Holy smoke! How about equal time?

By BARRY WEISLEDER

Saturation coverage by the corporate media of a recent resignation and election in Vatican City showed how the ruling rich impose certain ideas.

Even in an increasingly secular world, privileged elites continue brazenly to push ideological opiates. It helps them, I suppose, that in Pope Francis the patriarchal plutocracy has found a super-salesman for its damaged goods. The inconvenient fact that the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio cooperated with a brutal military dictatorship in his native Argentina seems overshadowed by other scandals—such as Catholic Church protection of child molesters in its priestly ranks.

But how can the gross extent of the fawning coverage the Catholic rite received be explained? Is all that attention somehow due to its “popularity?” Not according to the numbers.

The conservative Pew Research Centre reports that Christianity encompasses 2.2 billion people, 32 per cent of the total world population. About half that number, 16 per cent, is Roman Catholic—which is, by the way, a very generous estimate given the acres of empty pews on Sunday. Pew says that Islam claims 23 per cent, Hinduism 15 per cent, Buddhism 7 per cent.

Well, guess which philosophical outlook equals or surpasses most of those? Atheism, agnosticism or “no religious affiliation.” That is the fastest growing section, at 16 per cent.

But can you recall the last time a “free thinker,” a non-believer, or a flaming atheist got equal billing with a pope, a primate, an ayatollah, a dalai lama, or a chief rabbi? Can you think of a time, even in the so-called “Western democracies,” when someone representing a scientific outlook on philosophy or ethics was given equal time with, or the opportunity to rebutt, religious superstition on mainstream TV or radio?

Off course you can’t. That is because religious propaganda is promoted by the establishment. Whether the individual big shots believe in it or not, they know religion massively supports the institutions of a racist, sexist, increasingly unequal society—the one not so affectionately known as capitalism.

Surely, one hopes, things will change. And indeed they will. After all, nothing is permanent but change. But don’t hold your breathe for radical church reform. A world socialist revolution is much more likely than the advent of a Black, lesbian, feminist pope. Besides, the revolution will be much more socially satisfying.