A remnant

Hmm. I’d seen some comments about finding a bible in the Harlem explosion, and I was going to say something erm challenging about it, but I avoided Fox and the Daily News and chose the CNN version, and…well given the story CNN tells, I really don’t feel like looking down my nose at it.

On the third day of a grueling recovery effort from the three-story pile of rubble, firefighters early Saturday pulled a large waterlogged Bible from the ashes and ruins of the Spanish Christian Church, which occupied the basement and first floor of one of the two destroyed buildings.

“One of our members found a Bible, the original book they tell me of the founders of the church,” Cassano said. “It was singed, but it meant an awful lot to the pastor because at least we have a remnant of the church. It showed the pastor they’ll be rebuilding. This church is resilient.”

When firefighters presented the Spanish-language Bible to the church’s 83-year-old pastor, the Rev. Thomas Perez, the pastor was overcome.

Perez, who has stood vigil with others at the blast site, was participating in a small prayer gathering with religious leaders and experienced chest pains, said the Rev. Vernon Williams, who attended the vigil.

Cassano said Perez was recovering at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

“He was overwhelmed with emotion, for sure,” the fire commissioner said. “It’s a very sacred thing for him.”

After Perez was taken away by ambulance, Williams said, about two dozen people at the vigil prayed for him before carrying the Bible in a procession near the site.

“It was the altar Bible,” Williams said. “There was no sing[e]ing on the Bible at all. It was intact, with a little water damage.”

The small evangelical church and Bethel Gospel Assembly lost five members in the explosion.

The blast victims were identified as Carmen Tanco, 67; Alexis (Jordy) Salas, 22; Griselde Camacho, 44; Rosaura Hernandez, 21; Andreas Panagopoulos, 43; George Ameado, 44; and Rosaura Barrios, 44.

All right…I don’t get from that that oh it’s ok then, because the bible survived. I get more of a clutching at whatever there is.



  1. ajb47 says

    Soooo… god was more interested in the survival of a bit of paper and ink than in the survival of actual people? Yeah, that’s totally the guy we should be listening to.

  2. Menyambal says

    Yeah, that story is not to be sneered at. It’s just humanity, bless us all.

    Thanks, Ophelia.

  3. jesse says

    @ajb47 — dude, I hope you never, ever work a a suicide hot line. Or have to be around people when they need comforting.

    I’m an atheist. But I am not going to go out of my way to make people at a small evangelical church that serves a marginalized population feel shitty. Nor am I going to spend my time talking about how non-belief makes me smarter, or better, or even less freaking ignorant. Not at a time like this.

    I know it isn’t fashionable, but I do believe that being a dick isn’t a good “sell” for atheism. If we’re going to say that we’re better than churches and that people don’t need them, let’s start providing some of the very real, concrete, in -this-world benefits. Jesus doesn’t pay your rent or give you food but knowing that Gods don’t exist doesn’t either. And frankly I haven’t seen any prominent atheist groups out there providing anything for the victims, of this disaster, for instance.

    Local churches are offering people real, concrete help like food and rent money or a place to stay. What are you offering?

    Sorry to rant a bit, but Alex Gabriel talks about this a lot and I think we should all listen very carefully.

  4. BinJabreel says

    I’d never sneer at the members of this church for being elated that a semi-historical book survived the blast.

    But I’ll sneer all over the news media trying to sell this as some kind of miracle. Big difference.

  5. Silentbob says

    @ 3 jesse

    I think ajb47 was mocking the deity, not the victims.

    There are atheist crisis relief organizations such as Foundation Beyond Belief and Atheists Giving Aid. You don’t notice atheists so much, not because they’re bigger dicks than theists but because:

    1) atheists are numerically smaller
    2) atheists are much more loosely organized
    3) they don’t necessarily do their humanitarian work under the “banner” of atheism, they just donate to, or volunteer for, existing organizations like Red Cross.

    I think we can applaud the humanitarian work organized religion does while also condemning the bullshit that comes with it.

  6. Silentbob says

    … Oh, and don’t kid yourself the bullshit isn’t harmful. It is. It encourages people to persecute gays, fight against abortion, fill children’s heads with nonsense, pray as a substitute for taking practical action, and a host of other superstitious foolishness.

  7. jesse says

    @SilentBob — I am not saying that religion is wonderful. I am saying that there is a very, very strong tendency among atheists (at least the “movement” types I run into online) to sneer at the people who in most cases are less privileged, (and usually less white), often poorer. That’s why I brought up Gabriel; he wrote a whole alternet piece on why atheism can paint itself into being a rich white people’s club (and how to make that less of a problem).

    Again I don’t think that praying is a good idea or a substitute. But you also have to grok the ways that churches do real, concrete things and the way people who aren’t religious zealots (99 percent of religious people) experience faith on a daily basis.

    I have dealt with for example, people in the pentecostal churches from Latin America. I have never had a particularly deep theological discussion. But what did come up was the church as an organizer of all the day to day bullshit stuff that these folks don’t have access to ordinarily — everything from day care to getting the utilities paid to navigating the grocery store and local public transit and all that crap that ordinary families need help with.

    In my wife’s family the local churches they are involved with do many of those things, and on top of that offer a social network with people who are far more likely to understand their problems and struggles with language, culture and a host of other stuff.

    I know there are non-white atheists (some blog here) but the fact is most of the atheist bloggers I see, to give one example, would have little to offer my in laws that’s the slightest bit relevant. Except to tell them that they are ignorant primitives for being in a church. Oh, that’s helpful. And before you tell me that “I’ve never said anything like that” just peruse the comments here and other threads for a few minutes and it’ll be a few seconds before you find someone referring to religious people as dolts.

    (Some examples of a discussion around that here http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2014/02/05/ignorance-proud-and-happy/)

    I have been thinking about this a lot over the years, and nowadays I always ask myself “why the hell should someone who is a new immigrant, vulnerable, dealing with ordinary daily racism, trying to master a new culture and country, and trying to get the rent paid, listen to me as an atheist? What do I bring to the table that makes their lives any better?” The answer can get very complicated — but it also helps me clarify things.

    And yeah, I get what you’re saying about secular relief organizations. And I realize that the media can do the whole “miracle story” thing and it annoys me too.

    But being married to someone whose family is in a not-privileged position, who has to deal with a lot of things that I don’t, let’s just say it’s made me acutely conscious of how I might sound to people not like myself, you know? It’s easy to say “I don’t care how I sound to religious people” — well, ok then, but then don’t come complaining when they say you are being an intellectual snob or just dickish or just plain tell you that you haven’t offered them anything relevant.

  8. karmacat says

    I understand what you are saying that we should not put down people because they are religious. However, I will criticize people who use religion to put other people down.
    If you look at Ophelia’s comments, she is “sneering” at the media. We don’t know what the pastor was thinking, but the fireman and media make assumptions about what he was thinking. He may have been overwhelmed because the lives lost, the loss of the church. The media definitely needs to be criticized.
    I hope you have also been reading Black Skeptics or Ed Brayton’s blogs. they often talk about working with people who are religious in the service of humanitarian causes.

  9. plutosdad says

    I find it fascinating how they quote the fireman saying the book was singed, then they quote someone from the church who saw the book saying there was “no” singing or other fire damage at all!

    They were both looking at the same book, but the person who had an emotional investment saw something completely different. I am sure they weren’t deliberately lying, but altering their own memories as we can so easily.

  10. jesse says

    @Karmacat — yes, I have read Black Skeptics and Ed Brayton — the latter for a number of years now. And I understand what you are saying as well — Bob knows I have no problem with criticizing the use of religion to hurt other people. I just resist dehumanizing other folks, and react when i think it might be happening. Rightly or wrongly.

  11. says

    Well that’s why I changed my mind about commenting when I read the article.

    I don’t know, maybe if I’d read the Fox version because I couldn’t find any other, I would have gone ahead and commented on the bad priorities Fox was celebrating…and thus indirectly shat on the victims of the explosion. I don’t know.

    I remember having issues with this after Katrina…There was one story about someplace on the Gulf coast where most of the houses had been flattened, and there was one woman who said it was a miracle that her house was spared. Well honestly I think that’s a cruel thing to say, even in her own terms, because what does that mean for all her neighbors? But then again I was safe from Katrina, so maybe I should just shut up.

    I think I did say it though. For her neighbors.

    Not that the victims are going to be reading blogs anyway, but you know – we don’t want to put cruel memes out there, etc etc.

  12. cuervocuero says

    I dunno, can we expect people (likely) trained from birth to pop out devotee reference to their deity every time they feel passion, positive or negative, to rationally stop themselves from venting when their systems are in crisis mode?

    I know I tend to vent with a stream of steady epithets and sarcasm, depending on the threat/adrenaline level, and despite being a non-believer there are high odds ‘damns’ and ‘god’ will be in there without thinking, because I wasn’t raised with a better emotional release vocabulary.

    I would say it’s a case of hauling every survivor into the lifeboat, reaching shore, making certain everyone is ok that can be and *then* arguing about some of them digging for talismans to get control over primate terror of Mortal Scythe.

    It’s been well established Fox and its usual suspects are more concerned about scoring ideological points than seeing to the wellbeing of disaster survivors and prevention of future infrastructure crises.

    I wish it was more possible to point out government disaster services are secular help (or something is horribly wrong) and that it’s better for society to have more of that and non-crisis services, rather than looking to private, sectarian charities in times of crisis. But that’s likely why the forces behind so many religious charities don’t want secular systems in place. People are vulnerable animals at such points and looking for caretakers.

    Just as sad, given so many of the testimonials of former religionists, there will always be closeted non-believers or doubters among those affected by slow or abrupt tragedy. But what a crappy way to be ruptured out of the magical thinking community. I’d rather it came from a kinder exposure to reality.

  13. rnilsson says

    Oh carp. Reading in a hurry to catch up, I thought for a brief moment that the Big Bible was (or maybe wasn’t) SIGNED!!
    Now, THAT would have been newsworthy!
    Signing off, // r

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