The PZ Myers Brouhaha

Ken AshfordGodstuff3 Comments

UPDATE: A helpful perspective from Heather in the comments….  be sure to check it out

I occasionally read PZ Myer’s blog: Pharyngula.  PZ, a biologist and assistant professor at University of Minnesota, is a very good writer (excuse me, very well writer) known mostly for his eloquent posts debuking creationism and intelligent design theories.  While not usually incidiary, PZ — an unapolgetic atheist — does get snarky from time to time.

On July 8, PZ penned a post regarding an incident that happened at a catholic church at the University of Central Florida.  A student named William Cook attended the mass there, and received the Eucharist.

For the uninitiated, the Eucharist is a small bread wafer blessed by a priest. According to Catholics, the wafer becomes the Body of Christ once blessed and is to be consumed immediately after a minister passes it out to churchgoers.

But Cook didn’t consume the wafer.  He wanted to show it to a friend, who had come to Mass out of curiosity about the Catholic faith.  But Cook got three steps away from the altar, when he was stopped by miffed Catholics who told him to eat the wafer.  Cook stuck it in his mouth, but took it out when he returned to his pew.

What followed was an in-church skuffle, and Cook left… with the unconsumed Eucharist.  This action only made thing worse.

The incident got the attention of William Donahue, President of the Catholic League.  William Donahue is, to many (myself included) the Jerry Falwell of Catholics.  Always looking for something to get outraged about.  You know.

Anyway, that got the attention of PZ Myers, who wrote about the incident, and Donahue’s over-the-top reaction in a post entitled "It’s A Frickin’ Cracker!"  To illustrate his point, he (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) asks his readers to send him an "unused" Eucharist for an experiment he is going to do on it (nothing unsavory, he assured).

As a result of his post, Bill Donahue himself issued a press release calling for the University of Minnesota to fire Myers.  And Myers himself gets death threats.

So, to sum:

1. Poor kid takes home uneaten eucharist to show his friend.
2. Church and catholics go batshit crazy.
3. PZ thinks this is ridiculous and says so, also says he may do some things to a cracker.
4. Church and catholics go batshit crazy.

The parallels have been interesting.  Catholics have been arguing that Myers was demeaning something which they hold sacred, and that is beyond the pale.  The problem, in my view, is this: Where were these Catholics when the Koran was being descrated?  Or the Muhammed cartoons?  Interestingly, many of the people who sent nast emails to Myers suggest that he attack the Koran.

So what’s the message?  We should respect religions, but only if the religion is mine?

The mainstream media has picked up on it.

And a woman who sent a death threat to Myers from her work email (at 1-800-FLOWERS) has been fired, even though (it was later learned) that her husband actually used her account to send the threat.

My take?  Well, what Myers said was simply his opinion: the eucharist is a cracker and not the literal body of Christ.  Some of Myer’s critics insist that it IS the literal body of Christ, and to those people, I suggest that they look up the word "literal" in the dictionary.  But even if you disagree with Myers, it’s just one man’s opinion.  Is the Catholic Church so weak that their panties get in a wad over this?

And as for death threats, is that would Jesus would do?   This is what makes me wonder about religion.  For some people, it’s about their religion and their church.  They seem to have forgotten about the teachings of those they worship.

Sad, really.