During his first Christmas message, Pope Francis called for people of all faiths to pray for peace throughout the world. He even invited atheists to join with believers in a desire for peace. Invitation accepted!
The overwhelming majority of atheists within the greater atheist/humanist community have a strong desire for peace and justice throughout the world. But we also have more than that. Because we understand that this world is the only world we have; we not only desire peace and justice, but actively work toward those aims. As an atheist, I formally invite the Pope to do more than pray or desire peace, but to actively work toward both peace and justice in a few major ways.
First, effective immediately the Pope can release the names of every priest and Vatican employee who has ever been transferred around the globe as an attempt to avoid prosecution for sex crimes. He can stop shielding these people and allow the criminal justice systems in local areas around the world take their course. He can then turn over the Pope Emeritus to the world court for prosecution on the charge of obstruction of justice.
Second, he can admit that the use of condoms actually will prevent the spread of AIDS in 99% of cases. He can still talk about how abstinence is the best prevention, but he should admit that condoms work and help distribute them to those who would like them – especially in Africa where millions of people are dying from AIDS. Hell, the Pope can even give out condoms with the former Pope’s picture on them.
Third, the Pope can do more than a few photo-ops to show how much he cares about the poor. He can take comedian Sarah Silverman’s advice to “Sell the Vatican, feed the world.” Okay, that may be a bit extreme, but he can certainly downsize the Vatican… a lot and donate those funds (no strings attached) to various secular charity organizations like the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders. Doing this rather than using the current Catholic charities will reassure the non-theist community that he is in this for the right reasons and not to just proselytize in the name of charity.
There are of course many other things he can do, but these three would be a huge start. If he really wanted to score some bonus points on helping to make the world a better place, he can officially declare that homosexuality is no longer a sin and that women are equal to men and ought to have equal rights in the church – including the right to become a priest. Doing that would send a huge message and it would take almost no effort on his part – just a short speech declaring that God in an act of supreme grace has changed his mind on the whole gay is an abomination thing and the whole women shouldn’t be allowed to teach thing. He is the Pope after all; he can do that, right?
I can’t speak for all atheists, but this atheist would also like to invite the Pope to join us in the 21st century. I know I am asking too much here, but maybe the Pope should just admit that God doesn’t really exist and that we should just be kind and decent to people for goodness sake instead of out of the greed of Heaven and/or the fear of Hell.
This Pope seems like a progressive sort, but these ancient superstitions really aren’t doing humanity any favors. Pope Francis seems to be on the right track by gaining authority by his words instead of relying on his title, but I think he should take the leap of faith (if you will) and go all the way. I think he should renounce his supernatural beliefs and see if people will respect and follow him on his own merits. I actually think they might – consider the current Dali Lama as an example. His words don’t just carry sway with Tibetan Buddhists – millions of people of various religions and no-religion respect him for his insight and wisdom and not because he is alleged to be the Buddha incarnate. I invite the Pope to aspire to be that too.
As the New Year begins, let us work together to bring about positive change in the world. We can’t just pray for it or desire it – we have to actually work for it.
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