Friday, 28 November 2008

Apparently we're chickens...

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As many of you know, our God Trumps cards have had lots of hits and lots of feedback, most of which has, perhaps surprisingly, been very positive (for example here, here and here). It turns out people quite enjoy jokes.

Most people, that is. Not Damian Thompson, the editor-in-chief of the Catholic Herald who also blogs for the Telegraph. Here's a selection of his thoughts on God Trumps, entitled "Humanist attack on religions chickens out of criticising Islam":
The New Humanist website carries a set of "God Trumps" cards mocking all the major world religions. Except one. Can you guess which it is? Yup, the religion of peace. A religion so peaceful, in fact, that the humanists make a nervous joke out of their decision not to criticise it . . .

. . . The next card is "Muslim". The text reads: "Ultimate trump card. No jokes can be made here! Well done to the extremist section of this faith for making it impossible to have any kind of reasoned debate, or even a good-humoured debate around this subject. You trump everyone - even the integrity of this feature."

I'll say. It is perfectly possible to have a reasoned debate about Islam, unless you are a politically correct coward. Islam has its "weapon of choice" - several, actually - and also some doctrines just as "daffy" as those of Christianity. Heard the one about Mohammed's night journey to Jerusalem?

And if you're going to joke about Henry VIII's divorce, which the Anglican card does, why not throw in a reference to Mo's child bride? But, you see, that would risk offending Muslims. And we can't have that in a feature dedicated to satirising religions, can we?

There's lots we could say about this, but we thought we'd let Christina Martin do the talking, since she devised God Trumps:

While most people are seeing God Trumps for what they are, i.e. a joke, a small minority are getting their panties in a flap, bless them. The most vocal being Damian Thompson, Editor of the Catholic Herald no less, and a blogger for the Telegraph – they truly don't come any more uptight than that.

I don't mind that he (and the many people who added angry comments to his piece) didn't like the God Trumps. Humour is subjective. But what isn't subjective is his nonsense accusation that the Muslim card was a cowardly cop-out. The reasons for this are four fold. Yes four fold, take that Damian!

Firstly, I wrote it, so I should know. And I can exclusively reveal that I composed the Islam card as I did because I thought it would be funny. Sorry to pull the rug out from underneath all that the sabre rattling but it really is that mundane.

Secondly, it comes down to my childhood experiences of playing Top Trumps 'Ghouls and Ghosts' in the playground everyday for a year. The demon card had a hundred points for everything and would beat all of the other cards. Accordingly when I started composing this piece I thought, "Who holds the ultimate trump?" Originally it was going to be the Pope as he seems to be able to charge around getting his own way completely unchallenged, and he has the whole Papal infallibility thing going on, but I thought it would be a better satire to use it on Islam.

Which brings me to point number three – that it's a satire. A satire of the way society deals with the issues surrounding Islam. People pussy foot around them, I don't like it either, hence my rather pointed remark on the card about it being bad for society at large.

And finally, point number four – how much of a cop-out can it really be if the card name checks extremists, says they're ruining free speech and is illustrated with a picture of a mad mullah? Far from shying away from the issue I think we did a good job of confronting it head on, in a humorous fashion. And that's the whole point of the piece. Nobody gets any special treatment. They all get equally mocked. Each of the cards use broad societal generalisations to comic effect. The overall message being – isn't all of this nonsense?

Update: And thanks to Mr Thompson God Trumps has now been listed on Islamophobia Watch, although they don't actually say whether they think it is Islamophobic. They just take Thompson's word for it that we'd "chickened out" of criticising Islam. Whether that means that we're Islamophobic, Thompson's Islamophobic, or no one's Islamophobic I just don't know.


AT said...

While I'm reluctant to say anything negative about God Trumps as they're funny and to the point, the Secularist/Atheist/Humanist gets off pretty light. Earnest self-deprecation - and there's ammunition here, as secularism isn't stainless - is the first step towards uninhibited equal opportunity bashing.

Anonymous said...

I cannot even imagine the contortions that someone's thought would have to go through in order to fail to construe the Islam 'God Trump' card as a criticism.

How can it be possible for a working human brain to misunderstand the following sentence as being uncritical?: "Well done to the extremist section of this faith for making it impossible to have any kind of reasoned debate, or even a good-humoured debate around this subject. You trump everyone - even the integrity of this feature."

I mean, let us concede that there is in one sense another level here. Not very much of another level, of course, only the kind of level of sarchasm that a four-year-old child would readily comprehend. But it is incredible that any adult who can, you know, hold down a job, or make their own tea, would have to have it spelt out for them. But here goes. Specifically for Damian Thompson (and apparently every Telegraph reader, judging by the comments on his blog) let's spell it out: "Yes, indeed, the card isn't directly just poking a bit of fun like most of the other cards, and it says we can't criticise, but, actually, if you think about it not very hard, then this is itself a criticism - obviously - and one which is stated very, very clearly, in fact it's actually the most serious and politically alive statement in all the God Trumps."

But no, Damian Thompson is entrapped by sarchasm; the faintest hint of another level in written language ensnares his mind in logical paradox, like a robot who can-not com-pute, warn-ing, warn-ing, can-not com-pute, over-loading, mal-funct-ioning.

Here's a big clue, Damian Thompson, since you obviously missed it first time round, that maybe the card in question is a criticism of certain Islamic tendencies: There's a bloody great big picture of an infuriated, frothing-at-the-mouth Islamist taking up half the card!

This is beyond sense-of-humour bypass. This blogger has no common sense! He just seems to take any excuse to attack humanists, however weak it is, however illogical it is, and even if it means he has to sell out his own brain in order to do so.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Is this a kind of joke ?
Because it has UK extension.

Anonymous said...

No you are just British Assholes !

Botogol said...

any chance of producing an actual, physical set of cards that we could buy off you?

Anonymous said...

Some of your country's people think that Rothschilds are moving to Hon-Kong leaving you orphan.
You are sold out!

Anonymous said...

Given that Islamophobia Watch categorized it as "right-wing", they are apparently criticizing Damian Thompson. They'd consider us left wing, based on their categorization of the Council of Ex-Muslims.