Monday, November 22, 2010

Mystical Mexicans

Ah, Catholics. So mystical, so strange.

Andrew Sullivan said the following about PZ Myers' post about a visit to Our Lady of Guadalupe:

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.

Well, no, mysticism doesn't require apologists. Religion is inexplicable to the rational.

Generally, I find PZ Myers obnoxious, but in this case, when he says that Mexico is a weird place, he's making an understatement. Living in Mexico at the age of 14 had a profound impact on my life. I love the country. Experiencing such a different culture gave me a love of anthropology. As a lower-middle-class USian, encountering poverty for the first time reinforced my advocacy for human rights. Seeing fly-covered meat hanging in open-air markets helped turned me into a vegetarian. Experiencing Mexican mysticism first-hand helped confirm my atheism.

When one of my college-educated Mexican cousins chose to deny medical science a few months ago and instead raised funds from her yoga students so she could undergo psychic surgery in Brazil from this dude, I viewed her as a victim of her Mexican mysticism. Currently, she's living somewhere in the jungles of Peru, undergoing more worthless "native" treatments. Every time she makes it to a city with the Internet, she sends an update. One day, soon, I expect to hear that she is dead. Nope, not "passed away" to some mystic's paradise. Just gone.

So while PZ isn't being anthropologically correct in his description of religion in Mexico, as an educated atheist, he isn't wrong.

Image: From my Flickr page, the bell in the Taxco, Mexico cathedral.

Additional link: Science-Based Medicine blogged about John of God today. It seems that Oprah is now promoting his brand of hucksterism.

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