Saturday, July 19, 2008

Chickenhawks of the Enlightenment

I've just learned (tardily, as usual) from Tom Piatak at Taki's that University of Minnesota professor and blogger of the unfortunately common uber-glib school (casual conversational tone, replete with gratuitous obscenities), PZ Myers, outraged at the reaction of a Catholic church to a student protester spiriting away (excuse the expression) and defiling the Eucharist, has taken up that hoary and delusional cliche of the self-imagined secular crusader, The Brave Battle Against Catholicism and the Coming Inquisition (and, yes, the I-word was literally deployed):
So, what to do. I have an idea. Can anyone out there score me some consecrated communion wafers? There's no way I can personally get them — my local churches have stakes prepared for me, I'm sure — but if any of you would be willing to do what it takes to get me some, or even one, and mail it to me, I'll show you sacrilege, gladly, and with much fanfare. I won't be tempted to hold it hostage (no, not even if I have a choice between returning the Eucharist and watching Bill Donohue kick the pope in the balls, which would apparently be a more humane act than desecrating a g--damned cracker), but will instead treat it with profound disrespect and heinous cracker abuse, all photographed and presented here on the web. I shall do so joyfully and with laughter in my heart. If you can smuggle some out from under the armed guards and grim nuns hovering over your local communion ceremony, just write to me and I'll send you my home address.
Get that, "there's no way" he can breach the defenses of local churches (I imagine he fantasizes his image on a wanted poster over the holy water, right up there with Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins). Not since George Bush donned that flight suit have I witnessed such a manly display.

I suppose if the Professor deferred the instant gratification of publicly brandishing his offended intellectual superiority and treated those with whom he disagrees as if they actually have a right to their contrary beliefs, he would have to acknowledge the congregants were minding their own business engaged in worship to which they have a moral and constitutional right, entirely within the confines of the Church. The fact that the student places no value on the "cracker" gives him no right to disrupt, and thereby deny, these people this, their most fundamental right.

Myers makes much of what he sees as melodramatic language employed by the church in its defense and their demands that the Eucharist be returned. But the language and deeply held nature of the outrage expressed by the church is entirely beside the point--and any casual but competent observer will see from the start that the question is this: does the church have a right to its practices free of harassment? This did not take place in the public square. That's what's striking here--Myers and cohort simply do not recognize the church's right to defend the place and circumstances of their worship; they essentially assert that their certainty regarding what they see as its delusional and silly nature empowers them to interfere with it.

This is little different from an invasion of an individual's private sphere, or the disruption of any group's free assembly--the petty and sordid nature of the student's actions notwithstanding. I suppose I too will be deemed a frothing-at-the-mouth zealot if I see in this the embryo of totalitarianism, but I do. I have many things of various levels of sentimental value, that others will deem meaningless, in my home. Does Professor Myers presume the right to take them and make a show of defacing them, and does he assert that right based on his superior arguments as to the irrationality of my sentiment, and the fervor with which I defend it? And this man dares to compare this with the Inquisition--when he is the one demanding this inalienable right be surrendered to the prank of a petulant child. Irony everywhere these days, and still some don't recognize it when it falls on their oblivious heads.

This is after all the same sort of provocateur strategy employed in the revolutionary phase of the last century's more destructive totalitarian movements, Left and Right--and religion and religious institutions were among the first targeted and held in special contempt (a contempt Myers holds just as fiercely, if his actions are more comic than sinister), as obstructions to absolutism. In a time of increasing government power, decreasing constitutional rights, militarism and the hijacking of Born-Again Christian churches by militant millenarians--all of which are increasingly becoming part of a whole--hostility toward the Catholic Church is downright baffling. One has to conclude that, despite the attempts of these antagonists to hang the history of human folly and vanity on religion--the classic, ubiquitous misperception that human flaws arise from human institutions, rather than bedevil them--they believe their certainty is justification enough to destroy an institution that, in their eyes, competes with them for power.

I do have one suggestion for this self-styled defender of the Enlightenment: go where the battle is joined in earnest, say to a madrassa in Pakistan (or a mosque in Europe, for that matter) and have a go at the "meaningless" articles of their faith. I recommend an artist's rendering of Muhammad, for instance. Just paper and ink! Or, if Myers' notoriety goes beyond the local churches and is global (Carlos the Jackanape, International Man of Hysteria), he can pull the same prank he has planned already--complete with address provided on demand, and on-camera starring role. The clarion has sounded, Professor.


DiverCity said...

PZ has just been pwned, once again. I sure wish I could write like you, DD. Yes, I admit it, I'm a sycophant, but damn dude.

dearieme said...

One can surely express contempt for the Roman Catholic church without resorting to the puerile rubbish of PZ. Indeed, one might be wise not to express it, since civilised folk must take their allies where they find them.