Andrew Sullivan is so completely right-on here. Wreathed In A Fog Of Smugness is such a perfect title for a post about “Arch atheist PZ Myers.” It is a useful message in understanding why, no matter what facts exist and might yet come to light, people like PZ Myers will never accept the possibility that the Shroud of Turin is real.
. . . But that religion is so fluid and flexible and complex doesn’t make it right, and the obsessive, fanatical weirdness of this unique version of Catholicism is the product of its unfamiliarity; if you step back and look at it with eyes unfilmed by tradition, every religious ceremony looks this bizarre, and every religion thrives on hope built on despair… and some try to maximize the suffering to reinforce devotion. At least the modern Aztecs draw the line before raising obsidian knives and chopping out hearts nowadays; they seemed to be having more fun than the bloody kneed Catholics.
And Sullivan observes very correctly:
"Bizarre", "weird": the adjectives reflect Myers’s projection, not the "fluid and flexible and complex" phenomena he also sees in front of him. You could, of course, inquire further into the resilient, mysterious and clearly powerful rituals he is witnessing. But that would require his admission that there is much human conduct here he doesn’t understand – instead of the assertion that it is religion and that he therefore knows all he needs to know about it.
And that is it: “the assertion that it is religion and that he therefore knows all he needs to know about it” keeps Atheists such as PZ Myers unable to even consider something that may be scientifically acceptable.
Be sure to read Sullivan’s full posting: Wreathed In A Fog Of Smugness – The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan