Sunday, July 13, 2008

The cracker controversy

Over at Intrinsically Knotted, musesusan has a discussion of the blow up over PZ's response (et seq.) to the cracker thing that I broadly agree with.

(Er, I mean that I agree with musesusan. That sentence needs emergency surgery, stat!)

We don't have a right to avoid offense - it's under our own control.

I wouldn't choose to do what PZ did, but the reaction he's getting is nuts.

Either the cracker really is the body of christ or it isn't.

- If it isn't, they're threatening death over a cracker, irrespective of what it symbolizes, and feeling offended over rude treatment of a symbol is one thing, but the pitchforks and torches seem to be making PZ's point for him.

- If it is, most of the complaints seem to be about entirely the wrong thing. We have literal flesh of Jesus, which is consumed by the ton (a billion Catholics times a few grams actually makes many thousands of tons of Jesus flesh every week). Over a year, it's millions of tons of Jesus flesh per year. And a few grams of that might be treated in a disrespectful way by a single nonbeliever. Who is actually harmed by that? Jesus then has a stake in it, but is the flesh consumed by others ruined? If Jesus is real, is the Son of God and is actually recreated in the flesh by the ton every hour, do believers actually have a basis for claiming there's some harm being done? Jesus may have a right to object, in which case he's free to say to PZ "Cut it out, doofus". But apart from a gut response to PZ's gaucheness, what is the deal here?

It seems to me that the responses are much more consistent with the first situation than the second - many of the responses indicate that the problem is people fear that PZ may be right. If the cracker really is the flesh of Jesus, where's the need for death threats? No, the severe over-reaction comes because maybe it isn't. That's where that savage fury comes from - because if PZ successfully treats a cracker disrespectfully, and Jesus doesn't come down and ask him to quit it, maybe it is just a cracker. That's what makes it so scary.

(I wrote a related essay on religious over-reaction in Fear the Truth.)


The Ranting Student said...

I agree with your last thoughts.

Perhaps fear plays a big role in this. Perhaps fear plays a big role in religious apologetics.

Nice post.

Anonymous said...

Yep, I think it's telling that most of the objections are along the lines of "it's offensive" rather than "OMG, you're doing horrible things to Jesus", at least after PZ got involved.