As a non-Catholic, I am a partial owner of the Pope’s institution, the Catholic Church. You see, in the country where I live, the United States, and many other countries as well, the Church receives enormous tax breaks because it is considered to be a non-for-profit organization. So in order for governments to try to raise sufficient revenue to cover their expenses, each of us must pay additional taxes to make up for the shortfall that occurs as a result of the tax breaks given to the Catholic church, as well as many other religious organizations.
In the United States, and certainly in other countries, the changing of the guard for a Pope is treated by the mainstream media as a story of universal interest. It may be because the Catholic Church is one of the largest religious denominations in the country, because it is rich in history and pageantry, and because it mandates positions on numerous public issues, positions that those in its flock may or may not choose to follow.
When a new Pope is chosen, mainstream media interviews countless Catholics. The interviewees may be “ordinary Catholics,” priests, nuns, bishops, arch-bishops, or cardinals. Invariably they express their joy over the selection of the new titular head of the Church and send their best wishes and prayers.
But what about those of us in the three-quarters of the U.S. population who are not Catholic? Is the media at all interested in what we have to say? Apparently not, because we seem to never be interviewed. Yet we have thoughts about the Pope, and quite frankly it is important for others to hear what we have to say. Many of us think that the postulates of the Catholic Church are not particularly fact-laden, and the stories that form the basis of its theology seem a bit out of science fiction.
So just to go on the record, I’m going to interview myself about what I think of the selection of Pope Francis.
Q: What do you think of the election of Pope Francis?
A: He looks younger than his age. Perhaps he’s more attuned to the world as it is in 2013 than how it was two millennia ago.
Q: Is there anything that he has said or done that particularly impresses you?
A: Yes. He’s expressed a real commitment to helping the world’s poor and he is comfortable living a modest lifestyle. If there was a person named Jesus and he truly cared for the poor, then Pope Francis is a good spokesperson. I don’t get the thing about washing other people’s feet, but if you’re going to do it, then the fact that he included women, one of whom is a Muslim, reveals a true sense of fairness. I know that pissed off some of his conservative followers, but that just seems to make it more impressive.
Q: What about the fact that he is ardently opposed to a woman’s right to choose and has said nothing in support of LGBT rights?
A: He’s the. pope. There’s only so much that we can hope to get from him.
Q: You purport to be an agnostic. Through that lens, how do you feel about the pope?
A: To me the Catholic Church has always been a curiosity. Like other religions, Catholicism seems to have some very peculiar beliefs and rituals. It strikes me that its connection with reason and logic is primarily coincidental. I don’t understand why those who want to reform the Church don’t simply leave and either join another religious community where they are comfortable, start their own religion, or bag religion altogether.
Q: Um, I think that I’m going to have to stop this interview; your most recent pronouncements are so out of touch with the beliefs of our mainstream audience that I have to pull the plug.
I’m truly sorry that the mainstream media has such an aversion to hearing from non-religious people about religious, or better yet, spiritual, matters. If agnostics and atheists received more coverage, perhaps we could provide some needed fresh perspectives to our collective body of knowledge. And perhaps we could provide some laughs for Catholics and other seriously religious people. I don’t know this pope, but I think that he might have to get a new set of friends to have some good laughs.
Since 1969, Arthur Lieber has been teaching and working in non-profit educational organizations. His focus has been on promoting critical, creative, and enjoyable learning for students in informal settings. In the 2010 mid-term elections, he was the Democratic nominee for US Congress from Missouri’s 2nd Congressional District.