A Response to Wafergate

***Update***: The Florida student didn’t steal the wafer. He just took it out of the service after it had been given to him. A few changes below reflect that.

You’ve heard more than enough on Wafergate. But I wanted to add one more (one last?) comment.

To briefly recap the story: PZ Myers made fun of the Catholic Church’s overreaction to a kid taking a communion wafer from a service. Then PZ (tongue-in-cheek) requested a real consecrated communion wafer to have his way with — just to ridicule the idea even more. Then Bill Donohue got pissed off. Then everyone and their mother took sides in the story — either supporting PZ or thinking he was just being rude and offensive.

There are some nuances to this story, so I’ll try to break it down.

I’m glad PZ pointed out that belief in transubstantiation — that consecrated communion wafers are literally the body of Christ — is absurd. It is. That belief deserves to be ridiculed.

At the same time, trying to obtain a consecrated communion wafer for the sole purpose of destroying it serves absolutely no positive purpose. Now, you’re just trying to piss off Catholics.

Why bother? What good does it do to rub this in their face?

Does anyone really think that this act will cause any Catholic to say, “Oh! You are right! That is a crazy belief! Thanks, PZ!”

Of course Donohue and his Catholic League went overboard. That’s what they do. As reader John pointed out, “Some people are just professional ‘offendees’.” I’m not excusing any of those people making threats against PZ. To those writing hate mail or calling for his head and trying to get him fired — you’re taking the wrong approach. Even if PZ had actually posted a video of him destroying the wafer, trying to threaten or annoy him (or his boss) is only going to make him stronger.

What should be the proper response to the initial story of the Florida boy who took the communion wafer?

If you want to go after the ritual of communion, go for it. It’s a worthy target.

But while doing it, ask yourself what you hope to accomplish.

I imagine the goal of most people doing that would be to get Catholics to think rationally and see that no wafer is literally the body of anyone.

What’s the least persuasive way to do this? By suggesting that you will destroy a wafer for all to see if someone can just swipe one for you.

Similarly, you’re got going to win any Christian converts by burning a Bible while roasting marshmallows over it.

Nor are you going to convert Hindus by eating a steak in front of them and making pleasurable noises while doing it.

Nor are you going to change the minds of Muslims by drawing “blasphemous” images of their prophet Mohammad.

You have the freedom, of course, to do whatever you want. But remember: There’s a fine line between making a point and just being a dick.

Obviously, the “sacred cows” mean nothing to you. Everyone knows that. But proving this point by going out of your way to mock those beliefs just irritates the opposition and makes their superstitious beliefs even more meaningful to them.

There are better — more productive — ways to show people how ludicrous it is to believe these absurdities. Why not take these approaches? It wouldn’t make you “anti-Catholic.” Rather, it would make you anti-irrationality.

Reader Tim made a clever suggestion:

I think a better thing would to do a blind taste test. Challenge a bishop or any catholic to tell the difference between a common wafer and a consecrated one. I bet they would do no better than chance. in fact I would be willing to wager $10,000 that the pope himself could not tell the difference…

Let me reiterate: I’m not saying we should stop PZ from doing whatever he wants to do. He has the right to get some communion wafers (preferably without getting a minion to steal some from a church) and do whatever he wants to them.

I just question the efficacy of it.

It’d be an even worse idea for others to join him and videotape themselves destroying the communion wafers.

Ask yourself: Are you in this to change religious minds or to make religious people angry?


[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

  • Cass

    We have no idea what PZ plans(ed) with the wafer. He would be offensive simply by putting it in a bag of unconsecrated wafers just as the student was offensive by putting it in a baggie for a week. Any action would have to be really minor to emphasis the irrationality of the response.

    For what it’s worth, this entire episode probably woke up a lot of catholics as to what they are supposed to believe and if this makes them examine their faith (whether they become more or less committeed) it would be a good thing.

  • Ron in Houston

    Thank you. Atheists need to defend the right to talk about religious idiocy, but what PZ did was just stupid, wrong headed, and abusive.

    If we want to claim that we’re more rational by not believing in religion, then really folks we need to act rational and not like a bunch of angry raving anti-religionists.

  • tingbudong

    I basically agree with those who say that this whole thing was absurd and unnecessary, but there is a third option missing from the question and the end of your post: I don’t think that PZ intended to convert Catholics by mocking The Cracker, nor was it for the kicks of offending people. The main agenda of the New Atheists is to raise peoples’ awareness that religion has been given an undeserved free ride and that they deserve respect for their beliefs a priori, simply because they believe it. If this whole thing has achieved anything it is that hopefully some Catholics are made aware that not everybody approves or even agrees with their point of view. The conventional wisdom (and I agree with it) is that the only reason believers are around 80% of the population is that these beliefs are never publicly confronted because it is impolite to do so.

  • flynn

    To me the whole idea was to expose that Christians can be easily provoked into making death threats over absurd things. That is commonly thought of as a quality that is limited to muslims. If a few people realized that all religions are prone to caricature/wafer violence, the whole thing served a noble cause, imo.

  • Spork

    You have the freedom, of course, to do whatever you want. But remember: There’s a fine line between making a point and just being a dick.

    Obviously, the “sacred cows” mean nothing to you. Everyone knows that. But proving this point by going out of your way to mock those beliefs just irritates the opposition and makes their superstitious beliefs even more meaningful to them.

    You’re still saying that the silly fucking belief in the magical transformation of a cracker into human flesh is worthy of respect.

    It’s not.

  • http://www.jesus21.com Miss Poppy Hussein Dixon

    At first I agreed – Myers didn’t have to go out of his way to purposely defile one of the Catholics beliefs. It’s one thing to write about how ridiculous it is – another to actually ritually defile a cracker.

    But then, I thought, we’re talking about a religion for whom more than half the human race is a walking, talking abomination. Women, just by virtue of being alive, are unclean and inferior, need to be ritually separated from the community and cleansed, can’t consecrate communion because they are so vile, and can’t minister the gospel as a man does. The Catholic church treats women as cow like creatures too stupid to manage their own health issues. Don’t think for a minute that this kind of foul doctrine doesn’t bleed over into our culture 24/7.

    So as far as I’m concerned, PZ Myers, you defile those crackers all you want – at least until the Catholic church stops holding women hostage to a crumbling old book written by a bunch of superstitious perverts.

  • http://brigno.tumblr.com Brigno

    Ridicule is one of the best weapons available to show the inanity of superstition.

    It is true that the believer will not change their minds if we desecrate a cracker, but it is also true that they will not change their minds either if we show undue respect to their make believe magic.

    I totally agree with spork.

  • Colin M

    Hemant, I strongly disagree with you on one point:

    “First, to condemn him for taking something that wasn’t his.”

    It was his! He attended church, stood in line, and was given a wafer. At that point he was *expected* to eat the cracker, but chose not to. Instead he left the church with it. Once freely given, it’s his to do with what he pleases. As far as I’m aware, they don’t make you sign a Wafer End-User License Agreement that stipulates that the wafer may only be used for its intended purpose.

    Analogous situation: if the Gideons give you a Bible and expect you to read it, have you “stolen” the Bible if you instead take it home, shred it up, and use it to line a bird cage?

  • http://dergeis.livejournal.com/ Geis

    > Now, you’re just trying to piss off Catholics.

    And why not. There has been no meaningful change in society that hasn’t been accomplished without a portion of that movement doing something just to piss off the establishment.

    Do you think that Gay Pride marches are only about pride? No, there are a certain number of people involved doing it just to piss off the straights. Critical Mass, a cycling parade that demand equal rights to the use of the street, has a lot of people there just to piss off motorists. Do you think when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door, he wasn’t doing it, at least in part, to piss off the church?

    I think people who are saying that this shouldn’t be done, that it’s crossing a line, are in essence saying the same thing the theists are: STFU.

    Well, don’t. For atheism to gain its equal place in American society, this sort of agitation MUST be done. It’s not pretty, but history has shown that it is required. And those who put themselves out in front like that should be applauded for their courage because they will be reviled by friend and foe alike.

  • http://www.thoughtcounts.net/ thoughtcounts Z

    Great post. I left a comment on PZ’s original post saying something to this effect, and A just wrote about it on our blog. It was pretty upsetting to see atheist advocates turning a perfectly reasonable position into something excessively antagonistic. I’m glad to see that, with the exception of the commenters on Pharyngula, the atheist community is showing itself to be mature and reasonable about this.

  • Matt

    Are you in this to change religious minds or to make religious people angry?

    Sorry but that sounds like a false dichotomy to me.

  • Ron in Houston

    Spork

    It’s one thing to talk about the irrationality of belief, it’s a whole other thing to destroy the object of belief.

    Desecration is just being a dick. We can go piss on the wailing wall. We can grill hamburgers in front of a Hindu temple. While we can do these things, the real question is whether we should.

    I support PZ in pointing out that it’s just a fracking cracker. He crossed some vague line when he asked people to get him a consecrated host to desecrate.

    It’s not really about them and their irrational beliefs. It’s about us and our irrational behavior.

  • alcari

    Woah, are you saying these inanae fairy tales deserve respect? As far as I know, it’s not against to law to use communion wafer to wipe your ass, and if the catholics choose to be offended by that, it’s their problem not mine.

    Sure people deserve at least a modicum of respect, at least until they show they’re not worth that either, but I don’t see any reason to respect any religion, seeing how they’re all made up. Nobody respects the fictional belief that lawn gnomes deserve to stand in the middle of the road either.

    The second a religion can show they’re right, offer some proof, I’ll respect them. Lacking that. I’m bringing a sponge to church tomorrow, to see if holy water absorbs just as well as regular water.

  • Ken McKnight

    I’m with Matt; you’ve presented us with a false dichotomy. As Sam Harris so ably pointed out, there is no changing the religious mind due to the mind-paralysis called faith. The religious are impervious to reason, and that is what makes them so dangerous.

  • http://www.thoughtcounts.net/ thoughtcounts Z

    The belief doesn’t deserve respect. The people who believe it deserve respect.

    You should weigh what’s gained by a particular way of questioning a belief against the harm it would cause to question it in that way. If someone believes lawn gnomes should stand in the road, they’re putting passing traffic in danger, so it would be reasonable to ask them to move the gnome to the curb or, if they refuse, to move it there yourself. It would not be reasonable to smash the gnome with a sledgehammer and throw the broken shards at the person who put it there.

  • http://www.thenappycat.com William Zeallor

    PZ is in this to amuse himself. I’m amused by the fact that, even among some atheists, the idea of destroying a communion wafer does not elicit conversation and devolves into a “No don’t do it!!” thing.

  • Ron in Houston

    Geis

    The rights gays have today haven’t come about by going around and pissing off heterosexuals. They have come about by stating their case, marching to bring attention to their case, and using our judicial system to force the majority to treat them like everyone else.

    Intentionally trying to piss people off is really juvenile.

  • Ron in Houston

    thoughcounts z

    Smashing it with a sledgehammer and throwing the shards is an angry irrational response.

    The rational response is to just move it out of the road.

  • http://ghostsofminnesotablogspot.com Ghost of Minnesota

    I agree with Colin M. The cracker was his. It was given to him to eat. Can’t get much more “his” than that.

    And I disagree with the claim that “desecrating” (what a ridiculous concept) a “sacred” object is a worthless gesture. On the contrary, it’s a bold and powerful demonstration that a cracker is just a frackin’ cracker, and the god it represents is either powerless or non-existent (and what’s the difference?). It’s really just a bolder version of something I do often when debating theists: Looking up at the sky and exclaiming, “If there is a God, may He strike me down where I stand!”

    (And keep in mind that PZ never specifically said what he’d do with the cracker. He just said he’d desecrate it. That might mean he’s going to frame it and put in on the wall of his Evil Atheist Biology office.)

  • TheDeadEye

    I think it’s awesome how many non-Catholic people are aware of the Catholic practice of transubstantiation now–hopefully more than a few of them will find it utterly and completely ridiculous and therefore may start to be more skeptical of their own religious beliefs.

  • Ron in Houston

    The problem is not desecration per se. The proposed act of desecration by PZ involved invading the Catholic space. If you read his post, he asks for someone to get him a wafer because the church’s in his area have “stakes” for him

    So, he’s talking about invading a Catholic church to get a consecrated communion wafer. Sorry folks, that’s just wrong. Being the angry, irrational small minded person that he is, he asks for someone to do that in his stead. He’s saying, “My minons, go into a Catholic church and get me a wafer.”

    That’s not some bold act of free speech. Down here in Texas we call that cowardly chicken shit behavior.

    If you believe that transsubstantiation is stupid say it. Going into a Catholic church and try to pick fights with people over it is just stupid, juvenile, and possibly criminal.

  • Jason

    Dude when someone places a cracker in your mouth they don’t own it anymore, you do.

  • Adrian

    PZ is often sarcastic and joking. Has anyone ever procured a baby for him to boil and eat? Why are you acting like he has already made videos attacking communion or called upon people to protest and disrupt mass? You’re (over)reacting to a single paragraph which starts by saying that there are guards around local churches preventing him from entering. Hello! Catch a clue that he’s not totally serious?

    What did he accomplish? He brought a lot of attention to this issue, kept it in people’s minds for a week now, illustrated very clearly how the public intellectual apologists are delusional or out of touch with real people or are outright lying to us. The next time one pompous theist from Ivory Tower University says that Dawkins is attacking a strawman and is out of touch with the real, sophisticated belief of common people, we can whack him over the head with this example. When he talks about how religion brings love and peace to people, we have perfect examples of how even moderate-sounding Catholics can turn into frothing-at-the-mouth loonies, all because of their superstitions.

    I’d say he accomplished a lot.

    I hate to say it, but his version of firebrand blogging (along with that of Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris) have had a huge impact where soft-spoken, conciliatory and inoffensive writing has not. It’s great that there are Friendly Atheists, but I don’t think you understand how much of a debt you owe to those who are willing and able to push the boundaries. No major civil rights progress has ever been made by people being friendly – you need the work of PZ and others to make progress so that you can step in behind and be the kind, friendly face.

  • Jason

    These bullies need to understand that they have a right to be offended but when they try to cause harm to people for offending them that’s where people will push back.

    PZ is basically saying to these Catholic bullies you want to attack someone, attack me.

    Catholics need to learn how to deal with being offended in a peaceful and non-attacking way and PZ and the rest of the interwebs will help teach them with the Cracker Challenge. Catholics are going to see people doing all kinds of crazy stuff to crackers in the near future so they will either have to attack all these people or learn to STFU and deal with it like most people do when they don’t like something.

  • http://ghostsofminnesotablogspot.com Ghost of Minnesota

    “Down here in Texas we call that cowardly chicken shit behavior.”

    Oh, sorry, I forgot that anything said in Texas is automatically true. Thanks for setting me straight, Your Infallible Texasness.

  • http://bornagainyesterday.wordpress.com Justin

    I think this whole thing is silly.

    I know lots of Catholics, none of whom actually believe the cracker is anything more than a cracker. At least, not magically. They believe the cracker is a symbol, certainly. They might even use the word metaphor. And I’m in Oklahoma, which is not a mecca of educated sophistication like everyone thinks it is…

    I’m totally behind Dawkins’ idea that religious attitudes do not deserve respect. However, when atheists spend any time at all on outdated interpretations of religious ritual it makes us look stupid, not them.

  • Beowulff

    First, to condemn him for taking something that wasn’t his.

    I agree with Colin M, the wafer was his. It was given to him, and he planned to eat it as soon as he got to his seat, but got manhandled before he could do so. The physical attack (which you left out as well) was what made him decide to take it home, which, as I see it, was completely legal for him to do.

    And I think there definitely is a place for provocation. Think of forcing a lawsuit to show that a law is inappropriate. I thought Geis’ example of gay parades was a pretty good example as well. Provocation is a finicky tool to use, though, as it’s all too easy to go too far and alienate people, and should not be used lightly.

    Note that provocation is not mutually exclusive with reason and dialog: sometimes you just need several different, simultaneous angles of attack to change opinions.

    Are you in this to change religious minds or to make religious people angry?

    Sometimes you have to get people angry first before they’ll listen to you.

  • Ubi Dubium

    I do think PZ went overboard. But I think that that is part of his point here. He can say something that is obviously hugely offensive, but yet he has not even begun to approach the level of offensiveness of catholics making death threats to a teenager over a cracker.

    As much as I personally dislike making a fuss, I think that once in awhile somebody needs to shine a light on religious hypocracy, such as putting a higher value on crackers than on human beings.

    But personally, I’d like to see James Randi get his hands on a few, and do an experiment where he lets priests and psychics have a go at seeing if they can tell a consecrated host from, say 100 unconsecrated ones.

  • http://www.saintgasoline.com Saint Gasoline

    I take issue that you say we should condemn the Florida boy for taking what isn’t his. It seems to me that after a priest GIVES YOU THE CRACKER TO EAT it is thereafter yours. It would be kind of difficult to characterize that as theft or whatever. Had the boy run up, toppled the priest, and taken the cracker by force, you may have a point, but that is not what happened. So he does not deserve to be condemned at all. All he did was take what was GIVEN TO HIM and use it in a manner that the others did not find agreeable. For instance, if mormons came to my door and gave me a free copy of their Bible, and then I proceeded to light it afire, they can’t really call that theft, as it had already been given to me.

    I also think many people are missing the rhetorical point of PZ’s remarks. I don’t think there is any reason to think he is being serious when he states that he wants shipments of crackers to violate. Rather, I think he is trying to communicate that the Catholics have misjudged what real desecration is if they consider the act of the original boy to be a violation. Hence he rhetorically offers to “show” them what real desecration would look like, as it would not look like a boy taking a wafer to show his friend and then returning it unviolated. If anything I think this is best interpreted as meaning “The Catholics don’t know what they are talking about” rather than “I am seriously going to take a dump on a bunch of crackers on Youtube”.

    Also, I think you are wrong to think the point of the act is to convert Catholics. Of course it won’t cause them to reconsider their beliefs, any more than pointing out the evidence for evolution sways creationists. The point is that those who are undecided or on the edge or doubting will be swayed by how ridiculous the Catholic belief is, or that atheists who are more meek may be encouraged to speak up and defend themselves, etc.

    Being friendly to someone won’t change their mind if their minds are already made up by dogmas completely lacking in evidence and that are seemingly nonsense. I think the problem is that you characterize this as an effort to convert people who probably can’t be converted, when PZ probably has no such intention.

    So while you are correct that this will not change anyone’s mind on the religious side who is a true believer, you don’t take into account the people that can be swayed to become more vocal on OUR side, or the people with doubts who can be swayed, etc. I also fail to see how being polite and respecting such obviously ridiculous beliefs would change anyone’s mind. This isn’t about changing the current generations’ minds; it’s about making public and vocal atheism more acceptable for future generations, which will encourage future generations to become atheists by seeing it right out in the open rather than only being exposed to it in sermons that refer to them as “fools” or “devil worshippers”. In the end both you and PZ are being equally effective by exposing atheism to the masses, regardless of whether you will change anyone’s mind on the other side.

  • http://www.matthewfeath.blogspot.com Matt Feath

    After reading this I wanted to share this sort of related (wafer wise) story … I was doing the video switching audio visual portion of a huge Lutheren Pastors Conference being held at the hotel I used to do audio visual at in Palm Springs last year … the guy doing the audio and I were constantly giving each other shocked looks every time they talked about communion ’cause we felt like we were at a canniblism conference … the audio guy and I are both Atheists so we found just about everything they said bizarre but the whole body of christ thing was really freaky … well, after their service was over I was on the stage collecting the microphones … one of the pastors had the bowl of communion wafers and was eating them like you would a bag of potato chips … I was so tempted to ask, “So, is that STILL the body of christ???”

  • Jeff Satterley

    It seems like this move by PZ is first and foremost meant to stand up for the kid who originally took the wafer home. It’s a form of protest against the Catholics who label this incident and “worse than a hate crime”. This kid has been harassed by Donahue and, I’m sure, many others, and PZ stood up to show the Catholic Church that we are not going to play by their rules. It’s not right to so strongly chastise someone for such a meaningless act, and just because a small subset of people are offended does not give others the right to treat him the way they have.

    In fact, I think a protest in front of Catholic Churches doing the same thing would be a strong message. Imagine if a large number of people received the wafer, took it outside, and dropped it on the ground in protest of what the Catholics have done to this kid. What a powerful message that sends! And, this isn’t just a meaningless “Fuck you” to the church. Churches are continually overstepping their bounds in many ways, and this shows that there are others who are willing to stand up and publicly criticize them.

    Some may say that what this kid did with the wafer was stupid and uncalled for. It’s possible that all he wanted to do was piss people off, and of course he has the right to do that. However, it’s also possible that he was doing what many do when they first start thinking about atheism: testing God. I’m sure many of us, when we first became atheists, did pretty irrational things, which many religious people would find offensive, to test God when we began to think for ourselves. I know I said some pretty mean and explicit things in prayer to a God I no longer believed in to test my beliefs and my new freedom from superstition. Obviously, I also have the rational reasons why I no longer believe in a god, but this irrational, individual protest is a rite of passage for many atheists.

    The Catholic League could have taken the high road here. Donahue could have come out and said that he was disappointed by the situation, because Catholic’s hold this symbol to be very important, regardless of what other people believe, and left it at that. I would have gained some respect back for the Catholic Church if a more rational response was made. Instead, he is practically burning this kid, and now PZ, at the stake because of a silly superstition.

  • Miko

    Ask yourself: Are you in this to change religious minds or to make religious people angry?

    No and no. I’m in this to be left alone, for the most part. And being left alone often requires making people angry first. One could make the same objection to gay pride marches: and indeed they did make some people angry at first, but then most of those people grew tired of being angry and settled into apathy.

    This particular issue I don’t care so much about, since it only affects those who choose to go to Communion. However, as long as jokingly threatening to damage a cracker leads to where it led this time, I’ll stand by PZ. Similarly, an anti-flag-burning amendment is one of the few things that would probably get me to burn a flag in protest.

    Symbols are great. But when they start demanding a change in behavior to those who don’t hold them, something is seriously wrong.

  • http://thescienceethicist.blogspot.com/ Aerik

    The positive good that can obviously come out of “desecrating” a fucking cracker is simple and easy: They accused the boy of kidnapping and sedition — if somebody can be provoked into trying to sue and they fail, perhaps American kkkatholics could be forced into seeing the further absurdity of accusing one person of cruelty for just holding a cracker, when they themselves consume it. Could a case be successfully litigated concerning somebody refusing to eat a piece of food? Is food subject to being returned to the giver because the person who gave it doesn’t like how it’s being used?

    Hardly.

    They’ll have to convince a judge that in fact, the Eucharist is the body of Christ before it’s eaten. I don’t think they can do it. Not only do I think that argument would be too stupided for even one of our conservative judges, but it would force Catholics into a blaring contradiction they’ll have to face from that day out — they defend the dogma of transfiguration by claiming it becomes teh Jesus somewhere between the mouth and stomach, but will need to argue the opposite in order to truly charge somebody for kidnapping the Eucharist, as they have threatened.

  • Ron in Houston

    What you mean it’s not true because they say it in Texas? I’m shocked.

    Actually Ghost, in may ways I’d much rather live in your state. It seems to have a lot fewer idiots than down here.

  • David Crespo

    Though I will admit there is occasionally something to be said for pissing off religious people on a small scale if they’re being annoying, someone as visible as PZ is probably harming the cause of atheist activism by making us appear to be radicals, etc.

    Sam Harris had an article where he suggested that the way to gain credence in mainstream discourse and fight extremism is to ally yourself with moderates rather than setting yourself up in an adversarial position to those in power.

    Of course, he was kidding, and it was pretty funny.

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ miller

    Right on, Hemant. As I said on my blog

    Look, the whole atheist blogosphere is split over whether PZ is doing something wrong. Catholics will not hesitate a moment to take the side against PZ. Is it really “silly” for Catholics to get angry at PZ if they think PZ’s goal is to make Catholics angry?

    There is a word for something that does not efficiently accomplish one’s own goal. That word is “unethical”.

    On the other hand, maybe his goal isn’t to show the Catholics up at all. Maybe he’s just doing it so atheists and other freethinkers realize how ridiculous it is.

  • Jeff Satterley

    @ miller

    That’s not what unethical means… Ethics has nothing to do with efficiency, it has to do with the desired ends and the means by which to achieve those ends.

    What’s unethical about standing up for a kid who is being ostracized by a religious group for taking home a cracker that was given to him, by writing about taking a similar cracker, to point out how ridiculous all of this is? I don’t see how either the means or the ends are even close to unethical.

  • http://dayandnite.livejournal.com Goldfishflakes

    Well, Hemant…I thought you were cool…but I find this morning that you are criticizing PZ and passively supporting the Cat-lick league (as another blogger so eloquently put it). You suck Hemant.

    I was a reader…

  • llewelly

    Of course Donohue and his Catholic League went overboard.

    A public demonstration that belief in nonsense is dangerous, and can lead to death and violence – particularly if said nonsense explicitly calls for violence. More importantly, a public demonstration that supposedly ‘milquetoast’, or ‘normal American’ religions are dangerous. This is what PZ has achieved; he is knocking holes in the belief that normal American religions are harmless.

    First, to condemn him for taking something that wasn’t his.

    The student was given the wafer. It’s not his acceptance of the wafer given him violated Catholic dogma. It’s what he didn’t do with it after he accepted it. This is not an ownership issue; he did not ‘steal’ the wafer; that is a an attempt to hijack the cultural opprobrium against theft, and re-direct it against someone who violated dogma, not personal property. When you participate in the thief meme, you look like you don’t know anything about it.

    Ask yourself: Are you in this to change religious minds or to make religious people angry?

    Think back to the teddy bear that got named Mohammad. The woman who named it had no idea people would deliver death threats as a result of this. Yet they got angry anyway.
    Since the anger is a direct result of a demonstrably false belief, the implied notion that it will always be possible to avoid making them angry is false. The cracker is not Jesus, it is not going to be treated as holy by everyone; if neither PZ Myers nor Webster Cook had never been born, somebody, as likely due to ignorance as not, would violate the rules and provoke religious people. Furthermore, consider the history of the Catholic church: right up to the 1950s, many influential Catholics claimed, without a shred of evidence, that Jews would ‘steal’ consecrated crackers, and ‘torture’ them, making them ‘bleed’. The notion that the cracker was sacred was used to make people hate non-Catholics – and there is still no evidence whatsoever that Jews actively tried to obtain consecrated crackers at all. The dogma Bill Donohue is using to attack PZ is capable of enabling attacks on anyone the Catholic league is angry with – regardless of whether they threatened a cracker.
    There’s this widespread belief that you can’t change minds by making people angry. It’s a belief that ignores the fact that there are observers – who will judge beliefs by the behavior of the believers. When a few religious people get angry over something nonsensical, like a non-eaten cracker, or a teddy bear named after a colorful historical character, observers who aren’t welded to their dogma will realize that (a) religion really does make some people crazy, and some of those people are genuinely dangerous due to religion; i.e., religion is not safe.

  • http://dergeis.livejournal.com/ Geis

    Ron in Houston said that “The rights gays have today haven’t come about by going around and pissing off heterosexuals. They have come about by stating their case, marching to bring attention to their case, and using our judicial system to force the majority to treat them like everyone else.”

    I have one word: Stonewall.

  • http://www.pandasthumb.org RBH

    Miss Poppy Hussein Dixon had it right above. Here is a church that contributes to tens of thousands of deaths annually via its opposition to the use of condoms in AIDS-ridden Africa, and yet its adherents are up in arms (literally, to judge from the death threats to both Cook and Myers) over the fate of a cracker. To be blunt, that is pure insanity and terminally immoral to boot. Those kinds beliefs deserve no respect whatsoever, and in fact deserve all the ridicule that can be heaped on them.

    If people want to believe insane things that’s OK, but when those insane beliefs are the basis for actions that kill people then they are an active menace and ought to be resisted in every possible way. Catholics (and atheists) whose delicate sensibilities are offended when someone pushes back hard against insane and lethal beliefs are merely enablers of the death cult extreme. Let a river of ridicule flow deep and wide over them.

  • http://dayandnite.livejournal.com Goldfishflakes

    Ron…

    Homosexuals have not come as far as you think. Also, the mere existance of homosexuals is enough to piss off a lot of religious heterosexuals.

    I do not think that is a good example.

  • Ron in Houston

    Notes on the Catholic Communion: (someone correct me if I make any errors)

    1. Everyone is invited to the Catholic church; however, only Catholics can receive communion.

    2. Catholics are not to take communion until they have been instructed. Normally this happens as a teenager and is a right of passage called someones “first communion.”

    3. You are to immediately consume the consecrated wafer. Many people do not even want to touch it and open their mouths to have the priest put it into their mouths.

    When you violate 1, 2, or 3, you are disrupting their mass in their church.

    When the UCF student did that he committed a crime. You don’t have a right to go into a Catholic church and disrupt their service.

    Any asshat atheist who thinks it would be funny to do what PZ suggested would be also guilty of a crime. In many states such a crime would be a hate crime. It is also a violation of many state’s laws to incite someone to perform the act PZ suggested.

    The people who issued death threats were lunatics. There are lunatics in every group. Right now to a lot of people think PZ Myers looks like a lunatic.

    If the Catholics had wanted to get pissy they would have had the kid arrested for disrupting their mass.

    I support anyone’s right to blaspheme their belief in crackers. What the UCF student did was wrong. What PZ suggested (whether in satire or not) was wrong. It was wrong because to this date PZ had not made it quite clear to all the sycophants who hang on his every word, that he wasn’t truly advocating them to try to go into a Catholic church and disrupt their mass to get him consecrated communion wafers.

    Whether you agree with them or not the Catholics have an absolute first amendment right to practice their communion free from intrusion by asshat atheists. Post all you want. Make all the cracker jokes you want.

    Stay out of their churches. People have civil rights whether you like their beliefs or not.

  • llewelly

    The rights gays have today haven’t come about by going around and pissing off heterosexuals. They have come about by stating their case, marching to bring attention to their case, and using our judicial system to force the majority to treat them like everyone else.

    The marching you refer to made many heterosexuals so ‘pissed off’ they went out and murdered gays. If gays were not willing to make people angry, they’d still be in closet, a despised and hidden minority, discriminated against in thousands of both intentional and unintentional ways.

    Think about Carl Sagan. He went to a great deal of trouble to be polite – but he received thousands of death threats nonetheless. Why? In part because he marched to a nuclear weapons test site in Nevada, with many others, made speeches, and led protests. And he knew beforehand that these actions would make many people very, very angry. Anger was an unavoidable side effect of what he wanted to achieve.

  • Adrian

    The rights gays have today haven’t come about by going around and pissing off heterosexuals. They have come about by stating their case, marching to bring attention to their case, and using our judicial system to force the majority to treat them like everyone else.

    Riiiiight.

    The mere presence of homosexuals pisses off a lot of homophobic heteros. They didn’t try to be friendly, didn’t try to persuade bigots that they were wrong, didn’t try to find common ground with bigots. No, they demanded respect as individuals and managed to raise our consciousness to the point that we can now all spot bigottry and see it for what it is. As Geis pointed out, that sometimes resulted in violent confrontations. People don’t change their minds easily.

    Yes, it helped that there were lawyers who did (and still do) their part, activists who aren’t confrontational and a growing population of visibly gay people who are polite and friendly but without the work done to confront injustice and intentionally upset those who need to be upset, these friendly and polite homosexuals would have to remain closeted as they were for thousands of years, lest they risk beatings and overt prejudice.

    You’re making a big mistake if you think any significant social movement has ever made progress without pissing off a lot of people.

  • Adrian

    Any asshat atheist who thinks it would be funny to do what PZ suggested would be also guilty of a crime. In many states such a crime would be a hate crime. It is also a violation of many state’s laws to incite someone to perform the act PZ suggested.

    Then someone needs to do what PZ suggested so they can challenge this unjust law in court.

    Hate crimes serve a useful purpose when they deal with those deviant people who beat or kill others due solely to their religion, race or sexual orientation. When “hate crime” gets mangled and perverted to protect superstitions, then it has gone much too far.

    Charge them with trespassing if you like. “Hate crime” is insane.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant Mehta

    Well, Hemant…I thought you were cool…but I find this morning that you are criticizing PZ and passively supporting the Cat-lick league (as another blogger so eloquently put it). You suck Hemant.

    I was a reader…

    For what it’s worth, I’ve criticized PZ before.

    I guess I’ll retire my “cool” card now.

  • http://splendidelles.wordpress.com/ Elles

    Because of the whole co-author situation, there has been some confusion in the past over who was posting what on my blog. For the record, “Piss Off the Catholics Month” was Thrawn’s idea, not mine.

    I believe that it is our right to offend people, however, I think that in this case offense should be caused indirectly. Instead of actively trying to insult Catholics directly we should just do what Atheists normally do and if that offends them then that’s their problem.

    I do support the idea of obtaining communion wafers and not eating them if only to assert the fact that we do not have to bow to their dogma. During the Civil Rights movement, blacks had to go out of their way to break segregation laws to make a point about them. We may need to go out of our way to break laws which claim that taking a cracker and not eating it is a hate crime. If Atheists continue receiving death threats for that then our point is simply being made for us.

  • Joe Foley

    I think these quasi-legal arguments about whom the wafer belongs to after it’s given without a written contract are far beside the point. Communion is an orderly ritual; it’s not like there’s just a Jesus dispenser in a back room that anyone can wander in and use at their leisure. After sitting (and sometimes standing) through the service for the better part of an hour, everyone finally lines up, and when they get to the front of the room, a clergyman or volunteer hands them a wafer that they immediately eat and say “Amen” before they walk back to their pew. If a stranger pockets the Eucharist and runs away, the main issue isn’t property rights or breach of contract; the problem is that he’s intentionally infiltrated and then visibly disrupted a private religious service.

    A lot of people raised other red herrings too. As Hemant reminded everyone, the question was about what PZ should do, not what he should be allowed to do. Likewise, what Bill Donohue says or does has no bearing on what PZ Myers should do to ordinary people who aren’t Donohue and may not even like him. In fact, that just perpetuates the misconception that self-appointed public figures speak for their entire denomination whether they claim to, like Donohue, or not, like Myers.

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  • Ron in Houston

    Adrian

    I admire your spirit. We need to challenge stupid laws. However, as a lawyer I can tell you that the defense of free speech in criminal proceedings only goes so far.

    Your chance of getting a jury of 12 radical atheists is pretty much an impossibility.

    Most D.A’s don’t charge with the least crime. They go for the maximum crime they can charge you with. Sure, you could maybe plea it down to a trespass, but you’d still have a criminal record following you.

    Not a smart move in my book.

  • ryot

    Those saying all atheists should be nice and avoid conflict with theists and established religion are basically saying we should all just go back into the closet. You can’t get anywhere without challenging the establishment. Where would gay rights be without the Stonewall Riots? Should they all have backed down, been nice, or tried to have a nice discussion with the police? No, they would have been ignored. Theists do all they can to ignore atheists, that’s how religion works, ignore all opposition. They need to be shown that death threats and the like won’t make atheists stop. Not everyone has to be loud, rude, or angry, but someone has to or no one is going to listen. We need both the PZ’s and Hemants to get atheism recognized. PZ’s actions may not have turned anyone towards atheism, but at least it’s gotten some of them to look it up.

  • Ron in Houston

    llewelly

    There’s a big difference between doing something that has an indirect effect of pissing people off and doing something just to piss people off.

    A whole lot of people are pissy and get pissed off by the slightest thing. However, doing something just to piss someone off is really pretty pointless.

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  • http://jennifurret.deviantart.com/ Jennifurret

    I completely agree with you. This is the reason why I switched from PZ’s blog to yours. While he’s funny and posts interesting stuff, he frequently goes way too far. He crosses the line between being funny by poking fun of others beliefs, and just being rude for shock value. When someone takes pride in offending people, something is just wrong.

    You’re not going to change any minds by acting like an asshole. I wish he could understand that, because he’s starting to make all atheists look bad.

  • Ron in Houston

    Geis

    Sure it brought a lot of attention to their cause. However, if you really apply a cost/benefit analysis did it really accomplish much?

    The rights gays have obtained have been lobbying and litigating not through riots.

  • Ron in Houston

    Goldfishflakes

    I admire Hemant for taking a stand.

    I’ve also a la George Carlin starting praying to Hemant. He seems like a guy who can get things done.

    I prayed to Hemant and this morning I got laid. What more proof do you need?

  • Beowulff

    Ron in Houston said:

    When you violate 1, 2, or 3, you are disrupting their mass in their church.

    If nobody notices, you’re not disrupting anything. You may violate the church rules, but those have no legal power. Violating church rules might lead to excommunication, but is not in itself a crime.

    Besides, how would you enforce such a stupid rule anyway? Like your points 1 and 2: How are you supposed to know if someone’s a Catholic? Or a True Believer Catholic, instead of a Gotta-please-the-parents Catholic? Or even a Used-to-be Catholic? Is it enough to behave like a Catholic to be a Catholic? And your point 3: How are you going to enforce that the wafer is actually eaten at the spot? Frisk everyone to make sure they aren’t hiding it? Hold their mouth and nose closed till they swallow?

    Your post is only making me think this might be one of those rules that deserve a good dose of civil disobedience to show just how ridiculous it is…

  • Ron in Houston

    Beowulf

    Sure you could do it without disrupting their mass. However, do you really want to be associated with such stupid, juvenile behavior to just make a point?

    To me it also crosses an ethical line. I don’t want someone coming into my house under false pretenses. You’re doing nothing better than that.

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  • Jeff Satterley

    @ Ron

    Just a minor correction: First communion happens at about 7 years old. Age 13 is about the time of First confession, and Confirmation is at about age 15.

  • cipher

    Hemant, for what it’s worth, I’ve questioned the wisdom of what PZ’s doing as well. I don’t know that it will accomplish anything positive, and it may harm atheists in the long term.

    On the other hand, Donoghue becomes apoplectic at the drop of a hat, so I imagine it’s hard to resist. I mean, it’s just so damn easy

  • http://dayandnite.livejournal.com Goldfishflakes

    Hemant said…
    For what it’s worth, I’ve criticized PZ before.

    I guess I’ll retire my “cool” card now.

    ___________________________________________

    That must have been before I began reading your blog.

    PZ has my respect as a Biology professor. I’m a Biology student…so maybe that’s it. :shrug: Also, I tend to give more weight to people with age on their side. I just think it is poor taste to criticize someone in your own “camp” when that person is getting death threats, etc because of their opinion. Isn’t this exactly what *we* as atheists are against?! The blatant anti-free speech that religious people propose.

    Now, I am against and sneer at some idiocies of *some* “atheists” for retarded actions…such as the Rational Response Squad. But, then again they are made up of mostly high school graduates (at best) that do not know their elbows from their arses.

    PZ is an educated man with life experience…I just think he deserves more respect from the younger atheist crowd like yourself.

    Even Richard Dawkins is in support of him: See here

  • cipher

    I prayed to Hemant and this morning I got laid. What more proof do you need?

    By the way, Hemant, I could use a new car…

  • ryot

    The rights gays have obtained have been lobbying and litigating not through riots.

    It took riots and action to get people to take notice, had this not happened gays would have been ignored and furthered marginalized. Without taking a stand it would still be illegal for gays to even hold hands, there would be no lobbying or litigating because no one would stand up for a group that won’t stand up for itself. No group has gotten anywhere without upsetting the authority.

  • http://dayandnite.livejournal.com Goldfishflakes

    #

    Ron in Houston said,

    July 13, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    Goldfishflakes

    I admire Hemant for taking a stand.

    I’ve also a la George Carlin starting praying to Hemant. He seems like a guy who can get things done.

    I prayed to Hemant and this morning I got laid. What more proof do you need?
    _________________________________________________________

    LOL about praying to Hemant.

    But, IMO he is not “taking a stand” he is sitting back in his cozy desk chair criticizing someone when they are getting death threats for merely an opinion given on a blog. Whether he agrees with PZ or not he shouldn’t he harping on where they cross on the issue, he (Hemant) should be supporting him (as they stand for similar things) as the “issue” is over a f*cking cracker! PZ is getting DEATH threats and harassment from the Catholic League over an opinion on the dumbest news story to make headlines this year!

  • Beowulff

    Ron, sometimes juvenile behavior is exactly what is needed to show that some people take themselves way too seriously.

  • Ron in Houston

    goldfishflakes

    While it’s no defense to the Catholic league attempt to get PZ fired, they didn’t try to squelch his right to free speech until after he advocated violating their first amendment right to free exercise of religion.

  • Larry Huffman

    OK, I have to make a commentary on this, even though I was determined not to…hehe.

    I think what PZ said was…who cares? Really. He did not DO anything. He made some tongue in cheeck threats (on a cracker!!!)…that made catholics publically defend crackers as flesh of their savior. I think that his WORDS were very clever, in that they did show everyone, including catholics, that there is a major belief system that actually believes that a cracker literraly becomes human (and part god) flesh. How can what he said compare to their reaction?

    Again…nothing was done. What was said was far far less threatening and hateful than what those very catholics have said and felt towards atheists for centuries and still today. We are talking about a stupid carcker. I think if anyone gets bent out of shape because of the way a person threatens a small baked good…well, the people being ofened need the critisism, and yes…ridicule.

    Lets be clear, it is harsh ridicule that is required sometimes to shoot down those things that have been a hinderance to our societal evolution or reason. It is never popular with the group supporting the susperstition or outdated viewpoint…but that can hardly be the concern when having this kind of a discussion. This is what the new atheist movement is all about. Nothing bad was done…mere words were phrased, and it brought a completely irrational response from catholics. What better way to shed light on such nonsense than to let the irrational protests of the offended speak.

    PJ can say whatever he wants. He did not threaten a person, he threatened a cracker. The ones to worry about are the ones who equate the two.

  • Ron in Houston

    goldfishflakes

    People of reason everywhere need good scientists to speak out against the creationist/ID crowd.

    Atheists need calm reasoned people to take their cause to the theistic majority. It doesn’t need angry puerile associate professors from some small satellite campus of the University of Minnesota.

    He didn’t get death threats because he’s an atheist; he got death threats because he’s either angry, stupid, or a poor communicator.

    If I had a vote for spokesperson for atheism, I’d take Hemant over PZ Myers anytime.

  • http://dayandnite.livejournal.com Goldfishflakes

    #

    Ron in Houston said,

    July 13, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    goldfishflakes

    While it’s no defense to the Catholic league attempt to get PZ fired, they didn’t try to squelch his right to free speech until after he advocated violating their first amendment right to free exercise of religion.
    ______________________________________________________________
    How is what PZ said a violation of their right to free exercise of religion?

    Did you read what the Catholics done that poor student who walked out of the service with the cracker? Poor kid!!!! No matter his intentions…good or bad.

    Religion is mythological BS and to persecute someone over it is ridiculous. Furthermore, religion should be shown for the ridiculous BS it is. I applaud PZ for saying for what he did. And please please show me how PZ saying that stifled their “rights”! Please! Enlighten me!

  • http://dayandnite.livejournal.com Goldfishflakes

    #

    Ron in Houston said,

    July 13, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    goldfishflakes

    People of reason everywhere need good scientists to speak out against the creationist/ID crowd.

    Atheists need calm reasoned people to take their cause to the theistic majority. It doesn’t need angry puerile associate professors from some small satellite campus of the University of Minnesota.

    He didn’t get death threats because he’s an atheist; he got death threats because he’s either angry, stupid, or a poor communicator.
    ________________________________________________________

    I agree that we need calm reasonable people speaking up for the “atheist cause”…it is what aggravates the sh*t out of me about the RRS.

    But, just because PZ is loud about stupid things such as this cracker incident doesn’t make him any less educated. IMO, because of what the Catholics did to that student they deserve great criticism! I’m sure that student’s little life has been turned upside down because of this. And that is a shame! This is the reason I support what PZ said.

  • Ron in Houston

    goldfishflakes

    He said he couldn’t go into a Catholic church to obtain a consecrated communion wafer because they had “stakes” for him

    Immediately following that he asked for someone else to go into a Catholic church and get him a consecrated wafer to desecrate.

    It’s almost impossible to get a consecrated wafer without going into a Catholic church. Oh, hypothetically you could maybe get one some other way, but it wouldn’t be very easy.

    Sending people into the Catholic church to subvert their mass is to me a clear violation of their first amendment right to practice their religion without interference. Granted it’s not the government doing it, but I’m sorry, it’s just wrong.

  • http://dayandnite.livejournal.com Goldfishflakes

    Ron,

    You read that far too seriously…PZ was joking about someone else going to obtain him a cracker! It was sarcastic. That’s how I read it anyways. PZ is very sarcastic in his posts.

  • http://dayandnite.livejournal.com Goldfishflakes

    Sending people into the Catholic church to subvert their mass is to me a clear violation of their first amendment right to practice their religion without interference. Granted it’s not the government doing it, but I’m sorry, it’s just wrong.

    So is persecuting that student for innocently taking that cracker to show a friend. From what the student said, he did not have ill intentions…he was simply satisfying a friend’s curiosity and it got out of control because of the Catholics.

    The Catholics are the ones violating rights here.

  • Ron in Houston

    goldfishflakes

    As an ex-Episcopalian cracker eater, I don’t think the official Catholic reaction isn’t really over the top. In every group their are lunatics, and the Catholics have theirs who have issued death threats.

    I can understand the UCF student because he’s young and probably didn’t appreciate what he was doing. However, whether rational or not, what he did was a big deal and a major affront to Catholics.

    I also believe PZ was engaging in criticism and satire. He confirmed as much to a local Minnesota newspaper. However, his internet position has been “oh, look at the crazy theists.” The fact of the matter is that he deserved scorn and derision. It wasn’t clear from his internet post that he was just engaging in criticism and satire. Obviously, a whole lot of folks honestly wonder if he’s serious or not. Until he clears the air on a wider basis, I say he deserves scorn and derision. And frankly, I intent to take every opportunity to exercise my first amendment rights to heap scorn and derision on him.

    He could have easily cleared the air by saying on his blog. “Hey folks, it was satire, please don’t try to go into your local Catholic church and get consecrated wafers.” For some reason (whether pandering to his minions, pride, or whatever,) he has chosen not to do so.

    He might be a great and esteemed biologist, but he’s an embarrassment as an atheist.

  • http://dayandnite.livejournal.com Goldfishflakes

    Their is also a deeper unlying message here. So, are you (or anyone defending the Catholic League’s actions) saying that the Catholic church should be able to ruin lives under the guise of “religious freedom”?

    About PZ being an embarrassment as an atheist. Well, we are all entitled to our opinions…

    …I did not begin reading his blog because he was an atheist…that is not what caught my attention. It was his work as a Biologist that did so. Now, I have been reading his blog I guess about eight or nine months I see that he does often interject atheist viewpoints into his science blog.

    (hang with me, I’m not recanting my stance…lol)

    He does not (as far as I can tell) advertise himself as a spokesman for atheism…but rather a scientist and professor that happens to also be an atheist. So, with that said…I do not think he should be “roasted at the stake” for having strong opinions. Also, in saying that…he should be supported (for the most part) by the atheist front runners when he encounters the horrors of the religious right from time to time.

    He isn’t writing best sellers on atheism…he is a Biologist. So, I think…enough with the roasting…give the guy a break and support his efforts (as long as he is not harming people–and I do not think he is).

  • Ron in Houston

    goldfishflakes

    I assume you know nothing about Catholics or their rituals. The UCF student was supposedly a Catholic. He should have known that you don’t take a consecrated wafer back to your friend to show off. As a matter of fact, I’ll bet there are any number of people who would have shown his friend an unconsecrated communion wafers so he could have seen what they looked like.

    My honest take is that the UCF student invented that story after he had an “oh shit” moment and realized how badly he’d screwed up. The other version of the story has him trying to take it to protest use of his student fees to fund the Catholic student center. (While I totally disagree with his methods, I do support his right to protest that issue.)

    From a Catholic perspective, it would have been less bad if he’d gone up to the alter and taken the cross of it and held it hostage. What he did was a major affront to Catholics.

    There are idiots everywhere and sure a few likely issued death threats. However, I’d venture that the majority just calmly and rationally spoke to him about the seriousness of what he’d done.

    Of course, then PZ thinks he’s helping by acting like a juvenile ass. I’m sorry, PZ might be a smart guy, but he’s frankly a bit of an ass.

  • Ron in Houston

    goldfishflakes

    Nobody outside of biology circles would have even heard of PZ Myers unless he was an atheist. He’s not even a full professor and he’s not even at the major campus of his system.

    His name recognition come mainly from being an outspoken atheist. I support his right to say whatever he wants. However, this atheists wishes he’d stick to speaking from his scientist hat and stop acting like an angry puerile atheist.

    I honestly support him and am glad for most of what he does. We need scientists (and especially biologists) to smack down those creationist/id people. It’s an interesting question about exactly how much anger, edge or sarcasm toward religion is in the best interests of atheists.

    I’ve enjoyed our interaction, but I feel like I’m speaking way too much and just need to be quiet and let others say their piece.

  • http://dayandnite.livejournal.com Goldfishflakes

    You are right, I’m not an ex-catholic…but ex-pentecostal. I only vaguely know about their rituals. While Pentecostalism is different than Catholicism…they are both extreme in terms of rituals and literalistic interpretations of the Bible. So, I’m all too familiar with that aspect of it.

    How are we going to move forward and modernize in terms of philosophy is we can’t actively criticize (and sometimes heavily) those beliefs which do not have any supporting evidence for? We have to be able to take them to task for such extreme literalism…especially when it starts ruining individual lives.

    The UCF student…well, he could have had ill intentions…only he knows that I guess (for sure).

    I think it is similar (sort of) to Ayaan’s situation. She has to hide and have body guards because she speaks out against the Muslim faith having been brought up a Muslim. Really, she should simply be “ex-communicated” and forgotten about by the Muslims.

    Again, we have to be able to take extreme religions to task in order to move forward.

  • http://dayandnite.livejournal.com Goldfishflakes

    #

    Ron in Houston said,

    July 13, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    goldfishflakes

    Nobody outside of biology circles would have even heard of PZ Myers unless he was an atheist. He’s not even a full professor and he’s not even at the major campus of his system.

    His name recognition come mainly from being an outspoken atheist. I support his right to say whatever he wants. However, this atheists wishes he’d stick to speaking from his scientist hat and stop acting like an angry puerile atheist.

    I suppose so…I really do not know how he had his beginnings.

    I dunno Ron…I guess the only answer that is to not read his blog. Then, he can’t bother you any.

    But, as to his academic title…I think it is a moot point. He is an educated man and we need more outspoke educated atheists in my opinion. We need someone to balance out the uneducated loud mouths over at RRS.

  • http://jcape.ignore-your.tv/ James Cape

    Ron (obviously) from Texas,

    The Negros would be fine if they had a reasonable voice speaking for them, rather than that so-called preacher advocating anarchy.

    1. The first amendment right to the free exercise of religion is not a right to the exercise of religion free from mockery by others, online, posted miles away from a building where said religion is practiced.

    2. Churches welcome any and all into their services. Once you are inside, they may not compel you to do anything but leave their property. They certainly cannot compel you not to mock them from afar.

    3. There is no excuse for making threats; the fact that these particular death threats came because the guy took a sacred cracker he was given home and wrote about it should make the “no excuses” point somewhat redundant, though.

    4. Atheists as a class need to be treated as equal human beings. I believe the tactics required to move society to that scenario are diverse, as is the nature with any large social change. I also believe that anyone claiming that “Atheists need to restrict themselves to [method X]” is simply unable to make their argument without claiming a false authority.

    I agree that convincing adults to abandon their long-held silliness is best done via reasoned argument, yes. But I also believe that preventing silliness from becoming long-held is best done by making yourself the smirking bastard while your opponent is reduced to sputtering about how his/her ultimate power in the universe is a piece of flatbread. Also: college-aged convincing is best done with an upper-middle-class British accent. :-)

  • http://dayandnite.livejournal.com Goldfishflakes

    Also: college-aged convincing is best done with an upper-middle-class British accent. :-)

    LOL, well said!

  • Ron in Houston

    James

    Remember MLK advocated peaceful non-violent protests. He didn’t say, go out and poke those crackers in the eyes. (Sorry couldn’t resist the pun.)

  • http://dayandnite.livejournal.com Goldfishflakes

    But MLK was shot down by one of his very own.

  • David

    This has been beaten to death, but I think Prof. Meyers response was appropriate, and here’s why. The fact that at least some Catholics took the UFC students’ action so seriously (referring to it as kidnapping and claiming that there could be no more heinous act than removing a cracker from a church) is ridiculous. Before this whole silly mess happened, I had no idea such importance was placed on these crackers, and I imagine the same goes for many others. And that’s fine, as long as people confine these beliefs to the limits of the authority that Catholics have chosen to give the church over them. If the kid had been given some sort of in-church punishment (whatever that might be,) or even ex-communicated, I doubt we would be talking about this. However, the kid has been receiving death threats (allegedly,) has had his enrolment at his state school threatened, and has had world-wide attention drawn to him by the likes of Bill Donohue. For taking a cracker out of a church. This kind of thing needs to have attention drawn to it in a way that both outlines the facts and shows how ridiculous it is. A little sarcasm and shock value goes a long way towards getting attention, and so does pissing people off. This isn’t going to convert any hard-core Catholics, but what was going to? More reasonable people who are sitting of the fence now have one more piece of information to help them. They may be offended by the abrasiveness of it, but if they are thoughtful and half-way intelligent, they can’t ignore the fact that religion has made at least some people willing to go up in arms over a tasteless piece of wheat/cardboard. I could see it if it were a Ritz.

  • http://dayandnite.livejournal.com Goldfishflakes

    I could see it if it were a Ritz.

    LMAO!!!!!!

  • David

    Ritz,

    Mmmmmm… Salty.

  • http://dayandnite.livejournal.com Goldfishflakes

    Indeed David, indeed. lol

  • http://jcape.ignore-your.tv/ James Cape

    Goldfishflakes,

    Malcolm X was killed (ostensibly) by members of his former group, the Nation of Islam. MLK was kiled by James Earl Ray, a white guy from Tennessee.

  • http://dayandnite.livejournal.com Goldfishflakes

    Oops. My bad…

    I confused the two.

  • http://dergeis.livejournal.com/ Geis

    Ron in Houston responded:

    >Sure it brought a lot of attention to their cause. However, if you really
    > apply a cost/benefit analysis did it really accomplish much?

    Isn’t that the definition of “watershed.” Every source I’ve read about Stonewall define it as a watershed event, the moment when everything changed. Before that, the movement wasn’t actually moving anywhere. After that, the movement was redefined and actually accomplished.

    So, the cost/benefit analysis is clear, without the ugly, horrific, seemingly counterproductive violence that was the Stonewall riots, the gay rights movement would likely have gone on as it had been going on, accomplishing little or nothing.

  • Pingback: Friendly hypocrisy « Terahertz

  • Beowulff

    Ron:

    He might be a great and esteemed biologist, but he’s an embarrassment as an atheist.

    Could you please quote to me which articles in the Holy Atheist Handbook PZ Myers violated? Or haven’t you finished writing it yet? I can’t remember how long ago it was exactly that we voted you the authority on how atheists are supposed to behave, but I would have thought you’d be done by now.

  • Aj

    Hemant,

    At the same time, trying to obtain a consecrated communion wafer for the sole purpose of destroying it serves absolutely no positive purpose. Now, you’re just trying to piss off Catholics.

    How about raising awareness of a) the ridiculous belief, and b) demonstrate that these people really believe, will threaten you with death. As I said before, I don’t think PZ wrote that he would torture the cracker to piss off Catholics.

    But proving this point by going out of your way to mock those beliefs just irritates the opposition and makes their superstitious beliefs even more meaningful to them.

    What’s the difference between this and you mocking beliefs on your blog?

  • Ron in Houston

    Beowulff and AJ

    To really understand why this was such a big deal you really have to try to understand where the Catholics are coming from before you go condemning them. If it were all about belief in a cracker, I’d be the first to laugh at the absurdity.

    Have any of you spent even 15 minutes trying to understand the Catholics? I’d venture no. For that matter, have you even really carefully (that’s the operative word) read PZ’s cracker post?

    If you read my comments here, you’ll see that it’s about behavior that borderlines on criminal. It’s about encouraging people to go into their churches with the express intent of screwing with them.

    I will defend anyone’s right to blaspheme their belief in transubstantiation. However, when PZ or anyone starts (even if in satire because there’s a lot of people that don’t grasp the subtlety of satire) advocating going into their churches to screw with them, you’ve crossed a line. If we’re going to advocate for no moral authority from some sky guy, then we’d better believe in things like rights and rules of law.

    No matter how much you disagree with their beliefs, they have the right to practice them without interference from people who disagree.

  • Aj

    Ron in Houston,

    You’re talking a load of rubbish. First you refer to a distinction between descretion and blasphemy. You don’t defend it, you can’t defend it, so you move to “invasion”, “intefering”, “pick fights” and all the other nonsense you’ve been spouting. Start talking about what PZ actually wrote, not your your strawman, to justify your transparent hatred of PZ. PZ did not advocate trespassing, theft, vandalism, or violence. It’s a frackin’ cracker!

    Is your family Catholic, how many times did you read PZ’s post?

  • Ron in Houston

    For whatever it’s worth here’s PZ’s cracker post with my comments:

    There are days when it is agony to read the news, because people are so goddamned stupid. Petty and stupid. Hateful and stupid. Just plain stupid. And nothing makes them stupider than religion.

    PZ is already upset and beginning to follow them down the toilet drain of stupidity.

    Here’s a story that will destroy your hopes for a reasonable humanity.

    Webster Cook says he smuggled a Eucharist, a small bread wafer that to Catholics symbolic of the Body of Christ after a priest blesses it, out of mass, didn’t eat it as he was supposed to do, but instead walked with it.

    Someone goes into their church disrupts their mass and we’re going to defend them?

    This isn’t the stupid part yet. He walked off with a cracker that was put in his mouth, and people in the church fought with him to get it back. It is just a cracker!

    Catholics worldwide became furious.

    Yes, PZ to us it’s just a cracker. However to them it’s holier than their church building, their crosses, or anything else. They tried to prevent him from proceeding with his wrongful intent in their space. Why should you defend him?

    Would you believe this isn’t hyperbole? People around the world are actually extremely angry about this — Webster Cook has been sent death threats over his cracker. Those are just kooks, you might say, but here is the considered, measured response of the local diocese:

    “We don’t know 100% what Mr. Cooks motivation was,” said Susan Fani a spokesperson with the local Catholic diocese. “However, if anything were to qualify as a hate crime, to us this seems like this might be it.”

    We just expect the University to take this seriously,” she added “To send a message to not just Mr. Cook but the whole community that this kind of really complete sacrilege will not be tolerated.”

    Disrupting their mass was a crime. Pure and simple. Was it a hate crime? It depends upon his intent. If you did it, it certainly would have been a hate crime.

    Wait, what? Holding a cracker hostage is now a hate crime? The murder of Matthew Shephard was a hate crime. The murder of James Byrd Jr. was a hate crime. This is a goddamned cracker. Can you possibly diminish the abuse of real human beings any further?

    Well, you could have a priest compare this event to a kidnapping.

    “It is hurtful,” said Father Migeul Gonzalez with the Diocese. “Imagine if they kidnapped somebody and you make a plea for that individual to please return that loved one to the family.”

    Gonzalez said the Diocese is willing to meet with Cook and help him understand the importance of the Eucharist in hopes of him returning it. The Diocese is dispatching a nun to UCF’s campus to oversee the next mass, protect the Eucharist and in hopes Cook will return it.

    I like the idea of sending a scary nun to guard the ceremony at the next mass. But even better…let’s send Webster Cook to hell!

    Gonzalez said intentionally abusing the Eucharist is classified as a mortal sin in the Catholic church, the most severe possible. If it’s not returned, the community of faith will have to ask for forgiveness.

    “We have to make acts of reparation,” Gonzalez said. “The whole community is going to turn to prayer. We’ll ask the Lord for pardon, forgiveness, peace, not only for the whole community affected by it, but also for [Cook], we offer prayers for him as well.”

    Going into their church and messing with them is a hateful act. Maybe Cook didn’t intend it that way, but it doesn’t change the fact the on the surface it does appear hateful.

    Get some perspective, man. IT’S A CRACKER.

    Yes, from a rational perspective nothing can change an unleavened wafer into anything other than a cracker. However, someone came into their church and screwed with them. If somebody came into your house and shit on your carpet wouldn’t you be a little upset?

    And of course, Bill Donohue is outraged (I know, Donohue is going to die of apoplexy someday when a gnat violates his oatmeal, so this isn’t saying much).

    For a student to disrupt Mass by taking the Body of Christ hostage–regardless of the alleged nature of his grievance–is beyond hate speech. That is why the UCF administration needs to act swiftly and decisively in seeing that justice is done. All options should be on the table, including expulsion.

    Oh, beyond hate speech. Where does this fit on the Shoah scale, Bill? It shouldn’t even register, but here is Wild-Eyed Bill the Offended calling for the expulsion of a student…for not swallowing a cracker.

    Again, PZ if you come into my house and shit on my carpet, I’m not going to be happy.

    Would you believe that the mealy-mouthed president of the university, John Hitt, is avoiding defending his student is instead playing up the importance of the Catholic church to the university? Of course you would. That’s what university presidents do. Bugger the students, keep the donors and the state reps happy.

    No, the University President is just a little more objective than your angry atheist ass PZ.

    Unfortunately, Webster Cook has now returned the cracker. Why?

    Webster just wants all of this to go away. Especially now that he feels his life is in danger.

    I’d say he did it because he’s from a Catholic family and realized how crude and out of bounds he was.

    That’s right. Crazy Christian fanatics right here in our own country have been threatening to kill a young man over a cracker. This is insane. These people are demented fuckwits. And Cook is not out of the fire yet — that Fox News story ends with an open incitement to cause him further misery.

    Very high minded rhetoric calling people demented fuckwits PZ. You can see here that his anger has reached a crescendo. He’s following the lunatics down the lunacy lane.

    University officials said, that as for right now, Webster Cook is not in trouble. If anyone or any group wants to file a formal complaint with the University through the student judicial system, they can. If that happens, Webster will go through a hearing either in front of an administrative panel or a panel of his peers.

    Got that? If you don’t like what Webster Cook did, all you have to do is complain to the university, and they will do the dirty work for you of making his college experience miserable. And don’t assume the university would support Cook; the college is now having armed university police officers standing guard during mass.

    Unlike you PZ they’re going to try to look at it rationally and soberly.

    I find this all utterly unbelievable. It’s like Dark Age superstition and malice, all thriving with the endorsement of secular institutions here in 21st century America. It is a culture of deluded lunatics calling the shots and making human beings dance to their mythical bunkum.

    No one is forcing anyone to belief in their superstition.

    So, what to do. I have an idea. Can anyone out there score me some consecrated communion wafers? There’s no way I can personally get them — my local churches have stakes prepared for me, I’m sure — but if any of you would be willing to do what it takes to get me some, or even one, and mail it to me, I’ll show you sacrilege, gladly, and with much fanfare. I won’t be tempted to hold it hostage (no, not even if I have a choice between returning the Eucharist and watching Bill Donohue kick the pope in the balls, which would apparently be a more humane act than desecrating a goddamned cracker), but will instead treat it with profound disrespect and heinous cracker abuse, all photographed and presented here on the web. I shall do so joyfully and with laughter in my heart. If you can smuggle some out from under the armed guards and grim nuns hovering over your local communion ceremony, just write to me and I’ll send you my home address.

    What this guy calls the infamous asshat paragraph. First of all, PZ despite all your narcissistic beliefs, you’re not so famous that Catholic churches throughout Minnesota have a picture of you posted by their door. Besides if you’re so damn brave to desecrate their cracker, then you should at least take the rap for whatever consequences might fall out from it. You’re showing what a small little narcissist you are by asking others to do your bidding.

    Now MAYBE this was satire. However given what an angry rant he’s engaged in so far how can we be certain? If he’s really as pissed as he portrays, then perhaps he’s serious.

    ———–
    END

  • http://operator-c.com operator-c

    I’m not out to change anyone’s mind, and when it comes to religion I feel it’s foolish to believe that one can change a devout believer’s mind and beliefs based on anything you say or show them anyway. Only they can lead their selves to the path of reason and logic. The believer has to break his or her own chains by first realizing just how foolish it all is ON THEIR OWN.

    I’m childish and immature, I have no problems admitting it, and since Catholics already look at atheists with shades of fury and discontent (and more, undoubtedly) I have no qualms in finding pleasure in purposely offending them. I’m not going to go and destroy property or hurt any person or animal physically, but if I can do something with a symbol that’s as simple as a damned cracker you can bet I’m going to have my fun with it.

    Does this hurt the atheist cause? I don’t think it does. If any atheist believes that our cause is to convert (de-convert) the devout then he or she is fooling his or herself. The only cause atheists need to worry about is making it known by all that we don’t believe, that it’s okay to NOT believe, and, if possible, make the believers look like the fools they are by utilizing their own lunacy. Using the Catholic community’s reaction to this sacred cracker is a perfect example.

  • http://dayandnite.livejournal.com Goldfishflakes

    If you read my comments here, you’ll see that it’s about behavior that borderlines on criminal.

    Borderline criminal? Now you are sounding as scarily irrational as the religious right. Are you an atheist or a poser?

    Was anyone hurt? No. Was any long-term damage done? No. Was anyone’s rights inhibited? No.

    Borderline criminal? That’s funny…absurdly funny.

    As Sam Harris states regurally, it is moderates who are causing the real damage. Religious moderates as well as nonbeliever moderates.

    Stand for something or get the hell out of the way of those of us who do.

  • Ron in Houston

    goldfishflakes

    I’ve been a lawyer for 23 years. If I encourage you to go into a Catholic church to get me a consecrated wafer and you end up disrupting their mass and causing a scene, then I’m an accessory to your crime. I’ve provided the criminal intent behind the whole debacle.

    Stand for something? I’m standing against angry asshat people who want to disabuse people’s civil rights just because they disagree with them. Don’t agree with Catholics, fine, but don’t trample on their rights.

    I’ll protect your free speech rights to criticize them, I won’t protect your right to go into their churches. (Which was what started this incident.)

  • http://dayandnite.livejournal.com Goldfishflakes

    Ron,

    But since when is it a crime to disturb a church service? You can be escorted off of the grounds by cops…yes. If you harm someone…yes, you will be arrested for battery. But, disturbing a church service? In what state in the U.S. is that criminal?

    I guess you’ve never been to a Pentecostal church service, huh? Disturbances are the norm…and I do not recall anyone being prosecuted or even arrested.

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

    Hey, everyone, remember this: Hemant is the friendly atheist. I’m the uncompromising atheist. We need all tactics. If everyone was like Hemant, we’d get nowhere — it would just be more of the same everywhere, and atheism would be forgettable and get no traction. If everyone were like me, we’d all be out rioting in the streets over the persistent stupidity of this country (which I would find an appealing response, I will admit). Together, though, we can advance the cause of atheism even faster.

    There is nothing criminal about what I am doing or planning to do, and definitely nothing violent. No church services will be disrupted, no Catholics will be prevented from worshipping as they wish. However, some crackers will be the target of my godless, mirthful wrath. Complaining about that is as silly as the absurd emails I’m getting from people telling me I will be physically hurting their god.

    Hmm…if I get enough pieces of their god, and destroy them all, will I kill him?

  • http://dayandnite.livejournal.com Goldfishflakes

    PZ speaks. :)

    This is a great time to exit.

    Have a good night all.

  • Ron in Houston

    goldfishflakes

    I truly admire you for surviving a pentecostal upbringing. Pentecostals believe that the whole spirit comes upon people and takes hold of them, right? So, in their mind a disruption is an act of God.

    Disrupting any lawful meeting is a crime. You have a very limited defense based upon free speech which requires you to be warned first.

    An atheist going into a Catholic mass with the intent of procuring their consecrated wafer is doing that because they are targeting the group for it’s religious and/or Catholic beliefs.. When you commit a crime to target a group’s beliefs, that is a hate crime.

    PZ’s post could be interpreted to call for people to do just that. However, I wouldn’t say that’s clear. So, it’s on the borderline.

    I wouldn’t call anything PZ did criminal. However, it’s highly suspect both ethically and morally.

  • http://dayandnite.livejournal.com Goldfishflakes

    Well, I was about to leave. lol I had to give it a once more before clicking off. lol

    Yes, I went through quite a bit growing up pentecostal. Yes, a disturbance is considered a movement by god and a negative disturbance is considered a retaliation by satan himself (literally). It’s a lot of mind games and word salad.
    I’m so glad to be out of that!

    Oh, I see what you are saying about intentionally disturbing meetings in order to offend. I’m no lawyer, that’s for sure. Just a Biology student.

    But, as PZ posted above he does not intend on disrupting a mass in order to get a consecrated cracker. I never could see him waltzing into a mass and assaulting a priest for a cracker anyways, lol. That’s crazy!

    I’m not sure how he plans to do it…that’s his business. I hope he’s careful how ever he does it.

  • ddr

    I don’t know. I would equate this with the flag burning that the anti-war protestors did in the 60’s. It stirred up a lot of strong emotions and it was hard to see how the protestors were gaining any friends by burning the flag. But it did get them a lot of news exposure. And in the end, the protestors made people re-think what we were doing and the war did end earlier than it might have without flag burning. Though there are still hard feelings over those days among some people.

    During the great Expelled debates, people argued that any news exposure was to the benefit of Expelled. That by mocking Expelled we were keeping it in the public eye we were really helping the movie. The proper response was to ignore the movie and it would go away.

    So might it not be that by attacking the atheists, the church is simply drawing more attention to atheists and helping them in the long run? I don’t know. I can’t see that it will win us any friends. But maybe a few people will see that atheists are starting to get angry over the way things have been. I think some people are going to be surprised at how loud the support is for PZ. It will not be a majority by any stretch. But I think it will be larger than the church expected it to be.

    PZ has not won us friends. But he not turned any atheists into Catholics either. He has generated some news exposure and maybe a few people who feel the same way that we do, but didn’t know there was a community out there will fine a few of the blogs. So, on the whole, a net gain I think. Even if there are some pissed off Catholics.

  • http://youtube.com/watch?v=Iq_XZuF6Vsk scooter

    Their have been references to disturbances in ‘their church’ meaning the Catholics, however I believe the building is owned by the University, not the Catholic Church.

    So it’s public property belonging to the citizens of Florida, and those laws apply, not Catholic Cannons.

    In that light, the only actions that took place which might be considered ‘illegal’ i.e. midameanors, were those committed by the grabby parishoners.

    You Tube Eucharist Challenge at:
    http://youtube.com/watch?v=Iq_XZuF6Vsk

  • JBB

    (changed my mind on posting)

  • Robert Maynard

    I think the cleverest thing PZ could do if he did get a wafer, consecrated or not, is a video simulating what happens to all the crackers that do get eaten – they slide down a slimy pipe into a chamber containing gastric acid.
    It’d be a neat way of pointing out that the outcome from eating the wafer is not practically different from hitting it with a hammer or sticking needles through it like a voodoo pincushion – torturing or desecrating it.
    Drop it in acid. It’s what they’re doing every Sunday.

  • LJ

    Troll here..just wanted to get that out of the way.

    I am not an atheist (which by typing the word Troll should make that obvious) but i believe in free speech and the right to critical thinking if that is your choice.

    What i don’t understand is WHY do atheists care if Catholics believe in transubstantiation or any other ‘sacred cows’? Why do you atheists feel it’s your mission, so to speak to ‘educate’ them in the errors of their ways?

    You wrote:
    I’m glad PZ pointed out that belief in transubstantiation — that consecrated communion wafers are literally the body of Christ — is absurd. It is. That belief deserves to be ridiculed.

    It deserves to be ridiculed because you say so? You don’t believe in a god but you make yourself like a god with your note of superiority. It makes no sense. Are atheists, even ‘friendly’ atheists unable to respect their fellow human beings without feeling compelled to ridicule or change their beliefs?

    I am Catholic, and with all due respect, i could care less that you don’t believe in a god. To me your lack of belief is ‘absurd’ and worthy of ridicule…but instead of taking it upon myself to try and change your views, i only want to get along with you and accept you as you are. Is there a reason atheists are unable and/or unwilling to do the same?

  • http://youtube.com/watch?v=Iq_XZuF6Vsk scooter

    Hi Troll

    You have to trace the sequence of events.

    An incident occured in FLA with a kid trying to sneak out with a host. A great deal of fuss was made as well as national news coverage and Bill Donahue, the Jerry Fallwell of Catholics weighed in.

    Thousands of outraged Catholics followed his lead calling for the expulsion of the kid (Webster Cook) , as well as an onslaught of anonymous death threats.

    THEN PZ Myers weighed in with his opinion, which was that the whole thing was nonsence , it’s only a cracker.

    NOBODY cared until a teenager was targetted by bullies in the media, inciting mob-like behavior from the public. You would have thought the guy published cartoons or something.

    And it has escalated from there.

    Wild Bill “Don” O’Heuwwe’s Tube Eucharist Challenge
    http://youtube.com/watch?v=Iq_XZuF6Vsk

  • http://mnatheists.org Bjorn Watland

    LJ,

    What you bring up is something atheists talk to each other about. There are atheists who want to be more respected, and there is a debate on what is the most effective way to do that. Some feel that ridicule is necessary. I do not think that way. I also don’t think that PZ Myers statement about people like Hement who foster dialogue do not advance respect for atheists is correct.

    Believing in transubstantiation doesn’t hurt anyone. Is the best way to get people to question their faith is to mock it? Would it have made more sense to organize a dialogue about the importance of the Eucharist and whether the response of the church in Florida was appropriate?

  • LJ

    Thank you Bjorn for your response. I think some people on both sides of the ‘debate’ have acted inappropriately. I was afraid to post here since I am obviously not an atheist, but i have many friends who are. We love each other and respect each other. I am married to a non Catholic. I agree that civil dialog is probably a better way to get along than hurtful words and challenges. I was at Mass today and i could feel myself tense up during Communion…wondering whether some ‘radicals’ who may have read PZ’s blog would try and trash the church. I attend Mass with my 5 year old daughter..an innocent little girl and i really feared that some violence could break out and i don’t enjoy being afraid. While i think PZ has the right to free speech, there are some who are not as rational as he is and would not see his challenge to obtain consecrated Hosts as tongue in cheek. There are crazy people in every group and I really feared for my safety, but…and i will admit this…my faith is much stronger now. It feels funny and kind of neat at the same time to thank an atheist for making me realize just how precious my faith really is to me. I will defend my right to believe right along side those who defend their right not to believe…and i will do it in peace and love…something good comes out of everything.

  • Kevin

    Aren’t many of the people who got outraged over “Wafergate” the same people who were talking about how silly the Muslims were being over cartoon pictures of Muhammad being published by Danish newspapers, cheered them on, even as they reprinted them, knowing they would offend Muslims? It’s easy to thumb one’s nose when one doesn’t care about what’s being “desecrated”.

  • Robert Maynard

    LJ,
    To believe transubstantiation is a fantasy is to believe that fellow human beings that deeply believe in it are mistaken.
    To believe people are mistaken and want to leave them that way is not respectful. It’s condescending, to you and your fellow Catholics.

    Respect to me means holding a fellow human being to standards I would be comfortable being held to.
    When Christians evangelise, when they do it out of sincere concern because they think the eternal souls of their fellow man are in danger, to me that is a deep show of respect, a drive to challenge people to examine their convictions because they believe there are real consequences to our beliefs.
    Conversely, when people such as yourself believe that when all is said and done we will be judged by the creator of the universe, yet think “Ah well, people believe different things. I can respect that.” I actually think that is disrespect – it shows a callous indifference to the well-being of other people.
    If you sincerely say “Islam? Ah well, good for you! I totally respect that” but sincerely think “Muslims will burn in Hell for Eternity”, that is not respect sir/madam. That is shrugging at the suffering of strangers.
    Now obviously for me to say that is a little silly, seeing I don’t think they will suffer for eternity. But to believe the proposition “Muslims will burn in Hell”, as Christians do, yet also express the sentiment “I don’t care what other people believe” is pure indifference to suffering you think you possess foreknowledge of.
    To repeat, I would not classify indifference to presumed suffering as respect.
    Likewise, I do not regard indifferent acceptance of people believing they can make it rain with a dance, or convert a wafer into the body of Jesus with a prayer, as respect. To challenge each others convictions is respect.

  • LJ

    I don’t want anyone to think i am ignoring them, but it is 3am ‘my’ time and i am signing off.
    I just want to thank everyone who was kind enough to share their thoughts with me. I do want to clarify that Catholics do not believe Muslims will burn in hell.
    I apologize…my comments about ‘not caring’ about what another human being believes are inadequate. But we do differ in terms of what YOU feel shows respect and what I feel shows respect…and i would like to simply agree to disagree on that point, if i may.
    I *do* care to the extent that as a Catholic my obligation is to pray for non believers, (and everyone for that matter) but i really didn’t want to get into that and how i *personally* ‘handle’ my relationships with those with differing beliefs because i know that some atheists (if not all!) are not comfortable with the idea of someone praying for them….by praying for them, this is *my* way of not ‘leaving them that way’. To a Catholic, there is no greater act of love and respect that you can show than to pray for others…especially those who might feel you are an enemy.
    Again…i don’t want anyone to think i am rude by not responding further…it’s really late here. My main reason for posting was not so much to discuss ‘the sequence of events’ but to really try and understand why some atheists feel compelled to change the views of non atheists..and Bjorn answered that for me. Thank you!

  • Maria

    Thank you. Atheists need to defend the right to talk about religious idiocy, but what PZ did was just stupid, wrong headed, and abusive.

    If we want to claim that we’re more rational by not believing in religion, then really folks we need to act rational and not like a bunch of angry raving anti-religionists.

    I agree, but it seems a lot of people want to behave irrationally

  • http://youtube.com/watch?v=Iq_XZuF6Vsk scooter

    LJ wrote: I was at Mass today and i could feel myself tense up during Communion…wondering whether some ‘radicals’ who may have read PZ’s blog would try and trash the church. I attend Mass with my 5 year old daughter..an innocent little girl and i really feared that some violence could break out

    OMFG I was taking you seriously before.

    There is a term for the emotional distress you describe. It’s called paranoid schizophrenia. Quaking in fear of your innocent little girl due to a conversation on an obscure science blog between less than two hundred people, and you are afraid for your safety?

    How safe do you need to be?

    You’ve got all of Fox News, half of the rest of the media, most of the government army and police force on your side and you’re afraid of PZ Myers and his so called ilk?

    I recommend a good anti-psychotic med, and for Dog sakes stay away from the television, you’ll be afraid to leave the house at all.

    BTW I have kids and I think they’d quite enjoy some action if I took them to church. They see adults making fools of themselves all the time, they are, after all being raised in a virtual South Park known as the USA.

  • llewelly

    Bjorn Watland:

    I also don’t think that PZ Myers statement about people like Hement who foster dialogue do not advance respect for atheists is correct.

    But PZ actually said:

    If everyone were like me, we’d all be out rioting in the streets over the persistent stupidity of this country (which I would find an appealing response, I will admit). Together, though, we can advance the cause of atheism even faster.

    Atheists need many voices, many strategies. After all, atheists do not face a single, unified enemy – we face a wide variety of misunderstandings (many of them not from enemies per se), ignorant people (who are not necessarily enemies), obstacles, – and yes – many kinds of enemies, not all co-operating with each other.
    We should not put all of our eggs in one basket. We should not assume the tactics that make deeply religious people angry are no good for making weakly religious people question the percieved goodness of religion. And we should not assume the tactics that win people to our side by making the deeply religious people look foolish will convince the deeply religious – for that we need other tactics. (No, I don’t know what yet.) There’s a place for diplomacy – and a place for mockery. Every successful campaign for acceptance of a group has required both – and other tactics as well.

  • mrjohnson

    I’m glad PZ pointed out that belief in transubstantiation — that consecrated communion wafers are literally the body of Christ — is absurd. It is. That belief deserves to be ridiculed.

    I don’t think PZ was trying to merely trying to point out the ridiculousness of transubstantiation. Rather, he was drawing attention to the absurdity of the response by fundamentalist Catholics to some kid walking out of church with a cracker. The point isn’t really that transubstantiation is stupid, which it is, but rather that fundamentalism is dangerously stupid.

    At the same time, trying to obtain a consecrated communion wafer for the sole purpose of destroying it serves absolutely no positive purpose. Now, you’re just trying to piss off Catholics.

    I couldn’t disagree more. This is exactly the type of response that is needed when facing fundamentalism, in whatever form it may come.

    Consider what would happen if no one had responded as PZ did to this incident in Florida. That would have been a signal to the fundies that its okay to persecute a kid for taking a cracker, that cracker theft is indeed a crime dire enough to warrant threats of expulsion from school or even bodily harm. Fundamentalism can only take hold when reasonable people do nothing when confronted with situations like this one. It is essential that someone, PZ or otherwise, emphasize the absurdity of such incidents and does so loudly.

    Is desecrating a cracker any more offensive to a Catholic’s sensibilities than the idea that a person was harassed because he took a cracker out of a building is to my sensibilities as a rational human being? I don’t think so. I am offended by what happened in Florida. I am offended, and I’m glad that someone is speaking up.

    People seemed to understand this during the Danish cartoon row. Only now that we are dealing with a brand of fundamentalism that is closer to home are we so concerned about offending people. (This part of this comment is directed towards Americans, by the way.) This Florida incident isn’t on as large a scale as the Danish cartoons were, but the principle is the same. We must not respond to fundamentalism with capitulation.

  • Beowulff

    Ron blathered:

    Have any of you spent even 15 minutes trying to understand the Catholics? I’d venture no. For that matter, have you even really carefully (that’s the operative word) read PZ’s cracker post?

    I was raised Catholic, you blockhead. And yes, I have read PZ’s piece carefully, I understand his position quite well, thank you. Have you read all the posts replying to you carefully, though? Because you rarely, if ever, respond to any arguments made against you, but instead you restate your own position over and over again. It gets a little boring, frankly.

  • Pingback: To defend or not to defend the sanctity of crackers « Living factily in a truthy world

  • Ron in Houston

    Beowulff

    If I insulted you, I’m sorry. However, do you see the sense of anger in your post?

    I’ve read your posts and responded. It appears that were diametrically opposed in our beliefs and neither one of us is going to change the other’s opinion.

    I respect that. Besides, if you’re bored, then I’d say that’s your problem.

  • Ron in Houston

    PZ Myers said:

    I’m the uncompromising atheist

    I’d call you the insensitive fratboy atheist. Hey everybody look at me!!!!! I’m going to desecrate a cracker!!!! Yuk yuk.

    *rolls eyes* *shakes head*

  • Chris Nowak

    Love this post – pretty much my thoughts entirely. I’m still a fan of PZ, but man, you are quickly becoming one of my favorite bloggers.

    I think we’re split down the middle – there are the more militant among us who want to openly mock Catholicism, and those among us who DO want to be more “friendly”. I thought I was more in the former group but I definitely see now I lean toward being more friendly. Maybe I just don’t have the guts to really stand up for it – one of my best friends is pretty strictly Catholic – she is going through an incredibly rough time right now after just getting out of the hospital and having one of close relatives dying. Were I to disrespect her beliefs by doing something like this (which she would undoubtedly take as disrespecting her), I think it would crush her and i’d at least lose her friendship. I think a lot of people have a point when they say that it’s not about respecting the religion, it’s about respecting PEOPLE.

    Religion is at the heart of a lot of the world’s evils. It does deserve to be extinguished, that I believe. But perhaps as Atheists, champions of reason that we are, should use different methods than the movements before us and instead attempt to be peaceful and reasonable with what we are doing – that IS part of what we stand for, is it not? Why provoke things like violence and hatred when that is precisely the parts of Religion we hate the most? I know a lot of us think we are “exposing” the hatred so people might say “damn, those catholics are crazy!”. But COME ON! How many people, atheists and non-atheists, expected a different reaction? It’s pretty much common sense that when you disrespect a religion like that, it’s followers will get super pissed off.

  • Adrian

    Chris,

    A lot of liberals and moderates would be taken by surprise, if their public statements and defences of religion are to be believed. They’re the ones arguing for religion to be respected and for people to dance on eggshells to avoid offending others.

    I don’t think that anyone should offend others for the sake of offending them, but if you want to take the stinger out of dogmatic religious belief, I don’t see how else it can be done. Friendly is probably a great way to live, but it is no way to make change, as much as Hemant tells himself. No injustice has ever been overturned by being nice, but nice people are essential to maintain the image. We need both groups.

    It’s pretty much common sense that when you disrespect a religion like that, it’s followers will get super pissed off.

    It’s not common sense, it’s based on a sad but true reality of life today. It was the same sad but true reality of life that, in the past, homosexuals would get beaten, killed or imprisoned, and interracial couples would provoke mobs. These simple actions got some groups “super pissed off”, but that’s changed and it changed because people refused to back down and continued to act in ways which would piss off the people that needed to be pissed off.

    If you “disrespect” a movie, political party, restaurant, painting, or anything else, people don’t react with death threats. There’s no reason why disrespecting religion should provoke emotions any more than disrespecting a political party.

  • Aj

    Like with the fundamentlist atheist lunacy some atheists also don’t seem to have a handle on the words “mature”, “reasonable”, and “rational”. It’s pathetic really, if you’re going to use words, make sure you know the meaning of them first. It’s just throwing out scare words to gain propaganda points with the gullible, which isn’t to say that all you “friendly” atheists are disingenuous manipulators (although it’s hard to accept some of you are genuine).

    None of the people condemning PZ have justified their silence, or active participation with ridiculing of other religions. If you’ve ever hailed Xenu, talked about magic underwear, or laughed at any of the good comedians then you’re a hypocrite. I’m not talking about the stupid paranoia of some people who seem to think PZ was advocating church invasions.

    If it’s the severity of the offense, then I don’t know how we’re judging that. Catholics aren’t a collective mind. Who do ask to get the level of offense? What level is OK, and what level isn’t? I’m pretty sure David Cross said the Virgin Mary raped him when she appeared in the desert to him. If you’re going to take this line against PZ then perhaps this blog should reconsider its position on the late and great George Carlin.

    As I said in my original comment on this, I don’t think PZ was trying to offend Catholics, or advocating disturbing rituals. Now he’s said as much in his comments here and in the interview. It seems to me that the “sides” that are being taken are whether you understood his post or not. Some people need to eat their comments about “being a dick” or “an asshole”. Apologies to PZ would be the action for a reasonable, rational person, lets see if people using those words actually know what they mean.

    This still leaves the disturbing fact that while people were talking about the unreasonable behaviour of PZ, they have completely ignored that on two occasions the religious have attacked people, from trying to get them expelled/fired to threats of GBH and death, over a frakin’ cracker. This is the same type of bullshit that means some atheists highly criticized the God Delusion for being shrill, militant, and intolerant. We have to remember that these people, even though they’re atheists, believe religion deserves special protection and cannot be criticized.

  • Beowulff

    Ron,

    *grins* oh, yeah, the anger, it drips of my posts. Really, I would think ‘blockhead’ is a rather tame term to indicate the silliness (harsher words removed for the sensitive) of making unfounded assumptions about others. You didn’t insult me, but I’ll accept your apology nonetheless.

    Granted, you react to posts, but my point clearly was that you avoid refuting arguments made against your views, like you just did again. Oh, and if you had read carefully, you’d know I didn’t say I was bored, I said you were boring :)

    And since you’ve just admitted that your beliefs can’t be changed (how skeptic of you), I guess that ends the debate. Goodbye.

  • Beowulff

    Chris, to be honest, I wasn’t expecting such a violent response to this either. I’ve always considered the Catholics as more of a moderate church (for instance, they officially accept evolution), but it seems I was wrong. It appears that the Western-European branch of the Catholic church that I’m used to is quite different from the Catholic church in the US. (As an aside, this is what makes the discussions about what “Real Catholics” are that I’ve seen in some other blog threads rather ridiculous.)

    I wouldn’t be surprised that PZ Myers himself underestimated the backlash as well, by the way. He’s clearly received a death-threat or two before, but it reads as if he’s slightly taken aback by the number and the vileness of the threats he’s been getting recently, to the point that he’s started publishing some of them.

  • Chris Nowak

    I guess another part is that I don’t see any intrinsic harm in their belief that the eucharist is Jesus. Yes, it’s silly, it’s dumb, it’s unscientific, but in itself it isn’t directly hurting anyone THAT MUCH. And I know Dawkins would say that moderate religious belief is what allows fundamentalism to succeed. But there are sooooo many things religion does directly that are worse than this. Sooo many things we could focus on that are evil and terrible instead of a silly little belief.

    And isn’t the real problem here not that the Catholic community was outraged (which was predictable) but that the media and university took it so seriously? Should we really JUST be mocking the church with this? It seems like our outrage is misdirected just because we like to make fun of the crazy catholic wackos who are severely disconnected with reality. That’s fine, but it seems like we’re ignoring the other problems.

    What if we have a group of fake pastafarians get together and perform some sort of pastafarian religious ceremony in which some atheist comes along and knowingly desecrates the ceremony. Perhaps send emails complaining to the president and attempt to get media coverage before revealing that the “god” you worship is the flying spaghetti monster. If they ignore you, then you show that the administrators are biased toward one religion when this shouldn’t be the case. If they take it seriously, you show that the university is willing to protect completely ridiculous beliefs. In any case, I think it’s better to mock how seriously people are taking this and not so much the belief itself.

    Adrian – yes I realize that people had to “piss people off” to create social change in the past – but you really think this is the same thing? I just don’t see it.

  • Darryl

    I noticed in the responses this theme among a few:

    The main agenda of the New Atheists is to raise peoples’ awareness that religion has been given an undeserved free ride and that they deserve respect for their beliefs a priori, simply because they believe it.

    You’re still saying that the silly fucking belief in the magical transformation of a cracker into human flesh is worthy of respect.

    . . . they will not change their minds either if we show undue respect to their make believe magic.

    Woah, are you saying these inanae fairy tales deserve respect? . . . Sure people deserve at least a modicum of respect, at least until they show they’re not worth that either, but I don’t see any reason to respect any religion, seeing how they’re all made up. . . . The second a religion can show they’re right, offer some proof, I’ll respect them.

    You know, I don’t really know where this idea of “respecting peoples’ beliefs” came from. I’ve never felt compelled to respect a belief, and I’ve never felt that mine should be respected. Beliefs are like opinions. If someone says I don’t care for Beethoven, that neither invokes my respect or disrespect, only my agreement or disagreement, if I’ve formed an opinion about Beethoven.

    Respect has to do with how you treat others and what belongs to them. I respect my neighbors so I don’t steal the newspaper from their front porch–I respect their property so I don’t trespass uninvited. I respect my son in law so I don’t say things to him that I know are likely to offend him. I respect him so I listen to his opinions just as he listens to mine, even though we may not always agree.

    Religious beliefs, like any beliefs having to do with what we consider ultimate values, are safeguarded in our society in the sphere of freedom of conscience. You don’t have to respect them, but you do have to respect me and my right to hold them, regardless of my reasons for doing so. You can criticize them, ridicule them, mock them, or whatever, as much as you please–as ideas or beliefs, but it would be disrespectful to me if you took physical action to defile or destroy something that was integral to my beliefs, especially if it belonged to me or those with whom I have chosen to associate. I have the right of respect. If you deny that to me, I will deny that to you.

    Universal Declaration of Human Rights

    Article 1:
    “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act toward one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”
    Article 18:
    “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this included the right to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”
    Article 19:
    “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

    PZ said:

    There is nothing criminal about what I am doing or planning to do, and definitely nothing violent. No church services will be disrupted, no Catholics will be prevented from worshipping as they wish. However, some crackers will be the target of my godless, mirthful wrath.

    If you’re going to deliberately piss off Catholics, and you think that will be constructive, then why don’t you choose an aspect of their religion that is significant, that is causing harm to atheists and everyone else–an injustice that’s long overdue to be righted. Blacks were struggling for their human dignity, for equal rights and equal protection under the law; homosexuals were and are struggling for the same thing; what are we fighting for, the right to make a play toy of the eucharist? What PZ is doing is silly, trivial, and pointless, and I doubt it will do much good. Go out and protest child molestation in front of a Catholic church, post the pictures of pedophile priests on your websites, demand prosecutions, demand legal reform, make videos of interviews with victims, write articles, write a book on the subject, go on the lecture circuit. Expose the hypocrisy of doctrinal homophobia in a Church whose priesthood is brimming with homosexuals.

  • Adrian

    Chris,

    I guess another part is that I don’t see any intrinsic harm in their belief that the eucharist is Jesus.

    I don’t see any intrinsic harm in the belief that the image Muhammed is sacred and should not be depicted in print.

    It the reaction of believers when confronted with unbelievers that causes the harm.

    I don’t think anyone cares about the cracker, but many people care that mistreating a cracker should provoke death threats and necessitate armed guards.

    What if we have a group of fake pastafarians get together and perform some sort of pastafarian religious ceremony in which some atheist comes along and knowingly desecrates the ceremony.

    The ceremony was not disrupted and went along peacefully.

    Adrian – yes I realize that people had to “piss people off” to create social change in the past – but you really think this is the same thing? I just don’t see it.

    What don’t you see?

    Theists have held a great deal of power throughout history and aren’t willingly recognizing other viewpoints. They demand respect for their beliefs and have demonstrated the extreme lengths they will go to to maintain it. This sort of insane overreaction is a clear attempt at intimidation: conform or suffer threats, legal action, job loss or physically harmed. Some protesters have been killed.

    Yes, I do think that refusing to be cowed and exposing theists to ridicule are essential components. Having others present a positive face to atheism as Hemant does is also important to gain acceptance. The first group shakes us up and wakes us up, the second group takes over and establishes a base. Can’t have a successful movement without both.

  • http://rarusvir.blogspot.com/ Rarus.vir

    At this point, the only thing that can come from this is for atheists to reflect on how we should be viewed by others. If it is dictated by PZ and his way of dealing, we might as well throw in the towel, we will never be repected enough to change minds. If we don’t care to change minds, we can then just have fun with it.

    The arena of ideas is a rather large place, no one owns it, and all must respect the other as a person first, and as an idealist second.

    I’ve found that most atheists are just as bad as the christians they hate, they don’t care to listen to them, they heap ridicule on their person, instead of for their idea’s, and I’m not talking about PZ either, its the fan club that makes the comments that rational atheist should be cringing over.

    I am glad to see a moderate discussing this, freindly atheist. We (all atheist’s) don’t hate theists, it’s just that some of the atheist community is verbous, cranky, and downright confused as to the correctness of their stance. It’s glaringly obvious with every new post and comment.

  • http://rarusvir.blogspot.com/ Rarus.vir

    In short, let’s try to be ladies and gentlemen who are educated, thoughtful, and correct.

  • LJ

    Good afternoon..the troll is back lol!

    It seems there is some concern in your community about how the ‘outside’ world may view you as a group in light of PZ’s comments and those who posted on his blog. Being an outsider myself, and after viewing countless blogs and commentary regarding PZ’s comments, i would have to say that your group is likely to be viewed as unkind, hate-filled, pompous and just plain mean. If you honestly and sincerely cared about open dialog with those with differing views, then maybe it’s not optimal to be so hate-filled with constant unkind comments?
    Some feel the moderate view isn’t helping your cause. It’s hard to say as i have yet to find one thread on any of the atheistic forums i have viewed where a comment was made without some ‘dig’ and cruel remark toward a non atheist. I said nothing unkind or cruel in any of my posts, yet it took no time at all for someone here to ridicule me and suggest i am schizo. You are absolutely entitled to that belief. It is your right to feel this way about me. All i was doing is sharing what this whole thing might feel like to an outsider who does not share the mob mentality of killing PZ. As i said, all groups have their radicals, but even a 2yo knows you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
    FWIW, NOBODY is expecting you to respect BELIEFS that you don’t share. We are asking instead to respect your fellow human beings REGARDLESS of their beliefs. As Ron pointed out, there may very well be someone out there who doesn’t see the humor/satire/whatever in PZ’s comments to go into a church and procure a Consecrated Host. It is not very reasonable in my opinion to dismiss the possibility that violence could occur, whether at the church i attend with my daughter or some other church. If PZ had a caring gene he would make it crystal clear that he does NOT want radicals barging into Catholic Churches procuring Hosts where an ‘innocent’ could be hurt. Maybe all those death threats he is getting are just radicals who mean no harm, but just what if one of them acts on his threat? Why am i schizo because i fear there COULD be violence during a church service because of PZ’s comments but it’s perfectly reasonable and sane to think a radical believer could kill PZ? What if one of PZ’s radicals decide to storm a church with a weapon simply to procure a host and to make a point? What end does any of this serve then? I have no trouble at all respecting atheists as fellow human beings even if i don’t respect their beliefs.

  • http://mypantstheatre.blogspot.com bullet

    Doing something unconstructive to intentionally piss someone off is being a dick. If you want to be a dick, be a dick. But don’t get all pissy and start making rationalized justifications when someone calls you a dick.

  • Beowulff

    LJ, allow me to present some insight why atheist forums may often seem inhospitable to believers, for the sake of increasing mutual understanding. I hope you won’t mind if it gets a little lengthy. Also, I might end up generalizing a bit, so it won’t necessarily apply to you, but I’ll try to word things carefully.

    I think one of the basic problems is that many believers aren’t used to having their beliefs challenged. Of course the people from your own church share your beliefs. For most other people, it’s somewhat of an unwritten rule that you don’t critique others’ beliefs, it’s what’s considered civil behavior. So when many believers enter an atheist forum, they suddenly get all these rude requests to explain why exactly they believe whatever it is they believe. I can understand that that might seem uncivilized and quite shocking at first, because it breaks this unwritten rule. However, it is perfectly understandable from the viewpoint of an atheist: no belief is sacred, no belief is beyond criticism. It’s fine to have a belief, but you’d better be prepared to back it with good arguments if you want to discuss your belief in an atheist forum.

    Another common mistake is assuming atheists are only atheists because they just don’t know about the Bible, or have never heard the great arguments that the believers were taught in church. However, many atheists were raised religious, and have only become atheists after detailed studies of the Bible. Also, believers will regularly offer arguments that they may think will sway the atheists’ opinion, without realizing that they are only repeating arguments that have been heard and refuted many times before. For example, you’ll probably understand that a simple “The Bible says so” or “I just know it” will not be received well, but you still see them pop up regularly. If you want to argue about your beliefs, you’ll have to understand why these arguments won’t do. A little knowledge of the basic logical fallacies won’t hurt either.

    That brings me to the next point: trolls. I don’t think you’re really aware of the exact meaning of the word “troll”, as I don’t think it applies to your behavior here (if only because very few real trolls will announce they’re trolls). “Troll” is not a derogatory term for a theist, or for someone that simply doesn’t agree with the regulars. You are not really a troll, as far as I can tell; while you don’t agree with most people here, you seem genuinely interested in a discussion. A troll, on the other hand, only (or at least mostly) posts to get people angry or disrupt the discussion. For instance, they’ll rarely refute arguments, but instead will change the topic all the time, or refuse to state a clear position, nitpick about definitions of words, or any number of other tactics. Sadly, any blog or forum that has a topic that is even remotely controversial will have a good number of trolls visiting regularly, often masquerading under different aliases, sometimes even pretending to share some of the ideas of the regulars. Trolls come in various forms, shapes and sizes and can be really annoying and tiresome.

    Even more sadly, sometimes it’s difficult to separate the trolls from people with a real interest in discussion. At some point, people give up giving new posters the benefit of the doubt. It’s unfortunate, but it gets understandable after you’ve dealt with a few real trolls.

    I hope this has given you some insight in why atheist discussions may seem somewhat inhospitable to believers. Remember, as long as you’re in the discussion with a will to learn new things, and willing to have your beliefs challenged, you’ll be fine. Everyone else, sorry for the long, slightly OT post :)

  • Beowulff

    bullet said:

    But don’t get all pissy and start making rationalized justifications when someone calls you a dick.

    I think PZ wished all that people did was call him a dick. Death threats are something else entirely.

  • http://artificialhabitat.wordpress.com artificialhabitat

    What if one of PZ’s radicals decide to storm a church with a weapon simply to procure a host and to make a point?

    I presume you’re familiar with the acronym ‘W.T.F?’

    All the threats of violence thus fur have been in one direction.

  • http://metroblog.blogspot.com Metro

    artificialhabitat

    According to Meyers, there have been some flowing in the other direction. So presumably the balance of the universe is restored and we can all get on with things other than defending grand silliness.

  • Salvador Dali Parton

    I think a better thing would to do a blind taste test.

    Not a clever suggestion. If you had done your homework you would know that in the Middle Ages this was debated and it was reasoned that the wafer, even though it’s physical attributes do not change, what the wafer is actually becomes the “Body of Christ”. This is theology and if you think it is unbelievable then you are taking the Protestant view that the wafer just a symbol. Don’t waste your energy picking apart Christianity, enough time has been spent by the some of the greatest minds of the last 2000 years doing that. If you are interested you can read their books.

    I think people are getting agitated about this because it is an affront to Christianity. Think about how you would feel if the guy had, say, blown up a Buddhist statue just to make a point about his lack of belief in that philosophy. (c.f. Buddhas at Bamyan).

    Part of the Christian meta-meme is persecution: that Christians will be persecuted for their faith. If you do this kind of thing you are just reinforcing their faith. Ignoring them, not showing up at church, living a good righteous atheist life is far more damaging to Christianity.

  • oliroy

    I will not deny that you can live a good righteous life as an atheist, some times better than the life of declared chistians. But, excuse me, if you could just listen to and understand the Gospel of Jesus, you would understand that God gives you freedom to do bad as well as good, but teaches you that you will be accepted in his realm only if you practise the first two laws of the bible; Love God before All and your All your human brothers the same way.
    Now if you reallly do not beleive in God, ask a fish (if he could speak) living at great depth if he has any notion that birds exist.

    In Christ, I pray for your soul. May God send you His Holy Spirit.

    Olivier , french catholic.

  • Pingback: Friendly Atheist » How To Make People Very Angry

  • Rat Bastard

    Desecrate a communion wafer? How can one “desecrate” that which is made into some sort of talisman by a superstitious process? It’s a chunk of bread, maybe flat, unsalted, whatever. But it’s got “god” in it? Not! It just goes to show what religion is useful for- organized violence.

    In my youth as a catlicker we were told that we were “rebellious and brave” to pray before a meal because so few people did it. This sets up the martyr complex when we are young.


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