March 15, 2014

Pope Life

Anyone who has known me for more than a week knows that I am not a particularly religious person. It's not so much the idea of a god looking out for all of us critters here on Earth that bothers me; if that works for you, all the better.

No, the problem I have is with organized religion. In my opinion, it all goes bad once people get involved. They go around establishing hierarchies, demanding a percentage of their congregation's paycheck, and requiring you to attend what are, essentially, seminars about how you are doing everything wrong and are going to Hell because of it. On a Sunday, no less. In the morning. I don't know about you, but I would much rather be eating a giant pile of waffles.

They're sacri-licious!
Or, better still, sleeping in. (When I can convince Bosco to not wake me up by staring at me and shooting "wake up" lasers into my brain.)

Anyway, I'm not much for religion. And keep in mind, this is not coming from a place of ignorance. I've visited all kinds of different churches -- non-denominational churches, basic Christian, Catholic churches, Southern Baptists churches, Jewish synagogues and my favorite, Black Baptist churches. Those folks know how to have a good time, as has been documented in The Blues Brothers.

 Surprisingly accurate, including the doughy white guy dancing like an idiot. That was me.

But, all-in-all, I'm just not a fan of the whole organizational aspect. Religious "leaders" have soured me on the whole idea. (See: Pat Robertson, Jim Bakker, Jerry Falwell, and Robert Tilton.)

This video does nothing to support my argument. I just think it's funny.

So imagine my surprise when I found myself actually starting to think that the newest pope, Pope Francis, might actually be a pretty okay guy, despite the fact that he is the essential head of a religion that harbors pedophiles, accepts money from Mexican drug cartels, and, of course, was responsible for that whole Spanish Inquisition thing.

Nobody expected that!

But Pope Francis seems...different. Certainly different from the previous pope, Benedict, who was a Hitler Youth. However, there's something more. He seems almost...rational. One might even suggest he is somewhat open-minded. And, best of all, he appears to have decided he didn't need to be as flashy and showy as previous popes. He's a regular guy.

Allow me to offer up a bit of proof.

1. He doesn't want to use the Popemobile, when he can avoid it.

According to The Daily Mail, Pope Francis recently took delivery of a 1984 Renault 4, choosing this over the well-known bulletproof Popemobile.

His Excellency checks out his new ride, which he has dubbed "Il Pussy Wagon".
The car, a gift from an Italian priest, is the Pope's "running-to-the-store-for-some-Funyuns" car. However, even when he isn't home at the Vatican, he doesn't want to use the standard Popemobile Bubble add-on, choosing instead to use an open-top car because he wants to stay close to the faithful. (And, one assumes, to be able to freely pass out his phone number to the honeys.)

2. He won't use the Papal Apartments, either.

Along with blowing off the chick magnet Popemobile, Pope Francis decided early on that he also was not going to live in the papal apartments, choosing instead to stay in what is essentially the "guesthouse" -- the Vatican hotel. According to the Telegraph, he told a close friend that he "does not want to be isolated and enjoys sitting down to meals with visiting clergy."

Of course, sometimes he likes a private meal.
So...Old car...smaller apartment...He's either a genuinely decent human being, a recently divorced man, or a college student. How many of those meals he sits down to are Ramen noodles?

3. He's got a bit of a potty mouth.

Okay, to be fair, this one was an accident. But still, it's funny. And it also shows that he's a regular guy, as I said.

While giving a morning sermon at St. Peter's Square, he accidentally used a wrong Italian word. Instead of saying "caso", which means "example", he said "cazzo", which is a slang term for your junk.

Why is this a big deal, you ask? It's not. It was a simple mistake. Anyone could have done it. Especially someone who once worked as a bouncer at a nightclub.

By which I mean Pope Dalton I.
In retrospect, it might not have been such a big deal to the media if he hadn't followed it up by performing a rendition of "Fuck The Police" by Public Enemy, in Italian to the already stunned crowd.

But wait! There's more!

4. He seems kind of okay with gay people.

While still maintaining the long-standing Catholic view that gay marriage is WRONG! WRONG! DO YOU HEAR ME? WRONG!, he has said that he is open to the idea of civil ceremonies. This may not seem like that big of a deal for enlightened humans of a reasonable disposition. However, for the Catholic Church, this is huge. Let me put it in the proper perspective for you.

The Catholic Church was established in 1 A.D. For the following 2,013 years, they wanted nothing to do with gay people. Now, admittedly, the rest of us haven't exactly been speeding past that line of thinking, Star Wars hyperspace-style, but for decades the general populace has slowly come around to the idea that not only is being gay not a disease or lifestyle choice, but it also doesn't make a person less deserving of reasonable treatment as a fellow human being.

This guy: Just like you.
Okay, so it took them over 2,000 years to come to this conclusion. It's a start. Heck, if he sticks around long enough, he may even come around to deciding that gay marriage is okay, too.

And finally...

5. He has some good news for Atheists!

Don't believe in God? No problem! Because, according to Pope Francis, you still get to go to heaven!

Some restrictions may apply.
Responding to a list of questions published in the paper by Mr Scalfari, who is not a Roman Catholic, Francis wrote: “You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don’t believe and who don’t seek the faith. I start by saying – and this is the fundamental thing – that God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience. 
“Sin, even for those who have no faith, exists when people disobey their conscience.”
 So, as I've said myself -- numerous times -- the secret of the Bible is this: "Don't be a dick." Simple. And, if you follow that one simple rule, whether you believe in God or not, Pope Francis says you get to go to heaven.

While this is a nice thing to hear, I would imagine it also presents quite a conundrum for atheists. On the one hand, they can maintain their disbelief in a magical sky-being that is guiding everyone and everything in the universe, without any real fear of repercussion, so long as they try to be good people.

On the other hand, it kind of defeats the purpose of atheism. If you are, as Pope Francis said, a generally good person, it doesn't matter whether you believe in God, because you're going to get sucked up into the celestial Heavenly Dyson Vacuum and forced to hang out with your dead relatives, most of whom will probably nag you constantly about not visiting their graves. Nobody wins in that scenario.

And so, because of these things, and his continuing forward thinking views, I have to say that I consider Pope Francis a pretty good dude, my highest compliment. He seems like the kind of guy I wouldn't mind sitting at a bar and having a Coke with.

Catholics around the world, however have reacted a little differently...

That's going to leave a mark.
Oh, well...You can't please everybody.

All the best,
Derek and Bosco