This fine radar
There’s another thing that frets me (for want of a better term) about Julian’s “why I didn’t sign the anti-pope letter” article. I mention this again because it seems to me symptomatic of a particular school of anti-atheist tut-tuttery.
It is that it seems kind of frivolous, at bottom. I think that’s probably why the arguments seem unconvincing…it’s because they are! Maybe he didn’t actually have any real reasons, maybe the letter just got on his nerves, and he had to reach for reasons, and it was a big stretch, and the reasons aren’t up to much.
And that makes the whole thing a bit self-regarding. He certainly wasn’t required to sign the letter, but for actually arguing that the letter and the people behind it are wrong and bad and ugly, I think he should have felt a responsibility to come up with something real, or not do it. I don’t think he did come up with anything real. He doesn’t even say why the letter and the protests are “creating divisions” more than any other letter or protest or other political activity – he just asserts that they are. I wonder if he really even believes that, or just thought it was the kind of thing you say when you take a dislike to a political view and can’t really explain why.
And here’s the thing. This is not a subject to be frivolous about. This isn’t some fad, you know. The pope is real, and he does real harm. He does the kind of harm that was done to Miranda Celeste Hale, for instance; he does it to millions of children – not personally, but institutionally. He does harm to women whose husbands are infected with the Aids virus; he does harm to women who need abortions; he does harm to people who would like to limit the number of children they have. These are not small things – these are things that mess up people’s lives.
Yet the great and the good in the UK are treating him as if he were a lovely auld fella. That means there really is a need to hear from people who say no he isn’t. I don’t see how that can be done other than by doing it. I think the only way to say the pope is not a lovely auld fella is to say it. Given that – I think it’s just self-regarding and self-indulgent and generally self-obsessed to worry about how groupy it all is, or whether the people doing it are having too much fun or not, or whether it will turn ugly some day. It’s over-scrupulous – and making a kind of parade of it. Get me, I have this fine radar that spots moral problems that the peasants don’t see.
That’s not a very nice thing to say, but I think it’s true.