Sunday, 27 July 2008

I ate the baby Jesus too*

I haven't been following the crackergate story too closely, but PZ Myers seems to have fomented quite a little storm in a teacup (see Cosmic Variance).

Basically some student receives a Catholic communion wafer and instead of eating it he keeps it to show to his friend, some of the congregation get a bit upset about it and try to take it of him, he gets annoyed at this and takes it home, lots of Catholics are pissed off because he's taken the body of Jesus 'hostage' - nutjobs like Bill Donohue waded in to call for sanctions to be brought against the student and for extra security at a Republican convention to defend the delegates from the likes of PZ Myers. So far so dull - kid seems like he's being a bit silly, Catholics come across as over-reacting and their silly (and falsified) beliefs are highlighted.

So PZ writes about this taking the predictable line "Get some perspective, man. IT'S A CRACKER." He finishes by asking for someone to send him a consecrated wafer to desecrate. And when he gets one he sticks a nail through it also providing a delightful sample of the threats he's been sent in the meantime, e.g.:
"You fool, the vengeance for your sacrilege will not be . exhausted against you, but it will be carried out on your child. Wait and see."
It seems to have created quite a stir on teh internets, despite the fact that PZ has blogged about desecrating the quran and bible before without anywhere near such attention.

For what it's worth I think that deliberately winding up theists by threatening to violate their laughable taboos is a bit mean, but perfectly acceptable behaviour, particularly if it is funny (compare the Jyllands-Posten controversy to Jesus and Mo). D^2 lives up to his reputation as being vaguely amusing but a bit of a dick in this post at crooked timber:
"While I of course do not countenance the harassment of anyone by religious nuts, I also have something of a baleful view of the kind of self-conscious atheist who regards it as a good use of his time to spend the day winding up the god squad.
while I am perhaps the last person on earth who is well-placed to tell anyone else that winding people up for the sake of it is a really silly and childish thing to do … well, winding people up for the sake of it is a really silly and childish thing to do, and furthermore Dawkinsite militant atheists are as annoying as fundies in their own way and perhaps deserve a bit of winding up too.
And so it is that, at some point this weekend, I plan to tell a small, credulous child (about whom I will provide no other information) that a rainbow is a special sign from God that he promises never to flood the world again and that this proves that God exists."

It's summed up nicely by mpowell:

"I think Dsquared has outdone himself on this one.

Step one: Hypocritically look down on those who have a go at others for the sake of it.

Step two: Brazenly imitate this behavior.

It’s times like these that I realize that I can never really measure up in the area of being a pretentious, sarcastic wise-ass. It’s almost enough to make me give it all up, but I’m not sure my friends and family could bear the loss."

Some of the other comments are also priceless:

"The fact that you can generate such a reaction merely by claiming you plan to do something—which is, in the final analysis, totally harmless—says a lot about the New Atheism."
Obviously I don't think D^2 means it, nor particularly care if he does, but it is interesting to note the symmetry or lack of between his threat and PZ's threat - PZ is quite entitled to do what he wants to communion wafers, but it causes quite some stink. Theists are quite entitled to bring their children up with nonsensical stories about God and floods (or even other lies about Father Christmas) and this is so accepted in our society that no one would seek to prevent this - the only opposition from atheists and secularists is about willfully witholding information about alternatives and indoctrination at the state's expense.

*I appear to have used the pun in the title "I ate the baby Jesus" before, repeating myself already, oh dear.


Anonymous said...

"*I appear to have used the pun in the title "I ate the baby Jesus" before, repeating myself already, oh dear."
Well, if that confluence of circumstances keeps turning up in your life, what else can you do?

Anonymous said...

If you call it "deliberately winding up theists" then it sounds bad. If you call it "deliberately breaking pointless and unjust rules" then it's pretty standard protest, I'd have thought. Nobody criticises Gandhi for "deliberately winding up the authorities".

I'd love to get a whole pack (loaf?) of Eucharists and use them as chips in my poker game.

I wonder if they're nice with dips? That would be really cocky, munching on my stack when I'd built a lead up.

Gosh, "munching on my stack" sounds dirty.

I like that "Baby Jesus" appears to exist as a largely independent entity from regular "Jesus". Kind of like Super Mario in that respect.

pj said...

I'm not sure that there are any particular rules against desecrating 'the host', there are certainly no laws. Catholicism itself has internal rules against doing stuff like that - but I think you'd need to be make a rather more nuanced theological point than I am about the value of challenging the sinful nature of this act within the Catholic framework.

Otherwise all we're saying is that Catholicism has a load of silly rules that are nonsensical (since Catholicism is a belief system based on falsehood) and I'm going to break those rules to piss off the Catholics and highlight the nonsensical beliefs they're based on. While I have some sympathy with highlighting the falsity of theism, I don't think it quite makes us Gandhi!

pj said...

I think 'baby Jesus' is the pity-me-Jesus that is invoked when Christians feel oppressed - 'God the Father' is the one they turn to when they go a smiting.

As for the snack properties of communion wafers I think you'll find them rather dry and tasteless.

Political Scientist said...

The "Crooked Timber" thread is up to 308 comments!

pj said...

Impressive - but I think it is pretty derailed by the end. Hot 'troll on troll action' as someone says.