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The latest newsletter from the Secular Student Alliance has a great point-counterpoint on PZ Myers‘ Wafergate scandal.
Board member Joe Foley says PZ crossed the line:
Had he simply bought an unconsecrated communion wafer, or exercised his artistic license to create a lookalike, Catholics would have no more right to tell him what to do with it than Muslims to ban a cartoon. In a free society, people are allowed to express opinions that others find offensive; no one has to listen to them. However, by encouraging his readers to enter a Mass and abscond with the “Eucharist,” which Catholicism teaches is the actual flesh of Jesus once the priest has performed a certain ritual on it, PZ Myers trampled on another fundamental right: consenting adults should be able to practice whatever religious beliefs they want in the privacy of their own church, without having to worry that one of the faces in the pews could be a Pharynguloid infiltrator who’s come to steal the Savior.
On the other side, Board member Chris Calvey says PZ’s desecration was worth it:
Ridicule is not likely going to win over the hearts and minds of any deeply religious people… if conversion is even our goal in the first place. If it is, however, then a worthy target of our efforts should instead be the large number of nominally religious people who rarely ever give their faith much thought. One way or another, we should encourage them to examine everything more critically. When they do, they may come to realize that the religion of their upbringing is in fact nonsense. The hysterical overreactions we’ve seen over trivial things like crackers, teddy bears, and cartoons will only serve to guide them to this conclusion.
A communion wafer is just a cracker. If there were any reason to suppose that these crackers are literally the body of Christ, then they would be entitled to more respect, but no one can support that patently absurd belief with evidence. On the contrary, isn’t the issue about respecting people — regardless of whether we accept their beliefs? Certainly, everyone should be granted the freedom to believe whatever they want to in so far that it doesn’t infringe upon the rights of others. No one is advocating disrupting church services or preventing anyone from worshipping whichever carbohydrate they wish. Ironically, the only people who are actually suffering are PZ Myers and Webster Cook, who have both faced harassment, the possibility of expulsion from their respective universities, and death threats.