Thursday, December 13, 2007

Atheists Respond to Pope's Bashing


New York, Dec.3—The Catholic church doesn’t burn its dissidents at the stake anymore—though it managed, in its day, to dispense with thousands of scientists, women healers, disabled people, mentally ill and politically inconvenient people that way. Today, the church uses the pointing finger, accusations and blame-mongering to try to discredit those who do not follow, and do not wish to follow, its ancient and ineffective principles.

So says Kenneth Bronstein, president of New York City Atheists, an organization dedicated to living by, and advancing, scientific principles and reason. “The Pope says in his recently released encyclical that being an Atheist is ba-a-ad,” he says. “We say, being a Pope is worse.”

At a time when the Catholicism is losing adherents, when its churches are closing all over the world (most recently, a well-known Greenwich Village church was shut down), when Catholic schools are shutting their doors due to lack of students, when the church has had to pay out millions of dollars to victims of pedophile priests and is finding itself hard put to attract young men to its the priesthood, Pope Benedict XVI says he has found the cause: Atheism! Well, I’ll be darned, says Bronstein. Who knew?

“The Pope is passing the buck, blaming us for the failures of the Catholic church,” says Bronstein.

Atheist organizations, in contrast, are growing, new ones are cropping up every day; Atheist books are best sellers, celebrities are climbing on the Atheist bandwagon and no pedophilic scandal has ever sullied our good name, Bronstein points out.

Atheists are known for their scientific accomplishments (Darwin, Stephen Hawking), their literacy (Mark Twain, Jack London), their public works and philanthropy (Bill Gates, George Soros), their Nobel Prizes (Richard Feynman, Physics), their compassionate aid to the impoverished (Margaret Sanger), their legal acumen (Clarence Darrow), and their dedication to democracy and justice, but the Pope would have you believe that Atheists are responsible for nothing but ‘the greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice.’”

“We say the Pope is wrong,” says Bronstein. “He is seeing the world from the perspective of an old man who has lived his life entirely within the hierarchy of the Catholic church in a Vatican City remote from the everyday life of real people.

“We say his church has had more than 2,000 years to heal the ills of the world—and has failed abysmally. Now it is our turn,” says Bronstein. “We do not believe that the world will go to pot if people don’t believe in Pope Benedict’s god. Nor do we believe that his god is the ‘only hope of the world,’ as the Pope claims.”

Religion—and in particular, the Vatican’s hierarchy and its far-reaching diaspora--have failed to solve the world problems of poverty, hunger, war, illness, universal education and cooperation among nations--despite the huge amount of money that is being poured into the Vatican’s coffers by its misled followers. Instead, that money has been squandered on sumptuous vestments, gold overlay on ceilings, statuary, art and the support of a vast Vatican population of sycophantic priests and cardinals whose entire educations have been limited to the interpretation of the wishes of an unseen, unheard spirit, whom they call their god.

“We think we can do better than a religion that relies on an illusory hope of a paradise after death in an imaginary place called ‘heaven,’ and admonishes its people that they must suffer to attain heaven after they are dead,” says the Atheist leader. “We believe the earth should be our heaven, right now, right here.”

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