***Update***: The Florida student didn’t steal the wafer. He just took it out of the service after it had been given to him. A few changes below reflect that.
You’ve heard more than enough on Wafergate. But I wanted to add one more (one last?) comment.
To briefly recap the story: PZ Myers made fun of the Catholic Church’s overreaction to a kid taking a communion wafer from a service. Then PZ (tongue-in-cheek) requested a real consecrated communion wafer to have his way with — just to ridicule the idea even more. Then Bill Donohue got pissed off. Then everyone and their mother took sides in the story — either supporting PZ or thinking he was just being rude and offensive.
There are some nuances to this story, so I’ll try to break it down.
I’m glad PZ pointed out that belief in transubstantiation — that consecrated communion wafers are literally the body of Christ — is absurd. It is. That belief deserves to be ridiculed.
At the same time, trying to obtain a consecrated communion wafer for the sole purpose of destroying it serves absolutely no positive purpose. Now, you’re just trying to piss off Catholics.
Why bother? What good does it do to rub this in their face?
Does anyone really think that this act will cause any Catholic to say, “Oh! You are right! That is a crazy belief! Thanks, PZ!”
Of course Donohue and his Catholic League went overboard. That’s what they do. As reader John pointed out, “Some people are just professional ‘offendees’.” I’m not excusing any of those people making threats against PZ. To those writing hate mail or calling for his head and trying to get him fired — you’re taking the wrong approach. Even if PZ had actually posted a video of him destroying the wafer, trying to threaten or annoy him (or his boss) is only going to make him stronger.
What should be the proper response to the initial story of the Florida boy who took the communion wafer?
If you want to go after the ritual of communion, go for it. It’s a worthy target.
But while doing it, ask yourself what you hope to accomplish.
I imagine the goal of most people doing that would be to get Catholics to think rationally and see that no wafer is literally the body of anyone.
What’s the least persuasive way to do this? By suggesting that you will destroy a wafer for all to see if someone can just swipe one for you.
Similarly, you’re got going to win any Christian converts by burning a Bible while roasting marshmallows over it.
Nor are you going to convert Hindus by eating a steak in front of them and making pleasurable noises while doing it.
Nor are you going to change the minds of Muslims by drawing “blasphemous” images of their prophet Mohammad.
You have the freedom, of course, to do whatever you want. But remember: There’s a fine line between making a point and just being a dick.
Obviously, the “sacred cows” mean nothing to you. Everyone knows that. But proving this point by going out of your way to mock those beliefs just irritates the opposition and makes their superstitious beliefs even more meaningful to them.
There are better — more productive — ways to show people how ludicrous it is to believe these absurdities. Why not take these approaches? It wouldn’t make you “anti-Catholic.” Rather, it would make you anti-irrationality.
Reader Tim made a clever suggestion:
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…
Let me reiterate: I’m not saying we should stop PZ from doing whatever he wants to do. He has the right to get some communion wafers (preferably without getting a minion to steal some from a church) and do whatever he wants to them.
I just question the efficacy of it.
It’d be an even worse idea for others to join him and videotape themselves destroying the communion wafers.
Ask yourself: Are you in this to change religious minds or to make religious people angry?