That religion is still the opium of the people is proven by the razzle-dazzle surrounding the funeral of one of its longest-standing cult bosses, John Paul II. Everybody who’s anybody had to be seen there, and it gave them all the chance to catch up with each other, whoever they were. The fuddy-duddy Prince Charles, as thick or perhaps insouciant as his younger son with that Nazi uniform, summed it up, getting caught in a handclasp with some black chap whose face he probably half-remembered from some colonial decommissioning ceremony somewhere in Africa, err, when was it? Has one caused offence?
Judging from the hoo-haa, anyone would think that the dead man had actually done some good in the world. In fact, if crimes against justice, humanity, and the planet were tried fairly, there would be quite a charge sheet against him. In his nobler younger days, he had at least stood up bravely against the nasty Stalinist regime in Poland, but in doing so he seems to have developed a quiet admiration for it; this would explain his later reluctance to criticise equally nasty tyrannical regimes elsewhere, even when they were gunning down his churchmen in Latin America.
By perpetuating and reinforcing the church’s condom ban, he actively assisted the spread of AIDS, particularly in developing countries (it’s hard to read about unwanted children forced into prostitution or beggary as their parents die at an age when, in a caring world, life should just be opening up for them, without contrasting it with the attention and money lavished at the end on the 84-year-old spiritual potentate in his palace). The same contraceptive ban, an anachronistic holdover from the days – how many hundred years ago? – when the species actually needed more people to survive, now helps accelerate an almost uncontrollable population explosion which strips the planet of its resources and environmental safeguards, speeding the day when we simultaneously cook and fight as systems break down. (Jesus said there will always be poor in the world, but his latest chief operating officer seems to have taken that as an instruction to make sure there are as many as possible).
He fomented ignorance and superstition by promoting a bunch of historic crooks, crazies and Nazi sympathisers as saints to be worshipped without question. He appeared to condone child abuse by giving a cushy sinecure to a cardinal who had protected paedophiliac priests in the American arm of the Catholic church, nearly bankrupting it in doing so. And finally, he stacked the systems for perpetuating his ideas and electing his own successor so effectively that George W Bush must be weeping with envy: thus the new man (let’s call him George Ringo) has the best possible chance of causing just as much misery as the old.
And they feel the urge to call him John Paul the Great?
So why is nobody looking beyond the red hat show and pointing any of this out? The rock star Bono, who supposedly actually cares about anything more than his own globetrotting lifestyle and perpetuation in power, gave the real dope (and its vacuity) away in paying tribute to the old reactionary as a frontman: the religion the famous really celebrate (while the media, largely successfully, invite us to join them) is their own empty fame.
So we fiddle with the remote, while the world remote from Rome burns.