Vatican reaches out to atheists – but not you, Richard Dawkins
The Vatican is planning a new initiative to reach out to atheists and agnostics in an attempt to improve the church's relationship with non-believers. Pope Benedict XVI has ordered officials to create a new foundation where atheists will be encouraged to meet and debate with some of the Catholic Church's top theologians.
The Vatican hopes to stage a series of debates in Paris next year. But militant non-believers hoping for a chance to set senior church figures straight about the existence of God are set to be disappointed: the church has warned that atheists with high public profiles such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens will not be invited.
.....The foundation, he said, would only be interested in "noble atheism or agnosticism, not the polemical kind – so not those atheists such as [Piergiorgio] Odifreddi in Italy, [Michel] Onfray in France, [Christopher] Hitchens and [Richard] Dawkins".
Such atheists, he added, only view the truth with "irony and sarcasm" and tend to "read religious texts like fundamentalists".
At bottom, I have to wonder about this "noble atheism." Do they just mean something like "polite"? Do they mean "non-critical"? Or do they mean "shame-faced, apologetic atheists who secretly wish the mean old world was a nicer place, too"?
I suspect the Church realizes that all atheists more or less reject the truth-claims of religion, but they want to be sure that their faith isn't actually called false, delusional, or (Heaven forbid!) actively dangerous, which are claims that the so-called "New Atheists" make. But I would think it entirely worse to come up against the soft bigotry of lowered expectations provided by a, shall I have to point it out? "condescending atheist."
You heard. After all, what they are looking for is a nice atheist to pour them a cup of tea and concede, "There, you are do-gooders, aren't you? We are thankless, the lot of us, for all you've done. And it's just so terrible how you have to shoulder the very serious business of dealing with God and all of that. By all means, tell us again how that nasty Mr. Hitler was really a non-believer, despite all of his public pronouncements to the contrary...." But at the end of the day, even the sweetest, tea-proffering atheist has to come down to the brass tacks of why they don't believe.
The lack of evidence. The way the universe falls together without the apparent need of a God. The way people can lose their faith without losing their ethical code. The way "revelation" is a shabby basis for anything ("Oh, it was 'revealed', you say?") The way "grace" and "epiphany" are so purely subjective as to be meaningless to someone who doesn't share them. And it should be clear that the atheist has decided not to hurt your feelings about all this but, "Thanks but no thanks, it's still a bit rubbish for me, personally. It's all right for you of course, if you need that sort of comfort and spiritual guidance and all. But, um, I'll pass."
Yeah. Condescending, isn't it? But so much less snarky!
As to the claim that the New Atheists "read the Bible like fundamentalists"--I'm working out how they expect anyone to know how to do otherwise? (Perhaps I say this as a person coming from a Protestant background....hm.) Are they claiming one needs to be theologian to pick out which bits are really, really true using arcane philosophy (ah, surely we've all heard of a la Descartes Catholics?) If faith comes as a personal grace, why is a spiritual Sherpa guide required?
Oh, so many questions. Oh, so much irony and sarcasm....