The Papal visit to the UK lasted officially only a few hours before the first controversy started. In his speech in the Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, the Pope compared “atheist extremism” with Nazism and went on to warn that people should be wary of the secularism in modern life that undermines tradition Christian values; quite an attempt to “extend the hand of friendship” to the whole of the UK where about 40-45% consider themselves non-believers.
The notion that it was the atheism of Nazis that led to their extremist and hateful views or that it somehow fuels intolerance in Britain today is a terrible libel against those who do not believe in god. The notion that it is non-religious people in the UK today who want to force their views on others, coming from a man whose organization exerts itself internationally to impose its narrow and exclusive form of morality and undermine the human rights of women, children, gay people and many others, is surreal.
British Humanist Association
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).
I’m not even gonna into the whole “Hitler and Nazis were not atheists” debate. Let’s just say that the Pope misrepresented atheists and atheism by falsely equating them with Nazism, which is completely historically inaccurate. Here is what a more historically accurate version of that part of his speech would have looked like:
Even in our own lifetime, we can recall how The Catholic Church and his leaders stood with a Nazi tyranny that wished to inculcate God into society and defined an exclusive humanity against many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live. I also recall my own Catholic regime’s attitude against non-Catholic Christian pastors and the religious who spoke the truth in love, opposed the Nazis and paid for that opposition with their lives while Catholics stood in support. As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the Catholic/religious extremism of the twentieth century, let us never forget how the inclusion of God, religion and scriptural lessons in 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).
And to continue on that note, he could add:
“A new Catholic Church under my leadership promotes a doctrine of truth in love above all and will depart from our long history of hatred, exclusion, and murder of those who do not submit traditional Catholic dogma.”
Overall, I’d like to express my thanks the Pope for the offer of a hand of friendship, and a bigger thanks for then reminding us so persuasively why we should not accept it. So, until the next attempt, I’m gonna keep listening to Tim Minchin “tribute” to the Pope, which you can download on Tim’s website.
p.s. Feel free to join the protest of the Pope’s visit in Central London on Saturday. I’ll be there wearing this T-Shirt.