I abandoned religion a long time ago and never looked back. I try to be a good person because it’s the right thing to do, not because I’m worried about getting into Heaven. At the same time I respect the choices of those who do wish to follow a religion. Worship in any way you want (form a religion around a spoon for all I care), just don’t try and persuade me to join you. I suspect that lots of people in Britain feel the same way as I do.
Pope Benedict, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to have the same live-and-let-live attitude. Before he even arrived there was a minor kerfuffle when one of his aides called Britain a “third world” country. Then, during a speech today, the Pope, seemingly unaware of Godwin’s Law, blamed atheism for the rise of Nazism (the Telegraph’s Tom Chivers has a good takedown of that silly argument).
A host of well-known public figures got together to sign a letter to the Guardian protesting the Pope’s visit. It is an uncompromising viewpoint, but temperately expressed. In the eyes of the Daily Mail, however, this marks the latest stage in an atheist hate campaign, being waged by fashionable left-wingers as part of their effort to turn the whole country into a communist, abortion-permitting, anal sex-having hellhole. Stephen Fry’s blog response to the Mail’s comment is a joy to behold.
The Mail is being (and this may surprise you) rather over the top and hysterical. It is not “hate” to point out that the Pope’s views on homosexuality and birth control, among other things, are rather out of step with the mainstream. Nor is it “hate” to bring up the sex abuse scandal which has been handled woefully.
Maybe when the above problems are sorted out we will be able to focus on the good work the Church does. Until then, the Protest the Pope people are providing a much-needed voice of dissent.