Department of “Duh!”

This is what health departments are reduced to in the face of lunacy. Health officials in the Philippines have issued a warning to people taking part in Easter crucifixion rituals.

The health department has strongly advised penitents to check the condition of the whips they plan to use to lash their backs, the Manila Times newspaper reports.

Real nails are used in the re-enactments
They want people to have what they call “well-maintained” whips.

In the hot and dusty atmosphere, officials warn, using unhygienic whips to make deep cuts in the body could lead to tetanus and other infections.

And they advise that the nails used to fix people to crosses must be properly disinfected first. Often people soak the nails in alcohol throughout the year.

People are flagellating themselves and nailing themselves to sticks in a public spectacle of stupidity, and health officials are warning them to get a tetanus shot? How about “Stop doing that,” instead, or alternatively, “Please use rusty nails and whips clotted with rotting gore so that you’ll die sooner and we won’t have to worry about you idiots anymore”?


  1. #1 ChrisGose
    March 20, 2008

    I’m pretty sure Jesus wasn’t granted the courtesy of disinfectant and a tetanus shot.

    These fundies think they are hardcore but they aren’t.

  2. #2 danley
    March 20, 2008

    Lockjaw and the Easter Bunny.

  3. #3 True Bob
    March 20, 2008

    So WTF do these people think? Do they think they are cheeses? Do they think everyone must be crucified? Is it a pathetic cry for attention? I’m more pious than you? What motivates an otherwise sane person* to mutilate themselves?

    * enormous assumption

  4. #4 Richard Eis
    March 20, 2008

    I think it’s an attention thing. Cool tattoo but hey, check out these weeping holes in my hands…I may have tetanus…waaaay cool.

  5. #5 factician
    March 20, 2008

    I dunno, this sounds to me like the “Please use clean needles while injecting yourself with drugs.”

    It’s a public health measure intended as a stop-gap solution, not to actually solve the underlying problem of drug addiction (or whipping-yourself-for-god-addiction).

  6. #6 Tulse
    March 20, 2008

    Yep, it’s called “harm reduction”. It’s what we do when people insist on doing stupid stuff, so that doing the stupid stuff won’t involve secondary damage (beyond the stupid stuff itself).

  7. #7 Mooser
    March 20, 2008

    “Please use rusty nails and whips clotted with rotting gore so that you’ll die sooner and we won’t have to worry about you idiots anymore”?

    All life is valuable, even the lives of the misinformed. Maybe if you didn’t believe in god you might know this. Of course, compared to god, no one on earth is worth a shit, are they?

    A belief in god combined with a lack of compassion is a terrible thing.

  8. #8 DaveL
    March 20, 2008

    While I can understand the principle of harm reduction, what’s shocking here is not what’s being said so much as what isn’t being said:

    “What can we say, as public health officials, about lacerating your flesh with whips and driving nails through your hands? Don’t do it!

    When the principle of harm reduction is applied to substance abuse, we don’t avoid conveying the message that it’s still a bad thing.

  9. #9 hyperdeath
    March 20, 2008

    What these people are doing can be described in two words:

    “Sucking up”.

    They’re not doing it out of devotion, or righteousness, or piety. They’re doing it to suck up to god. They hope that their snivelling display of masochism will gain them points in the afterlife.

    They’re not even that courageous. Yes, it requires a lot of nerve to go through with it, but ultimately they expect everything and more back. It’s not self-sacrifice, but a calculated investment.

  10. #10 J
    March 20, 2008

    “Crucifixion’s not so bad. Gets you out in the fresh air.”

  11. #11 Kim
    March 20, 2008

    “how about the requirements that climbers’ ropes and crampons be well maintained? … a good job in the face of public stupidity.”

    I see what you mean, but I think the link you make is somewhat missing the point!

  12. #12 Carlie
    March 20, 2008

    And they advise that the nails used to fix people to crosses must be properly disinfected first.

    There is so much to dissect in that statement that I fail to find words to even try.

  13. #13 Cuttlefish, OM
    March 20, 2008

    It’s bondage (and I don’t mean light)
    But being sub to God’s all right?
    A little more than strange, I think,
    But then, that’s not the way I kink.

  14. #14 Left_Wing_Fox
    March 20, 2008

    CalGeorge: Yep, it’s ok. The vast majority of Body modification relies on someone else to stab, poke, sear, and inject things for the person getting the mod.

    Gonna agree with most of the folks on here, the practice is ridiculous, but it’s easier to reduce the risk of damage than stop people risking themselves. My concern here is with the coersion aspect that makes people think that this is somehow a required activity, rather than a completely optional one.

  15. #15 Quidam
    March 20, 2008

    It does rather diminish the concept of the Crucifixion as being unsurvivable and intolerably agonizing.
    “We do not know, we cannot tell, what pain He had to bear”
    Yes we do, just ask Jorge.

    I wonder if anyone watching this thinks, “Hang on a moment, if these guys survive being crucified every year for 15 years, then crucifixion is easily survivable, so just maybe Jesus didn’t die on the cross and was just resuscitated not resurrected. But that would mean the prophecy was not fulfilled, there was no blood sacrifice and He didn’t die for my sins. That would mean that the very premise of Christianity is fundamentally flawed”

  16. #16 David Marjanovi?, OM
    March 20, 2008

    Crucifixion was used as an extra-painful method of death penalty for millennia. It’s not survivable if done right.

  17. #17 David Marjanovi?, OM
    March 20, 2008

    Crucifixion was used as an extra-painful method of death penalty for millennia. It’s not survivable if done right.

  18. #18 Carlie
    March 20, 2008

    If they get an infection, do they go to the doctor to get antibiotics?
    “Sure, God, I’m willing to put a nail through my hand for you, carefully avoiding going through the bones, of course, but I’m really not going to put up with an MRSA infection for you. That’s just a bit too much.”

  19. #19 Interrobang
    March 20, 2008

    I find it weird that so many of you seem to be freaked out at the concept of a “well-maintained whip.” Aren’t there any other equestrians here but me? Basically, a well-maintained whip isn’t falling apart, has the handle still firmly attached to the lash, doesn’t have any of the metal or fibreglass bits sticking out, and is overall in reasonable condition. I can understand this concern — a whip flying apart at the wrong time could injure a bystander.

  20. #20 Sarcastro
    March 20, 2008

    Life of Brian wasn’t the first thing I thought of, I immediately went to The Young Ones

    …nailing themselves to sticks…

    “That’s a really negative way to kill yourself, y’know. Like, I’ve tried it hundreds of times. There’s no way you can hammer in the last nail”.

  21. #21 Jaycubed
    March 20, 2008

    Give me that old time religion
    Tis the old time religion,
    Tis the old time religion,
    And it’s good enough for me.

    Makes me whip everybody.
    Makes me scourge everybody.
    Makes me burn everybody.
    And it’s good enough for me.

    Give me that old time religion
    Tis the old time religion,
    Tis the old time religion,
    And it’s good enough for me.

    It will do when you’re screamin’.
    It will do when I am reamin’.
    It will do when you’re dying.
    And it’s good enough for me.

  22. #22 Doug
    March 20, 2008

    Every year a Darwin award comes from the Phillipines. It must be divine intervention.

  23. #23 ray
    March 20, 2008

    Thank you for completely generalizing the entire Philippine population, my fellow open-minded scientists.

    ::deep sigh::

  24. #24 YetAnotherKevin
    March 20, 2008

    Hi, Elf. Just wanted to let you know I enjoyed “travellog” (sp?) back in the day.

  25. #25 ray
    March 20, 2008

    Touche. The point remains.

  26. #26 kmarissa
    March 20, 2008

    Touche. The point remains.

    Considering the frequency with which US citizens and non-US citizens alike generalize the entire US population on this blog (sometimes we narrow down to a single US state), we can’t resist spicing things up a bit by generalizing other populations as the occasions arise. Australia had its turn recently. It’s just fair play.

  27. #27 Sastra
    March 20, 2008

    Elf M. Sternberg #47 wrote:

    We can’t all be latte-sipping, tweed-wearing bookworms sitting ’round the hearth sipping beer and trading hearty bon-mots between read-aloud chapters of Origin of the Species. Grief, what a boring planet that would be.

    Sigh. Boring? On the contrary, it sounds exotic. Tell you what, keep your whips in the closet and you get to host the next PharynguFest.

  28. #28 kmarissa
    March 20, 2008

    Sigh. Boring? On the contrary, it sounds exotic.

    I could do without the tweed though, at least during the summer months–a bit itchy. Plus, I’m not sure that I’d enjoy sipping lattes and beer at the same time.

  29. #29 Marcus Ranum
    March 20, 2008

    They all need psychiatric counselling under suicide watch.

  30. #30 CalGeorge
    March 20, 2008
  31. #31 Nentuaby
    March 20, 2008


    You’re missing a point, actually. Crucifixion IS easily survivable, that was the whole deal of the punishment (which, remember, was a brutally sadistic Roman form of execution before it ever played a role in anybody’s religion).

    The entire point of crucifixion was that it did not kill the victim quickly. Instead, he was left in incredible pain on the cross while he died of exposure, dehydration, and slow blood loss over several days. That said, certainly the torments the bible describes would have killed the man, especially the piercing with the spear.

  32. #32 timquick
    March 20, 2008

    I am an atheist, a former philosophy professor, and enjoy rough humor some times. I respect you and read your blog everyday (though I seldom comment). But this really is to much:

    “Please use rusty nails and whips clotted with rotting gore so that you’ll die sooner and we won’t have to worry about you idiots anymore.”

    I know you didn’t mean it, but that is not a joke. It’s not funny. It’s not a throw away line like “drop dead”. I really think you should avoid such eliminationst rhetoric. It’s neither healthy nor civil. Nor funny.

  33. #33 Mark
    March 20, 2008

    #67: “(allegedly…i dont think piercing crucified people with spears was roman practice, think standard practice was to leave them there til they died, either bleeding or starvation, whichever comes first.)”

    That was after he died, though only mentioned in John.

    I can picture this dialog:
    soldier1: “That guy looks like he’s already dead.”
    soldier2: “Let’s poke him and see if he’s faking.”

  34. #34 apk
    March 20, 2008

    I’m afraid that this is where my ideas part company with PZ’s. I am vociferously anti-religion, but I am most certainly not anti-people, religious or not.

    “Please use rusty nails and whips clotted with rotting gore so that you’ll die sooner and we won’t have to worry about you idiots anymore.”

    This gets us nowhere.

  35. #35 Chili Pepper
    March 20, 2008

    You lot really do focus on the little issues. When are we finally going to see calls for seatbelts to be installed on the crosses? Is anybody giving the flagellators good advice on how to properly warm-up and stretch before their workout?

    Enquiring minds want to know.

  36. #36 CalGeorge
    March 20, 2008

    “When are we finally going to see calls for seatbelts to be installed on the crosses?”

    All Roman guards must use approved rubber-tipped spears.

    Mail & Guardian:
    Victor showed no fear, smoking a cigarette, waiting in line for his turn on the cross.

    But he cried out and openly wept as the 13cm stainless-steel nails — pre-soaked in alcohol to disinfect them — were driven through his palms with an ordinary carpenter’s hammer.

    Victor was one of at least 19 Filipinos who underwent ritual crucifixion on Good Friday in the northern village of Cutud, as part of a bloody annual spectacle that continues to shock tourists and outsiders in this devoutly-Roman Catholic nation.

    It was his 17th year imitating the Passion of Christ. He said he was doing it so his mother would recover from a chronic illness.

    And because he likes the attention?

  37. #37 So Larries
    March 20, 2008

    While I don’t do much of that sort of thing myself, I can only state my objection to the inability of these people to recognize the limits of their fun & games, and have the sense and decency to NOT believe their particular sports make them moral authorities.

    Frankly, PZ and most of the crowd here is not only often square, but oddly middle-class prudish in their judgement of the fantasy games of others, even when it has no significant social/political effect.
    Please be a little more honest, some of you. Look at your own hobbies and obsessions and notice that they are just as absurd as at least the more savvy self-crucifiers.

  38. #38 Ichthyic
    March 20, 2008

    Please be a little more honest, some of you. Look at your own hobbies and obsessions and notice that they are just as absurd as at least the more savvy self-crucifiers.

    you know, you’re right. I’ve often thought that posting here is at least as absurd as self-crucification.


  39. #39 miller
    March 20, 2008

    Do they actually nail people to crosses? :P

    I vaguely remember being taught that being nailed to a cross causes enough pain to instantly kill anyone who isn’t Jesus.

  40. #40 Ray
    March 20, 2008

    Wil you or nil you, people have a right to express themselves in ways which seem illogical and, in this case, dangerous to others.

    Freedom is simply that.

  41. #41 kmarissa
    March 20, 2008


    And we have every right to rant at length about how disgusting and depressing we find their expression to be.

  42. #42 Miles
    March 20, 2008

    Whipping oneself is old hat, I want to see some of these whack jobs come back from the dead! It doesn’t take much for a deity or commoner to get whipped to a pulp, but coming back from the grave is the religious man’s money shot (and makes a man worthy of praise).

    Had he not become a zombie Jesus would have never even made the back page of the Jerusalem Times.

    To hell with the self-flaggelators – show me the zombies this Easter!

  43. #43 Alex
    March 20, 2008

    #103 Wow. That took me back.

  44. #44 Jaycubed
    March 20, 2008

    If they were really devout they would have themselves broken on the wheel so they could suffer horribly yet not commit the blasphemy of “emulating christ in his sufferings”.

    Always remember to have your tongues cut out first so you can’t accidentally “take the lord’s name in vain”. And always use red-hot scissors so you don’t die too soon from bleeding to death.

  45. #45 CalGeorge
    March 20, 2008

    Fake Roman Soldier: Nail gun or wooden mallet?

    Fake Jesus: Which do you recommend?

    Fake Roman Soldier: Neither.

    Fake Jesus: Let’s toss a coin.

    Fake Roman Soldier: You sure you want to do this?

    Fake Jesus: My mom is sick, this will cure her.

    Fake Roman Soldier: Uh, no, that’s a myth.

    Fake Jesus: ARE YOU TRYING TO TELL ME THAT DRIVING ENORMOUS NAILS THROUGH MY PALMS IS UTTERLY POINTLESS!? No wonder everyone hates the Romans. Start hammering, dickhead!

  46. #46 Alex
    March 20, 2008

    #105 & #106 got me thinking…

    I wonder if we could promote self-flagellation contests. It could be a national league of sorts. Teams of the devout would compete in arenas and stadiums to see who could “out-do” each other. There could be gnashing-of-teeth-ometers and wail-ometers to measure the and rank the “fervent belief” of the competitors. The victors would certainly gain favor in their deity’s eye.

    Then there’s the ticket sales, pose-able dolls, posters, even Happy Meal toys.

    Kind of like Ultimate Fighting meets Benny Hinn.

  47. #47 Brownian, OM
    March 20, 2008

    I don’t know what’s got everybody’s Underoos all riding up. I think there’s no better way to spend a long Easter weekend than nailing (or getting nailed) by someone.

  48. #48 UChicagoNerdette
    March 20, 2008


    After all, it is a fertility holiday.

  49. #49 CalGeorge
    March 20, 2008
  50. #50 Sivi Volk
    March 20, 2008

    I really don’t have a problem with this, so long as it’s consensual. If you’re going to do it, injury is preferable to death. But then, I have a hangup about penile bifurcation. I guess everyone has their own issues with things other people do.

  51. #51 Dale
    March 20, 2008

    Re: nailing yourself to a cross.
    They should try this instead…

  52. #52 Jaycubed
    March 20, 2008

    If You’re The Messiah and You Know It Clap Your Hands . . . .(silence)

    If You’re The Messiah and You Know It Clap Your Hands . . . .(silence)

    If You’re The Messiah and You Know It,

    Shouldn’t Take Too Much To Show It,

    If You’re The Messiah and You Know It Clap Your Hands . . . .(silence)

  53. #53 CalGeorge
    March 20, 2008

    The guy on the National Geographic video quit after three minutes. Wimp!

    Which leads to the obvious question… shouldn’t there be a listing for this sport in the Guinness Book of World Records?

    Longest hang time?

    Most consecutive crucifixions?

  54. #54 Ichthyic
    March 20, 2008

    Longest hang time?

    Richard Harris, in “Man Called Horse”

  55. #55 tonyJ
    March 20, 2008

    A friend of mine, an atheist, has been suspended from her job until she can prove she is fit for work because she self harms. These people seem to do it as something to be proud of, are they going to be suspeneded from their jobs? Does being a christian mean you can mutilate yourself and be thought of as rational? Why is one person thought of as mentally unsound and yet these people are not, yet it seems to me they both self harm and also are delusional.

  56. #56 Brownian, OM
    March 20, 2008

    yeah, but did you properly sterilize your equipment?

    Does the alcohol have to be administered externally, or will few glasses of Bushmills do?

  57. #57 Chris
    March 20, 2008


    “Stop doing that,” instead, or alternatively, “Please use rusty nails and whips clotted with rotting gore so that you’ll die sooner and we won’t have to worry about you idiots anymore”?”

    Because it doesn’t work. People will do it anyway and get infections. The health officials are attempting to deal with the reality of the situation.

    So you’re saying *just* telling people not to crucify themselves would be like abstinence-only sex education? They’re going to do it anyway so you may as well help them do it safely?

    It’s already consensual (apparently), you can work on making it safe, but I don’t think you’re going to make much progress on the sane front. Oh well, it’s a notoriously ill-defined term anyway.

    P.S. #37 = win.

  58. #58 Dany de Culla
    March 20, 2008

    Religion is the infection. Ever if it did blow over just being able to pick up and go.
    An End to Romans, Hippocrats and Christians¡.

  59. #59 Alex
    March 20, 2008

    Hippocrats? Huh?

    People who vote for large Democrats?

  60. #60 Ichthyic
    March 20, 2008

    Azkyroth, your edit does indeed make the the original comment more accurate, but may I ask why the original warrants your response, given the context in which I made it?

    not to speak for azky, but if i had to guess, i would say it has to do with that mischaracterization being the source of much debate in the original thread.

  61. #61 So Larries
    March 20, 2008

    I repeat my annoyance at the attitude of the self-approving here, on this thread and this site, who continue to imply tat they are, if not faultlessly, the pricks on the crown of sense and moderation.
    I’m all for science and rationality, but only because it offers a interesting path toward life, love, joy and understanding.

    Please consider reading THE ESSAYS OF MONTAIGNE: OF CANNIBALS before rolling your eyes, and express modesty other than by declaring you happen to wear pants.

  62. #62 Lyle G
    March 20, 2008

    Penitent crucifixion has been practiced in the South Western US. But not, I think, with nails

  63. #63 Planet Killer
    March 20, 2008

    Well, that is a good thing. Now Dawkin’s can see why he is wrong. He would never admit to it. After all Athiesm is just another religion, replacing God with Science.

    Science has improved our lives but it has also done the opposite affect as well. Kind of like religion.

    It’s good that there are some scientists out there who not only do good work, but they also follow through with common sense.

  64. #64 Gabie Tanjutco
    March 21, 2008

    And about right now, I am even more pissed off at my country’s stupidity and insolence. :)

    I swear, our Health Dept is too stupid. :|

    Our country is too religious. :|
    and now, all the malls are closed to. :|

  65. #65 SteveM
    March 21, 2008

    @100:If the Christian story is true, Jesus meant to be crucified. Why then the centuries of persecution of Jews for killing Christ? Especially when stoning was the Jewish method of execution and crucifixion the Roman method. And it was the Roman governor who condemned Jesus.

    Certainly you have actually read the Bible where Pilate pleads with the crowd to release Jesus and the crowd (Jews) demands that Pilate crucify him? Thus ensuring that just about everybody can be blamed for Jesus’ death.

  66. #66 Charon
    March 21, 2008

    #10: “how about the requirements that climbers’ ropes and crampons be well maintained?”

    1. There is no such requirement in the US. Nor anywhere else that I’m aware of (Andes, Himalayas, NZ, Can., Alps).
    2. Climbers are not trying to hurt themselves. They are engaging in an activity that might hurt them, but so is anyone who drives a car.

    I know no one will ever see me down at the bottom of this comment thread, but… I had to say something anyway.

  67. #67 Bargal20
    March 21, 2008

    In response to the Catholic Church’s “discouragement” of modern crucifixion, may I yet again remind everyone of Opus Dei’s devotion to “mortification”.

    Just imagine Supreme Court Justice Scalia wearing a cilice around his fat thigh, and reconsider some of his decisions in light of that…

  68. #68 batongpatay
    March 29, 2008

    As a Filipino, let me try to put this practice in context. The act of being crucified is not done lightly by the participants. Most of the time, this is part of a person’s panata, which can be translated to vocation. As missingpoints # 139 points out

    “The people who do it have made a “deal” with god to do them a favor, which they repay by hurting themselves.”

    They are certainly trying to repay God for a favor that have been granted to them or as Calgeorge # 88 quoted it is a form of making yourself worthy of being given a favor by God, in Victor’s case by letting his mother recoverer from a chronic illness.

    But there’s no bargainining, If Victor’s mother does not recover from her illness, Victor will not suddenly lose his faith in God because God did not fulfill his end of the bargain. God, after all, works in mysterious ways. The bargain is one sided, the person asks God for a favor and to show he is deserving of the favor, promises to God to fulfill a certain obligation. Which is the reason why people crucify themselves multiple times, they promised God to do this thing, and they will do it until they die or are too frail to do it.

    And crucifixion is not the only promise one can make, there are other panata’s. There are people who visit a certain Church yearly, people who give donations to charities, People who pray any number of prayers everyday. Anything can be a panata as long as it is inconvenient for the person doing the panata. And a panata is directly proportional to the importance of the favor. Those who engage in crucifixion have been given or are asking for very big favors from God.

    We can laugh at their antics but as has been pointed out, the Philippines is still a Third World country. Many of our countrymen subsist in less than a dollar a day. Powerlessness is taken as a given, and sometimes, only God can give one hope.