The ruler and figurehead of the Roman Catholic Church really knows how to come out swinging. The United Kingdom’s increasingly secular society is a great threat to the success of his religion there, and so he starts his visit to the UK with this gem:
Pope Benedict XVI urged the UK to resist “more aggressive forms of secularism” .
He said: “We can recall how Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews.
“As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the 20th century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society,” he added.
“May it [Britain] always maintain its respect for those traditional values and cultural expressions that more aggressive forms of secularism no longer value or even tolerate,” he said.
By “aggressive,” I think he means secularists who don’t just sit back and accept the influence and rules of religion on the laws, standards, and traditions of their country.
Terms like “neo-atheists” and “atheist extremism” are thrown around like insulting buzzwords within the religious community. Those of us who speak up against religion and confront the theology and doctrines with which we disagree are seen as a menace, a group without morals, and apparently the same desires for society as the Nazi party. These insulting words are carefully crafted to make atheists with opinions seem like fringe groups with violent, anti-societal agendas. I have my own views on “militant” and “extremist” atheists. We’re really not worth the propagandized vocabulary.
In response to the pontiff’s slight against secularism, the British Humanist Association said:
“The notion that it was the atheism of Nazis that led to their extremist and hateful views or that it somehow fuels intolerance in Britain today is a terrible libel against those who do not believe in God.
“The notion that it is non-religious people in the UK today who want to force their views on others, coming from a man whose organisation exerts itself internationally to impose its narrow and exclusive form of morality and undermine the human rights of women, children, gay people and many others, is surreal.”
If any of us is “extreme,” I’d say it’s the Roman Catholic Church.
(Thanks for the tip @Fargough)
EDIT: Pharyngula posted a long list of quotes by Hitler that apply to this papal insult. Check it out.