Pope Benedict on Practical Atheists and Actual Atheists
I realize I spend an inordinately large amount of time writing about Catholicism. It is not that I have any particular vitriol for that religion. It is more that the insanity that is uttered by Catholic clergy is almost non-stop blog material. I suppose we do not need any further proof that the Catholic Clergy can say whatever it wants—regardless of whether or not it makes sense. In case you do, read on.
Today Pope Benedict stated that “practical atheism” is more dangerous than “actual atheism”. You can read about this story on the Catholic News Agency website here. Quotes used in this blog are from that article. The Pope defines “practical atheists” as people who identify as Christian, but live as if god does not exist. This is different from us “actual atheists”, in that we are really atheists.
The article states:
“While actual atheists often think deeply about God before rejecting belief, practical atheism “is even more destructive … because it leads to indifference towards faith and the question of God,” the Pope stated.”
I must be honest; I have no idea what he is talking about. How can the Pope possibly think that indifference, and perhaps indecision, about god is more damaging than outright rejection? There can be no bigger threat to religion and the god idea than, to use his own words, an “atheists [who has] often think deeply about God before rejecting belief”. We are not coming back. We reject deities completely. You have about zero change of re-converting an atheist who has thought deeply about god and rejected the notion. There can be no bigger threat to Christianity than that…the more of us there are, the less of them. It is simple math.
Yet, the “practical atheist” still believes in god. Christian leaders still have a chance to bring this person back into the fold. They have not completely rejected the foundation of your religion. Why are they functioning as “practical atheists”? Probably because they are upset with some Church teachings, perhaps on same-sex marriage, divorce, abortion, or contraception for example. They may be upset, but this is hardly more dangerous to you than outright atheism.
The Pope goes to discuss the idea that it is harder to be a Christian since the time of the Enlightenment, because– get this—they now have a burden of proof that didn’t exist before. (Funny how the Pope gets what most theists I encounter do not). Before you think the Pope is on the right track here, he then continues to point out that this rising tide of enlightened secularism has led to a moral and spiritual disaster…this from the guy who has had to oversee the world’s largest pedophile ring…
It is because of us actual and practical atheists that people are now ethically confused, which has made it easier to hold, ““an ambiguous conception of freedom, which instead of being liberating ends up binding man to idols,”. Huh? No really….huh?
The article is quite long and filled with topics like the ones I discussed above. Here is what it is missing. The Pope never states exactly how it is that “practical atheists” are a larger danger to Christianity than “actual atheists”. I hope he won’t mind, but I am going to give it a go for him. “Practical atheists” are dangerous to him because they have a much larger voice than “actual atheists” if they choose to use it. People like me have talking almost nonstop for years about what we view as the faults in Christianity. The reality is that this affects little change. If the Pope’s “practical atheists” start doing this, it’s a whole new arena. Now we would have people criticizing from within. These are people in the pews or who used to be in pews, but still count as Catholics, demanding change. This is a much bigger problem for the Church. Want proof? Look at how Rome has treaded the LCWR—and they aren’t even “practical atheists”…yet. Rome can, for the most part, ignore us actual atheists. They will not have that luxury if the “practical atheists” start speaking. I have been writing on that for the better part of a year. Perhaps he and I don’t really disagree on this point after all…other than the fact that I will continue to encourage “practical atheists” to speak up…and perhaps make the very fulfilling move to “actual atheism”.
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