The good news just keeps coming — Penny Arcade writer Jerry Holkins, a.k.a. Tycho Brahe, posted his thoughts about the comic which apparently generated so much buzz. Note for those of you who aren’t already reading Penny Arcade: the name Gabriel refers to the alter ego of the comic’s illustrator, Mike Krahulik.
Friday’s strip travelled far and wide, which means that it must have spoken to many people, probably in a way they didn’t like. You might be interested to know that the line which begins the third panel (and thus converts the strip into a barb about belief) is not mine, but Gabriel’s. I would never say something like that to him, ever, let alone submit it for use in a comic. He kicked me out of his house thirteen years ago for suggesting that angels were stupid, and we haven’t had anything approximating a discussion of his particular Lord since. What is the profit in it? I am one of the “good” atheists, which is to say I allow people their nonsense to the extent that they allow me mine.
My mother, though, absolutely – I never let up. When I was driving her home from the airport, I converted my car into a kind of mobile interrogation unit/convection oven with an hour long, wholly inescapable interrogation about the precise theological coordinate of my dangerously gay sister. We talked about the specific definitions of Greek words, why Paul was kind of a douche anyway so who cares, and the extent to which she was abrading the withered twist of a family we have left with this shit. Fuck yes, I will fight. But not here, and not about this. It’s funny that Gabriel is more willing to express what I think than I am, but there you have it. Mysteries like this course in magic rivers throughout the universe.
All right, I admit it. A bit of my reaction here is a fangirlish squeal of glee when someone I already like turns out to be an atheist. So: squeeeeeee! There. Got that out of my system.
Two other components of this I want to call your attention to. One is Holkins’ insightful take on the whole “don’t be a dick” problem. I don’t fully agree with him, in that I think having an atheist blog is a worthwhile endeavor for me personally; I suppose that doesn’t completely jive with “allow[ing] people their nonsense to the extent that they allow me mine.” But offline, I only talk about religion with people who are interested in such discussions, or people who have made their religion my business in some way or another. (People who don’t want to read my blog don’t have to.) I like how Holkins understands that Krahulik doesn’t welcome religious debate, but at the same time doesn’t care whether his homophobic mother welcomes it. In general, I think the balance that he strikes is a good one.
The other thing, which sort of blew my mind, was that apparently Mike Krahulik was the one who came up with the zinger in the last panel. Krahulik, a Christian, understands on some level that his belief in God is similar to a child’s belief in Santa Claus. It’s pleasant, comfortable, and endorsed by trusted authority, even if it might seem (to an outsider) “fucking ridiculous.” Does this understanding mean that a deconversion is on the way? Or does it mean that we should give up hope of trying to convince people that atheism makes more sense than religion, because even when they understand our arguments enough to make them for us, they’re not able to internalize the consequences?