As fellow Guy, Bryan McBournie, brought to our attention on Friday, the new pope kind of forgot to send atheists to Hell last week. During a recent sermon, Pope Francis said that everybody can go to heaven through good works, even atheists.
Wait, even atheists, Father?
Wow. That’s pretty exciting news. Sort of like how the Boy Scouts of America also decided last week that gay kids can join their club that is intentionally devoid of any positive adult gay role models.
In both cases, two very conservative organizations that do good work when they’re not actively discriminating against people they dislike, attempted to reach out to communities in the most tone-deaf ways possible.
I’ve written about the Boy Scouts gay ban before. I support the ban because Jason Voorhees votes Republican and the last thing we need is to give him another reason to go full Tea Partier in the woods again.
But, if the Scouts are willing to acknowledge that gay kids — even those as old as 17 years old — aren’t going to hurt straight kids, then they might as well admit that the 18 – 116 crowd is OK, too. Especially when, as boys, we’re all at our date-rapiest between the ages of 14 – 17.
We’ve spent the past several years trying to convince gay, lesbian, bi and trans youth that it eventually gets better. Leave it to the BSA to invent a reason that, no, it doesn’t, and if you join their organization today, one of their straight leaders can teach your kid to morally straighten up or kill themselves by the time they’re allowed to vote. Or just stay away from kids because they’re monsters.
And then there’s the pope, who basically set the wayback dial to “John Paul II.” I’ll admit that it’s kind of cool that a sitting pope acknowledged that people of different faiths (Protestants, Muslims, Jews and etc.) — or even no faith (atheists and Star Trek fans who wonder if there will ever be a new, good show) — can be good people. Admitting us into a club that we’re almost definitely sure doesn’t exist is just how he explains who’s good and who isn’t.
But, it only took a day for the Vatican to clarify that, while the Pope means well (as most infallible people do), he is incorrect (as most infallible people aren’t.) According to one of their spokesmen, Father Thomas Rosica, atheists can do good work and be considered good, but if they know about the Catholic Church and refuse to join, then it doesn’t count.
And this is where things get sad. When Father Rosica said that ““They cannot be saved who, knowing the Church as founded by Christ and necessary for salvation, would refuse to enter her or remain in her,” he doesn’t just mean atheists. He means non-Catholics, too, because that’s what faiths mean when they capitalize “church”: it’s their Church, not your Lutheran church.
But, you’re not going to see Lutherans or Episcopals or even Hindus or Buddhists upset about not getting into Catholic heaven because (some of them) have their own heavens and, guess what, Catholics aren’t allowed in either. (Or, in other cases, everyone’s invited to our all-encompassing energy rave, so why would they go to Catholics’ stodgy old country club?)
But atheists? First, they got excited when Francis, who serves the wine, said they’re on the bouncer’s list. Then, they got upset when the regulars told them that the bouncer doesn’t take orders from the bar manager.
Why? Because many atheists, despite claiming to be atheists, aren’t really atheists. They’re mad at their Church or their parents, but would jump right back in if, say, the new pope washed women’s feet or traded in his crazy expensive designer shoes for some cheap-ass Hush Puppies. And, in this case, if he said anybody who does good despite using birth control or being pro-choice could get into heaven.
Why would an atheist care if they’re going to heaven if heaven is (A) not real, and (B) full of
all most of the preceding popes and zealots who use atheists as a scapegoat for all of society’s ills?
For probably the same reason why parents who don’t discriminate against gay adults and atheists (who are still banned from scouts, even as kids) would keep their kids in an organization that does: because we want to believe that, contrary to all existing evidence, that these groups can be better.
So, maybe some atheists are only atheists until they’re facing their own mortality. And maybe some LGBT allies are only allies until it’s time to get their kids outdoors. It’s easy to sacrifice an ideal if it doesn’t directly affect you. And it’s way easier than creating a new group when the existing “gold” standard that you grew up with is so convenient.