Weekend Flashback – The Bloody Eucharist

The “Why I’m an Atheist” post reminded me of this earlier story I wrote about my days in parochial school. Enjoy and have a good weekend.

In my days at catholic school, which turned me into an atheist faster than any secular school probably would have, we had a nun in the fifth grade who told us that if you bit into the Eucharist, blood would squirt out into your mouth. She meant to scare us into not biting the wafer of course but it had the adverse effect and just made us more curious about the circulatory system of the communion wafer. Several of us made a pact that at the next Mass, we would bite into the body of Christ and see if he would indeed bleed. We were not sure exactly what would happen since we were taught that lying is a sin and surely Sister Mary Margaret, a bride of Christ, would never think about blackening her soul with even a venial sin. But the idea of blood squirting out of a wafer seemed laughable and having recently learned the Scientific Method we set out to find out for ourselves.

I remember receiving the Eucharist from the priest the only way I ever did which was to have him deposit it in my left hand. (I never was comfortable with the priest feeding me. I can do that for myself thank you) The wafer was light in my hand and cold. Surely not a member of any warm-blooded species I thought as I put it gently in my mouth trying not to let any saliva touch it which would make it too difficult to bite. I got back to the row where we were to kneel into communion was over. The nuns would pace back and forth down the aisle looking for any procedural infractions that we had done or were about to do. Put a pair of sunglasses on them and they’d be practically identical to the prison guards in Cool Hand Luke. “Grabbing a hymn book boss?” “Grab a hymn book there Chris.”

There I was, kneeling, with a Eucharist in my mouth ready to crunch down and feel the body of Christ bleed out into my mouth. It would be like being demoted from cannibal to vampire. Or is that a promotion? Or did it matter? The priest was already taking large gulps from the blood of Christ at the altar. The thing that really did matter to me was that we were really hoping for the Eucharist to bleed. It would have been some evidence that there really was some supernatural power in the religion. By the fifth grade, we had already found out that Santa Claus was a sham. Ditto for the Easter bunny and the tooth fairy. We had already started changing how we processed information. The idea of magic as being part of the world was rapidly fading and science and logic was taking its place. If the wafer actually squirted blood as the nun said it would, it would be some type of empirical evidence to us that god did indeed exist. There was a lot riding on that sliver of unleavened bread.

While I was philosophically dissecting the problem (or more accurately, scared shitless of tasting blood), my friend Jeff turned around from the row in front of us and opened his mouth to show the masticated remains of our Savior’s body. Bloodless. One by one, our whole row started to bite down on our wafers. We were an entire row of prepubescent Catholics munching away on the Eucharist all trying to get it to bleed.

We learned a lot that day besides the fact that little wafers don’t contain a circulatory system. We learned that someone who had devoted her life to a religion would break a commandment to instill fear amongst children to make them obedient. That wasn’t enough to turn anyone into an atheist of course. But it was enough to start planting the seeds of doubt. And the most important lesson we learned that day was whether you chewed the eucharist or let it slowly dissolve in your mouth it still tasted like shit.


  1. Love the post. It brings me back to my days in Islam class as a little kid. I also think my religious education drove me to be the naughty, naughty heathen I am today. Anything my teacher told me as a cautionary tale of warning just opened up the possibilities of fun experiments I could conduct in the privacy of my home. Pork didn’t taste disgusting. In fact, there really is no food on earth that can’t be made better without a strip of bacon. Having a bit of the old alcohol didn’t turn me into a raving nympho (no matter how much my husband wished it did). It all smacked a bit of Reefer Madness, now that I think about it.

    By the way, your book list over there on the right side of the screen is pretty bitchin’. I’ve got the Historian but haven’t read it yet. Maybe I’ll get around to it sometime in the next decade. I’m re-reading Sandman every moment I get because my colleague lent me the new fancy, schmancy big unedited editions. And I had the hots for Sherlock Holmes when I was a teen. Don’t ask. I was very strange. Smart broody people turn me on, I guess. Right, I’ll shut up now. TMI.

  2. @TeacherLady,

    I just started reading The Historian and it has taken me by surprise. I didn’t think it was going to be as good as it is…. At least the first few chapters have been page turners.

  3. My mom was told a similar story…only, if they bit into it, the entire church would fill with blood, killing their families.

    Such a warm and fuzzy Christian thought, eh?

  4. Reminds me of my ‘catholic’ childhood… where i (or my family) never went to church (even while studying in a catholic school right next to one), or even knew any prayers… or had any religion class…. or read the bible… and all my religious knowledge came from christmas and holy week specials…
    Then went to a catholic high school, only change was praying on monday and friday mornings, stuff continued like that until i got my hands at the bible (which i already considered literature instead of history), after a few hours, i just thought “that’s it? that’s what all the fuss is about?”, and became agnostic (bordering atheist tho).
    Venezuelan christianity is weird… well, actually no, the rest of the world’s christianity is weird.

  5. I had a kind of similar realization about lying. A friend and I were in 4th grade at a southern Baptist school, and after a felt board story about Noah, we decided to draw pictures of what we thought the ark looked like, because the one in the felt board story was WAY too small to even hold all the little felt animals. We tried to imagine how big a ship would have to be to carry two of EVERY animal, and decided that Noah probably had a whole fleet of ships… Anyway, after doing as much scientific research as 4th graders are capable of (which involved a lot of drawings of giant boats filled with lots of levels and rooms full of stick-figure animals), I asked the teacher if the bible might have been wrong about there only being one ark. She backhanded me across the face (she was wearing a ring with a big, fake, blue rock in it) and told me that it was evil to question the word of god. I told my parents about the cut on my face (I still have the scar to remind me) and when they confronted this woman about it, she LIED and said that I’d been running and that I’d fallen down and hit my face on a chair. My parents were angry, but eventually they believed me and not long afterwards they yanked me out of the place and put me back into the public school system. That really was a big moment – to realize that these good christian people can LIE – after all that preaching about thou shalt not – and right to your face, too!

  6. Chris,

    These last to posts have been enlightening.

    They have reminded me of my own confusing 11 years in a catholic school system. I’m convinced that the catholic school system makes more secularists than life long catholics.

  7. Pedro, atheist dogma dictates that atheists have no burden to prove that they are right about their beliefs. It’s perfectly acceptable under atheist doctrine to state a fact (i.e., God does not exist) but provide no support whatsoever, let alone conclusive support, for that fact. The only one with an intellectual or philosophical burden in this game is the believer. Stay on script, please.

  8. @ Will

    Ha ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, LOL, ROLF, etc etc

    OK, I’ll bite.

    Why do you think the atheist is the one required to provide the proof? We’re not the ones making the frankly bizarre claim that some tribal sky wizard made the all of creation.

    Extraordinary claim, extraordinary proof.

  9. I’m not making any bizarre claim either as I’m not a believer. I think this is a subject out of human knowledge and it’s a waste of time to discuss it.

    But I find stupid to accept that there’s no God based on the lies of an old nun.

    And the atheist is as required to provide the proof as it is the believer, both are claiming something. I claim absolutely nothing except the whole religious and atheist thing is really boring.

  10. I claim absolutely nothing except *that* the whole religious and atheist thing is really boring.

    And by the way the “stay on script” conceited joke was really boring too.

  11. Pedro says:

    But I find stupid to accept that there’s no God based on the lies of an old nun.

    From the post:

    That wasn’t enough to turn anyone into an atheist of course. But it was enough to start planting the seeds of doubt.

    Chris said that Pedro in the post. What’s the problem?

  12. Phil said:
    “Why do you think the atheist is the one required to provide the proof? We’re not the ones making the frankly bizarre claim that some tribal sky wizard made the all of creation.”

    But you are making a claim, and as such you have an intellectual burden to support that claim. Or at least you ought to have a burden, if your beliefs are to mean anything, and if dialogue is to mean anything. Or at the very least you shouldn’t be allowed to criticize the believer for his unproven beliefs, while at the same time wholly avoiding any inquiry into whether or not you can prove your own.

    No one is “required” to do anything, of course. But it is indisputable that the atheist can no more prove the accuracy of his beliefs than the theist can. Neither side can claim intellectual superiority. Yet you won’t even permit the question as to whether or not your beliefs are accurate. It’s a subject that you have declared by fiat to be totally off limits. Intellectual scrutiny is not permitted. I probably need not remind you that this approach is remarkably similar to the way Christianity has operated for most of its history.

    There are fundamental questions about our universe that science has not yet answered. The existence of a supernatural creator — as an answer to those yet-unanswered questions — is a reasonable scientific hypothesis. It may not be likely or probable, but it is both conceivable and possible.

    That hypothesis has not yet been ruled out. Yet you reject the hypothesis out of hand, ignoring the fact that it has not been scientifically ruled out; you refuse to acknowledge that the hypothesis is valid; and, most stunningly, you refuse to permit any scrutiny of your own rejection of the hypothesis.

    In short, you maintain a belief that has not yet been proven to be accurate. That’s called faith.

    Unfortunately, there really is no room for dialogue here. The true atheist is as much of a fundamentalist as the most hard-core Christian. In that sense, Pedro is right: the only one who can claim intellectual superiority in this debate is the agnostic.

  13. JD,

    Your link states the negative proof fallacy as follows:

    “”X is true because there is no proof that X is false.”


    “A supernatural force must exist, because there is no proof that it does not exist”

    But that’s not at all what I’m saying. I’m not saying God must exist because there is no proof that he does not exist. I admit that I can summon no proof for my belief that God exists. I’m merely noting that neither can the atheist summon any proof for the belief that God does NOT exist. That’s why I say that neither the atheist nor the believer can claim intellectual superiority over the other.

  14. Adam, it matters not one bit what you call the supernatural creator, if one in fact exists. God (or the FSM) is just a name for a concept. The concept remains the same regarless of the title given to it.

  15. Will, it matters a lot what you call ‘it’, because doing so binds you to a religion and claims you know something about ‘him’, making ‘him’ a personal god, very different to the concept you are talking about.

    If you’re talking at that kind of conceptual level I can wholeheartedly agree that science simply doesn’t know what happened before the big bang, or what caused it, or what’s ‘outside’ the ‘edge’ of the universe etc.. *YET*. So in those gaps if you choose to imagine an outside ‘supernatural creator’ made it all there’s no way this can be disproved, agreed. However it’s still not as valid a concept (to me) as the wildest of parallel universe explanations, it’s simply a meme passed down for generations from our primitive past and not based on or supported by a shred of research or reasoned thought.

    If anything, the prevelance and variety of religions points to humans having a primal ‘need’ to create frameworks to explain the world around them based on their experiences. Ancient cultures have gods of mud and nature, newer cultures have gods of tribes and war. The fact that there’s so many of them weakens the argument that any of them are ‘correct’, and scientific advance has steadly blown gaping holes in every supernatural creation myth so far. That, to me, is where you can take some valid intellectual high ground.

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