The first page of The Times (Dec. 25) carried a story in which Pope John Paul II was quoted as attributing to atheism "the permanent nuclear threat . . . human exploitation . . . loss of values . . . the scourge of famine", and so on. This is outrageous. The Pope is either incredibly ignorant of world history in general and of the history of his own church in particular, or he is being exceedingly hypocritical.
Is it atheism that is responsible for the sectarian strife in Ireland and the Middle East (leaving aside for the moment India, Sri Lanka, etc.)? No, it is the aggressive, self-righteous Judeo-Christian religions that foment these murderous feuds.
Is it, or was it, atheism that brought about colonization of Africa and other parts of the world? No, it was done under the color of bringing enlightenment and religious salvation to the benighted pagans of the world, a fundamental attribute of Judeo-Christian belief. Of course, with all-too-typical Christian hypocrisy commerce and profit followed the preachers. Even now the process continues with the destruction of indigenous cultures in South America by fervent Catholics.
Is it atheism that is despoiling the planet Earth? No, it is the Judeo-Christian attitude that their God made the Earth for mankind to use and exploit, including all the creatures in it which are for man's sport and amusement as well as being objects of experimentation and careless extermination. Thus we have the paradox of priests shooting birds for sport.
Who are the atheists to whom the Pope is referring? Are there atheists at the reins of government in the capitals of North America and Europe? Certainly not in this country, where we have probably the holiest President of all time (who nevertheless finds no conceptual or theological difficulty in presiding over the most massive buildup of the most awesome weapons in our history--a tribute to the flexibility of the Christian ethic).
Perhaps the Pope is referring to the Soviet Union? Well, I would hardly classify communists as atheists. They have simply substituted communism for the Orthodox Church as a belief to be worshipped and the Marxian ethic is a direct derivative of the Judeo-Christian traditions. Their gods are named Marx and Lenin. And woe to him who would presume to contradict their edicts as interpreted by the collective papacy known as the Politburo.