Pharyngula

The apostate kidney

What a strange story: a woman donates one of her kidneys to another woman in need. Later, the recipient leaves the Christian faith. Now the donor wants her organ back.

Smith was aghast when she heard of the conversion, and she quickly wrote a letter asking Felks to re-convert to Christianity or return the organ, saying it was donated under false pretenses.

“I feel helpless,” she says. “Part of my body, my DNA, is stuck inside a person who’s going to hell.”

There’s some freaking weird theology going on here. Does she think her DNA is going to be assumed into the afterlife? Do spirits have DNA? Do you need a kidney as an angel?

She also has some strange anxieties, since the recipient is a pagan.

Smith suffers nightmares of her former organ filtering “strange Asian teas, pig blood and witch doctor brews in Africa,” she says. She wonders if the Lord really wanted her to donate the kidney, or if she acted on a “triple-espresso high” she had that morning. She is also concerned that when her body is resurrected, it might be incomplete.

That’s tragic. The kidney is also missing the opportunity to filter the body and blood of Christ, transforming Jesus’ protein into urine. Oh, to never again deaminate the amino acids of the God of Abraham, to never again extract Jesus’ sodium ions, and to have to settle for filtering the ichor of little animist gods…what a sad fate.

I don’t know about this bodily resurrection thing. I would think that running a little lapsang souchong through the ol’ nephric ducts is small potatoes compared to being perfused with embalming fluid and later rotting into a putrid film of bacterial goo. Apparently, the Holy Ghost can reanimate that, but foreign tea is going to have It scratching It’s immaterial and invisible Head.

The theological absurdity goes on.

“I’m all for spiritual curiosity,” she says, “but you’ve got to settle these things beforehand. My kidney belongs to Christ. It will never be Pagan.

Hmm. Yes. Various organs in your body all make intellectual and emotional decisions about what religion they should follow. Personally, I’ve had my organs all committed to different and appropriate philosophies: my colon is a good disciplined Calvinist, my lungs are Breatharians, my right forefinger is an acolyte of the cult of Macintosh (*click*, praise Jobs!), and my penis is observant of some hysterically hedonistic faith which doesn’t require much in the way of intellectual expression. My brain, however, is godless.

Smith’s brain is definitely fundamentalist Christian: inert, uninformed, and irrational.

(via God is for Suckers)

P.S. Some people aren’t getting it. The article is satire, although if you do think about it, there is some weird stuff going on with this whole idea of an afterlife.

Comments

  1. #1 Stephen Erickson
    August 29, 2006

    God must be pretty gullible if he can be foiled by organ transplantation.

  2. #2 bws
    August 29, 2006

    Ya’ll do realize that’s a parody site, right?

  3. #3 Dave Carlson
    August 29, 2006

    PZ, I agree with bws. Take a look at the website. It’s definitely parody.

  4. #4 Russell
    August 29, 2006

    Thanks, PZ. That’s the funniest thing I’ve read all week.

    And it reminds me, that it’s time for my regular blood donation. Being a goddamned non-believer, I expect my corpuscles to work well regardless of the beliefs of the recipient.

  5. #5 PZ Myers
    August 29, 2006

    Yes, I know.

    I also wasn’t serious about my penis’s religion.

    And y’all do know that Christians are all joking when they talk about resurrection and the afterlife, right?

  6. #6 hurly
    August 29, 2006

    Geez PZ It is a parody. Did you have a triple expresso this am also?

  7. #7 Steve_C
    August 29, 2006

    It’s like an Atheist Onion!

    Lots of funny stuff there.

    Purpose-less man impervious to book’s influence
    http://www.larknews.com/august_2006/secondary.php?page=3

  8. #8 Burt Humburg
    August 29, 2006

    OMG some people give Christianity such a bad name. As funny (hysterically funny) as your breakdown of her theological qualms were, I have to say the most striking thing about her issues was the quid-pro-quo associated with her organ donation. “Here’s my organ to keep you off of dialysis, but only if you agree to my particular take on theology.”

    It’s probably for reasons like these that organ donation is all but anonymous.

    Oy.

    BCH

  9. #9 Siamang
    August 29, 2006

    PZ, you might put the satire disclaimer before the fold.

  10. #10 Great White Wonder
    August 29, 2006

    The 5th season of ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ has a running story about kidney transplantation and (as always) loads of hilarious jibes at religious-based idiocy.

  11. #11 Kristine
    August 29, 2006

    Why, Siamang? I enjoy being taken in! Then I get to laugh twice. (Question to self: Am I really being taken in, or fooling myself for fun?)

  12. #12 Gregg
    August 29, 2006

    I don’t know about the rest of you, but I had to give up my faith when it hit me I was going to be reunited with all my old fingernails, cut hair and baby teeth in heaven. Who needs a burden like that?!

  13. #13 DominEditrix
    August 29, 2006

    What’s scary is that I could imagine this actually happening.

    The NYT has an article this morning reflecting on the standards once used to determine access to dialysis, before it became widely available: “As a result, married churchgoers with children lived; single men with criminal records died.” What with the Religious Right exhorting their minions to deny medications [Plan B, contraceptives, morning-after pill] to people [read “women”] whose religious beliefs don’t mirror their own, I’m surprised that there hasn’t been an effort to control transplants.

    Then again, we don’t know what individual hospital committees truly use as their criteria, do we?

  14. #14 jim
    August 29, 2006

    While it is satire it does smack of possible reality. I could see someone doing this.

  15. #15 Stanton
    August 29, 2006

    And here I used to think that the height, er, depth of Christian-inspired stupidity was the hyperevolutionsomethingorotherdescent of all the world’s land animals from a never-will-be-determined number of pairs of 4000 year old ancestors in Turkey.

    This stupid bag calls herself a Christian, yet rues the fact that she’s helped save a life?
    Isn’t that like telling the story of the Good Samaritan about how the rescued man then slays the Samaritan in revenge for touching him in his moment of weakness?

  16. #16 Steve_C
    August 29, 2006

    Ushers with stun guns stir controversy

    MONTGOMERY — Ron Henning recalls the day he first “put a man down” in the center aisle just before the pastor gave the altar call.
    “I thought he was reaching for a weapon in his pocket,” Henning says. He rushed over, zapped the man with a church-issued stun gun and sent him to the floor for seven minutes, throwing the service into tumult. It turned out the man was heading to the altar to give his heart to Christ, but couldn’t wait for the pastor to finish the altar call. The church apologized and paid the man $500, but he has not returned.
    “Mix-ups happen, but we’re safer as a congregation because of the stun guns,” says head usher Tim O’Daley. “There are crazies out there, terrorists who might try to take out the man on the platform.”
    First Baptist Church has gone further than most to protect its congregation. As their city grew larger and more diverse — with a sizeable Muslim population immigrating from Florida — they adopted a far-reaching “prudent measures” plan. Now Cyclone fence rings the church property, two 24-hour security booths sit at both entrances. Concrete barriers protect the sanctuary from car bombers, and the pastor travels with three plainclothes bodyguards. Whenever the pulpit is occupied, even for small women’s ministry events, guards stand on either side of the platform.
    Most dramatically, the church has outfitted the entire usher crew with high-powered stun guns, which are allowed under Alabama’s lenient weapons laws.
    “It feels good,” says O’Daley, patting the stun-gun holster concealed under his usher jacket. Now, he and 40 other ushers don’t just lead people to open seats and pass the Communion and offering plates; they stand armed and ready to take down assailants.
    Jake Fitzgerald, 18, was zapped when he got up to use the restroom during the sermon. The jolt was so powerful that he “forgot I was on planet Earth,” he says. Ushers say they thought he was making a move toward the pulpit.
    “There’s an invisible line, and when people cross it, we pounce,” says O’Daley unapologetically.
    Fitzgerald recovered in a back room and was released, with a free copy of the sermon on tape. He now sits in the back on Sunday mornings and never moves during the service.
    The ushers practice their drills monthly, tackling dummies, leaping over pews and jogging around the parking lot. Some in the church say they fear being targeted by an over-eager usher, but others enjoy the safety of having “a small standing army” of protectors, as one elderly man puts it.
    “I’m more afraid of Muslims, suicidal teenagers and disgruntled ex-church members,” says Donavan Smith, 87.
    Though the ushers have made several mistakes, they have yet to confront a real malefactor. That doesn’t mean they aren’t ready.
    “I can get the gun out in less than 1.5 seconds,” O’Daley says, snapping it out quickly. “Someday I’ll get to use it on a real bad guy.” •

  17. #17 gordonsowner
    August 29, 2006

    Very confusing post, PZ… the original is a good piece of satire, but your commentary on it *as if it were real* is confusing. it smacks of the guy who was in a tizzy over the article of the woman who was excited for her first abortion until he found out it was from ‘the onion’.

    i’m just very confused as to the point of your talmudic marginal notes on a piece of satire. i’ve seen you do good satire, and that is why this post is making my brain hurt.

  18. #18 Great White Wonder
    August 29, 2006

    PZ, you got taken for a li’l ride. Just admit it, bro’. We’ll still luv ya.

  19. #19 Brian Dewhirst
    August 29, 2006

    … So she restricts her love and philanthropy for the faithful.

    This is why sane, moral people don’t leave their important decisions to magic imaginary men in the sky.

  20. #20 Brian Dewhirst
    August 29, 2006

    I fail at close reading…

  21. #21 King Aardvark
    August 29, 2006

    Man, I fell for that until I saw the comments. Far to plausible…

  22. #22 Timcol
    August 29, 2006

    Well, I can sympathize. Just last year my small intestine decided to convert to Islam; my stomach, which has been staunchly Jewish after trying to digest some dodgy shrimp a couple of years back, is of course none too happy about this. Sadly though the real loser in all this is my atheistic rectum who has been caught in the ‘receiving end’ of the intestinal strife that shortly occurred after the conversion.

  23. #23 Y.B
    August 29, 2006

    King Aardvark, so did I. I can imagine something like that happening in real life.

  24. #24 Kayla
    August 29, 2006

    it smacks of the guy who was in a tizzy over the article of the woman who was excited for her first abortion until he found out it was from ‘the onion’.

    I don’t that guy ever admitted (even to himself) that it was a parady, though – he kept talking about the woman in the article as if she were real in his follow-up posts.

  25. #25 craig
    August 29, 2006

    I used to work with several women who said they would never donate organs because “they might need them in heaven” or whatever.
    David Cross had a funny routine about such people.

  26. #26 DominEditrix
    August 29, 2006

    Not precisely on point, but arising out of a discussion with The Biophysicist [my mate] on the reprehensibility of using “godliness” as a criterion for medical care:

    There are some disadvantages to being a godless heathen. Failing a belief in the afterlife [or even an après-vie], one does not get the satisfaction of imagining that those-who-do-evil-in-the-name-of-Christ will burn in eternal hellfire…

  27. #27 Tara C. Smith
    August 29, 2006

    Back in the day on the forums at Christianity.com, there was a recurring debate about whether Christians should donate organs, because of the whole resurrection thing. Many said Christians shouldn’t even give blood, because they wouldn’t ge whole upon returning to their bodies. The article may be satire, but there are people out there who definitely believe things like this.

  28. #28 Russell
    August 29, 2006

    Some groups are too damned hard to satirize. Who would believe this?

    http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2006/08/war_on_christmas_heres_what_se.php

    Did Brayton also fall for satire? Or who would think that groups would oppose a vaccine for HPV? Or kill each other over an entirely artificial distinction between homoousion and homoiousion, a distinction without any measurable or detectable effect, over a “substance” forever beyond human ken?

    What Christians and other religious believers really do is so absurd, that it’s hard to make good satire of them, that doesn’t fall into repetition. Though Landover Baptist gives it the old college try:

    http://www.landoverbaptist.org/

  29. #29 J Daley
    August 29, 2006

    No matter how far the rest of me gets away from its roots, my liver will always staunchly remain Irish Catholic.

  30. #30 False Prophet
    August 29, 2006

    I was almost taken in by this, because of stories like this article from the NYT magazine last year. Here’s the money quote:

    Brett came back a couple of days later to play and blew out his Achilles’ tendon. His 6-feet-7-inch, 280-pound frame toppled like a redwood. ”One of the guys I was playing with asked me if I was a Christian,” he told me one afternoon in the hot-tub dealership he owns and operates in Surprise. ”When I said yes, they all got down on the floor and prayed with me until the ambulance came.”

    …because No True Christian would pray for the health of an infidel!

  31. #31 Ichthyic
    August 29, 2006

    for sure PZ is dodging here, just like Dembski did the other day when he was taken in by the darwin parody site he posted about on UD.

    The evidence comes from a lack of noting the article referenced was parody to begin with, and not talking about the issue in general terms, or what he has witnessed, but referring to “the woman” specifically.

    sorry, but I don’t buy that PZ wasn’t caught by the parody. However, what of it?

    I think the article posted by Steve C later in the thread is exactly the same kind of thing.

    sure, it’s parody, but who here wouldn’t be able to envision some “new faith ministry” church in the bible belt deciding to use armed ushers?

    the great thing about a good parody is that there is at least a plausible kernel to it.

    …and in this case, more’s the tragedy, as PZ rightly does point out.

  32. #32 Mandos
    August 29, 2006

    That last one, well, do you want people loudly reading prayers for you that you don’t really accept?

  33. #33 Warren
    August 29, 2006

    When you try to get a nonlinked page you get a very nice little 404 that I’m personally jealous of. Here are some excerpts for “reasons” for the 404:

    Baptist explanation: There must be sin in your life. Everyone else opened it fine.
    Unitarian explanation: All links are equal, so if this link doesn’t work for you, feel free to experiment with other links that might bring you joy and fulfillment.
    Buddhist explanation: …………………….
    Atheist explanation: The only reason you think this link exists is because you needed to invent it.

  34. #34 Kim
    August 29, 2006

    Parody, yes, but I would not have blinked it it had been real. There is enough crazyness going on with this…..

  35. #35 raindogzilla
    August 29, 2006

    Given my immersion lately in the sewer pipes of fundie retardery, I must admit that I fell for this piece hook, line, and sinker- fortunately piercing and body ornamentation doesn’t bother me. I posted this at God Is for Suckers last night, certain that it was real. Shudder, I have something in common with Dembski…

  36. #36 junk science
    August 29, 2006

    Shit, man, this isn’t half as crazy as some of what really comes out of their asses. I wouldn’t have blinked either if it were true.

    It’s good to know there isn’t some crazy fuck out there hellbent on pulling a kidney out of someone else, though.

  37. #37 Inky
    August 29, 2006

    Wait. Does this mean that she intended to ask for her kidney back in heaven? Did she think she was loaning out her kidney? Or maybe leasing it for Heavenly Bonus Points? Of course, all HBPs are null and void should you help the godless. Helping the godless are like throwing HBPs into a black hole. No wonder she’s so upset.

  38. #38 Steve Watson
    August 29, 2006

    …because No True Christian would pray for the health of an infidel!

    If a good friend wanted to pray for my recovery from injury or illness, I’d accept that as their way of expressing good wishes and support (which is equally useless, from a strictly practical POV, but I doubt even the staunchest skeptic rejects that sort social nicety). However, if I was lying injured and in pain waiting for the medics to show up, I’d just as soon not have a bunch of people sitting around me praying loudly. I don’t think I would find it at all soothing or helpful.

  39. #39 junk science
    August 29, 2006

    She might as well have donated a kidney to Satan. She’d have to rip her own heart out and give it to a dying orphan to make up for that.

  40. #40 stogoe
    August 29, 2006

    what’s the orphan supposed to do with a ripped out heart, anyways? Use it for stickball? I seriously doubt he has the skill necessary to perform a heart transplant on himself.

  41. #41 Michael Hopkins
    August 29, 2006

    Is it really satire if one can believe that it could happen?
    How about realistic fiction?

    Now the first-class nurseries story is something that will not happen and thus could qualify as satire.

    They have a How Evangelical Are You? satire test. Here is question 6:

    6. The last time you raised your hands was:
    a. During an encounter with the law.
    b. On a roller coaster.
    c. During praise and worship.

    Why does this question make me immediately think of Kent Hovind? 😉

  42. #42 Ichthyic
    August 29, 2006

    If a good friend wanted to pray for my recovery from injury or illness, I’d accept that as their way of expressing good wishes and support (which is equally useless, from a strictly practical POV, but I doubt even the staunchest skeptic rejects that sort social nicety). However, if I was lying injured and in pain waiting for the medics to show up, I’d just as soon not have a bunch of people sitting around me praying loudly. I don’t think I would find it at all soothing or helpful.

    funny you should put it that way.

    The results of a study funded by the Templeton Foundation released a few months ago showed a statistical significance (barely) to prayer actually having a negative influence on recovery rates of surgical patients, IF the patients knew they were being prayed for.

    There was essentially no effect if the patients did NOT know they were being prayed for.

    I can grab the cite, if anyone would like to check it out for themselves.

    I’m sure it wasn’t exactly the result the Templeton Foundation was hoping for.

    btw, I think that was at least the 7th study of this type the foundation has funded, looking for some postive link between prayer and healing in an objective fashion.

    What do you think the results of the other 7 studies were?

    or is the answer to that question obvious in the fact that they funded yet another study on top of the other 7?

    I suppose they’ll keep trying until they manage to get a “positive” result.

  43. #43 junk science
    August 29, 2006

    I seriously doubt he has the skill necessary to perform a heart transplant on himself.

    Uh, yes. Thank you for pointing that out. I’ll be sure to avoid metaphorical language in future so as not to cause confusion.

  44. #44 Gentlewoman
    August 29, 2006

    My Catholic relatives used to tell me, when I was a little girl and said I wanted to be cremated and returned to the earth when I died, that the Church would not allow that, as your actual body would be resurrected on the Day. I was already an atheist then, although they didn’t know that, so I was never interested enough to find out if the Roman Catholic Church really teaches that. A lot of them have died and been cremated since then, so if it was ever true, I guess it’s not any more. 😉

  45. #45 RickD
    August 30, 2006

    I still maintain that this article does not qualify as “satire” because it’s far too realistic.

  46. #46 Carlie
    August 30, 2006

    The site is really nice, though – it looks as though it’s catering specifically to ex-Christians, or Christians with a really healthy sense of humor. A lot of it would be fairly amusing to someone without the background, but screamingly funny to those in the know.

  47. #47 Hepcat
    August 30, 2006

    Someone above suggests the source is like “The Atheist Onion,” which is interesting. (Assuming, I guess, that no Christians have a sense of humor.) But The Wittenberg Door (published by evangelicals) was doing this kind of thing 25 years ago, and it was very very funny.

    I agree with Carlie that the writers are much closer to the church than that, either aiming this toward Christians who can laugh at themselves, or those who’ve left the church.

    Very funny stuff, and I’ll bookmark that site!

  48. #48 stogoe
    August 30, 2006

    I had thought that, on a thread commenting about satire, everyone’s thoughts would be read with a grain of salt and thus I left off the [/snark] tag. Oops.

  49. #49 ts
    August 30, 2006

    PZ I think you bought it.

    Just proves that in religion, parody and fact are impossible to tell apart.

    Thanks for this blog.

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