Re: Well, that's done

1

A commenter over a PZ's said the picture was faked, that you can't drive a nail thru a Most Holy Host with the Real Presence without cracking it. Probably a poker chip, also a sacrilege.

I have been trying to sort out my feelings about this. If I saw someone marking up a hardcopy of Ulysses with a highlighter, I might cringe or declare jihad. Hell, I get offended when someone talks about narrative in Ulysses. Blasphemy.

But more than that, I think I consider metaphor or symbol magical & sacred. The sitting Liberty below didn't offend me, but was more than just a joke.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 9:47 AM
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you can't drive a nail thru a Most Holy Host with the Real Presence without cracking it

Fresh Host, maybe, but stale Host you can totally drive a nail through. It's styrofoamy and bends.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 9:50 AM
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I always cut a hole and then slip the nail through.

As I said on the other thread, religionists are not tactful about what they say about atheists and seculars. Street preachers tell you to your face that you're a damned sinner, and TV networks blast this message (including predictions of violent death and eternal suffering, and accusations of dog-raping) to millions of people.

Prudentially, we have to remember that we're a minority and that some of them are violent and angry. On the other hand, this is supposedly a secular nation, and it would be a better place if secularists could make their statements without fear of harm. Pat Robertson and the other Armageddonists don't get death threats; why should we.

I wouldn't do what Meyers did, but I'm glad he did it. On the other thread I compared it to the things you do to maintain your right to an easement. If these things weren't done, the right to do them would become moot.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 9:57 AM
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Bob. I have a very visceral negative reaction to people damaging books, too.

There seems to be something self defeating about this display. It is a bit of symbolic politics designed to show that symbolic politics doesn't matter. It can only succeed if it is actually trying to show something false. Its like trying to prove that wood doesn't burn using a lighter and a lot of kindling.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 9:58 AM
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It's styrofoamy and bends and in a pinch can be used as a diaphragm.

Better desecration please.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 10:02 AM
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Rob, that irony amuses me also: "it's dumb to get excited about symbols," he said, taking pains to slide a nail through a cracker without shattering it. It's like a Tom Swiftie with added philosophical clunkiness.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 10:04 AM
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The weird thing is that you have a degree of uncertainty as to whether sacred symbols as such should be respected by everyone, or just sacred symbols that are really sacred. Do anti-Muslim, anti-Catholic Protestants object to Myers' profanation? Has anyone accused him of being a Protestant bigot yet?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 10:06 AM
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In one of those dopey college guides, the students at my (and rob's) undergrad institution are described as unique in that, in a rainstorm, they would put their books under their shirts to keep the books dry, rather than over their heads to keep themselves dry. That's about where I stand. It makes me sort of queasy to see books torn up and in the trash.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 10:06 AM
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I'd be interested in hearing the official Catholic reaction. Donahue is a fringe operative.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 10:22 AM
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7: He's not in any way confusable for a Protestant, but his antics are reminiscent of Protestant anti-Catholic pranks.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 10:24 AM
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Next, we takes the axe to the Madonna and child ikons!


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 10:29 AM
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4: It's rather like defending burning the flag not by pointing out the expressive power inherent in desecrating a symbol, but by insisting it's just a piece of cloth, and I bought at the store, and it's mine, so the only issue here is whether I'm creating a fire hazard.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 10:31 AM
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It's like rain, on your wedding day.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 10:41 AM
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"On the other thread I compared it to the things you do to maintain your right to an easement. If these things weren't done, the right to do them would become moot. "

Given that I think that just about every form of political expression should be legal, does this mean I'm now supposed to actively support whoever engages in them, since otherwise our rights our meaningless? So I have to not think flag burners or people who march in neo-nazi rallies in Skokie are jerks?

Actually, no. Actually, that's idiotic. (And since we're trotting out idiotic arguments because Myers is One of Us, I assume I now have to insert a disclaimer about not actually thinking this is comparable to a Neo-Nazi march.)


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 10:51 AM
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(IIRC it was widely recognized as idiotic during the whole Muslim cartoon thing, by the way: yes, of course newspaper editors shouldn't be threatened with violence or embassies burnt down over a freaking cartoon, but it didn't transform the original editorial decision into a heroic defense of free expression despite right wing claims to the country. Muslim-baiting & Catholic-baiting is & ought to be constitutionally protected; this does not mean that those who engage in it aren't acting like assholes, though of course they're less asshole-ish than those sending death threats. I realize that we react differently partly because of the relative political power of the groups involved, which is relevant, but Myers is not actually risking anything here--a lot of atheist claims about how they're "the most oppressed minority in America" are self-dramatizing nonsense. The Christian right is a real threat, but they're not a threat to tenured university professors' right to tell them off.)


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 10:58 AM
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10: More specifically, his post is in places highly reminiscent of the Jack T. Chick tract debunking transubstantiation. I've thought about doing a blog post thereupon, as a follow up to my recent opus on the Myers Affair.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 11:51 AM
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It is a bit of symbolic politics designed to show that symbolic politics doesn't matter.

This isn't my take on it. Myers is attempting to show that sacred objects have no power f'reals, not symbolically. "Let your 'god' defend his sacred objects which I am now desecrating" has a long and proud tradition, going back centuries, maybe millenia.

I support Myers. He's really sticking his neck our here; these people are nuts.


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:07 PM
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17: Again, he's knocking on an open door -- Catholic doctrine has never claimed that communion hosts have the power of self-defense. In fact, it would be weird if they did, since the Eucharist commemorates the event where Almighty God himself submitted to death.

(There are stories of miracles relating to communion hosts -- it turns to actual flesh to freak out a priest whose faith is wavering, it burns the mouth of the Jew who sneaks into mass, etc. -- but they are outliers.)


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:11 PM
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In one of those dopey college guides, the students at my (and rob's) undergrad institution are described as unique in that, in a rainstorm, they would put their books under their shirts to keep the books dry, rather than over their heads to keep themselves dry.

You're not unique. Books do furnish a room, though. (The Wayback Machine is busted. Imagine it.)


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:13 PM
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I still like my analogy from an earlier thread: Myers is like a stoic who's decided to kill your friends to demonstrate that they're just flesh and blood, come on, get over yourself.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:15 PM
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Catholic doctrine has never claimed that communion hosts have the power of self-defense.

They are hostests with the comatostest.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:16 PM
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A really good Catholic baiting idea would be for a woman to use communion wine to wash down the morning-after pill. It would have the advantage of exercising a right that the political power of Catholicism actually does threaten.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:18 PM
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I'd like to see a sitcom involving a priest whose faith is wavering—maybe the guy from Diary of a Country Priest—and his best friend, a communion wafer miraculously endowed with the power to crack wise.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:19 PM
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18. I am not teh scholar, but this at least doesn't jibe with anecdotal evidence. Cf. Joyce's tale of two sisters in Dubliners, wherein the priest lets the host fall to the floor and, after not being struck dead, renounces his faith.

Secondly, Myers' audience isn't people who are real up on educated theology.


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:20 PM
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20. "look, i'll do this to show you that it doesn't harm anything" is equivalent to "look, i'll do this to show you that they can die"?


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:21 PM
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--Then, said Cranly, you do not intend to become a protestant?

MI said that I had lost the faith, Stephen answered, but not that I had lost selfrespect. What kind of liberation would that be to forsake an absurdity which is logical and coherent and to embrace one which is illogical and incoherent?

The New Advent entry on Transubstantiation is succinct, comprehensive, & up-to-date.

I wasn't raised Catholic in any meaningful way, but embraced it as the Respectable Opponent in my mid-twenties. I don't Myers is deep or serious enough to respect his enemy, or do it damage.

There is a scene in Ford's The Good Soldier where the foursome is touristing the 95 Theses or sumpin, Florence is flirting (partly by defending Protestantism) with the Colonel, and Catholic Eleonora, agitated, goes outside with Dowell:

"Don't you see," she said, with a really horrible bitterness, with a really horrible lamentation in her voice, "Don't you see that that's the cause of the whole miserable affair; of the whole sorrow of the world? And of the eternal damnation of you and me and them. . ." "Don't you know," she said, in her clear hard voice, "don't you know that I'm an Irish Catholic?" ...

V THOSE words gave me the greatest relief that I have ever had in
my life.

There is so much misdirection and irony in that scene, besides a serious surface interpretation that I think, is important to the book. All downhill since Luther.

Dowell knew about the affair all along. He's relieved Eleonora isn't going to end the game. And Dowell is demonic, orchestrating the tragedies.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:22 PM
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Don't you know your canon, Michael? Come on! You knew that your wife or child was a human being, a dying thing, so why get so upset on its death?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:24 PM
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21: Neither awkward phrasing, nor doubtful humor stays these courageous commenters from the incessant posting of their jokes.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:24 PM
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27. i don't think you can ignore the issue of doing harm vs. not doing harm


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:27 PM
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I can ignore whatever the fuck I want, bitch.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:28 PM
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but i'm fond of jugs, too.


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:28 PM
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30. Work that into your dissertation.


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:29 PM
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24: Your ignorance of the actual doctrine does not change the doctrine, nor does the idiosyncratic opinion of a character in a Joyce story.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:30 PM
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I'd like to see a sitcom involving a priest whose faith is wavering--maybe the guy from Diary of a Country Priest--and his best friend, a communion wafer miraculously endowed with the power to crack wise.

The host could look and sound like Helium, only not pink.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:30 PM
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25: I am quite willing to believe all of them thought that physically, all that would happen is a wafer would be destroyed. But so what? Since when do we think that the only things that can be offensive are physical harms? (Should make the threads around here a lot shorter.)

The challenging bit about arguing against transsubstantiation is that the fact that there is no physical change is already acknowledged by the theology underlying it. Pointing out, haha, it looks like a cracker is just dumb.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:31 PM
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(this jugs link is better)


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:31 PM
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I am in agreement with Kotsko on this matter. Meyers is being an extraordinary dick.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:34 PM
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I continue to be amazed at the reaction to PZ Myers. The point of Myers's "sacrilege" was to publicly declare solidarity with people like Webster Cook - that is, the minority of common-sense-bearing people who value actual human beings over arbitrarily-selected icons of religious authority. I'm glad there are people like Myers around, and wish there were more of them.

The liberal reaction to Myers - largely speaking, to tut-tut the way he tossed a stale cracker in the garbage while generally writing off the hundreds of lunatics who've sent him harassing emails, trying to get him fired or sending him death threats - reconfirms my belief that the central tenant of modern liberalism is to avoid offending mainstream viewpoints at all costs while drifting closer and closer to the cultural and sociopolitical right.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:34 PM
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"I am not teh scholar, but this at least doesn't jibe with anecdotal evidence. Cf. Joyce's tale of two sisters in Dubliners, wherein the priest lets the host fall to the floor and, after not being struck dead, renounces his faith. "

One James Joyce story written in Ireland in 1914 v. every Catholic I have ever met? I have a big, extended family ranging from Catholics who protest regularly at abortion clinics & run for office on the right-to-life-line & might be on William Donohue's e-mail list, to Catholics who are both observants regular mass-goers & active ACLU members, to Catholics who flout the church teaching but still go to church intermittently, to Catholics who aren't religious righties by any stretch but do send me insipid Jesus-Y email forwards & have mass said in my honor at Christmas. Not one thinks that hosts have the power of self defense. So, you're as wrong about what Catholics actually think as about doctrine.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:35 PM
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31,36: I consider gratuitous links to porny breasts to be trolling.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:35 PM
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there is no physical change is already acknowledged by the theology underlying it

No. Define "physical". The accidents remain intact, the substance is changed.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:38 PM
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I don't Myers is deep or serious enough to respect his enemy, or do it damage.

You know who seriously fucked with my young faith in God? Dostoevsky and Blake. Two devout Christians who happened to give compelling voices to their doubts and despair. My young Christian self would have just written off someone like Myers (although I did quite enjoy reading Bertram Russell at the time).


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:40 PM
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"Bertrand."


Posted by: Fontana W-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:41 PM
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33 35. I find your faith in the intelligence level of the cracker critics to be nice, but I don't share it.


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:42 PM
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He was always Bertie to me.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:43 PM
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while generally writing off the hundreds of lunatics who've sent him harassing emails, trying to get him fired or sending him death threats

I don't get this. How am I supposed to react to this? Myers took an act absolutely certain to piss off a lot of people and then provided visual evidence that he did that act, and I am supposed to be horrified that people are really pissed off? I get that I am supposed to not sympathize with their reasons for being pissed off. Fine. But I can hardly decry the fact that Myers thought about how to generate a very particular reaction and then achieved exactly that reaction.


Posted by: sy | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:43 PM
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Well, I'm not the one basing my view on what all Catholics believe based on a hundred-year-old fictional text, so, there is that.

41: 'Perceivable' works for 'physical' here.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:43 PM
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40. fine. I declare extreme prudishness trolling.


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:44 PM
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46 was me.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:45 PM
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I defended PZ at first, but that was some dumb shit. He really needs to get a grip on the difference between having disdain for religion and having disdain for religious people. Doesn't he have any nominally Catholic friends or anything?

Plus his whole "nothing is sacred" business is basically interpretable as "symbols are meaningless," which, how is that a coherent worldview?


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:45 PM
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But I can hardly decry the fact that Myers thought about how to generate a very particular reaction and then achieved exactly that reaction.

You're right. When women said they wanted to be equals, they knew men were just going to be pissed about that. So we should have no sympathy over any bad stuff that happened because of that. I mean, they knew it was going to piss men off.


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:47 PM
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(i'm not trying to convince anyone to myer's point of view in 51. just pointing out the badness of that particular argument)


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:48 PM
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"symbols are meaningless," which, how is that a coherent worldview?

Ahhhh....are we getting anywhere?

Well, I'm not the one basing my view on what all Catholics believe based on a hundred-year-old fictional text, so, there is that.

Dismissed


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:49 PM
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39 was me.

Also, as far as religious beliefs that I find especially dangerous, intellectually bankrupt, morally repugnant, etc. transubstantiation is a weird target. It's a strange old ritual. Religion is full of strange old rituals. Communion's weird, but is it weirder than a bris?


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:49 PM
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54 is a great point. There's a lot of Catholic doctrine that's really problematic, and that is doing people actual harm. Transubstantiation ain't one of 'em. I guess PZ's trying to change that?


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:51 PM
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I would have enjoyed Myers' performance more if it involved electric guitars and haircuts that will be embarrassing ten years down the road.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:51 PM
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48: Really. You consider unfathomable prudishness to be the only explanation why I don't want to see bouncy-bouncies with degrading automated nipples, or a whole page full of fake O-faces and silicone?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:51 PM
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was 47 to me? I don't understand why you people think what's official "doctrine" is important here. Nor why you think the opinions of the catholics you know are important. They're not.

PZ is only talking to the people who have already jumped off the bridge in response to that kid not eating his cracker. We can leave "all catholics everywhere for all time" out of this, as can we leave their many different official proclamations and doctrines.


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:52 PM
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When women said they wanted to be equals, they knew men were just going to be pissed about that. So we should have no sympathy over any bad stuff that happened because of that. I mean, they knew it was going to piss men off.

This is the worst analogy ever. It's terrible on dozens of levels, but the easiest way to approach it is to point out that while Myers actual goal, the actual end in mind, was to piss off enough Catholics such that their pissed-off-ness could be used to delegitimize their beliefs, the goal of suffrage was not often pissing off men.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:52 PM
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51: What? Women "saying they want to be equal" is analogous to PZ's Koran-and-Cracker desecration?


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:52 PM
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38: The first quote from Marx in this post is apposite. Summary: the General Council of the First International refused to admit the Section des athées Socialistes on the grounds that "it recognizes no theological sections."


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:53 PM
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The only purpose of what Myers did was to antagonize a certain group of people, Michael. Feminism, gay rights, etc. is a really piss poor comparison. People don't use contraception to piss off the pope, they do it to avoid getting pregnant.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:53 PM
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57. honestly? yes. I don't know why you're so bothered by something so boring.


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:53 PM
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I admit, Stras, that I didn't have a rationale for writing posts about how Myers is being a dick rather than posts about how people sending death threats to Myers are being dicks. One and not the other just struck me as interesting.

If I had to construct a rationale after the fact, I think it would be like this: people I consider my peers, more or less, are all agree that it's horrible to send internet death threats, etc. No one defends that or thinks it's a good thing. But there's actually disagreement about Myers, as your comments here illustrate. So talking about Myers is in a way a function of taking him more seriously than the bombthrowers.

Agreed, the hate mailers and the people who want to suspend the UCF students-- even the friend! crazy!-- are far worse than Myers, who, I think, is just guilty of being childish.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:54 PM
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PZ is only talking to the people who have already jumped off the bridge in response to that kid not eating his cracker.

Oh!! Well then!! Michelle Malkin is only talking to people who burned cars in response to the Danish cartoons when she calls Islam the religion of perpetual outrage. All the other Muslims can butt out, no reason to get alarmed.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:54 PM
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60 see 52

and i'm outta here.


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:54 PM
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I don't know why you're so bothered by something so boring.

It's probably because I've posted here, at fucking length, in the comments and on the front page over the past three goddamn years the fucking toll that the beauty and sex paradigm took on my self-esteem for years and years. And continue to take on the well-being of half the fucking population.

It is awfully mundane and boring. Isn't it delightful that women's subjugation is mundane and boring? NOTHING FRUSTRATING ABOUT THAT AT ALL.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:58 PM
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FL is right in 64. We're not talking about the death threats because, duh, that's obviously wrong. Whereas PZ is a well-respected intellectual who has taken a very calculated action that might, under certain arguments, be defensible.

Sending death threats, on the other hand, is not defensible, period.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:59 PM
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The one insight that I think can be legitimately drawn from this whole wafer thing, and one which could have been drawn from the initial kid-at-Mass incident, is that there still exists a small percentage of Catholics who have an Inquisition mindset. You don't show proper reverence to my religious symbols, and I have the right to threaten your life. PZ's commentary about the history of genocidal movements based on rumors about wafer desecration by Jews is not beside the point.

What is beside the point is his nailing a wafer to the Koran. That's gratuitous, and really draws attention away from someone who really does seem to have drawn the weight of the world on his shoulders accidentally. Is this Myers's intention, to draw off the homocidal wackjobs from this kid and onto himself, because he thinks he can handle it better? Possibly, but I think that's giving him a lot of credit.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:59 PM
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We can leave "all catholics everywhere for all time" out of this, as can we leave their many different official proclamations and doctrines.

Your argument (and I use the word loosely) that Myers had to do what he did in order to show people that there were no supernatural powers that were going to emanate from the host. We pointed out that Catholic don't actually believe that the host has visible magical properties. including the crazies threatening PZ. You responded by pointing to a fictional story where the character apparently expected something to happen.

And, no, you can't just leave all other Catholics out of it, because as silly as the symbolism might be, it also includes the beliefs of people who aren't actually threatening PZ.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:59 PM
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54:Transubstantiation is essential, necessary & sufficent for the RCC. Many were burned over it.

It is the social acknowledgement of a theistic, rather than deistic or pantheistic, universe. "Here He is, now, performing a miracle." The way it differs from what the televangelist charlatans do is a long story.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:59 PM
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Gah, homicidal. Learn to spell, Bear.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 12:59 PM
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PZ is only talking to the people who have already jumped off the bridge in response to that kid not eating his cracker. We can leave "all catholics everywhere for all time" out of this, as can we leave their many different official proclamations and doctrines.

This is sheer lunacy. All of our recent Brave Secularists -- Hitchens, Dawkins, Myers -- are clearly using the strategy of conflating all religion with the worst of religion, in order to discredit all religion in one fell swoop.

Strangely, though, they don't take kindly to those rare occasions when people attempt to discredit aggressive secularism through reference to Stalin and Mao.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 1:01 PM
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Grrrr, I was actually being productive while checking Unfogged on the side, and I thought that 40 was a civil response since I don't want to let porny bullshit go unchecked. And now I'm fuming and aggravated.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 1:05 PM
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Heebie if it's any consolation, you're in the right, I was dislodged from productivity by an argument about Obama's biceps, and we are all the lost generation.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 1:08 PM
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The only purpose of what Myers did was to antagonize a certain group of people

No, Myers was a little better than that. As a materialist he understands what the Sacrament means.

The Eucharist means there is Another Spiritual World, not approachable by Science, that touches our Material World and Material Selves in a Miraculous Way on a daily basis in millions of places. Myers is attacking Theism.

The Koran, when recited, I think is Sacramental.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 1:09 PM
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Let it all out, heebie. Then you can get back to work. That's what I had to do yesterday after I saw this shit.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 1:10 PM
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Sorry heebie. A similar side-trackign happened to me yesterday with comments as well. Sucks.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 1:11 PM
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To follow up on my 73, I don't think either argument is valid, and I think that the distinction between religion and the secular is not the appropriate one, nor between religion and politics, etc. -- for much of human history, religion and politics have been inextricably intertwined, and that has remained the case even in ostensibly secular nations such as the US. (Even in the more thoroughly secular France, religion keeps becoming a political issue, as with the headscarf controversy.)

A more productive distinction is that between authoritarian and non-authoritarian systems. There are examples of both in religion and in politics -- and in both cases, the non-authoritarian options are fragile and difficult to sustain. The knee-jerk secularism and rationalism of someone like PZ Myers, lording it over those who hold the incorrect opinion, makes it difficult for me to put him firmly on the non-authoritarian side.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 1:12 PM
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73 is right, and I can't help but think that this kind of argument only serves to polarize religious people by putting them in the position of choosing to defend their own homicidal nutcases or siding with the atheists, and that seems to result in far more of the former than the latter. At least, I think that's what I've seen happening to the evangelical Christian community. They lose a few members, maybe, and the rest feel their entire worldview is under constant attack, so they go on the offensive. I'm extremely irritated, as a college instructor, that so many of my religious students assume I'm some atheist hatemonger who wants to take their Jesus away, because I actually have some very different pedagogical goals in mind that I'd like to get accomplished.

Meanwhile, back at my parents' church, the pastor prays loudly over each class of college-bound kids that they will have the faith to reject everything their satanic professors tell them and know that it's all a plot to make them spit on the Bible. Way to encourage learning and success, Brother.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 1:14 PM
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Thanks, Labs.

77: Oh my god, I saw your post yesterday and watched that clip. I found it totally upsetting.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 1:16 PM
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79:Somebody somewhere, I think ari's blog, no CT, called Myers a simple Jacobin.

An unwillingness to deal with the irrational and emotional as the core of value/meaning is monstrous.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 1:16 PM
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And thanks, Sybil.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 1:16 PM
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80: In part, that's what annoys me about Myers. I bust my fucking ass to make sure my classroom (teaching philosophy of religion) is a safe space where students can tear the living hell out of arguments, including theist ones, without them feeling like I'll flunk them for being religious or atheists or whatever. It's actually kind of challenging given the different personalities and views of the students.

And here's Myers, being the living example of the things I have to try to downplay. Thanks for making my job harder so you'd get praised by your commenters, PZ.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 1:18 PM
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69: Is this Myers's intention, to draw off the homocidal wackjobs from this kid and onto himself, because he thinks he can handle it better? Possibly, but I think that's giving him a lot of credit.

I haven't read Pharyngula regularly for years, and I never read it religiously, but I do have the impression that PZ is a basically decent guy -- as BPhD repeatedly said on the earlier discussion of this -- so I've been sort of inclined to think that this was his goal. The student who didn't eat the cracker in Florida is getting some pretty shitty treatment, and PZ is obviously genuinely upset on his behalf, and I think that has to somehow inform how we think about what's going on here. If the cracker-desecration came out of the blue, it would be obviously a totally dickish thing to do. But PZ clearly views it as a response to the incident at UCF. I haven't seen anywhere that he explicitly says that he's trying to draw the heat away from the student and onto himself, though I haven't read his posts very carefully. Seems like it's unlikely to work if that's his intent -- calming a controversy by creating a much bigger one? But I do think it's somewhat mitigating.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 1:21 PM
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Cala, you're being unfair-- the UCF president saw Myers' post and immediately reinstated the offending students, apologized profusely, and gave everyone a copy of "Why I am not a Christian." So it was worth it, in the end.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 1:23 PM
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Amen, 80 and 84. It also applies with religious friends and relatives. When I want to have a conversation with Catholics about social issues that have religious consequences, starting out with "Your worldview is horseshit" ends the conversation real quick. On the other hand, when I allow for the legitimacy of their religion, I find that they often have the same views on the social issues as I do, including ones that are officially against the teachings of their church.

Or shorter: People are complex, and interpersonal relationships are far more important to people than rigid adherence to a dogma. Homosexuality is becoming acceptable, even to religious folk, because they have relationships with people they like who are homosexual and they realize that if friend X is gay, it can't be that bad.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 1:24 PM
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PZ is a decent guy who has gone around the bend because he spent too much time listening to his core fan base, who egg him on, rather than engaging in reasonable discussion with those who disagree with him. He's like a textbook case dysfunctional blogger/commenter relationships.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 1:26 PM
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You know, I would have been much more sympathetic if Myers had heard about the UCF situation, flown into a rage, and then (somehow) desecrated some wafers. Totally understandable to get pissed at what's happened to the Cook guy. But if it's true that "PZ clearly views it as a response to the incident at UCF"-- it's a stupid response. He's had time to cool off.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 1:30 PM
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If PZ thinks a good strategy for taking heat off the wafer-holding kid is to do something deliberately and radically offensive, thereby ensuring people will continue to discuss the entire situation, he is an idiot. I think he's a dick, but not dumb and therefore cannot believe his intention is really to deflect attention away from WC.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 1:33 PM
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I don't know if this is true in other academic communities, but I've noticed a real resurgence in interest in religion among my graduate cohort in English. While a lot of the profs in the prime of their career still take a lot of potshots at religious discourse, we younger types are more interested in understanding the ways that religious belief have shaped the texts we study. Nearly everyone I know who studies pre-20th-century lit has read the Bible through, and is familiar with the major movements in Christian thought. We teach that stuff alongside literary history, to show how different structures of belief also structure methods of representation and narrative. I very much welcome an informed religious perspective on the text we're reading in the class, and in papers I grade.

What's sad to me is seeing that the students who are so vigorously anti-intellectual in their protestations of the secular academy tend also to be the ones who couldn't recognize a verse from their own religious text if it was footnoted. I have to wonder what the hell they're teaching in Sunday School these days.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 1:35 PM
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73 is totally right.

Also, Bill Donohue is not the Catholic Magisterium. Bill Donohue's wishes he were the Catholic Magisterium. The Roman Catholic church hierarchy is bad enough, but they're just not as dumb as the Donohues of the world. Myers, Dawkins, et. al are bright people; the clear desire to argue against the dumbest possible representatives of the other side gets very, very, very old. It's like having a political talk show & always inviting Ann Coulter to argue the GOP side.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 1:38 PM
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AWB: As near as I can tell, a lot of contemporary American Christian discourse consists of people sharing their feelings about their personal relationship with Christ and decorating it with random, decontextualized bible verses. "I knew Jesus was with me when my boyfriend dumped me. And look, here in Leviticus it says 'the'"

That sounds harsh, I know. I don't want to mock people like PZ does. On the other hand I just don't see how this kind of lazy self affirmation actually helps anyone.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 1:47 PM
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People, Myers wasn't just sitting around one day when he decided, out of the blue, to piss off eucharist-lovers. His "sacrilege" was a direct response to the Webster Cook incident, in which a college student got death threats for taking a communion wafer out of church. The premise of Myers's stunt is, in essence, that people are more important than crackers - that there's nothing anyone can do to a cracker that can justify the kind of response Webster Cook (and then PZ Myers) received - yes, even crackers in which vast ceremonial significance has been vested by powerful political and cultural institutions.

Again, I've found the disproportionate amount of commentary on liberal blogs to involve a kind of tact-checking tut-tutting of Myers rather than any attempt at examining what he's doing, and I find the response to him among liberals interesting and revealing among itself. The notion that "people are more important than religious icons" - or more broadly, that people are more important than institutions - shouldn't be so alien to a movement that claims to be descended from Enlightenment thinking. But instead I find the overwhelming amount of commentary focused on distancing the writers in question from Myers, with the implied suggestion that the lunatics sending him hate mail and threatening his family are somewhat more understandable because hey, he asked for it.

I'd like to believe that liberals like FL seem to get more exercised over Myers than Donohue because they don't find Donohue all that "interesting," but really: give me a break. A lot of political blogging involves blogging about what makes us mad, and when that blogging consists of singling out someone for being a dick - and largely ignoring the people threatening his job and his family - I think it's a bit more telling than that. There's something in the modern liberal mindset that hates a shit-stirrer, regardless of ideology or cause, and PZ Myers smacks too much of a shit-stirrer, while most of us here are comfortable letting the shit pile up where it is.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 1:47 PM
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Another way of putting it: There are a lot of different versions of Jesus out there. Most secularists are put off by Apocalypse Jesus and have a soft spot for Hippie Jesus. The most popular Jesus in America, though, is Self-Help Jesus, and he is the one that pisses me off the most.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 1:50 PM
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do you also find it telling that I focus more on human rights abuses perpetrated by the Bush administration than by Robert Mugabe?

There isn't anyone on any unfogged thread discussing this saying that Donohue & people who send Myers death threats are right. There are people saying Myers is right. Discussions continue longer when not everyone agrees. Shocking.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 1:52 PM
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do you also find it telling that I focus more on human rights abuses perpetrated by the Bush administration than by Robert Mugabe?

What?

What does this have to do with anything?


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 1:55 PM
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It's a tough line to walk -- on the one hand, you don't want to naturalize the violent reaction of the Donahue-ites (which in this case seems to have been limited to empty threats, thankfully), but on the other hand, you have to take it into account.

You wouldn't walk into a neighborhood controlled by one gang in the colors of an enemy gang just because wearing certain colors doesn't really matter, right? You wouldn't punch a cop just because at bottom there's no difference between a cop and an ordinary citizen. You don't publicly urinate just because there's nothing shameful about natural human body functions.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 1:56 PM
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"The most popular Jesus in America, though, is Self-Help Jesus, and he is the one that pisses me off the most."

Sappy e-mail forward "I gave Timmy cancer so he could be my special angel" Jesus is politically benign but intellectually crazy-making & morally bankrupt.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 1:56 PM
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99: you can only be morally bankrupt so long before it spills over into your politics. I think failure to seriously confront the problem of evil is behind a lot of bad interventions by religious people in politics.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 2:03 PM
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A la 99, e-mail forwards and casual speech about praying for others if they're having hard times irritates the hell out of me, because of how it follows that prayer is a currency, and God favors those with debit accounts in the black.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 2:04 PM
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"What?
What does this have to do with anything?"

How much you object to something is not a pure reflection of how objectively harmful it is. Your own government's human rights violations' are more noteworthy, especially given that it's a lot easier to find people defending George W. Bush's policies than Mugabe's or Saddam Hussein's.

We don't run in the same social circles as Donohue. We think he's always been an asshole. The Christian right being repugnant isn't surprising or noteworthy, and there has not been a single person on these threads defending him. Whereas Myers is a liberal blogger we don't necessarily expect to act like a jerk, and you & several others have argued that he's doing a good thing. Arguing that this proves that liberals have more of a problem with Myers than Donohue is bullshit, and somewhat reminiscient of the argument that western liberals' focus on western liberal government's human rights abuses shows that they really just hate America.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 2:08 PM
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"liberals like FL seem to get more exercised over Myers than Donohue "

Also, the original post actually does NOT get more exercised over Myers than Donohue.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 2:12 PM
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101: Even worse is being told by family members that they're praying for you. What are they asking for?!

My aunt is confident that God will find me a teaching job, though, so that's good -- but it's annoying that I'm always having to get these messages from God second-hand. He has my e-mail address!


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 2:12 PM
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I'd like to believe that liberals like FL

Oh, come on, admit you have more fun not believing it. There are lots of competitor explanations, Stras. The narcissism of small differences, and so on.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 2:17 PM
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Oh, and I wanted to note, as Katherine did, that the original post ranked things this way:
1. Biggest dick: Bill Donohue.
2. Second-biggest: Myers.
3: third-biggest: Kleiman et al for the false equivalence thing.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 2:19 PM
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Both my stepparents are religious by my family's standards--one is, as a result, far smarter and better-read about religion and has a more developed personal theology than most people I know. The other sends Jesus-y email forwards, rap songs about the War on Christmas, & has masses said in our honor as a Christmas present--and the worst thing is I honestly think this is all genuinely clueless and well-meant. Then there's the whole catalyst-for-annulling-my-parents'-27-year-marriage thing....Awkward!!!


Posted by: Georgia Washington | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 2:23 PM
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102: Katherine, that comparison is crap. The notable thing about the Webster Cook story wasn't that the kid took a wafer out of church, but that religious nuts went apeshit about it and personally threatened him for it. Yes, you and I have more in common with Webster Cook than with Bill Donohue, but scolding the kid for demonstrating inappropriate reverence for a communion wafer misses the fucking point entirely, as much as scolding a woman in Saudi Arabia for driving after she gets pulled out of her car and beaten misses the point.

Once again, PZ Myers was responding to the treatment of Webster Cook by freaks like Bill Donohue, and his response was a form of protest that essentially said, "Look, this cracker is not more important than a person. No amount of religious symbolism can make it more important than a person, and nothing I or anyone can do to it can warrant the kind of response that kid got in Florida." PZ Myers's actions were inextricably linked to Bill Donahue's actions - in fact, they were entirely motivated by them - but you want to act as though they're entirely unrelated, like human rights violations in the US versus those in Zimbabwe. That's crap. And in the end, PZ Myers threw out a stale cracker, and Webster Cook took another cracker out of church, and a bunch of idiots threatened their lives for it, and some very serious, sensible liberals decided that the ones worth spilling pixels over were the awful cracker-abusers.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 2:27 PM
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You're close to just lying about what "various liberals" did & think, stras. When you argue with people, they argue back. That's all this is.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 2:28 PM
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Second-biggest: Myers

FL, your only good-faith attempt to explain why Myers is being a dick is to say that he's "acting childish," a standard you'd never bother applying to, say, half the things you've written on this blog.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 2:28 PM
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You're close to just lying about what "various liberals" did & think, stras.

"Close to lying" how?


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 2:29 PM
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104: One wonders if God accepts tweets. One wonders if there's money to be made in a TwittertheAngel website.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 2:30 PM
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If people are more important than institutions, they're also more important than purposely antagonizing institutions. The appropriate response to people's anger over the theft of the communion wafer would've been to apologize and return it -- that's what actual indifference to the spiritual status of the communion wafer looks like. This bullshit of purposely desecrating it and publicly posting the picture, etc., actually made people more angry and perhaps further endangered all involved.

That's the way you act when people are the most important thing? No, that's the way you act when you being fucking right is the most important thing.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 2:30 PM
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113: Right, and we should also ban flag-burning, because the only way to protect the rights of people who'd burn the flag is to protect them from people who'd beat them up for burning the flag, by banning the act of burning the flag.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 2:33 PM
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The worst thing about this entire incident is that it forces me to admit that, as much as I want people who are basically decent human beings to be cut a little slack for the occasional losses of temper over things that genuinely *are* annoying (who among us has not gotten embroiled in stupid internet drama), PZ is being kind of tiresome.

THERE. That's the best I can do. I still maintain that the people who are all wound up and upset about it are looking to be offended. (But then yeah, okay, so's PZ.)


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 2:34 PM
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That's not entirely fair, Stras, since I did argue on the other thread, if I recall correctly, that part of what made Myers so irritating is his disingenuous pose of ignorance about symbols generally ("it's just a cracker"), his willingness to give offense to a large number of people who have nothing to do with his complaints (remember the "collateral damage" discussion you and I had?)--in a way that isn't connected to improving the situation in any way-- and his apparent pleasure in doing all of this.

This is not, I realize, a full justification, and if you'd really like to see one I could write something up.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 2:35 PM
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"Myers's actions were inextricably linked to Bill Donahue's actions - in fact, they were entirely motivated by them - but you want to act as though they're entirely unrelated, like human rights violations in the US versus those in Zimbabwe"

The causal relationship doesn't change this very much. Okay, fine, it's not reminsicient of of people arguing that liberals denouncing Abu Ghraib more than Mugabe shows they really just hate America; it's reminsicent of people arguing that liberals denouncing Abu Ghraib & Guantanamo more than they denounce Al Qaeda beheading prisoners & killing civilians shows they really just hate America. Of course the stakes are lower all around here--this discussion is mainly a waste of a Saturday--but telling people what they think, and being wrong, is always irritating.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 2:37 PM
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113: First, "institutions" can't really be aggravated. PZ's aggravating (some) Catholics. Re. theft, that's what the original eucharistic wafer "thief" did--apologized and returned it. I also really don't think PZ can be blamed for people getting all worked up about the wafer; maybe this is a failure of my imagination, but there ya go.

I do agree with you that yes, being right is clearly more important (in this instance) than "people."


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 2:38 PM
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"113: Right, and we should also ban flag-burning, because the only way to protect the rights of people who'd burn the flag is to protect them from people who'd beat them up for burning the flag, by banning the act of burning the flag."

No, but maybe we should voluntarily not burn flags. Why has everyone suddenly become moronically incapable of distinguishing between arguing "X is stupid and jerky" and "X should be banned, first amendment be damned!"? This is the third separate example.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 2:40 PM
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desecrating acts of course won't do any harm to the doer of the act except getting those death threats and getting angry over those, bad for self
if the threats would actualize then the religious people would argue in favor of the existence of the divine punishment, further perpetrating the belief
so overall Myer would achieve results contrary to what he wanted to achieve perhaps
and by doing all this he aggravates a lot of hatred and negative energy in the world, a very questionable endeavour imo though if he did it to defend that 'kid' it's very noble of PZ Myer
how old that kid is, i wonder, coz calling him kid aggravates me most, for i can't stand spoiled children


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 2:40 PM
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I'm curious about the following hypothetical. Suppose the church in Florida were a completely independent institution, and no one else in the entire world outside of that church believed in the sacredness of the communion wafer. Further, let's suppose that every member of that church is complicit in the ill-treatment of Webster Cook. Would everyone then agree that there is nothing wrong with Myers' action as a response? If not, why not?

I was viewing this as a case where the "collateral damage", as FL calls it in 116, was the entire meat of the issue. That is, I thought that it was only because reasonable Catholics entirely opposed to the sort of treatment Webster Cook received would also incur emotional damage from Myers' action that it could be viewed as objectionable. But now I'm not so sure that everyone agrees with that.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 2:40 PM
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114: My understanding is that the kid who took the communion wafer had no malicious intent -- he just wanted to show his friends what it looked like, etc. If he had some broader political goals, then I will amend my statement. My understanding is that he tripped people's sensitivities basically out of ignorance -- in that case, just apologizing and giving it back seems like the only reasonable response.

Similarly, someone who sets a flag on fire by accident should just apologize and move on.

Myers knew he was courting a certain amount of danger with his action, and that's fine. I doubt anything will come of it beyond the e-mails, just because religious right types are so pathetic and so rarely follow through with anything.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 2:42 PM
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114: There's a significant analogy with flag-burning. It's a symbolic act against a symbol that insults a large number of people for no reason other than to try to make a point that the symbol should not be as important to them as it is.

The analogy continues: Flag-burning, like wafer-desecration, should continue to be legal. But flag-burning, like wafer-desecration, is a bit of a dick move, and is extremely unlikely to win you any converts.

And with that, I ban myself.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 2:49 PM
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Adam, not sure that's right about Cook. The story here seems fishy (rimshot!) to me. Also Cook seems confused about the law on "viewpoint neutral forums" here. But I think it would depend on the specifics of the institution's funding scheme.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 2:50 PM
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When I was in college I went around to all the hardware stores in town and tried to buy (1) an American flag (2) lighter fluid and (3) a box of strike anywhere matches, all at the same time, just to see if I would get a rise out of anyone. (The idea came from a friend of Oudemia's and mine, who didn't think it was funny enough to actually do.)

I didn't get any good responses. I still think its kinda funny that hardware stores are so likely to sell all three of these items.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 2:51 PM
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98

"You wouldn't walk into a neighborhood controlled by one gang in the colors of an enemy gang just because wearing certain colors doesn't really matter, right? ..."

Obviously there is a prudential argument for this but it is not always controlling. By yielding to intimidation you increase the power of the gang. It is for Myers to decide how he wants to fight his battles.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 2:53 PM
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The church my family went to when I was growing up was kind of conservative. (I say kind of because while the priest in charge refused to give communion in the hands and would sometimes turn his back to the congregation during the consecration of the mass, he also thought a mass lasting more than 30 minutes was a waste of everyone's time. This, I suspect, is why we went there.) In any event, since they refused to give communion in the hand, I didn't even understand that as a practice. Thus I was unprepared for a visit to an aunt's church in upstate NY where EVERYONE received in their hands. Since I was 7 and had maybe received 2 or 3 times before I was moderately freaked out and rather than doing what I used to (sticking out my tongue) I put out my hands like everyone else. Then I was at a loss. So into my pocket that host went. Oops. When I got home I showed it to my aunt, who, rather than beating me and threatening to kill me, was half horrified and half amused. She told me to "put that in your mouth RIGHT NOW!" So I did. And then told everyone else the story and laughed and laughed.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 2:56 PM
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125: I was going to prompt you to tell that story! Yay!


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 2:57 PM
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Shearer is right in 126. It's easy to imagine possible worlds where you would make a doomed effort to challenge someone else's symbolic authority. To rally opposition if nothing else. The relevant tradeoff between offensiveness / effectiveness is going to be very individual specific.

It's actually easier to justify flouting the gang's authority, because the Catholic Church as an institution has much more to recommend it than a street gang.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 2:58 PM
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124: Okay, that's a confusing story. If he was doing it to protest student fees going to a religious group, then it's kind of a dick move, but whatever. If he "took it hostage" out of annoyance, it sounds like a really immature response.

126: If the gang kills you for wearing the wrong colors, that arguably increases the power of the gang, too -- unless the strategy is to trick them into running out of bullets or something.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:00 PM
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I think people would react pretty differently to the threats if they thought Myers was in any real danger--physical, or being fired, or whatever else. As far as I can tell he's mainly getting non threatening hate mail, which this stunt was basically designed to elicit & he seems to be reveling in it while posturing about how surprised he is that people get so worked up over a cracker.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:01 PM
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I do think that the sense that PZ's been Horribly Offensive and Rude, as opposed to Kind of Overwrought and Puerile, is itself a massive overreaction. He's an athiest. He finds religion offensively irrational. That's not a completely incomprehensible position, even to religious people.

No, he's not being terribly respectful. Then again, he *doesn't* respect religion: he thinks it's basically superstition. If he went around smashing mirrors, we'd think that was kind of ridiculous, but we wouldn't be climbing on our high horses about how badly behaved he was being, either.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:02 PM
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Yeah, and *if* it's true that he's saying he'll return the thing if he gets a meeting with the Bishop or whatever...not so good.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:05 PM
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maybe we should voluntarily not burn flags

Wait, whoa, what? We're suddenly taking for granted that "flag-burning is kind of a dick move," as someone else said??

There's not a damn thing wrong with burning a flag except that it happens to be illegal.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:05 PM
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"He's an athiest. He finds religion offensively irrational. That's not a completely incomprehensible position, even to religious people."

I'm not quite an atheist, but I really, really enjoy some atheist writers, including some who actively argue that religion is a superstition, false, etc. They actually make a serious argument against religion. Myers doesn't, it's more religious people are dumbasses. Look, here, Bill Donohue is religious & he's a dumbass. Look, I will poke Bill Donohue with a stick, and he will act like a dumbass. Oh my gosh, I am getting tens of thousands of emails from religious dumbasses! I totally had no idea this would happen. Well, I guess just goes to show what dumbasses religious people are."


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:07 PM
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"There's not a damn thing wrong with burning a flag except that it happens to be illegal."

?



Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:08 PM
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135: Yeah, so what? Myers is under some obligation to "make a serious argument against religion" (which he has done, btw) and not be irritated by or decide to provoke dumbasses? Why?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:08 PM
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There's not a damn thing wrong with burning a flag except that it happens to be illegal.

Where is it illegal?


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:09 PM
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132: I am an atheist, and I don't think all religion is irrational. I don't even think that all theistic religion is irrational. You can't just jump from "PZ is an atheist" to "PZ thinks religion is irrational."

In fact, part of why people like Cala, AWB and I are pissed at PZ is that we try to have rational discussions about the topic where he precisely is baiting people.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:09 PM
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Well, he's not obligated, but his failure to do so makes me think he's a complete asshole who can't deal with an intellectual debate with people his own size.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:09 PM
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134: There would be something wrong with pretending that you were just burning a piece of cloth, and insisting to anyone who was offended that you were just disposing of flammable trash in an environmentally sound manner, that viewing it as a symbol would be stupid and wrong. What's dickish isn't really being mean to a symbol, but pretending that there's no possible way someone could legitimately be offended.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:09 PM
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There's not a damn thing wrong with burning a flag except that it happens to be illegal.

And also that the only reason to do it is to offend someone. Sometimes it's useful to offend someone to move toward some other end. Sometimes people offend others just to offend them. The latter is part of the canonical definition of "dickish."


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:10 PM
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136: it's illegal because she says it is, Katherine. B is the law.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:10 PM
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Myers doesn't, it's more religious people are dumbasses

I'm annoyed at Myers' stunt too, but this is false. Just read the first part of his desecration post, all about how the whole transubstantiation thing was used to fuck with the Jews. He could have stopped at that, but I guess then we wouldn't be talking about it.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:10 PM
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136: Misspoke. I didn't mean illegal--it isn't, yet--I was thinking rather of the traditions for treating flags, blah blah. Which on second thought, duh, actually you *are* supposed to burn worn-out flags.

I wrote too hastily out of shock that people actually seemed to be assuming that all decent people object to flag-burning. Nonsense. People who are offended by flag-burning 99% of the time are not my alleis.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:10 PM
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To follow up on 130, the protest is a dick move because there's been a lot of legal examination of the question of whether mandatory student fees going to religious groups, student groups that other students find objectionable, etc., is constitutional. In the late 90s the SC reaffirmed its earlier standard that (this is from memory) if the money goes into a general fund that different groups can apply to for funding, this is kosher because it's a "viewpoint neutral forum." See here.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:11 PM
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141: I disagree vehemently. The beliefs that an objection to flag-burning rest upon are inherently offensive beliefs.

In chat, Adam just said to me that re. PZ, It's not the act itself, it's the smug self-satisfaction that gets me.

That, I can agree with, and I bet that that's a big chunk of everyone's disapproval, too, even though we're all trying to couch it in moral argumens. The thing is, smug self-satisfaction is an aesthetic, not a moral offense.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:13 PM
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147: The beliefs that an objection to flag-burning rest upon are inherently offensive beliefs.

These are?


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:14 PM
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134: It increases air pollution, contributes to global warming, and increases cancer and emphysema rates.

Pols count the number of demonstrators, they couldn't possibly care less about their costumes or their theatrical antics.

Flag burning was stupid in the Sixties and it's stupid now. You want to get the attention of TPTB you burn down a few square city blocks, not a rectangle of cloth.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:15 PM
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147: really? By which I mean: no, smug satisfaction can be a moral offense as well, or at least a manifestation of moral failings.

On that note, I have to run to interact with people face to face. The shift should be jarring.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:15 PM
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B, re-read my 141. It's dickish to insist, if someone calls you on burning a flag, to say 'but it's just a piece of cloth', like you just landed here from Mars. I mean, the whole reason it's protected speech is that it doesn't count as just a piece of cloth.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:16 PM
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139: Sure I can make that jump; I'm talking about PZ, and for him those two things are related. I wasn't making general statements.

140: Them's some high standards, Katherine. Someone gets angry and does silly stuff, they're a complete asshole who can't handle debate with people their own size? Is there anyone here who meets those standards all the time?

(That "there but for the grace of God" argument brought to you by my own residual Catholicism.)


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:16 PM
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Doesn't the "get angry and does silly stuff" defense also apply to the religious officials in question?


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:17 PM
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150.1: That's fair, but it's not what the arguments seem to be resting on.

151: I disagree. It *is* just a piece of cloth. Yeah, blah blah, it's symbolic, but that's what it boils down to. And if someone's "calling you" on burning a flag, or doing any other perfectly legal thing, I think they, not you, have the obligation to explain what, precisely, it is that they're objecting to.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:19 PM
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The flag-burning discussion confuses me just as much as the cracker discussion. It might be a silly thing to do, it might be a waste of time, it might be annoying. But in either case I don't see how anyone who isn't completely irrational could take them seriously enough to be really hurt by them. And because of that, it's hard for me to see them as really immoral. If done with the intent of emotional damage, they would become immoral. But it's not at all clear that is the intent.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:19 PM
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149: Burning down city blocks does a lot more environmental damage. More to the point, it is *actually destructive*.

153: No, because they actively seek to affect people's right to free speech, which PZ does not.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:20 PM
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As far as the "fucking with the Jews" thing, I consider the problem to have been the Catholic Church having the authority to kill, or order the killing of torture, burn, etc. Jews, Muslims, heretics & other unbelievers. The particular doctrinal justifications for doing so, don't seem that relevant to me. I don't think oppression of Catholics by the Church of England discredits divorce at all, and I don't feel guilty about celebrating Christmas with my family even though I think historically there were more pogroms around Christmas.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:21 PM
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What's dickish isn't really being mean to a symbol, but pretending that there's no possible way someone could legitimately be offended.

Yes, exactly. It is, in fact, perfectly possible to choose to desecrate the host or the American flag because one recognizes and acknowledges the symbolic power of the desecrated item, and wishes to lodge a protest against that which is symbolically invoked thereby.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:21 PM
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155: Agreed.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:21 PM
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You can't just blah blah blah away the symbolism and say 'it's a piece of cloth.'


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:22 PM
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Okay, b: I've never seen Myers seriously engage a smart religious person over the basic belief v. unbelief question, ever. Admittedly, I don't read him that often. And insofar as he focuses on the creationism stuff, there just aren't many serious people to engage with & I don't really have a problem with mockery. But I don't read him often enough to know whether this is representative of how he writes about religion generally.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:24 PM
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I would be very surprised if Myers ever debated with an intellectually rigorous religious person -- Brave Secularists, as I've noted, prefer the idiots. Richard Dawkins, for instance, once actively refused to do a public debate with an academic theologian. (Might've even been Rowan Williams.)

If he did have a debate with someone worth taking seriously, my guess is that he would quickly get bored and deploy the trump card of "well, you can do all the fancy theology you want -- I'm talking about what average religious people believe." (Of course, he would also ignore actual evidence of what average religious people believe, as Mike does in this thread.)


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:31 PM
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I've never seen Myers seriously engage a smart religious person over the basic belief v. unbelief question, ever

Neither have I. He would consider the question like entering a Serious Debate over whether or not it's bad luck for a black cat to cross your path. That isn't the same as not putting forth a serious intellectually sound argument for his position. I won't seriously engage a pro-lifer, but I've put forth plenty of sound arguments for being pro-choice.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:35 PM
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161-162: Do you have some model of an intellectually rigorous debate over "the basic belief vs. unbelief question" to point to? I can't imagine what such a thing would even look like. (My imagination is weak, I know.)


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:37 PM
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130

"If the gang kills you for wearing the wrong colors, that arguably increases the power of the gang, too -- unless the strategy is to trick them into running out of bullets or something."

Tell it to the Freedom Riders.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:38 PM
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It's hard to put forward a serious intellectually sound argument for your position without engaging the best instead of worst arguments the other way. And he seems to have no trouble engaging dumb religious people--the dumber, the better. It's a bunch of contemptuous taunting, with a health disingenuous passive-aggressive streak.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:38 PM
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That isn't the same as not putting forth a serious intellectually sound argument for his position.

He hasn't really done that, either. Understand, I wouldn't think that's a criticism of his site. If he wants to smack down easy religious nutjobs and post cephalopod pics, that's his business and he makes a pretty entertaining site. But that doesn't mean he has an intellectually serious position on religion any more than religious people smacking down Dawkins means they've engaged the best in evolutionary biological thought.

And 'it's a frakking cracker' is hardly a serious position.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:39 PM
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He hasn't really done that, either

In this instance, no.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:42 PM
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And 'it's a frakking cracker' is hardly a serious position.

It quite clearly is a frakking cracker, and it seems to me that the only thing to debate is whether by desecrating this cracker he has actually hurt people (other than the Donohue-ites).


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:42 PM
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the only thing to debate is whether by desecrating this cracker he has actually hurt people

It seems pretty self-evident that he has injured the sentiments of at least some non-Donohue-ites. How else to explain the reaction that stras and b and (I gather) you complain about?


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:45 PM
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I've been to churches where the communion wafers were distinctly cracker-like, but for the standard styrofoam-like hosts, I'm just not sure "cracker" is the best description.

Of course, it's challenging because the normal communion wafers are such a sui generis thing -- a common joke is that it's easier to believe that it's Jesus than that it's bread.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:47 PM
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The poor cracker.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:48 PM
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170: I see a lot of reasons to think that what he did was silly, pointless, annoying, unwise. And it seems that a lot of people here are irked. But what I haven't seen is evidence that people are hurt, and I was under the impression that at least originally part of what was being argued was that what he did was wrong, i.e. immoral. If he really intended to hurt innocent people, it was wrong. What I think I've been saying since the beginning is that it's not clear to me that that was his intent, so while it might be irritating and pointlessly provocative, I have a hard time seeing that it's immoral.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:48 PM
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The real people who hurt the non-Donohue-ites are the people who TELL them about this infringment to their sacred object. PZ Myers isn't publicizing it to anyone other than the readers of his blog. He isn't doing it in public. Nobody would notice unless they were told about it. The real malefactor is Donohue et al., for making people unhappy by telling them all the ways in which they are being disrespected for no reason other than spite by the overwhelming forces of secular humanism.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:48 PM
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170: Weak argument. Injuring people's sentiments /= being a dick. Some people are easily offended by stupid shit.

I'm taking the position that the stunt (and lead-up argument) were stupid shit, and that thus, being Terribly Offended by it is also stupid.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:49 PM
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161

"Okay, b: I've never seen Myers seriously engage a smart religious person over the basic belief v. unbelief question, ever. Admittedly, I don't read him that often. And insofar as he focuses on the creationism stuff, there just aren't many serious people to engage with & I don't really have a problem with mockery. But I don't read him often enough to know whether this is representative of how he writes about religion generally."

So it is ok for him to mock other people but not ok for him to mock you?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:49 PM
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"If the gang kills you for wearing the wrong colors, that arguably increases the power of the gang, too -- unless the strategy is to trick them into running out of bullets or something."

Tell it to the Freedom Riders.

Most "gang" situations take place in a lawless or virtually lawless milieu.

It's different when the gang who is oppressing you is depending on their actions being legal, and having it be publicized that their actions are evil might lead to them not being able to oppress you anymore.

Similarly, if the gang kills so many people that the police finally start redirecting lots of effort toward them, that wouldn't be good either. So they have to stick to mere threats most of the time.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:51 PM
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Injuring people's sentiments /= being a dick

Intentionally injuring someone's sentiments for the sole purpose of injuring their sentiments is pretty much the definition of being a dick.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:53 PM
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177: "Tell it to the Freedom Riders" was also a quote. I forget about the bizarre tag-ending policy here.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:53 PM
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178: I agree, and therefore, flag-burning is a form of being a dick, in that nobody with any actual power in this country cares whether you do it or not, only the pawns.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:54 PM
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164:John Crowley, especially Little Big is pretty good. Am I joking? I am not so sure about what can change people priors. It is somewhat consistent as a Pawn of Unreason to point to art as possibly more effective.

Here is a Special Issue of New Scientist from July 14:

Seven Reason Why People Hate Reason


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:55 PM
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"Seven Reason Why People Hate Reason"

1) Ronald Bailey


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 3:56 PM
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164:Do you have some model of an intellectually rigorous debate over "the basic belief vs. unbelief question" to point to?

I guess I could point to Cervantes. Maybe Kierkeggaard & Nietzsche, the last section of the 2nd Critique. All Platonism. Western Civilization. Great Gatsby Darconville's Cat. Obama's speeches.

I can't imagine what such a thing would even look like. (My imagination is weak, I know.

I can barely see anything else. I have a fevered imagination.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 4:03 PM
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178, 180: Right, because the only reason to burn a flag is to offend people. And the only reason for desecrating a communion wafer as a reaction to people assaulting someone who took one out of a church is also to offend people.

Not. The fact that people get offended by *legitimate rhetorical acts* does not mean that the *only* point of those acts was to offend people.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 4:04 PM
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Right, because the only reason to burn a flag is to offend people.

The only other reason I can think of is to please people on one's own side.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 4:07 PM
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If, in order to protest some outrage by some ultra-orthodox-Jewish-equivalent-to-Donohue-jerk, someone stole the prayer books and Torah from their local synagogue, burned them, posted photos on the internet, and professed surprise at how these superstitious idiots got worked up about "fracking paper", people honestly wouldn't see why Jewish people--including non-Orthodox Jews who do not actually believe that stuff about profaning the sacred name--got hurt and upset? Bullshit. Leaving transubstantiation out of it, "desecrating religious symbols is going to sincerely upset religious people, and anyone who pretends to be surprised by this is full of it" is very, very easy to understand, and I'm having trouble chalking up the professed failure to understand it to anything other than a knee jerk "we hates the Christian right, we likes PZ Myers" response.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 4:08 PM
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Do you have some model of an intellectually rigorous debate over "the basic belief vs. unbelief question" to point to?

A husband holding a mother nursing a baby.

What gets you thru your day?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 4:08 PM
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Do you have some model of an intellectually rigorous debate over "the basic belief vs. unbelief question" to point to?

Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion.. For example

"That the dispute concerning theism ... consequently is merely verbal, or, perhaps, if possible, still more incurable ambiguous will appear upon the slightest inquiry.
I ask the theist, if he does not allow that there is a great and immeasurable, because incomprehensible, difference between the human and the divine mind: the more pious he is, the more readily will he assent to the affirmative...
I next turn to the atheist...and ask him, whether from the coherence and apparent sympathy in all the parts of this world, there be not a certain degree of analogy among all the operations of nature ...and the structure of human thought ...It is impossible he can deny it."


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 4:09 PM
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186: someone stole the prayer books and Torah from their local synagogue, burned them

This is rather different from a communion wafer, of which zillions are produced and, um, disposed of on a weekly basis.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 4:10 PM
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186: There's a difference between understanding why people get upset over something, and thinking that they're right to do so.

And a eucharistic wafer is in No Way equivalent to the prayer books and torah in a synagogue, purely in terms of replacement value alone. A better analogy might be if there was a Jewish practice of, say, having people read the torah during services but their not being allowed to touch the pages bare-handed, and if someone did that and they were assaulted and threatened, and you responded to it by attending services and touching a torah with dirty hands, thereby smudging the pages.

Which would be childish and irritating, but would not be Some Huge Offensive Deal.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 4:12 PM
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184: Thing is, almost any meaningful act of protest would have to start from the position 'Symbols are important, and that's why my desecration of it is powerful'. PZ's flat-out denying that.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 4:12 PM
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Do you have some model of an intellectually rigorous debate over "the basic belief vs. unbelief question" to point to?

Are you serious? This is one of the biggest debates in the history of human thought. There are countless examples.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 4:12 PM
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191: PZ's point is that symbols of sacredness *aren't* important, because there's no such thing as god. Clearly what he did isn't non-meaningful.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 4:15 PM
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193: But even he should agree that in the context of the human brain, symbols of sacredness are important, because God exists in the human brain.

Just look at that MRI and those biofeedback monitors on that guy after I nailed the wafer in front of his eyes! You can't tell me that's not meaningful.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 4:17 PM
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Right, and that's what people are calling out as childish. Symbols of sacredness are important, even if one doesn't acknowledge or hold the underlying belief.

The Torah example is a good one, but since you're all 'ooh, priceless work of art' (it's still just paper) how about a copy of the Koran? In response to violent acts by some Muslims, I respond by flushing a copy of the Koran in the toilet. I point out that it is just fracking paper, and that I can buy more on Amazon.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 4:18 PM
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I don't get the "you should engage in the best version of your opponents argument", unless you view argument entirely as a fun little exercise. This is particularly true when it's clear that the only people who believe in the religion of theologians is theologians.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 4:19 PM
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195: Sure, childish I'll go along with and have already conceded. What I'm arguing with here is the general tone, as I perceive it, that it was beyond childish (which after all, you go yeah, childish, and move on) and entered the territory of Truly Offensive, Extraordinarily Dickish, and so on. I mean, it really just isn't *that* big a fucking deal.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 4:22 PM
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188: on a quick skim of parts of that, what Hume is referring to as belief seems to be so vague as to look completely unconnected to anything any believer I've ever met would call "belief."

192: I am serious. Of course there was a lot of intellectually rigorous debate on this historically. But since it's clear now that the world operates according to consistent, causal principles, and that there is no need to invoke supernatural causes to explain anything that we see, it seems that most of that goes out the window.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 4:22 PM
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I continue to agree with you completely, B.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 4:23 PM
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197: what I find really, really irksome is pretending to be surprised at the reaction. It's very "why are you hitting yourself"? Not just childish--crappy bully of an older-sibling-ish.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 4:24 PM
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The Torah example is a good one, but since you're all 'ooh, priceless work of art' (it's still just paper) how about a copy of the Koran? In response to violent acts by some Muslims, I respond by flushing a copy of the Koran in the toilet.

I'm all what?

If the violent act is, say, to shove a non-believer's head in the toilet and flush in the name of (say) their having accidentally done something offensive to a Koran without realizing it, then ripping a page out of another Koran and flushing it would be a fairly sensible symbolic protest, sure.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 4:25 PM
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I don't think extraordinarily dickish is *that* big of a deal, actually. I just think it is more to the point than childish, which implies some kind of not-knowing-better or short-sightedness or impatience. Dickish is what you get when you are a grown-up congratulating yourself when people get pissed at something you knew would make them pissed.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 4:26 PM
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Actually, one of the interesting things you see in Hume is the collision of the liberal enlightenment idea of belief as a propositional attitude (in Philo and Cleanthes) colliding with an older, more faith and awe idea of belief (in Demea). Most people today still think like Demea, which shows how much the enlightenment has accomplished.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 4:27 PM
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Last one to 164, cause it's on my desktop and I should get back to it:

So I disagree with the followers of Marx and those of Adam Smith: the reason free markets work is because they allow people to be lucky, thanks to aggressive trial and error, not by giv­ ing rewards or "incentives" for skill.
Thus I rail against "sterile skepticism," the kind we can do nothing about, and against the exceedingly theoretical language problems that have made much of modern philosophy largely irrelevant to what is derisively called the "general public." (In the past, for better or worse, those rare philosophers and thinkers who were not self-standing depended on a patron's support. Today academics in abstract disciplines depend on one another's opinion, without external checks, with the severe occasional PROLOGU E xxvii pathological result of turning their pursuits into insular prowess-showing contests. Whatever the shortcomings of the old system, at least it enforced some standard of relevance.) The philosopher Edna Ullmann-Margalit detected an inconsistency in this book and asked me to justify the use of the precise metaphor of a Black Swan to describe the unknown, the abstract, and imprecise uncertain-- white ravens, pink elephants, or evaporating denizens of a remote planet orbiting Tau Ceti. Indeed, she caught me red handed. There is a contradic- tion; this book is a story, and I prefer to use stories and vignettes to illus- trate our gullibility about stories and our preference for the dangerous compression of narratives. You need a story to displace a story. Metaphors and stories are far more potent (alas) than ideas; they are also easier to remember and more fun to read. If I have to go after what I call the narrative disciplines, my best tool is a narrative. Ideas come and go, stories stay

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Black Swan

I see madness everywhere. Most of it's good.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 4:27 PM
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202: Okay, well, maybe it's an argument over terminology, then. I still get the feeling that some people--not the offended Catholics--are actually angry that he did it, which I think is kind of an overreaction.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 4:28 PM
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196: I don't think you should only address the smartest representative of a viewpoint, not if you want to influence a lot of people. I also don't think you should only address the stupidest representatives of a viewpoint. That won't get you anywhere either. And, it gets boring more quickly.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 4:29 PM
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Perhaps the most annoying part of this whole thing: the pervasive use of the word "fracking."


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 4:31 PM
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There was a thing on public radio this morning about a Dutch forger who made make Vermeers and sold them to the Nazis. Apparently they were very good; people were swooning over them. Only when the war ended, and he was charged with treason -- a capital crime -- did the guy come clean, and even then he had trouble convincing some people.

(Goering, awaiting trial at Nuernburg, was especially insistent -- it was "the most expensive painting" in his collection)

Obviously, the paintings do look any different once you know that they're fakes. The crime was different, though, and obviously the value as well.


Posted by: Napi | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 4:34 PM
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Fake Vermeers. Don't look any different. Sheesh.


Posted by: Napi | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 4:35 PM
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198:But since it's clear now that the world operates according to consistent, causal principles

I think you may be impossible to reach.

I push one step beyond this philosophical-logical question into an em­ pirical reality, and one that has obsessed me since childhood. What we call here a Black Swan (and capitalize it) is an event with the following three attributes.

First, it is an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility. Sec­ond, it carries an extreme impact. Third, in spite of its outlier status, human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrence after the fact, making it explainable and predictable.

I stop and summarize the triplet: rarity, extreme impact, and retrospec­tive (though not prospective) predictability.*

A small number of Black Swans explain almost everything in our world, from the success of ideas
and religions, to the dynamics of historical events, to elements of our own personal lives.

...Taleb
Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 4:36 PM
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205: I'd rather he hadn't done it. It bothers some residual Catholic in me, but that's not why. It makes no real pedagogical point that I can tell nor does it mitigate the spotlight or potential for backlash at Cook. All it does is provide a strawman for those who are outraged. A shame.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 4:38 PM
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Right, because the only reason to burn a flag is to offend people. And the only reason for desecrating a communion wafer as a reaction to people assaulting someone who took one out of a church is also to offend people.

Similarly, sometime the coach has a good reason for making fun of the fat kid in gym in front of everyone else. But we make assumptions and come to conclusions, and usually those conclusions prove out.

But since it's clear now that the world operates according to consistent, causal principles

I don't think that's true. (I thought Hume was on this, too.) That "it's clear" is faith. Pretty useful faith, but faith nonetheless.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 4:40 PM
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211: See, I think that because it so very doesn't bother my residual Catholicism (after an initial kind of "eep" at his original post), that's part of why I think that people being actively offended by it (for reasons other than Sincere Catholic Belief) are being silly.

I mean, it does provide a strawman, making it unwise. But unwise isn't the same as offensive.

I don't know why I'm still arguing this. I should go pay some bills. By the way, we've come to an agreement with sellers on a house and are now just waiting the inspection, etc.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 4:42 PM
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Don't they look kind of terrible now? I think they probably looked better when people thought they were authentic.


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 4:43 PM
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Now, 212 is assholish.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 4:43 PM
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That's awesome! Is this the one from last week where you were stressing the offer amount?


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 4:46 PM
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By the way, we've come to an agreement with sellers on a house and are now just waiting the inspection, etc.

Congratulations. Good luck. May your faith and hope be rewarded.

Enjoy. Good night.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 4:46 PM
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14: Sorry, Katherine, no. From a civil liberties point of view you support the right of the Nazis to march, but not them. That in fact, is the same easement argument. But being an blesphemous atheist or an impious secularist is a good thing, not a bad thing.

There really are people who think that blasphemy should be illegal, and that America is a Christian country founded on Christian principles, and so on, and they deserve a good in-your-face every once in awhile -- because it isn't, and that's a good thing.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 4:47 PM
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216: It is. We held firm through their trying to give us two counteroffers, and they've accepted the original offer. Now we see if the inspection reveals things that demonstrate that we need to try to knock 'em down even further.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 4:47 PM
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217: Thanks.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 4:48 PM
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The criterion that you shouldn't do something because someone offensive can't really be the right one, can it? ACT-UP used to stage kiss-ins for reasons not too far from PZ Myers' own. Were they being dickish?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 4:56 PM
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there is no need to invoke supernatural causes to explain anything that we see

Tell that to the string theorists.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 5:02 PM
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212, referring to But since it's clear now that the world operates according to consistent, causal principles, said:

I don't think that's true. (I thought Hume was on this, too.) That "it's clear" is faith. Pretty useful faith, but faith nonetheless.

If you prefer, replace "it's clear that" with "the collective weight of millions of experiments make it unreasonable to doubt that". As Hume taught us, we have no guarantee that the sun will rise tomorrow, but I think it's fair to say it's clear that it will.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 5:03 PM
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222: Why is it so fashionable to pick on string theorists?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 5:08 PM
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They're easier to pick on than crack dealers and martial artists.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 5:13 PM
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200: what I find really, really irksome is pretending to be surprised at the reaction

For what it's worth, it's not at all clear to me that Myers is pretending to be surprised.

I take that back: there's some sarcastic faux astonishment there. I take it that's objectionable. Frankly, mockery must always walk a fine line: in some sense it's always dickish. What keeps Myers really close to the line (hence the extended arguments here) is that he seems truly angry. Turning to mockery in such a case is a last refuge, marking a sort of helplessness.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 5:17 PM
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226: Well, PZ *is* helpless if he's arguing with faith. Has a single mind been changed?


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 5:29 PM
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"being an blesphemous atheist or an impious secularist is a good thing, not a bad thing. "

But the decline of religious liberalism is a bad thing, & a shared goal of Myers & Donohue. And they are very, very useful foils for each other, so useful that it's sometimes hard not to regard their mutual self promotion as almost deliberate (it's pretty clear they sincerely hate each other, but they are so useful to the other that it's hard to believe they're not aware of it).


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 5:29 PM
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we have no guarantee that the sun will rise tomorrow, but I think it's fair to say it's clear that it will.

A man of faith. Odds are high enough that you won't be around to see it rise that you should live your life today as if you won't. Buy some life insurance. Have some savings. Or not.

Incidentally, for those who always say I have no coherent philosophy, Black Swanism or catastrophe theory might help. Discontinuties and incoherence are the point.

For example:The political revolutions of the 30s and 60s (late 40s for Liberal Internationalism, 80s) vastly eclipse in net gain (loss) any incremental reforms, and effort is better spent preparing for those extraordinary opportunities. How that is done will include incremental reform, but should primarily focus on radicalism.

I would also note my interest in young actors, and which achieve success into their 30s. The competition is so tough (tougher than for athletes, unless you watch college or minor leagues), and there are so many factors, that prediction is impossible. And that comforts me, and confirms my biases. And I get to lech while indulging my skepticism.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 5:30 PM
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223: Have you ever heard of a little thing called "quantum mechanics"? You might claim that there's some underlying consistent causal mechanism we haven't found yet, but it's far from "clear" that that's the case.

That's entirely to one side of the question of God, of course.

Also, I don't know if you've heard of this, but there is a long tradition of arguing for the existence of God on the basis of the consistent causal principles governing the world. Indeed, one could argue that monotheism was necessary to give people the idea of universal causal principles, etc. Which is not to say that monotheism is true! Only to say that you're ridiculous.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 5:33 PM
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Myers as far as I know is still primarily a biology teacher and plans to remain one. He's not cashing in and calling it self-promotion is unfair. Donahue is a political hack who makes his living off this stuff, I'm pretty sure. I don't know if he leaches money from pious old ladies are gets money from Scaife type, but the corruption isn't mutual.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 5:45 PM
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229:"Lech" was self-mockery entire, and untrue.

230:Which is not to say that monotheism is true!

Kotsko, I don't understand you.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 5:46 PM
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the decline of religious liberalism is a bad thing, & a shared goal of Myers & Donohue.

That's really unfair. Donohue wants to get rid of religious liberalism because he hates liberalism; Myers objects to *religion*, and would prefer liberal religion to the other kind, but believes that even liberal religion provides cover to the Donohues of the world. You might as well say that both environmentalists and oil drillers want to get rid of the Alaska oil-drilling question.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 5:48 PM
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The criterion that you shouldn't do something because someone offensive can't really be the right one, can it?

That isn't the criterion. Rather, the criterion is that you shouldn't do something for the sole purpose of offending someone else. To what extent we believe other proffered justifications depends...well, on a lot of different factors.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 5:48 PM
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bloggers don't self promote? Since when? It is certainly more lucrative for Donohue, but most writers/pundits want attention as well as money. Unless this is personal pathology of mine, but I really don't think so.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 5:49 PM
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I think that it's perfectly fine to do something for the sole purpose of offending Donahue or Pat Robertson.

I would say that in America Catholics are more a force for good than for evil, and I would have much preferred that Myers zing the Protestant Armageddonists and faith healers who talk personally to God. That's probably a 5%-10% demographic in the US, including the hangers-on and sympathizers.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 5:51 PM
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233: what's unfair? They both want it gone to heighten the contradictions. What Myers is trying to promote in its place is pretty benign, what Donohue is, isn't, but they share the goal of getting rid of something that I consider good.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 5:52 PM
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Even if they both want to get rid of something you personally think is good, that doesn't make them moral equivalents, nor does it mean that Myers is deliberately enabling Donohue, as you pretty clearly implied.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 5:55 PM
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227: Has a single mind been changed?

The minds of the hyper-faithful surely haven't been. I will say that the entire hoo-haw has occasioned me to consider again a few things I don't ordinarily spare time to think about. I'm not a theist in the first place, though.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 5:55 PM
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Incidentally, I bet the wingers are already saying this, but when Myers desecrated the Dawkins page too, for fairness or whatever, isn't it significant that he didn't desecrate his own holy book -- The Origin of Species?

(The answer is no, but I had to say that).


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 5:59 PM
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Okay, but seriously, who says "fracking"?


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 6:01 PM
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Even the guy who was sitting with the guy who swiped the wafer is being harassed by being refused registration for his classes.

The mountain-out-of-molehill stuff didn't start with Myers.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 6:04 PM
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230: Have you ever heard of a little thing called "quantum mechanics"? You might claim that there's some underlying consistent causal mechanism we haven't found yet, but it's far from "clear" that that's the case.

Heard of it? I work with it just about every day. Quantum field theory is causal, in a very precise sense of the word "causal", which is roughly that no two things can have an effect on each other if they are not separated in such a way that light or something slower than light can propagate between them. Whether it's deterministic is a slightly trickier question, which is what I think you have in mind; the theory really is deterministic, but in practice emergent classicality and decoherence make the answers to certain questions macroscopically probabilistic to any degree we can really hope to measure. That's sort of beside the point, though. Whether the laws look probabilistic or not, they are still very precise laws that appear to govern everything in the universe to any degree of accuracy we care to test.

Also, I don't know if you've heard of this, but there is a long tradition of arguing for the existence of God on the basis of the consistent causal principles governing the world.

And how does that argument go? I didn't dispute the existence of rich and interesting traditions; I'm just not aware of any arguments that hold up especially well in light of centuries of accumulated knowledge about how the world works. Could be missing something, though.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 6:06 PM
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241: Adam, you know that "frack" is from Battlestar Galactica? At least lately. I think it's kind of funny. And it rhymes!


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 6:09 PM
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That Beyond Monotheism book is good.


Posted by: Magic Jordan | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 6:10 PM
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240:There are certainly more serious self-examinations Myers as a biologist could publicly perform. Questioning induction or taxonomy, for instance.

I have never had much interest in science, and especially not biology, but I have always assumed there are reasons they cling so desperately and defensively to evolution. Maybe biology has similarities to history & archaeology. Barely anything there but data and the organization of data. Theoretical & social sciences are humbler.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 6:13 PM
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I've said repeatedly that I don't consider Myers & Donohue to be morally equivalent. As far as this:

"nor does it mean that Myers is deliberately enabling Donohue, as you pretty clearly implied."

It is mutually beneficial for Donohue & Myers that Myers be the spokesman for secular liberalism. It is mutually beneficial for Donohue & Myers that Donohue be the spokesman for Catholicism. I think they are aware of this at some level. From my point of view, they are both godawful and I resent the crap out of their success in making themselves the spokesmen for secularism & Catholicism, because I know of lots of Catholic people who aren't nuts & lots of secular people who don't treat religious people with contempt. But their ultimate goals are diametrically opposed, yes.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 6:15 PM
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they are still very precise laws that appear to govern everything in the universe to any degree of accuracy we care to test.

Your laws create your universe, but that is an argument too deep and over my head. And I know nothing.

But I might be able to badly argue "Your laws create your reality" in other areas, like politics and ethics.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 6:17 PM
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But Donohue *isn't* the spokesman for Catholicism, and Myers *isn't* the spokesman for secular liberalism (which by definition wouldn't really even *have* a spokesman).

And I think it's offensive for you to be linking them, inasmuch as Myers is clearly not actively threatening anyone's life or livelihood, nor is he apologizing for those who do, while Donohue clearly is and does. Saying they're not moral equivalents doesn't erase the implications of consistently pairing them up the way you're doing here.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 6:20 PM
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I have always assumed there are reasons they cling so desperately and defensively to evolution.

Nonsense, Bob. They cling to it because it's the best theory. They're defensive because idiots mess with them.

Maybe biology has similarities to history & archaeology. Barely anything there but data and the organization of data.

Biology is a indeed historical science, and it's evolution that makes it one. Your understanding of historical sciences seems poor, though.

Theoretical & social sciences are humbler.

Utterly ridiculous bullshit.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 6:23 PM
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Myers really was responding to a prior provocation by the other side. The two guys in Florida were seriously threatened over what seems to have been a practical joke, and they still are being threatened.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 6:25 PM
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250:Theoretical & social sciences are humbler.

Utterly ridiculous bullshit.

A joke. You never can tell with me, I guess.

I am sure I can find a quote to the effect that:"Without evolution, biology reduces to mere taxonomy." I think genetic biology is simply too immature to have reached the internal contradictions that quantum physics recognizes.

The leaps from mere data to induction to deduction, theory, generalizations, principles, paradigms are all dependent on the first leap, and mostly social constructs and irrationalities. Don't much like that science stuff.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 6:35 PM
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"Prior provocation" is dubious. As people noted earlier in the thread, the "it's just a cracker" line is basically horseshit. If it was "just a cracker," it wouldn't have been the target of the original prank, nor would Myers have subsequently gotten sucked into this supremely idiotic pissing contest around it. And I really doubt that if the original "prank" had been pulled on, say, a synagogue*, that many people would be disputing a call for the guys who pulled it to be censured, no matter how dickish the Jewish leaders it came from. With all due contempt for Bill Donohue, I don't see why the eucharist merits different treatment. As many have noted, there's a fundamental hypocrisy going on here.

(* Worse by far than the initial pissing contest, in my mind, is Myers' mendacious and obfuscatory essay about all the evils Catholics have perpetrated on behalf of their silly cracker. He's gaily comparing apples and oranges and hoping no-one will notice; yes, PZ, false accusations of "desecration" of this or that are indeed vicious fear-mongering tactics, but that doesn't make genuine acts of desecration either value-neutral or socially neutral. Religiously/ethnically-targeted cemetery desecrations, for example, are regarded as hate crimes in many countries, and with good reason. I think Myers is playing dumb about this -- foolishly -- but if he's genuinely stupid enough to be blind to it, he's just dropped a considerable number of pegs in my estimation.)


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 6:46 PM
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251:I have sometimes attempted to be provocatively disruptive to those who follow the religion of procedural liberalism. For instance, calling Obama a fascist violates rules of evidence, public reason, civility. And have, by Tim Burke and others, been caused crazy/evil for mere verbal playfulness. Direct action, of course, would have legal consequences.

threatened over what seems to have been a practical joke

I think the joke was very serious, close to a hate crime. Certain spheres of private behavior/belief are protected, and need to be in order to have a civil society. It is comparable to verbal threats, I think. Or the trashing of a Torah.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 6:50 PM
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pwned


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 6:51 PM
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253: It's a performance on Myers' part. Yes. In our current environment, probably an unwise one.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 6:55 PM
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You know, call me a self-loathing Catholic, but I just do not believe that conservative Catholics in present-day America are particularly marginalized or persecuted, which makes the whole "what if it were a Torah? What if it were a Koran?" questions a mite disingenuous.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 6:56 PM
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I do suspect that the apples-and-oranges stuff DS is talking about *is* both genuine ignorance and a sincere belief on Myers's part that ultimately all religion leads to intolerance and persecution. I mean, fine, think less of Myers for believing that, but I think it's unfair to believe he's being deliberately intellectually dishonest. Maybe a little glib.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 6:59 PM
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257: There was a reason for the analogy ban, wasn't there.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 7:02 PM
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257: I wish I had a way to measure such things, but I think that conservative Catholics and orthodox Jews are probably roughly equally persecuted in this country. Which is to say, not usually very much at all. Muslims, on the other hand, are an entirely different story. Still, the basic argument, that gauging power matters when trying to assess the relative harm of a given action, is right.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 7:03 PM
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Why do I find myself agreeing with Emerson so often? I must be getting old.


Posted by: gswit | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 7:03 PM
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"You know, call me a self-loathing Catholic, but I just do not believe that conservative Catholics in present-day America are particularly marginalized or persecuted, which makes the whole "what if it were a Torah? What if it were a Koran?" questions a mite disingenuous."

They're certainly not persecuted or marginalized, and most of the things they bitch about are things that other religions put up with as a matter of course (i.e., NOT having the state, or the Wal-Mart greeter, officially endorse your religion or discriminate on your behalf). But desecrating religious objects is just a crappy thing to do. It takes on an especially sinister overtone when it's done to a despised minority rather than a majority, but that's not the only problem with it; there is a general principle that has been articulated about 100x now, & the failure to understand it in this particular case seems either blind or hackish.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 7:04 PM
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257: American Catholicism is rather chaotically spread across the have and have-nots of society, but has a long history, extending into the present, of being identified with xenophobically despised immigrant groups. Given that a good deal of, say, hostility to Latin American immigrants expresses itself as anti-Catholicism, I find it hard to believe that hate crimes are a dead issue as regards Catholicism.

Maybe Myers is genuinely ignorant of that. If that's so, then he really is a fool, in a much bigger and more thoroughgoing way than just having been sucked into a silly blogfight. That would be disappointing but it's certainly possible.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 7:04 PM
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259: Yup.

260: Agreed, although I kind of suspect that Orthodox Jews, if only because they're more visibly "other" in some cases than Catholics are, are probably still more subject to harassment. Plus, if nothing else, there's that whole "the history of America is based on Christian values!" thing.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 7:05 PM
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this supremely idiotic pissing contest

For real. Myers has made himself look rather silly, I'm afraid, like a bright and precocious college freshman who's just discovered Nietzsche and wants parents/teachers/nameless authorities to admit that God doesn't really exist, dammit, except that isn't Myers a bit long in the tooth to be carrying on a like a college freshman, no matter how bright and precocious?


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 7:05 PM
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243: Everything has a cause, but in order to avoid nonsensical infinite regress, there must be a first cause that is not itself caused. This first cause is called God.

Pretty simple. I don't know that any particular scientific discovery would dispute it -- the critique would have to be on the philophical level, I'd think.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 7:05 PM
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Also, hasn't this argument mostly devolved into a series of question about how people define "dickish," "very dickish," and "assholish"?


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 7:06 PM
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" a good deal of, say, hostility to Latin American immigrants expresses itself as anti-Catholicism"

You think? I think that was true of anti-immigrant sentiment & anti-Catholicism at one point, but not so much anymore. (The Catholic church is very pro-immigrant, though).


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 7:07 PM
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262: I'm pretty sure I've acknowledged more than once that desecreating religious objects is generally impolite.

263: I genuinely know about the history of anti-Catholicism, thanks. I imagine Myers does, too. It's news to me if current anti-immigrant rhetoric is anti-Catholic; if anything, it seems to me like *the* only concession conservative anti-immigrant types will make about south american immigrants is that the ones that aren't thieves and gangbangers at least have strong family values.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 7:09 PM
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267: Yes. That said, Mary Catherine's 265 hits the right note, I think.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 7:11 PM
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268: Not quite as central as it was back in the Nineteenth or early Twentieth, perhaps, but it's there alright. Shrieking about the Secret Plan for Greater Aztlan is admittedly the more prominent strategy.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 7:16 PM
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I genuinely know about the history of anti-Catholicism, thanks.

Didn't mean to imply that I thought otherwise.

I imagine Myers does, too.

Then his glibness is puzzling indeed.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 7:17 PM
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271: Oh, right. That's kind of funny; I had kind of thought that the churches that give amnesty to immigrants (which include non-Catholic churches) had been cleverly using the fact that the right-wing nuts can't really be anti-religious any more.

Which is kind of dumb, considering that I'm related to my uncle, but I guess I tend to think of that sort of thing as pretty impotent. Don't tell my uncle I said that.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 7:19 PM
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Bring back Bill the Butcher! He will defend us from the Catholic hordes!


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 7:19 PM
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272: Really? It doesn't strike me as puzzling. He's writing a *blog post* in a rather heated mood.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 7:21 PM
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266: Thanks, Aristotle, but am I really supposed to take that argument seriously?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 7:22 PM
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(More self-loathing Catholicism: if all Catholics were like Bill Donohue, we'd deserve to be persecuted.)


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 7:23 PM
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270: Sure, Myers comes off, in this case at least, as a bit of a dick. Or a college first-year, if you'd prefer. But Donohue is a force for evil. Now and forever. Full stop. The problem is, I'd prefer that my atheist public intellectuals not preen and carry on like children. I don't like it when Myers does it. I don't like it when Hitchens does it. And if Dawkins were to do the same, I wouldn't like that, either. In these cases, I don't really care who started it. I just wish that the people on my team would carry themselves with dignity. Whereas, having Donohue act, as always, like a cretin serves my interests nicely, thank you very much.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 7:24 PM
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278: Sure, I can go along with that. I feel a certain discomfort around this whole thing: basically I'm on Myers's side, and I don't think he's being a Bad Person, but it is a little embarrassing and tactless.

I just feel compelled, as always, to defend people who are embarrassing and tactless as long as I think they're basically okay human beings.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 7:28 PM
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It's news to me if current anti-immigrant rhetoric is anti-Catholic

I guess pwned by DS in 268, but the politics of Latinos finally moving into Deep South states, traditionally partially hostile to Catholicism, won't be overt but should be obvious.

For some it is about jobs. For others, about "culture"

I don't really understand why Roman Catholicism shouldn't be protected by hate crime laws.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 7:32 PM
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Was the initial perp an anti-Catholic ex-Catholic? That somewhat affects how I feel about the case.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 7:32 PM
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280: 268 s/b 271


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 7:34 PM
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Nobody should be protected by hate crime laws, because those are a travesty.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 7:34 PM
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281: No, I think he was a practicing Catholic.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 7:34 PM
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279: Pretty much right for me as well.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 7:35 PM
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280: Well yes, I'm aware that the south is freaky about Catholics. My husband grew up in Kentucky. Ironically, everyone always thought he and his family were Jewish.

(PZ is far from a southerner, though.)


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 7:36 PM
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Further to 285: I mean, with respect to Myers.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 7:36 PM
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278: See, Hitchens too eventually became a force for evil, though he didn't start out as one. And he got there, indeed -- at least in part -- through a specific sort of preening and carrying on. I guess where I disagree with B is that I don't find this sort of thing a little bit "tactless" and "embarrassing;" stronger language is deserved.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 7:41 PM
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The Jewish Catholics from Kentucky is a demographic about which I know less than nothing, I must confess. Please tell me more! (a very brief synopsis will do, I hasten to add: is there a Brooks column I should know about, or something?).


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 7:42 PM
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||
Why doesn't teo come round anymore?
|>


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 7:46 PM
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290: because he's really busy, and he has a girlfriend.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 7:47 PM
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PZ is far from a southerner, though.

Well, this where I correlate arguments about transubstantiation to differences between Catholic & Protestant political and social attitudes, using the history of slavery in the Americas as one example.

But that would be a book.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 7:47 PM
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289: They had a foreign (German) last name and looked foreign, therefore they were probably Jewish, basically. When it was pointed out that they were Catholic, that wasnt much better.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 7:51 PM
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292:Well, just a little bit.

When Rome told the Spanish-Americans that the natives had souls, they were not really free to differ.

But nobody could, even in principle, tell the Mississippi Presbyterian that blacks had souls. That was a judgement he had the obligation to make for himself, via scripture and personal revelation.

The necessary mediation between God & Man that is a principle of the Church, ritualized in the Eucharist, did (and does) help create a more authoritarian society, but also one where mutual obligation could be almost commanded.

Weber & Capitalism. Simply mentioned because I am probably already boring.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 7:57 PM
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291: All sexually happy Unfoggetarians leave. Ogged is another example. Fortunately, it's not a big problem, statistically speaking.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 8:01 PM
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276: Dismissiveness is fine, though I think it's not self-evidently ridiculous. It's also unclear to me how any particular scientific finding has disproven this argument.

(Of course, there's a big jump from this concept of the uncaused cause to the Christian God, but whatever.)


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 8:01 PM
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288: I get this. And yet, the gap between Myers's dickishness and Hitchens's open embrace of evil yawns so wide that the most salient trait they share is preening. Also, if you're suggesting that preening is a gateway behavior, leading, ultimately, to evil, I'm not sure I can go there with you. But if you're saying that preening often undermines even the best arguments, I agree. I'm just a very understated sort of fellow.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 8:07 PM
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i believe God is Universe and it's chaotico-orderly-dialectico-evolutionary
buddhist, in short
i'm past the ogged missing phase and now miss eb


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 8:09 PM
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288: DS, if Myers becomes a Hitchens in intellectual reach (doubtful), I'll worry about it. As it stands, he's done something that's interesting chiefly with respect to how it reflects on the state of what someone upthread called religious liberalism. I'd just call it tolerance.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 8:13 PM
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I'm just a very understated sort of fellow.

Have a doughnut, Ari, and just try to relax a little bit, eh? The weight of the world probably does not fall so heavily upon your shoulders as maybe your grandmother once would have had you believe. Or, er, well, something like that, or something. Hey! did you know they had a Tim Horton's in Portland, ME? And I'm not even kidding, I swear.

Preening is not really a gateway behaviour, of course. Unless we're willing to define the parameters of those gates very broadly indeed.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 8:22 PM
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There's also a Tim Horton's on the New York Thruway, somewhere east of Buffalo. Delicious mapley goodness (sorry parsimmon, I don't mean to gross you out). Or is it "maply"? Huh, this is just the sort of thing that could prompt an identity crisis for a Canadian ex-pat like me.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 8:29 PM
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Preening is not really a gateway behaviour, of course.

I realize that no one's in charge of new mouseover text at this point, but I swear to god.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 8:29 PM
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parsimon. Double sorry.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 8:30 PM
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285 may have been my best troll ever. Hmph.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 8:35 PM
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Persimon.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 8:36 PM
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I mean persimmon. Mmmm.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 8:39 PM
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What are you talking about, John?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 8:44 PM
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Read's comment 298 made me think of this song. Not that I feel that way about any of you people.


Posted by: Napi | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 8:48 PM
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What are you talking about, John?

He means 295, not 285. And also: fruit, I think.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 8:49 PM
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Ari is not sexually happy. Discuss.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 8:50 PM
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309: Ah.

Meanwhile, ari, I realize I may have made negative comments in the past about doughnuts. Also about scrapple and slime. I notice that I've been concerned lately about preening and dickishness as well. So much negativity! I resolve to be more mellow.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 8:54 PM
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Remember going up to the sugar bush in March, and they would throw hot syrup onto a large pan of just, well, cold but grainy snow, and that was what made maple candy, and they would have given you a wooden stick to try and catch that sweetness and twirl it around into a lovely shape, and your teeth might ache just thinking about such a treat? And there was no corn syrup involved, I swear, and nothing that might be cited and indicted in terms of current trends toward obesity? just something sweet and smoky and almost homegrown as you caught that amber liquid with your stick and watched it harden into something like candy? Totally wholesome, I swear.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 8:54 PM
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312: MC, actually I remember something like this from childhood times in New Hampshire. I haven't been up there in wintertime for a while now.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 9:06 PM
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MC, one year one of my brothers made near-commercial quantities of maple syrup around here. Using inefficient old-fashioned methods.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 9:09 PM
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OK, don't discuss. The sexual happiness of the Unfoggetariat is off limits. Like a 500-lb. bear or moose in the room.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 9:10 PM
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298: Read is right, of course.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 9:11 PM
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Carp grooming blissful hippo


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 9:24 PM
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It's amazing how useful these internets can be when one wants to avoid doing anything for an entire day.

296: Well, even overlooking the fundamental sketchiness of starting an argument with "everything has a cause" and ending up with "something there is that does not have a cause", and, as you say, the giant leap from "uncaused cause" to any other conception of God, there's also the question of why infinite regress doesn't make sense. Because it makes you feel queasy? What if God makes someone else feel queasy?

I mean, I'm sure these ideas were mind-blowingly brilliant thousands of years ago, and it's an important part of intellectual history, but should we really take them more seriously as ideas now than we take the pot-induced pronouncements of the proverbial college freshmen?

What happened at the beginning of time (if it had a beginning) is a deep and interesting question. Unfortunately all evidence points to the early universe having undergone an inflationary phase, which had the twin virtues of making the universe suitable for the later development of life and of wiping out our ability to measure much about what happened earlier. So it isn't a terribly scientifically accessible question. Maybe the universe began at a particle time, maybe it's been around forever. Maybe (my personal favorite) "time" is an emergent property of this little local region we call "the universe" which is actually part of something vaster, more mysterious, and timeless. Who knows? I certainly don't. But I don't see any reason to reject the "infinite regress" option.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 9:25 PM
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s/particle/particular/


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 9:26 PM
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But I don't see any reason to reject the "infinite regress" option.

Exactly. It's turtles all the way down and back around.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 9:39 PM
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"I don't really understand why Roman Catholicism shouldn't be protected by hate crime laws"

I'm pretty sure it is--if they apply to religion at all they do so regardless of denomination--but desecration isn't a hate crime. Hate crimes laws, in the U.S. at least, are just sentence enhancements for otherwise-criminal acts if the motive was hatred of the victim's racial, religious, etc. group.

I suppose you could argue that Myers engaged in criminal solicitation of petty, petty, petty, petty larceny to obtain the ill-gotten wafer, but it's a real stretch.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 9:52 PM
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i believe God is Universe and it's chaotico-orderly-dialectico-evolutionary
buddhist, in short

This is basically what I learned as a Presbyterian, that church having changed utterly in the US as the ethnic groups associated with it changed as well. That and how Jesus's main role was to give us guidance on how to be good people.

It's a shame churches like mine don't proselytize or try to retain their members.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 10:01 PM
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Also, 275 to 274.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 10:02 PM
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276, 296, 318: Paul Edwards wrote an amusing little essay called "Why?" in which he steps up through a series of increasingly general questions to what he calls the super-ultimate why question—basically "Why is there something rather than nothing?" He pretty much dismisses it as meaningless ('cuz it's "first movers" all the way down), but I do think that the relevance of it for this discussion is that (despite Essear's condescending and lack of imagination revealing "pot-induced pronouncements of the proverbial college freshmen" characterization) it does illustrate the central mystery of existence which is one thing that I do think keeps some people in the "God" game at all in this day and age. Now as several have said it is quite the distance from that to most conceptions of the Christian God, but it keeps the door to the general territory open.

(Why the "infinite regress" thing doesn't solve the problem left as an exercise for the reader.)

</dorm room>


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 10:04 PM
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the central mystery of existence is why humans are so fucking worried about it when nobody else is.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 10:09 PM
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No, that's consciousness.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 10:11 PM
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326: QED, yo.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 10:12 PM
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"How strange it is to be anything at all"?


Posted by: not Jeff Mangum | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 10:15 PM
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325, 326: I almost added to that comment that my own personal super-ultimate why question is something along the lines of "Why is this question?"


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 10:24 PM
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the central mystery of existence is why humans are so fucking worried about it when nobody else is.

Because it's the definition of Dasein to be worried about it.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 10:27 PM
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328 was me, because I continue to think this discussion is sort of ridiculous, and better suited to 13-year-olds. But somewhat more seriously, there are at least three possibilities, as I mentioned in 318: the universe has always been here, the universe began at some particular time, or "time" is not completely well-defined and sort of fuzzes out into meaninglessness far enough in the past. If you think you have some a priori philosophical reason for rejecting some of these options, I claim you are full of shit. If you think any of these options bear any relation to some religious notion of God, I think you're deluding yourself. If there is some all-powerful God who created the universe, He/She/It could just as well stand outside time and do it in any of these scenarios. The cosmological argument doesn't make any sense from any possible perspective I can imagine. (We could move on to the ontological argument for even more fun....)


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 10:28 PM
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How the hell did we get here from crackers? Oh, right, it's my fault. Shit. Sorry.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 10:34 PM
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330: well, yeah, indeed. When's the rest of Being and Time coming out, anyhow?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 10:35 PM
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297:

Also, if you're suggesting that preening is a gateway behavior, leading, ultimately, to evil, I'm not sure I can go there with you.

The gateway drug Myers has been mainlining lately isn't preening, it's fundamentalism. He thinks the big struggle is between atheism and religion, whereas it's really between pluralism/ecumenicalism and fundamentalism. He's angry, but he's also very confused.


Posted by: djw | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 10:38 PM
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Athiesm per se is the net.libertarianism of theology.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 10:39 PM
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Since I am being a multi-thread dick tonight let me just continue that by saying that the dickishness of PZ Myers is but a Higgs boson to the all-consuming dickishness of self-satisfied physicists and scientists acting like they are this close to some ultimate answer. Yes of course most conceptions of gods fall prey to the same problem, the point is that your group of intellectually arrogant half-bright monkeys have done some great work but it is not of the sort that convince a whole lot of other half-bright monkeys that you (or maybe that any of us monkeys ever will) have really broken through to some final understanding.

But I bow before your massively engorged maturity of thought.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 10:44 PM
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stras et. al. You're right that many liberals have an instinctive dislike for the PZ Myers, Dawkins, and Hitchens, of the world. It's the same one they have for all those who see morality and belief in god as intrinsically linked. We don't particularly care for religious fervor even if it happens to promote our own theology. Nor do we like bigotry. As for context, at the risk of sort of violating the analogy ban, let's remember the Danish cartoons affair. Lots of people reposted the cartoons in protest at the death threats and violence. Others said they were doing so but really just wanted to demonstrate their hatred for Islam and Muslims. We knew which was which by their history of pronouncements on Islam. In this case PZ Myers is clearly in the latter category.


Posted by: tkm | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 10:50 PM
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334: Good point. But I'm not sure that fundamentalism can be described as any sort of gateway drug.

But I bow before your massively engorged maturity of thought.

I enjoy the word, "tumescence."


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 10:55 PM
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Is 336 directed at me? I, for one, self-satisfied and dickish though I might sometimes be, never claim to be anywhere close to any sort of answer for anything important.

When I asked about what intellectually rigorous discussion of belief vs. disbelief would look like, I wasn't being disingenuous. For me, increased awareness of what we really know about the world has led to continual decrease in my ability to believe some of the things I believed as a child. To some extent I feel that as a loss, even though I can't honestly sustain such beliefs. So I'm curious to see what an intellectually serious religious belief, a belief that that does not ignore or willfully misinterpret what we know about the world, would look like, if it exists (surely it does? there are a lot of smart people in the world).

But the only answer so far is some nonsensical argument that's thousands of years old. No, I'm not close to any answers, but I'd rather go with "I don't know any arguments" than with a bullshit argument.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 11:00 PM
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266

"Everything has a cause, but in order to avoid nonsensical infinite regress, there must be a first cause that is not itself caused. This first cause is called God."

If the first cause does not have a cause then it is not true that everything has a cause so your premise is wrong making your argument nonsense.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 11:03 PM
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Not rhetorical questions: what happens to communion wafers that don't get used in communion? Do they just get thrown away? Is there a desanctification process? Or, like Twinkies, do they keep long enough that this isn't an issue?

In the (very liberal) Baptist church I grew up in, we used unsliced loaves of bread. You'd tear off a piece, then hand the plate to the person sitting next to you and say "His body was broken for you." Then would come the trays with shot glasses of Welch's grape juice (so you had to make the mental jump not just from wine to blood, but also from grape juice to wine). When the service was over, the kids would run up and eat the leftover bread, which I suppose wasn't particularly reverent.

Mostly I find this entire debate uninteresting. However, given that the intended use of the wafers is to be eaten, shat out, and sent to the water treatment plant, the heated reaction from the fundie Catholics is kinda mystifying.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 11:04 PM
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Mostly I find this entire debate uninteresting.

Word.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 11:05 PM
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But I'm openly dickish as a rule, so.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 11:07 PM
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228

"But the decline of religious liberalism is a bad thing, & a shared goal of Myers & Donohue. ..."

You have some reason to believe Myers is against religious liberalism in particular as opposed to religion in general?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 11:08 PM
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341: I'm pretty sure that they just consecrate the number they expect to use for the specific mass during which the consecrating is happening, and leftovers just get used next time. The point is that unconsecrated wafers (which probably do keep forever) are basically just crackers, even to devout Catholics.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 11:09 PM
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Then again, the priest finishes the unfinished wine; maybe he also finishes leftover host. You can tell I haven't been to mass in a while.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 11:12 PM
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"However, given that the intended use of the wafers is to be eaten, shat out, and sent to the water treatment plant, the heated reaction from the fundie Catholics is kinda mystifying."

This is kinda maddeningly disingenuous bullshit.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 11:13 PM
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I recall my (Alabama Southern Baptist) grandmother being horrified after visiting an Episcopalian church that everybody drank out of the same cup. "I was just going to hold it up to my mouth and pretend to drink, but the priest just rams it right in your mouth so you can't even avoid it."


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 11:15 PM
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Or maybe Apo really just doesn't understand it. Since it *is* kind of a difficult concept to grasp. Maybe he's not being a disingenuous liar.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 11:16 PM
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349 to 347, obvs.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 11:16 PM
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This is kinda maddeningly disingenuous bullshit.

No, it's my straight-up take on it. Dickish I'll cop to, but not disingenuous. You seem awfully invested in this, Katherine.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 11:17 PM
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Right, and he'd be really surprised that Muslims or Orthodox Jews got upset about him slipping bacom into their meals, since it's so delicious.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 11:17 PM
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348 is funny, b/c I have the opposite feeling. Grape juice always weird me out: "that's Welch's! What kind of Seriousness or Ceremony is there in that??" And the not-sharing-a-cup-thing, I mean, it's *communion.* At some point it might be nice to put your germ phobia on hold.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 11:18 PM
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Jesus Christ, can we just insert a "GOTO" here rather than go through this whole thing again?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 11:18 PM
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Equating tricking other people into violating their religion and being mystified by other peoples' religions, though. Completely disingenuous. Or maybe just sloppy.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 11:20 PM
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352: There's a difference between understanding *that* something is forbidden and getting *why* it is, especially when the forbidden thing is based on the idea that a piece of bread remains a piece of bread while being somehow mystically infused with the essential body of god, you know. It really is kind of a funky concept.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 11:20 PM
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If you mean that you find the actual belief in transubstantiation/the sacrament of communion/whatever mystifying rather than repeating the "golly gee whiz, it's just a cracker & they poop it out, who knew they'd get all UPSET about it?" shtick than I apologize.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 11:22 PM
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Does that count as a biscuit conditional? I never did really figure the biscuit conditional out.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 11:24 PM
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338: I enjoy the word, "tumescence."

Yeah, like I "enjoy" your mother.

339: Yes, yes 336 is quite overstated, but even if I don't know the final question, I do know the final answer which is ad hominem.

Look, "For me, increased awareness of what we really know about the world has led to continual decrease in my ability to believe some of the things I believed as a child" describes it pretty well for me. (With the added aspect of some deep involvement in my local church as a teen blowing any respect I had for "organized religion" in that form out of the water.) So I am probably pretty close to you in my beliefs along those lines. I think we differ with what to do after saying "I don't know any arguments" given the fact of existence.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 11:24 PM
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Yeah, like I "enjoy" your mother.

She sends regards. I could put her on the line, but, well, that would be awkward all around, right?


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 11:26 PM
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We did communion in my childhood church, as I said above. What I find mystifying is that *eating* something doesn't seem particularly reverent. It was similarly strange to me when I would visit Catholic churches as a kid and was consistently warned not to take communion there, because *only Catholics* were allowed to take Catholic communion. Which seems not particularly communal.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 11:28 PM
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338/359a:

Ari is third from enjoying the form of tumescence.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 11:28 PM
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361: Only Catholics who have gone through the sacrament of first communion, actually. Which technically I never did, and therefore I have been living in sin since I was something like 14 or so.

That said, eating doesn't seem reverent to you? Really? Would it help to think about cunnilingus or fine wine or a great meal? Eating is pretty fundamental to both existence and community.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 11:30 PM
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And yeah, transubstantiation is just bizarre, but I doubt many Catholics actually *believe* believe it. I may be wrong there, though. The understanding I was raised with around communion was that the point of it was the symbolic act of sharing food with your neighbors, not the food itself. Which made having it handed out solely by a priest also weird.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 11:32 PM
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364: You freaky protestants and your freaky, insignificant, unceremonious ceremonies. If the point is sharing food with your neighbors, why not just have a barbecue on Sunday instead? Way more fun.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 11:35 PM
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eating doesn't seem reverent to you?

No, it seems the very definition of mundane. Reverence carries connotations of preservation in my internal dictionary.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 11:35 PM
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You're definitely never getting oral access to my holy of holies, then.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 11:39 PM
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If the point is sharing food with your neighbors, why not just have a barbecue on Sunday instead?

That's the Wednesday night Fellowship dinner. What I meant was that the physical bits of communion were basically props. What mattered (and this was probably specific to our congregation, rather than Baptists generally) was the holding the plate for the person sitting next to you and saying "His [body/blood] was [broken/shed] for you." The actual eating was purely pro forma, so that people didn't have to carry bread home in their pockets.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 11:40 PM
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368: Well, I know what you meant. I was joshing.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 11:41 PM
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specific to our congregation

Or maybe just specific to me. I didn't do any polling.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 11:41 PM
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367 definitely is a violation of the communal spirit, B. But I forgive you, because I'm a feminist Christ-like.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 11:42 PM
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Jesus, I think, would properly appreciate the ceremony.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 11:44 PM
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372->367?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 11:50 PM
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Obviously, dummy.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 11:52 PM
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Also, by way of pointing out how *un*christ-like you really are.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 11:53 PM
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Maybe the two religions I'm most familiar with(Catholicism & Judaism) are just heavy enough on the we-do-this-ritual-because-it's-the-ritual-we-do stuff that I'm somewhat inured to it. I mean, my husband & in-laws are basically atheists, but it would nevertheless create tension if I had a son & failed to throw a party on the eighth day of his life to slice off the tip of his penis, say the proper incantations, and symbolically mark his joining of the covenant between God and Abraham, and then do another ceremony a couple months later where another drop of blood is ritually drawn before he's immersed in a pool of water & they say more incantations. Communion is weird, yeah, but is it weirder than that?

And given that pretty thoroughly secular people attach some importance to odd, old religious rituals, I don't find it at all psychologically mystifying that true believers attach much, much, much more importance to them. (Theologically, yes, I don't get it, but the ceremonial stuff is very, very low on my "oh my God, how can you believe that?!!!" list.)


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 11:56 PM
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I'm slow on catching jokes due to spending most of my non-working hours this week either at the hospital or taking care of my mother after she was discharged yesterday. She's got two whopping huge kidney stones that they haven't been able to remove because they triggered a godawful systemic infection (her BP was 60/40 when she got to the emergency room) that they have to make sure is gone first. So she's got a ureter stent in place until sometime next week.

Even for me, I'm short of sleep.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 11:57 PM
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You all suck, btw.


Posted by: fl | Link to this comment | 07-26-08 11:59 PM
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"Quapropter securus judicat orbis terrarum, bonos non esse qui se devidunt ab orbe terrarum".


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 12:00 AM
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I hope everything works out with your mom, Apo. And you should really keep JP away from her. Seriously, trust me.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 12:00 AM
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376: Communion is weird, yeah, but is it weirder than that?

No. What was the question?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 12:06 AM
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Now that the infection is under control, she'll be fine. She still feels awful, and she really doesn't like the pain medicine at all (which is *really* mystifying - if I revere anything that I swallow, it's Percocet, baby). It's her first legit health scare of her life, and that ain't too bad at 62 years old. The doctors looked dumbfounded when she said she wasn't on any medications except a multivitamin.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 12:11 AM
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377: Wow, I'm sorry. Your poor mother. I remember when my mom got kidney stones (much younger than yours; congrats, Mama Apo), it was obviously excruciating.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 12:17 AM
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Also, um, maybe you should go to bed.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 12:17 AM
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she really doesn't like the pain medicine at all

More for you! [/glib] I envy you living close to home. Well, in a case like this I envy you. Most of the time, I'm perfectly content to live on the other side of the country from my parents, who are, I should say, wonderful people. But when either of them get sick, I do wish that I lived closer at hand. And given that they're nearly as old as John, they're likely to be getting sick more often in the coming years.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 12:19 AM
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(Re. low blood pressure, I can't help informing the world that the bp recorded on my health insurance application was apparently 82/52.)


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 12:19 AM
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82/52

Hers normally runs about 90/60. The ER people had been pretty nonchalant about doing anything at all until they took her BP and realized she was in danger of coding on them. They started moving right damn quickly then.

She's spent a good chunk of this past year going back and forth between here and Florida helping to take care of *her* mother, whose health has deteriorated pretty sharply of late, so I'm relieved to just live one county over. Plus, we've always gotten along just fine (southern boys and their mamas, y'know).


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 12:26 AM
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And now I'm going to bed. Night, y'all.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 12:27 AM
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Hers normally runs about 90/60

Cool, so you're saying I don't have to worry about anything until I'm at least 62, and then it'll just be a minor thing like kidney stones, if I can avoid an accompanying infection.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 12:30 AM
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Night, Apo.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 12:31 AM
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I'm only about halfway through the thread, but this from Adam Kotsko:

A more productive distinction is that between authoritarian and non-authoritarian systems. There are examples of both in religion and in politics -- and in both cases, the non-authoritarian options are fragile and difficult to sustain. The knee-jerk secularism and rationalism of someone like PZ Myers, lording it over those who hold the incorrect opinion, makes it difficult for me to put him firmly on the non-authoritarian side.

Is extraordinarily true and right (as is, I think, everything else he's said here). In all of our rage against the US Christian right or Al-Quaeda type Islam, let's not forget that the twentieth century contains far more, and far more murderous, examples of secular authoritarian ideologues persecuting the religious than the reverse.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 12:53 AM
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I'm only about halfway through the thread, but this from Adam Kotsko:

A more productive distinction is that between authoritarian and non-authoritarian systems. There are examples of both in religion and in politics -- and in both cases, the non-authoritarian options are fragile and difficult to sustain. The knee-jerk secularism and rationalism of someone like PZ Myers, lording it over those who hold the incorrect opinion, makes it difficult for me to put him firmly on the non-authoritarian side.

Is extraordinarily true and right (as is, I think, everything else he's said here). In all of our rage against the US Christian right or Al-Quaeda type Islam, let's not forget that the twentieth century contains far more, and far more murderous, examples of secular authoritarian ideologues persecuting the religious than the reverse.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 12:53 AM
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Why do I have the feeling most of the people who respond to Myers' actions by calling them childish are ex-Catholics still bothered by a residue of the church's dogma?


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 3:57 AM
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I stand at the intersection of Stras and B on this (WTF? checks pulse...) up to the point where PZ nails the cracker to the Quran.

You see, I think he is really trying to have a Spartacus moment on behalf of the kid in Florida, which is, on balance, laudable, even if it's open to misinterpretation. But at that point he suddenly goes, "I am Spartacus, and what's more I'm Galileo and Rosa Luxemburg and MLK too."

And the whole thing turn into a great big fail.

[Yes it is a cracker, BTW. One of those nasty tasteless prawn crackers you get in a bad Canotonese restaurant.]


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 4:13 AM
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Hang on, the Catholic Church, on the advice of the Vicar of Christ, Bishop of Rome, Pontifex Maximus etc., helped and enabled the fascists to plunge Europe into war. You can't help the fucking fascists and then pull the `oh no! teh secularists are all mass murders line.''

The Catholic Church was involved with, and supported, fascism in Europe -- especially when fascism was involved with the overthrow of democratically elected governments, and pioneering the targeting of civilians for mass murder by technological advances.

For all the that about Hitler and Mussolini being secular/anti-catholic -- which is true -- when push came to shove the Pope preferred the word of the bloody SS to that of how many who told him of the Nazi atrocities in Eastern Europe.

Only the stars were neutral -- the stars and Pope Pius XII.

Almost every shade of opinion comes out of the 20th century looking a miserable failure, and mudslinging about that is really pointless if discussing anything other than `why people suck' (or variants thereof).


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 4:26 AM
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393: I don't know, because psychoanalyzing them spares you from having to deal with their arguments? I also think he's a twit for allowing himself to be goaded into dragging the Quran into all this; that make me an ex-Muslim? What do you think.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 7:17 AM
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that make me an ex-Muslim?

There are few things more pitiable than an ex-Muslim who doesn't even realize it.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 8:14 AM
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Answering a question from earlier: after mass, leftover consecrated hosts are reserved in an area of the church called the "tabernacle." Normally they are used at the next mass, which will also have leftovers that are used at the following mass, etc. They are also used for other purposes -- for instance, to distribute to shut-ins or the hospitalized, or for "Eucharistic adoration." The leftover wine is finished off by the priest, although in practice it most often runs out well before everyone has taken communion anyway.

It seems like some of the objections in this thread can be summarized as, "That's so weird that Catholics think their religious rituals somehow bring them in contact with God."


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 8:14 AM
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397: Cripes. And here I was just coming to terms with being an ex-Jewish ex-Rastafarian ex-vodunista ex-Bahai ex-Buddhist.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 8:18 AM
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398: Sometimes the Eucharistic ministers get to help finish the wine.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 8:20 AM
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There seem to be ex-Catholics on both sides of the argument, Martin.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 8:24 AM
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400: Yes, that's true. In my experience, most would only finish it if there was a little bit -- a substantial amount and they'd give it to the priest. That was probably more practical than anything -- they didn't want that much of the accidents of wine that early in the morning.

Sharing a cup is really only a problem as far as germs go if you're using Welch's. Alcohol sanitizes the whole affair. (In short, Protestant communion is dumb as hell, even if the Catholic version leaves something to be desired.)


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 8:30 AM
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In the Lutheran Church the leftover 0.5% communion wine is finished off in the basement by 12 year old altar boys.

My sources tell me that many priests prefer distilled beverages to wine, though they might drink wine in a pinch.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 8:39 AM
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403. Wise, and scripturally sound. Episcopalians, who are technically protestant, communicate using real wine too, by the way.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 8:45 AM
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The 0.5% is a vestige of Prohibition.

The dispute between wine and grape juice maps onto differences over the question of transubstantiation, I think. Calvin held that the wine was purely symbolic and not the real Blood of Christ, and could be replaced by grape juice. Catholics held that it was the real Blood of Christ and had to be real wine. Lutherans had an intermediate position that I could never make any sense of at all. But we used realish wine.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 8:58 AM
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I don't think that captures the full nuance of Calvin's position, which I actually found really convincing on first reading it -- in fact, it very nearly redeemed the Institutes for me, at least until I got to the insane part about the state.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 9:12 AM
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Anglicans have no truck with transsubstantiation, yet use wine, like the apostle of the gentiles. I don't think even Calvinists stopped using wine until the prohibition mania broke out in the 19th century. Maybe even later. Certainly early Calvinists, who made a point of using the coarsest bread available to visibly refute transsubstantiation, also used whatever wine they would drink at any other time*. You have to quite deliberately misread the bible to support grape juice.

*Oliver Cromwell, on the slippery slope argument against toleration: "You might as well forbid wine, lest men become drunk" (or words to that effect).


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 9:14 AM
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By "Protestant communion" I really meant Baptist-like. And I'm sure there are some Baptists who use real wine and take it more seriously, too. Whatever. I'm an intolerant bastard when it comes to rituals I no longer participate in.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 9:21 AM
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Minnesota has the most peculiar vestige of Prohibition of all: on Sundays no beverage can be sold containing more than 3.2% alcohol. The insanity of it is that the beer sold on the other days of the week rarely reaches 5%. (Other states with this law include Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Utah.) 3.2 beer can also be sold in grocery stores.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 9:23 AM
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On top of that, 3.2% alcohol by weight supposedly = 4% alcohol by volume, so the difference is inconsequential.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 9:27 AM
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Anglicans have no truck with transsubstantiation

Is that true? I thought that, while they may have no truck, they perhaps have, say, a mini-van. As in, I thought that the deal was that one didn't have to believe in transubstantiation, one could if one wanted to. Maybe that's just smells-and-bells Anglicans.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 9:27 AM
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If I disagree with a position, I make a point of desecrating its nuances.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 9:28 AM
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I was just coming to terms with being an ex-Jewish ex-Rastafarian ex-vodunista ex-Bahai ex-Buddhist.

I think that's called Unitarian.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 9:30 AM
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398: Thanks, Adam. I was honestly curious.

Alcohol sanitizes the whole affair. (In short, Protestant communion is dumb

Individual shot glasses, yo.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 9:33 AM
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Silly apo, you can't be an ex-Unitarian.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 9:33 AM
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Primitive Baptists.


Posted by: Napi | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 9:36 AM
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Progressive Primitive Baptists


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 9:43 AM
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkLje7omeRk
a very thoroughly done desecration, very irreverent if to view it in connection with recent history
what they got right and wrong
could be interpreted as a battle of the Universe with its symbolic representation, though i suspect they wanted to show what PZ Myers wanted to show
there maybe wouldn't be any battle though if to follow the original thought, it would be all covered in those tiny flies and from the distance it would still have all its features looking intact and one would see on zoomin shockingly the details and it's up to one whether to accept or reject that Universe


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 9:46 AM
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That video is fantastic, read.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 10:02 AM
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Truly.


Posted by: Napi | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 10:06 AM
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i hoped you would reject and denounce it :(
but seriously, the artwork is great, i agree, but any destructive art leaves a viewer bitter and negatively charged imo, though we say in this case 'buyanaaraa bolog'
which roughly means 'your deeds your karma'
like, ugly, that's also a part of the whole
just, is it worth it, all their efforts if their art makes one's mind polluted with something like hatred and humiliation, not beauty, love etc


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 10:27 AM
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||

Oudemia, this can't last, hurry!

|>


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 10:29 AM
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I reject and denounce that video, read.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 10:30 AM
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422: ZOMG! I am still holding out for one signed by Plato and Socrates.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 10:33 AM
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422: I'm going to bet that the kerning is wrong. then what are you left with? Nothing but a bunch of words from several thousand years ago, suitable for thirteen-year-olds, maybe.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 10:38 AM
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Mormons drink water, "in remembrance of His blood." Sometimes someone in my church would smuggle in totally awesome crumbles of artisanal bread to use in lieu of the usual Wonderbread: we lived in the kick-ass bread epicenter.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 10:49 AM
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Mormons drink water

This made me laugh.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 10:54 AM
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You sissified modern Mormons have switched to water instead of the vodka I intended?


Posted by: Brigham Young | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 10:55 AM
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Dude, shouldn't you be in priesthood meeting still? For shame.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 11:00 AM
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Mark Twain described a sort of juniper-berry distillation among the Mormons he encountered out west. I guess that would normally be called "gin." Twain wasn't what you'd mistake for an unbiassed anthropolist, though.

I remember that when we were pious youths, we looked askance at too-authentic grape juices, as being altogether too close to wine. White grape juice in particular was very dubious.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 11:00 AM
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At my undergraduate institution, all of the dorms had chapels, and it was customary, if one was Catholic, to go to Mass in the chapel on Sunday evenings. So each chapel had its own liturgical committee and the one in my dorm decided that rather than using the styrofoam-flavored wafers, they would bake bread in the dorm kitchen and use that for Mass. It was a very lovely homey touch.

The trouble was that the recipe lead to crumbly bread. Not a frakkin' cracker at all, so to speak. And if you're Catholic and you believe that God is actually in the bread once it's consecrated, you have a bit of problem. God-crumbs get in the carpet of the chapel. Then what? It's not right to vacuum up bits of Jesus. The end result was that they used wafers for a few weeks while the liturgical committee tested different bread recipes until they found a denser version.

Funny thing is, if I remember correctly, the girl in charge of the committee was a biology major, and whatever she may have believed about transsubstantiation, she seemed to be on board with evolution. (Which is the other weird thing with Donahue & this Myers kerfluffle. It's not usually the Catholics who have conniptions over reading Genesis literally.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 11:00 AM
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One of the good things about the Mormons, according to my ex-wife's report, is that they deemphasized the horrible blood / cannibalism / hellfire / torture aspects of Christianity. Besides having dances in church.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 11:03 AM
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The Catholic church has not been anti-evolution for a long time. They do believe that there were miraculous interventions here and there, I think.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 11:04 AM
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Mormons also assign bringing the bread for communion to the 14-year-old boys whose job it is to set everything up. So lots of Wonderbread. I always liked to bring potato bread, which was a bit sweet. Crumbly artisanal bread was just awkward for the congregation and for the 16-year-old boys whose job it was to break the bread into bite-sized pieces during the hymn.

In Ukraine there was a minor theological controversy over whether it was appropriate to use traditional paskha cake (more like a sweetish bread) for communion on Easter Sunday. Pragmatism won the day.

The water business is silly, especially since the use of wine for communion is explicitly authorized in Mormon scripture.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 11:05 AM
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we lived in the kick-ass bread epicenter

Oaktown?


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 11:06 AM
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They have to hold that God put in the soul. But that's completely compatible with thinking that God waited until the monkeys evolved.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 11:06 AM
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I remember that when we were pious youths, we looked askance at too-authentic grape juices, as being altogether too close to wine.

Ha. That is rather like the very, very frum ladies who eschew realistic wigs placed squarely on the head. Rather too much like real hair, better they be sort of fakey and worn crooked.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 11:08 AM
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But Bave, what about the Word of Wisdom?! That says "hot drinks" and that means that...coca-cola is verboten!

Once I actually read the Mormon scripture I became more and more dubious about the things I wasn't supposed to do. And still more annoyed when the prohibition on "hot drinks" meant that my friends wouldn't even touch caffeine-free coke "to avoid the appearance of evil."

Being a mormon was a pain in the ass.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 11:08 AM
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Oaktown

Close! Think more People's Republic.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 11:08 AM
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Dude, shouldn't you be in priesthood meeting still?

m. leblanc, should I feel bad that when I happened to walk past the Mormon chapel in Carrol Gardens the other day, I read the schedule of services and briefly entertained the thought of showing up this morning? Mormon church in Brooklyn would be so novel.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 11:09 AM
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Cont. to 438: and it was annoying that no one in the Church seemed to read the part about not eating animals literally; in fact, they paid it no mind whatsoever.

"12 Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly;
13 And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine."


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 11:12 AM
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That inasmuch as any man drinketh wine or strong drink among you, behold it is not good, neither meet in the sight of your Father, only in assembling together to offer up your sacraments before him. And behold, this should be wine, yea, pure wine of the grape of the vine, of your own make.

God commands home brewing. Doctrine and Covenants 89:5-6.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 11:12 AM
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440: I have entertained the thought more than a couple times, but less than ten. I miss the songs! But...that's about it.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 11:13 AM
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Nevertheless, wheat for man, and corn for the ox, and oats for the horse, and rye for the fowls and for swine, and for all the beasts of the field, and barley for all useful animals, and for mild drinks, as also other grain.

God says beer is okay; he's even cool with hefeweizen. Doctrine and Covenants 89:17.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 11:15 AM
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LDS songbooks are pretty cheap.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 11:15 AM
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89:7 And, again, strong drinks are not for the belly, but for the washing of your bodies.

plus

89:17 Nevertheless, wheat for man, and corn for the ox, and oats for the horse, and rye for the fowls and for swine, and for all beasts of the field, and barley for all useful animals, and for mild drinks, as also other grain.

So, God says, beer is okay, just steer clear of hard liquor!


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 11:15 AM
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FHE at Jackmormon's place!


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 11:16 AM
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Jinx.

So where can I get a songbook? I guess I should look on ebay or something. Next time I come to NY we can have a singalong. If I remember correctly JM has quite a fine voice.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 11:17 AM
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Maybe if you went to church you wouldn't get pwnd, leblanc.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 11:17 AM
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I like to think of that not as pwnage, but that we were both listening to the still small voice, Bave. I was keeping the sabbath day holy.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 11:18 AM
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409: (Other states with this law include Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Utah.) 3.2 beer can also be sold in grocery stores.

Back in the day, in Ohio only 3.2 could be sold to 18-21 yr olds. The single most repeated experiment I witnessed was the test of the confidently stated assertion by many that "I can't get drunk on 3.2 beer". Null hypothesis rejected with a massive degree of confidence.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 11:21 AM
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Singalong, hell! We've got a piano!

You can probably order a basic songbook from Deseret Industries pretty easily. If dealing with their website or giving them your name and address makes you uncomfortable, sure, try Ebay.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 11:21 AM
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One would think that the story in today's Post magazine about whether Gabriel gave Mary a wedgie is the most on topic, but that would be wrong. It's the one about the local reporter who got an Emmy for a report on the Wonderbra. Media, feminism, cleavage: always on topic.


Posted by: Napi | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 11:24 AM
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You're not alone in missing the music more than anything else, Leblanc. One of my older sisters is also non-practicing (although rather less so than myself), and when she started to feel the twinges of apartness, she went and joined a community choir. I made my mother buy me an LDS songbook for Christmas a couple of years ago.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 11:24 AM
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452: I'm always amazed at how easy those hymns were to play. Even now, when my piano skills suck, when I go home and bust out the hymnbook, I can still play 'em all.

Hence, why I want to buy one.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 11:25 AM
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My family owns one of the older hymnals, maybe from the 1960s. The piano arrangements are significantly more difficult. Some clever musical bureaucrat idiot-proofed the piano parts in around the 1980s I think.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 11:28 AM
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I've got one of the old hymnals. It has "Come Thou Font of Every Blessing" in it, missing from the 1985 version.

If I'd stayed Mormon, I'd probably be a huge church-music geek by now. My sister lives in Utah and directs her ward choir, and at Christmas everyone in the family was talking about arrangements and MoTab performances the way other people talk about sports.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 11:32 AM
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missing the music more than anything else

I get nostalgic about the Baptist hymns, too. I was the only 12-year-old who could sing the bass lines.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 11:32 AM
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But then my dad was a Minister of Music through my childhood, until he decided he hated it and went to medical school instead. So I was pretty well immersed in that end of it.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 11:34 AM
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The phrase "clever musical bureaucrat" makes me happy.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 11:35 AM
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There's no reason that we the fallen shouldn't have just as much right to the church music! People! My Muslim honey and I regularly belt that shit out! He has also done a bunch of arrangements of Latin-language "Holy Mother of God, you're totally awesome" songs, which I can't help but find a little blasphemous, but it's all good! Bave, unleash your inner church-music geek! Leblanc, get thee a hymnal and start shaking the roof down! Apostropher, Baptist music surely needs you!


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 11:39 AM
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CA has recorded ALBUMS with his Anglican boys' choir. They went on tours and were in a movie. He was head chorister, and I adore all the priceless pictures of him in his elizabethan collar, bowl haircut, and medals. He makes me listen to English church music all the damn time. "With Heart and Voice," anyone?


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 11:44 AM
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And still more annoyed when the prohibition on "hot drinks" meant that my friends wouldn't even touch caffeine-free coke "to avoid the appearance of evil."

Anti-semite.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 12:12 PM
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431: Funny thing is, if I remember correctly, the girl in charge of the committee was a biology major, and whatever she may have believed about transsubstantiation, she seemed to be on board with evolution.

The official Catholic position since Pius XII is that evolution is a plausible mechanism for explaining origins of the human race as long as it doesn't make any claims about the soul. They're obviously asserting a teleological view rather than a random process of natural selection, and Cardinal Schönborn (and presumably Pope Benedict) have made encouraging noises about intelligent design as a sop to the theological right, but there's nothing preventing a committed, believing, religious-conservative Catholic from accepting evolution. (Brown University biologist Kenneth Miller, a prominent pro-evolution voice in the Darwin Wars, would fall into this category, which is indeed half the reason that Prof. Miller is prominent.)


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 12:31 PM
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Fresh Host, maybe, but stale Host you can totally drive a nail through. It's styrofoamy and bends.

Stale Host is best with a little Orange Marmalade, I've found.


Posted by: Overton Widow | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 12:39 PM
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The official Catholic position since Pius XII is that evolution is a plausible mechanism for explaining origins of the human race as long as it doesn't make any claims about the soul. They're obviously asserting a teleological view rather than a random process of natural selection,

Natural selection is not a random process.

The whole evolution/design debate is weird, since evolutionary methods are increasingly recognized as one of the very best ways to design mechanisms for complex environments. (See for example evolutionary robotics ). God might have been ahead of us.

The real problem with evolution isn't that it's in any way incompatible with divine design, but that it makes God the designer a less overwhelmingly intuitive hypothesis, makes it *feel* less necessary.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 1:39 PM
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423 DS, i was half-kidding, but thanks :)
and whom i saw, eb at CT! i'm disenchanted


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 4:55 PM
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377: My sympathies to your mother - I spent a glorious 11 days in hospital last year with the same sort of infection. Fortunately, the Biophysicist insisted on the ER when my temperature reached 104 and rising. Not fun. I do hope she's feeling better.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 5:10 PM
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"And who did I see? EB at CT"


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 5:20 PM
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If I disagree with a position, I make a point of desecrating its nuances.

I love this.

I remember some studenty (I think it was) mass where bread was made by hand, and was much more like healthy whole grain cubes than like a cracker. It seemed weird, but it definitely tasted much better.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 5:36 PM
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Transubstantiation would be a much easier sell if they used jerky and wine.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 5:38 PM
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469 aha, ok


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 5:39 PM
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"Whom did I see?" would be more correct in a sense, but almost no one would ever say that.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 5:41 PM
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W-lfs-n would.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 5:45 PM
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"Whom" is one of the most oppressed words in the English language.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 9:00 PM
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Just curious: is there a particular brand of wine widely in-use by Catholic churches? Given cost concerns, I'd assume it's boxed wine, or something similarly cheap by volume. But I wasn't a big drinker as an eight-year-old altar boy and never took notice of the local parish preference.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 9:38 PM
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I remember some studenty (I think it was) mass where bread was made by hand,

Oh, I vaguely recall something similar, with Sister Shannon, the social worker nun with an M.A. in psychology or some such, desperately trying to get us "involved" to make it all seem "relevant." God, I always hated all that "folk mass" shit, with those sensitive New Age guys crooning of "love" (ew.) while strumming on their guitars. Give me the incense, and the Latinate mumbo-jumbo, and the whole pre-Vatican works. Go big or go home!, is what I've always said.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 10:14 PM
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Am I Catholic? Do I dare to eat a peach? 477 was me.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 10:18 PM
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Oh, I like the smells and bells and all, and the folk mass thing can be *easily* overdone, but it, too, can be quite nice if it's not too pushy on the togetherness part. And god knows that generally the folk mass parishes are a lot less grotesque politically; less chance of dealing with some godawful intercession about abortion.

My favorite churches are the ones that are in or near downtowns, have large congregations, do lots of social services type things, are liberal about the politics, and have traditional smells and bells services. But I'll take the progressive stuff with the folk mass over a smug parish that does smells and bells.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 10:20 PM
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and the folk mass thing can be *easily* overdone

All too easily, indeed. Me, I draw the line at a woman shimmying up the aisle in an ecstasy of spiritual abandon, apparently performing an "interpretative scriptural dance." I'm sorry, but there are standards to maintain, or at least to which we should aspire.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 10:36 PM
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Okay, I've been to a lot of folky masses and I've never seen anything like that.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 10:39 PM
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I think the most offensive are the ones where they have strippers.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 10:44 PM
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481: For real, I seen it with my own eyes, at St. Joe's in Ottawa, which is downtown (well. downtown Ottawa, after all, but they do try), and all touchy-feely and shit.

(Funny little mass story: one midnight mass, when I was about 17, I guess, we sat behind my classmate Peggy Ann and her sister Bridget and their parents, let's say their name was Smith [no, not really, but I'm unimaginative], and Peggy Ann and Bridget and their mother Mrs 'Smith' had on these obviously new raccoon coats that they were, not to be snarky but, obviously modelling for the congregation. And right after mass me and my sister P and my dad went out to jump-start the car [it was sub-zero temperatures, and that still, clear cold air where voices really carry] and our Dad says, all filled with the spirit of peace on earth and reverence "Well, Jesus Christ, but that 'Smith' family is hard on the raccoon population," and we looked up to the left of our car only to see Mr 'Smith,' and of course he had heard, how could he not have? 'Oh, hi Mr 'Smith'! Seasons greetings, and deck the halls with pelts of raccoon' ... our father was so embarrassed, but we thought it was very hilarious...).


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 11:06 PM
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Oh, I don't doubt you, I was just expressing my surprise.

The worst touchy-feely mass I ever went to was one that seemed irritatingly smug and neighborhoody and during the intercessions everyone was invited to share their own issues and various people stood up and said things that made it clear that everyone there knew everyone else and jeez, talk about making newcomers feel unwelcome.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 11:26 PM
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483 is hilarious. Probably the Smiths just figured you were either admiring or envious or both.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 11:27 PM
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476: they use Manischewitz, obviously-- "Man-oh-Manischewitz, what wine!"


Posted by: lurker | Link to this comment | 07-27-08 11:35 PM
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