In the latest issue of The Underground, UTSC’s campus paper, Erica Rodrigues writes “When freedom of speech goes too far”, a spittle-flecked protest of Peezy Myers‘ now-infamous host wafer desecration, or “Crackergate“. The article isn’t on the Underground website, so I’ve scanned it, and you can find it linked here.
Below the fold is my response.
Subject: Re: When freedom of speech goes too far
Erica Rodrigues’ article “When freedom of speech goes too far” (Underground, Nov. 27, 2008) is a perfect example of the sort of idiocy people like Paul Myers and “FSM Dude” were mocking in their acts of so-called desecration.
No, Ms. Rodrigues, a host wafer is not an embodiment of Christ. It’s not *actually* a piece of Jesus’ flesh. It is a metaphor, a symbol. The object itself is not special, no matter what your priest tells you. What’s special about a religious symbol is the way religious people treat the object: the ritual surrounding it, not the object itself.
Likewise, the Qur’an itself is not special. What a non-Muslim does with it is none of anyone’s business. Whether I throw my Qur’an in the garbage, set it on fire or wipe my behind with it, that’s nobody’s business but my own.
Here’s the thing that people like Ms. Rodrigues miss as they’re crying about the imagined violation of their religious freedom: freedom of speech and freedom of religion doesn’t just mean that religious people get to teach whatever nonsense and superstition they want. It also means that people get to call it nonsense and superstition. People get to make fun of Catholics by desecrating host wafers. People get to tear pages out of the Qur’an, put a yarmulke on the ground or make cartoons about Mormon underwear. People get to do these things in part because they don’t infringe on the rights of religious people to practice their religions.
Where that freedom stops is at inciting violence or other harm. Paul Myers has never, to my knowledge, advocated harming anyone. He has never suggested that religious people have anything but freedom to believe what they want and practice their faith in non-harmful ways. However, and this brings me to an interesting omission in Ms. Rodrigues’ article, PZ Myers has received tens of thousands of letters since “Crackergate” from irate Christians, demanding that he recant, proclaiming that he should be stripped of his professorship and insisting in various ways (including death threats) that he be denied the right to speak his mind and express his views on religion.
I ask that Ms. Rodrigues and other people who think that “freedom of religion” exists solely to protect the existence of religion, and to shield it from criticism and ridicule, take their heads out of their behinds and rejoin the real world.