On March 8, Pope Benedict XVI told a conference organized to address the increasingly secularized state of the world, that he thinks believers are being conditioned by a “culture of images which imposes contradictory models and impulses” and that these images replace the need for God.
"Today more than ever", the Holy Father said to the attendees, "reciprocal openness between cultures is an important field for dialogue between men and women committed to seeking authentic humanism, over and above the differences that separate them".
Secularization, he said, "invades all aspects of daily life and causes the development of a mentality in which God is effectively absent, entirely or in part, from human life and conscience".
The threat from this void is far-reaching, and the Church is even affected. This "is not just an external threat to believers,” the Pontiff said, “but has for some time been evident in the bosom of the Church herself".
According to Benedict XVI, secularism spreads its Godless worldview by conditioning people with a "culture of images which imposes contradictory models and impulses, with the effective negation of God". Hence people come to believe "there is no longer any need for God, to think of Him or to return to Him", said the Pope. "Furthermore, the predominant hedonistic and consumer mentality favors, in the faithful as in pastors, a drift towards superficiality and selfishness which damages ecclesial life".
The dangers of this way of living are "the risk of falling into spiritual atrophy and emptiness of heart", the Holy Father warned.
Fighting these conditions can be done by re-appropriating "the exalted values of existence which give meaning to life and can satisfy the disquiet of the human heart in its search for happiness," he said. These include "the dignity and freedom of the person, the equality of all mankind, and the sense of life and death and of what awaits us at the end of earthly existence".
The Holy Father also noted the Enlightenment development of enthroning of reason over and above God is becoming commonplace.
"The phrase 'etsi Deus non daretur' [as if there were no God] is becoming a way of life which has its roots in a kind of 'arrogance' of reason", he said. Reason "was actually created and loved by God" but is now "held to be sufficient unto itself and closes itself off from contemplating and seeking a Truth that lies beyond it".
Benedict XVI indicated that the Pontifical Council for Culture must remain committed to "fruitful dialogue between science and faith", respecting the ambit and methodology of each of them, in order "to serve man and humanity, favoring the integral development and growth of each and of all.
"Above all", he added in conclusion, "I exhort pastors of the flock of God to a tireless and generous mission to counteract - in the field of dialogue and meeting between cultures, of announcement and testimony of the Gospel - the worrying phenomenon of secularization which weakens man and hinders his innate longing for the entire Truth".