apparently i'm not the only one who has noticed.  so what's going on here?  i don't think he wants to win us back to the faith.  i think he relates better to us than he does his own followers.  he has condemned most of what current Christianity is all about.  yet over and over again he calls to us.  why might that be?

his followers are largely intolerant, dogmatic, and indifferent to the needs of the poor.  meanwhile, pews are empty and the flock has been leaving the pasture.  young people in particular are turned off to what the Christian religion has to offer.  any sane and smart person would recognize the need for change given the current landscape.  

so who can best support his mission?  certainly not the current flock.  they are so far gone from what their religion supposedly teaches that it will take a generation to bring them back.  but atheists - well, we despise what the church is about and so does the Pope.  while we may differ in our thoughts on heavenly beings, we share many of the same values.  

so here's what i'm thinking.  while Francis has several goals for his Papacy. his number one goal is to do something about income inequality and to help the poor.  frankly, i don't think he cares where the support comes from.  if he is indeed a smart man, he no doubt recognizes that we are a growing demographic that will only get bigger.  we also tend to hold humanistic views which aren't so incompatible with the traditional Christian teachings.  why not align yourself with a group that can help advance your agenda, even if it is people who don't believe in God.  

ok, so i know that most of you are deeply skeptical of the Pope.  and i know that i'm A/N's chief Papal rah rah guy.  my opinion is that the guy doesn't give two shits about all the religious crapola that most Christians hold dear.  i think he's on a mission to make the world a better, more rational place.  as we are.  if i'm wrong we'll know in time.  for now, Pope Francis is asking, over and over again, for us to join him in a mission that most of us share.  i think it's one of the most surprising developments that i've seen in my lifetime.  

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that's funny! So what does that mean ? That we can have atheist pedophiles in the church? OMg!

Let us not forget the murder and torture the catholic church put upon atheist not that long ago in the past........a resurgence of the catholic church? Screw that! How about a resurgence of humanism across the board......

This current pope and his statements sure are interesting to say the least.  For centuries popes have been the definitive mouthpiece that represents the unified voice of their flock and the church.  Increasingly during the 20th and 21st centuries, the flock has strayed away from the dogmatic rules of the church and they have developed their own values based on modern ideals.  This has led to the current rift in the church whereas the majority of the flock desires to progressively evolve while the official patriarchal voice of the church, via the pope, is unchanging and seen as being out of touch. 

Pope Francis is quite different.  He has reversed the roles of the flock and the church hierarchy.  He seems to have adopted the notion of, "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em."  He has jumped ship from the rigidness of ancient church dogma to the egalitarian qualities of humanism.  Through his words and actions Pope Francis appears to be now primarily voicing the will of his flock ahead of the set-in-stone rules of the official church.  How this will end up playing out is a mystery to us all until it happens.  We've already seen traditionalists and fundamentalists crying foul. 

I'm most interested in seeing how far Francis desires to move the boundaries and how he will handle any opposition.  Quite frankly I'm not too optimistic.  Francis has already stated his resistance of letting priests marry and for letting women be ordained.  I believe both these concepts are highly supported by a majority of Catholics.  Francis is limited in what he can do to broaden the appeal of the Catholic Church before he hits the brick wall of current societal values, modern science, and the increasing trend of disbelief in god. 

That's a very interesting and insightful take on it. I tend to think it's not quite that well-intentioned, skeptic that I am. I suspect that it's a way to get people back into the church, but for financial reasons mostly. "Progressive Vatican" is an oxymoron.

My dream is to see local churches become secular community centers, places people could go to hear lectures about the human experience, interact with neighbors, help those in need, acknowledge the seasonal changes and celebrate milestones. Seems like the church exploits these basic human needs for their own purposes.


Hear, hear! Such "unchurches" would offer a great deal, without the superstitions.

The "web ebook" Why Won't God Heal Amputees? has some thoughts on the future of churches:

What is a church? It is a community of people who agree to get together regularly, help one another and share in each other's company. A church also helps people to focus on the general concept of goodness once a week [...] In addition, many churches have an outreach component. [...]

Once you remove the imaginary being -- who, remember, was never there to begin with -- along with the book written by primitive men that advocates murder and hatred -- do churches suddenly vanish? I don't think that is necessarily the case. In fact, it probably makes things better. Removing delusion is a good thing, not a bad thing.

A thriving church community can be an amazing thing. But it is the people who make that happen, not any imaginary being. [...] church attendance may actually go up, because a strong church has a lot to offer.

"church attendance may actually go up, because a strong church has a lot to offer."

Like what? heaven? hell? community? guide to morals and ethics? celebratory events? historical figures?

What do I want a church to accomplish? Well, first of all, a community of people who work together to overcome challenges too big for individuals to take on; i.e. world hunger, greed, colonialism, exploitation, manipulation, tyranny, dominionism, stuff like that. 

Christine, I see you're new here.  Welcome!!  It's great to have another voice in the choir. 

I do see Pope Francis attempting to reach out to a diverse group of people and offering an olive branch to those who have been shunned or disillusioned by the church.  For that, I give him credit.  But like you, I am skeptical that any meaningful, large-scale change can take place to win people over in the long run.  So many ideals of our modern world are at complete odds with core doctrine of the Catholic Church.  As well-intentioned as Francis may be to make changes, he has an out-dated ancient holy book and unwavering Vatican rules that stand in his way.  

I grew up Protestant, so my statements above are just an 'outsiders' view of the situation.  Perhaps ex-Catholics here may be able to explain what would need to happen for seismic changes to occur. 

Thanks, I feel welcome already! Been ranting on other forums whenever the topic comes up. Tried a couple other atheist websites, but couldn't sign on or post much after signing on for some reason.

As an ex-catholic, I think that Francis is pretty much what they need right now. But I don't think he's a rebel pope; just a carefully chosen one, with a script that's spelled out for him. They need to get those who felt shunned back into the fold.

From there......dunno, I suspect that catholics will feel eager to "fix" them and make them all better, mostly out of habit, forgetting that the new Vatican now *allows* the nonbelievers and gays etc.

It's funny, non-belief is the unforgivable sin. Turning your back on Jesus means doing so permanently- you go to hell even if you come crawling back. But Francis is in fact God's spokesman here on Earth, hence massive amounts of cognitive dissonance.......

I agree with your observation that there may be a script that the pope is following, but my suspicion is that it's meant to help rehabilitate the churches image more so than a genuine turning of the page. My pessimistic, suspicious mind looks at the fact that you have the first pope in how many hundreds of years step down, only to be followed by a pope that is able to generate more mass appeal. In the wake of all of the clergy abuse scandals it would make sense to take a "softer / gentler" approach and maybe win back some of the followers who have drifted away. There's no way the previous pope could have changed his direction in such an abrupt manner, so the best thing would be for him to step aside and let his successor lead the church in a new direction.

very astute observations, Brian.  i'm sure that's where a lot of the skepticism is coming from.  and it may be appropriate, who knows??

Welcome Christine.

I can agree with part of what the pope is doing is in line with what I want to have happen. The place that is the deal breaker is the refusal to actively teach family planning and the use of contraceptives and abortion as the mother needs or desires these options. Until and unless he can actively support this, he will always be someone with whom I disagree and will challenge.

Someone wrote that he is encouraging women priests ... I won't hold my breath. As to women popes, we all know what happened to the first woman pope and I am not so sure it would not happen again, in spite of his supposed endorsement. 

As long as there is a male christ figure, as long as there is a male god figure, women will always be held to a different standard than men. When god is female, there might be some reason to think the church can be inclusive of all human beings. I do not plan to hold my breath. 


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