The Pope is currently on a visit to the UK. Today he gave a speech at Holyroodhouse, the official residence in Scotland of Her Majesty The Queen.
The full text of the speech is here.
It was a speech that just begs to be commented upon.
Before I start I should mention that criticizing the Pope is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel, and I realize that. However...
Before I start, some background. I was brought up a Catholic. My parents both grew up as Catholic minorities in their respective countries. My paternal line was almost wiped out in England by anti-Catholic actions (only one small line continued in an area considered safe for Catholics). Another part of our family line was part of the original Quakers, who were also denied full access to English society. So ...
The monarchs of England and Scotland have been Christians from very early times and include outstanding saints like Edward the Confessor and Margaret of Scotland. As you know, many of them consciously exercised their sovereign duty in the light of the Gospel, and in this way shaped the nation for good at the deepest level. As a result, the Christian message has been an integral part of the language, thought and culture of the peoples of these islands for more than a thousand years. Your forefathers’ respect for truth and justice, for mercy and charity come to you from a faith that remains a mighty force for good in your kingdom, to the great benefit of Christians and non-Christians alike.
Hmmm... "Christian message", "mercy and charity", "a mighty force for good". Does this gentleman not know any history at all. The persecution of Catholics over the centuries in England is, how shall I say this, common knowledge. To say all are/were just part of one big happy family is, plain and simply, "nuts".
Even in our own lifetime, we can recall how Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live. I also recall the regime’s attitude to Christian pastors and religious who spoke the truth in love, opposed the Nazis and paid for that opposition with their lives. As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the twentieth century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus to a "reductive vision of the person and his destiny" (Caritas in Veritate, 29).
Uhm ... and the "inclusion of God" did what? Obviously the Pope has a somewhat "negative" opinion of atheists. He also obviously has a hard time with logic. Just because someone does not believe in a god does not lead them to have a "truncated vision of man and of society". Religion requires the suspension of rational thinking in order to accept what one is told (also called belief), hardly the path to find a "full vision of man and society". If we have learned one thing over the last few hundred years it is that the full exploration of all avenues, without preconceptions, is what leads to a fuller understanding of issues. It is far more likely that religion itself leads to a "more truncated vision of man and society".
Today, the United Kingdom strives to be a modern and multicultural society. In this challenging enterprise, may it always maintain its respect for those traditional values and cultural expressions that more aggressive forms of secularism no longer value or even tolerate.
Which traditional values and cultural expressions are we talking about? Teaching that the sun revolves around the Earth? I'm kind of glad that aggressive forms of secularism no longer value this "traditional" view. It's too bad that he lives in a world where "belief" without proof is valued, where black and white answers are applauded, and where one can make moral judgments based on the interpretation of a "book" written thousands of years ago. Tradition is nice (I hear cannibalism is traditional in some places), but at some point reality needs to come into the picture.
I really try to stay away from anything to do with the catholic church, but every once in a while a comment comes out that just gets under my skin. Today's speech was one of those times (accidentally bumped into it on Reddit).
When we see how much humanity can do, how much science has given us, how much we have benefited from leaving the cults and witch doctors behind, it pains me to see two old, and well past their expiry date, institutions (the Catholic Church and the British monarchy) still having a prominent place in society. With all we have accomplished I was hoping we would get past that a bit faster.
As Feynman said .. "You see, one thing, is I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it's much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of certainty about different things but I'm not absolutely sure of anything and then many things I don't know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask, "Why we are here?" and what that question might mean. I might think about it a bit and then if I can't figure it out then I go on to something else. But I don't have to know an answer, I don't have to...i don't feel frightened by not knowing things, by being lost in the mysterious universe without having any purpose which is the way it really is as far as I can tell possibly. It doesn't frighten me."