Just Say Nope to the Pope September 17, 2010

Just Say Nope to the Pope

The Pope is making a state visit to the UK this week. He has already made his presence known to atheists, when he compared us to Nazis. Jesse has more on that later today.

But before that, his visit itself prompted a number of Britons to write this open letter to him:

We, the undersigned, share the view that Pope Ratzinger should not be given the honour of a state visit to this country. We believe that the pope, as a citizen of Europe and the leader of a religion with many adherents in the UK, is of course free to enter and tour our country. However, as well as a religious leader, the pope is a head of state, and the state and organisation of which he is head has been responsible for:

Opposing the distribution of condoms and so increasing large families in poor countries and the spread of Aids.

Promoting segregated education.

Denying abortion to even the most vulnerable women.

Opposing equal rights for lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Failing to address the many cases of abuse of children within its own organisation.

The state of which the pope is head has also resisted signing many major human rights treaties and has formed its own treaties (“concordats”) with many states which negatively affect the human rights of citizens of those states. In any case, we reject the masquerading of the Holy See as a state and the pope as a head of state as merely a convenient fiction to amplify the international influence of the Vatican.

That letter was signed by the likes of Richard Dawkins, Philip Pullman, Susan Blackmore, and AC Grayling,

The Skeptical Skull also points out the obvious: Not many people really want the Pope to make a visit to their country, anyway:

According to the National Centre for Social Research, in 2009 over 50% of those polled defined themselves as having “No Religion”. Next up was 20% considering themselves as Church of England, 17% as “Other Christian” and a mere 9% identified as “Roman Catholic”.

Of course this is just one study but if you look at it with another study carried out by the same research centre, in 2009 almost 60% of those polled who claimed to be religious, “never” go to church. The closest following statistic to this gaping hole of a contradiction was a mere 15% admitting to going to church “annually”.

You can see more of these statistics and some shiny graphs here.

Ok. So what do these statistics show? Well to me, they show that the UK tax payer is footing the bill for someone who represents a tiny fraction of the interests of the British public AND those people heralding the importance of such a visit don’t even go to church all that often. Talk about hypocritical!

Meanwhile, Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris have commissioned the writing of a book due out in a couple weeks: The Case of the Pope: Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuse:

I know. That’s a cover designed to sell. Couldn’t they get a picture of Benny on it?

Is anyone excited about this guy visiting?

It doesn’t seem like it, at least compared to previous papal visits. As one headline said, “Even Susan Boyle Couldn’t Draw Crowd To Mass.” They were hoping for 100,000 people, but “ticket sales… have been sluggish.”

For those of you who live in that part of the world, what’s the reaction you’re hearing? Is this a major story or is everyone just shrugging it off (though pissed about the price tag)?

(Thanks to everyone for the links!)


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  • R9

    Well it’s a major story here in that there’s been plenty of media coverage. Peoples’ reactions meanwhile mostly range from indifference to hostility.

  • I’m not one who pays any real attention to the mainstream media, so I’ve not really seen anything of the coverage. I do know however that virtually everyone I know is at best completely indifferent to his visit – aside from the cost issue.

  • Gordon

    The newspapers I’ve all seem to be falling over themselves to provite positive coverage and pretend that everyone wants him here (and wants to pay for the priviledge)

    Hard questions are noticably absent.

  • Sue

    Amongst my atheist friends there’s a fair amount of irritation about the comments about Hitler and atheism. Otherwise, it’s much as Slugsie says – indifference, except for the cost, and the child abuse issue.

  • gribblethemunchkin

    Its costing something like £10-12 million for the state visit plus £1.5-2 million for policing. Thats annoyed a great many people, especially when our government is making drastic and very painful austerity cuts.

    His visit i think would have been relatively disinteresting except that he has taken the opportunity to put his foot in his mouth by comparing Atheists to Nazis (and hey, he’d know right?). Thats got some major headline news.

    Frankly though, a lot of the stuff he is saying is just a bit weird to the largely secular British people. We tend not to talk religion too much and regard those that do as “nutters” (to quote Tony Blair, another Catholic nutter). Hence the pope, in his funny robes and silly hat talking about jesus this and jesus that just comes across as a bt of a funny relic. A crusty bygone from a distant and irrelevant historical past.

    I’d be interested to know what British Catholics are thinking about his visit though.

  • VXbinaca

    Couldn’t they get a picture of Benny on it?

    How about Benny Hill? I’d buy it if it has his smiling face on it flanked by big covered breasts as Hill so often was.

  • Greg

    Basically the reaction is stated as above – media making a big hoo-hah about it, but no-one here I know of cares, apart from indignation at the amount of money we’re having to shell out for him to come. Oh, and disgust about the child rape, obviously, but that’s a given.

    As for the reaction to being called Nazis – everyone I know that know about it have just been laughing at it, or talking about it with pity, as if the guy who said it is a 4 year old, or suffering from a medical condition. I don’t know anyone who’s got in the least worked up about it.

    Oh, and I’m sure Tim Minchin must have been getting more fame and recognition, once he made his Pope Song free for download… It was one of the most twittered about things a few days ago apparently! 🙂 At least some good is coming out of the visit! 😛

  • alex

    He has already made his presence known to atheists, when he compared us to Nazis.

    Ex-Nazi pope comparing Atheists to Nazis? So, is he saying he likes us?

    On the other hand, never mind. As Greg said, he probably is demented.

  • Sally

    The coverage from the news (in particular the BBC) has been shocking in its impartiality. I’m frankly disgusted that an institution paid for by the TV license fee is able to get away with such blatantly one-sided coverage. The Daily Fail and other such pillars of journalistic excellence are doing their best to promote the visit as well, particularly by crowing about how atheists are waging a hate campaign against the roman catholic church after his comments comparing us to Nazis. Apparently he has very little grasp of history, because even in school we were taught about the RCC’s relationship with the Nazi regime.

    After the comments earlier in the week where one of his closest cardinals compared the UK to a “third world country” because of the fact that we’re a multicultural society, I’d say we have a right to be angry because we are paying for this. If he wants to come over on his own steam and make those sorts of comments, fine – not with my money, tyvm.

    What the catholic church seems to forget is that the UK HAS an established church – the church of england. WE are not required to pay any attention at all to any of the ridiculous nonsense spouted by their collection of bigots, racists, homophobes and kiddie fiddlers. I deny their right to claim moral superiority over me, or to involve themselves in the politics of my country. It makes me furious to the point of apoplexy that he and his cronies can use a taxpayer funded visit to attack the equality of our society and demand that we require the teachings of his institution to live our lives properly!

    He can stick his pointy hat where the sun doesn’t shine.

    At least tomorrow there should be some coverage of the “Protest the Pope” march through London.

  • JonJon

    I think it’s ironic that this Pope in particular would have the nerve to compare any group to Nazis, considering his past. Not to mention that the church will continue to die off until it gets with the times and realizes it cannot force it’s hand on any but the most ignorant members of society any longer. No more are the days of ignorantly agreeing to no meat on Fridays or having a dozen children simply because that’s what the church says. It’s certainly no coincidence that the region of the world with the greatest increase in per capita members of the church are 3rd World, where they still believe it when the tabloids say a woman gave birth to an egg or a man grew a vagina. I wonder how much more advanced those areas of the globe would be if they gave up their silly superstitions (Organized or tribal-type religions) and focused on informed education.

  • Ben

    Ok. So what do these statistics show? Well to me, they show that the UK tax payer is footing the bill for someone who represents a tiny fraction of the interests of the British public AND those people heralding the importance of such a visit don’t even go to church all that often. Talk about hypocritical!

    Don’t worry. Here in Australia we’re paying $3 million for Oprah, the mistress of woo, to visit our country and drag along an entourage of an audience. Despite the fact that the vast majority of people wouldn’t watch her crap if they had the choice.

    I think I’ll flip a coin to decide which is worse …

  • Bill

    The bloody bloody bloody Pope. With his atheist/Nazi comment he went from being annoying and dishonest to hateful and deliberately, slanderously mendacious. As for his Cardinal Kasper – I thought his comment about a ‘secularised and pluralistic’ country was a compliment at first. Stupid arse.

  • I wonder if he made the atheist/nazi comment deliberately to draw attention to himself. I mean, surely a guy with a little bit of education would know what a crock that statement is.

    I live in Ireland (though I’m South African), and I also don’t keep up with the news. However, I haven’t heard anybody discussing it or such, and in Ireland that’s saying something. We’ve also had a lot more coverage of our esteemed prime minister appearing on a morning radio show sounding for all the world as if he was… shall we say, inebriated. That’s garnered far more attention than a geriatric in a dress and shiny hat trying not to drool as he waffles demented nonsense.

  • Kevin S.

    With his atheist/Nazi comment he went from being annoying and dishonest to hateful and deliberately, slanderously mendacious.

    He was already hateful and deliberately, slanderously mendacious. Comparing atheists to Nazis is hardly the tipping point with him – he’s far past it.

    I have to disagree with one assertion of the open letter, though – that the abuses of the Church disqualify the Vatican from statehood. China, which is a greater violator of human rights than the church, is still considered a state, and their premier(?) is still treated as the head of one. The Vatican is an internationally-recognized state, and we can’t pretend that isn’t the case simply because we don’t like it.

  • Randy

    Saw an interesting panel on Fox News which may have been sparked by this visit, not sure. They were crying about European secularism and how small a part religion plays in Europe and how America is heading that way. In the end they tried to prop up the catholic church by saying membership and attendance were strong and that people wanted a firmer hand around their necks.

  • this is the most corrupt administration the church has had in a long time, and that’s saying something. from closet cases purging more liberal and/or gay priests, to covering for pedophiles and rapists, the constant oppression of women and reproductive freedoms, gosh, my fingers are tired just thinking about the list of the church’s recent crimes. the fact that they are led by such willfully ignorant and obvious hypocrites isn’t going to do much for them as a successful organization of the future. someone said over at a gay blog i read, “the RCC, blinders on, ball gag in place, hands cuffed behind them, marching proudly backwards.” if i were british i’d be pissed about the money, too. he can afford to pay his own way.

    with the greatest increase in per capita members of the church are 3rd World, where they still believe it when the tabloids say

    no one who lives in america has any right to look down on others, when it comes to being a nation filled with stupid, gullible people. seriously, maybe you’re not a racist but remember that people in this country believe many things, including fantasies like obama is a muslim socialist, that jeebus appears on toast, that larry craig is a heterosexual… the RCC is doing well in the 3rd world because those folks are poor, and because often the church is the only active social entity in the community.

  • Ali

    I live in Glasgow where the Popeman has done his mass to the (not so many as expected) thousands.

    Most people are rather indifferent to it I have found. Mainly with befuddled curiosity to the yellow bag (holy souveneirs or something) clutching pilgrims.

    To give some context, if you’re not aware, Glasgow can be arguably called Belfast-lite. What this means is that any criticism of the Pope and Catholicism, in general, is often written off as protestant sectarianism. Even though the Arch-Bishop of Canterbury was there to see the Pope-boss but anyway I digress.

    The main thing to take away from this is that Glasgow could be the most staunch Catholic city on mainland UK. Due to tribal loyalties perhaps. But the leader of the Catholic church cannot sell out a gig. So while alot of people when pressed would say they are Catholic, actually they are from Catholic tradition and don’t think about what that means from day to day. The pope visit, when compared to the last one, highlights the growing indifference of the UK population to organised religion. And also the growing divide between the older and younger generations in their respect and caring about religion.

    The Scottish Humanists put a sign up at Bellahouston Park (where the mass was) saying “2 million scots are good without god” a classic example of the aggressive atheism present in the UK.

    Apologies for the length and rambling of my post, Friday heavy with lunch does that to a young man. Apologies all round.

  • It isn’t a state visit. The Vatican isn’t a state and has not been internationally recognised as a state. Mussolini (you remember him? Nice Italian chappy. Friend of Hitler and a bit of a Nazi) granted the Holy See the area of the Vatican and unilaterally decided that it was an independent state. The Holy See has state-like status by tradition and is not counter as an independent state. For a start it doesn’t have a nation to call its own.

    Instead the invitation has the same status as a state visit which means that we have to pay for the frock wearing old virgin to come over and slate us because we have the audacity to reject his mumbo jumbo and allow equal treatment of women and gays and people who have different religions and none.

    I heard this morning that ticket sales in Scotland were so bad that most of the crowds were made up of school children drafted in at the last minute. I do hope that the state looks into so many kids bunking off school on the same day.

    What I think is funny is the press carping on about aggressive militant atheists leading a revolt against his holiness. These aggressive atheists hilariously are some of the most well spoken and polite men and women known to the British media. I mean can anyone imagine A C Grayling having a rant or Stephen Fry overwhelmed by rage and calling for the Pope’s head on a stick?

    Actually now I can and it has made me laugh out loud.

    If disagreeing with a frock wearing virgin in a silly hat is “aggressive” and “militant” then we need some new words to describe the sort of lunatics who fly planes into buildings or strap bombs to themselves to murder strangers.

  • Oh and we can already buy The Case of the Pope in England.

  • Ali

    I heard this morning that ticket sales in Scotland were so bad that most of the crowds were made up of school children drafted in at the last minute

    This is true, many Catholic cult learning centres around Glasgow to facilitate such an embarrassing situation.

  • Luther

    How about a Tee Shirt:

    “Pope says I remind him of Catholic youth leader he admired and followed, Hitler. Says more about the Pope than me.

    I’m sure others can do better.

    @Hemant,

    Long time no bracelet contest. Not that I have any expectations of ever winning.

  • Long time no bracelet contest. Not that I have any expectations of ever winning.

    Luther — Two contests are in the works and will be appearing shortly 🙂

  • Kimpatsu

    Actually, today is also the Japan Festival in London, and I’m going to that instead.

  • AxeGrrl

    Ben wrote:

    Here in Australia we’re paying $3 million for Oprah, the mistress of woo, to visit our country and drag along an entourage of an audience.

    You’re paying for it?? I thought John-the-pilot-Travolta was flying them all on his plane! 🙂

    (did you all catch him on Oprah, emerging from that faux plane to hoots and hollers…like a stripper coming out of a cake or something 🙂

  • He has already made his presence known to atheists, when he compared us to Nazis.

    Uh, no.. he (wrongly) implied that the Nazis were atheists. Not quite the same thing.