F Rosa Rubicondior: An Atheist Thing To Say

Wednesday 9 October 2013

An Atheist Thing To Say

Pope Francis. Turning his back on medieval dogma?
That’s an atheist thing to do, Pope Francis

Pope Francis is being hailed as a reformer and moderniser, though there is very little in the way of practical reforms to be seen yet, rather than just rhetoric and verbal gestures. The problem he has is that such is the advance of Humanism in recent years that any meaningful reform, as opposed to reaction and retrenchment, is now tantamount to moving the Catholic Church a substantial way towards Humanism.

Humanism, not superstition and dogma, is now setting the standard by which decency is measured. Any creed wishing to cling on to it's dwindling congregation needs to adopt Humanism.

Proselytism is solemn nonsense, it makes no sense. We need to get to know each other, listen to each other and improve our knowledge of the world around us. Sometimes after a meeting I want to arrange another one because new ideas are born and I discover new needs. This is important: to get to know people, listen, expand the circle of ideas. The world is criss-crossed by roads that come closer together and move apart, but the important thing is that they lead towards the Good.

Pope Francis
A very atheist thing to say
This was beautifully illustrated by Herb Silverman recently. He remarked that Christians say, "That's a very Christian thing to do!", when someone does something good. It isn't of course. A very Christian thing to do is to smugly condescend to people whilst falsely implying that Christians occupy the moral high-ground and are entitled to judge the actions of others.

In fact, as Herb Silverman pointed out, what Pope Francis said in an interview with the Italian atheist Eugenio Scalfari, published in La Repubblica, was a typically atheist thing to say. He constantly referred to 'good' not 'God' and was very clearly implying that he accepted the atheist slogan, "Good without God"; that people do not need to be religiously motivated or to fear a god to do good and morally comes from our humanity, not our religion.

Everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them. That would be enough to make the world a better place.

Pope Francis
A very atheist thing to say
The Pope has apparently realised that the world is moving inexorably away from the divisiveness of religion towards an inclusivity which embraces diversity and difference. A world where what matters is not what invisible friend you believe you have, or what 'faith' you use an an excuse for your antisocial behaviour, but what effect your behaviour has on the happiness and wellbeing of others and the planet we all share. To many Christians, used to demanding privilege and deference, this will be a difficult concept to swallow.

But should we be surprised that at least the enlightened intelligentsia of Christianity are realising they need to bend to the Humanist tide or be swept away? I think not.

…Our goal is not to proselytize but to listen to needs, desires and disappointments, despair, hope. We must restore hope to young people, help the old, be open to the future, spread love. Be poor among the poor. We need to include the excluded and preach peace.

Pope Francis
A very atheist thing to say
The history of the last few hundred years, beginning with the Enlightenment which led inevitably to the science age, has been one of a Christian Church being dragged kicking and screaming from the Dark Ages into the future. It was a Church which rejected evidence itself in favour of dogma but which, at least so far as it can without breaking, has bent to the tide of science (excepting some primitive diehards who still try to pretend they live in a compliant Universe where reality goes away when spoken to sternly or if ignored altogether).

The mainstream Christian churches used to be racist, misogynistic, homophobic, autocratic, genocidal, warmongering, imperialistic and frequently, casually brutal. They habitually opposed any moves by the state which improved the lives of working people and the poor, including and almost inexplicably, improved access to health care. In Ireland, for example, the Catholic Church threw it's entire weight behind a campaign against a very limited form of national health service. They even forbid the use of condoms to prevent the spread of deadly diseases and lie to ignorant people to frighten them out of using them! This by a church which purports to follow the teaching of someone who allegedly told his followers to care for the sick.

When I meet a clericalist, I suddenly become anti-clerical. Clericalism should not have anything to do with Christianity.

Pope Francis
A very atheist thing to say
Some have moved further than others but now only a handful of minor Christian churches still espouse much of the antisocial bigotry which once characterised almost the entire religion. One by one they are being civilised. Some have even recognised female clerics and allow same-sex marriage.

In Europe, Latin America and South-East Asia, whenever it had to choose, the Catholic Church invariably sided with the forces of reaction and autocracy against progressive social democracy, regarding any moves to better the lot of ordinary people as unacceptable socialism.

Heads of the Church have often been narcissists, flattered and thrilled by their courtiers. The court is the leprosy of the papacy.

Pope Francis
A very atheist thing to say
Now the world is changing, and Pope Francis, if we are to believe what he says, has recognised that he has to adopt the Humanism which is sweeping the world (or the developed parts of it at least) or get swept away with the tide. Let's hope this is more than empty gesture and soothing words.

A small move in the right direction maybe, but only when I see Pope Claire standing beside her wife and urging people to use condoms to prevent AIDS and to plan their families for the sake of the planet, as the Church builds hospitals and clinics and trains doctors and nurses with the proceeds of the treasures and real estate it has sold, will I believe the Catholic Church has adopted civilisation and truly believes what it preaches.

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