Thursday, July 9, 2009

Moral tales to live by, perhaps, but certainly not literal truths

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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  1. When Christ broke the bread and passed the wine he said "This is my body, this is my blood" not "this represents my body, etc".

    If the living God says something IS, then it IS. Though not a catholic, and more inclined to view things as symbolic myself, I believe this is the basis for the practice.

  2. Anon, I understand the "basis" of the practice. However, I find it far from compelling, and cannot suspend by disbelief enough to accept it as truth.

  3. Hear, hear. If the worst that the MSM can do is point out that he may not have abided by the rites of one of many baseless superstitions, it shows how desperate they are to get their pals back into power. The Catholics themselves stole this particular rite from an earlier superstition, Mithraism, in an effort to try to gain as many converts as possible.

  4. Sir,

    I could not agree more that the discussion of whether Mr. Harper did, or did not, consume a wafer is neither relevant nor news. The fact that Canada was acknowledged by all present to be resisting any serious climate change resolution, and that Mr. Prentice was undermining the one that was agreed to on the day we agreed to it, is news and was widely ignored. Depressingly bad journalism all around.