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He Didn’t Expect The Spanish Inquisition

PZ Myers of Pharyngula has been targeted: Now I’ve got Bill Donohue’s attention.

Standard response, i.e. flood of nasty e-mails, death threats, you know, the usual thing, and demands that he be fired. They are astroturfing his university and the state legislature. No threats of rape reported, but then, PZ probably isn’t as big a threat as Melissa and Amanda.

What did he do to bring down the wrath of Donowho? He disrespected the communion wafer.

Frankly the difference between transubstantiation and consubstantiation was one of the elements that led to the Reformation. It is something that causes a great problem for those of us who have lived abroad in non-Christian countries, because the taboo against cannibalism is rather basic to many cultures. While I’m sure that a Jesuit could handle it, is a very bad position for an non-Catholic to be in while forced to represent all of Christianity by virtue of being the only Christian around. I had a gag-reflex response when transubstantiation was first explained to me by a Catholic.

I would note that DonoWho’s response to Sally Quinn’s participating in Catholic communion at Tim Russert’s funeral was a relative mile: SALLY QUINN’S NARCISSISM. [Caps in the original]. Of course Ms Quinn is a rather powerful media figure and gate keeper, so he didn’t want to get too carried away or he might not get invited on talk shows to represent all of the Catholics in the US.

Individuals have the right to believe whatever they want in this country, but they don’t have the right to force those beliefs on anyone else.  If PZ had done what Ms Quinn had done, then there are appropriate laws to deal with the situation in many, if not all, states, usually called “disrupting a religious service”.

PZ Myers is a non-believer.  Attacking him because of his non-belief is “religious” discrimination, as serious as requiring Catholics to wash their faces before dealing with the public on Ash Wednesday.


1 Steve Bates { 07.11.08 at 12:34 am }

It’s not as if PZ’s promised behavior is new. And the last time I looked, Tom Lehrer was still alive; maybe DonoWho can pray for both of them…

Get in line in that processional,
Step into that small confessional.
There the guy who’s got religion’ll
Tell you if your sin’s original.
If it is, try playin’ it safer,
Drink the wine and chew the wafer,
Two, four, six, eight,
Time to transubstantiate!

Tom Lehrer, “Vatican Rag”

2 Bryan { 07.11.08 at 1:22 am }

For a while I thought that PZ was over the top on his atheist rants, but then it occurred to me that he was reacting to attacks by fundamentalists on his life work.

If I had a religious group insisting that search routines had to be based on the Kabbalah instead of Knuth, I might get a bit edgy.

3 hipparchia { 07.11.08 at 3:09 am }

802 comments so far.

4 Bryan { 07.11.08 at 12:44 pm }

It’s dogging down the server over there.

5 Michael { 07.11.08 at 1:24 pm }

DonoWho is a douchebag of the first order, to be sure. But PZ Myers is working his way up the ladder of douchebaggery with his response.

I’d have been perfectly happy if PZ had stuck to mocking the pimple on the arse of American Catholicism. I’ve done that more than once myself.

But when he advocated people absconding with the consecrated hosts and sending them to him for public desecration, he crossed an uncrossable line. Nobody can force PZ to believe that those hosts are the Body of Christ. But that does not give him the right to cavalierly dismiss the beliefs of a billion people or to desecrate something they hold to be holy. Myers went too far. He was trying to impose his atheism on a billion Catholics–which is every bit as unacceptable as any of those billion Catholics trying to force their beliefs on him.

He should be sent away, just like Michael Pfleger, for some time out of the limelight to reflect on his actions and resolve not to repeat them in future.

6 mapaghimagsik { 07.11.08 at 5:44 pm }

I wholly support PZ. I realize that the Christianists need something to attack they can beat, just as much as we needed small countries to beat up on.

I realize that I’m not going to convince any Catholics to stop assaulting my values, not to mention sucking on the government teat by getting off from paying taxes.

7 hipparchia { 07.11.08 at 7:09 pm }

i’m with michael on this one.

i like being religion-free, have been for many years, and catholicism strikes me as particularly creepy, and gawd knows bill donohue deserves all the mockery he gets [and then some], and pz probably doesn’t really mean for his readers to abduct a bunch of crackers and send them to him for torture, but still….

speaking of crackers, i like cracker boy’s take on dealing with other people’s religions:

Buddhists don’t proselytize, and most of us accept the idea that it is wrong to attack someone’s belief system. When one takes the risk of dismantling the structure that supports another emotionally, it is cruelty of the highest order to have nothing the person will be able to digest as a replacement. Effective conversions occur over long periods, gently, and it is not my business to make them happen.

[emphasis mine]

8 Michael { 07.11.08 at 7:19 pm }

You might have a point, mapaghimagsik, if it were only the Christianists that PZ went after. But he failed to distinguish between idiots like DonoWho (and even DonoWho doesn’t really fit the bill as a Christianist) and the overwhelming majority of the world’s one billion Catholics who have no problem whatsoever with evolution, think “intelligent design” is a stupid oxymoron, and are not threatened in any way by the bloviating of one pompous git who thinks that because he’s got a Ph.D. in biology he holds the answers to all the questions in the universe. PZ can mock my beliefs all he wants: he’ll hardly be the first to do so, nor the last. I ignore him, and hope that he’ll ignore me, unless I’m looking for a collaborator for one of the faculty members I work with and PZ has the skills I’m looking for. But PZ doesn’t get to tell me what to believe, anymore than I get to tell him that. And he absolutely does not get to encourage people to come to my parish and desecrate something I hold holy, just because he finds it amusing. You just don’t gratuitously insult people that way–especially not if you’re a public figure and your paycheck depends on the ability of your employer to attract students in sufficient numbers to make it possible for them to pay your salary.

9 Michael { 07.11.08 at 7:20 pm }

Oh, and I should also point out that unless there’s some loophole in the tax code no one’s ever told me about, Catholics don’t get out of paying taxes any more than atheists do.

10 Steve Bates { 07.11.08 at 8:33 pm }

Michael, are you saying that no one may mock Catholicism? or that no one who holds PZ’s opinions may mock Catholicism? or that PZ should not encourage people to desecrate (by your standards) communion wafers? Those are three separate declarations, the first two of which are IMHO extreme.

If PZ were to interfere directly with someone’s practice of their religion, I’d be in the trenches right beside you, Michael… but that is not what is going on here. As I see it (and I most certainly do not speak for all UUs; no one does), PZ is the aggrieved party; he’s the one whose expression regarding a religious matter is being attacked by fair means and foul. If so-called freedom of religion does not include freedom to deprecate religion… religion in general, or a particular religion, or certain religious practices… then it doesn’t mean very much.

Of course, if PZ took a similar tack toward one or another UU practice, we’d just form another committee to examine the matter… 🙂

11 Michael { 07.11.08 at 9:31 pm }

The third one, Steve. And I fail to see how PZ is the aggrieved party here. He asked people to slip into Catholic churches and steal consecrated hosts for him to desecrate. Those were his exact words. That’s not an expression regarding a religious matter, it’s an invitation to commit sacrilege. How would you feel if he’d suggested someone should go to the National Archives in Washington and use the Constitution for toilet paper?

Myers stuck his nose into an incident that would have gone away quietly if he hadn’t poked his oar in. In the process of doing so, he crossed an uncrossable line. Now he’s reaping the consequences of that thoughtless act. And while I don’t condone the death threats made against him any more than I do those that were allegedly made against the UCF student, I really don’t see how PZ Myers has any right to feel aggrieved. He should be thanking his lucky stars he’s not likely to lose his job over this kerfuffle–which would not, by my way of thinking, be all that far out of place, considering it’s quite likely his school is going to suffer a drop in enrollment for the next little while. And I hope his dean or department chair puts him in the mythological penalty box for a semester or two and gives him ample opportunity to reflect on exactly why this was a galactically stupid thing for him to do.

12 Bryan { 07.11.08 at 9:51 pm }

This did not start with PZ Myers, and that is a vital piece of information that is missing here.

A University of Central Florida student, like students the world over, did something stupid to make a point. The student made off with a communion wafer.

PZ went off on the reaction to that act. DonoWho got invoved and there were death threats made against the student by the CL minions. PZ blew up at the death threats and the wimpy reaction of the University of Central Florida.

PZ did not just wake up and decide to take on the Catholic Church, he was reacting to a specific incident. For some reason he does not believe that death is a reasonable response to what the student had done.

That is the context to the rant that followed, which is in the mind of a non-Catholic equates to: they are threatening to kill a kid over a cracker.

I once believed that DonoWho did not speak for the Catholic Church, but after a series of incidents involving him, not one Church official has come forth to chastise him for his churlish behavior. There has been no reticence on the part of the Church in many other situations, so I have to assume that he has the blessing of the Church for what he does.

PZ has done nothing but write. He has taken no affirmative action to actually do anything. He has gone “macho” and “bring it on” over death threats to a student, and has received death threats and attacks on his employment as a result.

Only a Catholic can truly know or feel what that wafer means to a Catholic. To a non-Catholic it is, and remains “a cracker”. Only a Muslim can truly know or feel what a cartoon of the Prophet means to a Muslim. To a non-Muslim it is a drawing. When Catholics make death threats over communion wafers, or Muslims make death threats over cartoons, the rest of us think they have lost their minds.

Map’s point on taxes is a common statement of fact among atheists – religion is tax exempt, so atheists are required to make up the taxes that religions don’t pay. In Florida religious day care centers and schools don’t have to comply with the regulations that are imposed on similar secular organizations.

PZ does not differentiate among the different religions – he opposes them all. While not all attempt to intrude on his field, that some do is enough for him.

For PZ and many others, DonoWho is the Catholic Church. That alone should make it clear why he did what he did.

13 Michael { 07.11.08 at 10:10 pm }

That it didn’t start with PZ is, in fact, not relevant. Unless you’re trying to make this out to be a case of tu quoque, which I doubt that you are. Other people’s bad acts do not excuse PZ’s–and PZ’s took the cake out of the bad acts committed in this flap that can be verified.

You won’t see the Catholic League denounced–just as you won’t see Osama bin Laden denounced by the hierarchy in his tradition. Calling these gits out only empowers them–as PZ Myers has amply demonstrated. He handed DonoWho a golden opportunity to get his sorry arse back on television and appear to matter, and DonoWho is likely, given previous patterns of behavior, to make the most out of it. Which isn’t what PZ Myers wanted to happen–or any right-thinking Catholic, for that matter. And if PZ really thinks DonoWho is the Catholic Church, then that’s all the more reason he should have kept his mouth shut on this issue until he’d taken the time to educate himself. He wouldn’t go running his mouth off about something in biology that he didn’t thoroughly understand–why should this be any different?

I have not actually seen evidence that there were death threats made against the UCF student. Merely his statement that he felt his life was in danger. If true, that’s reprehensible–as are the threats that have been made against PZ. But again, the bad acts of other people do not excuse his.

PZ has done nothing but write. He has taken no affirmative action to actually do anything.

Yeah, nothing but write the semantic equivalent of a false shout of “Fire!” in a crowded theater. And the Supreme Court ruled long ago that such things were not protected speech under the First Amendment. He may have been attempting to wax sarcastic. If so, it fell extremely flat. And it still wouldn’t excuse him saying what he said.

And no, “religion” is not tax exempt. Religious property is exempt from taxation, yes. So is government property, and property held by other charitable organizations, if I remember correctly. Religious people pay taxes. I believe that even churches pay taxes when they buy things or sell things. I know for a fact that the bookstore in my parish charges at least the state sales tax on items for sale there, and I know that both state and federal withholding taxes came out of my paycheck when I worked there as a part-time librarian years ago.

14 Steve Bates { 07.11.08 at 10:11 pm }

“That’s not an expression regarding a religious matter, it’s an invitation to commit sacrilege.” – Michael

Michael, such an expression may be offensive to many (even I find his suggestion a really bad idea), but it is “sacrilege” only to Catholics. PZ is not Catholic. Yes, it is that simple.

“How would you feel if he’d suggested someone should go to the National Archives in Washington and use the Constitution for toilet paper?” – Michael

That is not a good analogy. The Constitution is not a religious document, and as passionate as I am about American political philosophy, it is not my religion. I was awed to see the copy of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in the National Archives, but if, by some horrible misfortune, something happened to those copies, the essence of the Constitution would live on unchanged.

“Myers stuck his nose into an incident that would have gone away quietly if he hadn’t poked his oar in. In the process of doing so, he crossed an uncrossable line.” – Michael

Michael, that’s twice you’ve referred to some “uncrossable line.” If PZ were Catholic, the line might well be uncrossable, but he has no duty… none… to avoid offending you on his own web site. Don’t approve of it? Don’t read it.

As to the incident, do you follow Pharyngula regularly? PZ has an endless succession of commenters… hundreds at least (possibly thousands) per year… hammering on him and on his life’s work as a scientist, not as a religious figure of any kind, in terms deeply offensive to any reasonable person. His alleged offense… remember, he didn’t start this… was committed entirely on his own web site. He did not hack the Catholic League’s site. He did not urge the murder or physical harm of any of its members, nor did he urge their firing from their jobs. He used no public moneys in expressing his views. What he did was, after endless provocation over a period of years, at long last, respond in kind to people condemning his life’s work in terms every bit as offensive to him as his response was to you.

Michael, you get to determine what is sacred to you. You do NOT get to enforce that determination on the rest of the nation. This is, against all odds, still America.

15 hipparchia { 07.12.08 at 12:26 am }

just out of curiosity, how credible were these death threats?

16 Bryan { 07.12.08 at 12:40 am }

Who knows? Melissa thought they were credible and the kid in Florida was scared.

After the murders we’ve had up here by “religious” whackos, I would take them seriously until I could determine they weren’t.

PZ gets death threats all the time, so they may not affect him much.

17 hipparchia { 07.12.08 at 1:37 am }

it’s smart to be wary of the religious whackos, that’s for sure. what i don’t have a feel for: if the kid’s in danger, is pz’s throwing fuel on the fire likely to make the situation more dangerous?

18 Steve Bates { 07.12.08 at 8:57 am }

“if the kid’s in danger, is pz’s throwing fuel on the fire likely to make the situation more dangerous?” – hipparchia

If we start basing our decisions of what not to blog on the possibility that some nut-case may be triggered by our posts into performing a violent act, we may as well all pack it in right now. What’s really scary is that we are discussing PZ’s possible self-censorship rather than the death threats he and others are receiving.

An aside: in the past, I considered myself a mildly religious person. That was before the zealots decided to take over everyone’s lives. (An example: recently, my doctor’s nurse began witnessing to me while she was taking my vitals… a no-escape situation for me, a perfect coercive situation for her. A friend recently had the same thing happen to her in the dental hygienist’s chair.) It’s a hellish way for the crazies to treat people, and I am unwilling to tolerate it, let alone accommodate it. I’ve had it. If these are the people of God, please count me among the ungodly.

19 Kryten42 { 07.12.08 at 9:28 am }

I love the way US Christians love beating up on very small minorities. 🙂

I found this report a curious read, and given how paranoid and insecure Christians in the USA seem to be of other religions, even other Cristian sects. Puts things into a kind of perspective for me. Make of it what you will. *shrug*

Largest Religious Groups in the United States of America

20 mapaghimagsik { 07.12.08 at 11:05 am }

Not only do the reactionary elements in US Christianity love beating up on small minorities, the Moderate Christian elements do not seem to do enough to control their more reactionary bretheren. In a way, this keeps up with the faith, which would “judge not, let ye be judged”.

However, when other groups step in to deal with the issue of radical Christians, moderate Christians seem to get taken in by the “they’re persecuting us!” whine from the Christianists.

Please keep in mind that these Christianists are also the very same people who were happy to complain that moderate Muslims are doing nothing about their more extremists brethren.

Christianists are happy to persecute while hiding behind the persecution shield. I would be happy to see them take their crusades elsewhere.

21 mapaghimagsik { 07.12.08 at 11:09 am }

I did want to follow up on Steves’ post. There does have to be some sort of sensible self-moderation. We don’t want to become like Michelle Malkin, who posts up names and addresses and then woefully laments to her asianophile followers: “Oh, won’t someone rid me of these troublesome protesters”

Or, perhaps, its not a matter of sensible self-moderation, but we should understand that when a blogger repeatedly calls for violence, we are doing the same as the chestbeating and chanting of tribes, egging our own on until someone does something that crosses the line.

But, that’s a completely different topic. 🙂

22 hipparchia { 07.12.08 at 12:25 pm }

fascinating link, mr 42. catholics do have the edge in raw numbers, don’t they?

23 Steve Bates { 07.12.08 at 1:01 pm }

Mapaghimagsik, what am I missing? Where did PZ call for violence? I just looked again on Pharyngula; the only threats I saw from PZ were directed toward a cracker.

The cry from the DonoWho crowd is not for self-moderation, but for self-censorship.

– Steve the Uncensored Formerly Religious Doggerelist

24 Bryan { 07.12.08 at 1:35 pm }

PZ has drawn fire from the kid as he is a larger, better-known target.

It is precisely because the mainstream Christian leaders refuse to get involved that everyone believes that all religious people in the US are a bunch of extremists. Now that the politicians cater to the extremists, there is no reason not to believe that.

Ultimately this is a problem for religious people to resolve, and as long as they refuse to act, they have no right to complain that they are being portrayed as extremists. They enable the extremists by not opposing them.

25 hipparchia { 07.12.08 at 1:47 pm }

If we start basing our decisions of what not to blog on the possibility that some nut-case may be triggered by our posts into performing a violent act, we may as well all pack it in right now. What’s really scary is that we are discussing PZ’s possible self-censorship rather than the death threats he and others are receiving.

i agree that we can’t go through blogging life worrying that with some post we write we may accidentally trigger some random nutcase to commit some random act of violence.

mostly i was just curious about that one point in an -autopsy-of-the-incident kind of way.

26 Michael { 07.12.08 at 1:56 pm }

You’re missing the point, Steve. PZ isn’t Catholic, he’s an atheist. And that’s fine with me. But just as I don’t get to go into his house and try to convert him, he doesn’t get to send people into my church to commit sacrilege. The fact that he doesn’t consider it to be sacrilege is irrelevant. I do, and so does everyone else who’s there at Mass for a legitimate purpose.

And I think the Constitution-as-toilet-paper is about as good an analogy as I can get. God will not truly be harmed (and will certainly still exist, at least according to my lights) if PZ is successful in his stunt. And the Constitution would still exist even if someone were to use the original in the manner I proposed. But wouldn’t it just burn your onion if someone were actually to try? I know it would for me. Every time I go to Washington, I make it a point to go to the National Archives and stand in the presence of those wonderful documents, just to remind myself of what they stand for–and to verify that they’re still there.

The uncrossable line has nothing to do with what he writes on his website. I don’t read it anymore–and I deleted it from my bookmarks after this latest demonstration of just how callous he really is. The uncrossable line is that you don’t fuck with something that someone else values highly. You just don’t. At least, not if you’re even a halfway decent human being. And you don’t encourage other people to do it for you, either. PZ is right to be upset if the kid received death threats, and likewise if he did himself. But what he doesn’t seem to be able to understand or care about is that what he asked other people to do is, if not exactly the same order of douchebaggery, one that is only minutely removed from it. The fact that he doesn’t feel that way is no excuse. That’s his right–but his right to feel that way ends where my right to practice my religion freely begins.

As to the fact that his response was allegedly out of frustration over years of frustrating attacks on him, that’s a coward’s response. It’s a tu quoque argument, and it has no validity. None. The proper (not to mention legal) way to deal with other people’s bad acts is to rise above them or to report them to the proper authorities for them to deal with. It is not to go out and commit more bad acts of your own, no matter how great the provocation.

I get that I don’t get to define for PZ Myers what is sacred. But he does not have any right–under the Constitution or any Supreme Court ruling that I’m familiar with–to come into my place of worship (or to send other people in his stead) to attack what I consider to be sacred. It really is that simple.

27 Steve Bates { 07.12.08 at 2:37 pm }

“The uncrossable line is that you don’t fuck with something that someone else values highly. You just don’t. At least, not if you’re even a halfway decent human being.” – Michael

Michael, I’ve already said I think PZ’s suggestion is a really bad idea, and that I personally disapprove. But it’s not PZ who is advocating killing people and getting people fired. No, that approach is reserved for the self-proclaimed Catholics in DonoWho’s organization. I doubt you’d go so far as to compare desecration of a communion wafer with murder of a human being, but if you want to take that position, go ahead; we’ll all learn something.

Michael, you have to understand… as you clearly do not, perhaps because you are young and idealistic… that people do things like that to religious non-Christians in America all the time, indeed, so often that I can only laugh and shake my head at your ignorance. “[H]alfway decent human being[s]” bash UUs daily, in public rants and personally to their faces (once that I remember across the lunch table at an academic workshop… when I myself had said nothing about being a UU, or indeed anything about religion). Sometimes the extremists use government powers to attempt to fuck over UU institutions: the Comptroller of the State of Texas tried about three years ago to declare the religion of John and Abigail Adams not a religion for tax purposes.

If that’s a tu quoque argument, tu fucking bad… I am so accustomed to having my religion attacked by self-righteous Christians that I am completely, totally unsympathetic to people like DonoWho and his organization. I’d say he can go to Hell, but UUs in general, and I in particular, don’t believe in Hell. Yes, as I see it, PZ is emphatically the aggrieved party here.

28 Michael { 07.12.08 at 5:57 pm }

It is indeed a tu quoque argument, Steve. What it boils down to is your saying that one bad turn deserves another. What I say in response is that an eye for an eye leaves everyone blind–and that’s not a good outcome.

I’ll be the first to decry anyone who calls him/herself a Catholic and thinks it’s a good idea to threaten to kill someone. But that doesn’t excuse how PZ Myers responded. It just doesn’t.

And neither you nor PZ is correct to project the bad acts of a few misguided folk onto the rest of Christendom. Sure, there are a lot of assholes in the world who want to use their faith as a club for beating up other people and making them feel inferior. As Jesus said himself, however, they already have their reward. And most of Jesus’s followers don’t behave in that fashion.

29 Steve Bates { 07.12.08 at 7:16 pm }

“And neither you nor PZ is correct to project the bad acts of a few misguided folk onto the rest of Christendom.” – Michael

Michael, it is my considered opinion that you, as a member of the majority religion among the majority group of religions in the world, have no standing to make that assertion. You just can’t know what Muslims, Jews, etc., and yes, UU’s and atheists, experience at the hands of those “few misguided folk,” nor can you know how few of them… or how many… there are. It doesn’t happen to you… ever. Believe me, it happens to me all the time. Whether you like it or not, Christian prejudice against other religions is a real thing: disclaim it on behalf of your sort of Christian, or acknowledge it and combat it, but don’t pretend it is less virulent than it is. You just don’t know. You can’t possibly know.

But it’s worse than that. I maintain that I do not project the work of the Christian malcontents on the whole of Christianity. I cannot speak for PZ there, but you’re pinning a bad rap on me. That is not what I’m doing, and I can’t help thinking you know that. I’ll try once more, probably futilely, to explain what I am doing.

Self-proclaimed Christians are, in fact, issuing death threats against PZ, attempting to get him fired, etc. There is no question those things are happening; they’re not hypothetical. One can debate whether those who threaten him are in fact Catholic or even Christian, but that’s not mine to determine: they claim they are. You can assert that PZ must suffer in silence, or that his anger must not exceed some threshold that you set, or that he must express himself in terms of your choosing, but you cannot deny that PZ is being threatened with direct physical violence and you are not. That asymmetry is at the core of my discontent here: you allow yourself to defend your person and your religion, to a degree and in terms that you choose, but you deny PZ the same right.

30 Michael { 07.12.08 at 8:37 pm }

Since I’m also a gay Christian, Steve, I think I’m in at least as good a position as you are to appreciate what happens to minorities in the world. And if you want to limit the discussion to religious minorities, I should also point out that I’ve been to Israel twice–where Christians are decidedly in the minority.

The assholes that are making death threats can claim to be Christian until they’re blue in the face. It doesn’t make them what they claim to be, any more than putting my car in my garage makes me a mechanic.

But my position boils down to this: “So fucking what if other people are behaving badly?” That fact does not give PZ Myers a right to be a bigger asshole; it doesn’t even give him a right to be an asshole in the first place.

31 Kryten42 { 07.12.08 at 8:50 pm }

hipparchia: (and all) The reason I chose this particular report is that it represents a very good summation of several reports. It’s a big read, but if time is taken, you will see an interesting dynamic pattern emerging. Also, it gives an important insight into how the polling organizations conduct their polls. As an example, Gallup polls with questions on religious preferences, rarely (if ever) ask about denominations that are not one of the four main Christian groups. They also use a small sample size. 🙂 The notes in that document explain the discrepancies. One that I found interesting is one of the biggest group of *Christian* of troublemakers, the National Baptist Convention which reported during the 90’s that they had over 8million members. When the church convention president Henry J. Lyons was prosecuted and jailed for fraud in 1999, it was reveled that the numbers where an extreme exaggeration (ie. a lie) and there were just over 1million in reality. It was also interesting to me to see that the Protestants represent a very large slice (after Catholics) of the US *Christian* pie. 🙂 That’s interesting when you take the Protestant/Catholic dynamic in the UK and elsewhere into consideration.

Nothing like love, peace and harmony is there? 🙂

It’s interesting that Christians, particularly the ones with the biggest voices, cry “You can’t blame us all for what a few bad Christians do”, and yet are quite happy to blame Jews, Muslims etc generally for anything a few of their members do. 🙂 And BTW, just because someone claims to be Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or whatever… Doesn’t mean they are. 😉 What people say, and what they do, history has proven time and again, usually are quite different. Wouldn’t be the first time either, that someone has claimed to be a member of a religious group, and may even in fact be one, but their intention was always to cause trouble. And then, they are protected by the mindless minions of that group when they do. Many wars have started this way.

Ask anyone outside of the USA what single word sums up the USA today, and that word is *hypocrites*. Whose fault is that?

32 Steve Bates { 07.12.08 at 10:34 pm }

Michael, as my long day approaches an end, I have finally consumed my bread and wine (from a local bakery and from a large affordable bottle, neither in any way consecrated), and may be a bit more settled to focus on your reply.

I won’t argue against your parallel between anti-religious prejudice and anti-gay prejudice, simply because I have no basis to evaluate anti-gay prejudice from personal experience. (Sound familiar?) I will say that based on what my gay friends and colleagues say, their gayness is not something they can change, whereas one’s religion is in fact amenable to change, so the analogy is not exact. Still, I agree that either kind of bigotry is directed at something so fundamental that it (the bigotry) has the potential to destroy or at least damage one’s underlying being. So I’ll go with you on that point.

Your other point raises a couple of issues for me…

* First, I do not consider PZ an asshole; that is a personal assessment on your part, one that I (along with many other people) do not share. If PZ is an asshole, then all of us who respond angrily when we feel beset by aggressively religious critics are assholes… and I’m not willing to concede that. Aggressive religion-based assault brings out the worst in everyone, as I think you’ll probably agree, in the face of what you consider an assault on your sacraments.

* Second, there is no way in good conscience that one can cast aside the fact that people are threatening to kill PZ, as if that fact were somehow irrelevant to the argument on substance. It isn’t. This is a debate about religious AND social matters, and in my view, those matters are inseparable. You can’t talk about PZ’s alleged assholery and ignore the fact that people are threatening to murder him… not unless you want people like me to focus on the threats and ignore the alleged assholery you perceive. We do not, as a rule… as a law… murder assholes in America, nor do we execute them. Generally, they have a right to even extreme verbal assholery, within very, very broad legal limits, whether we find it offensive or not.

Michael, I do not expect to persuade you of my position. The best I can hope to do is give you pause to consider the possibility that PZ is among the offended parties here, and behave accordingly. I believe your spiritual leader said something about do[ing] unto others… well, that rule works both ways or not at all, and PZ has been done unto in a very un-Christian way.

33 hipparchia { 07.12.08 at 11:55 pm }

one of the other problems with the numbers in that report, kryten, is that even with the more detailed breakdowns in denomination, it still doesn’t quite capture the non-monolithic-ness [for lack of a better word] of many of our religious factions.

i’m not really familiar with the structure of the catholic church, but it appears to be more cohesive than many of our protestant groups. individual congregations of the various protestant varieties are frequently only loosely connected to their national governing bodies, sometimes verrrrry loosely.

this leads to a couple of different problems with interpretations… 1. the baptist church in my neighborhood may not be nearly as liberal [or conservative] as the baptist church in the next neighborhood, even if they profess to be the same kind of baptists. 2. the national organizations of protestant churches frequently do not have the same degree of control over their member churches that the catholics have over theirs. if a rogue congregation wants to adopt radically different views from its parent organization, the parent organization often can’t do much about it, even if they wanted to.

the catholic powers-that-be, otoh, could strip donohue of his credentials tomorrow, should they so choose, and there’s no way he could go out and start another catholic church, or catholic group, on his own.

34 Kryten42 { 07.13.08 at 1:14 am }

I know what you mean. 🙂 I posted that as a kind of backgrounder really. But it’s very complex! When I was blogging at LM (Loaded Mouth) a few years ago, I posted a kind of *mini-thesis* on why ‘Religion = Chaos’ because at that time, a lot of commenter’s were using various faiths as a rationale for everything, but was mostly a sort of chest-thumping *my faith is better than your faith* kind of commentary, but showed a lot of ignorance, even about their own professed faith in their chosen Religious organization. 🙂

I can post it if you like, it goes into the *factions* and their historical background somewhat. It’s not very long, though may be a couple years out of date. 😉 Though I did check the data I used for accuracy, it was meant for a very satirical blog! 😉 So it has some of my commentary that some might call *irreverent*. 😉

35 hipparchia { 07.13.08 at 1:45 am }

you? irreverent? never! 😉

i say sure! post it! but this isn’t my blog, and it’s not my head you’d be bringing death threats down on….

36 Kryten42 { 07.13.08 at 2:36 am }

Mehhh… Death threats! I stopped worrying about those decades ago! LOL 😉

I did want to do some more work on this actually, I had to draft it in a bit of a hurry for LM, but I did fact check it. I also updated it a bit a year or so ago for another post I decided not to make. It was originally just after the Terri Schiavo debacle, to frame a context for you. 🙂


The top 10 (by estimated number of adherents) Religions in the World are:

Branch, Religion, Number of Adherents (estimated)
Catholic, Christianity, 1,050,000,000
Sunni, Islam, 940,000,000
Vaishnavites, Hinduism, 580,000,000
Orthodox/Eastern Christian, Christianity, 240,000,000
Shaivites, Hinduism, 220,000,000
Conservative Protestant, Christianity, 200,000,000
Mahayana, Buddhism, 185,000,000
Liberal Protestant, Christianity, 150,000,000
Theravada, Buddhism, 124,000,000
Shiite, Islam, 120,000,000

It should be noted that ‘Catholic’ refers to ‘Roman Catholic’ and ‘Greek Catholic’ branches, as well as smaller branches such as Old Catholic, Aglipayan (Philippines), Uniate, Ukrainian Catholics, Maronites, etc. The diversity in Catholicism is a primary reason some Catholics don’t refer to themselves, or like the term, ‘Roman Catholic’ or ‘Roman Catholic Church’, particularly as some of the smaller Catholic branches are ‘non-Latin Rite Catholics’. You might think that it’s the smaller branch adherents that don’t want the terms used, but it is in fact primarily the Roman Catholics themselves, probably because they don’t want these smaller branches of ‘non-Latin Rite Catholics’ to be seen to be included in their group. So much for tolerance, understanding, etc. 🙂 I’m sure they long for the old laws regarding heresy. 😉

It’s also curious that there is no branch of Judaism in the top 20, given their large influence on the World’s affairs. Judaism, like Christianity, has sects (branches). There are 5 main branches: Conservative, Unaffiliated and Secular, Reform, Orthodox and Reconstructionist. Note that the Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist branches are not officially recognised, even though the Conservative branch is one of the two largest. Of these, the ‘Conservative’ and ‘Unaffiliated and Secular’ are the largest with an estimated 4.5 million adherents each. I suppose that gives the Jewish branches one thing in common with the Christian branches, they don’t get on with their own branches, so it’s no wonder they are intolerant to other Religions. I suppose it makes the Jews appear less tolerant than even the Catholics, at least the Roman Catholics acknowledge the smaller Catholic branches exist, though they may not agree with them.. 🙂 I was amused when I discovered that the primarily Secular and Othadox Jews won’t officially acknowledge the largest Jewish branch, the Conservatives.

So, I have to wonder why some Evangelicals within the USA are keen to support Israel, though I suspect it’s simply to cause trouble since they seem not to care about or understand the Jewish branches (understandable, since they also show great ignorance of Christian and Islam dynamics). They say it’s to help the Jews fight the Muslims. That shows a great deal of ignorance since there are 5 Jewish sects, each with their own agendas, and who don’t agree with each other, and there is no such religion as *Muslim*, though it is generally understood they refer to Islam, which again shows ignorance as Islam is composed of 4 primary branches (and like Christianity, many smaller branches), of which the Sunni are almost as large (denominationally) as the Catholic branch of Christianity with almost 1 billion Sunni’s globally (compared to about 15million Jews of all branches globally) According to the CIA World Fact Book (2004), Israel is composed of: Jewish 76.4%, Muslim 16%, Arab Christians 1.7%, other Christian 0.4%, Druze 1.6%, unspecified 3.9%.

Perhaps it has something to do with another interesting statistic. Adherents for the Jewish Branches in Israel were not all born in Israel. According to the CIA World Fact Book of 1996, Israel Jews were composed of: Europe/America-born: 32.1%, Israel-born: 20.8%, Africa-born: 14.6%, Asia-born: 12.6%, plus a large non-jewish minority of 19.9% (mostly Arab). It’s also curious that this statistic is missing from recent Fact Books. 🙂

So, there you go! World Religions in a nutshell! LOL It’s hardly any wonder than nobody get’s along. It seems that’s what Religion is designed for, chaos and confusion. 🙂 Oh wait… isn’t that Satan’s job according to the Bible? Now, isn’t that a curious coincidence! 😀

I also find it curious that, in the USA especially, within the Protestant branch(es) of Christianity today, most significant divisions with regard to culture, practice and doctrine are not between denominational families, but between ‘Liberal’ and ‘Conservative’ Protestants. It is curious to me that they have divided along the lines of ‘Liberal’ and ‘Conservative’, it makes them sound… political. 🙂 I suppose it’s hardly surprising really. The Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) was one Clifton Kirkpatrick (There’s a good old Irish name for you) who *retired* from his position after his links to one Dr. Frist (R-TN) were discovered. I could write a book about Frist, even just about his involvement (some might say, quack meddling) in the tragic story of Terry Schiavo. Ahhh… the compassion of Religion!

So, how’s that ‘Separation of Church and State’ working for you? 😉 LOL

The ‘Liberal wing’ of the Church is composed of two main groups: Progressive Christianity and Evolutionary Christianity. Generally, the ‘Conservatives’ *believe* that the he Bible is the actual Word of God. Generally, the ‘Liberals’ *believe* that the Bible is a wide-ranging human document. And in the middle, they generally believe that the ‘Bible contains the Word of God. However, it also contains material that must be rejected because it has always been opposed to the will of God.’ Hmmmm.

The ‘Conservative wing’ of the Church is composed mainly of the Evangelicals. However, the term “Evangelical” is an umbrella term which Includes Christian Identity, Fundamentalist, Pentecostal and Reconstructionist, some Baptist and many other groups of denominations. Some examples of Evangelical denominations are: Assemblies of God, Southern Baptists, Independent Baptists, black Protestants, African Methodist Episcopal, African Methodist Episcopal Zion; Church of Christ, Churches of God in Christ, Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, National Baptist Church, National Progressive Baptist Church, Nondenominational, Pentecostal denominations, and the Presbyterian Church in America. Some Theologians would also include as Evangelicals the conservative members and reform movements within such mainline denominations as the Episcopal Church, USA and the United Methodist Church as well as the Presbyterian Church (USA). The primary concerns of this group include: Abortion access, Biblical inerrancy, Creation Science vs Evolution, Equal rights for homosexuals and Same-sex marriage. Note that this conservative/liberal split is seen also within Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, etc.

“Now I beseech you… that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” Paul, 1 Corinthians 1:10, The Christian Scriptures (New Testament), KJV.

In the early years, Christianity was divided into three major religious movements: the Gnostics, Jewish Christians, and Pauline Christians. Almost all current Christian groups trace their lineage back to the Pauline Christian movement. Now, in the USA alone, there are over 1,000 Christian faith groups! They profess to follow the teachings of Christ and the Apostle Paul, and yet it’s patently obvious that they don’t. *sigh*

That’s human nature for you, and so much for Christ. Poor guy… he went through Hell (literally in the end, according to the Bible) for nothing it seems. Nobody really listened to him. For the most part, Religion is just a cover for personal beliefs, control, power, and of course, that *root of all evil*, money! Hallelujah!

BTW, I am simply someone who does *NOT* believe in organised religions of any kind any longer! And will not unless I find one that actually practices what their particular *book of God* preaches, or at the very least, what they preach. I suspect I’ll be long gone before that ever happens. To me, any organised religious group has little difference to other social groups, like Rotary Club, or the Red Cross, etc. With the possible exception that groups like Rotary actually help people, and mostly practice what they preach. 🙂

It’s easy for me to see why more people are moving towards Islam. It may not be what Christians believe to be the true word of God, but for the most part, many Islamic faith’s actually do follow their book. For many people, modern Christianity = hypocrisy. To paraphrase what many conservative *Christians* like to say: Baby Jesus really is crying.

37 mapaghimagsik { 07.13.08 at 11:07 am }

Steve, can you point out where I say PZ advocates violence? From this quote:

If we start basing our decisions of what not to blog on the possibility that some nut-case may be triggered by our posts into performing a violent act, we may as well all pack it in right now.

I cite the Michelle Malkin example. She posted addresses and names and wailed about something “being done”.

So in short, We *do* have to base our decisions on what not to blog based on nutbags. Nutbags have always ruined the fun for the rest of us.

PZ’s actions don’t cross that line in my opinion, but it would be a double standard to condemn Michelle Malkin’s actions and say that we don’t have to self-censor.

38 mapaghimagsik { 07.13.08 at 11:14 am }

Shame that I always forget to add other interesting tidbits.

A statistical correlation has been demonstrated between high profile suicides reported in newspapers and the suicide rate after the newspaper releases the information. There also seems to be impact between *how* the suicide is reported and the suicide rate (Page 1 vs Page 6, celebrity or not, etc) While the specifics are debated, there is general agreement that there is an impact.

My other thought is annecdotal: If people are not affected by what they read/see, then our whole ad industry is a big waste of money.

39 Steve Bates { 07.13.08 at 1:39 pm }

“Steve, can you point out where I say PZ advocates violence?” – Mapaghimagsik

Mapaghimagsik, my original remark was in response to hipparchia’s, not yours, and she referred to whether the kid was in danger… presumably of possible nut-case violence. IIRC, the kid’s name, or some other identifying info, was already in the news; otherwise, PZ would never have known of the incident. Most of us on “our” side of the political spectrum never contemplate publishing home phone numbers, employers’ names, etc. in the first place; I hardly see that as a significant constraint on what I blog. Perhaps I am completely misunderstanding the thrust of your remark, in which case, please feel free to enlighten me.

“A statistical correlation has been demonstrated between high profile suicides reported in newspapers and the suicide rate after the newspaper releases the information.” – Mapaghimagsik

Yet newspapers and news sites continue to report high-profile suicides. Are you saying that there are things that newspapers may report, but that are taboo to blogs? I can’t agree with you there.

“My other thought is annecdotal: If people are not affected by what they read/see, then our whole ad industry is a big waste of money.” – Mapaghimagsik

Don’t tempt me to say I agree with the “then” independent of the “if.” 🙂

40 Steve Bates { 07.13.08 at 1:42 pm }

Oh, I think I get it now, Mapaghimagsik. My reference to PZ’s hypothetically advocating violence was a deliberate contrast to the behavior of DonoWho’s followers, some of whom most definitely advocated violence against PZ. For me, that makes their behavior far worse than PZ’s. Does that help clear it up?

41 Michael { 07.13.08 at 6:20 pm }

hipparchia: DonoWho doesn’t have any Catholic “credentials.” His group is run (and financed) entirely by himself. He is not, to the best of my knowledge, officially acknolwedged by anyone in the hierarchy. He may be a practicing Catholic, but that’s the extent of his connection to the Catholic Church. He has no more right to speak on its behalf than I do, or anyone else not a member of the hierarchy. So there really aren’t any credentials that could be lifted. The most that could be done, short of an excommunication (not likely, since while he’s proven to be a douchebag of the first order, that isn’t a mortal sin and doesn’t reach any of the other conditions for excommunication), would be to refuse him Communion. And there, too, while he’s undoubtedly a douchebag, that doesn’t rise to the required level.

It would be different if he were a member of the clergy, or belonged to a monastic order. His superiors would then have the ability to force him to shut the hell up, on pain of being kicked out. But absent that connection, they don’t have much in the options basket.

42 Michael { 07.13.08 at 6:27 pm }

Steve: Sorry, but no. There is no way you’re going to get me to concede that other people’s bad acts, even death threats, give PZ a right to respond in kind with a further bad act. The “She hit me first!” argument, which is effectively what you’re arguing for here, never worked with my parents. I doubt it worked any better with yours–or with PZ Myers’s or Bill DonoWho’s.

I’m not saying that death threats are irrelevant or should be ignored. But what PZ Myers did in response to those death threats was neither helpful nor appropriate, and the fact that he is alleged to have received them does not excuse what he did or mitigate it in any way.

I do consider PZ Myers an asshole. I’ve thought that for years, and this present incident does nothing to change my opinion of him. Unlike Bill DonoWho and his minions, however, I don’t think that gives me any right to threaten PZ–and if I had done so, PZ would have every right to swear out a complaint against me and have me prosecuted. Which is what he should have done, but apparently did not, in this instance.

And I’m sorry, but your appeal to the Golden Rule fails. To be sure, the people who were making threats against PZ and the kid failed on that test–and there will be consequences for that failure, according to our faith tradition. But the Golden Rule is not just a Christian precept. Perhaps PZ should have thought about applying it in this case. But he didn’t. And his revenge was not specifically targeted against those people who had offended him–he issued a blanket invitation to indiscriminate sacrilege. That’s tantamount to me deciding to cut off all redheaded drivers in traffic from now on because one particular redheaded driver cut me off. It isn’t even a proportional response.

PZ’s entire schtick revolves around how he, as a scientist, is ruled by reason and governed by logic. His behavior in this mess, however, suggests that the reality is quite otherwise.

43 hipparchia { 07.13.08 at 10:11 pm }

thanks for the correction on donohue, michael. i have to admit to not really following any of this closely enough to comment intelligently.

that said, i’ll comment some more 😉 … i love reading pz when he’s blogging pure science, and i hugely appreciate his vigorous pushback against the religionists who want to dismantle science and science education, but he can be a real asshole when he launches into the more general religion vs atheism debate, so much so that i quit reading his blog a long time ago.

And his revenge was not specifically targeted against those people who had offended him–he issued a blanket invitation to indiscriminate sacrilege.

that was my reaction too.

44 hipparchia { 07.13.08 at 10:45 pm }

So, there you go! World Religions in a nutshell! LOL It’s hardly any wonder than nobody get’s along. It seems that’s what Religion is designed for, chaos and confusion. Oh wait… isn’t that Satan’s job according to the Bible? Now, isn’t that a curious coincidence!


the only bible story that ever really made an impression on me when i was a child was the tale of the good samaritan. seems to me the world would be a better place if more people had paid attention that day in sunday school.

actually, there was one other story that made an impression, of a sort: jonah and the whale. that’s probably what provided the initial spark for my childhood dream of growing up to be an oceanographer [which i sort of did become, if you count studying the metabolic process of saltwater bacteria as oceanography].