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Geoffrey Berg

News........Even the Pope Can’t Prove He Is In Contact With God!

An Article to Commemorate Pope Benedict XVI’s Visit To Britain

The Pope is visiting Britain. There has been a lot of controversy about the cost, the propriety of making it a state visit, about his treatment of previous child abuse among clergy. However what seems to have escaped notice is that of over six billion people living on Earth, the claims made by and about the Pope are the most extraordinary.

I have written a book, The Six Ways Of Atheism, setting out logical arguments why God cannot exist. Yet the Roman Catholic Church does not merely claim that God exists but that its leader, the Pope, is the present incarnation of God’s word on Earth and is a mini version of Jesus Christ living in our time! He alone, supposedly guided by God’s Holy Spirit can amend ancient Church doctrines and over a billion Catholics worldwide are expected to follow his dictats. Indeed since the nineteenth century he can even ordain his pronouncements as infallible!

This is a cult and religious authority of a size beyond the wildest dreams of any Indian God-Man, any fanatic Ayatollah or even the Dalai Lama! Even other smaller Christian denominations do not accord any Leader that sort of authority. The Eastern Orthodox Christians don’t believe any person can unilaterally amend the traditions and scriptures of their Church which they take to be sources of authority far greater than that ever accorded to any human being, however mighty a priest he may be. Protestants don’t believe in an intermediary like the Pope between God and Man but leave it to their individual adherents to communicate with God through their own individual and less authoritative minds.

I expect the Pope will not deign to explain to other mortals how he gets to gain special access to God beginning somehow with his election to the Papacy and has become the supreme living articulation of God’s will on Earth. So as I don’t expect the Pope to be very helpful in this respect during his visit to Britain, nor indeed at any time, let me show as a commemoration of his visit to Britain, my country, how logically fallacious his doctrine and indeed those of lesser religious gurus and actually all religions are.

In The Six Ways Of Atheism one of the arguments I use why people should not believe in God is my ‘Man And God Comprehension Gulf Argument’ describing the unbridgeable gulf in comprehension (and identification) for a mortal with any supposedly immortal entity. Yet religions add an extra unbridgeable comprehension gulf to that argument because of the necessity for religions (in contrast to mere deists) to have some point of contact between their God and people so that people can discover that their particular religion is indeed correct. In the case of Roman Catholics the main point of contact is apparently the divinely inspired Pope who leads their Church. It is a strange doctrine. Unlike the generality of prophets, the Pope becomes the ultimate divinely inspired prophet, not at his birth nor upon some particular revelation but upon the death of the previous Pope and his election by other people to the papacy. Until then he, like every other faithful Catholic, just follows a previous Pope’s policies. The doctrine is strange but it is, in accordance with Catholic tradition, intended to magnify the Church as an institution. For many centuries the Catholic Church presented itself not merely as a necessary intermediary between Man and God but even as an intermediary between ordinary people and the supposedly holy scriptures of their religion. These scriptures were kept exclusively in a foreign language (Latin) which very few people outside the Church understood so that Catholic priests were necessary even to explain the scriptures, let alone God’s current will to Roman Catholics.

However the insuperable problem with the Pope (or indeed anything else) as a point of contact between God and people is that nobody, no mortal human can be sure that the contact with a supposedly unique and certainly supposedly immortal God is genuine. No human, be it Moses, Mohammed, Guru Nanak, Christ or the current Pope, can properly as a mortal person of limited intellect be sure his supposed communication is with an immortal, unlimited entity that is genuinely God over the whole Universe. Nobody can rationally be sure that his supposed messages from God are not coming from aberrations within his own mind or mental delusions. This is even before one considers whether the supernatural entity he is supposedly in communication with is genuinely immortal and genuinely God rather than some daemonic pretender to be God. This is an identification which would necessarily be far beyond the scope and abilities of any mortal human to make.

So I think we should be closely questioning the Pope (or Mr Joseph Ratzinger to be more precise) as to how he copes with the problems of identifying and verifying the supposed God whose will he and his followers claim he expresses. The fact is there is no rational method by which any point of divine contact, the Pope’s included, can rationally or logically be confirmed. In essence it is all irrational and therefore a confidence trick or delusion, maybe usually a self delusion.

Let me for the benefit of the Pope and others translate what I have written above into logical terms and a logical argument. I set it out below in a similar manner to my arguments against the existence of God (or sometimes just belief in God) that I have set out the various logical arguments in The Six Ways Of Atheism. So expressed it is:

Proof Of The Fallacy Of Human Belief In Theistic Religions

1. All theistic religions (and there are many differing theistic religions) necessarily depend upon God making itself known to mankind and humans being able to identify God.
2. God making itself known to humans must necessarily be done through points of contact between any supposed God and humanity at large, or at least the religion’s adherents (this may be via scriptures, prophets, individual revelation etc).
3. However it is impossible for any mortal and limited person to be sure of identifying any immortal or unlimited entity (people do not live long enough to have any means of being justifiably sure of any other entity’s future immortality).
4. Therefore no person can be justifiably sure that any alleged point of contact between God and humanity is actually from God rather than produced subconsciously by his own mind or by an impostor (such as the kind of powerful daemon René Descartes envisaged in his Meditations) who just happens to be more powerful than humans.
5. Therefore no mortal human has any reliable means of identifying God (even if God were to exist). So nobody can be sure any alleged point of contact between any hypothesised God and humans is actually with a genuine, immortal God.
6. Therefore humans cannot rationally believe in any particular God or in any religion.

So how has this fallacy of the Pope entering into a unique relationship with an identifiable God upon becoming Pope gained credibility and widespread respect?

Well, religions seem to operate like debt. There is a similar quirky effect about them both. There is an old and true saying that if you owe a bank a thousand pounds you have a problem (as the debt threatens just your financial viability): however if you owe a bank a million pounds the bank has a problem (as the debt threatens the bank’s financial viability). Likewise it seems to be with religions – if a religion only has relatively few believers, its believers have a problem (and it is nowadays pejoratively called ‘a cult’). However if a religion has many millions of believers (like Islam or Christianity) it is somehow considered very respectable and its non-believers, the rest of the world, have a problem. Yet the intrinsic merits or rather demerits with both debt and religion, whether it be a relatively small amount or a very substantial amount are just the same!

Geoffrey H.L. Berg

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