Saturday, July 17, 2021

Should the Pope apologize?


An activist group is pressing for Pope Francis to come to Canada and apologize.  

As of this date, more than 1,100 bodies have been found in unmarked graves at sites of former Residential Schools – the official term for boarding schools put in place by government decree starting in 1874, and managed for the most part by the Catholic Church – a few by the Methodist and United Churches –  for over 100 years.  This on top of the decades of stories of misery and abuse from the kids who survived but, for the most part, were ignored.

An apology from the pope. Really? How does that help?

Imagine you lived and raised your kids in Hinkley, California, in the 1960s. You watched as many, many of your neighbors got sick and died, had kids born with deformities, perhaps you lost a child or two of your own. The water supply for the town was polluted by hexavalent chromium and other proven cancer-causing chemicals from a Pacific Gas & Electric plant draining right into the aquifer, but they vehemently denied that there was anything wrong.

Finally, in 2011, a spokesperson for PG&E apologized for the pollution in Hinkley and swore that the company was dedicated to ‘doing the right thing in Hinkley.’

 If you had lived there, would you have felt any better? I wouldn’t have. PG&E had spent literally decades lying and covering up the story about the pollution. They even had literature printed to tell the townsfolk that chromium was good for them! The town became famous in the movie “Erin Brockovich”, after PG&E was forced to shell out over $300,000,000, the largest medical settlement in history. “Forced” being the operative word; their actions proved they weren’t even remotely contrite. None of the corporate officers were even threatened with punishment for their crimes.

In case that example doesn’t work for you, let’s try another one: In 1976 a very young priest named Jorge Mario Bergoglio became head of the Jesuits in Argentina. That same year, there was a military coup in Argentina, leading to what has been dubbed “The Dirty War”, in which some 30,000 people were arrested, tortured, and in many cases “disappeared”, simply for objecting to or reporting on what the military government was doing.

Two of those kidnapped, priests Francisco Jalics and Orlando Yorio, were interrogated and tortured for over three months before finally being expelled from the country. Both of them placed the blame for their arrest on the head of the Jesuits, Bergoglio, who, they said, cooperated hand-in-glove with the new military dictatorship. One even claimed that Bergoglio was present during some of his interrogations.

Now: suppose someone came up with rock solid proof against Bergoglio – proof similar to the skeletal remains of native children that are now being dug up near those residential schools. Would his apology be sufficient? Or might we reasonably expect a modern Argentine court to demand that Bergoglio return to Argentina to stand trial for kidnapping?

Considering that Bergoglio is now better known as Pope Francis, that probably won’t happen.

The Residential School program began almost as soon as Europeans began settling in North America. The nominal Christians referred to the Indians as pagans and believed strongly that the best way to Christianize them was to forcibly remove their children from the pagan environment and teach them ‘Christian’ ways.

While Canada’s system is in the news now, they were not alone. Carlisle Indian Industrial School was opened in 1879 in Pennsylvania and ran until 1918 on the same principle: Take Indian children away from their parents and teach them ‘Christian’ principles. It was in fact official U.S. policy from 1819 through the 1960s. While few if any records were kept, anecdotal evidence suggests there were over 360 such boarding schools in the U.S. – more than twice as many as Canada had. 

When the former sites of those schools are discovered and searched, will the ground-penetrating radar somehow prove that U.S. boarding schools were more Christian, more caring, than their Canadian counterparts? Not likely.

But maybe the pope will show up and apologize.  That will fix everything.

Bill K. Underwood is a columnist and author of several books, all available at can help support this site by purchasing a book.


Thursday, July 8, 2021

How to Choose the Right Church

There are about 4,300 religions in the world. Is there one right one? Are several right, or all of them? 

Or none of them?

Is there a way to reason out which ones have a core of truth, and which ones are complete hokum?

Perhaps you think that I’m making an unfair assumption; that in our current politically correct world, no religion should be dismissed out-of-hand. But consider a couple examples:

  •  Reliable sources have quoted L. Ron Hubbard, a starving science fiction writer trying to live on the penny-a-word his publisher paid, as having said, back in the late 1940s, “The way to make a million dollars is to start a religion.” Shortly thereafter he started Dianetics and the Church of Scientology.
  • Rastafarianism was born in the 1930s in Jamaica when a black political activist, Marcus Garvey, told his audience to watch Africa for a black king to come to power. He would be their redeemer. Shortly thereafter, Haile Selassie was crowned emperor of Ethiopia, and Garvey’s followers hailed him as the returned Messiah, the ‘Lion of the tribe of Judah’ foretold in the Bible. They claimed he would never die, and that he would lead black people to superiority over their white oppressors. Selassie was embarrassed by the claim. He died in 1975, but the religion lives on.
How long would it take you to study one religion in order to know if it was the right one? A week? A month? A Year? You aren’t going to live long enough to spend one year, or even one month, studying each religion. Even if you only spent a week on each one, 4,300 weeks would equal your whole life. There have to be shortcuts. Let's see if we can find some: 
  • There are more than a dozen real religions that have their basis in UFO sightings – from Scientology to Heaven’s Gate to the Order of the Solar Temple to Ashtar Galactic Command. I believe we can safely subtract those from the 4,300.
  • There are at least 5 major Satanic religions. I’m subtracting those – if Satan exists, he is the antithesis of God, so why would I want to worship him? And if he doesn’t exist... why would I want to worship him?
  • Let’s eliminate religions that have come along recently.  By that I don’t mean when their current organization was set up. I’m talking about the teachings their religion is founded on. Scientology was founded on some principles written on a bar napkin. Mormonism is founded on some supposed gold plates that didn’t come to light until the 1830s. Wouldn’t God, if He exists, have taught humankind from the beginning or nearly the beginning of human life how to have a relationship with Him? Wouldn’t such guidelines have been written down, and wouldn’t such writings have 1., substantial proof of age, 2., widespread availability? That eliminates pretty much all the Neo-pagan and New Age religions.
  • Can we safely rule out any religion that glorifies a particular individual? No one is so great, so above the rest of us that he deserves adoration. That rules out the cults that formed around Jim Jones, David Koresh, Bagwan Rajneesh, Sun Myung Moon, and Marshall Applewhite. It should also eliminate religions that claim divinity or near-divinity for individuals like Muhammad. Ellen G. White, one of the founders of modern Seventh Day Adventists, is virtually revered by some adherents. Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, claimed to be inspired, and his followers seem to agree with the claim, based on no proof whatsoever. The philosopher Siddhartha Gautama came to be known as the Buddha, a title that implies he had reached perfection, and millions worship images of the man. 
  • By that same rule, we could also relegate to ‘cult’ status those churches of Christianity that worship Jesus. I’ve studied the Bible exhaustively, and nowhere does Jesus ask anyone to worship him. There are, in fact, several accounts where he deflects worship aimed at himself. His consistent message to his followers was to worship only God. (John 4:23; John 5:24)
  • Can we also assume that God doesn’t need your money? Therefore, any religion that begs for your money is a scam. That eliminates the three richest religions – Catholicism, Islam and Hinduism. It also deletes the Buddhists. One of their primary doctrines is that monks should spend all their time begging for money. And, of course, it also exposes all those TV preachers with their private jets and super cars.

What about religions whose practices contradict their own messages? With some religions you can recognize the lies and contradictions within minutes. 

Here are a couple obvious examples:

  • Some sects of Islam foment terrorism, killing – in the name of “Allah the Merciful” –  any ‘infidels’ who don’t share their beliefs. If Allah is real, and if he is really offended by some humans, wouldn’t he be able to do his own killing?
  • The Catholic Church has been claiming to be God’s representative on Earth for over 1,600 years. For most of that period they have claimed that the pope and, depending on the point in history, the cardinals and bishops, were infallible. Yet if you read their history, it is jam-packed with evil people doing evil deeds.

While their defense is that there are always going to be sinful men, how do they explain shuffling those evil men to other parts of the world to avoid prosecution?  Shouldn’t the Catholic Church have excommunicated:

  • The thousands of priests who, over the centuries, molested so many hundreds of thousands of children?
  • The hundreds of nuns who enslaved and tortured thousands of women who got pregnant out of wedlock?
  • The thousands of nuns, priests, monks and schoolteachers who ripped indigenous children from their homes and abused them to death in Catholic boarding schools?

If such practices were declared from the pulpit as part of their religion, common sense would tell us they are not the true religion. The fact that those practices directly contradict the book they claim their religion represents, the Bible, proves that the religion should be avoided.

Following all these shortcuts might cut that 4,300 number down to 3,000, 2,000, or even 1,000. But that is still too many for a person to reasonably investigate in a lifetime.

What is the solution?

Well, if there is one true God, wouldn't He have the ability to reach out to you? What could happen if you prayed to Him, in sincerity, asking for His direction?

Don't trust 'a feeling'. Don't expect to hear a voice in your head. Lily Tomlin famously cracked: "When we talk to God, that's called prayer. When God talks to us, that's called schizophrenia."

But if someone knocks on your door wanting to share a scriptural message, what does it hurt to listen? Ask for proof. If the message is bogus, you'll quickly see through it. You might get a letter or a phone call from a religious person. Don't immediately reject it. Read, listen and investigate.  Is the letter or phone call asking you to donate? Reject it. Is someone trying to scare you with claims of hellfire and eternal damnation? God has no need to work that way. Is it an invitation to some church claiming they have a great, charismatic pastor and that you can come as you are? Toss it.

But if the message is positive, if the person who wrote or called suggests you do your own research to learn more, what do you have to lose by learning more? What does it hurt to hear them out? You don’t need to attack them or cut them off. Converse with them. If they are wrong, you’ll be able discern that. Listening to them won’t hurt you, as long as you do your own research.

It might just be God trying to reach out to you. 

Feel free to leave a comment. All the links above are to other columns I've written on various religions.

Bill K. Underwood is a columnist and author of several books, all available at You can help support this site by purchasing a book.