You might want to mark the date on your calendar, because what I’m about to tell you has never happened before, nor is it likely to ever happen again in our lifetimes. On May 22, 2013, Pope Francis, the leader of the Roman Catholic church, that skeevy nest of gold hoarding, child molesting… yes, that Roman church, said something that I completely agree with.
During his morning homily, which is the Catholic word for sermon, in case, like me, you happen to be unfamiliar with the term, Pope Francis said words to this effect: “Doing good” is a principle that unites all humanity, beyond the diversity of ideologies and religions, and creates the “culture of encounter” that is the foundation of peace.
Francis went on to say that everyone, including atheists, was saved by Jesus’ sacrifice.
[To]day’s Gospel speaks to us about the disciples who prevented a person from outside their group from doing good. “They complain,” the Pope said in his homily, because they say, “If he is not one of us, he cannot do good. If he is not of our party, he cannot do good.” And Jesus corrects them: “Do not hinder him, he says, let him do good.” The disciples, Pope Francis explains, “were a little intolerant,” closed off by the idea of possessing the truth, convinced that “those who do not have the truth, cannot do good.” “This was wrong . . . Jesus broadens the horizon.” Pope Francis said, “The root of this possibility of doing good – that we all have – is in creation”:
“The Lord created us in His image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and He does good and all of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us. ‘But, Father, this is not Catholic! He cannot do good.’ Yes, he can. He must. Not can: must! Because he has this commandment within him. Instead, this ‘closing off’ that imagines that those outside, everyone, cannot do good is a wall that leads to war and also to what some people throughout history have conceived of: killing in the name of God. That we can kill in the name of God. And that, simply, is blasphemy. To say that you can kill in the name of God is blasphemy.”
“Instead,” the Pope continued, “the Lord has created us in His image and likeness, and has given us this commandment in the depths of our heart: do good and do not do evil”:
“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all! And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”
“Doing good” the Pope explained, is not a matter of faith: “It is a duty…”
Admittedly, I’ve cut short the remainder of the last sentence above, because the rest of it goes off into theological fairy tales that regular visitors to this space already know I do not believe or accept in any way. Why add to the confusion that this post may already have caused simply because I’m writing it.
Seriously. Who would have ever imagined that one day I would publicly agree with a pope?
Certainly not me! The only part of Christianity that I agree with is that roughly 2,000 years ago, there may have lived a person or persons whose life and works closely resemble the teachings attributed to a Middle Eastern Jewish man named Josh. I do not believe that person was divine, was the son of a deity, had a virgin mother, or raised any persons from the dead, including himself.
I do believe it is probable that one or more persons probably did spread radical political and/or philosophical ideas that eventually gained enough of a following to represent a threat to civic or religious leaders of the day, and that said person(s) was publicly executed and quite possibly became a martyr of local legend, and whose persona and name were eventually adopted by self-serving individuals in the formation of a religion that has been mutating in similar fashion from that day to the present.
I consider myself to be a follower of the teachings of Jesus, as opposed to those of Paul of Tarsus or other apostles of the Christian church. Let me be perfectly clear, I am absolutely, unequivocally NOT a Christian; I do not believe in the Christ figure.
I sometimes study the teachings of Jesus, but I also sometimes study the teachings of Lao Tzu, Mohammad, numerous Buddhist thinkers ancient and contemporary, as well as philosophers, poets, novelists, artists, and many others. I take whatever I find that is useful, no matter the source, and put it to use as I best see fit to use it in my life. I am a human being striving to be the best human I can be, and I require no belief in any form of supernatural being or occult mythology to steer me right, keep me in line, or give me reason to behave one way or another.
In other words, once we get past the ‘do good’ part of the Pope’s message today, for me that’s as far as it goes, the rest of the discussion, for most people, devolves into discussions about saviors, sacrifice, sin, and salvation, all of which are utterly useless and irrelevant to me and many other unbelieving/alternative believing people in the world today.
The pope said that even atheists are good people, if they do good things, and basically told everyone to sit down, shut up, and stop worrying each other to death about differences of opinion between us. If we all behave like decent people and strive to do good things with our lives, the rest just doesn’t matter.
We’ll all end up dead someday, and until we cross that line in the cosmos ourselves no one among us can ever know what, if anything, happens next, and that’s the part of what Francis said today, May 22, 2013, that I will fully approve to the very end of my days.
Do good in the world, and while you’re at it, try to play nice and have fun as often as you can. The rest just personal taste, and that’s the way it ought be. Different strokes for different folks, right?
If we all lived by those three simple precepts, or at least tried to, the world would be a better place in a very short time.