Monday, September 21, 2015

UPDATE: Holy Father the Chemist

Pope Francis

Pope Francis and His Little Fiat - The New Yorker

Transcript: Pope Francis’s speech at the White House 

Transcript: Pope Francis's speech to Congress 

There have been some strange twists and turns in religiosity the past few weeks perhaps foreshadowing Pope Francis’ visit to our country this week. No doubt Kentucky county auditor Kim Davis is both deeply religious and an upstanding civil servant but not to choose one’s religious faith and resign from one’s sworn duties as a civil servant when it comes in conflict makes a mockery of both the faith she holds and the duties of the office she had sworn to perform.

The trouble with people like Kim Davis invoking their belief in God as the final argument is that it ends civil discourse. It’s like saying the spirit gods of the ancient forest say clear cutting is bad. You can say it and believe it but It’s awfully hard to have a discussion about the pros and cons of clear cutting with you.

Around the time the Kim Davis circus was in high gear, there was a report about a study that found that people who live in beautiful places are more likely to have lower rates of religious adherence. ( Live In A Beautiful Region? You're Less Likely To Be Religious ) A modest proposal would have been to invite Ms. Davis to this side of the Cascades and let her chill a bit. But that’s not the way religiosity works itself out.

You’d think a rich and smart man like Ben Carson who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination would have spent time in beautiful places with trees, lakes and mountains but it certainly didn’t affect his heart or his brain when he wears his Christian faith on his sleeve and declares that no one who believes in the Muslim faith should be president of the Unites States. Because being a Muslim is not consistent with the Constitution of the United States. Whereas Kim Davis who is a Christian is of a faith that is consistent with the constitution of the United States. But she will not, due to her Christian faith, uphold the laws under the constitution of the Unites States.

See how complicated it gets when folks get religiosity and civics mixed up?

Then, again, I still remember the national discussion when John F. Kennedy ran for president and whether a Catholic (presumably with a hotline to Rome) should be in the White House. Some folks even had qualms about Mitt Romney, a Morman, possibly becoming president but maybe that was because of the underwear thing.

At a dinner this past weekend, I said that, when Pope Francis comes to this country, he will be talking to politicians about climate change and social justice and probably invoking God the same way Kim Davis invokes God as the final authority. Makes talking about climate change hard when you invoke God, I said.

No, my dinner host said, Francis is a chemist.

(According to Thomas Reese, “Pope Francis studied chemistry and worked as a chemist prior to entering the seminary. But Jorge Bergoglio never graduated from university prior to entering the seminary. What he did do was graduate with a título in chemistry from the Escuela Técnica Industrial No. 12*, which is a state-run technical secondary school.” Does Pope Francis have a master's degree in chemistry? )

So, I said, as long as he speaks to climate change as a chemist and in terms of sciene, he won’t be like Kim Davis and those religious fanatics?

True, and that’s great. I look forward to hearing and cheering on the Holy Father the Chemist.

[See: Pope Francis’s Environmental Encyclical: 13 Things to Know and Share  (Catholic Answers)]

[If you’d like to taste an example of being spiritual in telling stories based on chemistry and not invoking God, check out Primo Levi’s book, The Periodic Table.]

--Mike Sato

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