in.
Putting out a comic strip that is published in over 800 newspapers which 1)encourages public misunderstanding about the connection between atheism and evolution and 2)makes light of atheists who are in the difficult position of having to either swear an oath they don’t believe in or ask for a secular affirmation which might damage their case – isn’t funny, it’s potentially damaging, thoughtless and cruel.