Is it so hard not to desecrate a Eucharist?

More responses to my claim that atheists ought not desecrate the Eucharist a la P.Z. Myers,  Let’s start with  one quick clarification:  NFQ took issue with me analogizing P.Z. Myer’s destruction of a consecrated wafer to the desecration of cremated ashes saying:

I think there’s a tricky aspect about your analogy to cremated remains. You can just buy a package of communion wafers. They mass-produce them in factories. I think it would certainly be rude to break into a church, steal their stash of communion wafers, and then destroy them and post pictures online. That seems like the analogy to your “taking the ashes of other people’s relatives.”

There is a difference between the communion wafers available online and the kind of wafer Myers had stolen for him.  Myers desecrated a consecrated wafer — one that had been transubstantiated into the body of Christ at a Mass.  The only way to receive a consecrated wafer is from a priest at a Mass.  It would be impossible for Myers to acquire one on his own.  Thus, the only way to get one is to steal it or to deliberately deceive the priest by going up for Communion illicitly.  The priest would never willingly give the Host to someone who planned to destroy it, so this is a fairly serious offence against the priest.  So, just like the ashes analogy, there is no legitimate, non-abusive way for Myers to acquire the Eucharist.

That brings me to NFQ‘s bigger point:

Several religions hold cows to be sacred. Does that mean that everyone else on the planet should stop eating beef (or at least stop taking pictures of and making any films that have scenes on cattle farms or slaughterhouses)? I don’t think so.

I still have sort of mixed feelings on the cracker desecration thing. He went out of his way to do something deliberately offensive to Catholics, and that does seem rude. On the other hand, it does seem like a fair and illustrative response to this ridiculous event. I’m inclined to see it as analogous to other newspapers’ reprinting of the Jyllands-Posten editorial cartoons or Draw Mohammed Day. Would I do it personally? I don’t know. But it seems like a reasonable choice, and I wouldn’t step in to restrict anyone else from doing it.

Hendy of technologeekery echoed NFQ, saying:

I’m a bit torn. I understand the urn/ashes point… but I see some differences. For me, the ashes would represent something tangible which serves as a cherished possession to represent memories, thoughts, and the love I had for a family member. I could clearly articulate why the possession/item was meaningful.

I don’t see a Eucharist as the same — it’s not sentimentality. The equivalent would be me insisting that you bow down before my relative’s urn because his spirit still dwelled inside and he deserved reverent worship. Would that make sense?

And if you said “screw you, I’m not bowing down to your great uncle,” should I be offended?

I think there’s an important distinction to be made between Hendy and NFQ’s examples and Myers’s attack on the Eucharist.  In the normal course of events, Hinduism’s restrictions on cow-eating or Islam’s prohibition on drawing Muhammed can be a problem for me in my day to day life.  Even my hypothetical friend’s insistence that I bow down and worship his great-uncle’s ashes whenever I visit his house is frustrating, even if I can avoid it by avoiding the friend.

But a prohibition (that binds me by moral law, it’s a bad idea to have a legal prohibition) on desecrating the Eucharist isn’t really an unreasonable thing to ask of me, any more than it would be an terrible privation if I could not piss in holy water.  I’m not surrounded by Eucharists that I am bound to respect; I will only encounter one if I attend a Mass.  Atheists like me and P.Z. Myers will never have a Eucharist in our possession except through theft, fraud, or conversion.  For the most part, I’m not free to desecrate one in the same way I am not free to pour liquid nitrogen on a Learjet, since I am likely to never be in possession of either.  Neither case is a violation of my freedom of speech.

Blasphemy laws and expectations are coercive and destructive when they are used to prevent me from criticizing a religion, prevent me from practicing my own religion (or being open about my lack thereof), or interfere with my day-to-day life in an even mildly burdensome way.  Having to avoid despoiling a Eucharist meets none of these criteria.

About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011. She works as an Editorial Assistant at The American Conservative by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked. She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10845051786114528609 Julie Robison

    I think your last two paragraphs especially said it best!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13116034158087704885 March Hare

    "P.Z. Myers will never have a Eucharist in our possession except through theft, fraud, or conversion."Fraud??? Do you really consider going to mass, lining up for free bread and taking it away to be fraud? As in call the cops fraud? Or as in perfectly legal deception by omission?BTW. Should Catholics not be called out on the fact their faith decrees that a cracker becomes human flesh by a priest saying magic words? Or that the consumption of an actual body (according to their belief) is a key part of their union with the Church i.e. cannibalism.Magic and cannibalism. And they call the African religions voodoo.Incidentally, it has been tested scientifically, it is still a cracker after consecration, there is no human DNA in it. Catholic magic words, like all magic words, have no supernatural effects.

  • dbp

    I think one of the problems is that so many of the analogies people are using are all religious in character. That definitely adds an additional dimension of gravity to the situation, but it doesn't take a theological argument to see that desecration of the Host is a rotten thing to do. I won't retread the analogies I gave in the comments on yesterday's post, but there's another one that comes to mind.Suppose you are an aspiring novelist, and have worked for years in secret on what you believe to be a masterpiece, your magnum opus. I am a good friend of yours, and, nearing completion of the work, I ask if I can have a read. You agree. Reading through the manuscript, I decide the whole thing is utter garbage, hopelessly deficient in every way; in fact, it's so embarrassingly bad that I feel it would actually be in your best interests to burn it and the computer it rode in on.OK, so you and I disagree on the value of the object. Fair enough. But suppose I go on to put the whole work online (without attributing it to you, to save your reputation) and ridicule it sentence by shockingly-poor sentence, tearing it to shreds, inviting contempt of it– hoping, of course, that the humilation will shame you into rethinking publication and somehow make things better for you.In this case, the fact that this is copyright violation is actually the LEAST objectionable part of my maltreatment of you. In fact, despite my apparent concern for you, I've wronged you in obvious and extreme ways. I have shown no respect for your hard work; I have shown no consideration for your feelings; I have deliberately crushed your feelings of dignity; and I have betrayed your trust. I have done all these things intentionally, and it doesn't excuse me that I have done so out of some high-minded 'compassion–' in fact, it makes it worse, because you're putting your own sense of literary idealism ahead of a real person's life, work, and dignity.Just so, desecration of the Host is someone going out of their way to trample on things which matter most to a lot of people. They claim to be trying to teach a lesson. Are we supposed to be impressed by that? Well, I'm not, and I'm happy to see that Leah isn't, either.PS: March Hare talked about cannibalism immediately above. Guess what my captcha for this post was? "eatingu." Love it!

  • dbp

    By the way, March Hare, if you're just trying to have a bit of fun and needle people, have at it; but if you imagine that anything you wrote about transubstatiation above is at all relevant to, or reflective of, Catholic belief– well, the good news is, ignorance is completely curable.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13116034158087704885 March Hare

    dhp, you are entitled to your opinion, but the Catholic position is that the Eucharist literally becomes the flesh of Jesus Christ. Not trying to needle, although I'm not above rustling some feathers, but if there is a deeper meaning to Communion then please enlighten me… Like you say, ignorance is curable.

    • John

      John 6:35,41,48,51 – Jesus says four times “I AM the bread from heaven.” It is He, Himself, the eternal bread from heaven.

      John 6:27,31,49 – there is a parallel between the manna in the desert which was physically consumed, and this “new” bread which must be consumed.

      John 6:51-52- then Jesus says that the bread He is referring to is His flesh. The Jews take Him literally and immediately question such a teaching. How can this man give us His flesh to eat?

      John 6:53 – 58 – Jesus does not correct their literal interpretation. Instead, Jesus eliminates any metaphorical interpretations by swearing an oath and being even more literal about eating His flesh. In fact, Jesus says four times we must eat His flesh and drink His blood. Catholics thus believe that Jesus makes present His body and blood in the sacrifice of the Mass. Protestants, if they are not going to become Catholic, can only argue that Jesus was somehow speaking symbolically.

      John 6:23-53 – however, a symbolic interpretation is not plausible. Throughout these verses, the Greek text uses the word “phago” nine times. “Phago” literally means “to eat” or “physically consume.” Like the Protestants of our day, the disciples take issue with Jesus’ literal usage of “eat.” So Jesus does what?

      John 6:54, 56, 57, 58 – He uses an even more literal verb, translated as “trogo,” which means to gnaw or chew or crunch. He increases the literalness and drives his message home. Jesus will literally give us His flesh and blood to eat. The word “trogo” is only used two other times in the New Testament (in Matt. 24:38 and John 13:18) and it always means to literally gnaw or chew meat. While “phago” might also have a spiritual application, “trogo” is never used metaphorically in Greek. So Protestants cannot find one verse in Scripture where “trogo” is used symbolically, and yet this must be their argument if they are going to deny the Catholic understanding of Jesus’ words. Moreover, the Jews already knew Jesus was speaking literally even before Jesus used the word “trogo” when they said “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” (John 6:52).

      John 6:55 – to clarify further, Jesus says “For My Flesh is food indeed, and My Blood is drink indeed.” This phrase can only be understood as being responsive to those who do not believe that Jesus’ flesh is food indeed, and His blood is drink indeed. Further, Jesus uses the word which is translated as “sarx.” “Sarx” means flesh (not “soma” which means body). See, for example, John 1:13,14; 3:6; 8:15; 17:2; Matt. 16:17; 19:5; 24:22; 26:41; Mark 10:8; 13:20; 14:38; and Luke 3:6; 24:39 which provides other examples in Scripture where “sarx” means flesh. It is always literal.

      John 6:55 – further, the phrases “real” food and “real” drink use the word “alethes.” “Alethes” means “really” or “truly,” and would only be used if there were doubts concerning the reality of Jesus’ flesh and blood as being food and drink. Thus, Jesus is emphasizing the miracle of His body and blood being actual food and drink.

      John 6:60 – as are many anti-Catholics today, Jesus’ disciples are scandalized by these words. They even ask, “Who can ‘listen’ to it (much less understand it)?” To the unillumined mind, it seems grotesque.

      John 6:61-63 – Jesus acknowledges their disgust. Jesus’ use of the phrase “the spirit gives life” means the disciples need supernatural faith, not logic, to understand His words.

      John 3:6 – Jesus often used the comparison of “spirit versus flesh” to teach about the necessity of possessing supernatural faith versus a natural understanding. In Mark 14:38 Jesus also uses the “spirit/flesh” comparison. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. We must go beyond the natural to understand the supernatural. In 1 Cor. 2:14,3:3; Rom 8:5; and Gal. 5:17, Paul also uses the “spirit/flesh” comparison to teach that unspiritual people are not receiving the gift of faith. They are still “in the flesh.”

      John 6:63 – Protestants often argue that Jesus’ use of the phrase “the spirit gives life” shows that Jesus was only speaking symbolically. However, Protestants must explain why there is not one place in Scripture where “spirit” means “symbolic.” As we have seen, the use of “spirit” relates to supernatural faith. What words are spirit and life? The words that we must eat Jesus’ flesh and drink His blood, or we have no life in us.

      John 6:66-67 – many disciples leave Jesus, rejecting this literal interpretation that we must eat His flesh and drink His blood. At this point, these disciples really thought Jesus had lost His mind. If they were wrong about the literal interpretation, why wouldn’t Jesus, the Great Teacher, have corrected them? Why didn’t Jesus say, “Hey, come back here, I was only speaking symbolically!”? Because they understood correctly.

      • John

        1 Cor. 10:16 – Paul asks the question, “the cup of blessing and the bread of which we partake, is it not an actual participation in Christ’s body and blood?” Is Paul really asking because He, the divinely inspired writer, does not understand? No, of course not. Paul’s questions are obviously rhetorical. This IS the actual body and blood. Further, the Greek word “koinonia” describes an actual, not symbolic participation in the body and blood.

        1 Cor. 10:18 – in this verse, Paul is saying we are what we eat. We are not partners with a symbol. We are partners of the one actual body.

        1 Cor. 11:23 – Paul does not explain what he has actually received directly from Christ, except in the case when he teaches about the Eucharist. Here, Paul emphasizes the importance of the Eucharist by telling us he received directly from Jesus instructions on the Eucharist which is the source and summit of the Christian faith.

        1 Cor. 11:27-29 – in these verses, Paul says that eating or drinking in an unworthy manner is the equivalent of profaning (literally, murdering) the body and blood of the Lord. If this is just a symbol, we cannot be guilty of actually profaning (murdering) it. We cannot murder a symbol. Either Paul, the divinely inspired apostle of God, is imposing an unjust penalty, or the Eucharist is the actual body and blood of Christ.

        1 Cor. 11:30 – this verse alludes to the consequences of receiving the Eucharist unworthily. Receiving the actual body and blood of Jesus in mortal sin results in actual physical consequences to our bodies.

        1 Cor. 11:27-30 – thus, if we partake of the Eucharist unworthily, we are guilty of literally murdering the body of Christ, and risking physical consequences to our bodies. This is overwhelming evidence for the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. These are unjust penalties if the Eucharist is just a symbol.

        • John

          Tradition / Church Fathers

          “They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again.” Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to Smyrnaeans, 7,1 (c. A.D. 110).

          “For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.” Justin Martyr, First Apology, 66 (c. A.D. 110-165).

          “[T]he bread over which thanks have been given is the body of their Lord, and the cup His blood…” Irenaeus, Against Heresies, IV:18,4 (c. A.D. 200).

          “He acknowledged the cup (which is a part of the creation) as his own blood, from which he bedews our blood; and the bread (also a part of creation) he affirmed to be his own body, from which he gives increase to our bodies.” Irenaeus, Against Heresies, V:2,2 (c. A.D. 200).

          “But what consistency is there in those who hold that the bread over which thanks have been given is the Body of their Lord, and the cup His Blood, if they do not acknowledge that He is the Son of the Creator of the world…” Irenaeus, Against Heresies, IV:18, 2 (c. A.D. 200).

          “For the blood of the grape–that is, the Word–desired to be mixed with water, as His blood is mingled with salvation. And the blood of the Lord is twofold. For there is the blood of His flesh, by which we are redeemed from corruption; and the spiritual, that by which we are anointed. And to drink the blood of Jesus, is to become partaker of the Lord’s immortality; the Spirit being the energetic principle of the Word, as blood is of flesh. Accordingly, as wine is blended with water, so is the Spirit with man. And the one, the mixture of wine and water, nourishes to faith; while the other, the Spirit, conducts to immortality. And the mixture of both–of the water and of the Word–is called Eucharist, renowned and glorious grace; and they who by faith partake of it are sanctified both in body and soul.” Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, 2 (ante A.D. 202).

          “For as to what we say concerning the reality of Christ’s nature within us, unless we have been taught by Him, our words are foolish and impious. For He says Himself, My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood abideth in Me, and I in him. As to the verity of the flesh and blood there is no room left for doubt. For now both from the declaration of the Lord Himself and our own faith, it is verily flesh and verily blood. And these when eaten and drunk, bring it to pass that both we are in Christ and Christ in us. Is not this true? Yet they who affirm that Christ Jesus is not truly God are welcome to find it false. He therefore Himself is in us through the flesh and we in Him, whilst together with Him our own selves are in God.” Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity, 8:14 (inter A.D. 356-359).

          • John

            Tradition / Church Fathers
            “For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.” Justin Martyr, First Apology, 66 (A.D. 110-165).

            “He acknowledged the cup (which is a part of the creation) as his own blood, from which he bedews our blood; and the bread (also a part of creation) he affirmed to be his own body, from which he gives increase to our bodies.” Irenaeus, Against Heresies, V:2,2 (c. A.D. 200).

            “Then having sanctified ourselves by these spiritual Hymns, we beseech the merciful God to send forth His Holy Spirit upon the gifts lying before Him; that He may make the Bread the Body of Christ, and the Wine the Blood of Christ; for whatsoever the Holy Ghost has touched, is surely sanctified and changed.” Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, XXIII:7 (c. A.D. 350).

            “‘And was carried in His Own Hands:’ how ‘carried in His Own Hands’? Because when He commended His Own Body and Blood, He took into His Hands that which the faithful know; and in a manner carried Himself, when He said, ‘This is My Body.’” Augustine, On the Psalms, 33:1, 10 (A.D. 392-418).

            “He did not say, ‘This is the symbol of My Body, and this, of My Blood,’ but, what is set before us, but that it is transformed by means of the Eucharistic action into Flesh and Blood.” Theodore of Mopsuestia, Commentary on Matthew 26:26 (ante A.D. 428).

            “Dearly beloved, utter this confession with all your heart and reject the wicked lies of heretics, that your fasting and almsgiving may not be polluted by any contagion with error: for then is our offering of the sacrifice clean and oar gifts of mercy holy, when those who perform them understand that which they do. For when the Lord says, “unless ye have eaten the flesh of the Son of Man, and drunk His blood, ye will not have life in you,’ you ought so to be partakers at the Holy Table, as to have no doubt whatever concerning the reality of Christ’s Body and Blood. For that is taken in the mouth which is believed in Faith, and it is vain for them to respond Amend who dispute that which is taken.” Pope Leo the Great, Sermon, 91:3 (ante A.D. 461).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03615608336736450543 Hendy

    Dudette: you quoted me without quoting me; I showed that I see a difference: "I do see the point against gratuitously going out of one's way to deface something considered to be of worth to another." (Emphasis added.)In other words, PZ was acting according to his beliefs — no one, I assume, expects him to respect a eucharist… but I completely see the point of jumping through hoops to get one, and absolutely agree with your point about just ignoring the worship-demanding-friend's house.My torn-ness had to do more with your analogy. One has clearly universal reasons for "reverence" — the other does not. Again, the going-out-of-way to do something is absolutely still present.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00008144506750160156 Matthew

    March Hare: Transubstantiation means that the essence of the bread becomes Jesus Christ; it is fully Him. But the accidens, the outward signs, remain the same as before. This is why it still looks and tastes like bread, and why any Catholic who knows an inkling of theology would not expect the consecrated Host to contain human DNA. In fact, it would probably violate thousands of years of Eucharistic theology if there WERE human DNA present in every consecrated piece of bread. The essence/accidens distinction is not a magical distinction or even a convenient distinction to explain away a problem (that the host does not perceivably change when it is consecrated). It's just basic Aristotelian metaphysics, a system I would be inclined to believe regardless of the Christian adoptation of it.

  • dbp

    Matthew, I wrote most of a response so eerily similar to yours– and then walked away from my computer for an hour– that I did a double-take to make sure I hadn't actually posted without realizing it.Anyway, March Hare, what Matthew said is correct. Your comment rebuffs a theology that the Church doesn't teach. I can't think why anyone who has received the Host, and knows that to all senses it seems like bread macroscopically, would expect it to seem like anything other than bread microscopically.Your mistake is succinctly illustrated through the one bit at the end: "Incidentally, it has been tested scientifically, it is still a cracker after consecration, there is no human DNA in it. Catholic magic words, like all magic words, have no supernatural effects."Your example didn't prove there are no supernatural effects: the effect you think we expect to see is natural (a change in biochemical composition), not supernatural.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03615608336736450543 Hendy

    @Matthew and dbp:Other than March's discussion of DNA, was there anything wrong with his statement about a cracker becoming flesh that you disagree with? You seem to have attacked his introduction of testing "fleshness" while ignoring the fact that the doctrine is that it literally is supposed to be Jesus' flesh.If it weren't, Catholics would argue, there wouldn't have been so much hoopla in John 6.Also, I disagree that "…In fact, it would probably violate thousands of years of Eucharistic theology if there WERE human DNA present in every consecrated piece of bread."Why? Because everyone knows that Jesus' blood type is AB and when the cracker becomes Jesus, sometimes he decides to bleed.Or perhaps you don't support such "miracles"?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10019240793982424774 Christian H

    @March Hare: Yes, it is fraud. I am fairly sure you could make a good case that it is legally so. The conditions under which you are taking the host are explicitly stated. Those are therefore legally binding conditions. Accepting the host without disclosing your intention violate it is a misrepresentation, in that your acceptance of the host is a tacit agreement of those conditions. Deliberately misrepresenting yourself, your intentions, or your goods in a property exchange in such a way that violates the conditions of the agreement is fraud; therefore, accepting the host with the intention of desecrating it is fraud.Incidentally, tacit agreements are legally binding if they can be proven, and this is a case in which they can be proven. This is not deception by omission because going up to receive a host is an actual act with communicative value–again, a tacit agreement.And even if it weren't fraud, Leah's arguement would still hold.@dbp: Loving the captcha code.

  • dbp

    Hendy:There are a few other points I would quibble with about March Hare's first comment in this thread, though I will address your point first, since it's you I'm responding to.Transubstation in principle involves only a transformation of essence, and not accident. Therefore one would never expect the outward appearance of human flesh from the Eucharistic Host. But if God sometimes chooses to also impart the accidents of human flesh to the Host in addition to the essence, well, who am I to argue? As far as specific miracles like the ones you're mentioning, though, I don't concern with them much; I have not investigated them and, while I defer to the judgment of the Church, do not myself automatically assume them to be either factual or not. So I'll just have to say, neither my theology nor my faith is shaken by either the assertion or rejection of such things.So, what else about March Hare's comments do I disagree with?Magic words: The conventional understanding of magic is that of an occult power used by a person to achieve an effect, often due to the intrinsic power of words (an incantation, for instance) or materials (mandrake or whatever). In other words, it is a person bending an occult system to his own will. In the case of the sacraments, the power is not a system, an intrinsically priveleged set of words or materials, or anything of that sort. It's the direct intervention of God on his own terms in an institution he established. Furthermore, it isn't occult in the same way as magic: its entire nature and purpose is to draw us into deeper spiritual intimacy by drawing us through physical means. (Aside: Sacraments in general can be thought of as special circumstances in which a single act reflects both a physical and spiritual event that share the same nature, so, when we accept God into our bodies sacramentally through the Eucharist, we accomplish the same real effect spiritually as well.) On cannibalism: there is a certain sense in which Christianity does involve human sacrifice, in the single case of Christ. In the same way, there is a certain sense in which cannibalism– of a single person– is not entirely false. Christianity is the fulfillment (the baptism, you might say) of all religions, and the many religions of the past which demanded human sacrifice, and societies which practiced cannibalism, do in fact find a certain fulfillment in Christianity.However, you'll notice quite a number of differences. In most religions with human sacrifice, it's the god eating men, rather than men eating God. Cannibalism, similarly, is the forcible eating of people who, presumably, take a dim view to their own role, whereas in Christianity the whole point is that the victim is the one demanding it. Further, even a willing person, in the Christian worldview, cannot give their own body as food for another, because their bodies are gifts from God which they did not make. Simply put, we don't have the authority to do so. With Christ, the Creator of the body is giving it up; and it isn't even anyone else's body in the sense that my body also to a degree belongs to me. He chose the one body in history that belonged, even in a human sense, only to Him.Further, the body being consumed is not a fallen physical body subject to disintegration and corruption as ours are. Therefore its consumption does not have any of the normal effects associated with eating natural flesh.Sorry, this has gotten extremely long. But, well, you asked. I hope this clarifies things somewhat.Oh, and one more thing: should Catholics be called out? Well, what's at stake is entirely spiritual and doesn't adversely affect things like ethics as accepted by society in general. So, I guess I'd disagree with that as well. The only reason you might want to do so is if you are an evangelist of atheism… which, hey, come to think of it…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00769117142960558423 Northlander

    @Hendy:"Other than March's discussion of DNA, was there anything wrong with his statement about a cracker becoming flesh that you disagree with? You seem to have attacked his introduction of testing "fleshness" while ignoring the fact that the doctrine is that it literally is supposed to be Jesus' flesh."You are assuming that the claim is that the cracker became Jesus. However, I understand from what has been presented here that the actual claim is that Jesus became a cracker (while still retaining the full essence of Jesus-ness).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11174257204278139704 Charles

    There is nothing more annoying when reading a debate than seeing one side strike down non-existent straw men unintentionally. Although I have a hard time believe that March Hare ever really thought that Catholics *really* believed the wafer became human flesh.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13116034158087704885 March Hare

    Thanks Charles. I was reading the comments and thinking I may have been too harsh, too condescending and a bit of a dick. Your comment cemented the fact that I am actually treading the line on the side of good.The Church believes, and 'forces' adherents to believe, that the wafer does in fact magically transform itself physically, chemically, into the true body of Christ. The fact this is a claim that can be tested should either excite or scare Catholics, but it appears they simply ignore their own religion when it is convenient or difficult to fit into their accepted worldview.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16496144988509668275 Leah

    March Hare, can you give a citation? I know no Catholics who believe that the Eucharist is transformed into a mass of human cells and tissues. I don't know any Catholic teaching that claims it. If you want to debunk it, you need to show the Christians here that it's a part of their doctrine first.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11174257204278139704 Charles

    March Hare you seem to have completely misinterpreted my comment if you are being serious. I am not going to contest the ridiculousness of religious beliefs, but I also refuse to consistantly make false claims about those beliefs and then make fun of my own false claims.what I don't get is that as a skeptic or an atheist why do you have to trump up the views of the eucharisst to denounce them? I am sure you reject the notion of transubstantiation as being just as ridiculous as physical transmutation.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13116034158087704885 March Hare

    Charles, for your delectation:"by this sacrament we unite ourselves to Christ, who makes us sharers in his Body and Blood to form a single body.""At the heart of the Eucharistic celebration are the bread and wine that, by the words of Christ and the invocation of the Holy Spirit, become Christ's Body and Blood.""Jesus chose the time of Passover to fulfill what he had announced at Capernaum: giving his disciples his Body and his Blood""they will be offered by the priest in the name of Christ in the Eucharistic sacrifice in which they will become his body and blood.""so that by his power they may become the body and blood of Jesus Christ""Christ is thus really and mysteriously made present."From http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p2s2c1a3.htmYou can make all the metaphysical, metaphorical arguments you like, but is the man in the pew really supposed to be so adept at ways of knowing that he doesn't take this stuff at face value? More to the point, am I the only one with google? This stuff is Catholic doctrine, why don't more Catholics know it?

  • dbp

    March Hare, you need to read your own link more carefully. Very plainly, in section 1381, you will find:That in this sacrament are the true Body of Christ and his true Blood is something that 'cannot be apprehended by the senses,' says St. Thomas, 'but only by faith, which relies on divine authority.' For this reason, in a commentary on Luke 22:19 ('This is my body which is given for you.'), St. Cyril says: 'Do not doubt whether this is true, but rather receive the words of the Savior in faith, for since he is the truth, he cannot lie.Honestly, you think you understand this stuff, but you just don't.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11174257204278139704 Charles

    March Hare: I think part of th issue seems to be that from basic principles you reject theological explanation, so rather than saying "the idea that something could have an 'essence' and a 'substance' is absurd" or "a physical object cannot have a 'spiritual presence'" you redefine the doctrine to meet your rationalistic/mechanistic world view, and attack that as absurd. Now I am not saying your critique of the concept of transubstantiation might not be valid, I am saying that it is overly simplistic, and betrays a complete misunderstanding of what catholics actually believe. I think in fact you would probably be surprised by the extents various catholic thinkers have gone to account for reason, as dbp's quotes seem to allude to.As to whether Catholics in the pews are expected to get this, I can tell you I have never met a catholic from the pew on up to the priest who believed/claimed to believe/thought anyone believed/or thought the church taught anything like what you subscribed. AS to lay understanding I would think one of the points is that it is a MYSTERY! I find it odd that you can accept lay understanding of a triune godhead, but not that a piece of bread contains a spirit!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03615608336736450543 Hendy

    @dbp/P. Coyle: yes, I get that it's not flesh (cells, blood, etc.). I'm a former Catholic. I'm familiar with accidents and all that jazz. But Catholics still believe that it's the body and blood of Jesus. Again, my question still holds. Other than Hare's discussion about the "outward signs," was there any objection to him addressing the belief that Catholics are eating flesh and drinking blood?Even as a former Catholic, I still don't get it. What if I gave you something that had all the signs of bread but said that it was literally my flesh and contained my blood. Would you be eating me, or not? So god can shape-shift — are you eating flesh or not?Moreso, I don't see the magic assertion as that far-fetched. You believe that there is a source of power and that through certain rituals, which god honors unanimously, that power is allowed to be accessed/channeled/called upon. Do you see it as differently?Through Holy Orders, priests alone are given an indelible mark upon the soul which allows them, alone, to be able to transubstantiate bread into god's flesh. Or call it "preside" over the ritual while god does this action. I say that as you might insist that the priest does nothing, only god. Fine, but the priests are certainly the "gate keepers" of the miraculous occurrence. As far as I know, no one believes transubstantiation could happen without a priest present. In other words, they have an "elite" ability due to something that happened at Holy Orders (another ritual where power is called upon by other priests) to officiate a transubstantiating occurrence.Would you differentiate from magic only in cases where the magic is simply learning a skill of illusion? If so, I'm okay with that. I think this would be in the class of people who think that by paying dues and going through some Deepak Chopra classes, they are now empowered with the ability to materialize sports cars through quantum visualization. Or any other sect which has a chain of hierarchy that systematically bestows some sort of "power" or "status" upon an up-and-coming member who has completed certain requirements such that this new member is part of an elite group that can now enact certain magical rituals which produce intangible outcomes.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03615608336736450543 Hendy

    @dbp: Oh, and no worries about Lanciano. I figure that this is the stance of quite a lot of Catholics. I just brought it up because the statement by Matthew that if fleshly/DNA characteristics were found, it would actually go against theology.I guess I would propose that one can't have it both ways. The rest of my experience tells me that reliability is directly correlated with predictability. Let the prediction be made and stick with it. Either the Lanciano miracle is supportive proof or it must be heresy… or the Church needs to recant that they have any clue whatsoever about god's intentions, doings, or will. I see those as the only options.Otherwise, theology just becomes: "anything that seems to be beneficial to believers, not bad, and seems at least possible for god to do… is of god, the rest isn't."I wouldn't see that kind if hypothesis as very impressive considering 2,000 years of thinking about it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03615608336736450543 Hendy

    Maybe someone should clarify exactly what the doctrine is. My "lay understanding" is that it is literally flesh, but that it just doesn't have any appearance/substantive evidence of that fact.I make this request, because Charles, when you simply say that bread contains "spirit" — I don't think that's the teaching. Like March Hare, I skimmed the catechism on it and from all I can tell, there are many claims about the eucharist being the "Body and Blood" (yes, capitalized) of Jesus. As far as I know, this means that if I could cut some flesh off and make it look, seem, smell, taste, and everything else like a cracker — that would be the human equivalent of what the eucharist is. Is that accurate?Many keep criticizing "straw man" attacks without laying out the bare minimum stance toward a positive truth claim.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11174257204278139704 Charles

    Hendy, There is no doctrine that the Bread and Wine become physical flesh and blood. Since it is clearly stated that the accidents (or physical attributes that are sensable/testable) do not change.I think this would be completely separate from a miracle of consecrated bread turning into actual flesh. Naturally I have not read on this miracle extensively but I trust you can use your own intellect to decide for yourself on that! I know of no place in which the church claims consecrated bread cannot miraculously do something or other (that would be odd since its supposedly a miracle) – However the church does often acknowledge miracles without requiring believe in them as is the case here I think…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03615608336736450543 Hendy

    @Charles: "Hendy, There is no doctrine that the Bread and Wine become physical flesh and blood. Since it is clearly stated that the accidents (or physical attributes that are sensable/testable) do not change."Dude. Seriously. I know this. We're talking past each other. I don't know how I could be clearer when I wrote above:"Maybe someone should clarify exactly what the doctrine is. My "lay understanding" is that it is literally flesh, but that it just doesn't have any appearance/substantive evidence of that fact."I clearly mentioned that the "appearance/substantive evidence" to not portray literal flesh… but the Catechism says "Body and Blood". Hopefully Leah's most recent post will clarify all of this, but there's been so much chastisement over terminology that the debate is frustrating.Catechism says, "Body and Blood."Please just define "Body and Blood" according to whatever definition you think it means so that we're all on the same page.- is it flesh?- some kind of flesh?- glorified flesh?- spiritual flesh?- pure spirit?What the heck is the definition of "Body and Blood" as it's used according to the Catholic Church's reference to the eucharist?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03615608336736450543 Hendy

    Oh, and also, what response is there to this:"As far as I know, this means that if I could cut some flesh off and make it look, seem, smell, taste, and everything else like a cracker — that would be the human equivalent of what the eucharist is. Is that accurate?"In other words, is it flesh that just doesn't seem like flesh?

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    In the normal course of events, Hinduism's restrictions on cow-eating or Islam's prohibition on drawing Muhammed can be a problem for me in my day to day life…. Blasphemy laws and expectations are coercive and destructive when they are used to prevent me from criticizing a religion, prevent me from practicing my own religion (or being open about my lack thereof), or interfere with my day-to-day life in an even mildly burdensome way. Having to avoid despoiling a Eucharist meets none of these criteria.I understand where you're coming from, Leah. I'll even agree that PZ's action probably pissed off more Catholics than it persuaded. (For purposes of completeness, I also want to point out that as far as I recall, he didn't say how he got the wafer he destroyed, nor if it had actually been consecrated. It could have been ordered from a church supply catalog.) But there's an implication lurking here that I have a problem with. That implication is that even among strictly non-violent methods of protesting religion, there are some that are permissible and some that are impermissible, and that the religion being criticized gets to decide which is which.The problem is that when you grant a religion (any religion) the right to decide which forms of criticism are morally legitimate, you inevitably find that suddenly all their beliefs are sacred and inviolable, and the circle of permissible criticism shrinks to the vanishing point. Some commenters argued that the distinction is that atheists wouldn't ordinarily possess a communion wafer and they'd have to "go out of their way" to obtain one, but couldn't Muslims say with equal justice that newspaper editors are "going out of their way" to offend them by publishing drawings of Mohammed? After all, you don't have to print drawings of Mohammed, not even if you want to criticize Islam. But the reason those newspapers did that was to make a symbolic point, to show that they weren't constrained by Muslim ideas about what kinds of criticism are allowable, and the same applies here.I view host-desecration as similar to burning a country's flag – a strong form of protest which sends the message that you vehemently disagree with the ideas the symbol represents. And I support PZ's action for the same reason I'm against anti-flag-burning amendments: as long as an act of protest is non-violent, it should always be morally permissible, no matter how many people may be ticked off in the bargain.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13116034158087704885 March Hare

    I can't believe I didn't mention this in the beginning, but if it is only consecrated wafers that can be desecrated, and omnipotent God is deciding which wafers to magically infuse His spirit into then how is it even remotely possible that PZ could get hold of a consecrated wafer to desecrate? Surely God, at the point of magical infusion by the priest, would tell that this one was destined for a blasphemer and not make it the body of Christ?Or did I miss something? Again.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16496144988509668275 Leah

    @March Hare: that last question is just "Why does God make it physically possible for people to do bad things." Since philosophers have been debating that for the last several thousand years, I don't think you're going to get any answer to that question that you aren't familiar with.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13116034158087704885 March Hare

    Also I think Ebonmuse's last comment was rather brilliant and would encourage Leah to respond to why she thinks there is a difference between desecrating a host and drawing a picture of Mohammed and why, outside of the people she knows, she thinks one is acceptable (and yet offensive) and the other is not (and similarly offensive).If the difference is the reaction of the offended then I think she is looking at this from the wrong end. But I shan't jump to any conclusions.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13116034158087704885 March Hare

    Leah, understandable response, but I think his is a slightly different problem than the the Euthyphro one. God decides which Eucharist is Him. We have no way of knowing. Why would He intentionally leave one consecrated that he knew would be desecrated when it makes no difference to us and we have no way of telling either way. That is just, to my monkey brain, stupid. It has absolutely zero effect on the world and therefore cannot impact the massive mystery that supposedly obfuscates the problem you alluded to in your reply.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13113358989259865484 Robin Lionheart

    I'm not surrounded by Eucharists that I am bound to respect; I will only encounter one if I attend a Mass. Atheists like me and P.Z. Myers will never have a Eucharist in our possession except through theft, fraud, or conversion.Though I would not called it fraud to accept an unconditional gift, there is another possibility: a minister who is happy for unbelievers to receive the Eucharist.Have you got any crackers or bread in your house, Leah? That'll do. As a duly ordained minister in the Universal Life Church, I shall consecrate it:"Blessed are you, Lord. Through your goodness Leah has bread in her home to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made. All this bread shall become for Leah the bread of life."So it is written, so shall it be done. All your bread and crackers are now consecrated, Leah. You are now "surrounded by Eucharists".

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16496144988509668275 Leah

    Also I think Ebonmuse's last comment was rather brilliant and would encourage Leah to respond to why she thinks there is a difference between desecrating a host and drawing a picture of Mohammed and why, outside of the people she knows, she thinks one is acceptable (and yet offensive) and the other is not (and similarly offensive).I was looking for the post to link to where I answered exactly this question, and then I realized it's the one all the way at the top of this comment thread. Scroll back up and see for yourself. To recap: Asking me not to desecrate the Eucharist is like asking me not to piss in holy water or not to tango with the Torah scrolls. It doesn't unduly restrict me. Telling me I can't use pictorial representation of a historical figure is clearly much more restrictive.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16496144988509668275 Leah

    Ok, Robin, I'm not sure what point you're going for. If religious figures tried to bless my property and then use that blessing as a reason to restrict my use of it that would be a problem, but, in the modern world, it's a ludicrous hypothetical. (In the past, of course, if a Christian nurse secretly baptized a Jewish baby, the law took the child away to be raised by Christians)March Hare: I'm not really interested in defending the logistics of a Catholic mystery I don't believe in, so I'm just giving you the first answer off the top of my head. If God did not permit any wafer to be consecrated if it was fated to be profaned, there would be no security in the sacrament of communion since no one could be sure if they had received it or if God had judged them unworthy and denied consecration.But I do think this actually reduces to "Why doesn't God bend the laws of the physical world to prevent sin?"

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13113358989259865484 Robin Lionheart

    If religious figures tried to bless my property and then use that blessing as a reason to restrict my use of it that would be a problem, but, in the modern world, it's a ludicrous hypothetical.Although I wouldn't mind a bit if you feed Jesus to ducks, I suggest you not mention some strange Web minister consecrating your bread to any Catholic houseguests, less restrictions on your making Jesus sandwiches become ludicrously non-hypothetical.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18065529769651450157 Brian

    I felt physically ill when I read the blog post so many months ago. I could not look at the pictures, and the comments saddened me. It was then that I understood how wide the chasm is between Catholics and atheists, or theists and atheists in general. It also made me think that atheists cannot be reasoned with – they are vile and they are hateful and they are, well, evil. And to a certain extent, I still think that because so many atheists are hateful in their rhetoric.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13116034158087704885 March Hare

    Brian, please quote anything that has been written in this thread that you think is vile, hateful or evil. I would suggest that I have been the most provocative but I don't think I have fallen into any of the categories you suggest. I have been factual, if misguided, and respectful of people if not their treasured symbols.Then please explain why you have such an emotional connection with the Eucharist that you felt physically ill. You have no way of knowing that it was an actual consecrated Eucharist and not simply a wafer and hence no reason to react in such a manner. Reacting to the symbolism is one thing but your reaction seems much deeper and depends not on the truth of the matter, but on the very idea that the Body and Blood of Christ could be abused that way. Notwithstanding the very real suffering Christ supposedly endured here on earth, do you not think that God is big enough to take care of Itself? And I use It rather than He because in no way shape or form could the eternal creator of the universe have a gender. Not that I believe in such an entity, but if It exists It is gender free.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18065529769651450157 Brian

    I meant the comments in PZ Meyers' thread, not this one. I am sorry if you thought otherwise – I should have been clearer.The Eucharist is everything. What he did was kind of like if a robber broke into someone's house and only stole the beloved and cherished family heirloom *just* to destroy it in your face – but it's much more than that, since this is no inanimate object, it is the real presence of the Lord Himself. But even if it were only an inanimate object, it is an act so hateful because it strikes at the very heart of who we are as Catholics – there is no good reason for that kind of hate. It is very much personal.Whether or not it was consecrated is, in some ways, unimportant (for the record, I thought it was made clear that it was) since the same intention is still there, and it hurts deeply.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13116034158087704885 March Hare

    Brian, and Leah if you're still reading, would you not see the desecration of the Eucharist as protected free speech? Should this not be allowed under the First Amendment as an example of a legitimate criticism of the Catholic Church and its practices, if not doctrines, similar to flag burning?I am struggling to see how striking at a symbol at the heart of the Church is any different to burning a flag, the symbol of a country.While PZ Myers reasons for doing so may not have been high and mighty (although I think upholding the 1st Amendment to be worthy in and of itself) surely the Catholic Church has bigger fish to fry internally before looking for external protection.I find it amazing how Catholics globally can be so forgiving of their own institutions while being so self-righteous about external criticism. I am writing this in the light of the Jesuit's recent $166m payoff to the orphaned Native Americans that they systematically abused, hence the slightly moralistic tone.(Incidentally, when googling the news report of this the rather unfortunate cutoff point for the headline was: "Bankrupt Catholic order pays Native Americans $166 million sex …" it should have been "sex abuse claims", not exactly a laughing matter, but I thought that one worth sharing.)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00769117142960558423 Northlander

    @March Hare: You wrote, Brian, and Leah if you're still reading, would you not see the desecration of the Eucharist as protected free speech? Should this not be allowed under the First Amendment as an example of a legitimate criticism of the Catholic Church and its practices, if not doctrines, similar to flag burning?Of course it's protected free speech. The argument is that even though you're legally entitled to say it, that doesn't mean that you should say it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00769117142960558423 Northlander

    @Brian: You wrote,But even if it were only an inanimate object, it is an act so hateful because it strikes at the very heart of who we are as Catholics – there is no good reason for that kind of hate. It is very much personal.I might be more sympathetic to this line of argument if it weren't for the fact that the Knights of Columbus took the lead in changing the wording of the Pledge of Allegiance from "one nation, indivisible," to "one nation, under God" back in the 1950's. Today it Continues to fight proudly, tooth-and-nail, to defend the constitutionality of that language before the courts.Earlier this month, following the decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that the words "under God" do not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson declared, "Today, the Court got it absolutely right: recitation of the Pledge is a patriotic exercise, not a religious prayer." What he fails to understand is that precisely because it is a patriotic exercise, the Pledge in its current form makes the symbolic assertion that if you don't believe in God, well, you're just not a very good American, are you?This is hate speech directed against atheists, pure and simple, and one not made as an expression of private opinion, but as an expression of official government policy, as a matter of statutory law.Now,lest you think my characterization of the Pledge as hate speech directed against atheists is completely over the top, suppose for a moment that the words "one nation under God" were replaced with the words "one nation under no pope." I ask you — would you willingly and cheerfully stand up, hand over your heart, and recite such a pledge?So excuse me if I don't weep and wail along with all you Catholics at the rudeness of that mean ol' PZ Myers sticking a nail in a cracker (I mean, "desecrating a Eucharist"). Like they say, what goes around comes around.

  • Patrick

    Well, in this particular case, PZ was protesting an incident in which a student was physically assaulted, falsely accused of a felony, subjected to a sustained attempt at ruining his academic career, and threatened with murder. The student had committed a relatively innocent mishandling of Catholic sacrament, and rather than say something to him or otherwise try to work things out, people went straight for the violent criminal assault.So I mean, yeah, I'd expect his protest to look inappropriate and offensive if you only ask whether the specific thing he did was something that people should normally do. But that's true of all protests. In this case the political speech of attacking the student was an effort to use violence and intimidation to force non Catholics to treat Catholic sacred objects as Catholics demand that they be treated. In that context, making fun of the host and sticking a nail through it is symbolic speech in response indicating a refusal to be intimidated, and a strong statement that you hold your values of treating people well as higher values than those who treat people terribly in service of a purportedly sacred object.Political protest may sometimes be a discourse of shock and offense, but it is still a discourse, and you can't understand it if you take only one event out of context and analyze it. Even something as inoffensive as staging a sit-in at your restaurant would be inappropriate if I did so for no reason.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16496144988509668275 Leah

    @MarchHare: Way back up in the post, I said I don't see any role for the law to prohibit desecration of communion wafers, but I would hope that atheists are subject to more than just legal restrictions on their behavior. The law could become relevant since a consecrated wafer could only be obtained for desecration through fraud or outright theft.@Patrick: I agree that many people responded extremely inappropriately to the original theft of a wafer by the student, but I don't think Myers's response was helpful, even if it may have also been extreme. As Brian's comment a little way upthread demonstrates, this action is shocking to Catholics, but not in a way that promotes discourse and reflection. To them, it is terrorism.You don't have to believe they are right to think of it in those term to recognize that their reaction needs to be taken into account. Unless your goal is simply to strike back as quickly and painfully as possible. But I think that's unworthy of us.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00769117142960558423 Northlander

    @Leah: You wrote:The law could become relevant since a consecrated wafer could only be obtained for desecration through fraud or outright theft.It would be almost amusing to see the law get involved. I can see a court trying desperately to avoid ruling on the question of precisely what was obtained by fraud or theft. Was it the Body of Christ, of "infinite" value (though infinitely replaceable by the Church), or was it — a cracker, worth how much, maybe a penny? To have an American court of law rule that PZ Myers was right and that it's just a cracker is something I suspect PZ would be willing to pay treble damages for. I think he could probably manage to scrape up three cents.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16496144988509668275 Leah

    Oh man do I never want to see the law actually address this. I am super not pre-law, but I assume you would only need to prove theft, high sentimental value, and abusive intent to claim high emotional damages? It shouldn't be that hard to prove the last two given PZ's writings.

  • Patrick

    What you would need to prove would depend on what you were trying to charge him with. But I can't think of any charge or tort that would stick without significant additional facts. The best guess I can come up with would be attempted receipt of stolen property. I can't think of any torts that would stick.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13116034158087704885 March Hare

    Leah: "To them, it is terrorism."Is this not the kind of stupid over-reaction that requires lampooning?As for it not being illegal, if you look at Brian's language I would suggest someone doing this should be subject to legal restrictions, if we can accept Brian's feelings as rational and common:"But even if it were only an inanimate object, it is an act so hateful because it strikes at the very heart of who we are as Catholics – there is no good reason for that kind of hate""Whether or not it was consecrated is, in some ways, unimportant (for the record, I thought it was made clear that it was) since the same intention is still there, and it hurts deeply. "So I guess it all comes down to whether this kind of reaction is rational and common. I would suggest no and yes respectively which means it should be perfectly legal and Catholics are being ridiculous.I am a secular atheist, I hold many things dear, but I cannot imagine taking this kind of offence at any action people took against their own property. Maybe someone can suggest something but it looks irrational all the way to me.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16496144988509668275 Leah

    March Hare:(a) I don't see that lampooning this belief does anything to lessen it or help atheists gain the moral high ground among persuadables.(b) Given this thread, we obviously disagree on whether property is legitimately possessed when obtained by deliberate fraud.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13116034158087704885 March Hare

    Leah,(a) It is an irrational belief and an extreme one. Like all irrational and/or extreme beliefs, from communism to solipsism, they deserve to be held up to rational scrutiny and there is generally no better way of doing that than by comedy or reducing it to absurdity.(b) We can disagree on the legality of one specific incident, but Brian makes it perfectly clear, "Whether or not it was consecrated is, in some ways, unimportant … since the same intention is still there, and it hurts deeply." This is the Catholic-in-the-street's position. This, along with an open mindedness for Eucharist based miracles, is a position I maintain many Catholics hold yet I was subjected to the ridicule of Catholics with superior knowledge on the transubstantiation issue and would have been here too had I said the issue was the symbolism not whether the Eucharist was consecrated or not.As soon as symbolism is causing hurt people really have to re-evaluate their values. Burn the Constitution, it's a piece of paper. Ridicule the Royal family, they are public figures. Desecrate the Bible/Qu'ran, they're just books. Torture a wafer, it's just a piece of bread. However, as soon as you start harming people then I will get involved.

  • Iota

    March Hare – may I ask a question?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13116034158087704885 March Hare

    Iota, please do and I shall endeavour to answer to the best of my abilities.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00769117142960558423 Northlander

    Leah: If you are suggesting that a Catholic or group of Catholics could sue PZ for "mental anguish" damages, I'm sure you are right. Any of your Catholic readers from this blog could do it. I would expect such a suit to be about as successful as the recent suit against the Westboro Baptist Church for inflicting emotional distress on the families of U.S. soldiers killed in action by their notorious "God Hates Fags" protests at military funerals. That is to say, I would expect such a suit to enjoy no success at all. In weighing the right of free speech vs. a mental anguish claim, I can pretty much predict that a U.S. court is going to support the former over the latter.

  • Iota

    „As soon as symbolism is causing hurt people really have to re-evaluate their values.”Why should anyone who doesn’t already agree with you (materialist atheist I assume, correct me if I'm wrong) even consider that position? I am asking in all seriousness.All of us, when we describe what would be good for others (rather than just for ourselves) dress ourselves up in a bit of authority. The authority may or may not be recognized by those others, it may be socially constructed, it may be chosen by the person who seeks advice but it’s always there in the background.I’d like to know your grounds for your authority expressed in telling people what they should and should not value.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13116034158087704885 March Hare

    Iota, a fair point, I guess it's simply shorthand for: In my opinion the world would be a better place for most people if "as soon as symbolism is causing hurt people re-evaluate their values."Why do non-materialists have to consider this position?In an increasingly secular yet multicultural (western) world they will be increasingly hurt by non-respect for their symbols and at the same time subjected to symbols that other people hold sacred. To paraphrase the title: Is it so hard not to eat a cow? (Hinduism)If we allow people's irrational (maybe one group is right, but most, by definition, are not) emotional attachment to symbols to interfere with public life we will find our freedoms gradually and continually reduced. Maybe not by law, but by an increasingly PC society.If atheists cannot skewer a cracker, does that mean Christians cannot cast out Satan lest Satanists be offended? (Is it so hard not to do an exorcism?)Can we not criticise circumcision as child abuse lest the Jews/Muslims/some Christians get offended? (Is it so hard to not mutilate the genitals of infants?)Should I be publicly shunned for making a mockery of horoscopes? Should Catholics be shunned for decrying witchcraft, or me for denying it?With no objective way to judge (most) religious truth claims then I think they should be held tenuously by believers and they should not be so emotionally invested in them as there is a very good chance they are mistaken.So my authority, such as it is, rests on the fact that most people who value symbols highly are wrong about them, they will be hurt more by valuing them highly, and they will have to give up their freedom or be hypocrites when faced with a world full of religious symbols.But I do love the way you turned it round from people saying that atheists, or anyone, shouldn't desecrate a Eucharist to you asking where I get the authority to tell people what they should and should not value. Which isn't what I did – what I said is people should re-evaluate their values because, in my opinion, being seriously upset because PZ Myers stuck a nail through a piece of bread is childish in the extreme. It is a small step from that to riots when people draw Mohammed and THAT is the real problem with this attitude.

  • Iota

    Okay, I think I understand (although do not accept) your statement.However I also think your suggestion for believers is hopelessly unrealistic so long as they are believers (and even somewhat – probably unintentionally – insulting). I also think that you are even less likely to achieve your desired end by the kinds of methods employed by Myers even if what you were handling in this way was clearly, in the opinion of both sides, including theists, just a symbol (which a consecrated Host isn't).But I'll go into explaining that only if you badly want me to.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13116034158087704885 March Hare

    Iota, we'll leave the insulting part hanging since it's not intended to be directly insulting but if people can't handle an opposing opinion then let's call it an indirect insult, and that I probably won't apologise for.I think you miss what my desired end is. I have no intention of converting dyed in the wool religionistas, they are nearly a lost cause, all I want to do is show that their fury is based on unsubstantiated claims and that for violence or social extradition to come from confronting that is crazy. There are some who look for a get-out though, and if I can just plant a seed of doubt in their mind then my job is done. I also want people to call me out if any of my thinking is wrong, so it's better to throw this around with people who disagree and will pick up on the mistakes than the echo chamber where your mistakes are forgiven if your message is in the party line.

  • Iota

    "people can't handle an opposing opinion"That reasoning can be also applied in reverse. If you can't or won't use neutral terms when talking to people and instead use worlds like "religionista", I could ask why exactly do you expect me or anyone else to listen to or handle your opposing viewpoint with civility. I don't feel personally insulted but consider that a valid question.„all I want to do is show that their fury is based on unsubstantiated claims”Lots of “religionistas” know you believe their claims to be unsubstantiated if you aren’t one of them. But the fact they are unsubstantiated according to that standard may mean little to them. To put it in perspective from my POV, a devout but thoughtful Muslim would probably be able to understand I don’t believe the Quran is any different than the Upanishads. But that wouldn’t make the Quran any less holy for them. A materialist’s claim that the Bible is no different than a cookbook has similar weight – i.e. none. In order for it to have importance, the person you are talking to would have to first agree that a materialist perspective of “both of these things are paper” is more important than “this Book is Holy and that book isn’t”. In other words, to accept you point of view, I suppose, it is necessary to first accept your philosophical premises, which is precisely what a “religionista” won’t do. Suggesting that they should and may do it is equivalent to telling them “Look, you don’t really believe all this, right?”Furthermore, attacking a symbol is symbolic aggression. If someone burns a Bible they are doing it precisely because that’s a Bible, something other people think is important and invested with Divine authority. They don’t decide to burn “Betty Crocker Fix-with-a-Mix Desserts” instead, just because both of those books are similar physical objects and the titles both start with B. The only situation when attacking a symbol diminishes its importance is when the group you are attacking believes that successful blasphemy proves you are mightier than the deity they worship. That, however, isn’t really the kind of theology I’d expect involved Christians, Muslims or even Hindus to have.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13116034158087704885 March Hare

    Iota, religionista is a term of affection (almost). I was not intending to insult – I could have used many other terms: deluded; insane; crazy etc. but that was not my intent. I believe that people believing this stuff are wrong, but I don't think they all have a mental illness!"A materialist’s claim that the Bible is no different than a cookbook"Fine, but I'm not having people claim The Bible is the inspired Word of God when they have no clue as to the origins of it. Anyone who doesn't know what the Council of Nicaea is doesn't get to pontificate on the Truth of The Bible! Do you agree?"If someone burns a Bible they are doing it precisely because that’s a Bible, something other people think is important and invested with Divine authority."Yip, but do you not agree that when people assign symbols too much importance that is is the duty of non-believers to prick that balloon and reduce the pomposity and self-importance of the (allegedly) deluded? This goes beyond religion and applies to flag burning amendments in the US or anti-monarchy displays in the UK.

  • Iota

    religionista is a term of affection (almost).To me it smacks faintly of Spanish "revolutionista" and, therefore, of Spanish communists – not a connotation I cherish… Nevertheless, point taken. BTW: You may call me crazy whenever you want… :-) Do you agree?Partly. I think Mr. or Ms. Smith may believe the Bible is inspired/inerrant without knowing much about the Council of Nicea (otherwise only theologians and church historians could be religious). Intellectual duties have to be measured relative to, e.g. one's position in life, temperament, general knowledge and access to sources (with a liberal sprinkling of charity on top). But if Mr. or Ms. Smith are seriously negligent on that count or if, making reasonable efforts, you can't find people in a given faith tradition who WOULD address the history of their Church, I'd say we have a problem.(which is one of the reasons I never felt good about non-hierarchical, individualistic religious communities).However:1) A source that could talk about the Council of Nicea is not always obliged to do so. Particularly if you, e.g., give them reasons to think you are aggressive.2) Knowledge will differ among sources – the more specialist you want your exchange to be, the rarer the specialist.3) There are certain historical facts about the Council of Nicea that can be addressed but all facts require interpretation. Interpretation will differ, depending on framework. For example, if someone views religion only as a kind of primitive politics, all mentions of the Holy Spirit guiding the Church will sound silly. But that doesn't mean they are untrue (e.g. I believe that is true of Catholicism) or that any reasonable understanding of a given believer's mindset is possible without that. If you want to talk about religion as religion, you need to be able to at least hypothetically entertain an appropriate perspective. This goes beyond religionI'm neither British nor American. Where I live, free speech is framed differently. But to the extent I can address this:No, I don't believe it is some sort of objective duty to always "prick the balloon" of those beliefs I don't hold or even of those I consider wrong (being Catholic, there are beliefs I consider seriously wrong, the Real Presence NOT being one of them, obviously). In my (extremely limited) experience, actions like this easily feed into our aggressive urges and perpetuate conflicts. Even more so, when done without properly choosing the audience (e.g on YouTube, large open forum, etc.). At it's worst this is just climbing your favourite soapbox and "preaching to the choir" while feeling good about it.Hence, for example, I fail to see the larger point of the Danish Muhammad caricatures. I even think that someone may have failed to asses their effects on the well-being of non-Western non-Muslims – a number of killings are somehow associated with the incident, AFAIK (Wikipedia).It becomes imperative to prick the balloon if a specific belief is severely harmful. However, pricking then needs to be done at a close quarters (I don't have much sympathy for armchair criticism) and the pricker should prepared for loads of aggression afterwards (and do their best to shield innocents). Furthermore, this effectively blocks dialogue so it should be done only in really dire need.I have a higher tolerance for satire targeted at the political and social establishments precisely because this is not religion and is seen, usually, by both sides as comparatively fairer game. That said, I still think burning a flag is in itself a destructive non-statement. If I saw someone burning my country's flag I'd be more likely to say this is an expression of nationalistic hatred or pure aggression than a profound statement against nationalism.

  • John

    John 6:35,41,48,51 – Jesus says four times “I AM the bread from heaven.” It is He, Himself, the eternal bread from heaven.

    John 6:27,31,49 – there is a parallel between the manna in the desert which was physically consumed, and this “new” bread which must be consumed.

    John 6:51-52- then Jesus says that the bread He is referring to is His flesh. The Jews take Him literally and immediately question such a teaching. How can this man give us His flesh to eat?

    John 6:53 – 58 – Jesus does not correct their literal interpretation. Instead, Jesus eliminates any metaphorical interpretations by swearing an oath and being even more literal about eating His flesh. In fact, Jesus says four times we must eat His flesh and drink His blood. Catholics thus believe that Jesus makes present His body and blood in the sacrifice of the Mass. Protestants, if they are not going to become Catholic, can only argue that Jesus was somehow speaking symbolically.

    John 6:23-53 – however, a symbolic interpretation is not plausible. Throughout these verses, the Greek text uses the word “phago” nine times. “Phago” literally means “to eat” or “physically consume.” Like the Protestants of our day, the disciples take issue with Jesus’ literal usage of “eat.” So Jesus does what?

    John 6:54, 56, 57, 58 – He uses an even more literal verb, translated as “trogo,” which means to gnaw or chew or crunch. He increases the literalness and drives his message home. Jesus will literally give us His flesh and blood to eat. The word “trogo” is only used two other times in the New Testament (in Matt. 24:38 and John 13:18) and it always means to literally gnaw or chew meat. While “phago” might also have a spiritual application, “trogo” is never used metaphorically in Greek. So Protestants cannot find one verse in Scripture where “trogo” is used symbolically, and yet this must be their argument if they are going to deny the Catholic understanding of Jesus’ words. Moreover, the Jews already knew Jesus was speaking literally even before Jesus used the word “trogo” when they said “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” (John 6:52).

    John 6:55 – to clarify further, Jesus says “For My Flesh is food indeed, and My Blood is drink indeed.” This phrase can only be understood as being responsive to those who do not believe that Jesus’ flesh is food indeed, and His blood is drink indeed. Further, Jesus uses the word which is translated as “sarx.” “Sarx” means flesh (not “soma” which means body). See, for example, John 1:13,14; 3:6; 8:15; 17:2; Matt. 16:17; 19:5; 24:22; 26:41; Mark 10:8; 13:20; 14:38; and Luke 3:6; 24:39 which provides other examples in Scripture where “sarx” means flesh. It is always literal.

    John 6:55 – further, the phrases “real” food and “real” drink use the word “alethes.” “Alethes” means “really” or “truly,” and would only be used if there were doubts concerning the reality of Jesus’ flesh and blood as being food and drink. Thus, Jesus is emphasizing the miracle of His body and blood being actual food and drink.

    John 6:60 – as are many anti-Catholics today, Jesus’ disciples are scandalized by these words. They even ask, “Who can ‘listen’ to it (much less understand it)?” To the unillumined mind, it seems grotesque.

    John 6:61-63 – Jesus acknowledges their disgust. Jesus’ use of the phrase “the spirit gives life” means the disciples need supernatural faith, not logic, to understand His words.

    John 3:6 – Jesus often used the comparison of “spirit versus flesh” to teach about the necessity of possessing supernatural faith versus a natural understanding. In Mark 14:38 Jesus also uses the “spirit/flesh” comparison. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. We must go beyond the natural to understand the supernatural. In 1 Cor. 2:14,3:3; Rom 8:5; and Gal. 5:17, Paul also uses the “spirit/flesh” comparison to teach that unspiritual people are not receiving the gift of faith. They are still “in the flesh.”

    John 6:63 – Protestants often argue that Jesus’ use of the phrase “the spirit gives life” shows that Jesus was only speaking symbolically. However, Protestants must explain why there is not one place in Scripture where “spirit” means “symbolic.” As we have seen, the use of “spirit” relates to supernatural faith. What words are spirit and life? The words that we must eat Jesus’ flesh and drink His blood, or we have no life in us.

    John 6:66-67 – many disciples leave Jesus, rejecting this literal interpretation that we must eat His flesh and drink His blood. At this point, these disciples really thought Jesus had lost His mind. If they were wrong about the literal interpretation, why wouldn’t Jesus, the Great Teacher, have corrected them? Why didn’t Jesus say, “Hey, come back here, I was only speaking symbolically!”? Because they understood correctly.

  • John

    1 Cor. 10:16 – Paul asks the question, “the cup of blessing and the bread of which we partake, is it not an actual participation in Christ’s body and blood?” Is Paul really asking because He, the divinely inspired writer, does not understand? No, of course not. Paul’s questions are obviously rhetorical. This IS the actual body and blood. Further, the Greek word “koinonia” describes an actual, not symbolic participation in the body and blood.

    1 Cor. 10:18 – in this verse, Paul is saying we are what we eat. We are not partners with a symbol. We are partners of the one actual body.

    1 Cor. 11:23 – Paul does not explain what he has actually received directly from Christ, except in the case when he teaches about the Eucharist. Here, Paul emphasizes the importance of the Eucharist by telling us he received directly from Jesus instructions on the Eucharist which is the source and summit of the Christian faith.

    1 Cor. 11:27-29 – in these verses, Paul says that eating or drinking in an unworthy manner is the equivalent of profaning (literally, murdering) the body and blood of the Lord. If this is just a symbol, we cannot be guilty of actually profaning (murdering) it. We cannot murder a symbol. Either Paul, the divinely inspired apostle of God, is imposing an unjust penalty, or the Eucharist is the actual body and blood of Christ.

    1 Cor. 11:30 – this verse alludes to the consequences of receiving the Eucharist unworthily. Receiving the actual body and blood of Jesus in mortal sin results in actual physical consequences to our bodies.

    1 Cor. 11:27-30 – thus, if we partake of the Eucharist unworthily, we are guilty of literally murdering the body of Christ, and risking physical consequences to our bodies. This is overwhelming evidence for the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. These are unjust penalties if the Eucharist is just a symbol.

  • John

    Tradition / Church Fathers

    “They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again.” Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to Smyrnaeans, 7,1 (c. A.D. 110).

    “For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.” Justin Martyr, First Apology, 66 (c. A.D. 110-165).

    “[T]he bread over which thanks have been given is the body of their Lord, and the cup His blood…” Irenaeus, Against Heresies, IV:18,4 (c. A.D. 200).

    “He acknowledged the cup (which is a part of the creation) as his own blood, from which he bedews our blood; and the bread (also a part of creation) he affirmed to be his own body, from which he gives increase to our bodies.” Irenaeus, Against Heresies, V:2,2 (c. A.D. 200).

    “But what consistency is there in those who hold that the bread over which thanks have been given is the Body of their Lord, and the cup His Blood, if they do not acknowledge that He is the Son of the Creator of the world…” Irenaeus, Against Heresies, IV:18, 2 (c. A.D. 200).

    “For the blood of the grape–that is, the Word–desired to be mixed with water, as His blood is mingled with salvation. And the blood of the Lord is twofold. For there is the blood of His flesh, by which we are redeemed from corruption; and the spiritual, that by which we are anointed. And to drink the blood of Jesus, is to become partaker of the Lord’s immortality; the Spirit being the energetic principle of the Word, as blood is of flesh. Accordingly, as wine is blended with water, so is the Spirit with man. And the one, the mixture of wine and water, nourishes to faith; while the other, the Spirit, conducts to immortality. And the mixture of both–of the water and of the Word–is called Eucharist, renowned and glorious grace; and they who by faith partake of it are sanctified both in body and soul.” Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, 2 (ante A.D. 202).

    “For as to what we say concerning the reality of Christ’s nature within us, unless we have been taught by Him, our words are foolish and impious. For He says Himself, My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood abideth in Me, and I in him. As to the verity of the flesh and blood there is no room left for doubt. For now both from the declaration of the Lord Himself and our own faith, it is verily flesh and verily blood. And these when eaten and drunk, bring it to pass that both we are in Christ and Christ in us. Is not this true? Yet they who affirm that Christ Jesus is not truly God are welcome to find it false. He therefore Himself is in us through the flesh and we in Him, whilst together with Him our own selves are in God.” Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity, 8:14 (inter A.D. 356-359).

  • John

    Tradition / Church Fathers
    “For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.” Justin Martyr, First Apology, 66 (A.D. 110-165).

    “He acknowledged the cup (which is a part of the creation) as his own blood, from which he bedews our blood; and the bread (also a part of creation) he affirmed to be his own body, from which he gives increase to our bodies.” Irenaeus, Against Heresies, V:2,2 (c. A.D. 200).

    “Then having sanctified ourselves by these spiritual Hymns, we beseech the merciful God to send forth His Holy Spirit upon the gifts lying before Him; that He may make the Bread the Body of Christ, and the Wine the Blood of Christ; for whatsoever the Holy Ghost has touched, is surely sanctified and changed.” Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, XXIII:7 (c. A.D. 350).

    “‘And was carried in His Own Hands:’ how ‘carried in His Own Hands’? Because when He commended His Own Body and Blood, He took into His Hands that which the faithful know; and in a manner carried Himself, when He said, ‘This is My Body.’” Augustine, On the Psalms, 33:1, 10 (A.D. 392-418).

    “He did not say, ‘This is the symbol of My Body, and this, of My Blood,’ but, what is set before us, but that it is transformed by means of the Eucharistic action into Flesh and Blood.” Theodore of Mopsuestia, Commentary on Matthew 26:26 (ante A.D. 428).

    “Dearly beloved, utter this confession with all your heart and reject the wicked lies of heretics, that your fasting and almsgiving may not be polluted by any contagion with error: for then is our offering of the sacrifice clean and oar gifts of mercy holy, when those who perform them understand that which they do. For when the Lord says, “unless ye have eaten the flesh of the Son of Man, and drunk His blood, ye will not have life in you,’ you ought so to be partakers at the Holy Table, as to have no doubt whatever concerning the reality of Christ’s Body and Blood. For that is taken in the mouth which is believed in Faith, and it is vain for them to respond Amend who dispute that which is taken.” Pope Leo the Great, Sermon, 91:3 (ante A.D. 461).

  • Andrew Patton

    For the record, it was for precisely that reason that the law prohibited Jews from hiring Christians to serve as caretakers for their children. Those who defied that law did so at their own risk, because if the child fell gravely ill, love would compel the nurse to baptize the child for the sake of his immortal soul, and once baptized, the child would be a Christian, and it was forbidden to give a Christian child to unbelievers to raise on account of the danger of apostasy they would inflict upon him- even if they be his biological parents. The child would be reunited with his parents if and only if the parents themselves were baptized.


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