Everyone’s favorite Pope around town, Benedict XVI has declared jihad on a threat to the unity of the Holy Roman Catholic Church. This threat comes from… Satan… I guess?… and carries with it the potential for leading god’s flock straight into the bowels of hell, to be digested slowly along with pre-chewed bits of Devil’s food cake and Deviled Ham. 

What is this unholy hand grenade? No less than the perfidious blight on humanity that is… people who think they see the Virgin Mary in toast or in the window or in the shape of a potato or other stuff like that! These people have been seeing Mary for too long, and da Pope is having no more of it! (And no, this is not a joke. Well… it is a joke, but it’s not mine.) To this end da Pope is publishing a handbook to better arm bishops with the tools to tell the difference between real sightings of Jesus, Mary, and Mary’s house-cat Sam — and fake sightings of them. 

The reason why this is seen as a threat to church unity is that all communication from god is supposed to come from within the church itself. Regular people, the kind who spot Christ in the foam in their latte, aren’t actually qualified to see god or have any direct chit-chat with him. If they did, folks might begin to question why they needed a church to talk to god for them at all. Therefore, the handbook.

The handbook lists a number of steps for bishops to take in the determination of whether a sighting is real or not, the first of which is to tell the victim individual to shut the hell up about it. If they tell anyone else, the sighting is false. 

After that the church will send teams of psychiatrists to judge their mental state. Everyone knows that deities don’t talk to crazy people, and if you really hear god whispering in your ear or you see Mary in the shower with you, you must be utterly sane. If not, the sighting is false.

After this a bunch of researchers will be sent in to determine what kind of education you have, and whether or not you might ever have looked at anything suggesting that someone could falsify a sighting of Jesus. If you are too well educated, the sighting is false. (God may only talk to the mentally stable, but he also only speaks to the deeply ignorant.)

Finally the exorcists are sent for. Mary on toast may be delightful and benign, but it may be unholy and terrifying. You don’t know. God and Satan are all the same to you. Only the real experts like the Vatican demonologists (how can I get that job?) can tell the difference. Only they can tell you if your toast is blessed, or very, very evil. If these experts determine that Satan is behind the Mary on your toast, then the sighting is false.

I think the thing that gets me the most about all this is that a bunch of adult men sat around talking about this stuff and — in all earnestness — wrote and published a book on the subject. It would be like me writing a book about which TV stations really were tracking Santa on their weather radar on Christmas Eve and which ones were trying to drag your soul off to hell by faking it. These people have more money than Bill Gates and all they can think to do with it is pick on gay people and folks trying to sell a funny-looking potato on eBay. I grew up around Catholics. I have Catholic friends now. I spent three years in a Catholic school… and I still don’t know anyone who takes all this stuff seriously. 

So Pope Benny, I have only one thing I want to say to you, about this and all your other “pronouncements.”

Get a real job.

17 Responses to 403

  1. “Everyone’s favorite Pope around town, Benedict XVI has declared jihad on a threat to the unity of the Holy Roman Catholic Church.”
    Except he hasn’t. The declarations of holy war and similar are the work of the first copywriter to break the story, unfortunately.
    What Benedict has done is say, “Hey, nutjobs, Jesus isn’t in your formica countertop, so stop cheapening the divinity.” Out of over 200 reported “visitations” in the 20th Century, only about a dozen have been declared “real” by the Church, and they’d like to keep that rarity thing going.

  2. LOL! “MY Kryptonite!” Love it! “wubwubwubwub” I don’t what others think, boob jokes are just funny… 😀

    I’m about as Non-Catholic as you an be, so the only comment will be to pass along a story of when I stood up in a wedding party of TWELVE in a Catholic ceremony. It was 1978 (close) and the priest did not allow me to kneel (as I was a, OH MY GOD, a Protestant!!) Shock & Horror! So here I am in a this HUGE church full of people and I’m the only idiot standing during the “get down in front of your God” part. I really thought is was some big joke, but I stood there just the same as a good Protestant boy does… But earlier in the weekend of festivities, all of us “guys” were at McDonalds late on Friday night (as all Catholic Bachelor parties end up there it seems?) and all of them sat there with their Big Macs and hamburgers looking at their watches! I just dug in. I was then informed they were waiting for Midnight as they couldn’t eat meat on Fridays. WHAT?! So I asked them to show me in the Bible where it says that a new day starts at Midnight? Isn’t it the “dawning of a new day” and aren’t they really sinning as it’s still Friday?

    Talk about Holy Hand Grenades! You thought I’d stabbed the Pope in the eye! In the argument I took two hamburgers from them while they argued! Fun stuff.


  3. 11 of 295 between 1905 and 1995, Euph. (Though there has been a recent explosion in the number of sightings.) And while you’re right that no one stood on a parapet and screamed “Kill the infidels!” you’d be wrong to think this isn’t a big deal for them, and for the Pope in particular. This isn’t his first treatise about this grave threat to the unity of the church, and the amount of resources they are willing to devote to it should make their seriousness obvious.

    But the main point is that ALL of it is fantasy, and this entire exercise is really over whether or not everybody plays make-believe by the same rules. (Don’t play Cops-n-Robbers with Jimmy. He won’t fall down when I declare myself god and smite him for being a bad cop.) Going to ANY trouble at all to prove that someone’s house-mold isn’t an image of Jesus is kinda ridiculous. It’d be like the Paddington people coming after me whenever I spot a teddy bear floating overhead in a cloud.

    The threat to Church unity is the premise behind the existence of the Church itself. The fact that any yahoo can stand up and wave his Jesus-toast around and say he was touched by god only highlights that fact, and THAT’S why his Popeness cares.

    (Oh and that’s a great story, Byron. Thanks for sharing!)

  4. I feel it needful to point out the Bible has several implicit recognitions of the day changing at sunset. In particular, note that in the Crucifixion story, men with clubs are sent to ensure the victims are dead before the Sabbath starts at sunset.

  5. You know if you sort of half-squint your eyes at that blog article, I’m sure I can see a woman’s face forming from the letters and the spaces…

  6. You’ve no doubt studied the various incarnations of D&D throughout the years. There’s been various changes and updates. You’ve probably agreed and disagreed with changes promulgated
    by TSR and WOT. You’ve probably made concessions to the new rules, kept some of the old rules, and made up other rules entirely to suit your own needs and preferences.
    I’ve no doubt that you’ve gained valuable social insight and bonds through the interaction and camaraderie that developed between yourself the other people that have spent some of their own precious lifetime to develop the story and understanding the game and community that formed through it.
    I know all this because I too have spent some of the happiest and most deeply satisfying times of my adult life playing the game, thinking about the game and talking- and yes arguing about the game with my friends.
    At a certain point, whether or not the underlying principle behind the game is “fantasy” or not becomes a moot point. The game exists and is played, enjoyed, reinvented, and even argued about all over the world.

    Remember that big thing in the gaming community a couple of months ago when Gary G. died and
    a donation in his name was rejected out of ignorance by someone who decided to speak for the organization to which it was sent?
    Remember too, how offended and dismayed? It was like that one person, by turning down that donation; had somehow insulted and vilified every person who had ever played the game.
    We don’t know if that person had ever played the game, or had grown up with people who had played the game; or for that matter had only ever heard about the game.

    What we DO know is that that person, whoever he or she was; spread outrage and anger and mistrust- and that those bad feelings spread out in a widening circle so that they had the potential not only to harm not only the organization which he or she represented through loss of revenues; but also may well have caused others to see the gaming community as represented by the outrage and anger which they displayed in response.
    As someone who reads your comic, who plays D&D, and who is a Catholic as well; I have something to say to you, Kevin.
    “Don’t be a Hater”.

  7. The article covering the Gygax-charity snafu can be found here: https://www.heroesoflesserearth.com/blog/?p=193 for those who want to read it. There was no person at the charity who spoke out in any fashion that could be construed as having anything against gamers, Gary Gygax, or the games we play. They were very kind about it, and simply declined to be seen as sponsoring a gaming convention, since that isn’t what they do. The reaction was ours. As a group we are used to being maligned by the religious right, and the online gaming community grabbed that flaming football and ran with it. I see that as an unfortunate, but completely understandable response.

    As for not being a hater, well… thank you for saying so. I do not like religion, and I feel (given the knowledge I have at my disposal) that it and the faith it requires is both dangerous and destructive. However, people who are religious are primarily so because of it having been foisted on them at an age before any critical thinking abilities have developed, or due to overwhelming societal pressures. It is not their fault, and it is wrong of me to behave as if it were.

    I do think that the edifice of religion should be attacked and torn down, and that it is right for us to do so. But it should be because we are searching for truth and a greater good, not because we hate.

  8. Don’t forget the people who turn to it because they fear non-existence. The simple idea of death, the utter end of everything that you are, of your consciousness and all, can be very frightening and difficult to accept

  9. Okay. I didn’t understand what “wubwubwubwub” meant. So, I asked Kevin. Then I got a demonstration. Do yourself a favor girls. Don’t ask.

  10. @John – Kevin does sometimes comes across as a hater. We have much discussion on his honesty vs. his political correctness. But, he really doesn’t “hate”. He is just, well, not very good at candy coating things. Of course, that would imply he WANTED to candy coat things.

    I guess I’m just trying to say Kevin doesn’t really leave much to “read into”. If he didn’t say “hate”, he doesn’t hate. He is a intelligent, kind, loving, generous person who is infinitely patient with his senile grandmother and his unruly wife, and is open and friendly to his friends, grocery clerks, waitstaff, and animals.

    We do have plenty of conversations about religion where we don’t agree. He thinks that religion is dangerous (wars, genocide, etc), where I think that it can be good and the “ideal” of religion is good, but often it turns into power-driven government that is bad. But, I don’t think it is actually bad. Bad or misguided people can make religion bad.

    We go round and round. So far, we have yet to meet in the middle.

    I just try to understand his point of view even if I disagree. I know it is hard to hear someone say something against your beliefs, family, or football team. But, if they do, it’s against that subject, not you personally.

    We all come from our own experiences and have our own unique view of the world. I figure we are either all right or all wrong. But, it makes life and people interesting.

    Thank you for commenting and giving us your thoughts.

  11. First I enjoy the comic, thank you for the time and energy you put into it. I have to disagree with many of your opinions about religion however. Currently being a Catholic, who for a period of time did not believe in God, I do not think that religion was foisted upon me, but something I came to through my own research and consideration of what made sense. I realize that not everyone reaches the same conclusions and I respect someone else’s opinions as long as they have actually thought about them, which I’ll admit many religious people don’t do. I also have not felt strong social pressure to be religious and because the majority of my friends are atheistic or agnostic, I often feel a lot of pressure in the opposite direction and take a lot of harsh criticism. I know of very few people that believe in God (or hold any other religious view) purely because they find it comforting or because they are afraid of some punishment after they die as I have heard mentioned several times. In fact, I would find it a lot more comforting to believe when I died I just stopped existing rather than having to possibly answer for things I have done wrong or more importantly not helping others.

    I think many of your criticisms of religion are actually criticisms of humanity in general. Any of time we get together people come up with new ways to be stupid. Yes religions have done stupid, evil, violent things. So have governments, even many secular or anti-religious ones. Invading Iraq, the slaughter of millions by secret police in Russia, etc. are examples of none religious times where governments/people did stupid things. Should we attack and tear down government as well? How about science? Scientist use to tell us that radiation was a good for us, which in retrospect was pretty stupid. Not to mention the number of new and horrible ways of killing people that science has developed. Racism and eugenics were both done in the name of science at various points in history. Government and science have both led to the bad things, but we wouldn’t suppose that they are inherently dangerous and destructive. So why is it that you make this conclusion, that Religion is inherently bad, based on some the things that stupid people have done in its name? Why doesn’t Religion get credit for any of the good it has inspired people to do? From a first hand experience, I have seen Religion inspire people to work to feed the needy through soup kitchens and shelters in the cities I’ve lived in. I volunteer a lot with habitat for humanity, which I would never have started doing with beliefs pushing me to do so and it wouldn’t even be possible if not for the beliefs of the couple who founded it. How about even the simple faith that helps an alcoholic gain the strength to overcome an addiction. What I’m trying to say, is true or not, religion and faith have a lot of positive impact. You can’t place all the bad on them and ignore all the good, simply because it does not agree with your beliefs.

    As for the stupidity of the Catholic church or any other large church, and criticisms of organized religions in general, its true that large structures breed bureaucracy, waste and stupid decisions (the U.S. government? Big businesses?). Churches, as organizations run by humans are not exempt from these problems. These problems should be pointed out, so that they can be corrected. I do not think the fact that these problems exist means that churches are bad, just that they occasionally take mistakes. As an example, let’s talk about the sex scandal in the Catholic church. Pedophiles seek out positions where they will be trusted and have access to children, which sadly use to fit the bill of priests. It was handled very badly, by a bureaucracy that did not understand the problem. I hope it was doing what it thought was best, but realistically individuals were more likely trying to cover their own asses. I think this would be true of any human organization. In this case the organization was bad. Should they have done more to stop this, yes. But if the church had not been involved, those men would still have found ways to hurt children, maybe as teachers, lawyers, etc. Do the bad decisions and policies of individuals within the church structure mean that there is something inherently wrong with the beliefs (especially since these decisions were not in keeping in the church’s beliefs)? No.

    Completing ignoring the question of whether or not anyone’s beliefs are real for a moment. The reason why church unity, and having an organized church at all, is important is because churches exist to organize beliefs, put them to logical examination and develop reasonable practices for those beliefs. Churches allow mistakes like the sex scandal to be prevented from happening again. Whether anyone likes it or not, whether they are true or not, people are going to have religious beliefs (superstitions if nothing else). If we don’t have churches to check those beliefs and to help people define appropriate ways of putting those beliefs into practice, they are going to go ahead and act on their beliefs and they’ll likely do the same stupid things that religious people have done before them and the church has learned was not a good idea. Some examples of what I mean are when individuals go and start their own religious movements and you end up with dangerous cults, Charles Manson. Another example is religious violence in the Catholic church, it took us a few tries (four or five crusades, some truly awful missionaries) but we eventually figured out that violence is a bad idea and now we don’t do it. If a group broke away from the Catholic church, starting from the same beliefs, the splinter group might go off and decide that violence IS a good idea and we’d be back at square one.

    Finally, one last point. Belief in a higher power, doesn’t have to be completely faith based. There is the fact that the Universe exists and to believe that it just popped into existence, in violation of most of the laws of physics, with no higher something out there takes quite a bit of faith and honestly seemed just a little bit too much like fantasy to me. I apologize that this is so long. I am an engineer and I’m not very good at communicating my ideas concisely, but I thought I’d at least try to present opposing view points.

  12. @Tom – I think I agree with most everything you’ve stated. And I think you did a fine job communicating – engineer or not (;

    SIDENOTE: I do wonder if pedophiles try to get faith situated jobs in order to fight their impulses instead of seeking out youth. I mean, here is a job where it just takes sex out of the equation (theoretically). Then again, maybe I’m being naive.

    Large groups of people (of any type) can be dangerous. It’s so much easier to jump on the band-wagon when you have 100s of people by your side deciding your are doing the right thing. This can be good, like charity drives, or bad like concentration camps.

    Another thing that I find interesting, is the study of humans in groups. (See “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell or Idols of the Tribe: Group Identity and Political Change by Harold Isaacs). Studies have shown that humans do well in groups of about 20 or less (I’m paraphrasing, so I may not have it exactly right). More than that, and they start to have conflicts. I suppose this goes back to tribal times and foraging for food. Even in a large corporation, you find it is broken down into departments and smaller groups. But, it is an interesting study and shows that perhaps we have done a disservice to ourselves in creating large corporations/countries/groups. If I find the name of the book, I’ll post it.

    I have been on many sides of the religious fence. It was really easy for me to convince myself that I was accepting Jesus for other reasons than just so I didn’t burn in hell. Perhaps it is like being married and learning to think one of your spouses bad habits is cute. From the outside you think “that’s stupid”. From the inside you think “aw, that’s so cute”. Whether it is out of necessity or learned behavior, or a combination, I cannot say.

    I think that one of the things that bothers me the most about Christian religions (and I’m not trying to pick on them specifically – they are just what I know the most about) is the inability to look at history and see it for what it is. There is lots of historical and scientific proof about multiple guys named Jesus, evolution, lots of Virgin births, and crucifixions. There are parts of one of the many versions of the bible that have lots of stories of Mary and her life because “the people” wanted to learn more about her. So, someone made them up. It seems to me that most of the bible is like this. The very devout seem to treat their religion like it was a totally original idea and don’t want to admit that their bible might have been a lot of stories.

    Now, the thing is, I DON’T CARE. I think you can get a lot of good out of the bible if that is your intention. Whether you believe it is true or not. You can also get a lot of “bad” out of it if you decide it’s right to start sacrificing and poking people’s eyes out. The point is people are often sheep and need to temper their religion (or lack of) with some moral/social compass.

    But, somehow, people get really bent on scientific proof, dinosaurs, the bible’s authenticity, etc. when they really just need to learn to “do unto others”. They lose sight of the bigger picture. Who gives a crap what others believe as long at they aren’t hurting others. Concentrate on yourself and your own behaviors.

  13. I can see Jesus in every written paragraph more than ten lines long. He looks sad.

    In other news- Love the comic, though I haven’t commented till now. Sometimes it’s hard to repress the ol’ Snarky Quip reflex.

    Gotta go now, the holy ghost is tapping my shoulder.

  14. I find that it is weird that people try to separate the idea of religion from the concepts of right and wrong. They are both beliefs of an unprovable nature and from an objective viewpoint are merely largely held opinions regarding proper behavior etc. Since you can no more prove right and wrong any more than you can prove something is a sin. Well, okay, you can prove that something is defined linguistically as right, wrong, or sinful,but i have yet to see a scientific way to prove the validity of the concepts of right,wrong, or sin themselves(It’s not like every time you transgress an angel poofs next to you and delivers a punch whose kinetic energy is proportional to the amount you screwed up, or like fable where we can tell the good people by the trailing butterflies.). Right,wrong, good, evil, sinful, blessed, morality, and religion are all in the same boat in the absence of proof, and since all the arguments i have ever heard are either cyclical in structure(this is wrong because this and this are wrong) or based upon the “it just is” stratagem(why is murder wrong? It just is), though most of them have a bit of a cycle reminiscent of a toddler’s why fest(Q:why is murder wrong? A: Because you are doing something to another person that you wouldn’t want them to do to you. Q:why is that wrong? etc.)
    All that said, I’m still a Christian, and most of you still probably have morals you believe in. Faith rocks.
    These are just my thoughts regarding the idea of fantasy and reality, and if any of you can tear my argument to shreds that would be super awesome!