Know Yer Nuts #4: Holy Prancing Pachyderms, Concerned Man!

Well, it didn’t take to long to find “Know Yer Nuts” number 4, and this time it isn’t a pack of creationists, its a pack of send-the-pachyderm-packingists!

Zoos are often criticized by animal rights and humanitarian groups for being, well, inhuman to the non-human. I don’t want to get into that debate here, but there is something far more insidious going on at the Calgary Zoo.

Yes, the Calgary Zoo is now engaging in Hindu proselytization! EEK!!!! And thanks to the latest superhuman, obstacle removing efforts of our fourth bunch of Known Nuts, the nefarious scheme has been discovered and publicized!

Image from CBC News

The Calgary Zoo is facing a few complaints by members of a Canadian Christian group over the presence of a statue of a dancing elephant based on the iconography of the Hindu god Ganesha. According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation story:

A private donor gave the statue, modeled after the Hindu god Ganesh, to the zoo in 2006 to stand in front of the Asian elephant exhibit.

As CBC News first reported, Concerned Christians Canada sent a letter raising its concerns that the statue was “selective religious partiality” to the zoo on Thursday.

“A lot of people are saying we’re being intolerant. I don’t consider asking that the zoo look at this from a balanced perspective being intolerant,” said national chairman Jim Blake on Friday.

The Zoo has no intention of removing the statue. Good for the Zoo!

Zoo officials said the three-metre-tall statue has no religious symbols and is meant to simply show the link between elephants and Asian culture.

“Our desire in putting the statue here was to demonstrate to our visitors the connection between cultures and animals, much like the same way the bald eagle for example depicts the American culture, the lion Britain, the beaver Canada,” explained Grahame Newton, the zoo’s director of corporate services, on Friday.

Now, what the hell is so unreasonable about that? (clue: answer is “nothing”).

The Concerned Christians Canada outfit, however, has posted on their website an open letter to the Zoo’s administration (Sept. 24) labeled “Regarding Idols at Calgary Zoo”. To quote:

This letter is an official protest on the part of Calgarian Christians to the placement of a hindu “god” statue in the Calgary Zoo, in front of the Elephant Crossing Exhibit. Since the zoo is publicly funded by taxpayer dollars, the zoo is accountable to taxpayers, a segment of whom we represent.  The statue we are referencing is the statue of Ganesh, the Hindu “god” known to Hindus as “Lord of Beginnings and Lord of Obstacles”.

Notice that Blake can’t even refer to Ganesh as a Hindu god without putting the g-word in quotation marks. “Jesus Christ” man, grow up a little. I wonder what Blake would think if everyone starting putting quotation marks around references to the “Father”, the “Son” and the “Holy Ghost”, the “god” of “Christ”ianity.


Mr. Blake would like the see the backside of the Calgary Zoo’s elephant.

Blake goes on to claim that the zoo is not a place for religious indoctrination. Displaying “different gods” is an “offence” to his and his coreligionists beliefs and “does not represent the diversity of views that should be reflected, if the zoo is embarking on teaching the public about world religions as they relate to the natural world.”

He adds that even atheists would be offended if the zoo took it upon itself to teach the diversity of religious beliefs. He then proposes that it is going to do that the zoo include creationist displays, a “Christ”ian cross, the Ten Commandments and Noah’s ark, adding that these would represent the view of Canada’s founding fathers and restore religious neutrality. Still, he writes, “The display of foreign gods is offensive”.

Well, whoopdee fucking do.


from wikipedia

from wikipedia

Some “gods” remove obstacles.

Apparently, all of the key talking points of fundamentalist Christian teachings need to be in place to balance a single elephant statue that really isn’t meant to be worshipped by anyone. There, dear readers, is the good old fashioned fundamentalist sectarian notion of neutrality and fair play: “You can say whatever you want so long as society gives us the means to drown you out.”

One way to drown out the opposition. Tell a story.

Of course, the Hindus could respond by wanting an “idol” of EVERY ONE OF THEIR GODS. Take that, Trinity-guy!

Now, as an “god” damn atheist, I’m not bothered by the statue’s presence on public property at all. Even if I paid taxes to support the zoo I wouldn’t be bothered (and I suppose they get grants from provincial or federal sources, so I probably do support it).

But really, is an Indian styled elephant statue really a “god”? It is an image in the image of other images, not an image of something its makers or owners are suggesting is an image of any kind of venerable cosmic force in the universe. Who made an “idol” of the statue? Jim Blake did that.

Image by foxtongue

Image by foxtongue

One person’s idol is another statue of a dead guy.

When I was a kid up in Edmonton (the non-evil version of Calgary), my folks would take me to Storyland Valley Zoo (now just called Valley Zoo) and a few of the smaller displays (fish if I remember correctly) were housed in a happily painted cement rendition of Noah’s ark.

Do I feel like I was victimized by an overt attempt at proselytization? Did these childhood experiences keep me from learning the truth about the God Delusion earlier? Were they to blame for the few years I spent in fundyville? Did they keep me from accepting Ganesh as my personal obstacle remover?

No. They didn’t do that. I’m not bitter at the zoo. I’m also not bitter at my schools for having nativity plays at Christmas, and if the Calgary zoo wants to have a nativity scene this winter with a petting zoo for the kids, so what? I don’t mind a bit.


Far Left Side (thanks to John V. for sending this cartoon to me)

Some “gods” need obstacles removed.


(thanks to John V. for sending this cartoon to me)

There is a big difference between a public institution adopting artistic and other elements from cultures around the world and actually promoting religion. Of course, promoting religion is exactly what the Concerned Christians Canada is all about. Blake writes:

Concerned Christians Canada (CCC) is; working at preserving Christian and parental freedoms, standing as a voice for the unborn and the afflicted, encouraging traditional family values, and pressing for moral leadership in all positions of authority and influence. CCC is also involved in speaking out for Christians who are being persecuted in Canada and speaking out for the rights of the poor.

Ah yes, the rights of Christians to keep their kids ignorant of science, to keep them homophobic, and keep Canada on the straight and narrow. The persecuted Christians! Poor things.

Maybe they should take a long hard look at their own “idol” of the poor dead slob on the cross. THAT is persecution for one’s beliefs. Having public servants being expected to respect the rights of those people who come to them with the expectation that they will fulfill the obligations of their office is not “persecution”.

Mind you, throwing Mr. Blake to the lions (or the elephants) at the Calgary Zoo would count as persecution too. But maybe not the squirrels. They like nuts.


11 Responses to “Know Yer Nuts #4: Holy Prancing Pachyderms, Concerned Man!”

  1. Jim Says:

    ‘concerned’ man…. yes, we’ve all seen that little nugget before. ‘i’m concerned….’

  2. Al Says:

    Rats. Calgary always gets the best deal. They have a national group of nutbars after their zoo. We in Edmonton get 2 has-beens knocking our elephant: Bob Barker and William Shatner.

    I think the CCC is doing a great job supplying a voice for the afflicted, those afflicted with terminally boring lives and chronic moron syndrome.

  3. Dan Says:

    People who whine about “idols” or other Asian statues, and people who make a big project out of getting Christmas Nativity scenes banned from city property are equally boring. The odd cross or Buddha just means cities are inhabitated by humans.

    PS. Here is the one I picked out for my front yard. It will go well with the cedars.

  4. Dr. Jim Says:

    Is there a Jewish version of the idol?

  5. David Gervais Says:

    For those who are interested in how this is going, see:
    You will be encouraged by the general supportiveness of Canadians for the Zoo. A few comments are from the religious loonies and there is some fun wingnut bashing.

    David in Vancouver

  6. 1minionsopinion Says:

    I once rode an elephant at the Calgary Zoo. My mother has the picture to prove it because I sure as hell don’t remember doing it. I was four at the time. It’s a photo of me and three other cousins.

    I don’t have any problems with an elephant statue, even if it IS meant to represent a Hindu god. I think it’s ridiculous that people do make an issue out of it.

    Kansas City had a similar story in January, which I *ahem* noted. Unfortunately, my link to that story died. But, as far as I know, “God” never smote the zoo. “God” erased the story of religious idiocy completely. Oh smart and wise “God.”

    But which “God” ought to be getting the credit?

  7. 1minionsopinion Says:

    Whoops. Delete my first post and this one, please. I was trying to correct a goof.

  8. Dr. Jim Says:

    I think I have vague memories of riding the elephant too. The whole uproar is just stupid. Thankfully, a lot of religious folk think likewise. Concerned Christians Canada might have as many as six members. Their website seems pretty concerned with Calgary city council. I suspect this zoo thing was publicity stunt for national attention. Let them have it I say. Having vocal nutcases only helps the cause of secularization, I think.

  9. Angie the Anti-Theist Says:

    “Won’t someone please think of the children?!?”

    I like how he claimed “even atheists” would complain about the statue (although no atheists had), because it shows that on some deep level he recognizes he whines a lot more than atheists do.

    I let my 4-year-old watch Veggie Tales if he wants to. I’m certainly not gonna freak out about an “idol” that looks like an elephant, in the middle of the elephant display.

    p.s. Glad you joined the Atheist BlogRoll – it’s how I found you!

  10. Dr. Jim Says:

    Thanks for the welcome to the Atheist blogroll, Angie. I thought I’d signed up ages ago, but somehow I didn’t. I’m glad I’m on board now.
    Blake is a self-righteous, patronizing jackass, prattling on in “defense” of everyone’s right when he is really more interested in an exclusivist right to public display of religion. His “national” organization is pretty Calgary based, and I suspect the zoo thing was publicity stunt.

  11. Carnival Of The Godless #127 (The First With Hammer Juggling Camels) « Camels With Hammers Says:

    […] a post filled to the brim (as is his usual) with great pictures and cartoons as part of his resents coverage of the Calgary Zoo controversy over an elephant statue modeled off Ganesh:  He has an excellent and thorough post that explores all the various aspects of the issue. […]

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