It’s Hard for Me to Hate Pope Francis

The video below, part of The Atheist Voice series, discusses the popularity of Pope Francis, even among some of the harshest critics of the Catholic Church:

As I’ve said before, the one thing holding him back from being truly revolutionary… is his Catholicism.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the project — more videos will be posted soon — and we’d also appreciate your suggestions as to which questions we ought to tackle next!

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Sabio Lantz

    Some would say: “If he is not against us, he is for us.”

    Some would say: “If he is not for us, he is against us.”

    Hmmmm, which is it? [see, “Jesus’ Friends and Foes“}

    • Mick

      Jesus said “If you are not with me, you are against me.” (Matthew 12:30)

      • Sabio Lantz

        Click the Link, Mick: the one above in my comment,.

        Jesus was made to say lots of things:

        See also Luke 11:23, Mark 9:40 and Luke 9:50.

        Put all that together for us and maybe you’ll unravel the knotty language of the Pope.

  • Mick

    In his encyclical (Lumen Fidei) on June 29, 2013, this crafty old devil dodger declared that non-Catholics cannot tell the difference between good and evil and their lives are futile:

    For non-Catholics “everything becomes confused; it is impossible to tell good from evil, or the road to our destination from other roads which take us in endless circles, going nowhere.” (section 3)

    Non-Catholics “fail to realize that goodness comes from God … their lives become futile and their works barren.” (section 19)

    [Two-faced old prick]

  • A3Kr0n

    It’s the pope Hemant, the friggin’ pope! You don’t get to be pope by being a nice guy to atheists. Slap your face and splash some water on it until you regain your senses.
    Now, Father George Coyne, he’s a real revolutionary ;-)

  • Diana Decker

    I don’t hate him, I just think he’s full of shit, and a hypocrite.

  • Derek Mccue

    Francis’ focus on poverty and all his staged public appearances still just looks like spin.

    Everything he says and does is about changing the conversation away from clerical child abuse.

    It is a media strategy that is working very effectively.

  • h2ocean

    “As I’ve said before, the one thing holding him back from being truly revolutionary… is his Catholicism.”

    In some ways what makes his views revolutionary is that he is Catholic and the Pope. If he wasn’t, his views on homosexuality and atheism (“atheists can do good things”…duh) would just be those of your average, run-of-the-mill, centrist to perhaps left leaning American.

    • Sabio Lantz


  • God’s Starship

    I think people misread his argument that the church shouldn’t harp on the subjects that make it look bad. He’s not an ally. He just wants to talk about something else for a while so the bad press dies down, leaving room for the return of a more fundie pope to come in when he’s gone. Sure, he’s better than the last guy, but that bar was set pretty low. He’s the pretty hood ornament on a rusty vehicle.

  • yellow5

    Try harder.

    He and his faith still promise eternal torture for those who don’t
    fall in line with their beliefs, plain and simple, no matter how fuzzy a
    spin Pope Frank puts on it.

    He NEVER said atheists go to heaven, or gays – simply that they COULD IF they converted and repented.

    The Pope’s own words:

    “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.”

    That is NOT absolution for atheists, it’s actually a veiled threat if read properly.

    The proof is in the pudding – i.e. he’s made no move to rewrite or
    rescind Church dogma or catechism. IOW, policy has NOT changed since
    Vatican II in the 1960s.

    That won’t stop morons from eating up the drunk sincerity though.

  • David Trueman

    If he is as he says then I suggest he is careful what he eats, drinks and breathes because the dark lords behind the catholic church will not permit him to go too far. Autopsies are not allowed on popes… just saying. Personally I think he is just another greedy, power hungry, manipulative fraud in a cassock.

  • yellow5

    I’m convinced Francis is nothing more than a carefully constructed PR campaign. Thor knows the RCC sorely needs it.

    Unless he actually changes doctrine, which he most certainly has not, this is still the same Catholic Church we’ve been dealing with since Vatican 2.

    • JET

      He’s not the church’s leader. He’s their friendly front man.

      • maddogdelta

        So much THIS!

        So, the mobster heading up the largest organized crime syndicate in the world is a nice guy.


        Call me when he turns bishops over to civil authorities for sheltering pedophiles. Then I will start liking him.

  • freethinkerCRO

    How long will it be before Benedict stages a palace coup?

    • Kodie

      Soapy goodness!

  • LesterBallard

    I liked it when he released all the records the RCC has about those who abused children for decades.

  • joey_in_NC

    It’s Hard for Me to Hate Pope Francis

    So does that suggest it’s easy for you to “hate” Catholics in general?

    • Spuddie

      Just the apologists for clerical pedophilia and those who believe all healthcare must conform to arbitrary rules handed down by the Vatican.

    • midnight rambler

      Not Catholics in general, but given all the nasty things they said and did, it was easy to hate Benedict, and not very hard for JPII either.

  • C Peterson

    Words are cheap. I’ll change my negative opinion when I see some concrete action, some official changes in actual policy.

    That said, the reality is that cardinals kill popes who stray too far from orthodoxy, and this pope is surrounded by a particularly nasty bunch of old, conservative, bastards. I’m not sure his life is worth much if he really is a reformer.

    • joey_in_NC

      …the reality is that cardinals kill popes who stray too far from orthodoxy…

      Reality, huh? Care to provide some evidence for this “reality”?

      • Spuddie

        Pope John Paul I? According to Godfather Part 3-Fredo’s Revenge

      • C Peterson

        Try doing a little research on the history of papal assassinations.

        • joey_in_NC

          I have, came up with nothing. Care to provide some links?

          So, which of these popes do you think were killed by cardinals due to their unorthodoxy?…

          Just admit that you were talking out of your ass.

          • C Peterson

            Did you even bother to read the reference you supplied? It makes my case!

            • joey_in_NC

              Yeah, where? I see nothing about the unorthodoxy of these popes that got them murdered. Are you going to provide the evidence for this “reality” or not?

    • Emmet

      I’d like to see some evidence for that “reality” too. I think you are in fact talking out your arse.

  • # zbowman

    I find it pretty easy to hate the entire Catholic hierarchy at once, with three simple words: Meanwhile, In Africa…

  • Rain

    Could be the best PR campaign in history, except maybe for every political election campaign ever. Everyone is a baloney expert when power is up for grabs, lol. If he seriously didn’t want to be pope like he said, he could have done something about it. He knew he was one if the very top contenders.

  • Tobias2772

    He’s nibbling around the edges. At the end of the day he is still millions of dollars to promote ignorance and illusion to humans all around the globe. Even if he doesn’t hate gays, his actions are hateful to every sentient being on the planet

  • Tom

    The institution of the Catholic Church commits horrific harm throughout the world. I don’t care who the pope is. Treat women with true respect, promote their access to simple basic health care, and then I might listen.

  • cag

    Dog shit doesn’t smell as bad as chicken shit, but it’s still shit. Benny or Frankie, just a matter of degree. Neither the pope nor the church deserve anything but contempt. Repugnant bunch of scammers lying to the unsophisticated.

  • the moother

    The Pope has the power to prevent death and suffering by allowing the use of condoms to prevent AIDS.

    Until he does just that, he’s a disgusting human being. If you or I had that power, we’d use it for good. Everything else he says is just a smoke screen.

    Keep the pressure up!

  • Aspieguy

    The pope and his minions know their power is waning fast. The pope’s PR campaign will never convince me to believe the RCC is changing. They are still the same group of superstitious, delusional people.

  • J David Eisenberg

    His heart is in the right place; his head is still in the 1600s. As long as doctrine doesn’t change, it’s just empty words from an empty cassock.

  • rg57

    Et tu?

    You aren’t actually falling for this, are you?

    Even if he turned into Ellen, he’d still be pushing one of the world’s most evil books.

  • Nathaniel Harari

    I actually think that a lot of atheists here are on the wrong track in the comments below. Or, I should say, we don’t have all the evidence yet, so we shouldn’t yet make assumptions.

    Now, I’m not saying we should love the new pope, but I think we should be willing to give him a chance for a bit and also try to engage in some dialogue. But let’s talk about expectations:

    He’s not going to be changing anything drastically right away. He’s not going to be ditching the bible and saying that it’s all just one big joke. Let’s not expect that because it simply isn’t realistic. But I’m for the Sam Harris approach, if you will: it’s about engaging in a human conversation. And while religion makes that conversation exceedingly difficult, and sometimes downright impossible, we should definitely try to engage the moderates of religion and keep them talking to the secular side. There are benefits to this kind of diplomacy with them because it is fairly clear that, in due time, they will eventually change their minds on certain things and show some amount of progress.

    The new pope is certainly a moderate in terms of his speech and behavior. He’s also considering some changes in attitudes, and perhaps even doctrine, in areas where there was literally no progress before.

    We shouldn’t spurn that. We should engage him on it and not keep him isolated. If he’s willing to discuss issues such as contraception, gays, abortion, and atheists being good people (ignore the part about them going to heaven and concentrate instead on what he is saying about his views of us), then we should welcome that. This is something new and I welcome it.

    At least, I’m welcoming it insofar as his discourse on the matter keeps it up and he sounds genuine about it. And, so far, he *does* seem genuine about it.

    I know a lot here think that it’s a ploy but, as I’ve said we really don’t have all the evidence yet. Perhaps he really believes it. I think that he may. I know that many will point out his hypocrisies in the past, but everyone is a hypocrite at some point or another in their professional lives, especially when they have held more and more power. They compromise on issues they may not agree with – it’s called diplomacy and politics.

    I have a feeling that he does actually wish to change certain doctrines, but he knows how incredibly difficult that will be. I’m not Catholic, nor was I raised as one, but I do understand the politics of the vatican. It is not as simple as the pope just writing down a papal bull. If he does something so contrary to current teachings, there will be another rift (as there was with Vatican II), and I think he’s trying to avoid that as much as possible. After all, what good will changing doctrine do if half the curiae don’t follow it? What I think he’s trying to do is start a conversation within the ranks more than outside of them – and that’s important. That’s actually his main job. His main job isn’t to satisfy us first but to get his people to agree and follow.

    What he appears to propose is radical in their view. It will take time. I’m willing to give him some time to see if he’s able to accomplish this feat.

    So, as atheists, I would say that we shouldn’t be enamored of the man at all, but we should understand the nuances of what he is trying to do (or appears to be trying to do). Give him a chance and engage in the conversation with him on a polite level.

    I also might note that I find it a bit hypocritical on one level for us atheists to pour the hatred on and say that he is a hypocrite when he comes out with these statements of moderation, and then the next day continue to blast the right wing media for not recognizing the difference between extremist and moderate Muslims. My guess is that if the pope was a well known imam and had been saying these things, we wouldn’t actually be saying that we hate him and don’t trust him. There have recently been many incidents in which the obvious prejudices of atheists on the left (and I count myself amongst them) have been shown to be far more forgiving of Islam than of Christianity. I understand why, but I think we really need to look in the mirror on this particular issue. If an imam came out and said these things, and the right blasted him and called him a liar and a hypocrite, we’d be up in arms about how “prejudiced” they are against Islam because we tend to be far more nuanced in our dealings with Islam than we are with Christianity at times.

    So let’s not be hypocrites and accept his moderation and, perhaps, even progressive views. Let’s be diplomatic towards him and engage him in a conversation.

    Sorry for the incredibly long post.

    • Nathaniel Harari

      I just wanted to add something which occurred to me around an hour ago.

      Generally speaking, it is liberals on the left who push for us to talk to “moderate” and “reformers” in, say, Iran. Lately, there has been a lot of talk about engaging the new president of Iran because he appears to be *slightly* less genocidal in his comments than his predecessor. For a lot of people here, I’m sure, this is enough for them to think that perhaps he’s slightly less bad, and that it is worth talking to him on matters relating to peaceful coexistence.

      I’m not going to say that this is necessarily a bad thing, but I find it a touch telling that we are willing to engage in dialogue with far more criminal people (at least in my mind) on the Islamic front, but we treat somebody who has *never* threatened to kill homosexuals, Jews, and “heretics” with far more stringent terms.

      I’m certainly not trying to start a whole “Islam vs. Christianity” thread, but I am pointing out that we do, in our community at large, have certain set positions which many are loathe to challenge. All I’m asking for is some consistency and less knee-jerk reactions.

      I hope it’s not too much to ask for. Also, I apologize if I’ve characterized anyone here in a certain light regarding attitudes towards Islam vs. Christianity. I know that it does not always apply to some here, but I have noticed some critical remarks of Dawkins before on his stance towards Islam.

      Sorry again for the long post.

      • maddogdelta

        I think we can start with my request: That the RCC turns over pedophiles to civil authorities, instead of sheltering them.

        This would go a long way toward changing my mind about this guy. It wouldn’t require any serious change in doctrine (I grew up catholic, and I don’t think there was a policy of “child rape is good”)

        • Nathaniel Harari

          Sorry for the long delay in replying.

          I like your suggestion. I think that it’s a great idea, and a great test.

  • bulletproofheeb

    In the more recent “stop picking on the gays” interview he’s been taken out of context. What he actually says is that the church’s position still holds on homosexuality and women’s right, and that it’s still part of the church’s moral and spiritual imperative to hold to that message. He does say that it’s currently more important to focus on other things for the time being. Essentially that gays and women’s rights are still bad, but not important enough to deal with while we’re hemorrhaging numbers.

    Nothing, as far as practice and doctrine, has changed. He’s a great friendly face which is light years away from the recent pope Palpatine but so far it’s just a kinder presentation of the same content. I truly do not understand what all the atheist love is about.

  • Jack

    While we’re being all nice and openminded about the pope and his lip-service to openness etc, people around the world are dying and/or living in misery because of the policies of the RCC.
    I say we shouldn’t give him or any other RCC a moment to breathe until they rescind their policies that produce death and misery.
    Faith Divides, Reason Unites!

  • true catholic

    Is too obvious that there is a difference between a person that don’t believe there is a God, and a person that Hates everyone that loves their only God… one is a friendly atheist, the others are just evildoers.

    • Anna

      Who on earth hates everyone who believes in a god? That would be a pretty lonely existence. I think you’ll find that every single atheist has at least one family member or friend who believes in the supernatural.