Well, I guess I should weigh in on PZ Myers’ big cracker scandal as it seems to have the skeptical blogs community all in a kerfuffle.
First the links
PZ’s original post, response from the Catholic League, more comments from the original post, a request for support, another comment dump, more from the Catholic League, opposition emails, trolls, and death/harm threats he received. These are all of the links regarding Crackergate 2008 on PZ’s blog as of this posting.
Now a summary in case you don’t want to sift through all that. Here goes:
A student went to church one day and instead of eating, digesting, and pooping his Eucharist like a good Catholic, he pocketed it for some reason. The Catholic community was up at arms demanding that the kid be expelled from his university, etc. Some Catholics equated pocketing a Eucharist to kidnapping Jesus, said it was a hate crime, and sent the guy death threats. PZ weighed in on the issue stating (I’m paraphrasing) that no one should be subject to this kind of abuse over a goddamn cracker. He then hinted that he would do worse to one such cracker if a reader would kindly obtain one and mail it to him.
In comes the wrath from all sides. Whereas the Catholic League is basically being a ridiculous terrorist group on the matter (why don’t they just release a vague, threatening video from a cave already?), the atheist side is saying PZ was too “rude” and maybe should be the bigger person and apologize.
- PZ lives in America. Free speech. Get over it. You can’t say “Freedom of speech is great, but…” There is no “but” unless you’re taking away some part of that liberty.
- Apologies tend make people on the receiving end think they deserve them as if they have a right not to be offended. They don’t have that right.
- PZ is getting death threats at the moment. That’s called terrorism, folks.
If it’s gone that far, how is him apologizing possibly going to do anything? I don’t think apologizing would serve any purpose at this point.
My view on the matter
From the point of view of the Catholics (coming from someone who was unsuccessfully raised Catholic) the Eucharist IS Jesus. To us it seems weird to consume the body of one’s deity on a weekly basis, but that’s what the cracker represents. So from their perspective, this kid might as well have gone up to the holy water bath in the middle of mass and pooped in it, then blessed the statue of the virgin Mary with the resultant mixture.
However, one must question the logic of distinguishing between taking a Eucharist and putting it in your pocket and putting it in your mouth. If the former is not proper, would not a simple explanation of his impropriety from his priest have sufficed? Why the demand for him to be expelled from university and equating his actions with hate and kidnapping?
The response from the members of the Catholic community who have been vocal about this is a complete overreaction. Everyone is so offended by everything that we are all walking on eggshells because if you’re offended by anything all you have to do is make crazy threats and demands until you get your way. Nobody wants any trouble, after all.
Well, we need to get over that shit. It’s a society of 3-year-old tantrums and mom giving in. And we see how well that works out for mom… Being accommodating is one thing, but being bullied and terrorized into submission is another thing entirely. It is unconstitutional for one group of people to complain and threaten loud enough so that they get their way and the rest of us have to adapt and lose a little freedom in the process.
Back to PZ
So while we’re all out there realizing the Catholic’s point of view (ahem – right?), have any of them stopped to consider PZ’s? Looks unlikely. To those of us who do not routinely consume bread deity and don’t believe in God, the Eucharist is a cracker. So does it really matter if PZ would do naughty things to a cracker if he could? On the whole of things, probably not. Really what I think PZ was saying was not that he would shit on Jesus if he could (in this case anyway), he was saying that a cracker is a cracker. So was he really insulting Catholics and disparaging their lord? No. He was disparaging a cracker on the basis that it is a formulation of flour and water and nothing more. I get that they disagree with his assertion that it is “just a cracker” in the first place, but it is understanding that point of view that is key to this whole ridiculous situation.
PZ didn’t actually do anything to anyone, he said he would do to a cracker if he had one. That is entirely different. So basically people are offended by what PZ said he might do to an inanimate object if he had the opportunity.
I agree with criticisms that this whole debacle probably isn’t great for the fence-sitters because we all come off looking like pricks, but that doesn’t mean PZ should apologize. It means everyone needs to read things and interpret them for themselves and not get so upset over someone’s opinions that aren’t threatening direct personal harm to anyone.
And nothing, NOTHING, deserves death threats. EVER.
UPDATE: A discussion of sacred cows and why it’s not ok to expect skeptics to “be nice” to some and not others. IMO, thinking Jesus was a pretty cool guy is not so much a sacred cow. I mean, I think Neil deGrasse Tyson is a pretty cool guy… But believing that bread = Jesus and sending death threats to anyone that makes fun of you for it while at the same time going, say, “Harry Potter is stupid and evil” is sacred cow syndrome and then some. I “respect” someone’s opinion in following Jesus if they want to as much as they might “respect” my opinion that NDT is the bestest astronomy dude ever. I wouldn’t want to be made fun of for simply liking someone anymore than anyone else. But I’d feel free to be made fun of if I think I can turn food into that person and eat them.
UPDATE #2: It’s done.