I first ran across PZ Myers' blog a few years ago, and was immediately disturbed by the anger and the acidity towards all thing religious displayed there, not only by Myers but also by his loyal commenters. For example, he referred to the recent death of a Baptist minister (someone he didn't even know) as "futile" and that he had dedicated his life to a lie. You have to read it (and sample some of the comments) to grasp how unfeeling and disturbing it is.
This is the kind of writing and mindset that is a complete turnoff to me as someone who considers himself to have a skeptical mind. I don't even like to think of myself as a "skeptic" any more; I have certainly become more open-minded and more spiritual in my everyday life, and I believe it is at least in part a response to these kinds of attacks.
So there is this hoo-ha over a Communion wafer. Seems that Myers is incensed that some college kid who absconded with a Communion wafer may be in hot water with his University. Catholics believe the unleavened bread, once it is consecrated by a priest, is transformed into the substance of Christ's body. Myers doesn't buy it. He wrote that if readers of his blog send him a consecrated host, "I'll show you sacrilege, gladly, and with much fanfare." Myers' plan to support the kid is to get someone to swipe some Communion for him, so that he can engage in some sort of desecration and film it and post it on YouTube.
What a cool guy, eh?
It's kind of like hating Bush---unoriginal, boring and tedious. Look at me! I'm edgy and brash and rebellious! Christians--especially Catholics--look how stoopid they are! I'm telling truth to power! Silly Pope, dressed in his silly robes!
It is noteworthy, I believe, that Myers uses the word "Frackin" instead of the coarser Anglo-Saxon version that he actually means. Why? Was he worried that he was going to OFFEND SOMEONE?
C'mon Myers--grow a pair! I don't foresee Myers taking a goat into the next Islamic prayer service. He probably won't be shouting "Sieg Hiel!" at synagogue. Why not video yourself desecrating a Koran? Why not take on those Scientology folks? Tip over some headstones at the local cemetery? Or is that too edgy for you? Or maybe you're just chicken?
He's got an answer for that, actually. In this interview, Myers states "I don't favor the idea of going to somebody's home or to something they own and possess and consider very important, like a graveyard -- going to a grave and desecrating that. That's something completely different. Because what you're doing is doing harm to something unique and something that is rightfully part of somebody else -- it's somebody else's ownership. The cracker is completely different. This is something that's freely handed out."
The "logic" doesn't really work for me here. I am glad that he respects someone else's property. And the Eucharist is freely handed out; in a sense, you could do with it whatever you wanted to do. But a tolerant, rational person wouldn't behave so uncaringly. Although an aggressively intolerant person would, I suppose. Does one's tolerance stop at some imaginary property line?
Myers (who was once an altar boy) admits that the majority of the angry emails he has received threaten nothing but to "assault me with prayer." But Myers seems genuinely surprised that his proposed actions have disturbed some people; he is clueless as to why some have even threatened violence. I am always amazed at those who loudly and sometimes crudely exercise their right to free speech, but seem unable to understand that others have that right also, and that others will respond to them, loudly and sometimes even crudely.
There is this exchange in the interview, beginning with the ex-Catholic interviewer: ". . . While I was taught to be reverent with Catholic symbols and artifacts, I also learned of a powerful god, totally unlike this fragile one that can be damaged by a non-believer's mishandling of a communion wafer.
Myers: It's actually kind of sad. I grew up in a church, although I'm, of course, no longer a member of a church, but it is kind of weird to see this going on right now. The messages I've been getting in my email have just been insane. People who say this cracker is literally and physically the body of their god and that I'm doing this great act of heresy and sacrilege and horror -- even though I didn't actually do anything to it -- is disturbing. It's like discovering there are witch doctors lurking in your community and they've been doing weird practices."
Again, it has nothing to do with God being fragile, or whether you or I or Myers actually believes that the Communion wafer is God's body or not. It has to do with tolerance; it's as simple as that.
It is this kind of intellectual arrogance and intolerance that has turned me off of so much of what the skeptical community has to offer. It is one thing to be pro-science and pro-rational thinking; the world often seems short of such ideas. But I believe it can be done without the hubris and arrogance that Myers displays. I believe that in a rational world, there is more than enough room for tolerance.
I'm a physician (OBGYN), late 40's, living in a small town in northern Louisiana. It's a big change, coming from the Big Easy, but then again, my life has been under considerable remodeling as of late. I am married to a beautiful Russian artist, who was nice enough to follow me on this adventure.