Mostly I try to ignore the science vs religion debate in the blogosphere, because it really brings out the worst in people. Now the story about PZ and the communion wafers makes me deeply uneasy (actually really sad). The short version: there is this guy PZ Myers, a scientist with the interesting hobby to make a lot of noise about anything stupid that people say or do in the name of religion (well, actually I think he claims that it is religion itself that is stupid or makes people stupid). Now he reacted to some story involving bread from the communion by asking people to send him samples of the stuff so that he can desecrate it and post videos of it. I might have some detail wrong, but I'm not going to the sources to look into it because I think it would make me upset and destroy my day.
I agree that some people act a little bit strange, maybe even stupid, when it comes to threats to things that they hold holy. Also, sending PZ death threats is a very un-Christian thing to do (other humans should also be seen as sacred, and then there is this whole thing about loving the enemies...). This in itself makes me very sad, but his whole idea of deliberately demonstrating such utter disdain for other's ways of handling and thinking about the sacred is not only distasteful but deeply in-humanistic. I could also call it mean and childish.
About the meaning that communion can have for people I really recommend Take This Bread by Sarah Miles (thank you Elliot, for bringing this book to my attention!), a story that is perfectly readable also for people with no personal connection with any church.
This said, I have to comment on Dracula, the classic by Bram Stoker. In this book the heroes bring communion bread in enormous quantities, and they bury pieces in soil to make it unusable for vampires. I always wondered about that. Getting hold of some wafers is no problem, but not all wafers carry the vampire-smothering power: they need to be consecrated. This means that a priest has to perform a little ritual, involving the reading of the story of the first communion. The wafers that are left over after the ritual, those that are not eaten immediately, are usually locked in a little cabinet (the tabernacle in the church building, or otherwise in some other place, not accessible to the public). I have heard about people stealing consecrated bread for use in witchcraft, but as I understand it they did it by going to communion and then hiding the bread under the tongue until they left the church. How do you get hold of large quantities?
There might be some anglican priests who would do mass-consecration for use in vampire-hunts, but this is not mentionend in Dracula and I have never heard about it from anywhere. I picture a hidden chapel, with mass-production and a small staff of people packing the wafers for shipping together with vials of holy water (the water is usually much easier to find, but why pass on a good package deal?) and crucifixes. Buy the small vampire-package for home use, or the club pack to share with your friends when you travel to Transsylvania! And then little unconspicious ads in newspapers, sharing the space with mail-order companies selling hygienic underwear or pictures of ladies in costume.
Hmm. This is where blogging protocol requires me to write "I digress" and promise to stay on topic in the future. And actually, I really should bring my daughter to daycare now, and get to work.