Don’t diss gods in Indonesia »« Sounds familiar

The Dawkins Challenge…doesn’t even get out of the starting gate

Are there any good Christian writers who write about Christianity? I’m always astounded at what a confusing mess they generate when they try to explain their faith.

Case in point: some theologian named William Carroll has issued something he calls The Dawkins Challenge. I read halfway through it before I could puzzle out what it was about. He’s annoyed that Richard Dawkins (along with many other atheists I could name) has knocked the doctrine of transubstantiation.

Dawkins opined both in Australia and previously at the Reason Rally in Washington, D.C. that people should be encouraged to confront Roman Catholics about transubstantiation. Do they really hold the “utterly nutty belief that a wafer turns into the body of a first-century Jew just because a priest blessed it?” Such a view is “barking mad.”

He goes on and on about Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss, and I thought he was going to get around to issuing some challenge to them…but no, it’s completely different. He’s challenging Catholics to defend themselves against charges that their beliefs are silly. Fair enough, and a good idea; please do. I’d love to hear your sensible, rational defense of transubstantiation. Go ahead, be bold and open in your beliefs and explain them!

So this is what we get from William Carroll.

The body of Christ, present in the sacrament of the Eucharist, although real (neither symbolic nor metaphorical), is vastly different from the ordinary bodies subject to empirical analysis. It is sacramental presence and theology, aided by philosophy, that help to make intelligible what is believed.

Oh.

Well, I guess you showed Richard Dawkins…that he’s completely right and that your beliefs are “utterly nutty” and “barking mad”.

I think Carroll recognizes that his explanation is pretty damned stupid, because he wraps it up in excuses, claiming that the conclusions of physics are also hard to comprehend and often defy common sense. But what he really doesn’t understand is that those conclusions are a consequence of mathematical reasoning and actual experimental observations — they aren’t just made up, but are derived from the real, natural world, and can be evaluated objectively no matter what your religious upbringing. The accreted natterings of Catholic apologists have no such virtues.

You can’t say something is “real”, and then claim it exhibits none of the properties of any other real objects, and can’t ever be examined or analyzed empirically. That’s pretty much a good definition of “not real”.

Comments

  1. raven says

    Even most Catholics are confused and don’t understand transubstantiation.

    IIRC, a poll once found that half of them didn’t even know the cracker and wine were supposedly the real flesh and blood of the godman jesus after a magician called a “priest” mutters a spell over them.

  2. Larry says

    claiming that the conclusions of physics are also hard to comprehend and often defy common sense

    In other words, “math is really hard, therefore, god”.

  3. Randomfactor says

    Heck, Raven, they don’t even understand the simpler doctrines such as the Immaculate Conception.

    And they practice artificial contraception, too. Which means they actually don’t buy that whole “infallibility” shell game either.

  4. says

    For those who haven’t read it, Carl Sagan wrote a nice little essay about nonfalsifiable claims:

    Now, what’s the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire and no dragon at all? If there’s no way to disprove my contention, no conceivable experiment that would count against it, what does it mean to say that my dragon exists? Your inability to invalidate my hypothesis is not at all the same thing as proving it true. Claims that cannot be tested, assertions immune to disproof are veridically worthless, whatever value they may have in inspiring us or in exciting our sense of wonder.

  5. Brownian says

    IIRC, a poll once found that half of them didn’t even know the cracker and wine were supposedly the real flesh and blood of the godman jesus after a magician called a “priest” mutters a spell over them.

    And yet, transubstantiation is breathtakingly easy to see and in fact demonstrate with real people.

    Take Catholics: every former Catholic here, as well as the Catholics raven refers to have only the accidents of ever having being Catholic, when the apologist needs to defend Catholicism from charges such as raven’s.

    However, when the subject of the apologetics requires a host of believers for some variant of argumentum ad populum, every one of these cafeteria Catholics, former Catholics, people who’ve attended a Catholic wedding, baptism, funeral, or stumbled through the parking lot of a Catholic church to piss behind the bushes in the wee hours after a Friday night drinking binge has their substance transformed into the most devout of True Catholics—.

    You know it’s a religious transformation too, because every Catholic cum atheist who’s argued with a True Catholic™ knows that only the theist is able to wield this transformative power.

  6. says

    As someone who loves language (and mutters imprecations under my breath at its abuse), I often drew solace from the many musty hours of catechetical instruction by amusing myself with the fussy (and sometimes unintentionally revealing) terminology and definitions of my parents’ (and thus, temporarily, my) religion. In Catholic parlance, the bread and wine are the “accidents” in which the body and blood are manifested. That is, it just looks, tastes, and feels like bread and wine (in addition to possessing their exact chemical properties!), but after consecration what it really is — is Jesus! I swallowed this whole for several years on authority, but it got too silly to survive rational scrutiny in my teens.

    Fortunately for the Church, adults are able to keep believing it because (a) they learned it as kids, (b) adults wouldn’t lie to them about important stuff (only, say, Santa Claus), and (c) it doesn’t seem reasonable that a gigantic bureaucratic organization of guys in dresses could be built on such a foundation if it were just a fable. Even more fortunately for the Church, many adults who don’t actually believe it are willing to go the motions of attending mass and dropping money into the collection plate out of force of habit. If it weren’t for inertia, the Vatican would be in even greater trouble than it is.

  7. Brownian says

    The body of Christ, present in the sacrament of the Eucharist, although real (neither symbolic nor metaphorical), is vastly different from the ordinary bodies subject to empirical analysis. It is sacramental presence and theology, aided by philosophy, that help to make intelligible what is believed.

    Snark aside, theology is vastly different than physics, as can be shown in the above.

    I’ve understood that things fall down since I was a tiny child. I understood gravity, on a level. But later, I learned more. How do things fall, under what conditions, and why? I learned Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation. Things don’t fall down, they fall towards each other. My old understanding was not necessarily invalidated, it was improved upon. Added to. Refined.

    Now what does the above tell you about the issue of why a Jesus cracker is different than a regular cracker. It’s different because it’s different. There you go. Done. Now, aren’t you more knowledgeable than you were before?

    Seriously, what kind of fucking wanking bullshit is that?

  8. Randomfactor says

    Transubstantiation is really quite easy to explain:

    In the Mass, the bread and wine are entangled with the substance of Jesus on a quantum level. That this has been done by priests for 2000 years before scientists achieved it with mere photons is yet another proof of Ceiling Cat’s existence.

    You’re welcome.

  9. Amphiox says

    Transubstantiation is, to borrow terminology from a certain late and unlamented troll, a wholly subjective experience that cannot be properly described in words, so they just arbitrarily choose a few words to describe it because, you know, if you can’t use words you can’t preach to the gullible and expand your collection coffers.

    In other words, it is imaginary.

  10. thisisaturingtest says

    The body of Christ, present in the sacrament of the Eucharist, although real (neither symbolic nor metaphorical), is vastly different from the ordinary bodies subject to empirical analysis. It is sacramental presence and theology, aided by philosophy, that help to make intelligible what is believed.

    Things that are real are so because they are “subject to empirical analysis”, so if it’s vastly different from that standard, it’s not real, and no amount of waffling about “ordinary,” aided by philosophy and theology, will change that.
    I dunno- his whole argument sounds tautological, recursive, and oxymoronic all the same time to me. He seems to be saying “the sacrament is a sacrament because it’s a sacrament.” And he’s saying it’s real, but not really real. This is “thinking” with results indistinguishable from not thinking at all.

  11. funkyderek says

    While Dawkins was in Dublin recently, an audience member pointed to the results of a survey in Ireland that showed that only 26% of Catholics actually believed this. Dawkins suggested the other 74% might want to leave the church as they don’t agree with or understand one of its most fundamental teachings. This was greeted with a typically confused and rambling response by Ireland’s greatest waffler on religion the Irish Times columnist John Waters http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2012/0608/1224317501929.html
    A Catholic priest had another go in the same newspaper a few days later. http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2012/0612/1224317752830.html
    He masterfully evades the central issue of whether Catholics are required to believe that Jesus is actually present in the consecrated wafer (they are) and instead splits hairs over whether they have to use the word “transubstantiation” to describe it. He also reminds us that the church no longer murders people who disagree but tends to be a lot friendlier to them – which is nice, of course, but doesn’t really answer the question

  12. Sastra says

    Catholic apologetics often rely heavily on ancient metaphysical and ontological explanations of how the universe was set up. There’s Platonism and the idea of ideal forms manifested in matter. There’s Aristotelian physics with its quaint divisions of “actuality” and “potentiality.” The world is divided up into categories that make sense to people sitting and thinking deeply about where resemblances and differences lie.

    We’ve moved on. Science taught us the humility and utility of approaching understanding from the bottom up, instead of top down — and to test our assumptions. We don’t think in those terms anymore. At least, not until we get to religion and spirituality when suddenly, all the discarded scholastic handwaving, uninformed intuitions, and empty rationalistic speculation is now regarded as deep wisdom.

    I’m currently arguing with a Christian over the claim that God is “simple.” Pointing out that a proposed Being with an enormous amount of characteristics including a mindful intelligence which knows everything there is to know is not — and cannot be — considered “simple” apparently means nothing if theologians have, for centuries, seriously intoned that God’s nature is simple, whole, and without parts.

    It’s as if the most unlikely elements of a claim have to be conceded in a stipulated definition. It’s not just the Ontological Argument that tries that one. They do it all over.

  13. Art Vandelay says

    If all the Catholics that don’t really believe in it actually realized that it’s a such a major part of their doctrine and decided to turn protestant, how fast would the RCC tear up the doctrine of transubstantiation?

  14. says

    Why not just say it’s magic, so it doesn’t have to make sense?

    That’s what a lot of people believe, seemingly including most of the IDiots, whose trump card seems to always be their attempts to make nonsense of biology. I assume that it really works in their own minds.

    Glen Davidson

  15. 'Tis Himself says

    He also reminds us that the church no longer murders people who disagree but tends to be a lot friendlier to them

    The Catholic Church is getting slack these days. Where is Torquemada when he’s really needed?

  16. Beatrice says

    IIRC, a poll once found that half of them didn’t even know the cracker and wine were supposedly the real flesh and blood of the godman jesus after a magician called a “priest” mutters a spell over them.

    I certainly never believed it was actually turning into Jesus meat. All the times the priest said “This is the body of Christ” I thought he meant “this symbolizes the body of Christ”. I simply could never believe anyone could be stupid enough to think the priest really did some hocus pocus and turned a cracker into Jesus. (I know, at the same time I believed some other really stupid shit, the existence of God being the prime example.)

  17. Sastra says

    Eric MacDonald over at Choice in Dying wrote that, back when he was a priest, one of the most common theological questions he would get would be “Father, what do we believe about (fill-in-the-blank)?”

    Imagine asking this about any other area, in any other venue. “What do we believe about global warming?” “What do we believe about aardvarks?” Not what’s true, what makes sense, what can you tell me about, what are the pros and cons — but what do “we” believe. So I can know what I believe. I already believe it — I just don’t know what my belief actually is yet.

    It’s as if people in churches adopt beliefs the way I mark the “I have read and understand the legal contract” button when I download some update on the internet. Now, I could conceivably get in trouble. Accepting some creed about how God arranges things in supernatural terms? No real life consequences. Makes you wonder how much you could mess with it before anyone caught on.

  18. says

    The body of Christ, present in the sacrament of the Eucharist, although real (neither symbolic nor metaphorical), is vastly different from the ordinary bodies subject to empirical analysis. It is sacramental presence and theology, aided by philosophy, that help to make intelligible what is believed.

    Let me paraphrase that…

    It’s maaaAAAaaagiiiIIIiiic, woooOOOoooOOOooo!
    -waves his hands around-
    YoooOOOooouuuUUUuuu caaaAAAaaan’t explaaaAAAiiin iiit!
    -dramatic hand poses-
    HoooOOOooocuuuUUUuuus PoooOOOooocuuuUUUuuus!

    Clearly every Catholic priest is a wizard.

  19. AlanMac says

    He also reminds us that the church no longer murders people who disagree but tends to be a lot friendlier to them …

    This is a lie of omission (“mental reservations” as the Vatican calls it) . The “Church” is no longer ALLOWED to murder people who disagree. But they can and do have people arrested and jailed in countries where there are anti-blaspheme laws. I suppose that sitting in an Indian jail is friendlier than being burned alive at the stake after having your tongue ripped out.

  20. helenaconstantine says

    The problem appears to be with the definition of the word real. For the Catholic, real means something that exists in the mind of god. The idea of a chair, for example is real in so far as god thinks about chairs, but any particular chair here in the physical world is not real; its accidental, like an image of the real chair seen through a kaleidoscope.

    The idea of the wafer changes in the mind of god into the idea of Christ’s body. Its irrelevant if the accidental wafer the priest holds doesn’t change in a way perceptible to the human senses. The Emperor Fredrick II was on entirely the wrong track when he had a condemned criminal take communion and then sliced him open to see is there was human flesh instead of bread in his stomach.

    Please don’t get the mistaken idea I believe this–I’m just explaining it.

  21. helenaconstantine says

    Technically, the Church never executed anyone for blasphemy. Even in Spain in the 16th century, after a heretic was condemned, he was turned over to the government (‘surrendered to the secular arm’ was the term of art) who carried out execution for the secular crime of heresy or blasphemy.

  22. thisisaturingtest says

    keithpeterson @#21-
    I don’t say this often (in fact, I find it a little annoying, but…) I LOL’d.

  23. says

    IIRC, a poll once found that half of them didn’t even know the cracker and wine were supposedly the real flesh and blood of the godman jesus after a magician called a “priest” mutters a spell over them.

    I didn’t, and if I had missed church the day they explained that I don’t know that I would have found out for years. That was the first time I started having a powerful doubt about the whole story.

  24. Jamie says

    Just because physics doesn’t make sense to him, he thinks he’s allowed to not make sense either?

    If all that matters is that a priest magically turns the sacrament into the “real” body of Christ, why doesn’t he also turn it into something delicious? He’s claiming the “realness” of Christ’s body in the cracker is unrelated to the cracker and wine; why even use them? I’m sure that cracker is nothing like the bread that Christ supposedly shared among his disciples. Why not use doughnut holes instead? I’d like to see him explain why sacraments have to taste so awful.

  25. helenaconstantine says

    Randomfactor:

    No, quantum entanglement can’t have anything to do with it.

    Transubstantiation would not work if matter is composed of atoms. The inquisitors insisted on this point at Galileo’s trial and he would have been executed if he had not recanted atomic theory. But he was willing to do so since it was not very securely established at that time.

    I guess the Vatican must be wondering why they don’t hear from the Catholic Church in Nagasaki anymore.

  26. helenaconstantine says

    And yes, transubstantiation is magic. I always use it as a familiar reference point to explain sympathetic magic to students–that and the episode from the Gospels where Jesus was touched in a crowd by a woman who had been pregnant for menstruating continuously for several years and sensed the magical power going out of his body to heal her.

  27. says

    If all the Catholics that don’t really believe in it actually realized that it’s a such a major part of their doctrine and decided to turn protestant, how fast would the RCC tear up the doctrine of transubstantiation?

    catholics managed to keep most of their members through molestation scandals, cancelling limbo (wtf), and despite the fact that almost all catholics ignore the church’s mandate on birth control. Oh yeah, and exorcism. I don’t think that one would be much to add to the pile of silly bullshit; the majority of catholics I’ve met in my catholic upbringing just don’t take the church very seriously. Its more of a social organization than anything else. The people who take it really seriously are looked down on as being totally nuts.

    I’m not trying to defend catholocism, its indefensible. I am just trying to explain why it probably wouldn’t matter.

  28. baal says

    All the times the priest said “This is the body of Christ” I thought he meant “this symbolizes the body of Christ”. I simply could never believe anyone could be stupid enough to think the priest really did some hocus pocus and turned a cracker into Jesus.

    ^this

    I have trouble now and then listening to intensely unbelievable statements and find myself mentally correcting what they are saying. Transubstantiation is looney enough that most (all?) protestants gave it up as a literal doctrine.

  29. ronster666 says

    The notion of transubstantiation is responsible for my ultimate break with the catholic church and with religion as a whole. During first communion class, my brother and I challenged the teacher on whether the concept was symbolic or if the wafer actually changed. We were told that it was not symbolic and that a transformation does occur. After some discussion on cannabalism, we asked why someone had not performed an analysis on a consecratrd wafer. We received a non-answer and a lecture on faith and we almost got kicked out of class, but I think they saw my parent’s tithe going away for them and we stayed in class, completed it and participated in the absurd ritual for a while. Having a rational mind and never feeling anything even close to contact with any god, I gave up my pretense and admitted to myself and my parents that I didn’t believe in any of the superstitious nonsense that religion had “taught” me. My parents took it in stride, respected my decision and we went forward agreeing to disagree.

  30. says

    This appears to be the perfect moment to mention that “hocus pocus” is relevant in this context:

    It has been stipulated that the term rose as a pejorative against Catholics, based on a perversion of the sacramental blessing (the Words of Institution) Hoc est corpus meum (“This is my body”).

  31. says

    The whole thing was a blank to me until I read the Greeks on substance and essence. The best known metaphor for this is Plato’s Cave which is often confused with Maxwell’s Demon/The Matrix, although it is really not the same thing.

    The people in Plato’s Cave are chained to the floor in such a way that they can only see the shadows of objects. Because of the nature of shadows, sometimes two different objects (blessed and plain wafer) have the same shadow (identical looking wafers) wafer) and sometimes the same object will throw two wholly unlike shadows (body and blood versus wafers).

    It’s supposed to be about the inability of the senses to provide accurate information but of course we have far more ways to measure properties of objects than the ancients and the only distinguishable difference between the transformed wafer and the flour cookie is that the transformed wafer has a subjective effect on people who have been told what it is.

    What Caroll seems to be saying is that one’s own opinion (informed by theology and philosophy) should be counted as a measurable difference. This is pretty easily answered by pointing out that many very smart theologians and philosophers profess contrary informed opinions and that you need a strong basis before pointing at a 100% subjective experience and saying “that one is the right one.”

  32. Beatrice says

    It has been stipulated that the term rose as a pejorative against Catholics, based on a perversion of the sacramental blessing (the Words of Institution) Hoc est corpus meum (“This is my body”).

    Ha!
    Brilliant. I had no idea.

  33. michaellatiolais says

    @’Tis Himself #18,
    I believe that he is presently battling draconic hordes in Requiem and is a bit more hairy than he used to be.

    As far as this silly belief is concerned, I admit that I once bought into it(if you have already swallowed the rest…). Catholics actually have places called “perpetual adoration chapels,” where a consecrated host is mounted in a ciborium and people are praying in front of it around the clock.

  34. BeyondUnderstanding says

    Clearly every Catholic priest is a wizard.

    Let’s see.

    Robe? Check.
    Staff? Check.
    Big Hat? Check.
    Ancient writings? Check.

    Hmm… Almost. They just need make long beards mandatory. That would also help with the whole “no girls allowed” policy. “Sorry, but beards.”

  35. Moggie says

    Sastra:

    It’s as if people in churches adopt beliefs the way I mark the “I have read and understand the legal contract” button when I download some update on the internet.

    One of the best descriptions of the bible that I’ve read is that it’s the Christians’ EULA: they don’t actually read it, just scroll to the end and click “accept”.

  36. says

    I’ve known what transubstantiation is since I was a teenager, and the minister at my fundy church carefully explained the various theories of Communion, from various Christian sects, to us.

    Because he wanted to make sure we only believed the “correct” one, of course. (Get it straight: it’s symbolic. And baptism must be by full immersion of adults. And there should be no formal church organization above the level of local congregation. Etc. Which, taken together, proves that Catholicism is Doing It All Wrong.)

  37. daniellavine says

    The Catholic Church is getting slack these days. Where is Torquemada when he’s really needed?

    “Hey Torquemada, whatta ya say?”

    “I just got back from the auto da fe!”

    “Auto da fe, what’s an auto da fe?”

    “It’s what you oughtn’t to do but you do anyway!”

    -Mel Brooks, History of the World Pt. I

    The best known metaphor for this is Plato’s Cave which is often confused with Maxwell’s Demon/The Matrix, although it is really not the same thing.

    1. Maxwell’s demon is a model of negentropy. You’re thinking of the “Cartesian demon.”
    2. While “sci fi update of Cartesian demon” is the most superficially plausible interpretation of the Matrix, it’s really only one tiny aspect of what the Matrix movies were about. The Matrix is more about the conflict between systems of control on one hand and the subjective experience of autonomy on the other. (A nice way to get around the “human battery” plot hole is to think of the machines as harvesting autonomy rather than energy from the humans in the Matrix, an interpretation supported by events in the second and third movies and in the Animatrix films.) “Protestant work ethic” is a better example of what the Matrix was about. Children are brought up to reify this idea that working hard for the betterment of (a particular) society is a proper moral value; this makes it more likely that the meme’s host works to the benefit of society (because it is good to work hard) and that the host will propagate the same value system. “Protestant work ethic” is part of the Matrix, the system of control that steals away human autonomy to perpetuate itself through time.

    Originally I thought the movies were about the Cartesian skepticism problem too, but one time I saw them and thought “maybe the Matrix is supposed to represent civilization.” And it made so much more sense and was so much more profound. But then I realized the themes are even more abstract than that — it’s not just about civilization but about any system that operates LIKE civilization — including biological life.

  38. Fexbolt says

    Right now in Ireland they are holding the Eucharistic congress. On the first day they expected 20 thousand and got 10. Most of those were from overseas. They should have called it the 2012 Wafer Convention.

  39. Aquaria says

    Technically, the Church never executed anyone for blasphemy. Even in Spain in the 16th century, after a heretic was condemned, he was turned over to the government (‘surrendered to the secular arm’ was the term of art) who carried out execution for the secular crime of heresy or blasphemy.

    This doesn’t fucking fly, no matter how catholic idiots try to tapdance around it.

    The Vatican (or Avignon) had only outsourced some of their operations, to keep their hands clean. Why was the government doing it at all? Because the church told them to! I dunno, me, that sort of indicates that the church was in charge of the government, if it was doing what they wanted!

    FFS, it’s just plain stupid to try to peddle that bullshit at this stage.

    He masterfully evades the central issue of whether Catholics are required to believe that Jesus is actually present in the consecrated wafer (they are) and instead splits hairs over whether they have to use the word “transubstantiation” to describe it. He also reminds us that the church no longer murders people who disagree but tends to be a lot friendlier to them – which is nice, of course, but doesn’t really answer the question

    I’m sorry–for some reason this just makes me laugh at how fucking clueless so many christards are.

    Carry on.

  40. cyberCMDR says

    Well, PZ once famously desecrated a cracker. Perhaps next time he can do a forensic analysis of one and publish the results. Better yet, try to harvest human cells from it, and say he intends to create a Jesus clone.

  41. rr says

    If all that matters is that a priest magically turns the sacrament into the “real” body of Christ, why doesn’t he also turn it into something delicious?

    Something that tastes like pork?

  42. graham says

    In the words of British comedian Richard Herring: How many Catholic masses do you have to attend before you’ve eaten a whole Jesus?

  43. petejohn says


    The body of Christ, present in the sacrament of the Eucharist, although real (neither symbolic nor metaphorical), is vastly different from the ordinary bodies subject to empirical analysis. It is sacramental presence and theology, aided by philosophy, that help to make intelligible what is believed.

    Translation: The wafer does turn into the body of Christ. But it’s a special kind of body that is unlike any other ever seen and therefore can’t be studied. Theological and philosophical mental masturbation help this make sense.

    In other words this chap knows that a wafer turning into the flesh of a long-dead (and probably not even real) man is totally nuts. So he makes up some word salad in order to move this claim into a land of untestability in order to make it less-batshit. It’s not fooling me, if anything this word salad makes the claim even more preposterous. I would give the guy credit for trying, but it was such a feeble attempt I cannot bring myself to do so.

  44. life is like a pitbull with lipstick ॐ says

    Aquaria using mental retardation as an insult again:

    I’m sorry–for some reason this just makes me laugh at how fucking clueless so many christards are.

    Like using permutations of dyke or gay or queer as insults, this is hurtful to innocent bystanders — “splash damage” I saw it called recently.

  45. yoav says

    I think I got it. Let us examine the known facts:
    1: When a pedophile in a fancy Hogwarts robes cast a spell the cracker is transformed into a slice of jeebus, literally.
    2: When the post magic cracker is examine the result conclusively show that what you have in your hand is a cookie.

    Therefore there is only one possible conclusion, jeebus is really the Pillsbury Doughboy.

  46. eclectabotanics says

    Likewise if I tinkle my holy waters on this chair that I’m parked on, it will magically turn into a flying invisible pink unicorn and take me away to paradise.

  47. says

    I read the Catholic comments there. Apparently, Catholicism is an idea espoused by the brainwashed, by bullshitters, and by brainwashed bullshitters. They don’t even begin to make sense in any context that has contact with reality.

  48. says

    @yoav:

    “And yea, in the third day, did the Doughboy rise from the oven, still bearing upon him the crisp of his baking. And those who saw and gazed upon him were blessed, hoohoo. Now we will sing from the Book of Hymns, page 43 ‘A Little Yeast will Raise Us Up’”

  49. says

    You can’t say something is “real”, and then claim it exhibits none of the properties of any other real objects, and can’t ever be examined or analyzed empirically. That’s pretty much a good definition of “not real”.

    Going to add this one to my collection of atheist sayings, My first PZ entry.

  50. toddsweeney says

    @Katherine Lorraine, Chaton de la Mort:

    “And yea, in the third day, did the Doughboy rise from the oven, still bearing upon him the crisp of his baking. And those who saw and gazed upon him were blessed, hoohoo. Now we will sing from the Book of Hymns, page 43 ‘A Little Yeast will Raise Us Up’”

    “Egon!”

    “I’m sorry, Ray…it just popped in there!”

  51. Sili says

    Aquaria using mental retardation as an insult again:

    I’m sorry–for some reason this just makes me laugh at how fucking clueless so many christards are.

    Like using permutations of dyke or gay or queer as insults, this is hurtful to innocent bystanders — “splash damage” I saw it called recently.

    I’ll leave to Aquaria to explain themself, but I use that suffix to connote “bastard”. Or is that offensive to people born out of wedlock?

  52. A. R says

    Ah, transubstantiation, that wonderful process by which a foam-like cracker becomes a religiously significant foam-like cracker that Bill Donahue will pay shitloads of money to protect from eeeeeebil college students.

  53. says

    funkyderek

    Well, all business models need to specifically state their goals and core priorities. In this case, the church has decided that heresy doesn’t matter as long as they can still get access to the congregation’s wallets. Sensible business decision, really.

  54. yoav says

    @Katherine Lorraine, Chaton de la Mort:
    Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my cinnamony swirls ; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my sugary glaze: and be not faithless, but believing. (Cookie monster 20:24)

  55. Aratina Cage says

    Of course they have a magic spell that turns Jesus into crackers. Wouldn’t you want such a spell if a zombie like that was coming after your brainz? Turnabout is fair play.

  56. life is like a pitbull with lipstick ॐ says

    I’ll leave to Aquaria to explain themself, but I use that suffix to connote “bastard”.

    Aquaria doesn’t. There she uses the form christarded which makes clear she’s aiming for retarded.

    Or is that offensive to people born out of wedlock?

    I don’t know; I haven’t studied the matter. Whether it is or not, it would be helpful if you’d go “the full bastard” to avoid inadvertently normalizing retard-as-insult where a reader could misunderstand you.

  57. petejohn says

    @Jamie

    I’d like to see him explain why sacraments have to taste so awful.

    When I used to go to church, my church (Methodist) used big, fresh, crusty loaves of bread. When I was little I used to look forward to communion Sundays (only like once a month or so, I don’t really remember) because that bread was pretty good.

  58. says

    @61: I have a friend who’s a United Church minister who bakes as a hobby. So of course he bakes his own Communion bread for services. He’s a really good baker ;-).

  59. ogremeister says

    The body of Christ, present in the sacrament of the Eucharist, although real (neither symbolic nor metaphorical), is vastly different from the ordinary bodies subject to empirical analysis. It is sacramental presence and theology, aided by philosophy, that help to make intelligible what is believed.

    Wow. Actually, it sounds remarkably like ghosts using ectoplasm:

    Ectoplasm is said to be formed by physical mediums when in a trance state. This material is excreted as a gauze-like substance from orifices on the medium’s body and spiritual entities are said to drape this substance over their nonphysical body, enabling them to interact in the physical and real universe.

    A ghost host.

    Phantom of the Cracker.

    or

    Arthur Conan Doyle described ectoplasm as “a viscous, gelatinous substance which appeared to differ from every known form of matter in that it could solidify and be used for material purposes”.

    Jesus Jam.

  60. huntstoddard says

    That explanation is so very…Catholic. There’s no other word that describes it as well. You can’t understand Eucharist by material, scientific means, only by theological and philosophical means, and the correct philosophical means are the ones they, Catholics, employ. Thus do they cover their tracks completely. You can’t argue against them because you are not equipped with tools or knowledge do it, and if you attempt to do so, you are engaged in “scientism,” which is really, really bad. There will always be a chapter or two of Summa Theologica that you didn’t read or understand.

  61. madscientist says

    “…and theology, aided by philosophy, that help to make intelligible what is believed.”

    In other words: complete bullshit and self-delusion.

  62. says

    Every Catholic that I have ever confronted on the issue of transubstantiation either called it a metaphor for god or refused to discuss it. Thereby, unwilling to defend their religion.

  63. Wowbagger, Vile Demagogue says

    The papists came out in force to try and argue the logic behind transubstantiation during Crackergate – when they weren’t trying to liken what PZ did to having to watch their children murdered in front of them, that is.

    But, like most Christian ‘beliefs’ it’s neither adhered to nor understood by the vast majority of believers, and is yet another reminder that religious affiliation is far more about culture and identity than it is about belief; the people who are defending beliefs which they themselves don’t comprehend or care about are doing it because they think criticism of those beliefs is an attack on them, their race, their family or their culture – or all of the above.

    The greatest trick religion ever pulled was integrating itself with the human tendency for tribalism.

  64. nonny says

    I wonder, if you put two wafers in front of a priest, one blessed and one unblessed, would they be able to tell which was which? If the Pope himself had a hundred tries at it, would he perform better than chance? I suspect not and they’ll never let us do a test like that, the catholic church has a rigid heirarchy and you can’t question the higher-ups. At least, that’s the way it seems from the outside.

    I’ve only ever been to church for weddings, funerals, christmas services and that kind of thing- mostly protestant ones, not that I paid much attention- so I had no idea catholics were supposed to believe this kind of nonsense. It really is totally ridiculous, I can’t take it seriously at all.

  65. echidna says

    Every Catholic that I have ever confronted on the issue of transubstantiation either called it a metaphor for god or refused to discuss it. Thereby, unwilling to defend their religion.

    Speaking as an ex-Catholic, I wouldn’t have even seen the need to defend transubstantiation. I accepted it as true, from childhood on, and it was just a fact to be relied on like any other fact. I didn’t try to rationalise it, because I trusted the adults to not lie to me. That was a mistake.

    I think that what Dawkins is aiming at is that by getting Catholics to examine absurd beliefs, that they will be seen to be absurd. But I’m not sure that transubstantiation is the best example, because it’s always described as a “mystery” – which is like a “do not think about it” shield. The shield is really quite effective.

    I disagree with the notion that people who believe stupid things are therefore stupid themselves; I think it’s that for whatever reason, their trust has been misplaced. The keys out of Catholicism, for me, at any rate, was a demonstration that I had been lied to, and I suspect that it works best in areas that have not been emphasised as important articles of faith.

    For example, I was told that until Jesus, the Jewish people did not believe in life after death. But the biblical book Maccabees, written about 150 BCE, shows that this is not true. Once the idea that I had been lied to seeped in, with the help of further reading, the whole edifice just crumbled and vanished.

  66. Wowbagger, Vile Demagogue says

    I wonder, if you put two wafers in front of a priest, one blessed and one unblessed, would they be able to tell which was which?

    This question was asked – several times – during Crackergate. The responses were both a) predictable and b) uncompelling.

  67. throwaway says

    I’ll leave to Aquaria to explain themself, but I use that suffix to connote “bastard”. Or is that offensive to people born out of wedlock?

    Is there something magical about marriage that makes a child special? I think the term IS offensive because of the negative connotations it holds that being part of a non-traditional marriage is a detriment to the child. Consider all the bashing of single mothers and how raising a child in that environment, without a male figure, is supposedly detrimental to that child’s well-being. It’s also that it’s an insult to a completely innocent party.

    It perpetuates patriarchy is my main complaint.

  68. says

    In response to nonny’s question, the Catholic mystic Therese Neumann has a long list of alleged attributes, discernment of consecrated wafers among them. In addition to being able to tell a consecrated host from an unconsecrated one, she could supposedly distinguish priests from laymen and good priests from bad ones. Best of all, she claimed to live without eating or drinking, subsisting only on the wafers of daily Holy Eucharist (communion). The other stuff could be harmless parlor tricks, but the claim about living on communion wafers marks her out as a blatant fraud.

    For some reason, the Church has yet to canonize her as a saint.

  69. says

    The Protestants aren’t off the hook for this Eucharistic craziness. Though they use a different name for the idea, and offer some slight nuances, you’re still chomping down on a piece of Jesus.

    The name is the “Real Presence” of Christ in the wafer, and I discuss Luther’s no-holds-barred defense of it in my book An Examination of the Pearl that tells about the painful process of questioning my faith in a fundamentalist sect of Lutheranism. The historical issue was with Luther trying to have it both ways by rejecting Catholic transubstantiation while offering what was hoped to be a less crazy-making substitute.

    As it turned out, a Lutheran minister saying the right mumbo-jumbo would cause the wafer to be consubstantiated, not transubstantiated. It still remained bread, and needed none of those papist “accidents” to cover up the fact that it still looked and felt like, and was just as tasteless as, a standard communion wafer from the local church supply store. No rancid flesh would appear, no plump maggots would crawl out after dining on the choice cut that you were fortunate enough to get, no gristly bits for those a bit further away from the juicy Grade A stuff. Just the nice, white, inoffensive little wafer, handed to you with the sincere, literal incantation: “This is the body of Christ, given for you.” Open mouth, down the hatch.

    Well, what does all that business, “This is the body of Christ,” come from, then? He didn’t say, “given symbolically for you,” or “given metaphorically for you.” It comes from Luther’s word game in saying that there was a Real Presence of Christ’s body in the sanctified bread. The wafer remains bread, but now it’s got company–Jesus! Where Jesus (or a piece of his extensor pollicis longus fits into the sanctified wafer is still unknown. But, hey, at least it’s still bread. Maybe the Jesus part is like peanut butter spread invisibly on top?

    My treatment of this issue in the book is a bit more refined, so please take a look there if you’re interested. Section 5.3 discusses how Luther refused to accept Zwingli, another reformer, based on this issue alone: His flaw was stating the obvious, that this was all metaphor. The first part of Section 4.3 goes over the history of the sacrament, including disagreements about where there really was Jesus flesh present in the bread. Those disagreements commenced surprisingly early on in Christianity.

  70. flapjack says

    @nonny -
    “I wonder, if you put two wafers in front of a priest, one blessed and one unblessed, would they be able to tell which was which?”

    Why am I picturing a commercial in my head for “I Can’t Believe it’s not Jesus” – the same moisture sapping aftertaste you love but infinity times the dogma of regular rice wafers.

  71. opposablethumbs says

    Why am I picturing a commercial in my head for “I Can’t Believe it’s not Jesus” – the same moisture sapping aftertaste you love but infinity times the dogma of regular rice wafers.

    rofl

  72. says

    The body of Christ, present in the sacrament of the Eucharist, although real (neither symbolic nor metaphorical), is vastly different from the ordinary bodies subject to empirical analysis. It is sacramental presence and theology, aided by philosophy, that help to make intelligible what is believed.

    I’m betting that William Carroll sincerely thought that was actually an explanation, and that he just refuted the dumb atheist.

  73. Gregory in Seattle says

    Actually, transubstantiation — all of sacramental theology, in fact — makes sense if you know the foundation it was based on.

    By the early Empire, most Roman philosophies were based on the idea that everything had two aspects, forma and substantia, “form” and “substance.” Form was the material qualities that could be detected directly by the senses; substance wat the immaterial qualities that could not be detected directly, but could be inferred. Given the lack of tools that were available for physical science, this division served to explain observable facts. For example, the form of a piece of willow bark told you its color, shape, weight, texture, fragrance and taste; its substance explained why it was useful in lowering fevers and relieving inflammation.

    The division between form and substance held weight in moral philosphy as well. Take two identical twins who look the same, sound the same, dress the same. One is moral, and expresses all of the desired Roman characteristics: virtue, gravitas, civitas and so on. The other is immoral: he is a liar, a cheat, he dishonors his family and so on. Similar form, different substance. Likewise take the good twin and compare him to a beggar on the street, a former slave freed when his owner died because he was too old and too worn out to be sold as part of the estate. Even so, the beggar exhibits the same degree (to the extent that his station allows) of virtue, gravitas, civitas and so on. Very different form, but similar substance.

    All of the prevailing Roman philosophies of the Empire used this distinction between form and substance. The Epicureans held that form reflected substance: good can be pursued by pursuing good things. The Cynics held that form was a distraction: good can only be pursued by rejecting form. The Stoics held that form was irrelevant: good can be pursued by changing ones own substance.

    At the time Christian doctrine was being set, very few people were literate. Those who were able to read and write were taught by reading Roman philosophers and copying out their works; thus, educated men — the ones who were actually thinking about doctrine and writing down their thoughts — had been indoctrinated with the concepts of form and substance. It is therefore quite understandable that they would use this worldview in describing sacramental theology.

    Sacramental theology is all about substance. Original sin is a congentical flaw in a person’s substance; baptism spackles over these flaws. Ordinary sin dirties up a person’s substance; confession and absolution washes off that dirt. The “permanent and eternal mark” that comes with confirmation, ordination and marriage is a notation on a person’s substance.

    With the Eucharist, Christians from the Latin tradition speak of transubstantiation, “change in substance,” rather than transformation, “change in form.” Christians from the Greek tradition speak of metousiosis, which is very close in meaning to transubstantiation. This indicates that the change occurs in the immaterial qualities of the bread and wine rather than the material qualities.

    Yes, it is all bunk. However, it is bunk in the way that a geo-centric universe is bunk: it is an outdated attempt to rationally and systematically explain observations of the natural world, and then include other phenomena into that system. It is not, as some seem to think, a fantasy that popped into the head of someone who had been sampling very colorful mushrooms.

  74. alwayscurious says

    Does this make Catholics transubstantial cannibals or cannibal transubstantialists?

    Amazon sells “used” communion wafers; but beware, one of the reviewers warns that generic wafers bought over the Internet may be contaminated with false gods which could permanently damage your soul. And if they are “used” and cross state lines, does that mean the FDA should be regulating the Jesus content or should be outright banning them for inappropriate human content in a food product?

    http://www.amazon.com/Communion-Wafers-1000-Broadman-Press/dp/0805470859

    So many dangers inherent in this practice, so few laws to protect the innocent ignorant.

  75. Amphiox says

    Is there something magical about marriage that makes a child special? I think the term IS offensive because of the negative connotations it holds that being part of a non-traditional marriage is a detriment to the child.

    There used to be, IIRC. Legally, with respect legitimacy for inheritance of titles, properties, and so forth, children produced in traditional marriages were specially privileged, once. “Bastard” I think was even originally a legal term.

  76. gravityisjustatheory says

    I thought the doctrine of transubstantiation was one of the most critical differences between Catholicism and Protestantism. So important that people fought massive wars over it. (And more important than many other the otehr issues they fought or killed each other over. Particularly in terms of justifying why it was Right to kill the other side).

    According to Catholic doctrine, the bread and wine really is Jesus. By eating and drinking them, you are effectively merging with Jesus in the most profound way possible. Protestants don’t do this, because they lack the power to effect the transformation, therefor they don’t undergo the Jesus-merge, and therefore are not Chistians, to a far more significant extent than many other heritics who are merely “Christians, but doing it wrong”.

    According to (most) Protestant doctrine, its just symbolic (albeit possibly magically blessed). The cracker isn’t Jesus. But the Catholics say it is Jesus. The Catholics say a cracker is God. That is idolatry – as in direct violation of the First and Second Commandments. As a the most important part of their worship.

    As I said, this has been an absolutely fundamental point of doctrine, the justification for centuries of bloodshed, and the theme of some particularly cheesy Chick Tracts.

    And now the majority of Catholics don’t believe it, and the Church seems to ignore it?

    :brain melts: