Can you really be eternally happy in heaven?

3 09 2008

Back in August PZ Myers linked to a reality-based retelling of “Jack and the Beanstalk,” in which Jack trades the magic beans for a cow, and is berated and banished by his family as a consequence.

JACK: This cow can get us through the winter. [. . .] And I never understood what was magical about those 3 beans.
JACK’S FATHER: They were given to me by my father who was given them by his father whose father SAID THEY WERE MAGICAL.

Jack goes on to get a degree in applied economics and live happily ever after with his cow; his family freezes and starves to death.

One commenter, Kenny, raises the following objection:

and of course we know that this is a fairy tale because “lived happily ever after” does not exist in the real world. Jack and his cow will also eventually die. oh but wait, maybe there is a “lived happily ever after” if what religion says is correct and there is/are a God/Gods.

Kenny’s extreme linear-mindedness is almost endearing, but his remarks did lead me to wonder: do Christians believe that heaven is a place of eternal happiness, that once they die and go to heaven they will be happy forever. Like, interminably happy? Read the rest of this entry »

Walking on communion wafers

28 07 2008

When you attack the belief, do you harm the believer?

I would have thought the answer to this question was a sound and straightforward “no” . . . that there is, in fact, a difference between, on the one hand, abusive ad hominem rhetoric; and on the other, the critique, or even ridicule of beliefs, propositions, ideas and practices. We all misspeak, we all commit errors and brainfarts, we are all guilty of idiocy from time to time; but that does not necessarily mean that we are all idiots, anymore than the rhetorical tapdancing (“Not that there’s anything wrong with that”) engaged in by George Costanza and Jerry Seinfeld in the Seinfeld episode “The Outing” means that it is fair to describe these characters as Phelpsian homophobes. I would have thought it a given of the ethics of civil debate and dialogue that (i) while no belief should be immune from scrutiny, (ii) an attack on the belief does not constitute an attack on the individual who holds the belief. Disagreement over the issues (even for the sake of devil’s advocacy) is the stuff of reasoned debate. Abusive rhetoric, while entertaining in certain contexts, is just noise: both because it is irrelevant to the issues under discussion and because it tends to generate emotional heat. Abuse, then, is intended to be taken personally—that’s the point of abuse—whereas disagreement about ideas, even if it takes the form of mockery or satire, is not. Read the rest of this entry »

We are all wafer-desecraters now

11 07 2008

A Florida student receives death threats for attempting to smuggle a communion wafer out of a Mass, after being wrestled for it by a church leader. Other church figures describe the student’s actions as a “hate crime,” curiously neglecting to apply this description to the aforementioned death threats. The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights campaigns for the student’s expulsion, but also remains curiously silent on the matter of the death threats.

Blogging on the transparent stupidity of this situation, PZ Myers makes the following suggestion:

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 goddamned 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.

This is, apparently, all it takes for Myers himself to become the subject of death threats, as well as a campaign to get him disciplined by his employer the University of Minnesota orchestrated by the very same Catholic “civil rights” organisation mentioned above that clearly values discs of bread over human life.

My ire at this breathtaking display of idiocy is not directed at Catholics in general. I appreciate that many Catholics are sane and rational people who are blessed with a sense of proportion and are not going to get their panties in a twist over the prospect of host-desecration. Those many Catholics should not be tainted with the sociopathy of that subset of Catholics who (i) are unable to comprehend that respecting the rights of individuals to believe what they want to believe does not mean that the beliefs themselves must be respected, and (ii) want to harm (or desire for harm to be brought upon) those who mock or question the ideas they cherish.

I guess I just don’t see why wafer rights should outweigh human rights.

See also: Friendly Atheist and Richard Dawkins.

Quote of the week: PZ Myers

27 05 2008

From Pharyngula:

It is definitely the case that the human mind is not a piece of clockwork logic, and there are certainly irrational interpretations of the world that mesh well with our flawed preconceptions, and it can even make us feel good to give in to comforting myths. But this is not good for us. Put rats on a variable reinforcement schedule in a cage with a button that dispenses electric shocks to the pleasure centers of their brain, and they will push that button with passion and energy and even, as near as we can interpret it, joy … but that is a rat that has thrown away its rattiness and has dedicated its life to a shallow, empty abstraction. It is a rat that has found its god.

Richard Dawkins couldn’t have put it better himself.