Home > Uncategorized > An Atheist’s Perspective: Thoughts on Time’s Man of the Year

An Atheist’s Perspective: Thoughts on Time’s Man of the Year

So everyone loves the new Pope. He cares about the poor, which is apparently a new thing among the Catholic hierarchy, he has commented on the idea that the church needs to stop focusing on social issues and concentrate on its mission of service. Then, he went further and said that if gay people are good individuals then who is he to judge, while also deciding that perhaps its possible that even atheists are deserving of salvation. All of these things, with his actions in refusing the various luxuries that come with the office, have earned him the title of Time’s Man of the Year.

Now, we must be clear on the subject matter of the Person of the Year, it is not about the best person in that year but the most newsworthy. The one that affected the most attention, which is why 2001’s original choice of Osama Bin Laden was the correct one. It’s also why Hitler gets it and somehow “You” got it as well. The contest, because it essentially is a contest, has been a bit silly. However what we want to look at is whether or not Pope Francis is truly the most newsworthy figure of the year.

People, Catholics mostly, are definitely talking about him; what’s troubling for me is whether or not we ought to be. Let’s take his position on atheism, given that its more dear to my heart than anything else. His position seems to be that if I am a good person, it doesn’t matter what I believe but more of how I act in order to achieve salvation. Is this that revolutionary? Not exactly, the Catholic faith has always been more about action than belief. It’s some of the Protestant churches, and especially the fundamentalist churches that put the matter of belief above the actions of a life. Read the Left Behind series and you will see a very specific set of beliefs that would have gotten a person raptured (even though that term does not appear in the bible at all). Yet, despite the concentration on action, there are a couple of beliefs that one must ascribe to: the first being transubstantiation and the second being in the church itself. It was a pretty big deal then to include the non-believers in the group of potentially saved.

What I like most about his comments was the back-trapping and mental gymnastics that Catholic conservatives used in order to justify the Pope’s comments with their prejudices. It was the first time I had ever heard paradise and salvation separated. Somehow I get the one thing and am denied the other (truly I forget which is which). Why is this the case? Because there is a group of people that really want me to burn in hell simply because I do not believe in the same thing that they do. This, is of course, psychotic; but in their mind they have “put the time in” (actual quote from a radio caller) and they deserve something more than I get simply because they go to church and count the minutes until the service ends.

I don’t want to claim that all Catholics are like this, nor would I even plant a flag on “most” but it is there. It’s a credit/debit account that can’t get and do not deserve. Even the with comments on homosexuality we see the same thing. What the Pope said was normal. It’s what decent people ought to think, yet when the Pope makes the comments, it was somehow revolutionary. Yes his comments could represent a doctrinal shift and perhaps that is what his fan club among moderate Catholics and those outside of the religion think but we have yet to see one iota of action.

The Pope whishes the church did not focus so much on social issues but at the same time he’s done nothing to reverse the horrible effects the Catholic ban has had on African countries ravaged by AIDs. A stroke of a pen and a powerful momentum shift can be undertaken to stop the spread of a disease which can be defeated by a thin layer of plastic. This is a pope that is somehow so inclusive of other people that he has excommunicated priests for preaching that women can be priests. Those are his actions, thus far, because other than showing the type of compassion that every other human being on the planet ought to show his words have translated little to actions. If we think about it, what has this Pope done that has been anything other than continue the same old song? Then again, I am writing about him so maybe Time has a point.

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