Can an atheistic philosophy rooted in a cold, materialist worldview answer to any satisfaction the mysteries of freedom, love and evil? Can math explain love? That is the profound question (among many others) Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI posits in an extraordinary letter penned to renown Italian mathematician and atheist Piergiorgio Odifreddi. (Interestingly, Benedict’s letter comes on the heels of Pope Francis’s own letter to the editor of an Italian daily, in which he discusses fides et ratio, among other things like music and film.)
The 12-page letter from Benedict was written in response to Odifreddi’s criticism of Benedict’s Introduction to Christianity. Benedict proves his intellect is still extraordinary. For now, we just have some excerpts. Hopefully, the full text will soon be available. It’s good to welcome BXVI back.
The National Catholic Register offers this commentary, with some excellent selections from Benedict’s letter.
… But I want to especially note that in your religion of mathematics three themes fundamental to human existence are not considered: freedom, love and evil.
I’m astonished that you just give a nod to freedom that has been and is the core value of modern times, love in this book doesn’t appear, and there’s no information about evil.
Whatever neurobiology says or doesn’t say about freedom, in the real drama of our history, it is a present reality and must be taken into account. But your religion of mathematics doesn’t recognize any knowledge of evil. A religion that ignores these fundamental questions is empty.