Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Why I'm an Atheist: Part 3

Post 1 here.
Post 2 here.

I'm finding these posts on why I'm an atheist to be increasingly personal, and consequently increasingly difficult to write. They've morphed from a discussion on why I think a certain way to why the depth of my feelings are so intense. Truth be told, I should probably be talking to an expert about those feelings, if you get my drift.

But for now, I'll stick to blogging-as-therapy.

Since I wrote those last two posts, I've run across two very different ways of criticizing a religious doctrine. One of those was PZ Myers, biology professor of the University of Minnesota/Morris. A recent incident at the University of Central Florida sparked his outrage, namely where a student made off from a Catholic Mass with a consecrated wafer in his possession. He subsequently received anonymous death threats, among other things.

Others have blogged about the significance of the act to Catholics, and I'll let those speak for me. Myers' outrage was directed at the downright disgusting reaction of several parties, namely Bill Donohue of the Catholic League. Donohue is a professional outrage-monger in the great tradition of Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, or Sean Hannity of Fox News. Anyone so much as looks at the Catholic Church funny, he accuses them of being discriminatory (while remaining blissfully unaware of the psychological term "projection", apparently). In this case, the shoe Donohue proceeded to chew boiled down to this: the act of stealing the Eucharist was "beyond a hate crime." (My take: shut up, you goon).

Myers opened up with all guns blazing, noting that what happened to Matthew Sheppard was a hate crime; this was desecrating an object (spare me the theology, people; I know it's supposed to be the literal Body of Christ. I'm immune to the argument).

Then Myers lost me: (Update: Note, this is a quote from Myers, not my own words)

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.

Then I was re-reading the story of Anonymous. This is the group of Internet hackers who has been such a thorn in the side of the "Church" of Scientology lately.

Brief recap: after the wacko video of that wacko Tom Cruise surfaced (without CoS permission), the "Church" ham-fistedly threw lawyers at all the sites which had posted it, demanding it be taken down immediately. Anonymous, being a bunch of people who were used to saying and doing what they wanted online without supervision or censorship, were outraged. They effectively declared war on the CoS, launched a dedicated denial of service (DDOS) attack against the CoS main servers, and basically gave CoS what ANY religion really relishes: a chance to play the martyr card.

Until one man told Anonymous to cut it out and grow up.

Mark Bunker (aka "Wise Beard Man" to Anonymous), a long-time critic of Scientology, posted his own video on YouTube, telling Anonymous that they were completely pulling the rug out from under every painstaking piece of work he and other courageous souls had done over the decades in exposing CoS for the monstrosity that it is. He told them that if they didn't CLEARLY demonstrate the moral high ground, Scientology would have grounds to claim it by itself.

Anonymous listened.

I've had to think about that, and to consider the venom of my earlier posts about the Catholic Church. And honesty compelled me to admit that, as much as I respect Myers for his knowledge and loved reading him for his scathingly funny posts, I couldn't get on board with him this time. I wrote Myers back on his blog and told him that he was out of line, that he was making things worse, and that throwing gas on the fire was only going to make things look better for the Church. I told him that he should attack the unchristian attitude of those intolerant Catholics (not all of them, mind, just the hysterics), because that would be more effective. I'm not holding my breath.
My best friend once told me that if I ever felt the urge to rejoin the Church, I would be welcomed back. I told him in a quiet, firm tone of voice that such a course would never, ever happen. First, as I've iterated several times, I literally am incapable of accepting their point of view. Second, the anger is still there. I'm naturally angered by injustice--of which the Church is guilty in countless ways--and that will never change, because I don't want to stop being outraged by injustice.

But maybe I was deficient in defining the limits of my anger.

As I mentioned in my reply to Dr. Myers, my best friend and his wife are still Catholics, still attend Mass weekly, and serve on their parish council in some capacity. He respects my dissents, I respect how he uses his faith to be a better person. I work with Catholics and other Christians on a daily basis. Hell, I work with a Wicca priestess, for crying out loud. The only one I really have a problem with is the guy who likes to hang overt religious posters on his cubical wall and carry on like his shit doesn't stink. In short, it's the person, not the religion, that is the ultimate deal-breaker for me.

My former girlfriend, Heather, and I never really had any discussion about religion. Being a writer, the only thing I've ever heard from her on the topic of her own belief is, "God and I are good." Have no idea what that means, don't care. I love her as intensely as ever because of who she is. Even if she's warped enough that she actually dated a troll like me. :-)

As someone once said about the US Navy, the system sucks, but I admire the people trying to do a good job within the system. But again, I can't help but ask, why not leave the system behind? It's irreparable, inconsistent, and literally fantastic (in the less-than-complimentary sense). If you're fully comfortable with the room you inhabit which will never expand, never hold any new wonders, and always close back in upon itself, that's up to you. I prefer to be the kind of person who punches out a window to see what's beyond.

And maybe these posts have provided an outlet for some of the anger. Maybe I'll stop stoking the coals, it was getting hot in here for a while.

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