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>Mything the Point

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Since I like to do cartoons based on Bible stories and other common Christian myths, I have been criticized on occasion by atheists who think I am using my cartoons to advance my religious views, and praised at times by Christians who think I am trying to advance theirs. It is hard to imagine a person who would be more likely to believe in a religion because he saw it in the funny papers, but I’m sure they are out there. In truth, I’m doing neither.

I no longer believe the Noah story, of course, but when I was a kid I was taught it was true. As hard as it is to believe, we all know that there are many 21st century adult Americans with high school and college diplomas who are still convinced. I was raised in the Bible Belt and have seen it first hand. (It is also worth noting that most Christians worldwide believe these stories are allegories and not historical accounts.)

Of those who believe the story of Noah’s ark is factual, some don’t think about it too hard, others perform amazing feats of mental gymnastics to find logical ways in which a person could fit a breeding pair of every single species on the earth onto one boat, along with enough food to keep them all fed for who-knows-how-many months. Others just fall back on the Santa Claus Defense. The Santa Claus Defense is what parents use when their kid asks a logical question like, “How can Santa fit enough toys for every kid in the whole world into one sleigh?” The answer is always, “He’s magic.” Noah was magic in this same way.

Among my friends in the animal rights movement, some who advocate veganism and believe in the rights of non-human animals, as I do, attempt to reach people who believe in the fundamental truth of Bible stories by finding ways in which the scriptures support the notion that man is “meant” to eat plants, not animals. If you are one of those who are motivated to try this I wish you well, but you can argue scripture with fundamentalists until you are blue in the face because in the end, you are arguing with someone who believes in magic. When that is your premise, you can make up the rules to suit your argument.

I use Bible themes in cartoons because they are well known stories and, since they were written to describe common human dilemmas and traits, are great fodder for cartoons. It is the same reason I use children’s fairy tales, Greek myths or famous movie monsters. Most of the time, there is no more complex reason than that.

>The Sound of One Hand Inking

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Okay, I admit I don’t know anything about Zen Buddhism, but the whole “nothingness” thing is a common conception and cartoons are often built on these, whether correct or not.

Like the Moses cartoon from a couple of days ago; several readers left comments on the inaccuracies of my drawing – from the error of having the burning bush and the ten commandments in the same picture to the fact that Moses is wearing shoes on “hallowed ground.” I also got a few emails of this sort.

Being neither a Zen Buddhist nor a believer in the historical accuracy of the Bible, I admit that I don’t get very nitpicky about these things. I just draw the cartoon in a way that everyone can understand and move on to the next crushing deadline. I don’t mind the corrections, by the way. I’m kind of a trivia buff anyway, so I always enjoy a few more tidbits of knowledge.

In spite of this flippant attitude toward history, I actually do try to be more accurate in my cartoons than do most cartoonists. I research historical costumes and such, to get things mostly right, and often look up what certain objects look like to add that extra bit of convincing detail, even though I’m perfectly capable of an approximation out of my own head. But if the accuracy conflicts with the joke, as it would have in the Moses cartoon, I toss it out and use the common misconception instead. Moses talking to a burning bush is immediately understood; Moses talking to a blinding beam of light would have been widely misconstrued to be a scene from Star Trek.

Of the handful of “Zen” cartoons I’ve done over the years, here is one of my favorites:

>Bible Balloonery

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(For a more enlightening view, click Moses’s beard.)

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Climbing mountains is hard. Stone is heavy. Climbing mountains with big stone tablets has got to be a real buzzkill. And this was before backpacks and comfortable hiking boots. Imagine climbing down a mountain wearing a bathrobe and slippers, carrying a slab from the sidewalk. Yet Moses did this for God because God didn’t want to go all the way down to the bottom of the mountain and give the ten commandments to the Israelites Himself and have to deal with all the hubbub what with people fainting and wanting autographs and all. Moses was a true friend.

But it just seems that balloons would have been easier for Moses to deal with on that climb. And attention grabbing, too. Nothing grabs everyone’s attention like walking into a room with ten shiny, Mylar balloons. Maybe next time.

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