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What Pope Francis Really Thinks About Atheists

I’ve been generally impressed with the new pope, or as impressed as I ever imagined I would be of any pope. I’ve liked the new tone he’s brought to the church and I certainly see him as more of a reformer than the regressive, authoritarian pope he replaced. But as Sara Lin Wilde explains, his first encyclical is little more than a long list of shallow, uninformed insults aimed at atheists.

But in describing the superiority of a life lived with faith, Francis has revealed some of the common myths about atheism that he’s come to accept over the course of a life spent really obviously having never come into contact with unbelievers. Some of the most common tropes include:

  • Atheism weakens community ties. For some reason, Francis seems to believe that religious faith is required to “build our societies in such a way that they can journey towards a future of hope” (51). As he sees it, “the light of faith is capable of enhancing the richness of human relations”, while without it “nothing could truly keep men and women united” (51). (Heck of a burden to put on faith, if you ask me.)
  • Atheists make gods of other things. The basic argument Fracis seems to set forth is that atheists secretly know God exists, but we’re scared he might demand too much sacrifice of us, so we pretend to think he’s not real because we are rebellious and naughty. Then we pick something else to venerate in God’s place, because we can’t just not worship anything, and “before an idol, there is no risk that we will be called to abandon our security” (13). It’s a bit of a pat on the back (at our expense) for the courageous faithful.
  • Atheists are self-centered. Chances are, the one thing we’re busy worshiping is ourselves: “idols exist, we begin to see, as a pretext for setting ourselves at the centre of reality and worshiping the work of our own hands” (13). Francis really seems to think that only faith can “guide us beyond our isolated selves” (4) or provide “concrete directions for emerging from the desert of the selfish and self-enclosed ego” (46). By contrast, “faith is God’s free gift, which calls for humility and the courage to trust (14)”.
  • Atheists have no moral compass. Carrying his ‘faith as light’ metaphor to dizzying heights, Francis argues that in the absence of faith/light, “it is impossible to tell good from evil, or the road to our destination from other roads which take us in endless circles, going nowhere” (3). No one can be good without God because they attribute their good actions to themselves instead of to him, and thus “their lives become futile and their works barren” (19). Essentially the only way to be a good person is by pretending it’s not really you doing good things; it’s God making you do them.
  • If we really tried to find God, we’d find him. This one is quite a slap in the face for the many unbelievers who became such after a long and sincere process of religious seeking; it suggests that we were either secretly searching in bad faith, or our efforts were defective. If “he can be found also by those who seek him with a sincere heart” (35), clearly we must have been insincere. It’s our fault, not God’s, if we couldn’t detect him.
  • Atheists lead impoverished lives. Since “faith enriches life in all its dimensions” (6) and is “the priceless treasure [. . .] which God has given as a light for humanity’s path” (7), we can assume he envisions us all living in the psychological equivalent of a Dickensian poorhouse. I get the sense that Francis sort of feels bad for us, that he can’t really grasp the concept that atheists might sometimes feel peace and joy even though we think there’s no God.
  • An atheist can’t really understand love. Francis explains that “only to the extent that love is grounded in truth [read: God] can it endure over time” (27). I don’t really understand why he thinks that, but it seems clear that he doesn’t accept non-God-oriented love as real love. Meanwhile, “those who believe are never alone” (39).

In other words, it just lazily repeats the whole litany of tired and noxious claims about atheists. Quelle surprise.

Comments

  1. some bastard on the net says

    I get the sense that Francis sort of feels bad for us, that he can’t really grasp the concept that atheists might sometimes feel peace and joy even though we think there’s no God.

    I got this a lot when I first gave up belief in God, many people would try desperately to bring me back into the fold because they couldn’t accept that I was not ‘miserable.’ Over and over I would try to explain to them that, when I stopped believing, there was no wailing of hopelessness or crying out in despair; instead, I felt like I could breathe again when I stopped trying to please a God I no longer agreed with.

  2. David Marjanović says

    I’ve long noticed that theologers can be astoundingly ignorant outside their narrow field…

    Then we pick something else to venerate in God’s place, because we can’t just not worship anything, and “before an idol, there is no risk that we will be called to abandon our security” (13).

    …Uh. There are plenty of religion-replacement ideologies that require lots and lots of sacrifice. Imagine a militant communist activist.

    The PKK, the Stalinist Kurdish Workers’ Party, has even had suicide bombers. Presumably, they did not believe in an afterlife.

  3. Larry says

    Fuck him and all his boy-raping acolytes with their astonishingly accurate moral compasses and deep understanding of love.

  4. Trebuchet says

    The encyclical, as I understand it, was actually written by Pope Benny, with only minor changes by Francis. The fact that he’s signed off on it still tells you what he’s thinking, of course.

    Then again, it probably wasn’t actually written by either of them, but by a staff collective. Sort of like Pat Buchannan and Ben Stein writing speeches for Nixon.

  5. raven says

    I’ve been generally impressed with the new pope, or as impressed as I ever imagined I would be of any pope.

    Not me.

    I was waiting for the fangs, claws, horns, and tail to come out.

    We’ve got the fangs and claws now.

    1. The RCC has a nearly 2,000 year history of atrocities, crimes, and general malevolence. It was so incapable of changing that someone slightly less evil like Martin Luther could split the church.

    2. The Cardinals that elected him Pope were chosen by the previous Popes, mostly Pope Bennie. They weren’t going to elect someone not like them.

    3. Finally, the atheist hate is understandable. The RCC is a business and atheism is their main competitor. It’s the universal principle (that would have been handed down from god on Mt. Sinai if he existed) Follow the Money!!!

  6. raven says

    WP Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor:

    However, in 2009, speaking after Archbishop Vincent Nichols’ installation, he said that a lack of faith is “the greatest of evils.” He blamed atheism for war and destruction, and implied it was a greater evil even than sin itself and that atheists are “not fully human”.[21][22]

    1. According to Cardinal Cormac, atheism is responsible for war and destruction, atheism is worse than sin, and atheists are not fully human.

    Well, at least we know who Cardinal Cormac hates. Same to you, Cardinal.

    2. The death threats, hate male, and xian terrorists all scream one thing. Never tust these people and never turn your back on them. They can be violent and are occasionally killers.

    3. Cormac was also up to his pointed hat in the church child sex abuse scandals.

    To be a leader in the RCC is easy. You have to be a warped, not very bright old man.

  7. matty1 says

    The RCC is a business and atheism is their main competitor

    Really? I’d have thought Islam or maybe striking closer to home Evangelical Protestantism.

  8. raven says

    Atheism weakens community ties.

    Criticizing a Pope is too easy, like dumping out a barrel of fish.

    It’s wrong though. Hitchens: Religion poisons everything.

    Religion is just a reliable way to split communities, countries, and families apart. We see it every day.

    2. The war in Syria has a strong sectarian component. Assad is an Alawite Shi’ite in a country mostly Sunni. Same in Iraq which sees a dozen or so killed each day. Or Pakistan. India. Egypt where the Sunnis frequently attack xians just because they are xians. Northern Ireland where the Reformation wars are sputtering out after only 450 years.

    Or the USA. The Catholics hate the Protestants and vice versa. The fundies hate everyone and everyone hates them back. The JW’s and Mormons get in a few blows here and there. While the religious hatreds in the USA have died down, they aren’t gone. These days, the main targets are the gays, atheists and Moslems.

    Religion did weaken community ties during the Reformation wars. Around 10 million people died in that conflict. No community ties because they were all dead.

  9. raven says

    The RCC is a business and atheism is their main competitor

    Really? I’d have thought Islam or maybe striking closer to home Evangelical Protestantism

    Naw.

    1. They’ve segregated the market with the Moslems. They don’t really compete much directly except at the borders.

    2. The big story in religion is the rise of the Nones, from about zero to a billion in a century.

    3. The USA RCC has recently lost 22 million members, 1/3 of their people. Half go to Nones, half Protestant. 2/3 of the Protestants are fundie.

    There is some movement from fundie to Catholic but who knows how many? A lot of religions outrageously cook their numbers and the RCC is the worst of them.

    If you look at their competitors in terms of market share lost and gained, it probably goes, Nones, fundies, other Protestants, Moslems.

  10. gingerbaker says

    You know, this could be an opportunity. Heaven knows that Bill Donohue would see it as a HUGE opportunity if the roles were reversed.

    Are we ever going to have our own version of Bill Donohue? Are we ever going to see an atheist figurehead going after the Pope/Catholic Church on national TV programs for this sort of thing?

    Represent!

  11. Matt G says

    Oy! I teach (science!) at school which is supported by a conservative Christian church. One of the priests there has said in sermons that to not be Christian is to not be “fully human”. And he smiles when he says it.

  12. sigurd jorsalfar says

    He’s as much of an ignoramus as any of his predecessors. Fuck him. Hasn’t he got better things to do with his time, like washing some feet?

  13. matty1 says

    He’s certainly good at PR, make a big show of being humble, repeat standard dogma that the church isn’t judging people just telling them about God’s judgement and everyone starts thinking you’re a reformer.

  14. illdoittomorrow says

    Ed Brayton @0,

    ” I get the sense that Francis sort of feels bad for us, that he can’t really grasp the concept that atheists might sometimes feel peace and joy even though we think there’s no God.”

    Franky can take his deep, profound, oh-so-sincere concern and shove it up his ass.

  15. says

    The “atheists are self centred” idea is amusing. After all so much of Christian thought is some variation on the idea that God takes a personal interest in everything you do. That sounds pretty close to you being the centre of the Universe to me.

  16. says

    timgueguen, to be fair, “God exists and doesn’t care about you at all” isn’t much of a pitch. Sure, it’s got the steak, but it needs the sizzle. I believe this is covered in The Gospel According to Marketing.

  17. says

    Atheists make gods of other things. The basic argument Fracis seems to set forth is that atheists secretly know God exists, but we’re scared he might demand too much sacrifice of us, so we pretend to think he’s not real because we are rebellious and naughty. Then we pick something else to venerate in God’s place, because we can’t just not worship anything, and “before an idol, there is no risk that we will be called to abandon our security” (13). It’s a bit of a pat on the back (at our expense) for the courageous faithful.

    That’s one thing that really irritates me. For me, a big chunk of my anti-religious attitude is because I’m rebelling against idolatry, and religion is a particularly nasty form of idolatry. I see idolatry as an inherently unhealthy act, so it doesn’t really matter to me if you’re idolizing a god or a pop star because substituting one idol for another doesn’t change anything. So it really galls me when they accuse me of substitution when I’m all about rejecting the practice as a whole.

    I think idolatry is antithetical to having any other sort of values. What happens if an idol acts against those values? An idolator will twist themselves into pretzels to fallaciously and half-heartedly rationalize the idol’s behavior or declare those values as inferior to the idol’s capricious whims. Someone who has values, on the other hand, will criticize the idol and demand a justification.

  18. jonathangray says

    David Marjanović:

    I’ve long noticed that theologers can be astoundingly ignorant outside their narrow field…

    A bit like engineers, journalists, hairdressers, butchers, bakers and candlestick-makers.

    Then we pick something else to venerate in God’s place, because we can’t just not worship anything, and “before an idol, there is no risk that we will be called to abandon our security” (13).

    …Uh. There are plenty of religion-replacement ideologies that require lots and lots of sacrifice. Imagine a militant communist activist.

    I’ve long noticed that scientists can be astoundingly ignorant outside their narrow field. Has it occurred to you that, for the true believer, sacrifice is a source of security?

    + + +

    raven:

    The RCC is a business

    You could say that, yes.

    and atheism is their main competitor.

    http://www.sadtrombone.com

  19. tsig says

    ” Modusoperandi

    September 7, 2013 at 12:11 pm (UTC -4)

    To be fair, Athiests are pretty bad. I once had to shake hands with one, and broke out in a rash. I know!”

    You’re lucky, my hand withered up like a dry prune, I had to go to a Catholic Priest and he sprinkled some Holy Water on it while saying “mumbleus vobiscum” and it got better.

  20. Sastra says

    Color me unsurprised. And it’s not because I think that Catholicism is a particularly authoritarian institution or popes particularly tricksy..

    Bottom line, most of those points against atheism are shared by every religion which thinks that it’s a big deal that the supernatural exists and that it’s very important to align yourself and your life with this special knowledge. In other words, virtually all of them — including the so-called ‘tolerant’ variations of all-paths-lead-to-God ecumenical spirituality. The whole point of faith is to transcend the mundane wisdom of the world and elevate yourself above what you would be if you didn’t believe. This invariably leads to the above laundry list of secular shortcomings. It has to. ” Without God/Spirit, I would be so much less than I am.”

    They’ve only got a few alternatives. They can say that atheists are vile, diminished human beings. They can say that atheists are normal but secretly acknowledging God in order to be so. Or they can begin to wander over to the rational stance of humanism and start accepting that faith isn’t all that important — and by extension neither is the existence of God: what matters is how you live, love, and learn here in this world.

    That last option isn’t going to allow you to you cream yourself over the unique and transformative joy of experiencing God, though.

    Even when they don’t explicitly attack us to our faces, I think we’ve got a serious problem. Our depravity and inadequacy is actually structured into the religious and spiritual systems. Reassuring the faithful that they’ve nothing to worry about, we atheists respect their beliefs and would never try to challenge them, isn’t useful in the long run — though it does seem to be the preferred advice given to atheists from the believers. No kidding.

  21. David Marjanović says

    Ooh, Piltdown Man “honours” us with his fraudulent presence. :-)

    A bit like engineers, journalists, hairdressers, butchers, bakers and candlestick-makers.

    Point taken. However, of those you mention, only journalists and a few engineers ever make grand public pronouncements about facts outside their field; that’s, obviously, the relevant part here.

    Has it occurred to you that, for the true believer, sacrifice is a source of security?

    Oh yes. Exchanging one kind of security (the mundane one of comfortable business-as-usual, or in extreme cases the one of life & limb) for another (peace of deluded mind) still entails abandoning one of them. I completely agree with the pope on that. Where I part company with him is where he claims “before an idol, there is no risk that we will be called to abandon our security”. Many mutually contradictory religions and other ideologies have had people who went to great lengths to further the values of theirs, making sacrifices left and right, sometimes all the way to martyrdom. :-|

  22. jonathangray says

    Sastra:

    the rational stance of humanism

    Does the rational stance of humanism give you this, O atheist? I think not.

    You cannot comprehend the power of the Dark Side.

  23. pocketnerd says

    @Raven, #5:

    No, you’re wrong. Atheists aren’t the main competitor for religion; we simply refuse the core premise. Look at it this way: If you’re a tobacco manufacturer, your competitors are other tobacco companies. So you compete with each other, trying to establish your niche and carve out a market share.

    “Foo™ brand cigarrettes have a smooth, rich flavor!”

    “Bar™ brand cigars give you greater sexual potency!”

    Luring people to your brand is simply a matter of offering new customers something more attractive than what they currently have, and the different brands spend a lot of time and effort trying to poach customers from each other. But there’s no greater threat than the people who don’t smoke and think it’s just a nasty-smelling waste of money.

  24. caseloweraz says

    Raven: According to Cardinal Cormac, atheism is responsible for war and destruction, atheism is worse than sin, and atheists are not fully human.

    Something I’ve often thought about: If someone is “not fully human,” does that mean subhuman or superhuman?

    I know that Cardinal Cormac meant the former, but think about it: You could take it either way.

  25. caseloweraz says

    Jonathangray: Does the rational stance of humanism give you this, O atheist? I think not.

    You cannot comprehend the power of the Dark Side.

    Phil Ochs comprehended it:

    Cathedral walls will glitter with their gold
    And the sermons speak through silver robes
    Building castles amidst the poverty
    Say the cannons of Christianity

    Cannons of Christianity

  26. davideriksen says

    @11

    I think I’ve mentioned this here before, but I once had a chaplain tell me (and a large group of other NCOs) that you couldn’t be fully human without belief in God. Shortly thereafter, the CSM repeated the bit about there not being any atheists in foxholes.

  27. Doug Little says

    Cathedral walls will glitter with their gold
    And the sermons speak through silver robes
    Building castles amidst the poverty
    Say the cannons of Christianity

    Yeah I witnessed this first hand in Jamaica. The only structure you could call a building in most of the small towns on the way to Bob Marly’s mausoleum was a church.

  28. jonathangray says

    caseloweraz:

    Phil Ochs comprehended it:

    Cathedral walls will glitter with their gold
    And the sermons speak through silver robes
    Building castles amidst the poverty
    Say the cannons of Christianity

    Hint: If you’re going to get your opinions on Catholicism from pill-popping Jewish nutcases, at least get them from a pill-popping Jewish nutcase with brains and a flair for words:

    “You know, I never used to understand why the [Catholic] churches in poor neighborhoods where so grandiose. I mean, I always thought, why not spend the money instead for the poor? All these poor people needing all these things and yet the church is a penthouse. Stupid. Stupid and wasteful and a monument to ego.
    “But than I also noticed something. These churches were always well-attended. Sometimes overflowing. And the actual poor people did not seem to mind the ostentatious churches. So I started to actually research it, look into it, ask the poor people about their church. And what I realized was something like this.
    “What is important in a church and a mass is that people listen to the message: be better to others, honor God, etc. But, to get the message out to the people they must hear it. And to hear it they must come to the church. And people, especially poor people, will not come to church in a place that looks like a shithole. Their attitude is ‘Look i live in a shithole. Do I got to go to church in one too?’
    “For the actual poor people, the idea that for at least a short time in their life they could go to a place that looks fantastic, that they belong to, that is impressive to all, to be part of something that is so beautiful, that was a point of pride and joy to them. In the rest of their life, they really could not point to a beautiful house, a great car, an impressive bank account. But, their church was something all could take pride in, because even members not in their church would acknowledge the beauty of it.”
    – Lenny Bruce

  29. jonathangray says

    I believe the poor fellow died of a drug overdose, a wretched fate which seems to overtake a curiously large number of the clowns in the circus of modernity.

    What’s your point?

  30. dingojack says

    Before disparaging someone’s bad habits perhaps it’s wise not to use as a paragon someone who indulges in habits considered to be even worse than those you’re attempting to put down. It kinda undermines your argument somewhat.
    Dingo
    ——–
    Of the seven billion plus people in this ‘circus of modernity’ how many do you expect to die from drug overdoses (as opposed to starvation, malaria, TB and etc.)? A curiously large number?

  31. Nick Gotts says

    Modusoperandi@18 The Church of God the Utterly Indifferent.

    If you’re going to get your opinions on Catholicism from pill-popping Jewish nutcases – jonathangray

    Nice bit of antisemitism, there Pilty, but none of us need more than our own observations to appreciate what a filthy stew of antihuman hatred and vileness you and your church are.

  32. caseloweraz says

    JonathanGray: Hint: If you’re going to get your opinions on Catholicism from pill-popping Jewish nutcases, at least get them from a pill-popping Jewish nutcase with brains and a flair for words:

    You know, I always used to think that Phil Ochs would be alive today had he been Jewish. So you educated me on that point. You’re also right about him taking pills (uppers). He abused alcohol, too.

    What you’re wrong about is your denigration of Ochs’s ability with words. He is recognized as one of the sharpest writers of protest songs. His passion and dedication to human-rights causes cannot be doubted. Too bad that, like his father, he suffered from bipolar disorder and depression.

    Read the Wikipedia article on him to see how much importance his work still holds. In case you’re wondering I consider him a hero — flawed, certainly; but still a hero.

    Regarding Lenny Bruce’s point that the grandiosity of cathedrals draws in the poor of the neighborhood to hear messages telling them to be kinder and more moral. I agree that many cathedrals are beautiful and awe-inspiring, and I see nothing wrong in those qualities drawing in multitudes to hear such messages.

    But that’s not why Phil Ochs was protesting against the RCC hierarchy, is it?

  33. lofgren says

    The thing is that this is basically the longstanding position of the Church on atheists. With an institution like the Catholic church, there are a lot of entrenched attitudes and a lot of inertia to overcome in order to change those attitudes. The new Pope has to pick and choose his priorities carefully. So from this all we can conclude is that he has other, more important battles to fight than repairing the Catholic church’s attitude toward atheists. And personally I think that’s fine. If he can clean house of the pederasts, bring the attitude towards women and contraception into the 20th century (at least…), and re-prioritize humanitarian values, then I as an atheist am willing to endure another generation of abuse and ignorance from the upper echelons of the Catholic hierarchy, especially given that individual atheists have a lot more control over how individual Catholics perceive them than any proclamation from the Pope, broadly speaking.

    That said, I think Sastra@27 is correct that the fundamental values of the church basically require them to denigrate atheists. But if there is one thing Catholics are good at, it’s reconciling the abstract positions of their church with far more pragmatic life positions. Although outwardly authoritarian, my experience is that Catholics are far more comfortable than other religions taking stances that oppose their leadership. I know a lot of Catholics, and most of them are pro-gay rights, pro-contraception, and pro-choice.

  34. jonathangray says

    David Marjanović:

    Where I part company with him is where he claims “before an idol, there is no risk that we will be called to abandon our security”. Many mutually contradictory religions and other ideologies have had people who went to great lengths to further the values of theirs, making sacrifices left and right, sometimes all the way to martyrdom.

    The difference lies in the words I’ve bolded. Religious sacrifice is an act of self-abnegation; sacrifice in the name of atheistic or humanistic ideology is self-affirming.

    dingojack:

    Before disparaging someone’s bad habits perhaps it’s wise not to use as a paragon someone who indulges in habits considered to be even worse than those you’re attempting to put down. It kinda undermines your argument somewhat.

    But I wasn’t holding Mr Bruce up as any kind of paragon of virtue; merely as someone who displayed more insight than Mr Ochs on this occasion.

    Nick Gotts:

    Nice bit of antisemitism, there Pilty

    Nay, though my follies be manifold (and manifest) I have not in me the taint of Jew-Hatred. To the contrary, I have long regarded that extraordinary People, traces of whose blood indeed flow — albeit dimly — in my own veins, to be in divers ways a veritable Master-Race; yet alas! ever subject to the iron rule of corruptio optimi pessima.

    caseloweraz:

    You know, I always used to think that Phil Ochs would be alive today had he been Jewish.

    Why do you say that?

    What you’re wrong about is your denigration of Ochs’s ability with words.

    Maybe you’re right; I confess I’m unfamiliar with his work. I can only say the lines you quoted struck me as a coarse sentiment clumsily expressed.

    I agree that many cathedrals are beautiful and awe-inspiring, and I see nothing wrong in those qualities drawing in multitudes to hear such messages.

    But that’s not why Phil Ochs was protesting against the RCC hierarchy, is it?

    Well the lines you quoted gave no indication that Ochs had ever considered the matter from that perspective. It was just standard-issue anticlerical agitprop about “glittering gold”, “silver robes” and “poverty” — precisely the sort of thing Lenny Bruce came to perceive as simplistic.

    (I wonder what Mr Ochs would have made of this??)

  35. francesc says

    “Religious sacrifice is an act of self-abnegation; sacrifice in the name of atheistic or humanistic ideology is self-affirming”
    I disagree. Christianism is not a natural religion, in the sense that human psychology doesn’t fit really well. Granted, they benefit and use some aspects of our psychology to get more followers and keep them, but christian theory and social practices usually get into conflict with each others. Of course, one example would be the obliviousness towards sexuality in his various manifestations.
    And another example would be the reasons behind “acting good”, understanding “good” as “approved by society”. In theory, a christian should act “good” to earn points before God, the ultimate referee, the one than can read your mind. But we can see lots of christians that don’t simply act good, they put more effort into being seen as good by his community than acting so. That, of course, is to be expected from a social animal: your reproductive right may come from society’s approval.
    They don’t have enough with abstinence, they need a tag who says “I’m abstinent” before their community.
    And that, it’s self-affirming. Can you remember any suicide terrorist that didn’t try to explain his actions? There have been few cases of religious terrorists acting on themselves, withouth having built a community before. That would be pretty much the norm if the only referee were a god. No, humans crave for society/community approval even in the face of the biggest religious sacrifice.

  36. anubisprime says

    Roman Catholic Pope hates Atheists…hold the front page!

    Do you really think they would totally ignore the greatest threat to their 2000yr old scam by …by being ‘civilized’ to atheists and accepting atheism in the world view structure of society?

    Dream on…if burning at the stake was allowed for certain crimes bet ya bottom dollar atheists would be the first ones herded in line to the pyre!

    There is no such thing as an intelligent pope…a scheming manipulative one for sure but that is not the same as having a balanced broad understanding of the world.
    And it does not make them tolerant to either other faiths or indeed, and most in particular, those with none.

    Sometimes it really seems that folks are not paying attention…the Roman Catholic Church is a fucking totally evil twisted magisterium, and as such it always and without fail requires a fucking totally evil twisted priest to run it.

    And they excel at it!

  37. says

    …atheists secretly know God exists, but we’re scared he might demand too much sacrifice of us…

    Um…last I checked, it was the evangelical Christians, not atheists, who were telling us we didn’t have to make any of those pesky sacrifices their Savior told us to make.

    Also, last I checked, it was Christian authoritarians, not atheists, who told us that makng others (specifically, poor people) sacrifice was more important than us relatively privileged folks making sacrifices ourselves.

    The encyclical, as I understand it, was actually written by Pope Benny, with only minor changes by Francis….

    The only change, as Ed admits, was the “tone,” which Pope Palpadict sucked at. I’m deeply surprised that Ed was fooled by the change of “tone,” even for one second.

    Religious sacrifice is an act of self-abnegation; sacrifice in the name of atheistic or humanistic ideology is self-affirming.

    A statement so vague, and based on such vague concepts, as to be utterly meaningless. I guess coherence and relevance is what you chose to sacrifice to your God, right?

    Nay, though my follies be manifold (and manifest) I have not in me the taint of Jew-Hatred. To the contrary, I have long regarded that extraordinary People, traces of whose blood indeed flow — albeit dimly — in my own veins, to be in divers ways a veritable Master-Race…

    So your bigotry isn’t like Hitler at all, it’s the exact photo-negative of his? Sorry, the resemblance is still there. Pro-Jewish racism is just as despicable as anti-Jewish racism, for all the same reasons. We’ll remember those words of yours whenever you try to pretend you’re morally superior to atheists.

  38. freehand says

    jonathongray: Has it occurred to you that, for the true believer, sacrifice is a source of security?>/i>

    I have also noticed that believers will often double down on believing something which is clearly demonstrated to be false. This affirms, I think, membership in the tribe, and offers them security. The disadvantages are too obvious to list.

    Behaviors which provoke an experience of reassurance or comfort or another flavor of security have an addictive aspect, and like literal drug addictions, may be in the end self-destructive and detrimental to society as a whole. Compare the thefts and hypocrisy of Mother Teressa or Jim Bakker to the uplifting effects of the beautiful church which Lenny Bruce spoke of in your quote. While I agree with Bruce on this, and wish I could have said it as well, it is very easy for the religious clergy to segue from the attitudes of those who wish to enrich the lives of the poor with a fine public place to the attitudes of those who think that because they are God’s buddies they deserve that wealth all the time and will lie as much as necessary to accomplish it.

    I would rather see the wealth put into public schools and libraries and museums. Has the results of any True Believer or church accomplished as much as those scientists and medical workers who wiped out smallpox? Or gave us the refrigerator, for that matter. (It was not merely a matter of mechanics tinkering over time, but scientists using scientific methodology trying to create a cold environment that led to affordable refrigeration.) There are many ways to enrich a peasant’s life.

  39. caseloweraz says

    JonathanGray: Why do you say that?

    It has to do with the word “Chutzpah”. I grew up near New York City, in a community with lots of Jews. (A joke of the time called it the garden city, because there was a Rosenblum on every corner.) What I mean is that I felt the Jews were generally full of self-confidence, the least likely to let the world get them down, apt to assert their personal rights even in cases where they were in the wrong — and Ochs in his songs was generally in the right.

    Well the lines you quoted gave no indication that Ochs had ever considered the matter from that perspective. It was just standard-issue anticlerical agitprop about “glittering gold”, “silver robes” and “poverty” — precisely the sort of thing Lenny Bruce came to perceive as simplistic.

    True, the quatrain all by itself does not. But it’s only one stanza of the song. I suggest you go to YouTube for some of his other songs, like “I Ain’t Marchin’ Any More” or “Outside of a Small Circle of Friends.” And read his entry on Wikipedia.

    (I wonder what Mr Ochs would have made of this??)

    He might have considered it a good thing, since it commemorates the Battle of Solferini which led to the foundation of the International Red Cross. But that’s just a guess.

  40. caseloweraz says

    Freehand: Compare the thefts and hypocrisy of Mother Teressa or Jim Bakker to the uplifting effects of the beautiful church which Lenny Bruce spoke of in your quote. While I agree with Bruce on this, and wish I could have said it as well, it is very easy for the religious clergy to segue from the attitudes of those who wish to enrich the lives of the poor with a fine public place to the attitudes of those who think that because they are God’s buddies they deserve that wealth all the time and will lie as much as necessary to accomplish it.

    I think you said that well. And that is one aspect of the RCC that Phil Ochs was protesting in “Cannons of Christianity”, as hearing the entire song makes clear — that, and the hypocrisy of the followers of Jesus “turn the other cheek” Christ endorsing war.

  41. jonathangray says

    francesc:

    Of course, one example would be the obliviousness towards sexuality in his various manifestations.

    Christianity is hardly “oblivious” of sexuality; it is very concerned with it, as befits such an important subject.

    But we can see lots of christians that don’t simply act good, they put more effort into being seen as good by his community than acting so. That, of course, is to be expected from a social animal … They don’t have enough with abstinence, they need a tag who says “I’m abstinent” before their community.
    And that, it’s self-affirming.

    Sure it is, but that’s not what Christianity calls for, is it? That many Christians fall short of the ideal is only to be expected.

    Raging Bee:

    last I checked, it was the evangelical Christians, not atheists, who were telling us we didn’t have to make any of those pesky sacrifices their Savior told us to make.

    Some Evangelical Christians may say that but the Pope isn’t an Evangelical, he’s a Catholic. (At least I hope he is.)

    Also, last I checked, it was Christian authoritarians, not atheists, who told us that makng others (specifically, poor people) sacrifice was more important than us relatively privileged folks making sacrifices ourselves.

    Which Christian authoritarians said that? I’ve never heard anything like it before.

    So your bigotry isn’t like Hitler at all, it’s the exact photo-negative of his?

    Hardly.

    freehand:

    Behaviors which provoke an experience of reassurance or comfort or another flavor of security have an addictive aspect, and like literal drug addictions, may be in the end self-destructive and detrimental to society as a whole. … it is very easy for the religious clergy to segue from the attitudes of those who wish to enrich the lives of the poor with a fine public place to the attitudes of those who think that because they are God’s buddies they deserve that wealth all the time and will lie as much as necessary to accomplish it.

    True enough, but you could say that about any bunch of people, including scientists for whom peer review can segue into peer pressure when grants from deep-pocketed benefactors are at stake. Welcome to the human race.

    I would rather see the wealth put into public schools and libraries and museums.

    Not very inclusive, is it? There are plenty of people with no interest or aptitude for reading or learning. The Church caters for them as well as the intellectuals.

    Has the results of any True Believer or church accomplished as much as those scientists and medical workers who wiped out smallpox? Or gave us the refrigerator, for that matter. (It was not merely a matter of mechanics tinkering over time, but scientists using scientific methodology trying to create a cold environment that led to affordable refrigeration.) There are many ways to enrich a peasant’s life.

    No-one can deny the immense material benefits science has bestowed upon humanity. Neither can one deny that for every vaccine there’s a nuclear bomb and for every refrigerator a chemical weapon. Science enables one to commit evil more efficiently as well as do good more expansively. What it can’t do is tell us why we should do good rather than evil, or even tell the difference between them.

    caseloweraz:

    It has to do with the word “Chutzpah”. I grew up near New York City, in a community with lots of Jews. … What I mean is that I felt the Jews were generally full of self-confidence, the least likely to let the world get them down, apt to assert their personal rights even in cases where they were in the wrong

    I suspect Nietzsche was on to something when he identified the Jews as the mentally toughest of all peoples … although perhaps it lies more in the ability to endure mental suffering rather than the ability to easily overcome it.

    True, the quatrain all by itself does not. But it’s only one stanza of the song. I suggest you go to YouTube for some of his other songs, like “I Ain’t Marchin’ Any More” or “Outside of a Small Circle of Friends.” And read his entry on Wikipedia.

    Having read all the lyrics to ‘Cannons’ I would concede it’s better than I hastily assumed. In fact it reads to me like a paean to Christianity — but that’s probably because my sense of irony is overdeveloped. As for the rest … well, I would retract my assertion that Ochs was an incompetent wordsmith, but I find his revolutionary leftism distasteful. In any case, Zimmy is still the man.

    And that is one aspect of the RCC that Phil Ochs was protesting in “Cannons of Christianity”, as hearing the entire song makes clear — that, and the hypocrisy of the followers of Jesus “turn the other cheek” Christ endorsing war.

    They are also followers of Jesus “I came not to send peace, but the sword” Christ or Jesus “let him sell his coat, and buy a sword” Christ.

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