PZ Myers’s emotional rigidity and his digging in on his position that it’s okay to get a priest, under false pretenses, to give you a consecrated wafer so that you can take it home and desecrate it, reminds us that:
The real division between people is not secular v. religious, but free thinker v. non-free thinker.
I like any free thinker, secular or religious, over someone who is walled off and not emotionally or intellectually available to people with whom he disagrees.
As an agnostic myself, I’ve met many people, religious and non-religious, who are simply closed off to the other side. They don’t read the books or propaganda of the other side, they won’t go see their movies, and they treat the other side with the grossest contempt.
I have also met atheists, agnostics, and religious people, including evangelicals, who read the other side, and stay open and vulnerable to dialogue.
I think that this is the real division between people.
PZ Myers is often capable of talking with his opposition, but he is, in this instance, putting up walls, and trying to humiliate and dehumanize his opposition, including the lay people who write to him at his blog, in a way that ill becomes any person who professes to identify with the American scientific and free thought tradition.
Myers, for example, on his blog, has been putting a brutish image over the opposition letters that he receives, making it difficult to read them, and so symbolically trivializing them and humiliating the letter writers even as they try to communicate with him.
I am not saying that free-thought humor, mockery, and parody are off-bounds in civil discussion. Both religious and non-religious free thinkers do this, and it often functions to sharply clarify serious intellectual content.
But it should be directed at public leadership, or at the writings of one’s opponents, not at lay people. And one should never cross the boundary between blasphemy and iconoclasm, as I think Myers did when he advocated secreting objects from Catholic churches for desecration.
Such a gesture constitutes harrassment, and no liberal person, group, or society can condone this and continue to be liberal.