#aweek11 continues and I’m late to a story about the Pope wanting to reach out to atheists:
The initiative, “Courtyard of the Gentiles,” refers to the area in the ancient Temple of Jerusalem that was reserved for nonbelievers who wanted to learn about Judaism. Pope Benedict XVI said in 2009 that he thought the Catholic Church should open a new “Courtyard of the Gentiles” so nonbelievers could get to know God.
Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, who heads the Vatican’s culture office, told a news conference Friday that the aim was not to convert nonbelievers. Rather, he said, it was to open a two-way dialogue, remove confusion and tackle existential questions like life and death, truth, love, good and evil.
He said he wasn’t hoping to engage what he called the more “aggressive, polemical, ironic and sarcastic” atheists who show no interest in getting to know the unknown. Noticeably absent on the list of panelists are the Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens of the world, with whom Ravasi sees little opening for dialogue.
Of course they aren’t going to invite the guys who can argue most effectively against the need to believe in deities. They want to lure in the skeptic wafflers who may still be reasoned (ha ha!) with. Dawkins and Hitchens want to know the unknown, but they want it figured it out via science, not just by shoehorning a god in where the question marks are and calling it sussed. That’s never going to be an acceptable answer to any question beyond “What doesn’t exist?”
He got the idea in 2009 after visiting the “highly atheist” Czech Republic, according to the article.
“To the dialogue with other religions we must add dialogue with those for whom religion is something unknown, for whom God is unknown and who nevertheless don’t want to remain without God but want to get closer to him at least as an unknown,” he said then.
While the initiative is not evangelical per se, Benedict has made re-evangelizing Europe a priority of his pontificate. He has frequently lamented that in an increasingly secular world, many people feel as if they can live without God.
The Courtyard event is running in Paris this Thursday and Friday. I wonder how the turnout will be. Personally, I think more people ought to be lamenting the continued belief that a god’s eye on you is required in order to live well and good and ethical lives. Secularism is not the enemy here. Hatred and intolerance are. Religions are still pushing dogma and traditions that deny many people the same rights others seem to get automatically, as if it’s a “birthright” or some damn thing. It’s ridiculous and backwards and troubling to see people wind up promoting the worst of these beliefs, especially while trying to advertise how “God is love!”