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Sermon for All Saints' Day, Cologne Cathedral, 1st November 2009

Original German text available in the link below or on the RDFRS server

The Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Joachim Meisner, has stirred up controversy in the German media with his All Saints’ Day sermon, in which he compared the ideas of Richard Dawkins to those of the Nazis. A translation of the full sermon is given below. The original can be found on the Cardinal’s website (

Archbishop Joachim, Cardinal Meisner
Sermon for All Saints’ Day, Cologne Cathedral, 1st November 2009
(Translated from the German by Paula Kirby.)

Brothers and sisters
1. As a former citizen of the German Democratic Republic, I have always seen All Saints’ Day as the great celebration of victory over so-called scientific atheism. The addition of the word ‘scientific’ was intended to make people believe that death is the end of everything, that there is no God and consequently no truth, no lies and no good or evil either. These, it was claimed, were all just labels and restrictions imposed by the ruling class. I would never have thought that the nonsense of those days would be experiencing a resurrection now, with man and his world once more, as then, being reduced to the quantifiable and at the same time being incarcerated in a prison of quantities. The fact that, in this process, now as then, man falls by the wayside seems to be cleverly suppressed. The result of this is that man no longer recognises any fundamental reality or moral authority beyond his own plans and calculations. Thus cut off from all spiritual and religious roots, supposedly scientific reason loses the corrective for its thoughts and deeds.

Just like Walter Ulbricht back in the days of the GDR, today, too, people have formulated Ten New Commandments on the basis of this so-called scientific knowledge. These are, ‘Thou shalt not believe! Thou shalt make an image of thyself and name it God! Honour thy children and don’t go bothering them with God! Be good without God! Thou shalt have no gods before science! Love your neighbour with a clear conscience! Thou shalt not honour the Sabbath! Thou are the creator: thou shalt not kneel!’ This is a scene of horror! ‘Thou shalt have no gods before science’: what this means is that there is only one God and that is science. What is this doing to us? As a form of purely technical thinking, the abilities of man have become the yardstick for his actions. We no longer differentiate between ‘can’ and ‘may’.
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