There’s been a lot of fuss on the far side of the pond recently concerning a communion wafer and a student who received death threats for taking it home. I first read about this on Pharyngula and thought that PZ Myer’s statement, although no doubt sarcastic, that he’d be happy to demonstrate even less respect for what he refer’s to as “a goddamned cracker” as being a tad inflammatory.
And judging from the death threats he has since received I guess inflammatory is right.
However, the response to his comments in the form of death threats and other abuse he as since received do not cast a positive light upon the religious community. Instead such actions serve to underline the dangerous nature of religious fervour. I’m sure that many of those who have sent PZ Myers emails about this were just letting off steam and would never carry out their threats but amidst that throng there may well be someone with just the right (or rather wrong) mix of fundamentalist outrage, mental imbalance and easy access to a firearm. And one is all it takes.
However, what is clear from the comments, emails and posturing of the likes of the Catholic League is that tolerance and forgiveness are not high on the agenda. A matter that is very well summed up in the end of this Shakesville post (via Evolutionblog) on the whole sorry affair:
Jesus Christ preached infinite forgiveness. Were the Jesus of the Bible here today, looking at these events, I can’t help but think he’d quote himself: “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.” But it’s not much fun to turn the other cheek, or to forgive; much easier to attack, and be hateful.
And just to demonstrate that things are perhaps no better on this side of the pond, pop over to the BBC News site and watch the video of the Right Reverend Gene Robinson (an openly gay Anglican Bishop) being heckled during a service in St Mary’s Church, Putney. Of course there’s a lot more behind the ongoing controversy surrounding the Rev. Robinson than just this protest but it seems to me that he is probably a better man, and less of a danger to the Anglican church, than many of those that see him as a threat.
Anyway, irrespective of what you may think of PZ Myers or the Rev. Robinson, their actions are less damaging to religion (of any stripe) than those of the self-destructive, fundamentalists that religion spawns. Their hateful intolerance and message of damnation laced with vitriol and threats do much more damage the crumbling edifice of their religions.