An Old Man From Jersey Explains: Religions

This is a mini-series of comics about a naive but curious ten-year-old boy who pesters a crude but wise old man while he sits on the steps to their dingy New Jersey apartment building trying to read the newspaper.

 

An old man sits on the steps to his dingy New Jersey apartment reading a newspaper. A naive but curious ten year old boy stands on the grass nearby pestering him with questions.

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An Old Man From Jersey Explains Life

TRANSCRIPT

 

KID

Hey, mister!

OLD MAN

What do you want, kid?

KID

Can you explain religion to me?

OLD MAN

Which one?

KID

…all of them.

OLD MAN

Well Christians say Hindus worship mythology, and Hindus say Christians worship mythology. Mormons say Muslims worship mythology, and Muslims say Mormons worship mythology…

KID

Hold the phone. Are you saying all religion is mythology?

OLD MAN

I’m just pointing out that there’s a consensus among all the religions…except maybe Caodaism…that religion is mythology.

KID

But one of them has to be right, look at how many people believe!

OLD MAN

By your reasoning the religion with the most believers must be the true one, but that changes from time to time.

KID

So what happens if the one true religion changes after you die?

OLD MAN

…my point exactly.

KID

Can’t I count on God to lead me to the one true religion?

OLD MAN

That approach will most likely lead you to the religion that has the most social influence in the area you were raised in.

KID

Isn’t there any reliable way to test for truth?

OLD MAN

…the scientific method?

KID

But I read on Facebook that science is evil and unreliable!

OLD MAN

Do you believe water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit? Do you believe light travels at 186,282 miles per second? Do you believe the planets orbit the sun? Do you believe volcanos are caused by magma bursting through the earth’s crust? Do you believe in gravity? Do you believe drinking Drano will kill you, and do you even know the science behind why drinking Drano will kill you?

KID

Yes to all the questions except the last one.

OLD MAN

Believing in science 99% of the time and then contradicting yourself the one time you need a cop-out excuse isn’t a valid form of argument. That’s a defense mechanism.

KID

Why are you so mean to religious people?

OLD MAN

I just pointed out the obvious. You’re the one that shot the messenger, which again, is a defense mechanism.

KID

So science isn’t evil…it’s just indifferent, like a neutral, objective third party?

OLD MAN

It has to be since the whole point of science is to study an indifferent universe.

KID

So which religion passes this objective test for truth that we rely on in every other aspect of our lives?

OLD MAN

Just to be clear, can we rephrase that question to ask which religious book passes the same test for truth we rely on in every other aspect of our lives?

KID

Do we really need to make that distinction?

OLD MAN

We can fact check words that are written down and hold them accountable. Arguing over what you personally feel your religion is to you is like arguing with a bipolar ghost with multiple personality disorders who is in denial.

KID

Okay, drama queen. So which religious book passes the test of scientific inquiry?

OLD MAN

None of them.

KID

So you’re saying God isn’t real?

OLD MAN

I didn’t say that.

KID

So you’re saying there is a god, but the one true prophet has yet to transcribe the true word of the lord through divine inspiration?

OLD MAN

I definitely didn’t say that.

KID

Why can’t you give me a straight answer?

OLD MAN

…You could ask God the same question.

KID

I pray every night, and God never answers.

OLD MAN

…well there you go.

KID

Does that prove God doesn’t exist?

OLD MAN

Dead dads and deadbeat dads are indistinguishable to orphans.

KID

What if God is like a rich, loving dad who only seems to have abandoned his children when in reality he let them leave the nest to grow up on their own?

OLD MAN

I’m just curious, do the orphans have to know or believe who their dad is in order to receive their inheritance? Or will the dad throw them in the gutter if they don’t figure out who he is before he comes to bail them out of the orphanage he stranded them in?

KID

That dad sounds like a douche bag, and the bible says, “A father’s love is a love without end, amen.”

OLD MAN

You may be surprised to learn that several self-proclaimed prophets wrote down in some pretty popular religious books that God is, as you say, a douche bag.

KID

Well, if a self-proclaimed prophet wrote it down then it must be true. I mean, how can we understand the nature of the universe or the difference between right and wrong without prophets to teach us our creator’s expectations for us?

OLD MAN

…are we still ignoring the fact that there’s a consensus among all the prophets that religion is mythology?

KID

Yes.

OLD MAN

You want rules? Here you go. Rule number one. Don’t put your hand on a hot stove.

KID

Did a prophet write that rule down?

OLD MAN

Did we need one to?

KID

We need someone to tell us how to live.

OLD MAN

…spoken like a true victim of battered-person syndrome.

KID

I don’t know what that means, but I stand by my statement.

OLD MAN

Then maybe you should worship the I.R.S. It’s got millions of rules, and they’re constantly being updated.

KID

The I.R.S. is evil. They take all your money, and their rules don’t even make sense half the time.

 

OLD MAN

…Funny how often that happens when one person gets to tell another person how to live.

KID

The fact remains, I can’t be held responsible for deciding how to live.

OLD MAN

…then what’s the point of leaving the nest?

KID

…to learn obedience?

OLD MAN

…you mean like a slave?

KID

God gave us the free will to choose to accept or reject him.

OLD MAN

Telling people, “Do what I say or die.” doesn’t give them free will. It gives them a tyrannical ultimatum.

KID

Is there anything we can know for sure outside of what the prophets told us?

OLD MAN

…so far water has frozen at 32 degrees Fahrenheit every time I’ve checked.

KID

Ah Ha! If that’s an unchangeable rule then God must have made it!

OLD MAN

…which god was that then?

KID

If a rose is a rose by any other name then so is the force that determines the freezing point of water.

OLD MAN

…then why name the rose at all?

KID

I need a concrete answer to bring closure to this issue, and you haven’t given me any yet.

OLD MAN

…are you talking to me or god?

KID

The point is there has to be more to life than being stranded in an indifferent universe where you have to figure out everything for yourself and take responsibility for your own conclusions.

OLD MAN

…you say that like it’s a bad thing. You seem to be navigating life just fine so far, and you can’t even quote a religious book accurately. Is this really about defending religion?

KID

I’m just scared of death, and I’m projecting my fears the only way my elders taught me to. But mainly I’m afraid of going to hell. Isn’t it better to wager on religion and be wrong than wager against it and be wrong?

OLD MAN

So which religion do you wager on?

KID

…The one that makes the best promises and the worst threats?

OLD MAN

…and fails the test of science and takes all your money and has a bunch of rules that don’t even make any sense?

KID

But if I strip away all my preconceived beliefs then what am I left with?

OLD MAN

…freedom?

KID

Are you the devil trying to trick me?

OLD MAN

I could ask you the same question, but if you’re constantly disagreeing with the people whose job it is to indifferently, objectively point out the obvious then at some point you might consider the possibility that the source of the confusion is that you’re wrong.

KID

I’m going to have to go home and think about this.

OLD MAN

…funny you were created with the capacity to do that.

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