31 July 2008

This is what happens when chance is forced upon innocent people

We ask all Catholics of Minnesota and of the entire nation to join in a day of prayer and fasting that such offenses never happen again.

All Catholics are being asked to fast and pray as an act of reparation because of PZ’s threat/act of desecrating the Holy Eucharist. So, the catholic church is trying to guarantee this doesn’t happen again by requiring all Catholics to have to act in order to offset one non-Catholics actions? It sounds like the Catholic Church is just asking for it’s members to take more action than turning the other cheek should something similar happen in the future.

How about if police said that the next time there is a fatal car accident everyone in the nation will have to observe a day of mourning during which they will not be allowed to eat and they will be required to communicate with an imaginary being? Would anyone like to imagine what the response might be? I can imagine a lot of gung ho wannabe cops out there trying to make sure drivers use turn signals, maintain legal speeds, follow traffic signals, and generally obey all traffic laws. I can also imagine some of those gung ho wannabe cops using force or even violence to ensure drivers follow all the rules. I can even imagine a few gung ho wannabe cops causing problems while trying to prevent problems. In other words, requiring innocent people to pay the price for a strangers actions is like opening a door to violence.

Seriously, folks, if such a simple act is such a huge crime, perhaps the Catholic Church should be doing a better job of protecting the Holy Eucharist. And I don’t mean by attacking, physically or verbally, any person who dares to utter what might be considered as the slightest threat against the Holy Eucharist. I mean by taking care to ensure that those who receive the Holy Eucharist are in the proper frame of mind.

Has anybody else seen the new Batman movie and found Joker a most interesting character?

14 July 2008

But, Isn't that Depressing?

While I was trying to digest the Catholic outrage against Webster Cook, I asked a Catholic acquaintance and coworker her opinion on the matter. She was unaware of the Cook Controversy. Her initial response was that it was extremely rude of Cook to take the Eucharist from Mass. She also thought the death threats and such were unacceptable. I tried to press her on the “turning into the body of Christ” bit and she pressed me on the “don’t believe in anything” bit.

As many people do, she asked me if I really am an atheist. A whole-hearted atheist, not just an agnostic. Yup, I’m an atheist. Through and through. “You really don’t believe in some sort of ‘energy’ in the universe?” Nope, I don’t believe in some controlling, over arching, created everything energy. “Really? Nothing at all?” Nope. Nothing at all. “You don’t believe in some sort of soul? Or a place that the soul goes when you die?” Nope. No soul. We’re dust. We live. We’re dust again. We don’t have a soul that goes somewhere for eternity. We are and then we’re not. That’s all there is. “So, you truly believe that you don’t have any sort of soul, or energy or anything that survives into eternity?” Nope. No soul. Truly, that’s what I believe. “Then what do you think happens when you die?” I die. My physical body rots and disintegrates and that’s all there is. Memories of me are all that survive, and eventually even those will disappear. “But, isn’t that depressing?”

“Isn’t that depressing?” It is a question atheists often receive from non-atheists. For those who live their lives with the belief that their souls will go somewhere fabulous (or otherwise) for eternity, the idea of not going somewhere, not having a soul, is anathema. It’s depressing, and horrible, and enough to make you question your existence. But, really, it isn’t so depressing at all. In some ways it is extremely freeing. I am, in the end, judged only by myself. I don’t have to worry about meeting the standards of some being who supposedly already knows everything about me. I actually find my belief much less depressing. I only have myself to answer to, I don’t have to worry that all my thoughts and actions are recorded by posterity so that I may be finally judged by a supreme being who is all powerful. (It’s nice to know that no one will remember all those times when I embarrassed myself.) The idea that I might be damned to hell for the simplest infraction is hardly heartwarming.

“Then what meaning does your existence have?” is the question that usually follows the “isn’t it depressing?” discussion. Apparently, for those who believe in God, they exist because God created them. Everyone created by God has a reason to exist. They may not know what this reason is, they may not be fulfilling this reason. But, they may remain confident that everything that happens in their lives happens for a reason, probably tied to their reason for existing. For those such believers, the lack of a creator means your existence lacks a reason. There’s one answer to this question: my life has whatever meaning I give it. I exist simply to exist. If I like to eat chocolate and sit on the couch all day watching reruns of M*A*S*H then that is what I exist to do. If I want to spend my day off scooping poop and scrubbing kiddy pools at the humane society, then that is what I exist to do. The meaning of my existence changes daily. I exist simply to exist. There’s no big question, nor is there a big answer. There just is. I enjoy the freedom to form my life however I want. I may not succeed in meeting my goals, but I am free to reevaluate them whenever I want. I am dependent on myself alone to create meaning in my life.

Contrary to popular belief, I am not depressed nor unhappy nor stuck in a meaningless existence. I am, instead, free. And in my freedom, I am happy.

12 July 2008

You're all going to Hell. Here, let me get the door for you

As usual, I’m a day late and a dollar short. I’m sure everybody has heard about this by now, it’s all over the blogosphere. Just google Webster Cook. Then again, maybe you haven’t heard about it, considering I haven’t seen it in the newspaper yet and I didn’t see any major newspapers listed when I googled a couple minutes ago. Surely there is nothing new I can add to this, but I simply must try.

According to the only real article about it I could find, Link, and Cook’s responses, it seems that Cook did not initially intend to “kidnap” or “hold hostage” the Eucharist. He simply intended to delay ingestion long enough to show the Eucharist to his non-Catholic friend. His mission intensified when he was physically accosted by members of the church. When he continued to receive verbal attacks and even death threats, he finally relented and returned the Eucharist.

I find the whole thing sadly amusing. He just tried to show a cracker to his friend. He wasn’t even planning to take the cracker out of the church, he said his friend came to mass with him. As a non-Catholic, a non-Christian to be fully honest, I have only a theoretical understanding of the Eucharist. It’s a holy object to those who believe it is holy. To the rest of us, it’s a cracker. While I can sort of understand how Catholics might become enraged about Cook’s behavior, I fail to see why it is their right to pass anything other than church judgement against him. He “stole” the Eucharist. Or he “kidnapped” it. or whatever other term you want to use. So, he’s going to hell. So he’s excommunicated. So he’s wholely disrespected throughout the Catholic world. That is your prerogative as the leader of the church. It is not, however, your right to negatively impact his education or threaten his life. Asking Catholics worldwide to write letters to the University of Central Florida suggesting that he be brought up on disciplinary charges because of a “crime” he committed against God, is not your prerogative.

If you’re worried about a Catholic mistreating the Eucharist, perhaps the Catholic church should do a better job of vetting it’s members. Perhaps you should do a little more work to make sure those who receive the Eucharist have no criminal thoughts. Then again, if you did that you would surely discover that many (even most) Catholics don’t actually adhere to all the rules of the Catholic Church. I know at least one Catholic who engages in sex outside of marriage and I thought that was very much against Catholic church rules. Really, I’m not sure I understand why other Catholics have any say in the matter in the first place. If mistreating the Eucharist is a sin that will get you sent to hell, then let the guy go to hell. How is it any of your business?

On a tangent, there are so many responses to which I would like to respond, but I think a comment from here gives me my best option. “I think he has every 'right' to protest, but i (sic) think he crossed the line. It's one thing to protest in a peaceful manner and quite another to take an element of a large number of society's belief system and basically spit on it.” Funny thing about our right to Freedom of Speech in our democracy, we actually do get to do this. The same way Catholics and other Christians get to walk around touting their religious beliefs as The Truth, The One And Only Truth, even though that means taking the whole of a belief system and basically spitting on it.

What might be the most annoying part of this whole thing, is the fire PZ Myers has received for his comments essentially supporting Cook. In response to all this outrage against Cook’s actions, Myers promised to “show you sacrilege, gladly, and with much fanfare.” Yes, it was outside the bounds of politeness. Yes, it was inflammatory. Yes, it was probably down right rude. But, two wrongs don’t make a right. Calling for his employer to fire him and encouraging others who were offended to contact his employer calling for him to be fired, isn’t right either. That, too, is inflammatory and down right rude.

Lets just get to the heart of this matter, though. At the very center of this whole showdown is the Catholic belief that this little cracker actually becomes Jesus after it has been blessed versus the opposing belief that it is just a bit of flour and water and animal fat mixed together and baked. Catholics are offended by Myers’ comments because he is completely discounting their beliefs. He’s pretty much saying they’re wrong about the whole Eucharist thing. For this offense, he should lose his job. There isn’t, however, anything wrong with Catholics completely discounting his belief that it is nothing but a cracker, which translates to a lack of belief in Jesus, I think. In one case, Person X made a comment completely dismissing the religious beliefs of Person Y. In the other case, Person A made a comment completely dismissing the religious beliefs of Person B. In case one, Person X needs to be severely punished, so as to protect Person Y. In the second case, Person B needs to be severely punished so as to protect person A. *scratches head* Yeah, I’m having a little trouble with that one, too.