Is Everyone Excited About a Papal Visit to Philly?


We like to talk about what unifies us on this site. We also like to talk about what is relevant, and particularly what is locally relevant. The Pope’s upcoming visit is a perfect example of local and global relevance happening simultaneously. But religion, for as much as it can be seen as unifying, is also a great divider- perhaps the greatest divider of all. In the interest of seeing all sides, we felt we would be remiss if we only spoke to people who were excited and happy about the Pope and his visit. Our friend Sean Boyle, was nice enough to briefly discuss with us his feelings, as an atheist, on the upcoming papal visit, and on religion in general.

pope1Would you identify yourself as agnostic or atheist? Do you see a distinction between the two?
I would consider myself an atheist because I don’t believe in God…an agnostic doesn’t know if there is a god…it’s a semantic difference that I feel in practice is splitting hairs.

Growing up, were you raised with a particular religious affiliation? At what point in your life do you think you deviated from what you grew up with?
I was raised catholic..I stopped going to church when I was maybe 16 or 17 and never went back (except for weddings/funerals etc…)

A very basic definition of atheism states that an atheist is a person who lacks faith in God, believes there is no god, or lacks awareness of any god. What would you cite as your primary reason(s) for having this belief?
I believe that modern science is vastly superior at explaining the nature of the universe than members of a bronze age agrarian culture.

So, speaking about a belief and faith in God, the Pope is coming to Philly for the World Meeting of Families next weekend. A tremendous amount of preparation has been done by the city, including road and business closures, changes to public transportation and mass transit, added security measures in and around the city. Tickets are being sold, hotels are all full. Do you feel like all of this is warranted or is much ado about nothing?
If over a million people are coming here as I’ve heard than I suppose it is warranted. If you are asking if I think over a million people should be coming here than I’d say no….but they are… so yeah… we need to be prepared.

pope3Many people have said that despite sticking to his convictions on the basic tenets of Catholicism, that what we have in Pope Francis is something of a new generation of papal leader. He is said to be more genuine, more in touch with the people, more “human”. He’s been called “The People’s Pope”. As someone who does not necessarily hold the Pope in high regard nor feels compelled to listen to his proclamations and abide by them, what is your objective opinion of this pope?
Objectively he is definitely an improvement compared to the status quo. In some ways I like him. Am I a fan? Let me know when he is pro gay marriage and we’ll talk.

Do you feel as though this pope has the potential for bringing back a generation of Catholics who may have distanced themselves previously from their religious faith?
No. Maybe a few percentage points… that’s about it.

The Catholic church has experienced steadily declining numbers of those who attend church regularly, or even of those who identify themselves as being Catholic. Do you think there is something the Pope, or the Catholic church as a whole can do to be more relevant? Something they can do to boost back up enrollment so to speak?
Let women be priests. Let priests marry. Accept homosexuals as equals. That would be a nice start. It’s a long list.

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