I’m feeling a bit light-headed, and wondering if I’m still asleep. Or if it’s April Fools’ Day. Ruse actually concedes some ground to Dawkins in the religion wars. Of course, it’s in the HuffPo, so it could be some perverse nonsense, anyway.
Recently, the New Atheists’ most prominent representative, Richard Dawkins, wrote a highly emotive piece for the Washington Post, in which he derided the present pope and expressed glee and satisfaction that such a person was now leading the Catholic Church. In Dawkins’s judgment, not only was this no less than the Church deserved, but such leadership could only hasten the Church’s demise. I thought at the time that Dawkins was over the top and wrong. I now think that he was right and that it was I who was wrong. Let me say at once that, unlike Dawkins, I don’t necessarily want to see this as the end of religion or even of the Catholic Church in some form. I stress that although I cannot share the beliefs of Christians, I respect them and applaud the good that is done in the name of their founder. But I do now think that as presently constituted, the Catholic Church is corrupt and should be eradicated.
Dawkins is right. The moral mess gets worse and worse. Hope of change is illusory. Götterdämmerung beckons. Although we have different motives and undoubtedly hope for different outcomes, I join Dawkins in welcoming the prospect.
He also points out that one of the most damning things about the church’s problems is that they are responding by digging in and resisting change. He’s not alone in noting that Ratzinger’s papacy has been bad news for Catholicism.
However, just a note of reality, though: this is what the Catholic Church has always done. They have never been a bastion of liberal thought, and what they’ve always done in response to problems is recover by retrenchment — and it doesn’t hurt them. Those who revel in arcane dogma will not be deterred by the material aberration of wicked priests engaging in buggery.
Seriously — Catholicism survived the Reformation and the Thirty Years’ War, blatantly political and corrupt popes, schisms and violence. The current events are trivial in comparison.
The church is going to exist for a long, long time to come. What we should expect, though, is that as the more liberal membership boils off to join progressive churches or to abandon religion altogether, as the elements lobbying for change give up and go elsewhere, what will be left behind is exactly what we’re seeing: a hard kernel of very conservative Catholicness that will become increasingly crazy and detached from reality. It will become much worse…but it will still exist, and will be populated by the devout ranks of the truly fervent, the Bill Donohues and the Father Coughlins, and they aren’t going to be dissuaded at all by us weird atheists or those wishy-washy Anglicans. Don’t expect demise, just a diminishment and a hardening.