Pope Benedict XVI’s outrageous attack on "atheist extremism" and "aggressive secularism" in Britain has the virtue of providing clear alternatives. We can either shape our own destiny or, as the Vatican and other religions desire, leave our future to divine intervention.
And as there are absolutely no signs of the Almighty stepping in to deal with the economic and financial crisis, global warming or world poverty, we’d better just get on with it ourselves.
In the end, organised religion is about passivity, fatalism, turning the other cheek and a kind of waiting for Godot – all obscured by dogma and teachings that have their origins in humanity’s early strivings. In the 21st century, we can and must do better than that.
That the Pope and his cardinals feel it necessary to go on the attack even before they set foot in Britain, is a sure sign that all is not well. Increasing numbers of people here and around the world understand that humanity’s problems are nothing to do with a lack of “faith” in God.
In fact, a faith in a secular “God” – the inherent drive for capitalism to Grow Or Die – is more easily shown as the primary cause of the financial and economic disaster that is overwhelming the United States where 43.6m people are now living below the poverty, the highest number for 50 years.
The massive public spending cuts coming up the line in Britain like an express train owe nothing to supposed secularism and everything to the worship of Mammon by the ruling classes for whom religion has always been a convenient cover for their activities and a way of fooling the masses.
As for the Pope’s most despicable remarks associating the rise of Nazi Germany and the subsequent Holocaust with atheism, this is a distortion of history with few parallels. It’s not as if the Vatican has clean hands when it comes to fascism and the persecution of the Jews.
The Catholic Church stood four square with General Franco in the Spanish Civil War and had the friendliest of relations with Benito Mussolini in Italy. A treaty was signed between Pope Pius XI and Mussolini, and the Vatican condoned Italy’s genocidal war in Ethiopia. During World War II, Pope Pius XII was on friendly terms with Berlin and the Vatican never spoke out or acted against the murder of 6 million Jews.
The papacy is also on the defensive as scientists continue to deliver blows against divine creation in favour of a materialist explanation of the origins of the universe. Physicist Stephen Hawking insists in his new book that God was not responsible for creating the universe.
In Grand Design, Hawking says: “Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist.”
But Hawking and other scientists like Richard Dawkins tend to undermine themselves by rejecting philosophy in favour of science as a way of explaining social phenomena. It is a profound mistake to assert that the two are identical.
A grounded materialist philosophy that starts from the external world as the source of development and consciousness (including the idea of a God) is absolutely key to the future. It can reveal the contradictions within capitalism that create the conditions for another Big Bang – on this occasion the formation of a society based on co-operation and self-determination in place of competition, profit and despair.