A member of the studio audience has written to me and asked that I pass moral judgment on The Case of the Communion Cracker.
In fact, there are several different moral issues now related to this event. We have the original event in which a student took a communion cracker from a church, the actions taken to stop the student from taking the cracker, the threats against the student, and PZ Myers’ response to those threats.
Let’s start at the beginning.
The facts of the case, as laid before me are that name walked into a church, went through the communion service, had a communion wafer placed on his tongue. He removed it, and he attempted to leave the church with it.
This is theft, plain and simple.
The communion cracker is the property of the church. It is given to parishioners under an implied contract where the person receiving the property agrees to certain terms and conditions – these being that the cracker will be eaten on the spot. The student, in this case, indicated his agreement to these terms and conditions by opening his mouth and allowing the cracker to be placed inside. That he had no intention of consuming the cracker demonstrates that he engaged in an act of deception (he lied) to acquire property that would not have otherwise been given to him. After obtaining illicit possession of the property, he attempted to (and succeeded in) removing it from the premises. This constitutes theft.
Having said this, we are talking about the theft of a cracker here. This is not a kidnapping, or anything on that order. Nor is it a hostage situation. It is theft. The cracker was the property of the church, and it was stolen.
The next issue before me is that people who noticed that the student was stealing church property attempted to use force to stop the theft. The student, in this case, claimed that the use of force was wrong.
The student, in this case, was mistaken.
If I noticed somebody had entered my home and was leaving with my property, I would be within my rights to use violence in order to prevent the theft. Some people would argue that I would be within my rights to shoot the thief. I would not go that far. However, grabbing the thief as he left my property and demanding by force or threat of force that he leave the stolen property behind would be within my rights – I would not be expected to be condemned for it.
Then there was the reaction of the Catholics after the student had successfully stolen church property – including death threats and alleged planned attempts to storm the student’s room to ‘rescue the hostage’.
These types of actions in insanely disproportionate to the crime that was committed.
In fact, it borders on criminal insanity.
Let’s say I have a favorite pet rock, Herbert. The neighbor kid stole it. To get the rock back, I break into my neighbor’s house, kill the kid, and take my rock.
It is my rock.
Then, the police start asking me questions. They find out that I believe that this rock is a real person – that if Herbert did not get his ‘medicine’ then he would suffer horrible agony, and it is to prevent this agony that I broke into the house, killed the kid, and brought back my rock.
That story that I told would be considered justification for locking me up as a danger to society.
There is nothing wrong with me having a special affection for my pet rock Herbert. However, when a person’s pet beliefs make them a threat to the well-being of others – when it makes them consider acts of extreme violence – then it is time for civilized people to recognize that the person who holds these beliefs are a danger to others, and to treat them accordingly.
The fact that there might be a large number of them may be relevant to their political power – which has important practical implications. However, it is not an argument against the fact of the matter, that these people are suffering from false beliefs that make them a threat to others.
Demagogues will take what I wrote above and twist it into saying that I think Catholics should be rounded up and hauled off into concentration camps for our own protection. These are people who are so fond of bearing false witness against others that they cannot resist the opportunity to find absurd interpretations of what other write.
A very small percentage of the Catholic population responded to these claims with death threats. A large percentage of the Catholic population would view the death threats as inappropriate and would condemn anybody who ever acted violently. So, a vast majority of Catholics show no signs whatsoever that their religious beliefs make them a threat to others – at least in this sense.
The blame among the Catholics belongs only to those who make the threats or who commit acts of violence, not to the whole Catholic population. Just as the blame for the theft of this communion cracker belongs to the person who stole it and not to the whole of whatever group he may belong to.
Of course, a few, who feed off of the fear and the hate that they grow in others, will ignore this set of facts and promote a gross misinterpretation of what was said – in order to grow the fear and hatred that they life off of.