I Have Returned

By Ebonmuse

Greetings, all. I’m back safely from Spain – actually, I was back yesterday, but pretty much went right to bed when I got home to sleep off the jet lag and recover from general sleep deprivation. (You see, we were in Barcelona on Saturday night, which was when the home team won an important soccer match. The people were very enthusiastic in their public displays of approval, resulting in neither my wife nor I getting much sleep the night before our flight…)

In any case, I’m feeling rested and refreshed and more than ready to take up the reins of Daylight Atheism again. Many thanks to my guest admins, Leah, Ritchie and SuperHappyJen, for writing posts and looking after the site while I was away. I’m still catching up on comments, but things were certainly lively in my absence!

I’ll have more to say about my trip soon, but for now, let me just say this: Spain is a beautiful, vital, romantic country with an almost ridiculously picturesque countryside, with vast fields of fiery red poppies and golden sunflowers, endless groves of olive and orange trees, mountaintop windmills, solar farms, and beaches and coasts overlooking the intense blue of the Mediterranean. It has spectacular art and architecture from every era from the Roman empire up to the modern day. And it has an abundance of the most morbid and gruesome religious iconography I’ve ever seen.

Despite its secular population and plummeting rates of church attendance, Spain bears the stamp of its long history as a Catholic theocracy. Churches and cathedrals dot every city, and most streets are named after Catholic kings, saints or religious figures. And all its churches, as well as most of its museums, contain endless depictions of Jesus being flagellated, Jesus being crucified, Jesus’ dead body being taken down from the cross, and so on, all of them executed in all the gory and graphic detail that the greatest painters and sculptors of the Renaissance could conceive. It’s not just Jesus who’s shown suffering these torments, either: Peter being crucified and John the Baptist having his head cut off are also popular subjects.

This fixation on suffering is part of a larger, morbid fascination with death and martyrdom that’s very much on display in the churches. One of the cathedrals we visited had the preserved, severed arm of a long-dead martyr on prominent display. The chapel where the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella are interred offers visitors the chance to descend into the crypt and see their lead-lined coffins. And in one cathedral we visited, the tour guide told us about the 600-year-old mummified body of a saint that’s brought up from the crypt once per year and laid on the altar, in an open casket, as part of a popular festival that draws families. (She related with great amusement how parents warn their disobedient children that the dead saint would rise from his coffin and grab them if they didn’t mend their ways.)

Anyway, I’ll have more to say about that soon. I see there are a few important stories which happened while I was away, particularly the Damon Fowler case, which I’d like to tackle as well.

A couple of business items:

• The Rapture went off, or rather failed to go off, precisely on schedule. As predicted, Harold Camping has rejiggered his timetable to claim that May 21 was a “spiritual” event (where have we heard that before?) and that the rapture and global devastation he predicted are now delayed to October 21. (Predictably, there was no apology to the followers who quit their jobs or spent their savings to promote his message.) But it seems that he’s now hedging his bets: he says that they “don’t need to talk about it anymore”, and the new, redesigned website no longer has any mention of the date.

• As I mentioned earlier this month, Team Awesome is still competing with PZ Myers in our fundraiser for Camp Quest. We put a variety of forfeits on the line depending on who wins… and, well, PZ made a snide remark about his adversaries lacking “manly facial hair”, so I might have offered to grow some of my own in the event of our victory, just to make it clear who’s got the testosterone around here. Only now I see that the dirty scoundrel is throwing the match!

This sort of skulduggery cannot stand. I hereby order you all to contribute to PZ!

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About Adam Lee

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

  • http://www.atheistrev.com/ vjack

    Welcome back! Yeah, the Fowler thing has been getting a lot of attention around the atheist blogosphere. I guess that’s good because we certainly aren’t hearing about it from the mainstream media. I’ll be interested to read your take on it.

  • Katie M

    Welcome back :)

    I must admit to feeling a little jealous. I grew up in Europe and have been wanting to go back. I have to live vicariously through others-hope you don’t mind ;)

  • Andrew T.

    Good to hear you’re back. Nothing against your guest writers, but I missed you…

    I find relics (and the attraction people have to them) perversely fascinating. The one thing just about all of them have in common is that they aren’t what they’re purported to be.

  • http://www.unequally-yoked.com/ LeahAdmin

    Thanks a lot for the opportunity to guest here. I can’t wait to have you back in my greader feed. I hope the vacation was lovely.

  • http://anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com Tommykey

    Spain bears the stamp of its long history as a Catholic theocracy.

    Unfortunately, that stamp left a deep imprint on the Philippines.


  • Shawn Smith

    This sort of skulduggery cannot stand. I hereby order you all to contribute to PZ!

    LOL! That will work as well as my telling my cats to get off the countertops.

    Welcome back. Good to hear your trip went okay.

  • http://purl.org/NET/JesseW/SundryStuff/ Jesse Weinstein

    Adam — Leah said she would prepare a longer response to the issues that various commenters, particularly Rieux, raised about some of her posts. I want to encourage you to give her space here on Daylight Atheism to do so, as soon as she has sufficient time to develop it. I, particularly, would very much like to hear Leah address the point that mockery is not primarily aimed at deconverting its target.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    If Leah would like to continue that conversation, she’s welcome to do so in a post on Daylight Atheism, or on her own site, whichever she prefers. If that happens, I’ll be sure to let everyone know.

  • Ritchie

    Welcome back Adam!

  • James Hafseth

    Glad you had a nice vacation.

    “And it has an abundance of the most morbid and gruesome religious iconography I’ve ever seen.”

    Next year, try the bone cathedrals, chrches and chapels of Portugal…

  • http://www.unequally-yoked.com/ LeahAdmin

    I’d love to respond to Rieux at greater length, if that’s fine by Adam. Fair warning, I’m preparing for a move, so it’ll be a couple days before anything goes up.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    That’s fine by me!

  • Rieux

    Hey, whatever, everybody. Glad to have you back, Adam. Hope the honeymoon was fun notwithstanding Man U’s collapse and its repercussions.

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

    It wasn’t so much Man U’s collapse as Barca simply dominating. In a region that sees futbol as a chance to stick it to Real Madrid (the Catalans love showing them up), I’m not surprised that the celebrations would go on all night. I’ve heard that they did quite a bit of celebrating after winning La Liga as well. Did you at least watch the game with some of the local flavor? That probably would have been fun.

  • edivimo

    …which was when the home team won an important soccer match

    Important soccer match? That was the European Champions League, Barça is the best team in European soccer this year: champion of champions.