Twitter followers in exchange for less time in purgatory

Good to know that the Vatican is not above a bit of cynical self-promotion. (Remember before all of this when we thought that god, or that sort of thing, was the only driver behind the Vatican’s actions? And I’m sure there’s no money in it either. *ahem*) If I was a god-fearing sort at all, I’m sure I’d be all over this (though I am still waiting for the, “It was all a joke/ satire announcement).

Vatican offers ‘time off purgatory’ to followers of Pope Francis tweets

In its latest attempt to keep up with the times the Vatican has married one of its oldest traditions to the world of social media by offering “indulgences” to followers of Pope Francis‘ tweets.

The church’s granted indulgences reduce the time Catholics believe they will have to spend in purgatory after they have confessed and been absolved of their sins. The remissions got a bad name in the Middle Ages because unscrupulous churchmen sold them for large sums of money. But now indulgences are being applied to the 21st century. But a senior Vatican official warned web-surfing Catholics that indulgences still required a dose of old-fashioned faith, and that paradise was not just a few mouse clicks away. [Rest, guardian.]

So, the pope’s Twitter followers get time off purgatory. What’s the problem?

Is it really ludicrous that the Vatican should be claiming you can get time off purgatory by following the pope on Twitter?

There are obvious problems. If as a materialist you don’t believe in purgatory, or hell, or any kind of moral balancing in an afterlife, then the whole thing is absurd, though no more absurd than any other belief about purgatory. Or you may be a Christian, happy to imagine our souls must be purified before they are fit to see God entirely (and this is the most charitable interpretation of the doctrine of purgatory I can find) but none the less amused and outraged that the pope should stick his oar into the business. Indulgences, after all, were the single greatest and grossest abuse of papal power to inspire the Reformation.

But let’s suppose, just for the sake of argument, that the pope does have an informed opinion on what behaviour pleases God and benefits the soul. Does it then matter at all what technology he uses to spread his opinions? Is there anything intrinsically more ridiculous in following a devotion on Twitter than in the flesh, or on television? [Rest, commentisfree.]