If there’s anything which persuades atheists that religion really is bonkers it’s the Catholic doctrine of the eucharist. Catholics actually believe there isn’t bread and wine on the altar during Mass but the body and blood of Christ! Hey presto! Big magic! This isn’t a computer I’m writing on it’s a rhinoceros. How deluded can you be? Dawkins is at his most caustic on the subject in Viruses of the Mind.
It’s difficult to know where to begin with atheists, because generally speaking they are so theologically naive. Do they really think Catholics are as dotty as that? The eucharist isn’t a physical reality, it’s a sacramental reality.
The discoveries scientists are making nowadays are so amazing, so far beyond the boundaries of our ordinary rational processes of thought, they make the myths of Christianity look like the most mundane of facts. They are discovering that there is a whole further realm of reality not only beyond but underlying this one, which, so strikingly, is just what religion has always said. Electrons are tiny bits of stuff (in so far as you can talk about stuff at this profound level) in one place and not another and at one time and not another just like everything else, but I find it especially amazing that they also, on another level, can be in two places at the same time, in fact not just in two places but everywhere at the same time. Two electrons once entangled, as the physicists say, can communicate instantaneously with each other across the whole universe. Roll over Newton (actually not, Newton was an alchemist and this would have been just up his street, of all scientists he is the most misunderstood). This is the point to grasp. On this further level everything is itself but also everything else in a single unity. But it is also, on this level of sticks and stones we’re used to, separate and different from everything else and if this not that. Also. At the same time. I find it amazing to think that in the depths of our bodies there are electrons which are already existing in this other life. On one level in our deepest places our bodies are already living this universal life outside the boundaries of space. and time
This is the point about the eucharist. It’s not the body and blood of Christ on a physical level. The bread and wine don’t disappear or get replaced. It is the sacrament of unity. It’s a symbol of the truth that at the deepest level matter is a unity outside space and time. It is a real presence because this other unified dimension really does underly this present world of separation and difference bounded by space and time. I think science is now beginning to attest that. Here’s another point. The eucharist isn’t a chunk of stuff, a datum, that is either out there or not out there, it is only a real presence because we think it is. Science has some interesting light too to shed on that apparently ridiculous statement. But more of that another time. Catholics also believe that this further dimension of total unity outside, or rather inside, space and time is a person. I don’t think in the light of science (and I’d call on Darwin here but I’ll need to explain that at some length) I don’t think that particular belief is all that crazy either, but more of that too another time.