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Bill Donohue finds the proper bait for trolling

Bill Donohue has noticed that there are a lot of atheists running around and getting all up in his face, so the Catholic League is launching a counter-insurgency program, an Adopt An Atheist campaign, which I find kind of sweet and stupid.

Today we are launching our “Adopt An Atheist” campaign, the predicate of which is, “We want atheists to realize that there may be Christians in their community, even if those Christians don’t even know they are Christian.”

Uh, Bill…we know there are Christians in our communities. They’re all over the place, and they’re always rather loud about it. This is a campaign designed to ape what American Atheists do, and it puts Bill Donohue in an unfortunately defensive situation, in which he’s basically reacting to Dave Silverman by doing what Dave Silverman does…and it’s not going to work for him at all.

Here’s what our campaign entails. We are asking everyone to contact the American Atheist affiliate in his area [click here], letting them know of your interest in “adopting” one of them. All it takes is an e-mail. Let them know of your sincere interest in working with them to uncover their inner self. They may be resistant at first, but eventually they may come to understand that they were Christian all along.

If we hurry, these closeted Christians can celebrate Christmas like the rest of us. As an added bonus, they will no longer be looked upon as people who “believe in nothing, stand for nothing and are good for nothing.”

When atheists heard about this deal, they scrambled to beg to be “adopted”. He’s already hooked Cuttlefish, Greg, and JT, and heck, sign me up, too. Why? Because the comedic opportunities are freaking ripe. Donohue’s hooks are improperly baited — all they’re going to snag are happy atheists who’d love to see a fanatical Catholic willingly get in range for a mix of rational discussion, critical evaluation of Christian absurdities, and outright mockery.

Bill Donohue doesn’t seem to realize that he and Dave Silverman are in highly asymmetric situations (which doesn’t surprise me — Donohue is not a particularly insightful fellow). The Catholic church’s problem is not that people are unaware of them; as the largest single Christian denomination, Catholicism has name brand recognition. Their problem is that people know all about the Catholic church, and they run away screaming from it.

Its fusty medievalisms are the stuff of gothic horror novels and Dungeons & Dragons games, not contemporary life. Its most notable claim to fame recently has been raping children, and I think anyone can tell you, getting your brand name associated with child abuse, enslaving women, and providing a cushy old folks home for unrepentant pedophiles is not good marketing.

And along those lines, proposing to “adopt” people, something we usually associate with children…that’s not a good reminder to throw out there, Bill. When I first heard of this misbegotten plan to have a Catholic ‘adopt’ people like me, it wasn’t that they’d teach me to appreciate the true story of Christmas, but that my virginal anus was under threat.

Besides, I already celebrate Christmas the right way: with cephalopods on a fake tree, lefse and krumkake, kissing a pretty girl, and lounging about indolently all day long. We’ve successfully stolen the meaning of “holiday” away from the believers: instead of a day of sacred obligations, it’s now a day of freedom from obligations of all sorts — it’s a day off, when we can just relax and do what makes us and others happy.

And isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

Comments

  1. spacecadet says

    I’m going to ask to be adopted as well, so long as I get in on the expedited conversion course so I can celebrate Christmas “like the rest of us”. I certainly don’t want to be considered “good for nothing” anymore.

    (PZ- should this line “Uh, Bill…we know there are atheists in our communities” instead read “Uh, Bill…we know there are Christians in our communities”

  2. chigau (違う) says

    Why does Bill’s site not have commenting?
    I have so much I’d like to say to him!

  3. Gregory Greenwood says

    If we hurry, these closeted Christians can celebrate Christmas like the rest of us. As an added bonus, they will no longer be looked upon as people who “believe in nothing, stand for nothing and are good for nothing.”

    Typical Donohue. His solution to countering bigoted stereotypes? That the targets of the bigotry should change who they are so that they no longer ‘incite’ the bigots to hatred. Homosexuals should seek a ‘cure’ and magically bcome straight, atheists should find god, women should shut up and chain themselves to the bed/sink and so on.

    Keep on blaming the victims, Bill, it is all you are good for…

  4. janine says

    Wow! Bill Donohue is offering the chance to be subjected to all of the apologetics I have already heard and rejected before as well as being treated like a child or a lost pet. How can a person refuse?

  5. Brownian says

    How can one be a Christian and not know it???

    There’s a pedophile- or pedophile-enabler-shaped hole in all of us, according to some.

  6. says

    “How can one be a Christian and not know it???”

    Mwahahaha! It’s a surprise. How can one be an atheist and not know it? :-P

    Peace on earth, good will to all. Simple as that, really. Also, pie. And cephalopods. :-)

  7. raven says

    Bill Donohue has to be one of the most clueless failures in a long time. His lame defences of the RCC haven’t done anything.

    Recently, the Catholic church has lost 1/3 of its members, 22 million people.

    About half went Protestant. The other half are unaffiliated.

  8. scottportman says

    Hillarious… I actually went to their website to see if I could sign up, but no luck. I would actually welcome a really intelligent Catholic sparring partner. I’m not willing to do this with my Catholic in-laws, because many are elderly and I’m too polite to get into it with them. Of course, the Catholic League is not the place to look for smart Catholics. They revile the right-wing Catholic League just as they avoid Opus Dei. But it would be kinda interesting to spar with someone like Andrew Sullivan, who is not a cruel ideologue and is certainly no idiot. He is a gay man who supports equality but is part of a church that tacitly accepts gay men in the clergy but infantilizes and distorts them, he claims to be a conservative but disavows nearly all the conservative political bs and is one of the more insightful critics of the GOP, and he claims to be rational, but can’t quite bring himself to accept that the universe may not be loving and caring and considers the ressurection as an actual factual event. It’s not corrupt, cruel idiots like Donahue that interest me, it’s the smart and honest ones that I’d be more interested in engaging with. I still think they are wrong, but there’s not much to say to a man like Donahue other than STFU.

  9. timberwoof says

    Chigau, Christians believe (for they told me so at a Catholic school when I was a boy) that people naturally believe certain things, among them kinds of nonsense that it takes to accept the Word of Jesus. The idea is that someone who grew up entirely independent of any religious teaching would naturally believe in a savior, even if not Jesus as the savior, and thus be Christian. I thought it was nonsense when I was told it.

    The closest we actually come to that sort of thing is Noam Chomsky’s evidence that we’re wired for language.

  10. Brownian says

    Peace on earth, good will to all. Simple as that, really.

    Peace on earth and good will to all are mutually exclusive desires.

  11. janine says

    How can one be a Christian and not know it???

    The same way that all unborn babies are christian. It is the same mindset as this familiar refrain from the Rush Limbaugh Show.

    Caller: Megadittos, Rush. I used to be a liberal and then I started listening to your show.

    Rush: Welcome home.

    Everyone is born a social conservative christian. If you end up not being that, you chose not to be. And deserves what ever happens to you unless you repent.

  12. raven says

    Documentation for the claim in #10. This is a huge story which has been largely unreported. FWIW, the sources for this are Catholic sources.

    Vancouver Sun Douglas Todd

    The Catholic church is losing huge numbers of members. If ex-Catholics were their own denomination, they would make up the third largest denomination in the United States, according to The National Catholic Reporter. Canadians have much to learn from a powerful new study released by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, which shows that one out every 10 Americans is now an ex-Catholic. {Scroll through my take on more Catholic church issues.}

    “Any other institution that lost one-third of its members would want to know why. But the U.S. bishops have never devoted any time at their national meetings to discussing the exodus. Nor have they spent a dime trying to find out why it is happening,” writes Jesuit Father Thomas Reese continues…

  13. says

    Good, the first question i will ask is how you can start from not believing something, then take that away !?!? to reveal the christian mythos?!?!??

    As an added bonus, they will no longer be looked upon as people who “believe in nothing, stand for nothing and are good for nothing.”

    The only people that believe THAT are the christians themselves. How nice of the bullies to “fix” us so we can be just like them. Even as their own congregations flee from them.

  14. jacobfromlost says

    If atheists can be Christians and not know it, then where does that put the “no True Christian” fallacy? Every time a self-described Christian does something they don’t like, they say he or she isn’t a true Christian. Apparently claiming you don’t believe in their god is not one of those things that disqualifies you from being a true Christian. That’s weird.

    Also, why does he assume none of us celebrate Christmas? It must really piss him off to know lots and lots of people celebrate Christmas without believing an iota of the myth (I’m sure he wouldn’t consider that “true celebration”). Christmas is a cultural holiday too, not just a religious one.

    My tree is already up and decorated, and my plastic Santa is plugged in and glowing on my front lawn every night. I really hope it pisses him off.

  15. chigau (違う) says

    timberwoof
    I, too, was raised a Catholic.
    No one ever told me that people who had never heard of Jesus could actually be Christian.
    There was some hand-waving about them not going to hell but that was about it.
    Protestants, on the other hand, were all hell-bound.

  16. says

    And along those lines, proposing to “adopt” people, something we usually associate with children…that’s not a good reminder to throw out there, Bill.

    Especially given their history of involvement with adoptions in Spain and South America.

  17. raven says

    According to the statistics, who has been vacuuming up the Catholics isn’t the atheists, it is the Protestants. About 11 million Catholics have converted to Protestant sects.

    If Donohue really wanted to “defend Catholicism” he would be attackying those heretical Protestants. But he won’t do that. The last time the RCC tried that, they set off a war that killed tens of millions and flickered on and off for 450 years, ending a whole 11 years ago in Northern Ireland.

    It’s tough being a wannabe bully when your targets are quite willing to fight back.

  18. says

    I revel in being “good for nothing” in Bill Donohue’s eyes.

    I don’t want him expecting anything from me. [shudders at the thought]

  19. Brother Ogvorbis, OM, Demoted says

    If we hurry, these closeted Christians can celebrate Christmas like the rest of us. As an added bonus, they will no longer be looked upon as people who “believe in nothing, stand for nothing and are good for nothing.”

    I wonder if he realizes that many atheists (myself included) either celebrate some form of Christmas holiday or (and this is definately my family) used to celebrate the Christmas holiday until the radical Christian right wing assclasms started shoving their specific version of Christmas down the throat of everyone in the US!!?

    And I seriously doubt that converting to Catholicism (or any other form of Christianity (or, for that matter, any religion)) will stop right-wing authoritarians looking down on me as good for nothing (I am, after all, a career federal employee (non-elected)). And I do stand for something — I stand as a roadblock in the path to Christianist, Dominionist and theocratist government in my country.

  20. says

    Don’t knock “fusty medi[a]evalisms”, it’s the only thing that the RCs have that’s any fun.

    I’m an amateur mediævalist myself and can assure you that a good fusty ms smells better than (dare a say it?) even the most perfumed cephalopod!

  21. What a Maroon says

    The closest we actually come to that sort of thing is Noam Chomsky’s evidence that we’re wired for language.

    Stop the presses–Chomsky’s actually provided evidence for that claim, rather than just making unsupported and questionable assertions?

    Well, that’s something new.

    [/OT]

  22. Gregory Greenwood says

    jacobfromlost @ 17;

    If atheists can be Christians and not know it, then where does that put the “no True Christian” fallacy? Every time a self-described Christian does something they don’t like, they say he or she isn’t a true Christian. Apparently claiming you don’t believe in their god is not one of those things that disqualifies you from being a true Christian. That’s weird.

    The theist rationalisations get pretty convoluted, but I think that the basic idea here is that all morality supposedly flows from their god, thus anyone who does something that may be identified as ‘good’ (for certain values of ‘goodness’) must be christian, even if they don’t identify as such, and anyone who does something sufficiently ‘evil’, and is not flashing the get-out-of-jail-free repentance card, cannot really be christian, even if they say they are. It basically allows them to try to claim all ethical behaviour as a product of their religion while distancing themselves from all the nasty stuff their delusions inevitably foster.

    Of course, some theists go further, and claim that everyone is actually of their faith, even if they do not realise it, because it is supposedly the default position of all humanity, and a person must do smething really beyond the pale (from a theist perspective, like being gay or an unrepentant liberal) in order to repudiate their unsolicited religious status.

    None of it makes much sense, but then again, how much of the blather spouted by theists ever really does?

  23. Aquaria says

    Today we are launching our “Adopt An Atheist” campaign, the predicate of which is, “We want atheists to realize that there may be Christians in their community, even if those Christians don’t even know they are Christian.”

    There are two churches only four blocks from my house, and one of your child rape centers only a mile from it.

    We can’t help but know that you douchebags are out there. You never fucking shut up about being out there or shoving your stupid in people’s faces.

    Fuck you, you stupid, lying, bigoted piece of shit.

  24. cag says

    We want atheists to realize that there may be Christians in their community

    We want atheists to realize that there may be Christians idiots in their community.

    We want atheists to realize that there may be Christians assholes in their community.

    We want atheists to realize that there may be Christians delusionals in their community.

    Ad Infinitum.

  25. Akira MacKenzie says

    Yes, Bill, we know that their are Christians infesting our planet, the same way we have rats, cockroaches, and other flithy vermin.

    In fact, I respect the existence of household pest far more than I do ANY theist, particularly the walking, talking rumors known as Christans.

    Fuck off and die, Bill. Perferably the latter.

  26. tungl says

    @24:
    Well, that there is some kind of innate language drive is not really disputed – children can’t help it, they learn languages like crazy as long as there’s any input.
    But the specific claims made by Chomsky about the nature of the language faculty, universal grammar etc.? Yeah, they rest on unproven assumptions, are often contradictory and sometimes it’s hard to say what he even means.

  27. Dhorvath, OM says

    I am pretty damned comfortable with being a caring atheist, I don’t want to think about how much of that concern they would need to strip out of me to welcome some pale shadow to their church. Still, I won’t mind the adoption: like I said, I am pretty damned comfortable.

  28. says

    The theist rationalisations get pretty convoluted, but I think that the basic idea here is that all morality supposedly flows from their god, thus anyone who does something that may be identified as ‘good’ (for certain values of ‘goodness’) must be christian, even if they don’t identify as such,…

    Christians and mormons frequently tell my brother that his talent as a photographer comes from God.

    This is really annoying when you consider how many decades of hard work and study my brother put into becoming the artist that he is. And that he is an atheist.

  29. Akira MacKenzie says

    Sorry, that should read:

    “…walking, talking tumors known as Christians.”

    My iPad is conspiring against me.

  30. Illuminata, Genie of the Beer Bottle says

    Once they figure out just how full of incredibly amusing fail this plan is, more than likely, there will be several catholics pretending to be atheists pretending to be adopted to pretend they converted.

    If there’s anything theists do really, really well it’s lying – to themselves and everyone else.

  31. becca says

    I think that the basic idea here is that all morality supposedly flows from their god, thus anyone who does something that may be identified as ‘good’ (for certain values of ‘goodness’) must be christian, even if they don’t identify as such, and anyone who does something sufficiently ‘evil’, and is not flashing the get-out-of-jail-free repentance card, cannot really be christian, even if they say they are.

    well, that certainly seems to be CS Lewis’ point in the last Narnia book.

  32. Sean Boyd says

    I sent them a note through their Contact page, leaving my email address and telling them I wanted in! I didn’t leave them my address or phone number, but gave them the location of the nearest Catholic church instead.

    Funny thing…it took forever to get onto their web site. Seems their server was having difficulty establishing a database connection. Almost like there were a few thousand other atheists trying to do something similar…

  33. says

    “Any other institution that lost one-third of its members would want to know why. But the U.S. bishops have never devoted any time at their national meetings to discussing the exodus. Nor have they spent a dime trying to find out why it is happening,” writes Jesuit Father Thomas Reese continues…

    Sounds like various religion driven, “drug rehab”, programs. 90% failure rate (except for the ones that steal secular programs, and then staple a babble onto the cover), only they are not “failures”. The closest thing to an official document on the subject was something uncovered by Penn and Teller, from the main branch that runs most of them, which stated the “cause” of people dropping out of the program as, “Unkown”.

    But, heh, if you don’t legally have to find out, why the hell make yourself look bad, by refusing to track the people down and ask, unlike government funded programs? Same with church service. There is no legal obligation to not lie. You could have two people and a goat, and claim that there are 8 trillion members. You would be an idiot, but, since it would be called an, “internal church matter as to what our real attendance is.”, there isn’t a damn thing the rest of the world could do about the claim, other than laughing out asses off, of course.

  34. Pierce R. Butler says

    Trying to think like a Catholic Official™ here…

    If our esteemed host has a virginal anus, why would Donohue see him as being “good for nothing”?

    Doesn’t he understand the nuances of established Church praxis?

  35. raven says

    Same with church service. There is no legal obligation to not lie. You could have two people and a goat, and claim that there are 8 trillion members.

    That is exactly what the Catholic church does.

    Last year they reported their official numbers as up 1%. IIRC, they only count baptisms and assume once a Catholic, always a Catholic. With that sort of accounting, their numbers will very rarely go down.

  36. What a Maroon says

    Well, that there is some kind of innate language drive is not really disputed – children can’t help it, they learn languages like crazy as long as there’s any input.

    Language takes advantage of innate human abilities–i.e., pattern recognition, imitation, classification,etc.–and it seems to be universal, but that doesn’t mean it’s innate, any more than, say, the use of clothing or dancing is innate.

    But the specific claims made by Chomsky about the nature of the language faculty, universal grammar etc.? Yeah, they rest on unproven assumptions, are often contradictory and sometimes it’s hard to say what he even means.

    Chomskyism has a lot in common with religion.

  37. Brother Ogvorbis, OM, Demoted says

    Reading through the comments has made me wonder if we are all reading the original post the same way. The way that I read it, Donohue seemed to be claiming that there are lots of Christians within the atheist community, not necessarily withing the community in which the atheist lives or works. Did anyone else see the two possibilities? Either way, it is still bizarre on many levels.

  38. carlie says

    I would give them a few style points if one of them met for the first time with their adopted atheist dressed as Darth Vader, saying “I find your lack of faith…disturbing.”

  39. Alisa says

    I object to you comparing Catholicism to Dungeons and Dragons! That’s really insulting to D&D.

  40. calliopejane says

    Ogvorbis, I read it the same way as you, and I think that’s how Donohue meant it, especially because he refers to these imaginary people as “closeted” christians. He apparently thinks that atheist communities are keeping members too deluded or afraid to “come out” as the true christians they really are.

    This is what we psychologists call “projection.”

  41. Agent Smith says

    OK, so the Catholic League see me as a Cabbage Patch kid who, with sufficient care and condescension, can be Geppettoed into a real human.

    Heck, why not, I could do with more friends. They can join me at the Dungeons and Dragons table, where people like them are always the villains.

  42. What a Maroon says

    OK, so who are the Christian infiltrators here?

    We may have to borrow some interrogation techniques from the Catholics to find the traitors.

  43. says

    Language takes advantage of innate human abilities–i.e., pattern recognition, imitation, classification,etc.–and it seems to be universal, but that doesn’t mean it’s innate, any more than, say, the use of clothing or dancing is innate.

    Uh.. The problem with stating that is that its processed by a section of the brain that is *heavily* involved in *specifically* recognizing such patterns and imitation with respect to “sound”. Language requires:

    1. Imitation ability.
    2. Pattern recognition.
    3. The capacity to codify internal states into those sounds.

    Nearly every animal on the damn planet does all three, to one extent or another. There is, however, so far known to be only two that have the unique genetic quirks that allow complex language. Those, somewhat ironically, being Humans and Parrots. A few others can mimic well, and do simple concepts, but not complex ones. Humans lacking certain genes can still learn a lot more than a Parrot, but there are incapable of stringing their internal thought processes together in any complex way.

    What ever Chomsky does or doesn’t say on the subject, there is clear evidence that humans “do” have very specific adaptations, that actively promote the creation of external means, by which to express internal thinking, i.e. language. And that doesn’t go away if the person is deaf, it just shows up, instead, in visual communications. Likely, even someone deaf and blind, would, if given others around them with the same conditions, develop some form of touch based communications. This is simple fact, not mumbo jumbo. We do have parts of our brain wired “specifically” to handle translation of internal thinking into, and from, external communications. Its not just that the brain, somehow, chooses to take that lump of brain tissue, and selectively, by pure accident, optimize it to communications. The only condition where it doesn’t do that *at all*, on any level, is where the person is cut off from most/all such communication, for a critical period, and that part of the brain gets rewired into other things (since its function is cannibalized for other processes). The same thing happens with lost limbs, except that, in such cases, the original “function” remains semi-intact, and so you get phantom limb effects, as a result of the new “adopted” use interfering with the original responses.

    Likely, if you cut someone off, long enough, from all outside interpretable sounds, etc., that part would rewire itself into other things, and they would start hearing stuff that isn’t there, do to mis-wiring of the old processes into the new function.

    But, despite the brain being elastic enough to cannibalize a process its not using, it never the less has clear, distinct, and specific, areas, that are better than other parts, at specific things, like language acquisition, and use. That such things wouldn’t appear without the correct inputs doesn’t deny their existence at all, it just means that their original function “may” be lost, if they are not used.

    So, what exactly are you trying to claim is wrong about the claim that we have specific wiring, just for complex processing of sounds to and from our internal thought processes? Unless he is claiming that French is an inevitable consequence of this, or something, its not a bizarre, unfounded, or unsupported, claim, but a perfectly accurate one.

  44. Margaret says

    You could have two people and a goat, and claim that there are 8 trillion members.

    They are counting each and every precious sperm. As well as all the goat’s fleas, each of which is at least smart as Bill. (And they are very bad at arithmetic.)

  45. peterh says

    “The closest we actually come to that sort of thing is Noam Chomsky’s evidence that we’re wired for language.”

    We’re also “wired” for pattern-recognition, sex, a lot of things which can be demonstrated. The supposition that we’re wired for woo seems evident only in some individuals. There seems to be no attribute common to those individuals other than their penchant for woo.

  46. What a Maroon says

    Kageha,

    First, I should have said “but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily innate, any more than, say, the use of clothing or dancing is innate.” I’m agnostic on whether we can say language is innate, and absent the sort of experiments that no reputable researcher would propose (at least not in the era of IRBs), I don’t think we’ll ever have a completely satisfactory answer.

    But just because the adult humans use the same areas in the brain to process language, that does not necessarily mean that those areas evolved for the purpose of learning and using language. For example, Broca’s area is associated with language comprehension and production, but also with interpreting the actions of others. Since understanding language entails interpreting the meaning that others are expressing, it’s not surprising that there’s a link between Broca’s area and language, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Broca’s area is adapted specifically to language.

    Obviously humans are uniquely able to learn language, given the proper input, and if that’s what is meant by saying language is innate, then it’s innate. But it’s not clear to me that if you took a population of alinguistic humans and and allowed them to develop without any linguistic inpuut, that they would subsequently develop some sort of language.

  47. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    OK, so who are the Christian infiltrators here?

    Ok I’ll come clean.

    It’s Brownian.

  48. Rey Fox says

    The important question is: Are there Christmas presents involved for adopted atheists? I was raised Catholic, I’ll gladly put up with a midnight mass and a cracker and some sign o’ the crossing if it’ll get me an Samsung Galaxy.

  49. says

    But it’s not clear to me that if you took a population of alinguistic humans and and allowed them to develop without any linguistic inpuut, that they would subsequently develop some sort of language.

    They did accidentally do that one time though. Deaf kids, without the help of “modern” sign language, managed to develop their own, in the 80s. Prior to that time, it was uncommon for such children to even go outside the household, let alone interact with others.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/3662928.stm

  50. Brother Ogvorbis, OM, Demoted says

    There’s no one left but thee and me.

    And we’re not sure of thee.

    Who are the secret Christians?

  51. What a Maroon says

    They did accidentally do that one time though. Deaf kids, without the help of “modern” sign language, managed to develop their own, in the 80s. Prior to that time, it was uncommon for such children to even go outside the household, let alone interact with others.

    ISN is an interesting case of creolization, but it’s not true that the kids had no linguistic input, or that they weren’t interacting with others. They had gestural communication at home that served as the input for their initial pidgin. These weren’t full-fledged linguistic systems, but the kids weren’t entirely isolated from some sort of linguistic input.

  52. What a Maroon says

    Ok I’ll come clean.

    It’s Brownian.

    Nice of you to give up your colleague. In fact, I’d say that’s very Christian of you.

    We’ve got our eyes on you, “Rev”.

  53. Crow says

    Re: Corporations as People:

    If corporations are people and as such deserve first amendment rights, such as 1st amendment rights, then it follows that they deserve other rights, including 13th amendment rights.

    Thus, corporations have a right to not be owned by other people and they should be set free and any ownership claims should be deemed null and void.

    Source: http://blog.talkingphilosophy.com/?p=3836

  54. stonyground says

    Don’t you all think that it is a generous gesture by Billy to offer himself up at the festive season as a chew toy for the atheist community? He is self evidently too brainless to even recognise how brainless he is. Does he really think that if Catholics pair up with atheists in order to convert each other that his side will win? The best that he can hope for is that every single Catholic in the race is so completely unteachable that there is a draw, or possibly stalemate would be a better word. In reality his side are going to have to defend belief in zombies, magic food, talking animals and the notion that the Earth has edges, corners and pillars, against informed opponents living in the twenty-first century.

  55. Wishful Thinking Rules All says

    Donahue is a weird fellow. So much of what he does comes across as ridiculous trolling, yet, this guy is deluded enough that he may think he is helping his cause (which he most certainly is not). If I were Catholic, I would *facepalm* every time this shithead showed up to TV, purporting to speak for me. The guy ALWAYS looks like he has a rusty pole jammed up his ass, and he ALWAYS tries to start a fight with whoever he is talking to, if they disagree with him on any level at all.

  56. Brownian says

    [Eyes everyone nervously.]

    If you ask a Christian if they’re a Christian, they have to tell you, or else you get to go free. It’s entrapment otherwise.

    So, go ahead. Ask me.

  57. chigau (違う) says

    But if you are not a Christian, you can lie about it.
    I think we should see if he floats.
    or sinks.
    whatever

  58. Brownian says

    But if you are not a Christian, you can lie about it.
    I think we should see if he floats.
    or sinks.
    whatever

    I think you’re supposed to ask the Rev which door I would say you should go through, and then go through the other one.

  59. Brother Ogvorbis, OM, Demoted says

    But if you are not a Christian, you can lie about it.

    But if a Christian is talking with a non-Christian, they are allowed to lie. They can even lie to themselves (which is (I guess) how one can be an atheist and a hidden Christian at the same time).

  60. SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says

    I really really want to be adopted. Unfortunately the website provides no such option. Apparently only people with email addresses that end with @atheists.org are worthy of adoption. That’s unfair. I’m not a professional atheist, so I guess my latent Christian tendencies will remain latent. And I’ll go to hell. How sad.

  61. David Marjanović says

    Uh.. The problem with stating that is that its processed by a section of the brain that is *heavily* involved in *specifically* recognizing such patterns and imitation with respect to “sound”.

    I’ve kept quiet for six years. This is the point where I reach through the tubes of the Internet to strangle you because you keep using scare quotes for emphasis. You write the opposite of what you mean.

    In this case it happens to be obvious from context, but there have been cases where I didn’t understand if you meant one thing or its opposite. Look, here’s one:

    We do have parts of our brain wired “specifically” to handle translation of internal thinking into, and from, external communications.

    Do you want to emphasize “specifically”? Or do you want to say “it’s actually not specific, but that’s the closest word that kind of fits, so I’ll use it, just don’t take it literally”?

    Learn to type <i> or <b> already, and go here. Fuck the failure that was your grade school teacher.

    Unless he is claiming that French is an inevitable consequence of this, or something, its not a bizarre, unfounded, or unsupported, claim, but a perfectly accurate one.

    Chomsky famously does claim this sort of thing. That’s what universal grammar means.

    Obviously humans are uniquely able to learn language

    It’s not obvious. It just hasn’t been tested much.

    Deaf kids, without the help of “modern” sign language, managed to develop their own, in the 80s.

    These are scare quotes, right?

    Kill the damn, “corporations are people too”, BS by explicitly stating that they bloody well are not, in the constitution.

    *lightbulb moment*

    So when you actually quote something, you mark it with commas, and the quotation marks are just for emphasis or something?

  62. says

    Well, to be fair, Chomsky doesn’t claim anything as specific as French. Or any existing language’s grammar. I’m not a linguist, but IIRC he claims something like “every language has a grammar with subject, object and verb”.

  63. Part-Time Insomniac, Zombie Porcupine Nox Arcana Fan says

    If anyone on here gets “adopted,” PLEASE post the results of any discussions you may have. Barring that, is there a way we can keep track of how bad this gets before it all goes up in a huge mushroom cloud of fail? Because that’s about the only fate I can foresee for this project. Donohue, you’ve been warned.

  64. Brownian says

    But if a Christian is talking with a non-Christian, they are allowed to lie.

    Who the hell are you to tell me when I can or cannot li—I mean: maybe they can, maybe they can’t; I wouldn’t know.

  65. fastlane says

    When I first heard of this misbegotten plan to have a Catholic ‘adopt’ people like me, it wasn’t that they’d teach me to appreciate the true story of Christmas, but that my virginal anus was under threat.

    *snort* That’s comedy gold right there. Carlin would approve!

    Brownian:

    Peace on earth and good will to all are mutually exclusive desires.

    I’m glad I put my drink down before I read that. That’s even funnier than PZ’s line.

  66. carlie says

    The Christians are the ones who pretend not to recognize anybody when they’re at the porn store and when they’re buying booze.

  67. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Is it Brownian’s turn to get thrown under the bus?

    Poor bus…

  68. darren says

    I wish someone would try it with me. The trouble is that most Christians are discouraged from opening a conversation.

  69. David Marjanović says

    Well, to be fair, Chomsky doesn’t claim anything as specific as French. Or any existing language’s grammar.

    True, but…

    I’m not a linguist, but IIRC he claims something like “every language has a grammar with subject, object and verb”.

    …he does go quite a bit beyond that.

    what do you mean, “poor bus”?! the damn bus is cutting in line for Teh Ghey Sex! :-(

    Day saved.

    …for everyone who wasn’t standing in line.

  70. David Marjanović says

    Oops, forgot:

    I also wish I could use my real username…

    Change your so-called nickname.

  71. you_monster says

    Better to have you looking crazy, chigau, than to have that filth polluting a nice thread.

    Thanks for taking one for the team.

  72. What a Maroon says

    I’m not a linguist, but IIRC he claims something like “every language has a grammar with subject, object and verb”.

    …he does go quite a bit beyond that.

    Also, that would be somewhat akin to PZ saying that all animals have two legs, a penis, and a beard.

  73. tungl says

    @54: What a maroon says
    Yes, that was the kind of innateness-definition I was aiming for. Whether this ability has developed specifically for the purpose of language or not is irrelevant. But Kahegi raised some good additional points.

    @all language discussers:
    There is the claim that there is a universal grammar for all languages, but that the input that a child gets when it grows up shapes and modifies the specifics of that language.
    Funnily enough, UG looks a lot like English (or is at least very well suited to describe English and other indo-european languages), but I’m sure that’s purely accidental… ;)

    But there are many more problems with Chomsky’s model (or rather “models”, because he’s been at it for over 50 Years and his views have changed a lot), mainly that there are so many unprovable assumptions, like the very particular kind of modularity he proposes and his general disinterest in the social context of much language use.

  74. tungl says

    Oh, and “every language has subject, object and verb”* is a very specific claim about language that doesn’t hold up when you take the diversity of the world’s languages into account. Most formal theories of grammar deal with this by using those terms very flexibly so that any data can be made to fit the terminology.

    *a bit of linguistic nitpicking: The universal word classes are said to be verb and noun. Subject and object are grammatical categories/roles and are not the same things as word classes. Although they are often said to be universal, too. Doesn’t work either.

  75. says

    This is fantastic. I’ve often thought it’d be fun to start a sort of “big brothers/sisters” type program between theists and atheists, since it’d be the devout and strident who’d tend to sign up, and we have evidence and reason on our side, it’s really a no-brainer. Sign me up!

    “…they will no longer be looked upon as people who ‘believe in nothing, stand for nothing and are good for nothing.’

    I might be good for nothing (really lazy), but I ‘believe’ in the ability of humans to collect evidence & reason, and I stand for the decrease of human suffering the world over. If only Bill could see the real beauty of reality.

  76. What a Maroon says

    @94, 95,

    Well said.

    Chomsky believes that you (that is, if you are a trained linguist) can divine linguistic universals merely by reflecting on your own judgment of grammaticality of sentences in your language. Which is why, as tungl says, his theories tend to fit English pretty well, if by English you mean sentences of the type “Mary is loved by John,” not sentences (or better utterances) that an actual speaker would utter.

    Oh, and “every language has subject, object and verb”* is a very specific claim about language that doesn’t hold up when you take the diversity of the world’s languages into account. Most formal theories of grammar deal with this by using those terms very flexibly so that any data can be made to fit the terminology.

    QFT. Also because this explains my comment in 93. Chomsky (if he were a biologist*) would say that the surface appearance of, say, squid is irrelevant; that at some poorly defined deep (or D-) structure they all have two legs, a penis, and hair.

    *Actually, he thinks he is, because the study of language is the study of biology. He might have a point if he actually studied human use of language, but that’s not “interesting”.

  77. says

    This is the point where I reach through the tubes of the Internet to strangle you because you keep using scare quotes for emphasis. You write the opposite of what you mean.

    Sigh.. Ok, some sites automatically convert * on either side of a word into bold, so its not the same thing as using quotes. And yes, I try to avoid the mistake of using quotes when I shouldn’t, but if I am in a rush, like waiting for a cab, or something, I sometimes make an error, and don’t notice, before I end up posting. Live with it.

    As for, “universal grammar”, that is just pure idiocy. Its like claiming that because you can write on paper, that there is an inherent grammar, or some such nonsense, in the paper, which gives it that capacity. Which doesn’t say a damn thing about whether or not the paper has some other purpose, other than to hold images/letters, for people to look at. There is a bloody difference, though, apparently Chompsky doesn’t know what it is. But, to be clear, stating that the paper could be used for something else is not a negation of why it has the original properties, any more than the fact that those parts of the brain can be tweaked to process something similar, or even, lacking any inputs at all, get borrowed to do something else, negates the fact that its design is innately tied to a specific sort of processing, given even poor, but not non-existent, conditions.

    He seems to be confusing function with language. Its true that we can’t, at the moment, necessarily conceive of something that would require that built in function, to do something entirely different than language, but that doesn’t mean that if something was done using it, that it would have some specific sort of grammatical structure. Or, maybe it would, if the function and the grammar are, in some manner, inseparable, via form following function, as is often the case. But, to declare that this must be true, or that the result could be parsed out in any easy manner, is absurd.

    We are talking about trying to derive French out of a Mandelbrot. Just because you can find the features you want, some place, in the fractal, doesn’t mean that it had to arise in some specific case you tried to apply it to, there is the whole other damn rest of the fractal that could have shown up instead. It simply means that other extant condition made that part of the whole possible pattern more likely than others to show up. And, that is the major problem. Its not the underlying pattern that defines language, its all the bloody strange attractors, pulling it around from outside, until the thing mostly stabilizes from use.

  78. sc_b606d96be3a9d79b5f47f915b6533b7e says

    Atheists should stop believing in nothing and start believing in the virgin birth and transubstantiation. How does one distinguish belief in nothing from belief in the latter two?

    Is it just me or is it ironic that Bill Donahue in these quotes sounds like a frustrated lesbian trying to get other women out of the closet? I know that he wants more Catholics out there, the Church needs donations (and more donations, and more…), conservatives need voters who are susceptible to the threat that voting for liberals is tantamount to signing up for eternal hellfire, and Bill needs more people to boss around, but I think he is barking up the wrong tree. As true it is that atheism with its emphasis on rationality and empiricism discredits religion, the fact is that most of Catholicism’s problems are self-inflicted. Perhaps the Church should get its own house in order before lashing out at minorities, however time-honored a tradition that may be for the Catholic Church.

    As for the cartoon, I have to question it on historical grounds. I have never found any legitimate evidence that December 25th was ever celebrated as the birthday of those deities. Christmas certainly has adopted many Pagan traditions, and Christians certainly adopted Pagan customs to attract converts, but the whole Mithras-birthday concept is an Internet meme with no substance.

  79. David Marjanović says

    And yes, I try to avoid the mistake of using quotes when I shouldn’t, but if I am in a rush, like waiting for a cab, or something, I sometimes make an error, and don’t notice, before I end up posting. Live with it.

    As I said, it often (in proportion to the few times you coment here nowadays) results in sentences or paragraphs I cannot understand. This has not changed since I found Pharyngula in 2006, when you were already here.

    the whole Mithras-birthday concept is an Internet meme with no substance

    Are you sure? Mithra dying on the solstice and being reborn 3 days later (so, the 24th, not the 25th – Christmas Eve rather than Day) would make plenty of sense.

  80. sc_b606d96be3a9d79b5f47f915b6533b7e says

    It may “make sense” to you, but there seems to be no historical evidence (as far as I can tell) for the notion that December 25th was celebrated as Mithras’ birthday, or that he “rose from the dead” for that matter. These seem to be Internet myths. There were actual pre-Christian legends of Osiris and Tammuz being risen from the dead, I would recommend using those examples instead. Tammuz is even mentioned in the Old Testament.

    I should clarify one point, it is true that there is evidene that Sol Invictus’ birthday was celebrated on December 25th. My point there was that there is no evidence that it predated Christmas.

    I feel dirty sounding like I am defending Christian arguments, so let me just reiterate that I agree that Christmas is a rip off and that Christianity itself is unoriginal. I am just saying that the cartoon seems to be wrong.

  81. dcg1 says

    sc_b606d96be3a9d79b5f47f915b6533b7e

    You’re quite correct, Historians and Archeologists are renowned for formulating hypotheses,founded on a basic premise; for which there is no evidence whatsoever. In reality a house of cards.