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Pope Benedict’s Attack on Atheism

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Politicians and used car salesmen the world over have used the bait and switch tactic employed by Pope Benedict during his UK visit. It was easy to talk over the faithful masses because they didn’t want to think about how priests raped countless children or how Benedict helped to cover any of it up and has since offered nothing more than polite contrition. Let’s see how many words about something else will make you forget.

In his article about Benedict’s Edinburgh address, the Guardian‘s Andrew Brown appears to have left behind his ability to add two and two. Instead of four, his answer was something akin to “banana.” Brown insisted the Pope didn’t mean “us,” or even one of the UK’s most vocal atheists, Richard Dawkins, when he saddled atheism’s horse with Hitler’s actions. Who then did he mean?

Benedict 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.”

That sounded Nazi-exclusive enough until he went on to say, “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.”

Much religious speech has bombarded the world with the insistence that Muslim terrorists do not the nation of Islam define and those who murder in the name of God are not the poster children for Christianity. But the second a religious leader can’t create enough distance between himself and the atrocities of proclaimed followers, he invokes the most tired war cry of all: They must have been atheists!

Benedict didn’t just equate Hitler’s actions with atheism. He drew an unholy line between those who executed millions and those who don’t need a higher power to keep them from killing anyone.

That said, have you forgotten about the Pope’s contribution to and responsibility for the priests who raped countless children? So did the many who heard him speak.

Benedict has drawn no line of terror between Catholicism and those who, just like the Nazis, used their positions victimize the innocent. He has not publicly accused a single priest of being an atheist. And his focus on past atrocities committed by others does purposefully come at the expense of those who, in part because of Benedict himself, are suffering right now.

Take another look at his words: “…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.” Benedict could just as easily have said this about those within his flock who have violated the humanity of children, but he didn’t.

He’d rather you despise atheists.

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About Diana Hartman

Diana is a USMC (ret.) spouse, mother of three and a Wichita, Kansas native. She is back in the United States after 10 years in Germany. She is a contributing author to Holiday Writes. She hates liver & motivational speakers. She loves science & naps.
  • http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/ A.B. Caliph

    This is a very confusing article. You accuse the Pope of invoking “the most tired war cry of all: They must have been atheists!” Yet you note, “He has not publicly accused a single priest of being an atheist.”

    After citing the Guardian‘s Andrew Brown as insisting that “the Pope didn’t mean ‘us,’ or even one of the UK’s most vocal atheists, Richard Dawkins,” you ask rhetorically, “Who then did he mean?”

    I don’t know, Ms. Hartman. Why don’t you tell us? If there’s an answer buried in your article, I missed it. If the Pope wasn’t referring to Nazis or to the 20th century’s equally homicidal communist tyrannies, whom did he mean?

    Anyhow, reading this was not a complete waste of time. Andrew Brown’s article, which is now nearly a week old, contains a most intriguing observation that has nothing to do with bananas.

    The astonishing variety and force of invective thrown at the pope and his church in much of the media over the last week must certainly, some of it, come from people who would like to drive religious faith out of public life. At the same time, it’s hard not to suppose that in some of this the Roman Catholic church is standing as a proxy for Islam, which is certainly a great deal more unpopular.

    I wish he’d expanded that last point. Why does he think the Roman Catholic church is a proxy for Islam? Has this been discussed in the British press? It’s an interesting dynamic. I’d like to know more.

  • http://www.jeremystyron.com Jeremy

    The point was that Joseph Ratzinger was making a larger point about atheism in general, and that’s made clear enough in Brown’s article. While the pope may not have been talking about specific atheists explicitly, he was referring to atmosphere of godlessness that, when it comes to dominate an entire nation, the nation may spiral into tyranny.

    He’s wrong, of course, both about atheism and about Nazi Germany, and his willful indifference to cases against child-abusing priests and his failure to defrock them makes anything Ratzinger says about morals immediately discredited.

    Arrest the Pope

  • http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/ A.B. Caliph

    I’d rather hear Diana Hartman’s explanation. She wrote this confusing article. You seem to be telling me what you think Ms. Hartman meant about what Andrew Brown thinks about what the Pope meant. Altogether too labyrinthine for my taste. I wish Ms. Hartman would just tell us what she thinks the Pope meant and leave Andrew Brown, Richard Dawkins, the Nazis, et al. out of it.

  • Tom

    A.B. Caliph, do you bother to read these articles before commenting? The author was very clear in what she thought the pope meant. I am assuming you just missed the following cut and pasted from the article:

    “Benedict didn’t just equate Hitler’s actions with atheism. He drew an unholy line between those who executed millions and those who don’t need a higher power to keep them from killing anyone.”

    If you are still confused then perhaps you need to learn to read better.

  • http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/ A.B. Caliph

    Benedict didn’t just equate Hitler’s actions with atheism. He drew an unholy line between those who executed millions and those who don’t need a higher power to keep them from killing anyone.

    And you think that clears it up? It’s a complete non sequitur! Break it down:

    (a) The Pope equated Hitler’s actions with atheism.

    (b) The Pope made a sharp distinction between Nazi war criminals and atheists.

    (a) is instantly contradicted by (b).

    Apparently you interpret (b) as implying that the Pope drew a line connecting Nazi war criminals and atheists. I interpreted it as meaning he drew that line to separate the two groups. In which case, it’s semantics. And the fact that there can be diametrically opposite interpretations simply reinforces what I said about Ms. Hartman’s article being confusing.

    Whatever, I’d still rather hear from Ms. Hartman herself instead of third parties who impugn my reading skills.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/diana-hartman/ diana hartman

    A.B. Caliph, Benedict’s war cry was about the Catholic-baptized Hitler. Benedict is not owning up to his part in what his priests did, therefore he has no need to distance himself from them. There is no denying what Hitler did (well, no denying and being taken seriously), so Benedict distances himself and his church from Hitler by saying he was an atheist.

    Benedict most certainly wants to distance himself from those who want him to take responsibility for what he did and actually make sincere amends in action, not just words. And what better way to do that than to a) change the subject, and b) say that everyone who wants to change the subject back is an atheist (which, by the way, would include many of those who were abused and are still Catholic, so his apology to “all victims” kind of went over like a lead balloon) and then equate all of them with Hitler. It was a very effective thing for a master passive-aggressive to do. A lot of people were fooled.

    I don’t know who Brown thought Benedict was talking about. That was my point. Brown is not quite as adept at it, but he’s certainly every bit as evasive as the Pope.

    Benedict said he was talking about atheists so why Brown chose to say what he did is unknown. Benedict wasn’t just speaking of what he considered to be atheists of the past. We know this because of his tense: In the last paragraph of his address, he very clearly states his distaste for today’s atheists. Everything leading up to that makes clear that he does not differentiate between atheists who have not killed and those who have. How Brown missed this is beyond me.

    Per your quote of Brown, his is not “an intriguing observation.” It’s another open-ended statement that leaves one (as it did you) wondering what he was talking about. That there are those who want to see religion done away with entirely hasn’t been new news since the first person in history said, “I think we should do away with this.” I’m guessing that first person existed many thousands of years ago.

    If I had an opinion or cared about anything else Brown wrote, I would’ve addressed it in the article.

    I would ask again as I did in the article: Has this creative diversion once again allowed you to forget the number of children who were raped by priests? It’s easy to forget about the children and Benedict’s role in all this when Benedict himself is so determined to discuss something, anything else.

    Per your response to Jeremy, there is no way to answer or address your comment about Brown without including a reference to Brown. If you want a response to come to you via Burger King (“Have it Your Way!”), you’re ordering from the wrong establishment.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/diana-hartman/ diana hartman

    A.B., at no point did the Pope ever make a sharp distinction between Nazi war criminals and atheists.

    If you are aware of a quote I missed, by all means, share.

  • zingzing

    hence the confusion. problem solved?

  • http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/ A.B. Caliph

    Ms. Hartman, thank you for explaining. As I understand it, Hitler was raised by Roman Catholic parents, but after he left home never attended Mass or received the sacraments. Later in life he stated, “We do not want any other god than Germany itself.” I guess this is why you say the Pope “distances himself and his church from Hitler by saying he was an atheist.”

    You evidently believe the Pope resurrected this 65-year-old issue as a diversion from the ongoing pedophile priest scandal. You also commend his skill in so doing. “It was a very effective thing for a master passive-aggressive to do,” you write. “A lot of people were fooled.”

    I nevertheless think your insertion of Andrew Brown into this mix was an unnecessary digression. You ought to have stuck to what the Pope said, and refuted it on its merits. In your article, Brown serves only as a red herring.

    As for the Pope “very clearly stating his distaste for today’s atheists,” what’s remarkable about that? The Pope is in the god business. Atheists are bad for business. Of course he dislikes them.

    So your objection seems to be not so much that the Pope attacked atheists or distanced himself from Hitler, but rather that his “creative diversion” allowed people to “forget the number of children who were raped by priests.”

    Do I have that right now? If so, the Pope seems to be the winner in all this. He created a “very effective” diversion. It really doesn’t matter that he used atheists in this ploy. It could’ve been terrorists or would-be Florida Qur’an burners or the Ground Zero mosque or any of a dozen other timely distractions.

    So I conclude that you are angry not because of what the Pope said about atheists, but because he successfully created a diversion. This is what confused me, and I’m relieved it’s now cleared up. Thanks again.

  • Baronius

    Diana, there seem to be two separate complaints in this article: that the Pope opposed atheism, and that he didn’t talk about pedophilia. The first one is pretty straightforward; popes don’t support atheism. Theism rejects atheism, and atheism rejects theism. That shouldn’t surprise you. As to the second point, it was a state reception. It would have been weird to talk about clerical abuse there. It would be like President Obama speaking before the UN and dedicating half of his speech to the Tuskegee experiments.

  • http://www.suelangetheauthor.com Sue Lange

    Interesting article. Interesting comments. I didn’t read Benedict’s words or Brown’s, but I would think if the leader of the Catholic church was going to speak about the Nazis he would talk about the role of the Pope during that time period. Or perhaps he shouldn’t bring it up at all, considering the dim view many people have of that office in regards to the holocaust.

    Maybe he’s already felt he’s commented enough on the subject. Maybe he feels the same way about the child abuse scandal. Dead horse, let’s move on.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/diana-hartman/ diana hartman

    A.B., Yes, the insertion of Brown into the mix was a red herring. It illustrated just how easy it was (and how few words it took) to get a reader (or in the Pope’s case, a listener) to stop thinking of one thing (raped children) and start thinking about something else completely unrelated (atheists). What’s amusing to me is that you almost sound like you think you’ve caught me at something. The red herring was on purpose and I said as much in the opening paragraph. It was to prove how easy it was for the Pope to do what he did and that it was wrong of him to do it.

    You’re right: The Pope’s distaste for atheists isn’t new or remarkable. It’s also irrelevant. The only reason he brought it up was to divert attention from the more pressing issue of child sex abuse perpetrated by those in his own flock and many with his own blessing. He didn’t choose to talk about atheism because it’s remarkable. He chose that topic so he could avoid another.

    Yes, I am angry about him having attacked atheists and atheism. Was that not clear? If not, I will further clarify I am equally angry that he not only used this to avoid talking about something else of actual importance, he has his flock up in arms over a non-issue and they’re no longer thinking about the pressing issue.

    In the Pope’s mind (and now in the mind of many of his followers), the greatest enemy of the Church is atheism. I am saying this isn’t true. The greatest enemy (those protected and protecting) is within the Church itself.

    Yes, the Pope is the winner – in much the same way that those who abused children and got away with it are winners. It’d be no skin off my nose if they choked to death on whatever is their prize.

    The passive aggressive male is a destructive, hateful, self-serving, unholy force. That this particular passive-aggressive is also the leader of a church that actively hid and still hides from what its members have done is not something I feel comfortable ignoring. I question the motives of those who do.

  • zingzing

    “It would be like President Obama speaking before the UN and dedicating half of his speech to the Tuskegee experiments.”

    or nazis.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/diana-hartman/ diana hartman

    Baronius, I disagree and I think your analogy is faulted. Obama didn’t have a direct hand in the experiments. The Pope was addressing a people whose population included victims of priests. The Pope was not and has not been “straightforward” about opposing those within the Church who raped children and/or covered up for those who did – which includes himself.

    Using a state speech to attack members of that state is, at the very least, inappropriate. Using that attack, in a state speech no less, to deliberately not address the true enemy of the Church (those within who abused those within, and those within who were either protected or protecting) is not only inappropriate, it’s devious and manipulative.

    No where do I express surprise with anything the Pope said or even how he said it. For those many people who appear to have missed what he did (creative diversion at the expense of addressing the pressing issue), I illustrated it.

    The only way the Pope could save face at this point would be to directly admit to what he and other members of his flock did, turn over all relevant documentaion to the appropriate authorities and let the consequences be what they may.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/diana-hartman/ diana hartman

    Sue, while I appreciate your input, I will continue to address comments and answer questions of my readers without regard for your checkered flag.

  • Baronius

    Diana, Benedict has been one of the good ones, doing more to expose and discipline the pedophiles than anyone. You’re just mistaken in characterizing him otherwise.

    You’re also trying to make the visit to Britain about pedophilia. Actually, you’re trying to say that the Pope shouldn’t do or say anything unless it’s related to fixing the pedophilia problem. He’s the spiritual leader of a billion people, and he’s got a lot on his plate.

    Within Britain there are three competing forces: secularism, Anglicanism, and Catholicism. (That’s not even counting Islam.) Benedict is trying to mend fences with the Anglicans while large numbers of them are converting to Catholicism. Anglicanism is losing the war against secularism. Benedict is calling for a reevangelization of Europe. You could have written an interesting article about this.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/diana-hartman/ diana hartman

    Baronius, attacking atheists is the opposite of mending fences, especially in light of the number of bodies and minds he and his priests tore asunder.

    Of course his plate is full. Let him eat from the very dish he and his served children. There is only one reason why the Pope does not hand over all documentation to the appropriate authorities and take his consequences like a man: he’s not a man.

  • Dillon Mawler

    Bravo, Diana.
    Ratzinger is a scumbag and a criminal. Baronius’ laughable defense of him as “one of the good ones” ignores years of coverups.

    Ratzinger is also a liar and a hypocrite. A gay man, he lives a married life with his boyfriend, Gorgeous Georg Ganswein, yet rails against homosexuality publicly while surrounded by priceless antiques and wearing a fancy dress. The church covered up a stroke he had in 1991, claiming he hit his head on a heating pipe.

    Because of dirtballs like him and those like him, thousands of child rapists are free.

    The Catholic Church made their message to critics quite clear when they chose this former Nazi who led the church’s Division of Child-Rape Cover-ups as the new Pope:

    Fuck you. Not changing.

  • Ruvy

    While I fully agree that an atmosphere of atheism can lead to moral decay as well as tyranny – one can merely look at America and Europe to see the moral decay, and at Weimar Germany to see how the moral decay, coupled with economic collapse, led to tyranny – one cannot overlook the observations made about Joe Ratzinger and “friend” by Dillon Mawler.

    In other words, while “smokin Joe” may be right, he ain’t the guy to make the argument. Perhaps Baronius could – or I could. Unfortunately, Diane, “smokin Joe, the Nazi” got there first. A pity.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    If Atheism can lead to moral decay & tyranny then Theism can & does lead to genocide. Just look at South Africa. I think I’ll take Gay Marriage & Porn over a deadly disease any day of the week.

    As for the Pope ever acknowledging the atrocities done by his priests towards children & young men, he’s getting away with genocide in South Africa by condemning the use of contraceptives in a country that is torn with AIDS. So, why would he be concerned about a little mental anguish?!

    I guess raping children isn’t considered moral decay….

  • Ruvy

    As usual, we see that writers forget what genocide means. Genocide means the deliberate mass murder of a people. This was done by Stalin (atheist), by Hitler (satanist), by Pol Pot (atheist).

    Condemning use of contraceptives – even in a country wracked by AIDS – is not genocide. It is disgustingly inflexible policy that you can only expect from a goy.

    Atheism leads to moral decay, tyranny and finally to genocide. But atheists are not the only ones with blood on their hands.

    America has plenty of moral decay, Wahhabis are imposing a tyranny of “political correctness” that prohibits criticism of their savagery, and their are empty detention camps aplenty there. So what is the next step? But even before that, Americans committed genocide on American Indians (the only good Injun is a dead Injun). Yup!! Good Christian America! Thought I would just remind you all.

    Have a great Sabbath!

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    “As usual, we see that writers forget what genocide means.”

    Hmmm… Genocide: Is the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group.

    So,what’s the difference between destruction of a group by weapons or by lack of prevention from a disease, Ruvy?

  • Ruvy

    ….what’s the difference between destruction of a group by weapons or by lack of prevention from a disease….

    The intent, and the people dying off.

    1. The intent of “smokin’ Joe, the nazi” is to impose a Catholic concept of law, and shove it down everybody’s throat. There is no intent to kill off the population of South Africa.

    2. The people being killed off by disease as a result of this misguided stupidity belong to several nationalities, and there is no intent to kill, either on masse or otherwise, the Xhosa, Zulu or other nations living in S. Africa.

    Genocide is the intentional murdering off of an ethnic, racial, religious or national group. The death from disease by Catholic imposed stupidity does not fit that definition.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    I disagree. Whether the action is direct or indirect there still is intent. The intent being that if you don’t follow “God’s Word” then you deserve punishment which I believe is fairly apparent even in your own fairytale…right?

  • Baronius

    If condoms eliminated AIDS, you might have an argument.

  • John Wilson

    Condoms DO reduce the spread of AIDS and, thus, they DO save lives.

    Therefore, people who inhibit condom use will certainly increase AIDS infections and deaths.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy (aka He-Man)

    Benedict has been one of the good ones, doing more to expose and discipline the pedophiles than anyone. You’re just mistaken in characterizing him otherwise.

    How can you say this? WTF is wrong with you, Baronius? Please tell me that you have read the news and you still hold that opinion so I can avoid associating with ‘the devil’.

    Really, Baronius. That is fucked up!

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy (aka He-Man)

    As is the condom thing.

  • antonio caetano

    Hitler, as far as i know, didn’t kill anyone. it was the millions of his followers who did and millions of them were christians.
    antonio balonio

  • Margaret

    Theists can torture and murder just like atheists, history is full of filth, torture and murder by both. How about moral decay of the past: mental hospitals in 40´s were concentration camps. Hays code didn´t show reality, but sanitized romanticism. I am happy to live nowadays in secular Finland, among modern privileges and rights.

  • Igor

    For those who like this sort of thing, the radio program “Intelligence Squared” (carried on NPR, and I haven’t found a podcast yet) recently debated “We’d be better off without religion” formally, using Oxford rules, with 2 experts pro and 2 experts con. Very interesting. FWIW, I thought the con people, in favor of religion, carried the argument. I’m neither pro or con, myself, being indifferent to religion, a non-theist, basically.

    The catholic church, WRT the nazis, has a very poor record, including Ratzingers membership himself in Nazi Youth (boy, that’s an interesting juxtaposition of genocide and fixation on boys). As we all know, during WW2 Pope Pius himself declared that Nazi genocide was “None of the Church’s business”, and after the war they provided “The Vatican Highway” to spirit Nazi war criminals (like Mengele) out of Germany to Argentina. The “Vatican Highway” was still in place as late as 1955 when they smuggled Mengele back into Germany so he could find a new wife (a proper Nazi Youth, one suspects, as opposed to the simple women of Argentina).

    And let’s see, which pope was it who hid the criminal Bernard Law in the Vatican when the Boston police were hot on his trail for his numerous offenses?

    The papacy has a lot to explain to Their Creator, if that Creator is who they claim he is.