Godless Liberal vs. Uptight Catholics

It is appropriate that the first thought I had when reading PZ Myers’s blog entry from 7/8/08 was, That’s it. I gotta get out. Somebody point me to the asylum’s exit. Wonko won’t believe this. If you’ve no idea what I’m talking about, pick up a copy of So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, by Douglas Adams.

It is Adams that makes the thought so apropos – this quote, excerpted from a speech at Cambridge, is important to remember as I continue:

[Religion] has certain ideas at the heart of it which we call sacred or holy or whatever. That’s an idea we’re so familiar with, whether we subscribe to it or not, that it’s kind of odd to think what it actually means, because really what it means is ‘Here is an idea or a notion that you’re not allowed to say anything bad about; you’re just not. Why not? — because you’re not!’ If somebody votes for a party that you don’t agree with, you’re free to argue about it as much as you like; everybody will have an argument but nobody feels aggrieved by it. If somebody thinks taxes should go up or down you are free to have an argument about it, but on the other hand if somebody says ‘I mustn’t move a light switch on a Saturday’, you say, ‘Fine, I respect that’.

Yet, religion demands it. If that was the purpose of this post, and if I had a while to type, I could expound on my many theories as to why, but that’s for another day. The important thing is that regardless of one’s own personal convictions, we are universally expected to respect and adhere to the sacred convictions of someone else.

So I cheered as read Myers’s rant on the topic of student Webster Cook choosing to not eat his communion wafer, but rather to take it out of the church with him, inciting Catholic fury over the sacrilege:

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

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

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

It gets better! Myers goes on to express his anger and frustration in a statement which has riled Catholics around the nation:

…if any of you would be willing to do what it takes to get me some, or even one [communion wafer], 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.

Admittedly, I couldn’t bear to read much of the inisipid hate mail he posted in a later blog entry – the first twenty or so seemed to say pretty much the same thing (a majority of them ending with promises to pray for Mr. Myers) – but it seems to me that a lot of people took a lot of liberal license in determining exactly what he meant by “heinous cracker abuse.” I’m guessing whatever they believed might be most heinous is what they expected him to do.

Now, they’re after his job, because he dared to link to his non-University-sponsored blog on his University profile page. Interestingly, the Catholic League has referred to this as “the vitriol we have experienced for simply exercising our First Amendment right to freedom of speech,” yet seems to care little about anyone else’s freedom of speech, because it fails to respect their own views (remember what Adams had to say about that?).

For what it’s worth, I do respect the right of everyone to believe what they choose. What I don’t respect, and refuse to support, is the imposition of those beliefs onto those who don’t share them. I don’t care if you believe the cracker is the transubstantiation of Christ. Then you treat it with respect. Cover your own ass. And personally, if my flesh were transubstantiated into a cracker, I think I’d prefer to not be chewed up, digested and pooped out. It seems awfully undignified, don’t you think?

Come on people, let’s have a little common sense and a little less self-fulledness. I don’t think there’s much room left for adding another wing to the asylum.

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6 Comments

  1. Ames said,

    July 12, 2008 at 3:26 am

    Welcome to the blog-o-tubes! I DO think it’s hilarious that people are all first-amendmenty, and then turn and go after PZ’s job for… speaking. Oh, irony. I think we should’ve predicted, though, that they’d go first for his livelihood. Sad.

  2. July 12, 2008 at 5:01 am

    Ohhh! Humor might get you ex-communicated too! Ha, ha.
    Good observations: THANKS!

  3. renaissanceguy said,

    July 13, 2008 at 2:26 am

    The First Amendment protects speech. However, it does not protect people’s jobs. If Myers’s employers agree with the Catholic League that he should be fired, it’s up to them (and the policies they already have in place). What the First Amendment protects is our right to say what we want without being jailed or fined or tortured by the government. It doesn’t protect us from criticism, boycotts, or calls for termination.

    It might be best for people who do not understand or subscribe to Catholic doctrine not to express disdain for it. Simple respect and courtesy demand it.

  4. outsidetheasylum said,

    July 13, 2008 at 6:57 am

    I didn’t say he should keep his job because the First Amendment protects it. I said that he had a right to say what he had to say, as a resident of the United States, and I found it ironic that the Catholic League was so offended by the “vitriol” when they simply exercised their First Amendment rights, that they chose to go after a man’s livelihood (much worse than Myers’s causticity in print) after he exercised his right. It is extreme and unwarranted.

    You’re right: “It doesn’t protect us from criticism,” but that’s exactly what’s causing the backlash. A scathing rant criticizing the hysteria from the Webster Cook incident does not require the loss of one’s job.

    Finally, it doesn’t seem you read my entire post. I respect a Catholic’s right to believe the Catholic doctrine. I refuse to respect the imposition of the doctrine on anyone who doesn’t subscribe to it. It is not discourteous to disdain it – any more than it would be discourteous for me to disdain someone stepping on my foot.

  5. Eve said,

    July 15, 2008 at 12:43 am

    Evidently people don’t read history any more these days. These “religious ideas” such as transubstantiation actually have been questioned and debated for centuries. Many martyrs have been made over the convictions behind such beliefs. Douglas Adams saying “you’re not allowed to” say anything about it is untrue. Hundreds of years after the Protestant Reformation, with a church on every street corner in America, it appears that dissent is alive and well.

    Also, it appears that you and others don’t know what a “hate crime” is. Burning a cross is a hate crime, for example. Here is the congressional definition, “”criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.” It isn’t the hate that is criminal; it’s what people do about it.

    Webster Cook claims that he took the host in protest. After being requested to either consume it or give it back based on the Church’s teachings and doctrine, he refused and he took the host; he has said and written publicly that his motivation was because of his bias against government funds being used for religious purposes, and he specifically chose the Catholic church as his target. All these facts put together do tend to make a person wonder, “was this a hate crime?” It was a crime when a non-Muslim tossed a pig’s head into the front door of a mosque; it was a crime when two women disrupted a Jewish synagogue service; so I don’t think it’s a far stretch to imagine that Webster Cook might have committed a crime. Therefore, Catholics who discuss the possibility that it was a crime, given the actual facts, aren’t just whistling Dixie.

    You wrote “I refuse to respect the imposition of the doctrine on anyone who doesn’t subscribe to it.” Nobody told Webster Cook that he had to believe he was kidnapping Jesus Christ in the body. They simply told him it was not OK for him to remove the host from the church. In what way is this any different than telling a non-Muslim that it is not OK to toss a pig’s head into a mosque? Why is it OK for Cook to do what he did?

  6. outsidetheasylum said,

    July 15, 2008 at 1:19 am

    First, I’d like to ask you to point me to the site that shows Cook’s own writings about his motivation. I haven’t been able to find it, I’ve only found many different sources claiming several different motivations, and most are contradictory. So I’m willing to accept your claim, but not without a cited source to support it. However, my response will be working on the assumption that this particular description of his motivations is true.

    Here’s the difference between what Cook did and the pig’s head on the the stoop of the mosque: Cook’s actions, as you’ve described them, were not motivated by hatred for the church or its members. It was an act of civil disobedience to protest the use of public funds to support “religious purposes.” I will grant that Cook did not make the best decision in making his point (but I will say that I do support that it’s a point that needs to be made in some way, as the Constitution calls for a separation of church and state, and the government is not to show any preference for one religion over the other), but what he did is not a crime.

    The wafer is freely given, and when a person takes ownership of it, it is his or her right to do as he or she chooses. What if he had chosen to take it home because he felt it provided a closer, more intimate connection to God? Would that have been “stealing,” “kidnapping,” or any of the other crimes of which he was accused?

    Finally, you write, “Douglas Adams saying “you’re not allowed to” say anything about it is untrue,” but you seem to be confusing the fact that things are being said with the idea that they’re “not allowed.” Take, for example, the fact that teenagers are not allowed to stay out past curfew. Yet they do, all the time, and in general, they are punished in some way, based on their parent’s leniency (or lack thereof) or their city’s laws.. Similarly, people questioning theistic beliefs may say what they think all the time, but they immediately face a backlash from theists who feel that any statement that confronts their views are offensive. Bill Donohue’s decision to petition UMM to fire Myers because he did not appreciate what Myers had to say is a perfect example.


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