Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Wacky cult wants magic biscuit back

Webster Cook smuggled a magic biscuit out of the service of a lunatic cult, in order to show a friend what it was like. Members of the cult issued death threats, the local spokespeople for the cult suggested that he was in danger of eternal damnation and called it a "hate crime," and completely insane national spokespeople claimed that he had committed the moral equivalent of kidnapping.

Details at Pharyngula. This sounds like something that could have fit in Bill Maher's "Religulous."

(Hat tip to Wowbagger for the title.)

UPDATE (July 10, 2008): The Pharyngula post linked to above has resulted in Bill Donohue of the Catholic League taking notice and calling for P.Z. Myers to be fired. That in turn has resulted in P.Z. Myers receiving 39 pieces of hate mail so far today, of which 34 have demanded that he be fired and four have included death threats. 25 have suggested that, instead of desecrating a cracker, Myers should desecrate a Koran--showing that those individuals don't think the tolerance they demand for themselves applies to other religions. (Sounds like our commenter Jenn!)

UPDATE (July 11, 2008): The Catholic League has issued another press release, which contains this insanity:
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.
It's the Catholics who have been comparing taking instead of eating a cracker to kidnapping and hate speech, and issuing death threats against someone who suggested doing the same. But now the Republican National Convention, being held 150 miles away from Myers' home, needs extra security because of his proximity? Lunacy.

Myers has also published the email he's received. Some of the alleged death threats don't, I think, pass legal muster as such, but I think this one does:
You are really fucked now. Lock your doors at night, and check under your car before you turn the ignition key.
This one doesn't quite make it:
IF Catholics had half the testosterone of muzzies, the answer would be simple. Holy hollowpoint. But alas, I expect they will whimper and grovel as usual.
UPDATE (July 12, 2008): Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars weighs in. Andrew Sullivan, after taking Myers to task, publishes dissenting opinions that make better arguments than his. Ed Brayton responds to Sullivan. P.Z. Myers catches Catholic sock puppets commenting on his blog. John Wilkins writes an insightful comment on "Desecration, blasphemy in public, and manners."

UPDATE (July 13, 2008): P.Z. Myers has received more nasty email, which he has posted with full headers. If the first one is not actually from Melanie Kroll at 1800flowers.com, I'd say she has a compromised machine, and it's a clear death threat. The second is from Steve C. Montemurro, a 41-year-old conservative Catholic from Hastings on Hudson, NY, and it appears to be more of a wish for Myers' death than a threat.

UPDATE (July 16. 2008): Turns out the email from Melanie Kroll's machine was the result of a compromise of sorts--it was from her husband, Chuck Kroll, and she lost her job as a result of it. Makes sense--she shouldn't have allowed her husband to use her computer to access her work resources at all, let alone to send death threats. Details at Pharyngula.

UPDATE (July 18, 2008): Network World has coverage of Melanie Kroll's firing. The Science Museum of Minnesota will be closed down during the Republican National Convention as part of the security measures for the Xcel Energy Center, across the street. As P.Z. Myers observes, there's a metaphor in that.

UPDATE (July 26, 2008): Webster Cook has been impeached and removed from his position in student government at the University of Central Florida, and both he and his friend Benjamin Collard have been charged with misconduct, disruptive conduct, and giving false identification and had a hold put on their ability to sign up for classes. The school is buckling under to pressure from Bill Donohue and the Catholic League to persecute these students on trumped up charges. P.Z. Myers suggests writing to the UCF president; I suggest the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education get involved.

P.Z. Myers has posted another selection of crazy Catholic hate mail he's received. Do these people genuinely think they are doing the Lord's work?


Adrian Hayter said...

Not to be unoriginal, but I found this story so inspiring I wanted to be the first foreign copycat. I've currently got a basic plan.

Jim Lippard said...

Great ideas!

Reed said...

Let's assume the wafer was actually a cat and not the transubstantiated body of Christ...

"You bastard, you stole the cat. How DARE you! You were actually supposed to eat the cat."

Jenn said...

Yikes! Such stupendously ignorant comments by people who accuse others of not being as low and common as they are. I'm glad I'm a Catholc who knows that the Host is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ in His glorified body.

Jim Lippard said...

Saying it doesn't make it so. There are no physical changes that occur in transsubstantiation, yet you insist that the wafer has magically become the body of a long-dead man. It's just as crazy as Scientology claiming that we're all infested with the bodies of murdered space aliens.

Jim Lippard said...

BTW, Jenn, I advise not reading this news story about how prostitutes are expecting more business when the Pope comes to Sydney later this month, or taking a look at this motivational poster parody, which points out the absurdity of the Popemobile having bulletproof windows by observing "bullets are real, your god is not."

And you definitely don't want to watch this Louis CK video explaining the beliefs of the Catholic Church.

But then again, since you are defending a position in which you engage in *actual cannibalism* (or theophagy, to be precise) as opposed to merely symbolic ritual cannibalism, perhaps you have some interesting rationalizations to share with us on these subjects as well.

Jenn said...

First, Christ is not merely a man. He is God

Second, I didn't say thatI was just "Saying" the statement, I said I KNOW it to be TRUE. Which of course is a lot more than your silly irrational hate-speak.

Third, stick to the subject. You Catholic haters can throw a thousand of you lies at once.

Jenn said...

By the way, I've heard Catholic hater's lies a thousand times before and felt the hot breath of their hatred spewing in my face as they scream their vile epithets. Nothing you say will convince me that you are nothing but the devil's pawn. But I am warmed, because it again affirms that for the legions who propound error and hatred - the ersatz religions, the fraudulent philosophers, the idolators of the State - there is only one eternal enemy: the Roman Catholic Church.

Jim Lippard said...

Whether you assert that p or assert that you know that p, neither conveys any evidence that p. Do you have any to supply?

Do you think that the student in the original story was guilty of a hate crime equivalent to kidnapping? Should somebody who walks out with a consecrated host be prosecuted for kidnapping Jesus, as Bill Donohue suggests? Or do you think maybe he's gone a little bit overboard?

If you have nothing of substance to add to that, the original subject of this post, then what is your point in coming here and making false accusations of lying and hate? (Don't Catholics still believe in the Ten Commandments?) I haven't said anything I don't believe, and I haven't expressed any hate, merely sarcasm and disbelief in what I see as absurdity.

This is my blog, not yours. If you don't like the content, I encourage you to engage in argument and discussion, but if all you have is ad hominem and argument by assertion, then you should post that somewhere else.

Jim Lippard said...

BTW, Jenn got here by searching for "Webster Cook" and is located in Florida. Webster Cook, the guy who got death threats for walking out with the consecrated host, is a student at the University of Central Florida, Orlando.

Are you in Orlando, or perhaps somewhere further south and west like Naples? Got any plans to move into Thomas Monaghan's Ave Maria community? (Domino's founder Monaghan is building a planned community that will be a Catholic town. He originally planned to contractually forbid retailers there from selling contraceptives or pornography, but I believe he has backed away from that as legally unviable. He's also the founder of the Thomas More Law Center, the organization that lost the Kitzmiller v. Dover case in Pennsylvania.)

Jim Lippard said...

Jenn: Your last comment doesn't exactly inspire confidence in your rationality. I don't think anyone here thinks that the Roman Catholic Church is the whore of Babylon or the greatest threat to the world. IMHO, it's a declining religious sect that is mostly harmless in the developed world, apart from the occasional child molestation by a priest and coverup by the Church, its helping contribute to the spread of AIDS with its irrational opposition to contraception, and rampant diocese embezzlement. It's a bit more harmful in the developing world and anywhere it holds political power (like on the U.S. Supreme Court).

Jenn said...

Yawn....ho hum. Sigh. I've heard it all before. You are so boring and tedious. Hint: If the Catholic Church isn't a threat to satan, what is? Mega evangelical churches? Don't make me laugh.

Jim Lippard said...

Jenn: So boring and tedious that you have to keep coming back?

Catholicism doesn't get singled out for criticism here, contrary to your earlier statement. Evangelical Protestantism and Scientology are more frequently critiqued here. No religion is exempt from criticism, nor is atheism or agnosticism.

I don't think it makes any more sense to talk about which religion is a "threat to Satan" than it does about which religion is a threat to Santa Claus. (Actually, I guess that would be the Jehovah's Witnesses.) Satan doesn't exist.

BTW, the Christian Scientist who showed up after we were criticizing her religion was a lot nicer than you are. Do you win many hearts or minds to Christ with your attitude?

Jenn said...

I'm sure that if I were nice, you would chew me to pieces.

Satan's most clever lie is that he doesn't exist. He has you by the...well, you know what I mean.

Jenn said...

BTW - There are presently over a billion Catholics in the world. Probably several more billion who have ever lived during the past 2000 years. So much for your erroneous theory of the Catholic Church being a "declining religious sect that is mostly harmless in the developed world". If it's so harmless, why are you upset?

Jim Lippard said...

Jenn: How about answering my questions from 8:31 p.m. last night, which are directly on topic to the original post?

I'll respond to your comments, as I have been doing so all along.

"I'm sure that if I were nice, you would chew me to pieces." Again, compare to Jodie--did we chew her to pieces when she came and explained Christian Science views? Or Mike Beidler, or Stephen Douglas, who have recently commented about how they support their views of scripture? Nope. The Golden Rule is one of the best things in the Bible, you might give it a try.

"Satan's most clever lie is that he doesn't exist. He has you by the...well, you know what I mean."
That made a good movie plot--however implausible--in "The Usual Suspects." But if you look at the history of the concept of Satan, he was a rather later invention. The original Old Testament view was that God was the creator of all things, including all good and evil (e.g., Isaiah 45:7, Lamentations 3:38, Amos 3:6). The gnostics thought there were at least two gods, the Demiurge who created the material world (which some identified as the evil Old Testament god, and some identified as Satan), and Jesus the good spiritual god. The Bible itself has parallel passages which identify the source of one and the same action as God in one case (2 Samuel 24:1) and Satan in the other (1 Chronicles 21:1). In any case, if God is omnipotent and omniscient and created Satan, anything Satan does is with God's full knowledge, consent, and responsibility (since Satan, like the rest of the angels, presumably lacks free will).

"There are presently over a billion Catholics in the world. Probably several more billion who have ever lived during the past 2000 years."

Your first statement is correct, if we accept baptism records as an accurate reflection of who's a practicing Catholic, which strikes me as similar to accepting Scientology's claims that everyone who has ever taken a Scientology course is a Scientologist. They claim 8 million members; the reality is probably a hundred thousand practicing Scientologists. I know Catholics like to say, "once a Catholic, always a Catholic," but that's not a terribly accurate way to count who's actually a practitioner.

If we just accept that as a hypothesis, Catholics are still the largest Christian sect (pretty close to half of all nominal Christians today), but they are shrinking on a percentage basis (compared to both world population and other sects of Christianity). Pentecostals have come out of nowhere (they started in the early 20th century) to 400 million today. Muslims have gone from less than a billion at the beginning of the 20th century to 1.5 billion today.

25% of all Catholics in the world live in Europe, but the number of Catholics in Europe has only increased by 1% from 2000-2006, while the number of priests there has dropped--I think Africa is the only region where growth is ahead of population growth. Though Brazil is the #1 country for Catholics (134M in 1998, 140M in 2007; the U.S. is #3 after Mexico which is #2), none of those nations is even in the top ten for Catholics on a percentage basis, and Brazil's hot growing religion is Pentecostalism (24M there now), not Catholicism. Part of Catholicism's problem there is lack of priests--apparently Brazilians aren't so keen on the idea of celibacy.

Jenn said...

You poor deluded man.

Jim Lippard said...

I'm engaging with your points, you're not engaging with mine--yet somehow that makes *me* deluded? If you aren't going to answer any questions or engage in discussion, what's your purpose in commenting here? Are you engaging in "hate speech"?

Jenn said...

wbifqbruThere is nothing I could say that you wouldn't override with a misconception - either on purpose or out of never having tried to find out what the Catholic teaching is or why. Your comment on satan is a prime example. Satan is an angel. In the beginning God made all the angels and gave them free will. Satan and 1/3 of the created angels he led into Hell CHOSE to disobey and become evil. God made man and gave him free will also. Therefore, we can choose to do either good or evil, and there are plenty of people who deliberately choose to evil. But since you already know just everything, you already know this and have a smart comeback, not the least of which has to do with your trying to know Truth. You merely make up your own truth as you see it and it's just your own opinion, and really, I'm not interested in your opinion. I'm only interested in God's Truth, but since you're on satan's side, being an atheist and all, you would not be inetrested in knowing exactly what that is. As to your snide remarks about priest abusers - it's clear that you have never seen, much less talked to, a good holy priest. You don't know what "holy" means, do you? And don't threaten me with the hate speech spiel what with your hateful remarks about the Holy Eucharist. In case you don't know it, Catholics here on earth are what's called the Church Militant. Souls in Heaven are the Church Triumphiant and souls in Purgatory are the ...oh well...you already know this. Why do I bother. Anyway, I am part of the Church Militant and like to fight the culture wars against the Culture of Death - you know...abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, etc. Writing to you is just one more day in the life of a Catholic taking up for her Faith.

Jim Lippard said...

Jenn: The Catholic Encyclopedia does argue that the angels had some form of will (though it carefully avoids putting the adjective "free" in front of it), and notes the problem of explaining how perfect creations of God, not subject to the temptations of the flesh, could go wrong (with God having omniscient foreknowledge that this would occur, and omnipotent power to prevent it).

Are you one of the people sending death threats to P.Z. Myers? Do you condone such death threats as part of your "Church Militant" membership? How about the Inquisition, would you like to bring that back, too? Or is today's "Church Militant" membership indistinguishable from griefers?

Jenn said...

Who is PZ Myers? As far as the supposed "death threats" to Cook, considering his behavior, how do we know they're true? Has anyone seen them or is the world merely content to take his word for it? Also, I don't know what a griefer is.

As for the Inquisition (may Queen Isabella become a canonized saint)obviously you read history from the other side. Who on earth wrote the Catholic Encyclopedia you referenced? If God had not given us (and the angels) free will, we would all be robots. He wants us to FREELY love Him - freely with our own will. If He forced His will on us like we were robots, we would be forced to love, not love given freely. The definition of Free Will in the Catholic Dictionary I have is: Free Will - The power of the will to determine itself and to act of itself, without compulsion from within or coersion from without. It is the faculty of an intelligent being to act or not act, to act this way or another way, and is therefore essentially different from the operations of irrational beings that merely respond to a stimulus and are conditioned by sensory objects.

As for daily activities of being a Catholic - among other things, like praying the Rosary (bet you don't know what that is REALLY), for me it means not taking any lies people like to shove down Catholics' throats.

Jim Lippard said...

My previous comment linked to the Wikipedia page that explains what a griefer is.

Given your statements about free will, you should enjoy Raymond Smullyan's dialogue between a human and God about free will.

P.Z. Myers is the author of the Pharyngula blog. If you look at the original post, you'll see that he was the author of the article about Webster Cook that I originally linked to, and I've also linked to his reports of receiving hate mail and death threats from Catholics upset by his postings on the subject.

Jenn said...

Oh. Well, that wouldn't be me because I don't do death threats. It's much more fun to let them live, pray for them, and let them LIVE with the results. I'm a pro-lifer.

Do you make up the word verification letters? Are they randomly sent by a program or are they something mean?

Jim Lippard said...

I'm glad to hear that you don't do death threats--at last we've found some common ground.

The word verifications are generated by Google/Blogger, not by me.

Jenn said...

Well, we did make a bit of progress then, right? With that I'll leave you in peace and will remember you in prayer.

Your Catholic friend,

Einzige said...

Are we sure that Jenn isn't just trying to be funny?

I know I've laughed more than a couple times reading this thread.

Jenn said...

Laugh at this, einzige:


Einzige said...

Sure. Okay. Now what?

I await your next over-the-top wacko post with baited breath (and still not convinced that you're not simply doing parody).

Jenn said...

Yeah, einzige, I know. You love me. Admit it.

Einzige said...

Oops, I meant "bated"--as in the opposite of "abated"... oh well.

normdoering said...

That story got me back away from posting on TV shows. One thing I noticed, Bill Donohue may have answered Christopher Hitchen's Atheist Challenge, and that challenge goes like this:

"Here is my challenge. Let anyone name one ethical statement made, or one ethical action performed, by a believer that could not have been uttered or done by a nonbeliever."

No nonbeliever would ever say what Bill Donohue said:

"It is hard to think of anything more vile than to intentionally desecrate the Body of Christ."

And by "Body of Christ" Bill Donohue refers to a dry and tasteless cracker.

Is it a moral statement? When you call something vile or a hate crime you are making a moral statement. Would an atheist ever claim that abusing a cracker is the most vile thing he could think of? I don't think so.

Why don't Christians offer that as an example to prove Hitchens wrong?

When I take a look at those who actually try to answer Christopher Hitchens' Challenge they all fall into Hitchens' trap and try to make a moral argument that Hitchens would not consider insane and thus automatically make statements an atheist could make.

Also noteworthy, The Wikipedia entry on Host desecration. It's apparently old anti-Semitic nonsense.

Podblack said...

Digital Cuttlefish's take on it all:

Oh, funny that the article about the brothel is in a UK paper, not an Australian! I'll have to see if it's been covered here...