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Earth to Francis: Heal yourself

As regular readers know, I’m not a big Pope Francis fan. He’s better than his recent competition, but that’s not saying much. Anyway, this sort of set my head spinning in disbelief:

Havana (AP) — Pope Francis met with Fidel Castro on Sunday after urging thousands of Cubans to serve one another and not an ideology, delivering a subtle jab at the communist system during a Mass celebrated under the gaze of an image of Che Guevara in Havana’s iconic Revolution Plaza

In his homily delivered under the gaze of a metal portrait of revolutionary fighter Che Guevara, Francis urged Cubans to care for one another out of a sense of service, not ideology. He encouraged them to refrain from judging each other by “looking to one side or the other to see what our neighbor is doing or not doing.”

“Whoever wishes to be great must serve others, not be served by others,” he said. “Service is never ideological, for we do not serve ideas, we serve people.”

via Pope meets Fidel Castro after warning against ideology, from The New London Day

Now, I don’t hold any brief for Cuba’s brand of communism, though it has its merits (see below), but, as Arlo Guthrie might say, the Pope “has a lotta damn gall” to tell anyone that they shouldn’t serve an ideology.

Assuming the word he used was accurately translated, I would assert that among the three definitions of the word in my Merriam Webster Unabridged, this is the applicable definition:

c 1) the integrated assertions, theories and aims that constitute a sociopolitical program;
2) an extremist sociopolitical program or philosophy constructed wholly or in part on factitious or hypothetical ideational bases.

To save a trip to the dictionary, factitious means “artificially created or developed”. So, I would submit that the Pope is skating on virtually non-existent ice here.

As Randy Newman once so brilliantly wrote (the devil is talking to god in this quote), the Judeo-Christian religion was cooked up by:

Some fools in the desert
With nothing else to do
So scared of the dark
They didn’t know if they were coming or going
So they invented me
And they invented you
And other fools will keep it all going

One could argue that those fools in the desert were Old Testament Jews, but the inventions only multiplied when the Christians come along. The Catholic Church teaches that Jesus Christ was born to a virgin who was inseminated by God (see numerous similar myths in almost all religions, ancient and modern). This person died and came back to life. His followers can turn bread and wine into his body and blood, which they then proceed to cannibalize, which is supposed to be a good thing. Even in the books they claim were inspired by their hypothetical god, there is very little support for the last of these “facts”, and the mind rebels against the rest of them. Needless to say, outside of the collected myths of Christianity, there is no evidence that any of these statements are true, anymore than there is truth to Zeus’s fling with Europa. And I’ve but scratched the surface of the factitious and hypothetical bases upon which the church is built.

The only reason that “ideology” is not a synonym for “faith”, is that religion is not considered “sociopolitical”, though if you’re a student of history, you know that religion is quite often used as a means of social control, so in that sense it’s as sociopolitical, and therefore as ideological, as communism or any other “ism” you want to name. There is one difference. Marx at least tried to make sense of reality and his analysis of the state of the society in which he lived was based on pretty good and incisive thinking. He drew his conclusions from actual facts. Those conclusions may not have all been correct, but he was certainly not basing his societal prescriptions on fairy tales.

Why is the Catholic Church anti-woman and homophobic? It’s not because its focus is on serving people rather than “serving ideas”. It is nothing more nor less than ideology that mandates that women must be excluded from the priesthood; that everyone must be denied birth control, that gay people must stay in the closet or else; or that people who led what anyone would call a good and honest life must nonetheless burn in hell because they failed to make a trip to Church each week or committed some other trivial act that the Church’s ideology has branded a “mortal sin”. It wasn’t long ago that Church ideology mandated a nice warm (well too warm) fire for anyone who happened to think that the earth moved. So far as I know, Fidel never roasted a single scientist, at least not for being a scientist.

If any “communist” country has worked out a social system that is reasonably fair to its people and somewhat consistent with theoretical communism, or at least socialism, it may be Cuba. Everyone there has decent health care, for instance, unlike one country (begins with the letter “U”) I can think of. Their educational system is very good, considering that it’s a poor country. Their poverty is as much a result of the hypocritical intransigence of the United States than in anything inherent in their system. Not perfect, but better than the 13th century, which is where we’d be if the Catholic Church had anything to say about it. So, listen Frank, I’m all for you talking about climate change, but really, you should remember what Jesus said:

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

For his penance, I hereby require the Pope to recite the Communist Manifesto five times and to make a sincere act of contrition.

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