When my family was in Italy for vacation recently we, unexpectedly, got to see the Pope. We were touring the Vatican and he happened to be giving a public mass just after our tour. We stuck around to watch, ended up standing about 15 feet from where he makes his entrance. We had the ultimate ring-side seats.
I am not catholic and I am not religious. But I understand religion is very important to millions/billions of people in the world. Therefore, even us atheists and agnostics cannot deny or ignore the role that religion plays in forming peoples opinions and defining how we treat one another.
When religious leaders say that gay people are bad, masturbation is sinful or that orange is the new black…. we better listen. Because it will have an influence.
Which brings me to Pope Francis. Finally a religious leader – the Uber religious leader – who is saying things I can get on board with. As I said, I am not religious, but I LOVE this guy. He gives me hope that religion can play a positive force in society. Why do I love him:
– he said the church has been way too obsessed with sexual sins. He is the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Pope (you may have to be Canadian to get this metaphor) – “the church has no place in the bedrooms of the nations”
– he says the role of the church should be to combat poverty, inequality and inequity. Here, here. The bible and Jesus spoke way more of helping the poor than the evil gays, yet the religious knuckle-draggers can’t keep their minds off of gay sex. I loved Jimmy Carter’s (former US president) statement last year that “If you don’t want your tax dollars helping the poor, then STOP saying you want a country based on Christian Values, Because you don’t!”
– he says environmental exploitation is a sin. In his wise words: “This is one of the greatest challenges of our time: to convert ourselves to a type of development that knows how to respect creation. When I look at America, also my own homeland, so many forests, all cut, that have become land … that can [no] longer give life. This is our sin, exploiting the Earth and not allowing her to give us what she has within her.” Good on him.
Religion is important. Billions of people still take it very seriously and will continue to do so. Harnessing its power and persuasive ability for the legitimate public collective good is perhaps the single-most important challenge of our generation. Pope Francis is taking a massive step in the right direction.