Is Anyone in the Asylum Listening?

The asylum hasn’t seen much progress – there’s just way too much crazy out there to be battled, and so many insane folks that they’re running the nuthouse, and the country and, it seems, the world. The sane people who should be in charge of distributing the daily dose of reason are being overrun – trampled, ignored, and in extreme cases, eradicated. Some of them have even lost their own minds in the melee.

And then there are the strong ones – the rational men and women who stand their ground against the onslaught of madness, who plant themselves in the middle of the asylum’s halls, yelling their message into the screaming bustle of loons who would topple them at any opportunity.

It always amazing me, then, that these pillars manage to find some new way to say the same thing they’ve been shouting, be it poetic or idiomatic. One of the leading proponents of sanity managed that today, from the midst of a cyclone of inmates, attacking him from every direction. One can only hope that, being so close, some of them may actually hear.

Please, if you’re currently screaming about anything PZ Myers did yesterday or wrote today, please stop for just a few moments. Please consider this message. It is not written (nor copied) as a result of hatred, bigotry or intolerance as so many would claim. It is a genuine cry for the world to work together to move forward for the sake of our descendants yet to come, rather than living our lives for the sake of those who have lived and gone. Please, simmer down for long enough to read and absorb this paragraph.

Nothing must be held sacred. Question everything. God is not great, Jesus is not your lord, you are not disciples of any charismatic prophet. You are all human beings who must make your way through your life by thinking and learning, and you have the job of advancing humanity’s knowledge by winnowing out the errors of past generations and finding deeper understanding of reality. You will not find wisdom in rituals and sacraments and dogma, which build only self-satisfied ignorance, but you can find truth by looking at your world with fresh eyes and a questioning mind.

Maybe you understand what he’s saying, and you will decide to teach your children about a real hope, about a world governed and improved by the glory of science, rather than a whimsical God who has made little progress over the past two millenia. Maybe you’ll tell them about the beauty of a plan they can be a part of, that they can build on, rather than a plan they have been assigned by a God who seems to only care about a human’s needs when they mesh with his own.

If you don’t, then you’re the reason PZ Myers and others keep standing in the halls, trying to teach rational and critical thinking, trying to break through the delusion of religion and pseudoscience. It is not evil or hateful. It is actually an act of love: for our world that is spectacular enough in its own right, for our children who will inherit it, and for those of us who live in it now.

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Hero Worship?

Well, not really, but it will probably sound like it… I just want to answer one of the criticisms of PZ Myers and the whole Wafergate thing.

There is this argument – which admittedly has merit, until you think about it a little – that PZ is asking his followers to accept a sacrament that is not meant to be given to non-believers, and is distributed on private property, so what it symbolizes to Christians shouldn’t be an offense to those outside church walls.

I appreciate what these people are saying, but I respectfully disagree.

What Myers is trying to call attention to is the abuse directed toward someone who dared to treat a communion wafer differently than orthodox calls for. One may or may not agree with Myers’s methods, but it is this type of call to reason that has changed the secular and religious worlds before.

Consider Martin Luther, who in 1517 posted his 95 Theses to the doors of churches – using sacred buildings as bulletin boards to denounce church doctrine (most notably, the selling of indulgences) that abused the masses. Luther’s treatise was heresy and blasphemy, but ultimately, Luther’s message caused non-clergy types to think about what they were being asked, expected and often forced to believe, and led to the development of new denominations within Christianity.

PZ Myers is challenging another illogical doctrine which some religious folks are using to justify threats of violence and death towards another human being. Granted, Myers is presenting a secular model, as opposed to Luther’s altered religious ideals, but his message, outrageous as it may be, is still calling people to think about the doctrine of transubstantiation and the abuse the church feels compelled to pile on anyone who dares to disagree with it.

It is an extraordinary action designed to challenge an extraordinary claim. Think about where we would be without revolutionaries like Luther to challenge the church and attempt to balance its constant attempts at power and degradation of the masses.

Goodbye, for all the wrong reasons

I don’t know if you’ve heard of VenomFangX – depending on one’s particular stance in the theist/atheist debates, he is either one to greatly admire or greatly disdain (respectively). I personally find the boy willfully ignorant, smug and juvenile. I don’t think I can make that clear enough. I am not a fan.

Yesterday, Shawn (aka VenomFangX) posted a video on YouTube simply titled “Goodbye.” In it, he describes death threats from someone or some people who have specific enough details about his life/home to make the threats a real concern. So for the sake of his family, he is choosing to shut his YouTube ministry down.

I admit it – I’m not entirely convinced this is not just a brilliant attempt at martyrdom. But the scary thing is, I would be completely unsurprised if his claims are true, and I’m inclined to believe that it is. There are some crazy-ass people in this world. So I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt. If nothing else, he is passionate about his message, and it’s hard to imagine he would walk away out of boredom, or in the face of adversity – he’s been experiencing that pretty much since he started getting noticed on YouTube.

So here’s the deal – I get why atheists and scientists are frustrated with this guy. He refuses to listen to reason, he dismisses evidence against his claims because they don’t support his own personal views, and he continues to propagate erroneous scientific and historical facts to “prove” that God exists. But no person, regardless of creed, regardless of whether they are right or wrong, should be subjected to violence or the threat of such, when his or her message is peaceful and non-threatening to the safety of others. It is disgusting that this is happening, that Shawn and his family are having to experience this. And it does nothing to debate him or disprove his points.

I wish Shawn and his family the best, and I acknowledge that he has to do what he feels necessary to protect himself. I would have preferred to see him shut down his ministry because he finally opened his mind and eyes to reason, logic and science, and not because some Neanderthal bully couldn’t think of words intelligent enough to attempt that, so stooped to swinging his club.

I tried to post a comment on Shawn’s video to tell him that I wished him well, even though I’d never agreed with his videos, but because dissenters are the work of Satan, non-worshiping posters don’t make it to his boards. I hope he took a moment to read the full comment before dismissing it, because I meant it sincerely.

So I’m asking – begging – people to have some common sense. There are things like this flying on both sides of the fence now. PZ Myers has received several death threats from Catholics and other Christians in response to Wafergate, and PZ’s followers have responded to some of the worst of them in kind, much to PZ’s chagrin.

Do people not realize that these threats and vituperations accomplish nothing? They’re cancer and poison and only serve to highlight the other side’s point about overreaction and thuggery. If we’re in this debate, we’re passionate about protecting what we perceive to be the truth, and sometimes it can be like we’re banging our head on a sharp pointy stick over and over again. But there are better solutions that abusing or killing the opposition. That won’t stop their message, it only hurts yours.

So, please grow up, and learn to cope with anger and frustration with more intelligent mechanisms. Don’t spew your venom onto everyone else. Go sweat it out in a rigorous kickboxing routine and let it evaporate.