What a beautiful sight for churchless eyes: here's a photo of Jesus lying in a trash bin, pierced with a rusty nail and in the company of some banana peels (plus coffee grounds and other assorted discards).
If you're not a Catholic, you may not recognize the Son of God. But if you're a believer, there he is, in the form of a communion wafer – which the faithful consider to be transformed into the body of Christ at holy communion.
In a fascinating blog post, "The Great Desecration," biology professor P.Z. Myers relates how his wafer trashing has caused his email inbox to be filled with messages chastising and threatening him for mutilating a little piece of bread. An example:
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.
The credulity (I started to write "idiocy," and probably should have) of these people is amazing.
They have pretty much the same mentality as Catholics in the middle ages who killed Jews and others who were accused of desecrating communion wafers. (See the beginning of Myers' post for details.) Myers says:
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).
Congratulations, Professor Myers. You've done a terrific service to those of us who subscribe to the Religion of Reality, by pointing out that bread is just bread, no matter what other illusory qualities are ascribed to it.
Of course, I haven't always believed in reality as strongly as I do now, a confession I made last year in "Ridiculing my own religious fundamentalism." An excerpt:
Like most other satsangis, I believed that food blessed by the guru was really special. I'd treasure little bags of blessed puffed rice or granulated sugar that initiates would bring back from India to share. I'd string out the supposed spiritual benefit of consuming this parshad
by eating a teeny bit every morning before I meditated. If any spilled, I'd eat it off the floor, along with any dust or dirt it might have attracted. After all, it was holy!
Well, I've come a long ways. Much closer to the Eastern religion version of hellfire, to many . But I'll take my chances.
My mother made a half-hearted attempt to get me indoctrinated into Catholicism when I was a kid. I made it through first communion but flamed out before I got to the "confirmation" stage. (Too much to remember, all those venial and mortal sins, among other stuff.)
At first communion, I kneeled down and stuck out my tongue. Then I started coughing like crazy as the wafer stuck to the top of my dry mouth and wouldn't go down.
I remember being scared that I was going to spit out the body of Christ onto the floor of the church. After considerable effort I managed to swallow the communion wafer and proceeded to my first confession where, because I was too young to have done much sinning, the best I could come up with was that I hadn't been going to mass every Sunday.
Before too long, my nine or ten year old mind couldn't swallow any part of Catholicism. My mother let me stop going to those unpleasant noon hour get-togethers with the nuns that cut into recess time (and which, in retrospect, must have violated the constitutional separation of church and state).
Myers reminds us, nothing must be held sacred.
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 humanities' 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 can find truth by looking at your world with fresh eyes and a questioning mind.