I like this pope, and it is not only because I’m an atheist. I grew up in a series of non-denominational churches, which means I pretty much have no idea what the hell Catholicism really is. My paternal grandmother was Catholic but I only met her a handful of times. I think there is something about praying to Mary, lots of candles with angels and stuff on them, and I’m pretty sure the Pope is infallible. I think they also are cool with My knowledge of “protestants” is just as vague because protestant Christians are like the colonies under the Articles of Confederation, they are more united by what they aren’t (Catholics) than what they are. I’ve been to Lutheran and Presbyterian churches (both chasing girls) and I always wondered where the electric guitar was and why their pastor wasn’t wearing jeans… I’m getting off topic, sorry about that.
I like this Pope because I think public discussion, debate, and disagreement is good for everyone, particularly when the subject is faith-based. There is a real danger when all leaders of a group agree on something, or at the very least they all publicly agree. Francis seems to be different (at least to this guy who knows nothing about Catholicism). He seems to disagree with prior Popes and even disagrees with his own assistants. I haven’t seen this much debate on my Facebook wall since I asked whether I should watch Harry Potter.
Individual members of any group do not hold a monopoly on understanding or the truth. Every person who subscribes to a belief or teaching or philosophy should take it upon themselves to become experts and question everything. That is something that I always found lacking in the church, the Bible studies and church services were too rigid and too “right or wrong answer”. The documents may be 2000 years old but you don’t need a degree in Theology to read them and try to digest them, but in reality that seems discouraged by the churches. I was told what to believe and if it didn’t make sense I was told to “have faith” and unanswerable questions (or those that defied current science) were chalked up to “the lord works in mysterious ways”.
We should all process new information and change our minds when necessary, even when it comes to matters of faith. This Pope seems more willing to do that, particularly when it comes to the complexities of human sexuality. Church lacks Socratic dalogue and bible studies too closely resemble elementary school arithmetic exams where the “teacher” knows the answer and anything that deviates is “wrong”. There are too many people who believe they have the correct answer so they stop processing knew information.
If there is a God surely that is not his intention, I agree with Galileo “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use and by some other means to give us knowledge which we can attain by them.” Even Proverbs 27:17 agrees, debate and discussion make us stronger, surely faith and intellect should not be allowed to rust because our leaders have told us (not taught us) the right answers. Pope Francis sparked debate inside and outside the Catholic community, and because of that I think he rocks.
Unrelated: If you haven’t seen the “True Facts” videos you should… here is one about owls and one about Morgan Freeman… and some music from my youth.