Are we seeing history in the making? It seems to me that a great institution, one that seeks to shape people's everyday lives, is now tearing itself apart. Differences of opinion are being expressed in very strong terms and it may be that it is too late for reconciliation. Perhaps there will just have to be a parting of the ways with one camp staying put and the other moving off in a new direction. This of course is a reference to the unholy row that has blown up among members of the Richard Dawkins foundation. This article in yesterday's Times tells the whole story.
I have from time to time ventured onto an atheist discussion forum to offer a Christian perspective. Whilst some of the exchanges have been extremely cordial I have nevertheless suffered the proverbial hairdryer treatment at the hands of the more fundamentalist factions of the atheist community. It now seems that they are turning the hairdryers on one another and even on their leader. Poor Professor Dawkins: how he must be suffering for his faith.
Its not often that I sign petitions but this one which I read about on Fr. Ivan's excellent blog got my early and unqualified support. There is a fair bit of dust being kicked up by the NSS and others about the fact some of the costs of the visit are being picked up by the taxpayer. Why shouldn't they? The fact that some people do not necessarily wish to engage in a particular activity does not mean that those who do should have their views or aspirations trashed. Nor is it without parallel that State visits (or in this case one with equivalent status) are supported with public funds. So, since the secularists have a petition I think its terrific idea that we fight fire with fire and have one of our own.
I think its worth comparing the scale of taxpayer support for the Pope's visit with the money that we are being asked to find for the 2012 Olympics. Because there is one certain parallel between the two and that is whilst everyone may not support a visit from the head of the Roman Catholic church there are plenty who are equally unenthused by the Olympics. Now the costs of the former according to an NSS article is £20m. I would suggest this compares extremely favourably with the £9bn+ that is being spent on the Olympics (or, for every £1 for spent on the Holy Father, that's £450 for the Olympics). The Olympics investment of course is in part about legacy and the laudable plans for the regeneration of areas of East London . So I suggest that the Pope's visit may leave another legacy, the regeneration of Christian faith in parts of the country. Now that, as they say, would be priceless.