Choosing Symbols over Reality
Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.
-Henry David Thoreau
A man minds his own business when it is worth minding. When it is not, he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding the business of others.
UPDATED: Apparently planning to bring a supply of communion wafers with purple hearts drawn on them, the Catholic League is now calling for extra security at the Republican National Convention, being held in "Myers' backyard" (news to me - and it's in St. Paul anyway), to protect them from him (not to protect them from me, you understand), because PZ has received death threats. Uh-huh. You read that correctly. He has received death threats, and the Catholic League wants more security.
(Bill Donohue says, "But he’d [PZ] better be careful what he says, because if I get any death threats, it won’t be hard to connect the dots." Geez, such persecution. The next thing they'll have to construct burning pyres around the convention center to destroy all the witches arrayed against them. Must be fun being paranoid. I hope they succeed in turning this RNC into the laughing-stock that it promises to be.)
BTW, this is not blasphemy. ("Bucking court, EPA won't control climate gases -
Bush administration says it's leaving issue for next president, Congress.")
Catholic League President Bill Donohue says, "It is hard to think of anything more vile than to intentionally desecrate the Body of Christ."
To which I say: Oh, yeah?
The only scary part of the story is that Robinson, himself a victim of sexual abuse as a child (not by a cleric), stands virtually alone among the world's Roman Catholic bishops in openly questioning a system that has resulted in thousands of children being molested and raped and the crimes of the perpetrator priests being covered up by church leaders [emphasis mine].
Desecration of a piece of bread is the most vile act possible? What about the wholesale desecration against the body of one's congregants, and the subsequent cover-up that lasted for decades - if not actually two thousand years?
Under an avalanche of lawsuits and media coverage, Robinson's colleagues (surrounded by a battery of attorneys and public relations specialists) were forced to enact reforms such as not allowing priests who had molested to serve in ministry. But the underlying causes have, for the most part, not been addressed.
In "Confronting Power," Robinson explores how the church could get it so wrong.
As the title suggests, Robinson believes the molestation scandal was the result of an abuse of power and sex. He argues that the church over the centuries has concentrated too much authority within the clergy and especially within the papacy -- leaving no room for debate on church teachings that, in theory, could be changed.
He says Catholics suffer from the doctrine of "creeping infallibility," where declarations by the pope are thought of as infallible -- and therefore not open to discussion -- though they don't officially carry the label of "papal infallibility." (The concept of papal infallibility wasn't introduced until 1870, and the only infallible statement issued by a pope was in 1950 when Pius XII declared that Mary, upon her death, was assumed bodily into heaven.)
Robinson, who handled sexual abuse claims in Australia from 1994 to 2004, said creeping infallibility effectively stops even a discussion on issues that may have caused the sexual abuse scandal, including mandatory celibacy and an all-male priesthood.
Reliance on direction from the pope is so strong, Robinson argues, that when Pope John Paul II was silent on the emerging sexual abuse scandal, his bishops and priests believed the church wanted them to continue to manage the problem as they had been.
They "managed" it all right.
The book has generated swift reaction and harsh words from leaders in the Roman Catholic Church. Robinson's fellow bishops in Australia labeled his positions problematic, claiming that his views question "the authority of the Catholic Church to teach the truth definitively.
"And the Vatican and a dozen American bishops -- including Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, Tod Brown of Orange and Robert Brom of San Diego -- recently asked him not to speak out on his book tour lest he "be a source of disunity and cause of confusion among the faithful," in Brown's words. (He ignored their wishes.)
Going after PZ Myers for making a joke about a piece of bread supposedly imbued with God himself (a doctrine which, it must be remembered, other Christians consider to be a form of idolatry*) is the perfect opportunity for Catholics to continue to deny how the molestations happened (and are still happening) and to find a scapegoat and a diversion from their problems, which seemingly includes honest priests writing honest books.
Let's remember that this all began because some student didn't eat the wafer but carried it home in his pocket - apparently an act of high treason - prompting the same Bill Donohue to call for the student's expulsion and for nun guards in the sanctuary. (Can't Jesus take care of himself?) The student gave back the eucharist, but still got death threats, and calls for more punishment.
For a student to disrupt Mass by taking the Body of Christ hostage--regardless of the alleged nature of his grievance--is beyond hate speech. That is why the UCF administration needs to act swiftly and decisively in seeing that justice is done. All options should be on the table, including expulsion.
Oh. Expel the student? But I thought we wanted dissent in our colleges and universities? I thought that we wanted to end the "persecution" of upstarts who dare to "question" orthodoxy? I thought we wanted our students to "defy authority" and be "rebels"? I thought it was okay to disrupt Biology class with loudmouth "witnessing" to souls for Christ? What about "freedom of speech and inquiry"? Well, I hope you know by now that this is all balderdash.
People who appeal for "more freedom" for themselves actually want less freedom for everyone else. They want to impose their form of slavery and conformity. Lacking any real meaning for their lives, they want to impose "meaning" which is in fact security in conformity. (I find no "meaning" in their meaning.) They want Darwin stricken from the culture and evolution wiped off the map. They want religious orthodoxy enshrined, because they care more about imaginary beings than human beings. They don't believe in creating a world we can live in - they think the planet and our lives on it is a dress rehearsal for some place "better."
As my protagonist in my first novel says, "A reason, a plan, a meaning, a god. We’re obsessed with ideas... We’ve made abstractions more real to us than our own lives, and now God is more real to us than each other. Theories about life are more real to us, more important to us, than the living itself. And that’s sick! It’s cowardly." And that's the story of western civilization. The artist, the scientist, the poet, and the adventurer commits the "blasphemy" of falling in love with life itself, rather than seeing life as a means to something/place else, or for the glory of someone else.
It is a struggle against fear - the fear of being alone, of being a true dissenter, a fear of the pain of being a unique, misunderstood, pitied**, and ultimately reviled individual.
What's more vile than desecrating a symbol? How about desecrating what is real, as religion teaches people to do? How about teaching people to lie about our origins, as creationism teaches people to do? (What are you ashamed of? What are you ashamed of, creationists?) How about turning out cookie-cutter kids, like the callow, incurious youths I saw being led into that screening of Expelled? ["No, they're not all related, they just look alike, because they have adopted the same mannerisms and behaviors, because they've been molded," Rev. Barky whispered to me when I wondered if it was one big extended homeschooled family filing into that theatre.]
How about putting life off for later, saying to oneself, "I'll be happy tomorrow, I'll write that novel tomorrow, I'll start exercising tomorrow," or just neglecting yourself, your health, and your personal ambitions entirely? Sacrificing the present on the narrow altar of someday?
Media whores like Ben Stein like to portray themselves as dangerous counterculture rabblerousers. Well, PZ Myers has riled these same "free spirits" to the point that they're calling for his expulsion. PZ expelled - again! And of course they don't see the irony.
And that is the most vile act I can think of.
And by the way, child molestation is not the sole province of the Catholic church. It's in the mainstream churches. It's rife in the Pentecostal movement, where preachers are seen as gods themselves and are not accountable, financially or otherwise, to their congregations. It's not the sole province of Christianity. It goes on practically unpunished (for the men) in the land of our great ally, Saudi Arabia. The women and girls of Iraq have been forced to prostitute themselves to live. Forced marriage is a form of prostitution. (Maybe they could use some communion wafers to eat instead of selling themselves, or being sold by their fathers, for a hunk of bread.)
In South Africa, men persist (enabled by such cretins as ID advocates Philip Johnson and Jonathan Wells) in their belief that raping a virgin, even as young as three months old, will cure them of AIDS. PZ Myers has spoken out on his blog Pharyngula about all these things. Has Bill Donohue, or is Donohue more worried about crackers?
If he is, then in my opinion Donohue is a frackin' cracker himself.
*It is the nature of religion to start wars over niggling theological points that have no basis in reality. I'm not proud of what was said about Catholics in my Girl Scout Troupe.
**"I'll pray for you." For what? So that my life can be as desperately boring as theirs? Chances are, I'm happier than they are. (If they want to pray, they should pray that someday atheists can run for public office like everyone else.)