Skip to comments.Papal Encyclical Attacks Atheism, Lauds Hope (Reuters Take)
Posted on 11/30/2007 10:50:29 AM PST by Pyro7480
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict, in an encyclical released on Friday, said atheism was responsible for some of the "greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice" in history.
The 75-page "Spe Salvi," which takes its Latin title from a quote by St Paul (in hope we were saved), is an appeal to a pessimistic world to find strength in Christian hope.
In the second encyclical of his papacy, Benedict urges Christians to put their hope for the future in God and not in technology, wealth or political ideologies.
Atheism could be regarded by some as a "type of moralism," particularly in the 19th and 20th centuries, to protest against the injustices of the world and world history, he said.
Reciting arguments made by atheists, he said: "A world marked by so much injustice, innocent suffering and cynicism of power cannot be the work of a good God. A God with responsibility for such a world would not be a just God, much less a good God."
History has proven wrong ideologies such as Marxism which say humans had to establish social justice because God did not exist, the Pope wrote.
"It is no accident that this idea has led to the greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice," the Pope said. Such a concept was grounded in "intrinsic falsity."
Marxism, the Pope wrote, had left behind "a trail of appalling destruction" because it failed to realize that man could not be "merely the product of economic conditions."
The encyclical is the highest form of papal writing and addresses all members of the Church. This document is written in a highly academic, professorial style in which the Pope quotes saints, philosophers and writers to make his point.
Atheism has been a hot topic recently thanks to best-selling books questioning the value of religion such as "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins and "God is Not Great" by Christopher Hitchens.
The Pope seemed to be addressing the fresh interest in atheism in the developed world with phrases such as: "Let us put it very simply: man needs God, otherwise he remains without hope."
Italy's Union of Atheists, Agnostics and Rationalists (UAAR) said by taking such stands the Pope would push more people away from the Church.
"The existence of a billion non-believers in the world should be enough to make the Pope understand that man can live very well without God, but with reason," a statement said.
The Pope urged Christians to put their hope for a better future in God.
"We have all witnessed the way in which progress, in the wrong hands, can become and has indeed become a terrifying progress in evil. If technical progress is not matched by corresponding progress in man's ethical formation, in man's inner growth, then it is not progress at all, but a threat for man and for the world," he said.
Christian hope also meant protecting the planet, even if people felt powerless to make changes in their lifetimes, he said.
"We can free our life and the world from the poisons and contaminations that could destroy the present and the future. We can uncover the sources of creation and keep them unsullied, and in this way we can make a right use of creation, which comes to us as a gift..." he said.
(Editing by Janet Lawrence)
In other words, the people of Cuba and North Korea are "living very well."
I guess that's what passes for "reason" in the world of the faithless.
Yeah, right, atheism == Stalinism....
I guess that’s what passes for “reason” in the world of the faithful.
There are only a few countries in the world that are officially atheist. I named two of them.
If you feel that Cuba and North Korea are misrepresenting atheism, take it up with them.
And sneering bigotry passes for reason amongst the atheists, it seems.
As practiced by communist/socialist/stalinist regimes, I think the number killed is over 100 million. Being an atheist does not make one a murderer, nor does being a Christian, but we hear all the time about the killings in the crusades/inquisition/witch trials/etc-its time we take account of what the other side has done as well.
Outside of Communism/Marxism (which is completely incompatible with human nature) what atrocities have atheists been responsible for?
So of all the hundreds of millions of atheists in the world, you choose to (mis)characterize them by equating all of them with, at most, a few thousand criminals who are responsible for imposing and maintaining a pair of heinous regimes on their respective countries.
I guess that’s why Stalinism is so popular among conservative atheists in the US and Western Europe (/sarc)
The Tzars of Russia were Christians and enforced Christianity on the Russian subjects on pain of imprisonment or death. Am I to take it, then, that they represent all that is good about the Christian faith?
Hmm, how many of those unbelievers are “living well” enough without God?
The North Koreans perhaps? Maybe the holdover Russian and Chinese communists?
Look at history’s most prolific atheist leaders. Lenin, Stalin et al, Mao. They had a great opportunity to demonstrate how well Godless people can live and what it takes to lead them.
Is there a majority atheist nation or people governed by an officiallly atheist government that is “living well”?
Well, given how few in number atheists are in this country, they sure have been busy bunnies all keeping all the abortion mills cranking 24/7.
But it’s funny how the least religious states that have the fewest abortions. Hmm. Maybe they charter flights specially to other parts of the country to carry them out...
The Pope writes an encyclical attacking atheists, the atheists respond, and yet it is somehow the atheists to blame ?
That’s a twisted viewpoint.
Let the Pope say what he likes about atheists, even to smearing them with the Communist and Socialist atrocities in history. As though Communists and Socialists somehow represent all atheists.
But don’t complain if they respond with the atrocities of Catholicism — 1,000 year of killing from the Crusades to Hitler.
What would an atheistic organisation know about reason, anywise?
“conservative atheists” in the US and Europe enjoy their freedoms to disdain religion because of an majority culture that believes in a Higher Power, and practices (as part of their religious teachings) tolerance and respect, even for those who abuse their tolerance and spit on their religious symbols.
It’s a bit ironic that you defend communism and socialism as not representing atheism (when modern history has dealt with the consequences of these two greatest atheist governing experiments) - and then go on to equate “the Crusades” and Hitler with Catholicism
Point well taken. Even though I'm an atheist, I'm quite anti-abortion. Liberal acquaintances have trouble dealing with someone who is against the feminist sacrament without coming from a religious viewpoint. I just try to explain it from a human rights perspective.
Sometimes, I even make them think a little.
Imposing your beliefs on a population through fear and force is despicable whether it is atheism, Islam, or Christianity.
There have been thousands of Christian rulers who, throughout history, have sought to impose their brand of religion on the population against their will. The history of my country, England is replete with examples, including Queen Mary (Catholic) and Queen Elizabeth I (Protestant). When you look at the archives from Elizabethan England, in many ways it was little more that a police state where neighbors were encouraged to inform on each other if they suspected that subversive Catholic activities were going on.
Atheism, by itself does not lead to tyranny any more that Christianity does. Many countries in Europe are majority non-believers, or close to it, and since the Wall came down, none has shown any desire or propensity to impose a dictatorial atheistic regime. If anything, Christianity starting to is flourish again in Eastern European countries even where the atheistic leaders are still in the majority.
Blaming the evils of Communism on non-belief is an easy scare tactic to employ to frighten poor believers away from questioning their beliefs, but the truth is that history has shown that despicable men will use whatever tools they need, religion included, as a means to impose despotic rule over their fellow countrymen.
“So of all the hundreds of millions of atheists in the world”
When I googled it I saw fewer numbers than that, which numbers are you using.
So you’re saying that since it’s unfair to blame the Crusades and Hitler on the Catholic faith, it’s unfair to blame Lenin and Stalin on the beliefs of atheists?
I’m so glad we are in agreement. :)
Please explain how Hitler’s plan to kidnap and hang Pius XII in Saint Peter’s Square was inspired by “Catholicism.” I will be watching for an answer.
Well, there’s probably a hundred million easily in Europe — about 25 million at least in the UK alone — and another 20 million in the US.
But, okay, so even if you’re right, how does changing “hundreds of millions” to “tens of millions” make my point any less valid?
From where do these rights reside? The Founding Fathers of the Greatest Nation ever say God.
No. Atheism in combination with Human Nature leads to tyranny. Christianity in combination with Human Nature militates against tyranny.
Many countries in Europe are majority non-believers, or close to it, and since the Wall came down, none has shown any desire or propensity to impose a dictatorial atheistic regime.
No? Ever hear of the European Union?
No one's blaming the evils of communism on non-belief. We're blaming the existence of the monstrous communist political philosophy (which leads to mass carnage of commodity human beings) on the bankrupt and despairing notion that God doesn't exist. It certainly wasn't Christianity that devised Marxist thought, so, I'm afraid the atheists will have to take the blame for this one.
If you’re not reading this post in Arabic, thank a Crusader.
LOL! Honestly, I don't think that nonsense even deserves a reply.
Agreed. The problem is, Communism, in its proper order, negates the individual and his free will - leaving him inevitably fodder for tyrants who can sweep hundreds of thousands of us away without an ounce of remorse. People who use religion as a tool to do these things do not pass judgment on religion, but their perverted, evil interpretation of Christian teaching, which, last I checked, does not provide for genocide and squashing of the human spirit.
You just said there were 20 million Atheists in this country. Seems like enough man power to keep the mills and the propaganda pumping.
“But, okay, so even if youre right, how does changing hundreds of millions to tens of millions make my point any less valid?”
I just wanted to know how seriously to take many of the facts in your posts.
You should silverleaf's post again because I think you misread it.
"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." - Manuel II Palelologus
Okay, I don’t have the stats to hand. I do recall seeing a study a while back, but I can’t find it, and you can’t use the raw stats because of the different availability of abortion services in different states skew the states.
So I withdraw that comment, but it remains undeniable that given the tiny proportion of atheists in the US population (less than 10%), blame for the vast majority of the abortions in the US must be be laid at the feet of believers. If there was no supply, there would be no demand.
Hitler renounced Catholicism. Hitler and his minions were adherents of Norse Mythology, which was a lovely precursor to... wait for it... the New Age movement.
So far as "1,000 years of killing" it's a lot better than, "1000 years of being killed", or, "1000 years of being Muslim", wouldn't you say?
As Stalin rightly opined, "How many divisions does the Pope have?" The answer is "none". So much for the military might of the Vatican.
Catholics don’t like to be reminded that Hitler was one of theirs, or that his Catholic upbringing steeped him in anti-semitism. He often referred to his drive to exterminate the Jews as the “Lord’s Work”, from his writing in Mein Kampf to his public addresses during the Nazi years.
If the current Pope doesn’t want to embrace Hitler’s legacy as a Catholic one (as Pope Pius XII did in 1939), then it seems unfair of him to attempt to link Communism with Atheism.
That’s being awfully selective with history.
Atheism has as little to do with Communism as you claim that real Christianity has to do with genocide.
And it’s not atheists who have a holy book which provides examples of righteous and justifiable genocidal activities, including the mass slaughter of babies and children and the mass enslavement and rape of virgin women.
Remember, God supposedly commanded these things, and thus according to Christianity genocide, rape, and enslavement are sometimes a “good thing”.
I would agree with you that so-called believers have not done enough to prevent abortion, absolutely. But I would argue the percentage of practical atheists is higher than 10% consisting of liberal Christians, agnostics, and the like. I believe the 10% figure is more likely those who openly profess themselves Atheists. And even the 10% figure is probably a bit high because I don't truly believe all Atheists are faithful to their atheist religion when the chips are down.
True, I wouldn't directly attibute abortion to atheism. But the growing cultural tendency to ignore that God exists makes it a lot easier to look at you like an annoying piece of meat and not a human being imbued with inviolable dignity. Really, what are the consequences of gunning someone down in cold blood if we're all just accidentally here? We're just insects with opposable thumbs, so, go ahead and kill 'em all.
Communism demands Atheism
That's an interesting question, and one which I'd like to take seriously.
Correct me all along here if I'm wrong, because I'm struggling even to get the conceptual framework in place here:
Before Voltaire and his crew the late 18th century, I don't think there were people in Europe or America who would have called themselves "atheists," a term which would have been used only as a denunciatory label applied to an opponent, meaning either "morally bad" or "heretical." And I don't think there was anything like open, organized atheism until the French Revolution.
So you're dealing with a phenomenon which has only been a force in history for less than 250 years; unlike, say, the Judeo-Christian movement which has 2500+ years' worth of history to poke around in looking for vice and virtue.
OK, so looking at the movements or parties which represented atheists' ideals and aspirations since they got out of the salons and into the historic cavalcade, you've got:
It looks like --- other than Nietzsche and Ayn Rand --- a pretty Left-wing line-up.
Now, I don't want to blame atheists unfairly for everything from the Reign of Terror to the British CND, but those are the only organized movements of atheists I see on the world stage.
In all sincerity, I ask: if we are not to judge atheism by its organized historic manifestations, how are we to judge it?
You have credulously allowed a tendentious media report to stir up conflict.
Atheism is tangential to the Pope's encyclical, perhaps a few paragraphs out of dozens.
The atheism of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries isin its origins and aimsa type of moralism: a protest against the injustices of the world and of world history. A world marked by so much injustice, innocent suffering, and cynicism of power cannot be the work of a good God. A God with responsibility for such a world would not be a just God, much less a good God. It is for the sake of morality that this God has to be contested. Since there is no God to create justice, it seems man himself is now called to establish justice. If in the face of this world's suffering, protest against God is understandable, the claim that humanity can and must do what no God actually does or is able to do is both presumptuous and intrinsically false. It is no accident that this idea has led to the greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice; rather, it is grounded in the intrinsic falsity of the claim. A world which has to create its own justice is a world without hope. No one and nothing can answer for centuries of suffering. No one and nothing can guarantee that the cynicism of powerwhatever beguiling ideological mask it adoptswill cease to dominate the world.The political manifestations of atheism are the primary target in this passage.
As a whole, however, the encyclical is a reflective meditation on hope from which all men can benefit. I hope the angry Italian atheist reads the full text.
Seems strange that an educated atheist could state, with a straight face, that Pius XII “embraced Hitlers legacy” in 1939.
Hitler’s did not, by definition, have a legacy until after 1945. And Pius XII was regarded as “righteous amongst the gentiles” by the many, many Jews who spoke lovingly of him at his funeral.
You can look through the quotes at his funeral for yourself. You won’t find Golda Meir, or the Rabbi of Rome saying “ ... and best of all, he really embraced Hitler’s legacy”
Honestly, if you can’t see the absurdity of what you’re suggesting, I don’t see the point in discussing it further.
I know about a dozen atheists and non-believers. Given that fewer than half are women, and far fewer than half of those would even consider an abortion (even the liberals among them), to suggest that only non-believers are responsible for even 1/4 of the 42 million plus abortions is patently ridiculous.
Being in denial as to who is having the abortions in this country is not going to help change the status quo any quicker. Pastors and preachers have been worried about the number of their flock having abortions for years. Why is it so hard to believe that it’s happening?
Admittedly, atheism is much more often associated with the left. Conservative people tend to have organized religion as part of the framework of their conservatism.
You have an interesting list there, but besides the Marxists/Communists, the only one I really associate with mass violence is the French Revolution. I thought most Americans regarded that as a "good thing", overthrowing monarchy in favor of republican forms of government has been very messy, but it has been part of the path of progress.
The other things you mention seem to be in the tradition of Europeans always wishing to fight each other over something, whether it be different flavors of Christianity, or Christians versus those who would throw off Christianity. If you want to judge atheists by the worst among us, then allow us to judge Christianity by its most infamous practitioners as well. Or, we could just both admit that social change in bygone years was accompanied by far more violence than Western civilization will tolerate today.
Can you provide examples of where Christianity said that?
The the Crusades in 1095 were as aggressive as the Allies' invasion of Normandy in 1944. The Muslims had engulfed 2/3 of all the historically Christians lands from Chaldea to Castile, and the Christian people in Constantinople were about eyeball-to-eyeball with Muslims as close as Nicaea. No to go through the whole bloody 200-year history with you (or 700 years, as regards Spain) but the "cause" of the Crusades was not to invade Islamic strongholds in Saudi Arabia and convert Muslims, but to regain the Christian homelands of the Levant.
They achieved only few and brief victories, and there were atrocities abounding on both sides, but the casus belli was longstanding aggression on the part of the Muslims.
As for Hitler--- hoo. You are so wrong on this, it's a classic howler. I'll get back to you if nobody else beats me to it.