Pope Francis tells atheists to abide by their own consciences

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As letters to the editor go, it was certainly out of the ordinary, stretching to more than 2,500 words and not one of them veering on the irate or indignant. But the missive received by Eugenio Scalfari, co-founder and former editor of the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, nonetheless made it into print on Wednesday – on the front page and under the impressively brief byline of "Francesco".


Responding to a series of questions asked in the summer by Scalfari, who describes himself as an interested "non-believer", Pope Francisused his trademark conciliatory tone to discuss the Catholic church's attitude to atheists, urging those who do not share his faith to "abide by their own conscience" and reminding them God's mercy "has no limits".

Expressing the belief that it was important for Christians to engage in "a sincere and rigorous dialogue" with atheists, Francis recalled Scalfari had asked him whether God forgave those "who do not believe and do not seek to believe".

"Given – and this is the fundamental thing – that God's mercy has no limits, if He is approached with a sincere and repentant heart," the pope wrote, "the question for those who do not believe in God is to abide by their own conscience. There is sin, also for those who have no faith, in going against one's conscience. Listening to it and abiding by it means making up one's mind about what is good and evil."

Written By: Lizzy Davies
continue to source article at theguardian.com

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  1. Urging me to abide by my own conscience..? Grrr. But his approach is better than most, I suppose. I’m still waiting for them to realise that all they have to work with is conscience as well, and drop the nonsense. Is anyone fooled by his ‘inclusion’ of atheists, the implication that we are simply not aware of the ‘true source’ of our conscience? Only those who are already fooled by the rest of the church’s fatuous twaddle.

  2. In reply to #2 by Matthew Lehman:

    I have to say…. as far as Popes go, this guy isn’t too bad.

    Yeah! Can’t blame him for that many things! For now at least, he’s behaved more than decently. I was pleased to learn that he has helped many opponents flee or hide from the junta during the 1976-1983 Argentinian dictatorship. A good guy.

  3. On a Catholic site I follow, the more orthodox members are already saying that the pope really meant that atheists could follow their own consciences — but only if that conscience was properly formed. In Catholic-speak, a properly formed conscience is one that conforms to the doctrine and traditions of the Catholic church.

    • In reply to #6 by pvanderploeg:

      Interesting. Same advice as I get from the shopkeeper on the corner of my home street. Any reason why I should listen to Pope Francis ?

      Well, if he agrees with your shopkeeper, he can’t be all that bad, can he?

  4. On the one hand the Pope tells us :

    Expressing the belief that it was important for Christians to engage in “a sincere and rigorous dialogue” with atheists,

    And a few lines down the Vatican says :

    The pope had had “no intention of provoking a theological debate on the nature of salvation”,

    Which one is it Jo ?

    I’m all for “rigorous dialogue”, but not with a slippery eel.

  5. Why is it still necessary, in the 21stC, that a man in a dress, who has no expertise on the matter on which he is sounding off, receives the world’s attention?

    (Answers on a postcard, or pigeon carrier, only)

    • In reply to #10 by RDfan:

      Why is it still necessary, in the 21stC, that a man in a dress, who has no expertise on the matter on which he is sounding off, receives the world’s attention?

      (Answers on a postcard, or pigeon carrier, only)

      Probably for the same reasons this site found it necessary chose to publish the article and you found it necessary to respond to it.

  6. abide by your own conscious? Can it be more elusive? I´m sure The ripper did that while meticulously cutting through the flesh of his victims and Joseph Kony also had that cleared while shooting innocent villagers. It didn´t seem to be a problem of 400 years of torture of inquisition not many other priests of abusing little boys. Conscious is an undulating state of mind for all, religious or not.
    Why is it that everytime I read something about what the pope, he seems to be citing the worse kind of self-help book and yet many people responding as if he just saved the world?
    Could it be that even atheist still save something special for this utmost father figure?
    It´s time to eradicate this pretentious institute, no matter how nice they seems at times. They never search for freedom of thought, nor equality. The agenda is clear, be nice to them and they will see your light and follow. Not from malevolence but yes from search of better control over the heard.

  7. There is sin, also for those who have no faith, in going against one’s conscience. Listening to it and abiding by it means making up one’s mind about what is good and evil.

    Ted Bundy would approve.

  8. God’s mercy has no limits eh?

    Roman Catholic doctrine states all non Roman Catholics go to hell, and all Roman Catholics either go to heaven or purgatory, when they die.

    So Ghandi is in hell and Hitler is not.

    God’s mercy sure sounds limited to me.

  9. So basically the pope is saying, “Don’t worry, all you folks who don’t believe in God, as long as you abide by your conscience he’ll go easy on you.”

    Does he still not realise that atheists are neither bothered by the threat of God’s retribution, nor relieved at the thought he might go easy if we act in good conscience? There’s a phrase that goes something like, “As an atheist, a Christian telling me I’m going to hell is like a hippie threatening to punch me in my aura.”

    It constantly amazes me how very religious people cannot grasp the concept of non-belief – it’s like they think we’re just pretending not to believe or something.

  10. Well, what do you know, the Pope’s a closet atheist!

    Why doesn’t he preach that message to his flock I wonder? Perhaps he’s afraid that they’ll start thinking for themselves and he’d be out of a job.

  11. Pope Francis tells atheists to abide by their own consciences.

    Atheist tells Pope Francis that being the head of an organisation which to this day insists that all human beings are born ‘flawed and with sin’, whilst making vast sums of money out the poorest and least educated people on the planet, means that he should have far more battles with his conscience than me.

  12. Further proof that secular societies force religions to evolve. Not very long ago it would have been “let me take some time to explain all the everlasting tortures that await the unbeliever”. And not long before that “let me show me round my torture chamber so I can show you all the tortures that await the unbeliever”.
    But I did notice the presuppositionalist way he couched the atheists question ‘Francis recalled Scalfari had asked him whether God forgave those “who do not believe and do not seek to believe”‘
    To me that makes as much sense as saying “Will Odin let me into Valhalla to fight in Ragnarok if I don’t die with a sword in my hand?” Or “will Quetzalcoatl allow the harvest if I don’t hold up a still beating human heart as a sacrifice?”

  13. This supercilious insufferable and patronising old git is a vast improvement on former Poops. On a positive note seeing one barely raising an eyebrow at least puts him in the moderate league. We should be glad the catlicks have parked their incendiary ambitions for the meantime.

  14. The arrogance of these goddists is astounding! What has conscience to with it. Why can’t he say that people should believe whatever they wish without the veiled threat that if you don’t believe what he believes you might have a problem one day!

  15. “Given … that God’s mercy has no limits, if He is approached with a sincere and repentant heart,” the pope wrote, “the question for those who do not believe in God is to abide by their own conscience.”

    No limits? Then why the “great flood”, the genocide, the wars committed in his man, etc, etc, etc. Seems to me he has a very short wick.

    • In reply to #23 by msloane:

      No limits? Then why the “great flood”, the genocide, the wars committed in his man, etc, etc, e…

      Oh come on, you’re supposed to forget about all those nasty bits in their holy book and forget the despicable history of their church, the only infallible man on earth is being conciliatory at the moment and that’s all that matters.

      Wait a minute – do you think he might be sending this message out to the wrong audience? Might he better off (as mentioned by Stafford Gordon above) getting his minions to spread his conciliatory message throughout the church, so perhaps all the priests and bishops can start telling their flocks that they don’t actually need to be believers so long as they are good and abide by their consciences?

      Oh dear , someone in the Vatican finance centre has already spotted that that might be bad for business and nipped that one in the bud….

      “In May, however, relaxed remarks during a homily, which appeared to imply that non-believers could be “saved” if they did good, prompted a swift clarification from the Vatican that he meant nothing of the kind.

      The pope had had “no intention of provoking a theological debate on the nature of salvation”, it said, adding: “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.”

      Doesn’t this just ever so slightly contradict the infallible one’s ‘you’ll all be fine if you abide by your conscience’ message? Hmmm… makes you wonder just how infallible he is doesn’t it?

  16. Hey Pope, Thanks a lot, shithead. I’d tell you to do the same, but it has (I think) been proven beyond reasonable doubt that conscience is something you leave at the door when you enter the priesthood.

  17. The use of the word “evil” always grates with me; it implies supernatural forces that influence our behaviour, and is almost invariably sneaked into pronouncements by blind faithers when ever the opportunity arises.

    It’s also patronizing, in that it suggests that those who have no need for blind faith are missing something fundamental in the universe.

    There is good and there is bad, or even perhaps wicked – although the meaning of that last word can now also be positive – but there is no such thing as evil; other than in the imagination of those who choose, or have been bamboozled or intimidated, into believing “evil” exists.

  18. A very curious thing:

    Among the many books to not make it to the bible is the Apocalypse of Peter, which gives an interesting explanation on the nature of Hell. In it, he’s chatting with Jesus reflecting on the tortured in Hell and Jesus explains that if there are enough prayers in Heaven all in Hell can be delivered to Heaven.

    Of course the common argument is that Hell is needed to keep people in line and telling people that Hell is only a temporary thing sort of misses the point. The point in this case being fear.

    And since Hell is not so popular these days in many religious circles (and has never been all that rosy among atheists) a Pope not threatening Hell upon non believers isn’t really much of a stretch.

    I sort of feel like this is the direction this whole dialogue is meant to go in, “sin is still a thing and not believing in god is still bad, but he’s really a nice guy. Just do your thing and eventually it will all work itself out.”

    It’s sort of a damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario (pardon the unintentional pun): if the church tries to maintain all the dark and spooky aspects of the faith intact and claims it’s still relevant then it alienates all of the non religious even further and makes those that are on the fence a bit wary. On the other hand if they preach inclusiveness and friendly smiley faced nice guy god who doesn’t judge harshly (but somehow still maintains that not worshiping and loving him is sinful) and just wants you to do good things then it alienates those long in the tooth for the old way of thinking (the fire and brimstone, bible thumping variety) and still doesn’t really do much to appeal to those that don’t feel any need to appeal to a god of any sort.

    So what’s a Pope to do?

    Being an atheist it’ll be interesting to see where this goes, since I know many in the church don’t seem to be on board with all the new Pope niceties.

  19. So he wants rigorous dialogue?

    OK, here’s a very serious suggestion: could RD.net contact this Francesco guy and ask him for an interview? You could turn it into an “Originals” article on the main page and even circulate it to magazines for international humanist or atheist organizations. (Of course, if Eugenio Scalfari did a good job in his questions, then I’m satisfied with that. But I can’t read Italian, so I can’t judge the text. Is there a translation somewhere?) [EDIT: Oh, I found the "English" button on the page. I'm reading it now. So far it's just typical theological mumbo jumbo. EDIT 2: Done reading. That was absolute hogwash. Therefore I'm still in favour of an interview done by RD.net. However, considering the nonsense the Pope managed to spew out in his answers in La Repubblica, I'm not sure he would give any clearer answers in an interview done by RD.net.]

    I know that the Pope isn’t a celebrity who gives interviews left and right. So it might be a long shot, and even if the interview happened it might be a short one. But I would assume that since the Pope has talked about atheists a few times lately, and claims to want to engage in dialogue, wouldn’t it be in his interest to take part in it? Wouldn’t he want to take part in an interview that reaches out to a world wide atheist audience?

    What I would like to see are questions that probe deeper into his views on atheism. He says that even atheists get to heaven, and that atheists should use their conscience, but what does all that mean? And I wouldn’t even want the interview to delve into the specific crazy claims of the Bible, but to be a civil one where the Pope gets to expand on his views about atheism. Unfortunately, “civility” would be important for image purposes, so that religious people could not read it and claim that atheists are trying to intellectually crucify the Pope, but still it would be one in which he clearly has to explain himself. The questions would clearly demand to know what the actual standpoint of the RCC is on atheists. The purpose of the interview would be twofold: on one hand to cut through the wishy-washy doublespeak that the Vatican engages in, and to give everyone a clear view of what the Pope actually thinks, and to show believers how confusing the comments of their religious leaders actually are when dissected by a skilled interviewer.

    • Hi Aztek,

      Great idea about interviewing the Pope on our behalf! Maybe even Richard himself could go to Rome with a bunch of questions proposed by us all on this website? After all, this Pope mentions us non-believers a whole lot so surely the next rational step, as you suggest, would be to engage in dialogue ‘face to face’? Waiting with bated breath (while mentally compiling suitable questions) or am I jumping the gun?

      In reply to #30 by Aztek:

      So he wants rigorous dialogue?

      OK, here’s a very serious suggestion: could RD.net contact this Francesco guy and ask him for an interview? You could turn it into an “Originals” article on the main page and even circulate it to magazines for international humanist or atheist organizations. (Of cours…

      • In reply to #34 by HenMie:

        Hi Aztek,
        Great idea about interviewing the Pope on our behalf! Maybe even Richard himself could go to Rome with a bunch of questions proposed by us all on this website?

        Oh yeah. I’d love to hear how that goes. We know RD and the Pope already agree on one thing.

  20. A Letter to the pope 9/12/2013 as to related with his comment in the article posted above:

    There are 2 things I need to make it clear=

    1.As my understanding says that “abide by their conscience” means “you believe in yours, and I believe in mine.”

    2.And the pope also mention “There is sin, also for those who have no faith, in going against one’s conscience.” which my understanding says that if you questioning my believe, then you are a sinner.

    The problem is:
    Let me use your way of thinking mr.pope, to analyze the situation. Imagine you meet a Muslim and use your 1st idea. Then the Muslim will say to you, in Quran the book of Surah Mariam 5:72 clearly said the Catholic or Christians will STRAIGHT GO TO HELL for believing in Jesus as God. By the way, there are 3000 others religion who can produce the similar idea.

    So, mr.pope’s 1st idea is not the solution. In fact it will just bring chaos and confusing people. The best is using the scientific analysis approach to seek the truth. You bring your evidence, I bring my evidence, let’s sit down and analyze which one works better to explain the reality. Yet, the day my scientific evidence shows all the flaw and weakness in your argument and shows that science works, that’s the day you MUST discard your belief.

    Why? Because I WILL DO THE SAME ON DISCARDING MY BELIEF when the new science works and give a better understanding on things that happened in the wolrd, succesfully debunked the old science. ie. Chemistry VS Alchemy; Physics VS Magic.

    Another thing that mr.pope need to understand is that “questioning against one’s conscience” is NOT the same as “not giving respect” or “abusing authority.” Questioning againts one’s conscience is NEEDED to seek the truth, validity, responsibility to be a better person.

    Yet, abusing authority is a sin, just like what your Dog did to the Amalekites just because their people don’t believe in your existence.

    Furthermore, What if in your conscience says that raping little boys in your church is not a big deal as to compare not believing in your Dog’s dogma. So that your previous boss mr.Benedict defending and hiding those necessary documents and evidence to put your people in jail, yet excommunicate the catholic nurses who works in catholic hospitals for helping performing abortion with the GOOD INTENTION to save the mothers’ life. Which in fact a team of doctors already come and predict according to the standard that the mother will 100% die if she insists to give birth.

    What if your conscience try hard to silence mr.Sanal Edamaruku for telling the truth that the water drops from Jesus’ statue in India is fake. And your conscience approved your organization to file a lawsuit to put mr.Sanal Edamaruku in a very difficult position just because he tells the truth.

    Questioning againts your conscience is a VERY USEFUL technique to bring the best of us for our humanity.

    Bring your evidence, I’ll bring mine… and PLEASE, don’t fabricate the evidence as your organization HAS DONE SO MANY TIMES on fake miracles. Mr.Sanal Edamaruku and his team ready to debunk more fabricated ones from your organization.

  21. “Sin, even for a non-believer, is when one goes against one’s conscience.”

    Why do the religious insist on trying to impose their internal rules, concepts and beliefs onto others?

    The concept of “sin” is a religious one, therefore irrelevant to us non-believers. Going against one’s conscience can be better explained by philosophy, psychology, evolution, and neuroscience (Grayling, Harris, Dennett, Pinker) than theological bunkum such as “sin”.

    See also: [Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Universal Sense of Right and Wrong by Marc Hauser] (http://www.amazon.com/Moral-Minds-Nature-Designed-Universal/dp/0060780703/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1378994160&sr=1-1&keywords=moral+minds)

  22. Looks like he’s extending the hand of friendship….but actually he’s cage rattling……Atheist’s certainly don’t need any validation from a deluded pompous arrogant person such as this, who believes in nonsense beings and takes his personal power from such a false authority…I have abided by my conscience since I could think for myself as a child…by denouncing all religion as a power tool to control people….and its leaders as corrupt power hungry puppets…they clearly don’t abide by their own conscience – they absolve themselves of personal blame by following the written directions of their god (that men made up and wrote) do they really think Atheists need their okay to think for ourselves…No Atheist I know needs the advice of this guy or his corrupt institution….He’s the biggest hypocrite about personal conscience…he should have taught that to his sick paedophile recruits etc

  23. My conscience tells me it’s wrong to warn people against using condoms because they spread STDs.

    Apparently

    The head of the Catholic Church in Mozambique has told the BBC he believes some European-made condoms are infected with HIV deliberately.
    Maputo Archbishop Francisco Chimoio claimed some anti-retroviral drugs were also infected “in order to finish quickly the African people”.

    BBC

    When the facts are on my side, what should I think about the Catholic Archbishop’s conscience ? Is he just plain ignorant or just plain callous ?

  24. How very gracious of his popeship! He can please leave comments about my conscience out of his thoughts. He has enough to occupy his mind trying to wrestle with all the nonsense of his belief. When he comes out and says that salvation, celibacy, transubstantiation, purgatory, limbo, heaven, hell, saints, confession are all nonsense and inventions of idiots, then I will take what he says with more than a grain of salt.

  25. “…if He is approached with a sincere and repentant heart…”. Funny, how do you approach an imaginary being? And why would you need to ask for forgiveness from somebody who doesn’t exist? The pope still doesn’t get it; an atheist doesn’t believe in god, so there’s nobody to approach for anything. Furthermore, if he’s telling people to abide by their own conscience, he’s acknowledging (perhaps unconsciously) that you don’t need God to be good and that our conscience doesn’t come from a God but simply from being human beings. Which we’ve been saying for years. Will the masses finally get it?

  26. “Expressing the belief that it was important for Christians to engage in “a sincere and rigorous dialogue” with atheists, Francis recalled Scalfari had asked him whether God forgave those “who do not believe and do not seek to believe”.

    Amazing. He wants his flock to engage atheists. To create a perception of tolerance – that they’re all-inclusive? Nice work by the RCC’s PR squad.

  27. Does anyone notice the authoritarian tone that somehow atheists are going to have to answer to their manufactured reality. Talk about delusional. I fail to see where this is much of an improvement in the catholic church or the pope. I’m comforted by the fact that one day these insufferable sociopaths will slip into a non-conscious state forever!

  28. This is the bit that confuses me:

    “…God’s mercy has no limits, if He is approached with a sincere and repentant heart,” the pope wrote, “the question for those who do not believe in God is to abide by their own conscience.”

    Well, the point of the question was for people who have no intention of approaching. It looks like these ought to be two separate sentences, with the implication being that atheists should abide by their own consciences, but still not subject to god’s grace because we haven’t “approached.”

  29. Perhaps he can say the same thing to the paedophiliacs in his own organisation! He should also look up the word “atheist” me thinks, he keeps using the word and I don’t think he actually knows what it means…

  30. I don’t need the Pope to tell me to abide by my own conscience. I already abide by my conscience, not because of the threat of Hell, but because I have my own morals my own sense of right and wrong.

  31. I haven’t voiced this before, but to better arm my fellow atheists and RDFRS members, at least in a first world setting, no catholic gives a moment’s notice to what the pope says. I’ve oftentimes been a little sheepish with my responses, reading pope topics in the discussions. As an atheist that was raised/indoctrinated catholic as a child, I can tell you literal interpretation of the bible was always made fun of. Nobody, even the nuns, ever cared what the pope said. catholic schools in Australia teach “religious education” which study a dozen faiths, including their own, and their shortcomings and extensive history associated. If you’re flexing your typing fingers in readiness for attack, read on.

    I haven’t attended or been part of anything catholic for more than a decade, but I did switch to a church of England Grammar school for the end of high school, and its religious programme consisted of fundamentalist garbage in comparison. We’d be escorted to the Anglican church to hear tales from ex-drug addicts about how they’d “Found Jesus”. A stark and comical change for all of the ex-catholic school kids. Their history and multiculturalism class replaced by rot.
    I don’t have a lot to offer regarding the new pope’s direction, or very much care. But with any luck he’s going to blindside his corrupt institution and give a speech reasoning out the dissolution of the church, before dodging assassin’s bullets.

    In summary, you can click my avatar or ask me for my blog address, Read all of my comments, know Hitchens is my hero. I am a militant atheist. (that’s definition number two in the oxford. In case you’re like a friend who said I couldn’t use that word without meaning physical weaponry) There is no excuse for bullshitting kids. But I’m certain the children least stunted by religion, when they inherit it, are first word catholics. (basically their ‘religion’ school curriculum is historic and philosophical) High Anglican churches would be next off, although better off actually in England. (they’re borderline evangelical U.S style here in Aus). I strongly suggest that the more relaxed attitude on the ground level by catholics, leads to more atheists like myself.
    Why bother giving my background? Because I hate when we look weak, as athiests. Heavy losses of salvageable minds are sustained if we ignore just how mild and non-scriptural first world Catholicism really is. Such oversight opens us up to looking like over-zealous morons. Preachers. I sometimes forget my peers in unbelief don’t have a wealth of ‘double-agent’ style childhood experience within faiths. Often times the assumptions voiced, and the linking of catholics to the pope, make me cringe. Too often. It hurts my sense of justice and priority and debt to the great man who’s name graces this website. I can tell all of you confidently, that as soon as poorly drawn bows are loosed, you’ve failed to hit your audience.

    Let’s move on to perhaps getting women educated in the Islamic world, or at least not stoned to death if their head scarf blows off in the wind.
    Priorities.

    TJ McNamara

    • In reply to #48 by Timothy McNamara:

      I am a militant atheist…Let’s move on to perhaps getting women educated in the Islamic world…

      As a militant atheist, and confessedly a big fan of your thoughts and reliable notes, saving the western world from religification seems to me a more urgent priority. We could provide an aspirational example. I can’t imagine how else the Islamic world could otherwise be modified by us.

      In a first world setting like Australia, education would have enabled citizens to prioritize last week. Educating Aussie women adequately would have crippled any prospect of a misogynist agent of Pope Frank being elected PM. And our men could’ve focused on more important issues than protecting our borders from Islamic hordes, or reforming Islam in the benign Catholic model of indoctrination.

      Adequate education here at home would surely have prevented the election of a Catholic fundamentalist who rejects climate science and women’s rights. That sends the wrong message to the Islamic world I reckon. Perhaps funds Australia saves by dispensing with a science ministry could be redeployed to open Catholic schools in Afghanistan.

      Thanks for the advice anyway. ;)

      Timothy McNamara… I appreciate your point, after CBC training myself.

      • In reply to #49 by Len Walsh:

        Thank you Len for the kind praise. I’m afraid I’m uncertain of what the CBC acronym refers to.

        Very good points raised by yourself. I guess I can reference myself, from an earlier perhaps inflammatory remark in the following;
        It was regarding the easy attacks on declining older churches being child’s play for perhaps not militant, but eager athiests. I once wrote that it was akin to funnelling energy into vilifying the common cold whilst leaving Ebola to cure itself.
        This was of course placing Islam as the latter. You quite rightly point out the conundrum of affirmative action regarding freeing people from all religions. I am pessimistic, in that I worry the Islamic world is too insular (if not by design) to follow our trend to atheism.
        In fact I have pondered the hazards of a potential ‘vacuum’ arising from old Christianity’s decline. My answer? Just stop being so polite. Start seeing someone “taking offense” (within legal boundaries) as someone being closed minded, defensive or obtrusive to modernity.

        Hitchens was the only western journalist to publish the infamous “offensive” cartoons of ‘the prophet’, after the riots. The bookstore withdrew his publication before one was sold. So Hitch withdrew tours, signings and appearances. He told the world what they’d done. Boycotted the franchise for the rest of his life (Borders).
        I am a strong believer that, regarding words or cartoons, taking ‘offense’ should be seen as an offence. And the more we drill this into the web with our words, the sillier and sillier the silly people look.

        TJ McNamara

        • In reply to #50 by Timothy McNamara:

          In reply to #49 by Len Walsh:

          I’m uncertain of what the CBC acronym refers to.

          I once wrote that it was akin to funnelling energy into vilifying the common cold whilst leaving Ebola to cure itself.

          Excellent analogy!

          Like you I survived a Catholic indoctrination resembling the one you have described, and agree with all your points, particularly about the disinterest most cultural Catholics have in religion. With half a dozen siblings, uncles and aunts and grandchildren, plus their own families, each one a product of similar ‘schooling’ to that in your tale. And so, I would like to add this cautionary anecdote.

          Every member of my extensive family considers me to be intolerant and obsessed with their particular version of god. Their children are taught I’m Political Correctness gone Mad. An angry, idealistic nutjob whose hatred… and so it goes… Muslim lover is the tag I like least.

          Like Richard, I have fuzzy recollections of my schooling, until I notice what it did to everyone else around me. As for Catholics feeling linked to the Pope, I agree most couldn’t give a toss. But the solid links enjoyed by the likes of Abbott, Hockey or Pyne are relevant I reckon.

          Sorry about the anachronistic Christian Brothers College – as in – St. Fiddler-on-the-Lap, CBC, Woolloomooloo.

          I am a strong believer that, regarding words or cartoons, taking ‘offense’ should be seen as an offence.

          Taking ‘offence’ is the single most irritating feature for me too, on a daily basis. However, those cartoons, derivative offence, retaliation and indignation are of less interest to me (old, insular, and now electorally depressed) than my regular associations when people take unctuous offence over the slightest intolerance I may happen to display towards their bigotry. Gods never come into it. Catholicism has nothing to do with their biases, they tend to protest.

          It feels weird to be less polite to unknown Muslims than I’m able to behave towards those Christians I endure relentlessly. When they complain to me about FGM, child brides, terrorism, boat people, the gay lobby I perversely support (but you’re not gay), I think – bigoted, circumcised Xian boat-person from London who lobbies on behalf of the Pope to align our legislation with that of Canon Law.

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