By now you’ve heard of the PZ Myers‘ take on the news of a stolen communion wafer. And you’ve also heard nutcase Bill Donohue‘s response in which he tries to intimidate the president of PZ’s university into fire him.

Back to the issue at hand.

Here’s what PZ said he would do if he were given a communion wafer:

Can anyone out there score me some consecrated communion wafers? There’s no way I can personally get them — my local churches have stakes prepared for me, I’m sure — but if any of you would be willing to do what it takes to get me some, or even one, and mail it to me, I’ll show you sacrilege, gladly, and with much fanfare. I won’t be tempted to hold it hostage… but will instead treat it with profound disrespect and heinous cracker abuse, all photographed and presented here on the web. I shall do so joyfully and with laughter in my heart. If you can smuggle some out from under the armed guards and grim nuns hovering over your local communion ceremony, just write to me and I’ll send you my home address.

Joe Foley is the president-elect of the (brand new) Atheists, Humanists, and Agnostics group at Stanford University.

He questions the effectiveness of PZ’s response and whether it’s really worth it:

Should he do it? If someone manages to steal an official, consecrated “Host” from a Catholic service, should Myers really publish photos of it being vandalized?

This would bring a lot of attention to one religion’s rather extreme reverence for a small foodlike object, but only at the direct expense of the adherents’ emotional distress. No one has the right to claim offense just because someone else believes or says something they disagree with; Myers is welcome to say loudly that a cracker is always just a cracker, and he’s welcome to make or buy a similar-looking one for use in graphic art. But to at least one of the parties involved, dishonoring the stolen Eucharist would be more than just an act of free speech: they believe, as they’re free to do, that the cracker is a transubstantiation of their Savior’s actual Body, and Myers would be corporally abusing It/Him. Eating it is one of the most important parts of their religion, perhaps the most important — “excommunication” literally refers to being denied the Holy Communion. Most importantly, the only reason this proposal is interesting is because it would make a lot of people very upset. But it’s beyond just “offense;” the members of the Florida church prayed for their own pardon because they were responsible for losing the anointed wafer. As far as they’re concerned, he’d be causing them tangible spiritual harm, and as far as he’s concerned, that’s precisely why it’s exciting.

What do you think? Should he leave the Body of Christ alone?

I think there’s an overall belief among many atheists that we don’t have to respect religious beliefs, but we should respect religious people.

Desecrating the wafer, as Joe points out, would be causing emotional harm to the people.

Is it worth it?

[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

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