Allow me, as Aggressive Atheist Man, to declare the result of this week's all-star Religion v Secularism deathmatch: Bullshit-Spouting Octogenarian Priest 1 Hyperventilating Celebrity Atheists 0.
It's a game the secularists were always fated to lose. A Papal visit is a forensically planned and meticulously crafted advertising bonanza for the church. It's going to draw hundreds of thousands of men, women and children across the country; Catholic schools will empty into the streets to greet the Pontiff and news coverage is going to reflect the joyous blah-blah of the stately waffle-arse.
Cut to a bunch of polysyllabic, placard-waving atheists bumming out everyone's mellow by shouting about child abuse and condoms. That, there, is an own goal in a country like ours - Britain, as a nation, looks on protest as if it were a form of masturbatory public indecency. Politically engaged and passionate activists might as well be rioting Rangers fans as far as the man in the street is concerned.
Anyway, this week's activities have raised far too many issues to avoid bullet points.
- Put simply, I couldn't give a shit whether the Catholic Church refuses to ordain women as priests, and I doubt that many others do either. I don't care because the entire religion, being a religion, is made-up rubbish - made up, woman-hating rubbish at that. Still, I imagine that people will generally agree that Catholics themselves get to decide how they organise their own made-up rubbish, and if the issue animates you, I suggest inventing your own religion instead.
- I mean, why pick a particular issue to be offended by? To me, Catholicism is primarily objectionable horseshit because it's a vehicle for a lot of ultra-conservative closet-cases to expand their influence over a substantial chunk of humanity with mumbo-jumbo and threats. The Church's idea of the perfect society isn't difficult to imagine given, say, the example of the Papal States in pre-unification Italy - a bunch of illiterate farmers adept at listening, doing what they're told and shutting the fuck up.
- Yes, yes! The Church's attitude to gay people and contraception is hateful and deranged. No, this is not going to change any time soon. The Holy See's authority is entirely dependent on the Pope's status as God's spokesman on Earth, thanks to the fact that Popes have been saying more or less exactly the same shit since the office was sort-of conferred on Saint Peter, who was personally touched by the appendage of the not-really son of God*.
Contra Tony Blair, the Pope can't suddenly bless hot, hot, rubber-clad man-love, even if he wanted to. His predecessors have spent centuries condemning this stuff in sulphurous tones, and all of them were a bit constrained by the biblical ramblings of a gaggle of Judean troublemakers from the pre-soap era.
I've actually seen interviewers and pundits on Channel Four News and Newsnight, eyes bulging with gigantic exclamation marks exploding out of the tops of their heads when presented with Catholics saying that yes, they actually believe this stuff. What do they expect to happen when they ask these questions? Are religious types going to fall off their chairs fizzing and sparking, howling Does Not Compute/Does Not Compute/Runtime Error at Leviticus 18:22!?
The idea that Catholicism is going to utterly reconstitute itself into a pseudo-spiritual, virtually God-free feelgood pantomime called Hey Man, So Long As You Don't Hurt Anyoneism is insane. That's what Protestantism is for.
Unless you're a 100% virtuous follower of the one true faith, your lifestyle is utterly condemned and you're cut off from the Lord's infinite love, bound for eternal suffering. This is the message of all of the Abrahamic religions, and protesting it seems to me like protesting sunrise.
- Because, what are protests achieving here? If the aim is to raise awareness of child abuse and intolerence, I imagine they've done reasonably well.
On the other hand, congratulations guys - when the Pope starts waffling a load of disingenuous pish about aggressive secularist Nazis who want to destroy all religion, you've provided the flock with a set of readymade pantomime villains to picture. People generally don't respond well to appeals along the lines of Join us in belligerently condemning your hilarious religion, my none-too-bright, superstitious Timmy brothers!
It can't have escaped anyone's attention that the Christian faithful's response to criticism is exactly the same as that of the various Islamic groups to anti-terrorism police actions or war-happy Israel enthusiasts to the idea that bombing cities isn't nice, i.e. to totally ignore the issues raised and instantly start wailing and rending their garments over this huge upsurge in anti-whatever hatred.
- And here's the crux of my objections to the entire charade this week... Who, exactly, is benefitting from all of this? Surely, the upshot is mere entrenchment - believers and secularists alike more dug into their positions than ever before, bristling with spiky arguments and more convinced of the inherent evil of their foes.
It all strikes me as being a replay of the whole Manhattan mosque fiasco, which was at heart a ginned-up cavalcade of stupidity and belligerence aimed at exploiting people's resentments, in order to divide them along political and religious lines.
Cui's bonofitting there, eh? News orgs, politicians, religious leaders, cranks, fuckwits. I think you'd be hard-pushed to make a case that the Pope's visit has been edifying for anyone, or that it's shed a single ray of light on religion or the lack thereof.
I hate to come off with today's moral lesson like Snarf at the end of an episode of Thundercats, but look - religious people are here to stay, no matter how silly their beliefs are. Us atheists are just going to have to learn to deal with that, and a real ratcheting-down of tensions would probably benefit us more than them.
Because really, is this how it's going to be from now on? Every fortnight, some snake-handling moron from Dogdick, Alabama announces he's going to urinate on a picture of Xenu and half the planet goes up in flames, while the other indulges in lengthy, highly political circlejerks?
Hell, at least the Cold War produced interesting thrillers. This sorry bullshit doesn't even produce amusing cartoons.
*Or something, I forget because I didn't really care in the first place.