More on PZ Myers & the Kidnapped Communion Wafers

We’ve been debating the fallout from Florida student Webster Cook taking (and then returning) a communion wafer, atheist blogger PZ Myers’ aggressive reaction to the blacklash, and Andrew Sullivan’s lame defense of double standards when it comes to defending the infamous Muslim cartoons, but condemning Myers’ proposed symbolic wafercide. In the process, I had an exchange with Murder of Ravens on the subject that I think helped clarify my position on the whole mess, and was worth expanding on a bit. MoR wrote:

In the case of the Danish cartoonists, they were mocking specific actions of fundamentalist Muslims, namely, their proclivity towards blowing things up and killing innocent people in the name of Allah. Sure, the cartoonists’ approach was injudicious and heavy handed, but then, surely no more heavy handed than the actions of their subjects. And besides, political cartoons have never been known for their subtlety.

In this case, the cartoons were not intended to depict at ALL Muslims, simply an odious minority who engaged in violent and, one might daresay, sociopathic behavior. I think most people will agree that this sort of behavior is rightly condemned by all right thinking people.

On the other hand, taking communion is a benign expression of faith that is partaken of by almost all Catholics. Even if you don’t believe it has any benefits, I think you’ll agree that it harms no one. Unlike the Danish cartoonists, Myers is deliberately antagonizing an entire faith for participating in a harmless act of faith.

The distinction still doesn’t quite fly: you’re assuming that it was depicting violent Muslims that was the relevant offense here.

But reason people were actually rioting in the streets was the actual depiction of Muhammad (which itself would be bad enough even without demeaning that image further) which is all by itself considered a desecration of the sacred in Islam. For Muslims, depicting the prophet is pretty much analogous to consecrating a wafer and then flushing it down the toilet: depictions are by their nature profane.

Some observant Jews have a similar belief about names of God: if you or anyone writes one down somewhere, then you are duty bound not to harm the paper, and it can only be disposed of in a very particular fashion (basically put in a special place where it can never come to any harm). To not do so (or to do something like print a name of God on a newspaper destined to be thrown into the garbage or burned) is, again, a willful desecration.

In short, all of these acts are deliberate acts of religious desecration in the eyes of certain believers. They are all in some sense unnecessary acts of blasphemy, and thus deeply and deliberately insulting when knowingly done.

The problem here is that Myers comes off as a total dickhead on this one: “It won’t be gross. It won’t be totally tasteless, but yeah, I’ll do something that shows this cracker has no power. This cracker is nothing.” And: “It’s so darned weird that they’re demanding that I offer this respect to a symbol that means nothing to me.”

What Myers either can’t or won’t understand is that it’s not the symbol that deserves respect, (although I realize that some will disagree with that) it’s the people. To me, the Bible and the Koran are just books. Interesting (in places) and historic, but still just books. But I still would not desecrate either, not because I respect the books, but rather because I know my actions would offend.

Now, call me hopelessly old-fashioned, but I still believe in an old concept known as “consideration for the feelings of others”. An outmoded concept, I realize, but one which still has some value. Clearly, Myers does not share my view.

I agree that Myers is being rude here of course. I just don’t think one can defend one act of defiant desecration and not another, or condemn one as rude and hurtful and not another.

And there’s an important nuance here: why I disagree with him is important, and I get the sense that it’s a key difference between my reaction and that of someone like Mark Shea. Shea thinks Myers is just being an ass out of a mere arrogant desire to feel superior.

But that’s just Shea’s usual way of dismissal (note his constant reliance on psychological characterization nutpicking). Myers does have a clear reason for what he says and does: he actually believes that his description of desecration is aimed at puncturing the power of a belief that needs puncturing, and that this is so important that it needs to be confronted in the style of a sort of dramatic intervention.

Now, you and I both clearly agree that nothing so important is at stake here that it’s worth even hurting anyone’s feelings. But I think you would have to agree that it’s not always wrong in principle to hurt someone’s feelings by a demonstrative act: sometimes the act is justified by the importance of expressing the cause (for instance, burning a communist flag during Poland’s independence movement probably sincerely hurt the feelings of dedicated communists and Soviets, but it would have been a powerful and important symbolic act as well).

In that sense, what’s going on here is a judgment call on what measures are worth it for what cause, not a violation of any absolute principle against hurting feelings by symbolic acts.

Now, Myers thinks that mocking and thus holding to public ridicule religious beliefs can weaken their grasp on people. I’m agnostic on that score: it potentially could do that, and many such acts have in the past worked to delegitimize certain beliefs or movements. It’s not, as some think, that devout Catholics are suddenly going to change their minds upon being mocked, but rather the act of casting the belief under public, culture-wide scrutiny. That’s plausible as a means to delegitimize the belief. On the other hand, I think it’s just as possible that it could have the opposite effect: mere bullying that doesn’t play well in the general public at all, and thus only enrages Catholics. So maybe more than just agnostic as to the effectiveness of the method: I’m skeptical.

But where we really differ is how we weigh the stakes. Myers truly believes that religious beliefs are not just wrong, but harmful. No, he doesn’t believe that Catholics at Mass are akin to suicide bombers. But he does think that it legitimizes a form of dogmatic irrationality in our culture that leads to all sorts of other irrationality in our culture, leads to political views he thinks are bad, and so on. He watches the indoctrination of new generations of believers and sees it as a crime upon their intellects. And, I think somewhere along the lines, he believes that this all rises to being a threat to our civilization: that the continued grasp of ancient superstitions on our culture both holds us back and diverts us off into places he doesn’t want us to go.

And don’t get me wrong: I do think there is some real harm here. The moral confusion of someone like Bill Donahue, thinking that taking a wafer out of a church is the worst thing that has ever happened or is in any sense comparable to a violent kidnapping: that’s pernicious stuff. Morality is too important to have people’s priorities generally muddied and distorted in such a bizarre manner.

But the harms here are, I think, ephemeral, indirect, and uncertain. And they’re filtered through complex people: people who for the time being may well be worse off without their religion than with it, wrong or right. In the face of that, I’m far more inclined to think that religion per se, as a cultural practice, is fairly neutral in terms of its social harms. I think that when it comes to behavior, people as often as not justify their existing convictions and desires with religious ideas, rather than the other way around (following religious directives).

And while I agree with Myers and Harris that merely silly or moderate beliefs help justify the intellectual habits of extremists, I’m not sure extremists need justification or acceptance, or even that moderates really in practice follow that logic in practice anyway.

So the stakes, for me, are way way less. And coupled with a dubious, potentially counter-productive method and the certainty of hurting and insulting people, I don’t see the point. Myers, while certainly in the right to reject the overreactions directed at Webster Cook and many of the incoherent outraged arguments of Shea, Sullivan, and Donahue, hasn’t, in my mind, been able to justify insulting all Catholics in return by threatening blasphemy.

But it is a judgment call, based on some real differences of opinion: not matter of mere bigotry, as Shea would have it.

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23 Responses to More on PZ Myers & the Kidnapped Communion Wafers

  1. I am sorry I still haven’t responded to your question about how liberal religious believers use the Bible, but perhaps I can begin to make up for that by sharing my Biblical studies response to the P. Z. Myers Eucharist affair:

    http://exploringourmatrix.blogspot.com/2008/07/let-jesus-contend-with-p-z-myers.html

  2. Bad says:

    That’s an excellent direction on things. Though, of course, some people just loathe having scripture be more creative and insightful than they want it to be, and I suspect that such a reference is unlikely to mollify Catholics (especially because they, unlike literalists, rely on church traditions as much as scripture to guide their responses to things like this)
    But I’ve definitely always been intrigued by the idea of Jesus, and any part of Jesus, being incorruptible: truly immune to “desecration” or whatever. When I was a believer, I held that this was the interpretation of why Jesus could flout the purity laws with impunity: he simply could not be made impure. The idea, in fact, seems almost absurd.
    Perhaps not compelling theology for anyone who’s already got a contrary one, but certainly a possibility that seems to make the most sense. As I said in a comment thread somewhere:

    And if that God saw some irksome brat waving around the Host, his attitude would be “pffff, whatever: you think you can hurt Me?”

    And as I noted in my first post on this controversy:

    Concede for a second that Cook really is nothing more than an arrogant little git trying to thumb his nose at a church practice, and that he walked off with a piece of God’s spiritual body instead of consuming it.

    This God, apparently, is not a being who’d laugh it off as some little adolescent display. This God isn’t a being who’d snort derisively at it. This God isn’t above it all. This God is, in fact, supposedly as vein-poppingly outraged by this act as Bill Donahue: so much so that he’d demand that people utterly innocent in the incident beg his forgiveness. Indeed, this God is tame compared to Bill Donahue: for this God, this was not merely a hate crime, but as bad or worse than murder, and punishable by the worst imaginable of all punishments.

    I don’t know about you, but I find such a being very hard to imagine or relate to.

  3. bitchspot says:

    Sorry, in this case Murder of Ravens is just wrong. Catholics don’t “deserve” respect, they have to earn it just like everyone else and in this case, we’ve seen that a lot of Catholics simply do not deserve it, they’re a bunch if animals, throwing death threats around because of a stupid cracker. I don’t care what their beliefs are or how strongly they believe, if their beliefs are idiotic, and they most certainly are, the stupidity of those beliefs needs to be pointed out to the world. That goes for all religious groups and all beliefs.

    Certainly, we need to respect the right of Catholics to believe whatever silly things they want to believe, but that doesn’t mean the beliefs themselves aren’t open to derision These idiots got what they deserved and PZ exposed the kind of violent nutballs that the religion appeals to.

  4. Grendel The Martyr says:

    The problem I have is when a given religion might denigrate or condemn me because I behaved in a way they consider blasphemous in their religion. It’s my contention that I cannot blaspheme a religion I don’t believe in or belong to.

    As an American I enjoy freedom of speech and printed expressions of it, and if I had some reason to print a picture of Muhammad, that’s what I’ll do -and I won’t much care who it offends. I’m not going to be put in the position of honoring rites, rituals, and rules of religions in which I don’t believe and to which I don’t belong. To be internally consistent, if I cater to one religion I must cater to all, and there’s just too damn many of them, each holding too many potential offenses for me to commit, knowingly or otherwise.

    I look at religions which practice arranged marriages that are involuntary for the ‘bride’, are often an addition to a polygamous arrangement, and so often involve children essentially, and whle my values and beliefs are deeply offended I leave them alone and wouldn’t for a minute think they ought to abandon their values and accept mine. But… that’s exactly what happens when I behave in a way that some religion or another finds offensive. Paid for my wife’s abortion? Could get me killed in certain circumstances – that’s no exaggeration in that I lived within 20 miles of the NC mountain forest where abortion clinic bomber and murderer Eric Rudolph hid out from authorities, aided and abetted by local relgious nuts who supported his murders 100%.

    I could list many more examples but won’t belabor the point.

    LSS, it is all well and good to be tolerant of relgions, believers, and their practices, but there are limits. It would also be nice to see the same in return, for a fundy Christian, for example, to understand and accept that when I cuss or ‘take the Lord’s name in vain”, I haven’t commited any offense in their religion because I don’t belong to their religion. The rites, rituals, and rules of religions do not extend to me. It seems to me that when a secular society, that is, a society that has it’s percentage of religious believers but is governed as a secular entity, nonetheless goes out of its way to accomodate and tolerate, what happens is the tolerated and accomodated simply raise the ante, up their demands for even more to be tolerated and accomodated.

    I support what PZ does, not as something everyone ought to do, but with the idea that he is a sort of icon for atheists witha bellyful of toleratin’ and accomodatin’, and a sort of lone wolf who behaves so confrontationally as a sort of representative for those who feel the same. I think it instructive to take a holy communion wafer and use it to, I dunno, level my table lamp, adorn my baseball cap, or otherwise ‘blaspheme’ with it…. to show anyone paying attention that absolutely, nothing bad happens as a result. No punitive hurricanes and earthquakes, no hellfire, and no damnations except those that begin, end, and spend their entire existence as nothing more than a mental construct in the minds of believers who’ve been conditioned to believe thusly.

    If that causes them pain or worry or concern, they ought to consider it among the prices paid by those who hold arbitrary and superstitious beliefs in a society where not all hold the same beliefs. Suffer the pain or abandon the belief, but don’t tell ME to behave differently so you’ll feel better (said G to the imaginary believer, not to the blog). The answer to their problem is not a change in my behavior (when and where my behavior is not otherwise illegal).

    Harrumph!

  5. Bad says:

    Bitchspot, I don’t think people in general have to earn special degree of respect in order to NOT deserve having people intentionally attacking their sacred symbols directly, regardless of how silly those beliefs might seem to us. It’s all well and good to criticize the overreactions and hysterically dumb arguments of people like Donahue. But in this case, desecrating hosts offends even those Catholics who didn’t have anything to do with any of that.

    It’s easy to simply point out that the beliefs are unfounded and silly. One doesn’t have to resort to actually going out of ones way to intentionally desecrate something that’s important to those believers. Doing something like that requires a much higher burden of justification as a tactic, I think.

  6. Bad says:

    Grendel: the problem is that you’d be going out of your way to offend them. It isn’t a case in which they were placing burdens on you and how you live your life, and you’re fighting back. You’d be going out of your way to obtain a consecrated wafer and defame it. And them calling you a jerk for doing so infringe on your right to free speech.

    As for proving that nothing bad happens, I don’t think that’d be a very effective method, as many don’t necessarily believe that anything would.

  7. Terry says:

    http://www.geekologie.com/2008/07/devil_women_destroy_collectibl.php

    Here is a video of the desecration of a sacred object, and there are death threats in the comments section. :) When I saw it, I thought of all of you.

  8. Bad,

    We seem to agree on more than we disagree here. In fact, having given the matter a little more thought, I’ve even shifted my position a little more towards yours. More on that below.

    We agree that religious practices, and even things simply done in the name of religion, are not above scrutiny and/or censure. We also agree that there are lines that should be observed, for the sake of civility, if nothing else, even if we don’t necessarily agree on exactly where those lines are.

    In the case of the Danish cartoons, I’m sure we all agree that killing people in the name of Allah deserves opprobrium. So in the case of the cartoon that depicts Mohamed wearing a bomb for a turban, my personal view (and this is where I’ve shifted a bit) is that if the cartoonist had simply depicted a nameless Muslim in the cartoon, this would have been acceptable. At worst they could have been accused of perpetuating a stereotype, but then, it seems that thousands of angry and violent Muslim demonstrators did this for them anyway.

    Where they crossed the line was in actually depicting Mohamed himself. While I personally find this proscription somewhat puzzling, I understand why it offends Muslims. The point here is that they could have made their point quite clearly (and a very valid point it is) without resorting to offending ALL Muslims.

    So now we get to Webster Cook and PZ Myers. As I’ve said, I’ve read differing accounts as to Cook’s motives, but even if his motives were less than honorable, it still amounts to nothing more than a dumb-ass kid doing doing something dumb-assed. There is certainly nothing here that justifies death threats, or even expulsion from school. If I were still a Catholic, I’d be embarrassed for all Catholics. Heck, even as a former Catholic I winced when I read about this.

    So up to this point, I’m completely with Myers on this. The ridiculous overreaction of some Catholics certainly warranted all the outraged atheist finger wagging Myers could muster.

    I have no problem with his calling the Eucharist a “cracker”, because he was doing so in an attempt to make a point here. I guess I do have a slight problem with him calling it a “cracker” REPEATEDLY, not because it’s “blasphemous” or anything like that, but simply because it makes him sound juvenile.

    But Myers crosses the line with this stunt of threatening to desecrate the Eucharist, in exactly the same way that the Danish cartoonist crossed the line. He could have made his point–and certainly made it more convincingly–without going out of his way to offend ALL Catholics. I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that there are many Catholics who would have sympathized with Webster Cook, but might reconsider after reading about Myers.

    I sometimes wonder–as I’m sure do you–if Myers is really interested in convincing anybody of anything, of if he simply enjoys the attention he gets from shooting his mouth off.

    And while I agree that Andrew Sullivan is indulging in a bit of a double standard, so is Myers. Webster Cook gets death threats, and Myers is ready to do something naughty to the Eucharist. But as you yourself pointed out, death threats are usually meaningless. While I think it’s odious, it is highly unlikely that any of those threats would ever be carried out.

    But when it comes to Muslim fanatics, who not only make death threats, but routinely DO carry them out, all Myers can muster is a bit of finger wagging. Shouldn’t Myers be far, FAR more outraged by the many actual murders carried out in the name of Allah? Why isn’t Myers’ threatening to desecrate the Koran? His reaction to Muslim fundamentalism is curiously tepid. Pat Condell, he clearly isn’t.

    Anyway, thanks for the opportunity to engage in yet another interesting debate with you. Oh, and thanks for the link. ;>)

    -smith

  9. Sorry, in this case Murder of Ravens is just wrong.

    I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that I disagree with you. ;>)

    Catholics don’t “deserve” respect, they have to earn it just like everyone else and in this case, we’ve seen that a lot of Catholics simply do not deserve it, they’re a bunch if animals, throwing death threats around because of a stupid cracker.

    But you see, I never said that Catholics deserve respect BECAUSE they’re Catholic. I believe they deserve respect because they’re people, and I believe all people deserve respect until they give me a reason to believe otherwise. Simply holding religious beliefs is not a reason for me to believe otherwise.

    I don’t care what their beliefs are or how strongly they believe, if their beliefs are idiotic, and they most certainly are, the stupidity of those beliefs needs to be pointed out to the world. That goes for all religious groups and all beliefs.

    And who decides what is “idiotic”? You? What criteria do you use to decide? I agree, to whatever extent the expression of one’s religion impinges on your personal rights and freedoms, you have a right to push back commensurately. But calling someone “stupid” and “idiotic” simply because they embrace beliefs that you don’t share is simply rude.

    Certainly, we need to respect the right of Catholics to believe whatever silly things they want to believe, but that doesn’t mean the beliefs themselves aren’t open to derision

    Fair enough, up to a point. But why the derision? Can’t you simply disagree with someone without deriding them? Lose the derision, and you might even persuade someone to adopt your point of view.

    These idiots got what they deserved and PZ exposed the kind of violent nutballs that the religion appeals to.

    There was certainly enough bad behavior in this episode to make this former Catholic wince in embarrassment for his old alma mater.

    But beyond that you’re indulging in the sort or stereotyping that would be completely unacceptable if you were referring to some other group. Think about it: if Myers, as a professor at a state university, made the same kind of inflammatory remarks about blacks, gays, or women, he would get himself a one way ticket into mandatory sensitivity training, and that’s assuming he even got to keep his job, a dubious supposition at best.

    -smith

  10. Arrggghhhh! Screwed up yet another blockquote!!!!!!:>(

    Could you please put “these idiots got…religion appeals to” in blockquotes? Thanks.

    -smith

  11. Murder of Ravens says:

    Oops! One more thing: when I used the word “approbation” in the above comment, I meant to use the word “opprobrium”. Sorry. It was 2 in the morning, after all.

    S.

  12. Bad says:

    S’okay, since I had to look both of em up to figure out what they meant anyway. :)

  13. Terry says:

    There are two issues here. One is whether or not mockery and persecution is at all effective at reducing the number of believers. It is true that the numbers drop when you apply social pressure to a religion, because most people don’t care about religion all that much. However, what the Catholic church never seems to lose through those methods are the orthodox intellectuals and the truly dedicated. If we lose 100 people who have never cracked open a bible, but gain 1 convert that understands, studies, and practises the faith it is a great enhancement of the Catholic Church’s power. The papacy, much less Christianity as a whole, has outlasted hundreds of ideologies, hundreds of governments and dynasties, and scores of nations. We have done so by having an iron core of believers which inspire a new generations of converts. This is far from the most apostate or difficult era in the history of the church. In fact, we are so used to the waxing and waning of the Church’s influence that we have several analogies devoted to it. The biblical analogy of the mustard seed, the idea of cutting the dead vines for regrowth, the church is nourished by the blood of matyrs etc.

    Atheism has nothing to say to dispute the faith that couldn’t have been said centuries ago. There is no new evidence to disprove the faith because largely the faith does not appeal to evidence. Scepticism is good for the Catholic faith. It allows us to draw upon the intellectual tradition and confirm orthodoxy. This is because largely orthodoxy is based on good scholarship and a tradition that your faith has to conform to reason rather than the other way around. Orthodoxy knows that the faith is foolish, that there is no evidence for it, but that we trust those who have passed on the faith to us and we buttress it with a nice helping of subjective experience. Orthodoxy is comfortable with doubts, and the realization that this could all be a massive fraud.

    The only victory that is true victory for the atheist is when people acknowledge that despite their trust in the sincerity of the belief of the faith community, and despite the fact that there is no evidence contrary to the claims of Christianity, and despite the feeling of genuine spiritual experience that the atheist will put his trust in mathematics and evidence based on empiricism alone. That person sounds like a very contemplative and rational person that I would be proud to call mentor. In fact, I have known a few of them.

    Unfortunately those people are as rare as hen’s teeth, and is not synonymous with atheism. Atheism as a movement, and within this blog over the last couple of weeks, is also based on straw man opponents, decrepit 19th century progressive ideology, bad history, psychobabble, subjective moral absolutes, and sociology. Thus, an intelligent man like myself can have quite a lot of fun savaging it against atheism’s ideal.

    The funny thing about all of this is that Atheism starts in the stronger position. The burden of proof is on me to convince you that there was a man who was the incarnate son of God and rose again on the third day. If Atheists hold to the empiricist ideal, then all I’ve got to say is that you should pray and practise and you’ll eventually feel it. Hardly a convincing argument. It is when you try to say the other things and try to make atheism into some cosmic struggle that you put me on even footing. The simple fact of the matter is that atheism alone doesn’t make you more rational, more intelligent, or clear-minded. I know this because I am quite clearly smarter, more knowledgeable, and physically healthier than many atheists. Nor would I necessarily be even better at these things if I was an atheist myself because I know that the rigours and discipline of my faith has contributed positively to my state of mind and body.

    Concentrate on the philosophical strength of atheism and forget the cosmological utopian struggle to create an advanced society, and you’ll contribute a lot positively to the world and sound less intellectually weak.

  14. Glazius says:

    I don’t really get what all the fuss is about.

    I take a communion wafer home every Sunday, and over the course of several hours I dissolve it in acid and mix it with my own shit. Nobody’s so much as said a word to me about it.

  15. Bad says:

    Atheism has nothing to say to dispute the faith that couldn’t have been said centuries ago.

    I think this is a poorly worded assertion, wrong on most of its possible meanings, and irrelevant even if true. Atheism per se has nothing to say about anything. Skeptics of particular faith claims need not be atheists: the arguments stand or fall on their merits, not on who is making them. As for nothing new, I disagree. There are plenty of new arguments against new theologies, as well as new evidence to consider against claims of authenticity when it comes to founding Christianity historically. And so on. but it wouldn’t really matter if these claims weren’t new: all that matters is whether or not they can be rebutted satisfactorily. Obviously you would think that they can be, and I’d disagree.

    There is no new evidence to disprove the faith because largely the faith does not appeal to evidence.

    Yes and no: I think this is a very shifty subject. It’s true that faith is an omnipresent and incorruptible fallback if ever trouble arises with an evidential claim. But countless things, including even acknowledging the existence of this controversy, rely on appeals to evidence, implicit or explicit. I think it more the case that theology appeals to evidence only when it suits its purposes, and if the evidence suddenly turns out not to support the theology, the theology then declares evidence irrelevant.

    The only victory that is true victory for the atheist is when people acknowledge that despite their trust in the sincerity of the belief of the faith community, and despite the fact that there is no evidence contrary to the claims of Christianity, and despite the feeling of genuine spiritual experience that the atheist will put his trust in mathematics and evidence based on empiricism alone.

    I don’t think it’s accurate to say that atheists will necessarily have to put their trust in anything “alone.” What they need is some justification for beliefs beyond “lots of people believe this and I like believing it.”

    Atheism as a movement, and within this blog over the last couple of weeks, is also based on straw man opponents, decrepit 19th century progressive ideology, bad history, psychobabble, subjective moral absolutes, and sociology.

    That’s a mouthful certainly, but not a lot of substance other than accusations.

    I don’t think atheism has anything to do with anyone being smarter or any of the rest of what you said though. Atheism is the lack of a belief: a particular belief. And we can discuss the merits or demerits of that belief directly, without really having to say much about atheism, since atheism isn’t anything unto itself.

  16. When I go to the mosque, I take off my shoes. When I go to the synagogue, I cover my head…Religious faith is, precisely because we are still-evolving creatures, ineradicable. It will never die out, or at least not until we get over our fear of death, and of the dark, and of the unknown, and of each other. For this reason, I would not prohibit it even if I thought I could.

    I was bouncing around the ‘net and I came across the first chapter of Hitchens’ “God is Not Great”. I think we can all agree that he is no friend of religion, and yet even he can see the value in mutual respect. In fact, his chief complaint in this chapter seems to be with the unwillingness of the religious to return that respect:

    I will continue to do this without insisting on the polite reciprocal condition—which is that they in turn leave me alone. But this, religion is ultimately incapable of doing.

    Myers could learn something from Hitches, IMHO.

    -smith

  17. Something else occurred to me. Bill Donahue is obviously a gasbag, we’ll just take that as a given. But that said, no one should be surprised that Catholics, even those who condemned the way Webster Cook was treated, are pretty bent out of shape at Myers.

    Look at it this way. What if Webster Cook had been in a Jewish synagogue, and his irreverent act had been to refuse to put on a yarmulke, which in turn caused a dust up similar to the one he was actually involved in.

    Now imagine that when PZ Myers gets hold of this, he says, “It’s just a frackin’ hat!” And then he goes on to say something like, “Can anyone out there score me a yarmulke? [I will] treat it with profound disrespect and heinous hat abuse, all photographed and presented here on the web. I shall do so joyfully and with laughter in my heart.”

    Would anyone be the slightest bit surprised that Jews were offended? Would anyone blame them for being so? I doubt it. Most likely, Myers would have the Anti-Defamation League on his back faster than he could say “Richard Dawkins”. And no doubt he would looking at six months of mandatory sensitivity training, assuming that he even got to keep his job, a dubious supposition at best.

    I should also add that, had he been fired, or even forced to undergo sensitivity training, I would have been opposed to that. While I think that Myers is an odious little troll, he does have the constitutionally protected right to say what he thinks, even if it makes him an odious little troll.

    -smith

  18. Ebonmuse says:

    Murder of Ravens: PZ Myers did indeed offer to desecrate a Koran, back in 2007. No one seems to have raised a stink about it then.

  19. Ebonmuse: I read it, and post he links to where he “threatens” to urinate on a Bible, and then says he was just kidding.

    OK, fine. So what does it prove? What does it accomplish. Is he winning new converts to atheism with this stuff? I sincerely doubt it. A jerk who exercises his constitutional right to be a jerk is still just a jerk.

    -smith

  20. […] as I’ve previosuly observed, I don’t think the “Myers is breaking an important principle of respect in our […]

  21. JJ says:

    See the attached link for a solution to the problem focusing on the ability to recieve communion in a sanitary method so you don’t have the worries of transfering germs from one another.

  22. myth buster says:

    The thing is, there is nothing in Judaism or Islam remotely comparable to Host desecration. Host desecration is not merely blasphemy; it is physically assaulting God. Jews may regard destroying a paper with God’s Name on it as sacrilegious, but they do not imagine that doing so amounts to punching God in the Face or stabbing Him in the Heart.

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