Home > Uncategorized > The Pope’s Tour Gaffes In Full

The Pope’s Tour Gaffes In Full

With the Pope’s trip to the UK nearly over, it seems like a good time to go through and look at the what made it special.

Bad Statistics. Theos, a religious think-tank, showed remarkable faith by using dire statistics in a weak attempt to convince people that everyone loves Il Papa.  I’ve already covered it here, but it’s worth remembering that only 18% thought that ‘the Pope generally responds wisely to problems in the world today’.

The UK’s Unfortunate Multiculturalism.  Even before they hit Heathrow’s landing gate the Pope’s party manages to screw up, with his Cardinal not only putting his foot in his mouth, but also chewing it down to the bone.“Yes, an aggressive new atheism has spread in England,” said the major official of a large, evangelical faith. “If, for example, you wear a cross on British Airways, you will be discriminated” he continued, pretending that BA hadn’t changed its rules some time ago to allow the display of religious icons by staff.

“There is a crisis of values and orientation in western society which has appeared again and again since the Enlightenment, and was given added impetus by the 1968 Movement. The churches, Catholic and Protestant, live in this society, and its faith is weakened.” he sad, railing against such crises as the fight for female equality, for child abuse, for gay rights for being a multi-faith country and prosecuting child molesters.

Oh yeah, and not promulgating bad science on AIDS.

And then, the big one. “When you land at Heathrow Airport, you sometimes think you might have landed in a Third World country” he said, forgetting the big difference – that Catholicism does very well in Third-World countries.  Now, I too sometimes feel that that the country is becoming third-world, mostly due to the failure to invest in infrastructure and the disparity between wealthy and poor, where businesses are able to influence government far too easily.

Not because we let non-whites in.

Virgin Rail releases new designs for standard-class Pendolino. 'I think we could squeeze some more on the top' says spokesman.

The  Cardinal was retired from the trip due to ‘gout’.  Or, as I prefer to think of it, a good shin-kicking, although that’s unlikely.

Pope blames everything on Nazis, forgets who he used to work for.  Yes it’s a cheap shot and no I don’t hold his history against him personally – Nazi Germany was a place where you couldn’t really get away without signing up.  But, knowing that, you think he’d be a bit more careful in Godwinning others.  The problem with pulling a Godwin is that it shows one has no interest in debate or reason at all – one just wants to tar someone with the nastiest slur one can think of, so should he be shocked that atheists don’t care what he thinks?Here’s what he said:

“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“.

It’s a variant on the old canard of ‘there is no morality without god, so atheists cannot be moral’ and it’s still utter balls.  I appreciate that he’d be out of a job if he went round saying atheism is OK and I understand why he’d prefer someone who at least believes, even if in another god, rather than someone who rejects the entire idea.

But it’s also completely out of touch with the world and tries to claim a moral high ground that, even if it existed, wouldn’t be scalable by someone who is basically the head of a child abuse ring at this point.  (Johann Hari has a good piece on how even Catholics should be unhappy with the Pope right now)It also conveniently forgets that people have tussled with ethics for as long as their have been people, without requiring dogma.  Confucious and Marcus Aurelius, for example.  Religion has no monopoly on morality; to pretend as much as a lie and as hypocritical as defending and sheltering child abusers.

His take on Hitler’s beliefs is also inaccurate.  The Telegraph actually has a good piece on this.  Or is the Pope using the ‘no True Scotsman’ fallacy in pretending that any bad person can’t be Christian because all Christians are axiomatically good?

Wikipedia also gives a decently nuanced view of Hitler’s beliefs as well, all of which point out that the pope is talking out of his arse.

Winterval. What’s the problem with this statement? “There are those who argue that the public celebration of festivals such as Christmas should be discouraged, in the questionable belief that it might somehow offend those of other religions or none”.

Answer: it’s balls.  Christmas is not going anywhere, despite media claims to Winterval.  Winterval is one of those made up stories to point out ‘political correctness’ that doesn’t exist.  I have to admit that I don’t care about Christmas.  I kind of wish they’d return to the original name of ‘Saturnalia’, but I don’t see Christmas going anywhere.  If you really want to read more, Tabloid Watch has a good post summing it up.

Lastly, ‘Atheist Extremism’. I really can’t let this one go.  Let me state clearly that I have no problem with people having beliefs.  I don’t care for them (to me, ‘belief’ is ‘acceptance without proof’), and will mock silly ones, just as I mock most daftness in this world, but the universe is large and we sometimes have to make go with things to feel comfortable about our place in it.  By and large, I try only care when people foist their beliefs on others or need an explanation.

That said, the gloves are off.

Every time I hear the phrase ‘extremist atheist’ or ‘secularist’, I also hear the words ‘uppity niggers’.  It’s all over the Pope’s speech (and that of others), every time they don’t get special dispensation to retain their moralities, and demand what have become unworkable sexual and social mores.

We as a society agree that social change is not automatically a bad thing.  For example, slavery is wrong and that women are independent beings, not their father or husband’s property.  We accept this because it is true and a social good, even though religious texts expect these attitudes.

‘Secularist’ is used as a swear word because it invokes a loss of privilege.  The church isn’t whining because it’s being attacked, it’s whining because it lost its dominance.  As Channel 4’s Fact Check blog points out, belief in Christianity has dwindling, but spirituality is not.
Most people still feel that special something, but they don’t channel it into specific claims because they no longer see it as relevant.In the same way, secularism doesn’t mean cleansing all elements of religion from society, merely that religions cannot be dominant over the body politic and those who do not share those beliefs.  ‘What my faith says’ shouldn’t be treated as special because policy is, by and large, evidence-based and has to take into account the many different groups in our society.  For example, the Abrahamic religions condemn homosexuality, but gay people are not damaging to the fabric of society.  As such, the theistic condemnation is in itself immoral because it is oppressive.

For a secular manifesto, see here at the Guardian.

I dislike the concept of a ‘marketplace of ideas’ because I think it’s broadly wrong -it’s a market ideology applied where it’s not applicable.  Truth does not automatically will out, it is often drowned out by small-minded distorters of facts, or simple corporate propaganda.   But open access to information is the least worst alternative.  Which can be a problem when all religions claim access to universal truths yet demand that you follow their path exclusively (for example, the catholic line of ‘Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus‘).
It is right that people have access to information on all religions and can see their behaviour up close, because that’s the only way they can make a free decision on whether to embrace that faith or not.  

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