2008-07-30 The Confraternity of Catholic Clergy doesn't like me/comment 216

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I was the guy who provided PZ with the cracker that he used in the photo. I also made a video of the event at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHPZFsGrt-Y

The video has received lots of comments but you're only allowed 500 characters to make responses. I hope PZ won't mind if I use this thread to outline my answer to the numerous objections I got from Catholics. Here goes:

Many opinions have been expressed by Catholics and their sympathisers on the subject of 'host desecration' as an unacceptable form of protest against the activities of the Church. I would like to attempt to sort the wood from the trees and provide my justifications for my action.

Firstly, let's establish the irrelevance of the law to this question. It is a moral issue, not a legal one. Whether or not 'host desecration' should be made illegal in a particular legal jurisdiction is beyond my scope here. If you find yourself using the word 'law' in any response to me then your point probably belongs in a separate discussion.

Let us also agree that there is little point in even having a discussion on this subject if one party expects the other to accord respect to a set of moral values handed to them on a plate from a third party. If you choose to do that, then I'd be best advised to have my discussion with that third party, not you. Specifically, if you choose to quote moral principles that derive from Scripture or the Church's teaching, then be prepared to justify that morality using rational/secular arguments that have relevance to those who don't share your religious belief.

Let's us also agree on the moral right of every citizen to protest in a 'free country'. That surely is not a bone of contention between us. Our differences derive from our differing perspectives on what kind of protests are morally acceptable. In order to establish any worthwhile moral principles here, it may help if I pose an evolving, hypothetical scenario:

Is it morally acceptable that I should take up a placard bearing some written criticism of the government, and walk down the street holding it aloft? Some people might say that it depends on the nature of the criticism. Let's say the placard simply read "The governments position on infanticide is wrong". I'm sure 99% of people would have no moral objection.

Lets say I changed the wording to "The Prime Minister's position on infanticide is wrong". Again, despite the attack on on individual's ideas, I suspect there'd be no moral problem for most people. What about "The Prime Minister's ideas on infanticide are stupid". It's now a personal attack but if you draw the line here then I think we have little room for further discussion. At least if you do draw the line here then our standards of morality differ on a far deeper level than that of 'desecration of the host.

What about if my placard involved Bunga Bunga (a religion set up last week, with two members and a stray dog) and read "Bunga Bunga's teaching on infanticide is stupid". If you waited this long to draw the line then you accord religion a status for which I have difficulty seeing any moral justification. You need to ask yourself questions about the rights of religious organisations and/or what constitutes a religion. Surely, the logical conclusion of your position is that you make it possible to morally justify the proscription of any criticism of virtually any idea or icon, if proponents of that idea/icon declare themselves, and it, to be part of a religion. Mind you, you're not alone. The Western press already started the rot on that score when they refused to publish the cartoons of Muhammad some time ago.

For those of you who have yet to draw the moral line, let me now make clear that Bunga Bunga's specific policy on infanticide is that the law of the land should be changed to make the killing of second-born girls mandatory and that in countries where it's not mandatory, uneducated and simple-minded parents are encouraged to kill their second-born girls. Let us also say that Bunga Bunga has churches in which it carries out ceremonies that involve the worship of Bunglips (a tulip-like flower that they 'consecrate' using coal tar and turkey semen) which are then handed out to the congregation to be eaten on the spot in honour of their murdered children. What if my placard was having little effect outside on the street. What if I put it down and entered their church and accepted a Bunglip from the high priest, removed it from the church and then treated it with a level of disrespect that outraged the Bunga Bunga church into making a response? Let's say that as a result of putting my video of the 'desecration' of the Bunglip on YouTube, more than 5000 people viewed it, members of Bunga Bunga said lots of Bunga Bunga prayers for me; others suggested that I would rot in Bunga Hell; but a small few understood my objections to infanticide. Did I do a good thing or an evil thing?

If you don't draw the moral line at this point then I fail to understand your moral outrage at the 'desecration' of crackers. If you do draw the line at this point then I find the nature of your morality depressing; and your willingness to put respect for inanimate objects above that of the lives of your fellow human beings, truly terrifying.

Posted by: HostHostage | July 30, 2008 12:16 PM