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It’s hard not to like Pope Francis. He’s seen as the straight talking, poverty walking antidote to his predecessors, who were widely condemned for their conservative belief in church doctrine. He’s the first pope in my lifetime to receive favorable reviews from those who have no use for religion. Francis is a bridge building, house cleaning pope for the ages. It’s hard not to like the guy.

That being said , Pope Francis recently denounced “the religious fundamentalism that inspired the Paris massacres and ongoing Mideast conflicts,” saying “the attackers were enslaved by ‘deviant forms of religion’ that used God as a mere ideological pretext to perpetuate mass killing”, as reported by Fox News. Take a minute for that to sink in.

Although I believe I understand and may even agree with his sentiments, I question the wisdom of any pope condemning “deviant forms of religion”. Especially in the context of Islam. In any discussion with a supporter of Islam about the use of terror, one does not have to wait very long to be reminded of the Roman Catholic Crusades of 11th century and Inquisitions of the 13th and 16th centuries. In these historical cases, the Mother Church appeared to be using “God as a mere ideological pretext to perpetuate mass killing”. The mass killings of whom? Those who practiced “deviant forms of religion”. Heretics, for lack of a better word. It has an unfortunate ring of familiarity about it, in light of what we hear coming from the more radical imams today.

Perhaps the answer to “deviant forms of religion” isn’t more religion. Perhaps the answer is for Christians and Jews and Muslims to get their own ideological houses in order and spare the rest of us a trip back to Dark Ages. Why should we be discussing beheadings and stonings and ‘holy war’ and ‘deviant forms of religion’ in the 21st century. It’s an insult to the civilized world.

Still, it’s hard not to like Pope Francis.

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