Pharyngula

Morbid freaks

Christianity is a creepy death cult. Worshipping a rotting corpse is revolting.

The exhumed body of Padre Pio, a saint considered a miracle worker by his devotees, attracted thousands of pilgrims on Thursday when it went on display 40 years after his death.

His face was reconstructed with a lifelike silicone mask of the type used in wax museums because it was apparently too decomposed to show when the body was exhumed.

The body of the bearded Capuchin monk was exhumed from a crypt on March 3 and found to be in “fair condition” after 40 years. Since then a team of medical examiners and biochemists has worked to preserve and reconstruct the corpse.

Yeesh. They dug up the decayed body of an old fraud, dressed it up in a mask and fancy clothes, and parade it around and worship it…and use it to bilk desperate, sick people out of money? That’s just vile.

Capricorn: You are going to experience a miserable…wait. Those eyes. Those weird pupils…I…I…All Glory to the Hypno-Capricorn. You will be appointed Ruler of the Universe. Hail! All hail the Capricorn!

Comments

  1. #1 Scott
    April 24, 2008

    Hey sweet, I’m a Capricorn. Does this mean I can haz lotsa monies now?

  2. #2 wazza
    April 24, 2008

    I thought the bodies of saints were supposed to be incorruptible or something

    no?

  3. #3 S. Fisher
    April 24, 2008

    That was quick. If these religious “Westerners” were to see a different culture parading around with a corpse they’ld be the first to try to “save” them from their barbaric blasphemous ways.

  4. #4 silentsanta
    April 24, 2008

    Initially, it doesn’t seem so much different to secular philosopher Jeremy Bentham
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeremy_Bentham#Auto-icon
    But I’m sure that’s not news to most people here :)

    On the other hand, the purposes of the two activities are quite dissimilar…

  5. #5 Sastra
    April 24, 2008

    But this is not the TRUE Catholicism! The Catholic religion is a nuanced and sophisticated understanding of the essential nature of human thought and its relationship with the divine, an approach which laid the foundations of modern science and exists as the theological repository of scholarship and philosophy from Great Minds like Aquinas and Erasmus and …and … oh, screw it.

    Look, they’re not just digging up and worshipping any old rotting corpse. When this guy was alive he used to bleed from his hands and feet! If kissing his bones won’t magically cure the scrofula, then what could?

  6. #6 Richard Kilgore
    April 24, 2008

    A bit off-topic, I know, but speaking of Christians, any word on PZ’s debate with Angus Menuge?

  7. #7 wazza
    April 24, 2008

    Sas, I thought it was kings for scrofula…

    religious officials are for infertility, but you have to visit them while they’re alive, and the wife has to go alone

  8. #8 PZ Myers
    April 24, 2008

    I’ll put up something on Menuge later. Short version: he was tedious, long-winded, and vacuous. First debate I’ve ever been in in which I was at risk for falling asleep.

  9. #9 caynazzo
    April 24, 2008

    Yeah, me too! All Hail the Fishgoat.

    How do Christians square worshiping holy putrescence while railing against Halloween?

  10. #10 G.D.
    April 24, 2008

    But PZ; at least you have to grant these guys that they’re actually worshipping SOMETHING; there is an actual object of the worshipping there – that’s more than you can, at least unconditionally, say of regular christians.

    Rotting corpses may be vile things to worship, but at least they do allow straightforward de re semantic constructions of the contents of the worshippers’ beliefs. Nonexistent objects (itself an apparently selfdefeating expression) don’t.

  11. #11 Kyle
    April 24, 2008

    Sastra said, “Look, they’re not just digging up and worshiping any old rotting corpse. When this guy was alive he used to bleed from his hands and feet!”

    The claim that he had stigmata always made me laugh. He was a known fraud (I’m sure you know, just pointing out to anyone who doesn’t). He bought a vile of acid and used that to produce his wounds.

    On another humorous note, if a “savior” was punched in the nose and killed by it, do you think people would start worshiping/revering chronic nose bleeders?

  12. #12 wazza
    April 24, 2008

    Kyle: yes

    actually, I used to get nose bleeds all the time. Can we establish this religion? I need a good sideline.

  13. #13 Jackal
    April 24, 2008

    Re: Kyle

    Yes, and there would be nose-punching re-enactments in the Phillipines. You know, Mary was known to bleed every month or so. I’ll be bleading from the same spot in a couple days. Worship me!

  14. #14 wazza
    April 24, 2008

    Jackal, you don’t count, because you’re a filthy, despicable female

    now, if a male bled from the same spot…

    volunteers?

  15. #15 AXOLOTL
    April 25, 2008

    Well, what do you expect from a religion that includes ritual cannibalism. a deity that impregnated a mortal woman (that’s not even original!), and having your sins forgiven by being “washed in the blood” of the deity’s son (who was actually the deity AND the offspring of the deity’s “intereaction” with said mortal woman, AND the “holy ghost” … I’m getting a headache …)

    Axolotl

  16. #16 jsn
    April 25, 2008

    Dr. Phibes rises again.

    Y’know, all those hoary holy relics have been priced right of the market and they’re so old and familiar that I’m sure a new cadaver on parade will elate the old school catholics. Any odd leftover parts will be sold off and put into reliqueries.
    Ever seen the Capuchin burial vaults in Rome? The entire crypt is composed of bones of former monks which function as architectural flourishes and furnishings. Compellingly gruesome. It’s sort of like the feeling you get looking at Joel Peter Witkins’ photographs.

    It seems that the old world catholic church uses the macabre as a mortifying motiff; death themes for a cult that believes in an afterlife. Morbid curiousity may get the young fence sitters into the churches again.
    For them, whatever gets asses in pews (take that anyway you like).

  17. #17 Janine ID
    April 25, 2008

    For some reason, I keep thinking of Weekend At Bernie’s, only not as dignified.

  18. #18 Kseniya
    April 25, 2008
  19. *kkssshhhhk*

    Paging Mr. Gordon. Paging Mr. Stuart Gordon. Mr. Gordon, please call your secretary. Paging Mr. Gordon.

  20. *kkssshhhhk*
  • #19 ThirdMonkey
    April 25, 2008

    OT: Senate passes genetic discrimination ban
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/24293216/

    I wonder if the wording of the bill would include those with deliberate genetic modifications…
    Will it forbid discrimination against chimeras?

  • #20 tikistitch
    April 25, 2008

    Hoo-HAH! The Astounding PZ continues to baffle the disbelievers with his uncannily accurate astrological forecasts.

    (Though, I was a tiny bit peeved that my sign didn’t mention any cephalopods today. Dangit, those snotty Cancers have all the luck.)

  • #21 Bride of Shrek
    April 25, 2008

    I’m a capricorn and pleased you have finally all recognised my position as Ruler of the Universe. I’ve known for years those born under the sign of the goat were erudite, intelligent, beautiful and all-round winners. Except Jesus.

  • #22 Deborah
    April 25, 2008

    I’ve been waiting for the Capricorn prophecy. Fantastic – thank you. I always knew the rest of you should be doing what I tell you. Hear that, Mr Deborah? Got it? You have to obey me!!!

    We worship rotting bodies down under too – Body to be sent for World Youth Day.

    Lovely.

  • #23 Zeno
    April 25, 2008

    If one must have relics of the saints, why not something nice like a bone from the little finger? Neat, convenient, and easy to tuck into a portable reliquary. Big decomposed corpses? Not so tidy.

    By a wacky coincidence, I wrote a post this afternoon on the rediscovery of the formula for the personal cologne of Pius IX. Perhaps a few barrels of that stuff should be splashed on the remains of Padre Pio. Anyone can now smell like a pope!

  • #24 Paula Helm Murray
    April 25, 2008

    I can only think of the passage from “My Family and Other Animals,’ by Gerald Durrell. The family arrives in town at the same time as the day for the local Saint, whose casket/body is paraded out and then set up for requests/praying too/kissing it’s feet to answer a wish, tc.

    “Margo, for the love of God, kiss the air above the feet!” said mother.

    I’m not sure that’s the exact quote, but it is close.

    EEUW

  • #25 Etha Williams
    April 25, 2008

    @#18 Kseniya —

    Paging Mr. Gordon. Paging Mr. Stuart Gordon. Mr. Gordon, please call your secretary. Paging Mr. Gordon.

    YES! This should be the next Re-Animator movie, now that the whitehouse idea got dumped (for the best, IMO).

    “Church of Re-Animator”….help me think of a subtitle. I’m thinking something along the lines of the Bride subtitle (“Date, Mate Re-Animate”)…_______, Saint, Re-Animate. Having trouble with the other word though.

  • #26 Autumn
    April 25, 2008

    How many of the “True foreskin of Jesus” are around and being worshipped right now?

  • #27 Colugo
    April 25, 2008

    “bearded Capuchin monk”

    At first glance I thought it read “The body of the bearded capuchin monkey.”

    There’s also Japanese Buddhist self-mummification in which the individual begins the mummification process while still alive by consuming toxins.

    Buddhist monasteries in other regions have exhumed the bodies of monks and displayed them if the corpses showed little decay.

  • #28 Jon H
    April 25, 2008

    Aw hell, PZ, that’s nothing:

    Theodore II: pope for 20 days during December 897. He was elected during one of the darkest periods in papal history, caused by the “Cadaver Synod” at which Pope Stephen VI had posthumously deposed and desecrated the disinterred corpse of Pope Formosus. Despite his brief reign, Theodore vindicated Formosus’ pontificate at a synod, after which he honourably buried the corpse–retrieved by Theodore’s predecessor Romanus–at St. Peter’s, Rome. Because of the intrigue in Rome over the Cadaver Synod, it is possible that Theodore was murdered for his acts.

    “Theodore II.” Encyclopędia Britannica. Ultimate Reference Suite. Chicago: Encyclopędia Britannica, 2008.

    They don’t make Popes like ol’ Stephen VI anymore! (Thankfully)

  • #29 Geral
    April 25, 2008

    @wazza

    I’m pretty sure that applies to Popes but nobody is actually allowed to examine their bodies so…

  • #30 Jennie
    April 25, 2008

    Amazingly, it’s not the only corpse they’re parading around at the moment. Last weekend in Australia we were treated to the news that the body of some Italian Catholic guy, who died in the 1920s at the age of 24 and is apparently being considered for beatification, will be flown to Sydney for World Youth Day.
    It’s utterly macabre.

  • #31 k9_kaos
    April 25, 2008

    Oh please. They should just bury the poor guy and mark his tombstone with D.I.P. (Decompose In Peace).

  • #32 Jon H
    April 25, 2008

    “It seems that the old world catholic church uses the macabre as a mortifying motiff; death themes for a cult that believes in an afterlife.”

    Other reasons for the accumulation and display, as in the Capuchin crypts or the Sedlec chapel are simple lack of space (Capuchins really pile up over several centuries, and burial isn’t really an option) and the belief that there’s some benefit to having the remains in that particular location.

    In Sedlec, someone brought soil back from the Holy Land and placed it on the church grounds, so everyone wanted to be buried there. So many people, that older residents were disinterred after being skeletonized (this is also done for materialistic reasons in places like Montmartre – I think Jim Morrison was at risk of being evicted recently). Eventually in the 1800s a woodworker was hired to do something with the bones, and he made a really awesome architectural wonder, made of all the bones. I’m not sure there’s any particular Catholic/Christian motivation apart from wanting to let the bones stay on the premises for religious reasons.

    With the Capuchins, I’m not sure public display was an organizing principle originally, but it may well have become a source of income. (And, hey, better to charge the tourists and pilgrims who have a choice than to fund operations on the back of taxpayers.)

  • #33 Jay
    April 25, 2008

    Creeeeeepy

  • #34 cath
    April 25, 2008

    You’re just going to keep on posting until you’ve got all the star signs, aren’t you? I’m onto your ploy.

  • #35 Ichthyic
    April 25, 2008

    With the Capuchins

    sorry, can’t read that without thinking of these guys:

    http://www.gotpetsonline.com/pictures/gallery/exotic-animals/primates/capuchin-monkeys

    …and wouldn’t we all rather talk about monkeys, anyway?

  • #36 Ichthyic
    April 25, 2008

    hmm link broke.

    try this:

    adorable fuzzy monkey

  • #37 Neil
    April 25, 2008

    All hail the Capricorn!

    Goddamned right! 1/08/73 and fuck Elvis Presley! I’m much more proud to share my day of random significance with David Bowie, Robbie Krieger, Stephen Hawking and Graham Chapman.

    Oh yeah, the post!
    It’s like an open casket funeral, except about a million times more tacky and disturbing. As modern as the catholic church seems when compared to fundie baptist offshoots, it is the Vincent Price of western religion when it comes to encouraging fear and superstition through grotesque drama and gore. From snuff art crucifixes to preserved body parts to imagined cannibalism.

    I’ve always appreciated the horror-show aspect of it all, but some believers get really worked up about it. My general experience living in California is that rich devout catholics are the most reasonable, thoughtful people you could hope to find among conservative christians, while poor devout catholics are some of the most superstitious folk I’ve ever met. I’ve seen saint-medal rubbing for luck, spontaneous rosary fondling, I’ve seen people scream in panic over hearing curse words. I had a good friend who spit out his first bite of cheeseburger, went without lunch and had a nice 45 minute guilt trip over a mouthful of McDonalds on Friday. I have been told that I have a demon. Inside me.

    I know a lot of paranoid, self righteous, generally republican protestant christians. While I regard them as delusional and potentially dangerous, the only ones who seem to display a lot of obvious physical superstition or totem worship are the reformed tweekers.

    There is a larger point I was going to try to make, concerning types of religious delusions and how harmful they are relative to each other, but I am way too many beers ahead. My limited experience is that even the most god-bothered modern catholics are sweet people as long as they can get their religious fix. They seem to benefit from their dependency. Most of my protestant friends seem more sane outwardly, at first, but somehow manage to also be racist idiots that complain about gas prices while driving
    SUV’s and voting republican.

    Perhaps I’m jaded, or just too big of a George Romero fan, but if the catholic church would just re-think birth control policy I would let them defile all of their own dead without complaint.

  • #38 shonny
    April 25, 2008

    Do the cat’lickers charge extra for a bit of necrophilia?
    Can’t imagine that is a variant they don’t cater for. After all, business is business.
    And saints are wholly business.

    (- and no, I am NOT a potential customer!)

  • #39 zy
    April 25, 2008

    I had a similar reaction some years ago when people lined up to view Reagan’s corpse. I don’t care that was fresh and this one is 40 years dead. Same impulse. Religion isn’t the only source of weird morbid obsessions.

  • #40 Emmanuel_Goldstein
    April 25, 2008

    You’ll all be pleased to know that Padre Pio is the patron saint of civil defense volunteers, Catholic adolescents, and the unofficial patron of stress relief and New Year Blues.

    It’s kind of funny, having raised as a Catholic, to know that a self-mutilator is the patron saint for adolescents. Even teenage cutters have someone they can turn to! It’s a full service religion.

  • #41 Greta Christina
    April 25, 2008

    “Those eyes. Those weird pupils…I…I…All Glory to the Hypno-Capricorn. You will be appointed Ruler of the Universe. Hail! All hail the Capricorn!”

    At last I get a horoscope that’s accurate! About bloody time. With Capricorn, it’s always, “You are solid, responsible, respectful of authority, and overall kind of a boring drag.” But this one is dead-on. Especially about the eyes. People don’t usually notice because of the glasses, though…

    Oh, yeah. The post. Creepy. But what do you expect from a cult that ritually devours the blood and flesh of their God, and insists that this isn’t symbolic but totally literal?

  • #42 BadeMart
    April 25, 2008

    The Capuchin thing is also a momento mori – which is a quite secular exercise, helping you appreciate this brief life you have, and to use it to the fullest. At the end of the crypt is an articulated skeleton of a friar, in his habit, bearing a simple notice saying, “What you are now I once was, what I am now you will be.”

    The Padre Pio thing is no more atavistic than any other memento of the dead. A little more lurid than the lock of a departed child’s hair. Essentially just the same thing.

    I wonder, as outsider from Africa (and I will not comment on the utter hilarity the whitey misconceptions about penises caused locally when PZ frothed lock stock and barrel into his atavism) whether the utter denial of death in US culture is mot more macabre?

  • #43 Rey Fox
    April 25, 2008

    “Ever seen the Capuchin burial vaults in Rome?”

    No, but I totally want to now.

  • #44 Kseniya
    April 25, 2008

    A little more lurid

    You have a flair for understatement.

  • #45 Ichthyic
    April 25, 2008

    “Ever seen the Capuchin burial vaults in Rome?”

    they bury monkeys in vaults in Rome?

    er, whatever floats yer boat, I guess…

    More fun than a vault full of monkeys?

  • #46 craig
    April 25, 2008

    Stupid, yes, but I guess I can’t cal them morbid, seeing as I came up with the idea of a cemetery where concrete and steel are not allowed, no embalming allowed, and each grave would have a simple pine box at most… and each would have a viewing window so you could walk through the pretty cemetery and look at the differences in decay between someone buried 10 years ago versus 250 years ago.

    I still like the idea. Maybe for propriety’s sake there would be an iron door over the window that would remain locked for the first 6 to 12 months… protect the mourners and all that.

  • #47 Kseniya
    April 25, 2008

    the utter denial of death in US culture

    I question the wisdom of making such a claim only three comments after a mention of the extended open-casket wake accorded Ronald Reagan.

    A disinclination to dig up corpses and parade them around as totems does not equate to “utter denial of death.”

    Sorry. I shouldn’t dwell on the negative. Actually I found your comment quite interesting.

  • #48 craig
    April 25, 2008

    “A disinclination to dig up corpses and parade them around as totems does not equate to “utter denial of death.”

    It actually kind of seems to me that an inclination to do this is denial of death. Unless of course your purpose is to demonstrate to everyone the lifelessness of the body. Poke it and prod it and say “See? The fucker’s DEAD.”

  • #49 craig
    April 25, 2008

    I had a similar reaction some years ago when people lined up to view Reagan’s corpse.

    Hey, what the hell… I’d line up to see W.’s corpse…

  • #50 Kseniya Ksyko
    April 25, 2008

    “It actually kind of seems to me that an inclination to do this is denial of death.”

    Yes, Craig, I was thinking the same thing, but decided not to go there

  • #51 Ichthyic
    April 25, 2008

    Hey, what the hell… I’d line up to see W.’s corpse…

    meh, not me.

    I would line up to see W made INTO a corpse, though.

  • #52 thalarctos
    April 25, 2008

    they bury monkeys in vaults in Rome?

    It’s like that movie 12 Monkeys–they never delivered what their title promised.

    Same thing here–if you go to Rome to see the capuchins, you’re going to be sadly disappointed. False advertising, I call it.

  • #53 Ichthyic
    April 25, 2008

    False advertising, I call it.

    good thing I returned the plane tickets!

    :p

  • #54 Peter Ashby
    April 25, 2008

    The Beeb on its digital channel for ‘smart’ people BBC4 has been running a series on the Medieval Mind. They even showed The Name of the Rose and I reread that only last month which was cool. Anyway, last night they did the Reformation in Britain, cue lots of literally de-faced figures and empty niches that make Anglican cathedrals such strange spaces compared with their Catholic equivalents.

    What was interesting and I hadn’t appreciated before is that they left the grotesques alone (and the Brits always did a good grotesque) simply because they were not objects of worship. They used a detailed record kept by a priest in the West Country over more than 50years who started out spending 10years urging his parishioners to venerate the statues of the saints. Then Henry had his little marital difficulty, but the real bite came on when his son Edward became king, then there was Mary and Catholicism again before Elizabeth.

    The point was made that in an age when all art was religious all of a sudden there was no art. Apparently they used to dance in the cathedrals during services too, which makes the Wee Free’s ‘it leads to dancing’ look a bit different. Though they seem to have forgotten that bit…

    So yes, but for that old rabid anti Semite Martin Luther and Henry’s oh so urgent need for a male heir (and we think we have fertility problems) then we would think that worshipping rotten corpses was entirely normal. Interestingly Philip Pullman’s Church retained a number of elements of Catholicism but otherwise was rather austere and um Protestant.

    But then since I have got into revisionist history maybe if the Church had dealth with the pressures that lead to Protestantism by accommodating it then the Church would be like that. So perhaps it is only because it has to confront stark, austere Calvinism that it maintains such ridiculousnesses.

    So a Catholic gets to demonstrate their honed ability to believe ten impossible things before breakfast but what does a poor Proddy get to to do?

    Is it any wonder they end up believing in YEC, killing doctors and getting disturbingly clean cut and knocking on my door in pairs? I mean come on, feel their pain. They don’t get something like a rotting old fraud to believe in*.

    * insert old fraud of your choice here.

  • #55 craig
    April 25, 2008

    meh, not me.

    I would line up to see W made INTO a corpse, though.

    I was thinking of the urinary possibilities.

  • #56 NMcC
    April 25, 2008

    I’m a Capricorn too. But I don’t believe in that load of old bollocks. Mind you, we Capricorns are very cynical!

    As to the ghoulishness of the travelling corpse, what’s the big deal? Take a look at the Pope, you can’t tell me that he wouldn’t slot right in to the Addams Family.

  • #57 craig
    April 25, 2008

    The Beeb on its digital channel for ‘smart’ people BBC4 has been running a series on the Medieval Mind. They even showed The Name of the Rose and I reread that only last month which was cool. Anyway

    These videos have been posted currently on alt.binaries.documentaries for anyone in a pirating frame of mind. Yaar.

  • #58 Michael
    April 25, 2008

    Padre Pio wasn’t a true Christian, although it appears he has rock star status among certain Catholics.

  • #59 Sam
    April 25, 2008

    I *could* be wrong, but isn’t there some holy literature which contains some rules, one of which goes something along the lines of “worship nobody but me” ?

    Then again, maybe I read that in a mad magazine.

  • #60 Marcus Ranum
    April 25, 2008

    Hey, I thought saints’ bodies were supposed to be “incorruptible” — do you think they’re trying to scam the flock by making a silicone model?

    This guy is totally deserving of sainthood, though. He did real honest to goodness miracles. They’re not as good as the miracles Penn and Teller do, but why be picky?

    That’s the part I always love.. The “miracles” these religious twits perform are tricks that are so basic P&T wouldn’t touch ‘em. But they’re good enough to convince a bunch of rubes that so-and-so is the son of god. Were people just a lot stupider in the good old days? Oh, wait, it’s still going on…

  • #61 Ali
    April 25, 2008

    That is Creepy, but I don’t think it is only limited to Christianity!

  • #62 craig
    April 25, 2008

    Padre Pio wasn’t a true Christian

    Anyone who calls himself a Christian is a Christian.

  • #63 Rick Schauer
    April 25, 2008

    Discipuli nostri bardissimi sunt…de profundis corpus vile.

    Beatus homo qui invenit sapentiam.

  • #64 Sili
    April 25, 2008

    Well, that horoscope certainly explains a lot

    I seem recall a Jens Bjerre documentary – that must be some fifty odd years old by now – about a New Guinean tribe that venerated their dead by bringing them out of their burial caves/hut/wev annually to feed a cuddle with (they also cut off a fingerjoint as a sign of mourning at the time of the actual death). This sounds oddly reminisent of that.

    Of course, these clever people had the good sense to cure their relatives by smoking them for a good while before putting them away. Methinks the caths could learn a thing of two from them.

  • #65 SC
    April 25, 2008

    Reminded me of Mark Twain’s reports in the great (if proto-imperialist) Innocents Abroad – “These people have a somewhat singular taste in the matter of relics”:

    “This was good St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop of Milan. The people idolized him; princes lavished uncounted treasures upon him. We stood in his tomb. Near by was the sarcophagus, lighted by the dripping candles. The walls were faced with bas-reliefs representing scenes in his life done in massive silver. The priest put on a short white lace garment over his black robe, crossed himself, bowed reverently, and began to turn a windlass slowly. The sarcophagus separated in two parts, lengthwise, and the lower part sank down and disclosed a coffin of rock crystal as clear as the atmosphere. Within lay the body, robed in costly habiliments covered with gold embroidery and starred with scintillating gems. The decaying head was black with age, the dry skin was drawn tight to the bones, the eyes were gone, there was a hole in the temple and another in the cheek, and the skinny lips were parted as in a ghastly smile! Over this dreadful face, its dust and decay and its mocking grin, hung a crown sown thick with flashing brilliants; and upon the breast lay crosses and croziers of solid gold that were splendid with emeralds and diamonds.

    How poor, and cheap, and trivial these gew-gaws seemed in presence of the solemnity, the grandeur, the awful majesty of Death! Think of Milton, Shakespeare, Washington, standing before a reverent world tricked out in the glass beads, the brass ear-rings and tin trumpery of the savages of the plains!”

    Jerusalem: “The priests tried to show us, through a small screen, a fragment of the genuine Pillar of Flagellation, to which Christ was bound when they scourged him. But we could not see it, because it was dark inside the screen. However, a baton is kept here, which the pilgrim thrusts through a hole in the screen, and then he no longer doubts that the true Pillar of Flagellation is in there. He can not have any excuse to doubt it, for he can feel it with the stick. He can feel it as distinctly as he could feel any thing.

    Not far from here was a niche where they used to preserve a piece of the True Cross, but it is gone, now. This piece of the cross was discovered in the sixteenth century. The Latin priests say it was stolen away, long ago, by priests of another sect. That seems like a hard statement to make, but we know very well that it was stolen, because we have seen it ourselves in several of the cathedrals of Italy and France.”

  • #66 defaithed
    April 25, 2008

    I’m loving the horoscopes, PZ. You’ve got a flair for comedy writing, but that was obvious all along in your dealings with religionists. (In those debates, yours is the *intentional* comedy, i.e., the good kind. : )

    And I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one who finds goat eyes creepy. Dead saints too. [shudders]

  • #67 kaput
    April 25, 2008

    PZ has a flair for viciousness, and it’s only getting worse. The bb gun comment the other day was particularly egregious, and I would expect more than sophomoric insults and crudity from someone whose blog purports to provide a voice for naturalism.

  • #68 John Morales
    April 25, 2008

    Hey Kaput, is it the flair or the viciousness that’s getting worse? :)

    And what exactly is vicious about this post, anyway? I don’t see any viciousness – mild disgust, maybe, but not viciousness.

  • #69 Konrad Talmont-Kaminski
    April 25, 2008

    The more I find out about Ancient Rome the more I recognise that Christianity mostly consists of a good old pagan traditions.

  • #70 Darwin's Ghost
    April 25, 2008

    “Christianity is a creepy death cult.”

    “Nazis were all Darwinists”.

    Same kind of arguments, same kind of fallacies.

  • #71 craig
    April 25, 2008

    Bullshit. They are not the same. Christians all worship a dead guy, and they worship him not despite his death but because of it.

    Every Christian church on the planet is filled with images of the man’s execution device, and most of these images have the guy’s corpse still nailed to it.

    Christians use images of the mechanism of his death everywhere, they wear them around their necks. He “died for their sins.”

    If that is not a death cult, then you are not a delusional fool.

  • #72 Brandon P.
    April 25, 2008

    You think worshipping a corpse is bizarre, understand that the basic idea behind communion is eating the flesh and drinking the blood of your god! I’m surprised more vampires and cannibals aren’t already Christians.

  • #73 jim
    April 25, 2008

    #53, #64: Speaking of The Name of the Rose and creepy crypto-idolatry: as Adso is credulously admiring the monastery’s collection of holy relics, Brother William comments to the effect that, if all the fragments of the True Cross he’s seen on his travels are genuine, Jesus must have been crucified on an entire forest…

  • #74 TH
    April 25, 2008

    I’m a capricorn too :) Seems like the position as Ruler of the Universe has a long waiting list.

    At least I don’t parade my dead relatives around.

  • #75 Dawn
    April 25, 2008

    Am I the only Aquarius who reads Pharyngula and who is waiting with bated breath for MY horoscope? I’m lonely…

  • #76 Brian Coughlan
    April 25, 2008

    “Christianity is a creepy death cult.”

    “Nazis were all Darwinists”.

    Same kind of arguments, same kind of fallacies.
    Posted by: Darwin’s Ghost | April 25, 2008 5:39 AM

    What I love about this kind of post, is the authors acceptance that religious bullshit is just like secular bullshit, this is significant progress. It’s also got a big chunk of truth embedded in it. The conclusion to reject vaccination for your child, is arrived at with the same faulty thinking that blames disease on “sin”. So secular bullshit is not dissimilar from religious bullshit, on that we can happily agree, because it places religion on the same plain as any other human endeavour, where we can kick the crap out of it just like we would any other bonkers (but secular!) ideology.

    Of course the charge is wrong in this instance, the critical difference being the application of critical thinking. Present in PZ’s post, but absent in DG’s.

    It is demonstrable that no senior Nazis were “Darwinists”, but rather purveyors of their own unique brand of recognisably religious nonsense. While, it is also demonstrable that Christians get all hot and bothered about long, recently and medium term dead people. This is, after all, what the actual article is … ah … celebrating.

    Death, prayer to the dead, and the concept of resurrection are all absolutely central to Chrisitianity. The practical application of Master Race Eugenics is not central to evolution. See the difference DG?

  • #77 R
    April 25, 2008

    Yes-Bring on the Aquarian horoscopes!

    Also, note to self, Catholicism=icky. Glad I freed myself from that bizarre death cult.

  • #78 True Bob
    April 25, 2008

    craig @ 54, first thing that sprang to mind was the urinary potential. The line would be blocks long.

    A couple years ago I got to see Body Worlds. They should’ve had Gunther plastinate that Capuchin.

    http://www.bodyworlds.com/en.html

    And yes, pope ratzi is creepy as can be. He looks cannibalistic to me.

  • #79 oldcola
    April 25, 2008

    Now, there is a big problem with that hypnose technique. It should be Ruler of the MultiVerse.
    Should try, harder, should try harder…

  • #80 Julian
    April 25, 2008

    Well, considering that Jesus is little more than a Holy Zombie God (he advocates that you eat him too, for Chuck’s sake) , it doesn’t surprise me that his worshipers have a thing for the metabolicly impaired.

    How much you want to bet that within ten years they’ll be claiming that there was miraculously no decay when they first dug him up? Kinda casts all those old saint’s tales in a new light don’t it?

  • #81 Sastra
    April 25, 2008

    This month’s Skeptical Inquirer has an article on Catholic pseudoreligious pareidolia, which contains the following excerpt from the British comedy Black Adder:

    Percy: Look (he takes a red cloth from his sleeve): I have here a true relic.
    Edmund: What is it?
    Percy: (unwraps the cloth) It is a bone from the finger of Our Lord. It cost me 31 pieces of silver.
    Edmund: Good lord. Is it real?
    Percy: It is, My Lord. Baldrick, you stand amazed.
    Baldrick: I am — I thought they only came in boxes of ten.

    You know, a lot of “insults” against religion are simply restatements of what the religious themselves say, but without the fawning tone of admiration and approval. “Christianity reminds us that this life is nothing more than an inferior prelude and striving towards our deaths and the glorious life to come” vs. “Christianity is a death cult.” Or “As Christians we recognize that we are feeble and our efforts worthless, so we must lean continuously upon God” vs. “Christianity is a crutch for the weak.” What really seems bothersome to the religious is not so much what we’re saying, but the way we say it. And we’re not applauding.

    At any rate, it does seem a little odd to see people keep calling Christianity a death-cult and raven’s not here.

  • #82 danley
    April 25, 2008

    Ed Gein all over again.

  • #83 Ian
    April 25, 2008

    Capricorn should be spelled Caprica and your prediction is wrong!

    It should read “Human-looking Cylon robots will nuke your world today and attempt to wipe out the entire human race. They evolved. There are many copies. They have a plan”

  • #84 Masks of Eris
    April 25, 2008

    @ #26

    Holy foreskins? Sounds like a subject for quite low comedy.

  • #85 craig
    April 25, 2008

    “You know, a lot of “insults” against religion are simply restatements of what the religious themselves say, but without the fawning tone of admiration and approval. “Christianity reminds us that this life is nothing more than an inferior prelude and striving towards our deaths and the glorious life to come” vs. “Christianity is a death cult.” Or “As Christians we recognize that we are feeble and our efforts worthless, so we must lean continuously upon God” vs. “Christianity is a crutch for the weak.” What really seems bothersome to the religious is not so much what we’re saying, but the way we say it. And we’re not applauding.”

    Wow. Nicely pointed out.

  • #86 SteveM
    April 25, 2008

    craig @45 wrote:
    I came up with the idea of a cemetery where concrete and steel are not allowed, no embalming allowed, and each grave would have a simple pine box at most…

    I was just reading recently of a new cemetery that will have no markers, will remain wooded and the graves will only be located with GPS lat/lon coordinates.

  • #87 Laser Potato
    April 25, 2008

    CAPRICORN: The stars say that you’re an exciting and wonderful person, but you know they’re lying
    If I were you, I’d lock my doors and windows and never ever ever ever ever leave my house again!

  • #88 --PatF in Madison
    April 25, 2008

    For some reason, this cheerful discussion reminds me of Roy Rogers comment:

    “When my time comes just skin me and put me right up there on Trigger as if nothing had ever changed.”

    It didn’t happen.

  • #89 Jsn
    April 25, 2008

    What is really strange about the skeletonized Capuchin monks in Rome is how small they were. These guys were barely five feet tall, if that.
    As for boosting tourism, a Capuchin monkey vault would be cool too, especially if they had a capucino bar. I’d pay to see that.

  • #90 arensb
    April 25, 2008

    They dug up the decayed body of an old fraud, dressed it up in a mask and fancy clothes, and parade it around and worship it…

    Reminds me of Lenin’s mausoleum (or, as one Russian comedian referred to it, “the Red Square Museum of Representational Art”).

  • #91 themightyleart
    April 25, 2008

    The funny, or pathetic thing, is that the millions of people who are going to pray to the rotting corpse, will actually think the wax face is his real face, thus reinforcing their belief in his sanctity.

  • #92 David Marjanovi?, OM
    April 25, 2008

    I thought the bodies of saints were supposed to be incorruptible or something

    no?

    Only in Orthodox dogma. Not on Catholic dogma. And even Orthodox dogma apparently allows for phenomena like a “partially incorrupt skull”, as I have learned here on Pharyngula.

    Apparently they used to dance in the cathedrals during services too

    Yep.

    I *could* be wrong, but isn’t there some holy literature which contains some rules, one of which goes something along the lines of “worship nobody but me” ?

    That’s another kind of “worship”. Very simple (for scholastics).

  • #93 frog
    April 25, 2008

    Bade Mart #42: ” I will not comment on the utter hilarity the whitey misconceptions about penises caused locally when PZ frothed lock stock and barrel into his atavism”

    Please do. In what way was the story misrepresented? Was it journalistic insufficiency, or PZ’s tone about the matter? It’s always polite to explain to folks why you’re laughing at them. Hell, we all might learn something if you have something significant to offer beyond your mirth.

  • #94 MAJeff, OM
    April 25, 2008

    You think worshipping a corpse is bizarre, understand that the basic idea behind communion is eating the flesh and drinking the blood of your god!

    This semester, while working through the book “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down” my students were a little taken aback…”They believe What?” type of stuff. So, being a good sociologist, I brought up the notion that the “strangeness” of a belief is about social distance from it, not the inherent content of the idea. Brought up transsubstantiation and communion. Some folks who’d never thought about it before got these sick looks on their faces. It was kind of funny.

  • #95 PixelFish
    April 25, 2008

    You know, I read that first paragraph as Pedro’s exhumed body attracting thousands of pigeons. There was a vaguely disturbing mental picture there.

  • #96 frog
    April 25, 2008

    Peter Ashby: “So a Catholic gets to demonstrate their honed ability to believe ten impossible things before breakfast but what does a poor Proddy get to to do?
    Is it any wonder they end up believing in YEC, killing doctors and getting disturbingly clean cut and knocking on my door in pairs? I mean come on, feel their pain. They don’t get something like a rotting old fraud to believe in.”

    I think there may be more than a little psychological truth to that statement. Believing in an obvious absurdity may inoculate against some of the more subtle absurdities.

    In some Australian aborigine groups, they had such complex kinship systems that almost any sex was incest. The solution? One day a year when you get to screw anyone you want. Everybody behaved very well the other 364 days a year.

  • #97 MikeM
    April 25, 2008

    My favorite part of the story:

    Among the stories that surround the monk, who died at the age of 81, is one that he wrestled with the devil one night in his monastery cell and emerged bloodied and bruised.

    However, he was dogged by accusations of fraud. A book last year suggested he was a self-harming man who might have used carbolic acid to cause his wounds. Church officials have denied he was a fake.

    Okay, we’s got door number 1, “He wrestled with Satan”, or door number 2, “He was a fraud.”

    Any guesses as to which theory I think is more plausible?

    What kind of wrestling was it? Sumo? WWF? Greco-Roman?

    Holy frickin’ cow. The stupid, she burns.

  • #98 Carlie
    April 25, 2008

    MAJeff, I’ve taught that book too. Do your students come out at the end still saying “They should have just listened to the doctors and everything would have been fine, so it’s all their fault”? Makes me want to slit my wrists sometimes. It’s an interesting line to walk, trying to cultivate cultural respect and understanding, get across the fact that doctors aren’t infallible and some things about our health care system suck, yet woo beliefs are still woo, and critical thinking is needed everywhere. When I taught it I did Steve Kissing’s “Running from the Devil” as a counterpoint, which is a very funny book about a very unfunny topic, how a Catholic kid in Ohio had epilepsy but thought it was attacks from Satan so hid it for several years and tried to get good with God so it would go away. It makes some of the same points you can make with the Lee story, but in a lighthearted and kindly way.

  • #99 MAJeff, OM
    April 25, 2008

    MAJeff, I’ve taught that book too. Do your students come out at the end still saying “They should have just listened to the doctors and everything would have been fine, so it’s all their fault”? Makes me want to slit my wrists sometimes.

    Not usually. I often start one of the classes with the question, “Did Niel make the right decision in calling DSS?” so we get that out of the way fairly early. More often, they leave the book just a bit more confused than when they encounter it, simply because they’re raising questions they hadn’t thought of previously. Love using that book (And one of my favorite times teaching it was when I had a Hmong man in his 40s who went to his first hu plig ceremony while we were studying the book.)

  • #100 Lionel A
    April 25, 2008

    How do they know the corpse was that of a capuchin monk and not a capuchin monkey?

  • #101 Peter Mc
    April 25, 2008

    I’m only surprised it took them so long to put him on show.

    You should see Assisi (Umbria, Italy): the tombs of Saints Francis and Clare do great business. Francis was disinterred for a Pope to count his bones, give ‘em a polish and have them photographed for a postcard then put back in a box which is prayed to by millions each year.

    St Clare, being a woman, is on display in a gilded fishtank like Padre Pio. She must be fairly manky, she is also masked, is in a habit and has gloves and welliington boots on so you can’t see whether it’s her or any old trout they decided to put on display.

    Completely unsurprised by this: a German Church I got dragged to as a kid had a skeleton in gold underwear on display in a glass-fronted altar. A friend curates several chopped off-pieces of Catholic martyr at a private school – there’s an eyeball which flew out during the butchery after the hanging and drawing (see how Christians love one another) and a whole-ish head of a priest. A bit ragged – over the years people have chopped bits off to press against sores etc. perfectly normal. Nothing to see here, move along.

  • #102 Nick Gotts
    April 25, 2008

    “Sas, I thought it was kings for scrofula” – wazza

    That’s right – and barons of Balquhain for ingrowing nasal hairs.

  • #103 Holbach
    April 25, 2008

    Remember that insane crap PZ posted a while back on the holy chair in Italy that will make deranged females finally get pregnant after they sit in it when accompanied by a moron in a funny outfit? Is there any type or degree of insanity that crazed religionists are not prone too? And the Planet Killer and his crazed ilk wonder why I am so bullshit over their deranged thoughts and antics!

  • #104 Dan
    April 25, 2008

    All Hail The Hypno-Goat!!!

    Baaaa!

  • #105 Jsn
    April 25, 2008

    /How do they know the corpse was that of a capuchin monk and not a capuchin monkey?/

    First of all, no hurdy-gurdy or beggar’s cup was found in the vault. Secondly, no self respecting monkey would be caught dead in those tacky Jawa-esque robes….

  • #106 Ktesibios
    April 25, 2008

    For SC:

    Is…ah… is he dead?

  • #107 Mark A. Siefert
    April 25, 2008

    Re #106

    It’s a trick. Get an ax.

  • #108 Marcus Ranum
    April 25, 2008

    Monty Python could have had so much fun with this…

  • #109 Angel Rose Young
    April 25, 2008

    I am so positively unshocked! The Roman Catholic Church really has a problem with letting go of the Dark Ages. Perhaps it could be that the Dark Ages were the height of its wieldable powers and self-centered “glory”. They are definitely some morbid MFRs.

  • #110 Angel Rose Young
    April 25, 2008

    Christianity is a death cult. They are preoccupied with death; they actually long for the day they will die; they worship a God that revels in death; they worship his son who was put to death; they revel in threats of eternal damnation; they once reveled in acts of torture and violent death to anyone who did not believe, or admit to believe, their ridiculous teachings, and especially those who had the audacity to speak out loud for the ultimate purpose of being heard to rail against them. In order to cleanse the heretics’ already condemned souls, they burned them alive, tortured them to death, drown them, asphyxiated them, or any combination of these and other horrors. Sometimes torture was public, a death sentence almost always was.

    If you listen to certain televangelists you can feel a deep rooted sentiment for the revival of dark-ages heresy policies. Pat Robertson is the one who raises my dander the fullest in this area of Christian “expertise”. Robertson can be really scary… evil incarnate… chills my bones just to hear his ill-infected voice… knowing that he is Southern Baptist just makes me that much colder… it would figure that he would want to abolish the US Department of Education…

    It is probably very fortunate for us that christians can’t agree on a single philosophy for christian doctrine. They fight among themselves just as avidly as they fight with us. It is really beyond comical.

  • #111 Epikt
    April 25, 2008

    SteveM:

    I was just reading recently of a new cemetery that will have no markers, will remain wooded and the graves will only be located with GPS lat/lon coordinates.

    Ooh. I’m really, really fighting the urge to mess with some geocachers right now…

  • #112 Angel Rose Young
    April 25, 2008

    “Among the stories that surround the monk, who died at the age of 81, is one that he wrestled with the devil one night in his monastery cell and emerged bloodied and bruised.”
    “However, he was dogged by accusations of fraud. A book last year suggested he was a self-harming man who might have used carbolic acid to cause his wounds. Church officials have denied he was a fake.”

    Glad to see this brought up! I used to have serious nightmares. The kind of nightmares you can’t wake from, but rather must be cast out from by the dream itself (if anyone understands that). It has been almost twelve years since I had one; but, I can still remember the rotting, festering, odious, half decomposed, bloodthirsty demon that had its bone protruding, slime-coated hands on me. When I woke, I felt sticky and my arms and neck stung like crazy. I had literally clawed myself bloody – forearms, neck, face, and chest, in order to get free of the demon in my dreams.

    But, at least I am aware that it was just a dream, and that my self-inflicted wounds (which was made obvious by the blood and skin under my fingernails) were nothing more than something brought on by the subconcious brain during a dream phase. They did put me back on Xanax though…

  • #113 Dean Booth
    April 25, 2008

    I used to have a Catholic holy card containing a small piece of fabric “touched to the tongue of Saint Anthony.” Apparently, Anthony was “so pure of speech” that when they dug him up years later his tongue was still soft and moist. I saw his tongue in the Vatican, but it was too small and high up to really check it out. They also have his whole jaw on display.
    http://www.basilicadelsanto.org/ing/visita/storia.asp

    I always wondered how they touched the fabric to his dead tongue — I guess they cranked a spool of ribbon over it.

  • #114 plm
    April 25, 2008

    Ummm. Death cult? “Worshiping” a corpse? Huh? Padre Pio a fraud? Can you definitively prove this? Your bigotry and ignorance is noted. Catholics do not worship Saints or anyone else other than God…. but don’t let that FACT get in the way of your little hate fest.

  • #115 Ann B
    April 26, 2008

    I have a Padre Pio holy card that I’m using as a bookmark in my nightstand copy of The God Delusion!

  • #116 giordano Bruno
    April 26, 2008

    “Theodore II: pope for 20 days during December 897. He was elected during one of the darkest periods in papal history, caused by the “Cadaver Synod” at which Pope Stephen VI had posthumously deposed and desecrated the disinterred corpse of Pope Formosus. Despite his brief reign, Theodore vindicated Formosus’ pontificate at a synod, after which he honourably buried the corpse–retrieved by Theodore’s predecessor Romanus–at St. Peter’s, Rome. Because of the intrigue in Rome over the Cadaver Synod, it is possible that Theodore was murdered for his acts.”
    Couldn’t we get Woody Allen to make the film???

  • #117 Kingreaper
    April 26, 2008

    “I thought the bodies of saints were supposed to be incorruptible or something

    no?”

    Only once they do all the preservation.

    They always claim a miraculous lack of decay AFTER getting rid of all signs of decay and replacing half the skin with wax :p

  • #118 Nes
    April 26, 2008

    Huh.

    For some reason I had never pictured PZ as a fan of Futurama.

  • #119 Longtime Lurker
    April 27, 2008

    Regarding #113, I visited Padua a few years ago, and St Anthony’s tongue is on display in the basilica… brings “kissing a relic” to a whole new level.

    I wonder about the circumstances behind the whole relic thing, I can picture a medieval abbot saying something like: “That guy has potential to be a saint someday, take his corpse to the lopatorium!”

  • #120 Liam
    April 28, 2008

    #114: Hi troll.

  • #121 chat
    September 30, 2008

    I always wondered how they touched the fabric to his dead tongue — I guess they cranked a spool of ribbon over it.

  • #122 a?k ?iirleri
    March 19, 2009

    I was just reading recently of a new cemetery that will have no markers, will remain wooded and the graves will only be located with GPS lat/lon coordinates.

    Ooh. I’m really, really fighting the urge to mess with some geocachers right now…

  • The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.