That's right the answer to the (sort of ) question "What the Pope’s popularity says about American culture" is the superficial nature of many Americans' understanding of theology. As I have commented before, the only real difference between the current Pope and the past few is a matter of style not of substance. Fawning over the current Pope doesn't really seem to be the main point of this recent post by Jonathan Merritt.
Like many of Merritt's post the piece is really just another opportunity to spread all sorts of deceitful and malicious bullshit. He repeats and promotes a variety of myths, stereotypes, and smears about nonbelievers.
Merritt's disingenuous post includes some of the most common misconceptions and misrepresentations. He provides a platform for such whoppers as the "anti-Christian bias in American news media" and that "Hollywood is rabidly anti-Christian." Conveniently he uses what others have said on such things as a cover for his own endorsement for these two idiotic tropes. Since it is still safe to outright attack atheists he doesn't bother to veil his hostility when directly commenting on us.
An excellent example comes towards the end of the post.
"Some secularists and atheists, of course, despise Christians just for being Christians. But the Richard Dawkins brand of adversary is the outlier and the exception."
Umm, no. Dawkins has family and friends who happen to be Christian. Dawkins, like many of us, has repeatedly pointed out that it is Christianity not Christians that is the topic of debate and criticism. Respecting individuals does not mean the ideas those individuals hold deserve to be respected. Ideas are not people. It is sad that intellectually dishonest twerps like Merritt so often get away with this type of sleight-of-hand trickery.