Pope Francis: Atheists Are Alright!

buddy_jesusMary Elizabeth Williams writes at Salon:

In a message delivered Wednesday via Vatican Radio, the new pontiff distinguished himself with a call for tolerance and a message of support – and even admiration – toward nonbelievers.

Naturally, a guy whose job it is to lead the world’s largest Christian faith is still going to come at his flock with a Jesus-centric message. But he’s taking it in an encouraging new direction. In his message, Francis dissed the apostles for being “a little intolerant” and said, “All of us have this commandment at heart: Do good and do not do evil. All of us. ‘But, Father, this is not (a) Catholic! He cannot do good.’ Yes, he can. He must. Not can: must.”

And the pope spoke of the need to meet each other somewhere on our on common ground. “This commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: We need that so much. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.” It was a deeper affirmation of his comments back in March, when he declared that the faithful and atheists can be “precious allies… to defend the dignity of man, in the building of a peaceful coexistence between peoples and in the careful protection of creation.”

That’s a message that’s vastly different from Catholicism’s traditional “We’re number one!” dogma. Six years ago, the Vatican reasserted the church’s stance that while there may be “elements of sanctification and truth” in other faiths, “that fullness of grace and of truth… has been entrusted to the Catholic Church.” In other words, close but no cigar, everybody else.

The pope was not, of course, addressing the non-believers of the world in his Wednesday sermon, or trying to win them over. Instead, he was telling his Catholics about the importance of cutting outsiders slack. And it’s a hugely important message for Christians to hear. It’s not about being right. It’s about being loving. And it’s a necessary concept, one that needs to be expressed again and again, in a world in which the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor  in Virginia is justifying his repulsive hate speech against gays and lesbians because “I’m a Christian, not because I hate anybody, but because I have religious values that matter to me.” Coming within a week when atheists have been stepping into the spotlight here in America with their own messages of live-and-let-live tolerance, it’s downright refreshing to get a similar message from the biggest Christian in the world.

There are plenty of atheists out there who will no doubt take the pope’s message with a grain of salt or even flat-out disdain. The last thing somebody who doesn’t believe in heaven could possibly need is some guy in a funny hat telling them that they’re okay in God’s eyes anyway. But maybe, whatever we believe or don’t believe, we can consider that the man is on to something when he speaks about “the culture of encounter.”

Read more here.

  • Simon Valentine

    haha good to see more evidence of the feeling
    that it’s turning around
    thank you mister pope
    we look forward to some badassness

  • Dingbert

    catholic – adj. – Including or concerning all humankind; universal

    American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition

    Can’t be a big ‘C’ Catholic without being a little ‘c’ catholic, too.

  • http://strictlyapathy.comoj.com/ SoulArbiter

    Good on ya, Francis.

  • InfvoCuernos

    That sound you hear is atheists worldwide not giving a half a ratshit what the pope thinks.

  • BuzzCoastin

    > Instead, he was telling his Catholics about the importance of cutting
    outsiders slack. And it’s a hugely important message for Christians to
    hear.

    all the past Inquisition victims breathed a sigh of relief

  • echar

    It’s harder to convert them when they know they are hated.

  • http://www.humblewonderful.com/ Tony C.

    Seriously it would be awesome if when reporting on a popes homily there was some kind of understanding of what a homily was. Also would like to see some acknowledgment that there is no official transcript of this message but merely reporting on reporting (initally begun by Vatican radio) in this case. Finally a basic understanding of Christian beliefs would be awesome. I say that as a non-believer who still cares for decent religious journalism.
    My understanding is while the tone of the homily is warmer than a historical attitude of the church there is absolutely no shift here in doctrine. The church still holds “that fullness of grace and of truth… has been entrusted to the Catholic Church.” whereas this article suggests a shift has occurred.
    The Catholic church has always held that every person is created with a certain moral direction/responsibility to be good as a part of their created nature whether or not they acknowledge it. Other “reformed” denominations have argued for “total depravity” (that the fall has so corrupted us that our entire nature is to do evil). The Catholic position is simply being reiterated by the Pope here. The emphasis on finding common ground rather than differences with non-Catholics is a shift but not the content.

    • mannyfurious

      Well, as I understand it, the Pope said atheists can get into heaven. That’s a pretty big deal, which is why “The Vatican” which is somehow different than “The Pope” issued the correction in the article Karen posted.

      Which, really, is just basic Christian theology. Christ, the mythology goes, redeemed all of mankind through his suffering. Not just Catholics. It’s really sad that the Catholic brass either doesn’t understand it’s own theology or is so corrupted that it purposely distorts it.

      • Josh Adkisson

        Sort of. What it really means is that atheists are redeemed. Redemption and salvation are different in Catholic theology. To be redeemed is to be able to get to heaven. Christ redeemed all men by his death on the cross, thus allowing all men access. To be saved, however, is to actually work out one’s salvation, which involves some kind of action on the part of the one being saved. The Vatican is merely clarifying this distinction, it seems to me.

        • mannyfurious

          That’s a good point. Thanks for the clarification.

  • Karen Eliot
    • Andrew

      Papal fallibility!

  • kowalityjesus

    I was becoming depressed when talking with my Muslim coworker just last night. He said “religion is meant to bring people together” and I faltered. I have neither the disposition nor the longevity of inculcation to successfully proselytize, but I couldn’t cope with the cognitive dissonance in embracing such an anti-dogmatic statement.

    Faith and rationality are not always correspondent. Its hard to tell another person why you believe what you do. Francis is trying to do guide us to peace: God bless him, I know he is doing right. But so many people who are viewing this from a radical perspective will see the wrong message. Yes, Jesus taught us to love one another (and if one can do so truly unconditionally, one is a saint) then he rose to Heaven. In Catholicism, when loving a person, it doesn’t just involve spinal-spiritual currency, it involves informing them of the teachings of Jesus and the reality of his divinity so they can allow Christ to live in them and bring light to the world. The great antagonist is waiting to consume our souls when we fail to repent before our end!

    BTW that picture is 100% my LEAST favorite popular representation of Christ. ugh!

    • Jin The Ninja

      it’s actually a great depiction of christ. tongue-in-cheek and cheekily gregarious. i’d rather him than the usual grave/somber vaguely english dude they usually depict.

      • kowalityjesus

        it makes me nauseous. Its inane and preposterous and totally misrepresents Christ’s character. Its unorthodoxy is why it’s so popularized; a product, I suspect, of church-goers and some protestant (i.e. heretic) clergymen that feel like they need to “modernize” Christianity. Let’s “modernize” Christianity by printing scriptures and reciting services in vulgate then interpreting and translating those into sincere values, and also by surrendering evangelization in order to foster peace like Francis decreed. NOT by catering to the tasteless and the whimsied by making a car-salesman statue of Jesus.

        • m-theory

          it’s the Buddy Christ from Dogma…

          • kowalityjesus

            yeah, ok thanks. doesn’t change my opinion of it.

          • m-theory

            Well it should, because you’re acting like it’s a banner for consumerism, when in fact it’s a movie prop. Chillax, mang.

        • Jin The Ninja

          catholicism itself is based on the ‘hard sell.’
          the fact that a movie prop causes you disdain
          you must realise that the bible and it’s messiah are nothing more than a commodity in the eyes of the church- they are more ad men, than holy men, and lay catholics simply consumers of a product designed to control and quell.
          banking and the vatican have more in common than not, they are both ‘growth industries’ designed to accumulate wealth in the hands of but a few.

          • kowalityjesus

            OK I can see parallels through the eyes of a cynic between banking and Catholicism, but the idea that the tenants of Christianity are commodities is like saying the Constitution is a commodity; absurd, as unrelated as the mind can design. I can see through the eyes of a cynic how one would think the product of Christianity is designed to quell, but it is designed to elevate and humble. Also, try deleting your hanging clauses before you post.

          • mannyfurious

            Christianity as a spiritual practice in and of itself isn’t a commodity. But it’s used as one by those who are supposed to safeguard the practice.

            I’ve seen both sides. I’ve seen people elevated and humbled and even, uh, I suppose “enlightened” by it. But I think by in large most people are quelled by it. Jesus was certainly a righteous fellow, but how many Christians actually model their behaviors and philosophies after his? Most just invoke his name to condemn homosexuality or feminism or, somehow, progressive politics…. None of which was modeled by Jesus in any of the gospels. So what does that tell us?

          • Andrew

            It seems to me there are two types of Christian: those who try to follow Jesus and his example, and those who want to drop his name so they can act like assholes and still watch others burn from their perches in his dad’s exclusive club.

          • kowalityjesus

            more true than not

          • Jin The Ninja

            a dangling modifier is an affectation of written english, very rarely an error if intentional. (see what i did there)

            you mistake reference of catholicism for an indictment of christianity in totality, which it was not.

            the vatican is as corrupt as any institution. analysis dictates that in the view of the vatican- ‘the product’ it commodifies is a tightly controlled, pseudo-historical text of dubious origin that legitimises its own power. the consumer- the lay catholic.

            anything the church cannot control outrightly- it spins, it assimilates, it tolerates.the fabric of the church is a thin veneer of holy wrapped around an impenetrable core of greed, murder, and oppression. the fringe is the true church and has always been. the vatican but a mockery, indulging in the power of the state rather than embracing divine essence (which a religion absolutely should).

            a truly satanic blend of materialism and repression.
            quite like banking only it exchanges credit notes for salvation.

            i think you meant ‘critical appraisal based on historical veracity’ rather than cynic.

          • kowalityjesus

            No, I mean cynic when I say cynic. There are different types of cynics but they all are like a cold rock which one sits on and constantly loses body heat to, never to have it returned.

            IN FACT, your position is patently cynical. Why take an intellectually realistic stance toward something that was and still is instrumental in establishing the morality of the West et al. when it is so much easier to judge, nitpick, and disassemble? Why? I am always curious? It’s clearly not for intellectual integrity. Is it laziness? Personal bitterness? For your image? Are you a Satanic agent?

            Why doesn’t disinfo run an article about how the Vatican estimates that annually 100,000 Christians throughout the Middle East, Africa, and Asia perish because of their faith? Because then mean and evil things like what you just said couldn’t have a footing because Christians would actually be portrayed as the victims for once, God forbid.

          • Jin The Ninja

            yes, i am a satanic agent
            trying to dissuade others from
            a rapist, pedophillic, morally corrupt, money hungry,
            dictator-aligning, fascist, war-mongering, racist,
            classist, nepotist, sexist, misogynist, and genocidal
            institution.

            the dark lord barely requires i do any work.

          • kowalityjesus

            “rapist, pedophilllic” is redundant though unfortunately true, “morally corrupt” and “money hungry” is baseless defamation, “dictator-aligning” and “fascist” is redundant and not true in the present day, “war-mongering” is hardly the case, “racist, classist, nepotist” has elements of truth to it although tell that to the missionaries who risk their lives in Africa and elsewhere around the world where many thousands of Christians are losing their lives for being Christian. “sexist, misogynist” is redundant and a shallow insult due to a modern standard being applied to a institution steeped in tradition. “Genocidal” is worth questioning.

            In fact give me one institution that’s existed over the last 2000 years that these monikers could not be applied to in any way historically.

            “(England, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Russia, The Masons, The Knights Templar, The Muslims) is a morally corrupt, money hungry, dictator-aligning, fascist, war-mongering, racist, classist, nepotist, sexist, misogynist, and genocidal institution.”
            Could be said about nearly any nation or institution that was involved in any worldly manner with the surrounding political affairs over such a period of time.

            Then give me evidence of why the Roman empire converted to Christianity. Riddle me that. Was it politics? insufficient. Was it demographics? not likely when they were commonly being fed to lions. Could it have ACTUALLY HAD some element of revelation? Possibly? This is the enemy of the modern secular historian, that there is no “rational” explanation for the rise and reign of Christianity. Even IF it could be said to have a high level of hypocrisy, and that everyone was delirious when they had inspiration to follow Jesus, Christianity made a better world for the West and there is no denying it. It still does, except its around the world now.

          • Jin The Ninja

            dismissal of verifiable historical fact is not an argument.
            christianity has a postive moral standard of living, but the catholic church and its rejection of social justice and basic human rights in everything but rhetoric demonstrates it is no place of god (well perhaps a demi urge or the devil themself, but certainly not christ or a benign deity.

            to defend/pretend otherwise is willful ignorance or propaganda.

          • kowalityjesus

            I do not appreciate your argumentative ignorance of a significant portion of my statement nor your dismissive portrayal of my compelling deconstruction of your rebuttal.

            I think the main flaw in your argument is your willful ignorance and unrepentant denial of any positive effect the Church has on the world today. Its a visible behemoth not expressing “rational,” secular values for anti-establishment lilliputins to cast their ropes upon and tug with all their entropical-lowering might.

            Like, get real.

            There are problems in the Catholic Church like any age-old establishment, and just because it updates its values slowly given a historical perspective or there is some measure of corruption within vestigial lobes doesn’t mean its necessarily evil.

            If you don’t have the time or effort available to defend your position and criticize my position in a meaningful manner, then say so. Otherwise that kind of response is an admission of ignorance and defeat.

          • Andrew

            > Why doesn’t disinfo run an article about how the Vatican estimates that
            annually 100,000 Christians throughout the Middle East, Africa, and Asia
            perish because of their faith?

            Because you haven’t submitted an article about it. Please do so.

          • kowalityjesus

            thanks for your encouragement. I’ve tried before, not awfully consistently but I think Matt is too busy or too cool to work with me. Ostracism is a relative universality in my life, for one reason or another. God does not approve.

  • bobbiethejean

    As an atheist, this just makes me feel good. Maybe we really can all just get along. :P

  • Juan

    To paraphrase Black Sabbath, Yes, I would like to see the pope on the end of a rope. I think he’s a fool.

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