Hero Worship?

Well, not really, but it will probably sound like it… I just want to answer one of the criticisms of PZ Myers and the whole Wafergate thing.

There is this argument – which admittedly has merit, until you think about it a little – that PZ is asking his followers to accept a sacrament that is not meant to be given to non-believers, and is distributed on private property, so what it symbolizes to Christians shouldn’t be an offense to those outside church walls.

I appreciate what these people are saying, but I respectfully disagree.

What Myers is trying to call attention to is the abuse directed toward someone who dared to treat a communion wafer differently than orthodox calls for. One may or may not agree with Myers’s methods, but it is this type of call to reason that has changed the secular and religious worlds before.

Consider Martin Luther, who in 1517 posted his 95 Theses to the doors of churches – using sacred buildings as bulletin boards to denounce church doctrine (most notably, the selling of indulgences) that abused the masses. Luther’s treatise was heresy and blasphemy, but ultimately, Luther’s message caused non-clergy types to think about what they were being asked, expected and often forced to believe, and led to the development of new denominations within Christianity.

PZ Myers is challenging another illogical doctrine which some religious folks are using to justify threats of violence and death towards another human being. Granted, Myers is presenting a secular model, as opposed to Luther’s altered religious ideals, but his message, outrageous as it may be, is still calling people to think about the doctrine of transubstantiation and the abuse the church feels compelled to pile on anyone who dares to disagree with it.

It is an extraordinary action designed to challenge an extraordinary claim. Think about where we would be without revolutionaries like Luther to challenge the church and attempt to balance its constant attempts at power and degradation of the masses.

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Godless Liberal vs. Uptight Catholics

It is appropriate that the first thought I had when reading PZ Myers’s blog entry from 7/8/08 was, That’s it. I gotta get out. Somebody point me to the asylum’s exit. Wonko won’t believe this. If you’ve no idea what I’m talking about, pick up a copy of So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, by Douglas Adams.

It is Adams that makes the thought so apropos – this quote, excerpted from a speech at Cambridge, is important to remember as I continue:

[Religion] has certain ideas at the heart of it which we call sacred or holy or whatever. That’s an idea we’re so familiar with, whether we subscribe to it or not, that it’s kind of odd to think what it actually means, because really what it means is ‘Here is an idea or a notion that you’re not allowed to say anything bad about; you’re just not. Why not? — because you’re not!’ If somebody votes for a party that you don’t agree with, you’re free to argue about it as much as you like; everybody will have an argument but nobody feels aggrieved by it. If somebody thinks taxes should go up or down you are free to have an argument about it, but on the other hand if somebody says ‘I mustn’t move a light switch on a Saturday’, you say, ‘Fine, I respect that’.

Yet, religion demands it. If that was the purpose of this post, and if I had a while to type, I could expound on my many theories as to why, but that’s for another day. The important thing is that regardless of one’s own personal convictions, we are universally expected to respect and adhere to the sacred convictions of someone else.

So I cheered as read Myers’s rant on the topic of student Webster Cook choosing to not eat his communion wafer, but rather to take it out of the church with him, inciting Catholic fury over the sacrilege:

“We don’t know 100% what Mr. Cooks motivation was,” said Susan Fani a spokesperson with the local Catholic diocese. “However, if anything were to qualify as a hate crime, to us this seems like this might be it.”

We just expect the University to take this seriously,” she added “To send a message to not just Mr. Cook but the whole community that this kind of really complete sacrilege will not be tolerated.”

Wait, what? Holding a cracker hostage is now a hate crime? The murder of Matthew Shephard was a hate crime. The murder of James Byrd Jr. was a hate crime. This is a goddamned cracker. Can you possibly diminish the abuse of real human beings any further?

It gets better! Myers goes on to express his anger and frustration in a statement which has riled Catholics around the nation:

…if any of you would be willing to do what it takes to get me some, or even one [communion wafer], and mail it to me, I’ll show you sacrilege, gladly, and with much fanfare. I won’t be tempted to hold it hostage (no, not even if I have a choice between returning the Eucharist and watching Bill Donohue kick the pope in the balls, which would apparently be a more humane act than desecrating a goddamned cracker), but will instead treat it with profound disrespect and heinous cracker abuse, all photographed and presented here on the web.

Admittedly, I couldn’t bear to read much of the inisipid hate mail he posted in a later blog entry – the first twenty or so seemed to say pretty much the same thing (a majority of them ending with promises to pray for Mr. Myers) – but it seems to me that a lot of people took a lot of liberal license in determining exactly what he meant by “heinous cracker abuse.” I’m guessing whatever they believed might be most heinous is what they expected him to do.

Now, they’re after his job, because he dared to link to his non-University-sponsored blog on his University profile page. Interestingly, the Catholic League has referred to this as “the vitriol we have experienced for simply exercising our First Amendment right to freedom of speech,” yet seems to care little about anyone else’s freedom of speech, because it fails to respect their own views (remember what Adams had to say about that?).

For what it’s worth, I do respect the right of everyone to believe what they choose. What I don’t respect, and refuse to support, is the imposition of those beliefs onto those who don’t share them. I don’t care if you believe the cracker is the transubstantiation of Christ. Then you treat it with respect. Cover your own ass. And personally, if my flesh were transubstantiated into a cracker, I think I’d prefer to not be chewed up, digested and pooped out. It seems awfully undignified, don’t you think?

Come on people, let’s have a little common sense and a little less self-fulledness. I don’t think there’s much room left for adding another wing to the asylum.