Saturday, March 30, 2013

Pope Francis, at least make your lies useful

In the homily of his Holy Saturday mass, the new pope, Francis, said this:
[There is] [n]o situation God can’t change, no sin he can’t forgive if only we open ourselves to him.
This is a lie, of course, and it only takes a little bit of looking around to recognize it. That's why I call it a lie instead of an error. Pope Francis is an educated man. He's not a moron. He knows it isn't actually true, whatever he has deceived himself into thinking or however much he values orthodox platitudes.

I want to modify Francis's statement to consider it slightly differently. If you'll indulge me:
There is no situation modern medicine can’t change, no problem it can’t fix if only we make use of it.
This is also a lie, of course. There are a large number of problems that modern medicine can't fix, and they are so numerous as to be exempt from having to list examples. On the same criteria I've judged Francis's statement a lie, this statement is also a lie. It is worth noting that no doctor, no nurse, no scientist, no researcher, no academic, and no medical expert of any kind makes this claim, even about incredible medical advances that may await us in the coming centuries.

If I take a consequentialist tack, though, and examine the results of embracing these two beliefs, what is the likely outcome? Well, surely believing this claim about modern medicine would make for many gross errors in judgment with catastrophic results in many cases. On the other hand, since God almost surely doesn't exist and more surely doesn't do anything, it must be the case that the statement about God, if taken seriously, would inherently lead to more disastrous gross errors in judgment. At least relying upon modern medicine would help in cases where modern medicine can help.

That is, on believing the second lie, we should expect to see many of the same errors but millions and millions of successful cases that would have failed under the God lie. Thanks, Francis, for your feel-good rejoinder of dangerous nonsense. Faith healing deaths are one example where preventable tragedies happen because of believing what you said.

Had Francis uttered the second lie and then gone on to qualify it, mentioning that it is most wise to lean upon the understanding where we have it, for example regarding questions surrounding birth control, AIDS, and abortion, he would have made a vastly more useful statement than the hollow one he made, without even bothering to examine the rubbish about "sin" (which contradicts the scriptural claim in Mark 3:29 that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit--not rape, not enslavement, not brutal homicide, not genocide--is an unforgivable sin).

Of course, as it is a lie, I do not encourage anyone to put belief in a statement as ridiculous as that medical science can fix any problem, but in the right spheres, those regarding the health of our bodies and increasingly of our minds, I put medical science way, way ahead of "God," whatever Francis means  by that word.


  1. Are there many Catholic faith healers out there? I didn't think there were.

    This is a fairly good example of when religious believers claim to believe something, but don't act like they would if it were a secular belief.

    1. I don't think there are (m)any Catholic faith healers out there. There are actual faith healers out there, though, who accept this very premise, regardless of who actually said it. Indeed, when I re-read this just now, I had forgotten that Pope Francis said this and thought that the attribution of the statement would be more likely to land on Joel Osteen, Pat Robertson, or Rick Warren.