Not since Lady GaGa has a cult leader so brazenly courted publicity.
After having to issue multiple apologies for his role in covering up sexual abuse in the Church, claiming that condoms worsen the AIDS crisis and decrying gay rights as 'insidious and dangerous', Pope Benedict XVI has raised the stakes of controversy by likening atheism to cold-blooded genocide.
In the first speech of his UK tour to a congregation in Edinburgh, Scotland, His Holiness warned against "aggressive forms of secularism" and "atheist extremism" and the potential dangers that could result from not believing in an invisible man in the sky:
"Even in our own lifetimes we can recall how Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live.
"As we reflect on the sobering lessons of atheist extremism of the 20th century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus a reductive vision of a person and his destiny."
The British Humanist Association was among the most indignant respondents to the comments, saying:
"The notion that it is non-religious people in the UK today who want to force their views on others, coming from a man whose organisation exerts itself internationally to impose its narrow and exclusive form of morality and undermine the human rights of women, children, gay people and many others, is surreal."
You know what else is surreal?
The Pope's merchandise booth.