A Jesus and Mo Cartoon That I Disagree With

There’s a recent Jesus and Mo cartoon (you can see it here) that I disagree with. In the first frame Moses (or is it Muhammad?) is sitting at a bar with Jesus, and Mo says this to the barmaid:

If you want to create alliances with moderate religionists you are going to have to find a new mode of discourse.

The barmaid then asks how this is done, to which Jesus replies:

You need to be more accommodating. Less irascible.

The barmaid, still perplexed, wants to know, specifically, what to do, to which Mo replies:

Basically, don’t mention the E-word.

The E-word, as it turns out, is epistemology. 

But my retort is this: if you abandon dialogue because of the epistemological chasms between people, what happens to the L-word (love)?

When people stop talking it seems to be a characteristic of human psychology that they start hating and demonizing one another. Maybe we should keep talking to one another, not because we can agree on epistemology, but because we can agree that peaceful and nonparanoid communities are maintained by people who can still talk to one another with some degree of civility, vulnerability, and kindness. It also reminds us, in talking, that individual human beings, in actual interaction with one another, have more in common than different, and we can be friendly with one another.

For those of us who are secular, it’s not just the Enlightenment’s epistemic and empirical premises that we ought to share, but its assumptions about dialogue and human friendliness as well.

By the way, Caspar Melville, an atheist editor for the New Humanist, writes in the Guardian that he has grown tired of the new atheism, and its often obnoxious rhetorical orientation. As a result, he’s been taking serious heat from some of his fellow atheists for wanting to change the discourse. He wrote recently that he seeks:

. . . to be less strident so as to create alliances with moderate religionists on specific topics – faith schools, fundamentalism, terrorism – of concern to all. 

He also confesses this about his orientation to the new atheism:

I’m bored, and I fear my readers are becoming so too.

And so he wants to know “if we can find a mode of inquiry into religion, faith, belief and non-belief, more consistent with William than with Jesse James.” Caspar Melville’s comments appear to be the source for the Jesus and Mo parody.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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12 Responses to A Jesus and Mo Cartoon That I Disagree With

  1. TomH says:

    I’m sure those Enlightened Frenchies chatted amiably with those they carted to the guillotine.

  2. Christ's Angel says:

    William who, Santi?

    • Mike says:

      William James, the philosopher, not Jesse James, the gunslinger. I am glad this blog attracts more Williams.

      • Christ's Angel says:

        For all the seeming intellectualism that Santi exudes, and as an English teacher – he ended the title with a preposition.


        The title of this blog should be

        “A Jesus and Mo Cartoon With Which I Disagree”

      • santitafarella says:

        Christ’s Angel:

        I’m going to rename you Christ’s Grammarian. : )

        As for the preposition’s location, it’s a convention that people increasingly break. Maybe they shouldn’t, but they do.


  3. Christ's Angel says:

    William Shakespeare, perhaps? If it is, try this one.

    There are 25 composers lost in the following message.
    Can you help them out?
    EXAMPLE: The cowboy wore his holster.

    If you don’t tell a man and don’t go hidin’, we will let you in on a secret when we get back. We have gone looking for a show pan for the next kitchen demonstration. Also, for sherbert in one of our Cadillac Broughams. We went to the barber but also stopped off at the farm and unraveled some of the straw we use in the still to make straw whiskey. We couldn’t pack a bell we had for you as the handle (to the pan), which is inlaid with pearls, and the vibrations thereupon seems to rock ’em on and off.
    We are also going to a Halloween-snow-masquerade-ball-party followed by a mask-off ski event so as not to impair vision on the slopes. Not to be picky, but, in the words of Shake-a-spear: “Motes art the downfall of mankind.” So we can get along as we improve ourselves.
    We use the franc to buy the things on our shopping list, hope you don’t mind. I’ll be nesting with the ‘Bird’.
    P.S. – We’ll give you more leeway on this than you can lasso. And have you tried ‘Shampoo Lanky’, the scalp treatment for stringy hair. We took some of your albums: it was a real disc robbin’ affair, but we left the Fortrel garment bags.

    Answers to follow only if someone replies.

  4. Matt says:

    Hi Santi,

    Haven’t commented in a while, but I have been reading!

    I read this cartoon slightly differently to you.

    To me, it’s not saying that epistemology is bad. Quite the opposite, in fact. What I think it’s saying that a very valuable discourse on epistemology is being widely rejected those on the religious side.

    In the cartoon, the barmaid would love to get into an epistemological discussion, but is thrown a roadblock by the religious adherents.

    Why? Because the religious characters in the cartoon have a worldview that encompasses a “knowledge” of various “facts”. To them, the mere acknowledgement that epistemological discussion is possible or relevant would call into question the factual nature of their beliefs.

    • Longtooth says:

      I think you are correct. The Abrahamic religions have had so much about their sacred myths impeached over the last few centuries that empirical knowledge itself has become the beast so to speak. This is I think reflected in the anti-intellectual movement in Christian America today for example. Unable to reconcile their fundamentalist beliefs with the more telling knowledge of science, they seek rather to bury it by casting obfuscation, doubt, and disparagement among the masses about the legitimacy of science’s findings and the integrity of its practitioners.

      In this, however, it’s necessarily not a disinclination to engage, only that they are disinclined to engage honestly. Perhaps this stems from a religiously ingrained fear of still another expulsion from the mythological garden. This because of what they perceive as too much snacking on the fruit of the tree of knowledge by current civilizatin as it were.

      • santitafarella says:


        What if it isn’t dishonesty, but a religious epistemic affirmation that says this: THE TRUTH IS THE WHOLE.

        I think that what tends to happen in epistemic discussion is that set theory kicks in: how do you make a definite assertion about the world unless you are outside of the world—not enmeshed in the world?

        In other words, your axioms are always subject to a follow up question: how do you know that?

        Here’s a spectacular and mind boggling ontological fact: the material universe (or multverse) either started itself out of nothing (or it is eternal) OR something external to it (a mind) started it. Both can’t be true and one must be true. Which came first: matter or mind? (Or perhaps they arrived at exactly the same moment—or are coequally eternal—a third possibility.)

        The science we do, being enmeshed in the system it is trying to describe, cannot conclusively solve this question for us, and the truth is the whole.


    • santitafarella says:


      I see your point, but I get the impression from the cartoonist that, if epistemology is off the table (because religionists don’t want to talk about it), dialogue becomes futile.

      Also, there’s a bit of projection here. I actually have noticed that a lot of intellectual religionists want to talk about epistemology, but empiricists frequently blow off such discussions. In other words, they just aren’t that interested in reflecting all that closely on the epistemic premises underlying science—they think of the premises as self evidently true.

      Furthermore, since the chasm of epistemology is never going to be bridged, what should religionists and non-religionists do: stop talking?

      I don’t think so.


  5. That’s Muhammad. (Or not.) You can see Moses a little later in the strip.


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