On May 22, 2013, the Vatican’s most recently elected CEO made a curious, yet seemingly harmonious statement regarding atheists. He made points about how non-believers and the religious can become “… precious allies…” in the pursuit of world peace and goodwill. It’s all very touching and inspiring. Yet, there is something that gives one pause in his choice of words:
“The Lord created us in His image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and He does good and all of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us. ‘But, Father, this is not Catholic! He cannot do good.’ Yes, he can… “The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone!” We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”
Hold on a second. We are all redeemed? Of what? Being born human? Preemptive vicarious redemption is an absurdity that obligates the beneficiary without his or her permission, since the beneficiary was not yet born to commit any so-called sins, let alone request absolution. As is typical of religious arrogance, the standards of the pious are being applied to everyone without solicitation. The pope’s rhetoric stinks of a totalitarian view, presuming compliance according to their definition of cultural criteria.
Non-believers are not compelled by the construct of a higher power to do good. There is something far more demonstrable than the fear of reprisal from a supernatural being that drives atheists to help their fellow homo sapiens. It is called human empathy. No god is necessary as a gunpoint catalyst to offer kindness or assistance. It can be sufficiently argued that anyone whose key motivation to exercise goodwill is based upon the religious dread of consequences from big brother in the sky for doing otherwise, that person already has a deficit in personal compassion. It is a disconcerting notion: being good because one god or another is making a list and checking it twice.
As a follow-up to Pope Francis’ homily, Vatican spokesman Reverend Thomas Rosica, chipped away at the crumbling Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility with the statement that confirmed the old catch-22 that essentially states people are precluded from being saved by the Catholic Church if they “refuse to enter her or remain in her.” Woe betide those heathens and apostates who embrace rational thinking, rather than fearful superstition. Imagine that. Being subject to belief in an omnipotent patriarchal god with a narcissistic inferiority complex so acute, “he” threatens to dispatch all those to eternal suffering who don’t love him back. It’s all so incredibly scary.
No thanks, Papa Frank & Co. The scare tactic mandates don’t cut it. The ethic of reciprocity existed millennia before the spawn of your messianic cult. Being good for goodness’ sake, without threat of punishment, is quite enough.
This papal statement is little more than the voice of a slowly dying archaic monarchy attempting to cling to an increasingly dwindling powerbase, under the disingenuous guise of reaching out to their growing number of antagonists.
As the late Christopher Hitchens pointed out, “Many religions now come before us with ingratiating smirks and outspread hands, like an unctuous merchant in a bazaar. They offer consolation and solidarity and uplift, competing as they do in a marketplace. But we have a right to remember how barbarically they behaved when they were strong and were making an offer that people could not refuse.”
Based on Christian dogma, the price for being unrestricted in life by perpetual abject servitude spent apologizing to a sky wizard is eternal damnation. Not exactly an equitable imposition of sentence for such a short life. If we have to be damned to be free, so be it. Hell sounds like a far more interesting place.