From the article linked at Friendly Atheist:

NOTE: For those who don't feel like following the link and reading the article, below is the meat of the matter.

The Vatican has released the first encyclical letter written by Pope Francis.

That’s big news for Catholics, who comprise the target audience for this sort of document, and who often put a great deal of stock in the pontiff’s opinions on how to live their faith. In atheist circles, the most likely reaction is a shrug, a raised eyebrow, and a big ‘so what?’ But with news about outreach to the ‘nones’ and dialogue with non-believers making headlines in the early days of Francis’ pontificate – and it is still early days, at least in relative terms – this document is instructive. It gives us a window into what the pope really thinks about the irreligious.

  • Atheism weakens community ties. For some reason, Francis seems to believe that religious faith is required to “build our societies in such a way that they can journey towards a future of hope” (51). As he sees it, “the light of faith is capable of enhancing the richness of human relations”, while without it “nothing could truly keep men and women united” (51). (Heck of a burden to put on faith, if you ask me.)
  • Atheists make gods of other things. The basic argument Francis seems to set forth is that atheists secretly know God exists, but we’re scared he might demand too much sacrifice of us, so we pretend to think he’s not real because we are rebellious and naughty. Then we pick something else to venerate in God’s place, because we can’t just not worship anything, and “before an idol, there is no risk that we will be called to abandon our security” (13). It’s a bit of a pat on the back (at our expense) for the courageous faithful.
  • Atheists are self-centered. Chances are, the one thing we’re busy worshiping is ourselves: “idols exist, we begin to see, as a pretext for setting ourselves at the center of reality and worshiping the work of our own hands” (13). Francis really seems to think that only faith can “guide us beyond our isolated selves” (4) or provide “concrete directions for emerging from the desert of the selfish and self-enclosed ego” (46). By contrast, “faith is God’s free gift, which calls for humility and the courage to trust (14)”.
  • Atheists have no moral compass. Carrying his ‘faith as light’ metaphor to dizzying heights, Francis argues that in the absence of faith/light, “it is impossible to tell good from evil, or the road to our destination from other roads which take us in endless circles, going nowhere” (3). No one can be good without God because they attribute their good actions to themselves instead of to him, and thus “their lives become futile and their works barren” (19). Essentially the only way to be a good person is by pretending it’s not really you doing good things; it’s God making you do them.
  • If we really tried to find God, we’d find him. This one is quite a slap in the face for the many unbelievers who became such after a long and sincere process of religious seeking; it suggests that we were either secretly searching in bad faith, or our efforts were defective. If “he can be found also by those who seek him with a sincere heart” (35), clearly we must have been insincere. It’s our fault, not God’s, if we couldn't detect him.
  • Atheists lead impoverished lives. Since “faith enriches life in all its dimensions” (6) and is “the priceless treasure [. . .] which God has given as a light for humanity’s path” (7), we can assume he envisions us all living in the psychological equivalent of a Dickensian poorhouse. I get the sense that Francis sort of feels bad for us, that he can’t really grasp the concept that atheists might sometimes feel peace and joy even though we think there’s no God.
  • An atheist can’t really understand love. Francis explains that “only to the extent that love is grounded in truth [read: God] can it endure over time” (27). I don’t really understand why he thinks that, but it seems clear that he doesn't accept non-God-oriented love as real love. Meanwhile, “those who believe are never alone” (39).

What do you folks think about this, especially in regard to a certain <insert bloated title> Bobert's recent thread about how the New Pope is way better for atheists than Pope Classic according to one guy on the internet.

Tags: Atheism, Catholicism, Francis, Pope, belief, ignorance, non

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@Robert - Wish that joke had been around when our friend Bob was here :)

Bob underestimated (as they all do) a group of people who knew the bible (or could look it up on this whirly gig called a computer :) and a group of people who knew catholicism, and a group of people who had a sense of humour - as in, Baldilocks and the Bears. Bubble Bob just didn't think that was very funny :).

Seems like more of the tired, ignorant, drivel we usually see from the religious.

@matt.clerke;

"Seems like more of the tired, ignorant, drivel we usually see from the religious."

True, but Bad Bob is back and all things Roman will be explained with obscured clarity (chuckle, chuckle, smile).

One must keep in mind that this Encyclical is the third part of 3 encyclicals on the cardinal virtues that were written by Pope Benedict.  This encyclical was released by Francis, and he is reported to have tweaked a few things, but it's Benedict's work.   It has not been nearly long enough for Francis to be in a position to write & release an encyclical of his own.

The cardinal virtues are of course faith, hope, and love.  So in a letter about the virtues of faith, I don't think any of us familiar with Benedict should have expected him to embrace atheism. :-)

"One must keep in mind that this Encyclical is the third part of 3 encyclicals on the cardinal virtues that were written by Pope Benedict.  This encyclical was released by Francis, and he is reported to have tweaked a few things, but it's Benedict's work.   It has not been nearly long enough for Francis to be in a position to write & release an encyclical of his own."

I noticed this as well, but I couldn't help notice that he had time enough to read it and "tweak" it. If during that editing process he came across something he felt was not quite correct, then I'm sure he could have found the time to make the necessary changes before publishing the encyclical. He is the pope after all. People are on his schedule, not the other way around. That he didn't take the time to further change it and still published it in his own name says to me that he does agree with or at least accepts the content written by Benedict.

@Bob - So pleased you are back. What do you think the changes Bergoglio will make as opposed to the same old, same old, from Ratszinger?

By the by, I as an Atheist, certainly do not 'expect' a pope, any pope, or you, to be an Atheist. There is just as much chance of me flying around with the lovely White Unicorn.

All I want is for theists to follow their doctrine of 'do unto others', which, ad nauseam, they do not. They cherry pick as you do, and when an Atheist says what about... you become just another 'excusist'.

You cherry pick from your book, I don't.

I tell you that there are people who show their 'faith' and 'belief' by handling snakes (they also, omit the next part of that, and do not drink poison), and you say 'What rubbish', but it is in your bible, along with 'man sleeping with man'.

Because the bible doesn't say 'woman lying with woman', are Gay women included in this 'abomination'. If they are, why the extrapolation?

Do you think Gay people are entitled to love whomever they want to love, and to marry whomever they wish to marry, the love of their life, the same as the rest of society and community?

Why is the catholic church so enamored with the sex lives of people, instead of changing the rules, so women in third world countries DO NOT have a child every year, can't afford to feed or educate them, die an early death as their bodies give out under the pressure of having too many children, but no, your particular sect keeps hammering on about people's sex lives and procreation. Get your priorities right.

They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
Mark 16:18 - KJV

Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.
Levitivus 18:22 - KJV

Why pick one and not the other?? It is hypocritical and cowardly.

If Bergoglio did not write the letter, why put his name to it?
He has had plenty of time to write his own letter, instead of doing the PR that his spin doctors have assigned him.

Faith - Yes, in Science, that which is provable.

Hope - Yes, always hopeful that christians and theists will come to understand the misery and anguish they cause, because of barbaric dogma and fear.

Love - Yes, in one's partner, children, friends, and people who deserve an Atheists love.

Nothing will change, and because it doesn't, people in educated countries who don't have religious brainwashing forced on them from an early age, will continue to ignore the barbaric and primitive dogma of your religion, live a good life without fear of retribution from a fantasy, and an evil fantasy at that.

By the by - another priest was arrested here - he is American, charged with fourteen counts of sexual abuse when in Melbourne - from age six to sixteen - at the children's home and at school - another one bites the dust.

http://au.news.yahoo.com/latest/a/-/latest/18777658/accused-sex-abu...

What do you think the changes Bergoglio will make as opposed to the same old, same old, from Ratszinger?

This came out yesterday:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2013/sep/03/pope-fr...

And of course you have already read things like this:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/19/us-pope-vatican-reform-id...

Even more important, though, are the pope's efforts with respect to trying to prevent mindless military action and work for peace in Syria:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/04/vatican-syria-peace-vigil_...

Because prayer vigils always bring more peace and stability to war torn countries a thousand miles away who care nothing for that particular religion praying for them? If he wanted to bring peace to Syria, he'd be pulling diplomats together. Wishing for something to happen doesn't make it happen.

The gesture, though well intentioned, is empty of meaningful action.

Because prayer causes the individuals praying to stop, reflect, and reconsider based on bigger principles than just whether the President's ego is at stake.

Because prayer is effective diplomacy, since it draws on a tradition that is deeply shared across all of the belligerent parties.  Did you note that several of the major Syrian imams requested to come to Rome to join in the day of prayer?  It's unclear whether Italy was going to allow it, but what an opening! 

We don't pray because it changes God or the world, but because the choice to pray changes us, much like our choice to exercise.  Of course, that in turn changes our relationship with God and changes the world.   I will bet that our Congress is getting a lot more letters just because the pope called for a day of prayer and fasting.

My point was that it won't stop a mad man from killing civilians indiscriminately. It won't get to the point where Bashar al-Assad suddenly has a complete change of heart and leaves power. It won't abate the rebels calls for justice for the atrocities committed by Syrian government forces. It won't stop them from killing each other.

The only way there will be a diplomatic resolution to this conflict is if one side finally decides to give up. Neither side is willing to do that because it means their death and getting them to build some sort of coalition government together is just madness. It would never work and the rebellion would only start again in a few years time at best. There is no diplomatic solution to the Syrian conflict in the foreseeable future and anyone who thinks otherwise is blind to the realities they currently face. The only way that Bashar al-Assad would even consider diplomatic talks is if Russia and Iran said that thy won't send anymore supplies if he doesn't and even then al-Assad would not consider it without a guarantee of protection from prosecution, because otherwise he'll be tried and executed just like Saddam. And the likelihood of Russia and Iran both pulling support is slim to none. 

Do you know who the mufti who wants to join with the pope in prayer? This man, the Grand Mufti Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun, who you can see in the picture standing next to al-Assad. Sounds like a nice political ploy to me. If Francis is so willing to condemn the use of chemical weapons, do you really think he will be willing to stand next to a man who is known as a close ally of the man who used those chemical weapons? I hope somebody explains to him how that would be a bad idea.

The vigil might change some people, but it won't change the right people in the right places to have any practical effect on this matter. Neither will those calls to Congress.

Does anything a constituent want these days effect Congress? Those people have been nigh impervious to the will of the American people. If they weren't, then universal background checks for guns would have already happened among a host of other popular ideas which are stuck in the midden heap of partisanship.

There are far bigger things at stake here than the President's ego. What's at stake here is whether the international community is willing to enforce the weapons bans on particular types of weapon systems. If we aren't willing to do it here? Then what's the point of sanctions against North Korea or Iran or preventing other countries from developing their own chemical/biological/nuclear weapon systems. We have to deter their use in all places or face the proliferation of them. A proliferation that could cause far more chaos on the international scene than we face already.

But that's the last I'll say on Syria in this thread. I don't wish to derail the topic any farther. I'll simply reiterate that prayer might change a person, yes, and those changes might have an effect over a long period of time, but it's not going to do anything for Syria. And there certainly isn't going to be any deus ex machina supernatural solution to this problem, which I'm sure that some people are naively praying for. Remember, that just because you recognize that prayer doesn't change the world, that doesn't mean that a majority of believers really do think that. Otherwise, no one would pray to be healed.

@Bob - Doesn't matter who wrote or will write any encyclical - nothing will change. If Bergoglio wanted to 'change' anything he deemed 'unfit' or 'not of his own opinion', he would have done so. But didn't, when he has the supposed power and inclination of being 'such a good man', etc. etc. etc. It is all codswallop.

The following is about the 'promised land' of Israel.

Christian faith is thus faith in a perfect love, in its decisive power, in its ability to transform the world and to unfold its history. "We know and believe the love that God has for us" (1 Jn 4:16). In the love of God revealed in Jesus, faith perceives the foundation on which all reality and its final destiny rest.

So, in the meantime, human beings, men, women and children are being persecuted, maimed and dying, their whole way of life in tatters, your god, your religion and you, think this is OK.

Instead of calling Gays an abomination, how about you call the persecution of Palestinians an ABOMINATION. My personal trauma in this debacle, is there are Atheists in the mix, and that is an ABOMINATION.
Get your priorities right.

If laying down one’s life for one’s friends is the greatest proof of love - cf. Jn 15:13

Millions of people, through the ages, have done just this - not just one bloke who took three days to die, supposedly.

The Bergoglio/Ratszinger letter still talks about Noah's Ark - if that isn't the biggest load of tripe... by the bible account, millions of men, women and children would have died - but I think I will still be able to find more in this letter with two authors.

The following is a line from a prayer to Mary mother of the church - this double author letter -

Remind us that those who believe are never alone -

Tell that to starving, skeletal babies, and mothers watching and not being able to do anything about their dying child - tell that to the thousands of children raped by catholic priests, and all the children in third world countries, awaiting the visit from a rapist priest - ABOMINATION.

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