I have long had a desire to be a member of a church. Being an atheist, I know that the kingdom of God must be here on earth if it is to be anywhere. It is only through our connections with others and our work for a better world that we can be whole. And I really would like to be part of an organized group to share in that.
Generally, I imagine something very nebulous in its theology but committed to social justice. So I’m surprised to see what’s happening in the Catholic Church. Pope Francis is making me feel like God (who I know doesn’t exist) really is reaching out to me. Up to now, I’ve been fairly impressed with him, but I thought a lot of what he said was a little too carefully stated. This morning, however, I read the following from the Associated Press:
The man is starting to sound like the Dalai Lama! The dogma is still a problem, of course. (It is with the Dalai Lama too.) The Bible does indeed say a lot of vile things. But it isn’t clear to me that the church is stuck with these things. Despite what Biblical literalists say (and Catholics are not Biblical literalists), there are things in the Bible that no one accepts today. For example, everyone is against slavery, even though the Bible is pretty keen on it. So the Catholic Church really is capable of changing into the kind of institution that I could support.
Now, I’m not expecting this in my lifetime. But if the Catholic Church is to get to the point where the Sermon on the Mount is its basis rather than Leviticus, it must start with a Pope who prioritizes mercy above dogma about whether embryos have souls. And it looks like this is what Francis is doing. I’ve long desired a religion that spoke to the needs of modern man. But maybe that isn’t really so necessary. Maybe all that is necessary is a reinterpretation of the old religions—one that jettisons the old fearful and bigoted dogma and focuses on enlightenment, community, and mercy.
Francis is the first Pope through whom it seems God just might be speaking—to me.