It’s nice to know that the Pope thinks I’m a dangerous subversive, threatening the moral fabric of modern society. Yes, I’m one of those atheist secularists he was railing about on his recent visit to the UK. A visit that I – as a taxpayer – subsidised, incidentally. It’s bad enough having religious fanatics ranting at me, but I find it doubly galling when it turns out that I’m paying for the privilege. The level of intolerance for any perspective which a reasonable person might describe as ‘progressive’, shown by Pope Benedict during his visit simply reinforced my aversion to religion. It’s knee-jerk reactionaries like him who remind us of just why this country rejected Catholicism. After having to put up with wall-to-wall coverage of his offensive bile, thanks to the news media who seemed to conveniently forget that the Pope is not the UK’s spiritual leader, I’m left wishing that Good Queen Bess had burned a few more of the bastards at the stake.

Mind you, our media aren’t quite as welcoming when it comes to other foreign visitors to our shores, with the BBC apparently trying to curry favour with this bunch of bastards we call a government by giving us some ‘in depth’ investigations into illegal immigration to the UK. “That’s why they don’t go to Poland – the Poles don’t pay them any benefits like we do,” opined a representative from the UK Kick Me in The Head Please Because I’m a Moron Party during an item on the subject on my local BBC news programme. Ah, so that’s why they flood here from Afghanistan, is it? (He was actually quite specific about the ‘they’ in question being Afghans). Just so that they can claim our allegedly over-generous social security benefits. There was me thinking it might have something to do with the fact that we’d invaded and fucked up their country, thereby rendering them homeless and forcing them to become refugees. But obviously I’m wrong. Just as I’m wrong about the fact that refugees and immigrants tend to target the UK rather than, say Poland, is that there’s work here, rather than in, say, Poland. Indeed, that’s probably the reason lots of Poles came to the UK – for work they couldn’t find in Poland. Of course, there are plenty of unscrupulous employers in the UK who effectively encourage the illegals, as they provide them with a source of cheap labour. Unlike, say, the Poles, they can get away with paying illegals well below the minimum wage. After all, who can they complain to?

This is what really irritates me about the asinine ‘debate’ on immigration the media keeps engaging in: it tries to divert attention away from the fact that illegal immigrants are frequently victims twice over. Forced to flee their own countries, whether as a result of conflict, persecution, natural disasters or economic pressure, only to find themselves ruthlessly exploited at their destination. Add to this the fact that this ‘debate’ inevitably fails to mention that the crises forcing these people from their homes usually have their origins in the developed world, and it becomes painfully clear that it is little more than crude, borderline racist, political propaganda. But it isn’t just illegal immigrants who are in the firing line. I was depressed to find a thread on my town’s local message board expressing hostility toward our local Polish community. Once again, it was based upon ignorance and bigotry, focusing on the ‘fact’ that Polish workers here were taking up a disproportionate amount of NHS resources. Well, bearing in mind that the Poles are paying tax here, they’re as entitled as anyone else to use the NHS. Indeed, there is an upper limit on the amount of free at source medical care they (or any other migrant workers) can claim, depending upon the level of contribution they’ve made. After that, they could be charged. It’s the same with unemployment benefit – you can claim it in any EU country, I believe, but the host country is reimbursed by the claimant’s home country.

However, what offends me most about this anti-Polish feeling is the fact that it displays a terrible ignorance of our country’s history. It isn’t just bigots on message boards who are guilty of this – in all the fuss being made over the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, our ‘Finest Hour’, I don’t once recall mention being made of the significant number of foreign pilots who fought in 1940 for the RAF. These included two squadrons of Poles, who fought with distinction, many at the cost of their own lives. In fact, the Free Polish Forces made a huge contribution to the UK’s war effort, fighting in the Western Desert, Italy and France. And we still didn’t manage to liberate Poland for them. But clearly I’m wrong in thinking we might just owe them something. As always in the UK, we’re happy to let foreigners spill their blood for us, just so long as they don’t expect to live here.

By contrast, if you are a visiting religious fanatic, then everyone fawns all over you. Let’s face it, if the Pope had been, say, an Imam from an Islamic state, and had said some of the things he said during his visit, he’d have been deported, let alone vilified by the press and politicians. Perhaps most offensive amongst his remarks was the assertion that it was thanks to secularists and atheists that the Nazis came to power in Germany. So responsibility for the holocaust lies with us non-believers, eh? Of course, it’s perfectly possible to argue that the opposite was true, that the casual anti-semitism promulgated by both the Catholic church and Lutherans in inter-war Germany, created an environment in which Nazism could thrive. Moreover, I’m willing to bet that there were far more Christians (of all denominations) in Germany during the Nazi regime than there were atheists.

Let’s face it, most of those German soldiers marching across Europe were , at least nominally, Christians, as were the SS men who massacred prisoners and civilians, and the Gestapo officers who victimised Jews, the mentally ill, communists, even catholics, sending them to concentration camps. Oh, and the SS guards at those camps probably went to church on Sundays, as did the politicians and ordinary Germans who all enabled the Nazi regime. But none of that means that the Roman Catholic church supported the Nazis, or even inspired their regime. Such arguments are far too simplistic – just like the Pope’s crass attempts to equate atheism with fascism. Most incredibly, the visit ended with our pathetic excuse for a Prime Minister fawningly telling us that the Pope had all given us something to think about. He certainly did – I’m thinking of going out and burning a few priests at the stake. And that’s the really sad thing – that the Pope’s visit has left me with such extreme feelings toward the Roman Catholic church and religion generally. Despite being a non-believer, I’ve always tried to be tolerant of the beliefs of others, defending their right to worship and genuinely trying understand something of their faith. Pope Benedict has made clear that such attitudes aren’t reciprocated. He rails against ‘aggressive atheists’, but what does he expect when he and his ilk demonstrate such arrogant disregard for our beliefs, (or rather, lack of beliefs)?

Doc Sleaze