Anti-ScienceReligion

Warning: You May Be Insulted

I really wanted to give one final comment on the whole PZ vs. the Cracker debacle, and then I decided I wouldn’t because the whole thing just annoys me to no end and has been beaten into the ground. Then at the last second I changed my mind again. Here we go.

The reason why it’s still on my mind is because we talked about it on the most recent episode of The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe, prompting a flurry of activity on the message board and in our in-boxes. In our discussion of the topic, we basically reported the facts (boy takes eucharist out of church, some Catholics freak out, PZ offers to desecrate the eucharist to prove it’s just a cracker, some Catholics freak out even more and physically threaten him) and added our commentary about how we all agree that some of the Catholics in question really did totally overreact.

The responses we’ve received fall into two basic categories:

wtf: Most people seem to think the whole thing is funny, and it’s just a cracker, and let’s all just calm down. I happen to agree.

omgrude: Some people have written to us (or on the message board) to tell the world they think PZ is rude. Most start with, “I’m not a Catholic but . . . ” and go on to say it’s just rude to go out of your way to piss off a bunch of hardcore theists. I agree, it is rude, and also sometimes necessary. But, I understand why some people find it not to their tastes.

A percentage of the omgrude crowd is upset because they do not think PZ’s words help further the skeptical movement because he won’t convince any of the hardcore group that they are crazy. I agree that he probably won’t convince many true believers, but I disagree that he doesn’t help rational people. Just about any time someone dares to point out the absurdity of irrational thinking, he does a great service to many other rational thinkers who were too scared or unsure to say so themselves.

Did Trey Parker and Matt Stone convince any true believers when they called John Edward the Biggest Douche in the Universe? Probably not many, but I bet they influenced a lot of young people who might have been on the fence. There’s no one right way to communicate skepticism, and for every Trey & Matt we need a Carl Sagan. For every PZ, we need a Julia Sweeney or a Hemant. If one isn’t to your taste, you’re free to ignore him, but it’s short-sighted to claim that person is hindering the “skeptical movement” just because he’s not your bag.

My point in all this is that there are several legitimate ways to disagree with the way I and my fellow skeptics feel about the whole deal. What really annoys me, though, are the (few) people who have written to us to tell us that we have no right at all to mock the beliefs of these Catholics. Here’s just a portion of one we got the other day:

I just endured ten minutes of you mocking a belief that, I assure you, is not solely held by “fanatical Catholics.” The (admittedly) irrational belief in Transubstantiation is ingrained and at the heart of our faith. . . . It was not pleasant to hear a group of normally irreverent-but-humorous skeptics whom I have come to enjoy engage in deliberate mocking of my faith for an extended period.

I had to read the full email several times, because I just could not comprehend it. I understand and happily accept that many readers of this site and listeners of the podcast are theists, but I suppose I always assumed that they were the most rational kind possible. People who pare away all the testable claims their particular brand of religion makes, ending up with a fuzzy, generic kind of belief in something bigger than us that cannot be tested. That’s okay with me — I have plenty of good friends and family who are into that. On Skepchick, we have people who disagree on the existence of gods, the efficacy of organic farming, the value of libertarianism, and I love that they all are are open to having their beliefs challenged.

I figured that if anyone who is a regular listener or reader holds on to an irrational belief, once it is pointed out to them they examine it critically and give it up if necessary. If they accept that their belief goes against all reason and want to keep it anyway, they could at least have the good sense to gloss over criticisms and not get involved in discussions about it.

But to admit that you hold a provably irrational belief and then to get upset when rational people joke about it on a podcast that regularly features rational people joking about irrational beliefs? That blows my mind. I can’t even understand how someone could seem so normal and yet blatantly ask that we give his weird belief special treatment. Hell, I could at least start to understand had his argument been that we should avoid tackling that weird belief because it’s so widely held (I’d still disagree, but I’d get it) . . . but no.

It’s the email quoted above that finally convinced me to write just one more time about this topic. That email convinced me that on the podcast, where we pretty much just gave an overview of what happened, we didn’t spend nearly enough time mocking the belief in transubstantiation. I’d like to correct that right now.

Transubstantiation is a ridiculous claim. Basically, the idea is that during communion, bread and wine literally become the flesh and blood of Jesus even though to all appearances it still seems awfully bready and winey. These days, “to all appearances” seems to mean that even if we put someone in an FMRI while he chows down on Jesus, we won’t be able to tell that he’s eating anything other than bread and wine. His system will digest these items at exactly the same pace as any other bread and wine, and in a few hours he will pee and poop substances that don’t look in the least bit Christ-like. But it’s still Christ! Gosh, that sounds an awful lot like every pseudoscientific claim in which the effect disappears when under a microscope because “science can’t detect it!!!” like Chi or homeopathy or The Secret or dowsing or psychic kangaroos (I made that one up but I bet someone, somewhere believes it).

You probably think that there’s no evidence for transubstantiation, but you’re wrong. See, at the Last Supper, Jesus handed his guests some bread and said, “This is my body,” and then handed them some wine and said, “This is my blood.” Had Jesus sang “I’m a Little Teapot,” then today we’d see Catholics worldwide carefully choosing communion vessels of appropriate height and stoutness, ensuring that each one has both handle and spout for the dispensing of His Holy Oolong. Metaphor: not the fundamentalist’s strong suit.

To anyone who wasn’t raised believing something like that, it’s obviously total BS. To people who are raised believing that junk, it might take them some time to mull it over before seeing that it’s total BS. Like the emailer I quoted above, it might not be pleasant to realize that your specific paranormal claim is not off limits just because it falls within the bounds of your religion. If you enjoy laughing along with us when we’re talking about other silly paranormal claims, I hope you learn to accept the fact that one day we might just spend ten minutes talking about your paranormal claim. If you can’t handle that, I suggest you find a more reverent group of people to entertain you.

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Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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172 Comments

  1. Maybe for a lot of people, because they believe that god intervenes in their lives they feel that it is at least partially acceptable for them to intervene in other people’s lives? Although I suppose that doesn’t explain other skeptics being offended.

    Seriously though, if you get offended, don’t look.

    Hear, hear for the multi-prong approach though, you can never have too many prongs :P

  2. Yeah, take down those crazy beliefs! I agree with you 100%! Except…well…why did you have to be so mean about people who believe in psychic kangaroos? Because I am pretty sure nobody has ever proved that there has never been a psychic kangaroo before. I just don’t think it is right to mock my beliefs like that even though they may be somewhat irrational.

    Also, please stop mocking people who believe in unicorns. If they exist, they are very noble beasts and should not be mocked under any circumstances. Even valid ones.

  3. *more applause*

    Damn right. If someone is surprised at the “deliberately mocking faith” aspect of skepticism, they really haven’t been paying attention.

    Also, “Holy Oolong!” might just overtake “Holy Zarquon Singing Fish!” as my favourite zany expletive.

  4. P.s.: Psychic kangaroos totally exist, and I will burn down the home of anybody who says otherwise. It may be an irrational belief, but it’s my irrational belief, and I reserve the right to rain down firey destruction on anybody who denigrates it.

  5. i used to be a catholic (shh don’t tell the priest that married my wife and i a couple months ago), and i’m more recently a former jehovah’s witness (what can i say my parents switched when i was in jr. high and it was the thing to do). now i’m slightly confused. i never had the slightest religious leanings on my own. i simply went along with what my parents did, i think, mainly to avoid confrontation. i don’t think i ever really took any of it seriously. certainly not seriously enough to get upset over someone else’s beliefs/words/actions. i may have thought them to be in bad taste, but nothing to get bent out of shape over.

    sometimes the rogues say things that seem to… i don’t know what word i’m looking for, but sometimes they’re rather more harsh about a subject than i think anyone has the right to be. and by right i mean no one actually knows for a fact, but the particular view fits into their general system so i understand why they feel that way. i’ve written in a couple of time, but never got any response. there could be myriad reasons and i don’t lose any sleep over it and i still listen.

    personally i lean towards the live and let live. this does not mean i can’t call a spade a spade. if everyone agreed about everything we’d be living in a very dull world.

    i think the problem is when a person’s religious beliefs are called out they take it personally. how could you not? at least at first. it makes you feel like an idiot that you’ve believed something that you’ve never really thought about and then realize it doesn’t make any sense. that’s hard to take. you have three options. admit that you were wrong, vehemently defend yourself, your family, your friends, or ignore it.

    a lot of people seem to be unable to accept that people can disagree without hating each other. the more i see this kind of reaction the more i dislike religions, or at least the people who feel the need to respond so angrily. actually i don’t have an issue with religions, or religious people unless they try to force their belief system on me, or anyone else. trying to convince me is fine, but don’t try to legislate your religion on to the community, or scare it into compliance. if god is truly what they say sheheit is then sheheit will take care of everyone appropriately. it’s not up to his followers to do the judging. at least that is what i was taught about christianity. i know very little about other religions.

    for what it’s worth skepchicks and sgu have my support. i agree with lox “you can never have too many prongs.” keep pointing out the absurdities it’s the only way to keep everyone honest. i might add they you guys seem to accept rather well one someone points out your mistakes. maybe the rest of us could learn from that attitude, if we’re not already like that. it may not be easy, but it’s the best way to be, at least imho (that no one asked for).

  6. “a lot of people seem to be unable to accept that people can disagree without hating each other”

    Most religions (at least the monotheistic ones) seem to be based on an us vs them mentality. Naturally disagreeing causes problems since “if yer not with us, yer agin’ us!”

  7. Hi folks. I’m a new lurker here but a long time skeptic. PZ is kind of a hero of mine for speaking his mind to the fools and then putting up with the following shitstorm. The man must clang when he walks.
    It never ceases to amaze me how fragile the ‘faith’ of these religious loudmouths is. If they go apeshit every time a non-believer expresses their non-belief, they must not have much faith in their religion. What a bunch of mooks.

  8. I grew up in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, and we (Lutherans) were unique in taking this absurdity a level higher. They basically believed in a logical contradiction, which is even worse in my opinion than transubstantiation which could logical happen even though evidence says it does not.

    In my congregation they taught that it is both the real body of christ and just bread at the exact same time. The pastor would contrast this to transubstantiation and say unlike them, we don’t have to worry if we spill the wine because it is still just wine. But it wasn’t symbolism either. It is just a mystery, he would say.

    This drove me nuts, and I rejected both “real presence” and transubstantiation in favor of symbolism. I later had a baptist girl-friend who they would not let have communion at my church, ad I objected. It came out that I only believed it was symbolic, and my mother said, “I can’t believe I had communion next to YOU all these years”. I was then banned from communion.

    Perhaps this was just my local church, district or synod, and it is not taught that way all throughout Lutheranism. It was almost as annoying as the trinity. I would be like, so it is like God has 3 role, right? Like I am a child, a christian and an American, right? That at least made logical sense. And the claim of Jesus being 100% man and 100% god made sense if you accepted that the set of gods and man are not mutual exclusive. He would respond that that is an incorrect and essentially demand that it be viewed as a logical contradiction, that 3=1. And to him that was a wonderful mystery that should how incredible god is. I could not stand that crap.

    So people ask why I am not a Lutheran because I grew up in very religious family and went to Lutheran schools for 14 years. I say, it is because I grew up in a very religious family and went to Lutheran schools for 14 years. If they hadn’t rammed logical contradictions and creation science down my throat, I may never have had the pressure to look skeptically at my beliefs.

  9. Rebecca, I’m surprised that you didn’t get more “omgrude” posts condemning the Catholics (and some other Christians) for getting so bent out of shape in the first place, not only physically assaulting the guy in the Mass who just wanted to show it to his friend, but sending PZ death threats and/or trying to get him fired — all over stupid pieces of stale bread. Unfreakingbelieveable. That’s way beyond just “rude,” and I think that anyone coming down on PZ for his caustic commentary while ignoring their behavior has some seriously distorted priorities.

    “Wafergate” never would have happened if these people hadn’t been barking mad in the first place, and PZ wouldn’t have been prompted to highlight their insanity by threatening cracker desecration if they’d had any sense of proportion and reality.

    I appreciate your desire to be evenhanded, and I have to admit that this was my first impulse as well. But to say that “both sides need to calm down,” as if PZ’s rudeness is anywhere near on par with the frankly criminal behavior by many sanctimonious so-called Christians, ignores the very real personal harm that has been caused and/or threatened by people on the religious side in this. That still deserves to be highlighted, and these people setting their personal customs of wafer-eating etiquette over other people’s personal rights deserve to be not just mocked for it, but sharply condemned.

    ~Wordplayer

  10. I’ve always been a big fan of “judge not, lest ye be judged.” If you want to assume that everybody who doesn’t believe in your particular sky-grandpa is in the queue for eternal torture and torment, you shouldn’t be offended if the damned have a giggle at the thought of you pooping bits of your Lord and Savior.

    And before the masses start screaming hypocrisy, just stop. You’re wrong. The whole point of a skeptical worldview is that my beliefs are constantly being judged. By the believers who condemn me, but also by science, by my fellow skeptics, and (if I’m doing it right) by myself. I’m willingly submitting my beliefs to constant scrutiny, so I’ve earned the right to peer critically at yours. Until you’ve got evidence of human DNA appearing in that wafer, it’s still a cracker.

  11. Just a couple of points first I don’t think pz ever said he was speaking for anyone other than himself, so anyone offended should just man up and shut up.

    And who is “our” spokesperson anyway perhaps we should figure that out so we know who to say “he/she doesn’t/does speak for me/us.”

    Rebecca well put on all points, I’m sure you get some more hate mail.

    And finally for any Catholics out there add me to the list because before I was tossed out of Catholic School(Our Lady of Grace in Encino California if anyone is interested) I used to drink the holywater, and once stole all the “frackin crackers” from the little room where they were kept and spent my day tossing them on to Ventura Blvd like little frisbees.

  12. I was born and raised (sort of…long story won’t get into now) a Roman Catholic and I must have always been a skeptic. Whenever the Church did some kooky things like the Communion or what have you I never had any sort of feeling it was actually happening. It was always seen to me to be tradition. What boggles my mind is that these people really believe it, that the wafer is actually Jesus Christ. They have been waiting for all their lives for the second coming and they could just build the body from wafers and wine…

  13. LBB:

    And therein lies the inconsistency of Donohue, et al. The desecrators are already going to Hell, as far as they’re concerned, so why the outrage? What about “turn the other cheek”? Where’s the confidence in their creator?

  14. When I was a church guy, I loved taking communion, because after Saturday night, I usually needed a little something to take the edge off, and church was only place to get a pop on Sunday before noon.

    The wafers? Meh . . . .

  15. I’m sure this has been stated before, but I think it’s important to distinguish between ridicule of a persons faith and belief in symbolism, and a person’s insistance that this cracker is srsly made of Jesus.

    It’s my understanding that PZ’s main point was simply to say that the idea of transubstantiation is absurd, partially because it’s treading into the realm of scientific testability. It’s not about Catholic bashing, it’s about insisting that the average person remain grounded in reality. Symbolism is fine, irrational pseudoscientific claims are not.

  16. Wow. I had SGU and skepchick pegged as something else entirely from the obnoxious PZ Meyers-esque bullshit. Sorry to see I was wrong.

    Oh, come on. Skepchick does obnoxious better than PZ could ever dream.

  17. Lox: If only there were some way for them to chew the cracker without swallowing it. Maybe then we could settle this. ;)

    jtradke: “Where’s the confidence in their creator?” They could be motivated by pure ignorance and blind faith to lash out at anyone who impugns their beliefs. But I suspect it’s the same reason that vitriolic homophobes often turn out to be so deep in the closet that they’ve tripped over last year’s Halloween decorations and landed in Narnia. The folks with the loudest mouths are usually trying to silence their own doubts, along with the voices of their critics.

    He said, relying purely on anecdotal evidence.

  18. LFG happened to post a comic last week that’s somewhat appropriate, and I’ll leave you with that for your consideration.

    I’m all for mocking strange beliefs. If it was just “Hey, Catholics believe in Transubstantiation, isn’t that wacky, HA HA!” that would be one thing. South Park did an episode where a statue of the Virgin Mary sprayed blood all over the pope. I laughed my ass off.

    But there was a line that was crossed somewhere. Webster Cook did not ask for PZ Myers to stick up for him. PZ just decided to stick his nose into someone else’s business. And if there’s one important lesson that I took from the schoolyard all those years ago, it’s that it’s not usually good form to fight someone else’s battles for them.

    Don’t get me wrong; I get that Bill Donohue is being an exponentially bigger asshole, and certainly deserves a smack-down. I’m just not very comfortable with all the crossfire.

    In a somewhat appropriate metaphor, I wash my hands of the whole ordeal.

  19. Namidim, you’re just going to call bullshit without anything to back it up? Not even an explanation of which bullshit you mean? Weak…

    Really, is it bullshit to reject nonsense claims or is it bullshit to not be afraid of rejecting those claims when they are religious? I don’t recall anyone here going out of their way to obtain sacred wafers, so you can’t even really pull the rudeness card(at least not the same card as PZ).

    Or is it that irreverence is ok as long as it’s irreverence of someone else? (I’m simply making an assumption that the issue is hitting you close to home here)

  20. Also, namidim said:

    Wow. I had SGU and skepchick pegged as something else entirely from the obnoxious PZ Meyers-esque bullshit. Sorry to see I was wrong.

    That tells me absolutely nothing. Why don’t you take an extra moment to point out what part of my post you have such a problem with? I’d honestly be interested to know what is so disappointing.

  21. LBB: “The folks with the loudest mouths are usually trying to silence their own doubts, along with the voices of their critics.”

    I think you’ve got it.

    If I actually *believe* that my life *literally* depends on a particular worldview, and am doubting that worldview, I can get very, very angry with any pov that further extends my doubts. It – to me – becomes an issue of life ‘n death.

  22. My miracle is better. You see, I was born invisible. Light goes through me as if I just weren’t here. But would you believe, in the same moment I was born, everybody in the world acquired the miraculous faculty of being able to see invisible persons, so they could see me. Which goes to show not only that I’m invisible, but that I’m also the only invisible person in the world, for if there were others, people would see them too! So I’m special! I’m unique!

    And about all that “you can mock other people’s beliefs, but not mine” thing, I think the term “Isaac Hayes Syndrome” should be more widespread.

  23. I love it when skeptics make fun of irrational beliefs, just not when they make fun of mine. Personally, I only hold one single teeny weeny irrational belief. Just one! It is the belief that I hold only one irrational belief. Don’t mock me or I’ll cry!

  24. There is a certain comfort in broad, generalized (security)blanket statements, Rebecca… He/she’s made his/her statement. You’ll likely get nothing more.

    Well, Detroitus, I wanted to give the benefit of the doubt, especially in a case like this where I have to assume that something I’ve said will either be misunderstood or purposely twisted. Or, hell, I could be wrong about something entirely. It’s happened before. ;)

  25. I’m surprised that no one has pointed out that it’s extra absurd that catholics are angry at Cook and Myers ….

    After all, weren’t they just going to eat the damn thing anyway? And then, they’ll crap it out. maybe not eating the jesus was the most respectful thing Cook could have done!

    **Braces himself for an angry slew of emails**

  26. Rebecca-

    While I agree with most of what you said, I have to disagree with yor analogy. The difference between South Park (and for that matter Skepchick, the SGU, Carl Sagan and Bill Hicks) and PZ is that the former are/were entertaning, informative and thought provoking, regardless of their level of irreverence.

  27. Since you warned people they might get offended, I might as well write something politically incorrect.
    (sing to the tune blue suede shoes):
    Well you can take a cracker, break it in two
    Throw it on the ground ,stomp it with your shoe
    Drop your drawers, on the cracker take a pee
    But a ha don’t high hat the monkey
    Don’t you high hat the monkey
    Do anything but lay off that ole monkey.

  28. SCS- I think there’s actually something in Catholic doctrine about how Jesus wafers don’t get digested like normal food. I remember something about some sort of mystical absorption of Jesusyness… I’m not sure, I was the Worst Catholic Ever.

  29. “I think there’s actually something in Catholic doctrine about how Jesus wafers don’t get digested like normal food”

    Yeah, it’s called currie. I’ve eaten that, and trust me, it does NOT go through like normal food! It’s a bit like battery acid mixed with nightmare.

  30. Transubstantiation is a “mystery.”

    “Mystery,” in religious terms, translates into everyday English as “bullshit.”

    When a religious figure means to say “bullshit,” he/she says “mystery” because it’s considered more polite. It still means the same thing.

    You see, there is no “mystery of the Trinity,” there is only the “bullshit about the Trinity.” There is no “mystery of the Virgin Birth,” only the “bullshit about a Virgin Birth.”

    Transubstantiation is a “mystery” in this particular religion. This is the “bulshit about transubstantiation.” In other words, those aren’t even crackers, and certainly not the “mysterious” body of Jesus. They’re 100% certified bullshit.

    Essentially, what a Mass does is turn bits of bread into huge piles of bullshit that are then consumed by the credulous.

    Good reason never to let a clergyman breathe on you, by the way.

  31. Rebecca-

    While I agree with most of what you said, I have to disagree with yor analogy. The difference between South Park (and for that matter Skepchick, the SGU, Carl Sagan and Bill Hicks) and PZ is that the former are/were entertaning, informative and thought provoking, regardless of their level of irreverence.

    You go directly to my point, Augustus. You don’t seem to like PZ, but thousands of others do, and of those I’m sure many found their very first introduction to skepticism and atheism through Pharyngula. That is precisely my point when I insist that we need different approaches to communicate to different people, and what works for you will not necessarily work for others.

  32. Amanda, that sounds awfully like Terry Pratchet’s Ofler god consuming the sausagidity of his sacrifical sausages, before his priests “symbolically” eat them, making them taste like ashes

  33. I go back and forth between fan of PZ and ambivilent about him, but that’s really beside the point. The deciding factor on this, though, was when I put myself in the shoes of a fence sitter I couldn’t imagine myself looking at PZ’s actions and saying “You know, he’s got a point” or “That’s a guy I want to be like.” That said, I seem to be the only one who can’t, so I’m open to the possibility, slim though it may be, that I’m wrong.

  34. *more applause*

    Yesterday, when I spoke of pointy, necessary assholes, PZ was on my mind (I don’tthinkhe’san asshole, but I can see how someone could)…we need more pointy assholes!

    @54:”“Mystery,” in religious terms, translates into everyday English as “bullshit.”

    Totally…and every time I hear (about) religious people going on about the evils of science, I wish that there were some laws of alignment or something (either you’re with science or against it) and the rational squad, like earthly repo-men, would come and take away their cars, TVs, radios, polyester clothing, elastic, etc, ad nauseum (and they would not be allowed medical care that used data from after 1 A.D.). Then see how their mysterious, benevolent god helped them out.

    Sorry, is that an asshole thing to think? Well, I think that using THE INTERNET to espouse bronze-age ideas is an asshole thing to do. they shouldn’t be allowed to even use modern printing equipment. Parchment and goat’s blood for you!

    Seriously, it’s always blown my mind that these total whitebread crackers in the bible belt, shopping at wal-mart and eating pig parts think they have anything to do with some (probably mentally ill) charismatic rabble-rousing Jew in the middle east 2000 years ago.

    It would be like if the Zulu started being Norse Pagans.

  35. Maybe the confusion is because Jesus was a gingerbread man with wine-filled veins, and while the gnostics knew this, it has now been lost to history. If that key piece of information was not lost, there would be no confusion. Or maybe some christians really, really hate metaphors. Not sure where Occam’s razor will fall here.

  36. @Amanda i think i could give you a run for your money as worst catholic ever assuming it counts if you did everything ’cause you were told to and you sat at mass tracing over the words in the worship book with a pigeon feather you picked up on your walk to the church. and the only reason you ended up at the church was that you made too much noise when you got up to watch cartoons and woke up your parents.

    @ SCS curries are the best meals ever invented; evar! the fact that curries exist force me to be an agnostic instead of an outright atheist.

  37. I have to wonder if deep down people know they are just pretending that something is true because it makes them feel good. When someone speaks out it’s like pointing out that the emperor has no clothes and they don’t want to admit how foolish they appear. For example they will credit prayer to god for petty things (finding lost keys) up to major things (cancer goes into remission) that could happen without prayer but how many will pray for things such as amputee sprouting new limb or raising of the dead. The dead were raised in the bible so why not pray for it. Wouldn’t you like to visit with your greatgreat grandparents even for a limited time? No one prays for this because they know it will not happen but god can waste his/her time to help you find your lost keys. As for the clergy , they do not want criticism because they enjoy power and status.

  38. I cringed a little when I first read PZ’s post soliciting a wafer to “abuse” (as a former Catholic, wafer is more descriptive than cracker), because I had a feeling the fur would fly (as it subsequently did.)
    However, Rebecca’s post here sums it up quite nicely. Don’t like what PZ says? Change the channel.
    I, for one, will continue to read his blog, even if I wouldn’t use the inflammatory language that he did.
    To the person wondering what the wafer tastes like – it’s about the blandest thing you can imagine. It’s very thin (not cracker-like at all) and isn’t much different than putting a piece of paper in your mouth.
    Finally, “Wafergate” is the perfect term for this. :)

  39. Rebecca:
    It isn’t my sacred cow. I’m not and have never been catholic or even religious.I don’t disagree with the fundamentals of the argument. I just thought SGU and skepchick were trying to tone down the jackass and encourage a reasonably respectable discussion.

    I was under the impression that you in particular were all for skeptical groups being more welcoming and less asinine, not simply ranting. I don’t see how this discussion moves in that direction.

    So I’m disappointed. I would also note that getting majority OK from an internet comments section is a pretty low bar for determining if you’re being an ass.

  40. @ JOHNEA13, I don’t quite think it works that way, at least consciously. I think it’d be more fair to say that the belief in prayer is most probably re-enforced by the phenomenon of confirmation bias. Pray for your car keys and you eventually find them, therefore prayer -clearly- works. Pray for your Dad’s cancer to go away and it doesn’t, but you don’t hold God accountable… for some reason.

  41. Rebecca:
    It isn’t my sacred cow. I’m not and have never been catholic or even religious.I don’t disagree with the fundamentals of the argument. I just thought SGU and skepchick were trying to tone down the jackass and encourage a reasonably respectable discussion.

    I was under the impression that you in particular were all for skeptical groups being more welcoming and less asinine, not simply ranting. I don’t see how this discussion moves in that direction.

    So I’m disappointed. I would also note that getting majority OK from an internet comments section is a pretty low bar for determining if you’re being an ass.

    namidim, once again you have failed to point out what in my post has you so upset. What about this post is less reasonable or respectable than any of my previous posts about any other paranormal topic? Where was I asinine? Where was I merely ranting? Where am I being an ass, and why?

  42. It sounds as if namidim is suggesting Rebecca has a responsibility to tone down or counter P.Z.’s “bad atheist” behavior, to “set a good example”. Perhaps anything short of denouncing P.Z.’s “bad behavior” would be unacceptable to him/her. But Rebecca is right, that it is hard to tell from this post. THe only sentence that indicates what he/she is upset about is

    I just thought SGU and skepchick were trying to tone down the jackass and encourage a reasonably respectable discussion.

  43. In connection with SkepGeeks comments about his Lutheran church…My parents-in-law are charismatic Lutheran (faith healing, speaking in tongues, etc.). The say that Christ is “in, with, and under” the cracker. How’s that for not making any damn sense.

    Maybe that’s why we can never find molecules of Jesus…they’re always under the other ones. Jesus molecules are shy.

    I dunno. Whatever.

  44. I was just reading in Simon Singh’s The Big Bang that George Gamow lost his religion when he stole a wafer, took it home and checked it under a microscope for non-breadness. If one of the greatest scientists of the 20th century couldn’t find Jesus in a wafer, I’ll consider that a valuable data point.

    I’m thinking Phil Plait, PZ and Rebecca can be my new and cooler Trinity, and put me on the list as a pro-desecration iconoclast.

  45. The say that Christ is “in, with, and under” the cracker.

    See? That’s a “mystery.”

    Jesus always stands 3 feet to the left of any given cracker. You see, both Jesus and crackers have a slightly positive charge. The thing is that nobody who is holding a cracker, or who has been exposed to cracker-magnetism, can ever encounter him. Like many birds, Jesus has hollow bones (hence his ability to walk on water), and the repulsive force of the like charges is enough to move him in a straight line away from it.

    See? I can make stuff up, too.

  46. Tact is severely overrated. When I notice that people are choosing their words carefully so as to not insult or belittle the audience, I feel as if they are talking down to me. The thing I like about Rebecca (and Penn, Randi, Bill Hicks and others) is that they don’t pull punches or soften their words just to make the message easier to digest (no pun intended). Being polite in the name of ‘fairness’ or ‘respect’ or ‘intellectual honesty’ is not as important as being accurate, truthful or honest.

    But don’t get me wrong, tact has it’s place. My mom is a Christian, but I don’t yell at her for it. I just tell her in no uncertain terms that I disagree with her, and we have wonderful discussions as a result of it.

    But srsly, the internet was invented so assholes could shout offensive things. Everyone knows this.

  47. Quick question: Does the anti-christ ALSO turn into a cracker, or does he become an anti-cracker? And as a follow-up, if a Christ Cracker and an Anti-Christ Cracker collide, do they annihilate each other?

  48. New to this so be kind.
    My favourite comment on the whole transubstantiation thing comes from V for Vendetta by the peerless Alan Moore (if you’ll forgive the sidestep into comic book geekery).

    The scene: Masked anarchist vigilante V is assassinating his way through the ranks of the establishment in a post-apocalypse fascist Britain. Having trapped the perverted Arch-Bishop of Canterbury V offers him a host with the words: “And at the moment it enters your mouth it becomes the flesh of the saviour?”
    Bishop: Yes. Yes. Look, please…
    V: And whatever it is made of now it will become the body of Christ?
    Bishop: Yes. Whatever it is now. Whatever.
    V: I want you to swallow it.

    Cut to – Detective Finch the next day: We just had the path reports through… The host was full of cyanide.

  49. Does the anti-christ ALSO turn into a cracker, or does he become an anti-cracker?

    Nah, he pretty much remains Bill Donohue no matter who has him in their mouth. Just ask the altar boys at St. Patrick’s.

  50. ” Webster Cook did not ask for PZ Myers to stick up for him.”

    Isn’t that a little bit like saying that every one should have minded their own business when Rosa Parks was asked to move to the back of the bus?

    I can’t think of a single good social change that ever took place because people were polite or minded their own business. The meek are not going to inherit the earth. They are just going to be pushed around by every one else.

    There are times I cringe when I read the things that PZ and other “new atheists” say. But I also realize that they are needed. Because that is the only way that the issues get brought up and looked at.

  51. ” Webster Cook did not ask for PZ Myers to stick up for him.”

    I’m with ddr. Does the above point of view mean that no one should ever voice outrage when someone is mistreated? How ridiculous is that? As far as I know, PZ didn’t write the blog “to stick up for” Webster Cook. It really wasn’t about Webster Cook. It was about the horrifying response of the church.

    What does minding your own business even mean in this context? It was a news story. Should the press have minded their own business and not reported it? Oh, wait, that is their businees…reporting things other people do. And after reading this publicly covered information, no one should voice an opinion about it? If so, that should follow for any news report. And if so, why the hell report it?

    PZ is not fighting for the Webster. I don’t know of anything he’s doing for Webster at all, other than getting him more publicity.

    The whole idea is just silly.

  52. This whole debate is fairly interesting….I can’t wait to catch up to the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe commentary, but I’m about a hundred shows away from that. :(

    I myself have tried about every religion in the gumball machine, and for the most part they all taste the same. I’m also the sort of person who joked about The Bible game for the 360 being an awesome opportunity to see Big J getting crucified in high-def (yes my humor is not only edgy but as dark as a Nigerian in the shade). That being said, I also understand that not everyone appreciates that sort of humor, those sort of tactics.

    To me, being a gentleman means making sure that everyone around me is as comfortable as possible. My grandmother is so irrational that she even gets her biblical references wrong. Arguing with my mother means I would literally be arguing with a delusional sufferer bi-polar disorder. Suffice to say that when I say tolerance and patience are necessities when trying to reason with the irrational, I have deep and meaningful experiences to support that statement.

    Rebecca, you are “preaching to the choir” with your last post, I think the few that disagree are the usual outliers you would predict when surveying ANY population. For my part, I’m on the fence of “omgrude” and “wtf”.

    I’m “WTF” not because its, “just a cracker”. I do believe that its just a cracker, what with my being a Tooth-fairy Agnostic and all, but I understand that TO THEM its more than that. For me, I’m more “WTF”ing about their intensly un-Christian attitudes toward his act of disrespect. This would definitely fall under What Would Jesus NOT Do (WWJND).

    However, I do agree that what he did was rude and disrespectful. Again, these beliefs are irrational, but the hope for rationality over religion will is in the next generation, not this one. Besides, every negotiation is won by a process of give and take, not with even more intolerance. This is the equivalent of telling a child how a magic trick works, or that there is no Santa. It’s showing the kid that not only YOU were the one that hid the Easter eggs, but where you hid them.

    As Rationalists, we pride our selves on the ability to have morals without a religion, and on having a world-view organized around evidence – not faith. How rational is it for us then to antagonize rationality out of a sub-culture who has a proud lineage of martyrs and irrationality? What evidence are we relying on that “shock-value” is going to overcome the “security” that faith psychologically provides.

    Of course, I base all of this upon the article above and the comments that follow. I also have my “sacred cow”, which is that the ends don’t justify the means but rather the ends can be justified BY the means, so long as the “ends” are for the benefit of society as a whole. If we want to show that rationality is BETTER than religion, than we have to BE BETTER by holding ourselves to higher standards, whether it be with our protests or are arguments.

  53. Rebecca:
    If it is not self evident that the discussion and actions centering around the “goddamn cracker” on SGU and here could be legitimately offensive to a non-asshole Catholic (think of using the same language and tone of voice to a friend or a next door neighbor face to face) and that there are plenty of ways the topic could have been discussed that would have been less offensive and better targeted, I’m not sure what is.

    As far as being more offensive than the usual fare, I couldn’t say if it is or not. I’ve generally found skepchick and particularly the SGU to be less obnoxious that PZ’s blog, but I’d agree this isn’t the first time I’ve been turned off by a blog post.

    You are free to take whatever tone you’d like on your own blog, but let’s not pretend that this is building an inviting atmosphere for people who are outside of the traditional core of the skeptical movement.

    That’s just my opinion. If you don’t see anything over the top about the podcast and post then that’s your business. Clearly the internet skeptical establishment is on your side.

  54. Rebecca:
    If it is not self evident that the discussion and actions centering around the “goddamn cracker” on SGU and here could be legitimately offensive to a non-asshole Catholic (think of using the same language and tone of voice to a friend or a next door neighbor face to face) and that there are plenty of ways the topic could have been discussed that would have been less offensive and better targeted, I’m not sure what is.

    namidim, I understand that you’re just stating your opinion. I am just looking for a single example of anything I said that supports your opinion. As it is, all you’re doing is continually claiming that I’ve been obnoxious and offensive without offering a shred of evidence to support that claim. I didn’t want to be dismissive of your input, but you’re leaving me little choice.

  55. namidim: do you complain when Rebecca et al are equally dismissive in forthright language of the paranormal (though how the claims of transubstantiation differ from the more usual type of paranormal claims I have difficulty understanding apart from numbers) and the other woo peddlers. Or is it simply because this sacred cow is held by a billion or more people or is your own particular sacred cow. While we respect the right of people to believe whatever they want there is no concomitant right to expect us to respect or treat with kid gloves the woo/beliefs themselves.

  56. “This is the equivalent of telling a child how a magic trick works, or that there is no Santa. It’s showing the kid that not only YOU were the one that hid the Easter eggs, but where you hid them.”

    I can’t even begin to imagine what is wrong with telling a child there is not santa or how a magic trick works. The bliss of ignorance does not have to outweigh the bliss of knowledge…not even for children.

    “What evidence are we relying on that “shock-value” is going to overcome the “security” that faith psychologically provides.”

    As far as I know there is no study on what tactics work to rid people of irrational beliefs. From the mountains of anecdotal evidence or people’s conversions, however, it has been shown to be a very wide array of tactics that work…shock value included.

    Then there is the argument that not everything a skeptic says is for the purposes of convincing someone of something. Sometimes a person needs to rant. Personal blogs are a perfectly reasonable place to do that. I seriously doubt PZ was attempting to change the minds of believers with his post.

  57. Rebecca:
    All right. If you genuinely can’t see it, I’m not sure how quoting will make a difference. Maybe this is how you talk to your Catholic neighbors and friends. Here we go:

    (from SGU)
    “Supposedly the preist turns this cracker into Jesus and you actually eat the flesh of Jesus, like they actually believe that the wafer turns into flesh, which is really gross”

    “I think most Catholics understand that it’s really not that big of a deal”

    “he will personally desecrate it in the manner of his choosing”(With obvious delight and accompanying chuckle(Jay?). Though obviously this is a subjective observation)

    “It’s a smegging cracker” (and similar variations)
    “eucharist host cracker thing”

    “..your priests buggering little boys” (Dr Novella in that case)

    I will concede that the podcast was accompanied by a fair amount of level headedness from Dr Novella and I was on the fence.

    Then you wrote this blog entry and the tone seemed to me to be that most people were being “reasonable” and the people who were offended are getting worked up over nothing along with a call to not be so timid in voicing opinions.

    This finished up with the final quote below and accompanying text which did not seem particularly reconciliatory.

    (this post)
    “Had Jesus sang “I’m a Little Teapot,” then today we’d see Catholics worldwide carefully choosing communion vessels of appropriate height and stoutness, ensuring that each one has both handle and spout for the dispensing of His Holy Oolong”

    Maybe your catholics are cooler than mine, but if I go around referring to the host as a disgusting man-cracker or similar I typically find further options for debate extremely limited.

  58. Hey Stacie, again, my comments in large part stem from my sacred cow. As for telling kids about Santa and Magic tricks…not only does telling them remove the joys of figuring it out for themselves, its similar to telling someone the end of a book before they are done reading. We could spend all day debating on the right and wrong way to raise children, but there is something to be said for allowing children the creativity and imagination/fantasy that comes from holding youthful and irrational beliefs. Of course, lying is always wrong, but I would be curious to know how many kids didn’t figure out the Santa-thing on their own.

    There actually have been studies done on the way individual mentalities work, so while there aren’t any specific tests on what strategies are MOST effective for changing irrational beliefs, I don’t think its too much of a stretch to extrapolate what we’ve learned from Pyschological studies on beliefs that HAVE CHANGED. Even though these studies aren’t always scientifically conclusive, we want to make sure we avoid “God of the Gaps” style reasoning.

    If you really need me to, I’ll look up some of the studies I’m talking about, but I’m loathe to expend the energy looking for something I’ve already read. The short-short version for this medium is that changing beliefs takes a monumental effort, and typically involve compulsory attitudinal adjustments that may or not be rationally motivated. The important part of course is that the attitudinal adjustments to specific subjects (the belief) are COMPULSORY. You can liken this to “teen rebellion” and “anti-authority” situations.

    As for the final argument….well, I couldn’t agree more. I believe that when someone writes a blog, they are inviting people into their home. Tolerance and respect are important on both sides, but within reason. It is unreasonable and disrespectful to make demands or behavioral criticisms of a person when they are in their own home, after all, it is your responsibility to know whose house you are going into. My intention was never to criticize, but merely to express a slightly differing viewpoint on how to handle True Believers. I based everything off of this blog post and the comments therin.

    *Flutters eyelashes* But who am I to disagree with attractive skepchicks anyway?

    Oh! One last point…I’m a writer by trade, so entertaining people with a good story is kind of important to me. The one thing for absolutely sure that I can tell you about magic tricks is this: They are for entertainment purposes only. If you look at the 3 skeptic magicians that are out there (Randi and Penn and Teller), they typically only reveal tricks to expose Psi-charlatans and the like. If you were to take them to a kids party for entertainment, I’d give you 100 to 1 odds that they wouldn’t reveal their secrets. Why? Because the fun in magic is in the mystery of how it works, and why would you want to kill fun? Here’s a thought….would anyone watch a magic performance alone if they knew how all the tricks were performed?

  59. Sorry for butting in, but…

    “Maybe this is how you talk to your Catholic neighbors and friends.”

    Did I miss the part where this post was addressed TO Catholics? If you are talking to a ‘friend or neighbor’ who also happens to practice homeopathy, your tone and manner would be different than if you were just discussing their crackpot ideas with like-minded friends.

    I, for one, am not fond of walking on eggshells. I’ve seen some ridiculous commentary over this whole situation, but Rebecca’s post was anything but. It was critical, well thought out, and it addressed ludicrous beliefs and practices and not the ludicrous people who believe and practice them (at least no further than the fact that they DO believe or practice).

  60. For the record, regarding Santa et al., telling kids Santa exists is not going to inspire their imaginations. Imagination doesn’t come from telling kids “this is real” “this is why” and letting them run with it. That’s just lying.

    Inspiring their imaginations comes from letting them create their own fantasy characters, letting them tell you why they exist and letting them run with it.

    What’s really amazing to me is that its a bigger scandal that we’re telling our kid Santa isn’t real than that we’re telling him Jesus isn’t real.

  61. As for telling kids about Santa and Magic tricks…not only does telling them remove the joys of figuring it out for themselves, its similar to telling someone the end of a book before they are done reading.

    Ok. So this post should have been:

    “SPOILERS:

    It’s just a cracker.”

  62. ddr: Rosa Parks was not asked to move to the back of bus, but was already seated in the back “coloreds-only” section. She was asked to relinquish her seat because there were none left in the front “whites-only” section.

    Sorry, but this gets retold wrong so often that the teacher in me can’t help but say *something*. It’s a common mistake, though.

    As for the cracker bullshit – when I went to a Presbyterian church (in my failed attempt to try *real* hard to believe in God), they used cranberry juice as the “blood” of Christ. Let me tell you, that Jesus has some kick to his blood – I find it hard to believe that his body would be as bland as a eucharist (I snuck communion in a Catholic church once… gross stuff, really). Maybe they should use a crouton…

    Regardless, I think PZ was perfectly within his rights to say what he said, and the people who have their panties in a wad should re-evaluate their behavior.

    Threatening somebody’s life over this is not very… well, human, let alone Christian.

    Also, somebody requested a password change for my account on here about 75 times this afternoon. My inbox is unhappy with me.

  63. LOL, Spoiler, its just a cracker. I might have to get that made into a bumper sticker, lol.

    Elyse, it took me a second to piece together what you meant by “we”, then I realized that you must have a kid and it all fell into place.

    Like I said before, we could all debate forever about what’s the right way to raise kids and the wrong way, although in the end we can all agree that consistency is the key. I consider it less harmful to a kid to let them enjoy the “fad” that is Santa (what I consider toddler-level pop-culture) than to tolerate baby-talk, but that’s really just a preference. For the record, I’m not a father, but I did run a day-care for a while and I have 3 nieces that I’m so close to they occassionally call me dad, so take that as you will.

    I wasn’t implying that imagination and creativity comes from “lying” to your kids, but rather in tearing down their fantasies for them. For me, my childhood was filled with magical possibilities and whole worlds that never actually existed, and it wasn’t until I was “mature” that relinquished them – a bit regretfully I might add. I still sometimes wistfully wish that I could develop super powers by standing close to the microwave, but there is a certain je ne se qua that is now lacking. That’s sort of the appeal of a good story…writers and lit professors call it “suspencion of disbelief”….and with good stories its easy to do that with. Of course, no matter how good a story is, there is inevitably the one guy (my uncle) that goes: “No, that wasn’t real at all….it was stupid because…”

    What’s my point? Iono, I’m distracted by the prospect of a delicious burger….

  64. namidim: how is pointing out the obvious rediculousness of a supernatural/superstitious claim like transubstantiation any different to pointing out how psychics are nothing but money grabbing, charlatans who prey on the weak and grieving? Should we pull punches when criticising some church’s belief that “God hates fags”, or show respect for islamists all lining up in rows upon rows, bowing and scraping maniacally toward mecca? How lightly should we tipi-toe around the tenets and doctrines of organised religion, which we do not agree with, and would like to see gone?

    Perhaps you are getting skeptics confused with some other group of people? We decry supernatural, superstitious, paranormal and religious beliefs, and on our own websites we are quite happy to mock them all we like! Why? They’re absurd!

    And on that wafer thing: plenty of other Christian religions do not practice mass, and think that the wafer thing is a load of bollocks. The Jehovah’s Witnesses faith – which I was raised in – have a similar practice but only for a select few members, and even then it is still meant to be symbolic, which is the only way the practice can be given any dose of respect.

    I’ll end with a quote from Rebecca herself:

    People with any belief are welcome to hang out, read, and comment, but we will continue to attack pseudoscience and superstition whether it is in the guise of homeopathy or religion or whatever. That’s why we’ll continue to point out (for instance) the absurdity of someone stating that a cracker can turn into actual flesh, until someone steps up and proves it.

  65. In a nutshell:

    Catholics eat the wafer and drink the wine believing it is the body of Christ because they are catholics.

    We call it as bullshit because we are skeptics.

    We have pretty well-defined roles in society, I would say.

  66. “See, at the Last Supper, Jesus handed his guests some bread and said, “This is my body,” and then handed them some wine and said, “This is my blood.””

    Dr Price, ‘The Bible Geek’, has pointed out that this whole account is very unlikely. No one of jewish extraction would eat human flesh or drink human blood, even symbolically. The practice was most likely a continuation of eating bread and drinking beer as the flesh and blood of Osiris, and drinking wine as the blood of Isis.

  67. I also take issue with the whole Santa thing…I had an extremely vivid imagination as a child (still do), but even at four, the whole “if god knows everything, does he know I’m goona do THIS!”/”If god is everywhere, is he in the toilet”/”gee, god makes no sense” line of thinking was the kind of thinking I did. Just because I knew that there weren’t actual fairies didn’t make the idea of them less magical..etc..

    And I have met more than a few people (like my ex, who recalled a deep sense of sadness and betrayal)who were pretty disturbed once they found out that not only did Santa not exist, but that their parents had lied to them (with varying degrees of assertion).

    Are you suggesting that Jewish and non-Christian kids get shafted out of a fun and magical childhood because of their Santa-less-ness?

    Kids have crazy, wonderful imaginations (unless squelched), usually, and most of the time their ideas don’t come from their parents.

    For the record, as a four year old, when people talked about god, I envisaged Stevie Wonder’s disembodied, cornrowed, smiling, mirror-sunglassed head hurtling through space with rainbow tracers following. How’s that for imagination? (and no, my mom didn’t take acid when she was pregnant with me)

  68. I also question the assumption that without the story of Santa kids can’t have an enjoyable time. They seem to eagerly anticipate and have a lot of fun at birthday parties without an imaginary being running the show. And whats wrong with stimulating their imagination and sense of wonder by taking them to a museum ,zoo,nature trail ,etc. Many have things geared to children of all ages.

  69. whitebird:

    For the record, as a four year old, when people talked about god, I envisaged Stevie Wonder’s disembodied, cornrowed, smiling, mirror-sunglassed head hurtling through space with rainbow tracers following. How’s that for imagination?

    Oddly enough, if you ignore the rainbow tracers, that pretty much describes the cover of arguably his best album, Songs In The Key of Life. Perhaps you saw it at some point?

    I’m here a bit late, but a great post from Rebecca. Apart from mocking His Marsupially Telepathicness, of course. She’s going to hell (or possibly New Zealand) for that.

  70. For the record, regarding Santa et al., telling kids Santa exists is not going to inspire their imaginations. Imagination doesn’t come from telling kids “this is real” “this is why” and letting them run with it. That’s just lying.

    Inspiring their imaginations comes from letting them create their own fantasy characters, letting them tell you why they exist and letting them run with it.

    What’s really amazing to me is that its a bigger scandal that we’re telling our kid Santa isn’t real than that we’re telling him Jesus isn’t real.

    Not only do you have my favorite pic in the new calendar (and the month of my b-day), but you have an eery capability of reading my mind (joking of course). Really, though, this is essentially what I was thinking except I hadn’t thought about the part about Jesus because that really is more scandalous with my family.

  71. Just to be argumentative, I seem to remember you having a discussion with the other members of the SGU panel about a matter somewhat similar to the bread and wine vs. body and blood of Christ issue. It had to do with gender identity. One of the other panelists expressed the opinion that a person with female genitalia, two X chromosomes and the ability to bear children was a female, no matter what she called herself or what others called her. I believe it was you who disagreed quite vehemently with this. I would be interested to know how you see this issue as different. In other words, if the blessing of a priest can’t turn crackers and wine into the body and blood of a long dead prophet , even though the physical properties of said cracker and wine remain unchanged, how is it that a person with female genitalia, two X chromosomes and the ability to bear children is male simply because he/she thinks of her/himself as such. As you pointed out, Catholics do not claim that transubstantiation changes the physical properties of the host and wine, only that its essence (i.e. substance) is changed. Just as you might argue that there is more to being a man or a woman than one’s genitalia and DNA, a devout catholic might say there is more to being the body and blood of Christ than physical and chemical properties.

  72. randytoad:

    the difference is that one is a CRACKER and the other is the personal identity of a HUMAN BEING.

    If the cracker is claiming that it is actually Jesus born into the body of a cracker and has spent its life struggling with that identity, defying social norms to become the Jesus that it was meant to be, then it’s the same thing.

    Otherwise your analogy is like comparing crackers to transvestites.

  73. Come on, namidim. The rogues say much more disrespectful things about homeopathy and chiropractic and Neal Adams. Why doesn’t that upset you? Because these things are not your sacred cow.

  74. Tomokun,

    About the santa and magic thing…if what you think is important about these things is (a) the alleged joy of finding out that santa is not real, and (b) having mystery of not knowing how magic works, how do you think that is analogous to telling Christians that it’s just a cracker?

    Are we to wait for them to mature and have the ‘joy’ of discovering that they haven’t been ingesting god bits? We all know that’s not terribly likely…although it does happen.

    Should we think ourselves the poorer for not having the ‘mystery’ in our lives that they have because we actually know how shit works? And it is one thing to know you’re being fooled and not know how they did it. It’s another thing to believe it’s real.

    Also, fantastical beliefs of children, as you say, often fall away as they get older. Not so with adults. It can be cute that a 4 year old believes in invisible beings. It is not cute when an adult does. It’s a problem. A blind spot. One that they base life decisions on, not to mention laws that affect others.

    So in the end I really can’t accept the santa/magic analogy. Adults who believe that crackers can be turned into flesh with utterances and waiving of hands are not cute, should not be in such a state of naivete as full grown adults, and are not enviable as they revel in their ignorance.

    And Penn, Teller, and Randi are not the only skeptic magicians. Some of the more notable others are Jamy Ian Swiss and Banachek.

  75. Seriously. Phrases like “really gross”, “not that big a deal”, and “a smegging cracker” are about as benign and unoffensive as I can imagine. Rebecca even tried to be deliberately offensive in this post, but rather than slinging personal attacks or name-calling (which would have been truly offensive), she basically ended up saying “transubstantiation is ridiculous idea for which there is no evidence”. Is that offensive? Since when is it offensive to point out the obvious?

  76. Sam wrote:
    When I was a church guy, I loved taking communion, because after Saturday night, I usually needed a little something to take the edge off, and church was only place to get a pop on Sunday before noon.

    So now I can’t get the image out of my head of someone trying to hang onto the wine cup and the priest trying to pull it away and then they start fighting over it, with the communion-taker trying to drink all of the wine and the priest trying to get the cup away. It all ends up with communion-taker, priest, and wine all over the floor of the church.

    I’m not talented, but someone should really make a video of that.

    I also remember from my churchie days that sometimes when attendance was poor, the priest would have to drink copious amounts of left-over blood, making the thanksgiving and dismissal prayers, um, interesting. My brother and I got in huge trouble one Sunday for chanting “Drink! Drink! Drink! Drink!” under our breaths as the priest slammed back the leftover wine.

    Perhaps a proof of transubstantiation is that blood stains and wine stains are equally hard to get out. “Hey, anyone got some club soda? I’ve got Jesus all over my white skirt!”

  77. Whoops! Didn’t mean to be exclusionary when referring to Skeptic magicians!

    Wow, this is some heavy analysis of an analogy! I’m sure there is a book in this: The moral implications of Jolly Old Saint Nick. Completely throwing away the difficulties having stringent empirical data about value judgments, let me see if I can explain.

    I didn’t approach the analogy as “how to” guide on raising kids. I did it to emphasize the emotional and practical implications of addressing irrational beliefs – I mean you have to have priorities. I think everyone takes Santa from their own personal experiences, and I had a blast while I thought Santa was real. I figured out fairly young that he wasn’t, but I had a blast pretending I did for the adults too….all in all a very positive memory with emotional analogs that I would like all children to experience.

    Religion and faith too have their emotionally positive analogs. After all, faith often provides some security for the uncertainty that comes when contemplating death. Mine is cryonics, but the idea of eternal happiness and immortality is really very appealing. Is it better than the rewards for being rational….I don’t know. To be fair though, we are talking about quantifying a purely subjective experience, and I just don’t see it being testable. If I raise kids that become fundamentalists, I would in some way be disappointed, *shrug* but if they are happy then that’s all I hope for anyway.

    Another point, and no offense intended, I’m not really sure how creative a psychedelic Stevie Wonder-God is. I’m not stepping near that pissing match, and I’m not going to comment further on personal Santa experiences, which I think everyone can agree, because they are as unique as the lives that lived them. I can’t tell you that fairies were less magical to you than they were to me. That’s like telling someone how hard/easy it was for you to get your tattoo. Opinions vary.

    As far as raising kids go, my philosophy is to treat them like mini-adults. Answer all questions honestly, be consistent, and make sure they have at least as much laughter and wonder as they have mischief. Lead ém by example as it were.

    Interesting story, sort of relevant. My family knows I am a big nerd…I’ve never kept it secret. Also, most of my family are staunch Christians, presents for the Baby Jesus and all. I’ve never actively tried to make any of them see the light of rationality, but I did have a neat conversation with one of my younger cousins.

    We were talking about one of her classes which ended leading to questions on Intelligent Design and eventually to Christianity. I never mocked her belief, told her she was wrong, or about any of the evils that have been specifically done because of organized religion. I didn’t use propaganda, instead, I used science and the Bible to show her the facts.

    Her mother recently called me to have a talk with me about her “satanic” ideas.

    My point here is that we can’t do anything about many adults, but we can educate the children. If you want to change the quality and flavor of the laws, you have to get the customers to talk to management to either change or train the chefs. Its either that or set fire …I mean fire the chefs themselves. Of course, who are you going to replace the chefs with? (NOTE: I’m really not happy with this analogy, but try to go with the “spirit of the post”, erm, no pun intended). Basically, in English; we need to teach the children to critically think about these ideas, and we need to demonstrate the sort of respect we demand. The ideas may be assinine, and they may be trying to ruin my quality of life with their idiotic and childish beliefs, but since they are children with power it would probably be wise to galvanize their far-reaching support against me.

    *Sigh* all of this really is just based on subjective value judgments though, so whatever.

  78. Ummm, sorry to double-post….but I do think the Jesus-Cracker analogy is good. I mean you say its a Cracker, but they say its the Divine manifestation of the Creator of all that is seen and unseen. Since we are dealing with a deity, the claim is untestable (outside the realm of science).

    So in a sense, Randi COULD argue that yes, the cracker is claiming that it is actually Jesus born into the body of a cracker and has spent its life struggling with that identity, defying social norms to become the Jesus that it was meant to be. It just has to do it in the form of a cracker because of the rules of Magic…and so since we didn’t go into Hogwarts for Christians, we don’t understand the rules.

    I think his whole point though was to say that (struggles with self to not say the offensive yet funny comparison) if it looks like a chick and is basically a chick except that it says it isn’t a chick, then its possible that it really is a chick and is just wrong about its gender. I mean, that is the same as saying, “No, I’m Jesus. I may have been born looking like Shania Twain, my DNA and biometric scans might match Shania Twain’s, but I’m actually your Lord and Savior. Now, if there is some underlying physical reason that they are transsexuals or transvestites, I’d love to hear it, but I have yet to see it.

  79. It seems to me that most here have missed the point. A skeptic can reasonably say that, yes, the extreme response by the Catholics was stupid and wrong, but no, PZ was not justified in encouraging people to, inevitably, disturb other people’s right to practice whatever crazy religion they want in peace. You don’t have to believe in Catholicism or transubstantiation or any religion at all to recognize this. It’s easy to attack the Catholics for their strange beliefs and their over-reaction. But I haven’t seen a defense of PZ’s call for more people to take communion in bad faith (no pun intended).

    Some people have said, well, PZ didn’t ask people to be disruptive. Does anyone really think 1) if people try this, most of them won’t be caught and, thus, cause a disruption and 2) even if it people aren’t caught, there is really enough benefit from having these crackers in order to what, say, “Nah nah nah nah nah, you’re beliefs are stoopid”, to justify the deceit? Can’t skeptics value honesty too?

    Arguing that stealing a cracker in other circumstances is not a huge offense would miss the point, since in other circumstances doing so does not violate other people’s rights. I’m not supporting a right not to be offended, but more of a right to be left alone in certain venues, like a church or at home.

  80. nkirkby,

    You’re only supporting the right to be left alone in a church for people who accept the religion practiced there. In fact, walking off with a holy Triscuit does not in any way prevent others from performing whatever observances they wish. If there is a disruption in such a circumstance, it’s one caused by the believers whom you say should be left alone. They could as easily leave the “crackernapper” alone and simply convince themselves that Jesus jumped back out of the bread product before it hit the door.

    Taking a wafer out of a church neither picks the pockets nor breaks the legs of the faithful.

  81. Why do people want to eat the essence of Jesus anyway. Why doesn’t god send Jesus back to clear up all the confusion about god’s wishes? The person could easily prove he was the son of god by doing his magic and make a ton of money to give to the poor by opening a wine store (he could fill bottles with water and poof—Chateau Lafite Rothschild. Nice profit.)

  82. Wow, I wasn’t able to get online last night so I’ve missed a lot of comments. I’ll just get back to namidim quickly, since I repeatedly asked for him to provide me with quotes illustrating what he felt was “obnoxious,” “offensive,” “asinine,” and specifically made me “an ass,” and he finally responded. I’m a bit disappointed.

    Apparently all it takes for me to be all those things is to say it’s gross to think of eating a cracker made of human flesh, to say that I suspect most Catholics are rational people who wouldn’t flip out over some kid taking the eucharist out of church (and for the record, that was based on the fact that most Catholics have not protested and the dozen or so Catholics I know all laughed at the whole ordeal), pointing out that it is in fact just a cracker, and making the point that in the Biblical story, Jesus was most likely being metaphorical.

    So basically it boils down to me using humor to point out that someone’s paranormal claim is incorrect. In that case, I hope to continue being an obnoxious, offensive, asinine ass in the eyes of namidim and his ilk, because it is my job on the SGU and on Skepchick to do exactly what I have done. Namidim has now made it painfully obvious that he wants the paranormal claims of Catholics to get nicer treatment than the claims of others. Otherwise, what would be so surprising about my words here? Let’s compare the meanest thing I ever said about various subjects:

    about transubstantiation:

    Had Jesus sang “I’m a Little Teapot,” then today we’d see Catholics worldwide carefully choosing communion vessels of appropriate height and stoutness, ensuring that each one has both handle and spout for the dispensing of His Holy Oolong. Metaphor: not the fundamentalist’s strong suit.

    about shoddy journalism and transcendent sex

    That’s why “some people” consider use of the passive voice to be shoddy journalism — you’re hiding the person or thing doing the action, which the reader needs in order to figure out whether you’re full of crap or not. Like this: “It is said that Yvonne Fullbright has dozens of Fun Size Snickers bars where most people keep a brain.”

    about a Jewish sect:

    When we talk about religious freedom, generally we are talking about the right of every person to believe what he or she wants to believe without interference from the government. Those people do not have the right to go on raising children in their backwards, misogynistic, sad world without hearing an outcry from the rest of the rational world.

    Those are just from the past week. Let’s go back a little further!

    about John Edward:

    John Edward alone could out-lie James Frey with a gallon of sodium pentathal coursing through his veins and a magical lie-detecting electro-shock machine hooked up to his genitals.

    about Alison Dubois (same post as the previous):

    Allison Dubois, inspiration for the television show Medium, claims to have helped police solve a number of murder mysteries. Well that’s odd, because she has yet to provide a shred of proof for this claim. I’m going to write to NBC and tell them I can divine the future by reading the swirls in caramel fudge sundaes. Think they’ll give me my own TV show, too?

    about The Secret (same post!):

    We’re not talking about the power of positive thinking; we’re talking about the ability to create a pony that farts rainbows by merely thinking about it.

    Are you getting the hint yet, namidim? What I said about transubstantiation pales in comparison to the sarcastic holes I’ve ripped into other beliefs. So either you haven’t been paying attention to the tone of this web site and to me on SGU, or else you are being blatantly hypocritical in demanding that I spare the paranormal beliefs of the Catholics from my own brand of skeptical scrutiny.

    You wonder whether or not the Catholics I hang out with are cooler than the ones you know. Here’s the crux: we’re not at the god damned dinner table. We’re on a web site devoted to critical thinking run by me, a person who uses irony to make every point and who does not allow sloppy thinking to escape scrutiny just because someone I know happens to adhere to it. I have friends and family who read their horoscopes, who believe in the Christian god, who believe in everything Oprah says, who believe in transubstantiation, who visit the chiropractor for subluxations, and if I refrain from addressing beliefs held by those close to me than you’re going to start logging onto a blank page at skepchick.org. If I only attack unsubstantiated claims that are unpopular, than I have utterly failed to be the person I want to see in the mirror each morning. I’ll let other people and other organizations pick and choose what they are skeptical about. That’s not for me and it will never be for Skepchick.

    We are equal opportunity critical thinkers.

  83. Elyse Said:

    “the difference is that one is a CRACKER and the other is the personal identity of a HUMAN BEING.

    If the cracker is claiming that it is actually Jesus born into the body of a cracker and has spent its life struggling with that identity, defying social norms to become the Jesus that it was meant to be, then it’s the same thing.

    Otherwise your analogy is like comparing crackers to transvestites.”

    Fair enough. You seem to be saying that a person’s identity (both to him/herself and to the rest of the world) is what that person determines it is, despite the normal definition of that identity. And since a cracker or other inanimate object has no consciousness and therefore no self-ascribed identity, it must remain what what its physical properties define it as being. How far are you willing to go with this? If I “feel” that I am African American despite the fact that I have light skin, Caucasian features and no recent African ancestry, am I? If a person in a mental institution feels she is an alien from the planet Gorthrob, despite the fact that there are records of her being born in Dublin, GA, is she? Or is gender a special case of being able to choose an identity that contradicts physical attributes?

    I truly believe that though transubstantiation most certainly is not be a scientific idea; as the concept is defined by the Catholic church it is certainly not an irrational one. If one accepts the premise that the identity of a thing is not dependent on its physical attributes (an idea BTW borrowed from Plato), then it’s internally logically consistent (i.e. rational) to conclude that a cracker may be transformed into something else, despite what the fact that its physical attributes remain unchanged. And just perhaps, if we should respect a transgendered person’s self proclaimed gender identity (and I believe we should) maybe we should respect a Catholic’s belief about the substance of the host. At least as long as neither leads to pain and suffering to the person concerned or to others.

    BTW transvestite is not the proper term for what we are talking about. I believe the proper term is “transgendered person”. Most male transvestites are perfectly happy being males, they simply enjoy cross dressing.

  84. morisal,
    Saying I’m only supporting the right to be left alone in a church for people who accept the religion practiced there is like saying I’m only supporting the right to be left alone in my home for myself and my friends.

    I think you are underestimating the role of tradition in the beliefs of the religious. Of course, as outsiders, it’s simple enough to think, “if you’re gullible enough to think this cracker is really meat, then surely you can easily believe that Jesus can jump out of the bread at will.” But this is obviously a over-simplification, and it’s not really fair to them (that is, it’s not fair to expect anybody to change their beliefs for the sake of allowing others to more easily ridicule them). If people’s beliefs were so malleable, why would there ever be religious wars?

    I agree that taking the wafer, per se, does not harm the faithful, but to claim that any disruption due to it is entirely the fault of the believers is just self-serving. The emotional reaction of the faithful, one assumes, is largely involuntary and entirely predictable. To them, it is not the disruption of being told of the cracker being misused (to them) that concerns them, but the misuse itself. To say that they are the one’s disturbing themselves sounds like a reaction one would expect from a “shock jock” or some version of Ann Coulter. Why can’t any group set arbitrary, within legal and reasonable bounds, rules for itself? And why can’t they expect to be left to do what they will?

    To be clear, we’re talking about a situation, unlike most protestant communions, where they are explicit that if you are not Catholic or some specific class of christian, then you are asked not to take communion. It’s not like they are unfairly making up house rules after the fact.

  85. On transgender people, gender is a social norm. So, a person can be biologically female, but identify with the male social construction of her(his) society. They are not, however, denying that they are biologically female (otherwise, why would anyone get gender reassignment surgery?). Being a cracker and being Jesus are not social constructions.

  86. It never ceases to amaze me that so many doctrines that religious people cling to and totally believe in to this level of fanaticism are the result of some early religious whack job with too much time on his hands contemplating some tiny little detail of the scriptures. Sometimes we even know specifically who that person was.

  87. nkirby,

    A home is private property. A tax-exempt church is supported by others who make up for the loss of the property taxes by paying the share that the church does not. It is not private property. Moreover, when a stranger shows up at one’s door, that person need not be let in. Do churches do this? Can they somehow tell the difference between those who believe as they do and those who do not and exclude the latter?

    And yes, if someone walks off with a piece of bread and that is enough to result in others physically restraining them, then the ones doing the restraining are the ones causing the disruption. To say that such a reaction is “largely involuntary” is pretty damned silly. I haven’t made the contention that Catholics (or anyone else) is incapable of self-control, and I’m not sure how you come to this point, either. This isn’t some reflex we’re discussing; it is a deliberate course of action that is entirely voluntary.

    And again, someone walking out with a wafer does not in any way prevent some group from “doing what they will.” It doesn’t harm them, it doesn’t restrain them, it doesn’t prevent them from going on with their ceremony. Nothing has been done to that group whatsoever. What you’re advocating here would be something akin to the idea that some group held the belief that having a person of a different faith set foot on the church lawn renders the property impure, so the church reserves the right to physically prevent those who have not proven their fealty to the Pope (in this case) from getting to close to the building lest their invocations be rendered ineffective.

    I find this part of your rebuttal rather ironic, though:

    If people’s beliefs were so malleable, why would there ever be religious wars?

    This statement alone points to the reason that religious beliefs should be tested. It is precisely this superstitious dogmatism that is at the root of these religious wars. Demonstrating that one can walk out of a church with a wafer without any divine intervention happening as a result should demonstrate exactly how unfounded the kind of thinking that leads to religious wars is in the first place!

    Unless, of course, one believes that the basis for religious wars is worth preserving. In that case, I would have no choice but to agree. Allowing inflexible, literalist superstitions to go unchallenged is clearly the best way to insure that we will continue to have interfaith mass murder for years to come.

  88. If the cracker is claiming that it is actually Jesus born into the body of a cracker and has spent its life struggling with that identity, defying social norms to become the Jesus that it was meant to be, then it’s the same thing.

    That cracker’s going to need an agent, a publicist, a seven-figure book deal and a gig hosting a daytime talk show. Somebody please give the cracker my number.

  89. “We despise all reverences and all the objects of reverence which are outside the pale of our own list of sacred things. And yet, with strange inconsistency, we are shocked when other people despise and defile the things which are holy to us.”

    Mark Twain – Following the Equator

    I wish I knew how to represent Jay’s presentation of the quotee’s identity on a comment.

  90. “On transgender people, gender is a social norm. So, a person can be biologically female, but identify with the male social construction of her(his) society. They are not, however, denying that they are biologically female (otherwise, why would anyone get gender reassignment surgery?). Being a cracker and being Jesus are not social constructions.”

    Of course some transgendered people do not opt for sex change surgery, and seem to be perfectly happy with the equipment they were born with.

    But be that as it may, we are making some progress. You seem to be saying that we can only change “socially defined” identities. Therefore I assume you would agree that my example of my “feeling” that I am African American or that Michael Jackson’s apparent attempts to appear Caucasian are worthy of respect, and that people of both races who might criticize me, or ridicule him for doing so are, highly insenstive. After all race is the quintessential socially defined identity.

    Look you and Elyse apparently agree with the Catholics that not all “identities” are determined by the physical properties the identified things possess. I am just trying to find out exactly where you differ.

  91. Randytoad:

    I think you are being insulting to the transgendered population, the black population, the mentally ill, and crackers to think that the identities of all these things are all equally fluid or static.

  92. Hi Rebecca,

    I’m a big fan of you, SGU, PZ, and skepticism, and I’ve been giving this issue a lot of thought recently.

    If I read your post 3 or 4 days ago, I probably would have cheered like a lot of other people are. In fact, I made a lot of the same arguments to friends and family with whom I discussed it. In the last few days, though, I’ve come to think that PZ really ought to apologize, and I’ll explain why I think so.

    The analogy between PZ and South Park (which I myself made in many conversations) falls apart because PZ was directly inciting action. It’s one thing to mock. Mocking is totally fair game. I’d even say it’s incredibly important, for the same reasons you gave. Challenging irrationality, whether in a sophisticated and nuanced way, or through sheer rudeness, or anywhere in between, is one of the things that helps move humanity in the right direction. Go Salman Rushdie. Go Matt & Trey. Generally speaking, go PZ!

    But you go too far, and in my opinion, you cede the high ground, when you actually go and DO something which is disrespectful and hurtful to people. There is a clear condition to taking the eucharist: you’re supposed to eat it right away. Calling on people to break this trust, to go into a place and misrepresent themselves, and participate in a ritual in bad faith (no pun intended), is crossing a line that we shouldn’t cross, especially when what we’re messing with is the most central, most holy aspect of the ceremony. You wouldn’t go into a Hindu temple and start messing with the incense. You wouldn’t go to someone’s Friday Night Shabbos dinner and blow out the candles. There’s a level of basic human respect that I think we should always try to live up to. A friend of mine made this analogy: You can stand in front of a courthouse and burn a flag, but you can’t go take the courthouse flag and burn it.

    To be sure, the Catholic League should apologize, too, for overreacting and making such a big fuss. The church official should apologize for getting physically violent with the student. And the few people who made death threats are obviously assholes, and I only wish that their hell actually existed so they could writhe in it. But I think the student and PZ should not overlook their role in this, and should not overlook the fact that they crossed a line (and WE shouldn’t overlook it, either!). The belief is stupid. The religion is ridiculous. But the people are PEOPLE. They’re human beings, and they don’t deserve, just on the basis of having an irrational belief, to have their private ritual screwed with. They don’t deserve, however idiotic the thing they hold sacred is, to have that sacred thing physically defiled, especially in such a cowardly, sneaky way. As much as I was making the opposite argument several days ago, I just don’t think PZ’s actions in this case (more precisely, others’ actions which he was inciting) are covered by the first amendment.

    Thanks for a great blog. I’d be glad to hear your response.

    Aleksei

  93. Aleksei: Perfectly sums up my pov, and expressed much (*much*) better than I could hope to.

    Randytoad: Posts like these are why I come to skeptic sites. A skeptic challenges beliefs, even if they’re sacred to the skeptic, not just sacred to someone else.

  94. Aleksei, I think that was well-said. I can add no more. There is insulting people, and then there are basic levels of respect that ethics dictate humans deserve. The universe is cold, unfeeling, and inanimate, but life goes better when you give others the very basic levels of courtesy. Robbing them of that is undignified. I feel thoroughly chastised, even though I am not PZ! Well said, again.

    You write in a very zen manner. We need more skeptics like you!

  95. “Randytoad:

    I think you are being insulting to the transgendered population, the black population, the mentally ill, and crackers to think that the identities of all these things are all equally fluid or static.”

    Now who’s playing the “you’re insulting X” card? Your response is a classic example of a logical fallacy (the name escapes me right now) where you attack the perceived consequences of the position rather than the position itself. I shouldn’t dignify it with a defense but I will. I do not see how I insulted any group whatsoever. I believe the assignment of racial and gender identities ARE social constructs or at least have fairly severe social consequences. I believe that a person whose physical and emotional gender are at odds should be treated as if they belong to the gender to which they feel they belong. As to race, I believe that there should BE no difference between the way we treat people of different races, except to correct for past injustices. So there should be no reason to choose one racial identity over another. I do not believe that mental illness involves a choice so is in a completely different category. Simply saying I’m somehow insensitive or insulting doesn’t answer my question. If you have a gut feeling that some identities are static and some are fluid, and that you decide which is which on a case by case basis, or that for social reasons, restricting people to living within some physically defined identity is immoral, just say so. But you needn’t pretend that your criteria for assigning identities is somehow rational (in the strict sense of that term) and that others are not.

  96. morisal,
    There is a fair bit of talking past each other that is happening, and think it stems from an assumption that my statements are intended to defend particular actions taken by people in the Church. This isn’t my intent, to me “disruption” is not a synonym for “physically restraining” the person who takes the cracker. I was referring to the general commotion that would ensue, which I still believe is largely the cracker-snatcher’s fault and not justified for the intended results. That statement, does not and should not be interpreted to mean that any reaction by the religious people is appropriate. In my opinion, the appropriate reaction would be to inform that person that they are no longer welcome at that church–not assault or death threats.

    I obviously wasn’t saying I approved of the kind of insularity and cognitive inertia that leads to religious wars, but was pointing out the naivete in your expecting that the believers would change dogma on the fly just to accommodate people disrupting their practice.

    The whole business about stepping foot on the church’s lawn is a slippery slope argument. There is a major difference between the situations, you can’t accidentally intend to send PZ a communion wafer.

    To Aleksei, I generally agree with your assessment, although I’d not go so far as to say that PZ’s call for wafers is not protected speech. At least, I think it should be treated with same seriousness that encouraging people to steal hotel towels is–to disapprove but not to prosecute. My disagreement is with people who are acting like there is some virtue in being disingenuous for the sake of spectacle.

  97. I think part of the bible is being misunderstand. You know when Jesus is suffering on the cross and his persecutors ask where is your power now . Jesus replies “eat me”.
    On a serious note can’t someone with a halfway open mind see the similarity with so called primitive cultures that believe if you eat a part of a brave enemy or a strong animal you will obtain those qualities. How about eating rhino horn because its sort of phallic sybolism and thinking it will make you virile.

  98. nkirby,

    you may be right – PZ’s incitement might be protected speech. I’m not versed in constitutional law. I certainly don’t want to see him prosecuted, in any case.

    I only made that particular point because I’m trying to define for myself what the difference is between what PZ did and any number of other irreverent, rude statements with which I have no particular issue.

    As I see it, there are three aspects to what the student did that one could potentially complain about:

    1) disrespect of an idea- this in and of itself I have absolutely no problem with.
    2) unprovoked disrespect of people – this I don’t see any reason to defend. there are enough ways to make a point without doing this.
    3) deceit – i hope we can all agree that this aspect of it is just wrong

    PZ himself is guilty only of #1. You could maybe argue that he’s guilty of #2, but I think the threats to get the kid expelled, etc., might count as provocation. However, he was certainly advocating, and inciting others to commit, all three. And there’s another aspect of what PZ did which does not apply to the student, and that has mostly to do with degree. The student did what he did, but was really the only one involved. PZ, on the other hand, used extremely inflammatory language, and used a forum that reaches millions of people. And he did it on purpose, out of anger.

    I just think that we should strive to do better. Not that we can’t give in to our passions from time to time, but if we hurt people in doing so, we should not jump through hoops to justify it. We can admit that we overstepped, and we can apologize. And we can do so without making even the tiniest concession re: the complete stupidity of the belief we’re criticizing.

  99. @104 : “Oddly enough, if you ignore the rainbow tracers, that pretty much describes the cover of arguably his best album, Songs In The Key of Life. Perhaps you saw it at some point?”

    No,that looks nothing like it…he has short hair on that cover!Where is the space?
    It probably stems from the fact that my beloved preschool teacher was a black guy named Steve, he wore regular glasses, but looked like Stevie Wonder, and I watched Sesame street and I’m sure actual Stevie Wonder was on there in all his beaded-cornrowed glory wearing some far out late ’70’s clothes. As for the space…well, god is in outer space, duh!

  100. No, randytoad, your comparison is reductio ad absurdum. You are saying that if a person can change genders a cracker should be allowed to change into Jesus… or maybe you’re saying that since a white person can’t turn black, a man can’t change into a woman? I’m not really sure what your argument is.

    Here’s the difference:

    Race = your history, your family’s history, your skin color, culture. You can’t change those things but you can change how you associate yourself with them. Stereotypes aside, there is no “black” or “white” role in society unlike “women’s” roles or “men’s” roles.

    Gender = your identity. How you feel you fit into the set roles and expectations of society for each gender. A person can change mannerisms and dress and even the physical features associated with gender and change whether they now fit into the role of “man” or “woman”.

    Cracker = it’s a food. Made by a person to be a food. A cracker can be made into other foods, but it cannot be made into a person.

    And yes, to compare the three as being equally fluid or static is still insulting.

  101. @Tomokun:”Another point, and no offense intended, I’m not really sure how creative a psychedelic Stevie Wonder-God is.”

    It’s no FSM, that’s for sure! But most of my peers were talking bearded white guy with body intact on a cloudy throne…I wasn’t trying to show off my zazzy powers of creativity…that’s just what happened to be in my brain and looking back it was pretty vivid and weird!

  102. Elyse: “Stereotypes aside, there is no “black” or “white” role in society unlike “women’s” roles or “men’s” roles.”

    Josh K: I’d always thought that “women’s” roles vs “men’s” roles were just another stereotype, granted one with a bit more traction than “black” vs “white” roles.

    I think randytoad was pointing out that saying “cracker = god, because I said so” in the face of chemistry is equivalent to saying “man = woman, because I said so” in the face of biology.

    I accept the later because I value a society that respects the individual, and the individual’s choice of what role(s) to fullfill in that society rather than any hard n’ fast rules determined by biology/state/religion. “is” does not imply “ought”.

  103. randytoad: The main problem I have with your argument is the distinction you draw between the physical indications of a person’s gender/sex as indicated by (1) DNA and (2) external appearance (though the two are not always in congruence), and a person’s self-identified gender as determined by their mental/emotional state. I argue that a person’s mental/emotional state is fundamentally physical. True we can’t stick a person into a fMRI and deduce their gender identity, but so far all of neuroscience seems to point towards the physical reality of the mind. (Dr. Novella discusses this point frequently on his blog–look up posts on Wallace, Chopra & Egnor.) Therefore, a transgendered person who acknowledges the physical reality of his/her DNA, appearance, and emotional identity is not being irrational.

    Transubstantiation, however, is an example of irrational, magical thinking. There is absolutely no evidence that it happens, nor has anyone proposed a plausible physical explanation for how a priest’s incantation infuses the essence of Jesus into bread or wine.

    In short: a person’s gender identity is not measurable because it’s complicated, and the brain is complicated; the “essence” of Jesus in a consecrated host is not measurable because it’s inherently magical.

  104. maiolica: a person’s gender identity is not measurable because it’s complicated, and the brain is complicated; the “essence” of Jesus in a consecrated host is not measurable because it’s inherently magical.

    Josh K: Excellent argument. Concur.

  105. Having had the benefit of 12 years of Catholic school (cured after 10!) I am well aware of the dogma surrounding “the miracle of transubstantiation”. Catholics are required to believe various obviously ludicrous ideas in order to perfect the hive mentality that places a virtual ring in their noses.

    When the priest casts the magic cannibalism spell, Catholics believe that the wafer thin slice of wheat literally and actually becomes man meat, a divine source of protein and vitamins.

    Oddly people like myself who suffer from the inherited autoimmune condition Celiac Disease exhibit the same exact sequence of autoimmune mediated discomforts when they eat Jesus Wafers® as they would if they ate a wheat thin.

    Funny thing that.

  106. PZ didn’t encourage anyone to deceit or theft, he merely asked for an object. He also explained what he would use said object for, making absolutely clear his own intent re: the host. Sure, it’s highly unlikely some catholic priest is going to supply him with one, but honestly, I think the only deceit you’ll see out of this is people claiming the cracker they sent him is consecrated, since there’s absolutely no way to tell the difference.

    On the subject of gender identity vs. cracker identity, the moment on of those crackers stands up and declares itself to be Jeebus, I’m all for treating with the same respect we’d give anyone claiming to be Jeebus combined with all the respect we’d give any talking cracker.

  107. @ rystefn

    “PZ didn’t encourage anyone to deceit or theft, he merely asked for an object.”

    He absolutely did encourage people to be deceitful. When you accept the host, the very clear condition is that you’re going to eat it. Participating in the ritual in bad faith is misrepresenting yourself. It’s deceit. Saying he “merely asked for an object” is just not accurate – there’s absolutely no way to obtain that particular object without taking communion in bad faith.

    Sure, I’ll grant that PZ himself was not deceitful, but the action he was calling on others to perform on his behalf was without question deceitful.

    If PZ somehow managed to get a host without using any false pretenses, and then decided to defile it, it would still be disrespectful and childish in the extreme (Ooooh, big man, destroyed a cracker), but I would have somewhat less of an issue with it in that no one else’s (to them) important ritual had to be interfered with in the process.

  108. Really? No other way to get it? I posit that PZ was asking for creativity from his readers than you can come up with, so you assume he was asking for deceit.

    You are right, it is disrespectful, but it is disrespectful of a practice which deserves no respect. Respect is a thing which must be earned, not which should be handed about to anything and everything just because someone thinks it’s important. Childish – yes. Intentionally so, to point out and draw attention to the childish actions of a certain group of people. So he relinquished the “high ground” whatever that means… going along with and respecting Catholic beliefs is what got them the power to burn and torture people in the first place. I say we should be disrespecting silly ideas at every turn.

  109. “I posit that PZ was asking for creativity from his readers than you can come up with. (sic)”

    Please come up with a creative way in which one can obtain a consecrated communion wafer and walk away with it without a) being deceitful, or b) getting help from a priest who’s unconcerned with being excommunicated.

    “it is disrespectful of a practice which deserves no respect.”

    I agree. I have no problem with disrespecting the practice or the belief. Write about how stupid it is. Make a cartoon where a host gets defiled. Do whatever you want. The problem is that there are PEOPLE who are being disrespected. We shouldn’t respect their belief, but we should respect their right to have the belief, and their right to conduct their ritual without it being interrupted and spat upon.

    “going along with and respecting Catholic beliefs is what got them the power to burn and torture people in the first place.”

    This is a total straw man. I never once, in any of my comments, advocated going along with their beliefs. I have consistently called the beliefs and the practices stupid and irrational. And I may be right about that, but that doesn’t give me carte blanche to disrupt a service. I think it’s a stupid ritual, so I don’t participate in it. I’m not going to go in and mess it up.

  110. I second Rystefn’s last post.

    Aleksi: “Make a cartoon where a host gets defiled. Do whatever you want.”

    well, there were some cartoons made of a certain prophet and look how that turned out. Seeing as the wafer is a WAFER and not an actual person or even item that is intended to have any degree of permanence or uniqueness, I don’t see how disrespecting the wafer is any better or worse than making a cartoon about disrespection a wafer…a cartoon about assaulting the pope or blowing up Notre Dame or even breaking a rosary would be a better example – but the whole wafer thing..it would be like grabbing the Afikomen from a kid before they got their dollar from uncle David and flushing it down the toilet. Just because it’s the Afikomen doesn’t mean that it isn’t just a piece of matzoh (which was blessed, like all matzoh, I think, by a rabbi..) and aunt Betsy can just get another piece from the box. (not based on actual events)

  111. See there? You’ve already come up with one way that’s not deceptive. I’m sure there are more, and if I cared to go along with PZ’s request, I might be able to come up with more… however, you miss the whole point. PX isn’t a fool. He knows that more than likely, most of the crackers he gets aren’t going to be consecrated… but, as he and I both stated, there’s no way to tell the difference. It doesn’t matter whether he’s really desecrating a consecrated cracker or just one someone claimed was consecrated – his target audience will be just as upset. I’m sure if you had thought about it, you’d have figured all that out without me having to spell it out to you, but you obviously weren’t in the mood fr thinking down that road, even with a subtle hint tossed your way. Not much of a poker player, are you?

    As far as respecting their right to have their ritual without being spat upon – well, no one is spitting on anyone, and as I said before, I HOPE that if I have a stupid ritual that makes no sense, someone will come along and disrupt the Hell of it for me. If I believe my computer turns into a robot when no one’s looking, I can get locked away for it – a bunch of people having the same belief does not mean they should be treated with more respect. The only reason to not lock them away is that it would make things much, much worse, since they have the numbers and a shit-ton of power.

    Just go ahead and take “going along with” out of the last quote and see if it changes my meaning at all. It does not, and I stand by it.

  112. @ whitebird

    This is going to be my last comment. I think I’ve made my point pretty clearly, and I have yet to read anything that actually attacks any of my arguments. This is just for further clarification, since it seems to be needed.

    Whitebird:

    “well, there were some cartoons made of a certain prophet and look how that turned out.”

    yes, this is a very good example. I think that every paper in the world should have reprinted that cartoon, just to say, “Believe what you want. This is my newspaper, and I’m not going to censor something just because you are offended.” Like I said, disrespect the belief itself all you want.

    But the danish cartoons are not analogous to this cracker situation. One is a writer/artist expressing his thoughts. The other is a person interrupting other people who are conducting a ceremony. It’s just rude.

    “it would be like grabbing the Afikomen from a kid before they got their dollar from uncle David and flushing it down the toilet. Just because it’s the Afikomen doesn’t mean that it isn’t just a piece of matzoh”

    Sure, it’s just a piece of Matzoh. But are you really saying it wouldn’t mean anything to take the Afikomen away from the kid and flush it down a toilet? What a mean thing that would be to do! Who cares if the Matzoh is replaceable? It’s just so mean and nasty to do that to a kid. Sure, the parent can comfort the kid, and explain that nothing all that bad really happened, but why would you ever want to cause a little kid that kind of grief, even if it’s temporary? Actually, I think your analogy between this and the cracker situation is a really good one, because it helps clarify my point: why be so mean to another person? Why would anyone hurt their feelings, completely unprovoked? When there are so many good ways to make a point and to raise awareness, why would anyone feel the need to be so very, very mean, on such a very, very personal and immediate level?

    “I don’t see how disrespecting the wafer is any better or worse than making a cartoon about disrespection a wafer (sic)”

    Well, then I think you’re not trying very hard.

  113. I think you guys aren’t taking something into account. Now everybody has their own set of principles and morals that they operate off of, in a way these are also “Sacred Cows”. For myself, I feel that respect is not something you receive, its something you give – especially when its not deserved. The reason why is because if you expect an idiot to act any other way than idiotic, then you only have yourself to blame.

    Take the mullet for example. People that believe that a mullet looks cool are not just misguided, they are wrong. However, I treat them respectfully by doing my best to not offend them. I dare say mullets are every bit as harmful as radical fundamentalist beliefs (although, I daresay this is just another value judgment). Still, something needs to be done to halt this “mulletphile” growth.

    Anyhoo, I’ve gone off on a tangent. The point being is that their idiotic beliefs are arguably deserving of the same polite behavior that someone who thinks their mullet is cool holds.

    Seriously, if you have a mullet, it doesn’t look good. It just doesn’t. I’m sorry I had to be the one to tell you, but seriously….enough is enough.

  114. @ Reystefn

    Ok, THIS is my last comment… :)

    “you obviously weren’t in the mood fr thinking down that road, even with a subtle hint tossed your way. Not much of a poker player, are you?”

    Dude, why so personal? I wasn’t in the mood for thinking down that road? Not much of a poker player? Are these arguments against something I was saying? If not, why bother being so antagonistic?

    “He knows that more than likely, most of the crackers he gets aren’t going to be consecrated… but, as he and I both stated, there’s no way to tell the difference.”

    You’re right. There’s no way to know. There’s no way anyone could ever possibly know whether it’s a real, consecrated host or not. Short of a video or other physical evidence, the only thing we have to go on is PZ’s word. However he chooses to represent himself, that’s how you and I and every Catholic in the world must take him. So that means that either:

    1) PZ desecrates a consecrated wafer; or,

    2) PZ says he has desecrated a consecrated wafer and there’s absolutely no reason to believe otherwise

    Either way, the public face he is putting forth is that, at his request, someone participated in an activity that’s very important to the other participants with the sole intention of taking the element of that activity that matters the most to those involved such that it could be publicly defiled, just to spite them.

    The point is, as you said, it doesn’t matter if it’s real or not. The effect is exactly the same.

    “I HOPE that if I have a stupid ritual that makes no sense, someone will come along and disrupt the Hell of it for me.”

    Two things:

    1) I’ll bet that you do. I’ll bet that there IS something you do that’s important to you that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. And even if you’d be open to reconsidering it, you wouldn’t like it if someone were a jerk to you about it.

    2) That’s you. That’s your opinion, and it’s really a non-sequitur as far as this argument goes. It makes no difference whether you’d rather be disabused of your misconceptions. Maybe other people wouldn’t.

    Hate the belief, not the believer.

  115. Tomokun, the mullet is a style choice, however misguided. People have mullets because they are ignorant of current socially acceptable fashion. Their idiotic belief gets polite treatment because it’s based on arbitrary fashion preferences and not on pleasing the almighty mullet deity.

  116. morisal:

    A home is private property. A tax-exempt church is supported by others who make up for the loss of the property taxes by paying the share that the church does not. It is not private property.

    That’s one of the silliest arguments I think I’ve ever heard.

    OK, just pretend, for the sake of argument, that there’s nothing special or magical about religion. Let’s see how the argument would fly in similar circumstances…

    Would you agree that a tax-exempt school is not private property, and therefore you should be able to wander onto the grounds as you wish, and maybe take some homework exercises (which are, after all, freely given out)?

    How about a tax-exempt charity headquarters? “Don’t mind me, continue with your board meeting while I look around.”

    How about a tax-exempt amateur sports league? Let’s wander through the locker rooms! It’s not like it’s private property…

  117. You can wander onto the grounds of a school all you like. However, there are specific laws about going inside. There are no such laws about churches.

    You can go inside a charity, and in fact people do so all the time. Going into a board meeting, however, would constitute a disturbance. Attending a mass and putting a cracker in one’s pocket doesn’t interfere with the conduct of the mass in any way.

    There are also laws about going into a locker room at a sporting event, just as there are laws about going into a priest’s residence. However, going into a sporting event that’s having a free giveaway and then walking out again and tossing your free bobblehead into the trash is perfectly legal — as is attending a public mass and tossing your cracker in the trash.

    Next red herring?

  118. Churches aren’t public property. Not paying taxes on something doesn’t make it publicly owned. This whole argument is getting ridiculous.

    According to Rystefn, PZ was asking for crackers either not from communion or taken with full knowledge of a priest. This is called spin. It’s just a dishonest way of ignoring an argument (namely, petty theft shouldn’t be encouraged and going out of your way to disrupt people’s religious practice isn’t some great ideal)–a bluff, if you will. In the end, this obviously comes down to a difference of ethics (but, hey look, nobody called anybody Hitler, awesome!).

  119. Churches aren’t public property. Not paying taxes on something doesn’t make it publicly owned. This whole argument is getting ridiculous.

    Churches are supported by public funds collected in taxes.

    It’s just a dishonest way of ignoring an argument (namely, petty theft shouldn’t be encouraged and going out of your way to disrupt people’s religious practice isn’t some great ideal)–a bluff, if you will.

    Concern troll.

    Nobody’s religious practice was disrupted. That’s the point. Peeing on a stack of “sacred” crackers a hundred feet tall doesn’t do a thing to stop anyone else from practicing their favorite hoohah-dance with a different bunch of crackers.

  120. wtf? I didn’t say peeing on a stack of anything was stopping anybody from practicing their religion–you’re just kicking a dead horse. I said (or at least I’m trying to say), asking somebody to potentially disrupt people’s religious service for the sake of making a point that most people agree on anyway is asinine. You are supporting the false dichotomy my initial comment was trying to point out. You don’t have to be a true believer to think that PZ was wrong in the specific call for more people to steal the communion wafers.

    On the other hand, you don’t have to think PZ should be reprimanded or punished in any way just because he was “rude”.

  121. “Author: Aleksei
    Comment:
    “I posit that PZ was asking for creativity from his readers than you can come up with. (sic)”

    Please come up with a creative way in which one can obtain a consecrated communion wafer and walk away with it without a) being deceitful, or b) getting help from a priest who’s unconcerned with being excommunicated.

    “it is disrespectful of a practice which deserves no respect.”

    I agree. I have no problem with disrespecting the practice or the belief. Write about how stupid it is. Make a cartoon where a host gets defiled. Do whatever you want. The problem is that there are PEOPLE who are being disrespected. We shouldn’t respect their belief, but we should respect their right to have the belief, and their right to conduct their ritual without it being interrupted and spat upon.

    “going along with and respecting Catholic beliefs is what got them the power to burn and torture people in the first place.”

    This is a total straw man. I never once, in any of my comments, advocated going along with their beliefs. I have consistently called the beliefs and the practices stupid and irrational. And I may be right about that, but that doesn’t give me carte blanche to disrupt a service. I think it’s a stupid ritual, so I don’t participate in it. I’m not going to go in and mess it up.
    – Show quoted text -”

    I consider most funerary rituals (particularly when they involve viewings) irrational and barbaric. I have no compunction about saying so in public, and would even publish my thoughts about it in a public venue. However, I would consider anyone who crashed a funeral desecrated the corpse (jeez it’s just a piece of meat!) and otherwise disrupted the proceedings, to be a moronic shithead and probably would want him/her to pay for damages, be slapped with a fine and/or sentenced to a couple of days in jail or community service. I would similarly condemn (though not to death) anyone who advocated this behavior. I see the actions of the kid in question and PZ Myers (whom I otherwise greatly admire), to be identical in kind if not in degree to my hypothetical funeral crasher.

  122. morisal:

    Churches are supported by public funds collected in taxes.

    Assuming you live in the US and not the UK, and ignoring the “faith-based charities” issue for a moment, no church receives so much as a dollar from your taxes.

    You can wander onto the grounds of a school all you like.

    No, you can’t. Most schools these days require visitors to have a legitimate purpose for being there, and to sign in on entry and sign out on leaving. That applies to the grounds as well as classrooms.

    There are no such laws about churches.

    The ordinary laws of trespass cover the situation. It’s only the usually quite liberal policies of the church that allow you to enter at all. They’re perfectly within their legal rights to kick you out if you’re not wanted.

    But if you don’t believe me, while I don’t condone it, you can always try it. Walk into a church (perhaps a Scientology centre, just to make it interesting), make a low-level nuisance of yourself, and refuse to leave when asked to. You may then try to explain to the judge that churches aren’t private property, and see what happens.

  123. Kimbo Jones: “Their idiotic belief gets polite treatment because it’s based on arbitrary fashion preferences and not on pleasing the almighty mullet deity.”

    Josh K: So…a belief based on personal preference is deserving of polite treatment, but the moment it has a theistic motivation, it loses the right to polite treatment?

  124. First off, no one respects a mullet. There are whole web sites devoted to denigrating the mullet-headed, and last I checked, Motorhead wasn’t exhorting their fans to kick the web designers ass.

    Second, ANYONE can in fact be a proud black man if they want to. Whether they have dark skin or a penis is irrelevant to the question of racial identity or gender identity. What they can’t choose is to a proud MALE with a particular genetic background. What we have here is a question of fact versus opinion, of self perception versus biological fact.

    In the cracker question, the issue is that some catholics accept that the holiness of the cracker is an opinion. Others insist that it is a fact. Its the ones who insist that it is a literal fact who are being mocked.

    PZ never asked anyone to disrupt a ceremony.

    I hope this clears up some of the misconceptions so far. Peace.

  125. “So…a belief based on personal preference is deserving of polite treatment, but the moment it has a theistic motivation, it loses the right to polite treatment?”

    No. You’ve made my argument into something absurd and argued against that, which is a logical fallacy that doesn’t deserve a defending response. Well actually you didn’t even argue, you asked an open ended question to provoke a response without having to make an argument of your own. I’m not biting.

  126. Her point is MOOT Josh, because people do not treat mullets or the mullet headed with any respect. She called their belief “idiotic” and “ignorant”. Generally, people don’t tease mullets to their faces and try to hurt their feelings, but on the other hand, no one is proposing that we sit on the church steps and taunt catholics, either.

    Wearing a mullet would, in this case, be considered the same as wearing a cross. We don’t have to respect the beliefs of the person wearing the mullet/cross in order to be civil to them in social situations. We don’t have to head up to the motorway/church and mock them, either, but no one is proposing any such thing.

    But web sites and blogs mocking cult membership and stupid hair cuts are just a part of life.

    As for the cracker, PZ did not advocate seizing a cracker, or drawing attention to the removal of the cracker, or in any way drawing attention to the removal of the cracker. He did ask that someone go into a place where they were invited to go and fail to consume a cracker they were given to consume.

  127. @sethmanapio

    Actually, I respectfully disagree: the point is not moot.

    My point is, we (human animals…heck, probably all animals) have a tendency toward bias. On an atheistic website, that tends to mean that anything idiotic feels even more idiotic if it’s associated with religion.

    However, this is also a skeptic’s website. That implies a certain desire for objectivity: something is as idiotic as it is, no more or less. Adding religion makes it neither more, nor less idiotic.

    idiotic = idiotic+ religion

    We accept we have bias, and make at least a small effort to compensate for that bias if not eliminate it altogether.

    That’s why PZ’s last post was such a bit of *genius*: It’s just a cracker! These are just pieces of paper! Reason trumps all, whether one believes in this god, that god, or no god. *That’s* an argument I can seriously get behind! And promote.

  128. Generally people with mullets do not claim that they know the righteous hairstyle that ever person on earth should emulate ; try to cajole, coerce and recruit new mullet members (considering nonmembers as evil or fools); influence governments into adopting and maintaining mullet preferential policies; start wars with or torture and persecute those with other hairstyles . The list could go on and on but I want to go get a cup of coffee.

  129. @Kimbo

    “It’s the difference between people having individual tastes and people not understanding the difference between fantasy and reality. The latter *is* idiotic.”

    That’s an excellent point, one I hadn’t considered (though, in retrospect, it should have been obvious). Thank you for your patience in explaining it to me. :)

    @johnea13

    That’s a pretty compelling argument. You’re right, my analogy was pretty crappy. :(

    Thanks for taking the time to point it out, though. One less stupid thing in my head. :)

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