Friday, 17 September 2010

The Pope is Back in Town

So Pope Benedict XVI has decided to grace our little third world island with his presence. First port of call was Scotland, having left one of his advisors behind already, and to the rallying calls of Scottish Catholics. He waved to a thronging, if not quite sell out, crowd, blessed babies and generally looked pretty holy in his Popemobile.
If you want protests and arguments against his visit, they are not hard to find. Facebook (though hardly the most reliable source) is literally seething with insults and hate. The protest through London, against the Pope’s views on gays, women, condoms and aids should also be pretty interesting.
Rather than have a good old rant, which would be far too obvious, I’ve decided to do a quick little blog on my response to his speech. After deciphering his German accent and a tendency to mumble (and assorted family members talking over the television) I managed to hear a few words he said. I’ve also had a little read around, perusing the newspapers and websites. In doing so I’ve managed to piece together what he said, and above all I simply found my own response pretty amusing. When he warns us of a society becoming more secular, or the "increasing marginalization" of Christianity1 , I asked him (or, more accurately, the television) “and what’s so bad about that?”. Not that I was in the remotest sense alone in this sentiment, which was probably echoed by secularists, agnostics, atheists and others across the country. Britain wouldn’t have become a secularist society, where religion is accounted for less and the growing sense of equality, if we hadn’t wanted it. Social change requires the co-operation of the people, because it is the people who make it happen in the first place. I’m damn proud of our country, and its secularist temperament. If people wish to worship God, or Allah or Vishnu or Thor (I know a few) then they are still allowed to do so. The difference is it has no negative effect on society as whole. The law is not biased towards one group, like it is in Brazil, or against others. In many ways Britain is actually encouraging all that is good about religion. Help groups, community projects, charity fundraisers are still allowed and encouraged. It’s not perfect, not by far, but it’s worlds apart from the theocratic tyranny in Iran, and the god-twisted laws elsewhere on our little blue rock.
Now is the point where I could easily descend into some anti-pope, anti-catholic rant, but I shall restrain. For one, many of my friends are Catholics, and some of the best people you’ll ever meet. And even some of them are opposed to what the Pope has to say. They respect gay rights, treat women equally (the occasional sexist joke may enter, but none said with conviction or hate) and a few even despise this visit in its entirety. I hope when people turn their anger towards the Pope, they don’t carry it on onto moderate, progressive and genuinely good Catholics such as them.

1. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/pope-warns-of-increasing-marginalisation-of-christianity-2082388.html