The Pope Uses Christmas to Point Out the Problem With Religion

As an act of courtesy, I avoided attacking Christianity on Christmas, but now that it has passed I'll draw your attention to a post on Rawstory. The story bears the incredibly charitable headline "Pope Benedict XVI hits back at critics in Christmas Eve mass". While there certainly were a few shots at atheists and critics of the Catholic church combined with the usual excuses for past wrongdoing, it wasn't a particularly effective defense.

Pope Benedict actually pointed out some of the major problems with religion without mentioning the Church's guilt in contributing to those problems, both in the distant past and in the present.
"“It is true that religion can become corrupted… when people think they have to take God?s cause into their own hands, making God into their private property ... Down the centuries, while there has been misuse of religion, it is also true that forces of reconciliation and goodness have constantly sprung up from faith in the God,”

Currently, the people "corrupting" religion by taking "God's cause into their own hands" and "making God into their private property" include:

When the Pope said "Down the centuries, while there has been misuse of religion" he was no doubt referring to past transgressions such as the crusades, the inquisition(s) etc., and not the scandals currently affecting the church but, obviously, the "misuse of religion" continues unabated.

Benedict could be right in saying that, in the past "...forces of reconciliation and goodness have constantly sprung up from faith in the God" he could simply be pointing out the problem. In the past some Church practices have been ended because of protests from inside the religious community or popular dissent among parishioners. However the Church (and its relatives) have always survived these.

In the 21st century though, we know more than we did 100 or 500 years ago. We know the Earth is not flat, we know it is not the center of the universe, we know that the Earth is more than 6 thousand years old. History and archeology cast serious doubt on the idea that there ever was a Jesus, that Hewish people were slaves in Egypt or that Exodus ever happened. We also know, or most of us do, that morality is a product of empathy rather than religion. (Religion, if anything, seems severely lacking in empathy.) So, maybe this time we can prevent future problems by creating "...forces of reconciliation and goodness" that stem from faith in people, rather than faith in God.

The Church, and all churches, always have their excuses. The crimes of religion are always part of the past and not the current church but there comes a point where it rings hollow. It's like a person who says "sure I've beaten you with my right arm and I've beaten you with my left arm, I've kicked you with my right leg and my right, but I've never bitten you and I've always had nice things to say so I can't be all bad." There comes a point when the indefensible is simply indefensible.

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