I wonder how many of our Catholic friends have heard of the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215? This is the event where many of their important dogmas were codified, including the ideas of Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus, that the Eucharist was the sacrament that only properly ordained priests of the Catholic church could give, and that the Jews were a pariah people, who could hold no public office, had to pay a special Jew tax for their right to exist, and were required to wear special clothing to distinguish them from Christians. The yellow badge marking the Juden was not an invention of the Nazis, but a decree by faithful Catholics in the Middle Ages. That's an interesting juxtaposition, that a symbol of Christian exceptionalism was formalized at the same time that they formally decreed the Jews to be inferior, and a target of hatred.
That combination was useful, too. Declare something cheap, disposable, and common to be imbued with magic by the words of a priest, and the trivial becomes a powerful token to inflame the mob — why, all you have to do is declare a bit of bread to be the most powerful and desirable object in the world, and even if it isn't, you can pretend that the evil other is scheming to deprive the faithful of it. Now you could invent stories of Jews and witches taking the communion host to torture, to make Jesus suffer even more, and good Catholics would of course rise in horror to defend their salvation. None of the stories were true, of course — Jews and infidels see no power at all in those little crackers, and the idea that they were obsessing over obtaining a non-sacred, powerless, pointless relic is ludicrous — but heck, it's a cheap excuse to make accusations illustrated by cheesy woodcuts of hook-nosed Jews hammering nails into communion wafers and lurid tales of blood-spurting crackers and hosts that pulsed like and beating heart, and thereby providing a pretext to encourage massacres.
The first recorded accusation was made in 1243 at Berlitz, near Berlin. As a consequence all the Jews of Berlitz were burned on the spot, which was subsequently called Judenberg. Another famous case that took place in 1290, in Paris, was commemorated in the Church of the Rue des Billettes and in a local confraternity. In 1370 in Brussels, the charge of host desecration, long celebrated in a special fest and depicted in artistic relics in the Church of St. Gudule, led to the extermination of the Jews of the city. The case of 1337, at Deggendorf, still celebrated locally as "Deggendorf Gnad", led to a series of massacres across the region. In 1510, at Knoblauch, near Berlin, 38 Jews were executed and more expelled from Brandenburg. The alleged host desecration in 1410, at Segovia, was said to have brought about an earthquake, and as a result, the local synagogue was confiscated and leading Jews were executed; the event continues to be celebrated as a local feast of Corpus Christi. Similar accusations, resulting in extensive persecution of Jews, were brought forward in 1294, at Laa, Austria; 1298, at Röttingen, near Würzburg, and at Korneuburg, near Vienna; 1299, at Ratisbon; 1306, at St. Pölten; 1325, at Cracow; 1330, at Güstrow; 1338, at Pulkau; 1388, at Prague; 1399, at Posen; 1401, at Glogau; 1420, at Ems; 1453, at Breslau; 1478, at Passau; 1492, at Sternberg, in Mecklenburg-Schwerin; 1514, at Mittelberg, in Alsace; 1558, at Sochaczew, in Poland. The last Jew burned for stealing a host died in 1631, according to Jacques Basnage, quoting from Manasseh b. Israel. Casimir IV. of Poland (1447).
That is the true power of the cracker, this silly symbol of superstition. Fortunately, Catholicism has mellowed with age — the last time a Catholic nation rose up to slaughter its non-Christian citizenry was a whole 70 years ago, after all — but the sentiment still lingers. Catholicism has been actively poisoning the minds of its practitioners with the most amazing bullshit for years, and until recently, I had no idea that a significant number of people actually believed this nonsense, or that the hatred was still simmering there, waiting for an opportunity to rise up in misplaced defense of absurdity.
All of the regular readers have seen it — thousands of mindless comments by Catholics, demanding that no harm come to a cracker. My email is melting down with swarms of insults, threats, pleas, and promises of prayers because I threatened to violate one of their holy crackers. In my years of loud and often inflammatory blogging, it is the most impressive demonstration of mass lunacy I have ever seen.
Mark Sutton is representative of the majority of my email. No threats, at least, but instead he simply takes for granted an astonishing piece of insanity.
I was saddened to hear of your plans to harm our Lord Jesus Christ.
It obviously isn't the first time and it won't be the last.
I know you do not believe, but what if it truly is Jesus that you are attempting to hurt?
You are in my prayers.
You would not believe how many people are writing to me, insisting that these horrible little crackers (they look like flattened bits of styrofoam) are literally pieces of their god, and that this omnipotent being who created the universe can actually be seriously harmed by some third-rate liberal intellectual at a third-rate university (the diminution of my vast powers is also a common theme). Jim Nicholson cranks up the crazy even more. Not many accused me of being a freemason — I've got lots that call me a Jew, which is illuminating given the history of this issue — and I cringe at the thought of a circumcised heart. But yeah, this kind of angry rant is fairly common, too.
You must be the devil himself as even he knows the power in the Holy Eucharist (don't you dare disparage the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by calling Him Who died for you a cracker!). You must be a freemason, or just a very sick man who needs healing and believe me, I will pray for your conversion. Pray you live to see that day so you can ask Him to forgive you and your uncircumcised heart. Just the mere thought of desecrating the Holy Eucharist is enough to get one into hell, but, maybe that is, for now, the horrible place you are aiming for. I dare you to read about Our Lady of Fatima and the accounts of hell as the three children saw, then, maybe you will change you sick mind. God forgive you. However, it was great that you got many people praying for your conversion since you showed the world how sick you are, and maybe God will convert your hard heart. Pity you. From a lay evangelist who prays for you and the rest of this sick world of secular humanists.
Another common theme has been the attempt to turn away the desecration of a Catholic symbol into the desecration of an Islamic symbol. Obviously, it's not desecration they find disagreeable — it's the idea that someone would offend their weird sectarian sensibilities. Here's one from Jack Isaacks that fits the mold.
Dear Professor Meyers,
If you REALLY want to do a courageous, revolutionary act, defecate publicly on a copy of the Quran.
Or do you have the cojones?
Christians won't attack you for desecrating a host, but will those wonderful cuddly peace-loving Muslims be as forbearing if you used their book for a toilet?
Well, how brave are you?
Yeah, right. Catholics won't attack me, but Muslims will. Never mind that the Catholic League demands that I be fired, thousands of Catholics write to me demanding I be kicked out of the university immediately, and that they send me death threats, both the explicit kind and the vaguely menacing kind. Let's not forget Webster Cook, who started this all by simply walking back to his seat with a cracker, and now faces censure and possible expulsion from his university. Oh, those Catholics sure are forbearing and tolerant.
And since I mentioned yesterday that I was taking my oldest son to the movies, these good Catholics have leapt to the opportunity. Since I'm not demonstrating any fear over their threats against me, well hey, let's try a new target! KJ Atkins of Bellarmine University thinks cowardly warnings against my family might be effective.
You fool, the vengeance for your sacrilege will not be . exhausted against you, but it will be carried out on your child. Wait and see.
Oh, I'm sorry, KJ. I'm only impressed by significant material concerns, and yours and other slanders against my family (I'm looking at you, Miki Tracy, the despicable person who thinks making up lies about my father might be persuasive) are not going to convince me of anything other than that religion breeds the most disgustingly vile haters in our country, and that Catholicism fits right in with the rest. I will note, however, that since Bill Donohue tried to get CAIR to join him in his crusade, I have gotten no email from outraged Muslims, over a span of time in which I've received thousands of Catholic hate mail messages.
If you want to see the deep danger of religion, you have to read this comment from Isaac.
As a Christian it is an insult for anyone to call my beliefs stupid shit. I have respected every religion and every idea for years.
Ah, what a beautiful illustration of the complete open mind — utterly undiscriminating, lacking any criteria for acceptance, simply blissfully and uncritically according every idea his full respect. Although, of course, it's also a lie: Isaac does not regard every idea as equally deserving, since he clearly considers the atheist idea that the sacraments of his faith are empty foolishness to be an outrage. Rather, what he loves is the idea that everyone else must respect his beliefs, no matter what they are, and that any disagreement is an insult. This is exactly the kind of uncritical, unskeptical, nonjudgmental idiocy all religions seek to promulgate, because they all know that if we tore off the blinders of tradition and artificiality and mindless etiquette, we'd see right through their lies. Respect every idea! Especially mine! And if you find the idea that this cracker is a god stupid, why, you must be disrespectful and no gentleman!
For even deeper inanity, let's not forget the Catholic blogs! We're talking some serious derangement there: look at Mark Shea's reaction.
I won't mince words. Myers is an evil man. And as evil men, particularly evil intellectuals, tend to be, he is also a mad man as are most of his acolytes and followers.
Myers and Co. are enmeshed in these lies because they have chosen evil. It is evil--archetypally evil--to desecrate the Eucharist. It's the sort of stuff archetypal bad guys in the movies do. It's completely unnecessary gratuitous evil.
To the Mark Shea's of the world, I would say…it's just a cracker.
I think if I were truly evil, I would have to demand that all of my acolytes be celibate, but would turn a blind eye to any sexual depravities they might commit. If I wanted to be an evil hypocrite, I'd drape myself in expensive jeweled robes and live in an ornate palace while telling all my followers that poverty is a virtue. If I wanted to commit world-class evil, I'd undermine efforts at family planning by the poor, especially if I could simultaneously enable the spread of deadly diseases. And if I wanted to be so evil that I would commit a devastating crime against the whole of the human race, twisting the minds of children into ignorance and hatred, I would be promoting the indoctrination of religion in children's upbringing, and fomenting hatred against anyone who dared speak out in defiance.
I'm sorry to say that I only aspire to be a teeny-tiny bit evil, and my target is a handful of virtually inedible crackers in my possession. It's not much, and all I can say in my defense is…it's a start. A very small start. I'm going to need lots and lots of people to rise up and follow suit, subjecting old, dishonest institutions of hardened dogma to our chief weapon of ridicule and deris…our two weapons of ridicule, derision and laughter…no, three weapons of ridicule, derision, laughter, and skeptici…oh, never mind. You know what I mean. Get to work.
OK, time for the anticlimax. I know some of you have proposed intricate plans for how to do horrible things to these crackers, but I repeat…it's just a cracker. I wasn't going to make any major investment of time, money, or effort in treating these dabs of unpleasantness as they deserve, because all they deserve is casual disposal. However, inspired by an old woodcut of Jews stabbing the host, I thought of a simple, quick thing to do: I pierced it with a rusty nail (I hope Jesus's tetanus shots are up to date). And then I simply threw it in the trash, followed by the classic, decorative items of trash cans everywhere, old coffeegrounds and a banana peel. My apologies to those who hoped for more, but the worst I can do is show my unconcerned contempt.
By the way, I didn't want to single out just the cracker, so I nailed it to a few ripped-out pages from the Qur'an and The God Delusion. They are just paper. Nothing must be held sacred. Question everything. God is not great, Jesus is not your lord, you are not disciples of any charismatic prophet. You are all human beings who must make your way through your life by thinking and learning, and you have the job of advancing humanity's knowledge by winnowing out the errors of past generations and finding deeper understanding of reality. You will not find wisdom in rituals and sacraments and dogma, which build only self-satisfied ignorance, but you with fresh eyes and a questioning mind.
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