Dr. Joan Bushwell's Chimpanzee Refuge

I, like, really want to be one of the cool kids here on Science Blogs so I am reading The God Delusion by that Oxford don Dawkins. I ventured into what passes as campus town here in Einsteinville, and bought the last copy on the shelf at a proudly independent and somewhat self-congratulatory bookstore. After reading Dawkins’ thesis that religion should not be accorded special respect, I remembered my stash of old National Lampoons (circa 1972-1977ish) mouldering away in the basement. Those NatLamPoo boys respected nothing, and I vaguely recalled that they certainly did not spare religion. I hit paydirt when I came across the “Strange Beliefs” and “The Joy of Sects: The Judaeo-Christian Tradition” issues. I scanned some sacredelicious items into pdf form. Check back at this space for the occasional image.

In my nostalgic perusal of the frayed and yellowed rags, I stumbled across a series of cartoons by Gahan Wilson. The theme is “Strange Beliefs of Children.” I had just read Chapter 9 of The God Delusion , “Childhood, Abuse, and The Escape from Religion” (OK, I skipped ahead) in which Dawkins argues that religious indoctrination is tantamount to child abuse. He has a point, and offers florid examples of the religious coercion of juveniles. However, kids are odd little critters who are prone to magical thinking, even if their parents are the most rational of beings. If parents or religious institutions are not beating strange beliefs into their young noggins, children will come up with their own. So says Gahan Wilson (text and images from The National Lampoon, August 1973)…

Outside of the occasional surviving stone age tribe come across on an isolated Pacific island or discovered tucked away in some obscure bend of the Amazon, there is no observable group of humans living on this earth more darkly benighted, more shuddersomely superstitious, or more grossly misinformed than the ordinary children we see pottering about daily at our knee level. Constantly forced to obey the incomprehensible rules of a society they cannot even dimly begin to understand, menaced by awesome diseases and fearsome technological poisons, endlessly presented with unanswered questions, these tiny creatures in a brave, if faltering attempt to explain their basically alien environment to themselves, have created one of the richest troves of strange beliefs ever assembled.

Here are a few of the cartoons.





  1. #1 Lab Cat
    October 18, 2006

    But, but, but the kid counting the boards is going to get eaten by a bear anyway when he reaches a corner. He is standing on the crack between paving stones.

  2. #2 CanuckRob
    October 18, 2006

    Lab Cat, what a primitive belief system you have. Everyone knows that stepping on a crack breaks your mother’s back. Of course I suppose that a bear could do the breaking:).

  3. #3 J-dog
    October 18, 2006

    Thanks for the Graham Greene redux! I forgot how good he was.

  4. #4 Julia
    October 18, 2006

    I like my two-year-old grandson’s theory about how his adhesive bandages work to heal cuts and scrapes. He explained: “When you have a boo-boo, you put a sticky bandage on and leave it for a long time. Then when you pull the bandage off, the boo-boo sticks to it and comes off too. Then you throw the bandage and the boo-boo away.”

  5. #5 natural cynic
    October 18, 2006

    Gee, I never encountered that kind of toilet monster, but I just knew that there was something evil living down in the primitive campground johns, just waiting to bite me on the butt. And where is the most ubiquitous monster, that THING under the bed that comes out when the lights are off.

  6. #6 Lab Cat
    October 18, 2006


    Perhaps the bear at the corner is only there in England 😉
    I never knew it would break my mother’s back. Gosh. How tempting.

  7. #7 Suesquatch
    October 18, 2006

    Coke and aspirin together doesn’t kill you. It’s an abortifacient. EVERYONE knows that. Sheesh.

    Oh, but you don’t drink it. You douche with it, and then jump up and down.

  8. #8 oldhippie
    October 18, 2006

    That story about coke and aspirin was around when I was a kid – only then, we thought it would lay you unconscious instantly. I bribed a schoolmate by offering him a free coke if he would take it with an aspirin. He did, nothing happened. Isn’t science wonderful!

  9. #9 Bill from Dover
    October 19, 2006

    When I was a kid, I was smart enough to fight the monster in the toilet so I didn’t have to fight it in my bedroom closet.

  10. #10 fuzz
    October 19, 2006

    Of course, Coke and Pop Rocks will make your head explode.

    Kids are least as good as grownups at inventing tall tales, myths, and theology. Maybe better. The imagery is often more vivid than anything a boring old adult could come up with.

  11. #11 M
    October 19, 2006

    Oh, those are fantastic. At the same time as I was a convinced 7-year old atheist I was also convinced of the Big Green Monster that was going to eat me. Apparently the same logic circuits were not applied to Monster belief as Theism 🙂

  12. #12 double-soup tuesday
    October 21, 2006


    I have two comments. I read these blogs but seldom get real value out of them despite extended exposure to ramblings and mutterings of alleged scientists. I guess if paid the subscription to Seed it might be more valuable, but I’m a new media person (wikipedia) not old media person (pay for content)…

    So, relative to that cartoon up above of what happens when you suppress a sneeze, fart and belch — I’m seeking free medical advice since the wikipedia entry sucks and needs an expert to edit it. That cartoon seems pretty reasonable to me since when I suppress a sneeze, I get some kind of weird pain out to the extremities. Granted, it only occurs when it’s one of those 250-mph sneezes, but bitch does it hurt.

    Should I seek medical help for the fleshsuit, or is this normal?

    Also, maybe you can supplement your Gahan Wilson collection with the rejected cartoon works of The New Yorker. Similar sick humor, too lowbrow for The New Yorker, but thankfully available to those of us with baser needs.

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