Even as atheist blogger PZ Myers desecrated the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ, there are specific points of wisdom in which Myers might as well be Aquinas, though we must take care to rope off his modern chauvinism.
You are all human beings who must make your way through your life by thinking and learning, and you have the job of advancing humanity’s knowledge by winnowing out the errors of past generations and finding deeper understanding of reality.
His call to thinking and learning parallels the affirmation by Thomas Aquinas that we should use, we should exercise our God-given faculties. While he cites glory of God and gratitude for His blessings, the effect is certainly to advance humanity’s knowledge, and this is a solemn duty for those capable. If we are free to dismiss this as him being a distant heir of Aquinas through his association with a university — Scholasticism being the immediate progenitor of the universities — we at least then see the incredible debt any sort of intelligentsia has to Christendom.
Moreover, atheists do winnow out the errors of the temporal Church Militant, the excesses and absurdities of unsophisticated fundamentalism as much as the greatest wickedness and sins of Catholics. For this service we owe them gratitude. No man can have too much humility.
He spoils it all with a final falsehood.
You will not find wisdom in rituals and sacraments and dogma, which build only self-satisfied ignorance, but you can find truth by looking at your world with fresh eyes and a questioning mind.
I will mention only in passing that to desecrate the Eucharist is in fact a kind of ritual — especially repeatedly, as he mentioned later that he received a number of consecrated hosts to desecrate — and it did build self-satisfied ignorance in a great many of his disciples. If a ritual is “a set of actions, performed mainly for their symbolic value,” then this is certainly something. If the act did not mean something he would not have done it. Nonetheless, even if he is not interested in approaching the Eucharist “with fresh eyes and a questioning mind,” and even if his purpose was solely to rile believers, his argument must be considered for its own merit or lack thereof.
Truth exists, as do facts. Physical and metaphysical overlap, but not entirely — not even close. Any DnD geek knows the difference between wisdom and intelligence, and anyone who needed to turn undead knows one is not a substitute for another. There is wisdom in the ritual of a Mass about our relationship to God, certainly, and if atheists would rhetorically assume God exists as we say he does then they could easily see how this ritual expresses better than any book what our relationship is. Ritual necessarily is an expression of the relationship between a person and something or someone else. It, unlike blogs and textbooks and drainingly dense philosophy, not only unchangingly expresses to everyone a basic message — as even honeybees dance to convey a reality — but does so in a way which is immediately if unconsciously intelligible to everyone. Ritual transmits an accepted attitude to every man: towards ourselves, others, things within our comprehension and things beyond. It is the stamped impression of intuitions which have proven reliable and true.
To say there is no wisdom in ritual is to say that there exist things without truth. This necessarily contradicts his claim: You can find truth by looking at your world — as if we did not share a world which objectively exists — if you look with fresh eyes and a questioning mind. What if you look at things which exist but bear no truth? What if you are unable to discern truth due to mental infirmity? What if, by no fault of your own, you look exclusively at such things? Are you condemned to live in falsehood, gaping at the shadows on the wall?
I quote the professor: “It’s all in Plato, all in Plato: bless me, what do they teach them at those schools!”