Obscure bits of religious dogma are causing a bit of a ridiculous argument over in the USA. It seems that crackers need to be treated with the right level of respect if you don’t want the might of the Catholic League coming after you.
It’s not just any old cracker, of course. Oh no. It needs to be a cracker that has gone through the mystical transformation process that turns an ordinary cracker into the body of the messiah.
I don’t know if you realise this, but all over the world catholics believe that during the communion service, the crackers and wine literally turn into the body and blood of Jesus. Of course, it’s still really well disguised as crackers and wine, but that doesn’t matter to the catholics. What matters is what they believe. Which is that as part of of the communion they are literally consuming the body and blood of Jesus. I suppose that explains why the ten commandments contain no injunction against cannibalism.
Anyway, this story begins when a Florida student called Webster Cook decided that instead of eating the cracker he was given he would instead walk out of church with it. This decision didn’t go down well with local catholics. A representative of the local diocese described it as a hate crime. Fearing repercussions, Cook returned the cracker.
The story was picked up on Tuesday by PZ Myers, the Minnesota biology professor who wirtes the Pharyngula blog. Myers, quite rightly, had a little bit of a laugh at the expense of the catholic church before making a more serious point:
I find this all utterly unbelievable. It’s like Dark Age superstition
and malice, all thriving with the endorsement of secular institutions
here in 21st century America. It is a culture of deluded lunatics
calling the shots and making human beings dance to their mythical
He then takes it a step further:
Can anyone out there score me some consecrated communion wafers?
There’s no way I can personally get them — my local churches have
stakes prepared for me, I’m sure — but if any of you would be willing
to do what it takes to get me some, or even one, and mail it to me,
I’ll show you sacrilege, gladly, and with much fanfare.
And that has done nothing at all to calm the situation down. In a follow-up post, Myers catalogues the hate mail he has received since posting his previous entry.
So far today, I have received 39 pieces of personal hate mail of varying degrees of literacy, all because I was rude to a cracker. Four of them have included death threats, a personal one day record. Thirty-four of them have demanded that I be fired.
He also has the Catholic League starting a witch-hunt against him.
The Catholic League are, of course, just showing themselves up as ridiculous fantasists. It’s the twenty-first century. No-one is going to believe in transubstantiation unless it has been drummed into them from an obscenely early age. It’s a nonsense. The communion wafer remains a communion wafer. The wine remains wine. You can believe whatever you like about what it represents. But it doesn’t actually change.
The more that religious organisations like the Cathloic League over-react to situations like this, the more they will alienate themselves from the general public. This has to be a win for rationalism. This story needs to be seen by as many people as possible, so that as many people as possible have the chance to look at it and say, “What are they talking about? It’s only a bloody cracker!”