Competition is supposed to be good for all parties, right? For the provider of products or services, competition gives one an explosive push to achieve, it validates one’s unique ideas, etc; and on the consumer side, competition leads to innovation and improved customer service. It’s truly a great thing and serves as the core of the great capitalistic systems which have led our civilized world for the past few hundred years.
Of course we also realize that competition is not restricted to profit-making enterpises — it’s also present in most of our non-business endeavors, a foundation of the human personality and psyche.

So what are we to make of the Pope’s recent pronouncement? In response to a small boy’s plaintive question about his departed dog, Francis was quoted by Italian news media as saying: “One day, we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures.”

Most of us in the Western world were not terribly aware of Islamic theology until 9/11 when it was brought to the fore. In the wake of this tragedy, we learned that Islam teaches that those honored with Paradise will be rewarded sensual delights (72 virgins?).

Wow! What’s a religion to do? Of the major monotheistic religions, Christianity and Islam are in a struggle for hearts and minds. Each has something like 1.5 – 2 billion active adherents, but there is a vast pool of non-members which both crave. How to reach the unaffiliated and motivate their acceptance of the somewhat tedious religious practices associated with traditional observance? Historically, an eternal reward has been a great motivating factor and as we all know, is pushed hard by religions in their efforts to initiate new converts in this life; but is it enough? Not really, apparently: we now realize that Paradise must have “activities” as well — it’s not enough to simply sit in static splendor on the right hand of Christ, in the bosom of Abraham or with the great Prophets and Martyrs. I guess it’s kind of like retirement — do you want to retire to somewhere with nothing to do or to an “active adult” location with plenty to do?

But wait, what kinds of activities will close the deal? Well, like in any other human endeavor, sex sells, so a Paradise with plenty of sex has got to be very attractive to a newcomer considering joining the Islamic club. But — as in any competitive arms race, if one side plays, the other side must reply…

Thus, in a cunning and completely unexpected countermove, the Pope circumvented traditional Catholic dogma to tell us we may now have our own pets in Heaven! Brilliant! How was this missed for the past two thousand years? Hmm, think about it — what’s the only thing that might pull you from an eternity of quick and transitory sensual pleasure encounters, no emotional attachment, no long-term love? Could that really be Paradise? Of course not, replies the Pope — why, Paradise can only be those good old-fashioned, deep sentimental values — totally represented by the unconditional and eternal love of man’s best friend.
So forget the virgins, follow the dogs to Heaven!