VATICAN CITY --- After a long night reading the complete works of Christopher Hitchens, binge drinking and googling "proof for God," Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation yesterday, effective February 28th.
The 85-year-old Pontiff, the first to voluntarily resign since 1294 AD, cited health concerns as well a long, difficulty journey to atheism as reasons behind his decision, using an all-Latin press conference at Vatican City to catalogue the doubts that had plagued him since assuming the Papacy in 2005.
"I suppose I started to ask questions in early 2006," The Holy See told reporters, "I'd been on the job almost a year, and yet I hadn't had a single conversation with God. Not one. Before I'd just been able to write it off -- I mean, I know plenty of priests and cardinals say God speaks directly to them, but I figured -- you know -- maybe I just hadn't been chosen for direct revelation. Alphabetically, 'Ratzinger' is not the head of the line. Maybe He suddenly got busy. It happens."
"But then, after the white smoke came out and they said I'd be filling JP II's shoes, I figured I'd get a call, you know? But it never came. Not one lousy vision. I mean, I'm the fucking Pope and you're telling me the Big Guy just couldn't be bothered? Come on."
"I mean, Jesus Christ." he added.
In his confusion, the Pontifex Maximus and Bishop of Rome began reading voraciously, searching for an answer that would put him at ease.
"I started in the usual places," he said, "St. Augustine. Thomas Aquinas. I even read some Luther and Calvin, just in case I'd picked the wrong side of this whole Protestant issue. I attended a few Eastern Orthodox services under an assumed name, hell, at one point I even went to see a Rabbi. But nothing helped. I started to doubt not just my own Church -- of which I am the unquestioned and absolute ruler -- but organized religion in general."
Desperate, Benedict then turned to even more outlandish sources, reading Sam Harris' Letter to a Christian Nation in a single, fraught night.
"Looking back, I realize that's when I'd reached the point of no return," he said, "After Harris, I picked up Dawkins' The God Delusion, then Christopher Hitchens' God is Not Great. From there it was Nietzsche, Freud, and Marx. It was a difficult time - I was lying to everyone around me. I was lying to myself. I remember one close call, I was in the Popemobile when one of the Swiss guards almost caught me thumbing through Civilization and Its Discontents. I threw it under the passenger seat just in time, but man -- that would've been bad."
"For a long time I rationalized. I thought this might be a test, or even Satan tempting me. But as early as 2009, I knew in my heart of hearts that my faith was broken beyond repair. I just couldn't bring myself to admit it out loud."
In a last ditch effort to salvage his belief in an institution that had guided his entire life and career, enabling him to become one of the most influential men on Earth, the Pope returned to Holy Scripture, scouring the Bible for any sign he might be mistaken.
"And that pretty much put the nail in the coffin," he told reporters, "I mean, have you ever actually read The Bible? Rape, genocide, Pi is exactly three -- I mean, is this what I've been pushing on people my entire life? I couldn't believe it. I just couldn't believe it, you know?"
Wrapping up the press conference, a visibly relieved Benedict thanked reporters for attending.
"Anyway, it just feels great to get that all of my chest. May the Father and the Son and all the Saints bless you and your -- ah, screw it."
UPDATE: High-ranking sources inside the Vatican have pushed back strongly against the allegation that Pope Benedict XVI is now a full-blown atheist. Speaking to reporters in a follow-up call, the Pontiff was quoted as saying, "Listen, I'm still definitely spiritual, you know? I still believe in something. At worst I could be called an agnostic. I don't know. I'll have a lot of free time coming up. I plan to keep reading, keep looking for the faith that feels right for me, you know?. Maybe some New Age stuff? That looks interesting. Crystals? I hear great things about crystals."