Of course, the UK has not been a Catholic country since Henry VIII split from the Church. For centuries Catholics were regarded as the enemy, and to be an active Catholic was akin to practising treason. The popes have long been unwelcome in the UK, and the reaction and commentary from many in the media this week suggests that little has changed.
The Pope seems happy to brand anything he doesn't like as atheistic.
Even in our own lifetime, we can recall how Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live.Never mind the irony of the Church lecturing others on how to treat Jews. Hitler may have been an atheist (I really don't know), but there was nothing atheistic about the Nazis or their beliefs. This is a particularly good compilation of some extremely religious quotes from Hitler (Hat tip: Open Parachute via Twitter). It includes such gems as:
I believe today that my conduct is in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator.And so on.
This human world of ours would be inconceivable without the practical existence of a religious belief.
I am now as before a Catholic and will always remain so.
Only in the steady and constant application of force lies the very first prerequisite for success. This persistence, however, can always and only arise from a definite spiritual conviction. Any violence which does not spring from a firm, spiritual base, will be wavering and uncertain.
The Pope has also told a gathering of politicians and religious leaders that religious festivals, such as Christmas, are under threat. He must have rocks in his head. The commercialisation of this ancient festival is so ingrained that Christmas will be with us forever.
But I'd be happy for it to be "rebranded", so to speak. Let's return this day to its roots. Christmas is simply a rip-off of the Roman festival of Saturnalia, a week-long celebration in December that began on the 17th. The most striking feature of the ancient festival was the reversal of roles between master and slave (even if this was largely superficial and ceremonial in most cases). The aspects of Saturnalia we continue to observe are those involving feasting and the giving of presents.
I respect the right of the Pope to worship his particular sky fairy. But what I don't appreciate are lectures on morality from the leader of an organisation with a history of murder, violence and extortion that would make a mafioso blush.
Update: here's Richard Dawkins speaking at a rally, in which he responds to the Pope's claims that atheism was responsible for Hitler. Dawkins is electrifying (hat tip: Open Parachute).