The Pope has just retired. The news has received a mixed reception. Myself, I don’t know. To me, the Pope wasn’t a very impressive person. To me, he hasn’t adequately answered the question, why did he join the Hitler Youth? His answer seems to have been that he had no choice. But that is not true. Lots of German children didn’t join the Hitler Youth.
The claim to be infallible is very strange. It makes all sorts of assumptions. It seems to make the claim that he is above normal human weaknesses. Pope Benedict has never explained why he joined the Hitler Youth nor has the organisation which is the Papacy ever explained why they chose someone who used to be in the Hitler Youth. He claims that he had no choice but lots of Germans didn’t officially join the organisations of the Nazi party. Most Germans didn’t agree with Hitler. If it is true that God chose someone infallible that element of infallibility would include not joining the Nazi party.
The Pope is seriously unwell with this ailment & that but normally the Pope does die in situ. The entire idea of the Papacy is outdated. Mostly the Pope’s encyclicals are ignored. I think people see through organised religion; it is seen by most people as nothing more than a power structure & a way of controlling people.
Why he has retired seems to be a bit of mystery. It may be true that his health or lack of is such that he is unable to carry on. But what actually does he have to do except appear on the balcony & bless the assembly in the square below? The last Pope did a fair amount of travelling but there is no reason why that should continue. There used to be the quite ridiculous sight of the Pope stepping off an aeroplane in this country or that & then kissing the ground. I hope we will be spared that, in the future.
The question arises, does religion have a role in modern society? It is hard to say. In the Uk, probably not.
But religion is so much more than belief. It is culture tradition, art & music. Moral education is based on religion. Religion is an ideology but it is so much more.
Most people in the uk say they are CofE. They always have said this. Most people describe themselves as monarchists (apparently) But how many people actually believe in God is hard to guess. Possibly most people do, at least some of the time. I mean does the Pope, the German who has just stepped down, does he believe in God? When he was in the Hitler youth, did he believe in whatever it was he was expected to believe? I mean, as we go through life, we, all of us, change our views about all sorts of things.
Politicians are often excoriated for changing their views. They shouldn’t be. It is only human to change your views.
I have changed my views on many things many times. I have had lots of different interests in my life.
I have had lots of phases in my life, I am sure there have been constants. I am the same person I suppose. We are what we are in terms of our DNA & our experiences. There is much that we can do to change; we go through many changes. But we are what we are.
We live in a pluralistic society where open debate is encouraged. People should be encouraged to change their views, particularly in the light of evidence, new evidence or evidence they have just come across.
We do believe in tradition, even if that tradition doesn’t stretch back very far. Apart from various hard to believe beliefs, much music & art has emanated from religion.
I was surprised to read that Angela Merkel believed in God. It is said that in the DDR she was a star pupil. Her father was some kind of religious minister but even so coming from a modern Western society, it does seem surprising.
I like her. She seems like a good person. I may be wrong. Obviously I don’t know what is going on in her head & her psyche. But she seems like a good person. She has ended Germany’s nuclear programme & seems like a reconciliatory person.
All in all, there is something to be said for religion which many secularists (of which I am one) do not admit. After all it is surely better to teach children moral education through religion than it is to hit them.
Religion is part of the fabric of society, part of the culture. Many non-believers do get married in church, most funerals are religious even though most of the dearly departed are non-believers. There is good religion & there is bad religion. Religion can be supportive & it can be civilised. It can be beautiful. Some of the rituals of the church penetrate into the collective unconscious.
Russia is a case in point. In the Soviet Union religious people were prevented from being religious. Priests & others were sent to the gulag for years. If they survived the ordeal… they were lucky. On the whole after years of such hardship & near death they saw the error of their ways & fell into line. But anyway that is not my point. My point is that before the revolution on 1917, Russia called itself Holy Russia. It did so again during what we in the West called the World War II & in the Soviet Union was called the Great Patriotic War. After reverting to being officially atheist after the war Russia is again Holy Russia – officially at least. The present leader of Russia, Putin, espouses religion. It is said that after the collapse of communism he was looking for an ideology with which to control the population & hit upon religion. So that part of the Soviet Union called Russia has reverted to being Holy Russia. Putin, apparently thanked God that the meteor which has landed in the Urals didn’t land in a heavily populated area. Presumably he thinks people will be taken in by this.
The problem with discussing religion is that much of its doctrine simply isn’t true. But that doesn’t mean it has no value. We believe in all sorts of things which aren’t true.
We are asked to be patriotic. Though, goodness knows why. To me it is obvious that your place of birth is sheer accident. Indeed your birth itself is sheer accident. How can you be proud of something which is nothing to do with you? I am grateful to be born British because of all the freedoms we enjoy. I think we are, in spite of all our imperfections as a country, hugely civilised. I am not proud of it; just grateful. As Dr Johnson said, patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.