Printed in the Independent:
I am writing to express my outrage at the Pope's Holyroodhouse speech in Edinburgh. This speech was a slander on modern Britain. I refer chiefly to the Pope's description of Nazi Germany and the British resistance, with its references to "how Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live" and "the sobering of the atheist extremism of the 20th century".
Hitler's political philosophy was not based upon atheism and had no connection with atheism. Hitler was nominally a Roman Catholic. He enjoyed the open support of many of the most senior Catholic clergy in Germany and his birthday was celebrated until his death by Vatican mandate.
Even if Hitler had been an atheist, the rank-and-file Germans who carried out the extirpation of the Jews were almost all Christians, primed to their anti-Semitism by centuries of Catholic propaganda about "Christ-killers" as well as by Martin Luther's seething hatred of Jews.
Britain's secular, not necessarily atheist, modern culture should be maintained, not slandered with veiled allegation of Nazism.
The debunking of this myth:
Hitler was an atheist, had as much tolerance for Christianity as some contemporary wags, he strove for an atheist state, did not enjoy the support of the Church, which he persecuted(let's not forget the rescue of the Jews), killed nuns and priests and the Pope never tarred all atheists as Nazis. The attempt to distance oneself from atheism/Nazism is transparently self-conscious.
Conclusion: simply because British people sound posh, it doesn't necessarily mean they are clever. What gives the United Kingdom (particularly England) the right to criticise anyone about anything? Don't forget that the UK's official religion is Anglicanism (founded by wife-hating Henry VIII), that it is ruled by German cousins (don't forget the abdication of the Nazi-loving Edward is the reason why Elizabeth II is now cheating her cloth-eared son, Charles, out of the throne), that they invaded Ireland and India because they could no longer abide eating boiled toast, that all their best writers and poets had distinct memories of tuberculosis and there are two seasons- damp and damper. The martyrs of the British Isles and the victims of the Amritsar massacre were right- replacing God with power, cruelty and bitterness sucks. The pretense that one doesn't need a higher power to be a good person is shattered when one sees that arrogance and beastliness are the substitutes. The generation that did matter- the one that fought the Nazis with courage and conviction- wouldn't recognise the Great Britain that now fears its restive Muslim population. If Cromwell's burning the church at Drogheda doesn't bother Britons, then a firmer hand in dealing with nutcase terrorists who kill innocent passengers on their way to work should be a breeze.
Come on, Britain. I thought you didn't like religiosity.
Or would rather they didn't threaten to kill you?
Related- Pope Benedict XVI was talking about Nazis, not Richard Dawkins (because British atheists have reading comprehension problems):
We're not used to Germans coming here to talk about the war, so many people have jumped to entirely the wrong conclusion about Pope Benedict's attack on atheist extremism. He didn't mean us. He didn't even mean Richard Dawkins. He was talking about the Nazis, who, he said "wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live."
The atheist tyrannies of the 20th century did kill millions of people, many of them for their Christian beliefs. For Benedict, that is one of the main lessons of modern history. He seems never to have appreciated the horrors of Spanish-speaking and notionally Catholic fascisms in the same visceral way. The restoration of decent government in Germany was accomplished in his lifetime by Christian Democrat politicians; the fall of the Berlin Wall might not have happened so quickly without the pressure exerted by Pope John Paul II.
The slow civilising of the barbarians after the fall of the Roman empire was, he believes, accomplished by the church: "Your forefathers' respect for truth and justice, for mercy and charity, come to you from a faith that remains a mighty force for good in your kingdom, to the great benefit of Christians and non-Christians alike."
For him, a nation that turns away from God entirely has nothing to keep it from treating people as disposable means, rather than ends in themselves. The liberal appeal to reason, to choice, and to human rights doesn't go far enough. He believes in all three, but he thinks they must be derived from something else. That something else was once generally understood to be Christianity. If that is no longer true, Benedict believes we are all shrunken and impoverished: "Let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus to a 'reductive vision of the person and his destiny'."
So he believes that what gave Britain the strength to resist nazism was its long Christian heritage, in which the powerful and effective were animated by their faith. The two saints he name checked in his opening address were a king of England, Edward the Confessor, and a queen of Scotland, Saint Margaret. But the three 19th-century Christians, one diplomatically a Scot, were all Protestants: William Wilberforce, Florence Nightingale, and David Livingstone. All would have been shocked to see a pope of Rome received in state by the Queen.
But it is not their successors who are jumping up and down and shouting now. It is the representatives of what he calls "the more aggressive forms of secularism" which "no longer value or even tolerate … the traditional values and cultural expressions [of Christianity]". It is difficult to judge to what extent this is a large-scale movement. The astonishing variety and force of invective thrown at the pope and his church in much of the media over the last week must certainly, some of it, come from people who would like to drive religious faith out of public life.
Defensive much, atheists?
Dawkins is not credible (well, duh!):
The motley gang of people writing to protest about the Pope's visit are not protesting just about the Pope. Even if they don't say so, they are protesting about religion in general. And many of them are not merely anti-religion, they are anti anything to do with the supernatural. They passionately want to believe that there is absolutely nothing in the world that cannot be scientifically explained.
This can become a bit of an obsession with some of them, as I have observed in the case of one of the anti-Pope protestors, Dr Jonathan Miller, whom I have listened to on the subject on more than one occasion.
But it applies in particular to the chief spokesman of the anti-Pope faction, Professor Richard Dawkins, who made a series of TV programmes recently not just to attack Christianity but to discredit all paranormal phenomena – telepathy, faith healing, even such ancient practices as water divining.
Rather than attacking Dawkins, the Pope and all his followers ought to encourage him, because his attacks are so intemperate, so ill-informed, that he gives atheism a bad name whilst reinforcing the faith of doubters and possibly even making converts to the church.
If the atheists hope to progress, they will have to silence Dawkins and find a more rational spokesman. And it will have to be someone other than Stephen Fry.
G.K. Chesterton said:
"If there were no God, there would be no atheists."
"There are those who hate Christianity and call their hatred an all-embracing love for all religions."
"The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man."
"These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own."
It's not enough that the atheists and anti-Catholics hang onto to discord. They look down on others. They conclude (for whatever reason) that they are on the general course of inquiry even though they expect the answer to be nothing and that adherents to any religion are mindless tools clinging on to superstition. The arrogance and ignorance of it all is astounding. They say there is no god. Okay. Where is their proof? None. I see. They are inquiring. What do they expect to find? Nothing. Right. So- the reason for their snobbery is...? Quite simply, it is not dissimilar from any brand of elitism and bigotry (yes, bigotry). I've met agnostics and atheists who weren't at all total cretins who pretended to a superior intelligence. They were very nice people. I am talking about the Dawkins, the Hitchens, the sad, little atheistic anti-Christians (because none of them have the guts to face the more "upfront" religionists) whose penchant for looking down their noses makes them feel high and mighty. Because they adhere to no belief (or claim to), they think they've escaped from some childish state. Is it childish to be moved by faith or love? Nothing moves them- at least nothing pleasant.