May
31

The Chalice & The Bleat




Posted at 11:54 by HTML Mencken

Lileks has been reading The Da Vinci Code. The result is much as you’d expect: straw manufacturing, witless sarcasm, wankery, unintended irony. It’s typical Lileks, and starts in the typical way.

There’s the veneer of good ol’ Midwestern suburban manners, very aww-shucksy. Yet something’s too pinched about it, and as is par for the Bleat course, after some references to the kids and a bit of wistful, nostalgic study over a pop-culture relic of better days — back when whitebread was whitebread and the broads knew their place and the style was so atomic baby — Ol’ Jimbo gets down to business, which means that passive becomes aggressive and the okey-dopey Fred Rogers of Minnesota tears at his cardigan, bites the cork off a bottle of rot-gut and focuses his rage on those fucking hippies:

But on Saturday I read: sat outside in the gazebo and hammered my way through “The Da Vinci Code.� If “Angels and Demons� was a Tom Clancy novel for Art History majors, “Code� is “24� for pagans, I suppose. [...] Some moments were laughable – I could not imagine the character “Teabing� as anything other than “Teabag,� and almost imagined a bottom-heavy wet man with a string tied to his head.

This silly name was an unintentionally hilarious part of the book, but not for the reasons Lileks describes. I hope Lileks is lying about what his brain really associates with “teabag”. If not, he really is 50 years behind when it comes to pop culture. In other news, Lileks thinks of picturesque 19th-century ships when he reads the phrase “Cleveland Steamer.”

I did put the book down, laughing, when the author suggested that Walt Disney was in on the conspiracy to bring forth the truth about the Goddess. Why? Because of “The Little Mermaid,� which was just full of Piscean symbolism. Because the ancients, you know, revered fish, or crabs, or water, or something or other.

Those ancients: they revered everything. They worshipped the circle! Also the square. And, according to a 10th century French monk, the rectangle had certain mystical connotations as well, and that’s why our beds are rectangular.

Ok, this is funny (for Lileks) and the target is somewhat deserving. Funny for a while. Naturally, though, he drones on and on with it until the reader is as exhausted as the sarcasm. Of course this means that Lileks will up the ante; out of the chugging pixels comes a huge bale of straw which Lileks attacks with vigor:

Blasphemer! You – no, sorry, only the evil horrible CHURCH accuses people of blasphemy, we pagans are a come-one-come-all sort of people, accepting of all beliefs. Except for Christians, who go straight to the Coliseum for lion appetizers. Anyway, the moon has mystical goddess powers! It affects the tide and the cycle of a woman’s womb!

Well, gravity will do that. All due respect, you guys didn’t have the whole story back when you were assembling cosmologies based primarily on observation. I mean, you made a nice start, but you were also poking through bird guts to see if the augurs were good. Nowadays we’ve come to believe that half-digested seeds are an insufficient means for predicting likely outcomes. The financial industry hasn’t used them for decades.

Well there you go. Pagans: hypocrites and crackpots whose ideas of tolerance is to feed Christians to lions. Whereas Christians, on the other hand, have historically been the epitome of tolerance and most amenable to scientific progress.

But we believed in the Goddess, and you, the patriarchal Western evil sex-denying female-fearing popish testosterone-intoxicated tool user has utterly removed the Holy Female from your spiritual realm!

Right. Exactly. Women, all gone. No sacred dames. Aside from that Mary, Mother of, but she’s just a footnot, and you hardly hear anything about her. You’re quite right; Western civilization is bound up in a cinched surplice of denial and prudery, and we spend our days in fear of the Holy Sexual Whatever. I – hold on, the TiVo just bonged – whoa! “G-string Divas” marathon on HBO tonight!

OOOkaaay. Of course no mention that Mary, mother of Jesus, is a VIRGIN — the quintessence and proof and emblem of if not quite prudery, chastity. But then in Lileks’ favored decade of Our Lord (the 1950s), women were like that. Saintly mothers, loyal wives, dutiful breeders, docile consumers, chaste-until-married (if not, like Mary, to Tha Lord) and nothing else: as it should be. Or at least they seemed that way, and appearance is all. He has the matchbooks to prove it. And the Church was more important then; it was where Cleaver-clones went every Sunday and they took it seriously and no silly pagan novel with its hippy/womyn/randy Jesus diversions is gonna attack that Great Goodness, not on Ol’ Jimbo’s watch!

So suck it, straw-feminists and straw-pagans! There’s softcore on HBO! What more do you want from the patriarchy?

strawmanreynolds.jpg
“Actually, since you ask, if Björk could star in a sequel to Hostel…”

The alternative worldview postulated in “The Da Vinci Code� does not exactly give us anything transcendent and wonderful, friend; the most “sacred ritual� described consists of some old French grandfather, nagoy and panhandled, moaning under some grindy-hipped fleshy woman “with long silver hair,� while observers – yes, observers! – stand around in masks holding orbs, chanting. I met her in the grotto and she sheathed my sword, da doo ron ron, da doo ron ron. This may be why the interminable Latin mass became popular: absolutely zero chance of seeing Granny get it on in front of the bridge club.

Thanks, Jimbo. I wasn’t sure that a pop novel was supposed to provide us with anything “transcendent and wonderful” except a good yarn. It’s not much more than storytelling, a diversion, a tall tale, at best a cultural artefact of dubious artistic merit to read for pleasure — sorta like the Bible, but without all those boring geneology lists. On the other hand, it’s hilarious that you’re so threatened by a novel’s relation of philogyny and a little bit of pagan lust/lore. I suppose, though, you can rest assured that June Cleaver, your Virgin Mary figure, would certainly find it fit for burning in her sparkling Kelvinator oven before cooking a meal for the family and saying her prayers and enjoying a sexless night in a separate bed from the hubby as you, Jimbo, sagely intone, “and it was swell”. Things were so much better in Matchbook Days.

55 Comments »

  1. Mal de mer said,

    May 31, 2006 at 13:57

    Aiie! You immolated Lileks. Now I’ll have to go all pagan and find out what messages I can divine from remains consisting of, among other things, a gi-normous forehead bone.

  2. Moon Dragon said,

    May 31, 2006 at 14:01

    Haven’t read the book. Will wait til the movie hits the cable outlets.

    It is not merely fiction. It’s a fucking beach book. Readt the “non-fiction” Holy Blood, Holy Grail, which I think of as a ripoff of the Passover Plot, back in the late 70s early 80s. It was a bit sloggy, but it did pique my interest enough that I”ve tried to read more on the subjects over the years, which is a good thing.

    I also remember the 50s. They weren’t fun (let Mr. Lileks go one day in a girdle, non-stretching nylons, a contemporary bra, and pointy-toed stilleto heels…. standing up, not as part of a sex fantasy scenario. And hats adorned with bakalite fruit and gloveswith buttons and screw-back earrings.) And let him do this as a black woman.

    md

  3. cmdrtinfoil said,

    May 31, 2006 at 14:27

    Thank you, thank you: that’s about all The Da Vinci Code I can stomach this morning and reading Lileks is like having my eyeballs sanded.

    And girdles… A guy knew where he stood by how the gartered girdle was layered vis-a-vis the panties. Not exactly the sex fantasy scenario in which I revel, thank you. On the other hand, I never really thought of June Cleaver as a Virgin Mary figure, albeit mine would be bent over the Kelvinator and girdles would not be involved.

    I’ll go take my meds now.

  4. The Velvet Blog said,

    May 31, 2006 at 14:50

    I love Lilek’s “regrettable food” book, but yeesh, his columns are just so wrongheaded that I feel guilty about it.

    BTW, anyone have any idea why Bloglines is no longer picking up new Sadly, No posts? It’s not for me, anyway, since the server changover, even though the URL stayed the same.

  5. Yosef said,

    May 31, 2006 at 15:26

    Did anyone catch the program on the History Channel where they revealed that the guy, Plantard, who was the basis for Holy Blood, Holy Grail ended up admitting it was all a hoax? He created the Prieure de Sion in the late 50s as a political Party which never had any more than about 6 members.

  6. teh l4m3 said,

    May 31, 2006 at 16:15

    Yeah, I probably mentioned this on AIF’s blog, but seriously: have any of these fools read Foucault’s Pendulum? Far meatier summer reading, IMHO.

  7. liberalsouth said,

    May 31, 2006 at 16:17

    da vinci code = ripoff of last temptation of christ’s second half

  8. Sadly No said,

    May 31, 2006 at 16:22

    BTW, anyone have any idea why Bloglines is no longer picking up new Sadly, No posts?

    Should be ok now — there was a missing condition in our .htaccess rewrite rules.

  9. salty said,

    May 31, 2006 at 16:31

    Nail? Meet hammer:

    Thanks, Jimbo. I wasn’t sure that a pop novel was supposed to provide us with anything “transcendent and wonderfulâ€? except a good yarn. It’s not much more than storytelling, a diversion, a tall tale, at best a cultural artefact of dubious artistic merit to read for pleasure…

    Why are people so threatened by a goddamn novel? I can understand Lileks having fun ripping Code a new one. But what’s with the defensive posturing? Novel = Fiction. Just because the book is popular doesn’t make true… oh, that’s right. I forgot. Popularity and repetition does make something true. Sadam WAS involved in the Sept. 11 attacks.

    Who in their right minds takes a novel as a how-to guide for “better living through paganism”? Why do so many people – Christians I suppose – take this novel to be just that!?

  10. almostinfamous said,

    May 31, 2006 at 16:32

    yeah, teh totally did. and now i have a long-ass semi-relevant quote that sums up the whole book on my blog. of course you;ll have to visit to find out if that’s true. plus, various versions of “Under Pressure”.

  11. mikey said,

    May 31, 2006 at 17:09

    Why are people so threatened by a goddamn novel?

    Religious dogma. Christian church doctrine is built on such a rickety scaffold of unlikely, implausible and downright impossible events that at this point ANY change in the belief structure will bring the whole thing tumbling down. It’s why the true fundamentalist christians have to deny perfectly good scientific progress and believe in nonsense like Noah’s flood and virgin birth. Personally, if I was a christian, I’d groove on the whole idea of jesus getting some. I think it makes him a richer character. Come to think of it, if I was going to participate in religion it would have to be one where the minister was allowed to marry. I couldn’t listen seriously to a guy who wasn’t allowed to participate fully in life, y’know?

    mikey

  12. J. Brida said,

    May 31, 2006 at 17:15

    After 60 million copies sold, an entire cottage industry spawned of bunkers and debunkers of the Magdelene mythos, a fruitless plaigarism suit against Brown that made the front page of the Times and a slightly well-publicized movie release based on the book — Lileks intrepidly jumps into the fray!

    What could he possibly take on next? Airline food?

  13. D. Sidhe said,

    May 31, 2006 at 17:29

    You know, for a guy who believes as much bullshit as Lileks does (let’s just start with the fact that he thinks the terrorists are going to get him next and move onto the notion that George Bush is anything other than a witless, arrogant tool, and just sort of gloss over all that in the middle), he should probably keep his mouth shut on the subject of others’ ridiculous beliefs.
    He hasn’t even got the excuse of widespread illiteracy and the fact that science, as such, didn’t actually exist.

    I’ll personally put my silly religious notions up against his silly religious notions any day of the week, except, of course, Sunday, because that’s when his god wants to make sure no one’s doing anything useful. At least I know my silly religious notions are silly.

  14. D. Sidhe said,

    May 31, 2006 at 17:31

    What could he possibly take on next? Airline food?

    Lileks is on the cutting edge of the herd, man.

  15. Mumon said,

    May 31, 2006 at 17:44

    I finally figured out why religious right types go batty over The Da Vinci Code. They think Left Behind books are non-fiction.

  16. Hysterical Woman said,

    May 31, 2006 at 17:50

    I have to admit, I laughed at his last line.

  17. Sexy Sadie said,

    May 31, 2006 at 17:58

    You know, I used to really enjoy perusing Mr. Lileks’ photo museums. I especially loved the pictures of the roadside motels. I didn’t realize at the time that he had such a large stick up his ass.

    Out of sheer curiosity, does anyone know what his religious beliefs are? I’m guessing Lutheran.

  18. Lucy said,

    May 31, 2006 at 18:10

    Vaguely on-topic, did anyone read the interview with Karen Armstrong in yesterday’s Salon? http://www.salon.com/books/int/2006/05/30/armstrong/

    I was reminded of it because of the comment above from mikey, “Christian church doctrine is built on such a rickety scaffold of unlikely, implausible and downright impossible events that at this point ANY change in the belief structure will bring the whole thing tumbling down.” Armstrong says, in answer to the question, “So how should we approach the sacred texts? How should we read them?”: “Sacred texts have traditionally been a bridge to the divine. They’re all difficult. They’re not a simple manual — a how-to book that will tell you how to gain enlightenment by next week, like how to lose weight on the Atkins diet. This is a slow process. I think the best image for reading scripture occurs in the story of Jacob, who wrestles with a stranger all night long. And in the morning, the stranger seems to have been his God. That’s when Jacob is given the name Israel — ‘one who fights with God’. And he goes away limping as he walks into the sunrise. Scriptures are a struggle.” I don’t know, maybe you have to read the whole interview to see why I thought this was so interesting. She’s not talking just about fundamentalists but about the established Western relationship to the divine. Elsewhere in the interview she talks about how Christian dogma and doctrine have absolutely zero to do with Jesus himself, and also about how the miracles JC is portrayed in the Bible as having performed really show “symbolic aspect[s] about healing the soul” and are not about “Look at me! I’m divine!”

    As a Catholic-raised, nonreligious person, I thought this was kind of challenging. It seems like she’s saying it’s not just the fundamentalists who are reading the Bible (and other sacred texts) too literally. It would be nice if the whole approach to religion could be more sophisticated, on the parts of both the playaz and the hate-az, and people could think about how “faith” is an expression of human nature and not nearly as simple as people want to believe. It’s easy and simple to think that a religion is some kind of a program rather than something more mystical, like a process of searching. Maybe they’d jettison the idea that things should be a certain way that God has told us what that way is, and woe betide those who don’t sign on to the program.

    I just realized this post isn’t funny at all, and probably not that interesting. I must thank you for reaming Lileks. I was just rereading the “Regrettable Food” book the other day, and now that I know what a Republican a-hole Lileks is, it just doesn’t read the same to me. What I used to find hilarious now seems more angry to me, since I’ve read his columns and found him to be an angry, sputtering wingnut in love with his own verbosity. Retardo, you captured perfectly the two sides of his personality when you wrote, “passive becomes aggressive and the okey-dopey Fred Rogers of Minnesota tears at his cardigan, bites the cork off a bottle of rot-gut and focuses his rage on those fucking hippies.” Now, if I recall correctly, Lileks also likes to smoke what he calls “little cigars.” What the F is up with that?

  19. Lucy said,

    May 31, 2006 at 18:12

    Sadie, you’re absolutely right. Lutheran.

  20. ortho_bob said,

    May 31, 2006 at 18:17

    Cutting Edge Jim worships at the Church of Target, doncha know.

  21. ortho_bob said,

    May 31, 2006 at 18:23

    And his “little cigars” are those dainty Panther Mignons from Holland I believe, suspiciously Old European and the sort of whiffs real smokers inhale by the handful between Cohiba Robustos.

  22. MO said,

    May 31, 2006 at 18:24

    Boy, he has really lost it. Hey, I lived in Fargo and Minneapolis just like Cultural Cutting Edge Jim and I’m not an effing reactionary moron – so what’s his excuse exactly?

  23. Ginger Yellow said,

    May 31, 2006 at 18:24

    “The alternative worldview postulated in “The Da Vinci Codeâ€? does not exactly give us anything transcendent and wonderful, friend; ”

    Whereas the worldview postulated in Clear And Present Danger offers us a chance to reach beyond ourselves to touch the stars. Or something. Why the fuck would you look to an airport novel for a transcendent and wonderful worldview?

    I was bewildered for a long time as to why people get so worked up about the Da Vinci Code’s made up nonsense, but I’ve finally come to the conclusion that deep down these people realise that it’s no more silly and unsubstantiated than the stuff they believe. That in itself is a threat, even if people don’t believe the Da Vinci Code version. They have to take the book seriously so that people will take the religion seriously. All the while I sit back and watch the most amusing catfights between people defending a godawful novel and a godawful religion.

  24. Yosef said,

    May 31, 2006 at 19:12

    After 60 million copies sold, an entire cottage industry spawned of bunkers and debunkers of the Magdelene mythos, a fruitless plaigarism suit against Brown that made the front page of the Times and a slightly well-publicized movie release based on the book — Lileks intrepidly jumps into the fray!

    What could he possibly take on next? Airline food?

    What is the deal with airline food, anyway?

  25. melior (in Austin) said,

    May 31, 2006 at 20:35

    Pagan vs. Xtian bumfight, woohoo!

  26. Ron Mexico said,

    May 31, 2006 at 21:06

    Boy, he has really lost it. Hey, I lived in Fargo and Minneapolis just like Cultural Cutting Edge Jim and I’m not an effing reactionary moron – so what’s his excuse exactly?

    9/11 Changed everything (TM). That includes morphing mild-mannered matchbook collectors into raving fear-monkeys.

  27. Jack of None said,

    May 31, 2006 at 22:04

    I know it’s probably weird to feel defensive about people who died thousands of years ago, but anyone benefitting from the vast accumulation of modern knoweldge who mocks ancient people for being superstitious and stupid — especially someone who probably forwards chain emails — is a giant, festering tool.

    I doubt he’d listen to me. Anyone who believes Dan Brown’s statement that the “Great Rite” is some kind of ancient pan-European pagan practice is probably an idiot. Also, anyone who has to make up a frothing-at-the-mouth, slutty-strawfeminist neo-pagan is too much of a loser to bother with.

    I just really wish people would stop running around pretending that the Da Vinci Code is supposed to be some kind of historical thesis. It gives Dan Brown way more credit than he deserves.

  28. dAVE said,

    May 31, 2006 at 22:08

    Dude, that’s totally a chick next to Jesus in da Vinci’s The Last Supper. Totally a chick.

    Christianity has always had a problem with the legitimacy of it’s leaders. First, you have all these different Christian cults for a few centuries, then Constantine editing all the scriptures and establishing an official Church. Then the Rome/Constantinople split. Later, you have the Anglican/Catholic split and the Protestant Reformation. I think the idea that something from waaay back in Christianity’s roots was lost long ago and hidden by powerful men is really attractive to a lot of people.

    Some people want to believe that Christianity really can be a religion of peace and love, despite it’s long and bloody history, (and current fundamentalist maniacs). Just like neo-pagans like to believe in all the nature worship stuff without the human sacrifces.

    Also, people are tired of sex always being the opposite of spiritual. Look at all the interest in Tantric stuff these days.

    I personally enjoyed the book. When I read it, I was at home with the flu. It was great because I could read it, fall asleep, wake up, read some more, and not have to keep track of a bazillion characters or a whole lotta fancy language. And I could work out the puzzles and whatnot while overdosed on NyQuil.

  29. Bill S said,

    May 31, 2006 at 22:34

    dAVE, I’m guessing a NyQuil buzz would make reading anything more enjoyable-even one of Jimmy Lightbulb’s columns.

  30. pseudonymous in nc said,

    May 31, 2006 at 23:44

    Any chance of Lileks taking his blunt scalpel to Left Behind?

    Thought not.

  31. Andrew A. Gill, SLS said,

    June 1, 2006 at 1:07

    Whereas Christians, on the other hand, have historically been the epitome of tolerance and most amenable to scientific progress.

    Just for the record, you do know that Roger Bacon invented the scientific method, and he was a Franciscan monk? And Gregor Mendel, a Catholic priest, discovered genetics? William of Ockham (Occam’s Razor guy) was a Franciscan monk.

    Yes, the Catholic Church tried to suppress Galileo, but to say that Christians aren’t amenable to scientific progress is simplistic.

  32. dAVE said,

    June 1, 2006 at 1:44

    To say they are is also simplistic.

  33. Dorothy said,

    June 1, 2006 at 5:14

    Andrew,

    When your religion controls the entire world for over a thosand years, it can lay claim to the entire breadth and depth of human potential, both good and bad. Add in the fact that for centuries, the monastary was the only place one could learn to read, and it makes perfect sense that many of the Medieval scholars and scientists were clergy.

    However.

    That does not say the Christian Church qua institution was amenable to science in any way, shape or form. And really, that’s the only question we can answer: overall, throughout history, has “Christianity” (as opposed to individual “Christians”) supported or impeded scientific progress?

    Everyone goes straight to Galileo on this question, but that’s small potatoes, really. The church-ordered destruction of all existing “pagan” books in throughout the Greek-speaking world (books that, for example, not only proved the earth was a sphere but also estimated its circumference to within 5% accuracy), the iconoclasm that destroyed more works of art than the Visigoths ever dreamed of, and the murder of non-Christian scholars and scientists (Hypatia was the most well-known): all of these did more to bring on the “dark ages” than anything else.

    Once the orthodox Christians won sway over the gnostic and orthoprax Christians, “thought crimes” became possible–and punishable by death. The new orthodox popes chose ignorance over scientific progress in the early church, and once that happened, any scientific advancements happened in spite of the Church, not because of it.

  34. D. Sidhe said,

    June 1, 2006 at 5:16

    Thank you, Jack of None. That’s what I was trying to get at, but couldn’t manage to say.

  35. hapax said,

    June 1, 2006 at 5:46

    Dorothy and dAVE’s silly, uninformed, Cliff’s Notes version of Church history is why many people get upset about the Da Vinci Code. Along with the tiny little detail that Dan Brown writes in the front of the book, has claimed all over television, print, and online, and has even sworn in a court of law that all the historical “facts” he cites are true, and not fictional — and folks who are slavering to say “Yay, all Christians are teh DUMASS” eat it up with a spoon, and repeat it, with as much fact-checking and reflective thought as any right wingnut justifiably mocked on this blog.

    And Dorothy, to quote a phrase, SADLY, NO. The Christian Church was responsible for SAVING most of the scientific literature of antiquity, not destroying it. The university system of education developed out of Christian models of education, and no where else in the world. Bacon, Kepler, Mendel, and so many other early scientists developed their scientific theories BECAUSE of their religious beliefs, not in spite of them (off the top of my head, read Bacon’s works on optics, and how they grew from the light metaphysics of Franciscan theology). And the Church, except in a very few isolated incidents, did not put anyone to death for “thought crimes” — heresy and witchcraft were considered POLITICAL crimes, and only the secular state had the authority to exact capital punishment (what do you think the fight between Henry II and Becket was about, anyhow?)

    I would be glad to provide further reading on any or all of these topics, except I would hate to spoil your delightful snarky session bashing Christianity with the dull tedium of actual facts and information.

  36. hapax said,

    June 1, 2006 at 5:51

    Oh, and Karen Armstrong is a wonderful writer, a well-versed scholar, and a profoundly spiritual woman. But she doesn’t suggest anything that wasn’t already the NORM for biblical interpretation for the period from, oh roughly, 200 – 1500 CE (and, to give due credit, was probably invented by the Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria.)

    It wasn’t the Roman Catholic Church that invented the reliance on literal interpration of the Bible.

    And if you want to read a truly funny series picking apart the LEFT BEHIND books (aka The Worst Books Ever Written), scene by scene, do check out Fred Clark’s series at http://www.slacktivist.typepad.com.

  37. Marq said,

    June 1, 2006 at 6:23

    Dude, that’s totally a chick next to Jesus in da Vinci’s The Last Supper. Totally a chick.

    Yes. And Leonardo had it totally accurate, ‘cos he painted it from life. That’s right, the actual Jeebus and the Apostles modeled for it–see? Jeebus was a white dude! Enneyhoo, once Leo finished the fresco, he pushed the entire refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie back in his handy Tardis and humped it all back to 1498, where he received a hearty handclasp from Duke Ludovico Sforza, man-about-towne. Leo went on to invent the Rubik’s Cube, the most sinister weapon of mass destruction ever created.

  38. Marq said,

    June 1, 2006 at 6:29

    Someone has informed me that my previous post was somewhat lacking in facts. OK, OK, it’s true. “Jeebus” is a Simsonsism-version of the name of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. Sheesh. Happy now?

  39. Sexy Sadie said,

    June 1, 2006 at 7:08

    Personally, I think it’d be wonderful if what Dan Brown wrote in his novel were true. However, I don’t think it is, for the simple reason that I do not believe that a historical Jesus Christ ever existed.

  40. Christopher said,

    June 1, 2006 at 8:23

    “And Dorothy, to quote a phrase, SADLY, NO. The Christian Church was responsible for SAVING most of the scientific literature of antiquity, not destroying it.”

    Except if it came from, you know, THE FUCKING AMERICANS. The Mayans invented everything from indoor plumbing to the concept of zero to the comic strip, and the Spanish RELIGIOUS LEADERS destroyed it all. FOUR FUCKING BOOKS survived from the Mayans. A mid-sized city would have dozens and a large city hundreds. FOUR survived.

    And hey, if you read De Sahagun’s book on doctors, it turns out that A good doctor is one who tests his remedies and observes the results, and a bad doctor is one who relies on religious dogma and superstition.

    Sounds a lot like the fucking scientific method to me. Not to mention that the Aztecs had a fairly egalitarian and democratic society. All that went out the door when Christianity came in.

    And all that shit (destroying the litarary tradition of an entire continent, replacing democracy and egalitarianism with monarchy and slavery, destroying art for the sake of destroying art) was something they did just in Mesoamerica, an area that doesn’t even encompass all of Central America. I haven’t even started on the shit they did when they got to the rest of the continent.

    Just for their massive fucking up of the Americas, Christians deserve every anti-proggress and and anti-science epithet you can throw at them.

    And, uh, Heresy is by definition a religious crime. It’s impossible to have a heretic unless a religious leader defines dogma. While I have no doubt the idea was used for political purposes, the very concept of heresy was invented by Christians. It’s impossible to divorce heresy from religion.

  41. Christopher said,

    June 1, 2006 at 8:33

    All of which frothing at the mouth (I don’t apologize for it; I have the right to be angry at the destruction of an entire continent’s literature (Actually, depending on how much information was encoded into quipus, it could be two continent’s literature)) distracted me from my point.

    Mary is the best he can come up with? Please, she was a womb on legs. Her ONLY importance in the Bible was to give birth to Christ. She isn’t a god, and the protestants argue that even the meagre worship the Catholics give her is polytheism and thus paganism.

    Not to mention that, unlike, say, Athena, she had no influence on theology; it all comes from the dudes.

    Seriously, if the best argument you can make about women’s importance in your religion is “One of our gods was related to a woman!” then you don’t have a leg to stand on.

    Especially since Catholic dogma says that Christ has always existed and therefore isn’t really even related to Mary.

    So I guess it’s more like “Hey, our god once touched a woman’s vagina!”

    Which doesn’t seem to be all that convincing.

  42. gus said,

    June 1, 2006 at 10:21

    It amazes me the things these people get all worked up over.

  43. Ginger Yellow said,

    June 1, 2006 at 14:20

    And Dorothy, to quote a phrase, SADLY, NO. The Christian Church was responsible for SAVING most of the scientific literature of antiquity, not destroying it. The university system of education developed out of Christian models of education, and no where else in the world.

    Sadly, no. The Greek scientific texts and methods were preserved by Islamic scholars until they were rediscovered by Christianity in the middle ages, and the first universities were in India (Buddhist) and Cairo (Muslim). Similarly medicine stagnated under Catholicism with almost no advances, and some backwards steps, since Galen. It was Avicenna and other Islamic students of medicine who made the only real progress in Western medicine from Galen until the Enlightenment.

  44. Retardo said,

    June 1, 2006 at 14:45

    Bless you for that, Christopher.

    I’m a doctrinaire agnostic who thinks every religion (as opposed to, say, personal belief in God) is more or less equally stupid.

    However, practicioners of Xtianity whose emphasis/interest is in the ethical rather than theological “truths” earn my extra respect. Not only are there good Xtians (like there are good people among all religions) but Christ As Teacher/Rebel/Ethicist is a powerful good role model.

    OTOH, ppl who try to defend the indefensible need to slag off. The history of Christendom is nasty, guilty, chock full of the kind of evil that the urge-to-convert-or-else, and mystical certitude, always creates. And though such is not an indictment of their personal beliefs viz Christ himself, it is, I think, an indictment of Xtianity post-Paul.

    I never meant that Xtianity had *always* been contra science, only that it had been, and on occasion egregiously.

    And I view those who would minimise the causes and effects Inquisition and the Conquest to be on par with Holocaust deniers.

  45. dAVE said,

    June 1, 2006 at 19:36

    Marq – the point was that maybe Leo did paint a woman in the Last Supper – sure looks like a woman. Not that he was there. You don’t want to use that criterion, considering that we have no contemporary copies of any of the gospels, and absolutely no evidence outside of the gospels that Jesus even existed.

    hapax – my brief account of the splitting of Christianity, though brief, is not inaccurate, and it’s anti-sex attitude (which, of course predates Christianity and goes back to the Old Testament) is real. It’s still here today. So I offended you with some inconvenient facts about the history of Christianity. Boo hoo! But I am not inaccurate. Hell, I even took a jab at neo-pagans, but you don’t see them getting all up in my grill. deee-feennnnsiiivee!!!

  46. mikey said,

    June 1, 2006 at 20:12

    Whatever. Look-You can believe (as I do) that organized religions have done a great deal of harm and been responsible for a great deal of suffering down through the ages. Or you can certainly find quite a lot of good that has been done under the auspices of church. After all, that’s where the largest concentration of capital and education has been for a very long time, so that’s where good men can do good things, and bad men can, well, you know.

    But this is 2006. The world has changed. We can no longer afford the luxury of allowing the worldview of billions of people to be defined by mythology, doctrine, and assertions for which there is absolutely ZERO empirical evidence. Please! Right now. Go to the bookstore, buy Sam Harris’ “The End of Faith”, read it and give it to someone else.

    Look around the world today. Notice the hardening of theocratic doctrine. Notice how religious doctrine is merging with political philosophies. Notice how the extreme wing of any given religion is begining to hold sway over the entire membership. Notice how exclusionary religions are becoming. Notice that unlike any other time, biological and nuclear weapons are begining to be available to non-state players.

    The world faces a number of unprecidented crises, from weapons proliferation to global warming to resource shortfalls (did you know that UN studies indicate that in the next 25 years, at least 1 major regional war will be fought over WATER?), and in this environment we cannot allow theocratic fundamentalists to use antiquated mythological dogma to drive decision-making. I pretty much fall into the category of “Old Man” at this point. So I observe, but I won’t be here in twenty years. You guys need to think about the direction the world is going, and what the world of your children and grandchildren is going to look like. You need to decide if faith in fourteen hundred year old myth or solid, rational science-based reasoning is the best course to try and save, well, everything…

    mikey

  47. hapax said,

    June 1, 2006 at 21:29

    Amazing. Just amazing. Over two thousand years of history, four continents, millions of people — and folks keep pulling out the same three or four crimes (horrible crimes, ghastly crimes) which were committed by people who claimed to be acting in the name of Christianity and there’s your “proof” that “The history of Christendom is nasty, guilty, chock full of the kind of evil that the urge-to-convert-or-else, and mystical certitude, always creates”. Mention any of the positive developments in that vast span, and you get, “well, gee, when you have all of those people and captal, and sure, one of them is going to accidentally do some good.” Christianity is not a monolith. It has an enormously complex history, and has an incredibly varied number of expressions currently.

    I’m not the “defender” of Christianity. It can survive (or self-destruct) quite well without my help. As mikey grudgingly admitted, religious beliefs are held by PEOPLE — and people are motivated by their religious (and political, and nationalistic, and emotional, and even scientific) convictions to do terrific things and to do terrible things.

    I just get so very very tired of the way people on so many progressive blogs, who claim the high ground of being “reality-based”, are so eager to chuck that out the window whenever religion comes up. Every stupid thing ever said or done by any Christian is immediately equated as the universal opinion of all Christians every where at all times. Anything someone doesn’t like (such as an anti-sex attitude), which *in the same sentence* is admitted to pre-date Christianity, be widespread in all cultures, and be antithetical to most Christian teachings, is nonethless “blamed” on Christianity. Meanwhile, anything positive (such as the scientific method, or the preservation of Greek literature, or the development of the university) which was developed within the Christian tradition *as an expression of Christian beliefs* must have of course been an accident, or stolen from another culture (because we all know there is no such thing as concurrent development) Anyone who expresses any approval of these positive aspects.of Christianity is immediately classed as “ignorant”, “stupid,” “theocratic fundamentalist”, beaten about the head with statements about “myths” and “fantasies” and “sky daddies”, and (my favourite) called a “Holocaust denier” because the Inquisition (which one, by the way? There were many Inquisitions, with many different jurisdictions, rules, and effects, and the so-called Spanish Inquisition was very much an aberration caused by, yes, political interests) was such a Bad Thing.

    If folks are really interested in solving the very serious problems the U.S. faces, there has to be major political change in this country. Gratuitously insulting the deepest concerns and beliefs of the vast majority of its citizens, out of sheer ignorance and prejudice, doesn’t seem to me to be a very smart way of going about it. If, however, you all just want to congratulate yourselves on how Super-Kewl and Smart and Rational and Scientific and Stuff you are, by all means, continue this sort of bullshit.

  48. tigrismus said,

    June 2, 2006 at 16:51

    I’m having a hard time meshing the logic that an institution can’t be condemned for institutional action because it’s consisted of so many people for so long(even if one specifies it is the institution and not its members one is condemning), but can be commended for them(“[t]he Christian Church was responsible for SAVING most of the scientific literature of antiquity, not destroying it.”). I think perhaps we can both condemn the bad the institution has done without maligning the good individual members and commend the good it has done without praising the bad members, and we can attempt to weigh the aggregate institutional good and bad and not apply our appraisal of the institution as a whole to its individual members.

  49. Andrew A. Gill, SLS said,

    June 2, 2006 at 20:37

    hapax–

    I think that you and I are on the same side, here, but let me just make a quick comment.

    The political and religious spheres of Europe during the Middle Ages are frequently conflated. I once had a guy tell me that the Pope was essentially the Roman Emperor. Which is so wrong that it’s funny.

    The political power of the Roman Emperor and the religious authority of the Pope were two very different spheres, and the offices were occupied by two different people.

    But! The pope certainly could influence the Emperor, and I believe did so in some of these cases of heresy. Heresy was a secular offense, prosecuted by civil authorities. But that’s not to say that religious authorities leaned on, or sometimes co-opted civil authority.

  50. Andrew A. Gill, SLS said,

    June 2, 2006 at 20:47

    Uh… make that didn’t lean on or co-opt.

  51. hapax said,

    June 3, 2006 at 4:47

    I swore I wouldn’t post on this topic again, because my blood pressure was getting so high that the screen looked pink. But I’ll make an exception for a mea culpa: tigrismus, you are absolutely right, and I plead guilty to very sloppy phrasing. What I meant, and what I should have said but did not, was that “Christians acting upon their understanding and commitment to their Christian beliefs” did such and so. And CAUTUACTTCB have throughout history and around the world done astonishingly positive things, and nauseatingly horrible things, and many many more middling good and bad things, and most do nothing at all. So it was, and so it is, even in my home town today (compare newspaper coverage of the expansion of the local homeless shelter and an investigation into the torching of the local gay bar.)

    To objectiviely aggregate the good and the bad would be interesting, but monstrously difficult — it would be impossible to collect more than a fraction of the necessary data, and coding for “good” and “bad” (let alone quantifying it) would cause more arguments than it would settle. If you are truly interested, the only person I know even making a stab at the task is the sociologist of religion Rodney Stark. His knowledge of some historical periods and places is (of necessity) spotty, and his methodology is often, umm, questionable at best. Nonetheless, some of his conclusions are provocative — for example, his contention that the explosive growth of Christianity in the late Antique period had nothing to do with the intrinsic appeal of the message, but can be accounted for demographically by two well-documented factors: that Christians usually took intensive care of their sick, instead of abandoning them, and that Christians were encouraged to (and usually did) have more children than non-Christians.

    I’d be interested in other researchers studying this if you could recommend any.

  52. tigrismus said,

    June 3, 2006 at 18:09

    Hah, speaking of sloppy phrasing, I should’ve said “could” instead of “can;” I meant that it’s logically possible, not that it’s an endeavor I would want to undertake! The Stark book sounds interesting, though, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some religion or science historians have done at least some work.

  53. Temperance said,

    June 5, 2006 at 10:30

    in this environment we cannot allow theocratic fundamentalists to use antiquated mythological dogma to drive decision-making. Posted by mikey

    Well, I don’t want theocrats of any stripe, fundie or otherwise, making my decisions for me. But myths are not “antiquated” and they are not “dogma.” Myths are representations of basic human qualities, stories about ways of being human, and they have relevance beyond [meta-, anyone?] mikey’s simplistic, though rather sweet and naive, idea that “solid, rational science-based reasoning” is going to solve everything. All the science in the world — and I will support and defend science against any anti-scientific rightwing crapola — nonetheless gives the ordinary person very little comfort or hope when disaster or death strikes. Religion, organized or not, serves a real purpose that science can’t, as well as vice versa.

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  55. Sadly, No! » God Bless Matt Taibbi said,

    August 5, 2006 at 15:45

    [...] Yuppification, pace Brooks, is not just a crucial part of modern Republicanism — though it can’t really be underestimated: Michael Totten is a reactionary ratbag and tenth-rate Hitchens pretty much because some Naderite hippies in Portland were snarky to him years ago, while Stephen Green is a batshit fascist because he fears the next al-qaeda attack will destroy the pretties his trust fund account paid for at Pottery Barn, meanwhile there’s the Lileks phenomenon — but is also a necessary part of “Sensible Liberalism”. Yuppification is not just an economic condition; it’s also a state of mind. Taibbi emphasizes Brooks’s niceness: I mean the dickless, power-worshipping, good-consumer pragmatic conservatism of Times readers and those other Bobos in Paradise who have exquisitely developed taste in furniture, coffee and television programming but would rather leave the uglier questions of politics to more decisive people, so long as they aren’t dangerous radicals like Michael Moore or Markos Zuniga. [...]

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