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What should an atheist like me make of a recent comment by Pope Francis who said that it’s better to be an atheist than to be a Catholic who leads a hypocritical double life? It’s nice to hear a religious leader say something that might be considered positive about atheists, however backhanded, but I’m sure Catholics wouldn’t feel complimented were I to say that it’s better to be a Catholic than a hypocritical atheist who does bad things. I think Pope Francis had good intentions in calling out Christians who exploit people, show no compassion for the less fortunate, and refuse to aid refugees. I can’t help but think that some of the Pope’s message was also directed at so-called Christian Donald Trump. The Pope associates true Catholicism with a high moral code that hypocritical Catholics don’t follow. But his statement can leave the false impression that atheists have an inferior or no moral code. To his credit, Pope Francis once said that Christians should see atheists as good people if they do good. To this I would add that atheists should see Christians as good people if they do good. There’s another kind of Christian hypocrisy that I wish Pope Francis would address: people who claim to be Christian because it benefits them socially or politically, and who fear being ostracized if they come out of the closet as atheists. Yes, there are atheist hypocrites as well as Christian hypocrites. Would that we all could be honest about who we are. Pope Francis promotes human rights more than most previous popes (I’m grading on a curve), but he still seems limited in significant ways because of church doctrine. I think the world and the church would be much improved if the church were to stop treating women as second-class people; end celibacy for priests; promote birth control to diminish family poverty caused by having too many children; recognize that masturbation is natural and healthy safe sex; and bless unions of responsible, mature people of the same sex who are in committed, loving relationships. Anachronistic church doctrine has turned many people into ex-Catholics or “Cafeteria Catholics”—those who follow only doctrine that make sense to them. By not accepting extraordinary claims without evidence, they are much like atheists and humanists. Pope Francis might not realize that he implied atheists are better than some Catholics who are hypocrites in the best sense of the word. Such Catholics go through the motions of taking communion, while just pretending to believe they are literally eating the body and drinking the blood of a Jew who died 2,000 years ago. They are not that irrational. Also, unlike Pope Francis, very few Catholics believe what the world needs now is more exorcists. To combat the perceived problem of demon possession, the Vatican sponsored an intensive eight-week training course in Rome for future priest-exorcists. I could have provided a two-second course with a 100 percent success rate: Rational Thinking. People who don’t believe we are living in a demon-haunted world are never possessed by demons. As a secular humanist, I consider morality more essential than theology. Our deeds are more important than our creeds. We don’t have to believe in a certain type of god, or in any god, to be kind and compassionate to our fellow human beings. And while we may differ about belief in a future life, we atheists, Christians, and others can work together on concerns that matter in this life, like racial and religious discrimination, climate change, poverty, peace, and other social justice and human rights issues. I try to live a rational life without superstition, which is why I think Catholicism is based on “fake news.” Here’s how I would shorten the Pope’s comment that it’s better to be an atheist than to be a hypocritical Catholic: It’s just better to be an atheist.