Religion

The PZ cracker debacle of 2008.

Are we living in a cartoon world? This whole thing just keeps getting more and more ridiculous every time I look up. As a former Catholic, I do understand why people are offended. They feel that one of the most vital aspects of their faith has been attacked. Fair enough. What I don’t understand is how the Catholic league can make the following statement:

“As a result of the hysteria that Myers’ ilk have promoted, at least one public official is taking it seriously. Thomas E. Foley is chairman of Virginia’s First Congressional District Republican Committee, a delegate to the Republican National Convention and one of two Republican at large nominees for Virginia’s Electoral College. His concern is for the safety of Catholics attending this year’s Republican National Convention in Minneapolis, Myers’ backyard. Accordingly, Foley has asked the top GOP brass to provide additional security while in the Twin Cities so that Catholics can worship without fear of violence. Given the vitriol we have experienced for simply exercising our First Amendment right to freedom of speech, we support Foley’s request.”

Last time I checked, PZ was the one getting death threats. What do they think he is, anyway, a fire-breathing, hate-mongering, warlord who can call up a heathen army with the snap of a tentacle? He might exude some vitriol from time to time (ok…pretty regularly) on his blog, but anyone who’s ever met the man in person knows that he’s quite polite and respectful, and maybe even a bit shy. And with all the bloggy anger, he has never called for any action beyond the occasional poll crash.

I’d be curious to find out what offended Catholics thought about that whole Danish cartoons of Mohammed scandal a few years ago. The reaction to PZ’s statements about the Eucharist is exactly the same thing, as far as I can tell.

Here’s the thing, Catholics. Under the first amendment, you have the right to worship freely and openly in whatever way you choose (so long as it doesn’t violate the rights of others). You do not have the right to dictate to others how they should view your chosen faith. To the 76% of Americans who are not Catholic, the communion wafer is nothing more than a cracker, and you can’t tell them that they have to believe it is the body of Christ. By threatening Webster Cook, and now PZ, the Catholic League and those who claim to represent it have shown that they do not respect the rights of others to not believe in the transubstantiation of the host.

The story that shook up this can of bees seems impossible to parse at this point. If Cook did go into the service with the intention of “kidnapping” a host, as the church claims, well, that’s rude and disrespectful, but I don’t think any sane person would argue that it warrants death threats. I think it’s clear that PZ was attempting to put the whole thing into perspective. Did he take it too far? Maybe, but the so-called Catholics threatening Cook with violence and death certainly went there first.

I think there’s a lesson here somewhere about how we do business in a free country. Or something.
People need to realize that they don’t have the right not to be offended. Yes, we should all try to live peacefully together and treat each other with respect, but when someone does something distasteful or offensive, that doesn’t mean those that were offended get to inflict pain or death on the offender. This isn’t the dark ages. We don’t burn heretics.

Mostly what I’m saying is that we all need to grow thicker skins. And Catholics, I would hope that your eternally merciful god will understand that when some idiot college kid comes into your church and steals a host for nefarious purposes, it’s really not your fault and he shouldn’t damn you to hell for your oversight. If you really think he would do that, I’m not sure what that says about you.

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61 Comments

  1. I always find it amusing that the radical Christians of all stripes will almost immediately turn to State Power to solve their problems. These are often the same people who will minimize the importance of the State relative to “God’s Kingdom”. How about a little internal self-consistency. If these institutions which you loathe (the State and the Liberal Universities) are so horrid in all your other convictions, why now are they so essential for the protection of your “host”?

    Just excommunicate the guy! That’s all that really matters, right?

    It’s the same thing with gay marriage. All that really matters is that you are married in God’s Eyes, right? So, if you don’t like gay marriage, then don’t get a marriage license. Give up the tax breaks and all the economic advantages, get married in your Church and leave the state out of it.

  2. Yes, what PZM said about the cracker was pretty rude, and rudeness should be discouraged. However, the folks who were calling for a student to be expelled for stealing a cracker are CRAZY.

    As with the Danish cartoonist, in any battle between the rude and the crazy, my sympathies go with the rude every time.

  3. Rystefn. You cut to the quick there, amigo. Exactly! The Catholics in this case have recognized that their Institution is meaningless and powerless. Even in the midst of their claims of… whatever woo-woo they are claiming, they are defenseless, and they are appealing to REAL POWER: the State.

    If they “believed” that True Power resided in the “Kingdom of God” as expressed temporally by the “One True Church” then why are they appealing to anyone but themselves?

  4. I think that we should all know by now NOT to expect any sort of consistency or sanity from any religious spokesperson. When will it finally get to the point that we can just ignore their ramblings like we do the one-eyed schizophrenic talking to god under the interstate on-ramp?

  5. Many years ago, before my deconversion, I was in the youth choir at our church. One of the girls in the choir heard about the transubstantiation thing, and made one of the common and obvious jumps to comparing it to cannibalism.

    Yes, she was probably trying to make a joke, and maybe it was a little rude. But I think it boiled down to a valid question. At our age at the time, they should have taken it as an opportunity to explain what it all meant. Instead, they took deep and direct offense, and chastised her for even thinking such a thing. As if she knew.

    Later, when my sisters and I recounted the story to my parents, pretty much the same thing happened. Rather than taking the time to explain things, they went on a tangent about how offensive it was, and told us never to bring it up again.

    And that was my first lesson in transubstantiation. Is it any wonder I turned my back on the faith?

    I can understand if someone wants to raise their children in their faith, but it would certainly help if you actually explained some of these weird things that they’re expected to believe, instead of expecting them to learn it from osmosis?

    As a former Catholic myself, I can certainly understand both points of view. A consecrated host is supposed to be one of the most sacred things that they take into their bodies. But when something like this comes up, they should take the opportunity to explain things, calmly, instead of blowing it out of proportion, and making a public spectacle of themselves. If I still subscribed to the faith, I would be ashamed.

    As for PZ, he was out of line. Yes, it’s just a cracker to most of us. But to deliberately, and knowingly desecrate something that’s sacred to someone else just to make a point (or to conspire to, which as far as I know is as far as PZ got), is at best tacky, and at worst, downright rude. It certainly isn’t deserving of death threats. Maybe a finger-wagging, and a stern talking to, but certainly not death threats. But it was still rude and disrespectful. As an atheist, I am ashamed.

    I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, and assume that he simply made a mistake that so many, including some Catholics, have made. He should offer an apology, and those who are offended should be big enough to accept his apology. And we should all make the effort to understand each other better, so that we can put this whole ridiculous charade behind us.

    If we can’t do that, then as humans, we should all be ashamed.

  6. PZ Myers was originally responding to a situation in which a college student walked off with a communion wafer and got death threats. What PZ should have done was exactly what you just did: explain that death threats are a huge overreaction, and that being occasionally offended is a side effect of living in a modern, democratic society.

    PZ did make that point, and we all agree with it. What he didn’t have to do was go on to repeat (or threaten to repeat) the action that the student took in the first place. The student’s action didn’t warrant death threats, but that doesn’t mean it was an acceptable thing to do.

    Obviously the response of some Catholics (death threats) is worse than what PZ did (unnecessary rudeness). The problem is, too many people are responding as if this is an either-or situation, as if whoever was less bad should be considered to be fully in the right. Every person has a responsibility to act in the most moral way possible, and the fact that there are other people out there doing bad things shouldn’t prevent us from holding ourselves to higher standards.

  7. PZ’s threats of further ‘desecrating the host’ is most likely just reactionary rhetoric. It was rude and irreverent, yes. I would NOT, however, say that he or anyone should be ‘ashamed’ other than the people who have made death threats and tried to get someone fired or expelled over being irreverent.

    The Catholics have every right to be offended, and PZ has every right to ridicule their beliefs or anyone else’s beliefs. This whole situation is a result of reactionary assholes like Donohue who think that just because he believes something that anyone who doesn’t should still be subject to the consequences of those beliefs. They blow things out of proportion and the result is heavy criticism and snarky prodding by such as Myers.

    Some kid stole a holy cookie. Yes, it was disrespectful and crude, but it should have never become a national issue. Why the hell did the Catholic League even get ivnolved other than to try and create a false atmosphere of persecution that christians thrive on? This supposed ‘security threat’ is just further example of this. I’ve not heard of a single catholic being threatened over this nonsense, yet they need extra security? Give me a break.

  8. It was rude and irreverent, yes. I would NOT, however, say that he or anyone should be ‘ashamed’ other than the people who have made death threats and tried to get someone fired or expelled over being irreverent.

    OK, I admit, that I’m not really ashamed, and neither I nor PZ speak for all atheists. But I had a pretty good theme going there, and didn’t want to break up the pattern. I sometimes break into flourish that doesn’t naturally lend itself to blog comments, and sometimes I try to be a little diplomatic, which can sometimes lead to what might seem like overreaction. And for that I apologize. But I think I made my point.

  9. The irony of this is that the catholic church is essentially spouting out how intolerant and disrespectful he is being and how it is just some form of typical below-the-belt atheism cheap shot at “their truth”, when at the same time their church leaders see nothing wrong in their pope-guy spewing lines stating no religion other than catholic is valid and the only solution to a meaningful life is through their church. Yet, that same church also does nothing but give a light slap on the wrist to the child-loving priests (they just ship the priest off to a different church). So what message does one get from all of this then? Are we to believe that if you are a priesty servant of the god and you screw around with one their god’s kids, you simply get to pack up and go to a different church? But if you so simply take one step back to your seat without eating your cracker, then you deserve damnation? I dunno, as a confident Atheist myself, the whole thing is ri-goddamn-diculous to me considering how many other offensive things can be found on the good ol’ internet (2 girls 1 cup anyone? if anyone has seen that site, I can guarantee there is more desecration there that their god would probably be more unhappy with). As I said before, I am a confident Atheist and the day catholics start respecting science and logic and life, then maybe they’ll be more deserving of respect as well.

  10. I think “2 girls 1 cracker” could be a viral sensation. Anyone want to volunteer to make that one? All you would need to do to keep Catholics from being offended is include a bit of pedarasty.

  11. no…but you’ve forgotten: that whole pedophilia thing was just a big misunderstanding that got blown out of proportion by the media.

    they see any mention of it at all as persecution. srsly.

    i agree with what a lot of you have said on this, that it probably would have been better for pz to take the high road, but i think the resultant overreaction on the part of the catholic league is going to instigate more of the same.

    really i think it’s mostly sad. don’t we have better things to worry about right now?

  12. I’m a “total” SGU follower, Rebecca, as well as a 40 year plus “audiophile”.

    Has anyone ever commented before on your facial resemblance to Laura Nyro?

    The attractive tonal qualities of your voice add to the similarity.

  13. You know, when I was a kid, you couldn’t go shopping on Sunday. Movie theaters were closed. Alcoholics had to plan around bars being closed. Even grocery stores were closed. There were no ATMs. I am getting a little off track. We have decided as a society that we don’t restrict other people’s lives on the basis of other people’s beliefs. If I hold, say, Star Trek to be sacred, I can’t pass laws that forbid people to leave their houses while Star Trek is on. This all makes perfect sense to us now. But it is within memory of many of us here a time when everyone had to obey certain sabbatical biblical laws.

    Now, we have lost a little by undoing these laws. It was nice that we as a society had Holidays for instance. With no recognition for any holidays a looming reality, the opposite is coming: no days off… no days are special… nothing is “sacred”. I liked days off. I liked the fact that people didn’t have to work on Christmas (and believe it or not people used to be paid for days off… even vacations… back in the dark ages of the 1970s or thereabouts).

    But we can’t lose sight of what is at issue here. The reactionaries want THE STATE (which they claim to despise) to defend their own particular, peculiar worldview. They are making a claim, or are slowly in the process of building a claim for some sort of legal recognition of their particular beliefs. This is toying with the Church/State line (or blurred area).

    Does anyone know any good links where the FACTS of this case are elucidated? The actual facts of the incident are rapidly receding into rhetoric…

  14. What’s the high road that PZ should have taken here? People can condemn the crazy Catholics, but he took the step of calling for a repeat action which I think best exposes how ludicrous the whole thing is. For all anyone knows, that desecration would mean…. eating the cracker. The same thing billions of people the world over do.

    I’m still confused why they can’t unsanctify the thing if they think the wrong person has it and intends to desecrate it. Poof, it’s Jesus. Poof, not anymore. Think how valuable that skill would be. When people run the tests to say that, no, it’s actually a cracker, not a person, they could claim they just turned it back b/c testing unsanctifies it.

  15. At worse, Myers was rude and antagonistic. I mean, yeah it’s a pretty dick thing to intentionally piss people off like that, but I don’t particularly think he was out of line. Maybe a bit undiplomatic.

    High road? I guess he could have just said, “Hey you guys are stupid! But I’m not going to mess with your sacred bread because I want you to think I respect your beliefs.” Not his style.

  16. i guess what i’m getting at is that pz’s style is not my style. which is fine. i’m just more about attempting rational discussion and at least trying to be somewhat respectful.

    but, detroitus and sinja, you’re right. there is a point where rational discussion becomes useless. i’m just not one to seek out conflict, or pour gasoline on a fire. i think there’s enough of that going around already.

    whether or not i agree with how this has gone down on “our side”, as i said before, the catholic league is inviting much worse by throwing a tantrum over it. it almost seems like they’ve done this on purpose to get people to “persecute” them and get more attention.

    sorry, did that sound cynical?

  17. Not cynical. I’d say you hit the nail on the head. And I agree with you on what you said.

    I’m a huge fan of diplomacy myself, but I also think people like Myers, et al. are necessary to keep people like Donohue, et al. in check. Not necessarily the way I would have approached things, but because of PZ, this whole thing has gotten a LOT of publicity and is sparking debates all over the place where we can practice our diplomacy to find reasonable common ground.

  18. I think instead of “desecrating” another cracker (though the “2 girls 1 Cracker with a side of pedarasty” idea from Detroitus was a pretty amusing though) one simply could prove once and for all that a jesus triscuit is not eternal everlasting, one could just get a cracker that the priest waved his magic wand over and leave it sitting in a damp room and see if it lasts any longer than a normal cracker. I mean, if it is an Abracadabra-poof into his flesh then it should be more powerful right? What’s next, someone gets harasses because they leave a droplet of grape-juice in their communion cup therefor not drinking all of the blood?

  19. yeah, detroitus, i pretty much agree that sometimes you need to fight fire with fire (or donahue with myers, as it were).

    and aspen, you know i love you, but you are once again trying to apply logic to an illogical idea. don’t you realize that the “jesus christey guy” part of the transubstantiated host exists on a separate plane of reality? or something like that. there’s always a way around it. you know that.

  20. Okay, I’m going to sound like the big old bitch, but oh well.

    There seem to be a theme here of calling PZ rude for his post. And although there’s something to be said for taking the “high road” in certain interpersonal situations, but to ridicule the eucharist in his blog seems like a perfectly acceptable thing to do. Has anyone seems Jeff Dunham’s “Spark of Insanity”? He’s a comedian/ventriloquist, and one of his puppets is a dead terrorist. Most of the set jokes about suicide bombers and 72 virgins! Yet there’s a whole audience, probably mostly Christian, that are hysterically laughing. Ridiculing a silly belief seems to be acceptable, until it is your belief.

    Was PZ sending his post to the Catholic League, or to Catholic churches, or was he just going off on his own personal blog? How is he intentionally pissing people off? There need to be religious folks actually reading and maybe even monitoring his site for it to go as viral as it did.

    So that’s it, I for one, don’t condemn his actions. He seems to be dealing with the consequences just fine, not like one who feels persecuted. That makes him look like the most level-headed on of all in this situation.

    Maybe I’m just used to all my liberal friends picking on my libertarian beliefs, so I see why nothing should be sacred. Even as an ex-devout Catholic, I still don’t think I would have went this nuts over the situation. Maybe I wasn’t as devout as I thought…

    There, bitchin’ done. Time to find some unholy crackers and hummus….

  21. Very true, considering in the old part of the book it says something about their god stating one should not drink blood, yet in the new part it states to drink the blood. Now if their god is infallible wouldn’t these be contradictions of themselves. Religion being logical makes about as much sense as Kirk Cameron’s “croc-o-duck” idea.

    Getting back to the point of this post, PZ is in a win-win situation. Reason I say that is because if somehow (however impossible it may be) the church gets PZ fired, the government then must make it’s rulings equal across the board meaning that for every cathovangelist f*ck-nut that pushes something others find offensive or desecrating, the government must adhere to the same laws that were used to punish PZ. If they double-back on the laws, then discrimination lawsuits will come flying in, and all donahue will be able to do is drop down and suck the proverbial c*ck of their own doing with PZ laughing and blogging away.

  22. That PZ’s remarks (had he actually performed the descecration that he suggested, that would be a slightly different matter) were not as bad as those of the Catholic League is undeniable. However, for some reason, the line from True Lies comes to mind:

    Jamie Lee Curtis: “Did you ever kill anyone?”
    Arnold Schwarzenegger: “Yes, but they were all bad.”

    Being stupid is not excusable just because you’re being stupid about something that’s even more stupid. What happens in this situation is that everyone looks stupid, and between you, you collectively increase the amount of stupidity in the world. In this situation, it is entirely correct and justifiable for innocent bystanders to declare a plague on both your houses.

    Yes, perhaps I should have more barbs for the Catholic Leage and the random morons who issued ridiculous and toothless death threats, but the fact is, they’re stupid people being stupid. For some reason, it annoys me more when smart people act stupid.

  23. Fully in PZ’s camp here. Mark Twain once said “Irreverence is the champion of liberty and its only sure defense.” I know he has at least one consecrated wafer now — I hope he does something brutal to it.

    I am all for taking the moral high ground and for rational discourse. Speaking for myself, it’s my de facto position in arguments. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work when dealing with hysterics and emotion.

    To toss in another quote: You cannot reason a man out of a position he did not reason himself into. (I’ve seen this attributed to both Ben Franklin and Jonathan Swift.)

    These Catholics (not all Catholics, necessarily, but the ones making the fuss) need their priorities reset. Death threats? Really?

    Up the ante. They have their meaningless little rituals, and they want to bring whatever punishment they can coerce from the government or the courts to bear on anyone who doesn’t respect it. Screw that.

    Let PZ and others like him show those buffoons what disrespect looks like. Maybe the next time some non-Catholic “violates” some pointless, vapid rule that’s been around since the Dark Ages, they will think twice before raising a stink.

    Like I said, the high road is great when talking with reasonable people. But in this case, we’re bickering with spoiled children, and you have to interact in ways they’ll understand.

    If they want us to show respect for their point of view, they should be expected to return the favor sometimes.

  24. Nicole – Naturally you’re right. Personally, I don’t think PZ’s actions are necessarily wrong, but they ARE rude. Your example of Jeff Dunham is a good one. Funny guy! But he wouldn’t do his dead terrorist sketch in a room full of muslims… But my earlier point was that rudeness in these matters can be necessary, especially when dealing with equally rude asshats like Bill Donohue.

    Aspen – I think the only problem with what you said is that if Myers gets fired it will have little to nothing to do with the government. Rather it will be because the college president gives in and decides to pander to the religious nutjobs who are harrassing HIM over this. I still think it’s highly unlikely to happen though..

  25. I’ve been giving this topic alot of thought over the last few days and my position has alternated between thinking PZ was completely out of line and thinking I was overreacting. (for the record, I have always believed that the Catholic League overreacted) The one question that keeps coming up on both sides, one that I have been unable to come to a satisfying answer, is “how does this help?”

    When I try to put myself in the shoes of someone who may be sitting on the fence I’m turned off by both sides.

    Maybe (hopefully) I’m wrong. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. But I am never comfortable stooping to someone else’s level.

  26. I have been following this also. I am an Atheist, but my family is Catholic. I think PZ took this one over the top. That said, I do believe in freedom of speech and support he right to say what he feels he has to say.

  27. Yesterday, I said that PZ owed an apology, and I stand by it. But this morning, I realized that I’d neglected to mention that he is likewise owed an apology for all the un-Christian behaviour that he’s been on the receiving end of the past few days.

    But I was, and still am hoping that PZ would prove himself to be the bigger man and apologize first.

  28. PZ lives in America, so he shouldn’t have to apologize for anything. Apologies tend make people on the receiving end think they deserve them as if they have a right not to be offended. Besides, PZ is getting death threats at the moment. That’s called terrorism, folks. If it’s gone that far, how is him apologizing possibly going to do anything? And who would believe the apology if he gave it? I don’t think apologizing would serve any purpose. If people don’t like what he said, go head and don’t like it, but don’t say things like “freedom of speech is great BUT…” There’s an inherent flaw there.

    I agree that this probably isn’t great for the fence-sitters, but that doesn’t mean PZ should apologize.

  29. Feh. We’re fighting for rights here. We’ve been polite and as respectful as we could manage forever. We’ve been taking the high road for centuries. And we’re the most hated minority group in the country.

    No successful movement — Civil Rights, women’s rights, gay rights — has won without support from outside the group. I could accept this as an argument for PZ to drop it.

    However, none of those groups would have achieved the success they’ve had (and they all still have a way to go) without doing something to get attention. Something over the top too piss off the hardliners, but make the moderates realize they are getting upset over something stupid.

    If the Catholic League is going to push THIS ridiculous issue, then it’s high time we pointed out some realities to them.

    Politeness and civilized discourse is the ultimate path to success. But you have to be prepared to thump them on the nose until they are ready for serious dialog.

  30. My comment about PZ apologizing being the good christian thing to do was made mostly in jest (in that I don’t really think he needs to apologize) but I think it does highlight a good point. At the isk of losing all credibility by paraphrasing “Batman Begins” the fact that the Catholic League is disrespectfull makes being respectfull all the more important, and, I think, is a way of showing their hypocracy without turning people off.

  31. Granted, PZ blew his top, but can any of us blame him?

    As a person who chooses not to follow a religion, I get tired of having religious propaganda continually thrown in my face; pamphlets left on my door, guys asking me if I need saving, teachers in school asking me to come to their church, not to mention the looks of disappointment on people’s faces after my response to “What church do you attend?” Many times in the past, when I was younger and before I felt I had a community of skeptics and atheists to turn to, I lied about my faith and claimed to attend a church on the other side of town, simply to avoid the inevitable conversation of “the greatness of god”.

    Now I can back up my reasoning and defend my personal beliefs, and I no longer fear the visits from Jehovah’s Witnesses, but still, I get angry and really just want to come out sometimes and tell the religious that they’re being idiots. I don’t because I do hold dear the belief that people have the right to believe what they choose—so long as it causes no harm to me and so long as I am not forced to believe in it as well. And I can’t be a skeptic and claim that I am 100% in the right, I have no proof of it.

    To me, this is a discussion of what a blog is. Is it a diary you allow others to read? Is it a public forum? Is it a business? PZ has the right to express his personal beliefs, frustrations, irks, and wonderful humor in his own personal blog. As blogs grow in popularity (and widgets), it is hard to remember that they started off as personal journals meant only for the writer and close friends. They have exploded in ways I don’t think anyone expected, creating communities such as the mentally satisfying skepchick.org and SGU. When is a blog a blog and when is a blog a website? And when does a guy expressing his personal views in a personal journal have the clout to incense a nation? It’s just amazing…

    Overall, I’m in the camp standing behind PZ’s right to express his views. It’s your own choice to read a blog. No one is making you… yet.

  32. This is really a lousy week for me. I’ve got a lot of stuff happening in my offline life, and I was planning on just staying quiet. The only reason I said anything about this in the first place was because it was somewhat close to my own background, and I’ve got some pretty strong opinions about the whole thing. But so does everybody else. Very well, so be it.

    Maybe I’m not articulating it as well as I’d like, or maybe you know what I mean, and just enjoy arguing over semantics. But I’m really not able to participate in this discussion, as much as I might like to.

    I’ve said what I’ve wanted to say, and you can do with it what you want with it. So let’s just say that I’m right about some stuff, and wrong about some others, which is pretty much par for the course, and I’ll leave you all to figure out which is which. And I’ll maybe see you next week after I’ve got everything else straightened away. Feel free to carry on without me.

  33. The Catholic League is taking a page from Scientology’s playbook (cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keith_Henson), and the purpose is not to protect Catholics from being offended or from being the victims of violence. The purpose is to silence a critic and, failing that, to punish him using the power of the state and of media. The best way to combat that repulsive practice is to (nonviolently and legally and justly) cause the ridicule, “rudeness,” and “offensiveness” to become so widespread that attacking an individual ridiculer accomplishes nothing except to inflame people against the Catholic League. Then the Church will have to come up with a better solution, like remote deconsecration of pilfered crackers.

  34. A violent reaction to “Host desecration ” is of course nothing new, but I was amazed to read that it could still exist. Maybe the kid was lucky … Below is just a few historical events about ” host desecration ”

    Like the blood libel myth, host desecration makes no logical sense. Being Jews, they would not believe in the Christian doctrine of transubstantiation – that the host during mass becomes the actual body of Jesus. To them, the host is just a simple wafer with no religious significance.

    Nicholl reports that “100 instances of the charge have been recorded, in many cases leading to massacres.” Some of the incidents were:
    * 1021: Rome suffered through both an earthquake and hurricane on Good Friday of that year. Some Jews were charged with having caused the disaster driving a nail through a stolen host. They were tortured until they confessed; they were then burned alive.
    * 1215: The Fourth Lateran Council in Rome declared the belief in transubstantiation. This established the theological basis for the host desecration myth.
    * 1243: All Jews in Berlitz, Germany were burned alive for allegedly torturing a stolen host.
    * 1308: The Bishop of Strasbourg charged Jews in Sulzmatt and Rufach with host desecration. They were burned alive.
    * 1370: Jews in Brabant, Belgium, were accused of defiling the host and were burned alive.
    * 1389: Jews in Prague were accused of attacking a monk carrying a wafer. All of the Jews in the city were offered the choice of conversion to Christianity or death. They were all killed.
    * 1399: A rabbi and 13 elders in Posen, Poland, were charged with stabbing the host and tossing it into a pit. They were slowly roasted to death. Some townspeople believed that the host had bled.

    Unlike the basic Blood Libel myth, rumors of host desecration by Jews appear to have died out in the Middle Ages. It has surfaced recently, during the mid-1990’s. In at least two Roman Catholic cathedrals (one in Ontario, Canada and another in Mississippi) some parishioners believed that Satanists were masquerading as church members, attending mass but not swallowing the host. They believed that it was later taken from the cathedral and used in Satanic rituals.

    http://www.religioustolerance.org/jud_blib2.htm

  35. The thing that always gets me about the arguement that we should “respect” others’ religious beliefs by not mocking them is that we only really hold this true for religious beliefs, and primarily mainstream ones at that. They’re irrational beliefs like any others and should not be sacred cows.

    It would be rude to go up to a person, unprovoked, and say, “Your belief in X is stupid, and you are stupid for believing it!” However, putting your opinion of an unfounded belief on the internet in an opinion format of any kind is not rude. If this were under the definition of rudeness, I would bet almost every single one of us would be rude people who appreciate rudeness in others.

    Most people in skeptic community, and outside of it for that matter, love a good mockery of UFO believers, crystal healing believers, flat earth believers (a primarily religious belief), etc. Somehow when it is a more popular belief being ridiculed, it’s “rude.”

    Then there’s the issue of provocation. When someone uses their illogical beliefs as a basis for harassment of someone else, *especially* to the point of death threats, they have opened themselves up to all manner of comment. They have provoked a reaction from the general public. Once a person threatens physical harm and/or legal action based on illogical beliefs, the public should be outraged. They have certainly forfeited any alleged right to respect.

    Again I feel the need to say, if it was a less mainstream group such scientology, or some obscure cult, or some UFO believers making these threats, no one would acuse anyone of rudeness for saying their beliefs are stupid.

    And don’t even get me started on the ridiculous idea that ideas deserve respect…

  36. I see PZ’s point in this (I don’t think anyone missed it) as completely reasonable.

    I’m atheist, my boyfriend (whom I live with) is Catholic. The fact that we have a son and live together is just one pointing out that he doesn’t do all the Catholic stuff…. but he will get offended if I pester him to do something on a Sunday when he’s supposed to be going to mass.

    I brought up the cracker fiasco to him, explaining what happened, who was who and all that. He doesn’t get it either… to exemplify the attitude I take towards my disagreement with my boyfriend I said “But it IS just a cracker! Come on! It’s not someone’s BODY, Theodore! Why is this guy being threatened death because a priest cooked up a pastry and touched it, and PZ wanted to “do something” to it?”

    It really is JUST a starchy piece of nothing… and kind of in the vein of Richard Dawkin’s opinions, I think we have room to not humor silly superstitions and beliefs. If someone says “bless you” after a sneeze, we’d be silly to respond with “I don’t believe in God,” that is confrontational. But when my SIL asked me to pray for her father who is having emotional problems I told her “he doesn’t need prayer, he needs you and your sisters to find him a psychiatrist.”

    I was majoring in anthropology for a while, and learned that approaching differences in opinion with care can be good for avoid confrontation and stuff – but PZ can afford that. He’s not afraid to be offensive. What does humoring Catholics benefit him?

    What does it benefit any of us beside avoiding raising our blood pressure by having an argument?

  37. Sorry if someone has posted this already but an interesting development. The original Florida kid is filing hazing charges against the university Catholic student group:

    http://www.wftv.com/irresistible/16872192/detail.html

    Cook said his hazing complaint cited a UCF anti-hazing policy banning the forced consumption of any food in which the initiation or admission into or affiliation with a University of Central Florida organization may be directly or indirectly conditioned.

    The rule, presumably, was intended to prevent fraternities from force-feeding pledges disgusting food, but Cook said the rule is clear and applies to all UCF clubs, including the Catholic Campus Ministries religious group. He insists the group is guilty because members ordered him to consume the Eucharist to remain at Mass.

  38. Well that just took a turn for the hilarious. That kid deserves some kind of award. And I love that in the article he’s referred to as “Student Government Senator.” Excuse me, that’s MR. Student Government Senator to you.

    If I ever have kids, I’m going to teach them all they need to know about humanity and religion by simply telling this one story.

  39. I think that PZ would have been out of line if he had called for a mass cracker desecration on a Catholic forum. The fact that he did it on his OWN blog, however, says that he was completely in the right. And the hazing thing?? That’s beyond funny! I don’t know if it’s because it’s so ridiculous, or because it’s so appropriate…

    I, for one, am sick of religious groups acting like they deserve special priviliges in this country.

  40. Dawkins has asked on his site for people to send letters/emails on PZ’s defense to the university–from the comments it seems that hundreds of people have done so! So if PZ doesn’t have an army of heathens, Dawkins certainly does! :)

  41. Hi there!

    I’m really annoyed about the whole PZ Meyers thing because my friend Garrett thought about this years ago! :(

    At a mutual friend’s (Catholic) wedding, I noticed my friend Garrett approach the altar during communion to receive the host. My lovely wifey, also Catholic, did not go up for communion, since she hadn’t been to confession that week, and did not believe in taking the host without being in a state of grace.

    Later at the reception, I asked my friend Garrett: “So, what DOES Jesus taste like?”. He shrugged and produced the uneaten cracker from his jacket pocket. I asked him what he was going to do with it, and he replied: “I’m going to take a picture of it and send it to the Pope with a letter saying: “We have your Savior, here are our demands …”. Even my wife laughed.

    I assumed that he did exactly that, and that the Vatican had simply written him off as a sarcastic joker. (which he is, admittedly) But with all this hubbub over PZ Meyers and his Jesus cracker, I’m wondering if he just never went through with it!

    (of course that was during John Paul II’s papacy. I wonder if he was just less over-protective of their Lord and Savior)

    If I’d have known how much controversy it would cause, I’d have done this myself! :D

  42. The plot thickens! He’s not going to let it slide, from the looks of it:

    http://minnesotaindependent.com/view/mnindy-interview

    Myers: The response has done nothing but confirm it: I have to do something. I’m not going to just let this disappear. It’s just so darned weird that they’re demanding that I offer this respect to a symbol that means nothing to me. Something will be done. It won’t be gross. It won’t be totally tasteless, but yeah, I’ll do something that shows this cracker has no power. This cracker is nothing.

  43. augustus, i have to say, i’ve pretty much been doing the same thing. either way, i don’t think pz should apologize. it’s not his style, anyway. plus, now that the gauntlet has been thrown down and they’ve continued to up the ante, i think his only option is to take it further, lest he appear to be caving to their bullying tactics.

    like peregrine, this subject hits me where i live, and it’s opened up some wounds, leaving me a bit wary of where it’s headed. the bottom line is that i have a family celebration to go to next weekend, and i’m flat out dreading it because of all this. i just wish i could spend time with them and relax and not worry about having to be prepared to defend my point of view against an onslaught of catholic propaganda. since this started i’ve been working through mock arguments in my head so they don’t catch me off my guard. that’s really sad, isn’t it? i almost don’t want to go, but my mom will only have one fiftieth birthday.

    so i guess my views on this situation are steeped in my personal history trying to debate these types of issues with my family, while attempting to maintain some sort of functional relationship with them.

  44. “plus, now that the gauntlet has been thrown down and they’ve continued to up the ante, i think his only option is to take it further, lest he appear to be caving to their bullying tactics. ”

    Yes, thank you, carr.

    The guy in Florida who swiped the one that started all this gave it back. His choice, and I can’t say I’d do differently in the face of death threats. Maybe I’ll find out someday.

    But if PZ is going to show that he won’t be cowed by their threats or whining or complaints or nasty emails or calls to various officials or anything else their limited imaginations can think of, then I applaud him. If there’s even a *chance* that the Bill Donohues of the world will see that they are making it worse with their behavior, then we should take it.

    And there’s always a chance. I wouldn’t bet on it, but eventually, hysteria becomes exhausting.

  45. I applaud your optimism, Phlebas. Unfortunately, I think that the odds that someone who believes that blessing a piece of bread magically turns it into Jesus Loaf will ever be inclined to critically examine the results of thier own behavior are worse than low.

  46. If I didn’t hang on to some sort of optimism while living in the Bible Belt, I’d go nuts.

    I don’t think it’ll shift any opinions either. But if they really believe that bizarre horse squeeze, maybe the fear of mutual escalation will make them gun shy next time.

  47. I would like to see PZ get a “consecrated” cracker and several unconsecrated crackers and offer to return the one made of jebusflesh if anyone can pick it out of a line-up. It may even qualify the Catholic church for the MDC if they can do it with any repeatable accuracy (like the “differentiate between stock solvent and homeopathic preparation test”).

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