Metroblog

A one-time school project gone terribly, terribly wrong.

15 July 2008

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.

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13 Comments:

At 12:46 PM, Blogger Wandering Coyote said...

Ah, so this is why LOLtheist had all kinds of posts up about the host/cracker/cookies (some of them very funny, though I didn't know the back story).

Thanks for this post. What a ridiculous story!

 
At 1:21 PM, Blogger Philipa said...

Yup, I'm with you on this, completely. I'd like him to pop to Iraq and whip the veils and hijab off a few women (then at the call to prayer turn the wrong way and expose his buttocks?). Then tell me how funny all that is and how affronted he is by their outrage. 'cept he'd be dead and not saying anything. Obviously.

 
At 1:44 PM, Blogger Metro said...

@WC:
You're welcome.

I tend to agree with Meyers about the general ridiculousness of our treasured superstitions, but as I'm separated from mine by a relatively short distance, I'm less comfortable slapping folks in the face over minor crap.

That said, I doubt Bill Donahue would have stood for my opinions even when I was still a wee Catholic lad.

@Philipa:

Don't get him wrong--Meyers slams all religions. Not equally, but since the religious row in his home country is focused on Christianity, that's where his attention is directed.

And his opponent is far stupider. Bill Donahue was the guy with his bra in a bow over the chocolate Christ. That is, he seemed to have a problem with the idea that the body of Christ might be made from something edible ...

Sill notion, isn't it? ;-)

 
At 1:55 PM, Blogger Pugs said...

I actually did this when I was in third grade. My cousin took me to mass and I wanted to see what the wafer tasted like so I immitated everyone else and went in line and received communion. When I got home, we told our families what I had done and they laughed and said I was a dumbass. End of story...

I think people are much too irrational when it comes to religion. No matter what you say, the fear that they may somehow burn in hell keeps them coming back.

 
At 2:24 PM, Blogger Metro said...

When I was a small child, I used to run about in the back of the ecuminical chapel at my parents' alma mater and stuff in handfulls of sugar cubes, coffee mate, and occasionally unconsecrated hosts.

I recall being dragged by the arm from the table once. But I'd already gotten a mouthful.

This guy was an adult, and did it foolishly and deliberately, knowing there'd be a reaction. Cook seems to me to be like the child who, having lit the fuse, is astounded to hear the boom.

But the proper reaction was the same one your parents gave you, I think.

 
At 7:30 PM, Blogger keywesthaven1@msn.com (Terry) said...

"It was the message 'Hell's Best Kept Secret' that set me on fire to evangelize the world. I wouldn't be where I am or who I am today without God having spoken to me through that message. I spent 3 years doing non-stop tract and personal evangelism from the time I first heard the message at 15 years of age until I left to go to Peru and China in 2002 after graduating from high school. I have now been a missionary for about 5 years . . . in the foothills of Tibet ministering to Buddhists and Muslims. I have prayed and longed for the day that 'Hell's Best Kept Secret' would no longer be the secret that it once was, and I am overjoyed to see all that God has done and is still doing!!!!" -- Eugene West

Praying for You! The HBKS video is available on my blogs/website.

God Bless! Have a Nice Day !!! :)

 
At 7:37 PM, Blogger keywesthaven1@msn.com (Terry) said...

You really do need professional help, if you desire to be in Hell with John Lennon.

Try reading a Bible and praying to the God that created you, and the universe.

Psalm 14:1

1 The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.

 
At 8:01 PM, Blogger Wandering Coyote said...

*snicker*

 
At 10:21 PM, Blogger Metro said...

Terry:

So okay, yah. Comment #1 is a testimonial.

Personally I swear by Tiger Balm, have you tried it?

Comment #2
How do you know John Lennon's in Hell? Are you so proud that you presume to know the mind of your god?

Come to think of it, how do you know there's such a place. Or such a god?

You see, I was raised in faith by devout parents. Then I reached the age of reason.

What point is there in praying for faith? None can stand against the will of God, and it is my fate that he has made me an athiest.

He works, as they say, in mysterious ways. But who am I to flout the will of my creator?

I will convert when someone shows me scientifically-verifiable proof of the existence of a god. Not before.

And that's not such an unreasonable request, right? Jesus appeared in person to Thomas--let him poke his hand into the wounds.

God himself sent his own son in person to save the world. And from his own Words, he will pursue a single lamb of his flock in order to save it.

So presumably he considers me important enough to send me a personal message. Or at least prove He exists so that I can believe in Him, no?

So--scientifically-verifiable evidence: Are we agreed?

Of course we are, because you're a reasonable dude and not just a concern troll who drops this exact comment all over the 'net, right?

 
At 4:29 AM, Blogger Philipa said...

Cook seems to me to be like the child who, having lit the fuse, is astounded to hear the boom.

excellent!

But Metro, everyone should know that being with John Lennon is hell, even when he was alive.

 
At 7:01 AM, Blogger Metro said...

@Philipa:
Many people are reckoned dicks in their personal lives who are enormously talented and competent in their professional ones.

I suppose that's the big hitch, really.

 
At 11:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a minor matter of housekeeping here. The doctor's last name is spelled Myers not Meyers and the head of the Catholic League is Bill Donohue not Donahue

I realize that addresses nothing of any substance.

 
At 9:34 AM, Blogger Metro said...

On the contrary, 'nony. It means I haven't been duly dilligent in my posting.

It sometimes happens when the froth on my temper sprays onto the keyboard.

But since bad spelling is characteristic of sloppy workmanship, it can also indicate poor research into an argument.

So I'm going to correct those errors. Thanks for pointing them out.

 

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