US Catholic Faith in Real Life

A nuncio to non-believers?

Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

The Vatican may not yet have an ambassador to atheists and agnostics, but perhaps that will change after Pope Benedict XVI visits the United Kingdom in September. According to All Headline News, the pope will meet with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who is an atheist, as well as MP Harriet Harman, who wrote the U.K.'s Equality Act, which provided protections for LGBT citizens that the country's Catholic bishops felt infringed on church teaching.

This is a bit of a non-news story--papal visits often include political meetings of this type--but it is interesting in that it comes on the heels of the creation of a new Vatican office for the re-evangelization of former Christian strongholds that are now highly secularized.

If the pope does intend to meet with agnostics and atheists because of their position on the existence of God, all the better. I for one think they are telling believers something important: First, that the way we believers talk about faith in God is not compelling to a large number of people, and second, that something about the way religious people behave is turning people away from faith. Some may find celebrity atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens unpleasant, but that doesn't mean they aren't saying something worth hearing.

Of course, if the pope wanted to make headlines, all he'd have to do is invite Christopher Hitchens to a public exchange of ideas. I doubt either would convince the other, but hearing two really smart people debate religion and God would at least be entertaining, though Hitchens, a master of the one-liner, would probably have an advantage on the pope, who after all speaks English as a second language.

And then there's the fact that Hitchens hasn't had very nice things to say about the pope, even suggesting that he be arrested when he arrives in the U.K.