Pope Benedict, in an encyclical released Friday, said atheism was responsible for some of the "greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice" in history.Atehists may have been responsible for some cruelties - but not because of their atheism, that was just incidental.The "theists" on the other hand have been, historically, responsible for much greater cruelties, precisely because of their beliefs - which can start with the crusades and the Inquisition and continues to this day with the sectarian strife in Ireland to the protesters in the Sudan who think a teacher should be killed because her students named their teddybear after The Prophet.
The Catholic Church really has a very poor record indeed in the area of cruelty - even leaving aside the activities of those it simply condoned or ignored - promoted by its doctrine. And with the conviction that God was on their side and the blessings of earlier Popes cheerfully burnt, tortured, beheaded and maimed many millions simply because they did not share the exact same interpretations of a faith that was supposedly based on "love your enemies". And, at the same time, amassed huge wealth and power - again somewhat in contrast to the teachings of the Jewish carpenter they claimed to be following.
I think there is a quote somewhere about motes and beams but as an atheist myself I will leave that to others. I do think that Benedict needs to read a bit more history to get a sense of proportion on this issue - and should rather concentrate on apologizing for the role of the church and making amends for the cruelties it has promoted and condoned, rather than lecturing others.
And as for "justice" lets just mention Gallileo and leave it at that shall we