PZ vs. the cracker

I was trying to avoid weighing in on this one, but blogorrhea always wins.

I won’t bother rehashing the details of the imbroglio—if you don’t know, well, you’ve been sleeping. Go on…google “pharyngula cracker”…I can wait.

OK, now that you’ve caught up, here’s my two cents.

I’m conflicted about this. It’s not usually a good thing to offend people’s deeply held beliefs unless those beliefs are deeply offensive. A free society requires a great deal of tolerance. This of course cuts both ways–if Catholics can expect reasonable peace, so can those who criticize their beliefs.

As I started writing this, my daughter took the pen out of my tablet pc and broke the clip off of it. I reacted angrily, and she gave me one of those “I’m gonna punish you by crying” looks. I grabbed her, held her tight, and said, “It’s just a thing, honey. Things aren’t important; people are.”

And that helped put things in perspective—sort of. How would I feel if someone grabbed a Torah out of the Ark and tossed it on the floor? I’d be angry at the gesture, and possibly frightened, given the history of my people.

The fact that people are willing to die in the name of an object, rather than a person, saddens me. Objects, no matter how deeply revered, are objects. Fundamentalists often claim a unique insight into the value of human life, based on it’s relationship to the divine. At the same time, they are uniquely able to imbue inanimate objects with that same divine presence. Atheists are often criticized for having no basis for valueing life, but, hey, how many atheists will threaten your life over a scroll or a cracker? Deification of the inanimate, raising the value of the inanimate above that of a human being is unique to religion, and a unique danger.

My daughter is smart enough to know that a thing is a thing, a person a person, and one is more valuable than the other. Perhaps the fundies need a lesson from a four year-old.

Comments

  1. #1 Will K.
    July 12, 2008

    You’re looking at the issue too rationally, Pal. Most of us can boil it down to cracker v. human, but if you believe in the transubstantiation of the Body of Christ, it isn’t that simple.

    But regardless if you believe it’s just a cracker (it is) or the literal Body of Christ, I think most anyone with even a moderate grasp on reality can see the absurdity in threatening somebody’s life for leaving church with a Eucharist instead of eating it. And doubly so for threatening the life and career of another individual simply for being critical of the previous events.

    If I did believe in a God and even if I were a Catholic, I don’t see how I could get so worked up about this. If God really took an active interest in the world, and if taking a Eucharist were such a sin, I’d be fairly confident God could take care of this problem himself through his ever-mysterious “ways”.

  2. #2 Kagehi
    July 12, 2008

    Because, Will, on some level even the believers know that God *won’t* take care of it in his “ever-mysterious ways”, and theirs entire faith is actually based on real world actions by followers, not their gods ineffable inaction. Some justify this as, “God wanted me to do it.”, the crazier ones by, “God told me to do it.”, and the only moderately unhinged as, “God will reward me for doing it.” But, in the end, its all a shell game. They do what they want to defend the social club they are in, and then “justify” this by claiming its part of the great plan of something than never lifted a finger to prevent the original action, punish the person responsible, or do anything to help.

    Simple fact is, if believers thought like you suggested and left “god” to solve these problems, we wouldn’t have religious driven wars, blogs talking about the latest faith based idiot, etc. We also wouldn’t find lightning rods on churches, since they wouldn’t bother with them, figuring it was all part of “gods plan” if it burned down. And, you can find some of those people too. One bunch built a church without *any* architect, they finished it, and it promptly collapsed. Their answer wasn’t, “Gosh! Maybe we should have found someone ‘competent’ to do it!”, it was, “Praise the lord no one got hurt in the empty building, which god made fall down on a day no one was there!”

    There is a song by Leslie Fish, called “breaking strain”, that just about covers the thinking applied by these people. If it falls down, rebuild it, if it still does, rebuild it again, if it still does, maybe next time it won’t, but never use the textbooks with tables at the end, which describe how much stress things can take, etc., oh Son’s of Adam, that would be too *reasonable*. And this is applied to everything from building construction, to sex education, to Biblical interpretation, to moral constructs. If it fails, just rebuild the same mess and hope it doesn’t fall down again. If it settles, only half the roof falls off, and it leans at a 10 degree angle, its a “success”, because it didn’t collapse on Sunday, with a full congregation, and kill half the people in it. And even if the later happened, well, God must have “called” those people early for some reason, lets “rebuild again”.

    The “moderates” all have pretty much figured out that the real world doesn’t work that way, and grasp desperately at the remnants of what is left after you give up on the silly idea that God will do everything for you, never mind that “God helps those who help themselves”, is 100% contradictory to *everything* in the Bible. lol

  3. #3 Richard Eis
    July 12, 2008

    Thing is i’m torn on this too, it is rather like taking a child’s security blanket and telling them not to be so silly. There are going to be tears.

    Actually i do hope something explodes here rather than fading away to become one more blog entry, it will really show (hopefully) the lack of reality of this belief and that something is fundamentally wrong with religion and superstition.

  4. #4 MH
    July 12, 2008

    Great post, as ever, but you forget that for Catholics, the Eucharist is not just a ‘thing’, it’s a person. Actually, it’s more than a person, it’s the god that they worship (and would willingly die for).

    You are probably aware that many Jews were murdered because they were suspected of ‘desecrating the host’. The only thing holding people like Donohue back from advocating the same fate for PZ and the UCF student is the law of the U.S., which I’m sure they would love to change.

    Interestingly enough, transubstantiation is a medieval invention; prior to that, Christians regarded the bread of communion to be merely a symbol of the body of Christ.

  5. #5 MarkH
    July 12, 2008

    I see this as no different from the attacks on Danish cartoon writers or hysteria over English teachers naming a teddy bear Mohammed. Irrationality is dangerous, just because we have better laws protecting people from the mob here doesn’t mean that their foolishness is any different from the extremism of other groups. Dobson is a classic mullah issuing a fatwah against any and all who blaspheme. The only thing saving us is that we live in a free country run by a secularish government which most the time protects us from the mullahs in our midst.

  6. #6 Boris
    July 12, 2008

    Ugh. PZ is behaving like a child. I think the transubstantiation is stupid, but what is his little stunt accomplishing? Anybody learning anything about science or how science and faith can get along in society? No, it’s about the biggest blog dick.

    I agree with Mark that this is a lot like the Danish cartoons. The theory seems to be, let’s do something insulting and prove that there are extremists. But we already know there are extremists in any religion and what the Danish cartoons and the PZ cracker stunts do is give power and fuel to those extremist movements.

  7. #7 Brett
    July 12, 2008

    “And that helped put things in perspective—sort of. How would I feel if someone grabbed a Torah out of the Ark and tossed it on the floor? I’d be angry at the gesture, and possibly frightened, given the history of my people.”

    This is NOT about the “object” – it is about calling for the followers of this Christian-hating academic to actively invade churches and to steal a sacred part of worship for public desecration.

    Do you think it would be OK for PZ to tell his fans to invade Jewish synagogues to steal multiple scrolls and then hold them for public desecration while they cheer him on????

    Honestly, try to rationalize this call for active actions of hate really makes all of you look like extremists how passively OK such actions.

    How about a little intellectual honesty, even if you dislike Catholics?

  8. #8 MrMarkAZ
    July 12, 2008

    Dang it, Will beat me to it in the second paragraph, but I’d like to say this, in any case:

    As I wrote my letter of support for Dr. Myers, I started wondering if I would not be similarly outraged at seeing a swastika spray-painted on a synagogue (or really, anywhere). Of course I would. Any civilized, reasonable person would. So what’s the difference? Why does one sacrilege seem worthy of outrage, but another not? Can I honestly criticize the outrage expressed by the Catholic faithful when I would express a similar outrage upon seeing a neo-Nazi symbol superimposed on a building built for Jewish religious observance?

    The answer is yes, I can.

    Both acts are disrespectful and sacrilegious, that’s true. However, there is a clearly-expressed threat of violence in the case of the neo-Nazi vandalism that was not present in the case of the student’s disrespectful behavior. The student presented no threat or imminent danger to any recognizable property or to an actual person’s life. The responses by the church and the religious community were entirely disproportionate to the student’s actions and to PZ Myers’ postings on the subject.

    The issue wasn’t that people were willing to die for a symbolic object, it was that they suddenly became willing to inflict bodily harm and even kill for it when there was no clear rational purpose or legal justification for doing so. What is more disturbing to me is that even among the religious moderates posting to Myers’ blog, you find very few who actually repudiate the violence and extreme anger directed at the professor.

    Hugs can’t fix this degree of broken thinking. This wasn’t an accident or a Valuable Life Lesson. The threats were deliberate, as is the continued silence from the majority of the religious community.

    If this incident teaches us anything, it’s that we must immediately start to undercut or dilute the ideas and cultural customs that make violent zealotry possible and justifiable.

  9. #9 MH
    July 12, 2008

    Boris wrote “But we already know there are extremists in any religion…”

    To be honest, I never knew there were Catholic extremists (I always viewed the IRA as nationalists more than religious crazies). Sheltered life in the UK, I guess.

    Brett (or is it Naz, k8, promo, baker, PZ is a fool, Burns, rumrunner, Dobbs, NYTs, KKKAthiest, Andy, CDV, BradJ, b7, PCD, NVFU, Your daddy, facebock, or baker?) wrote “This is NOT about the “object” – it is about calling for the followers of this Christian-hating academic to actively invade churches and to steal a sacred part of worship for public desecration.”

    PZ hasn’t advocated theft. The magic crackers are given out freely. No end-user licence is signed by the receiver, thus there is no contract which can be broken, and no crime can be committed.

  10. #10 Brett
    July 12, 2008

    MH,

    Wrong “Brett,” however, you are the perfect example of a boorish, morally obtuse, extreme atheist.

    Keep up the good work.

  11. #11 Brett
    July 12, 2008

    There is a creedal “contract” for acceptance of the Holy Communion.

    Any violation of this community contract is unethical and, if done so with the intent of malice or for public displays of hate towards a specific religious group, then it becomes a crime.

    Are all atheist so socially autistic?

  12. #12 PalMD
    July 12, 2008

    Brett, I still agree that the whole thing is in poor taste and offensive, but not for those reasons.

    If you are a member of the catholic faith community and buy into it all, then yes, it is obviously sacreligious and unethical to desecrate the host.

    If you don’t really buy it that much, catholic or no, the ethical obligation isn’t really there. IMHO.

  13. #13 MH
    July 12, 2008

    LOL, first you say that you are not the sock-puppet that has been trolling Pharyngula, and then you accuse atheists of being “socially autistic”*, just like the sock-puppet has being doing at Pharyngula!

    Isn’t it a sin to lie? Every time you do so, Jesus kills a puppy.

    * let me guess, you’re anti-vax too?

  14. #14 MH
    July 12, 2008

    Peter, FYI, the sockpuppet’s IP is 68.231.xxx.xxx.

  15. #15 Brett
    July 12, 2008

    Pal: “If you don’t really buy it that much, catholic or no, the ethical obligation isn’t really there. IMHO.”

    So, a person should not extend ethical consideration to other groups in society if they do not hold their exact views/traditions/opinions?

    Sounds like a recipe for disaster.

    It would be in the interest of moderate scientific atheists to distance themselves from extremists such as PZ, rather than attempt to rationalize or defend their actions.

    My opinion, of course.

  16. #16 Brett
    July 12, 2008

    Going to “threaten” me, MH????

    Want my home address?

    Like I said, keep up the good work.

  17. #17 MH
    July 12, 2008

    “Going to “threaten” me, MH???? ”

    LOL @ the drama queen.

    No, Brett, the persecution is a figment of your imagination. I’m just exposing you for what you are.

  18. #18 Brett
    July 12, 2008

    MH,

    Actually, you are projecting and exposing yourself for what you are.

    Ironic, isn’t it.

  19. #19 MH
    July 12, 2008

    “Ironic, isn’t it.”

    About as ironic as rain on your wedding day, sweet-cheeks.

  20. #20 Brett
    July 12, 2008

    More projection.

  21. #21 MH
    July 12, 2008

    “More projection.”

    You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

  22. #22 D. C. Sessions
    July 12, 2008

    Yes, they’re only “things.” Is that an invitation for me to trash your car? How about the “art project” your kid did in second grade, just before she died?

    People care about things. You can hurt them. Am I supposed to admire you for being able (and willing) to hurt people?

    And yes, if you hurt enough people you’re going to find one who overreacts. Congratulations, whatever that proved.

  23. #23 MH
    July 12, 2008

    D. C. Sessions,

    I wasn’t aware that crackers were expensive or unique? And lets not forget that the magic biscuit was given to the student in question. He probably would have eaten it (after showing it his non-Catholic friend), if the church officials hadn’t assaulted him.

    What has been proven is that Catholics can be just as superstitious and reactionary as the Muslims that were riled at the publication of a cartoon of their pedophilic prophet.

  24. #24 D. C. Sessions
    July 12, 2008

    MH:

    I wasn’t aware that crackers were expensive or unique?

    If that’s what floats your boat, fine. Does it follow that those are the only attributes that people are allowed to care about?

    What has been proven is that Catholics can be just as superstitious and reactionary as the Muslims that were riled at the publication of a cartoon of their pedophilic prophet.

    People have buttons. Wow. I’m, like, so impressed by the total maturity and advanced ethics of someone who has discovered that — and apparently can’t resist demonstrating it.

  25. #25 MH
    July 12, 2008

    Sorry I hurt your feelings by pointing out that your analogies were completely flawed.

  26. #26 PalMD
    July 12, 2008

    sorry it took me a sec to snip that IP. Please, continue.

  27. #27 Infophile
    July 12, 2008

    Thing is i’m torn on this too, it is rather like taking a child’s security blanket and telling them not to be so silly. There are going to be tears.

    I think you’ve inadvertently hit on the key point here: You’re comparing these outraged Catholics to children. In short, the very point here is that Catholics are acting like children – only possibly more violent. PZ’s goal isn’t to simply hurt them, like by taking a child’s security blanket away, he wants them to grow up. And to do that, he’s pressing one of their most sensitive issues to try to get it to sink in how silly it is. It probably won’t work for the more extreme contingent, but some moderates might look at this and think, “Do I really want to be associated with those people, who are willing to kill over a cracker?”

  28. #28 Brendan S
    July 12, 2008

    Sure, what he did was impolite. He punched some buttons, and didn’t act in the most mature way possible. This is also what PZ and Richard have been on for a while. WHY is it ethically bad to point out that the Catholics are acting like children?

    The result, however, is just a bit out of whack with the ‘crime’.

    Which side knocks on the door of my private residence and bothers me at home, acting rude and insulting if I dont let them? They’re acting within the laws of society. But I think it’s kind of rude and immature to be so in your face about things. DOes this mean they should stop?

    And which side took something freely given, and did something unexpected with it? Does transsubstantion even happen if the person receiving it isn’t Catholic (note big C)? Has anyone spilled the communion wine on the floor? What happens to them?

    And yes DC, if you ruined my car, I would file charges. But I wouldn’t send you death threats. That would still be rude.

  29. #29 D. C. Sessions
    July 12, 2008

    WHY is it ethically bad to point out that the Catholics are acting like children?

    WHY is it bad to point out that blacks are acting like a bunch of over-sexed idiots?

    Does rephrasing the question make it easier to understand?

    And yes DC, if you ruined my car, I would file charges.

    Sounds like you’re getting upset over “just a thing.”

    But I wouldn’t send you death threats. That would still be rude.

    Ah, but others do — ever hear of “road rage?” So you’re no better than them, getting upset over a “thing.”

  30. #30 Brendan S
    July 12, 2008

    Blacks acting like a bunch of oversexed idiots? The hell?

    And basically, your point is that people get upset in different ways, so if you upset someone you should expect death threats? I mean, I’m just trying to understand here?

  31. #31 D. C. Sessions
    July 12, 2008

    Blacks acting like a bunch of oversexed idiots? The hell?

    You mean that there aren’t any blacks who act like oversexed idiots?

    (Obviously I didn’t get my point across.)

    And basically, your point is that people get upset in different ways, so if you upset someone you should expect death threats? I mean, I’m just trying to understand here?

    No, my point is the same one I taught my kids before they entered kindergarten: “don’t make things worse.” It doesn’t matter whether other people are jerks, and it certainly doesn’t matter whether they act even more like jerks when you push their buttons. What matters is that pushing their buttons is a Bad Thing. The person who knows how to push buttons and does is as responsible for the results as the one who blows up — arguably more so, since he had the power to prevent the whole thing and chose to do it — knowing the outcome.

    As for the “oversexed idiots” line, the point is that you were engaging in that classic tactic of dehumanizing a group you don’t like by taking the undesirable behavior of a few and painting the whole group. Niggers, kikes, WOPs, chinks, honkeys, wetbacks, the list is endless. It’s bigotry.

  32. #32 Brendan S
    July 12, 2008

    Fair enough, I’ll be more specific. Of course, I’ll expect you to come running to chide anyone who takes the actions of Dawkins or PZ and paints ‘Athiests’ with the same brush.

    And, it seems like your point is that PZ should have kept his mouth shut, and let just kinda run amok? I don’t think PZ is really the only one at fault here. And maybe you’re not saying that, but it does sort of seem that way.

    It could easily be conjectured that the college kid who took the item didn’t know he would cause such a fuss. And clearly from your previous statement, you don’t believe him to be at thought. But the “Catholic overreactors” (In an attempt to be specific.) arn’t exactly innocent here. You’ll note that it’s not like the people in the Catholic Church who I say are overreacting were exactly silent before PZ put his two cents in. Expulsion? From School? Armed Guards?

  33. #33 LanceR
    July 12, 2008

    Buzz, wrong again, DC Sockpuppet. Bigotry is when you say “All (insert group here) are (insert insult here).” When we say that *THESE* Catholics who got so upset over a cracker are acting like spoiled children, that is not bigotry. You can use all the racist words in your vocabulary, it won’t change the fact that these people, in this case, are acting like spoiled children.

  34. #34 Anonymous
    July 12, 2008

    There’s supposed to be “whatever you call the people who overreacted” betwen ‘let’ and ‘just kinda run amok’?

  35. #35 Brendan S
    July 12, 2008

    There’s supposed to be “whatever you call the people who overreacted” betwen ‘let’ and ‘just kinda run amok’?

    P.S. The whole ‘It’s your fault for pissing me off and I can’t be responsabile for my actions’ (Not you, but, for instance a given person that sends death threats) but smacks of the news story I saw recently where North Korea is blaming South Korea for North Korea shooting one of their citizens.

    http://canadianpress.google.com/article/ALeqM5hGHDlrwOLnQjEoPnJ7rjraM5wbfg

    I realise this is an extreme example, but you seem to not mind taking ideas to extremes.

  36. #36 Sardine
    July 12, 2008

    Just because the “Catholic League” issued a press release to say that the kid in FL should be disciplined by his college, DOES NOT mean that all 25 million American Catholics were gunning for him.

    You atheists were just looking to pick a fight — and that is EXACTLY what PZ did with his foolish and dangers threats to attack Catholic rituals.

    The funniest part is that this pussy, PZ, then calls for help! after his outrageous incitement of hate.

    Right…..PZ is the victim….more like he was the one who yells fire in a crowded theater.

    PS – you don’t have to believe what Catholics believe to realize that this PZ’s call for desecration was a extreme threat against their community.

    What is wrong with you people??? Have you no decency, sirs?

  37. #37 Pseudonym
    July 12, 2008

    Brendan S:

    Which side knocks on the door of my private residence and bothers me at home, acting rude and insulting if I dont let them?

    Do Roman Catholics do that? I’ve never seen it happen.

  38. #38 Brendan S
    July 12, 2008

    Happened to me in college all the time.

    And I went to Iowa State. Not a traditionally Catholic school.

    PZ knows exactly what he’s doing. I’m sure it’s more like a game to him. But it is funny to hear “everyone” come and claim that since PZ posted something on his blog that “the people of the Catholic Faith who are overreacting” have no control over their actions! It’s not their fault! It’s PZ’s fault for saying stuff.

  39. #39 Sardine
    July 12, 2008

    Brendan,

    You are right!

    People should just ignore calls for hateful physical action against specific religious or ethic groups and their traditions…

    Who needs civility? Who needs “society”? Why can’t I scream fire in a crowded theater? It is my right to free speech!

    You guys are really lacking for logic.

    Does free-thinking = no thinking? It sure looks that way.

  40. #40 Brendan S
    July 12, 2008

    Oh, and just because I can’t help myself:

    You atheists were just looking to pick a fight ….

    Just because PZ wants a cracker to dispoil doesn’t mean all million Atheists in the US are out to get (Catholics?).

  41. #41 Brendan S
    July 12, 2008

    You can’t scream fire in a crouded theater because it is a threat to public saftey. I fail to see the parallel to anythign we’re talking about here. Please explain it or stop saying that.

    And the people who you are defending are threatining physical action jsut as much as PZ did. Even if you put Catholic blasphemy on the same level as murder, all you’re doing is saying that they responded in kind. Two wrongs make a right after all eh?

    And you’ll note that I didn’t say what PZ did was nice. I even said it was rude (I guess I said impolite). I do think it’s rude. I wouldn’t do it. That doesn’t mean that license if given for the reasion that ensued.

  42. #42 D. C. Sessions
    July 12, 2008

    Buzz, wrong again, DC Sockpuppet. Bigotry is when you say “All (insert group here) are (insert insult here).” When we say that *THESE* Catholics who got so upset over a cracker are acting like spoiled children, that is not bigotry.

    Read above. It’s not, “*THESE* Catholics.” It’s “Catholics.” As in,
    “What has been proven is that Catholics can be just as superstitious and reactionary as the Muslims that were riled at the publication of a cartoon of their pedophilic prophet.”

  43. #43 Sardine
    July 12, 2008

    Brendan,

    There is a difference between “free speech” and actually calling for action against a particular group (in this case, Catholic).

    He can say the Catholic League are assholes, or he can blasphemy Catholic rituals all day long on his blog until he is blue in the face; however, he cannot incite hateful actions in the real world and, if it happens, it will be considered hate crimes against this group.

    Big difference: free speech (of course, all day long), calls for physical action against faith groups (insanely wrong and possibly criminal if carried out).

    There is a connection between the word “fire” and the violence that ensues in the theater — the same goes for any unethical/criminal actions that PZ or his followers take due to his words.

    PS – PZ is a bigot – no two ways about it.

  44. #44 D. C. Sessions
    July 12, 2008

    Let’s be clear here: there is plenty of assholiness going around for everyone. Nothing new about that.

    However, one of the most fundamental principles of a free society is the right to be wrong. Related is the right to be different — which means that you don’t have to share my values or my ideas of what is important (you can thank me later.) Perhaps most important is the principle that reasonable people of good will can disagree.

    Lose those and you’re headed for a holy war, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s Jihadists, Communists, John Birchers, the Spanish Inquisition, or the Weed on Wednesday Party.

    The intrinsic frictions of diversity causes plenty of irritation at best. Some people don’t handle that well and instead of getting on with their lives decide to return the grief with interest. Some go out of their way to stir the pot. If there are too many of those compared to the ones who shrug off annoyances and those who actively make peace, here comes the Jimson Weed Jihad.

    So, no, I’m not making excuses for anyone. I am, however, particularly calling out the High Priests of Assholiness who make excuses for (or even encourage) people who chose to go out of their way to reduce the overall civility of society.

    Is that maybe just a little bit clearer now?

  45. #45 Larry
    July 12, 2008

    I think it’s disingenuous to continually shift between the object and its referents.

    “Niggar” is just a word.
    The US Flag is just a piece of cloth.
    The Koran is just a book.

    Yet you can be sued, arrested, have your career destroyed for using/abusing any of those; people have died for them. Not for the actual word or object, but for what they symbolize.

    It looks downright silly to argue over a word, a piece of cloth, a book — and that’s not what this is about. But it sure is convenient to say it is when you’re trying to appear guileless.

    “How would I feel if someone grabbed a Torah out of the Ark and tossed it on the floor? I’d be angry at the gesture, and possibly frightened, given the history of my people.”

    Exactly. It is not just a simple case of vandalism. It’s a statement, and in today’s society, a hate crime. Even if no legal charges were brought, the perpetrator would likely be socially ostracized and vilified. And, to not coin a phrase, “most decent people would agree with that”.

    How would you feel if “someone” was replaced with “PZ”? Now it’s ok?

    It’s sometimes a fine line separating legitimate criticism from hateful acts.

  46. #46 Alexandra
    July 12, 2008

    The US Flag is just a piece of cloth.
    The Koran is just a book.

    Yet you can be sued, arrested, have your career destroyed for using/abusing any of those; people have died for them. Not for the actual word or object, but for what they symbolize.

    That doesn’t make it any more or less ridiculous. If I choose to burn an American flag (or as really reflects this case, if I merely announce my willingness to burn an American flag) anyone willing to kill or to die (or to threaten to kill or die) in response to that is simply a fool. Ditto the Koran, the cracker, or any other thing without inherent value. Magical thinking equates the symbol with what it represent but they are not the same. The flag is not the nation. The cracker is not the Christ.

    And that’s the point. That’s why such thinking (religion, nationalism, etc.) is so dangerous and destructive. That’s why PZ pointed it out.

  47. #47 Sardine
    July 12, 2008

    Alexandra: “That’s why PZ pointed it out.”

    The only thing PZ points out to the greater public is the the myopia, illogic and danger of atheism taken to extremes.

    How ironic…

  48. #48 D. C. Sessions
    July 12, 2008

    Ditto the Koran, the cracker, or any other thing without inherent value.

    Which system of economics are you using to define “inherent value?” People have fought and died over those systems.

    In the end, “value” is like any other abstraction, no more than “freedom” or “truth.” What you really mean by “inherent value” is “value according to me.” Which is just fine, as long as you’re talking about your “things.” However, as I pointed out above, people don’t agree on the value of “things” — including you. And if you think that you’re not a “thing” then you haven’t learned the lessons of history (with Santayana’s consequence) from the chapters on slavery (among others.)

  49. #49 Screechy Monkey
    July 12, 2008

    “The only thing PZ points out to the greater public is the the myopia, illogic and danger of atheism taken to extremes.”

    Yes, Extreme Atheism* leads to horrible dangers. If you’re a cracker, that is. Otherwise, not so much.

    *Extreme Atheism sounds like an event at the X Games. Perhaps sponsored by Mountain Dew, which I hear is great for washing down illicit crackers…..

  50. #50 bad Jim
    July 12, 2008

    Burning a flag or creating a depiction of Mohammed or desecrating a consecrated wafer are provocative but constitutionally protected acts. (Please note that only Catholics believe that a commonly available wafer is transformed magically into a sacred object. The rest of us are not obligated to share that belief, nor to grant it the same status as a reliquary or a Torah scroll.)

    However, merely writing about committing such acts is not the same as committing them. It’s odd that so many seem unable to grasp the distinction.

  51. #51 TheNerd
    July 13, 2008

    PalMD – I think this would be an excellent time to have a refresher post on the common fallacies of logic which are being so finely presented before us.

  52. #52 melior
    July 13, 2008

    The fake sense of outrage is rampant projection on the part of the religious nuts. Historically speaking, the people who refused to acknowledge the Magical Cracker are the ones who were in danger from the cracker worshippers, not the other way around. And I don’t mean in danger of having their feelings hurt, or being offended, like these crybabies are.

    In 1252, Pope Innocent IV made torture an official policy of the Catholic Church in his bull, “Ad extirpanda.” The Inquisitors were allowed to torture boys of fourteen and girls of twelve years of age. The Hounds of the Lord were so totally shameless that they saw no reason to conceal their crimes. They were doing the work of God and “his Holiness.” As a result, “trials” and burnings were done in broad daylight. In this way, they terrorized Europe with ruthless energy for six hundred years.

  53. #53 Richard Eis
    July 13, 2008

    I don’t want to live in a world where people get angry over a stolen cracker. It’s weird and illogical and CREEPY.

    How am i supposed to deal with people like that, how am I supposed to know what will and won’t offend these people in advance. When they get angry for whatever reason, am I supposed to take it because i’m the logical one or because someone who uses a similar label to me makes trouble therefore I’m to blame?

    If people do not stand up for logic, do not push the illogical people back or expose them instead of tiptoeing around them in case they explode then we will get nowhere as a society. I have decided that I stand with PZ. He may have done it for the wrong reasons, but i think some people need to have their security blanket taken and told to grow up.

  54. #54 Katkinkate
    July 13, 2008

    I agree with you Richard. They should keep their cracker worship inside their churches. They would be within their rights, in my opinion, to excommunicate the lad who ‘stole’ the cracker in the first place, if he’s broken their rules, but the threats of violence are over the top and inappropriate. If they insist of inflicting their delusions onto the community at large, they should be told to pull their heads in. Although I reckon PZ got a little carried away toward the end of his original post on the subject, I agree wholeheartedly with his basic position. It is just a freaking cracker, after all.

  55. #55 Michelle
    July 13, 2008

    Bad Jim notes: Burning a flag or creating a depiction of Mohammed or desecrating a consecrated wafer are provocative but constitutionally protected acts. (Please note that only Catholics believe that a commonly available wafer is transformed magically into a sacred object. The rest of us are not obligated to share that belief, nor to grant it the same status as a reliquary or a Torah scroll.)

    Why do you get to decide that a reliquary or a Torah is more of a religious object in my religion than the “cracker”? Fascinating.

    Anti-Catholic violence in this country is not unknown. Philadelphia’s cathedral has no low-lying stained glass windows. Why? It was built after anti-Catholic riots in the city during the 19th century. Ironic in a city founded with the hope of religious tolerance.

  56. #56 D. C. Sessions
    July 13, 2008

    Yes, Extreme Atheism* leads to horrible dangers. If you’re a cracker, that is. Otherwise, not so much.

    Anything that gets people passionate about their superiority to others is enough of a rallying flag to tear down civil society. The rhetoric on this thread would be enough to demonstrate that point, even if we didn’t have previous examples such as (for instance) O’Hare’s attempt to force all religious symbols out of public view.

    They should keep their cracker worship inside their churches.

    The historical irony is stunning.

  57. #57 Boris
    July 13, 2008

    The point people are missing is that we all imbue certain objects with emotional value–it’s not rational, but it still pisses us off when somebody shits on them. If my daughter makes me a drawing, I value it even though it has no aesthetic worth outside of my own mind.

    Now, if I give you that drawing, or even if you take it from out of the trash and you take it home and wipe your ass with it and then post on your blog a picture of you wiping your ass with my daughter’s drawing, I am going to be pissed off. Why? Because you have disrespected what I value.

    How is the world any better with more disrespect in it? Even–and this is where PZ Myers needs to learn something–even if you believe the people you disrespect don’t deserve your respect at all.

    Remember how Michelle Malkin acted with the Muhammad cartoons? PZ Myers–same thing.

  58. #58 D. C. Sessions
    July 13, 2008

    How is the world any better with more disrespect in it? Even–and this is where PZ Myers needs to learn something–even if you believe the people you disrespect don’t deserve your respect at all.

    Precisely. This just stinks of “I don’t have to respect you because I don’t agree with you.” That way lies holy war, and frankly the world has had enough of them. Voltaire may not have actually said it, but it still bears repeating as one of the great fundamentals of a free society.

  59. #59 Graculus
    July 13, 2008

    Why? Because you have disrespected what I value.

    So you’ll threaten to kill someone for disrespecting your symbol?

    fasciating…

  60. #60 Joseph
    July 13, 2008

    The swastika example was clearly flawed, as many people have pointed out. A better example would have been carrying in a part of a pig or smearing pig parts or fat (with rapid cleanup, so it’s not permanent) in a mosque or synagogue. Or eating a blood sausage in a synagogue. There’s no threat of violence, there’s no permanent change. It’s highly disrespectful to the persons who believe in the religion even if it’s just meat to the person engaging in the act. Maybe it wasn’t even done publicly or in a showy way (although PZ is quite arguably offering to do it in a highly public way).

    Regardless, it helps nobody and indeed makes the situation only worse. Doubly so, since the rational people on both sides get drowned out in the furor and are generally afraid to post in the frenzied attacks against the other side. I know I personally am; this is the first blog where I felt that my opinion would not necessarily be jumped all over.

    In short, nobody wins and everybody loses. Intentional disrespect is a no-win scenario.

  61. #61 PalMD
    July 13, 2008

    One of the flaws in the analogy is a power thing. When jew’s religion or culture is openly mocked, it has often led to violence on a horrific scale. Catholics are not, nor have they ever been, under such a threat.

    It’s still not nice though.

  62. #62 D. C. Sessions
    July 13, 2008

    The swastika example was clearly flawed, as many people have pointed out. A better example would have been carrying in a part of a pig or smearing pig parts or fat (with rapid cleanup, so it’s not permanent) in a mosque or synagogue. Or eating a blood sausage in a synagogue.

    Well, mosque anyway. They’re really touchy that way; the Jewish dietary laws only apply to Jews, so my understanding is that there’s no problem as long as it’s kept out of the kitchen.

    However, you don’t have to invoke religion. Having a bit of KFC at a PETA meeting would do as well.

    Regardless, it helps nobody and indeed makes the situation only worse. Doubly so, since the rational people on both sides get drowned out in the furor and are generally afraid to post in the frenzied attacks against the other side. I know I personally am; this is the first blog where I felt that my opinion would not necessarily be jumped all over.

    In short, nobody wins and everybody loses. Intentional disrespect is a no-win scenario.

    Bingo. Intolerance is intolerance. Read up on the insanity that went on for centuries in Spain for a good example. People weren’t being killed for washing their hands because Catholic Christianity was opposed to handwashing, but because it was a possible sign of being a “secret Jew.”

    I don’t like the idea of a future where that can happen again, whether to Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, or Pastafarians.

  63. #63 Joseph
    July 13, 2008

    You’re right about the flaw in the analogy due to the Holocaust, and that there’s no immediate example wrt Catholicism nor Islam (I included them in the example; how about eating a hamburger in a Hindu temple?)

    In addition, the analogy is semi-flawed in that no other religion save Christianity (not Catholicism) being the current dominant religion in the USA and therefore may well be interpreted to carry meaning beyond the immediate disrespect of the action itself. However, this is certainly not true around the world and at all points in time. A quick Google search for “catholics were burned” brought several historical and current examples of violence against Catholics. As the base question is hypothetical, we may predicate the question on choosing a point in space/time to negate the change due to different cultural backgrounds (or even not needing to choose a specific point in space/time, e.g. eating a hamburger in a Hindu temple in an India in which there’s no Muslim-Hundu violence).

  64. #64 bad Jim
    July 13, 2008

    Michelle:

    Why do you get to decide that a reliquary or a Torah is more of a religious object in my religion than the “cracker”?

    Very easily. Here are two crackers from the same batch, outwardly indistinguishable. The only difference between them is that a priest uttered a magical incantation above one and not the other, a magical incantation which I am not obliged to take seriously. From my point of view they are still two identical crackers.

    There is a difference between a blank sheet of paper and a child’s drawing. There is a difference between a stack of blank pages and a book, and the difference is more than a few words and a gesture of the fingers.

  65. #65 Sardine
    July 13, 2008

    Pal: “When jew’s religion or culture is openly mocked, it has often led to violence on a horrific scale. Catholics are not, nor have they ever been, under such a threat.”

    Really? Know anything of history, Pal?

    Thousands of priests were also killed by Hitler.

    10,000 religious (priests/monks/nuns) were targeted for systematic execution by the Republican forces in the Spain’s civil war.

    Same thing happened in the Mexican Revolution.

    The big daddy of all Catholic/Orthodox cleansing is Russian Bolshevik Revolution where thousands were killed an persecuted for religious belief.

    Atheism has played a part in all of these historic disasters.

    This is why “science blogs” should stick to science….

  66. #66 Joseph
    July 13, 2008

    Sardine: Please be respectful of others; an informative tack would have been a much better approach IMHO, and left your points intact while not infuriating those whom you apparently seek to inform.

  67. #67 D. C. Sessions
    July 13, 2008

    The only difference between them is that a priest uttered a magical incantation above one and not the other, a magical incantation which I am not obliged to take seriously. From my point of view they are still two identical crackers.

    And obviously that’s the only point of view that counts.

  68. #68 Kagehi
    July 13, 2008

    Joseph, the rational people always get drown out by the nuts. The fact is, at no time in history, has via and opinions about *anything* that is dangerous been changed without someone doing something that either got them assaulted physically and with words, sometimes jailed, and more than a few times killed. As a rule, when this has happened, society at large has reached the conclusion, “These people are dangerous and fracking nuts!”, and either abandoned the organization in question, or passed laws making what ever the hell insane behavior illegal. Worshiping a cracker doesn’t rise to the level where law needs to be invoked, but sane people should be really seriously wondering about the validity of being associated with the collection of nitwits responsible for “both” the original events, and the verbal threats to PZ when he went a bit over the top. And that is a distinction that should be clear. Most rational people are not going to go to the house of the guy that wiped his butt on the daughters drawing and posted in on the net, and try to kill them. They might call the cops. But, the cops, the courts and everyone else is going to laugh their asses off, or at best, slap the guys hand and tell him, “Don’t do that again.”, if all he did is either imply that he *might* do such a thing, or suggest someone else help him.

    And, to be even more clear, when people like Donahue say something, they damn well don’t mean it in jest at all, and its highly disingenuous, not to mention unlikely, that they are going to backpedal and claim they didn’t mean it when some nut takes them on their word and does assault, kill, etc. PZ’s comment was taken as the satire it was intended to be by everyone “other” than the loonies being talked about, and if someone actually did it, we know damn well that he probably wouldn’t do what he implied, nor would his denial of anyone that did appear unreasonable to reasonable people, since it wasn’t meant to be a command, or even a believable suggestion.

    We have spent decades playing nice with people, not assaulting their sensibilities and never pointing out how stupid they are acting, and all its gotten us is the religious right, a nation where you can’t get elected to the presidency unless you kiss some imaginary gods ass enough times, a nation where more than half the people get 90% of science and even history wrong, because they value what the priests tell them is true over what is provable, and everyone will jump on someone that suggests worshiping a cracker is stupid because it “offends their sensibilities ever so much!”, but none of the same people give a shit that nearly every damn thing they insist on shoving in our faces is just as offensive, because, and they even admit this, as long at its Islam doing it, or some cult, their world view tends to cause **actual** violence by followers who have no sense of humor and take “everything” said as a literal command to screw up people’s lives.

    Sorry if I find the reaction just a “tad” more insane than PZ’s joke.

  69. #69 Ed Darrell
    July 13, 2008

    Hmmmm.

    Great post, as ever, but you forget that for Catholics, the Eucharist is not just a ‘thing’, it’s a person. Actually, it’s more than a person, it’s the god that they worship (and would willingly die for).

    I’m not Catholic, so I’m up for some edification here: Can the wafer transubstantiate for someone who doesn’t believe? Does transubstantiation occur prior to ingestion?

    If it transubstantiates before, then the fellow who didn’t swallow has a piece of Jesus in his mouth, and the power of Jesus should protect it (and him) from harm. If it transubtrantiates afterward, then it doesn’t do so when the guy keeps it in his mouth and leaves the sanctuary — no foul.

    The furor suggests that those who grouse don’t have the faith that they’re supposed to have in the power of Jesus.

    What we’d need, maybe, is some scripture discussing the issue, suggesting whether food for sacrifice, left over, can be consumed.

    Why don’t the Myers bashers take that route?

  70. #70 Philip Boncer
    July 13, 2008

    There is a basic right on one’s own property to set one’s own rules and have one’s property and customs respected. If you don’t wish to abide by those rules and respect those customs, don’t enter that property.

    A similar situation might be if I wake up and find someone in my house stealing or breaking my stuff. The issue is more than the stuff; this person has set his life against mine by using his life to invade and violate mine. I might well threaten that person with injury or death, and it’s not because I value my *things* more than his life, but that I value my right to live my life in peace without being violated more than his life.

    I do agree that in this case the Catholics in question have over-reacted, but I understand why and I think their position is not completely baseless. Someone has not only entered their space with the intent to cause them distress and disrupt their lives, but also has then urged others to do the same, and it really is only one short step from there to persecution.

    Catholics are a big enough and well enough established group in this country not to have to worry much about widespread persecution any more, although active anti-Catholic bigotry in this country is still within living memory for some people. But the principle also carries over into treatment of smaller groups that have no such societal status. And an attitude where people think it’s OK to go screw with the lives of people who believe differently can and does spill over into violence and extreme action, even in this country in the present day. Branch Davidians. anyone? How about the polygamist group in Texas from whom *all* their children were taken on the basis of allegations of abuse of a few (fortunately even the Texas courts saw that for what it was and made the CPS give the kids back, but even so, that will have been an extremely traumatic event in the lives of most of those kids). (And I do recognize the irony in that many if not most of those Catholics over-reacting about the cracker probably think the Waco disaster and the polygamist raid were just fine. The point still stands that the principle of screwing around in the private business of others is wrong and dangerous.

    Personally, I’m atheist, and think the transubstantiation to be a really silly myth. But I have no business going into the church or home of a Catholic to tell them so or to try to piss them off into a reaction. They have as much right to their beliefs as I do, and as much right to practice those beliefs without being harassed about it. And it’s not surprising that when those rights are threatened, that a strong defensive reaction is provoked.

    PhilB

  71. #71 Joseph
    July 13, 2008

    Ed: Good question. I didn’t know either, so I Googled for it with site:.va (Vatican) The answer:
    http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p2s2c1a3.htm

    “The Eucharistic presence of Christ begins at the moment of the consecration and endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist.”

    So it doesn’t matter. To a Catholic, it’s Christ as soon as the priest consecrates it. The receiver’s faith or lack of faith is irrelevant.

    Perhaps I’m misunderstanding it, but your statement: “then the fellow who didn’t swallow has a piece of Jesus in his mouth, and the power of Jesus should protect it (and him) from harm.” is directly contradicted by Jesus’ own death, but perhaps I’m misunderstanding your meaning here.

  72. #72 Matt Penfold
    July 13, 2008

    “I do agree that in this case the Catholics in question have over-reacted, but I understand why and I think their position is not completely baseless. Someone has not only entered their space with the intent to cause them distress and disrupt their lives, but also has then urged others to do the same, and it really is only one short step from there to persecution.”

    Who are you talking about ?

    Webster Cook is the person who removed the wafer. There is no evidence that he entered the church with that intent. If you have some you need to produce it.

    PZ Myers is the person who satirically asked people to score him some consecrated wafers. Note that part about satirically. That means he did not actually intend for anyone do it.

    Note that Webster Cook and PZ Myers are not the same person.

    Note that you think Cook did enter the church intending to steal a wafer, and that you have not bothered to read what PZ said, and that you cannot even work out Cook and PZ are not the same person.

    There is no point addressing anything else until you have fixed those rather basic errors.

  73. #73 khan
    July 13, 2008

    Don’t dis the biscuit?

    How many millions of Body Of Christ(tm) are handed out every day? Are they all accounted for?

    Isn’t god (creator of the universe et al) capable of handling the situation of Body of Christ(tm) being inappropriately handled?

    Several years ago, I gave the house cleaner a gift of a potted plant (she had just bought a house). I have no idea what she did with that plant. I am not going to visit her and demand to know if it is still thriving.

  74. #74 MpM
    July 13, 2008

    comments from a lurker:
    There are times analogies just crumble under the weight of the uniqueness of the subject; in this case, the consecration of the host. Stop trying to equate the desecration of the host with race, or even other religious qualities. We are discussing an act whereby a person orchestrates the creation of physical bits of a god. He then takes little bits of god and gives it to people to eat. They eat little bits of their god every day. If you describe the event rather than dance around in false comparisons, the angst suffered by atheists is more understandable.

    Here is an analogy, (right after I said there are none… but be patient). If I went to the bank to get a loan so I could pay Charon when it came time to cross the river Styx, the banker would laugh.
    Is he a bigot? Absolutely not.
    Does he hate me? No. Not unless I call him a bigot.
    Is he persecuting me? No. Neither is he HUMORING me.
    Does he disrespect me? No, but he has no repect for my belief.

    That is what PZ is guilty of doing. He has failed to repect or give credence to the mysticisms of faith. Go back in the Pharyngula archives. Catholics are mentioned no more that other (mostly Christian) religions for their absurdities. Why pick on Christians more than other religions? PZ is based in the US. Look around and figure the rest out for yourselves.

    OK… but what about civility? Why is it so hard for non-believers to show respect for the mysticisms of religion?
    The ANSWER: Because religions have used the power of those mysticisms to control the actions of their people – sometimes for good and sometimes for evil. The atrocities go back as far as the written word to describe them.

    Recently: 911, Bosnia, the Hindu/Moslem clashes in India, the Taliban… the list goes on. Faith gives religious leaders the power to use the mysticisms of the religion – ANY RELIGION – to get people to act in violent and uncivilized ways. (Imagine if you could have had a beer with Mohamed Atta on the night on 9/10, and convinced him that there are no virgins waiting for him in the afterlife.)
    It is that quality that makes priests such devastatingly dangerous pedophiles. They hold the power of mysticism. They literally feed god to the children. Who would NOT trust such power. What true believer would deny his instruction? What child carries that strength when adults show little more.
    Atheists have a hard time watching masses of the faithful, blindly following their Cardinal, or Mullah, or Brahma to the next holocaust. We do not ridicule to hurt the faithful. We ridicule in the hopes that people will ask questions, and start to think for themselves. Why ridicule? Ridicule is most nearly the thought process opposite to faith.

    Peter: Catholics have been the subject of violence, mostly throughout the Southern and Western US from the 30′s through the 50′s. I make no comparison to atrocities suffered by Jews, or other groups, just keeping the discussion honest. Actually, there are few religious groups that have NOT suffered – usually at the hands of other religious groups.

  75. #75 Barn Owl
    July 13, 2008

    Please be respectful of others; an informative tack would have been a much better approach IMHO, and left your points intact while not infuriating those whom you apparently seek to inform.

    How utterly ironic.

  76. #76 Michelle
    July 13, 2008

    There is a difference between a blank sheet of paper and a child’s drawing. There is a difference between a stack of blank pages and a book, and the difference is more than a few words and a gesture of the fingers.
    —–

    there’s a difference (in my mind) between the rose my late husband gave me and one my boss did. The difference? Gestures and words… Detectable by you? No. Would I be distraught if you crumble one in my face, telling me it’s the former? You bet, even if I’m not sure.

  77. #77 Richard Eis
    July 13, 2008

    WHY should we respect the rantings of the christian faith?
    We are told time and time again that we should respect religion. We are not told why.

    Let me tell you why…because if we didn’t the christian faith would dissolve under it’s own stupidity.

    You spend years teaching people how to delude themselves, then tiptoe around these delusions whenever they manifest themselves fully, as if they are special or worthy of attention.

    SO LET ME TELL YOU BOYS AND GIRLS,

    If someone believes they are eating the body of christ then they need to have this idiot delusion crushed as quickly as possible. It is stupid, childish, idiotic, pointless garbage. This is not how you run a country, it is not how you advance society. It is childish naivety. and quite frankly this is the 21st century and it is embarrasing. I don’t care if it’s RUDE to spoil peoples delusions. These people need to grow up and see the world as it is.
    Why? because if they had you americans wouldn’t be about to plunge the world into a global recession.

  78. #78 D. C. Sessions
    July 13, 2008

    WHY should we respect the rantings of the christian faith?

    Because it’s practiced by people. If you want to discard the principle that people are due respect ab initio, start with yourself.

    I hear that there are some cabins in Idaho available.

  79. #79 Joseph
    July 13, 2008

    Barn Owl: ironic in what respect?

  80. #80 Alexandra
    July 13, 2008
    Ditto the Koran, the cracker, or any other thing without inherent value.

    Which system of economics are you using to define “inherent value?” People have fought and died over those systems.

    In the end, “value” is like any other abstraction, no more than “freedom” or “truth.” What you really mean by “inherent value” is “value according to me.”

    No, that’s not it at all. You’re still conflating “those systems” with their symbols. Nobody “fought and died” for the actual little coloured nylon rectangle waving on your car’s antenna. Some may have F&D’d for the nation which it represents, or even more for the ideals and ideas which that nation in turn is supposed to represent, but nobody died for that specific little rectangle of nylon. Even if you burn it, America won’t be likewise destroyed. That’s the difference between the symbol and what it represents. That’s why such voodoo sympathetic-magic religious (or nationalistic) thinking is so poisonous.

    These things are just things. Threatening, assaulting or even killing people to protect individual crackers, swatches of cloth or copies of some book is appalling. (And dying for them no less so.)

  81. #81 D. C. Sessions
    July 13, 2008

    WHY should we respect the rantings of the christian faith?

    Because it’s practiced by people. If you want to discard the principle that people are due respect ab initio, start with yourself.

    I hear that there are some cabins in Idaho available.

    If someone believes they are eating the body of christ then they need to have this idiot delusion crushed as quickly as possible.

    Ummm — right. And you’re just the one to do the crushing, no doubt. After all, the utter unquestionable correctness of your beliefs is apparent to any thinking person and they’re the only ones who count; the rest will just have to subjugate themselves to you.

    Be sure to let your co-workers (I’m assuming you’re employed, but I could be wrong) know about this New World Order bright and early tomorrow. Let me know how it all works out.

  82. #82 khan
    July 13, 2008

    If you are willing to kill people to protect a cracker, there is something seriously wrong with you.

  83. #83 Kagehi
    July 13, 2008

    You know. I am getting real annoyed by the constant “atheist was part of all these evil things”. Not only do they keep bringing up thing like Hitler, when trying to claim he wasn’t religious is just plain stupid, but they fail to grasp one **key** point. Even if they are right that disbelief in religion (note, I say religion, not god) led some crazy people to try to destroy it, that doesn’t a) prove that religion is valuable, b) that they didn’t have good points, or c) that the majority of modern atheists think anything like that.

    Its like the constant attempts to claim Darwin was somehow racist. By **our** definition maybe, by his times definition, he was practically a fracking abolitionist. The best the that could be said about the racists of that period is that most of them might not have held Roman style gladiator games. The worst that could be said about people like Darwin was that he did think some people’s where uncivilized, and thought “education” would inevitably turn them into civil people, like everyone else. Ooh! What a bigot!

    So, here we have another absurd list of things “atheists”, who, you know, just don’t like religion and think god is so absurdly unlikely and unnecessary that he/she/it isn’t worth bothering with, are supposed to have done to poor Christians. The fact that there was a whole stupid fracking ideology behind all those movements, which said that their leaders where never wrong, that belief trumps evidence and that peace could be won through violence, instead of words, that **irrelevant**. What is apparently relevant is that those people may have (or may not have, since most people making these assertions have about as obtuse and simplistic a grasp of history as they do logic) something in common with modern thinkers that also reject the same things, but who, unlike ***every one of those groups*** has, does, and continues to call “everyone” that uses gut feeling, wishful thinking, and projections based on authority figures and unassailable *truths* in complete contempt, and see them as dangerous.

    No, if you find some group of atheists persecuting religion, odds are they are a) lying about their beliefs, b) only atheists, not humanists, or any other flavor of **moral** thinking, and c) they will have some charismic leader that they will *never ever* say is wrong. Guess what? No one at PZs site thinks *anyone* is always right, and we have and continue to disagree with everyone from Dawkins to PZ. Its kind of hard to imagine, if we won’t hold any one man’s dogmatics truths as unchallenged, us forming some mob and committing war atrocities. Many of the people posting from the other side, who not only claim that their position is unassailable, but that everyone else **must** respect it, them I am not so sure about…

  84. #84 Nomen Nescio
    July 13, 2008

    If you want to discard the principle that people are due respect ab initio, start with yourself.

    people certainly are due respect ab initio. however:

    * once we start talking about what religions a person holds, we are well past the point of initio. that sort of specifics are part and parcel of such behavior as may earn a person more than the default, basic level of respect due to everybody — or, conversely, may cause them to lose our respect; and

    * people’s religions are not people, and disrespecting religious faith is not the same as disrespecting the people who hold to it. yes, really. the notion that religion and person are inseparable is an immensely harmful, clearly negative effect which i for one blame on the religion in question.

    okay, in fairness, religions are not the only belief systems that seek to wed themselves inseparably to the people who hold them. nationalism, for example, is another such system. however, i’m at a loss to think of any belief system exhibiting this behavior that’s actually good for anything. i’m tempted to write them all off as parasitic memes worthy of exterminating, frankly.

  85. #85 Kagehi
    July 13, 2008

    Oh, and just in case the above was too confusing:

    Belief in gods doesn’t **prevent** people from being sick idiots with crazy ideas, who think the world “needs” to look like what they want, and are willing to kill to get that.

    Disbelief in gods doesn’t **cause** people from being sick idiots with crazy ideas, who think the world “needs” to look like what they want, and are willing to kill to get that.

    Absolute, unquestioned, belief in untestable, faith asserted, unquestionable, and irrational ideas, which must be defending at all costs from people that might challenge them will make ****both**** groups into insane mass murderers, if they let it.

    Atheism, in the case of people like Mao and Stalin, was a lever to get power out of the hands of priests, nothing more, nothing less, and not one thing in **any** of their conclusions or ideas, was otherwise **ever** derived from that idea.

  86. #86 Kagehi
    July 13, 2008

    Sigh.. I really need to keep repeating to myself: “Preview is your friend.”, until I stop skipping over it and writing stuff that reads like the way I used to stutter as a kid. Its a serious curse to be able to rethink what you are writing, even as your putting the words to paper or typing them, thus stringing together *parts* of related, but unconnected thoughts. lol

  87. #87 mandrake
    July 13, 2008

    Alexandra –
    THANK YOU for the sympathetic magic comment. A symbol is only a thing that represents a group of people or idea, and the problem with symbols may be fact that there is a subconscious tendency to think that when the *symbols* are harmed, the *people* are harmed. Psychologically that makes a lot more sense now.

  88. #88 Philip Boncer
    July 13, 2008

    Matt Penfold wrote: “Who are you talking about ?

    Webster Cook is the person who removed the wafer. There is no evidence that he entered the church with that intent. If you have some you need to produce it.

    PZ Myers is the person who satirically asked people to score him some consecrated wafers. Note that part about satirically. That means he did not actually intend for anyone do it.

    Note that Webster Cook and PZ Myers are not the same person.

    Note that you think Cook did enter the church intending to steal a wafer, and that you have not bothered to read what PZ said, and that you cannot even work out Cook and PZ are not the same person.

    There is no point addressing anything else until you have fixed those rather basic errors.”

    Sorry. I was indeed unclear on the original situation. Sounds like Cook made a mistake through not understanding the seriousness of the ritual in his own faith. He did apparently enter intending to steal a consectrated wafer, but not with intent to cause harm, and some people reacted over the top, but that he has now returned the magic cracker and all is well enough there.

    PZ, on the other hand, satirical or not, has asked people to deliberately perform acts that the Catholic faith deems sacreligious. and this I think they have a legitimate complaint about. Again, I agree that death threats are an over-reaction. But I also get that to the Catholics this is not just a cracker, it is a sacred object (once transformed) and that stealing them is a deeply offensive act to them. Doing so is thus not OK, no matter how silly you or I think their belief system is.

    PhilB

  89. #89 Jude
    July 14, 2008

    Interesting. PZ blogs too much, so I’m grateful to learn about the controversy through your blog (since I stopped subscribing to his). I’ve always thought that the Catholic belief in transubstantiation explains why so many priests are alcoholics.

  90. #90 Chris P
    July 14, 2008

    Catholics have advocated people having large families and this has helped cause overpopulation.

    I think this is sacreligious but don’t have a religion to hind behind to call it so.

    People use religion to hide bad behavior and even illegal behavior from criticism. In many cases they get tax breaks for doing that.

    It’s wrong and needs to stop. People are using gods to wreak havoc on this planet.

    Atheists are right to start standing up to this continuing stupidity.

    Religions will do nothing to stop real threats – even those as dangerous as people driving on their cell phones – but get carried away on the issue of gays, the environment and now crackers.

    Religion is absurd. – No it doesn’t deserve any respect.

    Unless you can show us proof of a god.

  91. #91 Richard Eis
    July 14, 2008

    -
    Ummm — right. And you’re just the one to do the crushing, no doubt. After all, the utter unquestionable correctness of your beliefs is apparent to any thinking person and they’re the only ones who count; the rest will just have to subjugate themselves to you. -

    You mean rather than subjugating themselves to their magic sky daddy?

    When i first meet someone and they are raving about crackers turning into god-flesh, they are not going get any respect from me “ab initio”.

  92. #92 bad Jim
    July 14, 2008

    We’re not required to respect beliefs. People believe that unveiled women deserve to be raped, that Africans deserve to be enslaved, or that gays or Jews deserve to be exterminated, based on their interpretation of holy scripture. We not only do not respect such beliefs, we don’t respect those who hold them. We call them bigots. They may even be kind and loving people, pillars of their communities, but they’re bigots.

    If disrespect of another’s religious beliefs is bigotry, then any sincere religious adherent is a bigot for rejecting the tenets of contending creeds, and only the most ecumenical sort of agnostic is not a bigot. It would be better to reserve the term “bigotry” for beliefs which are actually hateful.

    Need I also point out that, unlike faded roses or ancient relics or sacred trees, consecrated hosts can be produced upon demand, with a “Hoc est corpus” and a wave of the fingers?

  93. #93 Dianne
    July 14, 2008

    When jew’s religion or culture is openly mocked, it has often led to violence on a horrific scale. Catholics are not, nor have they ever been, under such a threat.

    I disagree somewhat. There is and has been substantial anti-Catholic prejudice in the world. Wars have been fought over minor distinctions between the Christian sects, including Catholicism versus Protestantism, people have been murdered over these distinctions, and so on. See Northern Ireland for example. That having been said, I think that you are essentially right in principle: No one involved in crackergate was afraid that the removal of the cracker was the starting point for further anti-Catholic acts. No one feared that if they did not stop the person in question their places of worship would be destroyed or that they might be in danger. As far as I can tell, no one actually involved felt that anything worse than a severe breach of manners had occurred.

    It’s been a long time since I’ve taken religion seriously, but back when I seem to remember there being a lot of verbage in the Bible about it being God’s right to judge, not humanity’s and leaving the judgement of who is or is not a sinner to God. So, even if the young man in question did commit a grevious sin, even if PZ Myer did compound it, that’s none of our business. God will take care of it. And if there is no God (or if the God/s are other than we expect) then there was no sin and that will take care of things as well.

    In short, I agree with your four year old. Take care of people. Things aren’t all that important.

  94. #94 Despard
    July 14, 2008

    Here’s a good blog post quoting Douglas Adams’ thoughts on respect and religion.

    http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/2007/03/douglas-adams-speaks-about-religion.html

    It’s kind of interesting, I have posted about this on my own (private) blog, and have come under fire from several quarters. Happily, I relish debate and disagreement. :-)

  95. #95 Adrienne
    July 14, 2008

    PalMD, I seriously hope you have (and raise) more children.

  96. #96 D. C. Sessions
    July 14, 2008

    We’re not required to respect beliefs.

    I worry when people don’t distinguish between “respect beliefs” and “respect people who have beliefs.”

    In both directions.

  97. #97 Boris
    July 14, 2008

    Why? Because you have disrespected what I value.

    So you’ll threaten to kill someone for disrespecting your symbol?

    fasciating…

    Posted by: Graculus

    Nice straw man argument.

  98. #98 Alexandra
    July 14, 2008
    We’re not required to respect beliefs.

    I worry when people don’t distinguish between “respect beliefs” and “respect people who have beliefs.”

    We’re not required to respect all people either. Some positions and actions are worthy of contempt as are those who willfully indulge in them. For example I hold in contempt both the idea of racism and any person who espouses it. (The notion that “magic” crackers are of greater value than are people also qualifies as worthy of contempt.)

  99. #99 Ames
    July 14, 2008

    Well said Pal, as always. You know I agree with you.

  100. #100 Adrienne
    July 14, 2008

    You know, D.C. and Michelle and others, I do think you have some valid points. I am an atheist and an ex-Catholic, and initially supported PZ’s “Desecrate the Wafers” campaign, and even planned on scoring a transubstantiated wafer or to in order to send him. That’s mostly because I can’t stand Bill Donohue of the Catholic League and I like the idea of doing something that ticks Mr. Donohue off.

    But I think I have changed my mind now and will take more of a “live and let live” approach. I still support PZ’s freedom to criticize religion, but I won’t support or aid his campaign to desecrate consecrated wafers. I do support the idea of people of differing religious beliefs (or none) being as civil to each other as possible for the greater good of society.

    Nevertheless, I think more Catholics would do well to condemn the idea of violence and death threats against those whom they deem to commit sacrilege against the Eucharist. And I’d love to see more Catholics speak out against Donohue and his constant bitchin’.

  101. #101 D. C. Sessions
    July 14, 2008

    We’re not required to respect all people either. Some positions and actions are worthy of contempt as are those who willfully indulge in them. For example I hold in contempt both the idea of racism and any person who espouses it. (The notion that “magic” crackers are of greater value than are people also qualifies as worthy of contempt.)

    So you agree that some people who hold “incorrect” beliefs thereby forfeit respectful consideration as human beings.

    I think you’ve just spelled out the charter for Jihad — only the names have changed.

  102. #102 D. C. Sessions
    July 14, 2008

    Nevertheless, I think more Catholics would do well to condemn the idea of violence and death threats against those whom they deem to commit sacrilege against the Eucharist.

    Absolutely. And not just Catholics, thank you — if I’ve spelled it out poorly, let me emphasize that the arena of concern in a civil society is actions, not beliefs. Words? Judge them by the harm they do to others. Anyone who’s raised kids should know how much real harm they can do.

    Dismissing religion out of hand is terribly impoverishing, since so much of our species’ philosophy, art, social evolution, etc. has been phrased in religious terms. Few, I hope, would object to Hillel’s dictum regardless of the fact that it was stated in a religious context:

    That which is hateful to you, do not do to others. The rest is commentary; go and learn it.

  103. #103 Nomen Nescio
    July 14, 2008

    So you agree that some people who hold “incorrect” beliefs thereby forfeit respectful consideration as human beings.

    i’d agree with that exact sentiment. a person holding to virulent white supremacism will not get my respect, because willfully adhering to such a despicable belief system precludes being respectable. pray tell, before you label me too a “jihadist”, is there any way for any person ever to forfeit your respect? if so, what is it?

  104. #104 D. C. Sessions
    July 14, 2008

    pray tell, before you label me too a “jihadist”, is there any way for any person ever to forfeit your respect? if so, what is it?

    Easy: actions. I don’t pretend to know what’s in someone’s “soul” or to have the ultimate taste in poetry, so I won’t be expressing my views on Art, barbed and tanged, below the heart of any mammothistic etchers at Grenelle.

    They can have all the secret sins in the world, but if they’re down at the soup kitchen dishing out turkey this winter I’m not going to complain, just as I won’t excuse them for expressing noble sentiments on someone else’s walls.

  105. #105 Alexandra
    July 14, 2008

    So you agree that some people who hold “incorrect” beliefs thereby forfeit respectful consideration as human beings.

    I think you’ve just spelled out the charter for Jihad — only the names have changed.

    Well, I do agree that some people who hold “incorrect” beliefs thereby forfeit (to varying extents) respectful consideration which they would otherwise enjoy as human beings, yes. Which beliefs that applies to is a moral question and yes, it is often a very difficult question without clear answers.

    However, to (as you seem to be suggesting) simply skip the whole exercise and treat all beliefs and practices as not only acceptable but worthy of our respect is, in itself, a rather contemptible idea.

  106. #106 Nomen Nescio
    July 14, 2008

    They can have all the secret sins in the world, but if they’re down at the soup kitchen dishing out turkey this winter I’m not going to complain, just as I won’t excuse them for expressing noble sentiments on someone else’s walls.

    if their misdeeds were truly secret, they’d never reach my ears to diminish my respect for the “sinners”, now would they?

    and of course, respect being a sliding scale, even the most despicable person may redeem themselves by sufficient good deeds to counterbalance their ills. that does not mean i will overlook their ills when i work out how great a degree of respect to afford them. a Klansman earns some amount of respect for cleaning up a length of freeway — but will still lose some other amount of it for being a Klansman. which amount shall be the greater is my decision, this being my own respect i’m allocating here.

  107. #107 Dan
    July 14, 2008

    I am an Atheist, but my family is Catholic. I have been following this issue with PZ. I see his point of view, but I feel he went overboard here. That said I believe in freedom of speech and support him on that. While yes, it is a cracker, there is no need to use the bible or Koran as toilet paper. It just needlessly pisses people off.

  108. #108 Sardine
    July 14, 2008

    Is it me, or does atheism destroy empathy/civility and replace it with utilitarian self regard…

    The argument that YOU see the Eucharist as an empty symbol and, therefore, are free to go out of your way desecrate it is beyond the point.

    It is not what YOU believe that matters in this instance.

    The fact of the matter is the the communion IS a sacred icon for Catholics and any attempt at desecration is an attempt to attack this group and their right to worship without intimidation or threat of violence.

    This is active aggression by atheists on a religious community and, considering the history of anti-Catholic violence in this country and others – it will be viewed as such.

  109. #109 Nomen Nescio
    July 14, 2008

    any attempt at desecration is an attempt to attack this group and their right to worship without intimidation or threat of violence.

    no, it is no such thing. an attempt at desecration is a way to make the religion look foolish or embarrassing. it has nothing to do with the group of people who hold to that religion. and quit trying to play the martyr game, it’s ridiculous — we’re talking about a cracker, not catholics being thrown to the lions in Times Square.

  110. #110 D. C. Sessions
    July 14, 2008

    Well, I do agree that some people who hold “incorrect” beliefs thereby forfeit (to varying extents) respectful consideration which they would otherwise enjoy as human beings, yes. Which beliefs that applies to is a moral question and yes, it is often a very difficult question without clear answers.

    However, to (as you seem to be suggesting) simply skip the whole exercise and treat all beliefs and practices as not only acceptable but worthy of our respect is, in itself, a rather contemptible idea.

    Marvelous example of sliding back and forth between “ideas which may not deserve respect” and “disrespecting people who hold those ideas.”

  111. #111 D. C. Sessions
    July 14, 2008

    Is it me, or does atheism destroy empathy/civility and replace it with utilitarian self regard…

    Only to the extent that any passionately held belief does. As a species we have are hard-wired to establish ourselves in a hierarchy of “merit” and to put others down as far as possible. Most tribal languages name themselves “people,” with the implication that any who Aren’t Our Kind are not “people.”

    Resisting that isn’t easy. A society doesn’t have to work at dehumanizing “aliens,” it has to work at keeping a lid on xenophobia. At best we end up with countless terms for “foreigners who are beneath us,” whether it be goyim, barbarians, micks, or any of the others we all know.

    Atheists have been on the receiving end of that kind of thing far too often in history; there are plenty of places in the USA today where the First Amendment is still regarded as being “freedom between religions,” but not “freedom from religion.”

    To me, this whole business seems too much like the Southern “crackers” who were at the bottom of the pecking order until someone else came along that they could push down even lower. Assign the Catholics and the atheists as you will, a redneck is a redneck and the white sheets are in the linen closet.

  112. #112 Anonymous
    July 15, 2008

    sardine wrote: “Is it me, or does atheism destroy empathy/civility and replace it with utilitarian self regard…”

    ANY ideology can be (and usually is) interpreted in a myriad of ways to rationalize what any given believer really wants to do anyway. Atheism doesn’t destroy civility or regard for others, any more than Catholicism makes one prone to making death threats. But (as usual, in both cases) it is those who are most offensive that garner the most attention.

    I am an atheist of long standing, and to me the basic message of atheism is: this is the world we’ve got, these are the lives we’ve got, and it’s up to us and no one else to make this world and these lives decent and meaningful. There’s no other reward. No one is going to magically come and fix anything for us. Whether this world is a good (free, fair, just, clean, safe, etc.) place to live in or not is entirely up to us and our voluntary actions. SO I try to live my life by that, and not cause problems and strife where they are not necessary.

    A corollary is that there is no really good reason for atheism to be evangelical. If we’re right, then it really doesn’t matter one tiny bit what anyone believes; what matters is how people act. Is person A acting in a way that respects the equal rights of other people, or not? Is he acting in a way that leaves the world a better place than he found it, or not? Those are the questions that matter. If a person is being decent, kind, helpful; not engaging in violence (except in defense), theft, or fraud; not working to get the government to violate people’s rights either — then I don’t give a damn what he believes or how rational I think he is.

    I’ll be entirely happy to respect his rights to make his own choices in every aspect of his own life, provided only that he return the consideration.

    PhilB

  113. #113 Dianne
    July 15, 2008

    Is it me, or does atheism destroy empathy/civility and replace it with utilitarian self regard…

    It’s you. Or rather, your selective observation. The majority of atheists wouldn’t take communion, muchless take a host cracker home, out of respect for the people to whom it means something. (Do we even know anything about the religious beliefs of the cracker thief? Is he, in fact, an unbeliever? He could be a Catholic for all I know.) But as far as civility goes, I consider assaulting people to be a worse breach of civility than doing anything at all to an object that has already been given to the person in question. To give an example, if I gave someone a copy of a paper I had written* and they used it to wipe themselves after a bowel movement, I’d think them pretty rude and obnoxious. I probably wouldn’t give them another paper. But I wouldn’t attack them for the act. Wouldn’t be civil.

    *No, I don’t consider papers I have written to be sacred. But they are meaningful for me and, hopefully, add to the world’s body of knowledge about oncology and therefore I would like them read, not used for toilet paper.

  114. #114 Steve Bloom
    July 16, 2008

    To post about the cracker and get all that sweet extra
    traffic, or not? What a dilemma that was. Oh, and don’t look all innocent when I point out that typing “pharyngula cracker” was far more effective as an incoming search term than an outgoing one. :)

  115. #115 Opple
    July 29, 2008

    Well, I’m a little late to the party, but I don’t mind.

    Let me just say that from what I’ve seen of your blogging PalMD I like it, and also this blog. However I think on this issue you have it wrong.

    The essential issue is respect for others, even when you think that their position is foolish. And even more than that, not going out of your way to deliberately disrespect those who believe ‘irrational’ (in your eyes) but ultimately harmless things.

    Anyone who supports or agrees with PZ’s actions in any way is a sad hypocrite unless they would also support me slipping into the funeral home and desecrating the body of his recently deceased mother. After all, it is but a pile of meat, no different from roadkill.
    And the same should go for the desecrating the corpse of anyone’s child, so soon after death that it is still warm.

    If you have a problem with those actions (totally ‘harmless’ where harm is defined as physical damage to a human being) but not with the actions directed at objects that Catholics care about, then you’re being inconsistent.
    If you don’t, then please mail PZ your dead child, with a note requesting he prove his devotion to desecrating ‘objects/things’ by adding it to his bin, desecrated, alongside the Host, Koran and God Delusion.

  116. #116 Opple
    July 29, 2008

    Sorry, I also meant to say – obviously death threats are uncalled for here – but can you honestly say that if I desecrated, as in the example above, lots of corpses of people’s loved ones, and posted that on the web, that none of them would send me death threats? No, of course you can’t, because when people are angry, some of them lash out, especially over the anonymity of the net.

    These death threats are in no way an indictment of Catholics (or religious people), but rather, the fact that some angry anonymous people will send death threats, is an indictment of all people, atheist, religious and all.
    Anyone on their high horse about the ‘irrational’ ‘violent’ etc reaction of some Catholics in this instance, should think long and hard about whether some people in the non-Catholic group of people that you are part of would react in Exactly The Same Way, were people to offend them in equally rude and disgusting manners (i.e. as I keep saying, corpse desecration)

    (p.s. PZ only had to desecrate one consecrated Host to offend lots of Catholics, to be sure of offending lots of random people it’s probably necessary to desecrate lots of corpses, at least one related to each of the people you intend to offend. – though as I type that I realise that once again I’m sure it would be possible to provoke death threats from all sorts of people unrelated to the corpses, just by desecrating them. So for anyone who feels Catholics are irrational about Hosts – so are many other people about things like corpses (I’m sure there are other things, but one example suffices for now))

  117. #117 John Beaty
    July 29, 2008

    Actually, you don’t have even to desecrate a corpse, merely keeping one alive will do that. See Terry Scaivo, for example.

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