Don Davis

Help George Carlin Stick It To God

Filed By Don Davis | September 15, 2011 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Action Alerts, Entertainment, Living
Tags: Carlin Street, comedy, George Carlin, Manhattan, media, New York City, Recognition

Once again The Fates have come our way to provide a story, and once again, we have a contender for the "Ironic Story Of The Year".george-carlin.jpg

It's got everything you need for serious irony: an irascible comedian who mocked religion at every opportunity, a city that loved him, and the rich coincidence of his having been born at the crossroads of New York City's communities of religious education.

And that's why, today, we'll be talking about the effort to name the street right next to Manhattan's Seminary Row... Carlin Street.

(And before we go further, a language warning: we'll be quoting George Carlin liberally, and that means there may be present today certain of the seven words with which he created one of his best known routines. You are now officially warned.)

I've begun worshipping the Sun for a number of reasons. First of all, unlike some other gods I could mention, I can see the Sun. It's there for me every day. And the things it brings me are quite apparent all the time: heat, light, food, a lovely day. There's no mystery, no one asks for money, I don't have to dress up, and there's no boring pageantry. And interestingly enough, I have found that the prayers I offer to the Sun and the prayers I formerly offered to God are all answered at about the same 50-percent rate.

--George Carlin, from the book "Brain Droppings"

There is a peculiarity to life in Manhattan that exists nowhere else on Earth: for more than 120 years, two of the world's most important seminary institutions, the Union Theological Seminary and The Jewish Theological Seminary, have been literally kitty-corner from each other, right there at Broadway and West 122nd Street.

It is such a significant part of the culture of the community that W 122nd St is now officially known as Seminary Row, as it has been for over 40 years.

And just one block away is the place where George Carlin grew up, on W 121st. During his childhood the Catholic Carlin was an altar boy, and it has been suggested that all this religious exposure may have impacted his comedy:

Now, speaking of consistency, Catholics, which I was until I reached the age of reason, Catholics and other Christians are against abortions, and they're against homosexuals. Well who has less abortions than homosexuals?! Leave these fucking people alone, for Christ sakes! Here is an entire class of people guaranteed never to have an abortion! And the Catholics and Christians are just tossing them aside! You'd think they'd make natural allies. Go look for consistency in religion. And speaking of my friends the Catholics, when John Cardinal O'Connor of New York and some of these other Cardinals and Bishops have experienced their first pregnancies and their first labor pains and they've raised a couple of children on minimum wage, then I'll be glad to hear what they have to say about abortion. I'm sure it'll be interesting. Enlightening, too. But, in the meantime what they ought to be doing is telling these priests who took a vow of chastity to keep their hands off the altar boys! Keep your hands to yourself, Father! You know? When Jesus said 'Suffer the little children come unto me', that's not what he was talking about!

It's not just the two seminaries, either, that would have influenced Carlin: Columbia University is immediately next door, as are The Manhattan School of Music/Julliard (The Julliard School later moved to Lincoln Center, but when Carlin lived on the block they had 1800 students enrolled), and The Riverside Church, which is presumably the exact place that set Carlin on his future path.

Fun Fact: Italian game design studio Molleindustria, the same folks who partnered with YesLab to produce Phone Story (the App that was yanked after one day at the App Store because it says a bit too much about how phones are made; it's still available on the Android market), also created the game Operation: Pedopreist, which is one of several "Radical Games" that you can play online at their website.

So now comes before us Kevin Bartini (he's the warm-up comic for "The Daily Show"), with an organizing effort to change W 121st to Carlin Street.

Bartini, who told the Village Voice that this is a "no-brainer", says his interest is motivated not just by the fact that Carlin grew up in the neighborhood; he also wants to acknowledge the influence the neighborhood had on Carlin's comedy:

"...and the Invisible Man has a special list of ten things that he does not want you to do, and if you do any of these ten things he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry, forever and ever, 'til the end of time - but he loves you."

A petition is now circulating, and after 6 days 3000 signatures had been collected... but this is George Carlin, and this is New York City, and, dammit, this is America, and I think we can do a lot better than that if we try, so do me a favor: sign the petition, and go show some love to someone who truly deserves the recognition.

You won't have to wear a suit or a big hat, no one will be bowing or kneeling, and there won't be a collection plate. Sacramental wine is encouraged; if you'd prefer sacramental pizza I'm sure no one's going to complain - but if you have 'em both together, make sure it's not at a Sbarro or something.

I think we've enough for today, and there's no need to drag this out when you have your mission, so let's go get those signatures, and let's get Carlin Street officially on the map.

And just think: if we succeed - it could well have been God's will. And what could be more ironic than that?


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Sign this fuckin' petition! Let's collect a whole shit-load of signatures!

(Five more words left -- but you assholes all get the idea ...)

OMG AJ. That made me laugh so much I quoted you when I posted this to Facebook. Love it.

i don't know if i mentioned it earlier, but...board member bil? tres cool.

I don't get it. Union Theological Seminary has been home to Walter Rauschenbusch, Reinhold Niebuhr, Paul Tillich, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, James Cone etc. They're some of the most important progressive Christians ever. Carlin likely wouldn't have had a problem with them, nor they with him.

Maybe commentary about religion should be left to the religiously literate?

you may have noticed that carlin, during his career, was able to look past those who represented the fine edge of the uts' alumnus, and he did that by concentrating on the mythology that surrounds the celebration of christianity and the 200-year effort by the catholic church and other churches to supress knowledge and cultural liberalism.

was carlin religiously ignorant?

i don't think so, and to be honest, studying the history of religions is what makes many folks leave religion altogether to find a form of spirituality that makes more sense for them - and i count myself in that category.

and carlin, over and over, excoriated religions and religious leaders, even as many of them were fine and personable forks (note the comments here about cardinal o'connor); does this suggest that maybe speculation about carlin's willingness to associate himself with religion is better left to those who know him better?

my bad...i meant to say "2000-year effort..."

The UTS has been liberal and ecumenical dating back to the 1900s. Harry Ward taught Christian Ethics there after leaving his post as chairman of the ACLU in 1940 (a Methodist minister, he was actually too liberal for the ACLU!)--that's the kind of progressive institution they were and are. UTS has historically promoted free critical inquiry, and opposed efforts to suppress knowledge and freedom. And theologians from UTS have criticisms of the traditional doctrine of hell as a literal place of eternal torture that are at least as spirited as anything Carlin ever wrote.

Having even a basic understanding of the theological currents that undergird these institutions undercuts the notion that this is "ironic."

if you consider that carlin viewed religion as a fairy tale, entirely manufactured to extract control and money from the adherents (which he did, as you easily see from just watching this video right here), then the juxtaposition of "carlin street" and "seminary row", immediately next to each other, is about the most ironic thing to come across my desk for quite a while indeed.

Yes, and so much of Christianity in the US is based on their views!

(*extreme* sarcasm)

If Christianity (the religion, not belief in Jesus and trying to live a life based on his example) had half as much to do with spirituality as it does with dogma, we prolly wouldnt even be having this conversation.

While the social gospel and mainline protestant tradition that came from UTS might be in decline today, for decades it was the predominant current in American religiosity.

Mhmmm. You are talking mostly about a period of time 100 years ago, when leftist movements were very active, and fascism (including religious fascism) had many intellectual foes. However, what is the legacy of these guys, other than in academia? Can you give any examples where they have had broad societal impact in the last 20 years, esp relative to gay ppl? To me, your points are are as irrelevant as they are correct in their own narrow context.

The Riverside Church meanwhile has a long and awesome history of supporting LGBT folks (in addition to a whole bunch of other awesome activism, including anti-war organizing.

and yet, clearly, carlin's experience (he lived there in the 40s, you'll recall) was not the same as today's - and his observations of how the catholic church's leadership treats the lbgt community today remain dead on target.

The Riverside Church is United Church of Christ and American Baptist. It is not in any way, shape, or form associated with Catholicism. It has been liberal since its founding in 1841 (construction of the current building began in 1928). The United Church of Christ has been supportive of the religious and civil rights on gay individuals and families much longer than secular groups and organizations.

that is entirely my bad, and i usually do better work than that.

And this is a useful example of the inability of folks to see any nuance. You see church, you assume a bunch of humorless right-wingers. You also assume one particular denomination, instead of realizing we have dozens in our country. The UCC, the denomination Riverside is affiliated with, has taken pro-lgbt, pro-choice, pro-labor, and pro-justice stances for years. If people made the same broad assumptions on LGBT people based on negative experiences with a segment of the population that they make on religious institutions, we would rightly be calling them out.

So, maybe in the theme of nuance, you should mention that even in your enlightened sect many of the pastors still refuse to perform same-sex marriages? I am guessing here, but I would think that is likely due to some level of homophobia on their part? So what we have is that even the best case of religion still doesnt completely accept gay ppl. If I am wrong, please explain that to me.

Oh, and I am still waiting on the stats for what percent of religious ppl overall support equality for gay ppl (the ones on 'evangelicals' would be esp interesting). I have asked this question when you previously asserted that religion isn't as bad as gay ppl think, and that gay ppl just aren't seeing all the awesome religious ppl out there.

You make a lot of assertions based on yourself (and you seem to be pretty gay and trans friendly) and want ppl to give the religious community as a whole the benefit of the doubt based on that. There certainly are supportive religious People-of-the-Book out there (and most certainly far more Christians and Jews than Muslims), but the overwhelming press is from the rabidly anti-gay ones. Other than you and a few others, where are the religious ppl standing up against the dehumanization and condemnation of gay ppl?

you know what?

i think i can give you an answer, even if it's not particularly satisfying:

the folks who enter the clergy are no less imperfect than the rest of us, and as a christian tries to "raise the bar" on emulating christ-like behavior, it gets harder and harder, and therefore, fewer and fewer people are up to the task.

it is, for some members of the clergy, risky business indeed to stick their necks out and stand up for those who are oppressed, and the history of religion is filled with examples of everyone from the parish priest who finds being lbgt friendly is causing trouble with the parishioners to latin american priests who are shot down for standing up for the poor.

reformers face trouble, in most settings, and that's not unique to religion - in fact, you could argue that the concept of "religion" was created by sumerians to ensure that dynastic rulers were protected from reform.

A few others? Go to almost any seminary of the UCC, PCUSA, Episcopal, ELCA, United Methodist or Disciples and ask the seminarians about their views on LGBT rights. Not only will you find overwhelming support; you will find a higher than average percentage of LGBT people.

Ok, I dont doubt what you say, likely there are many seminarians (even in the Catholic Church) who are more open-minded. I think even the head of the main Baptist theological school has said things that aren't rabidly homophobia. I realize that my one example was about a fellow pastor in the UCC (and of course you still didnt answer that question), but my overall question is about religious ppl and religions as groups, not a few or many enlightened seminarians. I am talking about the rank-and-file.

You mention the Episcopalians. Yes, the denomination is making some good steps (while straining mightily at doing so), but many of the members are outraged. In fact, the Catholic Church has been advertising itself to Episcopalian homophobes, reassuring them that the Catholic Church not only maintains the liturgy and sacrements of the Episcopalian Church, but has unreserved, unrelenting hate of gay ppl to boot.

It seems to me that religion and religious ppl as a large group are what you keep asking us to show more acceptance toward, not some idealistic seminarians. I just don't see religion or religious ppl as a whole to be even neutral to gay ppl (or women, for that matter--the last church I was part of was a Disciples church that started appointing women as Deacons and talked of having them as Elders, and bunch of the older Elders resigned in protest...has been 20 years ago, though). The poor pitiful churches and religious ppl who claim to be supportive of gay ppl say they cant get any press. Do they really even try? Or is it just too much trouble for them to bother?

as far as nuance goes...let's talk about that.

i would have thought that by this time, as you had read some of the things that i've written here in this thread, that you might have seen evident before you certain elements of the very nuance you desire to see in more of us, and i find myself a bit surprised that you have not.

as it happens, the mea culpa that appropriately applies was my failure to realize that the riverside church was not the neighborhood catholic church where carlin served as an altar boy; that's why i described, inaccurately, the riverside church as the place that informed the carlin quote that immediately followed the reference.

as you well note, it is a good idea not to project generalities onto the individual people you encounter over time, and it is certainly nice to have that reminder out there for all of us to consider.

Not gonna happen. The gay mainstream is dominated by radical atheists who know nothing about the rules of logic and less about religion. They've been duped by commercial media, which has given fundamentalism endless face time. They are hopelessly ignorant of genuine christianity, and many spend their days on jmg spitting hatred at our allies in the liberal church. This article is just more of the same. One bad thing about the net is that it's a forum for every dingbat from here to Slackjaw Alabama. It does get very tired.

well, let's take on some of this:

--right off the bat, the most religiously ignorant people...tend to be the most religious; atheists and agnostics tend to be the best informed about the world's religions, this according to the folks at pew research.

--now let's take on a tougher question: what is "true" christianity?

is it the kind of christianity that leads a humble person to share what little food they have with someone who has even less, or is it the kind of christianity that leads a pope to order that brand-new gold-trimmed mitre cap, just because it looks so good with one of the pope's gold crosses?

is it the kind of christianity that works to uplift human spirituality, or is it the kind of christianity that would rather see orphans in the world than to have the lbgt community adopt them?

and what about galileo and the inquisitions...and prop 8?

these are questions that caused martin luther and so many others in church history such great anguish (do you recall father bruno and the heretics' fork?), and for carlin to raise the same issues seems to me to be evidence of great piety without the trappings of an organized dogma, coercive force, or "aristocracy".

--is it possible to admire the liberal church, even as we remain stunned by the insanity of the babyraping church? you bet...and carlin did that, for decades, and he did it well.

--am i ignorant as to the nature of genuine christianity? martin luther asked the pope the same question, which, of course, is why we have a protestant church, and it's a question that has been tough for the catholic church particularly, but for many religious denominations besides: you'll recall that the anglican church is right this very minute going though a struggle that mirrors this conversation, as anti-lbgt conservatives seek to wrest "control" of the church from the archbishiop of canterbury.

big picture: the nature of christianity? it's all about the impossibility of living up to the example of christ - which is actually a "nature" shared by several religions (consider the buddhist who tries to live by "the right way" or the muslim who seeks to emulate the life of mohammad), and it's about trying to do the impossible anyway, simply beacuse the effort is ennobling...and it's about having the grace to love those who are not like you...and i can't help but notice in your own comment regarding "Slackjaw Alabama" just how difficult it really is to exhibit that truest form of grace.

I'm surprised at your change of tone. First you talk about mocking religion at every opportunity. Now you make the distinction between fundamentalism and the mainstream church. Which is it?
Atheists are the best informed about religion according to pew research? Nice slight of hand. Are they more informed about christianity than serious christians? I doubt it. Actually, I know they aren't after reading the crude bull---- at jmg for the last year.
But I do want to apologize for my tone. I've watched mainstream gay culture spit hatred at our friends in the church, and it's gotten on my nerves. The self destructive crowd have sabotaged our movement in a thousand ways since the eighties, and your article looks like more of the same.
Though I don't know the true nature of christianity, I don't think it's about the impossibility of living up to a perfect ideal. That's been used forever to excuse people from even trying. For me, it's just about following as best I can the simple philosophy of kindness, fairness, and charity.
Finally, I take back the implication that you're ignorant. Though the article doesn't bother with the difference between fundamentalism and christianity, you obviously know there is one. You might want to say that next time, instead pandering to gay rube culture and insulting our friends in the church.

i think what may have actually happened is that you were having trouble differentiating between my own writing and carlin's, which was used liberally here to illustrate the extreme irony of putting carlin street right next to seminary row.

carlin, if you know his work, used this level of discourse to speak his mind about the church and its failure to live up to its own ideals, over and over and over again, in person and in print - and while you may not like his tone, the arguments are dead on target, particularly his comments on how people get trapped by faith, which must have seemed self-evident to those who had to clean up after jonestown...or to those who fought and died in the "crusade of genoa".

if you understand taoism, you are aware of the concept of "duality", and in duality is found the answer to your question about why you would seek to emulate the example of jesus in your life, even as it is unattainable:

because the effort itself is what makes the effort worthwhile, in failure you'll actually find your success.

the buddha himself actually told that story, way back in the day, and it is as applicable to christians as it is for buddhists, even as you'll relate to the example of jesus more than "the right way" that is at the core of buddhist practice, but either way, the point is the same.

and calling out your church for its failings is not self-destructive: in fact, it's self-affirming, in the same way that calling out and fighting discrimination has made us "a more perfect union"; i would encourage you to consider the possibility that the folks you're upset with the most might actually be the best friends the church has.

beyond that, as a member of the church, if you see evidence of a conspiracy to cover up lifetimes of illegal and extremely disturbing behavior, don't you have a christian duty to bring it to light, in any way you can?

i think the answer is yes, and that's what carlin, and so many before him, have been doing, and speaking as an atheist...god bless 'em for their efforts.

one last thought about calling out your church: who, in christian history, ever gave up more for calling out the failings of his church...than jesus?

that's the basis for running the moneychangers out of the temple, that's the context behind "loaves and fishes"...and, according to the story, that's what got him betrayed by judas and got him executed.

Of course we have historical evidence from Josephus, a Jewish contemporary of Jesus, that the man actually did exist. Whether or not you believe he was the Christ is another story. But you can't erase history.

Josephus was born after Jesus supposedly died. He wasn't a contemporary

He wrote about some places and people also mentioned in the Bible (not unlike any modern historical fiction). He mostly writes about his followers. So we know that a sect existed that believed certain things. Which doesn't make any of it true. Could there have been a wandering preacher that gathered a large following? Sure. He wasn't the only one. But that doesn't require any god or miracles.

The authenticity of other passages where he mentions Jesus more directly is questionable. The most common opinion is that the more clearly Christian-flavored parts are medieval forgeries

The evidence compiled by the website I linked to is overwhelming. I urge everyone who gives credence to these syncretic myths to check it out.

"Whatever else, eye-witness testimonies they are not and the tendentious story was all but unknown until the second half of the second century."

my point in referencing the bible here is to say to christians that there are examples you can draw from your own belief system that make my point that calling out the organization to which you belong is a fine and noble thing.

So, where are all these friends in the mainstream church? Honestly, I don't see or hear much out of them. And I can tell you I am very familiar with Christianity, and am not a railing atheist (who are often about as insufferable as the religious fundamentalists). How about you take a deep, honest look at the actions of your favored flavor of religion, and ask yourself what actual good it does for gay ppl. Not the polite, middle-class tolerance, or staying out of things, but actual unequivocable messages that are made to the broader public?

Progressive religious people can only rarely get on TV, hard as we try.

i'll give you a short version of the same answer i gave above: members of the clergy are as imperfect as the rest of us, and there are a lot of barriers standing in the way of reformers in church life, just as there are in any other similar situation, such as political parties or labor unions.

CS and MF. I don't want to write them out. In that also said in the same skit, "You can prick your finger, but you can't finger your prick."

Seven words: "F, S, Piss, C, CS, MF and tits." It's only down to five now, but I think "shit" is sometimes heard on television.

not only is shit now used on tv, but "south park" famously did a "shit" episode ("it hits the fan") where the word is used 162 times.

Carlin is part of the long tradition of American anti-clericalism, following the fine examples of Paine, Washington, Jefferson and Madison.

Unfortunately, they were never as thorough in their anti-clericalism as the French, who did a commendable job of chopping off the privileges of cults, megacults and aristos.

That's something we can correct as the current radicalization creates new engines of fundamental change.

just remember, cults aren't always religious...which must have been a realization that robspierre never had much time to act upon.

You're missing my point. I have ripped into fundamentalism as much as anyone. But the new atheists make no distinction between fundamentalism and mainstream christianity, most of whom are our friends. They hate all religion. Period. And as the self destructive crowd has done since forever, they enjoy allienating our allies.
They have been duped by 30 years of commercial media that feature only the hatred and selfishness of fundamentalism. Now they're especially bamboozled by the books of Sam Harris and others - full of rhetorical tricks, the cherry picking of history and ignoring of mountains of evidence about atheist atrocities - that blame religion for everything in history.
The point is: the liberal church has nothing to apologize for to the gay community. And we don't need you finding fault with us. We're your friends, even if you've been too mislead by commercial media to know it.
It you want to point the finger, look to the fundy's. Or look at gay culture itself, which still treats unattractive people like dirt, is too obsessed with looks to value brains or character, spits venom at its allies, and after 30 years, still does next to nothing to stop hiv. Adult communities set reasonable standards by which they live in peace and safety. The queer community can't even do that much. And you want to point the finger at liberal christianity? Please.

just to help inform the conversation as we go along, i'm actually the one contributor here who isn't gay, which means i'm seeing neither the church nor the media through that lens.

and i don't have a problem with religion either - i just have a serious problem with misdirected religion, no matter who is practicing it.

and once again, i would bring you back to taoism to find the answer as to how the liberal church can be so friendly, even as other parts of the judeo/islamo/buddhi/christian world resemble westboro baptist:

good and bad exist in everything, all the time.

we work within ourselves to form our own personal "most perfect unions", but we don't hate ourselves for the effort (or we shouldn't anyway), and it is possible to call out religion for its faults and still appreciate the "power of positive religion", for want of a better term.

now if you go through life hating religion, the institution, just for the hating of it, you're going to probably find yourself a more unhappy person for the effort, and you are going to miss out on a lot of what's good to be found out there - but that having been said, it's easy to look at the history of religion and wonder why you have to obtain your spiritual guidance from the marketplace when there are so many "diy" solutions available?

Political cults of the personality are not the same kind of animal at all as cults and megacults based on religion and antique superstitions. Perhaps you've been reading English royalist descriptions of the French Revolution. The Jacobins and the Montagnards were not cults and Robespierre was not the object of a cult of the personality.

Stalin did build a cult of the personality to rally his base of bureaucrats and police and finish the destructions of the Bolsheviks. Between 1918 and the early part of the 1920's 70,000 Japanese imperial troops, 40,000 British imperial troops, 13,000 American imperial troops and 12,000 French imperial troops joined tsarist armies and completed the barbaric ravaging of what little was left of Russia's productive capacity while killing tens of thousands of Red Army volunteers, most of them Bolsheviks. By the late 1920's Stalin completed the destruction of the Bolsheviks with mass murders and show trials. It's no wonder that Stalinism is referred to as the syphilis of the workers movement.

Hitler also build a cult of the personality and made it a pact of death by forcing the SA, the SS, the HitlerJugend, where der Papenfuerhers was trained and the German military to swear personal allegiance to him. During the Nazi era everyone was encouraged to 'work towards the fuehrer", that is to figure what would please Hitler and then do it, whether it was building autobahns or the mass murder of tens of millions, mostly Soviet citizens.

i accidentally posted this comment below, when i meant to post it as an answer to your comment here:

i used robspierre as an example because i find a lot of parallels between religiosity and the attitude of french revolutionaries.

in my mind, the french peasants felt betrayed by the church and religion and were looking for a foundation to underpin their existence, and for many the ideals of the revolution filled that gap; i contend that this created a "cult", but not one of personality.

but then, quickly, the revolutionary "dogma" collapsed; following that the revolution sort of "ate itself" and robspierre found himself as the victim of the "adherents", for want of a better term.

to continue: i would also contend that many of the same forces of "religiosity" are evident in other organizations, even as they aren't "cults of personality".

look at military organizations the world over that bond to detachments or divisions, or the organization as a whole ("once you are a marine, you are a marine for life"), as a good example.

another example is found in the tea party movement, where, again, the "personality" is absent, but the "cult" is well evident.

The American Revolution was basically a fight between two empires, one in decline and one emergent, and did not include a preponderant component of class warfare.

The French Revolution quickly bypassed its anti-royalist and anti-feudalist opening stages and became a class revolution led by city dwellers and peasants against the aristocracy and the rich which soon spread across the borders of Europe, awaking a continental yearning for the end of feudalism and royalism. However, even in France, the crushing blows directed against the catholic megacult and the aristos by mass trials and executions were, for the time, an untenable advance given the underdevelopment of a conscious working class.

Politically that expressed itself in the growth and interplay of the earliest examples of modern left and right wing movements. Robespierre and other Montagnards were executed as the counter-Revolution emerged and the Jacobins were dispersed in 1794. Four years later, on May 11, 1798, 106 left-wing deputies were illegally dismissed from the National Assembly. Within a year Babeuf, an early socialist was guillotined. Then came the directory and Napoleon.

All of these events were determined by the interplay of the awakening class consciousness of workers, the non-aristo rich and farmers (after the Agrarian Reform) within France and by the unremitting attacks on the French Revolution by foreign royalists, particularly those of the mad dog English variety.

Marat was murdered by a counter-revolutionary. Robespierre and other Montagnards were executed as the counter-Revolution emerged and the Jacobins were dispersed in 1794. Four years later, on May 11, 1798, 106 left-wing deputies were illegally dismissed from the National Assembly. Within a year. Babeuf, an early socialist, was guillotined in 1797. Then came the directory and Napoleon.

All of these events were determined by the interplay of awakening class consciousness in France and by the unremitting attacks on the French Revolution by the English, Austrians and terrified royalists everywhere.

That was the background for the development of the French Revolution, not some notion that revolutions will fail and eat their leaders. That false cautionary tale is little more than wishful thinking and repeated every time revolutionary events take place.

You do know that Union Seminary and riverside Church are two incredibly LGBT-friendly institutions, right? And I don't mean just for churches. You'd be hard pressed to find more gay friendly places in any arena. But beyond that, I really doubt any of the seminarians, theologians, clergy or parishioners who are there would feel like anything was being "stuck to" them or God by naming a street for Carlin. Many might actually like it because we generally appreciate humor and understand nuance.

You're right dear. They probably would appreciate the new name. I just flew off, thinking this was another attack on our liberal church friends.

if you want to truly understand the title of this story, take a minute to "walk a mile in carlin's ahoes".

keeping in mind all that we have read here in carlin's own words about his views on religion, can you now see how carlin would absolutely feel he's sticking it to god?

that was the foundation for the title, and i find it to be entirely appropriate in this context.

He may well have thought that (though I actually doubt he'd even support this) but that doesn't mean he's "sticking it" to either God or most believers. I'll bet a lot of clergy in the area would even support the naming.

did i understand you to say that you don't think carlin would want a street named after him?

someone who would know, his daughter kelly carlin, has been helping to move this along, and in fact i get tweets from her daily (@kelly_carlin) promoting the petition.

speaking of kelly carlin: i know for a fact that she loved edgar's picture of the "carlin street" sign at firefly dreaming; that's because she tweeted me just this morning to tell me so.

here's the tweet kelly carlin just sent:

kelly_carlin kelly_carlin
#GeorgeCarlin fans! Help us get petition to rename 121st St. up to 5000 peeps. We are going to the board on Mon. xo

Wilberforce1: While I can certainly understand your frustrations with this post, your stereotypes about the LGBT community were very offensive to the many who don't fit into your pigeonholes.

I was especially disturbed by your implication that the community, "...still does next to nothing to stop the spread of hiv." That statement went far past insensitive to the many people in our community who've worked very hard to do just that and was completely unnecessary. I hope you can understand this is why I'm singling you out when I'm sure others have made similar mistakes here.

You strike me as intelligent and adult enough to realize how negligent those comments were for yourself, but I felt this still needed to be said.

I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings. And certainly there are folk who've tried to stop hiv. I'm one of them.
But the evidence overwhelming supports my comment. It's thirty years now, and the virus is still spreading. People make nonstop excuses for bad behaviour in the gay blogosphere. Barebackers can say anything they want without a peep of disagreement. The 'blame the government' crowd has transformed into the 'every man for himself' crowd, and they still dominate gay discourse. No one talks about the many strategies we should be using to stop it. Instead, we have fascinating pieces about the naming of Carlin Street, along with the usual backhanding of religion.
Back in the day, a few of us tried to discuss prevention strategies, and we had hatred and profanity sprayed at us in the gay press. I was literally screamed out the door of gay discussion groups at Stanford and UC Berkeley.
But according to you, we're doing enough. Well that offends me. But after thirty years of listening such excuses, I don't expect an apology.

Don; Good thing that you corrected yourself. It's just disrespectful of the Church to minimise its campaign to keep knowledge under its control; an effort that gave us Feudalism, The Dark Ages and the Inquisition. Gee whiz....and they worked so hard for so little recognition....

it was suggested to me above that nuance is important; in that spirit i'll provide this response:

is it fair to blame the church, particularly christianity, for feudalism and the dark ages?

maybe not, and i'll tell you why.

feudalism is not particularly linked to christianity; for evidence of that proposition consider that china has had feudal peasants for nearly 4000 years; there were probably feudal peasants in the mesopotamian cities that became sumer before that.

you could also make the argument that the fall of the holy roman empire and the spread of northern european "barbarians" had more to do with the beginning of the dark ages than the rise of christianity; for evidence to support that argument, consider that the (christian) byzantine empire didn't have a dark age.

(there are also those who question the concept of a "dark age"; they suggest we don't well understand the gauls, or the viking or druid or germanic cultures of that time.)

in fact, there are historians who will tell you that monasteries were repositories of knowledge and art after he fall of rome - but as far as i can tell, virtually all of those historians would agree that the church made sure to keep a vise-like hold on that knowledge until the very day gutenberg began printing; in fact, some argue that gutenberg led to martin luther, as anyone could now read a bible translated from latin and draw their own conclusions as to its lessons.


if you take a look at the long arc of history you do see a trend that spans at least 6500 years and a lot of earthly space besides: the trend of "deifying" rulers as a means of asserting control over the peasants.

religion has been used, over and over, as a tool to elevate either a ruling class or a priestly class over the peasants, and often, the two classes have been merged, as in the case of the anglican church. put the nuanced view on the thing, it may not be religion that's at fault here as much as it is rulers who appreciate the power of religion to keep peasants in line.

and before anyone gets mad at me for using the anglican church as an example, consider that the reigning monarch is the supreme head of the church of england, and that seats are reserved in parliament for church leaders.

i used robspierre as an example because i find a lot of parallels between religiosity and the attitude of french revolutionaries.

in my mind, the french peasants felt betrayed by the church and religion and were looking for a foundation to underpin their existence, and for many the ideals of the revolution filled that gap; i contend that this created a "cult", but not one of personality.

but then, quickly, the revolutionary "dogma" collapsed; following that the revolution sort of "ate itself" and robspierre found himself as the victim of the "adherents", for want of a better term.

Oh my God ... I am so disappointed with this thread!

Here we are talking about whether Jesus was real, what true Christianity is, this denomination is this and that denomination is that, fundies vs. liberal Christianity, and somehow we got onto Robespierre and the French Revolution.

And I thought, in memory of George Carlin, we would get together and tell pithy jokes with dirty words in them.

You guys are all hopeless.

i know what you mean: here i was feeling all good about my little "tits on a ritz" bon mot, and then the next thing i know, me, the atheist is having to respond to...all of this.

but i guess sometimes you have to work for your irony, eh?

Rachel Bellum | September 17, 2011 6:48 PM

OK on a less serious note here's a slightly dirty observation, though more juvenile than pithy.

The recent comments notice section of the main page cut off your last comment this way:

"Don Davis: i know what you mean: here i was feeling all good about my little tits"

I guess I'll just offer congratulations.

No, not a century ago. Closer to 50 years ago. And their influence remains widespread. Niebuhr is Obama's favorite theologian, for example, which is why he rejects naive views of scripture, and one reason why literalism is on the decline.

Ok, whatever. We aren't going to convince each other. I would maintain that Obama is far from typical of religious ppl. And that liberal churches are far more in decline than literalism (evangelical churches are the fastest growing these days). I dunno, maybe what you say is true of big cities and the East, but here in the Midwest, in the South, and the Southeast, the fundamentalists rule.

Obama might not be typical, but I don't think you could argue that he isn't influential. I mean, we can agree to disagree but there is data. Gallup reported in as recently as 1963, 2 of 3 americans thought the bible was literally true. that number is now down to 31%.