Monday, April 11, 2005

If God Will Send His Angels

I purposely didn't write about the pope because I was, and still am, incapable of succinctly recording my feelings about the man. I have a natural impulse to become indignant when reading various atheist / left-wing critiques of Pope John Paul II and his papacy. But I do accept that, as the leader of the world's largest monotheistic faith, John Paul II made decisions that led to a great deal of suffering for a large number of people. The most obvious and visible has been the abject failure of the Church to deal with the child-rape / paedophilia crisis that has engulfed the church in the last 15 years. There are arguments about his true political motives too, but, to be honest, when considering the activities of such a vast global organisation it's just too hard to know the truth.

One of the loudest criticisms levelled at the church today is its "responsibility" for exacerbating the AIDS crisis in Africa because of its opposition to the use of condoms. Now I'm open to correction here, but does the church not also teach abstinence before marriage and fidelity to your spouse until death do you part? If people actually lived that way then isn't it reasonable to hypothesise that AIDS would not be anything like the epidemic that it is? If people choose not to live their lives that way (I don't) then is it fair to cherry-pick one aspect of Catholic doctrine and hold it responsible for the epidemic? Perhaps the church has aggressively restricted the availability of condoms in areas but does that really explain the explosion of AIDS in Africa? It certainly doesn't explain the AIDS crisis currently gripping Russia.

Personally I'm agnostic, in that I accept that the existence of God can neither be proved nor disproved and that religious belief, therefore, is blind faith. I choose to believe because it makes life that bit easier to live. For example, if I only have a finite existence, why waste my time doing... well, anything? I often wonder what would be the result if all the people of the world were to become atheist? Anarchy, rampant individualism / survival of the fittest and state repression of unimaginable proportions IMHO. However I certainly believe that the Catholicism of my childhood - "Do onto others..."; "Love one another..."; the God of love, peace and forgiveness - has taught me to be the person I profess to be today. I don't believe that any value system can be derived from Atheism. So I often wonder why the Church feels the need to divert from the core teachings of the gospels.

When I was a kid I read something, somewhere, that asked why the Churches should be expected to change their teachings in order to fit better with modern living. That point has stuck with me. You either accept Church teachings or you don't - how can it be a pick and mix? I don't pretend to live according to all Catholic doctrine so I no longer pretend that I'm a practicing Catholic. That doesn't mean I can't respect Catholic teaching that I have chosen to ignore. If the church were to return to a simple message of peace and charity, respect for life and respect for one's fellow man, they could well find an audience among those who increasingly realise that affluence does not automatically bring happiness and fulfillment.
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