Wafergate

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]

  • anon

    Yes. Hemant, this is the sort of thing that needs to be shown to the public. This, my friends, is the PINNACLE of religion’s stupidity.

    Not only was PZ’s post just plain hilarious, but it demonstrates perfectly how these “superstitious beliefs” are indeed harmful.

    Succumbing to this extreme ridiculousness on any basis, whether it be “emotional trauma” or “not worth the trouble” would defeat the goal altogether. It isn’t about disrespecting “the people”, but rather their BELIEFS. We’re showing intolerance to the beliefs of these people rather than the people themselves.

    It is worth it. A million times.

  • http://liberalfaith.blogspot.com/ Steve Caldwell

    Hemant wrote:

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

    Is it worth it?

    Would wafer descecration cause more emotional distress or less emotional distress than the unauthorized release of Scientology documents on the internet did a few years ago?

    And was that emotional harm worth it?

  • Darryl

    Desecrating a consecrated wafer will not change anyone’s mind and will piss off a whole mess of Catholics. It’s a dumb thing to do. Atheists have a bad reputation just minding our own business; we don’t need this.

  • Wes

    The cartoons of Mohammad caused emotional harm to Muslim. South Park’s episode on Scientology caused emotional harm to Scientologists, just as their episode about Mormons did emotional harm to Mormons.

    “Emotional harm” is just a fancy way to say “offense”. Nobody has a right not to be offended by private speech. And hurting people’s feelings is not the same as attacking a person.

    I don’t think PZ’s campaign to desecrate a stupid holy biscuit on the internet is a good thing. But the reaction of the Catholics, threatening him and attacking him, is pure insanity. This goes back to what I was beating my head up against a wall over in another thread on this site: They’re making symbols more important than people. They equate desecrating a cracker with a “hate crime” against a person. They equate it with an attack on a person. One commenter at PZ’s blog actually claimed that harming a wafer was equivalent to killing a Catholic, and compared it to killing the family members of an atheist. It’s mind-bogglingly psychotic.

    PZ’s comments certainly aren’t the best way to go about things (he has a history of going way too far), but they did no real harm to any person. The Catholics’ response, however, has been morally repulsive and simply deranged. Sending him death threats and threatening his job really is doing harm to a person, just as the threats against the student who started this fiasco did harm to a person.

  • Skylar

    “Is it worth it?” is exactly my opinion.

    Why go out of your way to make enemies? What will be gained by this? As Darryl said above, this kind of action isn’t what changes minds.

  • David

    It’s a fucking CRACKER.

    Anyone who gets distressed to the point of illness — or violence — over anything PZ chooses to do to a FUCKING CRACKER is responsible for their own idiocy.

  • Darryl

    They’re making symbols more important than people. They equate desecrating a cracker with a “hate crime” against a person.

    Wes, the whole sacrament thing is bullshit I’ll agree, but don’t misunderstand its significance for Catholics. The Supper is not just a symbol, but a visible sign of invisible grace. They believe in the real presence of Christ in the sacrament–body and blood. That’s what all that transubstantiation hocus pocus is about. If I were a believing Catholic I could think of no worse crime that to mess with the body of Christ. It may be wacky, but there it is.

  • David

    BTW I just read the linked post “To Bid or Not to Bid.”

    Where were the drooling mobs when that little deal went down?

  • http://amiable-atheist.blogspot.com amiable

    no. i think he has every right to do what he wants with the cracker.

    letting these people say that this cracker is the body of christ and to respect that is a little ridiculous.

    i support respecting individuals, but respecting ridiculous religious ideas is not our obligation.

    this is an imaginary offense!

    they do not have the right not to be offended.

    they have the freedom to believe what they want to, and they have the freedom to practice their religion in so far as it does not infringe on other peoples’ freedoms.

    but we have the freedom to mock and ridicule those beliefs if we decide to.

    i agree that this “stunt” seems to be aimed at hurting feelings.

    while i agree that it may be going too far, i also think that it wouldn’t hurt at all to open up the issue for discussion: how much respect is a religious belief really due?

    i think we already give religions far too much respect and not enough criticism. and what PZ is doing really illustrates how silly their demands of respect are.

    i don’t think we are obligated to respect a mass delusion of this sort, just as we aren’t obligated to respect every delusion people have.

  • False Prophet

    Most Catholics are so ignorant of their faith and doctrine, they won’t see what the big deal is. It’s because I know about BS like transubstantiation that I’m an atheist while my Catholic family (even the Catholic school teachers) don’t really know much about the faith except in very superficial terms. Back in my Grade 11 religion class, a classmate couldn’t accept transubstantiation even when the teacher told him bluntly. He felt it was just a remembrance of the Last Supper–he couldn’t accept that we were supposed to believe it actually turns into the flesh of Christ. Because his own common sense dictated otherwise.

    Yeah, Bill Donahue and his ilk will make a big stink, but they blow up about everything. They don’t represent the views of the majority or even a significant minority of Catholics. Donahue’s a Republican shill who only gets worked up about Catholic doctrine that overlaps with the rest of the Christian right: abortion, birth control, public criticisms of the faith. He has no problems with the death penalty, the War in Iraq, or the destructive elements of globalization, issues the Papacy has spoken directly against.

    I will say I found PZ’s comments to be…disappointing. He sounded more like a rebellious teenager than an erudite academic in his 50s (“Duuuude! Let’s totally crap on a communion wafer! It’ll like TOtally piss ‘em off!”). I don’t think the Beavis and Butthead stance makes anyone look good when they adopt it. PZ’s in better form when he’s more Voltaire-like: hilarious, but witty at the same time.

  • Pseudonym

    There is a huge difference between the Scientology documents and this.

    The Church of Scientology will not tell you what they believe until you join and fork over a few hundred thousand of your hard-earned, and even then, you don’t learn everything. Leaking the documents shows potential church members just what they’d be signing up for and, crucially, exposed some public lies about what it is they believe.

    Nobody is accusing the Catholic Church of doing anything wrong over this issue, although the death threats from the lunatic fringe are certainly disturbing. The only thing that the Catholic Church is being accused of is believing something that others find stupid. It’s not like they even deny believing it.

    Yes, it’s just a cracker, but people think symbolically. By desecrating the symbol, you symbolically desecrate the religion. If you don’t have a good reason for doing it, you just come across as an arsehole.

  • lynn

    The fuck? Who gives a shit? Like PZ posted — It’s a goddamned cracker! Let it go already!

  • Miko

    The cartoons of Mohammad caused emotional harm to Muslim. South Park’s episode on Scientology caused emotional harm to Scientologists, just as their episode about Mormons did emotional harm to Mormons.

    Beat me to it. This is the crux of the issue. “Emotional harm” is just a euphemism for “we want to control your actions and you won’t let us.”

    Yes, it’s just a cracker, but people think symbolically. By desecrating the symbol, you symbolically desecrate the religion.

    By being upset over it, the religion is already desecrating itself far more seriously than anything PZ could do. Besides, while we’re talking symbolically: PZ hasn’t actually done this (at the current time), so his statement is (currently) just a symbolic expression too, is it not?

    And some of communion’s history with pork demonstrates that it isn’t so innocent itself.

  • Wes

    Darryl said,

    July 11, 2008 at 12:58 am

    They’re making symbols more important than people. They equate desecrating a cracker with a “hate crime” against a person.

    Wes, the whole sacrament thing is bullshit I’ll agree, but don’t misunderstand its significance for Catholics. The Supper is not just a symbol, but a visible sign of invisible grace. They believe in the real presence of Christ in the sacrament–body and blood. That’s what all that transubstantiation hocus pocus is about. If I were a believing Catholic I could think of no worse crime that to mess with the body of Christ. It may be wacky, but there it is.

    But that just makes it worse. They’re making the symbolic into the actual.

    Catholics think there’s a soul in a microscopic 50-cell blastocyst sitting in a petri dish. No evidence exists to support this claim. They value this “soul” more than the real, concrete medical research that might be done with the stem cells in the inner cell mass of the blastocyst. They think doing research on the blastocyst “kills” a “soul”, and want to impose restrictions on this research based on these beliefs. I would call this making empty symbols and abstractions more important than real life.

    I know they really believe it. But that’s part of the problem. Why should their beliefs, unsupported by any evidence and based on symbolic hermeneutics, be made more important than actual, concrete life?

    One of the problems the more moderate religions face when they stave off atheists by claiming their beliefs are all metaphor and symbol and abstractions is that it’s extremely difficult to justify harming a concrete human life for the sake of an abstract symbol. If they want me to believe these things are all symbols and metaphors, then they need to stop treating them like they’re more important than real life. If they want me to believe these things are genuinely real and very important to the Ruler of the Universe, then they need to produce some evidence.

  • llewelly

    This is all about pushing the frame. The more extreme PZ is, the more normal atheists who don’t engage in publicized desecration will seem.

  • Pseudonym

    llewelly’s theory is the most plausible I’ve seen so far. PZ is just taking one for the team.

    <parody>So where are all of these so-called “moderate” atheists speaking out against this horrible extremism?</parody>

  • Pustulio

    I’m a little disturbed by how people seem to be ignoring the context of PZ’s post. He didn’t just wake up one morning and think to himself, “I think I’ll mess with the Catholics today.”

    I think the Catholics lost the high ground here because of their ridiculous overreaction to this whole “holding hostage” nonsense. I’d say that intentional offense is a much more reasonable response than threatening death which was how they responded to the original unintentional offense. Granted PZ’s comments aren’t winning any friends, but do we really want people who react like that as friends?

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ miller

    I am very unsympathetic to the Catholics at this point, because I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have cared back when I was Catholic. So Webster Cook attempted to take the eucharist out of the service. It’s not even like he had any bad intentions. From what I heard, he meant to show it to a friend in order to explain Catholicism. And for this mistake, his educational standing is brought into question, and people are making death threats? Call me a softy, but I don’t care about the offended masses, I care about this one victim.

    But I’ll try not to let my anger ahead of me. Just because I’m on the victim’s side doesn’t mean that PZ’s tactics are effective. I think the idea behind it is that by offending people in a certain way, they become desensitized. I don’t really see that happening here, not the way PZ is going.

    Of course, we all know PZ too well to think that we have any power to stop him. That in mind, I wonder what he’ll do with the wafer. I hope he goes for humor. If I had to do it, I’d blend it in with a delicious smoothie and drink it. :) A banana smoothie. And then I’d later reveal that I had used an unconsecrated wafer, just to screw with people’s minds.

  • http://www.nullifidian.net/ nullifidian

    Hemant wrote:

    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?

    I think this is precisely the problem. Nobody is actually being harmed; it’s only their ideas (that a wafer is somehow magic and made of Jesus skin) that is being criticised. The fact that they may choose to find this offensive makes no odds as to whether this is actually harmful or not.

    They find it offensive when we criticise their beliefs despite evidence, their dogma, their traditions. Why is criticising this particular belief any different from criticising a particular interpretation of Genesis or any of their other beliefs about their myths or traditions?

  • Tao Jones

    I can’t see how this would be helpful in the slightest.

    It’s this kind of disrespect for people and their beliefs that give atheists a bad name. Well, that and Christians’ general paranoia of all they don’t understand which is still probably 99% of our “bad name.” But still, these kinds of stunts don’t help.

    “Can someone score me some of PZ Myers’ $100 bills? I wouldn’t hold it hostage, I’d use it on something vile and disgusting. I’d take pictures and laugh. And if he complains, what can he do? IT’S A PIECE OF PAPER!!!”

    What other kinds of childish stunts are our supposed opinion leaders going to come up with next?

  • http://blog.myspace.com/johnpritzlaff John Pritzlaff

    no. i think he has every right to do what he wants with the cracker.

    Obviously. The question is “should he?”

  • Cafeeine

    I think this is just another case of we-know-best wrapped up in the guise “of emotional harm”.

    If I went up to a church and told them their incredibly loud church bells caused me ‘emotional harm’ every Sunday, by waking me up like an alarm, I would probably have to settle the issue by…moving, or just living with it. I would probably be given the shifty eye for not rejoicing at the bells.

    I would say that all claimants of the severe emotional anguish supposedly suffered by catholics, I don’t doubt it, but I seriously doubt they themselves would give the same consideration to EVERY wild-eyed claim that would cause the ones who believe it ‘emotional pain’.

    This may be the thing to keep from all this.

    I agree that ‘emotional pain’ is the latest buzzword for offence.

  • c.darrows

    to make it all more ridiculous pz should buy some bread and wine for himself and find a lapsed priest willing to make the magic trick on them. because of other absurd dogmas, catholics will then claim property of his bread and wine, demonstrating the incompatibility of catholicism with the american constitution. who will be UNamerican then?

  • Spork

    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.

    So, pastafarians should tear out their hair and wear sackcloth and throw themselves on the ground in front of Italian restaurants?

    Look, the fact that these idiots think a silly fucking cracker is their silly fucking water-walking magical skydaddy’s golden boy is precisely WHY he should make fun of it.

  • http://www.nullifidian.net/ nullifidian

    Spork wrote:

    Look, the fact that these idiots think a silly fucking cracker is their silly fucking water-walking magical skydaddy’s golden boy is precisely WHY he should make fun of it.

    Spot on.

  • http://www.religiouscomics.net Jeff

    Are there any atheist symbols that would cause atheists to get mad to the point of death threats if some Catholic “held it hostage”? That might be a good contest.

  • JohnB

    I agree, it’s just a little starch wafer. And PZ has every right to do with it what he wants. But it would have been a sophomoric stunt for attention purposes, like flag-burning, or as one commenter on his site said, like a teenager with a bible and a hammer. His gift for sharply-worded criticism would have served him and his purpose well enough and he would have made his point.

  • http://nogodsallowed.wordpress.com Chad

    Are there any atheist symbols that would cause atheists to get mad to the point of death threats if some Catholic “held it hostage”? That might be a good contest.

    How about holding reason and critical thinking hostage?

    I sure hope to see this in the next season of South Park

  • http://www.atheistrev.com vjack

    Absolutely it is worth it! It is a cracker and nothing more. If people want to fantasize about its spiritual significance, let them. But there is no reason why we have to play along. I’m down for respecting people – religious or otherwise, but I’m not going to respect magic crackers.

    That such an act could possibly cause emotional harm helps to make the case that these people need mental health treatment. Pretending to respect their delusion is the last thing we should do.

  • http://cockingasnook.wordpress.com/ Nance Confer

    Once the wafer leaves the church, does it stop being sacred?

    I don’t know. It just seems to me that if I were setting up a ritual like this, it would only count under certain circumstances.

    Nance

  • PrimeNumbers

    Maybe PZ should just eat it! After all that shows that Catholics believe in the abomination that is ritual canabalism.

  • http://www.mundori.com Brascal

    Tipping cows over causes emotional distress to hindus. Carving them into burgers even more so.

    I hope the UN sets the reparation fees we owe them at an acceptable level.

  • valhar2000

    Is anybody going to steal a cracker for PZ? Is PZ even going to do anything with it?

    On the one hand, I think we all know very well the difference between a zealot on a mission and a reasonable person that is annoyed: the former might do anything at the request of his spiritual master (hence my concern about death threats), whereas the latter will think it’d be funny, but not worth the bother.

    Then, on the other hand, PZ post was quite obviously sarcastic, it seems to me. Maybe, if he had been given a catholic cracker right after writing it, he would have gone ahead, but after some time has passed and he has calmed down, does anybody really think he’ll actually bother to go through with it?

  • http://blueollie.wordpress.com ollie

    I think that merely talking about how PZ Myers got death threats for merely writing AN ARTICLE which denounced the overreaction to the initial wafer threat would be good enough.

    Think about it: last year, neo-nazis targeted me for writing an article that denounced their going after columnist Leonard Pitts.

    The neo nazis have turned out to be LESS of a threat to me than the friggin lunatic Catholics are to Myers!

  • http://darwinsdagger.blogspot.com Darwin’s Dagger

    For any rational, intelligent person to contemplate desecrating a piece of toast is absurd. It’s a pointless stunt. In itself it suggest that one actually can desecrate toast. Myers should have stuck to the facts and just condemned the zealots who went apeshit over that kid taking the toast in the first place and not made any further inflammatory threats.

  • JohnB

    Maybe PZ should just eat it! After all that shows that Catholics believe in the abomination that is ritual canabalism.

    Even when I was a Catholic (as a boy; after about the age of 16, I was a skeptic) the idea that taking communion as a form of ritualized cannibalism was not lost on me. It weirded me out bigtime. Catholics will say I was never really a Catholic and to that I say, you’re probably right.

    Now as it’s really just a cracker (and not a very good one, it’s got a copyright on “bland”) PZ, if he ever gets ahold of one, should treat it no differently than any other cracker. Eat it. Wash it down with a cold one. But anything more than that plays into the hands of Catholic nutters who insist that it is somehow more than an edible poker chip. I have no idea what he had planned to do with it, but would he do the same to a Cheeze Nippy or a Wheat Whippy or a Corn Curly? It’s no different, so it should get no special “desecration” performed on it.

  • http://heathendad.blogspot.com/ HappyNat

    If only Catholics believed in a all powerful supernatural force that could stop this . . . Instead their god is trapped in a craker.

  • Pingback: We are all wafer-desecraters now « Five Public Opinions

  • Chris Nowak

    I think there’s a line that’s crossed here, although i’m struggling to define exactly what it is. I mean, PZ or one of his followers really is going out of his way to desecrate a ceremony – it’s not the same as drawing a cartoon of Muhammed. And as far as Scientology goes, fuck those guys – anyone who is seriously comparing Scientology to Christianity needs to look around because there are quite a few practical differences to their methods and message.

    I have friends who are Catholic who are also sane, rational, awesome people – if I were to do that i’m sure i’d lose their friendship. I would have gone so far out of their way to basically just call them stupid. It’s not arguing a point with logic or reason or any of the other things Atheists are supposed to stand for – it’s just going out of our way to insult a group of people.

    Real problem – lack of seperation between church and state – the huge outcry it caused as well as the university’s reaction.

  • TheDeadEye

    When they give you the cracker, do they make you sign a contract stating that you must eat the cracker on the church premises? If I’m at a dinner party, and the host passes out hor’dourves, I think I have every right to wrap one up in a napkin and take it home.

  • Ron in Houston

    It’s not about it being just a “fucking cracker.” It’s about treating your fellow human beings with respect. Granted, the Catholics didn’t do that to the UCF student, but going out of your way to offend Catholics (no matter how insane you feel their beliefs are) just casts a bad light on atheists.

  • http://jewishatheist.blogspot.com JewishAtheist

    Desecrating the cracker would be incredibly rude and counterproductive. I’m all for art that offends, but this doesn’t rise to the level of art. It’s just a sophomoric prank.

  • http://mnatheists.org Bjorn Watland

    Looking at the facts, mashing up a cracker on its own is harmless. However, there are two words which are important, meaning, and intent. A group of people apply meaning to the Eucharist. Now, for Protestants, some people may be upset by the treatment of the Eucharist, maybe not to the level as some Catholics, but without meaning applied to the cracker, what would be the point of doing it? We are just a combination of individual cells, but as social people, we assign meaning to different combination of cells around us. Now, it is a far stretch to associate your brother or sister, father or mother, to a really special cracker out of the box, but it may give an understanding as to why people may feel so upset. If your mother dies, does that not hurt you more then if someone you don’t know dies? A painting is just canvas and oil, a building is just steel and glass, but people assign irrational meaning to things. Don’t tell me you go through life without doing the same. However, you’re not sending death threats to some weirdo biology professor in some small town for spouting off what was on his mind.

    The intention of the act is to incite anger, to point out how silly it is to have such reverence for a cracker, and to make those who believe such things seem foolish. However, what will happen, in addition to that, is that atheists will continue to have the stigma of being anti-religion. We should focus instead on things which are effective in making the world a better place. PZ may think that he’s accomplishing this in his own way, but I think he’s just acting silly in public, and soaking up all of the attention he can get.

  • Adrian

    Let’s not forget why Myers said he’d beat and torture the cracker. It’s not to piss of Catholics, but because several Catholics said that taking the cracker was a hate crime.

    Let’s remember that a hate crime is when people are physically hurt or threatened because of their religion or sexual orientation. These idiots are trying to say that abusing this cracker is comparable to hospitalizing a teenager because he was gay. Actually Donahue said that abusing a cracker was worse.

    If a couple thousand years hasn’t given them any perspective, then it’s time perspective was thrust upon them.

    And frankly, we’ve seen that these religious idiots are willing to say that they are being hurt and offended whenever any trivial aspect of their wacky beliefs are exposed. We can’t let them use this as a club to beat people into silence.

    Is it “friendly”? Maybe not. I watched your YouTube presentation of different “friendly” approaches and how they worked and found them very cherry picked and self-serving. I think there is a real place for friendly approaches but I think the only reason that friendly atheism works is because theists have been softened up by these much less friendly demonstrations. Note that I think Myers will be intelligent (not like that idiot Mills and his dog crap “Blasphemy Challenge” video) but he certainly won’t place any undue reverence towards a cracker.

  • brad

    Obviously the death threats are wrong and PZ in no way deserves them, but on the question of what PZ should have done in the first place, I think he is obviously wrong. This isn’t even a question of “effectiveness” or atheist strategy, it’s a question of how you treat fellow human beings. And, as far as I can tell, all he’s doing here is trying to upset a bunch of Catholics. He didn’t even give any reasons for wanting to desecrate the crackers in his original post. He seems to be doing it just for his own joy in pissing off Catholics. And that is wrong.

  • stogoe

    PZ or one of his followers really is going out of his way to desecrate a ceremony

    No, you contemptible moron, they’re not. Do you have any reading comprehension whatsoever? They’re not breaking down the doors of the cathedral, pissing on the altar, and setting the building on fire while nailing the pedo-priest upside down on the crucifix.

    They’re just going to have a cracker handed to them, and then leave with it.

    I really can’t believe you’re so dim-witted you can’t figure this one out. For me, the biggest thing of this is the death threats by Catholics. I mean, come on. This is the real issue; Catholics starting witch-hunts over a kid who wanted to teach a friend about Catholicism. Well, he got a more honest view of the church because of it, at any rate.

    As for PZ, he’s already said he won’t eat it – imagine eating something a stranger sent to you over the internet! There have been suggestions of sculpting a Bread-Golem Jesus from the eucharist, though. Personally, I hope they spackle the Jesus Crumbs over an animatronic framework so we can have ourselves a walking, talking JesusBot.

  • http://blargen.com/blog/ postsimian

    I say go for it. I’m of the opinion that we ought to be respectful of people’s beliefs, but under no circumstances does that me we ought to pretend they’re real, rational or useful in any sense–an certainly not equal to beliefs and ideas which are. It’s not a fine line, guys.

    However, when something so petty elicits such a violent response, respect should stop immediately. At that point, a line has been crossed on the part of the irrational and the absurdity of their beliefs ought to be exposed to the rest of the world, period.

  • Kate

    I’m seriously beginning to think that PZ has some sort of emotional problem(s), or had some sort of emotional trauma as a kid. Why is so he so literally obsessed with being a jackass? And he’s REALLY giving atheists a bad name. I hate guys like that.

    I wonder if PZ realizes that this will have the opposite effect that he wants. No one’s going to say, “Hmm…atheism seems pretty rational. I should check it out.”

    DUMBASS. Go out and do something productive for the world. For *ONCE*.

  • Ron in Houston

    I now understand how wars get started. PZ doing that would just keep things on a downward spiral. For PZ to do that someone would need to go into a Catholic church and totally disrespect the rules set up for their church.

    It’s like me inviting in a guest and them spitting in my face. It’s wrong. It’s stupid. I don’t know which would be more stupid, the Catholic reaction to “wafergate” or PZ pulling that stunt.

    I think religion is stupid. However as a brilliant philosopher once said, “stupid is as stupid does.”

  • http://mnatheists.org Bjorn Watland

    I, for one, enjoy science posts on PZ’s blog, because it is on scienceblogs.com. Even if the content were 50/50, that would be an improvement to me. Try to do an analysis of a month of posts and see how many are about science versus rants.

  • Robin

    You know, PZ is frequently silly. A lot of his writing isn’t just witty or sarcastic, but silly. (See the recent octopus with rubics cube post.) And this “frackin’ cracker” thing is both silly and angry. I wonder if some of that anger came from the fact that the catholic league (makes them sound like some demented Marvel comic) was originally targeting a student and his chance for an education. In any event, I admit that this “descration” thing did bother me, not least of all because the idea of “desecration” implies sacredness. However, he does seem to have drawn fire, and he is in a more unassailable position than that poor kid.

  • Tim Van Haitsma

    Ok I can buy wafer’s from any number of catholic church supply stores. They are really pretty cheap. They have the cross stamp or lamb stamp on them. You can buy 100 for less than $6. They are the same ones that are used on catholic churches all over. If I send a couple to PZ and does unspeakable things with them so what? I know they are not “consecrated” but no else would or could know. I think PZ went a bit over the top but BFD.

    I think a better thing would to do a blind taste test. Challenge a bishop or any catholic to tell the difference between a common wafer and a consecrated one. I bet they would do no better than chance. in fact I would be willing to wager $10,000 that the pope himself could not tell the difference. And yes I have $10k.

  • Adrian

    It’s like me inviting in a guest and them spitting in my face. It’s wrong. It’s stupid. I don’t know which would be more stupid, the Catholic reaction to “wafergate” or PZ pulling that stunt.

    I don’t think you understand the situation.

    No one was hurt, no one was slapped, no one was punched or kicked, and no one was even spit on. Got it? It isn’t like inviting a guest in and having them spit in your face. Not at all.

    Second, the catholic reaction wasn’t just a little over the top, it was issuing death threats, it was alleging kidnapping, it was saying that this ‘crime’ was worse than physical beatings, holocaust denial or Neo-nazi speeches (yes, they said it was worse than any hate speech).

    Now that you understand the facts, perhaps you can build a better analogy because yours stinks and it looks like you don’t understand the basic facts in the case.

    PZ doing that would just keep things on a downward spiral.

    This is assuming that PZ is serious and not just tweaking the noses of Donahue and other windbags. But let’s say he really did it. How would this be a downward spiral? It would get considerable media exposure and give many opportunities for Catholics to make asses of themselves. Surely it wouldn’t be worse than some art exhibits we’ve seen like religious icons made out of dung. They didn’t create downward spirals or anything, so why the hyperbole about this?

  • http://notapottedplant.blogspot.com Transplanted Lawyer

    I think the threat to commit cracker abuse is more than sufficient. Seeing as simply threatening to do it has brought PZ death threats and raised a serious (if improbable) threat to his job, he’s more than accomplished his purpose without actually doing something bad to the innocent wafer.

    It’s annoying indeed to see American Catholics — normally a fairly moderate bunch — behave like the Taliban. But flushing out that kind of behavior is what the threat was all about. Actually going through with the act is irrelevant at this point.

  • Scott

    So, the people who claim to be thesource of all that is moral and threaten somebody with death over a bloody cracker and people think that what PZ proposed to do is bad? Are you people insane?

    Sure it would ruffle some feathers and piss a lot of people off, but do they understand anything less?

    I read that the guy actually gave the cracker back. That is a bummer. He should have said that he ate it and gave them a ziplock full of poo. Let them find Jesus in that.

  • David

    Notice that PZ has not done anything to a chunk of HolyMatzah, not that we know of. He merely wrote that he’d like to.

    The kid in the original story didn’t do anything horrendous to the HolyMatzah either, he just left the building with it.

    Now the kid is under threat of expulsion, has been accused of hate crimes, and PZ’s livelihood is being attacked.

    Just WHAT the FUCK is respectable about any of that?

    For that matter, where was Bill Donahue when Cardinal Law was being lateraled out of the jurisdiction of proper authorities so that he would not have to answer for his role in the conspiracy to obstruct justice on grown men who raped ten-year-old boys. Because, after all, when you have HolyFuckingMatzah to defend you don’t have time for such trivialities.

  • Brian E

    As Thomas Jefferson said, ‘Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions’. I don’t give a shit how sacred the friggin cracker is to Catholics, this NEEDS to be done to show the whole world how stupid and ridiculous they are being. What do they REALLY think is going to happen should PZ do this? Jesus is somehow going to be ‘hurt’ by it? If that’s the case, he’s not so all-powerful now, is he?

    Maybe atheists should steal enough crackers to make a life-size Jesus and we hang him back up on a cross. That should really tick em off. :)

  • Ron in Houston

    Adrian is an atheist piece of shit.

    See, now that wasn’t very nice. I don’t even mean it and am using it as a rhetorical device.

    The point is that ritual abuse of a communion wafer, while moderately funny, it like hurling an insult that doesn’t need to be hurled.

    Got it, Adrian?

  • Adrian

    Ron,

    It doesn’t need to be hurled? Because this insult was hurled, we see that Catholics who are seen as among the most liberal and secular of the religious groups in the US will nevertheless issue death threats to protect some bizarre superstitions. We see that they consider human health is less important than a magical cracker. We see that their much vaunted claims of caring, respect and love get dropped in a heartbeat once their magic is questioned.

    It has also helped expose the rank hypocrisy in their sect. We’ve seen them go ballistic over a cracker yet ignore genuine human harm, we’ve seen them automatically excommunicate individuals that condone gay marriage or women priests while embracing child abusers.

    I’d say the insult was a very mild one that paid out some big dividends.

    Got it, Ron?

  • Jonathan

    I find the idea of cannibalism extraordinarily distasteful. What about the psychological harm done to me, knowing this group of people is willing to ritualistically eat human flesh. Yuck.

  • John

    I’ve been torn on this since I read PZ’s initial post.

    From a purely scientific point of view, I’m fascinated by the reactions it’s garnered among atheists, including my own psychological machinations on the matter. That it will offend kooks like Bill Donohue is a given and doesn’t really concern me. Some people are just professional “offendees”, if that’s a word.

    But I’m actually curious to see how my moderately Catholic family and friends will react. I’m curious if they’ll even hear about it, and if so, how the news reaches them. I’m wondering if it will make them think, get angry, change their minds, etc.

    It’s very provocative. And from that standpoint, while I would not desecrate the crackers (cracksecrate?), I fully support PZ’s right to do so under the right of free expression.

    And as an aside, who cares how this “makes atheists look”? If people choose to stereotype me based on their failed understanding of one atheist’s actions, that’s their problem, not mine.

  • Ron in Houston

    Adrian

    Perhaps you’re right I just don’t get it. I don’t understand why absurdity should be repaid with absurdity. Don’t you honestly think that any non-Catholic would view death threats over a cracker as hypocrisy? I’d venture to guess that a bunch of practicing Catholics would probably see it as absurd.

    I’m all for pointing out absurdity and hypocrisy. However intentionally disabusing someone or their beliefs just doesn’t need to be done. It was enough for PZ just to point it out the death threats against the UCF student.

    I believe in treating people with dignity. Even if I find them stupid, dumb or criminal. I guess I’m just simple and follow the old maxim that two wrongs don’t make a right.

    So maybe you’re right, I don’t get it.

  • Siamang

    DUMBASS. Go out and do something productive for the world. For *ONCE*.

    Yeah, go be a science teacher or something…..

    Oh wait.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com/ NYCatheist
  • Ron in Houston

    Just so people understand – PZ is not advocating going down to the local Christian superstore and buying communion wafers to make his statement. He is talking about someone going into a Catholic church (i.e. their property) falsely going up for communion (the only way to get your hands on a consecrated wafer) and taking their wafer. (Granted not exactly grand theft, but still a taking of their property under false pretenses.)

    Sorry folks. I’m calling BS on this one. It’s wrong, it’s stupid. It’s abusive.

  • Adrian

    Ron,

    Ah well, there you have me. I personally wouldn’t do this, I agree in principle that people should be treated with dignity, and I support the work of the “friendly” atheists who probably oppose this sort of stunt. But I think it’s vital to the strength of the atheist movement that there are people like PZ as they expose the ridiculous and, oddly enough, they make ordinary run-of-the-mill atheists seem mild and meek in comparison. (In a twist of irony, PZ is meek and mild in person.) Sort of the Rush Limbaugh effect, except by all accounts Limbaugh really is a jerk and has never heard of a principled stand.

    The other factor which I find very dangerous is the implicit threat that whenever anyone exposes a religion to the mildest of criticism then theists fly off the handle and scream bloody murder. It’s an overt attempt to silence any form of criticism and to stifle free dialogue. If we hold ourselves hostage to the hysterical complaints by these Catholic leaders, we have no hope of talking in an open fashion. I fully support respectful dialogue, but when one side adamantly refuses as the Catholics are doing here, then we have two choices: give in to their pressure or show we won’t be intimidated. Maybe it’s stubbornness or bloodymindedness, but when they go so far over the top, I think that’s exactly the time to keep up the pressure.

    If, instead, they said “we think it’s childish and disrespectful for you to take interfere with our ceremonies and we would like you to return the wafer,” I would wholeheartedly support them. Since they said “what you did is a hate crime” and was followed by death threats forcing an armed guard, they’ve crossed the line from being an injured party to a bully.

  • Siamang

    bjorn wrote:

    Even if the content were 50/50, that would be an improvement to me.

    Actually someone did that. Turns out PZ out sciences everyone else. Can anyone find me that article?

    It turned out that PZ wrote more science articles a week than anyone else on ScienceBlogs, IIRC.

  • Tom

    Is it worth it…?

    When they cause emotional harm to a student for “kidnapping” a damn cracker, we have to take a stand against the religious stupidity one way or another. Desecrating crackers are just one way – maybe not necessarily the best way – of taking a stand.

  • Siamang

    I agree with Adrian. Proportionality and perspective are totally missing here in the case of this kid. PZ, being PZ, he wants to stick up for this kid by calling attention to how ridiculous it is.

    Let’s note that as of this moment, PZ Myers has not desecrated wafer-one.

    I actually think he SHOULDN’T do it, at this point.

    Because right now, PZ is getting death threats and an organized campaign to have him fired, led by The Catholic League… merely for WRITING A BLOG POST disrespecting the Eucharist.

    Let that puppy sink in, and we can talk about proportionality and free exchange of ideas in a society of supposed equals. It’s not about “respect”, it’s about quashing dissent. Offensive dissent, yes.

    I was in a discussion where a very nice theology student told me that a billion Catholics would be offended if PZ did this. I wish I would have said “Yeah, and a billion Hindus and other people who find animal life sacred are offended when you eat a hamburger. “

  • valhar2000

    Well, well, well. It’s good to see that, after fighting racial opression and slavery in the form of some guy saying “negro”, now there are so many people up in arms to protect the freedom, integrity and happiness rights of a bunch of kooks who revere a piece of bread. America trully is a great country!

  • Joseph R.

    As several posts have pointed out before me, “what is the point?” Does PZ really need to show the Catholic church that he disagrees with their beliefs by abusing a cracker. If I had a nickel for every time PZ denigrated one religion or another, I would be a rich man. We get it PZ, you don’t care for religion. Good for you. I fail to see the usefulness in intentionally showing disrespect for anybody, religious or not, because you disagree with his/her beliefs. I get the definite impression that some people believe that PZ Myers speaks for all atheists. PZ Myers does not speak for me.

  • Darryl

    Ron, Adrian is not an atheist piece of shit, but he can act like a shit, can’t he?

    I see from the comments that there are a lot of militant atheists out there. Why is it difficult for some of you to dismiss silly beliefs without making metaphysical assertions about what Catholic communion is or is not? You may think it’s a “fucking cracker,” but that’s no reason to be a dick about it.

    Perhaps some of you ought to imagine yourselves as diplomats, working for the State Dept., and your mission is to Ireland, or to Saudi Arabia, or to India. How would you behave? Would you look for ways to be obnoxious and offensive? Do you think that’s going to help our situation, by insulting people?

  • Pingback: Wafer Thin « Tungtide

  • Kyle

    Cracker Please!

    It MUST be done. We’re talking about death threats and a campaign to have the man fired. For suggesting it might be funny to do silly things to a Cracker of Holiness on his blog.

    Someone might actually find him and put a real bullet in his head.

    I’m astonished that anyone could take a “middle ground” here. We should flood the diocese with desecrated crackers of all shapes and sizes. To them it would be the CrackPocalypse. I kill myself sometimes!

  • Stephen

    It is a mystery to me that the people who are attacking PZ cannot see that he is simply responding to far more ludicrous statements by the Catholic League and its friends. We have people, who apparently expect to be taken completely seriously, talking about “kidnapping”, “worse than hate speech”, “it’s hard to think of anything more vile”, etc. Why should not they be called to account? Should reasonable people really have to take such nonsense and even bullying lying down?

    If someone was advocating disrupting church services I would be against it. In this case I thought PZ was making a rhetorical statement, but even if he wasn’t I’d support him on this. Why? Because such a stunt would be a finely targeted. No person is being abused – only a bit of carbohydrate. Reasonable Catholics will shrug it off. Deluded fanatics will be enraged. Hopefully this would wake up some of the more reasonable Catholics to the fact that the deluded fanatics are indeed just that.

  • brad

    Let’s say a woman’s husband dies. Let’s also say that a day before her husband died, he bought a cheap fake rose when they were in the dollar store and gave it to her. Let’s also say that because of his death, the cheap fake rose (being the last thing he gave to her) has a very special meaning to her now. Let’s also suppose that she has an asshole of a neighbor (who knows how much that cheap fake rose means to her) threatens to steal it and step on it, pull it apart, etc. in front of her. Let’s also say that this neighbor defends this threat by saying “It’s just a cheap fake rose, it’s not like we’re dealing with actual people here.”

    I hope you would all agree that the neighbor shouldn’t receive death threats from this and also shouldn’t be fired from his job over this. But I also hope you would all agree that the neighbor is one huge asshole, whose moral compass is pointing in the wrong direction.

  • Stephen

    It is a mystery to me that the people who are attacking PZ cannot see that he is simply responding to far more ludicrous statements by the Catholic League and its friends. We have people, who apparently expect to be taken completely seriously, talking about “kidnapping”, “worse than hate speech”, “it’s hard to think of anything more vile”, etc. People who want to end a student’s career for a minor prank. People who want to end a professor’s career for criticising them. Why should not they be called to account? Should reasonable people really have to take such nonsense and even bullying lying down?

    If someone was advocating disrupting church services I would be against it. In this case I thought PZ was making a rhetorical statement, but even if he wasn’t I’d support him on this. Why? Because such a stunt would be finely targeted. No person is being abused – only a bit of carbohydrate. Reasonable Catholics will shrug it off. Deluded fanatics will be enraged. Hopefully this would wake up some of the more reasonable Catholics to the fact that the deluded fanatics are indeed just that.

  • Stephen

    Brad: let’s say you come up with an analogy that actually bears some relationship to the case under discussion. Or is that too far-fetched to expect? Can you really not see the difference?

    Let me spell it out: in one case a valued object is destroyed. In the other case, objects are given out by the millions for the purposes of destruction, and one such object is not destroyed. Your analogy is about 179 degrees off-target.

  • Ron in Houston

    Stephen

    Brad’s analogy really isn’t a bad one. From an atheist perspective it’s all about silly, stupid belief about a cracker. However for the Catholic faithful, it is like Brad describes. I’d say if anything his analogy is possibly not strong enough.

  • Aj

    Joe Foley… cut a bit.

    …but only at the direct expense of the adherents’ emotional distress… 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… As far as they’re concerned, he’d be causing them tangible spiritual harm…

    Should he leave the Body of Christ alone?

    Hemant… highlighted in bold.

    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.

    IT’S A CRACKER! As a wise many once said, “we don’t have to respect religious beliefs”. If that is what Foley is advocating, that we respect religious people not beliefs, how come a large proportion of his words are about what Catholics believe? We don’t have to give any time to their beliefs. It’s just a cracker.

    Hemant…

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

    Is it worth it?

    It’s a dangerous game, they don’t collectively have emotional distress, it’s a personal subjective experience. Religion already plays that card to the extreme, and this stunt seems to be in response to the religious overplaying it. A freaking hate crime, to a cracker?

    Political activism involves breaking rules on purpose because they are wrong, not because of need or desire, but because they’re wrong. It’s a reponse to the Catholic reaction that PZ read about, it’s not like PZ woke up and thought “I know how to piss off some Catholics”. People don’t seem to get this is a response to something, not an unprovoked childish stunt designed to hurt people. It’s free expression of PZ’s disgust at the Catholic response.

    We may not want to do what PZ suggests, we may not even understand it either, but if we are to respect people, then we should respect PZ, respect his right to express himself. The people who are coming down on him hard miss the dogmatism and authoritarianism of religion too much. Look at their hypocrisy, they come down hard on atheists about respecting other people’s beliefs, but they don’t expect the religious to respect anything, and they certainly don’t respect what other atheists value.

    Eating meat causes great emotional distress to some vegetarians, but we don’t give a thought to that, nor should we. This is just another case of atheists special pleading for religion, when they already do enough of that for themselves.

  • brad

    “Destruction” has little, if anything, to do with the analogy. The analogy is about respecting people that put meaning in otherwise meaningless things. The point is, no matter how much we might not understand the meaning behind it, there is meaning there for them. PZ is wrong… it is NOT just a cracker to them. The fact that otherwise rational people can’t see this baffles me to no end.

  • Ron in Houston

    PZ responids:

    Myers, in an interview today, explained that the blog entry is more “satire and protest” than an actual threat to defile the Eucharist.

  • http://darwinsdagger.blogspot.com Darwin’s Dagger

    Eating meat causes great emotional distress to some vegetarians, but we don’t give a thought to that, nor should we. This is just another case of atheists special pleading for religion, when they already do enough of that for themselves.

    But I don’t eat meat to offend vegetarians. I eat meat because I like it and consider it a part of a well balanced diet. Desecrating the toast serves no function other than to deliberately cause distress to a group of people suffering from a mass delusion. BUT IT WON’T CURE THEM OF THAT DELUSION, and hence is a pointless and counterproductive act.

  • Siamang

    The point is, no matter how much we might not understand the meaning behind it, there is meaning there for them. PZ is wrong… it is NOT just a cracker to them. The fact that otherwise rational people can’t see this baffles me to no end.

    I can see plainly that it has meaning for them.

    The question as I see it, is should a college professor lose his job and gain death threats for writing a satirical blog post?

    Yes, by all means, PZ is a huge enormous asshole who’s making a billion enemies and he’s bad for atheism and atheists and he should be run out of town on a rail. If I grant that, can we both agree that the people who are on the other side of the issue the ones who are making *mere speech* a capital offense?

  • Cafeeine

    “Destruction” has little, if anything, to do with the analogy. The analogy is about respecting people that put meaning in otherwise meaningless things. The point is, no matter how much we might not understand the meaning behind it, there is meaning there for them. PZ is wrong… it is NOT just a cracker to them. The fact that otherwise rational people can’t see this baffles me to no end.

    We understand that its not “just” a cracker to them. PZ understands this as well. The point that he made is that regardless of that “its still just a frackin cracker!”

    And I agree that your analogy needs some work:

    Let’s say a woman’s husband dies. Let’s also say that a day before her husband died, he bought a cheap fake rose when they were in the dollar store and gave it to her. Let’s also say that because of his death, the cheap fake rose (being the last thing he gave to her) has a very special meaning to her now. Let’s also suppose that she has an asshole of a neighbor (who knows how much that cheap fake rose means to her) threatens to steal it and step on it, pull it apart, etc. in front of her. Let’s also say that this neighbor defends this threat by saying “It’s just a cheap fake rose, it’s not like we’re dealing with actual people here.”

    I hope you would all agree that the neighbor shouldn’t receive death threats from this and also shouldn’t be fired from his job over this. But I also hope you would all agree that the neighbor is one huge asshole, whose moral compass is pointing in the wrong direction

    What we have here is that the neighbor DID get death threats, and when another neighbor (PZ) shouted out “Are you insane? Death threats over a plastic rose? I’ll trample a storeful before I attack another person” he himself got death threats and a petition started at the Homeowners Ass. to kick him out for vandalism.

    This clarification brings the level of the actions of each party closer to reality.

  • Joe Foley

    Aj:

    If that is what Foley is advocating, that we respect religious people not beliefs, how come a large proportion of his words are about what Catholics believe? We don’t have to give any time to their beliefs. It’s just a cracker.

    Some people believe in things strongly enough that they can experience real emotional distress when someone else willingly tramples on those beliefs. A pile of ashes in a little jar is garbage to someone else, but to you it might be the only physical reminder you have left of a long-lost relative. I wouldn’t be obligated to agree with your reverence, but I’d still be a jerk to dump your grandmother in the compost just to convince you she’s gone.

    Eating meat causes great emotional distress to some vegetarians, but we don’t give a thought to that, nor should we.

    Speak for yourself. I’ve met people who do feel awkward eating meat in front of me, until I reassure them it doesn’t bother me. As Darwin’s Dagger says, this is like going out of your way to order a meat-lover’s pizza and moan after every bite, just to rile me up. (And that wouldn’t change my mind anyway.)

  • Fr. Terry Donahue, CC

    They’re just going to have a cracker handed to them, and then leave with it.

    At a Catholic Mass, the Eucharist is offered to Catholics (and in certain circumstances non-Catholic Christians) as part of an act of worship. As a Catholic priest, one of my responsibilities is to guard against the desecration of the Eucharist. Those who comes forward to receive the Eucharist are expected to consume it before returning to their seat. If someone attempts to take the Eucharist back to their pew or out of the Church, they should be approached and asked to consume the Eucharist or give it back to the minister of Communion.

    Knowing this, to encourage others to remove the Eucharist from a Church is to take advantage of the implicit trust in the good intentions of those coming up to receive the Eucharist at a Catholic Mass. This type of trust is foundational to a civil society.

    The fact that Mr. Myers is encouraging people to breach this trust is precisely why the whole project is wrong. It shows a lack of respect to the persons involved in distributing the Eucharist.

    P.S. I do agree that the Catholics calling desecration of the Eucharist as the worst possible hate crime are going overboard. Jesus is risen and his glorified body cannot be harmed by desecration of his bodily presence in the Eucharist.

  • Mark

    Hemant,

    I think your/everyone’s use of the word “desecrate” in the original question and ongoing discussion concedes too much ground to the religious and those who would avoid criticizing them. Maybe we should first come to a consensus whether someone who films himself putting cheesewiz on a catholic communion wafer and eating it has in fact desecrated that wafer. If blasphemy is a victimless crime, does it not follow that subjecting a wafer to a non-catholic-approved fate is not even a desecration?

  • Siamang

    I think the Father is the one with the most level head in this matter. Thanks for posting that.

    I think (myself included) that a lot of parties in this debate are so quickly rushing to make their own point that they’re hurrying past listening to what other people are saying.

    I like what Father Donahue wrote here. Thanks.

  • Kate

    But I don’t eat meat to offend vegetarians. I eat meat because I like it and consider it a part of a well balanced diet. Desecrating the toast serves no function other than to deliberately cause distress to a group of people suffering from a mass delusion. BUT IT WON’T CURE THEM OF THAT DELUSION, and hence is a pointless and counterproductive act.

    THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I’m sure I do a lot of things that unintentionally make a lot people upset, like eat meat. But I don’t go right up in a vegetarian’s face, hand-slaughter a cow, and noisily slurp up its meat and organs. Doing so would be childish. It’s not the “desecrating” of the cracker. It’s going “NA NA NA!!! LOOK AT ME!!!” that’s hugely irritating and childish. It’s *intentional*.

  • http://feveredintellect.blogspot.com Viggo the Carpathian

    If you were to put the biscuit in the Muhammad the Teddy Bear’s mouth and then set them both on fire, how many people would you offend.

    Gaaaahhhh! I hate this kind of crap. People need to grow the f*^% up.

  • Aj

    Darwin’s Dagger,

    But I don’t eat meat to offend vegetarians. I eat meat because I like it and consider it a part of a well balanced diet. Desecrating the toast serves no function other than to deliberately cause distress to a group of people suffering from a mass delusion.

    I don’t think PZ would do it to offend Catholics, I don’t think that’s the point at all. If you think it’s futile or counter-productive that’s a sensible argument against doing it, and I tend to agree with that, but that kind of sensible argument is not the one my post was responding to.

    If people draw lines in the sand with their beliefs, then I think it’s not pointless, it’s politically significant to step over those lines.

    Joe Foley,

    Some people believe in things strongly enough that they can experience real emotional distress when someone else willingly tramples on those beliefs. A pile of ashes in a little jar is garbage to someone else, but to you it might be the only physical reminder you have left of a long-lost relative. I wouldn’t be obligated to agree with your reverence, but I’d still be a jerk to dump your grandmother in the compost just to convince you she’s gone.

    You only have to respect that to a point. The point is when it starts imposing on you. I don’t think that’s what PZ is doing, you have to place this in the context of his post, it’s a response to something.

    Speak for yourself. I’ve met people who do feel awkward eating meat in front of me, until I reassure them it doesn’t bother me. As Darwin’s Dagger says, this is like going out of your way to order a meat-lover’s pizza and moan after every bite, just to rile me up. (And that wouldn’t change my mind anyway.)

    No it’s not like that. It’s like doing that… after you had thrown their pepperoni pizza on the floor. They then decide to order the meat-lover’s pizza to spite you.

  • Kate

    Gaaaahhhh! I hate this kind of crap. People need to grow the f*^% up.

    Yes they do. PZ’s the first one on the list who needs to.

  • Cafeeine

    Yes they do. PZ’s the first one on the list who needs to.

    Yes, lets focus on the people who offer commentary, the people sending death threats can wait….

  • Iztok

    Some people believe in things strongly enough that they can experience real emotional distress when someone else willingly tramples on those beliefs. A pile of ashes in a little jar is garbage to someone else, but to you it might be the only physical reminder you have left of a long-lost relative. I wouldn’t be obligated to agree with your reverence, but I’d still be a jerk to dump your grandmother in the compost just to convince you she’s gone.

    But pile of ashes is really from the long lost relative. If someone was picking up some ashes from their fireplace and put them in a jar and claim they have some magical property doesn’t deserve the same protection.

  • Stephen

    Ron: no, this is not about “the Catholic faithful”. If you don’t believe me, go to the thread http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/07/internet_getting_full_heres_a.php#comments and search for the word “Mexican”.

    This is about a comparatively small (but still much too large) number of fanatics. And run-of-the-mill Catholics need to know more about the deranged figures who profess to represent them.

  • monkeymind

    No it’s not like that. It’s like doing that… after you had thrown their pepperoni pizza on the floor. They then decide to order the meat-lover’s pizza to spite you.

    Which makes it all so much more grown-up and reasonable.

    PZ can sometimes be a great writer but his impulse to shout “Look at me being a bad boy!” pulls the spotlight away from what he is trying to expose. He’s a “gonzo atheist” like Hunter S. Thompson was a gonzo journalist. No matter what he was writing about, Thompson himself was always the focus of his journalism. But unlike PZ, Dr. Duke never set himself up as the spokesman for any particular cause.

  • http://darwinsdagger.blogspot.com Darwin’s Dagger

    Yes, lets focus on the people who offer commentary, the people sending death threats can wait….

    No, the people making death threats automatically lose their standing as remotely rational members of our society even capable of growing up. There is little you can do with fanatic morons other than label them as fanatic morons, and when Myers pointed out that they were fanatic morons for threatening to kill some kid over misappropriated bread he stood firmly on the moral high ground. He slid off when he suggested that he would like to desecrate some toast of his own to teach them a lesson. Because now he was promising not just to punish a handful of fanatic morons but to offend a billion Roman Catholics. Should they have the good sense to not be offended by such a threat? Of course, but knowing what they believe its not surprising that they are.

    Myers is completely within his rights to write such statements, and I imagine that host desecration would be protected speech under the First Amendment, but just because you are legally allowed to commit such an act does not mean that it is the best way to make your point. If the best the so-called ‘new atheism’ can do is employ crude and offensive tactics such as this to further its agenda, I personally don’t see that there is much hope for the movement.

  • Siamang

    As Darwin’s Dagger says, this is like going out of your way to order a meat-lover’s pizza and moan after every bite, just to rile me up. (And that wouldn’t change my mind anyway.)

    Actually, I think it’s more like writing a *blog post* about your intention to eat a meat lovers pizza in front of a vegetarian, with lots of moans and yummy sounds.

    And getting death threats and calls for you to be fired from your job, and a media firestorm around you.

    Let’s talk proportionality. Assholes like PZ do still deserve a bit of proportionality in the way we deal with them.

    That said, I think Father Terry Donohue has the right approach. He calmly appealed to our shared interest in allowing free expression of religious services. I like his calm, measured appeal to the idea that as a member of a free and pluralistic society, that it’s in my interest as well that members of a faith can reasonably expect to to practice benign acts of faith without disruption… and this was a call to disruption.

    This is where, IMO, Father Terry has it right and PZ has it wrong. The firestorm surrounding the kid in Florida was disproportional to his actions… we’re including death threats, claims of hate crimes and armed guards to guard the eucharist. Pz’s response to the fiasco in Florida was disproportional as well… as he called for disruption of people’s religious services who were unconnected as a response to the actions of a few individuals at the local church in question. This is a retaliation against a large number of people for the actions of a very few. The Catholic League’s reaction to PZ’s blog post, was again disproportional, and calm reaction like Father Terry’s is what could be a balm.

    I don’t go around pissing people off for fun. PZ thinks that if he does this, it’ll point out a ridiculous aspect to religious belief… and in some ways he’s right, there ARE people in the world who will at least threaten you with death if you mock their religion.

    But by the same token, we’ve all got to get along in the same society, and just as I stand up for the RIGHT of PZ to mock religion (even though I don’t think he SHOULD, I stand up for his free speech to do so), I also stand up for the right for people to hold religious services freely and without disruption.

  • Siamang

    Darwin’s dagger:

    If the best the so-called ‘new atheism’ can do is employ crude and offensive tactics such as this to further its agenda, I personally don’t see that there is much hope for the movement.

    No, rather it may be the worst that it can do. But if the worst that the pro-religion movement can do is issue death threats (and carry them out from time to time), is there any hope for that movement as well?

  • Ron in Houston

    When my wife was a refugee from Vietnam, the Catholic church fed her, clothed her, and helped her. They didn’t ask for anything and didn’t try to convert her. You may not like their beliefs but you have to respect them for that act of humanitarianism.

    Fr. Terry Donahue, CC said:

    Knowing this, to encourage others to remove the Eucharist from a Church is to take advantage of the implicit trust in the good intentions of those coming up to receive the Eucharist at a Catholic Mass. This type of trust is foundational to a civil society.

    The fact that Mr. Myers is encouraging people to breach this trust is precisely why the whole project is wrong. It shows a lack of respect to the persons involved in distributing the Eucharist.

    If we stop being civil, if we breach others trust and disrespect them, then we’re doomed as a society.

    I think PZ should publicly say exactly what he said in the interview online. It’s one thing to speak against beliefs, it’s wrong to advocate incivility.

  • http://darwinsdagger.blogspot.com Darwin’s Dagger

    No, rather it may be the worst that it can do. But if the worst that the pro-religion movement can do is issue death threats (and carry them out from time to time), is there any hope for that movement as well?

    Oh, there is little hope for the deluded, and I don’t generally expect much from them. And maybe that is why I have a higher set of expectations for the atheists, because I believe that their rationality should lift them above such petulant childishness. Maybe the problem is that we’re all still a little too ape-like and, believer and non-believer alike, can’t resist the opportunity to throw our feces at each other.

  • Adrian

    This is where, IMO, Father Terry has it right and PZ has it wrong. The firestorm surrounding the kid in Florida was disproportional to his actions… we’re including death threats, claims of hate crimes and armed guards to guard the eucharist.

    As I’d said before (and I’d bet PZ would agree), if the Catholics had calmly said that this guy was causing a disruption and would he please stop it and show some consideration for others, that would be the end. PZ certainly wouldn’t blog about it, it would be a non-event.

    The reason that PZ is writing about the issue and the reason that he is absolutely right in doing so is because the Catholics have lost the plot. By comparing it to “hate speech” and a “hate crime” and making an armed guard necessary, they’ve pretty much made a response necessary.

    PZ isn’t calling for an invasion, he isn’t saying we should disrupt mass, he’s saying that they’re freaking out over a cracker and that if Webster Cook has been intimidated by the threats, then he, PZ, wouldn’t be. PZ is right on the money.

    I don’t know where you’re getting this stuff about him saying we should disrupt Catholic ceremonies or that he’s mocking the casual believers. He’s mocking the people like Bill Donahue who are so blinded by their superstition that they can’t tell the difference between a kidnapping and a person not eating a cracker in a church.

  • Aj

    Adrian,

    PZ isn’t calling for an invasion, he isn’t saying we should disrupt mass…

    But people who are against PZ can’t argue without using a strawman, it’s beyond their capability. They also insult him with names (counter to the productive and level response they advocate) while denouncing him for hurting religious people’s feelings, hypocrites…

  • Darryl

    Siamang said:

    Let’s talk proportionality. Assholes like PZ do still deserve a bit of proportionality in the way we deal with them.

    Darwin’s Dagger said:

    Oh, there is little hope for the deluded, and I don’t generally expect much from them. And maybe that is why I have a higher set of expectations for the atheists, because I believe that their rationality should lift them above such petulant childishness.

    I agree with D.D. Proportionality is not relevant. “To whom much is given much is required.” Those making the death threats can’t possibly represent the rank and file of Catholicism who would be insulted by a desecration, so just factor them out. Is anyone surprised that believers think and act irrationally? Not all atheists are reasonable and mature people. Being an atheist is not a virtue. But, if you’re a high-profile atheist, with some education, you ought to have better manners. It’s that simple.

    You don’t mess with people unless it’s necessary–this is unnecessary.

  • Spork

    A lot of you are really missing the friggin’ point.

    Why do the silly superstitious ideas of the religious get special exceptions for any and all ridicule? You can make fun of the stupid, you can make fun of the obese, you can make fun of miserable people in general.

    But, if you poke fun at an inanimate fucking foodstuff, many of you here think that those who worship the foodstuff shouldn’t be made to feel…what? Uncomfortable? Offended?

    I know many of our rights are being fed into the paper shredders in D.C. right now, but can someone please inform me as to where I might find the rights not to be offended or made to feel uncomfortable?

    Pointing out the obvious to the painfully clueless isn’t rude or insulting, it’s NORMAL.

  • Ron in Houston

    Spork

    I’m going to apply your logic. I’m getting a sandwich sign saying “I’m an atheist” and going down and telling all the homeless in Houston that argue with lamp posts what a bunch of fucking pathetic losers they are.

    I may be right, but I’ll still look like a major league asshole.

  • Wes

    Chris Nowak said,

    July 11, 2008 at 7:28 am

    I think there’s a line that’s crossed here, although i’m struggling to define exactly what it is. I mean, PZ or one of his followers really is going out of his way to desecrate a ceremony – it’s not the same as drawing a cartoon of Muhammed. And as far as Scientology goes, fuck those guys – anyone who is seriously comparing Scientology to Christianity needs to look around because there are quite a few practical differences to their methods and message.

    So it’s unacceptable to disrespect a Catholic, but “Fuck those guys” if they’re faith is Scientology. Because Scientologists just aren’t deserving of respect, right?

    This is how “respect” works in our society: If your group is big, powerful, wealthy, and has lots of followers, it cannot be criticized and must be shown respect no matter how reprehensibly it behaves (and Catholic groups, such as the Catholic League, have been behaving extremely reprehensibly). But if your group is a minority, small, with little money or influence, and not very popular, “fuck those guys.” want to destroy his job and possibly kill him.

    Scientologists are human just like Catholics, and deserve respect as such. Saying “fuck those guys” about Scientologists is just as bigoted as saying it about a Catholic. Just like there are Catholics who are also good people, same with Scientologists. It’s a gross stereotype to label all Scientologists as freakish idiots.

    But Scientology, the belief system, is just as ludicrous, oppressive, anti-rational, and simply unbelievable as Catholicism. The beliefs themselves are not deserving of respect—neither Scientology nor Catholicism get a free pass from criticism. Though you respect the person, that does not mean you must respect the belief system the person might adhere to.

    Let’s not equate the belief system with the individual believers. That’s exactly what the demagogues and con artists who control these systems want—if the belief system is equated with the individuals, the con artists can hide themselves behind their victims and shield themselves from criticism.

  • Wes

    #

    Ron in Houston said,

    July 11, 2008 at 6:25 pm

    Spork

    I’m going to apply your logic. I’m getting a sandwich sign saying “I’m an atheist” and going down and telling all the homeless in Houston that argue with lamp posts what a bunch of fucking pathetic losers they are.

    I may be right, but I’ll still look like a major league asshole.

    Judging by the many faulty analogies you’ve made in this thread, it seems like you really just aren’t capable of seeing the distinction between attacking a symbol and attacking a person. Every single one of your analogies involves a direct imposition, insult and attack on a person. But neither PZ nor any prominent atheist I’m aware of has ever done any such thing. They frequently attack symbols and ideas, but I’ve never heard of PZ barging into a church, or shouting at people on the street, or interrupting someone’s religious ceremony. What he did was express his outrage at the way Catholics in Florida abused a college kid for the sake of a wafer, and then made disparaging remarks about the wafers.

    He didn’t impose on anybody. He didn’t interfere with anyone’s religious practice. He didn’t shout at anyone on the streets. He posted an article mocking a symbol, and stating his outrage at how people behaved in regards to that symbol. That’s very, very different.

  • Ron in Houston

    Wes

    You make a lot of great points. One of my problems is that just as there is hypocrisy in “hate the sin but love the sinner” there is an air of hypocrisy in “disrespect the belief but not the believer.”

    PZ didn’t just rail against a symbol. He advocated that people attempt to get him a consecrated communion wafer that one could only obtain by going into a Catholic Church.

    There is obviously a very fine subtle line between honest criticism and complete disrespect.

    I just wish a lot of atheists would see this and be more respectful of that line.

  • Wes

    Ron,

    I don’t necessarily consider “Hate the sin, but love the sinner” to be hypocritical, but you are exactly right that it expresses a very similar sentiment as “Respect the believer, but not the belief”.

    “Hate the sin, but love the sinner” is only hypocritical if you preach it but don’t practice it, or if you make some kind of Orwellian twist in which hating the sinner comes to be defined as “hating the sin”. That would be hypocritical. The same goes for respecting belief and believers. A person who truly respects believers, even if not respecting their beliefs, would stand up for the rights of those believers, and I try to do that. I support free speech and freedom of religion for everyone, regardless of whether I have any respect at all for what they have to say.

    As I said in my first post in this thread, I do not support desecrating wafers. It’s dumb. However, I also don’t like all the comparisons of attacking a wafer to attacking a person. EVEN THOUGH it might require attending church to get a wafer, that’s still not the same as actually attacking a person. I just don’t think the two should be equated. In fact, I think it’s dangerous to equate attacking ideas/symbols with attacking people. It devalues human life and pours fuel on ideological fires.

    People are more important than symbols.

  • Atheist Okie

    Go PZ! I hope he gets that cracker and follows through. If he doesn’t, I hope someone else will and posts the video.

    97 crackers nailed to the door!

  • JohnB

    But, if you’re a high-profile atheist, with some education, you ought to have better manners. It’s that simple.

    This hits the nail right on the head. I’m all for protest and it is fully appropriate for PZ to protest the reaction that kid received for taking the eucharist, which was ridiculous in the extreme. He’s good with language, invective or otherwise, and it would have been enough. Actually, it’s already been enough without any followup act of “desecration”.

    But when an act of protest is designed to call attention to the protestor rather than the thing being protested it has lost all meaning.

  • http://www.pandasthumb.org RBH

    “Is it worth it?”

    Hell, yes, if only to expose the insanity of the church. A church that covers up pedophilia (= child rape) among its priesthood, that contributes to the AIDs deaths of tens of thousands of people, including children, due to its dogma-driven opposition to condom use, that church has the almighty fucking gall to be offended by the cracker-napping of a bit of baked goods? Folks, the insanity runs deep and wide out there, and I have no great hope anymore.

  • weemaryanne

    (Apologies if this point has been made previously; I haven’t read the entire thread.)

    Technically, PZ doesn’t have to do anything genuinely unpleasant to the wafer. Something as simple as, f’r instance, putting it in a plastic bag and taking pictures of PZ holding it up and laughing is enough to count as desecration. Putting individual wafers in plastic bags, handing ‘em out at a freshman lecture, then taking pictures of everybody holding ‘em up and laughing would also work. Or pictures of the danged things being fed to the pigeons in the quad — you get the idea.

    And don’t lose sight of PZ’s point: There’s alleged desecration of a wafer versus actual threats against a flesh-and-blood person, and which of these is getting more hype?

  • Darryl

    And don’t lose sight of PZ’s point: There’s alleged desecration of a wafer versus actual threats against a flesh-and-blood person, and which of these is getting more hype?

    I’m getting tired of reading this–this matter does not involve a comparison! As if, when we make such a comparison, we may justify being atheist pricks! Two wrongs don’t make a right (to quote some old folk wisdom).

    And just in passing, I don’t think it’s possible to “love the sinner and hate the sin” without some of the hate washing over into the feelings toward the sinner. I heard that shit preached in the Baptist church for many years only to witness year after year the malicious statements and actions of ‘good, God-fearing’ Christians who thought they were loving the sinner, but hating his sin. It’s simple psychology: what is today condemnation of some act or sentiment becomes tomorrow a threat to our children, to our families, to good morals, to our Nation, a cancer on society, a disease whose spread must be checked. How easy it is to feel hatred for the carrier of the disease, especially when he chooses to indulge it. He must be evil and completely malevolent. This leads inevitably and finally to the conclusion that such a disease must be eradicated for the good of all.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com/ NYCatheist

    And just in passing, I don’t think it’s possible to “love the sinner and hate the sin” without some of the hate washing over into the feelings toward the sinner.

    I agree with that. It is possible to love a person, even though you might hate a few of their bad habits, but if the number of things they do which you dislike increase, at some point you are disliking a person. If you hate everything a person does, how is that different from hating the person? (I suppose hate from racism might be something else though…)

    Also it has been discussed in other comment threads that believers consider their faith a central part of their identity. So that explains why they get so riled up when their faith is mocked. But people can get angry if you criticize their non-religious beliefs too (political beliefs for example.) It does seem that nothing brings out the death threats more than attacking religious beliefs.

    I remember Penn Jillette telling a story about the viewer response to all the topics they covered in their show Bullshit. They did religion and many other stuff, but the topic which incensed people the most, to the point of crazies actually coming to Penn’s house was 9/11 conspiracy theories.

  • Cafeeine

    While a person may be considered innately deserving of a base level of respect and his or her ideas can offer admiration or ridicule, when these ideas become an integral point of the person’s personality, the initial respect is replaced by the respect to ones ideas, and not the other way around. If you adhere to mind-numbing insanities prepared to be called a nitwit, crazy and disturbed. The benefit of this is that if your ideas change, so can this respect.

    To put it succinctly, the respect you are owed as a human being does not trump the ridicule for holding stupid ideas, or doing stupid actions.

    I’m getting tired of reading this–this matter does not involve a comparison! As if, when we make such a comparison, we may justify being atheist pricks! Two wrongs don’t make a right (to quote some old folk wisdom).

    It most certainly does involve a comparison when the difference in reaction is so startly different.

    As a response to Darwin’s Dagger from a post yesterday:

    No, the people making death threats automatically lose their standing as remotely rational members of our society even capable of growing up. There is little you can do with fanatic morons other than label them as fanatic morons, and when Myers pointed out that they were fanatic morons for threatening to kill some kid over misappropriated bread he stood firmly on the moral high ground. He slid off when he suggested that he would like to desecrate some toast of his own to teach them a lesson. Because now he was promising not just to punish a handful of fanatic morons but to offend a billion Roman Catholics. Should they have the good sense to not be offended by such a threat? Of course, but knowing what they believe its not surprising that they are.

    The point neglected here is that you are dismissing the opposing side as being beyond saving, then you leave it hanging, seemingly ignoring that these kooks have control of the asylum. If these people had any, ANY commonsense they would have realized that its far, far more likely that PZ was being sarcastic than serious.

    possibly I wouldn’t condone death threats, but I would understand them if PZ had actually gone through with it, taken a Jesus cracker and flush it down the toilet or something. But it was his mere statement that provoked all this. Its a wonder these people don’t commit murder whenever someone shouts divinely-derived profanity on the street. There is a veritable difference of scale between the actions. Being a dick will make people despise or hate you. Being batshit insane means you need to be taken to the nearest sanatorium, pick out the padded wall wallpaper and tell them to forget the key.

  • Spork

    And don’t lose sight of PZ’s point: There’s alleged desecration of a wafer versus actual threats against a flesh-and-blood person, and which of these is getting more hype?

    But, but…that doesn’t matter. One is just…rude, and that makes it so very, very wrong.

    Where’s an eyeroll smiley when you need one?

    Remember the Muhommad cartoons? The Catholic church came to the defense during that time. Not of the paper, or the cartoonist, but of Muslims right to be outraged. They didn’t condemn the stifling of free expression, or artistic license. No, they rushed to the defense of the lunacy of being offended by a cartoon to the point of public threats of violence against a friggin’ cartoonist.

    But, like I said, one is just terribly, terribly rude, you see…

  • http://www.religiouscomics.net Jeff

    Here is what I think about this whole topic.

    :) :D :( :o 8O :? 8) :x :P :| ;)
    :lol: :oops: :cry: :evil: :twisted: :roll: :!: :?: :idea: :arrow: :mrgreen:

    BTW, if you mouse-over any of these smileys, you can see what the code is for your own use.

  • Siamang

    I once heard about a dude who was so rude he went into a Jewish temple and started turning over all their tables and whipping them.

    No hope for that guy’s movement, if that’s the best he can do.

  • Awesomesauce

    I once heard about a dude who was so rude he went into a Jewish temple and started turning over all their tables and whipping them.

    No hope for that guy’s movement, if that’s the best he can do.

    Yeah, and he actually was killed. It makes me wonder what would’ve happened if PZ was serious about doing this.

  • Darryl

    It most certainly does involve a comparison when the difference in reaction is so startly different.

    Cafeeine, no, it doesn’t for the reason I gave. And, by the way, do a little editing of your posts if you would; I struggle to understand them.

    I once heard about a dude who was so rude he went into a Jewish temple and started turning over all their tables and whipping them.

    No hope for that guy’s movement, if that’s the best he can do.

    Siamang, that’s a lousy comparison. First, the guy was Christ, the Son of God: he kinda has a right to do whatever the hell he wants with the temple that’s built for him. Second, he was condemning his own religion for hypocrisy and apostasy; something that PZ was not doing.

  • Siamang

    Siamang, that’s a lousy comparison. First, the guy was Christ, the Son of God: he kinda has a right to do whatever the hell he wants with the temple that’s built for him.

    You’re presupposing that everyone in that temple knew for a fact that Jesus was indeed the son of God.

    I’m pretty sure even Jews today don’t think that. So you’re only seeing this from your perspective.

    My point is just to try to get people to think about their own beliefs and traditions from the perspective of others.

    Second, he was condemning his own religion for hypocrisy and apostasy; something that PZ was not doing.

    What if humanity is PZ’s “religion”. Is he not condemning his co-human-beings for putting the safety of bread above the safety of people?

    If the young man in question was indeed getting death threats, and the spokespeople for the church were calling this a hate crime and ramping up the rhetoric, calling it a kidnapping… and the university responded by placing armed guards NOT to protect the young man against the death threats, but to protect wafers at the church… I think a case could be made that PZ (in his assholish way) was condemning his fellow human beings for hypocrisy.

    I mean, take away religion, and for an atheist, humanity is all we’ve got. Are we not allowed to condemn our fellow humans when they’re misbehaving under the name of their religion, or are we required to convert first?

  • Siamang

    This is not to take away my previous statements about PZ being an asshole about this.

  • Pseudonym

    Second, he was condemning his own religion for hypocrisy and apostasy; something that PZ was not doing.

    Darryl, that’s a good point. If it had been a Roman Catholic saying this, the fallout would have been quite different, and some Catholics might have actually taken some notice.

    This is like the thing about how only Jews can tell Jewish jokes.

  • Maria

    Desecrating a consecrated wafer will not change anyone’s mind and will piss off a whole mess of Catholics. It’s a dumb thing to do. Atheists have a bad reputation just minding our own business; we don’t need this.

    I agree

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  • Cafeeine

    Cafeeine, no, it doesn’t for the reason I gave. And, by the way, do a little editing of your posts if you would; I struggle to understand them.

    MY apologies for my formating, I will try to do better.

    Your given reason was ‘two wrongs don’t make a right’ which is something I agree with. I have no issue with people calling PZ a dick for his comments.

    The thing is even when I accept that PZ is an insensitive cad, who knowingly caused emotional pain to millions of catholics, it still does not hold a candle to the attempt to cost PZ his job, the hate crime allegation or even the death threats from the fringe.

    To use another analogy, person A tried to make the zebra species extinct, through trained dog attacks. In reaction to that, person B announced that he would kick person A’s favorite breed of dogs in the nuts.

    While the latter is not commendable, primarily focusing on the latter and not on the former by any rational person should be unthinkable. Attacking the action leading to extinction does not imply we condone scrotum kicks.

    In our case, I would have expected the sane Catholics to first denounce the psychopaths talking about hate crimes and death threats even as they chew out PZ for his “insensitivity”. Clearly that’s not what I’m seeing. What I’m seeing is people brushing off the psychopaths using the ‘no true Scotsman’ defence, while focusing on PZ.

  • Kyle

    Sometimes emotional harm is necessary. I contend that putting someone through forced drug withdrawals causes emotional and physical harm. Yet, no one is going to argue that it isn’t for the better.

    Likewise, all that is happening is detoxing someone’s belief. And no one has really, truly mentioned the flip side to all of this. If the cracker is so sacred, then they are willfully admitting they are cannibals. That’s an even bigger issue. And then the ties with drug withdrawals works even better.

  • http://radical.sapphoq.com/2008/07/crackers-over-crackers-71308.html radical sapphoq

    Webster Cook gave the Heisted Hostaged Host back. Perhaps it can be sold at auction and the monies used to pay off a few of the lawsuits brought on by the folks who were sexually abused by (a minority of) Roman Catholic priests when they were kids.

    spike

  • http://mypantstheatre.blogspot.com bullet

    Making fun of religion and the religious is fine. Making fun of Texas and Texans is fine, too. Pissing on the Alamo is not fine. Forget the legality, it’s just poor form. Some people would disagree. I would say those people are cretins. A certain level of decorum should be maintained by people who consider themselves occupying the “high ground”.

    Intentionally and maliciously attacking a symbol is for artists and politicians, not scientists. Poor form, indeed.

    That would be the in the case of actual and public “desecration” of a communion wafer, not just threatening to do it.

    Plus, fuck Bill Donohue.

  • http://hugotheatheist.blogspot.com/ Hugo

    Hermant, Tim Van Haitsma, I have an even better challenge:

    Suppose I have 2 crackers, one is an ordinary one straight out of the box (it was raining, so some water may have fallen on that cracker), the other has undergone transubstantiation in a church by a priest

    If any catholic can tell me how I will be able to distinguish one from the other I will publicly convert to catholicism and send a letter to the pope stating that I was wrong and that atheism is bunk.

    (also that catholic should still be entitled to the JREF $1million)

    post on my blog

  • http://exploringourmatrix.blogspot.com James McGrath

    Just in case anyone is interested, here’s a Biblical studies perspective on the subject:

    http://exploringourmatrix.blogspot.com/2008/07/let-jesus-contend-with-p-z-myers.html

  • http://decentfilms.com SDG

    A lot of the support for Myers’ proposed threats seems to center on disproportionate responses of some Catholics, including death threats (? has there been more than one confirmed threat of violence, from a guy who later said he didn’t mean it and apologized?), hate mail, Bill Donohue, etc. Some posters have commented how much better it would be if Catholics from the beginning (re. Cook) had responded more moderately and rationally.

    I agree, and many Catholics would agree, that moderate and rational responses are both more appropriate and more helpful than stupid or hateful ones. The vast majority of Catholics, certainly including the hierarchy, would condemn and reject death threats… remember Cardinal O’Connor saying “Shoot me first” to would-be abortion clinic shooters. There are lots of ordinary Catholics for whom the hate mailers do not speak. Myers’ proposed actions cannot be thought of as particularly targeting, punishing, satirizing or exposing ignorant and violent people.

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