Graduation Prayer Comic Strip

After reading about Damon Fowler this week , the atheist high school student who protested against his school’s graduation prayer,  I was inspired to do a comic page on it. This is more satire than criticism because if you think about it, life changes dramatically after you leave the small world existence of high school and go to college.  And what does a graduation prayer signify? Thanking god for all your hard work? God didn’t do it, you’re the one who studied and passed your tests. Otherwise you’d be able to pray to god and have instant knowledge.

Many former church-going Christians when they leave home are exposed to new ideas and while they don’t all turn into atheists they do modify their beliefs. I used  “socialist university professors” as a conservative parents’ worst nightmare. Don’t worry, it’s not so bad. Many socialist students turn back into conservatives when they start their own businesses.

BTW: If you do want to show financial support for Damon The Friendly Atheist has set up a support fund. From what I know posted by another Freethunk reader, Damon has been kicked out of his home after this fiasco and is essentially out on his own except for the support of the freethinking community. I believe it makes sense to reward such courage in the face of a Christian majority. I’m hesitant to set him up as a hero as it undoubtedly means someone will find some flaw in his skeleton closet, but no one is perfect. This is a teenager who did his best to do the right thing and after seeing the reaction I think he has made a valuable contribution to other atheist high school students facing the same prospect. The Christian majority, while retaining personal freedom of religious expression, needs to get used to the idea that public school events are not church.

Happy Friday the 13th, The Salvation of Jason Part One

This idea is actually an expanded version of an early cartoon I did where Jason from Friday the 13th is offered salvation. Part two is coming this weekend. It was influenced by the supposed conversions of serial killers like Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer. If Christianity is so concerned about morality how is it that one can kill for a lifetime and then accept the forgiveness of Christ (with sincerity) and escape any sort of just punishment? Dahmer and Bundy both met with Christian leaders before their deaths and were  by certain reports renewed in their faith. So Albert Schweitzer, who didn’t believe that Jesus was God, but was an amazing humanitarian is rotting in hell while Dahmer and Bundy who butchered innocent people are singing hallelujah in heaven simply because they accepted Christ’s salvation?

You can deny that Dahmer and Bundy went to heaven because maybe they weren’t sincere, but Christianity would still allow for their salvation if they were. Hell, the Apostle Paul was a murderer before he converted. There’s a time to forgive in certain circumstances when a crime has been paid for in this life, but salvation is twisted. It allows for too much and, to me, that is why it is unethical to let another man-god take the blame for your sins. How blood atonement, literal blood spilling, forgives sins doesn’t make any sense to begin with. I offended God with my sin and therefore he has to kill something (animal or Jesus) to make up for it? Imagine if we followed that moral example in our modern society? You offend me and I get to kill your pet in order to forgive you. What kind of God is so powerless that he can’t forgive, that he can’t renew his creation without bloodshed?

Could it be just superstition–Happy Friday the 13th. Defy superstition!

Geekz Comic Strip Christmas

Geekz appears on every week and is written and drawn by UK artist Chaz Wood. It features tech customer support humor and the successes and failures of those who respond to our email when our computers have revolted. Chaz agreed to give Freethunk an exclusive comic strip for the holidays which you see to the left concerning questionable Secret Santa gifts.

FREETHUNK: With all the geeky characters throughout comic strip history, why Geekz? What’s the inspiration?

CHAZ: I always said that my decision to start a comic strip about an email-based tech support desk was in no way due to my day job, where I work on an email-based tech support desk… (laugh) So I guess the inspiration comes from day-to-day work. I actually remember saying to a buddy one day, a couple of years ago, after some particularly surreal or laugh-inducing moment: “I think I should draw a comic strip about an email IT desk.” He just looked at me, grinned and said: “Do it.” So I scribbled down some ideas and a couple of sketches, but it wasn’t ’til over a year later I started to take it seriously, and actively seek ideas and storylines. I thought it had potential as I hadn’t seen anyone else try an email-based strip before. The full title is really: “IT’s all Geek to Me”, which is a bit of a laboured pun (on IT=”it” and G(r)eek) – “Geekz” is maybe more generic, but snappier.

FREETHUNK: Your characters seem very flawed. What are their names and a brief description?

CHAZ: Generally I always like to write for flawed characters – how boring would perfection be?

Arnie’s the star, though kind of the ‘Charlie Brown’ archetype. The perennial loser. He thinks he’s amazing due to his “cyberpunk credentials”, but mostly everyone else just thinks he’s a bit of a dork. He’s probably bi-polar, as he tends to swing easily between total arrogance and complete dejection.

Mungo is supposed to be the floor supervisor, but is never seen doing any work and always hangs out by the ‘Kool-Boi’ water cooler. It’s debatable whether his distended belly is due to fast food and long nights of geekdom, or several dozen gallons of un-processed water still sloshing around inside.

Gabriel is the boss and the founder of the technical helpdesk. Generally a decent guy, he also has a slightly disturbing dark side to him.

Mary is the bombshell admin assistant, who’s actually more geeky than everybody else put together. As a kid, she probably dismantled her Speak & Spell and reprogrammed the thing to teach Japanese.

Tomasz is the typical anti-social creep, so tech-obsessed that’s he forgotten how to speak and can communicate only through a keyboard. One of the ‘rules’ of the strip is that Tomasz is never seen to speak, or be anywhere other than at his desk, zoning out in front of the screen and swapping sarcastic replies with awkward customers.

Garth…see below.

FREETHUNK: In particular you have a character named Garth who doesn’t look like he should be stuck at a computer. Apparently he’s the President of “The Outlaw Motorcyclists for God”?

CHAZ: Garth’s the oldest guy on the desk, and a biker, heavy rocker etc.

(and “OMFG” of course also stands for something else…) He’s a genuinely nice guy who will help anyone who comes his way – even evil spammers. He probably ended up with this day job out of his desire to be helpful, and pay for his new Harley.

FREETHUNK: And then recently, you have Arnie who thinks a date involves playing chess? Are you a chess player yourself?

CHAZ: I used to, when I was very young. I was in my junior school chess team but I stopped playing after age 12. The idea of ‘Geekz’ was that it wouldn’t just cover IT-support geekdom, but find it in other areas as well, such as video games, TV shows, music and such.

FREETHUNK: I hear your co-workers read these comic strips which could be dangerous if you ever use them as a basis for a gag. …Care to note if any of the characters are influenced by your co-workers?

CHAZ: I don’t think anyone in the strip is inspired by real-life counterparts. Arnie was a character I originally created for a Cyberpunk role-playing game back in about 1992, so he’s been a part of me for a long time. Because he was such an irritating dork, it took a long time to find the right place for him.

Garth was originally supposed to be a black dude but I could never draw him right without making him look like an awful stereotype, so I limited the black to his clothing and beard.

Tomasz grew out of one of my original doodles that I did when I first hit on the idea, a very simple profile shot of a typical unwashed, greasy propellor head, and that’s how he remained.

Generally speaking, one or two scenarios might grow out of some comment that I overhear or something that somebody writes in an email. I’ve not ruled out the possibility of a deliberate ‘in joke’ of having a brief cameo by some real individual in the future, though.

FREETHUNK: For those geeks stuck in customer service hell, why should they read Geekz?

CHAZ: There is humour even in hell. I guess it’s something like being in the army – you just have to get on with it, no matter how stupid the orders are, or how frequently they change the rules and don’t bother to tell you.

We’re all in the same boat and need to stick together to get through each day – it’s not about doing the will of the higher-ups, it’s about looking out for your buddies and the guy beside you. If I succeed in helping to brighten up even one person’s day in the office, then I’ve succeeded.

FREETHUNK: Anything new for Geekz in 2011 as you continue drawing the strip?

CHAZ: The soap-opera style subplots will unfold, and relationships start to get a bit frayed. There’s definitely tension and conflict on the way, which I guess is the element of all good drama (and comedy). Garth is currently being tempted over to the ‘dark side’ by black hat hackers, the Scarecrew; Arnie’s relationship (or lack of) with Mary spirals out of control. I have plenty of ideas. Possibly a new character at some point, too, if I can find the time. I recently played around with the idea of a set of Geekz ‘top trumps’-style playing cards – probably more of an advertising gimmick than a real game. I actually finished a couple, so may work some more on that idea too.

FREETHUNK: Any final comments?

CHAZ: “There are 10 kinds of people in the world. Those who understand binary, and those who don’t.”  This strip is dedicated to the former…