How Sad, Indeed

I love PZ Myers. He’s a wonderful teacher and, at times, he’s downright hilarious.

But other times he can be… well… something else entirely.

Paul Jones has died. I didn’t know him, or even know about him, until his obituary was sent to me, but it’s an utterly tragic life story. He was an ordained Baptist minister — there’s a waste of a life right there — and his death was ironic and futile.

He died of a heart attack, just as he was about to pray with a member of his Upper Room Fellowship. His last word was “Jesus”.

Someday I’m going to die, too, and I hope it is while doing something productive, and that I don’t go out with the name of an imaginary being on my lips. And in particular, it would be nice if my obituary would say something about the good things in my life, rather than babbling on about dedication to a superstition.

It’s a shame. Jones might have been a wonderful fellow, but all we strangers know about him is that he was “committed to expanding God’s kingdom” — that he had dedicated his life to a lie.

Yes, the man died. And yes, he died dedicating his life to something I strongly believe is a lie.

That said, becoming a minister doesn’t mean you’re wasting your life. It depends what you do with that title.

Are you using it so you have a soapbox to rail against gay marriage, women’s rights, etc?

Or are you using it to help your community or inspire other people to do better, bigger things in life?

There’s a difference. Based on the obituary, Jones was the latter.

Believing in God is not as bad as using God’s name to advance your own political agenda. That doesn’t mean belief in God is correct. But it doesn’t imply a complete waste of time. We could all name plenty of religious people (current and historical) who have done wonderful things in the name of their God. It’s petty to dismiss those good works because they were done in the name of a God we don’t believe in.

The guy’s last word was “Jesus.”

I hope PZ lives a long, productive life. But I wouldn’t be surprised if “Jesus” was his last word, either.

Or “Creationism.”

Or, better yet, “Ben Stein.”

Most peoples’ last words are about what they know, what they’re passionate about, what they were connected with in their lifetime.

I don’t know this Jones guy. But his obituary does say he “opened his home to anyone needing prayer” and provided to “charities as well as individuals in need,”

Which is more than I can say for some others I know, atheist or religious.


[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

  • http://pastorwick.blogspot.com WICK

    most Christians don’t realize the whole “Lord’s name in vain” thing has little to do with cussing…and a lot to do with not using God to advance your own agenda, or for personal gain.

    I like what’s said here though.
    Whatever our titles…how are we living in them?

  • http://badidea.wordpress.com/ Bad

    I was a little put off by this post as well. Ironic and futile?

    I guess if there is a valid point in there, it’s that obituary doesn’t really contain much about those good things he did in comparison with just talking about his religious beliefs, as if they themselves were a measure of something important.

  • http://uillinois.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2252245006 Citizen Steve

    I’m glad to see that others were a bit uneasy about that post. I remember once when a neighborhood priest died, and two of my atheist friends were talking about it. One said something similar to what PZ said about the man wasting his life. My other atheist friend said that the man probably lived a wonderful life, because he believed he was doing good (and he probably was doing good) and he died happy, believing he would be with God soon.

    If the pursuit of happiness is the most important aspect of life, many believers seem to be winning the game. And I applaud that. I just sometimes wish they’d realize that we godless folks can be happy, too.

  • Kate

    I’ve been on the fence about “unlabeling” myself as an atheist, but this nearly seals it. DAMN. What makes me really angry is when people make judgments about my life without knowing anything about me (typically within the context of “Oh you don’t believe in Jesus…your life must suck, etc.”) But how is it different when someone else looks at another person and makes a mirror image assumption? “Oh, you believed in Jesus…you wasted your life.” How UTTERLY hateful. And to say anything so horrible after the man DIED…

    It’s reasons like this that I’ve needed to strip the atheist label from my life.

  • mikespeir

    Although I check in with Pharyngula daily and often like what’s posted there, PZ can be a little, um, caustic at times. (Some of the comments are worse yet.) I regret that, because, like everyone, Christians are motivated first by emotions. (In fact, there’s probably no such thing as a motivation that’s not emotional. Even the drive to wield reason starts with an emotional attachment to reason.) First impressions are always emotional. If the first impression comes of a slap across the cheek, the most overwhelmingly potent reasoning can follow with no positive effect whatsoever.

  • http://www.skepchick.org writerdd

    PZ’s post made me uncomfortable, too.

  • Andrew

    I have to disagree. I also found PZ’s tone to be a little harsh, but I don’t fault him for saying that the man wasted his life. The objections seem to be that PZ didn’t really know the man and therefore is unable to make a fair judgment about how the man spent his life. The other objection seems to be that since the man spent his life doing something he felt was important, then everything works out in the end and we shouldn’t criticize his profession.

    I don’t think that either of these points are valid. First, just because we don’t know someone personally doesn’t mean we cannot make judgment about them. We do this by looking at their actions: what they have done with their life. I’ve never met Ben Stein, but I’d be perfectly willing to make a judgment about his character.

    Second, just because he was a good man who wasn’t a simonist or a power-hungry theocrat doesn’t mean that he didn’t waste his life. He may have been sincere in his belief, and he may have done good works because of his belief, but that doesn’t mean his beliefs were real. There may be some zoologist out there who has become convinced that Bigfoot is real. He dedicates his life to searching for Bigfoot. He raises money to build laboratories to study hair and feces he collects which he thinks may belong to Bigfoot. He may travel to schools to talk about zoology and how it shows there must be a Bigfoot out there. But none of that means there is a Bigfoot. When that man dies, it won’t matter how sincere or nice he was. He will still have wasted his life searching for and believing in something for which is there is no evidence.

    Is it sad that this man (the priest) died? Yes. I feel sorry for his family who must be missing him. But just because he has died doesn’t mean one’s evaluation of his character should change. If someone asked me if I felt he had wasted his life, I would say yes, simply because he spent it promoting blind credulity.

  • http://mnatheists.org Bjorn Watland

    Sometimes I wish PZ would focus more on science and biology. Humanity and individuals are complex, much more then a label. I am atheist, but does that mean that I can’t respect those who have a different theology then I do? Do I have reject someone I agree with 100% ethically, but claim they are wasting their life because they are religious?

    There are atheists who don’t support gay marriage, who believe capitalism solves all problems, and would support an authoritarian government. I’d have as much in common with them as I would a religious person who shared the same views.

    That’s why the questions, “What do you like best about atheists?” What do you like best about Christians,” etc., are not useful questions, because very little can be inferred by those titles.

    I am an atheist who finds inspiration and value in reading religious works and by talking with friends who are religious who have a different point of view then I may have about the existence of a supernatural deity. i also find inspiration in lots of other things, in science, discovery, art, etc.

  • Siamang

    Change the descriptors, and PZ’s was a Ray Comfort post, through and through:

    “Sam Smith has died. I didn’t know him, or even know about him, until his obituary was sent to me, but it’s an utterly tragic life story. He was an atheist — there’s a waste of a life right there — and his death was ironic and futile. It’s a shame. Smith might have been a wonderful fellow, but all we strangers know about him is that he was “committed to atheist causes” — that he had dedicated his life to a lie.”

    People might chime in and say ‘well, PZ is just being PZ.’ PZ might come here and post something defensive. And before that happens, and people talk about how many times the other side pulls stuff like this, and worse (think those people who picket military funerals with hate speech)… we have to remember something.

    Complaining about this doesn’t mean we’re concern trolls. It doesn’t make us fr*mers. It doesn’t mean we want PZ to shut up, or roll over, or lose his tough edge or his unique voice.

    It doesn’t mean we can or will be able to do anything to make PZ change. All we’ve got is this:

    To PZ, this changes how I see you. You don’t care about that, and you might say ‘fuck you very much’ as a result, and all I say to that is “you first, buddy, and sideways.” I’m not offended by language. I’m not offended by your post, just frustrated.

    PZ’s posted in the past that if religious people are embarrassed by the words of their co-religionists, they should speak up, and loudly, against them. I’d hope that PZ’s “brother’s keeper” kind of challenge extends to co-atheists, but I don’t expect that PZ would see us being anything more than ‘concern trolls’, and he’ll blow us off. I hope he doesn’t hold a double-standard here, but I suspect he’s just as human as the religionists he decries.

    As I’ve said before, remember my words to the wise against elevating any atheist speaker into a hero, or a symbol, or a prominence. Humans are potential assholes. One thing religion got right was having their main prophets be dead, so they can’t do anything embarrassing.

    To others reading PZ, there are people, including atheists and people like Kate who are feeling a bad taste in their mouth from the word atheist, who say “yo, that shit ain’t cool.” And that’s all that needs to be said.

    And now that I’ve used up my profanity quota for the morning, I’ll end.

  • http://www.conversationattheedge.com/ Helen

    Siamang, that’s just what I was thinking too: this is similar to what some Christians might say about an atheist – but I wish they wouldn’t because it’s behavior not beliefs which demonstrate whether someone has wasted their life or not.

  • Karen

    I agree, that was one of those occasional pointless-and-way-over-the-top Pharyngula posts that make me cringe.

    I see this attitude coming from people who were never religious (or at least not since childhood) and simply cannot understand the substantial positives that come from living a religious life. This is exactly why I feel that I and others who have been in both worlds (theist and atheist) have a lot to contribute in terms of encouraging coexistence and cooperation where it can be productive.

  • http://suitablydark.livejournal.com/ Dark

    I believe PZ’s point was moreso that the obit was so God-focused it was impossible to get a feel for Jones as an individual, which is a tragedy in and of itself. Every single line, even the ones mentioning his business and self-made success, references Jesus or the Church. And then tacked on at the very end is a line about how he’s survived by his wife and four children.

    I don’t know about you, but I feel like “loving and devoted husband and father” would have been a nice thing to include, and to me that’s FAR more important than his weekly prayer circles. But clearly whoever wrote the obit didn’t think so (unless he wasn’t a devoted husband and father..).

    Reread PZ’s last sentence – it makes it clear that he’s criticizing the obit, not the man. He says he wants to go out doing something productive – rather than praying, which we all know is a waste of time and energy. Rather than stressing that he was surrounded by friends who cared for him, the obit stresses that he was surrounded by people praying for him and talking about how godly he was.

    It’s very difficult sometimes for atheists to react when very religious people die. It’s just as difficult when they’re strangers as when they’re people we care deeply about. The fact that they have died does not shield their beliefs from criticism. If all an obit talked about was how the deceased was convinced fairies lived at the bottom of his garden, and he devoted his life to tending the fairies and spreading word of them and having people over to sing songs for them, would we barred from calling the guy delusional and sad until an acceptable amount of time passed after his death? Moreover, would we be barred from criticizing the obit for focusing on the wrong thing entirely when we had reason to suspect that other than the fairy thing, the guy was a wonderful father and husband, owned a successful business, had a large number of friends and was a respected and well-loved member of the community?

    Consider PZ’s words if he was talking about an obit from the fifties. Or a famous person’s last actions/words who died two hundred years ago. I think this post was only tactless and harsh because this guy just died, and there’s a chance his friends or family may stumble over PZ’s post. Otherwise, I’m not sure it’s the hate-filled diatribe it’s being interpreted as.

  • Drew

    I agree with Dark.

    I don’t think PZ is really asserting that the man’s whole life is a waste, I think he’s making the point that it’s sad that the only things the obituary writer could think of to say about this man is what he did to spread religion.

    I had a priest that I loved and respected, and I’m convinced that his obituary would mention the counseling he gave to families, and the way he drew non-Catholics to our youth group, surely keeping some students out of the trouble they might be otherwise getting into; they would mention his work with local charities, the visits to prisons and nursing homes, etc.

    An obituary is supposed to focus on the best of what someone is. We can probably assume that the obituary’s author was coming at this from a different point of view, and there was more to the mans’ life than this– but if what the obit mentioned really was, from our point of view, the best that this man has accomplished with his life, then his life truly was a waste, and worse.

  • http://www.chedstone.com Roy McKenzie

    I suppose it is a little inappropriate. But that is PZ Meyers. He is a vehement atheist. No one is safe. Haha.

  • http://therealmumbochick.blogspot.com/ mumbochick

    Hey…we never know what’s going on. What if he was saying, “Jesus” as in “Jesus F$%king Christ this HURTS!”

  • bernarda

    I have no problem with PZ’s post. The guy wasted a lot of his time on evangelism. “how Paul had touched their lives and strengthened their faith.”

    rip, but no kudos.

  • Richard Wade

    What will make your life not have been a waste?

    If you haven’t “wasted” much of your time believing in an incorrect belief, is that all it will take? Will it have therefore been meaningful, useful, purposeful, consequential, having a point, productive, worthwhile, or any of the other adjectives that make us feel better?

    Or could you “waste” your life believing in a correct belief? Does what happens in your head matter? All that is lost to entropy when your brain finally cools off. So would it be the things you did in life that would make it not have been a waste? How big a thing does it take for you to have been a person who “mattered” in the world? If you haven’t founded an orphanage or saved 435 lives or discovered a cure for a disease or or raised 100 million dollars for charity or liberated a people or written an uplifting book or composed a magnificent symphony or painted an astonishing painting or any other impressive thing that will get you more than one half inch of print in an obituary, then was your life a waste?

    What if all the good you did will never be known, even to you, so it can’t be reported in your obituary? What if the good consequences of your actions were so subtle that you could not see them, or they happened later when you were far away?

    What if all you did in your life was once in a while you:
    smiled when you could have sneered, said a kind word when you could have said a sarcastic one, put a hand on their shoulder when you could have folded your arms, looked in their eyes when you could have looked down your nose, said “keep trying” when you could have said “give up,” put it in the trash when you could have tossed it on the ground, let them in when you could have cut them off, and held the door open when you could have rushed on through?

    What if all those millions of little things you did made others a tiny bit more likely to do the same things for yet others? Where and when would your very subtle good influence stop, even though you and no one else could never know about it?

    Regardless of what you believed, regardless of whether anyone ever knew, regardless of your obituary, would your life have been a waste?

  • Siamang

    I’ll add also by way of pointing out another thing that bugs me about this blog post.
    This guy was an ordinary person. He wasn’t a politician, or a televangelist or even a blogger. To have his obit singled out is crass. This guy was someone’s father, someone’s uncle, someone’s husband. He did nothing by his death that deserves to be splashed around the blogosphere.

    If my stepfather dies and his religious children talk about his religious beliefs in his obit, is PZ going to go after him as well? Why? Are there just not enough public religious figures similarly eulogized that he can’t make the exact same point without promoting a private citizen to be an example for one of PZ’s intellectual hobby-horses?

    I know PZ might say “well, when I die, the religious nuts will have a field-day.” And yes, they will. But PZ CHOSE to make himself a public figure. Public figures must stand public criticism, and sometimes public ridicule. Private figures, no.

  • Darryl

    Well said, Hemant. Life is just too complex to weigh it in this manner. Believing in Jesus, and dedicating your life to the faith that claims him, is hardly the worst thing someone can do.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    For whatever it’s worth,

    I’m a Christian, and I was not offended in the least by PZ’s post. He has a right to his opinion. And in no way did it sound hateful. I respect his honesty, as a matter of fact. PZ doesn’t strike me as a warm, sentimental kind of a person in his other posts, so why should he pretend to be just because someone has died? I happen to disagree with his views, but that’s beside the point.

    Futhermore, it has no bearing on my opinion of other atheists. :)

  • http://mypantstheatre.blogspot.com bullet

    Depending on the severity and suddenness of one’s passing, I bet “Jesus Christ!” being one’s last words is probably not uncommon.

    I agree with mumbochick on this one. It’s all about inflection.

  • http://www.myspace.com/tommy_n_chucky Rev. Real

    That’s why I don’t associate myself with the label “atheist” which describes what I don’t believe in but rather “realist” which describes what I do believe in.

    Converting Atheists to Realism

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    I know PZ might say “well, when I die, the religious nuts will have a field-day.” And yes, they will.

    Now that I doubt. Like Ray Comfort, he may be well known in atheist circles, but I doubt most “religious nuts” have ever heard of him.

  • http://bjornisageek.blogspot.com Jet

    I’ve had to defend myself more than once when I’ve voiced my opinion about PZ. I honestly don’t care for him. I feel like he’s too negative, and should stick to science. I’m particularity bothered about how people treat him as if he’s some kind of atheist God. I’m not happy someone like PZ has come to represent atheists. Its comforting to see that I’m not just being cynical, and that others feel the same way. He made some comment about the Day of Prayer that turned me off from him forever. His direct quote was “fuck the day of prayer”. Is that really necessary. I thought atheists were supposed to be dispelling the negative stereotypes, not perpetuating them.

  • Drew

    Rev. Real said,

    That’s why I don’t associate myself with the label “atheist” which describes what I don’t believe in but rather “realist” which describes what I do believe in

    Of course I agree, but when you do this, you are committing the same error that Christians make when they say “atheists have as much faith as Christians.” It’s only a true statement if your underlying beliefs about atheism are right. Of course, you believe you’re right, but how tactful is it to describe yourself in a way that dismisses the other person’s worldview?

    I suppose someone who is thorougly convinced that his political plan is the best one for their country could just say “I’m not a Democrat or Republican or whatever, I simply endorse the “Correct Plan for America’s Future.”

    “Atheist” is descriptive, while “realist” is a petulant insult to all the others who obviously seek to claim the same title.

  • http://www.evolvedrational.com Evolved Rationalist

    I wanted to comment but it turned long-ish, so I ended up posting it on my blog:

    http://www.evolvedrational.com/2008/05/pz-gets-it-right-but-hemant-misses.html

  • http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula PZ Myers

    If a person dedicated his life to the worship of a rock he found in a field, and made that the center of his existence, and declared himself a professional rock-worshipper, we’d have no problem recognizing him as a loon who could do far more productive things with his life. In fact, if we really wanted to be harsh, it would be to say the contrary, and dismiss him as accomplishing the best he possibly could with his obvious mental defect. If he was doing good work elsewhere, if he helped little old ladies across the street and helped children make paper dolls, that would be nice, but it wouldn’t change the fact that he could be a much greater agent of good if he’d abandon the silly, wasteful rock.

    Yet somehow, even atheists in this culture have been conditioned to excuse people, even good people, if they promote bogus faith healing and the powerlessness of prayer. Oh, no, he wasn’t wasting his time…he was sincere and trying so hard to be nice. Nope, sorry. He may have been a good man overall, but he was frittering away a good part of his life on something that was worse than worthless — that promotes belief in lies, that replaces hard work and evidence with pointless faith.

    Death is also treated as a magic line beyond which criticism may not pass; it’s a handy rationalization to exempt a life of superstition from examination. I don’t accept it.

    Oh, and don’t worry, I rarely mention the name of Jesus in either casual conversation or as profanity, so I’m very unlikely to die saying it. I’m kinda hoping to go out with the words, “I wonder what would happen if…” on my lips.

  • Drew

    I’m kinda hoping to go out with the words, “I wonder what would happen if…” on my lips.

    That’s going on Facebook.

  • bernarda

    The Day of Prayer is not such a bad idea. The real problem is that xians don’t do it every day for long hours. The more time they spend praying, the less time they have for causing mischief.

    Imagine how much better the U.S. would be if Republican congressmen and senators prayed rather than voted.

    - Richard Wade. Some xian charities do try to do good works, but for many they waste much, even most, of their resources on evangelizing rather than helping. One can help people better by contributing to or working for secular aid organizations. Oh, I know there can be corruption there too.

    As for most of us, we probably are not so inclined to give of ourselves. But someone once said to the effect: trying to be good is very difficult; it is already hard enough to just not do bad. I think that is a more reasonable goal for most.

  • LordLeckie

    Well lets think.

    Baptist Miniser: Lying day after day after day about non-existant being in a christian denomination notorius for creationism and other such crap.

    Waste of life is a perfect description here.

    Go PZ.

  • http://www.embiggenbooks.com Mr Embiggen

    This reminds me a little of the one about the 2 God Delusions. One written by Richard Dawkins, a reasonable and rational account written on controversial topics, and one written by a crazy devil worshipping hyaena. The account I read of PZ’s was a reasonable and rational one. Arguments like “PZ was just being PZ” or that they think “he’s always too negative” or should just “stick to science” or “he’s a vehemently militant atheist” (!! If there’s a softer spoken more considered, informed, or caring sounding atheist out there I don’t know them) are either non-arguments or bad ones at best. Also opening your house to those “needing” prayer is not a strong defence against criticism, nor are charitable acts as almost every human on earth engages in some level of charitable behaviour. If criticising people involved in the promulgation of delusion however much they may believe that they are doing good, is not fair game what is? Many of you have clearly drawn the line in the sand over criticising the dead (although I’m sure there are instances where you’ve each broken this rule), or perhaps PZ’s choice of words. It seems to me these don’t bear much weight whichever way you look at it. At the very least PZ’s post has made me think a little more about something I already think quite a lot about. And no, I’m not defending him because he can do that himself. This is more a comment on what I see as the paucity of strong argument in the face of a reasonably presented point of view.

  • http://heathendad.blogspot.com/ HappyNat

    He made some comment about the Day of Prayer that turned me off from him forever. His direct quote was “fuck the day of prayer”. Is that really necessary. I thought atheists were supposed to be dispelling the negative stereotypes, not perpetuating them.

    I think that is a very appropriate response to the day of prayer. It is a waste of time and tax dollars, it is an example of everything that is wrong with our government. Do you oppose people calling it the national day of reason?

    Since when are atheist supposed to be dispelling negative stereotypes? Is that our “mission”? I didn’t get the memo. It would be nice if all atheists were nice and polite, but it would be really boring as well. Just because one atheist says something it doesn’t mean they are speaking for all atheists, just like Fred Phelps doesn’t speak for all Christians.

    I noticed a lot of people getting twitchy over the atheist label because so-and-so atheist said this or that. Label yourself however you want if you don’t want to call yourself an atheist (even if you are one), but good luck finding a label that is “clean” of people who say stupid things you don’t agree with.

  • Kate

    A more appropriate response to the day of prayer would be “Let me go give blood.” Did you do that, PZ? Did you do anything helpful that day? Hmmm?

    No, of course not. You just used profanity and dragged the atheist name further down in the mud.

    Stick to science, leave the hard stuff (kindness) to others who are better at it.

  • http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula PZ Myers

    Maybe I was too busy kicking puppies to give blood.

    Personally, I think that forceful speech against the nonsense of religion in all of its aspects, whether it is the ritual obeisance of an imposed day of prayer or the wasted minds dedicating themselves to gods, is but the minimal effort we should all be taking to get up out of the mud, where the Abrahamic foot is pushing us.

    You can continue to avoid speaking out, since some of us will continue to do it anyway…but not for you. You don’t speak for me, and I don’t speak for you, and anybody who argues otherwise is very confused.

  • Kate

    Of course – kicking puppies. And who made more difference that day? The Christians who prayed and did nothing, you who said “fuck the day of prayer”, or me, the atheist who gave blood? Doesn’t take a scientist to figure that one out.

    I prefer to “speak out” in a different way. By shocking people when they realize that a person can be both an atheist AND nice. I like jilting people out of their stereotypes, it’s fun. And which gets people to question things more – someone who yells and screams in their face, or someone who quietly challenges their stereotype of the “nasty atheist”? Someone who leads a GOOD life while simultaneously not believing in any god? From personal experience, I can tell you it’s the latter.

    You think I’m not speaking out because I’m not yelling. Quite the contrary. And while you don’t say you speak for me…you are speaking for me. You’re in the limelight, the public view. And that makes me ill.

  • Siamang

    If the path to atheist acceptance requires combing obituary pages for easy marks who can’t argue back, count me out.

    Let’s be forceful and loud against the real buffoons in the public eye. There’s plenty of them. We won’t run out.

  • Darryl

    The jury’s still out on which is more effective, a frontal attack on religion’s absurdities or an alluring display of the kinder, gentler manner of atheists, and in what combination. Different occasions call for different means. Sometimes a slap in the face is necessary–a hard slap, mind you. I sympathize with Siamang’s take on this. But, I’m not dogmatic about any of this.

    There is a long tradition of summing up the works and perhaps the meaning of one’s life in a public statement made just after someone has died. I realize that there is a lot of lying that goes on in eulogies, done for the family’s sake, but the truth exposes itself nonetheless. There is also a long tradition in myth of giving the moral of the story or just letting the hearer/reader conclude the moral on his own after the hero dies an untimely death.

    When Daedalus fashioned wings of wax and feathers for himself and his son Icarus he was intending to escape exile in Crete. Before they set out, Daedalus warned Icarus not to fly to high near the Sun, or too low near the sea. As the story goes, Icarus as he flew got carried away by his emotions and forgot himself, and flew too near the Sun, with a tragic result. There is no need to disparage Icarus for his fault; just tell his tragic story, and let the truth speak for itself. Managing to find the words that can sum up a life, or some part of a life, in ways that are revealing, is the writer’s gift, and the poet’s gift. I think these sums, well done, will outlast all our wranglings.

  • Karen

    Now that I doubt. Like Ray Comfort, he may be well known in atheist circles, but I doubt most “religious nuts” have ever heard of him.

    He’s a huge, huge target for creationists, including those that “expelled” him from the screening of “Expelled,” the recent creationist movie. I’m sure those are the kinds of religious nuts who are being referenced, not the typical pew-sitter who doesn’t know anything about the evolution issue.

    PZ doesn’t strike me as a warm, sentimental kind of a person in his other posts, so why should he pretend to be just because someone has died? I happen to disagree with his views, but that’s beside the point.

    Read some of his posts about his wife, his children and his own childhood and upbringing. They’re amazingly warm and incredibly well-written. Not sappy or sentimental, but really very moving. And apparently in real life he’s anything but a “yeller” – he comes across much more aggressive in his blog than he does in person (or so it’s widely reported).

    The problem I have with the post is, as Siamang and others have pointed out, he’s picking on a private person at a time when his family is obviously grieving. That’s pointless and it’s just in poor taste.

  • http://catnamedbob.blogspot.com Tim

    Personally I do not want to die while doing something I love. I never understood why someone would want to cease to exist, in the middle of having a great time. I want to die while I’m doing something I hate doing, like my taxes. Or on Christmas, when my mother in law moves comes over to give me a big wet kiss…KILL ME THEN.

  • http://bjornisageek.blogspot.com Jet

    I think its as arrogant for an atheist to make a judgment on whether or not a Christian wasted their life, just as much as it would be for a Christian to say atheists lives are devoid and meaningless. And while I really dislike PZ Meyers, I think he has a great role in giving all these negative militant atheists a home, where they can talk about how much better they are for being atheist. It’s a place to ridicule religion all day long. I prefer to remain positive, do good things for others, and not waste my time bad mouthing the religious. It’s a waste of time and does nothing but inflate egos. I may be “boring” but at least I’m not a dick just to be a dick.

  • monkeymind

    You think I’m not speaking out because I’m not yelling. Quite the contrary.

    Amen, sister!

    If the path to atheist acceptance requires combing obituary pages for easy marks who can’t argue back, count me out.

    Let’s be forceful and loud against the real buffoons in the public eye. There’s plenty of them. We won’t run out.

    Preach it, brother!

    It’s possible to speak forcefully and fight the power, without being judgmental and dismissive of some guy who just died and never asked for your opinion anyway?

    Like Karen, I think that PZ is a great communicator, but other times he appears tone deaf. Sometimes obnoxious is just obnoxious.

  • brad

    Question of the day: Who wastes their life more – people who dedicate their lives to Jesus or people who blog about people who dedicate their lives to Jesus?

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    The problem I have with the post is, as Siamang and others have pointed out, he’s picking on a private person at a time when his family is obviously grieving. That’s pointless and it’s just in poor taste.

    Yes, I can see why some people would be sensitive to that. But personally speaking, if I were a part of the grieving family, I would much rather have ten PZ Myerses posting their honest (not hateful) thoughts on their blogs rather than coming around with fake sympathies and prayer offers when they clearly know they don’t really care all that much.

    Another thought I had was…. do we (Americans) not openly discuss our negative feelings toward the Middle Eastern culture and the the Muslim religion with no sensitivity toward the grieving families and disrupted lives there? Is it different when we’re so far removed and it’s not about us? Or is it different when we’re talking about people that don’t really matter? Or am I totally out of line again from the focus? The only reason I’m asking is because I often find myself doing the same thing… But it always looks worse when someone else does it. Go figure! :?

    Hypocrisy abounds
    In the streets filled with lies
    Reaching for the pot of gold
    Fighting for the prize

    All too hollow greetings
    Mechanical handshakes
    Love – wrapped in ambiguity
    Numbness, luke-warmness

    Helping hand reaching out
    to touch the self-pride
    Feeding the hungry
    to feed own self-doubt

    Every corner, every turn
    Humanity so real
    Lost in blurred reflections
    In the dream of SELF….self…self

  • http://merkdorp.blogspot.com J. J. Ramsey

    PZ Myers:

    Personally, I think that forceful speech against the nonsense of religion in all of its aspects, …

    There you go again, confusing being forceful with being sloppy and obnoxious. Do you really think that a few brief paragraphs in an obituary is enough warrant to make the sweeping claim that someone’s life is a waste? Then again, if you tried harder to make sure that what you were saying was actually true, you wouldn’t be as offensive, at least not to other atheists.

  • Richard Wade

    bernarda, why are you telling me this?

    - Richard Wade. Some xian charities do try to do good works, but for many they waste much, even most, of their resources on evangelizing rather than helping. One can help people better by contributing to or working for secular aid organizations. Oh, I know there can be corruption there too.

    I think you meant to address this to someone else. :)

  • http://mnatheists.org Bjorn Watland

    Bernarda,

    I think you’re tying an emotional response to your reasoning. I’d like to see the analysis of religious charities and percentage of resources tied up in evangelizing versus providing non discriminatory aid. It can be very difficult to find secular alternatives to religious charities, depending on the region of the world you live in, and how well the charity is run, and how effective they are. Habitat for Humanity has a strong network of donors, suppliers, and staff who are able to provide a valuable service. However, they also give a Bible to each home buyer.

    I think you can take the religious tests too far. Some atheists will research a secular organization so much, that if they find any taint of religious, either by a board member, or other high staff member, they will have no part in that organization, despite other factors, such as effectiveness or coordination.

  • bernarda

    I also see that there are atheists who seem to be humor-challenged. PZ has a dry sense of humor that maybe they don’t get. From personal experience, I have noticed that this seems more prevalent among people a generation or so after mine. Maybe that is a result of too much PC in the last 20 years.

    Another site on charities. (really, only one link at a time is too restrictive, most sites allow two)

    http://www.charitywatch.org/

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    I also see that there are atheists who seem to be humor-challenged.

    I second that. And may I add spontaneity-, fun-, and goofiness-challenged? Then again, it’s not just the atheists. It’s across the board.

    Hmmm… maybe we can look for the link between sense of humor and personali….. oh wait, that’s a different thread. Sorry! ;)

  • http://www.skepchick.org writerdd

    Does anyone else find it amusing that so many people here are arguing about what PZ “really meant” as if a) he’s the author of the Bible or something and b) he is not a good enough of a writer to express what he really means without help? :-/

  • Pingback: Friendly Atheist » The Two Atheist Communities


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X