Comical Quotes

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So only atheists are in a comfortable position to cast the first stone, and Christopher Hitchens, in "God Is Not Great," relishes the role. He has the credentials, as both a combative journalist and a surprisingly erudite literary scholar, and he wants to break the diplomacy barrier and expose the preposterous presumptions and ignoble machinations that stain the history of all religions, bringing discredit that tends to get magnified over the years by a persistent pattern of coverup, veils of illusion , and denial of one design or another. These efforts at obfuscation are quite transparent under Hitchens' s merciless scrutiny, and the results are often quite comical.
"Eh bien, Mademoiselle, all through my life I have observed one thing — 'All one wants one gets!' Who knows?" His face screwed itself up comically. "You may get more than you bargain for."
Modern Romans insisted that there was only one god, a notion that struck Alobar as comically simplistic.
The vendors seemed comical, so intent were they on their slivers of meaningless profit, all unaware of the desolate ages that lay in their own near future, their own imminent deaths.
I know the moment isn't right To tell the girl a comical line To keep the conversation light I guess I'm just frightened out of my mind. But if that's how I feel Then it's the best feeling I've ever known It's undeniably real Leave a tender moment alone.
Of Henryson as of Chaucer it can be said that the picturesque detail owes its effectiveness to the solidity and seriousness of what it grows from. Henryson's Fables (like La Fontaine’s – they deserve the comparison) do more than present types of human beings in animal guises and animals comically behaving like human beings; they build up a total and consistent society, both rendered and criticized.
I must really say that he is a veteran Communist, this Herr Josip Broz, a consistent man. Unfortunately he is our enemy. He really has earned his title of Marshal. When we catch him we shall do him in at once; you can be sure of that; he is our enemy. But I wish we had a dozen Titos in Germany... The man had nothing at all. He was between the Russians, the British and Americans for a ride and to shit on them in the most comical way. He is a Moscow man … He has never capitulated.
The Fifth of November is Guy Fawkes' Day in England. In peacetime it is celebrated with bonfires on the greens, fireworks in the parks and the carrying of "guys" through the streets. "Guys" are stuffed, straw figures of unpopular persons; and after they have been shown to everybody they are burnt in the bonfires amid great acclamation. The children black their faces and put on comical clothes, and go about begging for a Penny for the Guy. Only the very meanest people refuse to give pennies and these are always visited by Extreme Bad Luck. The Original Guy Fawkes was one of the men who took part in the Gunpowder Plot. This was a conspiracy for blowing up King James I and the Houses of Parliament on November 5th, 1605. The plot was discovered, however, before any damage was done. The only result was that King James and his Parliament went on living but Guy Fawkes, poor man, did not. He was executed with the other conspirators. Nevertheless, it is Guy Fawkes who is remembered today and King James who is forgotten. For since that time, the Fifth of November in England, like the Fourth of July in America, has been devoted to Fireworks. From 1605 till 1939 every village green in the shires had a bonfire on Guy Fawkes' Day.
For the mockers are those who die comically, and God laughs at their comic ending, while the nobler part, the part of tragedy, is theirs who endured the mockery.
Robert Graves stands impressively, cantankerously, comically, nobly apart from his contemporaries. You can't even classify him as the leader of his own school. He hasn't one. Indeed, it may be said that he draws his greatest strength from wrestling single-handed with the brutish mob.
[M]y buddy Ron (Tater Salad) White talks about drinking my dip cup accidentally to swallow some aspirin. I was there when it happened and laughed my ass off. Was he amused? Of course not, but since it wasn't me drinkin' week-old Skoal spit it was downright comical! (p. 230).
There is a notion that complete impartiality is the most fitting and indeed the normal disposition for true exegesis, because it guarantees complete absence of prejudice. For a short time, around 1910, this idea threatened to achieve almost a canonical status in Protestant theology. But now, we can quite calmly describe it as merely comical.
Nell: Nothing is funnier than unhappiness.Nagg: Oh?Nell: Yes, yes, it's the most comical thing in the world. And we laugh, we laugh, with a will, in the beginning. But it's always the same thing. Yes, it's like the funny story we have heard too often, we still find it funny, but we don't laugh any more.
The way forward does not lie in amateur and comically timeless linguistic sociology which takes ‘forms of life’ for granted (and this is what philosophy has been recently), but in the systematic study of forms of life which does not take them for granted at all. It hardly matters whether such an inquiry is called philosophy or sociology.
Her life is almost a perfect blending of the Comic and the Terrible, which two things may be opposite sides of the same coin. In my own experience, everything funny I have ever written is more terrible than it is funny, or only funny because it is terrible, or only terrible because it is funny. Well Simone Weil's is the most comical life I have ever read about, and the most truly tragic and terrible.
"I just remember he was dominating, a scoring machine, unstoppable," Walt Frazier, the Knicks' Hall of Famer, said. "The guy looked indestructible. He was such a physical specimen, I never thought something like this would happen to him at 63. "His legacy is comical. When you read about his records, it makes you laugh. He has records that are just remarkable. I don't care if he was 10 feet tall, the things that he did.
It goes against the American storytelling grain to have someone in a situation he can't get out of, but I think this is very usual in life. There are people, particularly dumb people, who are in terrible trouble and never get out of it, because they're not intelligent enough. It strikes me as gruesome and comical that in our culture we have an expectation that man can always solve his problems. This is so untrue that it makes me want to cry — or laugh.
The night room heaves a sigh, yes Heaves, a Sigh — old-fashioned comical room, oh me I'm hopeless, born a joker never change, flirting away through the mirrorframe in something green-striped, pantalooned, and ruffled — meantime though, it is quaint, most rooms today hum you know, have been known also to "breathe," yes even wait in hushed expectancy and that ought to be the rather sinister tradition here, long slender creatures, heavy perfume and capes in rooms assailed by midnight, pierced with spiral stairways, blue-petaled pergolas, an ambience in which no one, however provoked or out of touch, my dear young lady, ever, Heaves, a Sigh. It is not done.
I think animals, treated as animals only, are very hard to depict comically. If animals could draw, and had a sense of humour, no doubt they could do it.
The effort really to see and really to represent is no idle business in face of the constant force that makes for muddlement. The great thing is indeed that the muddled state too is one of the very sharpest of the realities, that it also has color and form and character, has often in fact a broad and rich comicality.
Been reading Hardy's Return of the Native. Astonishing how moral standards have shifted over the past hundred years:shifted isn't the word - a landslide...Today the problems of these nineteenth-century novels strike us as exaggerated, as bathos, even comical - much ado about nothing. But for these people it really was a struggle with the gods, very real, menacing, dangerous gods.
Self-love, my friend, bewitches parents to give too much indulgence to infantine foibles;- the constant cry is, "Poor little soul, it knows no better!" If it swears, that's a sign of wit and spirit; if it fibs, it's so cunning and comical; if it steals, 'tis only a paw trick- and the mother exultingly cries, "My Jacky is so sharp, we can keep nothing from him!"
All skepticism is a kind of idealism. Hence when the skeptic Zeno pursued the study of skepticism by endeavoring existentially to keep himself unaffected by whatever happened, so that when once he had gone out of his way to avoid a mad dog, he shamefacedly admitted that even a skeptical philosopher is also sometimes a man, I find nothing ridiculous in this. There is no contradiction, and the comical always lies in a contradiction.
Skepticism
• Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments (1846), p. 315, as translated by David F. Swenson and Walter Lowrie 1941 Fifth Printing Princeton University Press
• Source: Wikiquote: "Skepticism" (Quotes, Nineteenth century)
In the Napoleonic Museum in Arenenberg I was rather impressed just how richly clad in the costume of Antiquity the First Empire in fact was - dressed up even comically with its laurels and eagles and togas. Return to Rome wherever you look, though of course not to the Holy Roman Empire - to Caesar's Rome. But the French Revolution itself had fallen back on more or less genuine or imaginary classical models: Brutus and Tiberius Gracchus and Gaius Gracchus, the Gracchi, consuls and Roman virtues - even these revolutionaries couldn't resolve to start from scratch with something really new.
Surely the most comically deluded people on this planet, outside creationists, Jehovah's Witnesses and Scientologists, are idealistic left-wing gay people who think they share a common cause with Muslims as two oppressed minorities, when opinion polls tell us that most Muslims are disgusted by homosexuality and think it's completely unacceptable. Among U.K. Muslims, disapproval is 100%. Admittedly, that's from a sample of only 500 people, who all happened to agree unanimously, but that's hardly representative. After all, not all Muslims were included, so we can't reasonably extrapolate anything from it without being racist. That's a relief. I thought we might have to face an unpleasant truth there for a second, didn't you?
"Unbelievable! Unbelieveable! No stem-cell research. Can't have stem-cell research. Can't have reproductive rights. But by God we can bomb the shite out of anybody in the world! And we can have policies that are put forth by the World Trade Organization, and the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank, and CAFTA and NAFTA that will destroy lives. That will destroy the environment. That will harm fetal development. I mean is it not insanity? Is it not so obvious at this point to some people, to most people rather that this Bush administration is now uh- comically! comically uhm --I don't even know what the word is! I can't think of the word! I can't think of words!"
To be creative, scientists need libraries and laboratories and the company of other scientists; certainly a quiet and untroubled life is a help. A scientist's work is in no way deepened or made more cogent by privation, anxiety, distress, or emotional harassment. To be sure, the private lives of scientists may be strangely and even comically mixed up, but not in ways that have any special bearing on the nature and quality of their work. If a scientist were to cut off an ear, no one would interpret such an action as evidence of an unhappy torment of creativity; nor will a scientist be excused any bizarrerie, however extravagant, on the grounds that he is a scientist, however brilliant.
Peter Medawar
• Source: Wikiquote: "Peter Medawar" (Quotes, 1970s, Advice to a Young Scientist (1979): Source: Advice to a Young Scientist (1979), p.25, quoting his own article "Unnatural science", New York Review of Books 24 (Feb 3, 1977), p.13–18)
For years, whenever I saw Mubarak, he reminded me of a mummy. He spent a considerable time each day to “prepare” himself. That meant dying his hair and eyebrows jet black, and applying rouge to his cheeks to make them look rosy, in more or less the same way Egyptian mummy makers did with dead pharaohs. He also wore heels to look taller and used a corset to keep his belly in. Despite declining eyesight, he shunned glasses in public. Even in his 80s, he wanted to appear alive and young, just as pharaohs had done. Mubarak’s attempts at securing eternal youth were faintly comical and ultimately harmless. What was not comical and certainly harmless was the mummification of his regime.
It is now odd to note that Jefferson was under the impression that blacks were physically inferior to whites. That was a rather common belief, even as late as the time of the 1936 Olympic triumphs of Jesse Owens, when Adolf Hitler was sure that the Olympics would demonstrate German physical superiority over everyone. The last thing Hitler expected was for an American Negro to scoop up a bunch of gold medals, and he refused to shake Owens' hand. Owens later said he wasn't sorry that he didn't get to shake Adolf Hitler's hand; but now it is also said that Hitler didn't shake any non-German's hand. Now, when many people have the impression that in many areas blacks may be physically superior to whites, the old belief seems comical.
All skepticism is a kind of idealism. Hence when the skeptic Zeno pursued the study of skepticism by endeavoring existentially to keep himself unaffected by whatever happened, so that when once he had gone out of his way to avoid a mad dog, he shamefacedly admitted that even a skeptical philosopher is also sometimes a man, I find nothing ridiculous in this. There is no contradiction, and the comical always lies in a contradiction. … There is no special difficulty connected with being an idealist in the imagination; but to exist as an idealist is an extremely strenuous task, because existence itself constitutes a hindrance and an objection. To express existentially what one has understood about oneself, and in this manner to understand oneself, is in no way comical. But to understand everything except one’s own self is very comical.
Trivialism
• Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments (1846), p. 315, as translated by David F. Swenson and Walter Lowrie (1941).
• Source: Wikiquote: "Trivialism" (K)
When Kalki was published in 1978, it looked to be something of an artistic retrenchment for Vidal, an improbable entertainment in the sci-fi genre that afforded him the opportunity to exercise his spleen on some old friends — grasping politicians, the popular media, and credulous religionists. In retrospect however the novel seems a remarkably insightful cautionary tale and, further, represents an important developmental phase in the Vidal canon. For instance the themes that Vidal addressed straightforwardly in Messiah (1954) — religious hysteria and manipulation of the popular will by the commercial media — are expanded surrealistically in Kalki. These concerns will later be addressed comically, and more effectively yet, in Live from Golgotha (1992). The more serious his purposes, it seems, the more extravagant are Vidal's conceits.
Briefly, Kalki is a futuristic affair with a messianic prophet of doom who would save the planet by annihilating the human race.
Kalki
• Susan Baker and Curtis S. Gibson, in a review of the very dark satire based upon the Kalki prophecies, Kalki : A Novel (1978) by Gore Vidal, in Gore Vidal : A Critical Companion (1997), p. 161
• Source: Wikiquote: "Kalki" (Quotes)
The Grand Inquisitor explains that you have to create mysteries because otherwise the common people will be able to understand things. They have to be subordinated so you have to make things look mysterious and complicated. That's the test of the intellectual. It's also good for them: then you're an important person, talking big words which nobody can understand. Sometimes it gets kind of comical, say in post-modern discourse. Especially around Paris, it has become a comic strip, I mean it's all gibberish. But it's very inflated, a lot of television cameras, a lot of posturing. They try to decode it and see what is the actual meaning behind it, things that you could explain to an eight-year old child. There's nothing there. But these are the ways in which contemporary intellectuals, including those on the Left, create great careers for themselves, power for themselves, marginalize people, intimidate people and so on.
Hovind’s defense is taking a comical “taxes? what taxes?” tack. They’re claiming poor innocent Kent was entirely ignorant of the many laws he’s broken, which is kind of like a kid, when caught by his mom stashing porno magazines under his mattress, frantically claiming they’re not his and he doesn’t know where they came from. We also get heaping, hilarious doses of the common fundamentalist practice of calling things by other names, in the hope they’ll actually become those renamed things. Hovind claims his Dinosaur Adventure Land park had no employees, simply kind-hearted, godly “volunteers” who came over, did work, and got given a “love offering” that just happened to take the form of cash money. See, calling a wage a “love offering” magically makes it no longer a wage! So you don’t have to put it on the books, you see. Or at least, that’s how it works in Hovind’s alternate universe.
In that little book [On the Nobility and Excellence of the Female Sex, and the Superiority of the Same over the Male Sex, by Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa, 1486–1535] it is adduced as proof that in Hebrew woman is called Eve (life), man is called Adam (earth) – ergo. Something like this is excellent as a jest in an exchange of words in which everything is absolutely decided and signed and sealed with both the notary public’s seal and God’s. So it is also when the author cites in another demonstration that when a woman falls into the water she floats on top whereas a man, if he falls into the water, sinks-ergo. This demonstration lends itself to other uses, which helps explain the fact that so many witches were burned in the Middle Ages. It is a few years since I read that little book, but it was highly amusing to me. The most comical things in the natural sciences and philology appear in the most naïve way.
A man who is convinced of the truth of his religion is indeed never tolerant. At the least, he is to feel pity for the adherent of another religion but usually it does not stop there. The faithful adherent of a religion will try first of all to convince those that believe in another religion and usually he goes on to hatred if he is not successful. However, hatred then leads to persecution when the might of the majority is behind it. In the case of a Christian clergyman, the tragic-comical is found in this: that the Christian religion demands love from the faithful, even love for the enemy. This demand, because it is indeed superhuman, he is unable to fulfill. Thus intolerance and hatred ring through the oily words of the clergyman. The love, which on the Christian side is the basis for the conciliatory attempt towards Judaism is the same as the love of a child for a cake. That means that it contains the hope that the object of the love will be eaten up...
Albert Einstein
• Letter to Rabbi Solomon Goldman of Chicago's Anshe Emet Congregation, p. 51
• Source: Wikiquote: "Albert Einstein" (Quotes, Einstein's God (1997): Einstein's God — Albert Einstein's Quest as a Scientist and as a Jew to Replace a Forsaken God (1997) by Robert N. Goldman ISBN 1568219830 )
I have spoken of the forceful sonnets of that tragic Portuguese, Antero de Quental, who died by his own hand. Feeling acutely for the plight of his country on the occasion of the British ultimatum in 1890, he wrote as follows: "An English statesman of the last century, who was also undoubtedly a perspicacious observer and a philosopher, Horace Walpole, said that for those who feel, life is a tragedy, and a comedy for those who think. Very well then, if we are destined to end tragically, we Portuguese, we who feel, we would rather prefer this terrible, but noble destiny to that which is reserved, and perhaps at no very remote future date, for England, the country that thinks and calculates, whose destiny it is to finish miserably and comically." …we twin-brothers of the Atlantic seaboard have always been distinguished by a certain pedantry of feeling, but there remains a basis of truth underlying this terrible idea — namely that some peoples, those who put thought above feeling, I should say reason above faith, die comically, while those die tragically who put faith above reason.
...it is like what we have done to chickens. Forced growth under optimum conditions, so that in eight weeks they are ready for the mechanical picker. The most forlorn and comical statements are the ones made by the grateful young who say Now I can be ready in two years and nine months to go out in and earn a living rather than wasting 4 years in college. Education is something that should be apart from the necessities of earning a living, not a tool therefore. It needs contemplation, fallow periods, the measured and guided study of the history of man’s reiteration of the most agonizing question of all: Why? Today the good ones, the ones who want to ask why, find no one around with any interest in answering the question, so they drop out, because theirs is the type of mind which becomes monstrously bored at the trade-school concept. A devoted technician is seldom an educated man. He can be a useful man, a contented man, a busy man. But he has no more sense of the mystery and wonder and paradox of existence than does one of those chickens fattening itself for the mechanical plucking, freezing and packaging.
All skepticism is a kind of idealism. Hence when the skeptic Zeno pursued the study of skepticism by endeavoring existentially to keep himself unaffected by whatever happened, so that when once he had gone out of his way to avoid a mad dog, he shamefacedly admitted that even a skeptical philosopher is also sometimes a man, I find nothing ridiculous in this. There is no contradiction, and the comical always lies in a contradiction. On the other hand, when one thinks of all the miserable idealistic lecture-witticisms, the jesting and coquetry in connection with playing the idealist while in the professorial chair, so that the lecturer is not really an idealist, but only plays the fashionable game of being an idealist; when one remembers the lecture-phrase about doubting everything, while occupying the lecture platform, aye, then it is impossible not to write a satire merely by recounting the facts. Through an existential attempt to be an idealist, one would learn in the course of half a year something very different from this game of hide-and-seek on the lecture platform. There is no special difficulty connected with being an idealist in the imagination; but to exist as an idealist is an extremely strenuous task, because existence itself constitutes a hindrance and an objection. To express existentially what one has understood about oneself, and in this manner to understand oneself, is in no way comical. But to understand everything except one’s own self is very comical.
About Zeno of Elea
• Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments (1846), p. 315, as translated by David F. Swenson and Walter Lowrie 1941 Fifth Printing Princeton University Press.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Zeno of Elea" (Quotes about Zeno)
Thud. My eyes are open. It is four-thirty in the morning, one morning, and my dry eyes click in their sockets, awake before the birds. There is no light. The eye strains for logic, some play of form. I have been dreaming of wind. The tree outside my window stands silent. I listen to the breathing of the man lying beside me. I know where I am. I am awake. I am alive. Am I tethered to earth only by this fragile breath? A strawful of breath at best. Yet this is the breath that patients beg, their hands gripping the edges of mattresses; this is the breath that wrestles trees, that brings down all the leaves in the Third Act. We know where the car is parked. We know, word-for-word, the texts of plays. We have spoken, in proximity to one another, over years, sentences, hundreds of thousands of sentences—bright, grave, fallible, comic, perishable—perhaps eternal? I don’t know. Where does the wind go? When will the light come? We will have hotcakes for breakfast. How can I protect this . . . ? My church teaches me I cannot. And I believe it. I turn the pillow to its cool side. Then rage fills me, against the cubist necessity of having to arrange myself comically against orthodoxy, against having to wonder if I will offend, against theology that devises that my feeling for him, more than for myself, is a vanity. My brown paradox: The church that taught me to understand love, the church that taught me well to believe love breathes—also tells me it is not love I feel, at four in the morning, in the dark, even before the birds cry. Of every hue and caste am I.
The Fifth of November is Guy Fawkes' Day in England. In peacetime it is celebrated with bonfires on the greens, fireworks in the parks and the carrying of "guys" through the streets. "Guys" are stuffed, straw figures of unpopular persons; and after they have been shown to everybody they are burnt in the bonfires amid great acclamation. The children black their faces and put on comical clothes, and go about begging for a Penny for the Guy. Only the very meanest people refuse to give pennies and these are always visited by Extreme Bad Luck. The Original Guy Fawkes was one of the men who took part in the Gunpowder Plot. This was a conspiracy for blowing up King James I and the Houses of Parliament on November 5th, 1605. The plot was discovered, however, before any damage was done. The only result was that King James and his Parliament went on living but Guy Fawkes, poor man, did not. He was executed with the other conspirators. Nevertheless, it is Guy Fawkes who is remembered today and King James who is forgotten. For since that time, the Fifth of November in England, like the Fourth of July in America, has been devoted to Fireworks. From 1605 till 1939 every village green in the shires had a bonfire on Guy Fawkes' Day. … Since 1939, however, there have been no bonfires on the village greens. No fireworks gleam in the blackened parks and the streets are dark and silent. But this darkness will not last forever. There will some day come a Fifth of November — or another date, it doesn't matter — when fires will burn in a chain of brightness from Land's End to John O' Groats. The children will dance and leap about them as they did in the times before. They will take each other by the hand and watch the rockets breaking, and afterwards they will go home singing to the houses full of light...
[W]hat good to us is the gods' knowledge if we can't get it from them? How could one communicate with the gods? Our ancestors (while they were alive!) stumbled on an extremely ingenious solution: divination.We all know how hard it is to make the major decisions of life: should I hang tough or admit my transgression, should I move or stay in my present position, should I go to war or not, should I follow my heart or my head? We still haven't figured out any satisfactory systematic way of deciding these things. Anything that can relieve the burden of figuring out how to make these hard calls is bound to be an attractive idea.Consider flipping a coin, for instance. Why do we do it? To take away the burden of having to find a reason for choosing A over B. We like to have reasons for what we do, but sometimes nothing sufficiently persuasive comes to mind, and we recognize that we have to decide soon, so we concoct a little gadget, an external thing that will make the decision for us. But if the decision is about something momentous, like whether to go to war, or marry, or confess, anything like flipping a coin would be just too, well, flippant.In such a case, choosing for no good reason would be too obviously a sign of incompetence, and, besides, if the decision is really that important, once the coin has landed you'll have to confront the further choice: should you honor your just-avowed commitment to be bound by the flip of the coin, or should you reconsider? Faced with such quandaries, we recognize the need for some treatment stronger than a coin flip. Something more ceremonial, more impressive, like divination, which not only tells you what to do, but gives you a reason (if you squint just right and use your imagination).Scholars have uncovered a comically variegated profusion of ancient ways of delegating important decisions to uncontrollable externalities. Instead of flipping a coin, you can flip arrows (belomancy) or rods (rhabdomancy) or bones or cards (sortilege), and instead of looking at tea leaves (tasseography), you can examine the livers of sacrificed animals (hepatoscopy) or other entrails (haruspicy) or melted wax poured into water (ceroscopy). Then there is moleosophy (divination by blemishes), myomancy (divination by rodent behavior), nephomancy (divination by clouds), and of course the old favorites, numerology and astrology, among dozens of others.
What [is] the prevailing attitude today among those who call themselves religious but vigorously advocate tolerance? There are three main options, ranging from the disingenuous Machiavellian--1. As a matter of political strategy, the time is not ripe for candid declarations of religious superiority, so we should temporize and let sleeping dogs lie in hopes that those of other faiths can gently be brought around over the centuries.--through truly tolerant Eisenhowerian "Our government makes no sense unless it is founded on a deeply religious belief — and I don't care what it is" --2. It really doesn't matter which religion you swear allegiance to, as long as you have some religion.--to the even milder Moynihanian benign neglect--3. Religion is just too dear to too many to think of discarding, even though it really doesn't do any good and is simply an empty historical legacy we can afford to maintain until it quietly extinguishes itself sometime in the distant and unforeseeable future.It it no use asking people which they choose, since both extremes are so undiplomatic we can predict in advance that most people will go for some version of ecumenical tolerance whether they believe it or not. ...We've got ourselves caught in a hypocrisy trap, and there is no clear path out. Are we like families in which the adults go through all the motions of believing in Santa Claus for the sake of the kids, and the kids all pretend still to believe in Santa Claus so as not to spoil the adults' fun? If only our current predicament were as innocuous and even comical as that! In the adult world of religion, people are dying and killing, with the moderates cowed into silence by the intransigence of the radicals in their own faiths, and many afraid to acknowledge what they actually believe for fear of breaking Granny's heart, or offending their neighbors to the point of getting run out of town, or worse.If this is the precious meaning our lives are vouchsafed thanks to our allegiance to one religion or another, it is not such a bargain, in my opinion. Is this the best we can do? Is it not tragic that so many people around the world find themselves enlisted against their will in a conspiracy of silence, either because they secretly believe that most of the world's population is wasting their lives in delusion (but they are too tenderhearted — or devious — to say so), or because they secretly believe that their own tradition is just such a delusion (but they fear for their own safety if they admit it)?
In Somalia, we know exactly what they had to gain because they told us. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Colin Powell, described this as the best public relations operation of the Pentagon that he could imagine. His picture, which I think is plausible, is that there was a problem about raising the Pentagon budget, and they needed something that would be, look like a kind of a cakewalk, which would give a lot of prestige to the Pentagon. Somalia looked easy. Let's look back at the background. For years, the United States had supported a really brutal dictator, who had just devastated the country, and was finally kicked out. After he's kicked out, it was 1990, the country sank into total chaos and disaster, with starvation and warfare and all kind of horrible misery. The United States refused to, certainly to pay reparations, but even to look. By the middle of 1992, it was beginning to ease. The fighting was dying down, food supplies were beginning to get in, the Red Cross was getting in, roughly 80% of their supplies they said. There was a harvest on the way. It looked like it was finally sort of settling down. At that point, all of a sudden, George Bush announced that he had been watching these heartbreaking pictures on television, on Thanksgiving, and we had to do something, we had to send in humanitarian aid. The Marines landed, in a landing which was so comical, that even the media couldn't keep a straight face. Take a look at the reports of the landing of the Marines, it must've been the first week of December 1992. They had planned a night, there was nothing that was going on, but they planned a night landing, so you could show off all the fancy new night vision equipment and so on. Of course they had called the television stations, because what's the point of a PR operation for the Pentagon if there's no one to look for it. So the television stations were all there, with their bright lights and that sort of thing, and as the Marines were coming ashore they were blinded by the television light. So they had to send people out to get the cameramen to turn off the lights, so they could land with their fancy new equipment. As I say, even the media could not keep a straight face on this one, and they reported it pretty accurately. Also reported the PR aspect. Well the idea was, you could get some nice shots of Marine colonels handing out peanut butter sandwiches to starving refugees, and that'd all look great. And so it looked for a couple of weeks, until things started to get unpleasant. As things started to get unpleasant, the United States responded with what's called the Powell Doctrine. The United States has an unusual military doctrine, it's one of the reasons why the U.S. is generally disqualified from peace keeping operations that involve civilians, again, this has to do with sovereignty. U.S. military doctrine is that U.S. soldiers are not permitted to come under any threat. That's not true for other countries. So countries like, say, Canada, the Fiji Islands, Pakistan, Norway, their soldiers are coming under threat all the time. The peace keepers in southern Lebanon for example, are being attacked by Israeli soldiers all the time, and have suffered plenty of casualties, and they don't like it. But U.S. soldiers are not permitted to come under any threat, so when Somali teenagers started shaking fists at them, and more, they came back with massive fire power, and that led to a massacre. According to the U.S., I don't know the actual numbers, but according to U.S. government, about 7 to 10 thousand Somali civilians were killed before this was over. There's a close analysis of all of this by Alex de Waal, who's one of the world's leading specialists on African famine and relief, altogether academic specialist. His estimate is that the number of people saved by the intervention and the number killed by the intervention was approximately in the same ballpark. That's Somalia. That's what's given as a stellar example of the humanitarian intervention.

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