In 1965, Pope Paul VI created the Secretariat for Relations with Non-Believers. This new agency was charged with the responsibility of studying the phenomenon of atheism based on scientific research in historical-doctrinal, sociological and cultural, and psychological perspectives.
The Psalmist may have written ‘only the fool says there is no God’ (Ps 53:1-6), but for the past 200 years, atheism has shown little trace of embarrassment at the charge. Societies promoting atheism are growing by leaps and bounds.
Atheism as a Way of Life: practical atheism, pseudo-atheism, and absolute atheism
Practical atheism is the most common and most curious of atheistic attitudes. In this form of atheism, persons conduct their very way of life by ignoring the force of moral law and moral standards. They exclude God and live without God irrespective of philosophy, morals, or of religious faith. This group may worship false gods by promoting economic exploitation and social injustice. Not only are they unaware of their atheism but would deny they are atheists. (New Catholic Encyclopedia 1)
The sad fact is that many leaders in this group have been educated in elite Catholic institutions where concern for the poor and where practicing a faith that does justice are essential to their core mission. Fidel Castro and his brother Manuel, educated in Jesuit schools, forced Cuba into economic atheism rooted in communism.
The negative atheist does not know God, his denial, the result of ignorance rather than indifference. For St. Paul tells the Romans (10:14): “Unless they believe in him, how shall they call upon him. And how shall they believe unless someone preaches to them?”
Pseudo-atheism denies God, but in their hearts they yearn for the presence of God. Pseudo-atheists may not even realize what they are actually doing. They are searching for the Unknown God mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles (17:23f). They believe in God in whom they think they don’t believe. They may be agnostics—those who doubt the existence of God. College students can fall into this category mainly because their parents failed to raise them with any religion. (New Catholic Encyclopedia 1)
Radical and absolute atheism excludes God consciously, consistently, and actively. Radical and absolute atheists deny the existence of any spiritual and transcendent uncaused Cause of all things—God. Militant atheists are recruited from this group. Their denial of God becomes the affirmation of all affirmations. The denial of God sets up an entirely original set of values which posits man’s complete autonomy. The absolute atheist rejects the reality of God because of his closed mind or his insufficient reflection on the evidence of God’s existence.
The absolute and self-confident atheist is utterly convinced of the truth of his position, which rests chiefly on two arguments.
The first argument is that there is no direct evidence of God, nor can God’s reality be inferred from anything in the world of experience. The universe is intelligible—so far as man has succeeded in deciphering it. Consequently, there is no need to posit the Creator of all things.
The second argument is based on the presence of evil in the world. This argument is based on emotion and runs like this: Where is God in suffering? A powerful and all-loving God would not permit suffering to happen, especially to the innocent. Therefore, God must be a sadist or an impotent entity. Or, God is dead. Such inescapable questions haunt persons of faith and those of no faith because they affect us at the very core of daily living. And yet, even in dark hours, we do sense a ray of light that holds meaning for us. (New Catholic Encyclopedia 1)
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There are several causes of atheism:
The mystery of God means that we can assert nothing about God;
False humanism, that is, human freedom cannot be reconciled with the affirmation of a Lord who is author and purpose of all things;
The problem of evil and suffering;
Hedonism and materialism;