Atheists still have to keep their distance. They might steal the silverware and eat your babies (but that’s further down).
VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis extended a hand to those who don’t belong to any religion, urging them on Wednesday (March 20) to work with believers to build peace and protect the environment. […]
But Francis, who has set a humbler tone to the papacy since his election on March 13, added that atheists and believers can be “precious allies” in their efforts “to defend the dignity of man, in the building of a peaceful coexistence between peoples and in the careful protection of creation.”
Before digging a little deeper, I initially thought to myself, “well, this really doesn’t sound that bad.” I mean, sure, he’s never going to have the full support of the atheist community because of his stance on things like abortion or same-sex marriage, but his emphasis on helping those of lower socioeconomic classes can certainly be considered fertile common ground. He’s pretty well known for it. The name he chose – Francis – was in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, who renounced wealth as pope to minister to the poor. Instead of washing the feet of priests on Holy Thursday, he washed the feet of inmates in a juvenile detention center. Later on, he switched out the throne normally used for meetings with other religious leaders and political diplomats with a simple white chair that is placed on the same level as everyone else.
Then I read the text of his statement, and realized that his offer of cooperation was not for atheists, as the Huffington Post article states; instead, it’s focused on those who still consider themselves believers in a god, but just don’t outright ally or align themselves with any particular denomination. Here’s what he said:
But above all, we must keep alive in our world the thirst for the absolute, and must not allow the vision of the human person with a single dimension to prevail, according to which man is reduced to what he produces and to what he consumes: this is one most dangerous threats of our times.
We know how much violence has been provoked in recent history by the attempt to eliminate God and the divine from the horizon of humanity, and we feel the need to witness in our societies the original openness to transcendence that is inherent in the human heart. In this we feel the closeness also of those men and women who, while not belonging to any religious tradition, feel, however the need to search for the truth, the goodness and the beauty of God, and who are our precious allies in efforts to defend the dignity of man, in the building of a peaceful coexistence between peoples and in the careful protection of creation.
Again, this offer of cooperation to work toward a common goal is for believers, while atheists are conveniently misrepresented and then dismissed as the scapegoat for all of the world’s recent ills. No, sorry … we’re “one of the most dangerous threats of our times”.
Thanks, Frank. I hope one of the cardinals puts a whoopie cushion on that new humblechair of yours.
He also might want to consider taking another look at the history of Nazi Germany, Communist Russia, Mao’s China, as well as that of the Catholic Church (or any religion, for that matter) before so confidently identifying the root cause of so much violence and death in the world. It’s about power and dogma. For theocracies, it’s religious. In recent history, it’s been about worshiping the state as the ultimate power … and the institution of the Church interfered with that. Atheism was a side effect, not the cause. To paraphrase Sam Harris, I don’t think any society has suffered from becoming less religious as a result of being too rational.
I’m not really sure what I expected, given the kind of misinformation he’s helped spread about same sex marriage and his position on abortion. It’s nice to see him focus on the poor, but I could have done without him throwing atheists under the bus in the process. Par for the course.