Sunday Sermon: Holy Eucharist, Batman!

communionI’ve been talking a lot about “New Atheists” and “accommodationists” recently, so this might be a good time to take a look at a controversy from last year, when militant atheist PZ Myers deliberately desecrated a Catholic communion wafer and provoked a storm of controversy.

From the “atheist etiquette” POV, of course, it’s anything but polite to deliberately offend someone, and very few things are more offensive to Catholics than a deliberate desecration of what they believe to be the actual body of Jesus Christ.

But there’s an interesting double standard at work here. The assumption seems to be that if somebody views a wafer made of flour and water to be the body of Jesus, and treats it accordingly, we should respect that view, no matter how silly or misguided we believe it to be.

If that’s true, then what about the belief that a wafer made of flour and water is, well, just a cracker? What if someone believes that, and treats that wafer accordingly — that is to say, with no more respect than we’d give to any other inanimate object? Shouldn’t we respect that viewpoint, and that action, just as much as we respect the other view?

Last time I checked, the Golden Rule was one of the “biggies” in Christian doctrine. Why aren’t any of the outraged Catholics applying it? If they would have others respect their view that a communion wafer is more than “just a cracker,” shouldn’t they respect the view that it isn’t?

(Communion cartoon via St. James Westminster Anglican Church, London)

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4 responses to this post.

  1. I don’t recall this incident, but if he disrespected the communion wafer in a church during a communion ceremony, then it was flat wrong. There is no excuse or reason for it.

    If he did it as a publicity stunt that didn’t interrupt a service, then I view it akin to burning the flag. Clearly the intent is highly inflammatory, but really not worth getting worked up about.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Stepan on September 15, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    I do recall the incident and remember thinking back then “what a dick!”

    Seems to me like a violation of your Etiquette Rule #1.

    Reply

    • Posted by brachinus on September 15, 2009 at 1:25 pm

      Agreed, Stepan. And I noted that “it’s anything but polite to deliberately offend someone.” I wasn’t trying to suggest that PZ Myers was the embodiment of atheist etiquette (and I suspect he’d agree he’s not), but rather to point out the double standard embodied in the reaction to his rather egregious breach of etiquette.

      Reply

  3. Posted by OwenP on September 17, 2009 at 4:52 am

    “I don’t recall this incident, but if he disrespected the communion wafer in a church during a communion ceremony, then it was flat wrong. There is no excuse or reason for it.”

    That’s not what happened. There was a build up that started with someone being harassed (by Catholics) for a relatively harmless event, and escalated from there. PZ’s ultimate cracker-desecration was the end of a series of events, not something that came out of nowhere, just for the sake of it.

    (You might still disagree that the justification is valid, but you can’t reasonably critique the action without taking the history into account.)

    Reply

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