Understanding Everyday Symbolism

Pop quiz!

  1. If someone throws a copy of The Da Vinci Code into the toilet in a campus restroom, they are most likely expressing their distaste for:
    • Dan Brown’s schlocky writing style
    • An ethnic group commonly associated with The Da Vinci Code… except that there is no such ethnic group, so it’s probably Dan Brown’s schlocky writing style
  2. If someone throws a copy of the Quran into the same toilet, they are most likely expressing their distaste for:
    • The Five Pillars of Islam (OMG flying all the way to Mecca requires So! Much! Fossil fuel!)
    • Arabs. Or maybe Muslims. It is only the most erudite of Quran-flushers who know the difference anyway.
  3. If you feel uneasy or offended at the sight of a Quran in the toilet, this is probably because:
    • Allah is going to throw down some lightning bolts! You’d better run!
    • You value the Quran as a religious artefact
    • Between the Quran and the graffiti, it’s quite clear that the denizens of this restroom have no use for “sand n****rs”, as the person in the farthest stall so charmingly put it. Who are these people, and how else do they express their bigotry?
  4. You are discussing the previous question after class. You don’t think your friend’s choice of Option 3 was a reasonable interpretation of this juvenile prank. To prove it, you laugh at people who chose Option 2 and make some off-color jokes about what a pregnant sow wears underneath her burka. Which system of social injustice are you supporting?
    • Racism
    • Racism, and something else.

Answer carefully. PZ Myers has already failed this quiz.

Connecting the theme of “They are crazy powderkegs of violent religious crazy violence!” found in the comments to that thread with similar statements made about African-American men (or another group of your choosing, but it would be a shame to let that gorilla analogy in #38 go to waste) is left as an extra-credit exercise for the reader.


  1. Andrew Ironwood wrote:

    I can’t get into all that — I get annoyed when my wife leaves one of her tabloid magazines in the bathroom with the spine bent backwards…

  2. Lab Lemming wrote:

    You scrolled all the way down to 38? I started feeling ill around two, and stopped in the teens.

    Your choices for question number four are too limited, though. There are many different kinds of arrogance, cruelty, evil, and gross indifference in this world. Racism is only one of them.

  3. yami wrote:

    And I suppose that thread supported several kinds… but racism was definitely one of them. Ick.

  4. Lab Lemming wrote:

    Which behavior is more open minded? Cultivating a diverse range of hatreds on one’s blog, or discriminating against certain types of hate speech for historically common yet superficial reasons?

  5. Zuska wrote:

    oh god. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t read it myself on PZ’s blog. It’s bad enough that he can’t see the racism in his own reaction, but the fact that his forum is so influential, that he has so many readers who suck up every word he says as (pause for irony) gospel, makes it so, so much worse.

    Profoundly depressing. And yes, comment #38 is really something, isn’t it?

  6. mark wrote:

    I take issue with number 3–I would feel uneasy because of the possibility that the toilet might overflow trying to swallow both the Koran and my deposit.

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