August 22nd, 2010 Posted in Atheism, Pope Benedict |

By Padraig Reidy, Observer

The messages keep coming: “We Protest the Pope: Want to join us?” asked the first, a few weeks ago. More recently, an invitation came to a Protest the Pope meeting in Richmond, south London, where ideas such as blocking the route of the Pope’s cavalcade during his visit to Britain next month were discussed.

I should not be surprised to receive these invitations. I’m one of the few people in the world who could truthfully put the phrase “professional atheist” on their CV. For three years, I was deputy editor of New Humanist magazine, the publication of choice for UK humanists.

So why do I feel uneasy?

[…..]  With Benedict on his way, the chorus rises. A Facebook invitation asks me to “Give Pope Benedict a lesson in British Values of Equality”. On leading left blog Liberal Conspiracy, one writer, discussing the Vatican’s stance on euthanasia, tells us: “This is, after all, a church that expects its followers to mumble incantations in front of a large statue of a mostly naked European bloke nailed to Roman torture implement and includes an act of ritual cannibalism in its rites… so who’s really obsessed with death here.”

Examine the language here. “Incantations”, “cannibalism”. This is the tone of Ian Paisley’s rabidly anti-papist Free Presbyterian church, not of rational secular debate. The faux-sympathy over child sexual abuse feels similarly galling, used as an opportunity to attack the church rather than express genuine concern for victims. Almost the entire focus on clerical abuse scandals is on sexual attacks on young boys by old priests, despite the fact that most of the abuse detailed in the various inquiries’ reports consists of beating and physical and mental torture.

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