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Blasphemy for the rest of us…

In celebration of the UK’s official approval of blasphemy, I am going to blaspheme! My hubby was on a message board the other day where someone was telling him that when an atheist says “Goddammit,” it implies at least some vague belief in God.  I told him to respond with this quote from Terry Pratchett:

When you hit your thumb with an 8 pound hammer, its nice to be able to blaspheme. It takes a very strong, special minded atheist to jump up and down, with their their hand clasped under their other armpit and shout “Oh random fluctuations in the space time continuum!” or ‘Aaargh, primitive-and-outmoded-concept on a crutch!’

Still — in case it’s a pervasive belief that taking God’s name in vain is a secret handshake of theism, maybe we could come up with alternatives.  So, dear readers, I present for you, blasphemy for the rest of us:

“Holy Curie’s Isotopes!”
“Sweet Shermer’s Powerpoint!”
“Dawkins on a crutch!”
“Jumpin’ JehosaPlait!”
“Mother of Galileo!”
“By the beard of Randi!”
“Eugenie H. Tapdancing Scott!”
“Great Merciful Hawking!”

What else?  There are few things that roll off the tongue as easily as a good GODDAMN, especially if you put a break of 3-5 seconds between the two syllables.

The quest continues… I expect you all to give me suggestions in the comments!

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Masala Skeptic

Maria Walters (a.k.a. Masala Skeptic) has spent a lot of time in ‘furrin parts,’ including Hong Kong, Trinidad, and Pittsburgh. Although her passport is from India, she’s spent most of her adult life in the United States. She currently lives in Atlanta and has an unhealthy affection for science fiction, Neil Gaiman and all things Muppet.

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47 Comments

  1. "when an atheist says “Goddammit,” it implies at least some vague belief in God."

    That's wacky. I mean "goddammit" is a phrase used so commonly as to have lost its actual meaning, and now is just an expression of irritation.

    Similarly, rarely when I say "f–k you" do I actually want to.

    BTW…love "Sweet Shermer's Powerpoint". I'll have to buckle down and think of something to contribute…

  2. I'm a big fan of the trusty f-word, but "by the beard of Randi" is an awesome alternative.

    I've taken to replacing "god" with "astronauts," as in "I swear to astronauts!" I can say with a fair degree of certainty that astronauts have been smiling down upon us from the heavens, unlike certain supernatural alternatives.

  3. Nice list (and comments)! I don't have any saying that could improve upon what's already here. And I'm a bit partial to the blasphemous classics. They always make me feel "dirty" or guilty, but I've found that invoking a MinnesOHtah accent adds the umph without the ick. Minnesotans: please take this as a compliment.

  4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has some good ideas. 'Holy Zarquon's singing fish', for example. Or 'joojooflop'. But the best is of course….

    "….there is one word that is still beyond the pale. The concept it embodies is so revolting that the publication or broadcast of the word is utterly forbidden in all parts of the Galaxy except one where they don't know what it means. That word is belgium."

  5. I’ve found that invoking a MinnesOHtah accent adds the umph without the ick. Minnesotans: please take this as a compliment.

    Ah yes. I've always been partial to "What the Christ?" a la William H. Macy.

  6. This isn’t exactly another option, but I did pick up the habit of using “Jesus Christ” as an epithet from one of my best college friends, who was, of course, raised a Buddhist. I had been raised an atheist, so neither of us cared much about the possible consequences.

    I like “Mother of Galileo,” maybe I’ll adopt that.

  7. Crap crap crappity crap crap usually suffices. Anything involving the much maligned f-word can be effective.

    Though I’ve never really bought the argument that blaspheming indicated belief. If anything it ridicules the religion.

  8. My aunt and her friends came up with "BOZZOT" as an alternative to "damn it", and while it doesn't mean anything at all, it has a nice zippy feel.

    This got me thinking of cussing in movies for some reason, and for my money Hugh Grant is one of the funniest cussers out there. I can't remember which movie it is, but he says "Oh, bugger it" with this little pause after the "oh" that just gives it the perfect emphasis. (Incidentally, that's one of my personal favorites since people in the U.S. generally don't know just how rude it really is.) I think it's in "Four Weddings and a Funeral" that he says "Oh, shittety brickety" which is one of the funnier variations on the s-word. One of my favorite lines in "Notting Hill" is his character's sudden burst, "Oh, sod a dog, I've made the wrong decision, haven't I?"

    So those aren't new ones, but they're also not exactly standard.

  9. How about:

    “Sagan’s billions!”

    Or “Watson’s Badonkadonk!”

    I actually always say “Godblessit!” And, from Raising Arizona, “Mother scratcher!”

    I love “By the beard of Randi” though! It begs many variations:

    Randi’s silver sideburns!
    Randi’s spectacles!
    Randi’s hidden ace of spades!

  10. I think the above list has overlooked one of the most important important figures in the history of blasphemy, Charles motherfucking Darwin!

    "Darwin's nostrils!"

    "Great Darwin's back hair!"

    and "by the beard of Randi" not only sounds awesome, but it gives me the impression you are so upset you are turning into some sort of skeptical version of "He-Man"

  11. I question the underlying assumption that it implies a belief in God. When I exclaim “Holy Sh!t” I’m not implying a belief in some blessed or sacred piece of excrement.

    To do otherwise would be to deny the cultural context that we live or grew up in. Not that we don’t question the culture we live in, but its hard to deny that we are incultured to do all sorts of things that don’t make any sense. That doesn’t mean I should spend my energies eliminating all that is non-sensical from my actions. There are plenty of things much more worthwhile that I should be spending my energies on, like avoiding calling significant others “Mine.”

  12. I have a tendency to drop Italian curse words rather than the more standard ones, though I admit to still utilizing “goddamnit” and “jesus / jesus christ/ christ almighty” more than I should.

    But neither of those really stands up to a good “vaffanculo” (or however you spell that)

  13. I puzzled over this one for quite a while. The solution I came up with, oddly enough, was to cut out interjections through personal control. Hardly the best solution, though. So, I offer you the amazingly alliterative:

    “Great Galileo’s Ghost!”

  14. I may not be a believer but sometimes a good goddammit just feels good – goddammit! I also resent the lable “atheist” which is one of their words. I am just a normal person who has escaped some of the superstition and neurosis of our culture – goddammit! Some of the vocabulary of our culture is just hard to replace.

  15. I figure, if you're going to blaspheme by speaking the name of a god, then why not invoke gods who are a) definitively fictional, and b) already blasphemous.

    Cthulhu fthagn!

    Ia Yog-Sothoth!

    Jumping Nyarlathotep on a pogo stick!

  16. "I have to disagree, Improbable Bee, with your choice of Sigmund Freud… he’s been appropriated by entirely too many loopy academics and pseudopsychoanalysts (for my taste) to ever invoke him as a culture-jamming curse word."

    I concede the point … I just got the giggles over the naughty appropriateness of that particular profanity in the middle of Freud's name after seeing it in Darwin's.

  17. A dichotomous key to determine when to say what:

    If things go wrong and you bear absolutely no resposibility…. Go to A

    If things go wrong when you are at least partially responsible, such as you hit your thumb with a hammer… Go to B

    A. Between Masala and Rebecca, if the last blurb you read was by

    1. Masala…. Shout Merciful Masala

    2.Rebecca….. Shout: What's On! Rebecca

    B. Between Amanda and Bug Girl, if the last blurb you read was by:

    1. Amanda…. Shout: I am Ann Da F***ing Panda

    2.Bug girl…. Shout :Well I'll be a gobbstopper of a treehopper!

  18. I think the above list has overlooked one of the most important important figures in the history of blasphemy, Charles motherfucking Darwin!

    Here's a few Darwin related ones:

    -The word Galapagos would lend itself to epithets and curses. "Oh, Galapagos!", etc.

    -Try using *Finch* as an F-word substitute.

    -"Ahh, Beagle Bilge!"

    -"You can kiss my Origin of the Species!"

  19. I have to disagree, Improbable Bee, with your choice of Sigmund Freud… he’s been appropriated by entirely too many loopy academics and pseudopsychoanalysts (for my taste) to ever invoke him as a culture-jamming curse word.

    I love, love, LOVE Skeptophile‘s take on “by the Beard of Randi!” I only wish I could turn into a skeptical He-Man… sadly I’ve never weighed more than 140lbs in my life which, at my height, makes becoming any manner of He-Man, skeptical or otherwise, fully impossible :(

    Oh, and I feel we are neglecting the lovely sorts of curses employed in the Muslim world, especially as exemplified by the things everyone’s favorite Iraqi Information Minister used to say… so, by way of example, I present:

    May you be dissolved in the bile of Hitchens’ acid tongue!

  20. Long ago, I decided that "Goddammit!" was a prayer to the diety, requestion everlasting damnation to be called down on what or whoever was annoying me. This seemed unfair. So I switched to "god BLESS America!" which at least has the effect of, if anyone is actually listening and willing to act on my petition, possibly doing some good.

    I also use "Mother pus buckets!" too. Also "Holy Socks"

    But yeah, it's very hard to verbally relieve stress without invoking a mythical Sky Being.

    (hey…."Mythical SKY beings!")

  21. There was a young man name of Teller

    Who was not a sham like Uri Gellar.

    Teamed up with Penn

    did tricks now and then.

    Was quite a truculent feller.

    Great talking Teller ! I posted this in the wrong section.

  22. I have a friend who is both a buddhist monk and a carpenter, and is constantly faced with the dilemma of what to say when he hits his thumb with an 8-lb hammer. An additional complication is when he and his co-workers decided they'd rather not shout profanity in front of the owners, who were often around while they renovated.

    They took to the habbit of yelling "It's the VERY BEST THING!!!" while holding their thumb and jumping up and down. I saw it once, and it was great because everyone gets a good laugh, and laugher is the best medicine, right?

  23. I’m so glad that a post as amusing as this one has the honor of being the 1,111th post on Skepchick. NUMEROLOGY WORKS!

    And you KNOW it must be true, because if you hold down the SHIFT key while typing "1,111" it becomes "!<!!!". And it's UNDENIABLY TRUE that a little excitement is less than a lot of excitement.

  24. I, of course, never swear. If I were to accidentally damage a digit in a DIY disaster I’d possibly utter a very mild: “Oh my, I appear to have hurt my hand. How very inconvenient.”

    For some reason I get very polite when angered. Besides which a good expletive has considerably more impact when used rarely.

    i.e. If anyone thinks that “Goddammit” refers to their own flavour of deity then I’m afraid that this is simply a load of bollocks.

  25. There’s plenty of opportunity (and reason) to draw from Chemistry. The names are complex, interesting to pronounce, and dramatic. Plus, it may get people to ask “WHAT did you just say?”, which leads into a conversation about science (instead of a religious flamewar).

    How about these? I find them rather satisfying:

    Yttrium!
    Seventy-Four W. Tungsten!
    Seaborgium!
    Ununnilium!

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