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This horror cannot be unseen

Rabbi Brad Hirschfield is very concerned: atheism has turned ugly, he says. Oh, no, I says, what atrocity have we perpetrated now? Have we been…

  • raping children in our care?
  • hunting for witches in Africa and setting them on fire?
  • rioting over poorly-drawn caricatures of Madalyn Murray O’Hair?
  • stoning women to death for adultery?
  • telling air force cadets to prepare for a righteous armageddon?
  • hypocritical?
  • chopping the hands off thieves?
  • displacing and oppressing people because they live on land Dawkins said was ours?
  • pouring money into California to suppress the rights of gay couples?
  • building compounds and filling them with automatic rifles?
  • lying to children in our educational system?
  • telling women they aren’t allowed to speak at our meetings?
  • flying planes into buildings?
  • chopping bits off baby penises?
  • inculcating shame and guilt in generations of children?
  • ignoring the stewardship of our planet because nature couldn’t possibly allow us to mess it up?
  • denying children medical care because disease is Hitchen’s will?
  • strapping bombs to our bodies and boarding church buses before detonating them?
  • telling poor people they aren’t allowed to use family planning?
  • butchering albinos for body parts we use in our secret ceremonies?
  • legislating death and imprisonment for sexual practices we disapprove of?
  • making women dress up in bag-like tents before allowing them to go outside?
  • dynamiting ancient works of religious art?
  • crusading?
  • chopping off clitorises?
  • demanding special privileges?
  • dismantling the social support network?
  • using our tax-free income to lobby for conservative politicians in our tax-exempt buildings?
  • calling for pogroms and ethnic cleansing?
  • setting our critics on fire?

Because those would be UGLY. That’s the kind of thing that comes to my mind as representative of disgraceful, hideous behavior by established social institutions. For a representative of a religious faith to claim that atheists have done something ugly implies that they must have really done something awful.

So what has Rabbi Hirschfield covering his eyes in horror?

The Backyard Skeptics were tearing pieces of paper in half…paper that had magic words written on them. O Lord, avert thine eyes that thou would not witness the great evils your people perpetrate on this earth. God, with your perfect all-seeing vision, I think you would prefer to change channels, avoid this heresy, and instead peep in on some of your good and holy people: I’m sure somewhere there’s a priest buggering a choir boy, or a rabbi gnawing on a baby’s penis, or an imam cutting off someone’s head, providing a soothing spectacle for a holy mind. Whatever you do, do not watch this horrific video of smiling people on a sunny day in California cheerfully disrespecting your sacred words. Amen.

You watched it, didn’t you? Now you’re going to have flashbacks to those frightful images all day long. Don’t blame me if you are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder now.

Comments

  1. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Watch what? I don’t even the typical video box saying I need to update flash.

  2. Gregory Greenwood says

    But.. but… how could they? Those monsters! All those innocent little magic words, senselessly slaughtered! It obviously so much worse than systematically covering up child rape and oppressing women and homosexuals! I mean, these were words! Magic words! Surely there has been no greater crime comitted in the history of humanity! What is the genocide of millions of inncoent people when set against someone tearing up a few pages of holy fairy tales?

    *sob*

  3. kieran says

    That was truly horrifying there were these happy children and rebuilding america, it was an add for Goldmansachs! Here’s me expecting happy go lucky people wearing T-shirts with thought provoking slogans ripping A4 sheets and I see that instead yuck!

  4. rad_pumpkin says

    Do I even want to know what the backstory of that albino comment was? I’m kinda afraid to google it now…

    Funny video though. Just a shame about all those torn sheets of paper. Somebody might have been able to write something more useful than bible verses on them…

  5. says

    I think they missed an opportunity when they only brought bible pages to tear up. In the mind of the believer it does nothing but confirm the whole stereotype of “atheists just hate god and the bible!”.

    Bring a whole lot of religious books, and some God Delusions as well. Tear pages out of all of them. Show these people that no piece of paper is sacred, regardless of its content.

    Plus, if you rip up enough bible pages, Yahweh is sure to notice. Those folks are lucky they didn’t get hit by any lightning bolts or plagues! Next time they should bring some goats to burn, just in case…

  6. Harvey says

    I have never understood the viewpoint that Scripture (of any variety) is somehow in and of itself sacred. Even if one believes that the words are actually those of God or inspired by such a Deity, the paper/parchment/stone tablets upon whioh they have been inscribed certainly is not. Moreover, in the case of the Bible, unless the words are in Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek, they are certainly not what may have been spoken to Moses on Mount Sinai (if you happen to accept this story). Finally, even if one considers such an activity as was shown in the video as “blasphemous”, it seems to me presumptuous of believers to take it upon themselves to chastise such behavior, inasmuch as “vengeance is mine, saith the Lord”. It seems likely that the Lord God Almighty would be perfectly able to fend for Himself in this matter and, after all, He has told us what to expect as “the wages of sin.”

  7. says

    Oh my. How horrible! :eyeroll: I’m afraid Rabbi Hirschfield would have a serious problem with me, as my next art piece will involve shredded holy books of various religions. I don’t anticipate being struck by lightning, however, I’m sure it would cause the good Rabbi to pucker up even more than usual. Tsk.

  8. Beatrice, anormalement indécente says

    I know you warned us, and I expected to see something awful, but this was just too much. I am in a state of shock! Those people are monsters, their cruelty has no limits. There are no words. Really. I’m just sad for them.
    *sniffle*

  9. John Small Berries says

    or a rabbi gnawing on a baby’s penis,

    Is that a reference to something that has actually occurred?

  10. FossilFishy says

    Oh great, now I’m going to have to deal with PTSD. I’ll never be able to read another paper book again for fear of triggering flashbacks. Thanks PZ, thanks so much, bastard! [Frantically digs through box of random cables hunting for the e-reader one, hands shaking at the thought of spending even one moment without reading material within arm’s reach.]

  11. Beatrice, anormalement indécente says

    I have a problem with tearing, burning or otherwise destroying books, regardless of who does it.

    They photocopied pages and then burned the copies. That one man admitted that he got carried away and tore out one page of the Bible.

    I’m generally against book destruction, but I wouldn’t object much even if they had destroyed a Bible or two. There is a difference between a systematic destruction of books so that people won’t be able to read them, and a destruction of a couple of copies of a book that exists in such a grand number of copies as the Bible.

  12. Wilco says

    There’s a video from YouTube user Factvsreligion where she rolls a joint using Bible paper. Now that’s just funny.

  13. jack lecou says

    Funny video though. Just a shame about all those torn sheets of paper. Somebody might have been able to write something more useful than bible verses on them…

    That’s a pretty good idea, actually. Instead of just tearing the paper up, it could be pulped and squeezed into new sheets. Sheets where something useful could be printed. Maybe an open source science textbook or something.

    It’s not desecration, it’s recycling.

  14. Thomathy, now gayer and atheister says

    John Small Berries @ #10, it’s in reference to the ritual removal of the foreskin wherein the Rabbi sucks the cut foreskin off of the baby.

    Have you ever heard of the internet? Have you ever heard of Google?

  15. greame says

    I have a problem with tearing, burning or otherwise destroying books, regardless of who does it.

    Or what’s written in them.

    Is that a reference to something that has actually occurred?

    Yes.

  16. rad_pumpkin says

    That’s a pretty good idea, actually. Instead of just tearing the paper up, it could be pulped and squeezed into new sheets. Sheets where something useful could be printed. Maybe an open source science textbook or something.

    It’s not desecration, it’s recycling.

    Ah, now here’s a great idea for a nationwide protest! I propose we call it “Trash to Treasure – Ancient BS Edition.”
    I know the logistics would make this near impossible, but I would love to see people being able to turn in any number of those stupid holy books, watch them get mashed up, and reprinted. They would receive a copy of Sagan’s Cosmos, Darwin’s Origins, The Feynman Lectures, etc in return. Well, one can dream, right?

    @15: You’d think that after years of /b and ED nothing would faze me anymore. Congratulations, you managed to top Offended…

  17. Marcus Aurelius says

    @John Small Berries
    “or a rabbi gnawing on a baby’s penis,

    Is that a reference to something that has actually occurred?”

    Actually, yes. In the traditional method of circumcision the Rabbi uses his teeth. See here for details (and pics).

  18. postmodernslavepoet says

    Why would anyone ever let their pet rabbit gnaw at their baby? Oh… wait… never mind.

  19. says

    Actually, yes. In the traditional method of circumcision the Rabbi uses his teeth. See here for details (and pics).

    That is something I would rather not have known. That is just fractally disturbing.

  20. jagginton says

    Presumably the sanctity of any given bible to a specific sect can be quantified depending on which version it is (akin to the Emo Philips “Die, Heretic Scum” sketch). On that thought, may I propose the Emo as the relative unit of sanctity of religious writings?

    42 seconds in, Greg Allen sayeth “Do you know, you liberal atheists, you’re gonna be the first ones to go when the moslems take over.”
    Well, I certainly find that as persuasive an argument as any for religion.

    Perhaps the Backyard Skeptics would have made a more salient point had they read out (without necessarily needing to ridicule) some of the more nonsensical, contradictory verses.

  21. says

    Isn’t it obvious that the people against this are violating the commandment against idolatry, and by their own rules are as bad as the people they are complaining about? And then if they believe the Jesus thing, they should “yank the plank out of their eye” or STFU and stop being such hypocrites?

    Fuck ‘em in the ear.

  22. John Small Berries says

    Thank you, greame (#18) and Marcus Aurelius (#20). Most helpful, and disturbingly illustrative.

    No, Thomathy, now gayer and atheister (#15). I have never heard of the ‘internet'; I don’t do much fishing, which is what I presume it pertains to. And while I am indeed familiar with goggles (which I presume is what you meant to write), I do not own a pair.

  23. FossilFishy says

    They should have got me to help out. I ran a used book store for almost 20 years. Thousands of books met their untimely end at my hands. Hell, we didn’t even recycle them because at that time there was no cost effective way of dealing with glued bindings. The recyclers paid $5 a tonne for paperbacks if I recall correctly. Occasionally Food Not Bombs or some other organisation would be filling a shipping container and we’d happily donate ‘em there but that was rare.

    I’ve done all manner of grievous bodily harm to books that I love, let alone bibles, without shedding a single tear because there’s NOTHING sacred about an object that happens to have words printed on it. Not unless it’s the last copy in existence that is. And even then it’s not the object but the information in it that deserves some kind of reverence.

  24. says

    From my novel, which will be published next year (parochial school kids talking on the playground):

    “It’s called the ‘Feast of the Circumcision,’” he said.

    “Yeah! See? ‘Feast.’ They took Jesus to the temple and the Jews ate the end of his dick. Jesus didn’t like having his dick shortened, which is why he replaced the Jewish religion with Christianity and made his friend Peter the first pope. That’s all in history, guys!”

    And then there’s the scene with the aftermath of one kid’s accidental circumcision. Fun for the entire family.

  25. says

    I have a problem with tearing, burning or otherwise destroying books, regardless of who does it.

    What about newspapers? I mean, I’ve even seen them lining bird cages.

    Or, if newspapers are fine to throw out, destroy, collect bird shit, why are those words somehow less important than those in hallowed books?

    Glen Davidson

  26. says

    This. Seriously. You have primed the anger in me, PZ.

    Fuck you if you think your stupid little religion has a monopoly on all that is good. Fuck you when you say that my criticism is somehow worse than your ideal land, where dissenters are put to death by your female servants.

  27. Brownian says

    Hold on. So we’re not to be butchering albinos for body parts we use in our secret ceremonies?

    That sucks.

    How about just Captain Lou Albano? I mean, I already dug him up and everything.

  28. The Woggler says

    You mean they tore up pages of god’s holy book and weren’t struck by lightning? Was god watching another channel when this happened?

  29. Brother Ogvorbis, Hominy Lovin' Hominid! says

    Could be start digging up the Dukes of Alba? Some of them, like Don Jacobo Fitz-James Stuart y Falcó, 17th Duke of Alba de Tormes, Grandee of Spain, might be good eating. He won a silver in the 1920 Olympics for polo, so he must be one helluva athlete, right?

    On topic, have any Christians actually read any of their scripture? I thought there was something in there about removing the mote in your own eye first. Or am just Satan quoting the bible for my own devices?

  30. Sally Strange, OM says

    “Do you know, you liberal atheists, you’re gonna be the first ones to go when the moslems take over.”

    Sounds just like an abusive guy trying to convince his girlfriend that all the other guys out there are worse than him.

    On topic, have any Christians actually read any of their scripture?

    Only the parts that agree with their opinions.

  31. Brother Ogvorbis, Hominy Lovin' Hominid! says

    Sally Strange:

    And the parts which allow them to condemn others for what the Christian is also doing. They seem to enjoy that.

  32. Agi says

    the horror indeed!
    those poor trees they killed to make a COPY of the bible, just to rip them up!!11

  33. fracas_futile says

    To avoid the Hitlerian connotations of book burning, how about creating some real cognitive dissonance by staging a Jeffersonian Circumcision of the Bible?

    Founding Father mutilation of the Bible while keeping the good parts.

    Christians do something similar all the time. I just read an Erick Erickson (RedState) piece on Troy Davis and the Bible where he defended the death penalty by granting the commandment to not kill (murder) while citing God’s directions to kill the child who dishonors their parents.

    (To not offend his fellow christians, Erick basically denied the concept of objective morality and said the Bible lets Christians go either way on the question of the death penalty.)

  34. fred5 says

    No, this was simply one more time when people fanatically attached to their own view of things felt that their sense of things was so true, it justified trampling on the views and sensitivities of others.

    —Mike Hirschfield

    In response I will just post this link (youtube) with no further comment.

  35. JJ says

    Nice, Huntington beach, and covered by the register? I’m surprised they didn’t slant that as “those bad atheists are causing trouble again!”

    Man, I’m so happy I left Orange County 8 years ago and never looked back. Remember, this is Rick Warren and Saddleback church land (not to mention the crystal cathedral).

  36. uncle frogy says

    that took me back some.
    The Huntington Beach pier has been as long as I can remember a place where christian zealots could be found trolling for converts, always disturbing they are just rude.
    My brother once threw the bible in the sea of some fool that was trying to SAVE him was carrying after he asked him for it first of course.
    I think what attracts them to the pier is the crowds the sun and the skimpy clothing of all the pretty young people.

    worse than ants and flies at the picnic!
    uncle frogy

  37. Brother Ogvorbis, Hominy Lovin' Hominid! says

    Founding Father mutilation of the Bible while keeping the good parts.

    Ah, but, according to some on the extreme right, Jefferson is not a founding father. Paracelsus, Luther and Calvin are, but not Jefferson.

  38. says

    Well maybe a slight cringe but that’s only due to being rampant bibliophile. I’d react the same way to someone doing it to a copy of Dawkins’work.

  39. Naked Bunny with a Whip says

    Why would anyone ever let their pet rabbit gnaw at their baby? </blockquote.

    Lots of people feed their pets table scraps.

  40. DLC says

    Jewish father: “I told the Rabbi, I can’t afford to pay you for the bris, but you can keep the tip!”

    Yes, PZ, I am Shocked, Shocked I say, to find Atheism going on in here.
    Are there no Christians? Are there no True Believers?*

    *(the preceding comment was written in Biting Sarcasm™ )

  41. Jeff Johnson says

    At least OUR religious nuts only wag their fingers in disapproval when you desecrate their holy book. Those other religious nuts riot in the streets committing arson and murder. This is a sign of progress. I have to admit that I hate to see books of any kind destroyed, even really awful books like Mein Kampf. Even if all Bibles were erased from the world over night, that wouldn’t stop the credulous community from recreating a book of magical fables to keep them happy.

  42. reasonisbeauty says

    My biggest objection to bible burning is its contribution to global warming.

    “Do publicity stunts like this actually accomplish anything beneficial for the advocacy of our position?” is, it seems to me, the more important question.

    Destroying books seems more like a tactic of the other side of this debate. Opening them and pointing out how absurd the ideas contained within are is something I’m more in favor of. I realize that it was a purely symbolic act but I’m not convinced we should be associated with that symbol.

  43. AmVik says

    To avoid the Hitlerian connotations of book burning

    My biggest objection to bible burning is its contribution to global warming.

    What makes either of you think anything was burned? Paper was torn. Nothing was burned.

  44. Zytrock says

    Our horrors are being shadowed by religious acts! We BETTER eat more babies and burn more crops! Ripping old books is NOT enough. (See how I motivate you by using caps :D)

  45. reasonisbeauty says

    What makes either of you think anything was burned? Paper was torn. Nothing was burned.

    Hyperbole and response to hyperbole. Sorry for not being as strictly factual as you would like.

  46. Midnight Rambler says

    Re “traditional” circumcision, from the NYT:

    MANHATTAN: INFECTION CONNECTED TO RELIGIOUS RITE City health officials said yesterday that they had identified two new cases in which infants were infected with herpes this year during a circumcision ritual practiced by some Orthodox Jews. During the circumcision, the practitioner, or mohel, sucks the blood from the circumcision wound to clean it. Since 1988, health officials have identified at least five infants believed to have been infected during such procedures by Type 1 herpes, commonly carried by adults. One baby died and another may have suffered brain damage, health officials said. Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the commissioner of health and mental hygiene, disclosed the new cases yesterday in an open letter to Orthodox Jews in which he called upon parents to consider other religiously viable options, including using a tube or sponge. But he did not ban the practice.Jim Rutenberg (NYT)

    Here is a longer blog post about it.

  47. Dom says

    Why bother tearing up a Bible unless it’s to really stick your thumb up Christians’ buttholes? What’s the point?

    Don’t believe in god – great! Get out and celebrate existence, don’t waste time on pointless antagonism.

    And if you really want to pull-off a publicity stunt that’s going to piss off the god fearing, why not add a Torah and a Koran to the pile? Too scared to desecrate the Koran?

    Come on guys, rational, educated people don’t bother with this infantile stuff.

  48. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    Dom #61

    don’t waste time on pointless antagonism.

    Why not? I find it very antagonistic that goddists use cite their holy books as justification for anti-social, anti-ethical, anti-human acts. Why shouldn’t they be told, or shown, in no uncertain terms, that their holy books are not held as holy by certain of their fellow citizens? No, you’re wrong, it isn’t pointless antagonism. The point is forceful.

    Too scared to desecrate the Koran?

    Fatwah envy is even found among the faitheists.

  49. says

    I thought it was one of the ten commandments not to idolize physical things like books? Like, a serious sin?

    Books have to be recycled at some point, as long as the data contained is saved somewhere.

  50. timmosocal says

    There are always bible toting street preachers psychos out in force at Huntington Beach pier, so it’s nice to see a little balance. I would have thought that there would be a lot more confrontation than they showed in the videos.

  51. aladegorrion says

    YUCK… they suck the wound clean in circumcision? How is that not labeled as some kind of molestation??? Major-leagued messed up.

  52. postmodernslavepoet says

    @53 I’m certainly not going to tell a naked bunny with a whip what rabbits can or can’t eat.

  53. Karellen says

    Or, if newspapers are fine to throw out, destroy, collect bird shit, why are those words somehow less important than those in hallowed books?

    Disregarding the word “hallowed” – they just are, OK. Books – all books – are special. Newspapers aren’t. No, it doesn’t make sense, and it’s not logical, but that’s part of the fun in being human.

  54. pelamun says

    Well, I was also raised to respect the written word, to my mother’s parents, even newspapers were hallowed. But in our generation that hallowedness only applies to books, and I think I can live with that. So no writing/marking in books, no tearing them apart, no just throwing them away. If you need to get rid of books, give them away, sell them, or in my case, rent a storage room downtown just for books :)

  55. tushcloots says

    I wish these people would just settle down. It’s not the American flag, for christ’s sake.
    Yuk, yuk, yuk… I do remember, with fondness – ah, the days of youth, I was sitting down for a good read of the Old Testament, a sweet story of a fair maiden, doting good naturedly on her neighbors when, alas! Yes, I shake my head with a foolish grin when recalling that I had forgotten to bring a roll of the gentle tissue for my posterior!
    Well now, I was in a pickle, wasn’t I! Gretchen had the minister’s wifey over for a chat, and it certainly wouldn’t do to broadcast my predicament to the fairer half, and most assuredly wouldn’t consider using the hand towel which carried an embroidered American Flag in it’s corner.
    Well, it suddenly occurred to me that, dag nabbit, cleanliness is next to Godliness.
    My only regret, as I look back, is that I wish I would have turned for my Holy Cleanliness to the new section where the young lad tricks his friends into drinking his blood and taking a wee nibble out of his flesh, or some such ghastly abomination, Because of that I never found out what became of the young lady as she wooed her princely admirers.
    I think I still have that gentle book with a few pages missing. I’ll bet the author never realized the immense use his publishing would end up being put to. Bravo, I say. Bravo.

  56. mercurial says

    PZ writes:

    “Displacing and oppressing people because they live on land Dawkins said was ours?”

    PZ, thank you for including the plight of the Palestinians in your excellent list of religious atrocities. Quite timely I might add – given the happenings this week at the U.N.

    It is amazing to me that 2 million Palestinians are still being caged in the world’s largest open-air prison because Jews claim “God gave us the deed to this land”. To think, as Jews and their Christian Evangelical backers do, that God is your Real Estate Agent! That is the height of delusional sickness.

  57. Derrik Pates says

    Albinos? Geez, everyone know we don’t use albino body parts in secret ceremonies. It’s babies. We eat them. I prefer medium rare.

    But seriously, at least no one threatened a fatwa. I love the fact that the believers in these sort of stories always talk about the “God of love”; have they actually read the Bible? I’m pretty sure Jesus disagrees with them (Matthew 10:34) based on its own words. Dear believers: Try reading that book once, you might learn a thing or two about what your religion actually says.

  58. tushcloots says

    KingUber says:


    24 September 2011 at 2:00 am

    I think the proper form would include the word “wouldst”

    Quite right! I have duly corrected the manuscript of my book for the Bethany House Publishers entitled, “How Reading The Bible Can Save Your Behind”

  59. Josh says

    You answered his own question, you fucking intolerant assholes.

    People like you make me ashamed to be an atheist.

  60. KG says

    Josh,

    Your concern is noted. You may select your own decaying porcupine from the pile by the door on your way out. Be sure to insert it fully into your rectum.

  61. John Morales says

    Josh: “own” in your little ejaculation is not just redundant, but verging on a solecism.

    (Your shame is my pleasure)

  62. pelamun says

    I think it would be quite simplistic to reduce the Israel-Palestine conflict to religion. The vast majority of Israelis are secular, after all. This is an ethno-politic conflict exacerbated by religious factors (like the fanatical settlers motivated by religious concerns). I’m also not sure why the claims are supposed to be mainly religious in nature, it has been proven after all, unlike the mythical exodus from Egypt, that the Jewish kingdoms described in the torah existed.

    While it is true that most of the Jewish ancestral lands are in the West Bank (and Jerusalem of course), the main concerns regarding the West Bank are security-related. Just look at a map, and easily Israel proper bisected into two hard to defend parts. (Israeli prime ministers like to take American presidential candidates on a helicopter trip to drive home the point how small the country is). Any Israeli government agreeing to a deal compromising the security of its citizens would find itself out of power quickly.

  63. Ben says

    In his commentary about good for goodness sake, apparently the good Rabbi isn’t aware of how science is–and has been– focusing in for years on the biological/anthropological origins of moral behavior; that ‘being good for goodness sake’ (‘goodness sake’ being the basic embedded species behaviors evolved for survival advantage) part of the essence of what got codified in the Bible and so many other official doctrines attributed to supernatural origin.
    As far as anyone being insulted, the rational community has been insulted and impacted by the willfully blind faithful, both subtly as well as overtly, for a very long time now, and it is encouraging to see movement on many fronts in defense of reason truth and evidence lead by voices like PZ and others
    ( I’ve had situational experiences seeing examples of jaw-dropping Christian ‘education’, not to mention sitting in a bookstore overhearing a couple talking–very laconically and seriously about Armageddon, almost like it was something on their calendar (!))
    One begins to wonder just what it takes to begin the change the consciousness and thinking processes of such a large bulk of of this country.

  64. kazim says

    Meeting disrespect with further disprespect. How productive.

    Can someone please explain to me why Atheists feel such a need to replace the dogma that they shed when they disavowed their religion (if they ever had one) with more dogma and proselytization?

    Great, you don’t believe in God (neither do I), why do you feel the need to make sure that everyone else knows that you don’t believe in God. Doesn’t that make you just as bad as those that you claim to be attempting to silence?

    If you don’t believe in God, why do you spend so much time talking about him?