There has been a tremendous change across the world regarding the common view of the papacy. Pope Francis has had a sudden impact on the way the highest office of the Catholic church is viewed. He’s more progressive, more friendly, and more tolerant. He, as many in the past, is being called “The People’s Pope”. The difference this time is that his actions are accelerated. What took Pope John Paul II years and what Pope Benedict XVI was never able to achieve – support and adoration from the general public – Pope Francis is already getting.
It’s not just Catholics who appear hopeful. Pope Francis is getting it from all sides. To see it most clearly in action, one need only to go Reddit, the self-proclaimed “front page of the internet”, to see that the effects have been instant. Reddit users are mostly liberal atheists. Anyone who spends a little time on the site, reading the comments and seeing which posts gain popularity and which do not, will see that the user base leans heavily to the left politically and embraces atheism over all religions combined.
Here is a breakdown of the number of subscribers to each of the major religious subreddits:
- r/christianity – 58,600
- r/buddhism – 40,600
- r/religion – 14,700
- r/islam – 11,000
- r/catholicism – 7,000
- r/judaism – 5,100
- r/hinduism – 1,700
- r/mormon – 1,300
- r/atheism – 1,877,400
That’s not a typo. The atheism subreddit has over 13 times more subscribers than the 8 most active religious subreddits combined.
Despite all of this and the fact that the site has always been extremely critical of Pope Benedict XVI and the Catholic church in general, the general consensus on the site is that Pope Francis is different. Articles about him doing what they consider to be positive things are very popular, getting tons of “upvotes” and comments. Here’s a list of some of those:
- Good start for the new Pope. (29,612 upvotes, 2,632 comments)
- Pope Francis becomes the first pope to ever wash a woman’s feet, breaking centuries of Catholic tradition. (12,800 upvotes, 2,252 comments)
- Pope Francis urged Catholic priests to devote themselves to helping the poor and suffering instead of worrying about their careers as Church ‘managers’ (22,844 upvotes, 2,102 comments)
- Good Guy Pope (19,448 upvotes, 1,175 comments)
- Pope Francis: ‘I would like to see a church that is poor and is for the poor’ (12,119 upvotes, 2,256 comments)
- Good Guy Pope: Child Abuse (9,246 upvotes, 355 comments)
- Catholic Church’s celibacy rule ‘can change’ according to Pope Francis (3,652 upvotes, 588 comments)
- Pope Francis signs cast of little girl with broken leg (3,433 upvotes, 358 comments)
- Pope Francis I riding the bus with the Cardinals instead of taking a limo (2,872 upvotes, 229 comments)
- Pope washes feet of young Muslim woman prisoner in unprecedented twist on Maundy Thursday (13,219 upvotes, 2,355 comments)
This is more positive press on Reddit for the Pope than any all other Catholic- or Pope-related stories combined. In fact, scanning through searches of stories regarding Benedict yielded zero positive stories that had over 100 upvotes. To put the traffic- and sentiment-driving power of Reddit into perspective, the image listed above of the Pope signing the little girl’s cast that had 3,433 upvotes and 355 comments has been viewed over 188,000 times in 3 days.
There’s even a meme about him already.
Reddit is just a sampling. Search the news for stories about Pope Francis. Look at the sentiment being portrayed on television and through videos posted to YouTube. There are certainly detractors and skeptics. There are those who fear that he may be too progressive. There are even many who believe that he might be something more sinister than most would even acknowledge.
We don’t know what to think of the new Pope other than that he seems to be able to galvanize the masses quickly. Are his intents pure? Is his ability to make supporters out of former detractors of the Catholic church something that should be embraced or a reason for concern? In these, the end times, it’s so important to keep your eyes wide open and to never take anything at face value if it doesn’t come strictly from the Bible or the Holy Spirit.
We will be watching the new Pope very closely.