Category Archives: Fundamentalism

Thoughts on Crackergate

There’s been a major blog brouhaha circling over a young man’s “theft” of a Eucharist wafer from a Catholic church and a blogger’s subsequent remarks, which drew the ire of none other than Bill Donohue of the Catholic League.  The story started with a Florida college student taking the wafer with him instead of eating it, as is required by Catholic doctrine.  The young man apparently received death threats, and the church asked his university to discipline him.  Finally, he relented and returned the wafer unharmed.

Enter science blogger and Univ. of Minnesota biology professor PZ Myers.  In a post entitled “It’s a frackin’ cracker,” Myers lambasted the church and university for its treatment of the student over, as he put it, “a goddamned cracker.”  Then Myers issued this request:

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

That was when the shite hit the fan.  The Catholic League fired out not one but two press releases on the Myers post, the first encouraging people to contact the university and state legislature to go after Myers’ job, the second stating that a Virginia delegate to the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis had requested additional security to protect god-fearing republicans from the frenzied atheist hordes at Myers’ beck and call.  The comment threads on Myers’ blog, Pharyngula, exploded with thousands of posts, and other blogs got in on the action with their own huge comment threads.

Myers’ fundamental assessment of the situation is dead on — death threats are NEVER an acceptable way of expressing disapproval, even of someone who trashes your most cherished beliefs.  And the university would be completely out-of-bounds to discipline the student for an action taken outside of the school context that did not result in harm to a person or property damage.  Committing blasphemy is not an expellable offense; the First Amendment guarantees that, especially where a state school is involved.

But I don’t get the point of Myers’ “score me a wafer” idea.  He finds the idea of protecting “a goddamned cracker” absurd.  So do I — transubstantiation is a silly belief (for the non-Catholic, transubstantiation is the belief that, at the moment of consecration [blessing], communion wafers and wine, although retaining their appearance as simple bread and wine, actually become the body and blood of Jesus), and was the one that, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t accept when I was practicing as a Catholic. 

But what’s the point of going out of your way to desecrate a communion wafer?  How does poking a very sharp stick in the eye of Catholics advance the cause of rationality that we atheists hold so dear?  I suppose there’s a certain amount of glee in tweaking the most powerful religious body in the world.  And holding transubstantiation up to ridicule isn’t inherently overboard.  But aren’t there better ways to do it?  I’m not suggesting giving religious beliefs the kid-glove treatment.  Far from it.  But is this the most constructive way to support The Atheist Agenda (TM)?


Universe thrilled to find its purpose in life

“Optimism and pessimism, as cosmic philosophies, show the same naive humanism; the great world, so far as we know it from the philosophy of nature, is neither good nor bad, and is not concerned to make us happy or unhappy. All such philosophies spring from self-importance and are best corrected by a little astronomy.” – Bertrand Russell

Astronomy magazine published one of the coolest graphics ever this month:

Galaxies poster

The large center oval shows the distribution of 150 million or so galaxies in the local universe.  Every dot represents a galaxy of millions to billions of stars.  The smaller ovals are slices of the universe at various distances, and thus various times, from the Milky Way.  I love it because it takes the unimaginably large, unimaginably numerous, and displays it on a single page in a comprehensible way.  Sort of puts our smallness into perspective, no?

Well, apparently not if you’re Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life and recent Colbert Report guest.  Here’s what he had to say about our place in the universe.

In case you’re having trouble with the video, here’s what Warren said near the beginning of the interview:

Well, God is the creator, and He created the entire universe just so He could create this galaxy, just so He could create this planet, just so He could tilt it at the right axis so it wouldn’t burn up or freeze up, to sustain human life because he wanted to create human beings, he wanted to create you to love you.

That’s right — the entire universe, all those millions of galaxies pictured in Astronomy, were put here just so God could create humans.  Wow.  Just wow.

Let’s put the existence of humans in a little historical context.  Current estimates place the age of the universe at 13.7 billion years, plus or minus a couple hundred million years.  The Milky Way formed not long after (in astronomical terms), probably more than 13 billion years ago.  The earth formed around 4.55 billion years ago.  The first life arose somewhere between 4.4 billion and 2.7 billion years ago.  Modern homo sapiens, the species to which all existing humans belong, didn’t arise until approximtely 120,000 years ago.  (Rick Warren, incidentally, was born in 1954.)

Riddle me this, Pastor Rick.  If God created the universe so he could create this galaxy, so he could create this planet and tilt it at just the right axis, just so he could create human beings and love them, why did he wait 13,699,880,000 years to get down to the lovin’?

The simple and correct answer is that humans are a product of the universe’s natural processes, not its intended beneficiaries.  We are tiny, impotent creatures, crawling across a tiny planet (even for our own solar system), circling around a middling yellow star, revolving on an outer spiral arm of what must be admitted is a pretty cool galaxy (yea us!).  And that’s an extraordinary place to be and appreciate on its own merits, if only one is humble enough to accept the truth.

Huckabee: “Amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards”

The Almighty, who inspired a book so perfectly drafted it contradicts itself on who Jesus’s granddad was, apparently has some issues with the wording of our Constitution. That according to presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who had this to say in Michigan:

“I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution,” Huckabee told a Michigan audience on Monday. “But I believe it’s a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living god. And that’s what we need to do — to amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than try to change God’s standards so it lines up with some contemporary view.”

Note that in Huckabee’s America, the Constitution, the bedrock and foundation of our nation, is “some contemporary view.” Just a fad. Some new-fangled nonsense cooked up by a bunch of wig-and-panty-hose-wearing hippies in the 1780s. These kids and their “separation of powers” and “due process.”

This kind of talk should set all freedom-loving Americans on alert level “Holy Shit!”  Huckleberry is proposing, in no uncertain terms, a theocracy, specifically, a Christian theocracy.  It is unfathomable to me that someone running for President of the freaking United States could so blatantly disregard (nay, actively oppose) the First Amendment, upon which so much of our progress and identity as a people depends.

There is one interpretation of these remarks that lowers the threat level to “Gigantic Douchebag,” but just barely.  The allusion to amending the Constitution to meet “God’s standards” and the references to opponents who are unwilling to do so could very well be a “dog whistle”to Christians on one specific issue — gay marriage.  Huckabee may essentially have been saying, “I’ll amend the Constitution to keep the queers from getting hitched, and my opponents won’t.”  I’m just speculating here, but that’s the first thing that came to my mind. 


But do they “lighten up”? Get it?!

Chill Out

I saw this in Danville, MD on my way home from a business trip yesterday.  Makes me think the pastor’s kid got mouthy one too many times.

I find stuff

Found stuck in the front of a newspaper box in downtown Philadelphia:

Darwin flyer

At least I agree with the title.

Cheeseheads for Jesus!

They’re having quite a row in Green Bay, WI over the City Council’s decision this week to permit a creche to remain displayed above the entrance to city hall, but to prohibit all other religious displays until the council can “create guidelines.” The Green Bay Press-Gazette rightly took the Council and mayor to task for this blatent First Amendment violation.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the city’s actions. The complaint can be read here. Stay tuned, as I’ll follow this story.

Christian Candidates Withhold the Juicy Details

In the past couple of weeks, both Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney have telegraphed an interesting tell — one that (I hope) bodes well for secular sanity in America.  When questioned about the specifics of their absurd religious beliefs — Huckabee is a creationistand Romney a Mormon — both refused to discuss details, instead preferring vague professions of faith and solidarity with other believers.  The political calculation behind this suggests that both Huckabee and Romney have realized that, to the average American that does not share their particular beliefs, they will sound batshit crazy if Huckleberry starts talking about Earth being 6,000 years old and Romney spinning out the details of Joseph Smith and his amazing golden plates.

This merely interesting conjecture becomes positively galling when one sees Mike’s and Mitt’s defensiveness about being questioned on their beliefs.   At one of the CNN debates, Huckabee characterized as an “unfair question”an inquiry as to whether he believed the creation story in Genesis (with the questioner noting that, at a previous debate, Huckabee indicated he does not accept the theory of evolution).  That didn’t stop the Huckster from repeating (6 times by my count), that he does believe God created the universe.  When Wolf Blitzer followed up to ask whether Huckabee believes in a literal 6 day creation story that happened 6,000 years ago, Rev. Mike fell back on “I don’t know” as a response.

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