Jul 24 2008

August 2008 is Officially “Pray for PZ Myers Month”

Published by Jeff Vehige at 4:05 pm under Divine Inspiration, Uncategorized

I’m sure you’ve heard about the outrageous sacrilege committed by PZ Myers. If you haven’t, Jimmy Akin sums it up here. I’m not going to comment on what he did. You don’t need me to do that.

But I will encourage you to make August a month of prayer for PZ Myers. But let’s not just pray for his conversion. Let’s be a little more daring. Let’s pray that he will become our next St. Paul — not an the Apostle to the Gentiles, but an Apostle of the Eucharist.

This isn’t as odd as it might sound. One theme running throughout the lives of the saints, espeically saints that lives worldly lives before their conversion, is this: Their greatest sins became the foundation of their holiness. St. Paul persecuted the Church, and so God used him to build up the Church. St. Augustine lived a life of fleshly pleasure, so God made him the one to clarify the Christian view of conjugal love and made him the model of acesticism. St. Ignatius of Loyola longed to be a military man, and so God made him the head of, at one time, one of the most influential religious orders in the world. And little Therese Martin was extremely selfish in the smallest things of life, so God used her to teach the world how to become extraordinarily holy by giving Jesus the smallest of our acts.

So beginning next Friday, August 1, let us all join in prayer for the conversion of PZ Myers every day, until Sunday, August 31. Let us pray Rosaries for his conversion, offer up the Mass for his conversion, engage in abstinence and fasting for his conversion, and spend time in Adoration for his conversion.

In other words, let’s treat the man as Christ would have us treat him — with profound love.

So get the word out. Email your friends and relatives. Put it on your blogs and websites. Maybe one of you could made a flier that we could put in our parishes (contact me, and I’ll make it available through the Apostolate).

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43 Responses to “August 2008 is Officially “Pray for PZ Myers Month””

  1. Brianon 24 Jul 2008 at 10:36 pm

    What a strange little man Prof. Myers is. Don’t you think it’s a bit ironic that he is so obsessed with something he feels has no power? You would think if it truly had no power he would just ignore it.

  2. Jeff Vehigeon 25 Jul 2008 at 8:44 am

    Brian — I think if we try to understand Prof. Myers’ motivations from the viewpoint of the Eucharist, we won’t get anywhere. Obviously, his purpose was to mock and offend Christians. There’s certainly a lot of hate somewhere in him. I’ll wager that at some time a Christian who was close to him — or a group of Christians — deeply hurt him. That’s the only explanation I can think of that makes sense.

  3. Brianon 25 Jul 2008 at 12:20 pm

    I don’t think I am attempting to understand his motivations from a Eucharistic viewpoint. I just find the whole situation bizarre.

  4. Jeff Vehigeon 25 Jul 2008 at 5:28 pm

    Didn’t mean to imply that you were trying to understand his motivations from a Eucharistic viewpoint. Though I agree, “bizarre” is the right word. I mean, if you want to mock and offend Christians, there are all sorts of ways to do so without having to relying on surreptitiously obtaining a consecrated Host (if, in fact, it was a consecrated Host), and then, having obtained one, the only thing he could think to do with it was to imitate a medieval etching.

  5. Tim Glasson 25 Jul 2008 at 6:30 pm

    This is great Idea Jeff! Count me in! I will also link to this post from my blog and get the word out.

    Blessings to you and the family.
    Wonderful site by the way.

  6. Chrison 25 Jul 2008 at 8:47 pm

    I think the Chaplet of Divine Mercy would be particularly appropriate, too.

  7. horse-pheatherson 26 Jul 2008 at 4:37 pm

    Hi all….

    Just for the record, the stated reason Professor Myers went through the trouble was in protest of certain aspects of the Catholic reaction to the Webster Cook incident at UCF. Cook has received death threats for taking a consecrated host from a service (which he later returned), and there’s an ongoing attempts to have him expelled from the school.

    Peace to you,

    – Pheathers

  8. bobxxxxon 26 Jul 2008 at 5:13 pm

    What horse-pheathers said is correct. There never would have been any cracker abuse if Catholics didn’t overreact to one student who did nothing more than not eat a wafer. Their attempts to have him (and his friend who did nothing) expelled from his university deserves ridicule.

    I would add that your talking to yourselves (praying) to get PZ to believe in your magical sky fairy, is a waste of time. I never met an atheist who wanted anything to do with the insanity of religions.

  9. Jeff Vehigeon 26 Jul 2008 at 5:20 pm

    Hi Bob -

    Whether our prayers are a waste of time or not will be determined only after death.

    If this life is the only life, then indeed our prayers were a waste of time, but what does it matter? We are dead; there is nothing. We did our best to live the best life we could. It was all in vain, but at least we tried our best to live an upright life.

    But if our beliefs turn our to be true, then our prayers are not a waste of time, are they?

    And for the record, I think the over-reaction of many Catholics at UCF are un-Christian and deplorable. I completely understand how these kinds of actions make people hate Catholics and the Church.

    Best regards,

  10. Fezon 26 Jul 2008 at 5:32 pm


    Full disclosure: I am an atheist.

    Your words are some of the most pleasant and enlightening I’ve yet read regarding this entire situation. They are a fine example of what Christianity is advertised to the world to be, and I applaud your having the strength of your convictions to publicly voice this sentiment.

  11. Ericon 26 Jul 2008 at 5:39 pm

    I’m at your altar, desecrating your god.

  12. M Picardon 26 Jul 2008 at 5:42 pm

    This is a fantastic idea!

    However, we should come up with something quick if God decides not to intervene and convert PZ and make him the next Paul to lead us into his glory. We have to get ahead of the atheists on this one.

    How about: 1) God doesn’t just do what we ask him, when we ask him; 2) Science has made him prideful; 3) Because PZ does not have faith, God could not come to him; 4) It was God’s will at this time to take a pass at saving PZ; 5) PZ dying before being saved and the punishment henceforth is part of God’s plan.

    These are start. Am I missing anything?

  13. Mike Haubrich, FCDon 26 Jul 2008 at 5:44 pm

    Ah, prayer is not a waste of time for believers. It is a time of contemplation, meditation, seeking of peace. Praying for someone else, well, it may feel good but the effects are minimal (and I am being charitable.)

    PZ doesn’t hate Catholics, he thinks the doctrine is ridiculous and that Catholics are as foolish as are adherents of any religion. He mocks the institutions and deplores the tenets of the Church in places like Africa, where they teach that condoms help spread AIDS.

    I have a humble suggestion:

    Pray for the people of Africa whose lives are in danger because of such lies. Pray for the people of the United States who are suffering from genetic diseases which could be cured with further stem cell research. Pray for the souls of the people killed and tortured for blasphemy due to Catholic teaching. Pray for those accused of Witchcraft and burned at the stake, having been tortured into confession. Pray for the souls of the Jews killed because of the accusation that they were desecrating hosts. Pray for those who were killed in the Battles for Whose Was the Most Just Religion. Pray for the Creationists who teach the science is evil because it has discovered the process of evolution, that they may come to understand their folly.

    PZ is not going to be a new St. Paul, and it seems like a foolish thing to wish for. But if you do choose to spend your precious meditation worried about PZ instead of worrying about the people who need real help, do me a favor. The last day of August is my birthday. Could you use that day to pray for me to get an HD TV?

    Thanks you.

    Mike, an Ex-Catholic Atheist

  14. Dave W.on 26 Jul 2008 at 6:10 pm

    Mr. Vehige, I see you’re willing to write a single sentence “for the record” regarding unchristian Catholics, but will you write six whole paragraphs in a new blog post designating September to be “Pray for Catholics Who Make Death Threats Month” as you did when targeting Dr. Myers?

    I would think Catholics would be more concerned about the logs in Catholic eyes than a splinter in the eye of a single atheist. The real danger to Catholicism comes from the darkness within Catholics’ own hearts. Some biology professor desecrating a Host won’t change that fact.

    If your faith is strong, shouldn’t Dr. Myers simply be forgiven? Doesn’t focusing on him (for an entire month, no less!) give him more power, even if you don’t succeed in converting him? Where is it taught that Catholics should dwell upon “outrageous sacrilege” for many weeks?

    I’m simply surprised that Catholics don’t seem to be prioritizing on the problems within their own house (problems which, if eliminated, would minimize acts like Dr. Myers’). But then again, in this day-and-age, it seems that personal responsibility is ignored by most people, Catholics no exception.

  15. horse-pheatherson 26 Jul 2008 at 6:25 pm

    “I completely understand how these kinds of actions make people hate Catholics and the Church.”

    This is actually part of the problem, I think — the willingness tgo see hate when there isn’t really any. I don’t hate Catholics, for instance, but I think Bill Donohue as an individual is excreble and view him with a certain degree of contempt. There are many that would take my criticisms of Donohue’s actions on behalf of the Church and dismiss them as anri-Catholic bigotry, being all too willing to see disparagement of one of the Church’s members as disparagement of the Church itself.

    Moreover, when I look at the role played by several people high in the Catholic hierarchy (including then-Cardinal Ratzinger) in the cover up of pedophile priest scandal, and I express anger that these people are still supported and accepted in their places of power, that the rank and file believers tolerate them and look to them for moral guidance….that isn’t an expression of hatred of Catholics. As individuals, you are fine — you just happen to be human like the rest of us and I am appalled by your actions (or lack of them) as a group in this one instance.

    If you as a group looked to heal the corruption within the organization you belong to and financially support, I’d be cheering you on.

    Do you see the difference between that and hate?

    == Pheathers

  16. horse-pheatherson 26 Jul 2008 at 6:37 pm

    Also for the record — I have mixed feelings about the cracker incident. I understand why Professor Myers did what he did and think the point he was trying to make was a valid one that needed to be made. I’m just not sure that this was the best way to make it as the message has largely gotten lost in the resulting outcry.

    – Pheathers

  17. Jeff Vehigeon 26 Jul 2008 at 8:51 pm

    Hi Fez,

    Thank you so much for you kind words. They are most appreciated.

    Best regards,


    Hi Mike,

    First, I’d like to say that I like all of your prayer suggestions. And I’m not just saying that, either. The AIDS epidemic in Africa is truly a horrible thing. Many Catholics today, as well as many in the past, have been at the vanguard of persecuting others who do not agree with the Church. And I certainly think that the public school system would be benefited if Creationism and Intelligent Design theory was not taught as science.

    I would, however, take issue with this comment: “PZ doesn’t hate Catholics.” Though love and hate can be experienced as emotions, they are primarily demonstrated through actions. If I say I love my wife but commit adultery, then I have shown her that I do not love her. By his actions I believe that Prof. Myers has demonstrated that he hates Catholics. He may not “feel” hatred for Catholics, but his actions say otherwise.

    And I will certainly pray for you on August 31st.

    Best regards,


    Hi Dave,

    I think you have an excellent point: Catholics should be ashamed by the actions of their fellow Catholics and calling them to repentance.

    In my defense, let me say this: I heard about both the incident at UCF and Prof. Myers response second hand. It was only on the day he actually published what he did to the Host did I begin paying close attention. After seeing some of the negative reactions by my fellow Catholics, I felt I needed to offer a different kind of response. So in effect, the “Pray for PZ Myers Month” is a reaction based on what I saw Catholic bloggers doing than anything Prof. Myers did. Hence my third paragraph in which I explain my rationale.

    Best regards,


    Hi Pheathers,

    Regarding your second post about the difference between hating a group and expressing frustration at how that group behaves — I believe I understand your point completely, and I think it’s a good one.

    Best regards,

  18. horse-pheatherson 26 Jul 2008 at 9:23 pm

    Jeff –

    Thanks for your responses. I have to say that amidst the “crackergate” brouhaha, your calm demeanor is a refreshing change and I really appreciate it.

    Honestly, I’ve spent the entire affair watching and waiting to see if one person, one single person would come forward and post on Pharyngula three simple words that showed they actually understood the most admirable lesson taught in the Bible (even though I don’t believe the book is in any way holy, there are some good ideas in it if you look carefully enough). The fact that those three words were never offered is actually one of the biggest shames on the Catholic reaction to this whole affair.

    Those three words were simply “I forgive you.” Unadorned, no accusations, no damnings to hell, no passive-aggressive “I’ll pray for you, sinner”. Just plain old “I forgive you.”

    The fact that noone, not one of your fellow Catholics even came close to saying it, well…..if I believed as most Catholics (indeed, most Christians) profess to believe, I’d be looking at that simple fact as a call for instrospection. If Catholics as a group have lost touch with the best of Christ’s teachings, it’s time to assess the entire ediface of the church from the ground up to find out why this has happened and correct the issue…isn’t it?

    – Pheathers

  19. Triphesason 26 Jul 2008 at 10:02 pm

    I know this is going to sound rather sarcastic, but I can’t think of another way to ask it:

    With all the effort you’re proposing to put into trying to get him to convert (prayer, masses, etc), for the whole month, what happens when he doesn’t make the slightest change?

    Was the prayer (etc) not enough? Were not enough people doing it? Or is it powerless to affect people? Or maybe something else?

  20. Jeff Vehigeon 26 Jul 2008 at 10:13 pm

    Hi Pheathers,

    Thank you for your kind words. They’re most appreciated.

    Regarding your point about posting on Pharynagula, I understand your viewpoint. We Christians like to hold up a moral code for others to live by. We often thump the Bible and spout verses that condemn a particular action or viewpoint. Then, when we finally have that chance to live according to the teachings of Jesus for real — not in our homes, not in our places of worship, not in our own little ghetto communities that keep the Bad People out — I certainly understand how a non-Christan would sit back and say, “Now let’s see what they’re made of.” I’d do the same thing.

    As to why no Catholic has posted the simple words “I forgive you” on Prof. Myers blog, I can only tell you why I haven’t done so. I expect people to show good will toward others, and, right or wrong, it seems to me that the vast majority of comments made on Pharynagula — at least those comments regarding this situation — are made with a bad will. That is to say, the vast majority of the participants are more interested in offending others and/or scoring points. Right or wrong, I simply refuse to engage anyone who I believe is showing (or will show) bad will toward me.

    I’m not quite sure I understand your final point enough to say anything. I feel I need to say something because you ended it with a question mark. I can say this: since the Second Vatican Council in the 1960’s, the Church has urged all Catholics to serious examine their lives to determine whether or not they reflect the teachings of Christ. As to how many individual Catholics actually do this . . . your guess is as good as mine.

    Best regards,


  21. Heatheron 26 Jul 2008 at 10:28 pm

    I just wanted to say I have enjoyed reading the different comments here, from atheists and believers alike.

    I’d also like to point out this list of former atheists… there’s no reason why Prof. Myers may not be listed there someday, and no reason to assume that our prayers will be ineffective. If they don’t help Prof. Myers, they will help somebody else. Prayers are never wasted.

    To Horse-Pheathers’ comment above: if any of us had thought any good would have come from publically offering our forgiveness to Prof. Myers, we would have done so. Our prayers and acts of mortification are quite a sufficient expression of our forgiveness and concern. Note, most of us have already been praying, fasting, and doing other acts of penance on his behalf, and that’s not going to stop. I guess most of us have judged taking real action in this manner to be far more effective and Christ-like.

    God be with you all.

  22. Jeff Vehigeon 26 Jul 2008 at 10:30 pm

    Triphesas -

    I don’t think your questions are sarcastic at all. In fact, the moment I published the post, I began asking them myself.

    This is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak — where one must act according to the faith they hold. Without elaborating on the theology of prayer (it’s late, I’m tried, and I still have stuff to do before bed — though you did give me a good idea for a future post, for which I’m thankful), let me say this. Speaking from the viewpoint of faith, this is what I believe specifically about this situation:

    1) God is all-powerful, and therefore he can answer all prayers.

    2) The one thing God will not do is violate a person’s free will.

    3) Because God desires a relationship with Prof. Myers, God will answer this prayer as far as He is able.

    4) What God will not do is violate Prof. Myers human freedom; however, God will provide Prof. Myers with the strength to have a change of heart. This would be particularly important for someone like Prof. Myers who is a public figure and had taken some rather unfortunate, anti-Catholic actions. It would take a tremendous — indeed, I’d say a heroic — amount of humility and courage on his part to convert. (It always takes humility and courage to convert, but most of us do it away from the public eye.)

    5) Therefore, if before his death Prof. Myers undergoes a conversion, then it seems to me that we can say God answered our prayers in two ways: First, he gave Prof. Myers the strength he would need to convert, and second, after Prof. Myers had accepted God’s help, God would then give him the grace to convert.

    6) But if Prof. Myers does not convert before his death, then it seems to me that we can only know the effect of these prayers in the next life.

    That, in a nutshell, is how I understand the Church’s teaching on intercessory prayer and conversion, and it is what I believe to be true. I hope I answered your question.

    Best regards,


  23. horse-pheatherson 26 Jul 2008 at 10:55 pm

    Jeff –

    I can understand your reluctance to post on Pharyngula, particularly in heated times; it can seem a pretty rough place.

    Some of your criticisms are valid — many people there have no real interest in building bridges and every intent to insult, belittle, and so on. Some of this is just standard fare for an unregulated forum (PZ does minimal moderation and people are free to say pretty much whatever they want so long as they do not break the forum itself or show themselves to have no purpose but to harass others — and it usually takes a _lot_ for someone to get tossed in the “dungeon”), and some of it is the byproduct of a a much-maligned group finding people of like minds and thereby getting a chance to vent, often harshly, over the things they cannot say anything about in “normal” society without fear of reprisal.

    Speaking as someone who has lost a job once due in no small part to being the sole atheist in Christian company, watching the Catholic League pile onto Webster Cook resonates particularly strongly with me, so it is with difficulty at times that I have restrained anger over the situation in my responses to the believers who invaded the forum with their curses and accusations, their claims that atheists are incapable of moral decency, their defenses of the CL’s actions in trying to get Cook expelled from school just because he took that wafer back to one of the pews to show his non-Catholic friend what it looked like, where he was accosted, attempts were made to physically take the wafer from him, and in anger over the use of physical force to try to obtain the wafer, he left the church altogether with it, holding onto it until someone, anyone within the church apologized for the use of physical force.

    Instead of an apology, he got death threats and is currently faced with a drive to have him expelled from school, even after returning the wafer unharmed. Moreover, Benjamin Collard, the friend whom he wanted to show the wafer to and who by all accounts was nothing but a bystander in the whole affair is also under threat of expulsion, for no other reason, apparently, than guilt by association with Cook.

    Watching this, I find it hard to keep a civil tongue when faced with someone defending the Catholic League’s actions, and many unbelievers are coming from similar places. You get a bunch of people together who are sick of seeing this kind of thing, then bring it to their doorstep, and the replies are going to be…..uncivil. ;)

    That said, the majority of Pharyngulites only give back what you bring. If you were to post there the way you speak here, I’d be willing to bet the majority of responses would be civil, even if they express disagreement with your views.

    I would encourage you to give it a try, at least, because it seems now is a good time to build a few bridges (it’s why I’m here to begin with). We may never agree on a great many things, but it would help if unbelievers and believers at least started to understand one another a little better…..and learned a little more respect for each other in the process.

    – Pheathers

  24. Dave W.on 26 Jul 2008 at 10:58 pm

    Mr. Vehige, I understand your defense. When I first heard about this whole thing, I looked at Donohue’s press release in light of the articles that had been written, and wondered when he would realize that he had had a knee-jerk reaction and that a fuller discussion of all the facts was required. But that was a knee-jerk reaction of my own, based upon the idea that vocal Catholics are generally more rational than your average vocal born-again Biblical literalist. I’ve since learned that Donohue is a “professional offendee,” and so has little need for truth (or the New Testament, it seems).

    However, your third paragraph comes across (to this atheist) as saying, “everything will be peaches and cream once PZ Myers changes his attitude.” That same paragraph could also be applied to any of the Catholics who have sent PZ Myers death threats. Perhaps if everyone prayed for Charles Kroll, he would see the error in his ways and devote the rest of his life to preaching forgiveness, instead of the rash hatred that got his wife fired from her job (and for which he seems unapologetic).

    And in that light, it appears that you dodged my question: will you make another blog post calling for a month of prayer for Catholics who’ve lost the way to come back into the flock? (Thinking about it, it should be October, not September, since September only has 30 days while August has 31. [grin])

    (Speaking of hatred, if you continue to confuse hatred of a person with mockery of an idea, you’ll diminish the importance of any real hatred you’ve faced as a Catholic. It’s “the boy who cried ‘Wolf’” syndrome. If you can’t tell the difference between mockery of your ideas and hatred for you, then you’ve internalized your ideas so much that you’re really proving PZ Myers’ point. Surely it is possible to disagree with a person’s ideas so much that you think the ideas are silly without actually hating that person. Perhaps you’ve ridiculed someone’s belief in the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, UFOs or love for the Backstreet Boys in the past? If so, did you hate them? If mockery is always hatred, then there are millions of hate crimes committed every day in grade schools around the world, and every comedian who has made fun of his/her own ethnicity is really engaged in self-loathing. I can’t buy that, and neither should you.)

  25. Dave W.on 26 Jul 2008 at 11:23 pm

    By the way (and for the record), Webster Cook does (in my opinion) bear some of the responsibility for this whole to-do.

    If he had had the presence of mind to simply go to the priest before or after services and say, “my buddy here is curious about communion wafers,” he probably could have left the student union with a handful of unconsecrated wafers and not been touched by anyone. Had he done so, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

    However, a lack of wisdom (perhaps he was in a hurry) does not justify what happened to him during the service, nor does it excuse the death threats he received nor his vilification by Bill Donohue. It is those things that PZ Myers was protesting with his “stunt.”

    So anyone who is focused on Dr. Myers to the exclusion of the Catholics who assaulted, threatened and formally complained about Webster Cook (and Benjamin Collard) is missing out on quite a lot of stuff to pray over.

  26. horse-pheatherson 26 Jul 2008 at 11:46 pm

    Dave –

    You have a point about Cook; yes, he could have avoided the entire situation with a little forethought. And there is possibility that there’s more to the story than we’ve heard, that perhaps he did have other motives to take the wafer, for instance, or that his actions directly interfered with the service independent of attempts to get the wafer back.

    That said, even the worst possible spin I can imagine on the situation doesn’t warrant the response this incident was given. For an organization that claims to be loving and forgiving to dump on this 19 year old kid like a ton of bricks over a pennyweight of baked wheat, no matter the symbolic value, is just….inexcusable. Alright, it would be inexcusable for any organization, in my eyes, no matter what their professed values, as there is no way a human life is worth ruining over a communion wafer. The “love and forgiveness” aspect and claims to moral superiority just add fuel to the fire.

    And don’t get me started on the fact they’ve widened their attacks to include Collard….. :(

    – Pheathers

  27. horse-pheatherson 27 Jul 2008 at 12:19 am

    Heather –

    Sorry that I missed your comment when it first cam up — it’s late where I am and I have to admit to being a bit tired (if you couldn’t tell by the meandering nature of some of my recent posts…oy!)

    I guess it boils down to different ideas of what is useful; to me, prayer and acts of mortification accomplish, well….nothing beyond making the person offering them feel better. Moreover, when you have heard the words “I’ll pray for you” used over and over again as a passive-aggressive dismissal, the words start to take on the status of an insult….and most outspoken atheists have heard those words used that way repeatedly. To offer prayer to an atheist is thus unlikely to do anything toward building bridges and healing rifts, as we so seldom hear it offered sincerely or with any kind of actual well-meaning behind it.

    That is why the words “I forgive you” would have been so powerful. We rarely hear them from the faithful and, while it would have conveyed a sense that Professor Myers’ actions had hurt you emotionally, would have signaled a willingness to discuss matters that “I’ll prayer for you” does not, just because it is something far more concrete and, well….human. It’s something an unbeliever can relate to directly — prayer is something we don’t do, while forgiving often is.

    As an example, angry as I am over the situation, I’d still sit down and try to talk with Bill Donohue. With a few friends around to make sure he wasn’t going to get violent, I’d give Charles Kroll a go, too. They’re both human beings, and as such I’m not going to hold their shortcomings too badly against them (hey, I like my brain in my skull, though, hence the initial mistrust of Mister Kroll!), just as I’d hope they’d not hold mine against me. I’m willing to forgive Mister Kroll for his death threats, and willing to forgive Mister Donohue his apparent bigotry and would try to foster some level of understanding and acceptance between us, just as a matter of course.

    I guess part of that bridge building is overcoming the disparate connotations certain phrases and gestures carry with them and the differing sensitivities between our two (for lack of a better word) cultures. (Tricky thing, here, as atheists have about as much unity of culture as a herd of cats have unity of direction; the only thing you can assume one atheist has in common with another, really, is their lack of a belief in gods.)

    Take care!
    – Pheathers

  28. Dave W.on 27 Jul 2008 at 12:50 am

    Pheathers, if history and psychology have taught us anything as a species, it’s that in these sorts of situations, one can play it safe by assuming that nobody is telling the whole truth. Everyone in a he-said/she-said sort of tableau will be trying to tweak sympathies their own way, by emphasizing the best and squashing the worst of their own actions.

    However, that being said, the fact that no one with an interest in this has published or linked to any reports wherein a witness has claimed that nobody laid a finger on Webster Cook testifies to the veracity of his claimed assault. It may not have been as bad as he claims, which wasn’t all that bad, really, but getting physical in any way over the Host certainly seems uncalled-for to those outside the faith, and was quite likely at least a misdemeanor under Florida law.

    Cook’s complaint in that regard has been dismissed, but only because evidence was lacking. In other words, too few of the witnesses were willing to acknowledge Cook’s assault (but they’re also apparently not willing to deny it took place). This seems understandable, if unfortunate if the goal is real justice. The same sort of thing probably happens a zillion times a year across the U.S., for good and bad.

    On another note, I think it’s important for people like Heather to understand that atheists generally think that prayer has no effect. I know it may sound rude and demeaning, but to an atheist, “I will pray for you” is at best equivalent to “I will do nothing for you.” You, Heather (and Mr. Vehige), may have the best of intentions with your prayers, but if I remember correctly, the Bible has something to say about what the road to Hell is paved with.

  29. freethoughton 27 Jul 2008 at 4:52 am

    How did you people make it out of the dark ages? I thought this demented lunacy was merely a part of our sad history.
    Cannibalism, human crackers, people living inside fish…
    Wait, let me guess - thunder and lightning = Uga buga mad?

    *shakes head, sighs*

    Wake up, apes!

  30. acjon 27 Jul 2008 at 8:20 am

    Oh yes, by all means, pray for him. If you can spare a minute, pray for me, too, for I, too, am an unbeliever.
    I just do not understand you people. I mean, I do admire people who seek a deeper understanding of how the universe works, and I respect people’s feelings of awe and even spirituality when they ponder the wonders of this world. Maybe, just maybe, after a couple of centuries of honest inquiry and research, the ultimate answer to all questions will be “God”. I doubt it, but I always like a nice surprise. Anyway, that God would be quite different from what is usually prayed at.
    But Christians wouldn’t want an answer that is backed up by facts. They have their answer already, and I’m sorry I have to say this, the answer is rather silly: Shamanistic rituals, polytheistic worship of Saints and, to put it in a nutshell, good ole superstition.
    I feel sorry for you, I really, really do. You’re closing your minds to the wonderful experience of how it is to be a free human being who acts ethically because it’s the right thing to do, you deny yourselves the joys of rationality and insight.
    I would pray for you, but if my boss caught me wasting any more time, she would fire me.

  31. Jeff Vehigeon 27 Jul 2008 at 12:12 pm

    Hi Pheathers,

    You know the quality of the comments over at Prof. Myers blog better than I do, so you’re assessment of how I might be treated is probably correct. However, this situation has gotten completely out of control — absolutely explosive on both sides. Other than thanking people for their link, I have not commented on any blog (Catholic or non-Catholic) about this topic, and I think I’m going to maintain this mode of operation. However, that does not preclude me from joining a discussion in a different thread sometimes later — preferably later.

    Also, I’m am deeply sorry that you lost your job because of your beliefs.

    Best regards,


    Hi Dave,

    First, let me say that even though I did not answer your question about making Sept. a month of prayer for the conversion of uncharitable Catholics, I did write a draft post, and I have it scheduled to be posted the last full week of August. The reason I didn’t answer you the first time around is because I didn’t know if you were going to come back or not. I generally try to live by the old axiom, “Actions speak louder than words.” I think it’s an excellent idea, and I’m interested to see what kind of response I get.

    Now I have a request for you. I’m concerned that many atheists based much of their understanding of Christian beliefs on the popular presentation of Christian thought so prevalent in our culture. Christian thought — and especially Catholic thought — is far more sophisticated than most people are aware of. With that in mind, would you consider reading this book: The God of Jesus Christ by Walter Kasper. It’s a serious look by an eminent Catholic theologian on the question of God and the history of atheism. I think you might be pleasantly surprised by the depth of Kasper’s presentation.

    Best regards,


    Hi acj,

    You bring up a whole host of topics, but I would like to respond to one — the notion that Christians have closed their minds to ethics, rationality, and insight. My own experience is fundamentally different. Before I took the faith I was raised in seriously, I had closed my mind to any ethical consideration other than “Do whatever you want so long as it doesn’t hurt another person”; and the basic concepts of rationality and insight — by which I understand to mean thinking about human existence and the universe — had no meaning to me. It was only after my conversion that I began to take seriously ethical questions and basic philosophical question. For me, it was because of Christianity in general — and Catholicism in particular — that I finally began to experience the freedom you so aptly describe.

    Best regards,

  32. acjon 27 Jul 2008 at 1:51 pm

    Hello, Jeff -
    thank you for your kind reply.
    If you need Christianity in order to find wisdom, if you need Catholicism in order to find understanding, great! Go ahead. I surely won’t stop you, even if I could.
    Now from your reply and most of your posts I gather that you are a rather gentle and intelligent person - and that makes the whole thing even sadder.
    Look, we rational-minded agnostics and atheists can explain how the universe came into existence. We suck at WHY it came into existence, but let’s leave some mysteries for future generations. We can explain how life evolved on our planet, and we can explain why we humans love, why we hate, why we are the way we are. Where ethics came from. Why the sea is salty, why the sun rises.
    Well, Catholics tend to be a bit more open-minded than the loonies of certain Protestant denominations, so I assume we both agree on evolution and science.
    Then go one step further! Realize that if you take God out of the equation, it still all makes sense. Well, kind of… there are certain taxes and regulations that can only be explained if you assume that the cosmos was specifically tailored to annoy us.
    But what’s more important, free yourself from that guilt-trip. Eve ate an apple, and that makes all humans inherently evil? No, it does not. Even if Adam and Eve weren’t fictional characters, there is no such thing as original sin. Humans are born innocent; they may do evil deeds because society forces them to do so or because they simply choose to do evil.
    Free will, you know.
    If there is no original sin, there is no need for Jesus dying for our sins. There is no need for the whole ecclesia sancta business with their clergy, their rituals and their monasteries.
    Now, as I said, I am an unbeliever, but that is not to say there is no truth in faith. Personally, I don’t think there is much, but if your religon helps you in becoming a better and more moral person, do as you like.
    But please, don’t go patronizing PZ or me by praying for us; we find that kinda thing a little bit offensive.
    I would like to say, God bless you, but for the obvious reasons, I can’t without blaspheming. So instead I wish you a nice and fulfilled life. With best regards,

  33. Dave W.on 28 Jul 2008 at 1:01 am

    Mr. Vehige, actions do speak louder than words, but advertisements exist for a reason. Now that I know you’ve got something in the works, I’ll be sure to return.

    As for the book…

    Ever since Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” came out last December, we atheists have been hearing complaints that Dawkins only addressed the most-simplistic arguments in favor of God. In response, atheists all over the Web have been asking for the sophisticated arguments, requests which have been met either with silence or repetition of proposals which were found lacking decades or centuries ago.

    I’ll admit to never having heard of Walter Kasper (or that book) before, and so I’m somewhat intrigued and plan on heading to the library at my earliest opportunity. However, if what I’ve read in the reviews of the book I’ve been able to find are any indication, I don’t think Kasper actually dealt with my reason for atheism. On the other hand, in my limited searching I didn’t find any atheists saying “that Kasper guy is full of crap, and here’s why,” either. So I’ll give the guy a chance. The “Book Reviews” section on my Web site needs more action, anyway.

  34. MikeGon 28 Jul 2008 at 10:52 am

    Amen! Great idea.
    This is what Myers needs and what the world needs to see from the Church right now.
    I will publicize this on my blog.

  35. Jeff Vehigeon 28 Jul 2008 at 1:29 pm

    Hi acj -

    Thanks for the response. I completely agree: If you take God out of the equation, you can still understand the universe. Science is a wonderful thing. I personally wish I had more natural interest in it. It’s absolutely amazing what we have discovered, isn’t it? But as you noted, science can’t explain why the universe exists. As St. Thomas Aquinas pointed out in the mid 1200’s, we are ultimately left with two choices: believe human life is meaningless, or believe it has a purpose given to us by God. I choose the later for a host of reasons.

    Though it is true that society does quite a bit to corrupt a person, I can’t agree that the source of human evil is society. At one time there was a small number of humans on the earth. If they were all born innocent, what society corrupted them?

    You have a different understanding of original sin than the Catholic understanding. The Church teaches that original sin is a state in which we are born. This state consists of two basic aspects: first, we do not have friendship with God, and second, we have a natural tendency to be selfish, to think only of ourselves. (It’s a little more complicated than that, but that’s the essence of it.) Through the gift of Baptism, that friendship is restore, but we still have that natural tendency to be selfish. The Church, vis-a-vis Protestantism, has emphatically denied that human beings are evil because of original sin. I suppose one way to look at it is like this: Original sin gives us only the potential to do evil acts.

    Best regards,


    Hi Dave,

    The Kasper book is divided into three sections. (1) The history of the God question and the rise of atheism, beginning in the Middles Ages. (2) The Christian understand of God. (3) How the Christian understanding of God answers the questions of atheism. Please let me know what you think after you read it.

    Best regards,

  36. Dave W.on 28 Jul 2008 at 2:23 pm

    Mr. Vehige,

    St. Thomas Aquinas’ understanding of purpose was rather unsophisticated. Atheists do not think that human life is meaningless. While I’m sure that there are some nihilistic atheists (as there must be some nihilistic Catholics), most of us realize that life is meaningful, although perhaps not intrinsically so. As with the words of any language, meaning is what we give to life, not the other way around.

    I’m curious as to what Catholics (in general) think the God-given purpose of human life is. I mean, I hear it said a lot that without God, life would have no meaning, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard what that meaning is. At least not from a Catholic point of view.

    Perhaps that’s all in Kasper’s book and I’m jumping the gun, but I imagine that other of your readers would be interested in the answer but don’t have any intention of reading the tome.

  37. Jeff Vehigeon 28 Jul 2008 at 2:45 pm

    Hi Dave,

    Granted, the popular phrase, “live is meaningless without God” doesn’t tell us much. Pope Benedict XVI develops the Christian idea of meaning in his encyclical, “Spe Salvi,” which is available for free from the Vatican. The Pope, of course, is writing to believers, and therefore isn’t trying to make an argument; rather, he’s trying to show why the meaning given to us by Christ should be practiced in daily life.

    Cardinal Kasper’s book is more thorough in that it’s a scholarly treatment in which he’s engaging theologians and philosophers from all religious and philosophical backgrounds.

    As for St. Thomas’ ideas on purpose, specifically with regards to the purpose of human existence, I plan to begin posting on that very point tomorrow in my “Tuesdays with St. Thomas” series.

    Best regards.

  38. Dave W.on 28 Jul 2008 at 6:47 pm

    No joy. Despite living in a county with one of the largest public library systems in the U.S., their card catalog has never heard of Walter Kasper. Amazon, however, lists the book used for $6.47 (plus shipping).

  39. horse-pheatherson 28 Jul 2008 at 7:24 pm

    Jeff –

    You may or may not be aware of the fellow who walked into a Unitarian Universalist church yesterday and killed two people (injuring several others) before being disarmed by the congregants and held for the police.

    As an atheist who associates himself with the UUs, I am wondering if, perhaps, you will be comparing the PZ Myers cracker desecration with what a _real_ act of hatred looks like, and perhaps encouraging those who sent death threats or are currently pursuing the expulsion of Cook and Collard from UCF to watch the UU reaction to this horrific event to see what they can learn from it?

    – Pheathers

  40. Jeff Vehigeon 28 Jul 2008 at 8:37 pm

    Hi Pheathers,

    Yes, I heard of the horrible incident at the UU church in Tennessee. But no, I do not plan to comment on it. My reason is simple: My goal with this site is teaching others (Catholic’s primarily) about the Catholic faith, not to comment on current events — either secular or Church events — and nor to talk about my personal life.

    As I stated above, my basic intention in calling for a Month of Prayer for Prof. Myers was to offer a counter-reaction to some of the negative reactions I was seeing on Catholic blogs.

    Furthermore, I plan to take Dave W. up on his suggestion and officially declare September a Month of Prayer for Uncharitable Catholics at the end of August.

    Best regards.

  41. Dave W.on 28 Jul 2008 at 9:39 pm

    Mr. Vehige, here’s an honest question for you: is “officially” just a turn of phrase (as in “…officially declare September a Month of Prayer for Uncharitable Catholics…”), or does your personal authority within the Catholic Church extend beyond this blog? Reading your “about” and “mission” entries, I’m guessing it’s the former, and on that guess I’d just like to say that you’ll probably want to be more circumspect about using such phrasing, as I’m sure you wouldn’t want to get a nastygram from your Diocese saying, “stop acting like you’re speaking for Rome.”

  42. J. Alveson 01 Aug 2008 at 11:30 am

    Well, each person should surely be free to choose what he/she wastes his/her time on. So, all the power to you. I myself I’m wasting my time posting here, you see…

    But I have a question anyway: when your prayers fail (which I’m 99.999% sure they will, since they have always done, if critically examined — why does god hate amputees?), are you going to acknowledge that it was a silly and useless thing to do?

    I didn’t think so…

  43. Jeff Vehigeon 01 Aug 2008 at 11:48 am

    Hi J. Alves,

    Since you’re only 99.999% sure that prayers fail, I have a question for you: Why not try praying earnestly every day for one month? It certainly won’t take any more time to say one “Our Father” as if you mean it than it did to write your comment.

    And here’s my answer to your question:

    Whether our prayers are a waste of time or not will be determined only after death.

    If this life is the only life, then indeed our prayers were a waste of time, but what does it matter? We are dead; there is nothing. We did our best to live the best life we could. It was all in vain, but at least we tried our best to live an upright life.

    But if my beliefs turn our to be true, then my prayers are not a waste of time, are they?

    Best regards.

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