Opinion

We’re having Jesus for dinner

We’re having Jesus for dinner

IN MOST cultures cannibalism remains the ultimate taboo, yet for Roman Catholics it’s the order of the day. In hundreds of thousands of churches across the world millions of Catholics are tucking into flesh and drinking blood, accompanied not by tribal beats, but by pastoral organ music. This unappetising menu comes courtesy of the doctrine of transubstantiation, which to put it mildly, is seriously weird.

This is the Roman Catholic belief that the bread and wine served at Mass are literally transformed into the actual flesh and blood of Jesus Christ when consecrated by a priest, though they seem to all the senses and to scientific investigation to be as they were before, maintaining the appearance, odour and tasteof bread and wine.

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The Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it like this:

By the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation.

The belief stems from the Last Supper when Jesus held some bread in his hands and apparently said “this is my body”.

The most obvious interpretation of his words would of course be a non-literal one, but that wouldn’t do for the leadership of the Catholic Church. It went straight down the fairy-tale, you-couldn’t-really-make-this-stuff- up-but-we’re-going-to-anyway route.

This is a teeth-gnashingly irritating affront to reason, but then that should come as no surprise from a body that believes in the virgin birth, hell, God, life after death, guardian angels and all the other mumbo jumbo.

Many other Christian denominations have a more refined view, believing that the words are symbolic and that Christ is physically present during Mass in some other way (yes I know he isn’t there but it makes the religious folks happy thinking he is).

Yet for some baffling reason Catholics cling onto a literal interpretation and Jesus becomes food, something to nibble on before the end of the service.

So just what part of Christ’s body are they consuming? His head, legs, nose, eyes, feet?

And what if you are a vegetarian? Nobody appears to know exactly what they are tucking into when they are cannibalising the supposed son of God. They just state that it’s the “body of Christ”. And I don’t know about you, but doesn’t the drinking of his blood have something of a satanic ring about it?

How the heck did we get to this stage of human evolution and sophistication with people actually believing this hokey? These are ideas that hail from a time when the worldview of most was awash with magic and superstition as they had no other way of explaining cause and effect and the rules and laws that governed nature.

The Church offers no explanation of how the substance of bread and wine can be the body and blood of Christ at the same time.

They do start to invoke Aristolean thought and some old tosh about substance and accidents, calling it one of the religion’s greatest mysteries. But to anyone with at least half a functioning brain, there is no mystery.

I know people who in most respects are perfectly intelligent and rational, except when it comes to religion, particularly transubstantiation; they actually believe it. And their get-out clause for accusations of cannibalism is that Jesus is a “divine” being and so the charge doesn’t apply.

I can’t for the life of me begin to imagine how transubstantiation occurs: that bread and wine made within the last year are converted into the flesh and blood of a bloke who snuffed it around 2,000 years ago doesn’t add up.

Flesh decays after death and in any case, unless Jesus was the size of Jabba the Hutt and then some, there wouldn’t be enough to go round. Maybe you can work it out – answers on a postcard please.

However, credit where credit is due, transubstantiation did inspire my most recent eureka moment, one that could potentially net me millions.

In a quiet ceremony the other day I uttered a few magic words over my coffee table and it magically transformed into a pile of gold bullion.

Impressive I know, but that was just for starters. The really clever part is that it managed to retain the appearance and feel of a coffee table.

I think I am on the cusp of something big here, although I have yet to convince any buyers of my new found ability. I can’t really prove how I did it, but you believe me don’t you?

Look, I know that my comments may sound silly and facetious, but the atavistic thinking behind this quack of a doctrine doesn’t warrant anything more.

Like all other religious beliefs, transubstantiation is very hard to swallow.

PAUL ARNOLD is a former BBC producer and ex-Catholic. He is now a freelance journalist based in Spain. (This article first appeared in the February 2012 edition)

10 responses to “We’re having Jesus for dinner”

  1. reasonlogic says:

    Check the records and you may find that the RCC has some substantial investments in biscuit and wine companies …..makes perfect sense to invent a story that requires the purchases of items you are invested in.
    These people may be belief bonkers in many ways but not financially inept..

  2. Broga says:

    How can they believe this tosh and risk ridicule by insisting that it is true. I suggest there are two reasons. The first is that the RC Church has so intimidated people, the media and particularly the BBC that the obvious questions are never raised. Indeed, to ask how this can properly be would be regarded, amazingly, as disrespectful.
    The second reason is that thinking is put on hold. Normal reason is side lined and a cowardly acceptance is forced on all who hear about this. It is extraordinary that an RC bishop is not invited on a mainline TV programme to discuss and respond to challenges to this nonsense. Instead they are welcome on the dire Thought for the Day where no challenge is permitted.

  3. Matt Westwood says:

    “And what if you are a vegetarian?” I understand that at least one sub-sect of the xtian philosophy considers vegetarianism as just another branch of Satanism, so vegetarians aren’t going to that church anyway …

  4. Robster says:

    Really, if they’re going to try and sell this transubstantiation (sounds like something from Star Trek) nonsense to people, they need to try a bit harder. For a start, it’s very hard to believe a bit of wafer is really a piece of dead jesus or the merlo in the gold mug is the dead jew’s blood. Why not a nice slab of steak for the jesus burger with a serve of good old tomato juice for the blood of the deceased deity or even ketchup with the superserve blood part being a pay extra option? The jesus burger would need to be cooked rare or there’ll be no blood left to run down the cheeks of the cannibalistic followers while they munch Baby jesus and that would reduce the impact for those consuming their saviour. It’s good to hear some noise about this absurd stupidity. At least the Anglicans see the wine and cracker ritual as symbolic. It’s still an unhealthy and absurd ritual that need reconsideration if they want people to keep coming back which it seems fewer and fewer are.

  5. Patrick7Gormley says:

    Transubstantiation is just a pile of mumbo jumbo made up by the Church to disguise the fact that it is merely pretending and feeling that the bread and wine are now Jesus. It is exactly the kind of doctrine you would expect from people who were pretending but didn’t want to admit it. It is extreme idolatry.

  6. Club Secretary says:

    Now if the wine was a decent claret, the bread nice and crusty and they threw in a piece of good mature cheddar, I would sign up today.

  7. Graham Martin-Royle says:

    I do hope that they make sure who is getting what, after all, they can’t let any man be seen to be chewing on his holy dick can they? Gotta make sure only women get that bit (oh noes, what if they’re not married, single women aren’t allowed to have sex are they? This is just so darn complicated).

  8. bear47 says:

    LOL!!!!!!!
    Very complicated.

  9. 1859 says:

    Although I agree with the comments hereunder, I’ve often wondered what it must be like for some poor, uneducated peasant to be told by some guy in fancy robes and uttering fancy, incomprehensible words, that he (the peasant) is taking into his mouth the actual flesh of a god, that he is actually drinking the blood of a divine entity. Just think of the psychological damage and the power to entwine the peasant’s mind – he is told he is eating the real flesh of a real god. Holy fuck! It is spiritual fascism possibly far worse than nationalistic fascism.

  10. JohnMWhite says:

    Generally these things are made by monks (the wine) and nuns (the wafers). At least that’s how it was traditionally, the church may have industrialised or outsourced the process in the last decade or so since I had any real contact with it.