Vatican reaches out to atheists - but not to Dawkins or Hitchens.

May 31, 2010

The Vatican is planning a new initiative to reach out to atheists and agnostics in an attempt to improve the church's relationship with non-believers. Pope Benedict XVI has ordered officials to create a new foundation where atheists will be encouraged to meet and debate with some of the Catholic Church's top theologians. Read the article here.

The way I see it, they've watched the Intelligence square debate from last year and are scared shitless of Hitchens (and Dawkins). In an interview Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi says "Such atheists only view the truth with "irony and sarcasm" and tend to "read religious texts like fundamentalists".
Don't know whether to laugh or cry? I think I'll do the crying bit first and then have a good laugh.


Anonymous said...

I actually think this is potentially exciting. One of my problems with the "New Athesists" is that they formulate their arguments against religion by either using a particular brand of American Evangelism as their straw man, or conflating religion with culture/politics/society. The recent spate of books have felt more like pop culture than serious thought.

I'm not unsympathetic to the position, but witnessing debates with catholic theological scholars rather than beating up on the likes of Jerry Falwell is likely to be more substantive and more satisfying. At least catholicism encourages rationality and free-thought.

Tom said...

The rhetoric used by atheists today is different than before but if a believer tells me that I'll burn in hell, I don't see why I should be soft spoken in my counter argument.

Anonymous said...

I didn't suggest anyone should be soft spoken. And I have no problem with outright dismissal of the kind of nonsense that many atheists today rightly dismiss. Nor do I wish to say that there are no substantive arguments being made. I suppose my point is that modern atheists seem to engage in a political war rather than a theological one. I have no problem with vociferous opposition to theocracy or the perverted political aspirations that run amuck in conservative america. On these fronts, modern atheism is right on target.

Maybe I'm projecting my own interests in philosophy where they don't belong, but I'd rather see debates touching on theological conceptions of God besides the "bearded man in the sky" favored by fundamentalists. Brilliant minds have been considering the question of God for hundreds of years, and modern atheism is surprisingly quiet on more serious conceptions of God. Dawkins even twists well-founded arguments FOR the existence of God as arguments AGAINST, without mention that he's dug himself into a rational hole. It beings to feel more like rhetoric than argument.

Either way - I'm excited to see what comes of these debates, and hope that they are substantive.

Tom said...

I also hope but I don't think they can produce good debates because it's their initiative and they get to carefully choose the opposition. It's words like "nobel atheism" and "not the polemical kind" that makes me think of this as just a friendly discussion among friends without any elements of a debate. (I still think the 2009 debate plays a role in this.)

The complaint the Archbishop made about atheists reading religious texts like fundamentalists is a laugh. Is it the word of God or is it not? It just shows that they don't believe the texts themselves.

I don't mind the philosophical debates but if they're too 'deep' one tends to lose focus. I think many people feel the same because as we all know, philosophers can't talk normally.

Anonymous said...

Catholicism encouraging rationality and free-thought? That is a laugh.

Anonymous said...

Can you blame them? Hitchens especially is not here to seek truth. He is engulfed so completely in his ego that is only goal is conflict and hostility. Why would anyone want to start a 'conversation' with this man when it is clear that it will only quickly devolve into his rude childish behavior as do all of his conversations with people that don't share his point of view. The man is a detriment to the rational movement which would explain all of his air time on Fox news.

Mike said...

The pope on Atheists:
"They do not want to see themselves (...) give up their freedom of thought and will"

You got that right Popey!


Christopher reads from Hitch-22: A Memoir