Speaking in a mosque in Amman yesterday, Pope Benedict XVI said:
"Some assert that religion is necessarily a cause of division in our world and so they argue that the lesser attention given to religion in the public sphere the better,"
"Certainly, the contradiction of tensions and divisions between the followers of different religious traditions, sadly, cannot be denied.
"However, is it not also the case that often it is the ideological manipulation of religion, sometimes for political ends, that is the real catalyst for tension and division, and at times even violence in society?"
This is an extraordinarily naïve thing for the Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church to say. Throughout its history that Church has been one of the most sophisticated players in the game of politics. Indeed, for many centuries it was a sovereign territorial power, and even today the Vatican City is a sovereign state.
Catholic politics are bloodily enmeshed in the history of Europe. During the Christian era, Catholics have murdered hundreds of thousands of people in the name of 'faith'. No pronouncement which the Pope or any other Catholic priest makes does not have a political subtext. The business of the Catholic Church is to mould society nearer to its concept of a Christian state, even though it doesn’t go to the lengths of Islam in completely fusing religion and government in a pure theocracy.
In Britain, Catholic bishops meddle ceaselessly with key issues such as education and particularly with social policies concerning sexuality: sex education, abortion, divorce, adoption, and tolerance – in their case, lack of - towards homosexuals. They are the enemies of liberalism (anathematised by Pope Pius IX and all his successors, including the present pope, as the spawn of the devil), toleration, diversity, and scientific free thought. Catholicism has always been a conservative, reactionary force.
Protestant churches, too, are inherently political, as is evidenced by the history of the 19th and early 20th century battles over the control of education. Islam is an even more fundamentally political religion, and the politics of Israel and of Jewry worldwide are shaped and inspired by Judaism.
There is no such thing as non-political religion. Either the pope is utterly stupid in asserting otherwise, or else he is cynically devious.