The Pope Addresses Secularism

Writers’ Trigger: One of my favorite triggers is to jumpstart a story with objects. 

  • Consider that you are looking at the following objects: a camera, a steak knife, a timetable, a hat, an empty wine bottle and a passport.
  • Use any four of these objects in a short story.


It is hard to trust a guy with deep-set eyes. Based on his eyes alone which appear a bit sinister, Pope Benedict is in trouble. And then there is his age. He seems out of touch – old beyond his years. Why can’t the Catholics choose a pope who is in his 50’s? 

It’s a Dave Brown political cartoon in the Sept. 18 Independent. The Pope sits on his throne and you see him clicking his heels together like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. And the Pope is saying “There’s no place like Rome… there’s no place like Rome.” In the window behind the pope, you can see the protester’s placards: Stop Spreading AIDS… Yes to Condoms… and Protect Kids not the Church.

The faithful flocked today, but the doubters were out too. The doubters (some costumed as priests, nuns, and cardinals) were on the march, so I went down to check out the protest parade. It was a quiet affair, surprisingly small, composed of a range of ages and persuasions. The protesters’ signs were a bit more cheeky than the ones in the cartoon: Kiss My Ring… Demote the Pope… Fuck Off – Back to the 14th Century… Poppa Don’t Preach… and Never Trust a Man in a Bad White Dress.

The majority of the signs were in reference to the church’s late acknowledgement of pedophilia and its condemnation of condoms which contributes to the spread of AIDS in Africa.

Speaking on the previous day in Scotland, Pope Benedict had called for “respect for those traditional values and cultural expressions that more aggressive forms of secularism no longer value or even tolerate.”

I want to believe that secularism in itself does not preclude having high morals: I have high morals… but then again… I refer you to one of NPR’s most frequently forwarded stories. On August 30, All Things Considered ran a story by Alix Spiegel:  “Is Believing in God Evolutionarily Advantageous?”

The story was based on studies conducted by Jesse Bering, psychologist, Queens University Belfast. In brief, the study involved primary school children being asked to throw a Velcro ball over their shoulder at a target that was behind them. They were told that they could not look at the target.

One group of children could see that someone was watching them. A second group of children did not know that they were being watched. A third group of children were told that Princess Alice was watching. They couldn’t see her, but she was sitting right there… in that chair.  

Those children who thought that no one was watching cheated. But those who were being watched either by a real person or by Princess Alice did not cheat. Bering concluded, “Whether it’s a dead ancestor or God, whatever super natural agent it is , if you think they’re watching you, your behavior is going to be affected.”

Interesting stuff. Is someone watching you? Who? How does the watcher” affect your behavior? Any thoughts on Bering’s study? If Bering is correct, what are the long-term implications for an increasingly secularized society? (All good writing triggers for your morning pages.)

About timeout2

I have lived 100 lives. I write essays, short stories, poetry, grocery lists and notes to myself. If I am ever lost, look for a paper trail, but be careful not to trip over any books that lie scattered here and there. I am a reader. I am a reader in awe of writers. When I don't live in Westcliffe, Colorado, I live in London where I am a long-time member of Word-for-Word - Crouch End.
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