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A couple weeks ago, the News & Observer (Raleigh, NC) published an article about how Catholics are making certain sacrifices in the wake of the H1N1 virus.

They’re not taking sips from the same Cup of Jesus’ Blood.

They’re not shaking hands to greet each other.

Bottles of Purell hand sanitizer now rest upon the altar.

Silly rituals aside, the precautions make a lot of sense.

That led a Raleigh citizen to write a letter-to-the-editor in which she accused Church leaders of “suffering from a crisis of faith” because, of course, the blood of Jesus can never be contaminated:

So my household will continue to serve the Lord and to partake of the blood of Jesus, believing that the blood of our Lord Jesus cannot be contaminated by the evils of this world and will never harm us.

I find it distressful that the pandemic flu has the power to change ancient Roman Catholic ritual, even temporarily. What would Mother Teresa say?

That last question poses a fun little mind game for you…

Todd Stiefel, a Humanist from the area, wrote a rebuttal to her letter and it was published earlier this week. It offers an answer to the Mother Teresa question:

Contending that doctrine asserts that the blood of Jesus in such rituals cannot be contaminated does not refute reality and leads people to unnecessary disease exposure. Putting ancient ritual and baseless belief ahead of modern science leads to the deaths of innocent people.

As someone with a primary immune deficiency, I urge people to act by putting human lives, like my own, ahead of unfounded wishful thinking. You ask what would Mother Teresa say? Given her opposition to the use of condoms to prevent the spread of another virus, HIV, she would likely agree that it is better to put faith ahead of life. I believe this is vile.

As a humanist, I implore the religious to keep the good in their doctrines and cast aside the false, immoral and intolerant.

I think the response is an excellent one. It’s not snarky or mean. It just spells out her own erroneous beliefs about condoms. It’s bad enough when people have blind faith. It’s even worse when people’s faith makes them blind to reality (even more than usual, anyway).

It also stresses the importance of reality. Just because you think Jesus is magic doesn’t deny the fact that churchgoers are not immune from the diseases of the world. They would be wise to play it safe.

(By the way, in the spirit of full disclosure, I should mention that Todd has offered the Secular Student Alliance a generous matching grant — I’ll write more about that soon.)