Is there anything in this world, I wonder, as sad and as dangerous as believers without faith? It is an all too common phenomenon.

Believers without faith are the ones who latch onto religion as a way to deal with their fears and insecurity. If you can’t cope with the world, maybe you can co-opt God into helping you out. If you hold the true faith, everyone else is wrong and will get their comeuppance in the end.

For some people, that’s enough. They can take whatever comes their way now knowing that hereafter they will have the joy that Calvin promised of watching the others fry. That kind of faith is at least fairly harmless.

Then there are the ones who want to help God out by setting things right sooner. That might involve blowing up an office building in Oklahoma City or knocking down the Trade Towers in New York or strapping on some explosives and walking into a crowd and sending shrapnel into the bodies of whoever happens to be around at the time. That way you go to your reward even sooner than you would otherwise.

I’ve been thinking about this lately because the Pope seems to be making a collection of such people. First it was the Holocaust deniers who got welcomed back. Now it’s the sexuality deniers, the Anglicans who can’t cope with the idea of ordained women or ordained homosexuals.

Some of us thought that Anglicanism was all about freedom, about the notion that it’s dangerous to get tied down to narrow formulas because God may have new ideas and might ask us to move in a new direction. Some of us thought that the idea of papal infallibility was clean counter to everything we stood for. Now it seems that there are Anglicans – or I suppose we should say “former Anglicans” – who would rather have an infallible pope than accept the notion that women or homosexuals could be ordained. These are the believers with no faith in God. They put their trust in the past and hang on for dear life because they don’t dare let go and let God have God’s way with God’s church.

It is, let’s be honest, a very popular lifestyle. Half the population of the United States, according to some polls, are evolution deniers. Many of them also deny climate change. They need a literally true Bible that says what they think it says so they can be right and secure. Not many of them, thank goodness, are into blowing up buildings, but they can get pretty disruptive at town meetings and most of them keep guns at home to protect themselves when God isn’t available.

One wonders how it will end. The pope provides security for some and the fundamentalist version of the Bible provides security for others. We have learned this last week that some Anglicans will accept papal infallibility rather than freedom. Will fundamentalists ever get to the point where they too will join arms with the pope rather than move boldly into a new world? And will the pope, the Biblicists, and the ayatollah find they have more in common than what divides them?

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