Pope Benedict XVI the Pope has published his second encyclical. His basic argument is that “A world without God is a world without hope”.
In the twentieth century, Theodor W. Adorno formulated the problem of faith in progress quite drastically: he said that progress, seen accurately, is progress from the sling to the atom bomb. Now this is certainly an aspect of progress that must not be concealed. To put it another way: the ambiguity of progress becomes evident. Without doubt, it offers new possibilities for good, but it also opens up appalling possibilities for evil—possibilities that formerly did not exist. We have all witnessed the way in which progress, in the wrong hands, can become and has indeed become a terrifying progress in evil. If technical progress is not matched by corresponding progress in man’s ethical formation, in man’s inner growth (cf. Eph 3:16; 2 Cor 4:16), then it is not progress at all, but a threat for man and for the world.
The passage that is getting the (atheist) blogosphere up in arms is actually quite on target, showing that atheism is no solution to the problems of theism:
If in the face of this world’s suffering, protest against God is understandable, the claim that humanity can and must do what no God actually does or is able to do is both presumptuous and intrinsically false. It is no accident that this idea has led to the greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice; rather, it is grounded in the intrinsic falsity of the claim. A world which has to create its own justice is a world without hope. No one and nothing can answer for centuries of suffering. No one and nothing can guarantee that the cynicism of power—whatever beguiling ideological mask it adopts—will cease to dominate the world. This is why the great thinkers of the Frankfurt School, Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, were equally critical of atheism and theism.
The Pope’s solution remains, however, unconvincing. He never quite explains why “a world without god is a world without hope”. He too falls within the theism/atheism dualism, failing to see that there are other options out there. One can hope in the very future of the world without signing off on the a/theism question. Perhaps our hope can transcend that very question and precisely hope for the best regardless of the existence/non-existence of a deity. That is neither theism, atheism nor agnosticism. It is pure, unadulterated hope (without additives).