Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right #2
Update July 19th: An anonymous commentor has left me a note correcting my spelling of the names Myers (lose the extra "e") and Donohue ("o" not "a"). I am grateful.
Okay, so as an ex-Catholic I feel like I have to wade into crackergate.
1) I'm an atheist. I don't feel anyone's superstitions--from virgin birth, to UFOs, to real, live mummified fairies should be "respected" in the public sphere.
2) Webster Cook entered a church, that is, a building dedicated to Christian worship. There he participated in the Mass, as he apparently had before. He went to Communion and took the wafer. Webster Cook has yet to explain why he, who should apparently have known better, took an item he knew was sacred. Nor why and how the affair became public. A friend of his apparently claimed Cook wanted to show him "what the Host means to Catholics."
Well now he knows.
3) Cook then left the church and stuck the Host in a baggie. Then apparently announced to someone that he had done so. Otherwise who'd know?
4) He received a lot of mail. Some of it was hate mail and death threats, apparently. Not all of it, I guarantee, was Catholic.
5) He returned the host after a week. I note that no report indicates clearly what he did with it, nor how he communicated with church officials in the meantime. The words "holding hostage" are mentioned, but I can't make out if those were Cook's words or the overwrought reporting. If they're Cook's, then he's twice teh stupid. But who cares. He gave it back and that's the important thing.
And that's where PZ Myers got stuck in.
I generally like Meyers. And I often feel that the world needs more people like him. But on this, he's dead wrong.
PZ was apparently so incensed by the hate mail and death threats, along with Bill Donohue's Catholic League statement that this is "beyond hate crime", that he couldn't resist poking up the fire a little. He asked people to enter Catholic churches and get him consecrated hosts, which he would then personally desecrate.
Wrong, wrong, wrong.
I believe transubstantiation is a stuperstition. I believe that, as Myers originally wrote: "It's a Goddamned Cracker! (before, in an uncharacteristic act of self-censorship, he changed it to "Frackin' Cracker").
I also believe that some Catholics need a lot more metaphorical kicking around than they get. Bill Donohue (whose howls of outrage at this act went so far as to accuse Webster Cook of a hate crime) is one. Pope Benedict would command a lot more respect if he officially told Bill to STFU.
But Myers is just as bad, on this issue. In the post linked above he exhorted folks to send him consecrated hosts. He claims he's justified in threatening to desecrate hosts because of the hate mail Cook and he himself are getting.
The two are not analogous. The hate mail and death threats (and as I said, I guarantee not all of them are from Catholics) are recognized (INCLUDING by the vast majority of Catholics) as unreasonable, an overreaction to an incident that was deliberately instigated. Cook could have quietly snuck the host around to the back door of the church. Instead he decided to go public, loudly, leaving himself vulnerable to targeting by unstable @$$#0!3s.
I feel the majority of atheists feel that Myers' rhetorical act was just as hyperbolic.
On one side, Donohue says it's a hate crime. No, I don't think so. I feel Webster's got an issue or two with the CC, but that he acted mostly out of stupidity or (charitably speaking) curiosity. On the other hand, people say it's akin to the Muslim cartoon business. Not quite--the cartoons were the product and publication of the papers concerned. No-one's saying Webster Cook can't cook himself a wafer.
And here's where my opinion rests:
It's their house, their rules.
Inside their private faith building, you do what they do. You respect their traditions or stay the hell outside! Stealing a host, wearing shoes into a mosque, chomping on a BLT in a synagogue--all deliberately stupid and offensive. Should I go into your house and start tearing up photos of your grandmother just because she means nothing to me?
It might not legally be theft. After all, the host is given to anyone with their hand out at the right time. But it's certainly misuse. If Webster Cook had pulled the same stunt with a rental car, he'd be piling up some serious bills for having violated the letter and spirit of the rental contract.
It's marginally different if the perpetrator can claim innocence. But Cook stole that wafer from a church, a house of worship he had apparently been to before. According to his friend, Cook knew the significance of the blessed host. He's since returned it for burial, too.
And there it might have ended, but for Cook's need for publicity and particularly Myers' need to turn it up to eleven and yank off the knob. Threatening to publicly desecrate a consecrated host is every bit as needlessly offensive as anything Bill Donohue ever said. Myers' intentional desecration--well I would see it as being little different from scrawling swastikas on synagogues.
If you don't want to see a church service, don't go to a church. If you don't want a $#17storm, don't steal a sacred item from that church and brag about it!
But threatening to desecrate a host? Why? Was that really necessary? Or has Myers' hat for a moment ceased to fit his head?
If we adopt simply being offensive to as many people as possible as a strategy, atheists start to look like jackasses. PZ also kicked rationality in the nuts by publishing the names and IPs of some of his spammers and threateners. That hurt us as atheists too.
Because, guess what? Offended atheists can be just as irrational, ignorant, and threatening as offended alleged Christians. Who'da thunk humans could be stupid on both sides of an argument, eh? I'm honestly not sure Meyers actually expected that.
In fact, in an ironical turn, he says " ... we're supposed to be better than that."
Yes, PZ. My point exactly.
I'd like to see Myers admit that, just this once, he was wrong.
Because sometimes a cigar is just a cigar;
But sometimes a cracker is not just a cracker.
And it's a shame, because there's a lot of stupidity out there in the name of, or in the name of respecting respecting people of faith. And Myers has been leading the charge. Now he seems to have gotten sidetracked.
Addendum: Cook is now accusing the University of Florida's Catholic Association of violating the university's hazing policy for trying to persuade him to eat the Host. He also claims Catholics violate the underage drinking policy by serving communion wine to "minors" (US definition of a minor: Someone who can kill for their country, vote, and have school-age children before they can legally drink).
Cook's a jerk. The fact that he's received death threats doesn't make him a saint.