Sacrilege!

by Daniel on July 25, 2008

While I of course do not countenance the harassment of anyone by religious nuts, I also have something of a baleful view of the kind of self-conscious atheist who regards it as a good use of his time to spend the day winding up the god squad. And so, I think it’s hard to argue that anyone involved will look back on the PZ Myers/Bill Donohoe/Webster Cook/”fricking cracker” episode and think “yes, that was my finest hour”.

My basic sympathies are with PZ. I’m in favour of occasionally having a bit of harmless fun at the expense of the religious as long as there aren’t too many obviously foreseeable adverse real-world consequences. In other words, I’m basically of the view “it’s all fun and games until the Danish Embassy gets burned down”.

Onnnnnnn the other hand though, while I am perhaps the last person on earth who is well-placed to tell anyone else that winding people up for the sake of it is a really silly and childish thing to do … well, winding people up for the sake of it is a really silly and childish thing to do, and furthermore Dawkinsite militant atheists are as annoying as fundies in their own way and perhaps deserve a bit of winding up too. Thus I have determined to strike a blow in retaliation on behalf of the Catholic Church.

I don’t think that joke-desecrating a page of Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” (which PZ did, photo evidence in the linked post) is remotely symmetrical – it’s rather like a man with a huge ugly nose calling someone else names and then saying “well, I don’t mind if you call me big-ears”. The secular humanists’ Achilles Heel isn’t their reverence for any particular book or artefact – it’s their wildly disproportionate hatred of religious education.

And so it is that, at some point this weekend, I plan to tell a small, credulous child (about whom I will provide no other information) that a rainbow is a special sign from God that he promises never to flood the world again and that this proves that God exists. And PZ Myers will have this on his conscience that as a direct result of his actions. I think this rather than writing to somebody’s boss or soliciting a deluge of hatemail, might be considered a proportionate retaliation. Have a good weekend, true believers.

{ 310 comments }

1

Arnaud 07.25.08 at 5:14 pm

That’s such a good and balanced reaction! “PZ Myers threw away a piece of bread so I will lie to a child!”

2

Chris Bell 07.25.08 at 5:14 pm

Congrats. This is the first genuinely funny response I have read to this whole affair.

3

Dave Weeden 07.25.08 at 5:17 pm

This was covered pretty well on Cosmic Variance.

I have nothing to say about your weekend plans beyond this: if you do as you say you plan to do, for the reasons you give, you are not a nice man, Daniel Davies. And I think that is a proportionate retaliation.

4

"Q" the Enchanter 07.25.08 at 5:23 pm

I don’t get it.

5

baa 07.25.08 at 5:27 pm

>That’s such a good and balanced reaction!

Success! Success! D^2 wins!

6

mpowell 07.25.08 at 5:43 pm

I think Dsquared has outdone himself on this one.

Step one: Hypocritically look down on those who have a go at others for the sake of it.
Step two: Brazenly imitate this behavior.

It’s times like these that I realize that I can never really measure up in the area of being a pretentious, sarcastic wise-ass. It’s almost enough to make me give it all up, but I’m not sure my friends and family could bear the loss.

7

Seth Finkelstein 07.25.08 at 5:53 pm

Y’know, after thinking about this for a while, and going back and forth, I’m eventually coming to the conclusion that PZ is onto something deep, even though it isn’t very nice.

He’s essentially saying “I will show disrespect for the symbols of a belief I regard as ridiculous, even though many people regard it as benign or positive”

And people who want to criticize him keep using wildly different supposed analogies, like the above plan to lie to child in retaliation.

What PZ is getting at, underneath it all, is nobody thinks ALL belief-symbols deserve respect. Not even all mild religious beliefs. For example, the wiccans who say the images of witches and Halloween are offensive to them, are typically not taken seriously.

He’s doing a type of performance art. And it’s got a valuable core to it.

8

Naadir Jeewa 07.25.08 at 5:54 pm

I just had a big argument at work about asymmetric arguments, with someone who tried to make the case that “rationality” as a superior cognitive process to ‘religion’ should be separated from the most prominent activists of that line of discourse who are clearly trying to demarcate boundaries between a segment of the West and Muslims and the Christian right. The person feared for the danger that those public intellectuals are putting themselves into rather than the millions of Muslims who are seeing their liberties curtailed, or have their outreach programmes labelled as BNP rallies.

9

phosphorious 07.25.08 at 5:55 pm

Good response!

Surely the “Nothing” in “Nothing should be held sacred” refers (or fails to refer) to the mind of a child as well as a piece of bread.

10

Elsie Street 07.25.08 at 5:59 pm

“The secular humanists’ Achilles Heel … [is] their wildly disproportionate hatred of religious education.” What would you offer in the way of evidence that secular humanists, generally speaking, have such a disproportionate hatred?

If you are basing this on the sayings of a strident few, you should say so.

If you are speaking generally, I think there are millions of secular humanists that don’t much care one way or the other. Tarring them all seems wrong to me.

11

Righteous Bubba 07.25.08 at 6:03 pm

I plan to tell a small, credulous child (about whom I will provide no other information)

Please tell me the child says “wainbow” and I will be satisfied.

12

eb 07.25.08 at 6:03 pm

Like many sensible people, you obviously find people who share your sensibilities but express them in a slightly differently manner than you might to be vastly more annoying than people whose outlook you actually find abhorrent.

An exposition of why this is so would make for an interesting read.

13

Steve LaBonne 07.25.08 at 6:07 pm

I think Seth gets it just about right. And that kind of performance art doesn’t happen to be my cup of tea, but I’m quite receptive to the argument that it’s valuable to have somebody doing it.

Certainly we live in a society in which the problem of offense being given is vastly outweighed by the problem of people imagining they have a right never to be offended.

I would only add that PZ (and I agree with him on this) would argue that religious beliefs are not merely ridiculous, but harmful.

14

Seth Finkelstein 07.25.08 at 6:09 pm

And further, I think Daniel is demonstrating how to do performance art badly.

As in “Those people think crackers are sacred. You think rational thought is sacred. So you *both* think something is sacred. You’re annoying the believer in the sacred cracker by throwing it out. Some I’m going to annoy you by trying to make a child think irrationally. GOTCHA, HOW DOES IT FEEL HA HA!”

It’s actually a very stupid analogy, and it’s playing to the crowds with no value underneath (sigh, assuming some basic ideas of value, I know, I know!).

I suspect if people could get past their dislike of militant atheism they’d perceive that crackers and education are not a good equivalence.

15

Righteous Bubba 07.25.08 at 6:12 pm

It’s actually a very stupid analogy

Goes to winding up I think.

16

weserei 07.25.08 at 6:16 pm

The fact that you can generate such a reaction merely by claiming you plan to do something–which is, in the final analysis, totally harmless–says a lot about the New Atheism. As they say on the less reputable parts of the Internet, 10/10.

17

Seth Finkelstein 07.25.08 at 6:18 pm

But that’s my point – it’s an extremely trivial statement that anyone can be wound-up about something in the world. Because we can’t and don’t consider all things equally worthy of being wound-up about (= worthy of respect), that leads to absurdity.

18

Colin 07.25.08 at 6:20 pm

The very fact that you refer to the nailing a page of Dawkins’ book as “joke-desecration” is interesting. It’s clear that the only point of PZ doing so is to show how little a concept like “desecration” means to him, no? It’s symmetric in action and wildly asymmetric in response. That’s the point.

But speaking of asymmetry, perhaps you do need to think more about the differences between children and food.

19

Righteous Bubba 07.25.08 at 6:23 pm

But that’s my point – it’s an extremely trivial statement that anyone can be wound-up about something in the world.

Right. Speaking as one of the militant atheist assholes I am quite certain that I deserve some winding up and it’s okay if someone gives it a shot.

20

Colin 07.25.08 at 6:26 pm

The fact that you can generate such a reaction merely by claiming you plan to do something—which is, in the final analysis, totally harmless—says a lot about the New Atheism.

Yeah, that we like to think about whether or not things should be “sacred”, whether telling children lies is proportional to stabbing bread, etc. I mean, beyond the comment calling Daniel “mean”, I don’t anybody’s too up-in-arms over the action itself, yelling “Think of the children!”, etc. It’s harmless, duh. But it’s still worth thinking about.

21

WizardWhately 07.25.08 at 6:27 pm

IMHO, the reason “secular humanists” and “militant atheists” are doing this is because we’re fed up. We’re tired of religion trying to take over the government, insisting this is a “Christian nation”, and essentially damning anyone who doesn’t share their narrow, ridiculous world view. I was adopted by a so-called “Christian” family – oh, the horror stories I could tell you: ignorant, racist, misogynistic, barely-literate idiots. I remember the day I was accepted to law school. All my mother could say is “I don’t understand what you want with all that education.”
Remember: one of the first edicts in the bible was god telling Adam and Eve to avoid the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Nope – education, erudition, and logical thought has no place in any religion.

22

Steve LaBonne 07.25.08 at 6:35 pm

Speak for yourself, weserei. I wasn’t wound up at all by Daniel’s post- I thought it was good clean fun.

It’s pretty funny, though, that “you can generate such a reaction merely by claiming you plan to do something—which is, in the final analysis, totally harmless”, while being way over the top as a description of this comment thread, exactly describes the anti-PZ venom issuing from Donohue and his scurvy crew.

23

engels 07.25.08 at 6:37 pm

Brilliant. Myers really got you wound up this time, didn’t he?

24

Matthew Kuzma 07.25.08 at 6:40 pm

Correction: a rainbow is a reminder God made for himself not to destroy humanity again. Because as omnipotent and omniscient as God is, he still has a hard time remembering not to destroy humanity…

…which in all honesty is quite understandable.

25

Aaron Baker 07.25.08 at 6:41 pm

P.Z. Myers can be a smugly irritating prat sometimes; but I think the only appropriate response is to say: “Good gracious, P.Z., you’re a smugly irritating prat today!” I doubt that one more bit of mythopoea in a cute little moppet’s ear will hurt the moppet in any lasting way–but who knows? Maybe that’s what tips the balance and turns her into a televangelist.

To bring up an only tenuously related point: I was commiserating recently with my own (utterly charming) moppet about how surprised and disappointed I was recently, comparing the local Borders with the local Barnes and Noble. Previously, Borders had been the better bet for highbrow and semi-highbrow books. But not any longer, for some unknown reason (I’m speaking of stores in Evanston, Illinois). My daughter agreed and said that while the Barnes and Noble was “jam-packed” with books on Wicca, she’d found almost nothing on that subject at Borders. It was a reminder of how much vaster the world of what matters to somebody is than the world of what matters to me. (Always useful, and a little humbling, to get that reminder.)

26

abb1 07.25.08 at 6:47 pm

Nice, but slightly lame and amateurish. Hardworking professionals like Howard Stern have been doing these things 5 times a week 50 weeks a year for decades.

27

Bob Dole 07.25.08 at 6:51 pm

I’m having some serious trouble believing that any of you commenters are for real.

28

Paul Gowder 07.25.08 at 6:55 pm

This is about 50% very funny, and 50% really fucked up. Funny because, well, it just is. Fucked up because, well, lying to a child is much worse than religious desecration.

(What’s “wildly disproportionate” about hating religious education, anyway? Religious education is a very bad thing — it takes people at their most vulnerable and fills their heads with destructive lies. All propaganda is bad, but especially propaganda directed at children.)

29

Rich Puchalsky 07.25.08 at 7:05 pm

“The fact that you can generate such a reaction merely by claiming you plan to do something—which is, in the final analysis, totally harmless—says a lot about the New Atheism. “

Slightly puzzled here. What is the “such a reaction” that is being referred to? Two comments?

In re-retaliation for Daniel’s retaliation, I plan to go to my small child and tell him that sometimes when people pray for help, they are really trying to talk to part of themselves. And then I will think about loaning him a run of Alan Moore’s Promethea. And then I will remember the sex scenes in Promethea and decide not to.

30

dsquared 07.25.08 at 7:05 pm

I am presuming that all the “o noes! You lie! To a child!” Posse are childless themselves. How on earth does one get through a typical day without lying to a child.

PS: just for that, I’m going to tell my own kids that Santa Claus exists for one year longer than I’d planned.

31

Seth Finkelstein 07.25.08 at 7:12 pm

It’s not really about lying to a child. It’s about whether militant atheism is considered something worthy of being respected by liberal intellectuals.

32

Steve LaBonne 07.25.08 at 7:14 pm

Good luck with that if they’re smart. Mine started asking very inconvenient questions around age 5 and I couldn’t come up with clever enough answers to satisfy her, so that was it for old Santa. Probably what will happen is that your kids will pretend to believe in Santa for that extra year so as not to hurt your feelings.

33

Rich Puchalsky 07.25.08 at 7:18 pm

Just for that, the tooth fairie is going to retroactively forget to put something under his pillow. (Oops.)

The sugar fairie, however — this being the entity in our household who takes all leftover candy e.g. from Halloween and makes it mysteriously disappear overnight, presumably building something with it, in exchange for some kind of small coin under the pillow — will probably have a long and vigorous lifespan.

34

mtraven 07.25.08 at 7:19 pm

Hey, you stole my post title, and my somewhat-middle-of-the-road point of view on this affair (yes, I’m linkwhoring). My reaction: I’m irked by the pretense of PZ that it’s about “a fricking cracker”. Obviously, the cracker is a symbol of some very deep feelings. The question is what respect is owed to people’s deep feelings. Answers about this can vary, of course, but it’s kind of stupid and dishonest to focus on the symbol rather than what is being symbolized.

35

engels 07.25.08 at 7:22 pm

If you’ve been telling your child that “Santa Claus” exists then you are guilty of indoctinating him/her with Yank expressions for which he/she should have been taught the correct English equivalent.

36

Mark H. 07.25.08 at 7:24 pm

I love how sophistocated atheists imagine themselves when they distinguish religious thought/praxis from “reason. ” As though there is a thing called Reason out there untainted by all sorts of personal and cultural assumptions which can be scientifically proved. If that’s so, spend a few minutes looking under a microscope or into a telescope for proof that it’s wrong to lie to children about the meaning of rainbows. Or that democracy is better than, say, theocracy (or autocracy or whatever). Maybe you’ll succeed where all the brilliant thinkers before you have failed. But I don’t have much faith that you will, as it were (if you’ll permit my use of the F word).

I think you guys need to (a) lighten up and (b) read a little philosophy. Maybe start with MacIntyre’s Whose Justice? Which Rationality? Or even better, maybe spend some time meditating on why you have such disdain for religious belief but not for other, equally unprovable influences on society like political ideology, scienticism (i.e., the irrational belief that science will answer all problems and make everyone happy), consumerism, et al.

37

Righteous Bubba 07.25.08 at 7:28 pm

“Santa Claus”

Hmm. I think I’ll scare-quote Santa from now on and never explain myself.

38

Aaron Baker 07.25.08 at 7:38 pm

“How on earth does one get through a typical day without lying to a child[?]“

My sentiments exactly, and probably one of the reasons I wasn’t particularly horrified by dsquared’s suggestion.

Paul Gowder wrote: “Religious education is a very bad thing—it takes people at their most vulnerable and fills their heads with destructive lies.”

This of course is the Dawkins take on religious education. I think that American religious education is generally so anodyne, that most people familiar with it are a little bit astonished at this sort of vehemence. For an only slightly atypical example, my Baha’i wife subjects our daughter to something called “virtues education.” For the most part, since it consists largely of moral exhortation, nothing remotely approaching a lie is involved. As for matters of Baha’i doctrine: well, Baha’is actually believe that stuff, so they’re certainly not lying when they impart it. (This is, by the way, a point that’s often lost on P.Z. Myers, who plays very fast and loose with the words “lie” and “liar” in his denunciations of the pious.)

But, you will say, Sunday School is different! Not a whole lot, really, in the mainline denominations. Mostly it’s moral uplift, with some very basic church dogmatics thrown in (“Jesus loves me,” that sort of thing.) For these reasons, I believe that most Americans just can’t get what Dawkins is so upset about.

39

David 07.25.08 at 7:38 pm

Man, what a bunch of humorless militant atheists. First, the rainbow comment is funny because it is borderline Kitsch. I mean we are talking about rainbows, come on. (It’s like telling a kid, I know scraping your knee hurts, but it is all part of God’s plan.) Second, as far as religious education is concerned, I went to Catholic school, and I know lots of people who went to Catholic school, and we are probably so very agnostic precisely because we went there. So if your goal is create atheists I think a religious education is probably a great start. On the other hand, I actually value the education and feel like I understand both religion and the concepts of tradition and community because of it. Something some of you mini-Spocks would do well to also understand better.

40

Righteous Bubba 07.25.08 at 7:48 pm

But, you will say, Sunday School is different! Not a whole lot, really, in the mainline denominations.

You can’t generalize this. I went to an Anglican one and the actual services the adults went to were bland and unremarkable while us kids got the full measure of horror stories.

41

Tom T. 07.25.08 at 7:49 pm

I believe that most Americans just can’t get what Dawkins is so upset about

There’s also a tendency among many Americans to confuse Richard Dawkins with Richard Dawson. And then we wonder why the hell we should be taking moral instruction from Family Feud.

42

ben wolfson 07.25.08 at 7:50 pm

Gowdah, come on. This is a pretty trivial lie to tell a child. People lie to kids all the time, anyway, about secular matters. I say go team Davies here.

43

Roy Belmont 07.25.08 at 7:59 pm

The rainbow in that little story is traditionally viewed as a sign of divine promise. Out of the antediluvian chaos the semi-comforting threat issued from on high that next time it would be fire, not flood that destroyed civilization.
This has resonated amongst the faithful as well as among more poetical unbelievers for centuries, nay even millenia.
The fire next time.

There’s a traditional country gospel tune called “Sowing On the Mountain” that is based on it.
You’re gonna reap just what you’ve sown.

Hello earthlings! Hot enough for ya?
Pure coincidence of course, with a little soupçon of self-fulfilling prophecy no doubt. But still.

The communion wafer, or cracker, as object of contention in the hands of scoffing atheists is rife with ungoverned power, transubstantiated or no.

Imagining some uncontacted Amazonians getting their sacred gourd tromped to smithereens by PZMyers and Co. because there is no god of the harvest and the gourd won’t make it rain… but then those guys aren’t running around trying to get their nasty delusions back into the legal system so that even the unbelievers will have to obey.

Still it isn’t the little people in the churches and their vague beliefs that’s harmful, it’s the political power of the institutions. Poking the believers with sticks is cathartic and fun, but it just furthers the polarity, and strengthens the zealots.

It’s not about political correctness or respecting the beliefs of others, it’s about hurting innocent and basically harmless people to get at harmful nitwits like Donohue.

So what if Jesus isn’t in the baked goods? The real danger’s the power that’s zapping all around these issues. Being rational and right isn’t enough. You have to make the appropriate moves as well.

44

seth edenbaum 07.25.08 at 8:03 pm

The point is not religion but “faith” and we all operate on faith most of the time and it’s up to others to catch us on it (when it causes a problem). For that reason we don’t run our societies on “reason” which will always slide into assumption, but on the interpretation and reinterpretation of written laws. My response posted on on Myers’ page was a link to this: FACING UP: Science and Its Cultural Adversaries, by Steven Weinberg.

Look at chapter 14. If Steven Weinberg, nobel prize winning physicist and arch secularist can’t be relied upon to tell logic from ideology, then no one can. And as I’ve said before, if you examine the arguments of Colin McGinn, another arch moralizing atheist, you’ll see that his a prioris are basically Catholic. He claims to be an atheist but he isn’t.

I think it would be interesting to have a society built on, as a founding document, the complete works of Shakespeare, so that public arguments over the direction of the laws, of freedom and obligation would be built around the divisions of the Comedies the tragedies and the Histories; call it divided government. The Sonnets might be a problem though.
In a world of reason, justice would be ad hoc.
Everyone lies to themselves, all the time. A Ph.D won’t cure you of your assumptions. Usually it just magnifies them.

45

noen 07.25.08 at 8:07 pm

Not a whole lot of science goes on at Pharyngula, I wonder how Seed feels about that? And most of the posters there seem to me to be neuro-atypical (aspergers or related) and children in their first year or two of college. There seems to be very little awareness of social norms of behavior.

it’s kind of stupid and dishonest to focus on the symbol rather than what is being symbolized.

Ummm, yeah, that’s what religion does. Could it be that some militant atheists elevate their conception of science to almost religious levels?

lying to a child is much worse than religious desecration.

It isn’t lying to a child. Myths are not lies. It is a very impoverished culture indeed that sees everything in terms of black and white. And it is equally arrogant to believe that you and your tribe are the only ones who posses the Keys to Truth. The religion of Science is just as dangerous as any other ideology.

46

seth edenbaum 07.25.08 at 8:08 pm

Sorry, I was of by 1: It’s Chapter 15.

47

Rich Puchalsky 07.25.08 at 8:11 pm

“Not a whole lot of science goes on at Pharyngula, I wonder how Seed feels about that? And most of the posters there seem to me to be neuro-atypical (aspergers or related) and children in their first year or two of college. There seems to be very little awareness of social norms of behavior.”

That’s a mean-spirited and crappy thing to write, Mr. “social norms of behavior.”

48

Righteous Bubba 07.25.08 at 8:12 pm

It isn’t lying to a child. Myths are not lies.

They are on Fox News.

49

L. Zoel 07.25.08 at 8:15 pm

“And so it is that, at some point this weekend, I plan to tell a small, credulous child (about whom I will provide no other information) that a rainbow is a special sign from God that he promises never to flood the world again and that this proves that God exists.”

Immediate reaction:
Awesome!

50

chiggins 07.25.08 at 8:24 pm

“How on earth does one get through a typical day without lying to a child[?]”

I know what you mean! Also, a day without tasting their sweet, salty tears is like a mornin’ without coffee. Looks like it’s time for another family pilgrimage to Santa’s Tomb.

51

noen 07.25.08 at 8:33 pm

That’s a mean-spirited and crappy thing to write

No, it’s something that I’ve noticed. I’d say it’s even more true for the XKCD forums where they even have a sticky thread on how to relate to members of the opposite sex. I’ve spoken with them about it (I was quite respectful) and those I talked to agreed that there seemed to be a predominance of the nerdy, socially inept and the neuro-atypical. There was a thread where many took an online test for that and boasted of their high scores. That’s the XKCD forums, you can’t have that conversation at Pharyngula but it feels much the same to me. There is the same obsessional focus. The thread linked to in this post has 2354 comments. Just a little obsessive? Yeah, I think so.

52

engels 07.25.08 at 8:33 pm

“One thing kids like is to be tricked. For instance, I was going to take my little nephew to Disneyland, but instead I drove him to an old burned-out warehouse. “Oh, no,” I said. “Disneyland burned down.” He cried and cried, but I think that deep down, he thought it was a pretty good joke. I started to drive over to the real Disneyland, but it was getting pretty late.” (Jack Handey)

53

Marc 07.25.08 at 8:40 pm

Myers, bluntly put, is a Jacobin at heart. I have a great deal more in common with people less certain that they are correct about essentially unprovable matters. This tempers my sympathy for him considerably. If you deliberately set out to insult people you aren’t entitled to act wounded when they get angry. If someone makes you angry a death threat, or attempting to get them fired, is not a proportional response.

(My response would be to convince his neighbors to surround his house with extremely sappy devotional bric-a-brak. Especially if it involved big puppy-eyes, statues of the virgin, and annoying cutesy angels. Accompanying music optional.)

54

pj 07.25.08 at 8:43 pm

“The fact that you can generate such a reaction merely by claiming you plan to do something—which is, in the final analysis, totally harmless—says a lot about the New Atheism.”

Oh dear.

55

P O'Neill 07.25.08 at 8:46 pm

I wonder how PZ would confront the challenge of offending a religion where the belief is there is just the person in a direct relationship with God, no symbols necessary.

56

engels 07.25.08 at 8:48 pm

there seemed to be a predominance of the nerdy, socially inept and the neuro-atypical

Really? That’s shocking, and so completely unlike the comments section on this blog.

57

Giblets 07.25.08 at 8:54 pm

Giblets plans to tell a small child this weekend that the truth is always the exact midpoint between two opposing arguments.

58

Grand Moff Texan 07.25.08 at 8:55 pm

How on earth does one get through a typical day without lying to a child?

Anthropomorphize your ass off.
.

59

Brian 07.25.08 at 8:58 pm

“Obviously, the cracker is a symbol of some very deep feelings.”

Yes, very deeply stupid feelings. What possible reason should anyone who believes in anything remotely as silly as religion not be casually wound up whenever the mood strikes?

60

abb1 07.25.08 at 8:59 pm

Offending religion is rather lame, the hate letters quoted are insipid. There are plenty of more interesting sacrosanct concepts out there to desecrate.

61

mawado 07.25.08 at 9:02 pm

A REAL man would establish the PZ Myers scholarship at the local Catholic school.

62

Colin Danby 07.25.08 at 9:05 pm

PZM writes well about biology — he does interesting research and you can learn stuff. But he knows bupkis about religion, and his tiresome, troll-baiting rants on the subject are unproductive of insight not to say corrosive of discussion.

How do you share community with people whose ritual lives and understandings of the world differ in important ways from yours? I don’t think the most obvious answer is taunting them and interrupting their rituals.

63

rea 07.25.08 at 9:07 pm

There are plenty of more interesting sacrosanct concepts out there to desecrate.

I don’t don’t–the whole ritual anthropophagy/theophagy thing is pretty interesting, or at least, strange . . .

64

seth edenbaum 07.25.08 at 9:19 pm

“How do you share community with people whose ritual lives and understandings of the world differ in important ways from yours? “

Myers doesn’t think he has a “ritual life.”

He’s lying of course.

65

Steve LaBonne 07.25.08 at 9:23 pm

Not a whole lot of science goes on at Pharyngula, I wonder how Seed feels about that?

Actually his science posts (and I happen to have the right background to fully appreciate them), while I wish they were more numerous, are excellent. (To be fair to him, part of the reason they’re not more numerous is that their high quality is clrarly the result of a lot of work.) And they’re readily available in his archive, in case you missed them.

66

abb1 07.25.08 at 9:39 pm

ritual anthropophagy/theophagy thing is pretty interesting, or at least, strange

Really? I thought the idea of circulation, food/wine produced by the soil fertilized by the bodies of one’s ancestors was pretty common. Just a few days ago someone described to me some such stuff she heard from locals when visiting Sicily; I think it had something to do with Etna volcano.

67

Antti Nannimus 07.25.08 at 9:40 pm

Hi,

No harm, no foul. As every good and wise parent knows, it is absolutely essential to occasionally lie to our children, especially when they will soon be able to detect the lie. That is how they learn to become skeptical of even those they most trust. Thus they will eventually be prepared to live and survive in our real world.

Have a nice day!
Antti

68

fardels bear 07.25.08 at 9:55 pm

I’d have been more impressed with PZ’s stunt if he’d burned about $1000 in cash. After all, “it is just paper” right?

69

weserei 07.25.08 at 10:10 pm

@17: It wasn’t you I was referring to–I was talking about the references to “lying to a child” and so forth.

Let’s be serious here. Dsquared’s explanation of the rainbow is on par with “lightning is when God goes bowling” or the tooth fairy or something. I’d wager most of us here grew up on such stories, regardless of hwo religious our families were or weren’t. And we all realized that the grownups were bullshitting us and moved on. Not are these things not “what tips the balance and turns [someone] into a televangelist,” they’re arguably (I don’t think anybody’s done a longitudinal study) a sort of inoculation against these sorts of beliefs.

70

Watson Aname 07.25.08 at 10:13 pm

After all, “it is just paper” right?

Not at all. I don’t think much of the stunt, but yours is a completely inept analogy.

71

bicycle Hussein paladin 07.25.08 at 10:42 pm

No it’s not, it’s actually a very good analogy. Communion wafers, like money are valuable because they are scarce. To put it another way, anybody can buy a cookie and throw it out, and that’s pretty meaningless, as is burning pieces of paper. But to toss a communion wafer means actually getting up on a Sunday morning, showing up at a Catholic mass, and receiving communion, just like you have to exchange goods or your labor for those pieces of paper we call “money”.

72

Anderson 07.25.08 at 10:44 pm

I just don’t see how proving the equivalence of “atheist” and “asshole” is doing Myers’s cause much good.

In fact, I’m a bit worried about him, on the grounds argued in “Death or Glory”:

But I believe in this — and it’s been tested by research –
That he who fucks nuns, will later join the Church.

P.S. — site suggestion: preview button?

73

theo 07.25.08 at 10:55 pm

I’d have been more impressed with PZ’s stunt if he’d burned about $1000 in cash. After all, “it is just paper” right?

FIAT CURRENCY! GOLD STANDARD! ELECT RON PAUL!

Bill Drummond of the KLF burned 1 million pounds. Was it successful performance art? Opinions differ, and Drummond himself apparently had regrets. He would; he’s Scottish.

74

Righteous Bubba 07.25.08 at 10:55 pm

No it’s not, it’s actually a very good analogy. Communion wafers, like money are valuable because they are scarce.

Feel free to mail these valuable wafers to a poor family in Bangladesh. Then mail their neighbours $1000. Then visit both families.

75

phosphorious 07.25.08 at 11:01 pm

“Feel free to mail these valuable wafers to a poor family in Bangladesh. Then mail their neighbours $1000. Then visit both families.”

Unless they are going to eat the money, it will only help them if they can exchange it for things that are valuable. Paper money is valuable because people value it.

The analogy holds.

76

Righteous Bubba 07.25.08 at 11:04 pm

Unless they are going to eat the money, it will only help them if they can exchange it for things that are valuable.

Are you positing that they might not be able to?

In any case the analogy doesn’t hold because money does not involve magical transformation through ritual, its value is an agreement, not a miracle.

77

Lee A. Arnold 07.25.08 at 11:08 pm

Piss Christ, meet Banana Cracker. Burn a flag why didn’t he? Been there done that? People lost in metaphysical symbolisms: is Myers one of those who tends to believe the universe is entirely and essentially mathematics? Will he confess; will there be nonsense involved?

78

fardels bear 07.25.08 at 11:08 pm

Rightous Bubba, you are proving my point: if, as you argue, the Bangladesh family would prefer the cash to the wafer that proves that the cash is not “only paper.” It is valuable because of the symbolic attachment humans place on it. If it is possible the cash is more than “just paper” is it not possible that the wafer is not “just a cracker?”

And, you don’t have to be Catholic that believes in Transubstantiation to think that the wafer has symbolic value beyond its physical “crackerhood.”

79

rea 07.25.08 at 11:09 pm

Bill Drummond of the KLF burned 1 million pounds. Was it successful performance art?

Well, it’s been topped several times since 1994. One well-known performance artist, for example, burned up more than $1 trillion. Of course, he had to invade Iraq to pull it off . . .

80

novakant 07.25.08 at 11:14 pm

I wonder how these militant atheists behave on holidays in far away countries: do they run around mocking people congregating at Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines or Mosques?

81

theo 07.25.08 at 11:33 pm

Myers’ performance art, at its best, serves to remind people that the symbol is not the referent.

This is a lesson that flag-pin-headed Americans desperately need to learn, because our political process is infected with irrelevant symbols (“earth tones” “have a beer with” “arugula”) and our political media are actively making it worse.

Catholics, for whom it’s apparently dogma that the symbol is sometimes the referent, seem to need a particularly direct lesson.

Daniel’s performance art, at its best, reminds overly literal-minded atheists that mythological thinking isn’t devoid of meaning. I don’t think this is quite effective; they’re usually quite well acquainted with at least one or two mythologies (typically found in the Fantasy/Sci-fi section) and are well aware that mythological thinking is more species-typical than rationalism. Also, rationalists are powerless, except possibly on the internet, so it’s not much of a joke.

As an attempt to annoy Myers, Daniel’s art is a bit more successful. If he were immortal like Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged, he might eventually manage to individually insult the rest of the secular humanist community.

82

s.e. 07.25.08 at 11:45 pm

“Also, rationalists are powerless, except possibly on the internet, so it’s not much of a joke.”

Rumsfeld was a rationalist. The neocons are rationalists. Give their rationalism a referent… say an Iraqi, and that referent doesn’t act the way “logic” says he should, they blame the Iraqi.
You want a longer list of rationalist garbage? Try the long 20th century.

83

Watson Aname 07.25.08 at 11:45 pm

The analogy holds.

No, it doesn’t, or at least not very well. Assuming you were talking “real” dollars, and not some niche-market barter-bucks or the like.

In some sense they are a matter of faith, sure. But it’s not the same sort of faith at all, the extrinsic values of the two are completely different, and one is a marginal belief. So as I said, it’s not that the analogy cannot be made, but it is inept.

84

capelza 07.25.08 at 11:46 pm

“phosphorious 07.25.08 at 11:01 pm
“Feel free to mail these valuable wafers to a poor family in Bangladesh. Then mail their neighbours $1000. Then visit both families.”

Unless they are going to eat the money, it will only help them if they can exchange it for things that are valuable. Paper money is valuable because people value it.

The analogy holds.”

The poor family in Bangladesh would be better for eating the money than the translucent dried paste that passes for the body of Christ.

And whoever called a communion wafer a rare thing…surely you jest.

My impression, because I didn’t pay that much attention was that PZ was zinging Bill Donahue and his band of insane attention whores. Would PZ have done this if the Catholic League, etc. hadn’t gone bonkers about it?

85

Righteous Bubba 07.25.08 at 11:49 pm

Rightous Bubba, you are proving my point: if, as you argue, the Bangladesh family would prefer the cash to the wafer that proves that the cash is not “only paper.”

I am agreeing that the cash is not “only paper” yes.

If it is possible the cash is more than “just paper” is it not possible that the wafer is not “just a cracker?”

It’s the transformation that is the crucial element and absurdity. We all agree that once money’s off the press it’s money; it’s a useful way to move stuff around and no magic required. We don’t all agree – most notably a good proportion of those who take communion – that the communion wafer has become the flesh of a man/god.

Look, if someone burns my flag in Morocco I don’t really give a shit, and I think most of us agree that it’s shitheads who get all hot and bothered over such burnings. Rather than make an equivalence with money – which can actually save lives in its use and which for practical and non-magical purposes is agreed to substitute for “value” – why not make an equivalence with the dear old flag our countrymen fought and died for and blah blah blah. I think there was a recent CT thread or two on patriotism and it seems to me that guarding national symbolism is as stupid as the guarding of religious symbolism: if you’ve got the love-of-country/faith then you know that the symbols might be convenient tools of expression but they’re really meaningless next to what’s in your heart.

86

ScentOfViolets 07.25.08 at 11:57 pm

Maybe if those religious types stopped being obnoxious about forcing their religion on us – harassing gays, trying to rewrite abortion laws, trying to get creationism taught in public schools, maybe, just maybe, fewer people would be compelled to be obnoxious to them.

Just a thought.

87

theo 07.26.08 at 12:26 am

Seth,

You want a longer list of rationalist garbage? Try the long 20th century.

I award you “One pointe Godwin” for your implicit reference.

Rumsfeld was a rationalist. The neocons are rationalists.

Neither neocons nor secular humanists believe in religion themselves.

But here’s the difference: secular humanists like Dawkins and Myers want to liberate people from irrational beliefs…

While neo-cons want to use religion, irrationality and symbolism to manipulate people to serve their ends.

This is the core of Straussian neo-conservatism, and the reason it’s utterly consistent with authoritarian atrocities.

88

noen 07.26.08 at 12:31 am

ScentOfViolets re: Making the world a better place

ur doing it wrong.

89

Glaivester 07.26.08 at 12:32 am

From what I have read on his website, Myers’ often tends to what Steve Sailer calls “liberal creationism,” that is, the idea that evolution has no produced any variation between human populations.

So if we want to do something to offend him as much as his treatment of the communion wafers, how about desecrating a statue of Martin Luther King, Jr.? I’d like to see how all of the liberals who make fun of religion would react to having one of their icons demeaned.

90

Katherine 07.26.08 at 12:35 am

I’m a secular humanist. The phrase I’d use to describe Dawkins & Myers et. al. is “proselytyzing athesist.”

91

Steve LaBonne 07.26.08 at 12:47 am

Ooh, a Sailerite troll has appeared. Now the thread is complete.

92

Margarita 07.26.08 at 12:48 am

Dsquared’s explanation of the rainbow is on par with “lightning is when God goes bowling” or the tooth fairy or something.

Would that it were so. Alas, Genesis 9:8-17.

93

phosphorious 07.26.08 at 12:58 am

“Maybe if those religious types stopped being obnoxious about forcing their religion on us –”

Wasn’t this episode sparked by a catolic who took a consecrated host to show is friends, and in response was threatened with death by Donohue-type zealots?

Why is Myers insinuating himself into an internal affair?

94

capelza 07.26.08 at 1:03 am

“Why is Myers insinuating himself into an internal affair?”

because crazy catholics went on national news and wahhhhed about it?

I heard about it in the news somewhere, not from my quarterly church letter…(yeah, I still get the thing, though I am about as feral a Catholic as one can be…and I married an Episcopalian..they have better wafers).

95

Russell 07.26.08 at 1:26 am

I think the point of the whole exercise was to make people look at the whole claim of transubsantiation afresh. To expose it as an absurdity in the modern world.

96

Dave 07.26.08 at 1:43 am

Colin Danby :
“PZM writes well about biology—he does interesting research and you can learn stuff. But he knows bupkis about religion, and his tiresome, troll-baiting rants on the subject are unproductive of insight not to say corrosive of discussion.”

You are assuming here that there are religious truths that one can know. That assumption is very much in dispute. One can meaningfully talk about the history of religions and the sociology of religion and even the competing ideas of religion, but any such knowledge is not religious knowledge so much as knowledge about religion.

A friend of mine knows a lot about Klingons and their ways and even writes notes to herself in Klingon. I do not have to be equally versed in “Klingon knowledge” to know that it is all made up. She knows it’s made up, too, but what if she didn’t….

Try for a moment to understand that non-believers, when confronted with the claim that they do not have sufficient theological knowledge to have an opinion, feel just as you would if my friend told you that you could not make dispute the truth of her Klingon knowledge because you lack the requisite knowledge.

You would, rightly, be justified in laughing at her assertion, and doing so would not make you a bigot. In fact, you might still be quite fond of her.

We really are laughing at you, usually behind your backs. We are not therefore bigots. And we are still quite fond of you.

97

ScentOfViolets 07.26.08 at 1:43 am

So posphorious, just when exactly would be a good time to be obnoxious because a group of people insist on making their dogma into a law that I must follow? Ridiculing the belief of accident vs substance and transubstantiation, well, I can’t think of a much more transparently absurd belief to attack. “It’s not a _symbol_ of the body of Christ? It’s the _real_thing_?

People who insist on being obnoxious about their beliefs shouldn’t profess surprise or outrage when people are being obnoxious right back. Here’s a little something from The Four Horsemen on just this subject.

98

Paul Gowder 07.26.08 at 1:45 am

Various (Ben et. al): fair enough re: the minorness of the lie. (Though I don’t buy this “myths are not lies” bullshit — if I tell someone something that I know is false, I’m lying to them. The Santa Claus business is acceptable only because it’s understood that children will eventually be told the truth — something that hardly applies to religious indoctrination! (But probably — hopefully — applies to the rainbow thing standing alone.))

But I don’t buy the constant claims (36, 44, 45) that religion is on an epistemic par with science, or that the empirical approach to the universe is just another form of faith, etc. etc. etc. blah blah blah — and I don’t think anyone does in good faith. Because that way lieth global skepticism, and it’s impossible to sustain that.

99

Dave 07.26.08 at 1:45 am

Sorry for the typo:

“make dispute the truth of her Klingon knowledge”

should read

“dispute the truth of her Klingon knowledge”

100

SoMG 07.26.08 at 2:22 am

A couple of facts some of you commenters don’t seem to be aware of:

1. Professor Myers is not a “militant” athiest. He does not commit or endorse violence, even against religious people.

2. It is a crime to destroy or deliberately damage money in the USA.

3. Non-religious Americans, and scientific Americans, have PLENTY to be legitimately angry about. The ongoing effort by organized religion to pollute science classes with a theory of the supernatural. (Governor Jindal is a disgrace to the Rhodes Scholarship and should be forced to pay back the money Rhodes Trust spent on his education.) The abuse of science by right-to-lifers (see for instance http://www.abortionbreastcancer.com/
). Government funding of “faith-based initiatives”. Religious prosletizing to captive audiences in prison.

4. Noen, you are right that myths are not lies. However, telling a child that a myth is literally true IS a lie. And science is not a religion.

I go back and forth on whether I approve of desecrating the Eucharist. On the one hand, it is certain to alienate at least some potential converts to non-religion. On the other hand, a shock is sometimes the best way to wake people up. And if anyone deserves to have their sacred symbols desecrated, it is the Catholic League (and muslims).

Speaking of muslims, can anyone explain to me why they have not reacted publically to his desecrating pages of the Koran? I am very surprised that he has not received muslim death threats. (Islam is, after all, the two-year-old child in the world’s family of religions.)

101

Sage Ross 07.26.08 at 2:34 am

But speaking of asymmetry, perhaps you do need to think more about the differences between children and food.

That sounds like a decent suggestion.

102

Righteous Bubba 07.26.08 at 2:40 am

A couple of facts some of you commenters don’t seem to be aware of:

I think this has something to do with that mean thing Noen said.

103

david 07.26.08 at 2:53 am

This thread has like three dissertations worth of material, for you enterprising young fieldworkers not going to Papua New Guinea. Awesome stuff.

I really thought I’d never see somebody recommend McIntyre again. It’s a look back at a lost world, seeing that appear mid-thread.

104

Lisa 07.26.08 at 2:55 am

This post is very amusing. Finally, someone said it rather than requiring that we take umbrage on one tetchy side or the other. In a strange way, it was somewhat interesting for me as it suddenly dawned on me why tolerance isn’t some wishy–washy boring thing but a genuine civic virtue. I’ve thought little about tolerance over the years and sort of concluded it was sort of a minor wimpish virtue, entirely overshadowed by community or unity on the one hand and then intolerance for the truly icky. It’s clear to me now that tolerance is the best we can get and dang, I think we need it. There will be no friendly beer between the atheist and the priest at the local pub, as I was envisioning, in my naive way.

But if you want something to really sting, have a mass said in his name.

105

Seth Finkelstein 07.26.08 at 3:08 am

Regarding “Speaking of muslims, can anyone explain to me why they have not reacted publically to his desecrating pages of the Koran?” – the answer is because nobody in a similar position in the muslim world, as Bill Donohoe has in the Catholic world, has decided to make hay over it – yet.

106

Watts 07.26.08 at 3:12 am

You are assuming here that there are religious truths that one can know.

I think you’re interpreting “PZ knows bupkis” about religion incorrectly; you can know an awful lot about religion without, per se, being a believer, understanding, at the very least, the extensive history involved, and even the sociology and psychology — and you can understand the latter two without, not to put too fine a point on it, being a prick about it.

Myers may know a great deal about religion historically, but I’ve tried to read his blog on multiple occasions — one of my friends is a great fan — and he consistently comes across as if the extent of his interest in religion both begins and ends with the conclusion that it’s unscientific and has demonstrably lead to bad things. Yes, this is more logical and, dare one say, enlightened than the religious followers whose interest in science begins and ends with the conclusion that it makes them uncomfortable and can lead to questions they’d rather not face, but bluntly, that’s an awfully low bar to beat.

107

phosphorious 07.26.08 at 3:25 am

“So posphorious, just when exactly would be a good time to be obnoxious because a group of people insist on making their dogma into a law that I must follow?”

When they actually try to force you to believe it. Nobody is forcing PZ Myers to believe in transubstantiation. But is it outrageous that the catholic church insist that catholics take the host seriously? Admittedly, the death threats are outrageous. . .but they were directed by catholics against a catholic. I fail to see that Myers has a dog in that fight.

In addition, the whole point of communion, as I understand it, is that non-catholics are NOT forced to take it. . . in fact they are not allowed to receive it. This is one article of the faith that is not forced upon the world. . . which is why Myers had to steal a wafer.

Intelligent design? Gay Marriage? Birth Control? All good reasons to reject the church and fight them tooth and nail.

But this was exactly the wrong battle to pick.

108

Jim Harrison 07.26.08 at 3:33 am

When this affair began I was pretty sure that PZ Myers had jumped the shark. Now I’m not so sure. I believe it was Dr. Tartakower who pointed out that every chess game is won because of a mistake, but sometimes the mistake is made by the winner.

109

Righteous Bubba 07.26.08 at 3:40 am

Admittedly, the death threats are outrageous. . .but they were directed by catholics against a catholic. I fail to see that Myers has a dog in that fight.

Yes, you fail.

110

DAM10N 07.26.08 at 3:46 am

Daniel missed the boat, as did phosphorious (unless she was being tongue-in-cheek) and by a wide berth. “Nothing should be held sacred” refers (quite plainly) to no THING, rather than no ONE. P.Z. was mocking those who anthropomorphize (and thereby deify) crackers and books. Children, by contrast, are true moral subjects, not merely objects. You guys seem to have overlooked the entire point of this excercise. It was supposed to be a few mental laps, not a mental lapse.

111

DAM10N 07.26.08 at 4:00 am

Because one can easily separate blind faith in dogma re: crackers from issues such as evolution/ID, reproductive rights, and the proper definition of marriage. Hey, it ‘s not as if the same faulty logic underlies all these contentious issues.

Unless of course, it does. Perhaps believing every ridiculous dogma that Rome vomits forth is really is the fundamental problem we are facing here. In which case, why not start with something patently ridiculous, like transubstantiation?

112

Seth Finkelstein 07.26.08 at 4:04 am

My take on the, err, evolution (sorry) of this incident is that it started out as a bit of snarking at a news item, like one sees on high-traffic blogs every day, and then escalated wildly. But you’d have to condemn a lot of blogging (which maybe one would want to do) to read too much into the origins.

113

Dan S. 07.26.08 at 4:05 am

The Santa Claus business is acceptable only because it’s understood that children will eventually be told the truth

Wait – what?

Glaivester 07.26.08 at 12:32 am

Oh crap, one of those.

what Steve Sailer calls “liberal creationism,” that is, the idea that evolution has no produced any variation between human populations.

But of course, PZ and everyone else fully realizes that evolution has produced variations between human populations – lactose tolerance is a great big biggy, and then there’s skin color and all that, and any number of fairly obscure things, some just emerging in recent studies. What we don’t do is grasp any paper-thin excuse to believe that brown people are in general moronic subhumans, nor do we blindly accept “research” by (for example) people who had to be disciplined by their institution for wandering around a local shopping mall asking men to talk to him about their penises, and whose major contribution to “science” is a kind of racialized version of ‘The Three Bears’ .

114

Dan S. 07.26.08 at 4:09 am

I fail to see that Myers has a dog in that fight.

For years now I’ve been waiting for the right time to make a comment about ‘having a [member of the] Dominican [order] in that fight’. Sadly, this is not that time.

115

Rich Puchalsky 07.26.08 at 4:11 am

“Of course, he had to invade Iraq to pull it off . . .”

rea wins.

116

ScentOfViolets 07.26.08 at 4:29 am

Intelligent design? Gay Marriage? Birth Control? All good reasons to reject the church and fight them tooth and nail.

But this was exactly the wrong battle to pick

This makes no sense. Mocking the dogma – using ridicule as a weapon – has been used for literally _millenia_. Are you saying you don’t get this? I’ve made snarky comments myself pertaining to crackers and body parts when discussing the absurd opposition to gay marriage and other matters of doctrine. Things like, “Well, these people also believe a cracker can turn into a dead body and wine can turn into blood. I don’t think we need to take their views on anything concerning science seriously.”

I might also mention that my daughter was baptized in a Catholic church, her mother is Catholic, my mother is Catholic, about 3/4 of my whole family is Catholic . . . and not a single one believes that jive about ‘the blood and the body.’ So you’re wrong those counts as well.

I also detest this use of convenient proxys. If the church really found Donohue’s statements disagreeable, they could lean on him plenty hard. If the people who claim that what Donohue and his claque did was reprehensible, they could lean on their priests, bishops, etc. to do something about him. They haven’t done that to any extent that I’ve seen. I have seen a lot of hand-wringing over the fact that while Donohue may be behaving badly, there’s really nothing anyone can do about it.

As the Church Lady says, “How _conveeeeeenient_.”

117

Luke 07.26.08 at 4:34 am

It sure is great that God will no longer repeat the Great Flood which killed millions of innocent infants and children.

118

Dave Maier 07.26.08 at 4:39 am

I believe it was Dr. Tartakower who pointed out that every chess game is won because of a mistake, but sometimes the mistake is made by the winner.

I don’t remember who said it, but the way I heard it was: “the winner of every chess game is the player who makes the next-to-the-last mistake.”

119

Colin Danby 07.26.08 at 4:40 am

Thanks to Watts (106). I don’t know where Dave’s weird misreading (96) comes from.

120

bad Jim 07.26.08 at 4:52 am

One bit of background that’s missing from the discussion is that Donohue is a bully who actually gets people fired. His bluster actually kept Amanda Marcotte and another feminist blogger from working for the Edwards campaign, and he was trying to get a student expelled from a public university for mistreating a host.

It’s generally held that the best way to stop a bully is to stand up to him, which Myers did. Anything less than a threat to desecrate a wafer wouldn’t have done the job.

As for the differences between a consecrated wafer and a banknote: you can’t manufacture a banknote by casting a magic spell upon a blank slip of paper. It is not difficult to distinguish a banknote from a blank slip. The value of a banknote is a function of its scarcity. Better analogies, please.

121

Colin Danby 07.26.08 at 5:04 am

Yer kidding, right, bad J? Myers’ stunt is an absolute gift to someone like Donohue. You want to “stand up,” make the case on principle, not long-winded rants and photos of your kitchen garbage.

SEK made a relevant point in a different context here:
http://edgeofthewest.wordpress.com/2008/07/13/but-but-but%e2%80%94he-started-it/
Stirring up trolls, and then “claim[ing] to demonstrate the abiding truth about your political opponents via the behavior of trolls” is silly. Worse than silly.

122

bad Jim 07.26.08 at 5:14 am

Colin, I’m not saying that it was a wise or effective gesture, just pointing out its motivation. For what it’s worth, Ms. Marcotte was appreciative.

One of the comical aspects of this affair was the insistence of the angry Catholics, even as they were making death threats, that at least they weren’t as violent as the Muslims, a sentiment that one wit dubbed “fatwa envy”. So far, the Muslims don’t seem to have taken umbrage over Myer’s adding a few pages of an English copy of the Koran to his kitchen garbage.

123

Seth Finkelstein 07.26.08 at 5:17 am

What PZ Myers is doing is not to “make the case on principle”, but trying to move the “Overton window” of social acceptability regarding how nonbelievers can campaign against religious ideas. This is especially valuable with respect to those who instinctively want to be middle-of-the-road types.

124

phosphorious 07.26.08 at 6:23 am

“I might also mention that my daughter was baptized in a Catholic church, her mother is Catholic, my mother is Catholic, about 3/4 of my whole family is Catholic . . . and not a single one believes that jive about ‘the blood and the body.’ So you’re wrong those counts as well.”

This I don’t get: do they also reject the church’s position on gay marriage and abortion and so on? If so, in what sense are they catholic? Can vegans eat meat, and see nothing wrong with eating meat?

And if they reject that “jive” about transubstantiation, but accept all the other crap. . . then attacking transubstantiation obviously doesn’t make a difference.

Right?

125

Nylund 07.26.08 at 6:28 am

Why did the Catholics feel the need to go after PZ at all? Can’t one assume that if God is real and Catholicism is the one true faith that if God does not punish PZ in the here and now, he surely will in the afterlife? Isn’t any sort of action taken against PZ either a display of your own lack of faith in God, or else a sort of unfair “double-jeopardy” where PZ is getting punished twice for the same crime?

126

Cabalamat 07.26.08 at 7:06 am

The secular humanists’ Achilles Heel isn’t their reverence for any particular book or artefact – it’s their wildly disproportionate hatred of religious education.

Not true, for example I’m very much in favour of religious education :-)

127

noen 07.26.08 at 7:21 am

ScentOfViolets
just when exactly would be a good time to be obnoxious because a group of people insist on making their dogma into a law that I must follow?

There is never a good time to be an obnoxious jerk. This is something you should have learned as a child. I am just as concerned about religious fundamentalism as anyone and believe we should fight against their influence. This is not how you do that. If you are really interested in fighting religious intolerance what you need to do is to organize and build alliances. Prof. Meyers has made that task more difficult and set us all back a few years.

Paul Gowder
I don’t buy this “myths are not lies” bullshit—if I tell someone something that I know is false, I’m lying to them.

You don’t even know what myths really are nor what their social purpose is. I grew up watching Joseph Campbell’s “The Power of Myth”. I’m sure you could find the book or the videos somewhere. I recommend them. I am a non-believer and yet I have great respect for how myths structure experience. If you are incapable of understanding how something can be neither true nor false then I don’t know how we can communicate. It’s a very inhuman thing this absolute belief in a binary world of black and white.

But I don’t buy the constant claims that religion is on an epistemic par with science.

That is not the claim being made. I’m not sure I can explain it for reasons given above.

Because that way lieth global skepticism

That is the big fear isn’t it? The yawning abyss that threatens to open beneath your feet.

bad Jim
Donohue is a bully who actually gets people fired. His bluster actually kept Amanda Marcotte and another feminist blogger from working for the Edwards campaign

Amanda sabotaged her own career. It was a huge mistake for the Edwards campaign to hire either of those two loose cannons. Lindsay Beyerstein said as much at the time and she was right. Politics is not a game for the self-righteous.

Jim Harrison
every chess game is won because of a mistake,

Life is not a game of chess. Do you really believe that that’s what life is all about? That this is all one big game and if you are really smart and make the right move you’ll come out on top? Really, I feel very sorry for you. You have some big lessons in store for you. I hope your paying attention.

128

Paul Gowder 07.26.08 at 7:43 am

Noen… I don’t even know where to start with this.

Joseph Campbell?! Nothing but warmed-over Jungian mysticism, with a dose of Taoism for spice.

Not knowing how something can be neither true or false? Let’s get the sorts of sentences we’re talking about clear here. In large part, we’re talking about simple declarative sentences, like “God made rainbows” or “some guy blew a trumpet and the city walls fell down,” or “the cracker turns into the body of Christ.” What kind of a meaning are you giving these sentences?

Sorry, was that inhuman? Such melodrama! And then there’s the “yawning abyss”… please.

129

Dave 07.26.08 at 8:26 am

[not the one at #96] I’d just like to say “wow!” Clearly CT is as vulnerable to religious warfare as every other corner of the interwebs. Into three-figure comments in less than 24 hrs, and we’re not even discussing Israel!

Best line so far: “I grew up watching Joseph Campbell’s “The Power of Myth”. ” Gee, it must have been fun in your house. Did you have special times of the day for the ceremony? A nice pointy hat?

130

bad Jim 07.26.08 at 8:28 am

Oy. So missing the point about the chess anecdotes. “It isn’t right. It’s not even wrong!”

Just to make things clear to the international audience: in America, only 73% of atheists don’t believe in god, according to a recent Pew survey. Roughly a quarter avow a naturalistic view of evolution; the rest agree that godidit.

Within that context, it’s not without value for someone to stand up and say “I don’t respect your religious magic and I’m not afraid of the power of your bully pulpit.* This is a free country.”

* All puns intended

131

abb1 07.26.08 at 8:36 am

Dollar bill is an excellent analogy. Money is our God, people routinely kill and die for money, not to mention lie, cheat, and betray. Dollar bill is, of course, the symbol of our God’s body (or maybe it’s a Euro coin these days). The fact that there is a law against destroying it makes it even more conspicuous.

Outside this religion, in some lost Amazon tribe for example, it has no value whatsoever and the passions induced by it look like madness. Excellent analogy.

Of course hardly anyone would object to burning a dollar bill, but destroying, say, a million of them would’ve certainly caused a controversy, like that woman who died recently and left millions to her dog.

132

bad Jim 07.26.08 at 8:38 am

Forgot to mention that rainbows remind me of Ganymede.

133

Britta 07.26.08 at 9:22 am

Hmm… I don’t know if I dare add to a 130+ comment thread, but my first thought about hearing all of this is: desecrating the host is sooo 17th century. Perhaps PZ Meyers should read Sade’s “Lusts of the Libertines” for inspiration.

But all silliness aside, an important nitpick. Since Catholics believe in transubstantiation, desecrating a wafer is not desecrating a *symbol,* of Jesus, but the actual body of Jesus itself. That may seem like a minor distinction, but it actually is fairly important in terms of significance imported to it. Once the wafer has become Jesus, it becomes a powerful ritual object, and an integral part of religious practice. That’s why participation in communion in the Catholic church is heavily restricted to only those considered adequately qualified to handle the spiritual responsibilities of receiving the host. Although different, desecrating the host draws parallels to banning headscarves as “symbols of religious ostentation” in that “militantly atheist” nation France, in that the supporters of the ban confuse religious symbolism with religious practice.

Finally, yes, to me (an agnostic Lutheran), transubstantiation seems like a silly concept, and obviously the reaction of some Catholics has been extreme. But if it’s a central part of people’s belief system and it’s not actively bothering you or your lifestyle, I don’t see why anyone should enter someone else’s ritual space, commit several major violations (accepting communion w/out being a Catholic & running off with the host) and then brag about it on their blog unless they want to be considered a blowhard. Chances are if it weren’t Catholics being insulted, but Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, etc, there’d be a different reaction from many of those who denounce all religion as nothing more than mumbo jumbo and claptrap.

134

alvin lucier 07.26.08 at 11:08 am

“wildly disproportionate hatred of religious education.”

Idiot

135

kris 07.26.08 at 11:11 am

Britta,
Actually insults to buddhists and the ilk are pretty common among religious churches here in the U.S (e.g some of the baptist churches) and also by catholics (e.g the pope). However, there is not particularly much outrage about it.

noen,
Whatever you may think about the wisdom of Mr Myers in getting into this fracas, I think he is really the victim here and does not deserve what he is getting. There is little point in blaming him as many others have done. I also think that there are a lot of nasty things about religious beliefs that go against the grain of many who may not subscribe to them, but their feelings are rarely given the weight you seem to ascribe to those catholics who may have been offended. There is a clear double standard here, and I think a lot of the criticism he gets from otherwise rational people implicitly subscribes to this double standard by accepting the rules of “politeness” about religious belief.

136

David Tomlin 07.26.08 at 12:28 pm

It’s good for children to be lied to by adults. It’s how they learn not to trust them.

137

David Tomlin 07.26.08 at 12:32 pm

Cabalamat , your cartoon teacher is also being untruthful. Muslims believe in the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus. I think the resurrection is explicitly mentioned in the Koran.

138

dsquared 07.26.08 at 12:56 pm

But if you want something to really sting, have a mass said in his name.

yeah, but that would be a bit like overkill – at the end of the day, it was just a fricking cracker.

139

Dave 07.26.08 at 1:58 pm

Full circularity achieved. Can we stop now?

140

Britta 07.26.08 at 2:05 pm

Kris–
It’s one thing to make fun of a religious group, it’s another to attend a religious ceremony, lie, violate ritual space, steal an artifact and make fun of it. If you went to a Buddhist temple, made off with something, and desecrated it on your blog, I’d assume you were being a bit of an asshole.

141

abb1 07.26.08 at 2:14 pm

If you went to a Buddhist temple, made off with something, and desecrated it on your blog, I’d assume you were being a bit of an asshole.

Yes, but he starts with accusing Catholics of being assholes. Though not recently, which kinda makes his righteous indignation less convincing.

142

Dan S. 07.26.08 at 2:27 pm

at the end of the day, it was just a fricking cracker.

But as touched on above, if it’s just a fricking cracker, he did something far worse than sacrilege – he wasted food. If my grandmother was still around, I think she’d be sending him death threats. Or at least highly guilt-inducing letters.

And as for ripping pages out of books . . .

143

ScentOfViolets 07.26.08 at 2:30 pm

noen: “There is never a good time to be an obnoxious jerk. ” Right. That’s why Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” is usually condemned – oh wait.

On another note: offering up unsupported opinions is usually considered very bad form, as well as making you look ridiculous when they are so easily refuted. Next time, give reasons for your opinions.

phosphorious:

“I might also mention that my daughter was baptized in a Catholic church, her mother is Catholic, my mother is Catholic, about 3/4 of my whole family is Catholic . . . and not a single one believes that jive about ‘the blood and the body.’ So you’re wrong those counts as well.”

This I don’t get: do they also reject the church’s position on gay marriage and abortion and so on? If so, in what sense are they catholic? Can vegans eat meat, and see nothing wrong with eating meat?

Sigh. It’s obvious that you don’t get a lot of commonly understood actions. Most Catholics also reject the Church’s official stance on birth control as well. Does that make them not Catholic? Do you mean to tell me that you’ve never heard the term “Cafeteria Catholic”?

And if they reject that “jive” about transubstantiation, but accept all the other crap. . . then attacking transubstantiation obviously doesn’t make a difference.

Sigh. The _point_ is not to attack transubstantiation as absurd; the point is to attack the synthetic ‘outrage’ . I would be not be surprised if most of those who made death threats against the kid in this case really think that wine literally turns into the blood of Christ. What gets them going is the ‘desecration’ bit. Did you not at least look at the first few minutes of that ‘Four Horseman’ video? And you still ventured to put forth your uninformed opinion?

I’m outraged, outraged, Dammit!!! And I demand an apology for you being so insulting!!!!!

144

ScentOfViolets 07.26.08 at 2:31 pm

noen: “There is never a good time to be an obnoxious jerk. ” Right. That’s why Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” is usually condemned – oh wait.

On another note: offering up unsupported opinions is usually considered very bad form, as well as making you look ridiculous when they are so easily refuted. Next time, give reasons for your opinions.

phosphorious:

“I might also mention that my daughter was baptized in a Catholic church, her mother is Catholic, my mother is Catholic, about 3/4 of my whole family is Catholic . . . and not a single one believes that jive about ‘the blood and the body.’ So you’re wrong those counts as well.”

This I don’t get: do they also reject the church’s position on gay marriage and abortion and so on? If so, in what sense are they catholic? Can vegans eat meat, and see nothing wrong with eating meat?

Sigh. It’s obvious that you don’t get a lot of commonly understood actions. Most Catholics also reject the Church’s official stance on birth control as well. Does that make them not Catholic? Do you mean to tell me that you’ve never heard the term “Cafeteria Catholic”?

And if they reject that “jive” about transubstantiation, but accept all the other crap. . . then attacking transubstantiation obviously doesn’t make a difference.

Sigh. The _point_ is not to attack transubstantiation as absurd; the point is to attack the synthetic ‘outrage’ . I would be not be surprised if most of those who made death threats against the kid in this case really think that wine literally turns into the blood of Christ. What gets them going is the ‘desecration’ bit. Did you not at least look at the first few minutes of that ‘Four Horseman’ video? And you still ventured to put forth your uninformed opinion?

I’m outraged, outraged, Dammit!!! And I demand an apology for you being so insulting!!!!!

145

seth edenbaum 07.26.08 at 3:02 pm

We tell ourselves stories in order to live.
That’s the simple response to Myers. Do any of you think he doesn’t make use of some fictional “meaning” behind his ideology of facts?

A scientist working on the NASA/European Huygens probe described her relation to on of Saturn’s moons as “like love.” She’s in love with a rock.
This isn’t about science or religion this is about desire and whose desires are morally superior and who is more “in love with truth.”
There is no truth. Significance is a fiction. Stories offer comfort and some people love making stories out of facts. They fall in love with facts, and mere perceptions make them nervous, because perceptions aren’t shared.
Ohhh! Scaawy!!!
What can Myers say about Israel and Palestine or any other political issue where atheists too may disagree passionately or even violently? Not one damn thing. I posted a link. at #44 read it. The chapter title to look it is #15 . Explain it by means of facts and not perceptions.

Myers is fixated on the known and knowable, the simplest things. So he says life is simple. And he does, or he wouldn’t be getting in these fights.
Or maybe he’s just another Platonist like Steven Weinberg
I’m fucking sick to death of arguing with people with the emotional lives of preadolescents, or worse, with those who want to pretend that’s where they’re at. Myers’ politics is the politics of a simpleton. He’s a pedant arguing with cowards. Some people are guided by interpretations of the Bible or the Koran. Some take it literally. We’re guided by some piece of paper written 200 years ago by a bunch of slave owners. How unscientific is that? Especially since some people take it literally?
Autism is not a valid model for the intellectual life.

146

Kris 07.26.08 at 3:49 pm

Britta,
That is an interesting analogy. I admit that the youtube video he has is a bit tasteless, though I think it really is in reaction to the initial response he got. I should point out in this context (of desecration) that many of the asian idols and statuettes found in museums in the West were obtained by desecrating temples and similar monuments. I am sure there are some very religious people who would be extremely offended that these are objects of curiousity rather than worship.

abb1,
I am not sure that your remarks were directed my way. If you thought I was being needlessly insulting to (southern) baptists, here are a couple of links about their *prayer guides*:
http://www.religioustolerance.org/sbc_pray1.htm
http://www.religioustolerance.org/sbc_pray1.htm

note that they are not exactly a fringe church.
If you thought I was insulting the pope, here is a sample of what the
current his holiness had to say (about buddhism):
http://www.jstor.org/pss/1390460

See, I have no real problem with people saying insulting things about religions; I think that all religious doctrine should be subject to attack and criticism. What I do find offensive is the hypocrisy behind all this outrage about Mr Myers’ actions. There is no comparable offense taken when a prominent catholic or many other religious figures say something nasty or offensive about other religions. It is almost as if this is kind of expected from them. Where is this convention of “politeness” when it comes to their remarks? So, yes Mr Myers may have been a bit tasteless, but he surely does not deserve this sort of opprobium (death threats etc). It does no service to free expression to generally attack him for breaking some fictitious conventions of “politeness”.

147

John Emerson 07.26.08 at 3:59 pm

Myer’s action should be compared to the things you do to maintain your right to an easement. If you don’t do them your right becomes moot or null. America is a secular nation and religious symbols do not have the protection of law. We need to keep being reminded of this; there’s an aggressive effort afoot to make people forget it.

148

Colin Danby 07.26.08 at 4:11 pm

Thanks to Britta for making a point I could only gesture at earlier. Rituals have structure and sequence and make community.

The counterexample would be the chocolate crucifixion that Mr. Donohue was upset about some years back. In that case someone could retort that it was just a symbol (admittedly a centrally powerful symbol) that had been appropriated. There was no interference with ritual.

The ritual point is *recognized* by a desecrator — PZM does *not* write long blog posts about tossing out ordinary saltines. Anyone who goes to the trouble of obtaining a consecrated wafer, making up their own counter-ritual to damage it, and documenting the whole thing, is being totally disingenuous when they say it’s “just a cracker.”

149

phosphorious 07.26.08 at 4:22 pm

Scent of Violets said:

“Sigh. The point is not to attack transubstantiation as absurd”

First, stop sighing. If the argument bores you, or is beneath you then go away.

Second, “The point is. . . ” Whose point? Yours? Myers? The Four Horsemen?

OF COURSE the point was to ridicule transubstantiation. If you don’t see that, then we are not arguing about the same thing.

Sigh.

150

abb1 07.26.08 at 4:24 pm

Kris 146,
no, I meant that PZ Myers starts his post with a long list of outrages committed by Catholics, and that list, as I understand, somehow leads to his action and justifies it.

Thus Britta’s analogy:

If you went to a Buddhist temple, made off with something, and desecrated it on your blog, I’d assume you were being a bit of an asshole.

is incomplete, unless he can attach to it a list of outrages committed by Buddhist, who, I heard, are the nicest people imaginable. Or maybe not, what do I know.

151

pez 07.26.08 at 4:43 pm

My problem, if it can be called a problem, with the “This Old Cracker” DIY stunt is that it wasn’t funny. If you’re going to mock religion, then at least be creative and funny. The wafer and book defilement was just boring, IMHO. Watching paint dry is more interesting, especially if it’s a pretty color.

Watching old Monty Python reruns last night reminded me of how much I enjoy funny mockery of religion – in particular, I watched “The Bishop” sketch (C of E Films Presents, etc.), in which the title character is driven around in a convertible Firebird, has a sceptre-phone, and always arrives on the scene late (“We was too late- Rev. Neuk bit the ceiling”). “Life of Brian” is hilarious (“He’s not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy!”), and “Holy Grail” also mocks religion. It doesn’t have to be British humor either-both South Park and The Simpsons have numerous episodes about religion, and they’re clever and funny.

152

Paul Gowder 07.26.08 at 4:52 pm

Someone (145) finally spat out the “there is no truth” line. I think that’s up there with hitlering a thread… is it time to stick a fork in it? Doubtless.

153

seth edenbaum 07.26.08 at 5:15 pm

There is no “truth” there are only known and unknown facts and perceptions concerning facts. And perceptions color everything.
If you’re going to defend natural law don’t call your self a secularist. Or by natural law would you mean survival of the fittest? Then we’d have a discussion on our hands.
It’s important that empiricists as secularists attack pedants like Myers. Rationalism is founded on certainty and that certainty is founded on faith. I don’t fall in love with rocks, deep fat fryers or sewing machines. I don’t replace experience with numbers and then try to overlay one over the other just to make myself feel better.
The disease of the 20th century was conceptualism.

154

noen 07.26.08 at 5:19 pm

He means Truth, not truth.

155

Jim Harrison 07.26.08 at 5:24 pm

My impression is that transubstantiation became important in Catholic theology and ritual because the laity insisted on it. Believing that Christ is literally present in the host is, sophistries aside, sheer idolatry, entirely equivalent to the old pagan notion that Zeus is in the statute. As superstition in a superlative degree, it is not merely a mystery of the faith but a studied insult to reason and served as such for thousands of years as it obliged Catholic philosophers and theologians to tie themselves into pretzels to make some kind of sense out of nonsense. PZ Myers is an unlikely and accidental participant in an ancient struggle inside a religion he obviously knows little about. There have always been Donohues.

156

mtraven 07.26.08 at 5:59 pm

John Emerson — I don’t think anybody (here that is) has said that Myers’ actions are or ought to be illegal. He has the right to be an asshole, but that doesn’t mean it’s a right that should be exercised, especially by someone who is a tenured academic and thus ought to have a little more judgment, discretion, and wisdom.

A secular liberal polity requires that people be allowed to have their private spaces in which they can exercise their weird beliefs while keeping the public sphere secular. Actions like Myers’, by consciously invading and desecrating someone else’s religious symbols, serve to damage the walls between church and state, and gives people like Bill Donohue an excuse to appear on TV and call for blasphemy laws.

157

Jon 07.26.08 at 6:12 pm

who cares?

158

Wax Banks 07.26.08 at 6:22 pm

Fucking brilliant.

159

Picador 07.26.08 at 6:58 pm

I’m basically of the view “it’s all fun and games until the Danish Embassy gets burned down”.

Er… so the idea is, it’s fine to make fun of someone’s irrational delusions, but you have to start being respectful toward their delusions when it gets to the point where those delusions drive the people in question to commit acts of terrorism?

I’m honestly baffled here, Daniel. I understand that this is a joke, but you seem to be blaming the victim here, and it’s disturbing.

160

Arnaud 07.26.08 at 7:42 pm

“Believing that Christ is literally present in the host is, sophistries aside, sheer idolatry”.

How do you make the distinction here between religion and idolatry? This accusation of knowing little of the religion they criticize has been leveled at PZ, Dawkins and others countless time and does not become more convincing by sheer repetition. Beside the fact that somebody like Dawkins or Dennet know far more about their own religion than the average christian (whose knowledge of theology is, in my experience, very poor) it is also inconsistent. If you don’t accept the proofs given for the existence of god, pointless discussion about its presence in this or that will always leave you cold.

Also mtraven, a right that you cannot exercise does not exist.

161

FL 07.26.08 at 7:48 pm

Zeus is in the statute.

The wall between church and state really has crumbled…

162

seth edenbaum 07.26.08 at 8:01 pm

“I understand that this is a joke, but you seem to be blaming the victim here,”
You mean the iraqis?

This all reminds me of this thread from your own past. Belle Waring makes an ass out of herself, as usual. D2 also (it happens).

I don’t think in the 5 years I’ve been reading this page, I’ve read one description of a logically and emotionally complex situation that didn’t rely on generalizations, boilerplate and cheap sentiment. D2 is a hilarious ironist, but that doesn’t solve the problem.

163

abb1 07.26.08 at 9:02 pm

Also mtraven, a right that you cannot exercise does not exist.

True, but some rights can only exist as long as they are not exercised much. If enough people started insulting each other’s religions, it would probably soon create a compelling public interest to do away with this right, and it would be gone; a little paradox here. Nobody wants that and that’s why PC was invented.

164

Arnaud 07.26.08 at 9:32 pm

abb1,
This was the whole point of the “cracker stunt”, namely the idea that “it’s just a frikkin cracker”. Cracker abuse is just not comparable or equivalent to racial abuse. The fact that some people say the cracker is holy does not make it so. Religion is an idea and as such can be discussed and, if need be, ridiculed.

Your opinion would I suppose make sense if we had not in the past few years, well before the motoons affair in fact, seen the religious clamoring for more and more “respect”, for a special and protected place in the public arena, from which they can talk down to us and try to order our lives without being held to account. They have become very good at pretending to be victims (think of the War on Christmas) while grabbing for more and more of their old influence.

You know, I am starting to think that in some weird ways, PZ is showing more respect for the Catholic drones howling right now for his blood and that of his family than all the “I suppose he is right in theory but he shouldn’t act all surprised when he received death threats” people. He seems to actually think that they are potentially able to think rationally, that somehow, his ideas could ultimately go through to them. He makes a nice change from the smugness of some so-called liberals who think of them only as an ineducable plebe.

165

Jim Harrison 07.26.08 at 10:35 pm

Like many if not most of the posters here, I assume that the factual claims of all religions are simply false in every particular. From a literal point of view, liberal Protestantism or the humane, moderate religiosity of Augustinian Catholics like Gary Wills is no better than the barely baptized paganism of Donohue. Religiosity is certainly not reducible to a system of propositions, however. Which system of error predominates makes a lot of difference politically and culturally, even to those of us who decline to believe in anything. Anyhow, religious and philosophical traditions based on false premises can nevertheless produce significant results–at least I hope they can, since the chances of my own premises being true are also problematic.

166

mtraven 07.26.08 at 10:50 pm

Arnaud said: The fact that some people say the cracker is holy does not make it so.

What a weird statement. It seems to imply that holiness is some natural property, independent of human action. What else could make something holy, other than a group of people saying it is? Or are you saying that nothing can possibly be holy?

167

mtraven 07.26.08 at 10:57 pm

Jim Harrison (#165): I offer you the Dalai Lama, who has said:

If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change. In my view, science and Buddhism share a search for the truth and for understanding reality. By learning from science about aspects of reality where its understanding may be more advanced, I believe that Buddhism enriches its own world view….

168

noen 07.26.08 at 11:08 pm

The fact that some people say the cracker is holy does not make it so.

Actually, that is exactly what makes anything sacred. You seem to be demanding that everyone believe as you do. In order to get along we all have to accept that there are other people in this world whom we cannot control. This is called growing up.

the religious clamoring for more and more “respect”, for a special and protected place in the public arena, from which they can talk down to us and try to order our lives without being held to account.

How dare they! That’s your job!

169

ScentOfViolets 07.26.08 at 11:39 pm

phosphorious

Scent of Violets said:

“Sigh. The point is not to attack transubstantiation as absurd”

First, stop sighing. If the argument bores you, or is beneath you then go away.

I don’t find the argument boring. I do find your thick-wittedness a bit much though. Particularly since I can’t help but think it’s deliberate.

Second, “The point is. . . ” Whose point? Yours? Myers? The Four Horsemen?

OF COURSE the point was to ridicule transubstantiation. If you don’t see that, then we are not arguing about the same thing.

Right. Because, after all, PZ was going to ‘desecrate’ a cracker no matter what. That’s what the times called for. It had no – absolutely none – connection with the fact that the people who claim to believe in transubstantiation made some death threats. And to a kid at that. You see what I mean about being exasperated with the general dim-wittedness?

Sigh.

_I_ can do that. _You_ can’t. You don’t think obnoxiousness is called for, remember? Or is this an illustration of what’s really being said by these religious types (and to which a lot of us object to): _they_ can be obnoxious as they want. It’s about ‘religious beliefs’, after all. But if the obnoxiousness goes in the other direction, well, then it’s time to play the outrage card.

In that event, thanks for the illustration, and for demonstrating why these folks deserve a little push-back going their way.

170

concerned bystander 07.27.08 at 1:43 am

“no – absolutely none – connection with the fact that the people who claim to believe in transubstantiation made some death threats. “
Uhm, well, gosh, wait a minute, isn’t there a term for that? When the acts of some members of a group are treated as acts undertaken by all members?

Americans in Iraq.
Terrorist Muslims.
Catholics making death threats.
Collective guilt, that’s it. Inviting collective punishment.

Nutball zealots attack some kid for breaching the sacrosanct. Myers attacks the organization those nutballs get their nutball identities from.
The non-violent non-threat-making Catholics who have their sensibilities tromped on by Myers’ righteous-indignation-in-action are just collateral damage, because this too is a war.
By whom against whom is a little murky.

171

ScentOfViolets 07.27.08 at 2:03 am

So of course, you’ve got on the horn and given your priest an earful about hauling this Donohue character in, right? Lit a fire under a few Bishops? Called on the Church in general to give Donohue the boot?

172

Bert Chadick 07.27.08 at 2:27 am

I know nothing of Catholic magic, but in defense of PZ I will remind everyone that the good Doctor originally was just coming out in support of a teen who was being harassed by Donnahu’s thugs for spiriting a spiritual cracker out of their tabernacle, and chatting about it on the inerwebs. In passing I believe PZ asked for readers to send him a magic cookie. It was at this point that “Crackergate” was born.

I believe the brownshirts are still making the kid’s life miserable.

173

Righteous Bubba 07.27.08 at 2:37 am

The non-violent non-threat-making Catholics who have their sensibilities tromped on

Oh boo hoo. It’s remarkable that the church still has assets after all that kid-fucking and hushing up.

174

Roy Belmont 07.27.08 at 3:31 am

SCofV171:
What’s irritating and sad is the inability of otherwise intelligent and rational minds to see how inaccurate these acts are, regardless their motives at inception.

The death threats aren’t issuing from the majority of the Catholic faithful. Who feel, naturally enough, attacked by the cracker-busters. Because they are.
The collateral damage thing there.
“Who cares? They’re all loonies anyway!”
This is not kind.
People who find refuge inside those church walls aren’t seeing welcoming hands outside them. They’re seeing sneering vicious mobs not much different than the one Donohue fronts.

RightBub 173:
Any idea what the ratio between liberation priests and nuns out on the front lines of Latin American struggle and pedophile priests is, or was?
Me neither.
Does the one discount the other?
I don’t think so.

But the public perception of all priests as pedophiles or parties to cover-ups goes a long way to discounting the very brave and unsung heroes of active Catholic engagement with the darkness that was Latin American politics for the last half of the 20th c.

The Catholic church may be a morally bankrupt and archaic institution whose time has long since passed, but that doesn’t make the lives of all active Catholics void and unimportant.
No more than thinking Saddam Hussein took down the WTC voids the lives of those simple folk who’ve bought that innuendo whole cloth.

The Pope, like our President and our presidential candidates, appears to be a Zionist lackey. Does that discount the Catholics in the Dorothy Day movement voluntarily working to feed the increasingly desperate American homeless?
How about the nuns who picket the gates of the School of the Americas? Tarred with the same brush?
I don’t think so.

Does ridiculing all Catholics give those selfless volunteers even more shit to deal with in their already overburdened days and nights?
I do think so.

Interesting how of all religious persuasions the Catholics when they do become activists are way past genteel and decorous when they hit the front lines. Any connect between that and the high profile media condemnations?
I think there maybe could be.

Yes Myers began by simply defending a smart-ass kid who bit off way more than he could chew.
But in the aftermath of that somewhat gallant gesture too many shotguns went off with all too little aim.
Should have been rifles instead, and they should have been carefully sighted on truly deserving targets.

Collateral damage is a disgusting rationalization for moral and strategic failure, no matter who’s using it.

175

Righteous Bubba 07.27.08 at 3:42 am

Any idea what the ratio between liberation priests and nuns out on the front lines of Latin American struggle and pedophile priests is, or was?
Me neither.
Does the one discount the other?
I don’t think so.

That’s a tedious way to say absolutely nothing.

Look, it’s an internet kafuffle in America where the church is most notorious for employing pedophiles and the current Pope is a guy who wrote the letter about keeping church investigations into that secret. Current American devotees of the church can like that or lump it.

176

Dan S. 07.27.08 at 4:56 am

. Anyone who goes to the trouble of obtaining a consecrated wafer, making up their own counter-ritual to damage it, and documenting the whole thing, is being totally disingenuous when they say it’s “just a cracker.”

Indeed, I found the symbolic and ritualistic nature of that damage – piercing it with a nail – extremely offputting: all else aside, that seems to grant the whole thing so much power and significance, albeit in a rather inverted way from the folks sending death threats over it.

There have always been Donohues.“‘
What a horrible thought.

A secular liberal polity requires that people be allowed to have their private spaces in which they can exercise their weird beliefs while keeping the public sphere secular. Actions like Myers’, by consciously invading and desecrating someone else’s religious symbols, serve to damage the walls between church and state, and gives people like Bill Donohue an excuse to appear on TV and call for blasphemy laws.

On the other hand, it’s possible to imagine that stuff like Myers’ desecratathon – intentionally 0r unintentionally – could act as a kind of unpleasant way to shore up those walls. That is, groups who step over the line – as in sending death threats and suchlike to a kid who did something dumb – get immediately slammed with this kind of symbolic violence. And they have to decide whether to sit there and take it (perhaps with some angry but quiet muttering and ineffectual protest), or to flip out, hereby alienating some of the growing number of secularists and secular-like people, many of whom may well decide the Myers is an arse, but these screeching Christers are worse.

Now, whether it would actually work that way, instead of being useless or acvtivele counterproductive, I’m really dubious. But hey . . .

177

mikey 07.27.08 at 5:15 am

Yes I see. D.D. will deliberately do harm to show that it’s harmful. This will be followed by a clear demonstration that bachelors are unmarried men. Liberals, one doubts the real presence of humour in them.

178

abb1 07.27.08 at 8:45 am

Mtraven 166 has a good point: “What else could make something holy, other than a group of people saying it is?” And group of people is not even necessary, it works on individual basis as well. For example: you visit your parents’ graves, bring flowers, you wouldn’t want anyone to – what’s the word? ah, – desecrate their graves or their ashes. Is that rational behavior – fricking ashes for chrissake. Why not flush them down the toilet?

179

bad Jim 07.27.08 at 9:23 am

I really do not understand some of the arguments raging above concerning the sacred nature of the wafer. I suspect that most of those advancing such arguments are at least as befuddled as I am, if perhaps more certain.

Godless simple-minded heathen that I am, when I hear two religious adherents alike proclaiming that there is only one god, I’m inclined to think they agree with each other. Look, if there’s only one god, and you both address your prayers to “God”, who else has access to the answering machine?

Sure, sure, sure, the Christian god is triune, and easily distinguished from a unitary god by anyone with a casual acquaintance with set theory, but then there’s the devil. Cool; there’s an even number of spirits now, whether two or four; we erstwhile Christians could perhaps graph them in two dimensions: essential against existential, or something.

Once you get past one god (and adding a devil or false gods will do that) it turns out that we can maintain as many different distinctions as we like. Blue, green, boy, girl, chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, blackberry, sideways, slideways, farside, darkside. Didn’t Hilbert say so?

So: theists: you only get one god and she’s the same for everyone, and you’re not allowed to complain that she’s fat, ugly and stinky (and what’s wrong with being fat, ugly and stinky anyway? Don’t you love your mother?)

180

Arnaud 07.27.08 at 9:56 am

“What a weird statement. It seems to imply that holiness is some natural property, independent of human action. What else could make something holy, other than a group of people saying it is? Or are you saying that nothing can possibly be holy?”

You see, mtraven, that’s the kind of smugness I was talking about. (Also note that I said holy, not sacred) You know that, I know that, I strongly suspect that PZ know that too. The problem is: he is not talking to you.

So I will make it easier for you. The holiness of the eucharist is not, for catholics, a social construct, it’s a quality coming directly from god. At least PZ Myers is not lost in some kind self-congratulatory group hug about how clever he is, he is talking to them. Well, yelling at them, maybe, but it still make a refreshing change.

the religious clamoring for more and more “respect”, for a special and protected place in the public arena, from which they can talk down to us and try to order our lives without being held to account.

How dare they! That’s your job!

Irrelevant and demonstrably false. I am a barman, the only occasion I have to tell people what to do is at closing time. A bishop or a pope on the other hand…. (I know it was a joke, Noen. But you know, a joke should be funny. Ideally it should also be original, but let’s not try to run before we can walk, hey?)

181

abb1 07.27.08 at 10:26 am

Arnaud, I don’t think ‘smugness’ is the right word. You are accusing them of something like ‘complacency’, and they accuse you of ‘intolerance’. Go on.

182

Dave 07.27.08 at 10:57 am

My sensibilities are deeply offended by the mere existence of many of the opinions expressed here, and almost anywhere else in blogland. Do you see me complaining? I really don’t see what any intelligent Catholic would have to say to PZM except ‘Huh, twit’. Not that I’d agree with them, but going beyond a shrug, *in what is supposed to be a secular republic*, is where the problem lies.

And yeah, I appreciate that religions are not good at shrugging at ‘desecrations’, for longstanding reasons. But see the bolded passage above.

183

engels 07.27.08 at 11:40 am

I think Myers’ stunt can be read in two ways. As an attempt to offend thousands of Catholics, many of whom do not share Myers’ educational and material advantages, it was irresponsible, unoriginal and futile. However, as an attempt to wind up a certain kind of bien pensant academic devotee of Ritual, Myth and Civic Virtue in the American Republic (TM) it was both more enjoyable and, judging by this thread, more effective.

184

John Emerson 07.27.08 at 1:11 pm

But that doesn’t mean it’s a right that should be exercised….

A right that’s never exercised is lost. Soviet citizens had lots of formal rights that meant nothing. Even in present-day Japan, insisting on your rights is condemned.

I think that atheists should be able to express their views as aggressively and offensively as Christians do. There’s a history of this kind of deliberate sacrilege, for example in France, and I think it’s a good thing in its small way.

I think that the response to Myers is of the “Let sleeping [mad] dogs lie” kind — the way leaders of black, gay or Jewish communities encouraged their people to keep a low profile (and for the same reasons). Myers is Mr. Atheist and Proud and should be supported.

There’s too much deference to religious wackos like Donahue in this country. They’re violent, ignorant, destructive, and wrong.

If I’m wrong, it’s because the U.S. is so far dominated by the right that atheists will never cease to be a pariah group and should accept that status. Religionists show now restraint at allin their condemnations of atheists.

P.S. Seth is wrong about Myers being a pedant. He’s fascinated by life forms and knows a lot about them, and he’s able to communicate his fascination to others. I read his blog mostly for the biology, and often skip the atheism. Seth seems to have mushed all of science into an ideological horror called Science.

185

Roy Belmont 07.27.08 at 1:21 pm

RB@175:
That you gain nothing from the lines isn’t evidence there’s nothing being said there.
And the (North)American notoriety of the RC may be more than a perceptual thing. As I was at pains to indicate.
Catholic academics know there’ve been Popes as corrupt as politicians ever get. The less educated sense that even if they don’t have the historical record of it. The dogma’s not as central as the institution insists. It’s the congregation.
Donohue’s like one of those post-9/11 guys with the 8-foot US flag mounted on his pickup-bed, tearing down the interstate at 80 miles per. Representative of something, but not accurately Americans generally.
Like Engels said, only maybe not futile, if the object was to intensify the polarity of distance between whoever and whoever.
And keep us divided.

186

s.e. 07.27.08 at 2:03 pm

Stomping on an American flag. On July 4th. Outside Arlington Cemetery.
Stomping the Israeli flag after a holocaust memorial event hosted by Steven Weinberg.
“It’s a gaddamn piece of cloth!”
It’s not about religion it’s about metaphysical valuation.
Myers is opposed to metaphysical valuation of inanimate objects, except perhaps as themselves?
“It’s a gaddamn piece of cloth! I love pieces of cloth. And look at the thread count! 400!!”
I do not fall in love with rocks. When I want to feel like doing something worthy of a public pat on the back I ponder moral responsibility and the relation of of perception and ideas of the “just.” But that’s just me I guess.

A pedant can be a good high school science teacher or an auto mechanic.
Myers is a pedant and a fool. Bien pensant? That’s the title they’ve been fighting over.

187

Giblets 07.27.08 at 2:16 pm

Stomping on an American flag. On July 4th. Outside Arlington Cemetery.

There oughtta be a law against it!

188

abb1 07.27.08 at 2:19 pm

A right that’s never exercised is lost. Soviet citizens had lots of formal rights that meant nothing.

A right that’s never exercised is not lost, it’s just not exercised. Our right to (say) have sex with aardvarks is not lost if no one cares to exercise it.

Soviet citizens had never lost any rights for neglecting to exercise them. They just never had those rights in the first place.

Perhaps what you meant to say is that you don’t know for sure if you really have a right until you (or someone else) exercises it without retribution? That’s fair enough, but I don’t think there is any doubt that in the US of A one can stab crackers on their blogs with impunity.

189

ScentOfViolets 07.27.08 at 2:31 pm

Roy Belmont

SCofV171:
What’s irritating and sad is the inability of otherwise intelligent and rational minds to see how inaccurate these acts are, regardless their motives at inception.

The death threats aren’t issuing from the majority of the Catholic faithful. Who feel, naturally enough, attacked by the cracker-busters. Because they are.
The collateral damage thing there.

Well, you can _claim_ that all you want. When I see these Catholic faithful demanding that the church hierarchy do something about Donohue and his crowd, that’s when I’ll believe it. Having proxies to do your dirty work without having to disown them is soooooo convenient, isn’t it?

190

John Emerson 07.27.08 at 2:43 pm

You’re full of shit, Seth. Myers is not a pedant. You probably have no idea what he does. To you I guess biology is boring and The Enemy. Your problem.

When Myers says “It’s just a cracker” he’s saying “You think that this is some big deal, but it’s just a cracker”. He’s not ingenuously saying “What’s the big deal? This is just a cracker, why would anyone care?” He’s not pretending that he wasn’t rying to offend anyone.

191

John Emerson 07.27.08 at 2:51 pm

Abb1, my friend! Please keep the aardvark fantasies to yourself. (For the record, we do not have a right to bestiality; we’ve lost that right).

The uproar over Myers’ desecration, and the timid responses of secular liberals, is evidence that he did the right thing.

Though it may be true that, because the Donahues will continue rule our world, we should keep a low profile. That’s the state of the argument as far as I’m concerned.

192

Roman Werpachowski 07.27.08 at 2:59 pm

“He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster.”

Nietzsche put it quite well.

There is a symmetry between fundamental preachers of religion and fundamental preachers of science. You take “God, God, God” and substitute with “facts, facts, facts”. But there are no facts… facts are what we want to think of as facts. When you start learning physics, you think “ah, so now we know what electrons are!”. Then you learn more and understand that electrons are in our heads only, they’re just abstract concepts. Physicists 50 years ago thought they had the world at their feet. Now it’s the biologists, like PZ.

People criticize the OP for “lying to a child”. Well — when we teach children about electrons flying around the atom following circular orbits, aren’t we lying to them as well? There’s no symmetry here, because our models of atoms (and the concept of atom itself) are useful, even if they are what they are — just stories. We build computers and cure disease using these stories. Stories about God and rainbow are also useful (for emotional reasons), but much less. So as I said, there is no symmetry. But there is also no opposition “Reality vs Myth”. No. There are only different stories, some of them more useful (and not force-fed at gunpoint), some of them less useful (and from time to time force-fed at gunpoint). PZ and his cohort think they are fundamentally better than religious fundies because a) they don’t send death threats and b) because they have “Reality”. a) is correct, b) is a scam.

193

s.e. 07.27.08 at 3:10 pm

“There oughtta be a law against it!”
Gimlets, that’s not the point.

194

s.e. 07.27.08 at 3:15 pm

” To you I guess biology is boring and The Enemy”
No John.
“Donahues will continue rule our world,”
They certainly rule Israel.

195

abb1 07.27.08 at 3:28 pm

I don’t really feel that the Donahues or Foxmans rule our world. They are just more shrill than the others, so what. It’s not Donahue who keeps you from being anti-Catholic, as it’s not Foxman who keeps you from being anti-Semitic.

196

s.e. 07.27.08 at 3:51 pm

I could quibble and say that Catholicism is a religion and Jews are an ethnicity. Israel was founded as a secular state.

To be “reactionary” is to act not on reflex. Myers acts on reflex no more or less than Donohue.
Here is an example of someone responding to reflex by trying to understand it and not simply responding in kind. It’s on object lesson.
It’s been ignored.

197

concerned bystander 07.27.08 at 4:02 pm

“Having proxies to do your dirty work without having to disown them is soooooo convenient, isn’t it?”
Convenient for the institution. That’s the point. The congregation’s along for the ride. The institution has its own well-being paramount, thus the cover-ups and the wimpy back-pedalling on scientific irrefutabilities.
You’re arguing the main thrust, and not responding to claims of collateral damage operant.
Indians violently cleared from land by vicious but sanctioned thugs, land then inherited by people who’ve never harmed an Indian in their lives. Yes convenient, yes, wrong. But the wrong transcends the individual actors, it’s an institutional thing, and sometimes, often, cheap catharsis does more harm than good. Arguing the validity of Myers et al’s stance on transubstantion , and the actions which proceed from it, is a waste of time. What’s crucial here is the fragmentation of the socius, where the barbs stick and in whom. You guys are saying it doesn’t matter as long as Donohue gets it. We’re saying there’s a default responsibility to everyone affected by the attack.
Smug clumps of semi-enlightened humans patting each other on the back and snarling at their enemies. With whom they have a lot more in common than they do with those whose selfish interests and actions lurk behind the immediate hoo-haw.
The service Dawkins and all do is no small thing, bending the course of human awareness back toward the real; the disservice is the lack of compassion, and humility, in much of their delivery.
Two qualities stressed mightily in the original iteration of what’s devolved into the church of the mindless, arrogant, and fatuously belligerent.

198

concerned bystander 07.27.08 at 4:03 pm

Sorry

199

Colin Danby 07.27.08 at 4:11 pm

Those of us who try to teach have to get conversations going across different understandings of the world and what makes knowledge. On PZM’s first post-desecration thread, a comment from “Emily Q” reads: “Thanks for making my job harder. I’m just a biology professor. I want people to see the universe in all its wonder as I see it. I just want people to understand the predictive power of Darwinian Evolution and the Modern Synthesis. I understand that this is hard and threatening to many people. They are more likely to listen to me if I don’t declare myself the Authority on All Things Rational and piss on their religious symbols.”

This is right. My initial question above was “How do you share community with people whose ritual lives and understandings of the world differ in important ways from yours.” How, to take a subset of that question, do I persuade a student to engage with material they think is wrong; how do I encourage a student to go take some science classes if their impression of the alternatives is the kind of thing you see above?

If your purpose in life is to annoy people, it’s easy to move to the most polarizing language you can manage, and then truculently, endlessly, insist on the right to annoy people. Yeah, you have that right. But to insist on applying a rights framework to the exclusion of other standards or questions, and moreover to argue that anyone who introduces *any* other consideration is therefore damaging rights, is vacuous.

200

Roman Werpachowski 07.27.08 at 4:14 pm

@s.e.

“Here is an example of someone responding to reflex by trying to understand it and not simply responding in kind. It’s on object lesson.”

My God, someone should really revive Lenin’s corpse to teach the Democrats a lesson: “Communism is Soviet power plus the electrification of the entire country”.

201

bicycle Hussein paladin 07.27.08 at 4:21 pm

@64, after 190+ comments, this one stands alongside the word “lolbertarians” as one thing I will probably still remember from Crooked Timber years from now, and chuckle at:

“Meyers doesn’t think he has a ritual life.
He’s lying, of course”

As for whether communion wafers are worth thousands of dollars, talk about taking the metaphor way too literally, and apparently never having taken intro micro-economics.

Let’s try a different amount: are communion wafers worth $20? No, right? Then I should be happy to give you a communion wafer in exchange for $20, right? Well, to get the wafer, the opportunity cost of my time (it’s probably going to take me at least a couple hours to get the dang thing) is worth more than $20. In other words, that 120 minutes or whatever could be spent working at my part-time job and earning $20. That’s not even counting the fact that I might not *like* lying to people whom I might have to socialize or do business with later on.

I could get you an ordinary saltine, or even a fake communion wafer, for much less than $20.

202

Righteous Bubba 07.27.08 at 4:24 pm

How, to take a subset of that question, do I persuade a student to engage with material they think is wrong; how do I encourage a student to go take some science classes if their impression of the alternatives is the kind of thing you see above?

Gee, I dunno. How did you do it before the infamous cracker incident when there was no blasphemy in the world?

203

s.e. 07.27.08 at 4:44 pm

Self-righteous Blubba.
Gee, I dunno. How can you expect Zionists to listen to your defense of Palestinian rights if you you have a swastika tattooed on your arm?

204

mtraven 07.27.08 at 4:48 pm

Emerson 184: Argh. Just because you have the right to do something, doesn’t mean you should do it. For instance, the 1st amendment says you have the right to say things that are stupid, hateful, or nonesensical — that doesn’t mean you should do so.

There is a line between expressing your views aggressively, and deliberately violating the sacraments and rituals of somone else, and PZ crossed that line. You mention France’s tradition of sacrilege, as if the bloody religous warfare of Europe is something we would want to emulate.

Arnaud 180, it appears to me as if you are being the smug one, by assuming that the religious plebes are incapable of reflection, incapable of acknowledging the existence of other belief systems, and incapable of existing peacefully in a pluralistic society. Let’s hope that’s not the case.

PZ and Donohue are both appealing to the unreflective, intolerant side of human nature. They are promoting conflict, they are both promoting their own stature by stoking the flames of conflict.

205

Righteous Bubba 07.27.08 at 4:58 pm

How can you expect Zionists to listen to your defense of Palestinian rights if you you have a swastika tattooed on your arm?

Wave your kook flag high!

206

Alex 07.27.08 at 5:01 pm

If Dan meant it he’d kill a kitten.

207

dsquared 07.27.08 at 5:06 pm

hey how was your holiday Alex?

208

Righteous Bubba 07.27.08 at 5:12 pm

hey how was your holiday Alex?

It’s the discipline that I appreciate. All around great post.

209

abb1 07.27.08 at 5:16 pm

PZ and Donohue are both appealing to the unreflective, intolerant side of human nature.

Eh, come on Mtraven, don’t get carried away. It’s a prank, a prank is just a prank, there’s nothing wrong with it until people start making justifications and turn it into an act of their own little holy war. A prank doesn’t need any justifications.

210

John Emerson 07.27.08 at 5:21 pm

Seth, what are your grounds for calling Myers a pedant?

211

John Emerson 07.27.08 at 5:26 pm

There were no bloody religious wars in France in the Nineteenth Century. Just sacrilege.

No one has to respect anyone else’s values. The churches don’t respect mine, and I don’t respect theirs. I speak against them, they speak against me. What’s the difference between Myers and an Armageddonist? Doesn’t the question answer itself. But people are equating them.

212

ScentOfViolets 07.27.08 at 5:33 pm

You guys are saying it doesn’t matter as long as Donohue gets it. We’re saying there’s a default responsibility to everyone affected by the attack.

No, _I’m_ saying that those who are making noises about ‘inoffensive Catholics’ are full of it. Did these ‘inoffensive Catholics’ put pressure on church authorities to officially condemn, or sanction, or otherwise rebuke this crowd?

Yes or no? The fact of the matter is, those ‘inoffensive Catholics’ don’t want anyone pointing out that their cracker is, well, just a cracker. How nice that they have someone like Donohue who’s willing to do their dirty work for them so they can be high-toned.

213

s.e. 07.27.08 at 5:36 pm

John, if neither you and nor SR Blubba can understand that at this point, I can’t help you. I supplied arguments and examples. Data.
Thought is up to you.

I should remember to take my own advice. Yelling makes me no better than Donohue and Myers. My only option to to try to understand your sensibilities and fears and work my way around them. That’s how the game is played.
ciao.

214

Righteous Bubba 07.27.08 at 5:43 pm

ciao.

In some parallel universe he means it.

215

John Emerson 07.27.08 at 5:47 pm

Sorry, Myers is not a pedant. You’re “I’m not in love with a rock” line is bullshit. You didn’t make your point. You’re just flinging shit. Which I fail to understand.

I don’t think of Myers as a deep thinker about politics or religion, but I’m not going to quibble about his desecration of the Body of Christ. Less cringing, please.

216

noen 07.27.08 at 6:00 pm

arnaud
I am a barman, the only occasion I have to tell people what to do is at closing time.

You took my joke literally? Do you think that I actually believe your occupation involves you talking down to other people? See, this is another thing I’ve noticed about the New Atheists. A certain inability to think in all but the most concrete and literal terms. Metaphor is lost on them.

I think that the response to Myers is of the “Let sleeping [mad] dogs lie” kind—the way leaders of black, gay or Jewish communities encouraged their people to keep a low profile (and for the same reasons).

If I’m wrong, it’s because the U.S. is so far dominated by the right that atheists will never cease to be a pariah group and should accept that status.

So the response of the Atheist community is based in fear? A fear that you believe is legitimate. I think we have a right to be deeply concerned. I don’t want Christian extremists to have too much political power either. My objection, aside from my bad jokes, is a pragmatic one. Your tactics are ineffective and will backfire on you. You want a world where scientific research and education are not being interfered with by those with a religious or political agenda.

With all due respect this is not how you go about creating that kind of world. You are doing it wrong. All that has been accomplished is that the situation has been further polarized and passions inflamed. You seem to hold the French, and in general the European, attitude towards religion in high regard. Yes, I saw those comments on Pharyngula too. The argument appears to be that we Atheists need to stand up to and fight back against region and religious intolerance just like the Europeans did so that we too can live in the bright shining Light of Reason.

Be careful what you wish for.

I think this is a bad idea. The way you make the world a better place is by forming alliances, advocacy and political action. The way that you get other people who may not wholly agree with you to join you in some objective is by convincing them that you share their goals and values. Once you have achieved some sort of political unity you can then move forward towards getting what you want. Better schools, better healthcare or whatever. Alienating your potential allies undermines your own goals.

Oh! You don’t think they are or could ever be your ally? They are your eternal enemy, darkness to your light? Think again. Right now environmental groups are forming alliances with evangelicals who in the past were their sworn enemies. Why? Well one reason is that they simply are not monolithic entities. The evangelicals believe they have a responsibility, stewardship, for the earth. They’ve also noticed that Jesus had a few things to say about caring for the poor. So they got together with others who share their goals.

If you really wanted to hurt the Donahues and the Robertsons of this world you would try to find those Catholics and Fundamentalists who dislike what they are doing, and I assure you they exist, and try to form an alliance with them and then together speak out against whatever it is you’re against.

There is a catch. In order to do this you are going to have to drop the self-righteous tone. If it really is important enough to you that is what you’ll do. The world opens up before you, you have a choice. Which will it be?

217

mtraven 07.27.08 at 6:12 pm

Emerson 209: Please don’t pretend you can’t tell the difference between disrespectful speech and ritual desecration.

Noen 214: agree with you. Religion is not going to go away, and the best thing for the world is if we can strengthen the moderate branches and even build alliances with them (the religious left was a crucial part of the sixties-era progressive movement — what ever happened to that?). My main objection to PZism is that it strengthens the hands of the fundamentalists and haters like Donohue.

218

Righteous Bubba 07.27.08 at 6:18 pm

My main objection to PZism is that it strengthens the hands of the fundamentalists and haters like Donohue.

How would this be measured?

219

John Emerson 07.27.08 at 6:34 pm

I’m not a spokesman for the Atheist Community, if such a thing exists. I think that the rush to condemn Myers comes from undue deference to religion, which is in turn is due to fear. And I’m acknowledging that this fear might be justified.

I’m also not a strategist for any community dealing with any issue. I just think that the liberal hue and cry against Myers is wrong. I’m one guy, he’s another guy. He’s chosen the confrontational route rather than the accommodating one. He does not represent the whole liberal community.

I’m not going to drop any self-righteous tone. I actually think those people are wrong, the way they think I’m wrong. They accuse me, I accuse them. I state my opinion, they state theirs.

People have been saying that the original prank was a hate crime, but as I understand the perp was a lapsed Catholic, not someone from a hostile religious group. The barrage of attacks he got was a sign that his former religious group was pretty sick, and that’s what got Myers into it.

220

mtraven 07.27.08 at 6:44 pm

RB 216: Well, let’s see. In the month before this particular brouhaha hit the fan, how many times did you think about Bill Donohue? How many appearances on TV did he make? Compare that to after PZ’s declaration of intent to desecrate. I’m going to assume that donations are now pouring in to the Catholic League, ensuring that Donohue will be able to ply his trade well into the future.

221

Righteous Bubba 07.27.08 at 6:51 pm

RB 216: Well, let’s see. In the month before this particular brouhaha hit the fan, how many times did you think about Bill Donohue? How many appearances on TV did he make?

Is his hand actually strengthened? Republicans have their own propaganda channel and don’t seem to be doing all that well.

I’m going to assume

You do that. If true it would be evidence that Donohue gets more donations, not that he’s taken any more seriously.

222

noen 07.27.08 at 6:57 pm

ScentofViolets
Did these ‘inoffensive Catholics’ put pressure on church authorities to officially condemn, or sanction, or otherwise rebuke this crowd?

Actions do not exist in a vacuum. The actions by PZ Myers only made it more difficult for moderate elements to speak out. In what ways have your actions made it more possible for those who might object to what Bill Donohoe is doing to voice their disagreement? Or have you instead simply inflamed the issue and by doing so caused those moderate elements to react against you?

Life is not a simplistic thing. It is not “everyone who does not agree with me is against me”. Taking that path will only lead to sorrow. The world comes in shades of gray, most especially people. By seeing your opponents in terms of black or white, what the recovery community calls stinkin’ thinkin’, you are in effect rejecting their humanity. And that is an act of violence.

This is your blindspot, the point through which your unconscious motivations leap forward and take control. Do you really believe that these people you hate so fiercely are the unthinking, inhuman characters you paint them to be? No, they are people just like you, just like me. They have lives filled with hope and fear, love and laughter just like you, just like me.

Drop the pose honey, just drop it. Drop the childish “I am the center of the universe” attitude and join the human race.

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Righteous Bubba 07.27.08 at 7:28 pm

Or have you instead simply inflamed the issue and by doing so caused those moderate elements to react against you?

Who is the “you” and which moderate groups were all set to oppose Bill whatsit and are now somehow cowed by cracker abuse?

224

Arnaud 07.27.08 at 7:43 pm

“arnaud
I am a barman, the only occasion I have to tell people what to do is at closing time.

You took my joke literally?”

Noen, was that quote-mining? In order to refresh your memory, here is what I added :

(I know it was a joke, Noen. But you know, a joke should be funny. Ideally it should also be original, but let’s not try to run before we can walk, hey?)

225

notsneaky 07.27.08 at 8:30 pm

Yaaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwwwwnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn! (a bigger version applies to all the bored/boring folks over at Pha)

You people do realize that someone somewhere has already put a crucifix in urine, painted the madonna with dog poop and so on. The only significant aspect of this stunt is how insignificant, boring and unimaginative it is. Oh and the fact that folks are willing to waste so many comments on it.

Daniel’s promise is more funny and creative.

226

Roy Belmont 07.27.08 at 8:49 pm

#210-
“I’m saying that those who are making noises about ‘inoffensive Catholics’ are full of it. Did these ‘inoffensive Catholics’ put pressure on church authorities to officially condemn, or sanction, or otherwise rebuke”

It’s my understanding that the church authorities aren’t answerable to the congregation, demands or no. That’s in theory, in ideal form.
As a political institution of course they’re all about keeping up with the times and flexibly responding to the expressed desires of their customer base. Fortunately for them most of that customer base wants to be told what to do.
That seems to make them expendable to you. Collateral damage.

As a political institution the church is one thing. What about the hapless members of the congregation who for a wide variety of reasons are still attached to what they mostly perceive as a positive thing in their lives, without which they would be somewhat bereft?
Too bad, right? You don’t care about that, or them, because Donohue’s an asshole and the church hierarchy is pompous and hypocritical, and their dogma is illogical.
It is the fact of your not caring that disturbs me, not the substance of your disagreement.

You’re coming on like some anti-drug crusader who’s just gonna stomp in and jerk all the junkies into cold-turkey reality cause that’s how it should be because opiates are illegal unless prescribed by a doctor, and too bad for them and their stupid withdrawals.
Underneath that is the assumption that only character flaws could be at work.
What else could it be? No recognition of other experiences of life leading to other ways of coping. No compassion.

Or like animal rights activists before they collectively figured out that releasing labs-full of unprepared and unfit subjects into the wild inevitably condemns them to death, though with the tang of freedom in the air around them as they go. No mercy.

#217-
“The barrage of attacks he got was a sign that his former religious group was pretty sick…”
In that the group, like a cell spilling viruses, vectored the barrage, yes it was sick.
Think Donohue’s gotten any hate mail? Death threats?
Probably not nearly as many and not nearly so virulent, so you win.

Except being less mentally unsound than groupC does not make groupB anything other than that, just as my not being an actively raving lunatic does not make me automatically sane.

Considering their actions these last few years both the UK and the US are socially pathological in heinous and violent ways.
Are you a citizen of one or the other?
Carrying the full weight of responsibility for the actions of the group to which you belong, however you got there?
Or just muddling through as best you can?

227

John Emerson 07.27.08 at 9:35 pm

Cow poop.

228

fbr 07.27.08 at 9:43 pm

The crucifix in urine looks too pretty to be sacrilege, if you ask me.

229

notsneaky 07.27.08 at 10:23 pm

It does look sort of pretty and it has some artistic merit. But in general art that puts substance before form is, i dunno… preachy? Once in awhile it works.

230

Kaveh Hemmat 07.27.08 at 10:51 pm

I think that the rush to condemn Myers comes from undue deference to religion, which is in turn is due to fear.

No, as people have said many times, condemnations of PZM come from a desire to form practical, useful alliances with religious people to solve real issues like global warming and poverty. The only fear motivating the people “rushing” to condemn him is fear of real consequences like environmental degradation and financial ruin due to a health problem. Definitely not fear of what some theists think about us. Saying we’re afraid doesn’t make it so.

Neither The Market, nor God, nor Science, nor your mother is going to come in and clean things up if another Republican gets elected and/or we drop a bomb on Iran and/or global warming gets even more out of control, just because some smartass decided their self-righteous crusade against Theism was more important than the votes of some “deluded” Christians.

231

John Emerson 07.27.08 at 11:25 pm

OK, you promise me that if I don’t desecrate any hosts, the environment will be cleaned up? Because that’s a deal I’ll take.

232

ScentOfViolets 07.27.08 at 11:42 pm

noen

ScentofViolets
Did these ‘inoffensive Catholics’ put pressure on church authorities to officially condemn, or sanction, or otherwise rebuke this crowd?

Actions do not exist in a vacuum. The actions by PZ Myers only made it more difficult for moderate elements to speak out. In what ways have your actions made it more possible for those who might object to what Bill Donohoe is doing to voice their disagreement? Or have you instead simply inflamed the issue and by doing so caused those moderate elements to react against you?

Oh, I get it: legions of Catholics were just about to speak out against Donohue and were just about to put pressure on the church hierarchy to officially condemn his actions. But now they’re not going to do any such thing. And it’s all Myers fault of course.

Do you think for one second anyone believes that pap? Do you have any proof? If so, let’s see it. If not, no, these ‘inoffensive Catholics’ had no intention of doing so in the first place. And so your characterization is, shall we say, not in accord with reality.

Life is not a simplistic thing. It is not “everyone who does not agree with me is against me”. Taking that path will only lead to sorrow. The world comes in shades of gray, most especially people. By seeing your opponents in terms of black or white, what the recovery community calls stinkin’ thinkin’, you are in effect rejecting their humanity. And that is an act of violence.

What are you talking about? This looks like a great deal of emoting that’s supposed to be some sort of indictment. But I can’t make heads nor tails of it.

233

ScentOfViolets 07.27.08 at 11:51 pm

Roy Belmont

#210-
“I’m saying that those who are making noises about ‘inoffensive Catholics’ are full of it. Did these ‘inoffensive Catholics’ put pressure on church authorities to officially condemn, or sanction, or otherwise rebuke”

It’s my understanding that the church authorities aren’t answerable to the congregation, demands or no. That’s in theory, in ideal form.
As a political institution of course they’re all about keeping up with the times and flexibly responding to the expressed desires of their customer base. Fortunately for them most of that customer base wants to be told what to do.
That seems to make them expendable to you. Collateral damage.

Er, no. I’m pointing out that your characterization is wrong. Dead wrong. What they are – and you apparently as well – are hypocrites. When I see you actually doing something effective to condemn Donohue and his ilk, when I see some actual action, then I’ll take your complaints seriously. Not until then.

As a political institution the church is one thing. What about the hapless members of the congregation who for a wide variety of reasons are still attached to what they mostly perceive as a positive thing in their lives, without which they would be somewhat bereft?
Too bad, right? You don’t care about that, or them, because Donohue’s an asshole and the church hierarchy is pompous and hypocritical, and their dogma is illogical.
It is the fact of your not caring that disturbs me, not the substance of your disagreement.

I could care less what disturbs you and what doesn’t, to be quite blunt. To me, you know, one of the little people, it looks as if you could care less about how I feel. You’re coming across as a real hypocrite.

You say you want to do something, try to persuade me? Funny, but sure aren’t practicing what you preach. But I’m guessing that doesn’t bother you at all. Can we say ‘differential outrage’? Sure. I knew we could.

234

Kaveh Hemmat 07.28.08 at 12:11 am

OK, you promise me that if I don’t desecrate any hosts, the environment will be cleaned up? Because that’s a deal I’ll take.

See, there it is again, all-or-nothing black-and-white quick fix answers.

Or were you being facetious? In that case, how about if the chances of any of those things happening is smaller because you don’t desecrate… whatever it is you’re thinking about desecrating? I guess it’s understandable if desecrating Catholic symbols is that important to atheists that they would want to do it, I appreciate that symbols are important to people and atheists have as much right to be attached to desecrating people’s symbols as Catholics have to be attached to their symbols. But yes, it does hurt causes like environmentalism when atheists do this. Rationality doesn’t help much if you don’t observe and listen and take in data from the world.

I suppose people can have reasonable disagreements over strategies for getting to a society where science is more respected, but it’s hard to see how you can have any reasonable disagreement with people who see everything in Manichean black and white, even if you mostly agree with them on the desired result.

(And, I’m not saying there aren’t real ‘goods’ and ‘bads’ in the world, just that most things are a mix of both, and this strategy against fanaticism is more the latter.)

235

Righteous Bubba 07.28.08 at 12:23 am

In that case, how about if the chances of any of those things happening is smaller because you don’t desecrate… whatever it is you’re thinking about desecrating?

Hold, Atheist Legions! Still your lust to desecrate, cease the onslaught of befouling that has ravaged the temples from shore to shore!

236

John Emerson 07.28.08 at 12:33 am

Kaveh, yes, I was being facetious. But frankly, I don’t think that desecrating a host, or not, has much of anything to do with achieving big social goals, except for the assertion of the right to be impious. But you seem to think that it does.

237

concerned bystander 07.28.08 at 1:23 am

SCoV-
As somebody else mentioned on another recent thread, back in the days of whenever it was and Bush was rising and whatever it was behind him rising and all around the fundamentalists and their demagogues and packed mega-churches were smug and gloating with the exercise of power, people here and on other erstwhile sensiblly rational fora were content to ridicule them and their beliefs, because they deserved it and they were stupid and didn’t know anything and couldn’t argue and they were wrong and full of shit and it was obvious, so snarkety-snark snark.
And that was sure effective.

As opposed to trying to understand what it was that was happening there. Which was a little more complex than dummies with wrong ideas drilled into their heads.

I can’t persuade you if you won’t respond to the things I say. I mean respond to their substance not their form.
I keep pointing out that you obviously don’t care in any human sense about the people whose beliefs are getting ridiculed, except zapping Donohue is fun and cathartic and everybody else, it seems to be your position, everybody else who self-identifies as Catholic is enabling him so the heck with them.

This is an inaccurate assessment of conditions on the ground and will lead to further strategic blunders, with the possibility of increasingly dire consequences, as others above have indicated.

Here, real simply and very very clearly:
GWBush has been president of the US for the last 7 years precisely because this arrogant blindness dismissed out of hand the absurdity of legions of mindless delusional zombies having any real political influence.
Hey now. Whoops. Whoopsie.
Oh my goodness would you look at that.

238

Righteous Bubba 07.28.08 at 1:30 am

back in the days of whenever it was and Bush was rising and whatever it was behind him rising and all around the fundamentalists and their demagogues and packed mega-churches were smug and gloating with the exercise of power, people here and on other erstwhile

http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://crookedtimber.org/

239

Righteous Bubba 07.28.08 at 1:31 am

240

Eliezer Yudkowsky 07.28.08 at 1:57 am

Go through a religious education – a real one, not some lukewarm pats on the head – before you say that anyone’s hatred of it is disproportionate.

241

ScentOfViolets 07.28.08 at 2:36 am

concerned bystander

SCoV-

As somebody else mentioned on another recent thread, back in the days of whenever it was and Bush was rising and whatever it was behind him rising and all around the fundamentalists and their demagogues and packed mega-churches were smug and gloating with the exercise of power, people here and on other erstwhile sensiblly rational fora were content to ridicule them and their beliefs, because they deserved it and they were stupid and didn’t know anything and couldn’t argue and they were wrong and full of shit and it was obvious, so snarkety-snark snark.

And that was sure effective.

As a matter of fact -yes it was. Now, because of all that snark, because a lot of people squawked, because a they very visibly took very unpopular positions, and they were proven right, dead right , a lot of people have had a bellyfull of these types. Don’t even try to rewrite history.

As opposed to trying to understand what it was that was happening there. Which was a little more complex than dummies with wrong ideas drilled into their heads.

I can’t persuade you if you won’t respond to the things I say. I mean respond to their substance not their form.
I keep pointing out that you obviously don’t care in any human sense about the people whose beliefs are getting ridiculed, except zapping Donohue is fun and cathartic and everybody else, it seems to be your position, everybody else who self-identifies as Catholic is enabling him so the heck with them.

You are so full of it. You are so not trying to persuade me. You think you’re preaching to an audience out there those so-called ‘lurkers’. Guess what? I’m talking to you, and nobody but you. And you are not trying to make the slightest attempt to listen to me, or to listen to my concerns, or to try to understand my beliefs. You are a grade-A hypocrite. And:

You. Are. Lying.

Take your concern troll self and peddle your blarney elsewhere.

242

mtraven 07.28.08 at 2:46 am

This thread has deteriorated. To revivify it, I offer this: August is pray for P.Z. Myers month. They certainly have their work cut out for them.

243

nick s 07.28.08 at 2:57 am

What PZ Myers is doing is not to “make the case on principle”, but trying to move the “Overton window” of social acceptability regarding how nonbelievers can campaign against religious ideas.

Father Ted was funny, though.

“Good night, and may your god go with you.”

244

Righteous Bubba 07.28.08 at 3:03 am

August is pray for P.Z. Myers month

Maybe this’ll work and he’ll figure out something funny to do with the cracker.

245

Donald Johnson 07.28.08 at 3:11 am

“here were no bloody religious wars in France in the Nineteenth Century. Just sacrilege.”

Good lord. Never heard of what happened in Paris in 1871, I gather.

246

Colin Danby 07.28.08 at 3:25 am

This is great, when you click through to
http://catholic-teaching.org/2008/07/august-2008-is-officially-pray-for-pz-myers-month/
Masses, and who knows, sanctification. Memo to PZ: don’t try to out-ritual these folks.

I hope Daniel’s conversation with the moppet went well.

247

skippy 07.28.08 at 4:03 am

“there oughtta be a law against it!”

gimlets, that’s not the point.

no, it’s a punchline.

248

bicycle Hussein paladin 07.28.08 at 4:41 am

because a they very visibly took very unpopular positions, and they were proven right, dead right , a lot of people have had a bellyfull of these types

But *what* unpopular positions made a difference? Disagreeing with Bushite positions on *issues of substance*, on the war in Iraq, on their assault on civil liberties, those made a difference. Ridiculing his gut/faith-based decision making made a difference (decisions should be made on facts, silly!) Ridiculing Christianity in general is completely irrelevant as far as I can tell, unless somebody wants to explain how it’s relevant?

249

Dave 07.28.08 at 7:38 am

@248: It’s holding a line; it’s saying, “No, it’s wrong to make decisions on those transparently absurd bases.” It’s asking, “Where do you stop? When do you start making major policy decisions *explicitly* because a voice came to you in a dream? When does a secular republic veer into a theocracy run by certifiable maniacs?” Unfortunately, those seem to be questions that *do* need asking. Would that they did not.

250

Robert Waldmann 07.28.08 at 9:44 am

First a poem

Shorter Haiku

Be aware of all
internet traditions
understand “shorter”

OK now a comment.

I’m actually part of the “o noes! You lie! To a child!” Posse and I have two daughters age 11 and 19. Actually, I am not absolutely opposed to lying (not that I like to lie). ” How on earth does one get through a typical day without lying to a child.” well one is now an adult. Yesterday the 11 year old asked me what pornography is so I told her. I honestly don’t recall lying to them often — certainly not once a day.

I guess I am second generation. My parents never told me that Santa Claus existed (they also never suggested that there was any chance that any God exists).

I do recall one time I tried to uhm simplify things for my younger daughter who was then 3 and one half. I am translating from Italian below.

I told her that lymphocytes make antibodies. She asked”what about the nasty t-lymphocytes who kill cells with the signal ?” I said huh about twice and the second time she said “you know the ones that kill virus infected cells.” Now you are adults here and I’m sure you know about killer T-lymphocytes which kill virus infected cells, but I was a bit spooked to hear that from a 3 and one half year old. I decided I better not try to uhm simplify things for her too much.

I assume your not going to do tell the rainbow story to a child.

251

engels 07.28.08 at 11:09 am

I was pretty sympathetic to Myers to begin with, but now I see that he was originally responding to Donahue’s thuggery what he did makes a lot more sense. This point is somewhat obscured by the original post imo (‘a bit of harmless fun at the expense of the religious’ etc)…

252

Anastasia 07.28.08 at 12:37 pm

unless he can attach to it a list of outrages committed by Buddhist, who, I heard, are the nicest people imaginable. Or maybe not, what do I know.

Clearly not enough to realize there are examples of Buddhist violence. Just for fun: http://www.assistnews.net/Stories/2008/s08030071.htm

I wish I saw more in this comment thread that treated understanding religion as a human phenomenon and approaching it with a certain critical sympathy as a third alternative to the poles of dismissal and devotion. That lack of interest in comprehending the internal logic of a religion–rather than playing “gotcha” with it’s supposed inconsistencies–leads to a conversation in which folks make uninformed pronouncements about religious belief and religious people and particular religious traditions and their histories. And I don’t see how that’s helping anyone. I mean, if you really want to convey the problems associated with religion effectively, it seems like avoiding misinformation about the realities of religion might be a good strategy.

The example quoted at the head of this comment is not a bad one. Buddhism has never engendered violence? Try again. Moving away from the issue of violence, the bible forbids eating from the tree of knowledge? Well, that’s just wrong. Not even a matter of interpretation. The myth in question forbids eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and if you look closer, it is the combination of access the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life that is untenable. Which, ultimately, tell you more about the view the people who wrote and have adhered to this myth have of god than it does about Christian anti-intellectualism. I’m not going to say there isn’t a tendency to anti-intellectualism in certain forms of Christianity but when it comes down to it, that tendency is as much or more about class than it is about the book of genesis.

Which is to say any religious believer is going to stop listening to your point about anti-intellectualism, which I think is a good one, the minute you mistake something so basic. And at that point. you’re only intelligible and convincing to people who already agree with you. At which point this conversation amounts to mental masturbation.

If a person genuinely thinks religion is harmful, an informed critique might be a more powerful antidote than, well, anything else I can think of at the moment. This….well, I don’t think this is it.

253

jj 07.28.08 at 12:51 pm

Just installed Norton AntiVirus 2008 and the system crashed immediately after logging on to this thread.

You will be hearing from my lawyers.

254

Upstate 07.28.08 at 1:56 pm

I agree. I think that PZ Meyers and the student in question are taking themselves far too seriously. Of course the Catholic church does deserve more than a few thorns in its side. But, I was told as a child “Don’t argue with a fool, because a casual observer coming along might not be able to tell the difference!”

I think that both the Catholic church and all those who see everything in the light of “Jesus saves (or else)” are fools, as are militant atheists. Common sense when dealing with others whose belief systems differ from ours seems to be a rare commodity indeed.

255

Righteous Bubba 07.28.08 at 2:16 pm

I think it’s worth noting one of the more recent episodes of American gunplay here.

The gunman’s motive is not yet known. The church, like many other Unitarian Universalist churches, promotes progressive social work, such as desegregation and fighting for the rights of women and gays. The Knoxville congregation has provided sanctuary for political refugees, fed the homeless and founded a chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, according to its Web site.

256

Dr. Weevil 07.28.08 at 3:06 pm

Righteous Bubba (#254) seems to imply that the Knoxville shotgun killer was most likely a right-winger, possibly a conservative Christian, rather than “one of the militant atheist assholes” (#19) like himself.
Anyone who read Instapundit’s post of 9:04pm yesterday knows that he was far more likely the latter: “Accused shooter everyone’s friend, hated Christianity.” He’s not specifically known to be an atheist, but there’s no mention in the linked story of a positive attitude towards any other religion.

257

lb 07.28.08 at 3:21 pm

Jesus, people, did you ever hear of metaphors? why does everybody have to take it ad literam that the cracker is the body of Christ? or all the other examples of religious nonsense… is this a typical American attitude/problem?

i am asking, because i come from a country where most people would go to the Church for Easter out of respect for tradition and cultural heritage and for the teachings of Christ, not for what the priests do or say (they have collaborated with the former political police).

as for everybody talking about lies to children and myths – was your childhood that boring?

Daniel, i laughed a lot when reading your post, especially the sneaky way in which you introduce your subversive plan – lol.

258

Righteous Bubba 07.28.08 at 3:41 pm

Righteous Bubba (#254) seems to imply that the Knoxville shotgun killer was most likely a right-winger

I didn’t mean to imply that; I posted the story because it might be of interest to the thread and not to score a point. The only other story I read that mentioned possible motives was speculation, but in any case the story told was that he got mad when Bible college was mentioned and he seemed to be an anti-religionist.

On the other hand.

259

Righteous Bubba 07.28.08 at 4:10 pm

In reading what I last posted I guess I should acknowledge that I understand that opposing religion and opposing “liberalism” need not be mutually exclusive.

260

John Emerson 07.28.08 at 4:24 pm

Right-winger, Confederate. Apparently a fallen-away Christian with a lot of religious background.

261

seth edenbaum 07.28.08 at 4:55 pm

Still waiting for someone to burn the flag of the secular Israeli state.
Still waiting for Blubba to take a stand on the Gaza and the occupied territories.

Tension About Religion and Class in Turkey. Which side are you on Bubba? John? Read the link for once before responding. Both of you.

The issue as I said above isn’t religion but the metaphysical valuation of inanimate objects as anything other than themselves. Myers is a modernist and a Platonist. “A brick is a brick is a brick.” as someone once said. “Whaddaya mean Love is a rose? Love is an emotion. A rose is a goddamn plant!!”
It’s no longer an argument over delusions, but over whether its possible for a secularist to be delusional. It is, obviously.

There is no god. God is a McGuffin. [Look that one up. Learn something.] God, and the Host, are synecdoches for community.
Weinberg, a much more important figure in the movement to which Myers belongs The self described “Brights” is a self described Platonist, and a secularist. I have no idea how it’s even possible to be both. I linked to his book Facing Up: Science and it’s Cultural Adversaries and its Chapter 15. Zionism and Its Adversaries This is the Platonism and reason of a Nobel Prize winner. Racism.
I will not defend the politics of Platonism. That link is to a screed by another “Bight” quite famous in his field.

We exist as objects in the world of facts. We live as creatures in a world of perceptions. It’s a mistake to pretend that as creatures to have unshaded access to the world of facts. Desire for unknown facts is not reason, it is desire. Falling in love with rocks and insects is not more valuable to our society than the articulation of the ambiguities of perception as they relate to justice and law in a community. The rule of law is not the rule of reason. In the rule of reason there are no laws. The doctrine of Stare Decisis has no place in science but is central to our political order. Please think about what this means.
It is always a mistake to assume. As I wrote on an old post at Myers’ page

Scientists do tend to be optimists. But they also tend to use words like ‘truth’ as in ‘ultimate truth’ but truth is a term of metaphysics, and science is not concerned with truth but FACTS; facts which are mundane until someone has the desire to discover them and then revert to it after the post coital glow of discovery has faded.

You defend assumption and desire. And in doing so you act to defend the crimes of those who share your assumptions.

Colin McGinn “Philosopher” and Bright

I myself see a close link between democracy as a dogma and the idea that everyone’s opinion is as good as anyone else’s: that is, between equality in respect of voting power and forms of relativism about truth. For if people’s opinions do not have equal value, how can we justify giving their votes equal power?

And again

Well, if truth, reason, virtue, etc are not objective qualities that people exemplify to varying degrees, but are rather relative to each person, we have a way out: everyone is as smart and good as anyone else to himself. Then democracy rests on no lie, since everyone really is cognitively and morally equal. Relativism steps in to save democracy from its noble lie. Thus relativism finds a foothold. But relativism is rubbish; so where does that leave democracy?

Myers is small town pedant who doesn’t even know what he’s defending. And neither apparently do you.

262

seth edenbaum 07.28.08 at 4:57 pm

I couldn’t resist.
I have a comment in moderation, when someone has the time.

263

Dave 07.28.08 at 5:16 pm

Ya didden say ‘soc1alism’ again, didya?

264

Roy Belmont 07.28.08 at 6:06 pm

#240-
It’s not the hatred, which my own experience of would evidently surprise you, it’s where that hatred goes, how it’s expressed and when and on who.

RigBub#238:
Are the large gaping holes in the archives what you wanted to point to? Any chance the Knoxville ugliness lends some weight to the idea that this is a volatile moment, fraught with tension, where chaotic violence festers just below the surface? So that increasing the already violent polarity is not in anyone’s best interest? No matter how cathartic it is.

ScentOfViolets:
Lying.About.What?
It’s like you’ve just started throwing everything you’re anxious about in your own performance onto me, or what you’re convincing yourself is me.
Most clearly with your tumpty-tum-tum-you
I’m-talkin-to-you
YOU-ARE-A-LYING-LIAR.
But then you don’t say what it is I’m lying about.
Which makes it much less intimidating, to me.
Which is the only reason I can think of as to why you would say that, that way.

Again when you accuse me of hypocrisy you don’t illustrate it.
I’ve called Donohue an egregious fool, in so many words, in a public place where it’s certain his feeds run. Adding my voice to the hundreds, nay thousands.
The hypocrisy is…wait, is it that I’m calling him names and not being all compassionate on him?
Or that I’m not stalking him with an all-plastic rifle in my backpack?
If not I’m clueless what hypocrisy you’re up on.

You’ve obviously read the paragraphs I’ve put here, and you’re obviously perceptive and smart. So you should have a pretty strong idea what my intelligence can handle.
So either you’re way overestimating my ability to unpack your stuff, or it’s as empty as it seems to be.

Only an idiot would set forth personal examples to rebut the accusation of hypocrisy. Pride lurks so close. But you said it with great emphasis and I looked real hard and I don’t see it. And I don’t feel it.
But of course any true hypocrite would say exactly that.

“Troll” in this context is someone who misrepresents or aggressively emphasizes contrary ideas and attitudes, in order to piss off other commenters and generate negative response, which is the dynamic trolls thrive on.
But I hate being insulted the way you have done me here. It makes me cringe and want to stop writing anything online.
The ideas and the attitudes I’ve represented, while set forth under pseudonyms, are genuinely things that I think and feel, and if I’ve been inappropriately aggressive here I’ll be very surprised to hear it.
“Troll” as generally understood is not that.
So, unless you have your own personal version of what the word means, “troll” won’t stick either.

So. Liar, no. Hypocrite, no. Troll, no.

Myself however have said repeatedly and with variation specifically what it is about your presentation that I find objectionable. And here I am doing it again.
That you support an act whose repercussions in my view and many others’ can too easily enable the undoing of us all, unnecessarily, for reasons of personal gratification.
Simply because it gets you off, it gets your approval.

And you do that with no recognition of the threat in it, the violence in it and the threat of further violence that’s implied in it, and the harm in it to others besides the intended target.
It’s dangerous and harmful, and you’re not doing it out of valor, but because it’s gratifying.

265

Righteous Bubba 07.28.08 at 6:29 pm

Are the large gaping holes in the archives what you wanted to point to?

Yes. The “Bush rose because people were snarky at CT and other sites” seemed somewhat suspect to me.

Any chance the Knoxville ugliness lends some weight to the idea that this is a volatile moment, fraught with tension, where chaotic violence festers just below the surface? So that increasing the already violent polarity is not in anyone’s best interest?

Sure, it’s worth thinking about, which is one reason why I posted the item. That the place that got shot up was doing things I think are worthwhile is another.

266

Patrick 07.28.08 at 7:26 pm

I love how pathetic some of the screeds against “militant atheists” get.

Let me help you guys out, and tell you what you really think.

You think its ok to not be religious. You think its ok to say that a religion, or a particular religion, or a particular religious belief, is not true.

But you think its unfair to, metaphorically speaking, shoot the civilians in the world of religious discourse.

Its ok to think that! Militant atheists think that too! We just don’t have as broad a definition of civilian as you do. And we CERTAINLY don’t have as broad a definition as this moron: http://cosmicvariance.com/2008/07/16/crackergate/

who apparently believes that anything posted to the internet counts as civilian-shooting.

267

Righteous Bubba 07.28.08 at 8:01 pm

Still waiting for Blubba to take a stand on the Gaza and the occupied territories.

Until you state your position on this we have little to talk about.

268

seth edenbaum 07.28.08 at 8:21 pm

But Israel was founded as a secular country and defended by nobel prize winning physicists. How can they be wrong?

269

seth edenbaum 07.28.08 at 8:23 pm

I”ll be more specific.: How can the be “irrational?”

270

abb1 07.28.08 at 8:38 pm

So what, Seth? Newton was a physicist too. I know a few brilliant mathematicians and software developers who are complete idiots in everything else. There’s a special word for that – ‘nerd’, they are nerds. It’s quite common.

271

seth edenbaum 07.28.08 at 8:50 pm

Nerds are intellectual absolutists (and I use the word “intellectual” only in the most general sense.)
Once again, and this is for you too abb, I made a long comment, with links. Please go back and read it before responding. Democracy requires flexibility. Right wing Catholics aren’t much for it. And neither are Platonists. Moralizing absolutists are philosophically anti-democratic. Again and again, I post links, but no one responds to them.

272

Righteous Bubba 07.28.08 at 8:54 pm

Again and again, I post links, but no one responds to them.

It is indeed mysterious.

273

abb1 07.28.08 at 9:08 pm

I read the links, Seth. I don’t think “intellectual absolutists” is a good description. The word ‘autism’ you used earlier is better (though not in the medical sense). Seems to me it’s more of a mental condition than ideological rigidity.

274

seth edenbaum 07.28.08 at 9:21 pm

Then Bubba, I’ll just have to assume that I’ve been right: you’re a good old boy lapsed Catholic.
Louisiana maybe?
There’s no such thing as a lapsed Catholic. Once the cross goes in…

275

seth edenbaum 07.28.08 at 9:22 pm

276

Steve LaBonne 07.28.08 at 10:35 pm

God, and the Host, are synecdoches for community.

This kind of remark is actually far more naive and uninformed than anything Dawkins has written. I commend to you Pascal Boyer’s Religion Explained. Boyer makes a strong case that there’s much more- and in another sense, much less- to it than this. The very idea of attributing a “function” to religion- eg. social cohesion, as in the above quote- turns out to be highly questionable. It’s more like a byproduct of the way our minds, and culture, work.

277

Roy Belmont 07.29.08 at 4:18 am

RiBub:
Can you see how this exchange…

Are the large gaping holes in the archives what you wanted to point to?

Yes. The “Bush rose because people were snarky at CT and other sites” seemed somewhat suspect to me.

…might not be as self-evidently logical to me as it seems to have been for you?
The part where most of 2003’s archives aren’t available derails the train, for me.

It might be easier if you can disagree with the factuality of this:
There were many on the confirmed skeptical rational atheistical side back in 02-03 who acted as if intellectually defeating then ridiculing the deists should have been all it took to turn back whatever social forces were mustering behind that banner. That sense that having the right answer really is the key to success, the only one. That sense of starring in “Night of the Living Dead”.

278

Righteous Bubba 07.29.08 at 4:21 am

There were many on the confirmed skeptical rational atheistical side back in 02-03 who acted as if intellectually defeating then ridiculing the deists should have been all it took to turn back whatever social forces were mustering behind that banner.

Who were these many and what effect did they have that you can demonstrate?

279

seth edenbaum 07.29.08 at 4:51 am

Religion Explained? Then maybe Pascal Boyer or, you, can explain “atheist” Platonism to the rest of us.

280

john c. halasz 07.29.08 at 5:05 am

“I commend to you Pascal Boyer’s Religion Explained. Boyer makes a strong case that there’s much more- and in another sense, much less- to it than this. The very idea of attributing a “function” to religion- eg. social cohesion, as in the above quote- turns out to be highly questionable. It’s more like a byproduct of the way our minds, and culture, work.”

As if Pascal Boyer weren’t himself peddling an elaborated piece of scientistic superstition, as if he knew all that much definitively about our “minds”, culture, and the dynamics of social cohension, as if he weren’t constructing a pseudo-biological reductionist account to buttress his own prejudices toward a reductionist-functionalist “cognitivism”. (I once asked on a P.Z. Myers thread, whether animals had religion. I was responded to with a set of specious syllogisms, inspite of it being essentially an evidentiary question).

I’ve actually seen commenters claim, yes, even here at CT, to the effect that all my beliefs are warranted. That would generally be some young recent grad in Analytic philosophy, full of enthusiasm. It doesn’t occur to that like, that if all my beliefs were warranted, then none would be, because there wouldn’t be any “place” from which such “warranting” could get started, since fully warranting a claim is an elaborate, laborious process, often involving much technical training, and, in fact, very few of anyone’s beliefs are warranted, to the fullest possible extent. But that doesn’t prevent one’s beliefs from being reasonably held and more-or-less rationally constrained in the world. If that weren’t the case, then reasonable agreements and attributions of “rational” agency would be scarcely possible. But the such “social science” stuff is too messy, and “soft” and lacking in sufficient explanatory “rigor” for the likes of Boyer and his ilk, so he invents a piece of pseudo-science, purportedly reducing “mind”, “culture”, “experience”, and the like to an “adaptive” automatism, to support an eliminativism that doesn’t just flatter its own prejudices, but hides its own inability to frame and think through the requirements for an adequate account. It’s not just religionists who bang their heads against walls of their own devising.

281

mtraven 07.29.08 at 5:22 am

Halasz — that’s a remarkably content-free rant against Boyer you have there. Boyer has a set of theories to explain why people believe manifestly false and silly things. If you have a better one, let’s hear it. If not, what’s your point?

282

Robert Waldmann 07.29.08 at 5:24 am

Further reports on my possible lying to my 11 year old daughter Katharine Waldmann. So I asked her

R: Kathy can you remember me lying to you ?
K: Daa-aaaad if you got away with it I wouldn’t know.
R: Yeah I mean of you catching me in a lie.
K: sure once you said “where are my glasses. I can’t find my glasses” and they were on your nose.
R: That wasn’t a lie that was an honest mistake (they were on my nose and I was honestly looking for them really).

Hmm not much there. How about Katharine Waldmann MD my 80 year old mother ?

Weeeeeelll I do recall that my little sister (then in her 30s) called and said

“Mom have you ever noticed that the Webster’s dictionary doesn’t have an entry for the word ‘gullible'” and my mother looked it up to check.

So some years later, I told her that there is no Italian translation for the word “gullible” (or in Italian “credulone”) and she believed me.

I think we can guess that I was largely raised by a person who does’t really understand the concept of “lying.” Considering how I turned out D^2 might argue that one damn well better lie to children at least once a day, but I think he will concede that not everyone actually does it.

283

seth edenbaum 07.29.08 at 6:07 am

Steve LaBonne, This is really pissing me off.
You “commend” to me? Is that any more than trying to bask in reflected glory? We’re dealing with the self-satisfied, implicitly religious, irrationalism of moralizing pedants. Are you defending them as secular? I hope not. Or are you just looking for an excuse to quibble?

Naturalism is fine with me. I would consider myself a naturalist; as long as you understand that democracy is a necessary check on the risk of totalizing assumption on the part of anyone, including, or especially, experts (and even me).

Boyer doesn’t seem that interesting, but that’s not because of any hostility to naturalism, just to self-aggrandizing “naturalists” who would make themselves philosopher kings.
Have I made myself clear?

284

abb1 07.29.08 at 7:28 am

What’s with being righteous about this ‘lying to children’ thing? You’re lying to children not to deceive them, but to answer their questions using concepts they can understand.

What is a rainbow – is your answer going to begin with describing the wave properties of light? If not, you’re not telling the whole truth. Is it lying? In a sense – yes.

285

Arnaud 07.29.08 at 8:49 am

That is ridiculous, Abb1. A description of a rainbow, or of any other thing for that matter, will always be necessarily incomplete. You can go on all day long about the “wave properties of light” and you still wouldn’t describe the phenomenon in his entirety. Science does not “do” truth, it only tries to approximate it. Is it lying? No.
Do we know that the rainbow is not send by god to remind us of his decision to stop slaughtering us at the slightest opportunity? No. (No truth, remember?) Do we have good reasons to suspect that it is not the case? Fuck yes! Is it lying to say it is when you don’t believe it? Yes.

286

mikey 07.29.08 at 9:49 am

You can build one thing out of crooked timber and that is a rickety pulpit. Anathema sit ye winding scantlings.

As to DD’s timid proposal, it reminds me of the ancient graffiti: Islington hush puppies rule here, is that O.K.? Behind all this is perhaps the false dichotomy between ‘unweaving the rainbow’ and ‘My heart leaps up when I behold a rainbow in the sky’. Is it a product of Flatland analytic philosophy, a waste of facts?

287

abb1 07.29.08 at 10:07 am

“The rainbow is send by god” is about just as meaningful answer to a small child as “it’s a natural phenomenon”. It’s probably somewhat preferable to “it’s a natural phenomenon, and now shut the fuck up already; I can’t explain what a ‘natural phenomenon’ is, it is what it is”.

288

Arnaud 07.29.08 at 10:25 am

abb1, I don’t know what to say…
I am sorry though that you cannot see the difference between making up a totally false explanation and trying to give a comprehensible approximation of the reality. (Explaining science to children is actually not that difficult in most cases. That’s what science museums all over the world do, sometimes from a very early age.)
As for me, I see no real difference between “God did it!” and “Shut the fuck up already, I can’t be bother to explain what happens!”

And “meaningful” changes nothing. A lie is a lie, whether it’s believed or not by those who hear it.

289

Steve LaBonne 07.29.08 at 10:58 am

Seth- the only thing that’s clear in your muddled, ignorant rants is that you don’t even have the kind of entertainment value possessed by amusing trolls.

As for me, I wasn’t defending or attacking anyone in #276. I was simply pointing out what you are apparently ignorant of: that “religion” (by the way, that idea that this word names some kind of simple, uniform phenomenon is one that Boyer rightly calls into question) is nowadays the subject of serious anthropological study that penetrates well beyond the usual kitchen-table aphorisms on the subject, and that before discussing the topic one might well familiarize oneself with some of this work. (I can tell that you haven’t; your formulaic denunciation tells me immediately that you haven’t actually read the book.) On an academic blog that sort of observation would seem rather commonplace.

290

abb1 07.29.08 at 1:09 pm

You may be right, Arnaud, but it’s also true that gods and fairies certainly help explaining things and cut down on the number of questions that are impossible to answer. Also, supernatural invisible beings that watch you all the time, punish bad behavior and reward good behavior are helpful, people discovered that long time ago. That’s the fact!

291

engels 07.29.08 at 1:17 pm

While I of course do not countenance the harassment of anyone by religious nuts Richard Dawkins, I also have something of a baleful view of the kind of self-conscious atheist “secular liberal” who regards it as a good use of his time to spend the day winding up the god squad other atheists. [...]

while I am perhaps the last person on earth who is well-placed to tell anyone else that winding people up for the sake of it is a really silly and childish thing to do … well, winding people up for the sake of it is a really silly and childish thing to do, and furthermore Dawkinsite militant atheists holier-than-thou “secular liberals” are as annoying as fundies in their own way and perhaps deserve a bit of winding up too

292

engels 07.29.08 at 1:28 pm

Shorter abb1: Religion is a good thing because it stops people asking difficult questions and helps to keep them in line.

293

abb1 07.29.08 at 1:46 pm

Exactly, engels. A fetus has to go thru all the stages of biological development, from a bunch of cells to human being. I don’t see why a child shouldn’t go thru the normal basic stages of social development as well.

294

engels 07.29.08 at 2:05 pm

I don’t see why a child shouldn’t go thru the normal basic stages of social development as well.

Nor do I, but perhaps you should do it somewhere else? This is a discussion forum, not a kindergarten class…

295

ScentOfViolets 07.29.08 at 2:15 pm

Again when you accuse me of hypocrisy you don’t illustrate it.
I’ve called Donohue an egregious fool, in so many words, in a public place where it’s certain his feeds run. Adding my voice to the hundreds, nay thousands.
The hypocrisy is…wait, is it that I’m calling him names and not being all compassionate on him?
Or that I’m not stalking him with an all-plastic rifle in my backpack?
If not I’m clueless what hypocrisy you’re up on.

You’ve obviously read the paragraphs I’ve put here, and you’re obviously perceptive and smart. So you should have a pretty strong idea what my intelligence can handle.
So either you’re way overestimating my ability to unpack your stuff, or it’s as empty as it seems to be.

Sigh. Go back and read what you wrote about me ‘not listening’ to you. Or how about the ‘not caring’ part? The fact that I have pointed out _repeatedly_ that attacking Donohue and his ilk is all very fine, but you refuse to condemn the beneficiaries of his intemperate remarks. No, everything you’ve said about me applies in spades to you – a classic case of ‘do as I say, not as I do’. You want me to think you’re sincere, stop doing to me what you say I’m doing to so-called ‘innocent’ parties. This ain’t – contrary to your protestations – rocket science. And I repeat – you are a hypocrite.

Only an idiot would set forth personal examples to rebut the accusation of hypocrisy. Pride lurks so close. But you said it with great emphasis and I looked real hard and I don’t see it. And I don’t feel it.
But of course any true hypocrite would say exactly that.

I’ll let this non sense speak for itself. You need to – at the least – write more clearly. I can’t make heads nor tales of this.

“Troll” in this context is someone who misrepresents or aggressively emphasizes contrary ideas and attitudes, in order to piss off other commenters and generate negative response, which is the dynamic trolls thrive on.
But I hate being insulted the way you have done me here. It makes me cringe and want to stop writing anything online.
The ideas and the attitudes I’ve represented, while set forth under pseudonyms, are genuinely things that I think and feel, and if I’ve been inappropriately aggressive here I’ll be very surprised to hear it.
“Troll” as generally understood is not that.
So, unless you have your own personal version of what the word means, “troll” won’t stick either.

You have been inappropriately and obnoxiously aggressive – the same attributes you insist on projecting upon others. You want to illustrate the errors of my ways? Lead by example. You haven’t been. Instead you’ve been a ‘concern troll’, that is someone who is telling me something ‘for my own good’ when in actuality you’re telling me something for you’re own good. This is a common term. Get acquainted with simple definitions before making ignorant remarks.

Myself however have said repeatedly and with variation specifically what it is about your presentation that I find objectionable. And here I am doing it again.
That you support an act whose repercussions in my view and many others’ can too easily enable the undoing of us all, unnecessarily, for reasons of personal gratification.
Simply because it gets you off, it gets your approval.

There it is – concern trolling. And also the gratuitous imputing of nasty motives. Despite – the irony – of being told by many people many times that these sort of motivations simply don’t apply. But you _want_ them to, eh? Like I said, drop the injured act. It’s not playing well. And don’t do to me what you say I shouldn’t be doing to others.

And you do that with no recognition of the threat in it, the violence in it and the threat of further violence that’s implied in it, and the harm in it to others besides the intended target.
It’s dangerous and harmful, and you’re not doing it out of valor, but because it’s gratifying.

No, I refuse to condemn PZ Myers because I want the situation to change. That’s not a difficult proposition to understand, and I suspect it holds for most of the people who support him. As a lot of us have said. Stop calling us liars, mischief makers, nasty types to whom schadenfreude is the highest pleasure. Besides making it look like you came here just to stir up trouble – something you apparently get off on, you’ve done it so much – it’s not helping your case at all. It’s also, as I’ve said repeatedly, rank hypocrisy on your part.

Now, here’s the deal: nasty as they are, Donohue and his congregation are only proxies. Attacking them won’t help, and isn’t a sign of moral rectitude. They’re like the swiftboaters in the ’04 election. Yes, it was easy for all sorts of people attack them; even Republicans could attack them, sure in the knowledge that the damage had already been done while being able to claim a high tone as being ‘nonpartisan’. But you didn’t see them attacking the beneficiary of those attacks, did you? And did any one of those stalwarts attack Bush? Try to put pressure on him to get them to stop? To repudiate their claims? Did Bush ever make any public remarks condemning the swiftboaters tactics?

No, he did not. _That’s_ the problem. You and yours are not condemning church officials for failing to publicly chastise Donohue, nor are you taking anyone to task for failing to put pressure on the church hierarchy to do something. Instead, you make noises about attacking the instrument, the proxy, but you will never, never condemn the hand that guides the instrument, will you?

As I’ve said repeatedly, and as you’ve refused to address(or for that matter, give any indication that you’ve heard what I said – there’s that hypocrisy thing again), I’ll believe that you’re ‘nonpartisan’ about this sort of thing when you actually go after the people who benefit from these attacks.

Yeah, like that’s going to happen.

296

ScentOfViolets 07.29.08 at 2:21 pm

while I am perhaps the last person on earth who is well-placed to tell anyone else that winding people up for the sake of it is a really silly and childish thing to do … well, winding people up for the sake of it is a really silly and childish thing to do, and furthermore Dawkinsite militant atheists holier-than-thou “secular liberals” are as annoying as fundies in their own way and perhaps deserve a bit of winding up too

How are you going to do this? Make more death threats over a bit of doggerel? Have powerful, tax-exempt religious organizations use government money to prosletyze? Or maybe use their not-inconsiderable resources to pass legislation that obligates the rest of us to hew to their silly sectarian beliefs?

Yeah, that might wind up a few people.

297

Dave 07.29.08 at 2:38 pm

This is great! Hot troll-on-troll action!! Keep it up boyzangirlz….

298

seth edenbaum 07.29.08 at 2:59 pm

Steve,
You picked two words out of an argument as a way to insert yourself into it, in pompous fashion. Do you agree that this “new” description of nonsimple, nonuniform religious form covers “Secular Platonists.” That’s my question now, as in essence it was before.

The issue is less religion than our continuing [animal] habit of relying on assumption and faith. “Faith Explained” would interest me more as a title. Though Boyer might even agree. The absurdities of grand faith are a byproduct of the biological function of an everyday variety we live by. We’re pattern-makers. “synecdoches for community” Our patterns are collective that’s all.
Still, my only question, for all concerned, is this:
Would you prefer the rule of reason or the rule of law?
History has shown the rule of reason to be a failure. Those that have claimed to represent it in the past have given us the rule of unmediated faith; and hell on earth.

299

Steve LaBonne 07.29.08 at 3:08 pm

Edenbaum, the content-free, purely emotive way in which you throw around buzzwords like “platonism” is indicative of why I can’t be bothered to take you seriously.

But carry on ranting, it’s a free country.

300

abb1 07.29.08 at 4:28 pm

I’m not sure about ‘platonism’ either, but isn’t it true that non-religious people don’t always act as wisely as one would expect from this kind of discussions? And also, isn’t it true that cracker-worshiping idiots can sometimes be quite intelligent in cracker-unrelated areas? That’s a valid point. I haven’t noticed any religious commenters in this thread; had they been here, they would’ve been making their standard points about Stalin, Hitler, etc., but they aren’t here, so ‘platonism’ it is…

301

seth edenbaum 07.29.08 at 5:19 pm

Here’s another link Steve; to a journalistic discussion of physics and Platonism.
I have no opinion one way or another at this level about the laws of the universe. My only interests are in explaining my preference for representative democracy and my concerns regarding the use of Platonism as a model for social and political doctrine.

“Well, if truth, reason, virtue, etc are not objective qualities that people exemplify to varying degrees, but are rather relative to each person, we have a way out: everyone is as smart and good as anyone else to himself. Then democracy rests on no lie, since everyone really is cognitively and morally equal. Relativism steps in to save democracy from its noble lie. Thus relativism finds a foothold. But relativism is rubbish; so where does that leave democracy?”

Where indeed?
The link to that comment is up the thread a bit. If you were following the argument you would have read it.

302

Righteous Bubba 07.29.08 at 5:56 pm

I have no opinion one way or another at this level about the laws of the universe.

Gotta disagree with you there.

303

Roy Belmont 07.29.08 at 8:24 pm

RBub @#278:
Who were these many and what…
There aren’t any, there never were, I made it all up.
Total mischaracterization and complete misrepresentation for purposes of internet stardom as valiant opponent of non-existent ratio-posito twits who think scoring cheap points on soft targets is the way to better living.
But that train’s still off the rails.

Future scenarios: more Knoxvilles, fewer Knoxvilles, as the polarity either heightens and deepens, or subsides. You choose!

Unless you’re like some who believe they have no direct influence on where all this goes and therefore are justified in pursuing immediate self-gratification wherever it leads.

ScOfV @#295:
…you refuse to condemn the beneficiaries of his [Donohue's] intemperate remarks…

YOU are a beneficiary of said remarks! You! Yourself!
You are youare youare! And I condemn you!
You are condemned! Nyahh nyahh.
You like it! So does Myers! It’s exciting and fun!
You are also an intellectually gifted crazy person. Yes you are.
Myers not so much so.
I especially like the part where I say you’re throwing your own auto-obscured self-criticisms onto me, and then you say that I’m doing that to you without even mentioning I already said that.

Crazy person is okay but it’s better for the rest if you can carry it consciously.
A little self-doubt now and then, yeah. It can be beneficial in so may ways.
I know this from much time spent in rigorously unbiased introspection.

Hah! Unh! Yeeaaahh!
Hoopa hoopa!
Uhmmmmm…YEAH!

‘Bye

304

Righteous Bubba 07.29.08 at 8:42 pm

There aren’t any, there never were, I made it all up.

Oh dear. All the chess pieces are on the floor now.

305

Roy Belmont 07.29.08 at 9:58 pm

Whereas before half of them were in your hat.

306

salientdowns 07.30.08 at 5:02 pm

Sigh.

There was no money. There was no robbery.

And there was no murder either.

307

engels 07.30.08 at 5:28 pm

So Daniel did you go through with it? Has the sprog been indoctrinated? Are there any early signs of terroristic tendencies?

308

Righteous Bubba 07.30.08 at 5:32 pm

Are there any early signs of terroristic tendencies?

I predict deep unease at rainbow sherbet.

309

seth edenbaum 07.30.08 at 7:50 pm

Excuse me Daniel, I posted a link concerning a war between a nominally secular state (one backed by secularists as a triumph of modernity) and those whom that state has thrown off their land. First came “waiting for moderation,” then nothing: gone. Or does a military occupation by the champions modernity and democracy not warrant a reply?

In a related note: Eric Shinseki writes a letter

I am greatly concerned that OSD processes have often become ad hoc and long established conventional processes are atrophying. Specifically, there are areas that need your attention as the ad hoc processes often do not adequately consider professional military judgment and advice. . . . . Second, there is a lack of strategic review to frame our day-to-day issues . . . . Third, there has been a lack of explicit discussion on risk in most decisions. . . . Finally, I find it unhelpful to participate in senior level decision-making meetings without structured agendas, objectives, pending decisions and other traditional means of time management.

The military isn’t run on democratic process, but its a process nonetheless. And Rumsfeld never thought it was necessary. We use processes because no one has a monopoly on reason. I don’t give a shit if my neighbors think the moon is made of green cheese. I do give a shit if they think they have a right to barge in my house and put a gun to my head and steal everything I own. Cracker or Body of Christ, neither is the point, except to absolutists.
Absolutism makes for lousy politics. 300 comments fighting over that obvious point.

310

Roy Belmont 07.31.08 at 5:10 am

Seth:
One obstacle may be the firm conviction inevitable to successful academics that having the right answer, in that lifelong setting logical rational conclusions drawn from provable evidence, is the only path forward.
Another might be a behind-the-scenes-ish urge toward self-censorship around that particular topic.

An easy calculation says the heat isn’t worth it to people with tenure issues and professional reputations at stake. Destroying your career to further some blog debate which won’t affect anything anyway sort of thing.

Not that it isn’t the most critically important topic in the contemporary landscape.
Not that its possible outcomes aren’t desperately crucial to all of us.

Just that the real power, in the US and UK at least, isn’t morally clear enough to be able to tolerate open debate. Nor is it morally clean enough to abstain from pressuring said academics in all kinds of unpleasant ways, should they provide a forum for that intolerable debate.
Bill Donohue’s not the only thuggish zealot at work these days.

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