Growing up, I was taught that one should always have tolerance for all religions and religious beliefs, and I accepted that as a reasonable thing to do. What I have far more difficulty with, however, is the notion that one must always respect the religious beliefs of others. In other words, I tolerate religious beliefs of all, but do not always respect them.
For example, I do not respect a belief that children should be denied blood transfusions, or that women should be denied their proper place as equals of men in every aspect of religious practice—including the Christian priesthood or Muslim forms of everyday dress—or that ancient texts like the Bible and the Koran (Qur’an) should be the end-all in ethical behaviour or secular human relationships.
Not surprisingly, therefore, I am quite appalled at the controversy that PM Stephen Harper finds himself in over a simple religious ceremony for which he may or may not have paid the fullest of respect.
“DID HARPER POCKET WAFER?” screams a headline on today’s front page of the National Post. Good grief, does it really matter?
I, as someone who is inclined towards scientific reasoning, cannot take seriously a religious belief expressed by Neil MacCarthy, director of communications for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto, who is quoted in the Post as saying:
“It’s not a symbol of the body and blood of Christ, but is in fact [emphasis mine] the body and blood of Christ. The Communion wafer starts as a host and becomes the body of Christ.”
I’m sorry, but I cannot—despite trying to do so while being brought up in the Roman Catholic tradition—take such beliefs literally. I have taken Communion in an Anglican Church, but to me it was only symbolic never the actual body and blood of anyone. Such a notion I find quite barbaric and unworthy of any civilized institution.
If there is a God in the Christian sense, She or He must be shaking His or Her head in utter disbelief that after hundreds of years of enlightenment, many of us still believe in a mythology no more convincing than that which was the basis of the beliefs of ancient Egyptians, Greeks or Romans. Moral tales to live by, perhaps, but certainly not literal truths.
“It’s worse than a faux pas, it’s a scandal from the Catholic point of view,” Monsignor Brian Henneberry, vicar general and chancellor in the Diocese of Saint John, is quoted as telling the Telegraph-Journal.
To which I say: poppycock!
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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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