I’ve been following the World Youth Day bunfight with mild interest and some irritation. The irritation is with the sunny insouciance of the participants, who either (1) are too brainwashed to realise they are celebrating a patriarchal and authoritarian organisation which works against basic human rights for women and gays in many countries, including contributing to the spread of HIV worldwide, and which fights something as basic as contraception, as well as working to wind back social policy gains here through the CEC and the Right wing in both major parties; or (2) know all this and don’t care. We’re treated to regular updates in the news media in which some bright young thing chirps something like:
VOX POP 3: For [the Pope] to talk about something that’s about our environment and how to look after it is quite important. To show that he with other scientists and environmentalists is worried about the state our world is in will have quite a good effect hopefully on all Catholics.
Vox Pop, you’re deluded. The Catholic church has no intention of doing anything to help the global environment, in which the most important thing they could do would be to recognise the right of women to limit the size of their families. And that isn’t going to happen. The focus on “the environment” is just part of the feelgood, happy-clappy ambience the Church is aiming for in this latest recruitment drive.
Over in the US, the Catholic church is in the news too, but for a very different reason: Crackergate!
In case you’re new to this story, a student at the University of Florida abducted a consecrated wafer from communion and held it hostage, as AOL puts it, or something. My favourite “unrepentent Science heathen”, P.Z. Myers, gleefully (1) wrote about it and (2) made jokey comments about visiting some kind of physical retribution on the cracker, or subjecting it to some kind of (mad scientist!1!) experiment, to demonstrate its essential crackerness and utter lack of live Jesus-ness. The horror! For this, both the student and Myers received death threats, as well as Myers receiving much hate email and attempts to convince his employers to sack him.
So far today, I have received 39 pieces of personal hate mail of varying degrees of literacy, all because I was rude to a cracker. Four of them have included death threats, a personal one day record. Thirty-four of them have demanded that I be fired. Twenty-five of them have told me to desecrate a copy of the Koran, instead, or in some similar way offend Muslims, because — in a multiplicity of ironic cluelessness — apparently only some religious icons must be protected, and I would only offend Catholics because they are all so nice that none of them would wish me harm. I even have one email that says I should be fired, that the author would like to kill me, and that I only criticize because Catholics are so gentle and kind.
Oh, and of course, the university president’s office has also received lots of mail demanding my immediate ouster (keep in mind, though…Catholics are no threat to anyone at all.)
The craziness has just taken on a life of its own. Read back from the first linked post and you’ll find a whole saga developing around PZ Myers vs. organised religion. It’s quite an education.
From the American Catholic League:
As a result of the hysteria that Myers’ ilk have promoted, at least one public official is taking it seriously. Thomas E. Foley is chairman of Virginia’s First Congressional District Republican Committee, a delegate to the Republican National Convention and one of two Republican at large nominees for Virginia’s Electoral College. His concern is for the safety of Catholics attending this year’s Republican National Convention in Minneapolis, Myers’ backyard. Accordingly, Foley has asked the top GOP brass to provide additional security while in the Twin Cities so that Catholics can worship without fear of violence. Given the vitriol we have experienced for simply exercising our First Amendment right to freedom of speech, we support Foley’s request.
And you thought NSW passing a special law to prevent ordinary citizens of Sydney from “annoying” Catholics was a bizarre one-off, hmm?
They are increasing security at the Republican convention out of fear of ME? I am puissant. Fear me, O Trembling Republicans…
The remark about my backyard is amusing — Minneapolis is 150 miles away. It’s also more towards one side of my house; I think Iowa would be my backyard, while Canada is my front yard. I sure hope I don’t get assessed for property taxes on the entire upper midwest.
I can’t help but remember the manufactured “scandal” over the Mohammed Cartoons in the Danish press, and the insistence all over the RWDB blogosphere that “free speech” demanded that one shouldn’t be trammelled in ones rudeness to the superstitions attaching to the religions of others. Moreover, there’s a popular opinion out there – it’s often seen in the newspaper letters pages as well – that Christians are always copping insults and copping it sweet because they’re so nice and would never stoop to abuse and death threats because of a prank. Well, look what happens.
Me, my interpretation of freedom of religion – which I think of as one of the liberal democratic freedoms that we should enjoy – is pretty much of the private worship kind, and stops where that freedom impinges on the freedom of others. (In other words, keep those rosaries… to yourself, mate.) I don’t mean that one shouldn’t have public celebrations. Diwali? Noisy new year’s ceremonies in Footscray? Bring it on! Even (shudder) Guy Sebastian concerts, if you must, as long as I don’t have to go. Therefore, in my world, it’s kind of jejeune and undergraduate to prank somebody’s religious symbol; I think this was a bit unworthy of P.Z., as well as the editors of Jylland Posten, to go down that road. But Jesus Christ on a cracker, it certainly brings out the intolerant, medieval, and deadly element of Christianity out into the light. Next time someone starts intoning how tolerant Christians are compared to those awful Muslims, you might like to direct them over to Myers’ blog.
Crossposted at Road to Surfdom