News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: Pope Attacks "Technology"

Monday, December 26, 2005

Pope Attacks "Technology"

In his Christmas homily, Pope Benedict 16 warned Christians about the spiritual dangers of technology. It's obvious that the Pope does not carry his life in his Blackberry or keep his mind online via Google and a weblog. If he did, he would understand that this semi-luddite peeve he has with technology is more than odd.

And what does a man who spends his time sitting silently and wasting his day in what he calls prayer know about technology anyway?

Pro forma, the reporter of the the Washington Post article draws attention to abortion. Lurking in the background, no doubt, are the further demons of contraception, euthanasia, and Internet pornography. Since we all share the culture's list of technophobic peeves, insert your own technological demon here.

Note here that the reporter is at a complete loss for describing what spiritual barrenness might possibly mean beyond gadgets, medical procedures or some vaguely acknowledged secular lifestyle. Of course, why should we expect an objective report of something like spirituality which, by another unacknowledged assumption, can't be defined or qualified anyway? This is all a matter of personal choice and privacy, right? And what's private is mine and nobody else's.

Of course, much of the fault in the vagueness or lack of clarity here lies with the Holy See itself. Using such evocative but equivocal terms as spiritual barrenness in a culture that has little understanding of the soul or spirit is like talking to a stone about love.

Indeed, that is the danger that the Pope should be talking about in much clearer and more upbuilding terms. He should be describing how technology and its effects on life are making it entirely impossible for people to even understand what spirituality might possibly mean.

And his talk about right and wrong simply comes across as an outdated, quaint, prudish man who means well, who can be envisoned with a halo around his head and easily forgotten, but never taken seriously because he's a dinosaur--a well-intentioned dinosaur but a dinosaur nonetheless.

What might strike you as odd is that I think the Pope is right... He just doesn't know how to make his point since making a point is beside the issue. The issue is relighting the fire and thirst for something beyond this world, a world that has become increasingly incapable of imagining anything outside this world. And the Pope's rationalistic, syllogistic appeal to common sense and prudence is part of the problem.

If there's a heaven, it's just a continuation of the good part of this one, less the tears and bad things unless you've really done something wrong. (I kow, I need to watch Barabara Walters; she answered this question the other night.) But even then, who knows whether there's a hell, since a really loving God would never seriously be incapable of understanding how our moral lapses are enmeshed in mitigating circumstances that we can't really be held accountable can we?

And anyway, I can always go to confession, shed a few tears and then say my hail maries and our fathers and just get back to living the real life as I see it on reality TV. But who needs that religious superstition? Forget the confession--who'd I confess to?--and just have fun watching reality on TV.

For a different take on this, see Robert Sharp's attempt to throw dust in the Pope's eyes.

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