Sunday Sacrilege: Flaunting our disobedience

Sacrilege can get people killed. It can cause riots and economic mayhem. People die over a sense of offended propriety. And whose fault is that?

You know what I'm talking about. Almost all religions have odd proscriptions that are taken with extraordinary seriousness by their followers — they are markers for who belongs in the group, and who is the outsider. Violate them, especially if you knowingly violate them, immediately marks you as The Enemy, and justifies taking any action against you.

The Muslim outrage about cartoon portrayals of their prophet was a recent example. It's utterly ridiculous; I can see where immigrant populations would be extremely sensitive to further marginalization, and might see disrespectful stereotyping as a sign of deeper conflicts, but the response was excessive, irrational, and destroyed any possibility that a legitimate grievance might be taken seriously. If you're rightly upset that your ethnicity is being associated with terrorist bombings, it is insane to react by throwing bombs.

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But ultimately it's not just about protecting people who look like you from illegal discrimination; it's about enforcing a whole body of idiosyncratic, peculiar laws as if they are representative of broader human concerns and rights. They aren't. They're just silly.

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It's also about defending practices sanctified by patriarchal religious beliefs that are simply odious to anyone with a civilized, grown-up appreciation of a universal morality. Morality cannot be restricted to privileging one ethnic group, one religious belief, one sex…a rational morality has to be constructed around an appreciation of all human beings' right to justice and equal treatment. Many of the portrayals of the prophet Mohammed are intended to openly disrespect specific practices endorsed (or at least, uncritically accepted) by members of the Muslim faith that violate the rights of a much larger subset of the human race than just believers in Islam.

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This is one of the serious purposes of sacrilege: to tell people that their beliefs are barbaric or wrong. One of the purposes of blasphemy laws is to silence critics of long-hallowed principles of discrimination — and one of the most common is the practice of patriarchal domination, where one sex is told over and over again that they are in charge and must be given special favor, and the other is told over and over that they are weak, they must submit, they must obey. The Abrahamic religions are rife with this evil myth, and we have to be free to challenge it.

Another reason for sacrilege is to assert our freedom from superstition. There's a proscription against portraits of Mohammed? How absurd. We defy such arbitrary restrictions on our freedom, whether it's a demand that we treat crackers with respect or a demand that we do not render images of some guy, and we violated them, because we can. Any of us can pick up a sharpie and scrawl out a picture of Mohammed. Go ahead. Do it yourself.

i-4a5fdd560dcc53a8c2d5df5aa0af6f3d-mo4.jpeg
This is a picture of Mohammed.
Mohammed is a dork.

Remember, people will fight and die because they want to stop you from doing something so trivial and harmless as sketching what you think Mohammed looked like. That's stupid and wrong, and it is their problem, not yours. Sacrilege is exercising your freedom, a freedom they don't want you to have.

More like this

Uh oh. Has your home been proofed against deranged axe-wielding Somalians?

Yeah! Go Dr. Myers. I couldn't agree more. Though I think it will be a long time before humanity leaves this phase behind. Unfortunately rational people will continue to be marginalized and yes, persecuted...Please, do watch your back sir!

By Fred The Hun (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

If the fact that PZ lives in Minnesota isn't quite a bit of deranged-axe-wielding-Somali-proofing, I don't know what is.

Professor Myers, why do you only criticize Christians? Is it because you're afraid to criticize...

...oh. Never mind.

Are you sure Chris Mooney would approve of this message, too?

(It's Sunday, so I'm going to be full of friggin' snark.)

I wish I could get some publicity violating a cracker, to support the cause. But no reporter will oblige.

It's not just depictions of the prophet Muhammad (piss be upon him), many Muslims fear that the depiction of the human form is idolatry and thereby a sin against Allah, forbidden in the Qur'an.

What feckin' eejits to believe this crap in the 21st Century! Maybe it's not the fault of individual Muslims, if they don't get an adequate education, but in that case it's the fault of their Islamic nations or societies.

By vanharris (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

Pretty easy to attack Muslims, but you haven't got the guts to go after the Catholic Church.

I was gonna throw out some of that good old fatwa envy, but Bobber in #4 beat me to it.

Undoubtedly it will not take long until another Christian claims you'd never dare...

How can they live with the appreciation that they're not only consistently wrong, but even utterly predictable and ridiculously so.

They don't understand that? How do they even function at all? Amazing psychology.

By black-wolf72 (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

From the Catholic League's press release:

No one opposes men and women who are incidentally agnostic or atheist from expressing their concerns, even to the White House.

How is one incidently agnostic or atheist?

The Jains are dorks, too.

The "Muhammad" looks more like Osama bin Laden to me. For shame, you would not want bin Laden with a creep like Muhammad. ;-)

Damn good essay P.Z. But I really have a hard time understanding the crackers. If the Catholics know their own religion then they know that some random cracker they buy at the grocery store is not considered holy. It is only "holy" if it is blessed by the priest. So unless P.Z. Myers is breaking into churches to get their blessed crackers, he has not desecrated any holy communion wafers. Or at least assuming his touch does not make things holy in the "eyes" of God which would lead to some interesting theological quandaries.

Disclosure: Formerly "a lurker" so update your kill file software if you have any. This disclosure will be repeated several times.

By Childermass (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

Bravo! Simply...bravo!

By Givesgoodemail (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

Tom, i don't get it. What book? The feckin' bible? And why are the characters in modern clothes? And work for what?

I think it needs context. It's not obvious that it's anything to do with a death cult. It could be for a project of some kind.

By vanharris (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

So unless P.Z. Myers is breaking into churches to get their blessed crackers, he has not desecrated any holy communion wafers.

No, several were sent to him though, taken by Catholics from their services. So they had been through the priestly blessing.

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

Advice for former lurkers:
While lurking, read shit. When ready to comment, make sure you've read the shit that pertains to the subject of your comment.

Then, and only then, comment.
hth

By Sven DiMilo (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

In the interest of "fair and balanced" blasphemy:

The Pope is the leader of an international paedophile conspiracy.

To any tut-tutters,
There's no value in having a freedom if you're not allowed to exercise it.

By https://me.yah… (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

Yea any public events in front of church, mosque, or synagogue for sacralige sunday maybe go to highly populate event piss of Scientology, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism last and all subsets

By dude070012 (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

If the fact that PZ lives in Minnesota isn't quite a bit of deranged-axe-wielding-Somali-proofing, I don't know what is.

There's actually quite a large expatriate Somali population in Minnesota, just FYI.

No, several were sent to him though, taken by Catholics from their services. So they had been through the priestly blessing.

Not necessarily. One of the most delicious aspects of the whole incident is that Catholics had no earthly way of determining whether PZ had committed a 'horrendous hate crime' or nothing of consequence. They would have to trust that both PZ and the one who sent him the wafers were telling the truth. In other words they could not believe PZ was a horrible monster without also believing he was a trustworthy person.

it's about enforcing a whole body of idiosyncratic, peculiar laws as if they are representative of broader human concerns and rights. They aren't. They're just silly.

They're not just silly. I think there's a very real point to making up such arbitrary and idiosyncratic rules- they condition the flock to accept their leaders' claim to unconditional authority over their lives. They're not in the business of coming up with rules they can sell on their own merit- they're in the business of compelling obedience and submission. It's no accident, either, that so many of these arbitrary rules have to do with sex - once you've agreed to give over control of the most intimate parts of your life to arbitrary authorities, what then would you refuse them?

Actually that last picture looks more like Osamma bush Forgotten. I've pictured Mohammad looking more like Jesus & Mo, sort of like Ernie from Seaseme Street. But if pictures of Mo are forbidden, how do they know what he looks like so they can identify pictures of Mo as Mo? Could I take a screenshot of an anime episode and say "It looks like Mohammad!!"

Childermass, the cracker that PZ (Dr. Myers? Prof. Myers? I don't want to be too familiar) threw in the garbage was a "consecrated" one sent to him, which is why the Catholics got all up in a froth over it. PZ Myers stabbed Jesus with a nail and threw him in the garbage! You're supposed to eat Jesus, not throw him in the garbage!
I'd hate to think of what they'd say if he dribbled some Jesus blood on his shirt and used Tide To Go to get it out...

By Tabby Lavalamp (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

I just noticed on the LEGO box, Muhammad is a short-assed fucker. Mebbe that's why they don't like depicting him? Doesn't look so much like a leader. Well, not the sort that led armies of conquest against people with different superstitions.

By vanharris (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

I am not entirely sure what the difference is between a consecrated cracker and an unconsecrated one.

Catholics have told me that there is a difference, but were unable to tell me how you can tell a consecrated cracker apart from an unconsecrated one. Given that they say there is a change to the cracker one would have thought this was something they could do. Some have gone onto to talk about platonic essence, about how the "essence" of the cracker has changed but that is nothing more than theological bullshit. Granted there is a change in how some people regard a cracker that has been consecrated, but that change is not a property of the cracker.

Absent the ability to be able to tell a consecrated cracker from an unconsecrated one reliably and under experimental conditions, it is pointless to talk of there being any difference.

By Matt Penfold (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

I'd hate to think of what they'd say if he dribbled some Jesus blood on his shirt and used Tide To Go to get it out...

They'd be righteously angered, of course - True Christians (TM) use ONLY Blood of The Lamb (TM) detergent, to get their clothes APOCALYPTICALLY white!

And yeah, Moslems are dorks. Piss on Mohammed. Any Moslem who's got a problem with that, bring it - I'm sick of the culture of fear you assholes engender. Time for atheists to start arming and stand up to these Stone Age fucktards.

Matt @ 28

Are you suggesting we subject the miracle of transubstantiation to scientific testing?

proposed research protocol: get the priest to do the magic that transforms the wine into the blood of christ. Line up the pious and have them drink a liter of the stuff. If they can pass a brethalizer test then its the blood of christ. if they are drunk then its just wine.

Absent the ability to be able to tell a consecrated cracker from an unconsecrated one reliably and under experimental conditions, it is pointless to talk of there being any difference.

The problem with using objective logic like that in an argument with a religious wingnut is, if they were capable of using logic, they wouldn't be a religious wingnut in the first place. The best you can do with these assholes is marginalize them, laugh loudly at them, and do your damndest to make sure they don't get a (larger) voice in public policy in your jurisdiction.

#30- " If they can pass a brethalizer test then its the blood of christ."

what if the blood of jesus is like the blood of Amy Winehouse and it's 98 proof you would need to test chemically the 2 liquids

By dude070012 (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

Luke 24:35. And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in the breaking of bread.

I had my own personal epiphany when PZ was in California and revealed unto me a pair of consecrated wafers enshrined in his jacket pocket. And he was known of me in the mocking of bread.

@21 There's no value in having a freedom if you're not allowed to exercise it.

Hmm...I think I'd say there's no value in having a freedom if you're unwilling to exercise it.

By rachel.wilmoth (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

Are you suggesting we subject the miracle of transubstantiation to scientific testing?

Yeah, I would like to see it done.

I would use crackers. I have come up with draft protocol.

The crackers will all come from the same source, and be ones regularly used in communion services. To ensure that there is nothing in the manufacturing process that might make a difference I would also divided the contents of each box between each of the categories being tested.

I would test three categories.

Category 1 would be wafer straight out of the packet that have not been part of any religious service.

Category 2 would be crackers that have been used in a communion service, but a service conducted by someone who is not an ordained Catholic priest in good standing.

Category 3 would also be used in a communion service, but this time one conducted by a Catholic priest in good standing.

To ensure there is no bias in the later stages I would have samples of the crackers taken from each category, and assigned random identification numbers by a trusted third party. This way the experimenter will not be aware which of the samples belong to which category.

I would then invite subjects to identify which crackers have been consecrated. I would have three categories of subject. The first would be people who have never been Catholic, and have no close family members who are Catholic. The second group would be from practising Catholics in good standing with their Church, and who do not have a family member who has taken holy orders. The third group would be ordained Catholic priests in good standing.

My prediction would be that no group could reliably identify to which category a cracker belongs better than chance alone would allow for.

By Matt Penfold (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

Yeah, the crackers in my pocket are my personal defensive armor. I figure if any crazy comes at me with a gun, he's going to have to plug Jesus first before he gets to me.

The Jains are dorks, too. - PZ

Wow! Say your farewells to PZ, fellow Pharyngulites - he's pissed off the Jains now. They could be taking him out with extreme, militant, radical non-violence any time!

By Knockgoats (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

In sympathy and respect, here is my echo of Prof. Myers' thoughts.

By Givesgoodemail (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

I am radically, militantly, and extremely refusing to kill the spider in my bathroom even now.
And I'm not even really a Jain!

By Sven DiMilo (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

I am radically, militantly, and extremely refusing to kill the spider in my bathroom even now.
And I'm not even really a Jain!

Are you sure you are not just scared of spiders ?

By Matt Penfold (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

I am radically, militantly, and extremely refusing to kill the spider in my bathroom even now.

I radically, etc refuse to kill any spiders in my bathroom because I'm hoping they'll massacre any mosquitoes, roaches, or other bugs that may also be in my BR.

The funny thing is that they hate it if you treat Muhammed like he's the god of Islam (which he certainly is not), yet if you don't "respect" a depiction of Muhammed in the same way that other religions demand respect of depictions of their "gods," they're getting all medieval on you (ok, most have never not been medieval in important ways).

It's a mindless stance, which would matter as much as Jainism's mindless stances, if it weren't a matter of killing people for treating Muhammed like the mere mortal that they say he was. Of course many of them don't approve of the violence, but then again plenty don't exactly protest it much either.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

By Glen Davidson (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

If anyone can come up with a way to distinguish the properties of "consecrated" and "non-consecrated" crackers, other than a bit of priest drool or skin oil on them, please let us know.

By Ray Moscow (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

I just get one of my cats to eat any spider in the bathroom.

By Matt Penfold (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

I am radically, militantly, and extremely refusing to kill the spider in my bathroom even now.

I have just ritually (= with my bare hands) killed the Spring Fly (the first fly to appear any given year in our house). According to the belief I have just made up, killing it ensures that the spring will stay since the fly won't be able to take it away. (Also, the damn thing won't find its way into our bedroom and wake us up at 2:00am.) It's a ritual I am trying to turn into a tradition and then into a full-fledged religion, featuring Baal-Zebub, the Lord of Flies. Money and fame await me at the end of this road.

By https://www.go… (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

I am radically, militantly, and extremely refusing to kill the spider in my bathroom even now. - Sven DiMilo

What have you got against spiders, Sven? Amazing little creatures, makers of fantastic and beautiful structures, killers of disease-carrying flies - what's not to like?

By Knockgoats (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

Was this your application essay for the Templeton Fellatioship?

Was this your application essay for the Templeton Fellatioship?

Leaving aside the content, it was to cogent, erudite and well argued to that.

A Temptleton Fellowship essay should read more like:

"I wants to be a Templeton fellow cuz I thinks that peoples should get along with each other like well man, like no matter what they believe like. And like no one should goes telling people that they is wrong to think sumthink. I mean like hows does those scientists knows that the earth is so old ? Was they there like there man ? It is not nice of them to tells others the earth is billions of years old if those people want to think it is only a few 1000."

And so on. (It is not easy writing that badly!)

By Matt Penfold (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

Sir Salman Rushdie is writing a book about the years he spent in hiding out of fear for his life.
Can't wait to read it.

By Insightful Ape (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

Does the consecration ritual involve touching/holding/speaking over/breathing on the cracker?

If so, the consecrated cracker might have a tich more human DNA on it.

A testable hypothesis!

Cimourdain, eat your heart out.

By aratina cage o… (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

Posted by: Sigmund | February 28, 2010 1:19 PM

"Was this your application essay for the Templeton Fellatioship?"

im sure we want all are dreaming off the day PZ gets the FellatioShip from squid. "come PZ you are our honerary squid, anneatiation, you blow us we blow you."

By dude070012 (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

Epic Win :D

By charlesoduill (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

Silly fellow. Squid don't breath air, so there is no "blowing". It's more like a water jet.

Sven, I'd completely forgotten that one. Bwahahahaha.

By vanharris (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

By the power vested in me (which is exactly as much as is vested in a Catholic priest, FWIW), I hereby bless this oyster cracker, infusing it with the magical essence of Jebus. And now I'm going to eat it in my soup.

Tune in next time when I boil an entire pot of Flying Spaghetti Monster and pair Him with a glass of Jebus blood.

And what shall I infuse with Mohommed? A pork chop? A slice of bacon? I don't see any rules that say it HAS to be unleavened carbohydrate....

DaveL @24:

it's about enforcing a whole body of idiosyncratic, peculiar laws as if they are representative of broader human concerns and rights. They aren't. They're just silly.

They're not just silly. I think there's a very real point to making up such arbitrary and idiosyncratic rules - they condition the flock to accept their leaders' claim to unconditional authority over their lives... they're in the business of compelling obedience and submission. It's no accident, either, that so many of these arbitrary rules have to do with sex - once you've agreed to give over control of the most intimate parts of your life to arbitrary authorities, what then would you refuse them?

Bravo! That's just eloquently put! With your permission, I shall save it for later use elsewhere.

I can't understand the mindset of the faithful that turns them into unquestioning, uncritical myrmidons. Even if I accept that some people may have an emotional need for using an invisible, unproven entity as a crutch, why this absolute reliance on middlemen, sundry objects, books and articles of faith - simply because they purport to be the conduits to the said entity? Is that all?

By Kausik Datta (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

Sometimes you're such a sensible and decent person, PZ. Blaspheming against Mohammed (piss be upon him) and Allah is something I very much approve.

Minnesota has more Somali inhabitants than any place outside Somalia. But most of those persons live in Minneapolis rather than in Morris. PZ is well advised to watch his back, but he is also well advised to live in freedom, using his free life to show others how not to be afraid.

By tokenadult (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

If Westergaard's cartoon of someone in a turbomb had been shown to a few thousand muslims, without them having any previous hint as to who it represented, I wonder how many would have identified it as Mo. And if was shown to a few thousand Sikhs?

Does anyone know if the decoration of the front of the turban "is anything", or just a fancy doodle?

Can an image that exists only in electronic form be graven?

Is it just me, or does that Lego fellow look remarkably like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian President?

Randomly enough, I was reading into the whole Cartoon fiasco last night, and noticed the Wikipedia discussion page on the relevant article contains is headed with "No, Wikipedia will NOT remove the cartoons" - it just goes to show how many people are still fanatically trying to impose rules that apply for follows of their religion on everyone else...

Oh, and it checking the spelling of Ahmadinejad, I noticed he's a qualified civil engineer. I'm studying civil engineering now - if I announce my intention to do a year in IUST, stop me. =P

As a person born in the Middle East and raised in a Muslim family, I think it's about time deference to harmful, illogical, faith-specific taboos is abandoned.  The sooner the intertubes and print media are filled with pictures of Muhammad, the faster the requests for restrictions are exposed for what they are: attempts to force everyone to live by the rules of a superstitious minority, and threats of unreasonable censorship via unacceptable means.  More posts by more people will overwhelm that juggernaut of pious indignation until it succumbs to modernity.
No one want to be forced to worship another’s God (as Muslims do, implicitly or even actually by supporting a religion that calls for the execution of apostates).  No one wants to be intimidated to follow another’s arcane useless rules (from Mutawas’ mandatory prayer & fasting to dress codes and sexual practices).  I suspect no Muslims would wants to be forced to worship as others, nor would s/he acquiesce to be intimidated into practicing abhorrent behavior.  Hence, when it comes to Muhammad’s pictorial representation, why would any Muslim accept that everyone should abide by Islam’s rules, or else?
Muslims have not persuaded thinking people that Islamic rules are palatable, let alone universal.  Furthermore, when I censor myself in the name of respect, I find myself kowtowing to a group of bullies who do NOT exercise the same consideration when it comes to minorities in their charge.  In fact, the opposite is true.  Invariably, whenever Muslims obtain control over others, they behave like all theo-tyrants: more restrictions on basic freedoms, more violence against perceived thought crime “perpetrators”, and less justice by any civilized measure. Notably, no respect whatsoever is afforded for the harmful, illogical, faith-specific taboos of others. 
 
Honorable people support laws to punish intimidators and violent transgressors.  They also protect exercising one’s right to free expression for it is neither violent nor intimidating.  So why must anyone abide by Muslim’s rules?
 
Finally, since Allah failed dismally to make evident his much ballyhooed omnipresent existence, no amount of unlawful intimidation, hypocritical indignation, or terroristic insinuation could ever demonstrate the validity of his unwelcome hegemony.

For a good historical look at blasphemy, see Leonard Levy's Blasphemy: Verbal offenses against the sacred from Moses to Salman Rushdie. The cover photo is a shot of that famous work of art, Piss Christ.

Dave @ 62,
I suppose if a teddy bear can be considered a graven image, then I suppose an electronic image can be as well. Though the fact that depicting Mohammed in any way, shape, or form seems to speak to the so-called peacefulness of Islam and many of its worshippers. Just as the over-the-top responses PZ received for Crackergate speaks to the peacefulness of Catholicism and many of its respective worshippers.

By rachel.wilmoth (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

Glen D.

The funny thing is that they hate it if you treat Muhammed like he's the god of Islam (which he certainly is not), yet if you don't "respect" a depiction of Muhammed in the same way that other religions demand respect of depictions of their "gods," they're getting all medieval on you (ok, most have never not been medieval in important ways).

Actually Glen, when you take into account the proscription against graven images as stated in the second commandment, the cognitive dissonance of every Abrahamic religion becomes mind boggling. This is one of the main Catholic practices the protestants rail against, even though you'd be hard pressed to find a protestant church that doesn't feature a cross that the congration bows their heads toward during prayer.

The muslims take the commandment even farther, yet worldwide, five times a day, they all face Mecca and bow down to a fekkin rock.

By Acronym Jim (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

Minnesota has more Somali inhabitants than any place outside Somalia. But most of those persons live in Minneapolis rather than in Morris. PZ is well advised to watch his back, but he is also well advised to live in freedom, using his free life to show others how not to be afraid.

Well, PZ can join the club of other minorities whose very existence is threatened every minute of every day in the USA by faithheads of whatever ideology. It's a big club, you know.

I really wonder if it would have been worse for the person in the following video if he had said he was an atheist or had badmouthed Mohammed. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfW9inRkTpU

By aratina cage o… (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

Oh, and just in case someone might think I've gone easy on Judaism, anyone up for a visit to the wailing wall?

By Acronym Jim (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

I always wondered about this depiction thing as there are tons of pictorial representation of Muhammad around the Islamic world that no one is slavering to destroy.

By broboxley (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

I just celebrate my sacrilege by meeting with a local atheist group at 10am on Sunday at a cafe called "All Saints." Someone had an ironic sense of humor when they thought that one up.

#67,

But is the rock engraved?

Doug @ 62

Does anyone know if the decoration of the front of the turban "is anything", or just a fancy doodle?

It's a common calligraphic version of the kalimah : the muslim declaration of faith. Be careful with it: reciting it under appropriate conditions makes you a muslim.

By clausentum (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

I assume the the decoration is the Shahada.

If all depictions of the human form are verboten, then how can all those imams in good faith go on telly or have their picture taken for the newspapers?

The Jains are dorks, too.

Yeah, but what about the Sikhs? I'd like to see you dare go against the Sikhs.

I don't know, but after centuries of kisses by billions of pilgrims, I'm sure it's at least highly polished.

At any rate, the Kaaba that houses the rock would certainly qualify as graven.

By Acronym Jim (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

Also: You draw quite well, PeeZed.

In my bones I do not get the religiousy fervor over their sacred objects and the alleged profaning of them. If I had to live day-to-day in abject fear that damage to some stuff could shake my world to its foundation....

Seriously, this crap just does not resound in any meaningful way. I think they are dangerous religious lunatics, but they are also pathetic, with their backward attachment to ludicrous myth systems and trappings and ceremonies and weird hats, for Tyr's sake.

They are so deeply intellectually childish, putting selfish demands for some kind of inward quiescence above everyone's well-being, to the degree that it spews outward and damages all of us.

I don't need any comfort of that type, so sign me up for the abomination squad. I'll try almost anything once.

Stop graving my rocks, dammit! or, Get off'n my land, faithless gravers!

/trying to work up a frenzy of biblical proportions

It would be fun to speculate that the black stone is inscribed with words that are believed to translate to "Here Abraham was willing to sacrifice his first born son to show his faith in God," but in actuality translates to "Ishmael is a putz."

By Acronym Jim (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

"'How does one man assert his power over another, Winston?' 

Winston thought. 'By making him suffer,' he said.


'Exactly. By making him suffer. Obedience is not enough. Unless he is suffering, how can you be sure that he is obeying your will and not his own? Power is in inflicting pain and humiliation. "

Very perceptive fellow, ol' George O. He got at the nuts of every enforcement of every arbitrary rule ever whelped -- including (most especially) religious ones.

By ohioobserver (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

You know, PZ, you spend so much time blasting Christianity, but you would never dare criticizing Islam, you PC coward.

Oh wait...never mind.

Nice work!

@#80: Thanks for that reminder, ohio! On the subject of rules, and in no way meaning to jack this thread, if a corporation is now a person, does that mean I do not have to do anything this corporate person tells me to do? When they say, "It's just policy," do I get to say, "So? Here's my policy"?

Dissing corporations may be the highest form of sacrilege available. We are faced today with a conflation of preacher-kings, CEO-kings, and preacher-CEOs.

As a Dane, I have to shamefully report that the Danish newspaper "Politiken" has caved in and apologized for hurting the feelings of Muslims by reprinting the now famous cartoon by Kurt Westergaard (http://politiken.dk/debat/fakta/article910939.ece). A Saudi attorney had threatened with a lawsuit from descendants of Muhammad against the Danish newspapers that reprinted the drawing. However, the newspaper that actually started it all has - wisely - chosen to ignore the threat. It is unfortunate that a single newspaper has chosen to give in.

By Stinus Lindgreen (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

You guys are all scared of the Hindus. I dint see any nude goddess images.

Thats the kind of crime which gets a nationally awarded artist in India a sudden non bailable warrant and forces him to leave the country

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M._F._Husain#Controversies

I cant bring myself to willfully deride my own ex- religion's symbols though I'm very much an atheist now.
Ah the vestiges of years of extreme faith.

Someone help me out :P

Incidentally, the newspaper Politiken, which has been reprinting some of the Muhammed cartoons only for illustrative purposes, caved in to the demands of a Muslim delegation and offered apologies last week, 'in order to escape prosecution'. Politiken's editor-in-chief:

Our predominant view throughout the lengthy debate has been that much could have been avoided if the government of the time had chosen to handle the crisis differently and added an element of dialogue and diplomacy.

The Danish government, though, did exactly what it had to: nothing. They considered it an utterance of free speech from a free press, not to be interfered with by the government, this not being Saudi-Arabia.

After the Danish cartoons publications someone actually had a placard at the demonstrations in London which read (without, I presume, a trace of irony) "Behead those who say Islam is violent"

@74
your assumuption is correct. The calligraphy & decoration has a Turkish feel though, rather than modern Arabic.

Alverant | February 28, 2010 12:10 PM:

Could I take a screenshot of an anime episode and say "It looks like Mohammad!!"

Depending on the sort of anime you're referring to, that might make it easier to accurately represent the fact that Mohammad was a giant violent dick.

While I am one hundred percent in agreement with the spirit of this post, Dr. Myers, I would give some serious thought to removing it since you are such a public figure, with a family as well. I wholeheartedly agree this insanity won't end until more people courageously stand-up and publicly demolish the taboos of these death cults, but you are of more use to the world alive than dead.

I write and produce a web series on Youtube in which I play the "final and true prophet", and friends and family are always amazed at the countless pages of death threats we receive. I was inspired to create the series because of the violent outrage over the Danish cartoons, but I am also anonymous to most people.

By TheAwedCoupleMo (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

Since the killing of blasphemers seems to occur more commonly at the hands of Muslims than of other offended groups, I think the "watch your back" advice unfortunately makes some sense.

Islam hasn't been housebroken by the Enlightenment to anything like the same extent as Judaism or Christianity; it was a long, often ugly process for them, and I think something similar (and similarly prolonged) is happening with Muslims now. In the meantime, anti-Muslim blasphemy carries with it a real risk of physical harm (e.g. Theo Van Gogh; also the offending cartoonists, who went into hiding for a while). http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/article726508.ece

By Aaron Baker (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

I should have written: "who went into hiding because of repeated death threats."

By Aaron Baker (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

PZ, you have some balls.
My admiration and respect for you have increased 100x.
I think I'm on your table in Melbourne - I'd like to shake your hand (or better still, buy you a beer).

@Jon A #86

After the Danish cartoons publications someone actually had a placard at the demonstrations in London which read (without, I presume, a trace of irony) "Behead those who say Islam is violent"

Actually, I think that turned out to have been photoshopped, so very heavy irony.
As for the crackers, don't the consecrated ones turn into bacon flavour?

By brianjordan (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

What is the point of having access to special, revealed knowledge, if such knowledge is something anyone could have figured out or stumbled across, without going through higher channels? And how can you lay claim to the greater purity, wisdom, and sensitivity which comes with enlightenment, if you do nothing else but try to find common ground with outsiders? Religion is forced to insist that blasphemy is a crime, or it risks losing the sacred.

A lot of people really, really want to believe that there is something especially noble about faith. Believing things on insufficient evidence is supposed to be a sort of test, or an exhibition of loyalty. Apparently the whole realm of faith is an epistemic sanctuary, a free place where you "have the RIGHT to believe whatever you WANT!" In which case, there must be something horribly unfair, mean, and outrageous about treating faith beliefs like other, ordinary beliefs. They're special.

Deep down, I suspect that they know that the whole house of cards will fall over, unless everyone in the vicinity holds their breath in reverence.

Too bad. The beliefs are not "special" -- they are "handicapped."

Conducting scientific tests of crackers would be a waste of time*. The continued failure of homeopathic medicine to perform better than placebo in well-designed trials has failed to persuade the faithful, and the consecrated cracker is effectively homeopathic Jesus. Catholic doctrine says that the cracker isn't changed chemically, so the Jesosity is probably some kind of molecular memory undetectable by skeptical science.

* Ok, not a complete waste of time, since such tests would cause concern, and would make Bill Donohue turn purple: both worthwhile results.

how can you test der crackers without the correct tools? I used to have a thermaugic astral analyzer but I traded it for a homeopathic paper strip testing kit

By broboxley (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

QED @ 30:

Line up the pious and have them drink a liter of the stuff. If they can pass a brethalizer test then its the blood of christ. if they are drunk then its just wine.

Doesn't that rather depend on the amount of wine Christ drank during the last supper? If I knew I was about to undergo a 3-day 'hangover', I'd be drinking wine like a fish...

I suppose you could nail the cracker in front of a priest. If he turns purple, it's consecrated.

By brianjordan (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

But if pictures of Mo are forbidden, how do they know what he looks like so they can identify pictures of Mo as Mo?

Obviously using the same highly accurate method that Christians use when they paint or sculpt Jesus or identify Jesus when he appears on their toast or in a rain puddle or as a rock. Same with Jesus' mom.

By Bastion Of Sass (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

Todd #11

From the Catholic League's press release:

No one opposes men and women who are incidentally agnostic or atheist from expressing their concerns, even to the White House.

How is one incidently agnostic or atheist?

That's a very sleazy bit of sophistry from Donohue.

"Incidentally" is a carefully chosen weasel word that lets him pretend that there aren't indeed a great many religious people who unfairly oppose agnostics and atheists from expressing concerns relating to religion, the actions of theists, or the treatment and rights of agnostics and atheists -- as plainly evident by incidents such as billboards that say essentially "atheists exist" or "atheists are capable of being good" prompting outrage and calls for censorship from a non-trivial contingent of theists.

That sentence allows him to paint himself as being fair, reasonable, and in favor of free speech (and to characterize agnostics/atheists as somehow paranoid), but what he is actually saying if you parse it is that if someone who is agnostic/atheist should go before the government and complain about, say, zoning laws or the need for a traffic light at some intersection, Bill and his fellow travelers won't oppose that person doing so. The person's agnosticism/atheism is "incidental" to their concerns.

That sentence purposefully dances around whether they oppose a person expressing concerns non-incidental to their being an agnostic/atheist, like discrimination against non-believers or special rights being given to the religious. They are very much opposed to expressing those concerns, but if Donohue came right out and said it, he knows it would make his side look bad.

A warning, PZed: Do not mock us! Should you do so, we will come and dance naked in your garden!

By The Pagans (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

Posted by: davem | February 28, 2010 4:51 PM

[...]If I knew I was about to undergo a 3-day 'hangover', I'd be drinking wine like a fish...

I didn't know that fish drank wine. White, I presume.

Posted by: clausentum
It's a common calligraphic version of the kalimah : the muslim declaration of faith. Be careful with it: reciting it under appropriate conditions makes you a muslim.

That gives me an idea for a sequel for the Blasphemy Challenge: the Apostasy Challenge. Post a video of yourself becoming an official Muslim by reciting the Kalimah, and then renounce Allah and Muhammad.

The Pagans, #103:

A warning, PZed: Do not mock us! Should you do so, we will come and dance naked in your garden!

I hereby mock all reasonably attractive Pagan women. (Sorry Pagan dudes -- I just don't swing that way.) Your beliefs are silly and without merit.

p.s. -- Would you please wait until it's a bit warmer outside to exact your revenge? I'm willing to wait a couple of weeks if necessary, but it's really up to all of you. Thanks.

Wonderful post, PZ....like a breath of fresh air!

Bash on, Brother!

By R. Schauer (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

Re No. 92.

Shelob got bad press. Any creature that wants to kill and eat annoying, saccarine, whiny and small minded Hobbits can't be all bad.

Kickasstic post, PZ.

There is a pic I wish I could share here, but I'm pretty sure Photobucket will flag and destroy it before most of you could see it :(

@ Knockgoats at 13

Jainism with an 'i'? I always thought it was Jayneism.

You know, the worship of Jayne from Firefly...

By bart.mitchell (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

"Our love for him now
Ain't hard to explain
The hero of Canton
The man they call Jayne"

There is no physical test for whether a cracker is consecrated.

There is also no physical test for whether a bill is counterfeit. A real bill was produced under certain conditions, and a physically identical bill, produced under other conditions, is counterfeit and supposedly worthless

Ya, sure, most counterfeits are physically distinguishable from the mccoy, but physically perfect counterfeits are both theoretically possible and, given the rewards of producing them, probably already in circulation.

Yeah, PZ! That was Jedi.

@ Sven DiMilo #48 :

Yes, thanks for the hilarious memory.

By SaintStephen (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

@105- ZOMG, we HAVE to do that shit. And Cosmas @64, that was a lovely comment. As a white-guilt-havin' American boy, I sometimes have a sliver of doubt that dissing Islam is just racist of me. Certainly the anti-muslim stuff at richarddawkins.net makes my skin crawl. But man I hate that fundamentalist brutally sexist sacrosanct hatred of all that is decent kind of shit we see out of the muslim world (and the 700 club) every day.
So to anyone who is interested, how can we start an Apostasy Challenge properly? Who has the gumption, and a Youtube account they don't mind getting banned? Honestly, we're not famous, so we really have nothing to fear. Terrorists want high profile targets or it isn't worth their time. So LET'S GET IT ON!
In another note,where's a good place to post mohammad depictions on the internet? Is there a LOLmohammads site I can submit to?
-

By great.american.satan (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

The Great Apostasy Challenge :
Although I was confident of my snippet @#73, I wouldn't claim any expertise in Islamic theology, and while we're on snippets then, I'm left wondering about those of us who haven't had it done: are we expected to submit to an operation with a rusty tin lid immediately after declaring our allegiance? or before? is the declaration invalid till it's done?
I can feel my enthusiasm for participation fading fast.

By clausentum (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

You wouldn't be so quick to insult Muslims, would you P.Z.?

Oh, er... carry on.

By https://www.go… (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

The Lego Mohammad fondly reminds me of the Brick Testament.

By mick.long (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

qbsmd @105

"Post a video of yourself becoming an official Muslim by reciting the Kalimah, and then renounce Allah and Muhammad."

then drink a pint of beer and while snacking on pork scratchings

@QED It's wine and they know it. Last year over in Ireland there was a problem. With the drop in both Vocations and observing laity priests have to cater for a number of different churches of a Sunday. In rural areas this requires them to drive between gigs. The problem is that they are required to drink the remainder of the sacramental wine, after all you can't leave the holy blood of your saviour just lying around to turn to vinegar. They can thus become over the limit for driving and some have been caught and prosecuted. They are thus caught between a rock and a hard place and appealed both to their hierarchy and the Law for a solution. Since even in Ireland pissed priests careering about the countryside is not to be tolerated (probably some European Statute in there too). I never did get to hear if they found a solution.

Maybe they could have a rota, with one lucky worshipper able to get pissed before the pubs open. Mind you with a limited, elderly congregation with pharmaceutical interactions to think of that one might be hard to implement.

Anyway as a protestant atheist i don't know, does the communion wine taste nice? good bouquet? nice body?

By Peter Ashby (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

Oops, that image was actually lifted out of the Brick Testament. Got nothing against the image, or the context but someone should have informed the author.

By mick.long (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

If a person really wanted to get the fundies steamed, then how about a depiction of Jebus, Mohammad, Buddah and Brahman (add further religious figures to taste) all present at the FSM's gentlemen's club, 'Spearmint Halo', to enjoy a stage show involving copious amounts of lesbians (and at least one naked goddess), bacon and various holy books. To further enrage the faithful, said religious figures would be inebriated and generally 'rowdy'.

Actually, scratch that. It would be even better if Spearmint Halo was the FSM's gay strip joint. That would really enrage the fundies...

One could comfortably expect at least 100 death threats in the first day alone.

By Gregory Greenwood (not verified) on 01 Mar 2010 #permalink

Mr t @ 106;

I hereby mock all reasonably attractive Pagan women. (Sorry Pagan dudes -- I just don't swing that way.) Your beliefs are silly and without merit.

I hereby second that motion!

By Gregory Greenwood (not verified) on 01 Mar 2010 #permalink

There is no god but allah and mohammed is his prophet
FTFY.

So once again any criticism of the Catholic church is "anti-Catholic bigotry".
http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/62029
And it doesn't even involve blustering from Bill Donohue!
Gotta love these poor victims and their attempts to stifle any criticism of their awful organization through such charged labels.

By Tabby Lavalamp (not verified) on 01 Mar 2010 #permalink

@106:

I hereby mock all reasonably attractive Pagan women. (Sorry Pagan dudes -- I just don't swing that way.)

I hereby mock all Pagan men. My mockery is postdated until the weather is warm enough to avoid, um, "shrinkage."

Hmm, you know how the Christians have that little fish logo so they can scratch it on things as graffiti to signal that they're one of the faithful?

What we need is an equivalent logo depicting Mohammed so we can disrespectfully vandalize things with it, to signal that we are NOT one of the faithful.

Too bad we can't do ASCII art in the comment section (that really dates me, huh)...

By badgersdaughter (not verified) on 01 Mar 2010 #permalink

Hey PZ,

Bashing Mohamed is old news, and bashing the Xtians is passe. What about having a go at Yahweh? Whip up some caricatures and you are away.

Leave no religion unturned.

By https://me.yah… (not verified) on 01 Mar 2010 #permalink

In an effort to get accurate information disseminated about the LEGO Mohammed image: the original image was not intended to depict Mohammed at all, but (ironically enough) ancient Jews.

It is from The Brick Testament website which is an attempt to illustrate the entire Bible in LEGO. The photo can be seen in its original context here:

http://www.thebricktestament.com/judges/girls_of_shiloh_abducted/jg21_2…

An unknown person took this image without my permission and altered it to appear as though it is an official LEGO set and as if it was intended to depict Mohammed.

While I have no problem with people depicting any person they like in any medium they choose, I wish they would create their own works of art and not slap their own labels on my illustrations and post them all over the internet.

-Brendan Powell Smith
http://www.thebricktestament.com

By brendanpowellsmith (not verified) on 01 Mar 2010 #permalink

I wonder how long it'll be now before some Christianist responds to one of your posts attacking a sect of Christianity and whines that you don't have the b*lls to make fun of Islam.

#121
I used to be an acolyte in my C of E church days. Priest was on anti-biotics one week so I had to finish the remainder of the wine (about half a chalice ... maybe a standard wine glass). It pretty much has to be downed in a few gulps. I was rosy cheeked I can tell you. It was a fortified wine - somewhere between red wine and port - quite quaffable.

#121
I used to be an acolyte in my C of E church days. Priest was on anti-biotics one week so I had to finish the remainder of the wine (about half a chalice ... maybe a standard wine glass). It pretty much has to be downed in a few gulps. I was rosy cheeked I can tell you. It was a fortified wine - somewhere between red wine and port - quite quaffable.

co@ #3 - You must not live in Minnesota as there is a significant population of Somalis in the Twin Cities and surrounding communities.

That said, there may be few if any in Morris which is hours from the cities, but close enough that PZ should, as someone suggested, watch his back.

I wanted to comment that the lego set was stolen from the brick testament, but i see people are allready aware of it. (it irks me greatly that the image is found at the most vile of stormfrontsites, those guys with a strict WHITE interpretation of the HOLY bible and their LORD, curse of ham et al. stupid assholes)

All that there is to do for me here is to bow as low as the dear great reverend Brendan Powell Smith would have me. If that does not please him, my dearly beloved would do the same in an instant, if the reverend swings that way. Both him and me are in absolute awe of this heavenly creature among the intertoobs.

Long build the bricks!

If you have a spider in your bathroom you can toss a big fluffy towel over her, gently bunch up the towel, carry the whole thing out the front door, and then shake the towel so the spider falls out into the grass which is her beloved natural habitat. Immediately before she skitters off she looks up at with with her big weird eyes - you gotta be real fast to catch it - and says (in Spiderese) "o thanx big mammal with too few extremities. Muchly obliged, ta ta!"

This works for skinks too.

Peter Ashby #121: Oh man, if I lived in Ireland, alas I don't, I would be delighted to chauffeur around drunk priests, entirely for free, as a charitable service both to them and to the guy in the facing traffic lane. It's not that I'm all that crazy about of priests, being an atheist and all and you know they kind of things they say about my kind, but on the other hand I do kind of like drunks.

badgersdaughter @128

Too bad we can't do ASCII art in the comment section

Ah, but you can. Just use the HTML <pre></pre> tags around any text to preserve the spacing and line breaks. Like this:

Look at all this white space.
And the fixed font.

Have fun!

By MetzO'Magic (not verified) on 02 Mar 2010 #permalink

Yup, accusing someone of religious sacrilege is totally idiotic. Personally, I reserve my accusations of sacrilege for food - like when I see a chicken satay pizza on the menu. EEWWWW.

"Silly fellow. Squid don't breath air, so there is no "blowing". It's more like a water jet."

Oh, P.Z, you fool! You do realize you've just spawned 34!

May Nobody have mercy on you outdated-concept-of-eternal-essence!

By Kieranfoy (not verified) on 01 Apr 2010 #permalink