Cross post - Benedict XVI: Antichrist, or just a bit confused?
THE DESIGNATION Whore of Babylon does not refer to some mythical top notch super-dirty-in- bed Iraqi chick, but to a serious theological debate over the identity to the scarlet-clad woman described in chapter 17 of the Book of Revelation.
In the faith community in which I was raised, my poor old mum was always considered a hopeless cringing moderate because she did not automatically identify this figure with the Roman Catholic church, being alive to the exegetical possibility that the term could better be applied to the European Union instead.
I am put in mind of my upbringing after reading the remarks delivered by Benedict XVI before 125,000 admirers in Edinburgh yesterday, during which he launched into a tirade against the intolerance of something called ‘aggressive secularism’. Hello, your Holiness?
In the first place, it is a bit rich hearing homilies about the need for liberalism from a bloke who accuses gay people of possessing a ‘more or less strong tendency ordered towards an inherent moral evil’ and welcomes Holocaust deniers into the bosom of the mother Church. But let that pass.
I’m not even quite sure what ‘aggressive secularism’ is when it is at home, anyway. Does it differ from, say, passive-aggressive secularism, being one notch up on mere stridently assertive secularism but not quite such a bad thing as violent secularism? But let that pass, too. The whole line of reasoning at work here is just wrong, wrong, wrong.
The overwhelming majority of us secularists are actually laid back, live and let live-type dudes. We actively believe in, and argue for, freedom to propagate all religions and none. So if anybody freely chooses to go to mass on a Sunday morning, that’s fine with us. We’ll just stay in bed and nurse the hangover. Now sod off and leave us to suffer.
So it was that I found myself sticking up for a Christian guy handing out ‘turn or burn’ leaflets at the Brighton gay pride march, which could quite easily have seen him severely beaten had the assembled Muscle Marys taken umbrage at their content.
Precisely because I am a secularist, I am in favour of his right to tell people what they do not want to hear. Equally, I am in favour of the right of the Protest the Pope brigade to hit the streets on Saturday, even though I can’t be arsed to go along myself.
The very obvious historical truth is that the people most likely to be at the throats of members of any given religious group are members of other religious groups. They are, to paraphrase his Holiness, aggressive religionists.
In the playgrounds of western Scotland, competing gangs of kids slug it out under the banner of Papes and Prods. Well, they do in the unlikely event that they go to an integrated school in the first place, anyway
I presume that atheist and agnostic children consider themselves far above that sort of thing, and sensibly slope off behind the bikesheds for a quiet lunchtime fag instead.
And there’s more. In the afternoon, His Holiness was off to Glasgow, where a crowd of 65,000 were told: ‘Religion is in fact a guarantee of authentic liberty and respect, leading us to look upon every person as a brother or a sister.’
No it isn’t, and no it doesn’t. This stupid assertion is so readily refuted that I shall refrain from rehearsing the long, long list of repressive theocracies ideologically legitimated by Catholicism and sundry other creeds, both in history and in the present day.
In sum, Benedict XIV’s strange belief that religious viewpoints are in Britain systematically excluded from consideration in the market place for ideas is scarcely tenable. Indeed, they get a head start in the form of the compulsory ‘God slots’ on many broadcast outlets and a guaranteed place on the curriculum, when they should be slugging it out on the same terms as everybody else.
But if those viewpoints are to be taken seriously, it would help to come up with some arguments that are not quite so ludicrous as those the Pope has advanced so far on this trip.