The Lesson We Didn’t Learn From 9/11

I’m sure there was a lot to be learned from 9/11… lessons about emergency response, lessons about airplane security, lessons about national morale, and heck—the very invention of the term “homeland security.” The attacks on our soil surely shook us all, but there was one really important concept that seems to have been lost on everybody: how to prevent it from happening again.

It’s not a complicated answer. Al Qaida’s attack on the U.S. was motivated by religious fundamentalism. So the lesson learned should be to oppose and quell religious fundamentalism. But we did the opposite. We turned to our own churches and gave them even more power over society than they already had. We propagated Islamophobia, drawing sharper divides between faiths than those that had inspired the attacks to begin with. We launched two holy wars, fighting fire with fire as we’ve attempted to assert our “Judeo-Christianity” world-power authority over those who don’t fit the mold. And we did it all because we’re insecure, because we’re a nation who relies on faith—God shed his grace on thee—to find meaning and value in the potential we have to be great.

It’s ten years later, and look where we are. Islamophobia is a multi-billion dollar industry. War persists without end, though the Arab Spring brings hope that change will come not at the hands of an outside force but from within those nations who will no longer suffer tyrants. And on our home soil, we have creeping Dominionism, the effort to impose Christian dominion over the “seven mountains” of society: government, education, media, arts & entertainment, religion, family, and most importantly, business. As Christian leaders motivate fear of Islam through so-called “creeping Sharia”—the  absurd idea that Muslims have already started taking over our communities and instituting strict Sharia Law—they are using this fear to impose their own control over society. And while some like Pat Robertson and Matt Barber now play coy as if they’ve never heard of Dominionism, let alone the fact they contribute to it on a daily basis, Dominionism is more visible and present in mainstream America than ever before and well connected to the entire religious right. Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s prayer rally this Summer (which featured a wide array of religious right leaders making cameos), was predominated by some of the top names in Dominionism. Both he and Rep. Michele Bachmann have close ties to the movement and our frontrunner Republican presidential candidates.

The answer to Muslim fundamentalism is not Christian fundamentalism. Both are warring factions, fighting for power and control over society. The creeds that inform them do little to distinguish them. Both need to be opposed.

The attacks on 9/11/2001 taught us how destructive religious fundamentalism can be to mind and heart. Until we learn to resist fundamentalism’s lust for hegemony, we will continue to fall victim to the very primitive notions that caused 9/11. The time is over for sadness, confusion, insecurity, and fear. It’s time for courage of conviction, organized inclusion, trust in one another, and confidence in the power of diversity. We must avail ourselves of a society in which all people can live freely without imposition of one faith group or another. The goal should be harmony, not “safety.”

It’s been a while since I’ve taken time out to critique the privilege religion has over society, but I hope that today, whoever’s out there reading this thinks of nothing else. Where would we be today if ten years ago, we realized that the scariest threat to our world is shallow, insecure thinking and that the answer is to reach out to one another rather than cloistering ourselves off and forcing everybody else out?

Where would we be if we treated people the way we want people to be treated rather than just the way we think our particular version of God wants us to be treated?

Until we learn that lesson, we are no safer than we were ten years ago today.



“athiest can go to hell”

As I’ve tried to raise discussion today about the inclusion of nonbelievers in the LGBT movement, this comment appeared on an old post:

athiest can go to hell

Matthew Laws, whose email address includes the word “skinhead,” offered these five words of brilliance, and I’m going to leave the comment up, but offer this reply.

I am amazed that in just five words, Matthew Laws was able to communicate a spelling error, a grammatical error, and a message that is factually inaccurate.

First of all, it’s atheist, not athiest. The “EE” comes before the “ist.”

Second of all, it ought to be plural; otherwise, specify which one atheist you think can go to hell.

Lastly, it wouldn’t matter which atheist, because atheists can’t go to hell. We just can’t. You have to believe in hell to get there.

I will not go to hell. You can’t make me go to hell. You can’t convince me I’ll go to hell. You can never prove to others that I went to hell.

There is no hell. (And boy is my life a whole lot more pleasant with that knowledge.)

So, this comment seems a grand way to demonstrate how little people know about atheists. Thanks, Matthew Laws. You’re a testament to skinheads everywhere.



Creating an Atheist-Inclusive Creating Change and LGBT Movement

[It might be helpful to read some previous posts that set the context for this one. Last year, I wrote about how religious I felt Creating Change to be. In November, I built upon that post, arguing that nonbelievers have become a marginalized community within the LGBT movement. And then, before attending this year’s Creating Change, I noted how prevalent religious themes would again be and the fact that the atheist caucus I’d proposed would be the only space that affirmed nonbelievers.]

The opening plenary of Creating Change 2011 bridged the main conference with its subconference, Practice Spirit, Do Justice. Entitled “Hard work for our common good,” the panel featured four religious leaders with prepared statements: Bishop Yvette Flunder (City of Refuge/UCC), Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson (MCC), Rabbi Joshua Lesser, and Faisal Alam, a Muslim leader.

And while I was prepared for many faith-centric messages, I was not prepared for how erased and marginalized I would feel on the very first day of the conference. Most of the 25 who joined the atheist caucus the following evening expressed similar concerns, as did many CC veterans who could not attend but followed along on Twitter.

As an obvious start, the opening panel did not feature a Humanist, Unitarian, or nonbeliever who could speak for the experiences of those who do not identify with faith. Arguably, plenty of other worldviews also went unrepresented as well. But the language that was used, particularly by Rev. Wilson and Bishop Flunder, not so subtly erased nonbelievers from the LGBT community and movement. And while atheists and agnostics were acknowledged a time or two, we were not represented nor affirmed by the supposedly interfaith panel. Continue reading “Creating an Atheist-Inclusive Creating Change and LGBT Movement” »



Indiana Conservatives Gloat Messages of Anti-Gay Tyranny

In case you get your I-states mixed up, Iowa has same-sex marriage, Illinois just got civil unions, and Indiana has nothing of the sort. Indiana is where they call themselves “Hoosiers,” which means “people from Indiana.” In Indiana, same-sex marriage is already banned AND the Indiana Supreme Court has already ruled that the ban is constitutional. And with a Republican legislature, there’s really no hope in sight.

For some reason, though, the legislature has found it necessary to go a step further, just to really rub LGBT faces in the discrimination already faced. On Tuesday, the Indiana House passed a marriage discrimination amendment with a bipartisan vote of 70-26, with many Democrats defecting to support the bill. The state equality group has very little influence; the only support for LGBT Hoosiers comes from a few public universities who don’t see too far past their campus borders.

Fed up with the incessant abuse taking place in his home state, Bil Browning has committed to using The Bilerico Project to bring the heat on Indiana legislators. I am all too happy to lend my support for Queersiers (a word I just made up, but one I hope catches on) by doing what I do best: responding to the insidious rhetoric of the religious right. Continue reading “Indiana Conservatives Gloat Messages of Anti-Gay Tyranny” »



NOM’s Excuse for Research Methodology

As readers may know, Maryland has a lot of momentum toward legalizing marriage equality.

The National Organization for Marriage is set on preventing that and dissipating that momentum however they can.

Today, they released a poll saying that Marylanders OPPOSE marriage equality 54-37, a poll that doesn’t jive with a poll conducted just a month ago that found Marylanders SUPPORT marriage equality 51-44.

NOM claims that the January poll was biased because it asked its question using the phrase “giving them the same legal rights as heterosexual married couples in areas such as tax exemptions, inheritance and pension coverage.” By couching the language in “giving rights” to gay couples, Dr. Gary Lawrence says that it biases the poll toward support.

So how does NOM ask a balanced question?

As far as you personally are concerned, should marriage be between a man and a woman, or should it also be available to same-sex couples?

Funny how their talking point comes first… yeah, there’s no bias there. It’s also perfectly balanced to demonstrate the proponents’ side.

Just ignore this. Nothing of value to see here. Certainly no integrity.



NGLTF’s Apparently “Extremist” Vision, According to AFTAH

My new Twitter “buddy,” Peter LaBarbera, brought some folks to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Creating Change conference last week. He represents, of course, Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, an organization that condemns homosexuality and supports ex-gay therapy, incredibly harmful positions that completely contradict decades of psychological and sociological research.

Naturally, Peter and his group were quite put off with some of what they found at Creating Change (which apparently was sponsored by Chili’s? I didn’t realize, but I’ll remember next time I chance to eat there). As my twitter exchange with Peter continues and he prepares to report on more detail about what he and his spies “discovered,” I thought I’d offer an initial response to the complaints he has filed about the conference. Continue reading “NGLTF’s Apparently “Extremist” Vision, According to AFTAH” »



Most Catholics Support Marriage Equality… They Should Act Like It

The Gay Liberation Network protested Chicago’s Holy Name Cathedral yesterday for Cardinal Francis George’s “overdrive” efforts to oppose civil unions in Illinois.

GLN’s Bob Schwartz pointed out that 60 percent of Catholics now support marriage equality (multiple polls add to the evidence of this majority view), and that the real problem is in the hierarchy. Surely groups like Catholics for Equality are helping move that message within the Church community.

Of course, that doesn’t change the power of the voices of Cardinals, Bishops, and Popes who speak on behalf of all Catholics. Their voices carry and often successfully paint the Zeitgeist in ways that very much oppose those survey results. If so many Catholics do support marriage equality, then they should speak up and denounce the anti-LGBT expressions of their Church leaders.

More importantly, are all these pro-marriage equality Catholics ready to put their money where their mouths are? How many of them continue to tithe the Church, enabling its continued campaign against queer liberation? If 60% of Catholics suddenly stopped giving to the Church, it would be crippling!

I don’t really see that happening. Catholicism is not a democracy, so it doesn’t get credit for poll results. Only when all these supposed Catholic allies can turn their support into real action do they deserve any credit.

If you’re a Catholic who supports marriage equality, good for you! If you’re still putting money in the offering basket each week, thanks but no thanks. All those hundreds of thousands of dollars the Church spends on anti-LGBT campaigns come from good pro-LGBT Catholics like you.



White Conservatives Using Abortion as Wedge Issue for Black Voters

Race and abortion are not issues I write about as fluently, but I was so riled by some things I’ve read that I couldn’t not write something.

Nothing seems to irk white conservatives quite like the way members of the black community tend to support Democrats, and in particular, President Obama. Clearly, there was a meeting held and/or a memo sent out, and it was decided that a wedge had to be introduced. With support for gay rights higher than ever as evidenced by the support of DADT repeal, the Prop 8 plan would not be effective. How, then, to turn African-American voters against a beloved biracial President?

The answer seems to be abortion.

Religious right discussion of abortion seems to be (re)accelerating, and the latest anti-choice pitch looks like this:

We white conservatives care so much about the black community that we don’t want any more black babies to be killed. You don’t want your race to die out, do you? Of course not. We’re your real allies.

Of course, as Pam Spaulding pointed out to Peter LaBarbera on Twitter today:

Pam_Spaulding: @peterlabarbera It’s been quite clear the Right isn’t interested in minority babies once they are out of the womb and growing up in poverty.

The conservative syllogism is this: Racists want less black people. Abortion results in less black people being born. Thus, opposing abortion means opposing racism.

Nothing should inspire suspicion of racism quite like white people trying to preemptively prove to an audience of color that they’re not racist, particularly when they’re trying to convince that same audience that someone else is. Margaret Sanger, the original founder of Planned Parenthood, is a favorite target, but even Barack Obama himself is not off limits.

(Lest you, my reader, should try at this point to point an ironic finger of blame, please allow me to set myself apart by acknowledging that I’ve got a ton of white privilege to work through and I’m not nearly as good an ally as I surely could be. I welcome all critiques of this and any other post that might help me be a better ally.)

Lila Rose, President of Live Action, is happy to help you assume that Planned Parenthood is inherently racist. It’s a pretty paltry exercise, though she doesn’t hold back to smear PP every chance she gets in every convoluted way she can. In this case, a “racist donor” calls up different Planned Parenthood locations and asks if he can give money and have it earmarked specifically for the abortion of a black baby. The PP representative says “Yes.” Thus, according to prominent pro-lifers like Alveda King (a profit-eager quisling who wouldn’t be anywhere without her uncle’s last name), PP is racist, because they accept money from racists.

To suggest that an organization is anti-black merely because they accept money intended to help provide the very service that they offer seems a pretty far cry. In fact, it could be argued the opposite. If a black woman is less likely to be able to afford an abortion due to her socioeconomic status, that essentially means she does not have equal opportunity—she doesn’t have the same right to choice. Therefore, having money set aside specifically for people of color to access is an effort against racism and white privilege, and it isn’t so different from scholarships that have the same intention.

So should Planned Parenthood be accepting huge donations from the KKK without flinching? Of course not. When Hell freezes over and I start believing in God, let me know, because that’s the day such an offer would ever be made. If PP is committed to social justice as they claim, they should perhaps better coach their personnel for identifying and responding to overt racists like in these baiting calls, but the uncomfortable reactions of a few ambushed administrative assistants do not come anywhere close to representing the principles or intentions of the organization as a whole. According to a New York Times article on this matter last year:

Planned Parenthood has apologized for the employees’ statements and says they do not reflect the organization’s values or policies.

As for Sanger, her support of eugenics is obviously deserving of scrutiny, but her rhetoric does not in any way live up to the blatant racism she is accused of. Regardless of any of her questionable principles, Sanger insisted that it is solely up to the mother to make the decision of whether a child should be brought into the world. It’s surprising that Alveda King is so eager to denounce Sanger and Planned Parenthood, given that her uncle, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., proudly accepted the Planned Parenthood Federation of America Margaret Sanger Award in 1966. In his acceptance speech, he pointed out a “striking kinship” between the civil rights movement and Sanger’s early efforts, adding, “the years have justified her actions.”

While the Live Action recordings are not new, Peter Heck’s twisting of Obama’s support of the right to choose is beyond the pale. In his column (re)published yesterday on the American Family Association’s OneNewsNow, Heck actually tried to paint President Obama as a proponent of slavery. Obama is “disgracing his racial ancestors” by embodying the “very dark spirit of oppression” that Frederick Douglass opposed. (Heck is on the same page as Douglass, obviously, in case you didn’t understand what he was trying to imply here). Anyone who supports abortion supports slavery by treating fetuses (“tiny humans”) as legal property. It’s a “slavish mindset” to have, and Barack Obama honors the legacy of “the plantation owners’ ideology.”

He continues to compare the “heinous butchery of abortion” to southern progenitors’ “abusive bull whips,” and Obama (“our first black president”) “has chosen to take up the whip against his fellow man,” warring “against the life work of Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, and Abraham Lincoln.”

Only a man terrifyingly unmoved by the injustices perpetrated against his own ancestors could, just a century and a half later, facilitate even worse atrocities without a hint of remorse.

Even though Heck is trying to suggest Lincoln was a better black president than a black (biracial) president, I suppose we should at least give him credit for acknowledging that Obama’s ancestors are American. But the Lincoln juxtaposition isn’t the worst of it.

Heck is unabashedly trying to make the case that Obama’s support of the right to choose is so harmful to “black America” (Heck’s quotes, not mine) that it undermines anything else he’s done to support that community. This is a euphemism for: Hey black people, Even though Obama looks like you, you shouldn’t trust him. He’s actually working against you. He’s a racist.

Of course, Heck is not the first white man to try to suggest Obama is racist. And in this case, it’s not even that euphemistic:

…it can rightly be concluded that Barack Obama disgraces his office, his ancestors, and his place in the eternal struggle for the rights of man.

That’s quite a claim. I wonder how successful it is with black readers.

These tactics are deplorable. It’s a farce to think that conservatives actually have the black community’s interests in mind, and it’s downright offensive that these people are trying to paint themselves as allies. Their motives are malicious, attempting to win votes through fear-mongering and hoping that the voters they sway just ignore the rest of their platform.

If the lack of racial diversity in Tea Party is indication, the tactics aren’t working. Let’s keep it that way.



Religion Alive and Well at Creating Change 2011

After last year’s Creating Change conference in Dallas, I wrote about how many celebrations of religion there were yet there was nothing that so much as recognized atheists might have even been in attendance. Since then, I’ve had numerous conversations with folks in the movement about the phenomenon, and the consensus has been that this embrace of religion is new, and a swinging of the pendulum away from what used to be a very toxic environment for any discussion of religion to an environment eager to reconcile with religion.

With the Creating Change conference as our case study, it seems that the pendulum has not reached its highest point; in fact, this year’s conference unabashedly embraces faith with a whole subconference called Practice Spirit, Do Justice.

The conference’s Spiritual Needs Subcommittee offers a Spiritual Diversity Ethics Statement (p. 20 of the Program Book), suggesting the following principles:

What we can affirm and agree on is:

» The inherent worth of every person; that every person is worthy of respect, support, caring, and invitation.

» The intention to work towards a culture free of discrimination and oppression based on any identity.

» The ethic that everyone is welcome to participate in this conference without the need to become like us in order to be acceptable.

» That the way we behave towards one another is the truest expression of [what] we believe.

I agree with all these principles. Still, the preponderance of religion-focused and faith-centric sessions seems to communicate an expectation that communing with faith is an essential part of LGBT work, which I inherently disagree with. I expect that there will be several occasions this year, as with last, when I will be in a situation when a religious practice is taking place around me.

And while I certainly understand that dealing with religion is an important part of LGBT work, this integration of being religious continues to trouble me. Here’s a look at all of the different sessions related to faith. (See the Program Book in my previous post to see full descriptions.)

First, there are a number of spiritual gatherings (p.25), which I actually appreciate as part of an inclusive conference, including Muslim Friday Prayer, Shabbat Celebration, and a Sunday morning interfaith gathering. The Calling of the Names continues to be part of a plenary session, but as long as it is not dominated by rhetoric like “lifting them up,” I think a group remembrance can be very meaningful for people of any worldview.

Faith in America is holding a reception Friday evening to discuss the way people justify stigma and hostility against the LGBT community (p. 37). I continue to be nonplussed by FIA, an organization that defends and challenges faith at the same time. Members of the Episcopalian, Unitarian, and Metropolitan Community Churches are having receptions as well (p. 38).

The Practice Spirit, Do Justice subconference has its own day-long institute on Thursday to address intersectional movement building for both veterans and newbies of faith organizing and movement building (p. 43). There also several PSDJ sessions as part of the Task Force Academy for Leadership and Action (p. 51).

Here are some of the other workshops that relate to faith or that are part of the Practice Spirit, Do Justice track:

Beyond Transgender Inclusion to Transformation (p. 71)

Faith Based Models that futher Self-determination, Sovereignty and the Preservation of Sacred Sites (p. 72)

Hidden Voices: The Lives of LGBT Muslims (p. 72)

Making the Christian Case for LGBT Equality: Message Training (p. 73)

Join the Movement, Keep the Faith (p. 76)

Messology of the Black Church (p. 77)

The Pulpit of the Press: Making the Religious Case for LGBT Equality (p. 77)

(LGBTQ) Justice, (LGBTQ) Justice Shall You Pursue (p. 78)

Changing Minds of Conservative/Evangelical Christians (p. 79)

Media Savvy for Media Strategies (p. 81)

“God Hates Fags” (p. 82)

Race and Power: An Examination of Intersectionality (p. 84)

Working with Asian & Pacific Islander (A&PI) Congregations to Become Welcoming (p. 85)

API Caucus @ Practice Spirit, Do Justice (p. 86)

Atheist, Free Thinker, Non-Believer Caucus (p. 86)

Homo-Interior: Religious Design for Your Queer Soul (p. 88)

Telling Our Stories (p. 89)

Transgender: A Question of Faith (p. 89)

Lifting As We Climb: An Exercise (therefore you might sweat) In Rethinking How We Do What We Do So We Can Do It Better (p. 89)

Case Studies For Denominational Engagement (p. 89)

Mobilizing Pro-Equality Catholics on LGBT Issues (p. 91)

Of Faith and On-Line: Tools to Get Going (p. 91)

It’s All About The Frame (p. 94)

LGBT Synagogues and Organizations: Surfacing Our Diversity and Fitting the Mosaic Together (p. 94)

Spirit and Desire: Framing a Discussion About Our Spiritual and Erotic Lives (p. 95)

Building the Response to HIV and AIDS Across Communities (p. 97)

Humor, Hospitality, and Heliotropes as Tools for Social Change (p. 97)

Majority Minority – Case Studies in Advancing Equality among People of Color and People of Faith (p. 98)

Strategic Storytelling (p. 99)

Uganda-the Armageddon of the Culture Wars (p. 99)

Building a Statewide Interfaith Network for Equality (p. 101)

Fighting Islamophobia and Homophobia: Building Solidarity in Oppressed Communities (p. 101)

The Possibilities of Faith Work In An Aging LGBTQ Community (p. 103)

Building Bridges to Wholeness – Next Strategies for LGBT Jewish Movement Building (p. 104)

It’s All About Me: Queer Spirituality (p. 105)

Pagan and Queer (p. 106)

Queer Muslim Caucus (p. 106)

Strength for the Journey: A Reflective Workshop (p. 107)

That’s a whole lot of faith.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with any of these workshops. I’ll probably go to some of them. Still, it’s a healthy chunk of the conference dedicated to discussing (and often reinforcing) faith and spirituality. What’s important to note is that such a focus isn’t just unwelcoming of nonbelievers, it can also be contrary to the perspectives many bring to this work.

Certainly, many of these workshops are about working with people of faith or responding to people of faith, which doesn’t necessarily require being one. However, there is only one session at the whole conference that recognizes the existence of nonbelievers or those who might not have the same interest in promoting or reinforcing faith and spirituality.

And guess who’s hosting that atheist caucus Friday night?

Me.

I think this pendulum swing of our movement’s approach to religion is something worth discussing. I hope folks will come to the caucus to have that conversation, because I honestly don’t know how welcome it will be in the sessions I just listed above.

Is religion a good thing?
How do critical dialogues on religion impact efforts for LGBT equality?
What challenges do we face when we come out as atheists?
How can we best utilize the support of LGBT allies who are nonbelievers?
What responsibility does the LGBT community have to be allies to the atheist community?

These are some of the important questions I’m hoping to address this week. Perhaps I should be optimistic that so many other folks are as enthusiastic to discuss religion as I am.



That Time The Pope Actually Wanted to Talk to Me

P: Greetings, young Zachary.

Z: Ummm…. hi?

P: Yes, it’s me, Pope Benedict.

Z: I can see that. Don’t you ever get to wear jeans or sweats? That must suck. Anyways, hello. What can I do for you?

P: Well, I’m still kind of waiting for you to kneel and kiss my ring. You are Catholic right?

Z: Oh, yeah, not so much. I know I’m still on your records and all, but those are probably about 25 years out of date.

P: I know you call yourself an atheist, but I’m still the Pope, and you’re still Catholic, so down you go.

Z: Not likely.

P: Well that’s not a very good way to get things started.

Z: What are you even talking about?

P: We wise sages of The Vatican have initiated a new dialogue with you so-called nonbelievers!

Z: That’s interesting. So you’re paying for me to come to The Vatican to tell you what’s up?

P: Actually, it will be in Paris.

Z: Oh, that’s nice. I guess it wouldn’t be the most welcoming setting to invite atheists into the heart of all the Church’s opulent wealth.

P: Yeah, we thought universities would be better settings. And the Cathedral of Notre Dame.

Z: *sigh* Ah, of course.

P: And we’re not paying. In fact, we’re not even inviting. We like the idea of talking to atheists, and we like people knowing that we like the idea of talking to atheists, but we actually haven’t found anyone we want to have this dialogue with.

Z: Umm… well, I’ll pretend I believe you at this point and that it’s actually going to happen and be meaningful. Tell me more.

P: It’s going to be a series of seminars on the theme of “Religion, Light, and Common Reason.”

Z: Oh neat! The only thing I love more than physics lessons is discussions about how everything we’ve learned about our universe—much of which has become common knowledge—it all points to how unnecessary religion is. Sounds interesting!

P: Actually, we are thinking of it more as a “‘courtyard of the gentiles’ where men can in some way hook on to God, without knowing Him and before having gained access to His mystery.”

Z: Wait, so my lady friends aren’t event invited? I know the atheist community hasn’t been the best at creating visibility for our female members, but I still know plenty who would be just as eager to dialogue as these men you’re referring to.

P: They can come, I suppose, but we never have any real expectations about women’s ability to connect with God, which is why we just disregard them most of the time.

Z: Yeah, about this connect with God thing. That’s what you expect from this charade?

P: Of course. You atheists are lost in the dark. You cannot truly know God because you’ve stopped looking for Him. We just want you (at least the men) to have at least a little bit of God’s influence in your life. It’s because we care.

Z: So where does the dialogue come in?

P: What do you mean? We’re having all of these seminars just for you.

Z: Are you going to listen to us at all?

P: And at the end of it all, there will be a big party for youth, and then we’ll pray and meditate inside the Cathedral of Notre Dame.

Z: That’s a no.

P: We’ve got to turn back the tide of Western secularism!

Z: This is like inviting vegetarians to a slaughterhouse.

P: Aren’t you excited? You should feel so honored that we’re sinking so low as to reach out to you!

Z: Yeah. I’m thrilled. What are your actual goals? How will you know if this is a success?

P: Well, obviously, we’ll convince you you’re wrong. At the very least you’ll shut up, and at the best you’ll join our new evangelical efforts!

Z: So let me get this all straight. You want to hold a dialogue with atheists, but you don’t really want to hear from the atheists. You want to bring us to Church locations, teach us Church teachings, and have us pray with you. It’s on your terms, it uses your rhetoric, and you have made no suggestion that the Church is open to growing or cooperating more with secularism.

P: You’ve got it exactly! Doesn’t it sound great?

Z: You going to apologize for anything while we’re there?

P: Like what?

Z: Well, I’ve got a pretty long list, but since this is about dialogue with atheists… how about taking back what you said in September about us atheists being Nazis who exclude virtue from public life?

P: Nazism was not very Christian behavior—

Z: You were a member of the Hitler youth.

P: Don’t interrupt me! I’m still the Pope, you know.

Z: And I’m still unimpressed. So that’s a no to the apology then?

P: I can’t apologize. I’m infallible, and the truth is the truth.

Z: The truth is the truth, eh? Then what you’re saying is you’re holding a public dialogue with Nazis. And you’re inviting me to these seminars because I’m one of the Nazis?

P: No… no… that’s not… we want atheists to like us.

Z: Do you like atheists?

P: Not really.

Z: Are you even willing to say that you’d be willing to hear what atheists have to say?

P: It’s a pretty big step for us to say we’re even willing to talk to you.

Z: I’m flattered.

P: So you’ll come? You’ll give us a chance to convince the world we’re not archaically stodgy?

Z: You paying?

P: Sorry, times are tight.

Z: Yeah, wouldn’t want the Vatican going broke on atheists. Good luck with that.

P: Awwww, please! I promise I won’t call you a Nazi again!

Z: Too late.

THE END.

(Look, everybody! I made fun of the Pope without referring to his complicity in covering up all the Church’s pedophilia!)

(Whoops.)