| |

What Would we Do Without PZ Myers?

Some of us like to be angry, and if we’re Christians and angry, then PZ Myers is a very useful person. After all, how can one be properly angry without someone at whom one can direct one’s rage? Enter PZ Myers, who has now performed his act of desecration on the communion wafer.

At first I found it fairly rude. As it has gone one it has become more and more ludicrous. On reading his post I can’t even tell whether the wafers are even consecrated. He seems to be indicating that he had more than one:

You would not believe how many people are writing to me, insisting that these horrible little crackers (they look like flattened bits of styrofoam) are literally pieces of their god, and that this omnipotent being who created the universe can actually be seriously harmed by some third-rate liberal intellectual at a third-rate university (the diminution of my vast powers is also a common theme).

It would be interesting from the viewpoint of Catholic theology if these had, in fact, not been consecrated. The rudeness seems to me about equal, but it would probably give a few theologians a laugh along the way.

I still stick with my earlier point. These actions are not courteous, in my view, but they do not deserve sanction of law, firing from one’s job, or the outpouring of sheer hatred that has resulted from this whole incident.

What would we, as Christians, do without PZ Myers to reveal our insecurity, our limited view of divine power, our anger, and our hatred? Someone else would have to come along and reveal the weakness that is within. Because the biggest argument against Christianity that is being made here is not made by PZ Myers, but rather by those of us who react as we do.

By this reaction, we demonstrate that Jesus has not, in fact, done very much transformation on us. We demonstrate that we do not, in fact, believe that God is love. Instead, we believe that God is a God of hypersensitive feelings, overreaction, anger, and hate, and in addition that at times he can’t spell, punctuate, or construct a coherent sentence.

If there is any good that will come of this I think it will have to be in some heart searching on the part of Christians to ask just why someone can do us this kind of harm without actually touching us.

Some may ask we I use “we” and “us” in the paragraphs above, since I have indicated that I lack this anger. While I think the actions were rude, I face rudeness quite regularly and I can live with it. But as someone who is involved in teaching, I think it is important not to distance myself from the community. It would be easy to label all the angry people “not real Christians” and claim that I don’t have to recognize any connection. But in fact there is a great deal of connection. When one part of the body suffers, all suffer (1 Corinthians 12:26).

One last note on a personal reaction. I surprised myself in reading about PZ’s actual desecration. While I regarded the proposed desecration of the wafer as rude, that really was all I felt. It was more the feeling of someone who cussed in a place where I think such language was inappropriate. When I read about the actual desecration, however, I felt the same about the wafer, but I had a stab of annoyance about the books! Why do such a thing to perfectly good books?

I think the symbolism of book burning or defacing has more power over me emotionally, and in this case it did not involve books that are sacred to me, though I have read them. I have a fine copy of the Qur’an, for example, a gift from an Imam with whom I studied for a period of time. I treasure it, and despite having no belief in its inspiration, I nonetheless would not want it defaced.

But emotions aside, doing stuff to stuff, provided no property issues are involved, should not evoke the type of response that this has.

(PS: Ken Brown has written an excellent response, which is more concise and to the point than mine.)

(PSS: I will have to hold a contest sometime to find a blogger who is not more concise than I am. The very idea boggles the mind.)

Similar Posts


  1. If we didn’t have outsiders like PZ Myers to rant about, we would have to restrict ourselves to deviant insiders like Todd Bentley.

    Maybe I should enter your non-conciseness contest. I was trained in how not to be concise years ago, when working on a proposal for the European Union which, I was told, would be judged not so much on quality as on weight!

    1. Oh, I’m fully convinced we can manage to rant about them both at the same time, unfortunately.

      I distinguish “disagreement” with “ranting about.” Disagreeing involves saying “I think he should do x instead of y” while recognizing that he’s the one who gets to decide. “Rant about” involves everything that starts with “he’s going to destroy Christianity” and ends with death threats.

      1. Indeed there is a distinction. I have no problem with people disagreeing with Todd Bentley, while letting him decide. But the great majority of the opposition to Todd, with a few honourable exceptions like yours, has been in the rant category – although I haven’t seen anyone dare to send him death threats, as I’m sure they would feel the tip of his biker boots if, like the attacker in Ethiopia I think it was, they tried anything.

  2. As a happy and faithful Catholic who holds an undergraduate biology degree (so I remember how many hours you spend hanging around in the prof’s lab and in classes), I sure wouldn’t be comfortable taking any required class from him. I’d be afraid of my faith coming up in conversation (as casual as “what are you doing this weekend? Well, after church, we’re going to the lake….”), attracting his obvious scorn, and affecting my grades. So his actions are not just harmless posturing – he is creating a hostile atmosphere on the campus, indeed, all around him.

    His anger is really frightening – why reach out and snatch what is NOT a symbol BTW, but the sacramental presence of Jesus to us. It’s not as though people were throwing consecrated hosts at him, and attracting his retaliation.

    He started this, and I can’t see why. In our constitution, my opinion stops at your nose, and his opinion should stop at the door of a church he does not belong to.

    I pray that his anger will be overcome by God’s Grace.

    1. Similarly, I would be uncomfortable taking classes required for MY major from a religious fundamentalist. Partly, but not only, because I would fear biased grading. This is not hypothetical: when I was in grad school (physical chemistry), one of the world’s greatest authorities on using computers to predict infra-red spectra of small organic molecules was out of the question as an advisor for me because he used to lead prayer sessions in his lab and hand out born-again Christian literature to grad students.

      And there is PLENTY of reason for non-religious Americans, and scientific Americans, to be angry at organized Christianity generally and Catholics in particular. Catholics are not evolution deniers but they are responsible for using egregious abuses of science to promote bad laws and policies which are motivated by their religion (see for instance http://www.abortionbreastcancer.com/

    2. Actually I recall that, for one term, PZ let his students post on his blog. A couple of them “came out” on Pharyngula as being quite strong Christians, which led to a few interesting debates but no downgradings that I’m aware of. So my guess is that, if you knew him in person, you’d probably be a lot less worried.

      On the whole “who started it” thing, technically it was the student who refused to swallow the Host he’d just been given, but in terms of escalation I think the medal goes to those who were sending that student death threats. Myers does get angry about religion, but in this case I think he’s just upset about people treating a student that way. That’s why he also “desecrated” a copy of The God Delusion at the same time as the Quran and the Host, to show that his actions here are more-or-less unrelated to his atheism.

      I kinda agree with him here. I wouldn’t desecrate a religious symbol just because it was a religious symbol – that would be unnecessarily disrespectful, and I don’t enjoy that sort of thing. But I might desecrate it to make a point to those who think their religious beliefs should trump everyone else’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It’s not hard to be angry at someone who apparently believes you don’t deserve basic human rights.

  3. The ongoing effort to pollute science classes with a theory of the supernatural is at least as meaningful and infuriating a desecration as anything Professor Myers has done.

    Governor Jindal is a disgrace to the Rhodes Scholarship. He should be forced to pay back the money Rhodes Trust spent on his education.

  4. Are you looking for bloggers who are less concise in general, or looking to compare length on a particular topic?

    It’s on different topics, but the blog Idle Words has quite an ominous tag line: “brevity is for the weak”

  5. Henry wrote

    Instead, we believe that God is a God of hypersensitive feelings, overreaction, anger, and hate, …

    Bingo! The Old Testament a nutshell.

Comments are closed.