Why I Embrace Pope Francis: An Atheistic Liberal’s Affirmation
It is absolutely understandable that one could read my blogs, my facebook posts, etc., and take me for a “militant atheist.” Obviously, I am highly critical of religion and its extraordinary claims. But, I personally don’t think that label is apt. While I share many characteristics with those in the New Atheist movement, there are some notable distinctions. For instance, I don’t feel that religion is the source of all evil, or that it needs to be eradicated from the face of the earth. I see no reason whatsoever to deny that much good is done in the name of religion, despite its flaws.
Most importantly, I have no animosity toward religious people in general. I rail against the politically-motivated Religious Right, because of their theocratic tendencies, and I subject Christian apologists to well-deserved scrutiny. But, outside of that, an individual’s personal beliefs are really none of my business. To quote Thomas Jefferson, “It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” Besides, there are just too many good, Christian friends and family members whom I cherish sincerely, and I refuse to treat them as ideological opponents. To the flames with any such “Us vs. Them” mentality.
It is in that spirit that I wholeheartedly embrace Pope Francis. I don’t give a damn about his personal religious convictions, or his position in the Catholic Church. I see a man who flies in the face of the Religious Right, exposing their flagrant hypocrisy. It boggles the mind that conservatives lay claim to Jesus, whose message was diametrically opposed to theirs (Mk. 10:21-25, Lk. 16:13). In the same ironic fashion, conservatives here in America condemn Pope Francis for following in Christ’s footsteps—focusing on the poor and impoverished. Teaching love, acceptance, tolerance, and compassion. I actually wish Jesus would momentarily return just to put a swift sandal in Rush Limbaugh’s ass.
It’s not that I don’t see where conservatives are coming from, at least some of the time. In the realm of politics, I perceive a lot more gray than I do black and white. I get that there are people who abuse the system. I agree that individuals should be rewarded for their efforts. But, it seems to me that conservatives are missing the forest for the trees. They’re so narrowly focused on the “social ills” of government spending that they fail to grasp the underlying issue: the astronomically absurd level of wealth disparity in this country.
The deadliest sin we face isn’t sloth; it’s greed. If it weren’t for the gratuitous level of financial hoarding in this nation, we simply would not need as much in the way of government aid and entitlements. And the trend toward a declining middle class reveals just how severely things have gotten out of hand. More and more, the post-apocalyptic visions of Hollywood films, like The Hunger Games and In Time, are unfolding before us, the gaping rift between the “haves” and the “have nots” ever widening.
I am not here arguing for communism, lest one invoke such a ridiculous strawman. But, there clearly needs to be some kind of regulation, some system of checks and balances. If you decry this notion as an attack on “freedom,” whilst honest, hard-working people are struggling to feed their families and make ends meet, then you’re not really an idealist; you’re an asshole. Or, shall we say, willfully ignorant. Whatever the case, if the shoe fits, wear it. But, don’t pretend to be a true follower of Jesus. He sides with me. And with the Pope–a man whose humanism is deeply admirable, whether secular or religious.