Tricky things, headlines

CATS: While dogs regard humans as gods, cats believe they ARE gods.
CATS: While dogs regard humans as gods, cats believe they ARE gods.

MINUTES after I hit the ‘publish’ button on completing a post for my Freethinker website, I realised that the heading – ‘Study finds atheists are more likely to own cats than Christians’ – hadn’t worked the way I’d intended, and dozens of readers were quick to poke fun at it.

I could have changed it but decided that the mirth it generated would actually serve to increase the number of readers the item would get. So I let it ride and allowed people to enjoy my faux pas and post snide comments. These included:

  • Wow, that’s right! I own a cat (although of course she might not agree …), but I don’t own any Christians.
  • That was pretty much my reaction to the headline too. Of course, it isn’t even legal to own Christians.
  • I’ve got four Christians myself. They’re not too happy about the litter box through.
  • Never wanted to own a Christian, but I do look after 20 cats. Hardcore atheist.

The piece focused on a recent US study into religion and pet ownership. The research  was published by the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion and it found that cat owners are church dodgers, while evangelicals tend to shun the beasts.

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I illustrated the report with a photo of our late, lamented Smirnoff, a black Persian that once terrified a Spanish neighbour.

The young woman, clearly very superstitious, stopped speaking to me after she encountered Smirnoff when she’d called round to borrow our vacuum cleaner as hers had blown up. While she was standing on the doorstep, the cat leaped onto my shoulder and fixed his frighteningly golden gaze on her.

Her reaction was not entirely surprising, because an awful lot of people regard cats as ‘pure evil.’ That term was used in an entertaining piece entitled ‘13 reasons why cats are just pure evil,’ written for the South China Morning Post by Lucy Christie.

Christie asserted that ‘cats and evil villains go together like milk and cookies.’ She  pointed out that some famous examples include Dr Evil from the Austin Powers movie series, with his ‘ugly’ cat Mr Bigglesworth, and Gargamel and Azrael from the Smurfs.

She then introduced witches. ‘Everyone knows witch + broomstick + black cat. And if Disney has taught us anything, it’s that witches are inherently evil and don’t just want to put a spell on you, they want to kill you (Sleeping Beauty wouldn’t have been much of story if Maleficent had done her job properly).

Enter cats. The perfect heartless sidekick; they don’t care whether you live or die, as long as they’re getting some tuna at the end of it.’

For the record, the late Christopher Hitchens, writer and outspoken atheist, said while dogs regard humans as gods, cats believe they ARE gods.

Our two dogs would agree that felines are malevolent. We have hordes of feral cats in our neighbourhood because someone – I’ve yet to discover who – insists on leaving food out for them. So they lurk in the bushes and lash out at my pooches, turning a tranquil stroll into the Third World War.

If I ever find out who’s feeding the things I’ll show them the evil side of MY nature!


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