Pope Francis Warns Believers Not To Be Curious, So They May Avoid ‘Confusion’

A few days ago, I published a little riff on the topic of curiosity, based on a wonderful book I just read. Curiosity, book author Philip Ball shows, was long frowned upon by religious authorities as a sign of insufficient humility. All you were supposed to do was gape in mawkish wonder at the miracle of nature, and prostrate yourself before the Lord, expressing awe and suppressing all natural inquisitiveness.

Glad we left that atavistic attitude behind us. Or did we?

Pope Francis said this on Thursday:

“The spirit of curiosity distances us from the spirit of wisdom because all that interests us is the details, the news, the little stories of the day.”

Such a spirit, he warned, brings about dispersion and distances people from God. The Vatican leader further noted that Jesus himself warned against a worldly spirit of curiosity, as it causes confusion and impels people to want to feel that God is “here or there.”

Didn’t you know? Curiosity — the central driver of virtually all human inquiry, discovery, invention, and progress — is really just about gossip and temporal nosiness. Oh, and about “details.” ‘Cause screw details.

Here’s one set of people (the curious): Leonardo da Vinci, Wilbur and Orville Wright, Jonas SalkNicolaus Copernicus, Elon Musk, Francis Crick, Marie Curie, Johannes GutenbergIsaac NewtonLise Meitner, Richard Feynman, Su Song, James Cook.

Here’s another (the incurious): All 266 frickin’ popes who ever lived.

Which group truly rocketed us out of the Dark Ages? Which group did the most good for all of humankind?

To ask those questions is to answer them.

(Image and caption courtesy of Brain Pickings)

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder and Main Mischief Maker of Moral Compass, a site that pokes fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards.

  • Gunner Miller

    This goes hand-in-hand with something spoken by a general authority in the LDS church during their last conference. Uchtdorf said that you should “first doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith”. In otherwords do not try to seek answers, do not be curious, just believe.

    • quasibaka

      Doubt my doubts – that’s hilarious :D

  • joey_in_NC

    Wow, way to take his message totally out of context.

    • Fran

      Context, shmomtext. Definitely nothing in the “context” of the original article to change the meaning of these words.

      In fact, I’d say the demand for closed-mindedness is treated charitably here. What the religionist said, in full, is even worse. All that “allow the spirit to lead” nonsense is a demand for non-critical acceptance o ideology.

    • WallofSleep

      Perhaps you’d like to put his message in the context you think it was intended? Just for rubes like me who have no clue what you’re getting at? Pretty please?

      • joey_in_NC

        Are you too lazy to simply read the first paragraph of the linked article?…

        Pope Francis warned against the “spirit of curiosity” when attempting to find God and religious messages in outside forces, or trying to predict when Jesus Christ will return, reminding believers that the “The Kingdom of God is among you.”

        Now, read this rest of the article.

        Obviously this pertains to the ‘curiosity’ of alleged apparitions of the Virgin Mary and other such supposed private revelations.

        I like how you guys simply took the few buzzwords “warn” and “curiosity” and simply roll with an utter fabrication that suits your agenda. Whatever.

        • WallofSleep

          See? That wasn’t so hard, was it? And I did ask nicely, even if a bit sarcastically, so there is no need for name calling or assigning an imaginary agenda to my question, though it does please me so when you do.

      • ShoeUnited

        As I said elsewhere, how about Popenfranken put his message into a context everyone can understand?

        Slippery terminology is killing his supposed message. Sometimes if people can’t understand what you mean and everyone has a different interpretation; maybe you’re not saying anything meaningful.

        • Bluehawk

          Exactly, he should talk down to a 5th grade reading level so people on an atheist website can understand what he said.

          Its funny that Francis was able to school a lot of you here by simply talking above your reading level.

          The ultimate diss.

          • 3lemenope

            Wow. If Francis was making a decent point about the limitations of faith, you’re ruining its reception.

            What you’re doing, it’s almost like anti-evangelism; making sure that people have negative associations with the message so that they are more likely to dismiss it.

            What is it, exactly, that you think you’re accomplishing?

            • Bluehawk

              I couldnt give a rats ass about pope Francis or Christianity.

              I am just calling out stupid posters who complain that Francis does not talk down to them and pointing out the fact that people here are just as ignorant and small minded as the very people they criticize.

              • 3lemenope

                I got Disqus’d. Originally, the author of your post was shown as “Keyra”, who is an outspoken Catholic regular. From Keyra, it would be bizarro-evangelism.

                My apologies.

              • ShoeUnited

                And my point goes to the fact that things like “We can’t spiritually judge them” still exist.

                Using dodgy language doesn’t mean you’re talking on an intellectually higher level. It merely means you’re fencing with words. A request for clarity is not small minded or ignorant.

          • ShoeUnited

            You do realize that a 5th grade reading level is one grade level above printed news, right?

            On average, published news is written at a fourth grade reading level. So, if you were to put a message across to be generally accepted on a massive scale, you should actually dumb down the message further than what you would expect.

            I’m sorry that you feel the need to be smug because somebody else was smarter than you and you’re pretending it’s a baseball game. I’m sorry that you find it necessary to root for a team instead of thinking for yourself. I’m sorry that you’re incapable of individual thought, nuance, and skepticism. I’m sorry your faith cannot stand on its own petards and instead needs an interpreter. I’m sorry that your interpreter needs an interpreter.

            But mostly, I’m sorry that you think you’ve won something here. What did you win? Did everyone quit being atheists? Did god give you a new car? Did you even read what I wrote? Did you reflect on how your actions, now, are making his supposed intentions appear? Did it ever occur to you?

            But mostly, I’m sorry I had to have this conversation. We shouldn’t need to belittle ourselves to speak clearly. Clearly, you need to belittle other to feel superior. And for that, I’m sorry.

            • ShoeUnited

              I’m flagging my own comment because it is as childish as it is churlish. I let a petty “take that” get under my skin. That’s not right nor intellectually honest.

              What I should have said is: How can you take credit for something you didn’t do? What do you gain by taking credit and then being repugnant about it? How do you think that reflects on what you believe?

              Those are questions that are more poignant, less sassy, and certainly direct.

              • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                +1 for your honesty and integrity.

        • Terry Firma

          For me, this is the number one puzzle about the almighty Christian God: How utterly ambiguous and inarticulate he is. To pass down the most important truths any of us will ever know, he chose some goat herders with quills, and their contemporaries and descendants, to cobble together a book filled with his infallible wisdom. As we’ve had occasion to observe for almost two thousand years now, the whole thing is so poorly constructed that the cosmic commandments and lessons in the Bible are open to literally tens of thousands of interpretations.

          And to this day, God’s highest representatives on earth, such as Pope Frank, are hindered by the exact same inability to communicate clearly and concisely. Isn’t that odd?

          The fact that we are here debating what the Pope meant with his Thursday homily is prima facie evidence that there is no infallible Creator; much less has he created/appointed pointy-hatted representatives who can string more than three sentences together about which there can be no sliver of doubt or confusion.

    • jdm8

      And yet, you chose to do nothing to add this alleged context to this discussion.

      • WallofSleep

        The thing is, he actually does have a valid point in his follow up comment. Of course that is going to be completely ignored in part because he decided not to make that point in the first comment, and instead for some reason chose to make a comment that looks just like the one of the weaker, more common forms of xtian apologetics we’ve grown accustomed to: claiming something was taken out of context without actually providing said context.

        • jdm8

          Yeah. I made my post before any follow-up was made. A lack of good time stamps doesn’t help matters.

          I was mostly making a point that posting a “you’re wrong” comment, absent elaboration, is fruitless. I would much prefer people make a useful comment up front rather than have to drag it out of them. Expecting everyone else to read their minds or understand their perspective without giving any information to glean their perspective, is asking far too much.

  • Lee Symes

    For the love of god, don’t ask question!

  • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    “The spirit of curiosity distances us from the spirit of wisdom…”

    That is truly one of the stupidest, most foolish, most ignorant things I’ve ever heard. Wisdom is impossible without curiosity; the two are intrinsically paired. Wisdom is impossible without reflection on every conceivable alternative viewpoint, and that is driven by curiosity.

    This new pope surely swims in the shallow end of the intellectual pool.

    • WalterWhite007

      I think he may be an agnostic but is confused. If he was a hard core believer nothing would dissuade him but he ‘s tempted so he stifles his and others curiosity.

    • Julio Degnan

      Did that make you feel good? Did it make you feel smart? Because your comment is based on a complete strawman, a stupid misinterpretation of what he really said.

      He was referring to the useless pursuit of the religious to focus so much on worldly apparitions and messages from the divine instead of basing their religion on the world around us.

      And let me save you the trouble, I am an atheist, but am not so ridiculously stupid to feed my ego by attacking a strawman.

      • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

        Listen to what is said. He is arguing against worldly curiosity. Worldly knowledge is the only knowledge there is, and it is only obtained through worldly curiosity. He argues that curiosity about the worldly distracts one from considering the divine (which is not knowledge).

        What the pope said is ignorant and foolish.

        • OldAtheist

          Did you read the actual homily? Because by ‘worldly’, he means things like gossip and trivialities like seeing Jesus in your burrito.

          Reading is fundamental. You should try it.

          • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

            Gossip and trivialities that are worldly are, nevertheless, sources of knowledge, unlike what the pope and his minions push.

            The argument is still wrong, it’s still foolish, it’s still ignorant.

            • Julio Degnan

              You are just one of those people that can’t ever admit their wrong.

              You are the complete opposite of a free thinker.

              Shameful.

              • The Other Weirdo

                their they’re…

                Or

                their wrong their mistake…

                Do we really need to take advice on reading comprehension from someone who doesn’t know the difference between “their” and “they’re”?

          • Carmelita Spats

            Seeing Jesus H. Christ, CFO of All That Is, stuffed inside a Taco Bell burrito is not trivial…It is gut-busting hilarious. In my country Yahweh’s brat makes regular appearances on a giant tortilla at a roadside taco stand in Zacatecas. He has also been seen flashing his trademark compassionate grin from a bowl of instant mashed potatoes at a truck stop in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Christ’s visage appeared to be weeping, but Jesus claimed that the tears were merely caused by all the onions he’d been chopping to make his famed “Holy Christ!” hot salsa. Last June, Jesus appeared as a curiously shaped oil stain on a freeway underpass in Zaragoza, Spain. I am traveling to Germany this summer because there are reports that J-Dog (as he is known to his friends) is appearing as a lovely pattern of bark on an old-growth sycamore in a heavily wooded forest somewhere in Bavaria.

            Let’s talk trivialities…As party-tricks-to-impress-gum-snapping-teenagers go, the Pope claims to have the power to turn a stale cracker into the body of a 2,000-year-old virgin carpenter who sacrificed himself to himself and impregnated his own mother with himself. Before Pope Frank criticizes ANYONE for finding rascal Jesus stuffed inside a hairy armpit or peeking out from their bottle of Brut Deodorant, Frank needs to take a look at what he purports to do each Sunday as devotees open wide for a mouthful of Savior. He turns a cookie into Jesus. Why not a burrito? Tah-dah. Pot meet kettle…

        • Julio Degnan

          You either have not read the article or have very low reading comprehension.

        • Neko

          Clearly the Pope was referring to the kitsch apparition industry within Catholic culture. Furthermore his remarks are reported in translation. Francis is a Jesuit intellectual, so the rush to accuse him of anti-intellectualism is off base.

          • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

            Perhaps, in this case. He has demonstrated a high degree of anti-intellectualism, however, so it is reasonable to expect it in many areas of his communications.

            • Neko

              Has he? I’ve read only a few of his extended remarks, like the interview with La Repubblica journalist Eugenio Scalfari (an atheist). I found Francis impressive, though I read his more mystical and theological deliberations from a “curious distance.”

              • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

                He claims to believe in god. He claims to believe in Christian dogma. He is not- by definition- an intellectual, because these positions do not hold up to even the most superficial analysis.

                • Neko

                  Your position that no religious believer can be called an intellectual is familiar, and I think it’s absurd, so there’s no point in us arguing. My interest in Christianity, such as it is, was prompted in part by my bewilderment as to why quite intelligent people can also be committed believers. I’m still bewildered by it, but not for lack of intellectual energy on the part of Christians.

                • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

                  Intelligent people can be believers because intelligence simply requires the ability to think effectively. It does not require that the ability be used, or be used well. Intelligent people who are believers wall off their spiritual beliefs from rational analysis.

                  Please note that I did not say the pope isn’t intelligent, I said he isn’t an intellectual. Those are very different things.

                • Neko

                  I get the distinction. Intellectualism doesn’t assume an outcome; it’s the informed practice of exercising ideas.

                  A daunting amount of rational analysis has been devoted to Christian apologetics over two millennia; do you dismiss this entire cultural activity as an “inability to think effectively”?

                • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

                  A daunting amount of rational analysis has been devoted to Christian apologetics over two millennia; do you dismiss this entire cultural activity as an “inability to think effectively”?

                  The ability to think effectively also requires knowledge. Real knowledge about the physical world was substantially lacking until a few hundred years ago. Religious thinkers before then may have had the ability to think effectively, but without knowledge couldn’t produce reasonable results. Of course, many of the so-called great religious thinkers were incapable of thinking effectively, since their logical arguments failed miserably, even in the absence of accurate knowledge.

                  There have been no religious intellectuals in at least the last century. And certainly, the majority of modern religious apologetics demonstrates no ability to think effectively, or it demonstrates outright pseudointellectualism (which doesn’t preclude the ability to think effectively, but may be closely related to fraud- something we clearly see in modern apologetics).

                • Neko

                  So your complaint is that humans arrived at a sound understanding of the universe only recently, so no matter how ingenious the thinkers of the past may have been they were too unknowledgeable to “produce reasonable results.” Is this parochial view of history really what you mean?

                  I don’t read modern apologetics. Who are you referring to, specifically?

                • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

                  I think that the viewpoint that a sound understanding of the Universe depends on physical knowledge is entirely reasonable. In the absence of that, there is no mechanism by which any amount of quality reasoning can arrive at reliable answers about how nature operates.

                • Neko

                  Of course it’s reasonable, but our disagreement arose over whether religious believers can be considered intellectuals. It seems you’ve acknowledged that regardless of the parameters of available knowledge, religious believers are capable of “quality reasoning” and may therefore merit recognition as intellectuals.

                  This issue is self-evident to me, so I think I’ll stop here. Thank you for the discussion.

                • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

                  Being capable of quality reasoning isn’t sufficient; it must also be applied. I don’t think any modern believers merit recognition as intellectuals, except perhaps outside the area of religious thinking.

                • The Other Weirdo

                  2000 years of Christian apologetics really boils down to nothing at all. If it’s Biblical, it’s irrelevant because there is absolutely no guarantee that the people who wrote and translated the Bible really knew what the hell they were talking about. If it isn’t Biblical, it’s nothing more than wishful thinking. Christian apologetics is null content.

                • Leah

                  I don’t think it’s true that Christians can’t, be definition, be intellectuals. Within the world of academia I’m aware of plenty of Christians who I’d also consider intellectuals. They research at R1 universities, publish, present their work and are figures within their fields, though they don’t necessarily publish about Christianity. Or if they do, it’s about the relationship between religion and say, eroticism, or political theory in the medieval period, or things of that nature. I would definitely say they are engaged in intellectual endeavors, and perform them well, to the esteem of others in their field, Christian or not. I’m speaking mostly about the humanities, but there are plenty of Christians and other religious people in that field, and to say they can’t be “intellectual” because they believe in God (or gods) and various sorts of dogma is a bit of an affront to the humanities. Although maybe a good amount of people on this blog think that way? People within humanities fields certainly think differently and have different preconceptions from those in the sciences.

                • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

                  Agreed. I was referring to intellectualism with respect to religion itself, which I don’t think exists among modern believers.

                • Leah

                  Fair enough. I’d have to think about that a little more to see if I agree. I definitely see where you’re coming from if you’re talking about the general state of American evangelicalism and the slew of “theologians” trying to sell books on apologetics. That’s kind of a hot industry right now, considering all the atheist books being published.

          • Carmelita Spats

            Catholic kitsch? Do you REALLY want to go there? I certainly do. The Pope is a fan of the biggest kitsch apparition of them all: The Holy Eucharist which he claims is a cracker that turns into the grotesque body of a 2,000-year-old virgin carpenter. The wide-eyed devotees in my country were so taken by the thought of ritualistic cannibalism that a shifty priest in Mexico City upped the ante: he claims that the Eucharist bleeds “real blood” in his church. He was excommunicated in 1979 for being so goddamn “literal”…Apologies to Luther? ROFLMAO!

            Bleeding Eucharist:
            http://www.par.org.ar/encarnacion/hostia.htm

            • Neko

              I was born into the RCC, so I get that, thanks. Any art, ritual or idea can be reduced to kitsch; your whacko priest stands in a long tradition.

      • CottonBlimp

        Nothing’s more pathetic than the desire of left-leaning secularists to believe this Pope spells some kind of progress in the Catholic church.

        Yes, he begins by talking about Mary in a taco. He opens with an easy target and then switches subjects to say something idiotic and offensive. It’s a hack writing technique that the Daily Mail uses extensively – they’ll open with criticisms of the NHS and then sloppily switch subjects mid-paragraph to go off on interracial marriage.

        For fuck’s sake, stop making excuses for the fucker.

    • Keyra

      And where’s your wisdom?

      • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

        In curiosity. In skepticism and doubt. In the rejection of faith.

        • Hellen R

          In being an absolute moron.

          • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

            It’s always so helpful to deal with intelligent argument.

            You know, I’ve changed my ideas and views many times over the years in response to thoughtful arguments. You should try that sometime if you want to be persuasive.

            • Hellen R

              I dont try to persuade morons, its a lost cause.

              • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

                Well, if you assume everybody you disagree with is a moron not worthy of persuasion, I can see why it’s a lost cause.

              • quasibaka

                So what exactly is your strategy here ?
                ‘Maybe If I am enough of a Dick to these non-believers, my sky-fairy(I’m assuming Jeebus) will allow me to enter his fairy land when I die ‘

    • CanadianNihilist

      I came to point out the exact same stupidity in that sentence, however you probably did it better.

  • Mike De Fleuriot

    off to see the wonderful wizard

  • Frank May

    For a good summary of what was achieved last year by both the curious and the uncurious, see http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2013/04/05/what-did-science-and-religion-discover-last-year/.

  • WalterWhite007

    One of the main reasons why I detest religion. It encourages this kind of idiotic world view.

  • viaten

    The christian apologists should be glad there are people asking questions to keep apologists busy. Just as long as people don’t ask too many questions.

  • Tim Sentron

    That is clearly not what he meant, what an obvious bastardization of the message to fire up the base.

    Did I somehow stumble onto FoxNews?

    • flyb

      Perhaps you could provide us your interpretation of his intent.

      • Tim Sentron

        He is talking about religious people who spend their time focusing on receiving “strange things” and “novelties” from the divine instead of focusing on the real world.

        Which ironically is what we criticize religious people of doing here.

        This went so far your heads that it might have gone into orbit.

        • Artor

          It looks to me like the pope was warning against credulity, not curiosity. But somehow, he kept using the wrong word. That’s not Terry’s fault.

          • Tim Sentron

            Seriously? If a writer writes a story based on an article that clearly says something entirely different, it is always the writers fault.

            Lets have some intellectual integrity.

            • Terry Firma

              Bullshit.

              Francis: “We find ourselves before another spirit, contrary to the wisdom of God: the spirit of curiosity”. Then he criticizes people who “want to be the masters of the projects of God, of the future, of things, to know everything, to have everything in hand.”

              The way I read it, at that point, he’s already drifted well away from Mary apparitions in taco shells — now he’s addressing curiosity and intellectual inquiry in general.

              • Tim Sentron

                You should be shamed of yourself. The quote that you give in your paragraph is clearly still refering to the same thing and a person with an elementary school reading comprehension level cannot conclude that he is speaking about things in general.

                This demonstates that you are not intellectually lazy, you are either stupid or extremely disingeneous if you think you can save face with a pitiful response like that.

                As an atheist, your lack of honest rational thought disgusts me. A person with just an ounce of intellectual integrity admits his mistake.

                You have shown exactly what you are, a charlatan. This website is worse off for having you post here.

                • Terry Firma

                  It’s remarkable how both you and Beau Q. keep throwing around terms like “clearly” and “he makes it clear,” etc. Yet here we are, arguing over what the Pope’s recent words mean.

                  You have a different takeaway than I and many commenters did, which in and of itself is respectable, and worthy of discussion. But you massively overplay your hand with your indignant assertions of monolithic clarity, and subsequently, with your descent into schoolyard epithets.

                  Please reflect on your comments when you’re no longer so red-hot-preoccupied with the desire to use words like “charlatan,” “stupid,” “pitiful,” “disgusting,” etc. In the cold light of tomorrow, maybe you’ll realize why it’s simply not possible to have a remotely fruitful, rational discussion with someone who traffics in the online equivalent of spitting.

                • beau_quilter

                  Terry

                  I would just ask that you reread the articles on the pope’s homily and then read your summary of it in this post. I do think the differences between what the pope said and how you represented it are pretty “clear”. (I don’t think I’m overstating the case).

                  I don’t think you did this intentionally. I think you responded strongly to the pope’s use (or misuse) of the word “curiosity”, and it biased the way you looked at the next few sentences in the article.

                  Certainly we have problems with most any homily, since we don’t believe in the basic christian premises. You could even make the argument that the Pope should use the word curiosity the way skeptics do, valuing the notion of rational inquiry.

                  But to read your post, one would think the pope’s homily was a warning against scientific inquiry. We might disagree with his use of the word “curiosity”, but to argue that he is arguing against scientific inquiry is to misrepresent him.

                  Look at all of the other articles about this homily on the web. There is a bit of “controversy” over this sermon, but it has nothing to do with scientific curiosity. The controversy has to do with the religious groups the pope seems to be criticizing for looking too eagerly for signs from the Virgin and signs of the last days. That is the topic of the homily.

                  Would you take another look and reasses what you’ve said? Religious groups misrepresent atheists and take our words out of context all the time. If we are to present rational alternatives to religion, we can’t sink to that level ourselves.

                • Terry Firma

                  Beau:

                  Thanks for throttling down the rhetoric. Yes, I can see it your way — it’s a completely respectable interpretation of the Pope’s words. I still think there’s about as much chance that I’m on the money about what he meant, though I admit it’s certainly possible that, with Philip Ball’s book fresh on my mind, I applied the thesis of it a little too eagerly to the Pope’s Thursday homily.

                  I thought I was doing an honest thing by linking to the Christian Post article where I first saw the Pope’s words reported (that site can hardly be suspected of bias against the Church), but it would have been better to find and present the full text of what Francis said. Thanks for providing the link. Readers can now look it up for themselves and decide which interpretation (yours or mine) rings true — or come up with their own.

                • Tim Sentron

                  I worry about your lack of reading comprehension and your inability to admit an obvious mistake.

                  That reading is as clear as day and considering this pope has a science background, your thesis was a complete fabrication.

                  This is not a case of his homily having two different possible interpretations, it has one obviously correct one and one that only the most closeminded, disingeneous and militant atheists can interpret in order to critizice religion regardless of what was actually said.

                  I call theists out on their bullshit all the time and it is only fair that I call intellectually disingenous atheists on their. You are either stupid or a charlatan. Sorry if that rubs you the wrong way, but that is the most accurate description that can be given based on the story you wrote and your responses to it.

                • beau_quilter

                  Thank you for considering

              • beau_quilter

                Bullshit? Then why are you leaving out the words that follow?

                “And when we want to be the masters of the projects of God, of the future, of things, to know everything, to have everything in hand… the Pharisees asked Jesus, ‘When will the Kingdom of God come?’ Curious! They wanted to know the date, the day”

                He makes it clear here and elsewhere in the homily that “the projects of God, the future, of things, to know everything, to have everything in hand” is a reference to catholics trying to predict the second coming with signs and miracles.

                Again, I’m no fan of the Catholic Church, but if we’re going to criticize them, let’s at least quote them in context.

          • Neko

            Yes. Francis was probably speaking in Italian, so it may be “curiosity” is an approximation of the word he used.

            • ShoeUnited

              Wouldn’t he be speaking in Spanish?

              • Neko

                I think he delivers homilies at the Vatican in Italian.

            • Artor

              I don’t speak Italian or Spanish, but I’m pretty sure they have distinctly different words for the differing concepts. Unless the translator was incompetent, this is Francis’ responsibility.

              • Neko

                Neither do I, so I don’t know. I have read bilingual Vatican-watchers who complain about mistranslations, so I considered the possibility, but you may be right.

        • flyb

          This was his secondary argument. Terry did himself a slight disservice by not linking directly to the article linked in the article he linked to. ehh. Anyway… http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-the-spirit-of-curiosity-distances-one-from-go

          The pope’s main argument indeed is that curiosity is contrary to the wisdom of god. The title of the post is even: “Pope: the spirit of curiosity distances one from God.” There are a couple of paragraphs of the Pope explaining the importance of following the “wisdom of the Holy Spirit,” no questions asked. It was only after all that when he said his bit about not being curious about Mary in a tortilla chip.

          • Tim Sentron

            Sigh.

            By curiosity he clearly means wondering about specific religious matters such as asking “when will the kingdom of god come” or “how will it come about”?

            What you posted is nothing more than an indepth account of what he said, which confirms the first article posted and in no possible way allows us to say that he is taking about the “central driver of all inquiry, discovery, invention and progress” as Terry claimed.

            The level of reading comprehension here is bumming me out.

            • ShoeUnited

              Hey, I’ve got a fucking genius idea.

              How about Popefranks there uses less ambiguous terminology when doing this schtick all the time in order to appeal to everyone and just say what he means and mean what he says.

              Cut out the ambiguous terminology, the “you’re not praying hard enough on the pope’s message”, and use direct well-defined terms. It’s fucking genius I tells ya.

            • flyb

              Of course the Pope is speaking in a religious context, but that doesn’t negate the implication that Terry is extending here: that some Catholics (or some Christians, in general) shut off their minds about non-religious issues as well, due to the belief that thinking should be left to God. Anyway, what is inherently wrong about wondering “when will the kingdom of god come?” The Pope offers no convincing argument, other than “cuz gawd.”

              Perhaps this initial article could have been a little more contextual and less hyperbolic, but the idea that humans should stop thinking, in a religious context or otherwise, is abhorrent.

  • Julio Degnan

    Terry Firma is either an idiot for not reading the first paragraph if an article he quoted from and linked to or extremely disingenuous.

    You be the judge.

    • 3lemenope

      I don’t think he’s an idiot or disingenuous. I do believe you and Tim Sentron [ED: and Joey_in_NC, and OldAtheist] below are correct about the actual context and intent of Francis’ words (as the first paragraph of the linked article was actually startlingly clear about).

      Hey, everyone, Francis is criticizing the sort of believers who obsess about Bible Codes and try to predict the end of everything because of tea leaf events like powerful typhoons of historically-unprecedented power, or gay people getting married. Just read the linked article. He is literally internalizing and giving voice to a common secular criticism of religious behavior.

      (You were a massive jerk about being right, though. So no upvote for you.)

      • Julio Degnan

        Do you think he misread the article then? It is very clear.

        You are right about being a jerk, I apologize, it just bugs me to no end for people to take the intellectual high ground when their minds are in the gutter.

        • OldAtheist

          The New Athiest Patheos blogs and the Christian fundamentalist Patheos blogs are almost exactly the same in tone and content. 80% of the posts use the following format:

          1. This thing that a [religious nut/atheist/religious liberal] did is outrageous!
          2. That’s because all those [religious nuts/atheists/religious liberals] are [stupid/evil] and ruining civilization.
          3. Being an [atheist/religious fundamentalist] is awesome!

          I’ve been an atheist for a long, long time, and I remember when our community was about compassion and intellectual curiosity. But ever since Dawkins, PZ Meyers, Christopher Hitchens et al became ascendant, it seems that the atheist community has become just as literalist and closed-minded as the worst religious fundamentalists.

          It’s not wrong to point out the bad things that are done in the name of religion, but the criticism needs to be constructive with an aim at reaching out and trying to improve the world. Instead, it seems that most of what goes on is some pat on the back tribalism. “Man, I’m glad we’re not stupid like all those religious people.”

          It’s depressing.

          • Julio Degnan

            Well said, the more time I spend on here the more I feel the same.

          • ShoeUnited

            There are some pat stories here and there. But I don’t think we have yet attained the rabid fanaticism of P.Z. Meyers’ followers.

            I find a good section of stories here to be informative on some level. The stories with leading questions I usually scan past the headline inserting Betteridge’s Law admittedly. But on the whole, I haven’t become unnerved by cutting the cruft out.

            Going by my own personal experience, I’ve only ever seen society progress to a point where I’m not physically beat for being atheist. As far as my actual atheism is concerned, I’ve always seen younger atheists who are a bit more rampant with the tribalistic “LOL RELIGION”. But that’s why I never went to places like Reddit. That slice of atheism has always existed. If you mean New Atheist as in those new to atheism -not the religiously defined New Atheism- that has happened long before the internet came around. The difference is that new Old Atheists were cautious in public due to threats on their life. Not changes in attitude.

            It’s like the first time you had sex, you go all around your friends trying to impress them because you finally broke your virginity. After a few years, sex becomes welcome and old hat. You leave the jokes -in today’s age caption pictures- and other snide comments behind.

            Of course, I’m using the same measuring stick that you’re using: Personal experience. And we both know what that amounts to. As it stands, I believe if you’re finding the current crop of available media sub-par, to create a blog yourself. This is not a situation of “If you think you can do better…”. I am genuinely interested in what your interpretation should be. And I believe that if you could create an example it may be something with some traction. I think you have a good idea there that may be worth the cost of admission.

            Like when Prego (or Ragu?) did marketing to find out how to improve sales, they found out whole sections of a market didn’t even know they existed until they were provided with whole new flavors. That’s what I think you have there. A different flavor. And I would love to see it brought to fruition.

            I don’t mind cutting out the cruft I read here and elsewhere. It does bother you, and I think you may have a bit of a golden idea. But I can’t see it as clearly as you do.

        • 3lemenope

          I think pretty much everyone reads the communications of others through their own definitions and values, to the point where it can become very easy to fail to recognize that a person is using a concept in a way that is disanalogous to the one they normally use.

          Curiosity is a paramount humanist value. Perhaps the most important, certainly way up there. For a prominent figure to speak against the “spirit of Curiosity” may well have the effect of a humanist seeing so much red they don’t stop to consider that what they mean by curiosity is something very different than the concept they normally traffick in. Experts of every field have to deal with this all the time; the way a word or term is used in a given discipline is usually very different than the colloquial use of the word, and that difference leads to misunderstanding about what the expert is claiming about the field.

          • Julio Degnan

            True, but the real meaning of his words is in the very first paragraph of the link he posted.

            We will leave it at intellectual laziness, fair?

            • 3lemenope

              Pretty fair.

      • baal

        hrm. I read the news.va link and it’s clear to me that the pope was saying that christians should live ‘christian’ and that’s to put the wwjd and wwGd first in all your thoughts. At best, that also means displacing normal useage ‘curosity’ and tosses reason and rationaly to 3rd class citizen status. As such, the pope’s contexualizing of ‘curosity’ to avoiding trivia, he’s still full on irrationality.

        • 3lemenope

          As such, the pope’s contexualizing of ‘curosity’ to avoiding trivia, he’s still full on irrationality.

          I feel the need to point out that he is the Pope making a point about Catholicism to Catholics. Unless the nature of Catholicism has undergone truly radical change, this is par for the course.

    • ShoeUnited

      *Ahem*

      False Dichotomy.

  • monyNH

    I hate to even have to say this, but the quotes in this post are so cherry-picked and edited they have almost no semblance of the original context. Having gone back to read the original article–which I may not have done if others here hadn’t pointed this out–it’s clear Francis was referring to the “Jesus-is-in-my-toast”, “the-end-is-nigh” religious Henny Penny’s of the world, and NOT, as the article alludes to, curiosity in general. The Pope may very well frown upon critical thinking, but not on this article.

    While I’m no fan of His Popeness, I detest intellectual laziness and disingenuousness even more. This was a fail. :(

    • Tim Sentron

      It is also a shame that most of the posts that point out this very fact were given a negative rating in order to bury them in the thread.

      So much for free thinking and reasonable discourse.

      • 3lemenope

        Pretty much the only thing I ever down-vote for (since I’m not actually crazy about the voting system at all) is unnecessary rudeness. A large number of the comments pointing out the error in the interpretation of the pull-quotes were smarmy beyond belief. (No I didn’t down vote any of them, but it definitely stops me from wanting to up vote them.)

        • beau_quilter

          The commenters are no more smarmy than the original post. Terry Firma paraphrases the pope to be saying “screw details!”, implying that the pope tells us to avoid scientific details.

          Terry Firma doesn’t think it’s relevant to mention that the Pope is not talking about the details of science; he’s talking about the details of Jesus’ return to earth. He’s telling christians not to be End Times nuts.

          • 3lemenope

            The commenters are no more smarmy than the original post.

            That may be, but what does tu quoque have to do with moral rectitude? It is entirely possible–easy, even–to point out that the article is mistaken without indulging in the very thing you criticize.

            • beau_quilter

              Well, I agree with you there. Two wrongs don’t make a right. I’ve tried to be judicious in my comments. I just don’t want the editors of Friendly Atheist to miss the bad reporting that is clear in this post.

          • Terry Firma

            I’ve addressed how misguided your criticism is several times, earlier in this thread. Done now.

            • beau_quilter

              Terry

              Just reread the descriptions of the homily. Even all of the catholic news summaries are positing this as a caution against Virgin Mary sightings and End Times prophecies. There are many catholics who would love to quote papal decrees against scientific inquiry, but that’s just not how the homily reads.

              I’m not saying that the catholic church is not and has not been guilty of promoting ignorance and bigotry. I’m just saying that this is not the example that you think it is. Making bad allegations just makes us look as bad as them.

      • SeekerLancer

        I agree with you. He took the pope’s words totally out of context and is wrong about their meaning.

        But I don’t think you should complain about down votes and criticize the reasonable discourse of the people here whilst calling the author of this post an idiot.

        • Tim Sentron

          Where did I call him an idiot?

          • SeekerLancer

            Ah, sorry. Disqus did that glitch thing where it said the wrong user name. It was telling me you were Julio Degnan. My apologies.

            • 3lemenope

              Disqus’d!

    • Terry Firma

      Oh, spare me.

      I’ve said this before, earlier in the thread:

      Francis: “We find ourselves before another spirit, contrary to the wisdom of God: the spirit of curiosity”. Then he criticizes people who “want to be the masters of the projects of God, of the future, of things, to know everything, to have everything in hand.”

      The way I read it, at that point, he’s already drifted well away from Mary apparitions in taco shells — now he’s addressing curiosity and intellectual inquiry in general.

      • beau_quilter

        The context is End Times prophecies:

        “When we want to be the masters of the projects of God, of the future, of things, to know everything, to have everything in hand … the Pharisees asked Jesus, ‘When will the Kingdom of God come?’ Curious! They wanted to know the date, the day… The spirit of curiosity distances us from the Spirit of wisdom because all that interests us is the details, the news, the little stories of the day,”

      • Julio Degnan

        Now you are just grasping at straws.

        There is no indication anywhere that he transitioned to talking about curiosity in general.

        One of the most important parts of being a rational thinker is admitting that you are wrong.

      • OldAtheist

        Pope Francis is one of the few Popes or Cardinals with scientific training. He regularly lauds the sciences as well as creativity. Given his own history, it seems far more likely that we can take his homily on face value in reference to Mary on a chip and End Times nuttery than that he has decided to refute his past 30 years of speeches and writing.

        For example: “Science has its own autonomy and it must be respected and encouraged. We should not meddle with scientists’ autonomy.”

        I’m not a Catholic. I’m an atheist. But intellectual integrity is a paramount virtue, and when we read the words of others, we need to be charitable and consider context. We shouldn’t go looking to cherry pick so that we can feed our own tribalism or simmer ourselves in outrage.

  • Rain

    I’m glad someone made sense out of those two pope paragraphs. I sure don’t know what the hell he’s talking about lol.

  • OldAtheist

    Congratulations. You took a homily in which the Pope told his followers to not look for pictures of Jesus in their toast into a tirade against science. Perhaps reading comprehension is too hard for you? Or did you not bother to click beyond the article and go read the homily itself (which is online) to see that this Pope is saying the exact opposite of what you’re trying to ascribe to them.

    I swear, New Atheists and fundamentalists are exactly the same. Literal-minded and afraid of imagination and context. They just have different sets of beliefs that they’re literal-minded about.

    • Bender

      Why on earth would we want to read an homily?

      • 3lemenope

        This cuts both ways. Why would you expect a homily to speak to your concerns?

        • ShoeUnited

          It was an atheist who threw you an upvote.

          • 3lemenope

            It was an atheist who wrote the comment. This thread seems utterly plagued with Disqus errors; half the time I reload the page because otherwise it reads like a person having a long tumultuous conversation with themselves.

    • ShoeUnited
  • Paul Zimmerle

    One comment:
    Don’t call them the Dark Ages.

    That’s a misnomer applied by ignorant Renaissance bards looking back at the past with rose-tinted glasses.

    Any real historian will tell you that we had a great deal of progress throughout the Middle Ages, even some of it through the Church which supported universities – though I might argue that the Church hampered some of it, considering they did suppress numerous texts and later persecuted certain scientific figures.

    Fact is, though, there is no such thing as the Dark Ages. Look it up.

    • Keyra

      Exactly. Even scientists like Copernicus and Galileo were wise enough not to let misrepresentation (or their discoveries for that matter) affect their relationship with God. And had the wisdom to know that their discoveries didn’t discredit God in any way

      • ShoeUnited

        Pretty sure Galilelo was in more trouble because he was interpreting the bible in a way the pope didn’t like.

        • 3lemenope

          Honestly I think Galileo was most in trouble because his theory showed Aristotle to be wrong.

          Catholics love(d) Aristotle. Almost more than Jesus.

        • Anathema

          The primary reason that Galileo got in trouble was that he was arguing in favor of heliocentricism. One of the most common arguments against heliocentricism was that it contradicted the Bible. An advocate of heliocentricism had two options: they could either say that the Scriptures were inaccurate or they could argue that it was impossible to interpret them in a way that was compatible with heliocentricism. Galileo took the latter option. I doubt that the Inquisition would have gone any easier on Galileo if he had taken the former option instead.

          The reason that the Church itself gave for going after Galileo was that he advocated for heliocentricism. Look at the Papal Condemnation of Galileo. You’ll notice that Galileo’s interpretations of the Scriptures get a mention in the first paragraph, as one of many things that Galileo was denounced to the Inquistion for. The rest of the document focuses on Galileo’s advocacy on behalf of heliocentricism. That was Galileo’s main offense. That he argued that the Scriptures could be interpreted in a way that was compatible with heliocentricism was a side issue — the real problem was that Galileo was arguing on behalf of a heretical position like heliocentricism in the first place.

        • Conuly

          Galileo got in trouble because when he wrote his book, he included a character that was obviously supposed to be The Church and who also was a total buffoon. His science might have slid right by, but he went ahead and said “the church is stupid!”

      • Paul Zimmerle

        Discrediting god came later, which is why we happily reject him today. :D

      • Bender

        And had the wisdom to know that their discoveries didn’t discredit God in any way

        In the same way the discovery of the Higgs boson doesn’t discredit Spiderman.

  • http://loathsomehuman.wordpress.com/ Keane

    Boom. Head shot.

  • Keyra

    Romans 1:21

  • TiltedHorizon

    “The Kingdom of God is among you.”

    Just don’t question it, look for it, wonder about it, or seek it. Keep you eyes closed, just accept it without question. So sez the great and power Oz…. wait… Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!!

  • bmorejoe

    eh. sounds to me like he is using the word in a diff sense and you are making unuseful mischief.

    • islandbrewer

      In what sense is he using it, then? If he’s being unclear, and a bad communicator, could you please explain what he does mean?

      • beau_quilter

        It’s very clear what he means if you read the original homily. He is talking about the curiosity that many catholics have about visions from the Virgin Mary and the end days. He is encouraging catholics not to spend their time looking for visions and end-time prophecies.

        He is not talking about scientific curiosity.

      • bmorejoe

        um, let’s see – what language did he say this in originally? was it translated? if he said it in English, he is not a native speaker. The sentence sounds to me like he is not talking about scientific curiosity, spirit of inquiry etc I’m not going to try to mind read but if you are looking for religious stupids to be angry about I think you can find better examples.

  • beau_quilter

    I’m an atheist, and I find much that the church does and says bizarre and harmful.

    But Terry Firma is totally misrepresenting the pope’s statements here, as other commenters have pointed out. How can we expect to be taken seriously if we make false allegations that misrepresent and decontextualize our targets? There is plenty of legitimately bad religious behavior to target. Don’t make up targets that don’t exist!

    “Pope Francis warned against the ‘spirit of curiosity’ when attempting to find God and religious messages in outside forces, or trying to predict when Jesus Christ will return, reminding believers that the ‘The Kingdom of God is among you.’”

    The whole homily is against claims of “End Times” predictions and Virgin Mary sightings.

    • flyb

      That’s part of his homily. See the linked article in the link. The first part goes into great depth about how the wisdom of the Holy Spirit is the greatest thing ever and no one should ever question or doubt it. He then uses that argument to attempt to buttress the notion that no one should ever concern themselves with the goings-on of God’s world. Don’t worry about the whens or the whys or the hows… Just believe in the holy spirit’s wisdom.

      But I agree with the Pope to some degree about the silliness of people going apeshit because they find a cross imprinted on their Goldfish cracker. But ultimately, he’s just assigning arbitrary scores to the same levels of craziness. His belief that he’s the spokesperson of god is the same as someone thinking the tree across the street from the church is crying Christian tears.

      • beau_quilter

        Well that’s a valid argument to make. Terry Firma could have been critical of the pope’s over-arching premises, while still being clear about the pope’s intended context. This post just makes it look like the pope is lashing out against scientific curiosity specifically.

        • flyb

          And I completely agree with you there. A lot of this discussion here in this thread probably could have been avoided. In fact, it’s almost laughable that we’re all here discussing this on a beautiful Saturday (at least where I am). But the joke’s on me, too, cuz here I am.

        • OldAtheist

          Given that this Pope is one of the few whose background is in the sciences, I sincerely doubt he is opposed to scientific curiosity.

    • The Other Weirdo

      Does context really matter when dealing with an organization that practices ritual cannibalism and advocates exorcisms?

      • beau_quilter

        Context matters when you’re trying to show that you’re the rational one.

  • bmorejoe

    um, let’s see – what language did he say this in originally? was it translated? if he said it in English, please note he is not a native speaker. The sentence sounds to me like he is not talking about scientific curiosity, spirit of inquiry etc I’m not going to try to mind read but if you are looking for religious stupids to be angry about I think you can find better examples. To me you are straining here.

  • atheismFTW

    So curiosity is a bad thing? Does the Pope also think medical intervention and vehicle safety is bad? Because without curiosity, we wouldn’t have these lifesaving things.

    Curiosity leads to confusion? No, it leads to knowledge, which is what humans are capable of. Why would we evolve to have such advanced brains if we weren’t supposed to use them?

    And curiosity is contrary to God’s wisdom? So, in essence, Pope Francis is saying that his God is a close-minded peabrain of a deity who hasn’t a chance in hell of offering humankind anything of worth.

    Oh, and gotta love that part in the homily where he talks about Saint Teresa suppressing her desire to know the end of a story told by a friend. Like refraining from asking a question is so noble. [insert big ass eye roll here]

    Yeah, Francis, I’ll pass on that juice you’re drinking at mass.

  • Aspieguy

    Just when I was beginning to actually like a pope, he had to say something brainless. I am an intensely curious person. It doesn’t look like confusion to me. Wow, more bullshit from the papal chair.

  • XBrc

    Impressive. Impressive how you can misreport a fact. I recommend everybody to read te article that is linked and see what the pope said. It has nothing to do with the interpretation of this article.
    I am an atheist scientist (French particle physicist, couldn’t be more atheist). However as a scientist, I put a lot of value on exactitude. And this article totally lacks it.
    Last point of interest: many commenters go along the lines of te article, showing they did not check the link. They are in some sense like people in a church listening to the priest. My 2 cents, an advice I give to all my students that is not enough followed in science: if you read something that goes in the right direction, be more cautious about it than you would be if it was schocking. We usually don’t look into details where we read a message we like. This is when we can most easily be biased.


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