Saturday, 12 July 2008


By which I mean the idea that P. Z. Myers seems to think that this is hate mail:

So, would you really do something like that? Really? I can only suppose, then, that you also wouldn't mind defecating on a Buddha in a temple, or urinating on a Torah while it's still in its Ark, or maybe you'd go for stuffing a Koran down a toilet and flushing. Were you the kind of brother that would tear off the head of your sister's favorite doll? - or step on one of your mother's favorite plants? I saw your picture on the university's website and you look like a pretty even-tempered man. You don't look like a man that would do what you described above, let alone say it. What happened man? Seriously - what happened?

You should be nicer in what you say and do to people and to the things those people hold dear. If you don't have anything good to say - don't say anything at all.

PZ! They disagree with you! They think you're wrong. That's debate, that's

Or consider this extract:

Shame on you for abusing your academic pulpit in this way. I pray that the university authorities will handle your case with wisdom and with justice.

Paul, you have some bridges to build after this terrible misdeed. Make amends, and stop hating for hate's sake.

Have a look through the emails in P. Z. Myers collection and, remember, these are the pick of the intolerant, medieaval, venom-filled bunch.


Friday, 11 July 2008

There’s no goal like an own-goal

P. Z. Myers writes about a student, Webster Cook, who took a Eucharist wafer but failed to consume immediately and has found himself the subject of threats of expulsion from campus and, even, death.

Death threats? Trying to get him thrown off campus? This is totally over the top. It doesn’t seem that Cook intended to give offence. Surely he’s entitled to the benefit of the doubt? He’s made a mistake; it has upset a lot of people, so what should they do about it? They should take the chap to one side, explain what he’s done and give him a jolly good talking to. The reaction is no doubt being hyped but, even so, it’s over the top. It shows these people in a very bad light: unforgiving, aggressive and doctrinaire.

What a great post for P. Z. Myers. The champion of reason can point out how far the actions of the religious fall short of what they themselves claim. They claim that if only we all took up religion then everything would be fine. Here we have pretty clear evidence that a firm moral compass from God doesn’t stop you being the kind of asshole who threatens someone with death.

This is not, however, the main thrust of Myers’ post. Myers goes badly awry and misses the target entirely. The main thrust of his post is that these people should not get in a tizzy at all because what they believe is wrong and that he, Myers, is going to show them that they are wrong. According to Myers the actions of Cook are not a “hate crime”, not because Cook intended no harm, but because no harm was done. These people are “demented fuckwits”, “deluded lunatics” who are only offended because they believe something idiotic. “It’s a Frackin’ Cracker” heads the piece which ends with a promise to show us “sacrilege….and with much fanfare”.

It doesn’t matter if they are factually incorrect about the cracker

Was the publication of “those” cartoons in “that” Danish newspaper a “hate crime”? I would say not. Non-muslims do not have to follow the Islamic injunction not to depict the prophet. We are also quite entitled to think him less than perfect, to say so and to say so publicly. Now, if I were to take those cartoons print them on large poster-sized paper and stick them on the inside of the nearest mosque would that be a “hate crime”? Of course it would, it would be a mean, nasty, vile and deliberate insult. And where does whether or not Mohammed was the last prophet of God fit in? How reasonable a belief that Mohammed is Allah’s messenger have to be for it to be an insult? I am not a Muslim. I do not think Mohammed was the last prophet of God. I do not think it a “reasonable” belief at all. From my point of view those Muslims complaining about my poster campaign are complaining about me telling the truth! It does not matter whether I think it’s a silly belief or not: it’s their Mosque, they would be upset and I should respect their wishes.

But what if I’m completely wrong about Mohammed? Beside being in deep trouble when I die, does it mean that the cartoons were wrong? No, no it doesn’t: they may be factually incorrect but the cartoonists are entitled to their beliefs. As far as mistakes go denying the Prophet of God is one of the biggest, it matters not. What matters is the right of people to hold these beliefs. Either the cartoonists or the Muslims in the nearest mosque have got something very, very, wrong indeed. Yet the cartoonists have a right to publish without death threats and the Muslims have a right to worship unmolested.

Real Delusion

Let’s look at real delusion for a moment. I have a favourite chair. It’s my chair and I sit on it. If my son’s friends come round and sit there I will ask them to get up. How stupid is that? What sort of difference do I think that chair has? How deluded a demented-fuckwitted-lunatic do you have to be to actually care about which seat you sit in? What do these teenagers do when I ask them to move? They move. They realise that it’s my house, my chair, I will be upset if they stay there and, no matter how stupid the entire thing is, common decency requires them to move.

And so it is with the Mass. These people gathered together “in private” (though I imagine anyone could attend none had to) to do certain things that were very important to them. Whether or not they were demented lunatics is irrelevant. The facts in the case are that this Mass was important to them. The fact is that they believed that the cracker was the body of Christ and were bloody upset.

Own Goal

So Myers missed the target, the totally over-the-top reaction. Missed opportunity, yes, but why did I mention “own goal”? Because we all know what is wrong with fundamentalists. They try and impose their beliefs on us and we hate them for it. For them the question is not whether or not you are hurting anyone else, but whether or not what you believe is correct. If they decide that it is incorrect, silly, idiotic or “demented” then they feel free to completely ignore it. If your idea doesn’t match up to their standards then you are not worthy of respect. It’s ok to deliberately misquote Darwin, because Darwin is wrong. It’s fine to disrupt prayers in Congress, because they are stupid heathen prayers. The Fundie cannot see what is wrong with picketing a gay carnival, because they’re against God.

The Fundie cannot see what is wrong with desecrating what somebody believes is the body of Christ because, it’s just a frackin’ cracker.

What should happen now? Certainly not “39 pieces of personal hate mail” saying some of the things Myers says that they said. Should he be sacked? What for? For being wrong? (Standard definition of "wrong": disagreeing with me). This is what this free speech stuff is all about, we disagree, we argue, we criticise. We do not silence and sack. P. Z. Myers has written something on the web that I, strongly, disagree with. P. Z. Myers deserves the embarrasment of reading a good, well argued, well written, rebuttal.

Sadly, PZ, you’ll have to make do with this!

Oh, have a link to some fun own-goals