Pope Benedict may have faith in his god, but appears to have none in humanity. In his encyclical Spe Salvi (Saved by Hope) released on Friday he says “A world which has to create its own justice is a world without hope.” That for humanity to establish justice is “both presumptuous and intrinsically false.” Even “a world which has to create its own justice is a world without hope.”
The human hope for justice
Justice is a human construct. Every system of justice, past and present, has been created by mankind. Every future one will be.
Human history gives many examples of injustice and oppression in the name of justice (often linked with the name of God). But we are an intelligent species, capable of learning from mistakes. Capable of working to build societies and ethical systems aimed at providing better and more democratic justice.
Let’s face it – if we don’t create our own justice, no one else will!
I suppose we should expect that a major statement from the Pope should express Christian chauvinism. But this chauvinism doesn’t provide any real leadership to either Christians or the many people of other beliefs. To declare “man needs God, otherwise he remains without hope” ignores realities.
We all have hopes and aspirations, whatever, our religious beliefs. We all have human rights and responsibilities, whatever our beliefs. And today we live in a pluralist society. Any attempt to provide human rights and justice must recognise this.
It may be in our nature to look for differences, to divide our fellow humans into “them” and “us.” This has been, and still is, a major problem. But our evolution has also provided us with a brain enabling us to empathise and reason. We are capable of overcoming the “them” and “us” mentality, of respecting the human rights that enable us to live in a pluralist society. We are capable of leaving behind the claim that some of us have “God on our side” and can therefore tell others how to live and what to believe.
Division or unity
Today there is a widespread recognition that religion can inspire people to violence and terrorist activity. It’s maybe understandable that Christians may be defensive about this and attempt to divert criticism by pointing to acts of violence and injustice which were not done in the name of a god. But this does nothing to reveal the true causes of such inhumanity. Nor does it help to overcome these causes. That requires us to use our intellect and reason.
Unfortunately Spe Salvi continues to promote divisive ideas. Blaming atheism for the failures of human societies, for “the greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice” does nothing to promote the community of interests and common actions required to build just societies.
Encyclical letter Spe Salvi
Religious Diversity Statement
Religious diversity includes “non-believers”
Helen Clark’s diplomacy
Common values, common action?
Crimes of Communism and Christianity
Atheism and religious diversity
Family planning and the inhumanity of religion
God’s not as popular as we thought
Human rights for the non-religious