Gijs Verheijke

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Is the pope catholic?

5 July 2023

The Catholic Pope is the head of an 887m USD revenue business. The business success depends at least partly on the continued faith of large numbers of catholics around the world. The pope is obviously a highly intelligent and ambitious person, as well as a capable leader.

To be an effective pope, he must be able to think strategically about interpreting the bible in such a way to make the faith marketable and attractive in 2023. We can assume that the pope has access to secrets about the church. Maybe there are secrets about how the bible has been compiled? Maybe he has access to old drafts of the bible?

Given all these things, the question is: Does the pope actually believe? To me, this is one of the big questions of life.

I often wonder about this with politicians, anti-vaxxers, people like Alex Jones, etc. Are they building or defending wealth or status? Or are they really on a mission that they 100% believe in? I also sometimes try to reflect on whether I personally have any religiously held believes, and whether those believes help me.

Another way to frame it is: How cynical is the world really?

The Flat Earth Society

In the masterful 2018 documentary Behind the Curve, about Flat Earth believers, the flat earthers set out to "prove the earth is flat".

They perform an elegant experiment. They set up a powerful laser and two boards with holes cut out at equal heights, a kilometer or so apart. If the earth is flat, the laser would go through both holes. If the earth is round, they would have to raise the board further away from the laser to make the laser go through the second hole.

Illustration of the flat earth experiment

They end up proving, and seeing with their own eyes that the earth is round. Their response? "We have to keep this quiet. If people find out, it's game over for our cause."

We can in my opinion rule out that these people are dumb. It's quite clear that they understand the result. And from their reaction we can infer that they are actually going to hide this result to ensure the continued existence of the Flat Earth movement. They are so deeply lost in confirmation bias, seemingly by choice, that they become irredeemable. They have become religiously attached to the Flat Earth Belief. They have a reason, a cause, a purpose.

So do you think these leaders of the Flat Earth Movement actually believe the earth is flat? Do they believe it deep down?

If they do, I would love to be able to experience this sensation of believing something so ardently that even direct empirical counter evidence couldn't change my mind. Even if just for a minute, I would like to experience it. And I would also love to have a high placed cardinal as a long-term, trusted friend so I can ask this question about the pope some day in private.

Flat Earth vs Catholicism

If anyone is angry about me doubting the piousness of the pope, I get that and I'm sorry to make you feel angry. But I'm not trying to convert anyone here. I respect harmless and useful believes and I believe Christianity can be both at its best. However, flat earthers and anti-vaxxers, among others tend to actively and aggressively evangelize their believes, often for monetary gain. I do feel that is harmful, so I wonder why they do it. I find the pope comparison striking because it seems so unlikely that he doesn't believe. That's all.