Christianity Fail: Love your Neighbor

Dear Cardinal Dolan,

I understand that you recently shared some overflowing good will with the fellow citizens of your adopted home in the pages of the New York Daily News.

And I like to brag about the beauty and the virtue and the goodness that I see in the New York community.

I bristle and cringe when people who aren’t New Yorkers caricature New Yorkers as cold and unfriendly and rude and almost atheistic and pagan.

Well, with some of your fellow citizens, anyway.

The atheists that I know are, by and large, at least as warm, friendly, polite, and good-hearted as the Christians I know.

Except for the occasional defensiveness that understandably arises from being the most despised minority in America.


I encountered another example of this at church this weekend, when one of the general intercessions prayed for “atheistic tyrannies and secularist”… something, I forget what. Folks, “tyrannies” are evil whether atheist, Christian, or Yertle.

Ironically, the very next petition was that we might grow in love for our neighbors. I had to laugh. That commandment to “love your neighbor” doesn’t come with an exception for atheists.

Watch your language, folks! “Atheistic” is not a synonym for “evil” or “immoral” or “really really bad”. (Neither is Pagan, for that matter.) Don’t use it that way – it hurts real people when you do. People you are supposed to love.

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4 Responses to Christianity Fail: Love your Neighbor

  1. neodecaussade says:

    Dear Gaudete Theology,
    Well stated blog posting. I too have reprimanded the new Cardinal for taking liberties to push his agenda. He seems to be willing to do or say almost anything to rise the ecclesial ranks. Not many are promoted as fast as he was. He is one to keep an eye on.

    God bless,

    • Hi Neo,

      Thanks for your comment. As I have written here, I do think that we need to engage with the hierarchy with a charitable hermeneutic of generosity as well as a reality-based hermeneutic of suspicion.

      Honestly I do not think this particular comment of Cardinal Dolan’s was intended to advance any agenda: I don’t think it was intentional at all. I have frequently heard Christians badmouth atheists like this, and it’s usually clear that they are speaking to some extent on autopilot. It’s how they were conditioned to think, or what they grew up hearing — I think especially for those of Dolan’s generation who were growing up during the 50s, when the communist witch hunt was in full swing, and the “godless commies” were the enemy.

      After growing up in that mindset, if one never had a chance to get to know or get close to any atheists (and I don’t know the details of Dolan’s education and career, but I do know many clergy went from Catholic school to pre-seminary to seminary — no atheists on that trajectory!), I can understand how such a habit of speech and thought might simply have persisted due to inertia.

      Peace be with you, and let us pray for our church!

      Victoria

  2. Palaverer says:

    I’m an atheist; I followed you here from Feministe. Movement atheists often speak out against this kind of prejudice, but it’s most effective when it comes from other Christians. Thanks for speaking up!

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