Some atheist friends of mine keep saying this Pope faces a daunting challenge not faced over most of the 2000 years since a hastily assembled collection of short stories made it onto the bestseller list: the march of science. There was a time when the church could just impose rules and people knew they had to live by them because heaven or hell awaited. They knew this to be true because there were no alternative narratives. Sure, there were competing sects but these said pretty much the same kinds of things: god is in charge, do what we tell you he says. In the last 100 years, science has looked at the cosmos and found no god; it has looked back to the beginning of time and found no god; it has considered the building blocks of matter and found no god; and it has considered the formation of life and found no god. It is almost as though there is no god. The harder the church makes it to be a Christian the greater the incentive to accept what science is saying: that god is how people understood the world before people understood the world.
I tried the above-mentioned rationale with my house. I looked at the bricks and found no builder. I looked all around the street and found no builder. I looked up the plans and found no builder. It is almost as if there was no builder. I know the bricks look as if someone made them just as the fine tuning of the universe gives the very strong delusional impression that this is not "base reality". When Einstein resisted the concept of the Big Bang conceived by a Catholic priest he was part of an atheistic tradition that held out an "eternal cosmos" theory of the universe. He later called it the biggest mistake of his career. The Church isn't in the business of "making it easier to be a Christian". It is in the business of making us better persons, but that's like asking the Portuguese Olympic team to make it "easier to run the 100 metres in under 10 seconds", but some of us are not built that way.
I fail to see why anti-religionists and atheists feel so offended if I choose to believe in God. Why ridicule my beliefs? Am I hurting you in any way? If you do not like what Pope Francis says, then do not listen to him. If your ideology does not match my religion, why should you care? If I die and cease to be, then I won't know it, and it makes no difference. And if I do not exist, you won't be able to tell me, "I told you so." I've already not existed for millions and millions of years and it didn't bother me. If I die in the state of grace, I'll have an eternity to live in happiness. The only problem would be if there is no merciful God and I'm sent to hell for eternity. That would be an eternity of misery for me, but why should you care? Besides, if I live by the beatitudes I can be happy and make others happy. Not a bad life. You might ask me why I'm concerned about what you believe, and you are correct - I do not need to be. But it would be nice to have you for a friend and see you happy in an afterlife. But that is your choice. And if there is a merciful God maybe I'll see you anyway, and you will be happy. If there is reincarnation, then I'll have another chance, but "I" won't know it.