On Desecration

I’ve resisted commenting on this until now, but I have to give in. I’m sure you’ve all heard the story of Webster Cook, an unsuspecting college student who got himself into a great deal of trouble because he took a consecrated communion wafer home with him from church rather than eating it. On cue, professional victim Bill Donohue of the Catholic League and his legions of squalling bigots descended on Cook’s school, some demanding he be punished or expelled, others threatening his life.

The ever-irascible PZ Myers heard this story and was exasperated, as well he might have been. In a post, he offered to show the world some real blasphemy if someone would send him a communion wafer. This precipitated a second wave of hate mail targeted at him, with many letters fantasizing about committing violence against him and his family. One particularly stupid individual got his wife fired by sending PZ a death threat through her work e-mail account. But none of this deranged lunacy availed, as PZ did indeed receive a wafer and carried out his threat. Not surprisingly, his university declined to fire him for exercising his First Amendment rights.

I probably wouldn’t have commented on this, but PZ recently posted on a statement from some group called the “Confraternity of Catholic Clergy” that’s so ridiculous I couldn’t let it pass:

We find the actions of University of Minnesota (Morris) Professor Paul Myers reprehensible, inexcusable, and unconstitutional.

Unconstitutional?! Unless the U.S. Constitution has recently gotten a new amendment I haven’t heard about, I rather doubt that. It’s true that there are amendments protecting the rights of women, blacks, and minorities, but this is the first I’ve heard of an amendment protecting crackers.

…Attacking the most sacred elements of a religion is not free speech anymore than would be perjury in a court or libel in a newspaper.

…The freedom of religion means that no one has the right to attack, malign or grossly offend a faith tradition they personally do not have membership or ascribe allegiance [sic].

I’m left almost speechless by the ignorance of this. Attacking others’ religions is not free speech? Wrong! You don’t get any wronger than that! That’s what makes speech free – that we can say what we like, and other people cannot forcibly silence us just because they dislike the message. If we don’t have the right to say things that upset, anger or offend other people, then we don’t have free speech, we have censored and restrained speech that is kept in check by the prejudices of the majority. This should be too obvious to need pointing out.

The desire to control all speech in order to prohibit criticism and satire is an old, recurring desire of organized religion, one that’s bred into the bone of nearly every church and sect. It’s not just the Catholics who are throwing hysterical fits over people criticizing them; Muslim nations know how to play this game too, as witnessed in their recent demands for the Netherlands to permit them to punish Geert Wilders for saying things they don’t agree with. It’s not just Wilders who’s been targeted in this way, either. As Ayaan Hirsi Ali writes in her book The Caged Virgin:

…when I initially spoke on the immoral practices of the Prophet Muhammad, more than one hundred fifty complaints were made against me to the police and the government. Four ambassadors visited my party leaders – ambassadors from Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Pakistan, Malaysia. They carried a letter attached to which was a list of twenty-one countries belonging to the Islamic Conference… that supported the letter…. Death threats followed against me and also against the leader of my party when he refused to take seriously this complaint and evict me from Parliament.

No matter how allegedly enlightened, liberal, or tolerant the church, these naked desires for censorship and inquisition rise right back to the surface as soon as the religious authorities see any way they think they can impose them on others. The violent rages that erupt among both Catholics and Muslims when their respective dogmas were disrespected underline, in the clearest possible way, why the church needs to be kept separate from the state and why no religious group must ever be allowed to gain control over any society’s government.

Theists have intentionally misunderstood what it means to be “respectful”. What it really means is that we will respect your right to hold the beliefs of your choice. Instead, apologists act as if we were obligated to respect the beliefs themselves, which would mean obeying the same rules and edicts as the believers. If Catholics treat the Eucharist as sacred, atheists and non-Catholics must treat it in the same way. If Muslims believe that criticism of Islam is a sin, then no one is permitted to criticize Islam.

This is not a demand for respect, but for submission, and I for one will not take them up on that bad bargain. To these people, I say that you can live by whatever rules you like – but I am not a member of your sect, and I will not obey your rules as if I were. If you expect me to treat your edicts and proclamations as binding, you are going to be disappointed. (And it goes without saying that “respect” is not a two-way street: the fanatics expect everyone else to respect their beliefs, but never extend atheists the same courtesy in return.)

I’ll give no ear to cries that I not do something because it would be “desecration”. As an atheist, I have no sacred symbols, and hence I cannot commit an act of desecration. Sacrilege is just another imaginary crime. I don’t go out of my way to offend believers’ sensibilities – but I will live my life as I see fit, and I will not heed rules that are not based on reason. Not all the pleas or threats in the world will convince me otherwise.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Valhar2000

    I disagee with you on just one thing: I don’t think religions, or anybogy else, have a right to be respected. They should be tolerated, as long as they don’t hurt anyone else, and so should everyone else, but respect is not and cannot be something one is born with, it must be earned thoruhg ones actions and stances.

    Religion in general, and sects in particular, will never earn my respect, bit individual beleivers have, and others may do so.

    I deserve tolerance from beleivers, and I demand that they offer me it, but I will never demand that beleivers should respect me just for existing, but rather that they do so for the good that I do, be that what it may.

  • Christopher

    I concur with you on this one: nothing is so sacred that it can never be attacked – it’s that kind of mentality around which the herd is formed, and we have way too many of those.

  • Roi des Foux

    He never said that he respects religious beliefs. He said that he respects people’s right to have beliefs different from his own.

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    Hear, hear.

    And it goes without saying that “respect” is not a two-way street: the fanatics expect everyone else to respect their beliefs, but never extend atheists the same courtesy in return.

    Not only do they not extend it to atheists — they don’t even extend it to other religions. Catholicism has a long and ugly history of anti-Semitism; in fact, the whole history of “host desecration” hysteria is rooted in anti- Semitism, with the “crime” of host desecration being used as the excuse for the persecution and murder of Jews.

    And it’s not as Catholics they decline to eat beef because cows are sacred to Hindus, or demand that Catholic women cover themselves from head to toe because revealing female flesh is anathema to fundamentalist Muslims. Andrew Sullivan actually tried to argue that it was okay for the Danish cartoonists to depict Muhammed in their drawings, but grossly unacceptable for PZ to put a nail through a cracker and throw it in the trash… because the one was a legitimate form of free expression and debate, and the other an indefensible abuse of something sacred to many people. No, really.

  • http://bridgingschisms.org Eshu

    You’re right, they’re asking for submission – or at least for everyone to pretend their religion is true. As you pointed out in Doubting the sun, they wouldn’t feel the need to do this kind of thing if their beliefs were true and sensible.

    It almost makes me want to start insisting that Catholics do not eat spaghetti or noodles, except in strict accordance with the wishes of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, then throw a fit whenever someone puts cheese on their spag-bol.

  • Mark Andrews

    The issue of respect is frequently misunderstood. For me, to respect something means to hold that thing in high regard. Theists are often offended (when aren’t they?) when I explain that I do not respect their beliefs, nor do I respect them for holding those beliefs, but I do respect their right to believe anything they want. When I further explain that I simply tolerate their unproveable ideas they view that as some sort of ad hom attack.

  • http://kaltrosomos.livejournal.com Kaltrosomos

    I think we need to be careful here. Some theists have been charging that we *do* hold some things sacred, such as our own intelligence and principles.

    Maybe the theists mean something different by ‘sacred’ than we do. hmm. How do you guys define the word ‘sacred’?

  • dubya

    Did you see the Teen Choice Awards yet? Apparently the Jonas Brothers conspicuously neglect to thank God in their acceptance speech – particularly odd for a devout Christian band-turned newest Disney franchise. McCain strategist Martin Eisenstadt has an interesting blog deducing that this act of corporate atheism equates the JoBros with Barack Obama. I don’t agree with his politics, but his argument actually makes sense.
    http://www.eisenstadtgroup.com

  • Gabe Smith

    I am not a very big guy, and I am probably not much of a fighter. If I were to walk up to some NFL linebacker and spit in his face for no reason, would you feel an immediate need to jump in between me and the linebacker and physically or verbally attack me? No, you would probably just shake your head and say, oh no, this guy is about to get his ass kicked.

    If the Christian God was real, would any Christian need to punish or attack me for peeing on a holy cracker? No, they would just sit back and shake their heads, knowing that I was going to burn in hell for it. However, since they really know in their hearts that no God or devil is ever going to do anything to me, they feel that they must do something to me.

  • Samuel Skinner

    Love the sinner, hate the sin
    Respect the deliever, fight the belief

    Immitation is the sincesist form of gratitude.

  • http://blog.evangelicalrealism.com/ Deacon Duncan

    And of course, if the First Amendment did mean that you couldn’t criticize anyone else’s religious beliefs, then it would be unconstitutional to preach a Gospel that said unbelievers needed to be saved from going to Hell for their wrong beliefs…

  • MisterDomino

    When I further explain that I simply tolerate their unproveable ideas they view that as some sort of ad hom attack.

    We’ve mentioned this countless times before, but it remains nonetheless true: some believers identify so closely with their beliefs that they construe any attack on the belief as an attack on them.

    They’ve been conditioned to think that it’s impossible to criticize a belief without belittling the believer.

  • Juan Felipe

    Great post. I wanted to read your take on the subject since it started; may I ask why were you resisting to do it? I really can’t imagine a reason.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    At first, I thought that PZ had said all that needed to be said about this foolishness. But the more responses he received, the more I realized that this vicious, theocratic attitude toward sacrilege is held by a huge number of ordinary believers, not just the lunatic fringe. (And here I was thinking that Catholicism might be somewhat more reasonable than the snake-handler sects – I stand corrected.) The fact that a group of clergy turned out to be just as insane was the last straw, and I felt that PZ’s defense of reason needed to be amplified.

  • http://www.ooblick.com/weblog/ arensb

    Samuel Skinner:

    Love the sinner, hate the sin
    Respect the deliever, fight the belief

    And since sacred cows make the best burgers, I’d like to add:

    Love the dinner, hate the din.

  • Polly

    I wonder what the reaction would have been if a well-known figure burned an American flag? I bet there’d be death threats about that, too.

    My diagnosis?
    A powerful and simple-minded devotion to anything can, and frequently does, override compassion for acutal human beings. It’s dangerous in all forms.

    The only ideology that is likely to produce the least harm, on the whole, is one that prioritizes compassion and the respect of the rights of ALL people (beings?), even our so-called enemies, over every other goal.

    The fundamental problem of all these religious nuts (Muslims and Xians) is that they keep putting the honor of their invisible buddy ahead of the real life rights and well-being of actual people. I guess that’s what a god is for.

  • Arch

    Theists have intentionally misunderstood what it means to be “respectful”. What it really means is that we will respect your right to hold the beliefs of your choice. Instead, apologists act as if we were obligated to respect the beliefs themselves, which would mean obeying the same rules and edicts as the believers.

    I’ll give no ear to cries that I not do something because it would be “desecration”. As an atheist, I have no sacred symbols, and hence I cannot commit an act of desecration. Sacrilege is just another imaginary crime. I don’t go out of my way to offend believers’ sensibilities – but I will live my life as I see fit, and I will not heed rules that are not based on reason. Not all the pleas or threats in the world will convince me otherwise.

    Your statements come across very arrogantly considering the original story of your post was one about a person taking an unreasonable, direct action that is upseting to many. It was something that should not have taken place. One may disagree with the beliefs of Christians, but to take such an action is very different.
    I disagree with many of your beliefs and points you make on this site, but I engage in conversation about those points–I do not seek to destroy your computer, cut your internet cables, or take your belongings and degrade them. These actions would be wrong, yet your original story is in this category as it is a direct action that is degrading to persons of faith. You have a false explanation of respect in this post.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Arch,
    How are you equating your beliefs to Ebon’s personal belongings? Is Jesus a thing that you happen to own that you think Ebon or PZ is trying to destroy? Your belief that the cracker turns into Jesus is what is at question, not your personal piece of Jesus. How is pointing out that a cracker is simply a cracker somehow degrading to persons of faith? Answer: it isn’t. How is throwing that cracker in the garbage somehow degrading to persons of faith? Answer: it isn’t.

    And, I submit to you that eating a hamburger is upsetting to many Hindus and considered unreasonable by many of them, so I guess you should not eat any more beef from now on.

  • Alex Weaver

    Arch, the entire point of the post was that it was not unreasonable, it does not matter if it was direct or was upsetting to many, and that no real person had actually been harmed by PZ’s actions. It helps to read these things.

    Also, your analogy is flawed. For it to make sense (even ignoring the slightly significant differences in the value of the property in question), you’d have to go to the store, buy a computer, and smash it as a protest against what Ebon writes. The idea that acquiring a cracker that’s both available for sale and freely given out and destroying it is in any sense comparable to theft and vandalism is ludicrous.

  • heliobates

    …considering the original story of your post was one about a person taking an unreasonable, direct action that is upseting to many…

    When you present one side of the story as if it were the whole story, you commit a logical fallacy for the purpose of dishonest rhetoric.

    It was something that should not have taken place…

    Reading komprehenshun. Yr doin it rong.

    One may disagree with the beliefs of Christians, but to take such an action is very different.

    Do yourself a favour: put Myers’ actions back into context. His was an appropriate response to the kind of batshit hyperbole and threats of violence coming from the believers’ side. And you, in your intellectual cowardice refuse to even acknowledge that both Cook and Myers were not “engaged in conversation” by outraged Catholics. Throughout this entire ordeal Cook and Myers have been held to a different standard which was the entire point of the exercise.

    These actions would be wrong, yet your original story is in this category as it is a direct action that is degrading to persons of faith. You have a false explanation of respect in this post.

    The Attack-Catholics, including the “church official” who assaulted Cook and the aggressors who issued death threats against Cook and Myers abrogated any right to or expectation of respect by their behaviour. That Catholics are howling in outrage because a wafer was tossed in the garbage and not howling in outrage because “Catholics” were uttering death threats and engaging in a campaign of vilification kinda depletes any residual sympathy in a neutral observer.

  • Arch

    The idea that acquiring a cracker that’s both available for sale and freely given out and destroying it is in any sense comparable to theft and vandalism is ludicrous.

    You are missing the fact that the only one’s who should be going to recieve communion are those in a proper disposition to receive, which clearly includes faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Even a baptized Catholic who is not in the state of grace should not be receiving prior to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, much less someone who is an unbeliever. That action would be disrespectful in several ways, whether you believe it or not.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    Let’s establish one thing at the outset, Arch: Which is worse in your view – disrespecting a wafer, or making death threats against someone else who did so?

  • paradoctor

    The analogy to flag-burning isn’t bad. Recall that burning is considered the proper way to dispose of a worn-out flag; but it must be done respectfully. Well, one day some sardonic radicals, who knew the customs better than certain Senators, did burn a flag, but without the signs of respect. Lo and behold, the political system went straight into idol-protection mode, and tried to outlaw the _only_ legal way to dispose of a flag!

    It seems that we are supposed to destroy the wafer, but only by our own stomach acids, and only with respectful ceremony. PZ Myers gave the wafer to bacteria, bugs and mice to destroy, and without ceremony; this activated the church’s idol-protection mode.

    To complete a state-church-market triad of idolatry, note that it is against the law for any citizen to destroy Federal Reserve Notes. In the recent movie, “The Dark Knight”, the Joker horrified a tough gangster by burning a huge mound of money.

    Say, what if someone combined these desecrations? Burn a wafer, or a cross, along with a flag and a dollar bill?

  • heliobates

    You are missing the fact that the only one’s who should be going to recieve communion are those in a proper disposition to receive, which clearly includes faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

    So, are you saying that people receiving communion while not in a “proper disposition to receive” deserve death threats and should endure a campaign of vilification intended to get them expelled from a secular university?

    What happened to “engaging them in conversation”?

    The hyperbolic reaction had the effect of drawing a line in the sand. Behind this puce-complexioned outrage is a constant demand that religious beliefs should somehow be privileged and exempt from criticism.

    I happen to agree with Alonzo Fyfe that Myers was promoting fraud or theft” when he asked people to send him crackers over which the magic words had been chanted, and that could be a meaningful discussion, should you ever want to “engage in conversation” but the act of so-called “desecration” harmed no one.

  • Arch

    Which is worse in your view – disrespecting a wafer, or making death threats against someone else who did so?

    Death threats are obviously evil acts, but it’s also important to recognize that they are often done by individuals who are not in a sound state of mind. It’s also important that we don’t see individuals who do such actions as accurate representatives of the people they claim to be representing. Regarding the disrespect of the Eucharist–it is a huge deal precisely because it is not simply a wafer. Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians profess the Eucharist to be the body, blood, soul, and divinty of Christ–the source and summit of the faith which makes present the sacrifice of the cross. It is the heart of the Christian faith, and because of that, an act of disrespect toward Christ in the Eucharist is a serious matter.

  • LindaJoy

    So Arch- it is an act of disrespect to diss a cracker that some holy man mumbled chants over, but it is not an act of disrespect to kill millions in Inquisitions or Crusades, or witch burnings or…. I could go on and on. If Catholics want to worry over something that represents blood, then maybe they need to face their own church’s history rather than get all lathered up about a wafer. Besides, the pagans were doing this bread and wine thing long before the Catholics, so you aren’t even original.

  • Arch

    LindaJoy,
    First, I find your comments to be far off topic… Second, let’s get our facts straight about the Crusades and Inquisition before we start saying that they were solely decisions of Catholics to harm people out of nowhere. 11th-15th century Europe was a very different situation culturally, socially, politically, etc… While some events that took place were certainly contrary to human dignity, they cannot be thought of in the light of the 21st century. We can always look back and ask “how could they?” if we compare things of centuries past to modern day. Catholics are also clearly not the only individuals involved in things like the Inquisition or the Crusades. It’s much more complex than that when we consider the actions of Seljuk Turks or the Albigensians.

  • Alex Weaver

    It’s also important that we don’t see individuals who do such actions as accurate representatives of the people they claim to be representing.

    It’s important that the above claim be true. Given that the Catholic Church hasn’t said a damn thing to condemn the death threats, to my knowledge, and their representatives, like yourself, seem to want to sweep them under the rug and then hem and haw when called on it, I’m not sure I buy that.

  • Alex Weaver

    First, I find your comments to be far off topic…

    I forget: is hair-splitting about “on-topic”ness above or below “nitpicking grammar” in the “lame non-responses to posts on the internet” hierarchy?

    First, I find your comments to be far off topic… Second, let’s get our facts straight about the Crusades and Inquisition before we start saying that they were solely decisions of Catholics to harm people out of nowhere. 11th-15th century Europe was a very different situation culturally, socially, politically, etc… While some events that took place were certainly contrary to human dignity, they cannot be thought of in the light of the 21st century. We can always look back and ask “how could they?” if we compare things of centuries past to modern day. Catholics are also clearly not the only individuals involved in things like the Inquisition or the Crusades.

    Isn’t one of the major selling points of Christianity supposed to be that it provides and upholds a universal moral code and eschews situational ethics and relativism?

    It’s much more complex than that when we consider the actions of Seljuk Turks or the Albigensians.

    You mean actions like breathing? I’m almost afraid to ask what historical context or supposed actions by its victims you think would justify attempted genocide.

  • http://www.godlesscolumbia.org/ watercat

    an act of disrespect toward Christ in the Eucharist is a serious matter.

    You hold that belief. I hold an opposite belief, that it’s trivial. I can’t say as I respect that belief you hold, since to me it is silly and deluded. Likewise, I don’t expect you to respect the belief I hold, since I imagine you think mine is silly and deluded. However, I respect your right to hold that belief no matter how much ridicule it generates. Respect my right to hold my belief, that’s all I ask, no matter how much slander it generates.

    Crackers have nothing to do with it. To demand that I respect your wafer the same as you do, means, give up my belief that it is silly, and at least act as if I hold your belief. Sorry, I have a right to hold my own belief. You slander my beliefs, and I’ll mock your beliefs, and we’ll get along. Until you threaten to kill me. You and I should be able to tolerate acts of disrespect, and Christ should too.

  • heliobates

    Death threats are obviously evil acts, but it’s also important to recognize that they are often done by individuals who are not in a sound state of mind. It’s also important that we don’t see individuals who do such actions as accurate representatives of the people they claim to be representing.

    Claiming that those making the death threats were not representative of Catholics (moving the goalposts): check

    Refusal to acknowledge that Myers threatened no person while the Catholics threatened both Myers and Cook (minimizing the harm done by the Catholic side): check

    Labelling Cook and Myers’ actions unethical while ignoring the actions of the “church official” (double standard): check.

    Textbook.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    Death threats are obviously evil acts, but it’s also important to recognize that they are often done by individuals who are not in a sound state of mind.

    Arch, your dismissive reply doesn’t do justice to the seriousness of this matter. Both Webster Cook and PZ Myers have been repeatedly and graphically threatened by literally hundreds, perhaps thousands, of deranged Catholics. Bill Donohue, the Catholic clergy, and other groups and individuals have issued numerous statements condemning Cook and Myers, but, so far as I know, have not said a single word condemning the bloodthirsty actions of their own followers. In fact, Donohue and those others have made statements which explicitly say that desecrating the Eucharist is the worst act imaginable.

    Even if, as you say, all the individuals making threats are of unsound mind, it doesn’t follow that the Catholic church’s officials are blameless. To the contrary, they bear blame precisely because they’ve encouraged these deranged individuals to view wafer abuse as the worst crime possible. They have never once said that human well-being takes priority over the well-being of wafers. They have never once said that threats of violence are not a proportionate or appropriate response. They have actively and knowingly provoked the hysteria that’s occurred, and as such, they bear their share of the blame for any harm that has resulted or will result.

    Regarding the disrespect of the Eucharist–it is a huge deal precisely because it is not simply a wafer.

    We don’t agree with that, so for what reason should we feel obligated to treat it any differently than we’d treat any other piece of bread? Muslims consider depicting Mohammed to be a huge deal, and Hindus consider eating beef to be a huge deal, but I doubt you consider yourself bound by their beliefs about what God wants.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Arch,

    an act of disrespect toward Christ in the Eucharist is a serious matter.

    To Christians, maybe. I also think it’s a stupid, trivial matter for which there is no seriousness attached. Same way I don’t respect religious beliefs against drinking alcohol at all, or beliefs against eating meat, or against harming the Quran, or against eating food prepared in an “improper” manner, or the long, long list of stupid, often mutually exclusive things, religions try to forbid. By doing these things that other religions take as very serious matters, you are in essence saying you don’t value their beliefs, will act in a way you find personally pleasing and not be told by them what you can and can’t do, and that their beliefs are unfounded.

    Of course, all those other religions are crazy, aren’t they? Those beliefs are weird, and totally unfounded, so not really serious to disrespect.

  • heliobates

    Say, what if someone combined these desecrations? Burn a wafer, or a cross, along with a flag and a dollar bill?

    Ix-nay on the manentizing the eschaton-imay.

  • Jim Baerg

    if we compare things of centuries past to modern day. Catholics are also clearly not the only individuals involved in things like the Inquisition or the Crusades. It’s much more complex than that when we consider the actions of Seljuk Turks or the Albigensians.

    2 rather morally different actions are being lumped together here.

    The original crusades look to me to be a counter-attack in response to centuries of muslim aggression. No worse than other warfare at the time, though poorly thought out in terms of grand strategy.

    I’m not aware of anything the Albigensians did aside from believing different nonsense than the Catholic Church to provoke the ‘Albigensian Crusade’.

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    I’m unimpressed with the ‘death threats are worse’ argument. It’s just not very interesting. Forget whether the other side is doing something worse; it has no direct bearing on whether or not desecrating a cracker is a good (or acceptable) act.

    PZ Myers’ actions have the following consequences:

    (a) Protesting the attempt to have a student severely punished for something that some Catholics might perceive as mildly blasphemous.

    (b) Hurting and infuriating a lot of Catholics.

    Alonzo Fyfe is also, quite reasonably, concerned with the possible consequence:

    (c ) Increasing the extent to which people perceive atheists as immoral and heartless.

    I would be more than happy to excuse the hurt and infuriation to Catholics if I thought that the protest was effective. In fact, however, I think that Myers’ actions are largely ineffective as a protest, and that part of that ineffectiveness is a result of the hurt and infuration caused. In short, no, I don’t think it was a particularly good idea.

    I do not wish to side with those who condemn PZ outright, as this might be taken as implicit approval of the original arrogant calls from Bill Donohue and others asking that a student be punished by a secular institution for an entirely religious transgression. Supporting the idea that there is something wrong with blasphemy has the unfortunate consequence of appearing to support the completely unreasonable reaction of Catholics in the first place. It is therefore with calmly deliberate tentativeness that I point out that sometimes blasphemy, as a result of offending people, can become counterproductive. I suspect that on balance this is one of those cases. Anyone using this to try to support the idea that there is actually something special about that cracker that we ought, of itself, to respect has misunderstood me.

    I would be much more willing to make allowances for Catholics’ feelings with regard to crackers that have undergone certain processes if Catholics would make allowances for the fact that, to those of us who do not share their beliefs, it really is just a cracker. This means not expecting us to share their outrage. It means not expecting anyone to be punished for this sort of action. The only claim that Catholics have on us in this instance is their own personal feelings. This is a real claim, and Catholics may appeal to our compassion — compassion towards Catholics as people, not towards crackers — in asking us not to do nasty things to Eucharist wafers. Personally, being soft and all, I’m inclined to think we should comply.

    Unfortunately, my compassion is worthless if Catholics are going to assume that this is something they are owed as of right. At that point, I am forced to temper my compassion with the knowledge that this is not an attitude on the part of Catholics that ought to be encouraged.

  • Adam

    I don’t go out of my way to offend believers’ sensibilities – but I will live my life as I see fit, and I will not heed rules that are not based on reason.

    Ebon,

    You do not go out of your way to offend people, but in the case above its okay, because someone else is doing it.

    As long as you live your own life and you see fit, based on your own reason, you can never be wrong, no matter what that out come is. You can offend Christ in the Eucharist, treat Mohammed like trash, and offend Hindus, but as long as you’re “Reasonably” doing it, it must be ok. You are saying that you are your own God.

    What it really means is that we will respect your right to hold the beliefs of your choice.

    You preach Respect on this site all of the time. How is offending someone Respectful??

    The way you’re defending the Desecration of the Eucharist, it sounds more like religious intolerance and Respect, all motivated by your own hatred towards Catholicism.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Adam,

    You do not go out of your way to offend people, but in the case above its okay, because someone else is doing it.

    As long as you live your own life and you see fit, based on your own reason, you can never be wrong, no matter what that out come is. You can offend Christ in the Eucharist, treat Mohammed like trash, and offend Hindus, but as long as you’re “Reasonably” doing it, it must be ok. You are saying that you are your own God.

    You forgot the sarcasm tag.

    So, do you offend Hindus? Do you eat beef? I’m pretty sure you probably do, so why is that OK, but treating a cracker like a cracker is not?

    You preach Respect on this site all of the time. How is offending someone Respectful??

    Perhaps if you read the whole entire OP, it might make sense.
    The way you’re defending the Desecration of the Eucharist, it sounds more like religious intolerance and Respect, all motivated by your own hatred towards Catholicism.
    Yeah, it must be hatred…or, maybe it could be pointing out the over-the-top reactions of Catholics and their quest to trample our rights in forcing us to adopt their beliefs. Hey, perhaps that’s all motivated by your own hatred towards non-Catholics, right?

  • http://www.godlesscolumbia.org/ watercat

    One viewpoint: this is simply the latest case of a member of the church attacking someone. The victim’s name has become a household word, yet the name of the perpetrator is carefully hidden. (Does anyone even recognize the name Michelle Ducker?) Many children suffered desecration of their own bodies at the hands of the church. They are forced to grow up hearing hearing constant praise of their abuser, which is a further desecration.
    The chorus of calls to further punish the latest victim, Cook, coupled with continuous failure to condemn and even outright praise of his attacker, feels like a further insult to the original victims. Every time a catholic ignores us to attack Cook, they reiterate that our bodies are less sacred to them than their damned cracker. They demand that we not blaspheme the cracker they hold sacred, simultaneously with continued blasphemy against our own human dignity, that we hold sacred. Theirs is not a position worthy of respect.

  • Arch

    watercat,

    If you were to authentically represent the Church’s teachings on human dignity, you would realize that your statements are misleading. The Church upholds the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, absolutely. But the Church clearly also upholds the dignity of life at all stages and disagrees with any act contrary to that dignity. If you want to know what the Church truly teaches, go directly to the Catechism or the Church documents themselves.
    http://www.usccb.org/catechism/text/

  • Mr.Pendent

    Lynet:

    The problem here is that they are asking for more consideration than they are willing to give. As others have pointed out, Hindus regard cows as truly sacred–even more so, one might argue, than Catholics regard the Eucharist, since they won’t eat it–but all those who get very upset and teary-eyed about Myers nailing a cracker don’t seem to feel the slightest thing about doing something that upsets Hindus. Likewise, a sect of Islam views it as sinful in the extreme for a woman to show her hair in public (much less walk around in a bikini!), but they are not calling for everyone to respect that groups sensibilities.

    As Myers’ protest was (as I understand it) meant to highlight the irrational double-standard that most religions exhibit, it seems to me to have been highly effective. I’m willing to bet that not one of those Catholics who got their feelings hurt about the cracker incident said a word about the depiction of Muhammad in Danish cartoons. So they are free to flaunt the beliefs of others, but everyone must abide by theirs.

    Adam (and other apologists):

    Just curious–did you even so much as write a letter to any Catholic church that admitted to hiding priests who molested children in their church? Or was that ok, since it was in the Church? Why has not one apologist on any site I’ve read about this even once said that the leaders of the Church (ie. the Confraternity, the Vatican, the local parish) are wrong to have not come out and denounced those sending death threats to Myers or Cook?

    Finally, do you recognize these lines?

    The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no
    commandment greater than these.”
    Do to others as you would have them do to you.
    “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even
    ‘sinners’ love those who love them.
    And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to
    you? Even ‘sinners’ do that.
    And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is
    that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in
    full.
    But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without
    expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you
    will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and
    wicked.
    Do not say, “I’ll do to him as he has done to me; I’ll pay that man
    back for what he did.”
    If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty,
    give him water to drink.
    Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
    But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on
    the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
    And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your
    cloak as well.
    If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.
    “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your
    enemy.’
    But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
    that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to
    rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the
    unrighteous.
    If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even
    the tax collectors doing that?
    But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not
    eat, and no better if we do.

    Note that I don’t personally believe any of this (although a few things are basic common decency), but how many of the religious people involved in all of this mess (and even those posting here) are following even these basic tenets?

  • Mr.Pendent

    Arch:

    Simple question:

    Were they upholding those “teachings” while shuffling priests around the country in an effort to hide the fact that they were molesting children?

    Did you write to the church to condemn their actions as well?

    Just wondering.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    But the Church clearly also upholds the dignity of life at all stages and disagrees with any act contrary to that dignity.

    Historically, this has not been the case, but nevertheless, they should show it by condemning the death threats against Cook and PZ. – yet they don’t do that, do they?

  • Alex Weaver

    If you were to authentically represent the Church’s teachings on human dignity, you would realize that your statements are misleading. The Church upholds the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, absolutely. But the Church clearly also upholds the dignity of life at all stages and disagrees with any act contrary to that dignity. If you want to know what the Church truly teaches, go directly to the Catechism or the Church documents themselves.

    As the church’s actual actions do not reflect this supposed “upholding of dignity”, as watercat’s examples clearly show, such protestations are less than worthless.

  • http://www.godlesscolumbia.org/ watercat

    Arch; I know exactly what the Church teaches, I was raised in it. I also know what the church PRACTICES, which is the problem.
    I told you how it feels, to me, and that’s misleading? The church upholds the dignity of life by insisting my feelings don’t count? Yeah, that was kind of my point.

  • Christopher

    Arch,

    “Regarding the disrespect of the Eucharist–it is a huge deal precisely because it is not simply a wafer.”

    Only in your mind is it something more than a wafer (a tastless one with the texture of cardboard for that matter…) – it only becomes more than a disgusting piece of snackfood because you ascribe additional value to it. If you were to stop ascribing value to that damn cracker it would disappear.

  • http://Dr.FrancisPatterson,PulmonaryClinic Dr. Francis Patterson,UCF

    I am an adjunct professor and lecturer at UCF. Though perhaps unintentional, you have presented your readers with what we call a “withholding account” of this incident. Webster Cook is an elected senator at UCF and had signed a very detailed: institutional, student union, and student senate contractual and aspirational ethical agreement upon taking office. Senators agree to be especially protective of the cultural, gender and transgender,ethnic, physical, and religious sensibilities of students, faculty,university employees and their families, etc. I am nominally protestant by the way but not particulary religious, and I do not have a direct interest in this case. However, Webster Cook, who is in fact a registered Roman Catholic, violated just about every tenet, expressed or implied of his senate contract. His actions were not naive or negligent , they were intentionally and incendiarily deliberate and calculated to insult and inflame-for reasons known only to Webster Cook, apparently. This would be much analogous to an incident that happened in 1984 at the University of Tulsa in which a fraternity held a beer kegger “pow wow” deliberately on an old Cherokee Indian burial ground. It was not technically illegal, but the pow wow caused such emotional angst among local native americans, some of whom had ancestors actaully buried in unmarked graves there that violence erupted. The violence of course was “wrong” but it was “foreseable”. PJ Myers was legally “privileged” to do what he did, as was Webster Cook. As far as I know, people are legally privileged to taunt and make fun of retarded children and adults and those with physical and cognitive disabilities. etc. However, any decent, moral, intelligent, and compassionate human being would refrain from exercising their absolute privilege in these cases. Arguably that would, and should include:cultural, gender and transgender,ethnic, physical and religious “opportunities”. A leader and Senator should know better. Should “BE” better.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    Webster Cook is an elected senator at UCF and had signed a very detailed: institutional, student union, and student senate contractual and aspirational ethical agreement upon taking office.

    Dr. Patterson, your comments are utterly beside the point. They change nothing about the situation as I’ve described it, nor do they in any way affect the conclusion that any rational person should draw: your university has taken the opportunity to insert itself, in a very public way, into a private religious dispute between a student and others of his congregation. More to the point, it has done so in a heavy-handed way which implies that its role is to act as the defender of religious orthodoxy. To put it another way, UCF has taken the side of the inquisitors. To judge from your comment, you have done so as well.

    There’s only one legitimate way to describe this incident: Cook, himself a sincere Catholic (as far as I know), acted from a sincere desire to show a token of his faith to a fellow student. For this alleged crime, he was physically assaulted, harassed, had his health and life threatened countless times, and the last I heard, was under consideration for disciplinary sanctions by his – and your – university. At the very worst, Cook is guilty of breaking an obscure rule of his own religion. He’s made no statements whatsoever attacking the faith or morals of any Catholic, much less made any statement comparable to the flood of insane, demented threats he’s received from bigots. If he had failed to go to confession and his church judged that a mortal sin, would you also have been here to argue that he deserves to be punished by his university? Is it now UCF’s job to police the religious morals of its students?

    His actions were not naive or negligent , they were intentionally and incendiarily deliberate and calculated to insult and inflame…

    Please explain what actions Webster Cook has taken that justify your insulting and inflammatory characterization of his intent.

    The violence of course was “wrong” but it was “foreseable”.

    This statement disgusts me. It sounds very much as if you’re defending the lunatics who’ve threatened Webster Cook’s life, accusing him of bringing it on himself. Don’t you dare presume to stand in judgment of him or of any of us if that’s your stance. Let’s be absolutely clear about this: Rampant abuse and sacrilege of crackers, no matter how it may outrage the delicate sensibilities of irrational people, is not a crime. Threatening someone’s life is. The people who’ve threatened Cook and Myers, and especially the religious right leaders who’ve deliberately fomented such a reaction, are without justification or excuse. Anyone who cannot state that principle clearly has no business being part of this conversation.

    As far as I know, people are legally privileged to taunt and make fun of retarded children and adults and those with physical and cognitive disabilities. etc. However, any decent, moral, intelligent, and compassionate human being would refrain from exercising their absolute privilege in these cases.

    How curious that you berate us for “disrespecting” the delicate sensibilities of the religious, only to wrap up your comment with an analogy comparing Roman Catholics to retarded children. Those were your words, sir, not mine. Clearly, the difference between us is that I view Catholics as adults who don’t need to be protected from anything that might offend them. You don’t, which is why you’ve taken it upon yourself to shelter them from any possible slight or attack, arguing that they just can’t handle criticism. Which of us is treating them with more respect?

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    However, Webster Cook, who is in fact a registered Roman Catholic…

    Good, then the Catholics can’t say that he wasn’t supposed to be there or taking communion.

    …violated just about every tenet, expressed or implied of his senate contract.

    Then ask him to resign his post if you feel strongly about it. Just don’t try to kick him out of school and don’t place the blame on him for receiving death threats. You’ll of course say that you haven’t done that, but by focusing solely on Mr. Cook’s actions, you are implicitly doing just that as well as comparing his actions to making fun of developmentally challenged children (we don’t say retarded anymore, didn’t you know?) Of course, this begs the question as to why you would compare the Catholics with developmentally challenged children…

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Ebon,

    There’s only one legitimate way to describe this incident: Cook, himself a sincere Catholic (as far as I know), acted from a sincere desire to show a token of his faith to a fellow student.

    Has Cook come out and said why he did it? If so, I must have missed it.

  • http://Dr.FrancisPatterson,PulmonaryClinic Dr. Francis Patterson

    Please keep our conversation civil. You also seem to “utterly” miss my point. When I said a certain reaction was “forseeable” I did not imply it was moral, legal or appropriate. Apparently that is your emotional but not accurate analysis of what I said. For example, there is a rather sick and misguided “faux” religious? group(well documented in the hate literature) that routinely protests at funerals of deceased military members who have died in the Iraqi conflict. You may have heard of them- they hold up signs which say “Gpd hates F—[a cruel and insensitive slur against homosexuals](these misguided cretans apparently believe the U.S. setbacks in Vietnam and Iraq etc, are due to America’s embracing of the homosexual agenda, or some such nonsense)…Now, technically what this group does is thus far not illegal, however, does it “disgust” you Mr. Ebon? well, it disgusts me, and I am, as I said a nominal protestant who isnt necessaily particularly fond of the radical homosexual agenda, however I would never seek to deliberately be cruel or insensitive to anyone, including a homosexual or transgender person. I am not overly fond of communists either but I have always been kind and polite when dealing with them and wouldnt deliberately try to incite them to anger. Burning flags in front of the retired veteran’s home, burning a cross on your own property deliberately to anger an african american neighbor, desecrating a Koran in front of an Islamic person, when in Cambodia, deliberately eating a sandwich in front of a starving street child, making derogatory comments deliberately within hearing of an overweight person, etc,etc…all of these things are technically legal, but all are morally wrong. “Scienter” has a lot to do with the ethical analysis. Ebon, you seem to fail to understand the ethical and moral import of “forseeability” “scienter”, mandatory vs. aspirational ethics and the good faith “social contract” of students and faculty in a voluntary academic community. My attorney colleagues tell me there is a tort called “intentional infliction of emotional harm”- for example, a prankster who puts a porkchop in the punchbowl at a bar mitvah of orthodox/kosher keeping jews. It isnt illegal, but it is immoral, rude, insensitive, and if it were me, and it humiliated my child and ruined their Bar Mitzvah, I would personally be very hard pressed not to take that person if they were caught and do something to humiliate them. Do you have children Mr. Ebon? A mother? father? friend? Have you ever been righteously angry about anything? And no, I was not comparing Catholics to low IQ individuals. If you dont understand the analysis, I cant explain it any more clearly.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    When I said a certain reaction was “forseeable” I did not imply it was moral, legal or appropriate.

    No, you didn’t imply that. You also did not clearly state it was inappropriate, which was precisely my point. For the record, Dr. Patterson: Which, in your view, is the worse act – failing to abide by the Catholic church’s rules for treating the Eucharist, or assaulting or threatening someone else who has failed to do so?

    Now, technically what this group does is thus far not illegal, however, does it “disgust” you Mr. Ebon?

    Yes. However, they have the right to say it, no matter how repulsive the rest of us find it, and no one has the right to threaten their lives in response. This principle applies a fortiori in the case under discussion, since nothing that Webster Cook is alleged to have done comes anywhere near this level of offensiveness. I asked you in my previous comment to explain exactly what acts he committed that you find so disagreeable and inflammatory; I note that you chose not to answer that.

    I am, as I said a nominal protestant who isnt necessaily particularly fond of the radical homosexual agenda…

    The “radical homosexual agenda” consists of seeking the same legal rights and protections that heterosexuals enjoy. And, for the record, your language is identical to that used by the hate groups you so self-righteously decry.

    Have you ever been righteously angry about anything?

    Yes. I have been and still am righteously angry at the deranged bigots who threaten others’ lives, and also at people who try to squelch the free speech of others in the name of protecting the delicate feelings of said bigots.

    And no, I was not comparing Catholics to low IQ individuals.

    Yes, as a matter of fact, you were. I would not mock individuals with mental deficits, because their situation is not of their choosing and because I have a legitimate expectation that they could not react with appropriate maturity to such a provocation. Neither of those things is true of Catholics as a group. Therefore, in my view, they have no comparable expectation of freedom from satire and ridicule. Which step of that reasoning do you disagree with?

  • http://Dr.FrancisPatterson,PulmonaryClinic Dr. Francis Patterson,UCF

    Two steps forward, one step back, but at least we are making some, albeit slow forward progress. Let me try another approach-two wrongs don’t make a right.How about that? And by radical homosexual agenda, at least in my mind, I was recalling the incidents of “Act Up” ( a militant homosexual group in San Francisco) that made a habit of going into churches, even when they were open to the public , and doing lewd things on their altars, etc. Again, not technically illegal, but most people of good will would say that it was insensitive, to say the least. Ebon, I have given you many examples and you seem unwilling to discuss them. The Indian/Native American burial ground? your thoughts…now, as to which of the two wrongs is “more” wrong, well of course actually killing or hurting someone would be the greater wrong. But Ebon, it seems like pulling teeth to get you to fess up and admit that what this student did was morally wrong, and what PJ Myers did was morally wrong.They were both wrong. The idiot who threatened PJ Myers was far more wrong and likely also technically broke the law as well. The Roman Catholics who threatened the student with harm are more wrong in my opinion than the student. But the student who is a senator and signed a contract and took an oath did in fact breach his contract. By the way, if you care to read it, it also includes off campus conduct as well.You seem reluctant to admit that he violated it. He did. This was not a first amendment protest on his part, and he was not engaging in some kind of civil disobedience-as in a civil rights sit in. You may not know this, but this student has been through catechism and confirmation, first communion, etc and is very well versed in the enormous sancity that Roman Catholics(who beleive in transubstaniation) place on the ‘host’. Yes, I think its incorrect, but I am a protestant. True story: When I was in graduate school we had a number of foreign students. One of the American medical students stomped on a cricket, and one of the foreign students very politely asked the American to refrain from doing that. It seems that this foreign medical student, was truly morally offended by the gratuitous killing of even a cricket (and as I later found out it was on purely moral grounds not religious ones) anyway, this American went out of his way every time he saw the foreign guy to kill crickets, just to tick the poor guy off. Well, during the stress of anatomy finals when everybody had been without sleep and all of us were particularly testy, the American did it again and this little (he was Chinese) medical student hauled off and kicked this big American’s butt. When the dean of the Medical School counselled both of these students he ultimately took the Chinese student’s side. Both were punished, but he said the greater wrong was with the American. Any insight as to why you think the Dean ruled that way?

  • Mrnaglfar

    Dr,

    I was recalling the incidents of “Act Up” ( a militant homosexual group in San Francisco) that made a habit of going into churches, even when they were open to the public , and doing lewd things on their altars, etc.

    They’re protesting against the ignorance of our policy about HIV and sexual education, not the “gay agenda”, according to their site. Perhaps you could give some info about their going into churches and doing lewd things on their altars? I can’t find it.

    now, as to which of the two wrongs is “more” wrong, well of course actually killing or hurting someone would be the greater wrong. But Ebon, it seems like pulling teeth to get you to fess up and admit that what this student did was morally wrong, and what PJ Myers did was morally wrong.

    What Myers did was, not morally wrong. Offending someone’s irrationally held belief isn’t top of my list. We have no constitutional right to not be offended, but we do have one for free speech. I think the foundations of our government bare out this point that it’s NOT, again, NOT morally wrong to stick a nail through a cracker, whether done specifically to offend or to make a point.

    So tell me, in what way was Myer’s action morally wrong? You’ve said you think it’s wrong, but a compelling explanation is lacking.

    Both were punished, but he said the greater wrong was with the American. Any insight as to why you think the Dean ruled that way?

    Ok, let’s try a few new scenes here to help you understand why the Dean is wrong:

    - A man comes to the US from a heavily muslim society, and gets offended when he sees women aren’t covering themselves in public. He tells the women they need to respect his belief and they belittle him telling him that in America, people don’t have to respect that stupid belief, and every time they see him, they now flaunt that they’re able to wear whatever they want. In a fit of rage, the man assaults one of the women.

    - A Hindu man comes to America and is disgusted when he sees people eating beef. He tells them to stop and they tell him to mind his own business, then proceed to eat a hamburger right in front of him. In anger, the Hindu man draws a knife and stabs one of the Americans.

    - In America, a man puts a nail through a cracker. People who worship that cracker mail his death threats.

    - In America, an atheist walks into church and tells the people there they need to stop worshiping because their religion offends him and he thinks it’s profoundly stupid. They confront him and start yelling about they will continue to worship Jesus despite his pleas. In a fit of rage, the Atheist assaults one of the church goers.

    We do not have a right to never be offended, and have a right to say and do things that may offend other people, so long as we aren’t infringing upon their freedom as well.

  • http://www.godlesscolumbia.org/ watercat

    The church is doing what it always does: hide the perpetrator from public view, and attack the victim. Ducker has issued no statement, or even CCM; instead the local Catholic Diocese (!) steps in to speak for her. They have not made their charges public, unlike Cook, except alleging “disrespect”. No charges, investigation, registration holds, or harassment are directed at her.
    The victim, otoh, is presumed guilty, his report (of an actual crime)is dismissed while his accuser’s (of ??) is pursued, he is removed from office, his registration (and his friend’s!) is interfered with, and the University is co-opted into promoting the moral code of the church instead of standing up for constitutional rights.
    Cook’s incident report is here, and his oral account is here, starting at 18:30

    No conflicting account yet exists, and Ducker’s spokemen do not contest the facts outlined. Based on these accounts it is hard to see how Cook violated any contract, or did anything wrong, especially when he was defending himself against a physical assault at the time.

    Mr Patterson says that the violence was not wrong, but only “wrong”, and that it was “forseeable”. Why is the University providing a religious cult with both public funds and the use of its facilities when it is forseeable that this cult will resort to violence to promote its rituals? Particularly when the cult has a long history of protecting abusers exactly as it is doing in this case? We’ve seen what this cult will do when it controls a government; here we’re seeing what it does when it controls a University.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Dr. Patterson,
    BTW, can you work on formatting your posts a little better. Maybe you could use paragraphs and put spaces after your sentences. It would make it easier to read and respond to. Thanks.

    Let me try another approach-two wrongs don’t make a right.

    No, they don’t. So, let’s look at the actions. For Cook, we have a student that although you think he did this maliciously has stated that he was not trying to offend anyone. Should we take him at his word or not, and why? Did he act immorally? I see no reason not to take his word on it, therefore I don’t think he acted immorally.

    Did PZ Myers (not PJ) act immorally? This is a little stickier. He knew his actions would offend, but he was also trying to stick up for Cook. You could make a case either way. So, maybe you think he did act immorally.

    Now, the question becomes, if two wrongs don’t make a right, can we at least look at the level of wrong-doing or is everything in black and white? I would say that it is NOT black and white, so let’s look at the other side.

    The Catholics in this case have issued death threats, committed assault, tried to get Myers fired, etc. Some of these things are simply morally wrong, while others are also criminally wrong. These acts are by far out of proportion to whatever immorallity that Myers may have displayed and certainly beyond Cook’s actions.

    I am a protestant.

    So you keep announcing. Which denom?

    Both were punished, but he said the greater wrong was with the American. Any insight as to why you think the Dean ruled that way?

    I’m with Mrnaglfar on this one, the Dean was wrong, and plainly so. How does an action of offending someone constitute grounds for criminally assaulting and battering another individual? Also, if the attacker was offended at the killing of grasshoppers for pacifist reasons, then not only does his attack make him a criminal, but also a hypocrite. But, why don’t you tell us whether you think the Dean was right and why? You’re hinting that you think the Dean was justified, so please support your position.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    Dr. Patterson,

    We appear to be making some progress, and I’m glad you agree that there is never an excuse for making threats. But the same basic flaw in your position remains unaltered.

    what PJ Myers did was morally wrong.They were both wrong.

    No, what Myers did was not wrong. Theists do not have any right to be free from satire, ridicule or criticism, nor do they have any right to demand that nonbelievers follow the same religious rules to which they have voluntarily subjected themselves.

    The Roman Catholics who threatened the student with harm are more wrong in my opinion than the student. But the student who is a senator and signed a contract and took an oath did in fact breach his contract. By the way, if you care to read it, it also includes off campus conduct as well.

    So no student who’s signed this contract can ever participate in any conduct that offends any religious group? What rubbish. I earlier mentioned an analogy with confession, but you chose not to address it, so let’s try a different example.

    Let’s say I’m a member of your student senate and a Roman Catholic. Let’s also say that I advocate the use of birth control, as around 90% of American Catholics do, and that I participate in a safe-sex awareness campaign on campus where I give out condoms and teach students about their birth-control options. Clearly, that violates the “official” rules of the Catholic church. If a Catholic believer lodges a complaint, should I be impeached from my office or expelled? What if I’m a non-Catholic but the Catholics say my conduct offends them anyway?

    I can see no way to avoid that conclusion if I use your reasoning. To me, your position implies that my right to free speech has to be taken away in the name of not “offending” anyone, and that your university, if necessary, will insert itself into religious debates and act as the official guardian of orthodoxy to enforce that rule. Once I’ve signed that contract, in your eyes, every student on campus can exert a heckler’s veto over my speech and conduct merely by announcing that they feel offended by something I said or did. Your university may think it can enforce such an impossible and irrational standard, but in reality, all it’s done is open the doors to mob rule.

    Of course people should be protected from targeted, personal harassment. (That addresses your cricket story, although I would have said that both students were equally in the wrong.) Anything else, any act that is protected by the U.S. Constitution, should not be censored. That document has gotten us this far, and I can’t imagine what makes you or UCF think that you can improve on it.

  • http://Dr.FrancisPatterson,PulmonaryClinic Dr. Francis Patterson,UCF

    Thank you gentlemen/ladies. I think we have reached that proverbial diminishing point of return on this topic and we will just have to kindly agree to disagree. I have travelled fairly extensively and I can say this: however annoying you find these excitable Roman Catholics, I think if you spend much time in the middle east, for example, you would likely choose these “mackeral snappers” over the positively fanatic followers of radical islamic jihad. And speaking of insensitive, after 911, our campus “freethinkers/brights” put up a big sign which read (and I kid you not) “Allah 3,000, God 33″. Now that caused a real ruckus in the student union let me tell you! It didnt bother me,as I am fairly certain God has a sense of humor.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Maybe they are just a front for the “radical homosexual agenda?”

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    It seems Dr. Patterson chose to duck out of the discussion as soon as I asked him whether he believes religious dogma should trump free speech. I wish I could say I was surprised.

  • heliobates

    I think if you spend much time in the middle east, for example, you would likely choose these “mackeral snappers” over the positively fanatic followers of radical islamic jihad.

    Even an apologist with a PhD is left holding the bag.

    This is really the best you can do, “Dr.” Patterson?

  • heliobates

    Oops. My bad.

    “Dr.” Patterson is a “real” “doctor” doctor.

  • heliobates

    I’ve got a question for the studio audience.

    If the batshit Catholic reactions were “forseeable” because those poor people were “provoked”, how did this whole situation not come about because both Cook and Myers were “provoked” by believers?

    Cook certainly endured provocation when he was assaulted first at the church and then via death-threats and a campaign of vilification. Was his behaviour not “forseeable” throughout?

    Myers was at no less an arms-length from Cook than Bill Donohue was from his magic cracker. If Donohue was justifiably incensed by Cook, then Myers was justifiably incensed by Donohue and the attack-Catholics, neh?

    Donohue’s attitudes may not be that of all Catholics, but when they don’t speak against him and people like him, then he does speak for them.

    If Donohue, and by extension Catholics since they did not disavow his position*, were justified in trampling over civil discourse, what presumption of “fair play” do they then deserve?

    So Cook signed a code of ethics and will now be investigated and probably censured for his role. Will the church officiant who assaulted him be investigated and censured? Will any attempt be made to discover the source of death threats?

    While the Catholics close ranks and yell “we were provoked” and “Muslims! Booga-booga!”, non-belivers have to wonder if there are limits to this kind of insanity.

    No, Catholics did not riot in the streets and no suicide bombers attacked local chapters of the Center for Inquiry, but the religious proved once again that they exert a stifling hold on public discourse and are not afraid to use their majority clout to bully and intimidate anyone who would criticize their beliefs. That ain’t terrorism, but it’s a threat to a stable society nonetheless.

    Besides, Dr. Patterson and the Apologists, if your last defence is to say “And we’re nowhere near as crazy as them Muslims!”, how do you see your “victory” as anything other than Pyhrric?

    * Indeed the Confraternity of YaddaYadda wholeheartedly endorses it!

  • Mrnaglfar

    I’m kind of sad to see anyone who calls themselves doctor backing out of an intellectual debate after two posts.

    I do hope he didn’t do so to avoid provoking us or offending us.

  • http://Dr.FrancisPatterson,PulmonaryClinic Dr. Francis Patterson,UCF

    Nice try fellas/ladies. But your fellow traveller, the good Dr. PH Myers, of “pharyngula” sums it up in his latest letters to UCF. (paraphrased) If something is not illegal, It is defensible. He has admitted that Cook’s actions were calculated to inflame and were “very insensitive”. According to witnesses, Senator Cook and his friend had had quite a few beers and decided to razz the communion mass. Just for sh*** and giggles…nothing more profound. That’s it. I suspect I am quite a bit older than most of you folks here, however, I vividly recall the civil rights movement in which I played a small walk-on part. Cook’s crude, cruel and anti-social behavior should be viewed as disgusting by any reasonable person, religious or not. This no more a free speech “case” than saying a few drunk frat boys who paint themselves in minstrel “negro” blackface and crash a campus gathering of the NAACP deliberately to offend them is “free speech”. Sorry Ebon, but logically, tactically, and in terms or PR, your atheist side is losing this public relations war badly. And as more facts continue to emerge it is getting worse and worse for your group. This may be why atheists are the most marginalized, least respected group in America (quoting “Twilight of the Gods” and Vitz “Faith of the Fatherless” and “The [demographic]global decline of atheism” by Raphael Gonzalez of Harvard Divinity School.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    Dr. Patterson, if you don’t intend to answer the question I put to you in my last comment, then do us all the courtesy of staying away from my site. Your self-congratulatory strutting in the face of your obvious refusal to contemplate the implications of your school’s policies just makes you look foolish. This kind of intellectually dishonest behavior is unbecoming of someone who’s supposed to be the beneficiary of higher education.

    And thanks, but we don’t need your concern-troll advice about how to win the PR war. We know perfectly well how to do that, and given that your sympathies are obviously not with our side, we’d be foolish to believe that any advice you give was genuinely intended to help us out.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Something hasn’t seemed right about the good Dr. Francis Patterson, from the website that goes to a 404 to the search I did on the UCF website for anyone by that name which turned up empty…

  • LindaJoy

    I kept waiting for the real motive of “Dr. Patterson” to finally appear, and it did. He was just someone wanting to bash atheists and question their morality. And everyone else on this site engaged him in good “faith”. So much for “Dr. Patterson’s” ethics….

  • Brad

    Google “francis patterson” ucf or inurl:pulmonaryclinic and you’ll find that by all appearances the Dr. is just a rabble rouser.

    From what I can tell, Cook is being impeached specifically for representing the Senate (allegedly …) at the service where he took the eucharist wafer. Merely offending religious dogma on one’s own time shouldn’t deserve punishment from “ethics rules,” I would think. Also, Cook said that he did not realize he was required to swallow the wafer right away and merely wanted to show it to a friend. I think this would likely be a lie, because anybody raised Roman Catholic would very very likely know not to do anything but consume the wafer at mass. (But what’s a boy to tell reporters?) – Although I won’t discard the possibility that he actually didn’t know.

    In other news, I’m seeing some interesting Catholic comments on this elsewhere. Says lomenta on Meyers:

    That is sad. I think God looks upon this person as an angry child lashing out at his unhappy relationship with God. As any good father would do, no doubt, He loves him all the more deeply. -Lo

    This is a total misunderstanding of Meyers. Also see here for more gems. They believe Meyers to be a cowardly, Satanic, narcissistic, spiteful child. (“Pretty twisted SOB”) Nailing the host is a hate crime much like “defacing a synagogue,” and is comparable to stealing a treasured portrait from a family home and defacing it. Desecration is assumed to be a direct act of disrespect to all Catholics themselves.

    I think Meyers’ intentions and message in this act are totally misunderstood by Catholics:

    Nothing must be held sacred. Question everything. God is not great, Jesus is not your lord, you are not disciples of any charismatic prophet. You are all human beings who must make your way through your life by thinking and learning, and you have the job of advancing humanity’s knowledge by winnowing out the errors of past generations and finding deeper understanding of reality. You will not find wisdom in rituals and sacraments and dogma, which build only self-satisfied ignorance, but you can find truth by looking at your world with fresh eyes and a questioning mind.

  • goyo

    And I’m with OMGF. I am amazed that a Doctor, and professor of a university has such a bad grasp of common punctuation and thought organization.

  • http://goddesscassandra.blogspot.com Antigone

    I’m also amazed that the doctor referred to Catholics with the slur “mackerel slappers” and said that they were better than Muslims. I don’t have to be religious to know a slur when I see one, and I really couldn’t make a judgment on the “better” nonsensical faith.

  • Nurse Ingrid

    ” “Act Up” ( a militant homosexual group in San Francisco) that made a habit of going into churches, even when they were open to the public , and doing lewd things on their altars, etc.”

    You wish, Dr. Patterson. I was a member of ACT UP San Francisco for many years, back in the late 80s and early 90s (since then, sadly, it has been hijacked by AIDS denialists). According to our mission statement, we were “a nonviolent grassroots group engaged in direct action to bring about an end to the AIDS epidemic.”

    We got arrested a lot for civil disobedience, but never for “lewd acts,” and we never demonstrated inside a church. You are probably confusing us with the “Stop the Church” action in New York City in 1989, in which AIDS activists did indeed disrupt a Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral to protest the church’s deadly prohibition on condoms. No lewd acts occurred, but there was — you guessed it — a host desecration!

    I was not involved in “Stop the Church,” but I strongly supported it. Remember, this was long before there were any effective treatments for HIV, and my friends were dying all around me. I found it sickening that this hugely powerful church could tell people they deserved to die, that condoms were a sin, and claim that those beliefs was “sacred,” and therefore beyond reproach.

    Those of us who approved of the action felt that the lives of people with AIDS were what was really sacred, and we refused to let the church hide behind its dogma. We stood up and called them the murderers that they were. If a cracker got broken in the process, we were a lot less worried about that than about real people suffering and dying.

    I love how these events get distorted in the fantasies of homophobes, though. Projection much?

  • 2-D Man

    Dr. PH Myers, of “pharyngula” sums it up in his latest letters to UCF. (paraphrased) If something is not illegal, It is defensible.

    This sounds like the antithesis of the Dr. Myers’ philosophy, “Nothing must be held sacred.” Care to link to this little gem, Doctor?

    He has admitted that Cook’s actions were calculated to inflame and were “very insensitive”.

    WTF?!? Do you realize how stupid that statement is? I mean, this is a whole new level of stupid, beyond even, I think, troll stupid. How would Dr. Myers know Cook’s intentions? How does his admission carry any weight regarding the thoughts of Cook?

    According to witnesses, Senator Cook and his friend had had quite a few beers and decided to razz the communion mass.

    Which witnesses? Nutbar Catholic fundie witnesses? No? Please present these witnesses so their story can be examined and thier objectivity determined.
    I’ve been around here quite a bit and I know that you will never convince anyone around here of anything if you don’t present some evidence.

  • Brad

    Nurse Ingrid,

    Of what I read on the web, the “Stop the Church” incident was indeed at least related, if not actually held by, ACT-UP.

    Another possibility is that this was all confused with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. They’re a riot!

  • Nurse Ingrid

    Brad,

    If memory serves, Stop The Church was an action done by members of ACT UP/New York, though I can’t recall whether they did it under the organization’s name or not. I was taking issue with Dr. Patterson claiming it was ACT UP/San Francisco, which was only loosely affiliated with ACT UP/NY. That and the fact that he was claiming they performed lewd acts on the altar, which I think only happened in his fantasies.

    Like I said before, many of us from the other ACT UP chapters around the country supported the action. I’m just trying to get the historical record correct here.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    This is somewhat of a late update, but Freethought Radio interviewed Webster Cook last month. He gives his own account of the cracker incident and the flood of threats and hate mail he’s received as a result. Worth listening to.

  • StaceyJW

    This makes me want to go get a communion wafer and do vile things to it in public while also web-casting the performance.

    I can’t see how either the student or PZ could possibly be construed as immoral. Eating a burger with a Hindu or showing your hair with a Muslim are not immoral, neither is tossing away a cracker. Could these things be considered rude or in poor taste? To some, in some situations, possibly, but Immoral? No way. And what a way to show your moral superiority- THREATENING People that disagree with death? Wow, that makes me respect you so much more- HA

    What good is a college where you have to protect and respect everyones religion/ beliefs/ gender/ race to the point where all discussion is quashed? Why are people SO afraid of being offended? I didn’t know hurt feelings were such a problem that there needed to be rules to prevent it. “Sticks and Stones may break my bones but words will hurt MY FEEBILE FEELINGS FOREVER”

    What a worthless college- Watch out-IDEAS might cause some kind of upset leading to THINKING, and we can’t have that on campus- ISN’T THAT WHAT COLLEGES ARE SUPPOSE TO BE FOR????? To Provoke, Question, Argue??? College use to be the place to try out your ideas and opinions, this one has decided to become weak and whiny. I mean really- A DEVOUT FOLLOWER MADE A MINOR BOO_BOO and you all jump on him like he is a priest that molested 50+ kids- OH YEAH, you didn’t JUMP ON THE molestor, JUST THE student WITH HIS “ILLEGAL” WAFER! I guess I should have used “Atheist with a wafer” in place of pervert priests, to illustrate their priorities.

    I am just about tired of the Catholic church- if they weren’t so comical I would be irate. Come on Catholics, CLEAN UP your OWN disrespectful, perverse, misogynistic congregation before you come and attack others for minor things. YOU have NO moral authority- NONE- you don’t stand up against Death threats or Child Rape, but I guess that is your standard protocol, since you not only didn’t defend, but actively helped the Nazi’s and several Latin American Dictators with their genocide schemes. And yes, its a rant, but after reading all this batshit, I feel its necessary.

    I bet that student, who was genuine in his Catholic faith and trying to do nothing wrong, will become disillusioned with the treatment he received at the hands of his “brothers”. If he doesn’t he is a fool too.

    I think I will go out and be rude and disrespectful now, maybe take some naked pics by an alter- and YES I am trying to ANNOY and ANGER people! Somoetimes they need it, I know I do ;) But I can take a joke!

    LONG LIVE PZ

    Stacey


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