Crackergate revisited

In 2008, PZ Myers, an associate professor of biology at the University of Minnesota’s Morris campus stirred up a considerable degree of controversy with the following post on his famous Pharyngula blog

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. 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. I shall do so joyfully and with laughter in my heart. If you can smuggle some out from under the armed guards and grim nuns hovering over your local communion ceremony, just write to me and I’ll send you my home address.

Are you shocked by the above? Do you feel that it is totally inappropriate? Well its not, because in context its oh so very appropriate; anybody not supporting it needs to seriously consider having their moral compass reset. Confused? OK then, read on to find out what really happened.

It all started when University of Central Florida student, Webster Cook, attended a Catholic mass on Campus. When he received the communion wafer he intended to consume it, but first wanted to show it to a fellow student who was curious, so with the wafer still in his hand, he took about three steps to go show his mate and was grabbed. An attempt was then made to pry the cracker out of his hands, but he popped it in his mouth and left without consuming it. Things quickly escalated to an insane degree. Webster was accused of kidnapping and holding “Christ” hostage, and also started receiving death threats via email. Even Bill Donohue of the Catholic League got in on the act and declared it “beyond hate speech” and said that “All options should be on the table, including expulsion”.

As a side note, its worth appreciating that Bill Donohue has made a profession out of being personally offended by anything non-Catholic. It is truly awe inspiring to watch this complete Gobshite appear regularly on camera defending his Pedophile cult as the ultimate bastion of morality.

Now, lets pause for a moment and take a quick reality check. The true issue here is the complete insanity of it all. In essence, a student walks away with a Cracker after a magical incantation had been conducted and as a result receives death threats!! (I bet you thought it was just the Muslims who did that kind of stuff).

OK, on with the story. So its in this context that PZ jumps in and blogs “ITS A FRACKING CRACKER”. He outlines how totally crazy it all is and then asks his readers for a consecrated host so that he can desecrate it. As you might imagine this stirred up a reaction.

Bill Donohue, who makes a profession out of being offended, jumps in and pushes PZ’s university administrators to get PZ fired. In fact, he generated so much bile with his fear mongering that he motivated a Catholic delegate attending the Republican convention to request additional security because of the fear that PZ and friends would travel 150 miles to descend upon them all.

PZ, quite rightly replies on his blog with “Can this get even more insane?” (You betcha … these folks, checked out of reality a long time back).

The flow of hate-mail going to PZ quickly ramped up, but then that’s not a surprise when you consider that this is the same organization that brought us manifestations of Christian Love and Peace such as the inquisition and the crusades. I guess old habits die hard.

Finally, on July 24 the big day arrives. PZ posted “The Great Desecration”. He very clearly outlines the history of the cracker’s use as a symbol to manipulate the mob and the destructive influence it has had.

(As an aside, it still clearly works, because by that time PZ had received literally thousands of items of Catholic hate mail directed against both himself and his family, all because he refused to accept that a cracker had magically turned into a supernatural entity.

In the same blog posting, PZ then put up some photos of the divine cracker pierced with a rusty nail and  tossed out in the trash. Also, just to ensure complete impartiality, he  nailed it to a few ripped out pages from both “The God Delusion” and also the Qu’ran. It was just a cracker and they are just paper.

Is this anti-catholic bigotry in action?

OK, this is the key question, it stirred up a lot of controversy, so lets think about it for a moment. A fundamental human right is the concept of “Freedom of Thought”, people need to be free to believe whatever they wish, so a bigot would be in breach of that because they would be intolerant and irrationally opposed to others because they hold a different view. I can assure you that PZ is quite happy to embrace freedom of thought, if folks wish to believe that a cracker is not just a cracker, fine, but don’t expect the more rational of us to go along with the idea. When confronted with folks who don’t buy into such a fantasy, an appropriate response from the believers might be to suggest that non-believers are not welcome to attend their next Mass. What is not appropriate is assault, or attempts to get individuals fired just because they don’t buy into the fantasy. When you then fan the flames and generate death-threats, you have crossed the line.

So what is an appropriate response when folks cross the line? I would strongly suggest that doing nothing is not an option. When faced with Catholic bigotry, desecration of a cracker is truly holding the high moral ground. PZ did not in any way stoop to their level and issue death threats or seek to have anybody fired. While still respecting their right to believe whatever they wish, he exercised his freedom of speech in response to their bigotry in a totally harmless manner that highlighted how completely insane their position is.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke  (British Statesman and Philosopher, 1729-1797)

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