Friday, 17 September 2010

So apparently the Pope is here.

Yes, yes he is. And he can fuck off home again, as far as I'm concerned.

Now, you all know how I feel about religion by now. I don't care what you believe, as long as you're not causing others any harm and you don't throw a strop if/when I disagree with you (and that applies to other atheists as well, you lot aren't immune just because I don't believe in gods either). I know some religious people. Some of them are friends, some aren't- a bit like the non-religious people I know. All this applies to your average Catholic.

Unfortunately for the Pope, he isn't your average Catholic. He's the leader of one denomination of a religion that supposedly encourages things like helping the poor. He also lives in a fucking palace. Obviously something is going dreadfully wrong here before we even start discussing the events of this week.

As I'm sure you've all heard, the Pope is in the UK this week on a state visit. This is a weird one, because in the past a visiting Pope has been classed as a religious leader and hasn't been funded by our government. This time, however, he is here as head of state for the Vatican City, and we're paying. I have no problem with paying for a head of state to visit- it's not going to be much out of each individual's taxes anyway. I do have a problem though- if someone is a head of state, they probably shouldn't be commenting on religious issues in what is essentially a secular country. I know the Pope is both a religious leader and a head of state. I don't care. Pick one, Benny, and stick to it.

(By the way, I am aware that the UK is technically not secular- we have state religions and all those other relics that are the downside to having castles all over the place, like the PM mustn't be Catholic and so on. Load of balls if you ask me. Your personal faith is not the government's business, it's your own, even if you're the Prime Minister.)

Then, of course, there's the big news story. Pope Benedict decided to visit a country where there are lots of non-religious people and do a little speech about how atheists are Nazis.

Except, you know, there's a few problems with that:

1. Hitler wasn't an atheist. He was pretty open about identifying as a Christian. P.Z. Meyer has a list of things he said about it here. Of course, we all know the things Hitler did weren't very Christian at all, but there we go. Nobody wants to be compared to Hitler, what with all the genocide and that.
2. If you really want to compare ordinary atheists with a dictator, at least choose the right one. Josef Stalin was an atheist and he was also a mad bastard.
3. Really? All of us? Bit extreme, that. This isn't even one of those "Richard Dawkins is just as bad as the people he's complaining about" moments. I get this feeling that 'the more aggressive forms of secularism' include things like 'making sarcastic YouTube videos' and 'being a smug twat when some bloke in the pub doesn't udnerstand evolution'. Dickish behaviours, to be sure, but hardly 'atheist extremism'. Nobody here is blowing themselves up in the name of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
4. I don't think you can complain about others when you lead an organisation that promotes misogyny and homophobia, shelters paedophiles and spreads lies about condoms spreading AIDS because it doesn't approve of contraception. Again, I feel I should point this out- I know not every Catholic believes those things or wants to push their views on others if they do agree with official doctrine on those matters. This is specifically about the people in charge.

I am angry about this. So are lots of other people. I've been pinging from one topic to another in this post because there are so many reasons to be angry with the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church, and I don't know how to get all of it out of my brain without breaking something or producing a garbled mess (I thought the garbled mess was safer, as you can see). I'll leave you with this, because it sums it up rather well:

Another Tim Minchin song, because he is wonderful. Not safe for work, or indeed anywhere.

(quick side note: I quite like this 'end on an amusing video' thing. What do you guys reckon? Should I keep doing it? I like sharing!)

A friend of mine, who is a bit of an expert on history and politics, has told me that Stalin was publicly atheist but still a man of faith in private. I'm going to take her word for it, because she knows a lot more about the subject than I do. My point about Hitler being the wrong dictator for comparison when referring to the big bad atheists still stands, but I wanted to make sure people would see the correction here :)