Cracker-Gate, just another opinion piece…

I came across this story through the same way that most people originally did, and that is PZ Myers’ blog, Pharyngula (we will go into detail on PZ’s part in this story further below).

I had not planned to do a post about this topic, because as much as it may fit with the type of posts I have done, I felt it was already over-blown, and I was not sure if I had anything new or original to add to the discussion. However I ran across a few other blogs that made mention of the topic, and after having a back and forth on one of those, I felt it was an important enough topic that I needed to show my own take on the situation.

I’ll apologize in advance for the length of this post, since this one has gotten out of hand a bit, but c’est la vie…

But before we get to my reasoning (which will come later in the post, and yes that means this will be a long post) we should go over the background a bit. By now many people, including almost anybody who is reading this post and/or blog, already know of the Cracker-Gate issue; but for those who don’t, I’ll give you a brief rundown of the story.


On June 29th, a student from the University of Central Florida attended a catholic mass, and kept the eucharist (The eucharist is a small bread wafer blessed by a priest. According to Catholics, the wafer becomes the body of jesus once blessed and is to be consumed immediately after a minister passes it out to churchgoers.) instead of eating it right away.

This student is a member of the Student Senate at UCF, which does not automatically say he is a “good” kid, but it does show at least a certain level of maturity. The kid (for the rest of this post, I will refer to him as the “kid”; I do this because he has received multiple death threats, and I do not wish to add more fuel to the fire for him; this also means that any quotes from other sources will be edited ONLY in editing out the kid’s name) claims he planned to consume it, but first wanted to show it to a fellow student senator he brought to Mass who was curious about the Catholic faith.

Up to this point, I don’t see any issue at all with this, since this is something I have done myself. I was supposedly raised a catholic myself, but I did not like the taste of the eucharist. So on many occasions I walked out of the church with the eucharist still in my hand (well pocket, but same difference). I also was an alter boy for a time (and to answer the question everybody wants to ask when they first hear that and nobody knows how to word, no I was not raped by the priests), and at least once that I recall I took a large number of eucharists from the church. As I recall I wanted to show them to some friends at school (which is actually the same exact reason this guy took this particular one).

Then it took a turn for the worse (well that is kind of expected, because otherwise how boring would this story be).

“When I received the Eucharist, my intention was to bring it back to my seat to show him,” the kid said. “I took about three steps from the woman distributing the Eucharist and someone grabbed the inside of my elbow and blocked the path in front of me. At that point I put it in my mouth so they’d leave me alone and I went back to my seat and I removed it from my mouth.”

A church leader was watching, confronted the kid and tried to recover the sacred bread. The kid said she crossed the line and that’s why he brought it home with him.

“She came up behind me, grabbed my wrist with her right hand, with her left hand grabbed my fingers and was trying to pry them open to get the Eucharist out of my hand,” the kid said, adding she wouldn’t immediately take her hands off him despite several requests.

So at this point you have two catholics who have physically assaulted this kid, over a cracker. Yes, that is just so insane I’ll mention it again, this kid was physically attacked over a cracker.

This story would be ridiculous enough if it ended here, but of course, we are dealing with religious fervor, so of course it can’t end yet.

Regardless of the reason, the Diocese says its main concern is to get the Eucharist back so it can be taken care of properly and with respect. The kid has been keeping the Eucharist stored in a plastic bag since last Sunday.

Keep in mind, we are talking about a cracker here… A cracker must be returned so it can be “taken care of properly and with respect”.

“It is hurtful,” said Father Migeul Gonzalez with the Diocese. “Imagine if they kidnapped somebody and you make a plea for that individual to please return that loved one to the family.”

Ok, they are comparing taking a cracker to show a friend with a kidnapping. They also compare the cracker to a “loved one” (although they may be referring to the cracker AS a “loved one”, it’s hard to tell, and I am trying to give them the benefit of the doubt and assuming they mean the slightly less idiotic version).

Gonzalez said the Diocese is willing to meet with the kid and help him understand the importance of the Eucharist in hopes of him returning it. The Diocese is dispatching a nun to UCF’s campus to oversee the next mass, protect the Eucharist and in hopes the kid will return it.

Aww how nice, they are “willing to meet” with him after only having to assault him twice.

It’s also a bit humorous that they will be dispatching a nun to protect the cracker at the next upcoming mass.

The kid said he’d consider returning the Eucharist if he gets an apology and a meeting with the Bishop’s office to discuss the Diocese’s policy on physical force.

To me, this seems like a very reasonable request from the kid.

Gonzalez said intentionally abusing the Eucharist is classified as a mortal sin in the Catholic church, the most severe possible. If it’s not returned, the community of faith will have to ask for forgiveness.

I’d like to dwell on something here for a moment. The catholic reaction to this is to release a statement that “intentionally abusing” a cracker is a mortal sin. Here we are talking about an organization that took steps to hide pedophiles for years, condemning NOT EATING a cracker. This is equivalent to NAMBLA bitching at people for being vegans.

You can read more about the original news coverage from a local TV station’s coverage.

Reports from another Florida TV station, this one a FOX affiliate, mention the death threats, and gives a more FOX (err, biased) take on the situation.

The kid gave the wafer back, but the Catholic League, a national watchdog organization for Catholic rights claims that is not enough.

So a group that is ticked off at a kid for taking a cracker, and turns a blind eye towards raping children, wants more than just the return of this cracker, they are seemingly out for blood.

The kid just wants all of this to go away. Especially now that he feels his life is in danger.

No condemnation of those who have threatened his life, in fact the next line goes into talking about the trouble this kid may or may not get into over taking this cracker. Never mind that the only crime committed in this entire affair has been catholics assaulting and threatening this kid.

University officials said, that as for right now, the kid is not in trouble.  If anyone or any group wants to file a formal complaint with the University through the student judicial system, they can.

It that happens, the kid will go through a hearing either in front of an administrative panel or a panel of his peers.

Good thing that FOX is here to show it’s readers/viewers how to react. Lord knows what those little sheep would do without somebody there to tell them what to do and how to think. Or as PZ stated.

That’s right. Crazy Christian fanatics right here in our own country have been threatening to kill a young man over a cracker. This is insane. These people are demented fuckwits. And the kid is not out of the fire yet — that Fox News story ends with an open incitement to cause him further misery.

However, the story does not end here. In fact, this is barely scratching the surface of how ridiculous this story becomes. PZ Myers, an outspoken atheist and biology professor, wrote about the incident on his personal blog, in the first of many posts on this subject, “It’s a Frackin’ Cracker!“.

Catholics worldwide became furious.

Would you believe this isn’t hyperbole? People around the world are actually extremely angry about this — the kid has been sent death threats over his cracker. Those are just kooks, you might say, but here is the considered, measured response of the local diocese:

“We don’t know 100% what the kid’s motivation was,” said Susan Fania spokesperson with the local Catholic diocese. “However, if anything were to qualify as a hate crime, to us this seems like this might be it.”

We just expect the University to take this seriously,” she added “To send a message to not just the kid but the whole community that this kind of really complete sacrilege will not be tolerated.”

Ok, once again, I have a small bit I’d like to dwell on for a moment. The kid has received DEATH THREATS over not eating a cracker. Not only was he physically assaulted at the time, but since that time, he has received multiple threats against his life, his friends, his family, his future career, and his education. A group that prides itself on such concepts as “turn the other cheek” is threatening the life of a kid, because he wanted to show a friend a bit about his faith.

The next point I wanted to focus on is something that Dr. Myers does a great job of pointing out himself.

Wait, what? Holding a cracker hostage is now a hate crime? The murder of Matthew Shephard was a hate crime. The murder of James Byrd Jr. was a hate crime. This is a goddamned cracker. Can you possibly diminish the abuse of real human beings any further?

Well not only is it a hate crime in their view, but as I’ve already pointed out, they also consider this to be a kidnapping. Once again, from Dr. Myers.

Get some perspective, man. IT’S A CRACKER.

And perhaps at this point most rational people would of course assume that only a fringe minority of people, directly involved in this issue would be overreacting to such a degree. Now obviously by now you should realize that I would not have worded that last sentence that particular way, unless of course this story is not yet over. Apparently the next logical step is for Bill Donohue, the president of the Catholic League, to become outraged and release a ridiculous statement.

For a student to disrupt Mass by taking the Body of Christ hostage–regardless of the alleged nature of his grievance–is beyond hate speech. That is why the UCF administration needs to act swiftly and decisively in seeing that justice is done. All options should be on the table, including expulsion.

Of course Bill Donohue’s comments completely overstate the actions of the kid, while completely ignoring the death threats made by catholics towards this kid. Once again, catholics have been making DEATH THREATS against the kid over this bull-shit. I can’t possibly state this too many times, this kid’s life was threatened multiple times, by multiple people over not eating a cracker.

As a quick aside, if you’d like to contact Bill Donohue over his actions, please contact him at or whatever other means you find to inform him of the idiocy of his statements.

Ok, now back to the post.

In response to Donohue’s comments, PZ replied.

Oh, beyond hatespeech. Where does this fit on the Shoah scale, Bill? It shouldn’t even register, but here is Wild-Eyed Bill the Offended calling for the expulsion of a student…for not swallowing a cracker.

Would you believe that the mealy-mouthed president of the university, John Hitt, is avoiding defending his student is instead playing up the importance of the Catholic church to the university? Of course you would. That’s what university presidents do. Bugger the students, keep the donors and the state reps happy.

While I completely agree with PZ’s comments about Donohue; there is one spot where I differ from PZ slightly, that is in his comments regarding the school president. This comment from PZ came very quickly after the incident happened, and before any support for the kid had materialized, which means the presidents’ comments had been even sooner in the time frame, and he therefor had less time to measure his thoughts or the overall reaction to the situation. While I do not agree with the president’s comments, I can at least  understand his view at the time. The only voices the president had heard up to this point had been over-reacting catholics calling for the kid’s head. I tend to think that in this case the school president is being a politician (in the worst sense of the world), and telling people what they want to hear, while not quite making any firm statement.

PZ seems to think his remarks makes him malicious, while in my view they make him spineless. Neither of these views is favorable, but I think intent in a big point to make in the president’s defense.

With that said, I think it’s certainly fair to say that the president and the school have certainly over-reacted to this, and most certainly, not in a good way.

And don’t assume the university would support the kid; the college is now having armed university police officers standing guard during mass.

Now, before we turn to the next major issue that has come from this incident, I think it is important to finish up the story as it relates to this kid.

As I previously mentioned above, this kid was a member of the student government. Despite not having any malicious intent he has been removed from the student senate. He, as well as the friend he wanted to show the cracker to in the first place, are also both potentially facing suspension or expulsion from the university. They have both also received multiple death threats from other students and members of this parish as well as many people not even associated with this school, church, or town.

Now despite all not actually having done anything actually wrong, and despite being the actual victim of multiple assaults and death threats, the kid has not only already given the cracker back to the church, but apologized for taking it and not eating it in the first place. Of EVERYBODY involved in this mess, I’d argue that he is the LAST person who owes anybody an apology, but obviously nothing about this shit storm is rational, reasonable, or intelligent in any manner.

I think PZ put it ell when he stated.

I find this all utterly unbelievable. It’s like Dark Age superstition and malice, all thriving with the endorsement of secular institutions here in 21st century America. It is a culture of deluded lunatics calling the shots and making human beings dance to their mythical bunkum.


Now we come to the second act of our sickening little play on reality. I hope you can bear with me a while longer as this tale is worth the time.

PZ Myers, is known for a few things in the online community. He is a well respects biology professor at a good university, he is an outspoken atheist, and he is the author of what is probably the most popular science based blog on the web.

Dr Myers is also a bit confrontational on certain issues through his blog. One of the subjects that he tends to “go off on” are things related to religious zealots. So when this story came to his attention, he gave his opinion. As you can tell from my selected quotes above, or from reading his original post yourself, PZ had a very strong opinion on the subject. And while most of PZ’s comments were aimed at those giving the kid a hard time, he did make one inflammatory remark, which showed the level of anger he had at the catholics who were giving the kid a hard time.

So, what to do. I have an idea. Can anyone out there score me some consecrated communion wafers? There’s no way I can personally get them — my local churches have stakes prepared for me, I’m sure — but if any of you would be willing to do what it takes to get me some, or even one, and mail it to me, I’ll show you sacrilege, gladly, and with much fanfare. I won’t be tempted to hold it hostage (no, not even if I have a choice between returning the Eucharist and watching Bill Donohue kick the pope in the balls, which would apparently be a more humane act than desecrating a goddamned cracker), but will instead treat it with profound disrespect and heinous cracker abuse, all photographed and presented here on the web. I shall do so joyfully and with laughter in my heart. If you can smuggle some out from under the armed guards and grim nuns hovering over your local communion ceremony, just write to me and I’ll send you my home address.

Just wait. Now there’ll be a team of Jesuits assigned to rifle through my mail every day.

Now perhaps he went to far. When I first read this I chuckled a bit and groan a bit simultaneously. I groaned because I knew some nut jobs would take this as an attack, and I chuckled because frankly, he was showing just how absurd the situation had become.

When people are comparing not eating a cracker with a hate crime or kidnapping, all logic has already left the conversation.

Bill Donohue once again rose to the occasion and started calling for Dr Myers to be fired from his job, and began an email campaign to the president of PZ’s school and PZ himself. Of course many of the same wing-nuts responded by now threatening the life of PZ through email and as comments of PZ’s blog.

For PZ’s initial reaction to this check the post on his site, Now I’ve Got Bill Donohues Attention.

Part of Donohue’s comments are quite illuminating, to say the least.

He is responding to what happened recently at the University of Central Florida when a student walked out of Mass with the Host, holding it hostage for several days. Myers was angry at the Catholic League for criticizing the student.

Not only does Donohue fail to recognize that the ONLY CRIME that had been committed up to that point had been assaults and death threats against the kid. FYI, since this statement, more crimes have been committed, and as before, all by catholics against the kid, Dr Myers, and his family (and yes, people have threatened the lives of PZ’s wife and children over this idiotic fucking cracker).

Donhue also makes a point to ONLY quote one passage from PZ, which is that last one I quoted, and he only quoted a fraction of that as well. Of course a “christian” quoting mining to take things out of context is obviously not new, but it’s quite interesting to see it done so brazenly and sloppily.

The next part of Donohue’s statement struck me as being almost satirical, if I had not known better.

It is hard to think of anything more vile than to intentionally desecrate the Body of Christ. We look to those who have oversight responsibility to act quickly and decisively.

While I would loved to give my opinion of this statement, I think PZ has already done as good, or better a job, than I could do myself.

That last paragraph is marvelously blind. Hey, Bill! I can think of something more vile! How about intentionally desecrating the bodies of young altar boys who respect the position of trust held by Catholic priests? I think that is a lot more vile than mistreating a cracker. In fact, I can think of innumerable vile acts going on all around the world right now, and not all of them even involve Catholicism. It takes the moral vacuum of a purblind ideological bigot like Bill Donohue to think that goring his sacred cow is the worst thing in the world.

This shit storm has continued on multiple threads on PZ’s blog, including Fresh crackers!, Fight back against Bill Donohue!, Internet getting full, here’s a new hole to dump comments into, Can this possibly get more insane?, I get email — special cracker edition!, FYI, Keeping the new people busy, Mail dump, Mail dump, “unrepentant science heathen”, Who the heck is Greg Moore and why does he keep threatening me?, etc… The reason for so many posts on the subject is two fold. First, and foremost, the server that hosts PZ’s blog, host many other science based blogs, and due to some technical issues, begins to suffer performance problems is the number of comments to any one post exceeds 1,000. The second reason is for a few updates as new information became available.

One of my personal favorite sub-dramas of this whole sage is that of Melanie Kroll who was fired from her job at You can read about this at The cost of delusional derangements, but the short version is that her husband used his wife’s account to send a death threat to PZ. PZ, who has a policy of posting identifying information from e-mails that violate the law, posted the full email, including the header information. A “few” readers of PZ’s blog let the company know what their corporate email was being used for and she was subsequently fired. Her husband then confessed on another blog which had mentioned the incident. Despite his admitting to breaking the law, and a complete and utter lack of judgement, he still manages to blame Dr Myers for his wife losing her job, instead of taking responsibility himself.

The fact is, that this email to the so called professor, was sent by an angry male catholic, who was very upset after reading that some crazed person in a position of responsibility, charged with teaching children biology, had been encouraging people to steal and desecrate the body of CHRIST, which for Catholics is represented by the Eucharist.

I know this to be true, since I wrote the original email to this so called teacher.

It’s somewhat amazing to me, that a guy responding (albeit brutishly) )to a news article about a crazed professor who was encouraging his students and others to desecrate the American catholic church, could turn into this orgy of innuendo, and an attack on an innocent, hard working mother of three, and a company that hires many underprivileged people, and single mothers as a matter of policy.

In closing I still maintain that if mr. myers. Or anyone, who is encouraging people to desecrate the Eucharist, or if he is doing so himself, I would like to beat his brains in, would I? I don’t know.
I’ve never done so before. Though, at that one moment when I was reading his statements..?
I suppose If I caught him doing it, I would try to stop him.

I’d most strongly suggest reading this comment for yourself in it’s entirety, as it’s hard to select small enough quotes to show the lunacy which so thoroughly shines through when reading the whole.

While it comes up numerous times throughout the posts on PZ’s site, one of the simplest places to see the hypocrisy of the catholics involved is to read the first few lines of <rolls eyes> It’s a cracker, people.

I’m still getting piles of email every day from people 1) begging me not to abuse a cracker because it is so sacred to them, piles of email telling me to 2) abuse a book because it is so sacred to Muslims (I’ve even been sent two copies of the Koran!), and of course, the 3) bizarre complaint that I’m a coward, afraid to commit sacrilege.

I have an issue with all three of these comments, but #2 is what strikes at me the most. Essentially people are saying that in order to show reverence to their sacred cow, that PZ should desecrate somebody else’s sacred cow. Honestly, the words to describe this fail me…

To finish off the story of PZ’s involvement in this crap, I feel I must point out that PZ did make good on his intention to “desecrate a cracker”. Personally I liked the added touch of putting the Koran and The God Delusion into the mix, but I’m sure that now he’s gone and ticked off muslims and atheists as well. Oh wait, most atheists would be too rational to be offended by something so idiotic and childish. You can read more about his “desecration” at The Great Desecration.

My personal highlights are all in the build-up.

I wonder how many of our Catholic friends have heard of the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215? This is the event where many of their important dogmas were codified, including the ideas of Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus, that the Eucharist was the sacrament that only properly ordained priests of the Catholic church could give, and that the Jews were a pariah people, who could hold no public office, had to pay a special Jew tax for their right to exist, and were required to wear special clothing to distinguish them from Christians. The yellow badge marking the Juden was not an invention of the Nazis, but a decree by faithful Catholics in the Middle Ages. That’s an interesting juxtaposition, that a symbol of Christian exceptionalism was formalized at the same time that they formally decreed the Jews to be inferior, and a target of hatred.

The first recorded accusation was made in 1243 at Berlitz, near Berlin. As a consequence all the Jews of Berlitz were burned on the spot, which was subsequently called Judenberg. Another famous case that took place in 1290, in Paris, was commemorated in the Church of the Rue des Billettes and in a local confraternity. In 1370 in Brussels, the charge of host desecration, long celebrated in a special fest and depicted in artistic relics in the Church of St. Gudule, led to the extermination of the Jews of the city. The case of 1337, at Deggendorf, still celebrated locally as “Deggendorf Gnad”, led to a series of massacres across the region. In 1510, at Knoblauch, near Berlin, 38 Jews were executed and more expelled from Brandenburg. The alleged host desecration in 1410, at Segovia, was said to have brought about an earthquake, and as a result, the local synagogue was confiscated and leading Jews were executed; the event continues to be celebrated as a local feast of Corpus Christi. Similar accusations, resulting in extensive persecution of Jews, were brought forward in 1294, at Laa, Austria; 1298, at Röttingen, near Würzburg, and at Korneuburg, near Vienna; 1299, at Ratisbon; 1306, at St. Pölten; 1325, at Cracow; 1330, at Güstrow; 1338, at Pulkau; 1388, at Prague; 1399, at Posen; 1401, at Glogau; 1420, at Ems; 1453, at Breslau; 1478, at Passau; 1492, at Sternberg, in Mecklenburg-Schwerin; 1514, at Mittelberg, in Alsace; 1558, at Sochaczew, in Poland. The last Jew burned for stealing a host died in 1631, according to Jacques Basnage, quoting from Manasseh b. Israel. Casimir IV. of Poland (1447).

That is the true power of the cracker, this silly symbol of superstition. Fortunately, Catholicism has mellowed with age — the last time a Catholic nation rose up to slaughter its non-Christian citizenry was a whole 70 years ago, after all — but the sentiment still lingers.

I’d like to end this section of PZ with a simple comment, that I hope can explain PZ’s feeling on the subject, as well as my own.



And finally we come to the two-fold purpose of this post, and what it is that I feel I can, and in some way should, add to the ongoing cluster-fuck that has become the Cracker-Gate.

Originally almost everything I had read on the subject had been supportive of Dr Myers and the kid, or had been a nut-job claiming that hurting the bible will anger their “god”, and is the most despicable thing they could ever imagine. I felt no reason to add my two cents, because those I would wish to speak to were way too far gone to understand a rational argument, and the others in the discussion had already said essentially what I wanted to say myself.

And then I came across two blog posts on random blogs that gave me pause. I don’t recall off hand how I came across either one of these, but somewhere along the line I must have clicked a link. The first one I came across was Atheist Ethicist, which seems to have 6 or more posts on the subject. From my brief reading of this blog, the author seems to think they are the end-all when it comes to ethics of atheists and believers alike. Perhaps I am a bit jaded due to disliking a bit of what I read on the blog, but the attitude of the author seems more than a bit arrogant. Among the statements he makes that I take issue with are.

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.

While I commend him for understanding that theft of a cracker is not on par with kidnapping, I have serious issue with even considering it theft. This kid is a catholic, and was freely given the cracker, as part of mass. He wanted to show the cracker to a friend, so he did not immediately eat the cracker in order to show his friend.

If I give a friend a shirt that I no longer wear, and then they rip that shirt to use it as a rag, I have no right to physically assault them over their “misuse” of my former shirt. This is the best analogy I can think of to describe what happened in this situation. The church freely and willingly gave the cracker to the kid. There were no stipulations of the usage of the cracker being limited to eating it at that precise moment, and on conditions on it. The moment they gave the cracker to the kid, it was now HIS CRACKER, to do with as he pleased. To say otherwise is completely misstating the issue.

There was no excuse for physically assaulting the kid, much less the death threats.

Next he posts about PZ.

There is a problem here in that Myers statement here calls upon others to perform immoral acts.

The morally acceptable way for a person to acquire the property of another is to ask the person for the use of their property. If one has reason to believe that there are strings attached, and the person wanting the property fully intends to violate those conditions, then the person asking for the property must state that fact. If it means that one does not acquire the property – so be it.

I fail to see how this is a moral issue at all. As I mentioned before, unless you stipulate in advance, once you give the cracker away, you have no say over how that cracker is used.

Now, I am not, in any way, going to treat seriously the proposition that this cracker is, was, or ever will become the body of Christ. It is just a cracker.

However, the cracker is some body’s property, and there are limits in what a person may and may not do to acquire the property of another person.

Myers asked his readers to acquire communion crackers and send them to him. There is no morally legitimate way for anybody to acquire a communion cracker. (Or, at least, it would be extremely difficult.) So, Myers has asked his readers to act immorally – to engage in deception and theft.

That’s not right.

Any communion crackers acquired through deception still morally belongs to the Catholic Church and, as such, ought to be returned to its rightful owner.

And still, perhaps I am failing to see the moral issue at hand here, but we are talking about a freely given away cracker and the eating, or lack of eating of the cracker. The blog makes the case that by accepting the cracker you are entering into a contract to perform the ritual as the catholics see fit. Being raise a catholic myself I understand that when you go up and get the cracker you then eat it and move on to the wine (or in some cases, people will skip the wine and go back to their seat). However, I also understand that not everybody understands all of the “rules”, and unless those “rules” are specifically spelled out, one can not expect others to hold to those “rules”. As a “former” catholic myself, I see no reason why I could not go to mass, receive communion, and take it with me as I leave the church. As I mentioned earlier, I had done this numerous times while I was still going to church regularly, as well as after I had “declared” my atheism. Despite being a former non-raped alter boy, I was never the “best” catholic, but I can say I never thought anybody would react this way over the cracker, even if they were a true believer.

In defense of this blog, he also is quite critical of Donohue, perhaps even more critical of Donohue than the others involved.

Catholic League President Bill Donahue has once again proved that he either has no understanding of the moral crime of bigotry – though he professes to be the leader of an organization for “religious and civil rights” – or, while understanding this moral crime, has decided to profess bigotry.

So, what Donahue is doing in making this analogy to say that the act of putting a nail through a cracker is equivalent to the slaughter of 6 million Jews, the lynching and segregation of blacks, and a century of slavery.

To make such a statement, of course, is to denigrate – to utterly trivialize – the Holocaust, segregation, and slavery.

Here I can completely agree with this blog, although I just can’t quite reconcile the belief the author has about taking and not eating a cracker being theft.


And the second, and primary reason for this post is due to a debate I had on somebody else’s blog on this topic under the topic, Pretending the atheist movement doesn’t exist…. Here I will attempt to highlight the most important points.

The author begins with the following line.

This is a response to comments from delusional atheists over at PZ Myers blog who feel that atheists can network, organize and work for a common cause and yet not be called a “movement” or an “organization”.

While I do agree with him that there is such a thing as an Atheist movement, by beginning his comments calling the people he is talking to/about “delusional atheists” I think he is being unnecessarily combative.

One place I do differ is it seems this author is implying that anybody who reads or posts on PZ’s blog is part of a movement with PZ (or lead by PZ), which is completely false. I read Pharyngula relatively regularly, and am not in any way in a group or movement with PZ (that I know of), and certainly am not a follower of PZ (although I do find him educational and humorous).

Scrolling down this page will reveal the  obscene amount of approval and cheer, that Myers has been showered with by people who obviously share his beliefs. So far I see no one among the atheists questioning Myers acions.  With all the talk about atheism not being a club, is it forbidden that atheists even question Myers actions?

I have read all these same posts myself as well ,and while it is true that most people do agree with PZ, it is not hard at all to find dissenting opinions, including the person I talked about in the previous section.

As for questioning PZ’s actions, if he was, let’s say, raping little boys, I’m ABSOLUTLY certain that nobody would defend him, much less transfer him to another school. Not that something like that could happen in some massive organization *cough*.

My initial reply was as follows (including some quotes of the original post.

“With all the talk about atheism not being a club, is it forbidden that atheists even question Myers actions?”

I don’t think it’s that nobody questions his actions, I think (at least for myself) that rational people have looked at what he did, and felt it was obviously a joke, and even if serious, all he did was to make comments about an edible symbol of which he, and many of us, have no allegiance.

There are about a billion people on the plant who feel that a cow is a sacred animal, this is no way causes me to have any reverence for a cow, other than as a good steak.

I’m curious WHAT is it that YOU feel PZ did that was morally, ethically, legally, or in some other way wrong?

“The fact that atheism has now now evolved into “movement” status is pretty clear.
And for those who still insist that atheism isnt a movement…denial makes for a warm blanket.”

Here I actually do agree with you. Many atheist are part of a movement. However I know that many have called atheism another religion, and that is one line I would draw. I can go into that further if you wish, but that was not your argument, just a clarification I felt was necessary.

I also don’t understand why people would have a problem with being part of a movement, or group. I don’t follow religion, not because it’s a group, but because it is false.

After a reply by the author, I again responded (and once again, including some quotes from the author; although in some cases his points were quite long, so I only quoted the beginning, you’ll need to read his reply for ).

Whether it was a joke or a provocation aimed at specific people is simply a matter of perception, depending on which side of the fence youre on.

What about the ORIGINAL incident that began this whole shit storm.
A college kid took the cracker, did not try to make a big deal about it, he just wanted to take it to show his friends. He did not make a big deal out of it like PZ did, and yet he also has received death threats.

Keep this in mind. The actions and reactions have been this:
1) Kid takes cracker
3) Catholics threaten to kill kid
4) PZ makes a joke about the incident (weather you find it funny or stupid is irrelevant, all he did was make a joke about defiling a cracker)
5) Catholics send death threats to PZ

Even if you want to say that PZ was wrong in his actions, you MUST admit, the reaction by the catholics, both to the kid and PZ, has been ridiculous.

If people want to call PZ childish, or ignorant, or stupid, or whatever, that’s fine. But both the kid, and PZ had DEATH THREATS over a cracker.

You will note that the essence of my posts on Myers blog, was the negative impact that his remarks have had on the new atheism, that claims to be rooted in rationality and logic

I agree this incident has not shown rationality, or logic. But if you read PZ’s blog, he intersperses hard science with goofy insane shit. His personality is one that tends to make light of situations.
Perhaps you don’t agree, but in my opinion, NO JOKE, no matter what that joke is, deserves one’s life to be threatened.

They did not seem to be open to the notion or at least the possibility, that Myers iconoclastic remarks was very damaging to their own movement that claims to be based on rationality and logic.

I think we both agree that there is an atheist movement.
I think we both agree that PZ made a stupid joke.
But we disagree of the impact on the atheist movement.
I think this incident will show MUCH more about the catholics involved than it will about PZ. Keep in mind, PZ made a joke (doesn’t matter if you find it funny, stupid, or offensive, it was OBVIOUSLY a joke). The catholics involved threatened the life of not only PZ, but a college kid, OVER A CRACKER.

I know I’m beating the death threat thing into the ground, but in my mind, this is the single most important thing to keep in mind.
Not once in all of this mess (that I have seen, and please feel free to correct me if I am wrong) has ANYBODY threatened physical harm to any catholic (or other believer).
The ONLY PEOPLE who have committed this crime (and yes, death threats are a felony in the US) are catholics.

Whether you agree with the kid, or with Dr Myers, neither one of them committed any crime or threatened to take the life of another person.

For a religion that claims “turn the other cheek” and “love they neighbor as thyself”, this is certainly showing a bad side (note I did not say the worst side, I’d rather save that for the whole raping children, or inquisition, or turning a blind eye towards Hitler, or … ;)

And IF more well known names…

Really, you’re trying to take the intellectual high ground when “your side” is the one threatening to murder people?
You seemed smarter than that.

The new atheism itself would degenerate into another group on the same line as groups that desecrate graves…

Again we’re talking about a cracker. PZ and the kid who started this whole thing have NEVER committed any crime. You’re taking a HUGE leap to say that somebody who has never mentioned committing any crime, will all of a sudden devolve into criminals.

Once again, I’ll mention it. The only side of this issue that has committed any crime, have been the catholics.

In fact, you wont even have to worry about cow worshippers forcing or intimidating you into accepting their views or changing your own

But in this case we have an example of catholics “forcing or intimidating” people into holding their symbols as sacred.

This is a perfect example of one group overreacting and using threats of violence and death because somebody does not revere their symbols as being sacred.

As a PERFECT example of how this looks to an outsider, explain the difference between the catholics over-reaction to to this, and the muslim over-reaction to the Danish cartoons.
Christians in the US were more than happy to condemn the muslim threats of violence over the cartoons, and here many of those same people are defending the ones making the death threats, because NOW they believe in the SAME god.

ANYBODY who wants to condemn PZ and approve of the catholic over-reaction and not be a hypocrite, should ALSO fully support the muslim reaction to those cartoons.

Of course, whether or not you feel you have wronged them is upto you. If you believe that your actions are justified because their sacred cows mean nothing to you, then this would be exactly what Myers is doing.

I will say, I enjoy a good steak. I also have some very good hindu friends, who are opposed to eating cow. When I have eaten at their house, I have eaten what they serve. When they have eaten at my house, my wife has made non beef dishes. But when we have gone out together, I have no issue at all ordering a steak or burger, and they have no issue with me eating a cow in their presence.

I dont thinks Catholics have a problem with someone not holding the cracker sacred in the first place. But Myers expressing an intent to willingly desecrate it CREATES a problem for the Catholics.

They threatened the kid as well, not just PZ. This, to me at least, shows it was not about PZ, or intent, it was about the cracker, and people not holding it to the same standard they hold it themselves.
If they never threatened the kid, and ONLY PZ, then PERHAPS I could see your point, but the catholics who assaulted the kid in the first place, and threatened his life prove different.

Furthermore, morals and ethics are rather subjective. So I cant expect you to relate to a system of morals/ethics that isnt yours.

But in this case, catholics are attempting to hold people to their own moral guidelines (desecrating the cracker is bad because it’s immoral, not illegal).

Simply put, all religions are groups, but all groups are not religions. Atheism is one example of a group that is not a religion.
A movement is when any group acts in the direction of a cause, and clearly the atheist movement is doing just that.

Here is one spot we totally agree.
I think it’s silly for people to claim there is no atheist movement.
I also think atheists NEED a movement (proved by the fact that in polls, Americans say Atheists are the most untrusted group in society). Too many ignorant fools equate atheism with satanism or some other such nonsense, and Atheists need to project the reality of what it is that they stand for.


It all boils down to this:
No matter what you feel about PZ’s blog post, he never committed a crime, only the catholics did this.
By assaulting and threatening the kid, and not JUST PZ, the catholics have shown this is ALL about the cracker, and making others hold their symbols sacred. It’s all about FORCING their beliefs onto others, plain and simple.

The fact that people attempted to come up with pseudo-intellectual arguments to admonish the kid and PZ, and justify the actions of those who actually committed crimes struck at me in a way where I felt my voice was relevant to the discussion.


I’d like to finish this up with a quote that seems relevant to the discussion.

We despise all reverences and all the objects of reverence which are outside the pale of our own list of sacred things. And yet, with strange inconsistency, we are shocked when other people despise and defile the things which are holy to us. – Mark Twain

About Rodibidably

Jeff Randall is a frequent volunteer for free-thought organizations, including the Center For Inquiry – DC. Having been blogging since January 2008, he decided that a community of bloggers would be an interesting new experience (or at the very least a fun way to annoy his friends into reading his posts more frequently). Since finding out about about the existence of, and then joining, the atheist/skeptic community in 2007 he has been committed to community activism, critical thinking in all aspects of life, science, reason, and a fostering a secular society.
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19 Responses to Cracker-Gate, just another opinion piece…

  1. Db0 says:

    Just thought I’d defend Alonzo here a bit since I agree with him.

    The reason why he considers wrong the action of taking the cracker away from the church is because the cracker was given under the tacit understanding that the receiver would eat it on the spot. If you then go back on your promise and decide to take it away then you are breaking the unspoken contract. If you do this secretly, then you are performing fraud.

    In a similar way, if I come to your place and ask you for a pen to write something, there is a tacit understanding that I will give it back. If this was your favorite pen and I were to walk out and refuse to give it back even though you said that this pen has emotional value to you, then you would be at right to use force to retrieve the pen. It doesn’t matter that I would scream “It’s a freaking pen”. Like Alonzo I also agree that there are limits to the force one can extert over a pen or a cracker and death threats are definitely extreme.

    As for why Alonzo condemnded PZ Myers call for people to retrieve a cracker. It is because PZ Myers was in effect asking people to commit fraud or theft in order get one that is “blessed”.

  2. Rodibidably says:


    I’ll accept the risk of repeating myself, but…

    I don’t see any issue at all with this, since this is something I have done myself. I was supposedly raised a catholic myself, but I did not like the taste of the eucharist. So on many occasions I walked out of the church with the eucharist still in my hand (well pocket, but same difference). I also was an alter boy for a time, and at least once that I recall I took a large number of eucharists from the church. As I recall I wanted to show them to some friends at school (which is actually the same exact reason this guy took this particular one).

    Keep in mind, as an alter boy, I knew and understood the “regulations” of the church. I “knew” I was supposed to eat the cracker at the time, but I was never lead to believe that not eating it wasa crime, or sin, or immoral, or in any way a big deal at all

    If I give a friend a shirt that I no longer wear, and then they rip that shirt to use it as a rag, I have no right to physically assault them over their “misuse” of my former shirt. This is the best analogy I can think of to describe what happened in this situation. The church freely and willingly gave the cracker to the kid. There were no stipulations of the usage of the cracker being limited to eating it at that precise moment, and on conditions on it. The moment they gave the cracker to the kid, it was now HIS CRACKER, to do with as he pleased. To say otherwise is completely misstating the issue.

    Keep in mind, even as an atler boy myself, I had no idea that this type of reaction was even POSSIBLE over the cracker.

    And still, perhaps I am failing to see the moral issue at hand here, but we are talking about a freely given away cracker and the eating, or lack of eating of the cracker. The blog makes the case that by accepting the cracker you are entering into a contract to perform the ritual as the catholics see fit. Being raise a catholic myself I understand that when you go up and get the cracker you then eat it and move on to the wine (or in some cases, people will skip the wine and go back to their seat). However, I also understand that not everybody understands all of the “rules”, and unless those “rules” are specifically spelled out, one can not expect others to hold to those “rules”. As a “former” catholic myself, I see no reason why I could not go to mass, receive communion, and take it with me as I leave the church. As I mentioned earlier, I had done this numerous times while I was still going to church regularly, as well as after I had “declared” my atheism. Despite being a former non-raped alter boy, I was never the “best” catholic, but I can say I never thought anybody would react this way over the cracker, even if they were a true believer.

    Can you explain WHERE these statements are flawed or in error in some manner?

    I understand “Alonzo’s” point, I just disagree with it. There is no stipulation when given a cracker at a catholic church that you MUST eat it then sand there.

    You said: The reason why he considers wrong the action of taking the cracker away from the church is because the cracker was given under the tacit understanding that the receiver would eat it on the spot.
    But if I did not know this was a “big deal”, and I’m a former alter boy, how are other people expected to KNOW this without ever being told in advance?

    I stand firm in my belief that the kid did NOTHING wrong.

    You said: If this was your favorite pen and I were to walk out and refuse to give it back even though you said that this pen has emotional value to you, then you would be at right to use force to retrieve the pen.
    Actually, legally I have no right to use force against you in this example, and I would be arrested for physically assaulting you to get the pen back (assuming you pressed charges). Legally, the proper recourse in this situation would be to get a cop involved to get the pen back.

  3. Whateverman says:

    I liked your write up of the situation, and tend to agree with most of what it said. I both laughed and winced when PZ suggested the public cracker desecration, and posted my opinion on the Pharyngula blog. However, the reaction of the outspoken Catholic Community was beyond understanding.

    As of this date, I would gladly consume Christ with crunchy peanut butter and a bit of raspberry jam, and post the video on Youtube – I’d even apologize to my Catholic friends while I did so.

    I hadn’t felt this way before the incident. I’m a cautious deist, and am often amused by the religion vs atheism debates, despite being labelled an atheist by those I disagree with. At this point, however, I side fully with the majority at Pharyngula: this incident vividly illuminates idiocy propagated in the name of God.


  4. Rodibidably says:

    Inquisition – who cares
    Looking the other way during Nazi rise – who cares
    Racism and slavery – who cares
    Priests raping young boys – who cares

    Kid doesn’t eat a cracker – BURN HIM!!!!!

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  6. Tony Sidaway says:

    Thanks for a very sane account of the affair.

    I tend to agree with you on the “theft” issue. Not eating something you have received for consumption isn’t theft. Physically making somebody eat something is assault. I was somewhat angered by the initial action against “the kid”, but feel that by taking a considerable risk himself, and (I think) damaging his own reputation, PZ Myers has pulled something good out of a bad situation.

    There are some issues on which somebody has to step up and make a stand. PZ did it on this occasion, with considerable flair (I think “The Great Desecration” will be my favorite bit of contemporary prose for a while to come).

    Over the past week of so I’ve been boring everybody with Civil Rights comparisons, so I see no reason to make an exception here. This wasn’t our Rosa Parks moment. It was our black power salute at the Olympics.

    Rosa Parks in 1954 violated etiquette as a young black woman in a rural town in a carefully stage-managed protest, with lawyers laid on.

    Tommie Smith and John Carlos violated etiquette grossly in front of hundreds of millions of viewers. While the band played the Star Spangled Banner and they stood with bowed heads and clenched fists, barefoot. They had no lawyers or backup, they just stood up and commemorated the 400 years it took to get there, and remembered those who didn’t make it.

    A line had been drawn.

    I think PZ Myers’ action was something of that nature. He made this statement, loud and clear: desecrating a consecrated wafer is not a killing matter. In this context, it’s a matter of academic freedom.

  7. Donnie B. says:

    You might want to consider correcting the many places where you misspelled PZ Myers’ last name.

  8. Rodibidably says:

    Thanks for the support. I know this post was insanely long, so I was unsure how many people (if any) would actually read it.
    I love the comparison to Smith/Carlos, it seems very apt, especially with the shit story that has followed.

    In this context, it’s a matter of academic freedom
    Actually, I’d say freedom of speech and of religion (or lack there of). The fact that PZ is an academic is irrelevant IMO.

    Thanks… Fixed.

  9. ThirtyFiveUp says:

    See Bill Donohue’s Archive which contains some CrackerGate:

    “King Kong Theory of Creation gang”

    “moral vacuity that marks the Darwinian”

    Above are two excerpted quotes from Donohue’s rants.

    One of Dr PZ Myers’ intents in writing his blog is defending the Theory of Evolution and disparaging Creationism and it’s zombie, Intelligent Design. It seems that Donohue thinks he knows more about biology than those who study it as their life work.

    Anyway, thanks for understanding “It is a fracking cracker!”

  10. RBH says:

    I’ve argued with PZ on occasion, both publicly and privately, about his tactics. I’ve never argued with im about principles. In this instance I wholly agree with his tactics. As I’ve posted elsewhere, one thing that PZ’s involvement did was to at least partly redress the power imbalance in the U of Central Florida situation. There it was the Catholics, including Donohue’s Catholic League, against an undergraduate. What PZ did was to say, “You guys want to pick on someone, pick on someone your own size, like me!” That is, PZ’s intervention brought the bright light of wide publicity to the Catholic Leagues persecution of the kid in Florida.

    And note that the persecution in Florida didn’t stop with the single kid. Someone there has also brought a complaint against the kid’s friend, who on his own account merely sat there quietly. According to a post on the Lippard Blog his UCF records are now on hold because someone complained.

  11. RayvenAlandria says:

    Thank you for taking the time to make this blog. Now when someone asks me what exactly the “cracker thing” is about, I can just send them here.

  12. Dave says:

    My eyes glazed over when you got to the part of the guy who said the cracker was stolen. His opinion should be filed under “who gives a fuck?” and you were wasting your time discussing it (I say this with all due respect, because your preceding comments were cogent and appropriate). The Catholics’ outrage, hypocrisy and persecution of the student are the issue here.

  13. Rodibidably says:

    I spent some time on the catholic league’s site when I was writting this post up. If I did not know in advance that it was serious, I’d actually have been tempted to think it was an absurdist parody.
    I do so love their use of inflamitory language when ranting about how others are being inflamitory towards them. If they were not being so deadly serious, one might think it was absolutly hilareous.

    I may not always agree with provoking believers (although I do find it an absolute riot, and I am guilty of doing it myself) I think in this case it was entirely justified.
    I also agree with you that one thing PZ’s involvment did was to pull the attention (and death threats) away from the kid and towards himself. While theatening the life of somebody over something this stupid is obviously asanine, I think that PZ is better equiped to deal with this type of shit storm than some random college kid.
    It’s a complete disgrace what the catholics have done to this poor kid (and apparently his friend), but not entirly unexpected based on the history of organized religions, and specifically this one.

    Thanks for the support. My goal was to make a “one stop shop” for all of the information, so people don’t HAVE to click through 21+ posts on 6+ sites (although I gave the relavant links for those who wanted to see the first hand evidence).

    Admittedly, it’s a long, long, long post. But there really is a lot of information to convey, and I did not want to leave out anything important, for fear of not giving the whole picture.
    Perhaps I gave too much detail, but it is a fine line to walk on an issue such as this.
    “The Catholics’ outrage, hypocrisy and persecution of the student are the issue here.”
    I could not possibly agree more. I was attempting to give all the relevant information, perhaps I gave too much in some spots. Hopefully the overload of info does not distract from the points I wanted to make.

  14. Gem Newman says:

    A cogent summary of the events: concise where appropriate, discursive where necessary. Well done.

  15. Rodibidably says:

    Thanks for the kind words Gem. Really my biggest worry as I was doing it was the length woudl be so out of hand that nobody would bother reading… So far I seem to be getting pretty good feedback, so I guess that was an unjustifed worry on my part.

  16. Ginny says:

    This is a great write up of everything that happened. I have to admit, when I first heard about that kid, my first thought was I wanted to go to my former Catholic church & do the same thing. I wasn’t surprised at all at PZ’s initial post.

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  19. Collin says:

    Wow! The way the church is reacting to this — it doesn’t even seem human.

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