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September 14, 2006

Pope Benedict XVI Weighs In

The latest to join our dialogue on the nature of disbelief is Pope Benedict XVI. Unfortunately, his comments are a bit obscure:

Today, when we have learned to recognize the pathologies and life-threatening diseases associated with religion and reason, and the ways that God's image can be destroyed by hatred and fanaticism, it is important to state clearly the God in whom we believe....
Only this can free us from being afraid of God which is ultimately at the root of modern atheism... Only this God saves us from being afraid of the world and from anxiety before the emptiness of life.

His Holyness -- at least as interpreted by the New York Times -- seems to be aiming for something here beyond mere lucidity. I guess the point is that our fear of God keeps us from accepting His assistance in overcoming our anxious fear of the world and of the emptiness of life.

It's hard to argue with the Pope on this "anxiety before the emptiness of life" thing. God knows we've all had days when stuff seems more than a little random. No doubt a bit of supernaturally imposed good/bad, right/wrong believe that the Son and the Father are consubstantial/don't belief the Son and the Father are consubstantial might help. Problem is -- and maybe this is part of the reason Benedict seems to be having difficulty making himself clear -- God Himself often seems more mysterious, shall we say, than clear on matters such as the proper relationship between religion and reason and what we should be doing about Darfur."Who can straighten what He has twisted? Koheleth wonders in Ecclesiastes.

And Benedict must be hanging out with a weird bunch of atheists. I can imagine a some haunted sinner running from God and his alleged judgement. But, rather than being afraid of God, the atheists I know are just unimpressed with Him as a concept (or Concept).

Posted by Mitchell Stephens at September 14, 2006 6:07 PM


Many religious insist that everyone knows god is real, and that atheists are "angry" or "afraid" or something - denying the truth. I don't get it: if you're angry at god then, by definition, you're not an atheist.

Posted by: The Ridger at September 14, 2006 7:30 PM

Got that right, Ridger.

Isn't it pretty obvious that the NYT is treating this statement in a parallel fashion as it dealt with Derrida, for example? give Benedict credit, at least, for wading into postmodern ambiguity, clearly waters that the NYT still can't navigate.

Posted by: JM at September 14, 2006 11:05 PM

I have put a CGI poem on YouTube. It is my first try there and the audio did not translate well.

It is about evolution. Or maybe it is about color and form.


Posted by: Jay Saul at September 15, 2006 1:44 AM

I have to go with the atheist consensus on this one. What the heck? Okay, I'm not now nor have I ever been a Catholic or one of those people who lives in constant fear of G-d, so maybe I just don't get it.
Maybe this is yet another example of our need to assign motive to a belief we cannot understand. G-d seems so obvious, I'm sure, to the Pope that he has to have some "reason" for atheists to be unable or unwilling to believe. However, I don't think this is really any different than the many motives assigned to theists by atheists who so "clearly" see the non-existence of G-d.

Posted by: Melinda Barton at September 15, 2006 9:14 AM

The link to the evolution video has changed, the audio was fixed:


another totally abstract animation


Posted by: Jay Saul at September 15, 2006 12:19 PM

It seems the Pope is borrowing from Sartre's discussion of feeling "abandoned" or "forlorn" (depending on how it's translated) by the non-existence of God. I'll give him my interpretation of Sartre's advice: Suck it up. :)

Posted by: Shell at September 15, 2006 2:33 PM

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