The argument between atheists and fundamentalists is, in my opinion, one of the most pointless exercises ever. Intellectually, atheism is a far more defensible ideology than any form of fundamentalist religions, but it is still fundamentalism and often devoid of nuance. Atheists frequently deride religion as a worthless, antiquated belief systems built on easily disprovable mythology. While the criticism is valid in certain circumstances, millions of religious people around the world see things rather differently. Take the new Pope, who is turning out to be one of the most radical Popes in history. While performing his daily morning mass a couple of weeks ago, Pope Francis told his followers that ideological Christians have “an illness”, and warned them that ideology “chases people away”. As broadcast by Rome Reports, the Pope said:
The faith passes, so to speak, through a distiller and becomes ideology. And ideology does not beckon [people]. In ideologies there is not Jesus: in his tenderness, his love, his meekness. And ideologies are rigid, always. Of every sign: rigid.
And when a Christian becomes a disciple of the ideology, he has lost the faith: he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought… For this reason Jesus said to them: ‘You have taken away the key of knowledge.’ The knowledge of Jesus is transformed into an ideological and also moralistic knowledge, because these close the door with many requirements.”
The faith becomes ideology and ideology frightens, ideology chases away the people, distances, distances the people and distances of the Church of the people,” Francis added. “But it is a serious illness, this of ideological Christians. It is an illness, but it is not new, eh?
This type of nuanced, holistic understanding of his faith and the teachings of Jesus Christ give a very different meaning to the word ‘religion’. Rather than being a threatening, moralistic institution filled with repression and righteous anger, the Church (and other religious institutions) could actually be seen as places where people go to learn, get inspired, help others, and lead more fulfilling lives. It seems like that’s the vision Pope Francis has for the Catholic Church, and he’s willing to ruffle a few feathers to get things moving.
Amen to that.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.