Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What does [Catholicism] think of atheists?

This post is the first in a series which will document the official views of various religious denominations toward the worldviews of atheism and agnosticism. 

The following text is taken from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and was brought to our attention by a recent email from Minnesota-based Catholic Philip Zehrer, president at "Scriptural Spiritual Direction & The Risen Jesus Still Heals and Reconciles Ministry". Over the past year, Philip has been calling and emailing atheist group leaders, including people here at the Boston Atheists. We appreciate that he's concerned about the state of our everlasting souls [sic], but gosh, we can think of better things he might have been doing with his time. He's on Twitter, which is not one of those better things. 

As I'm not equipped or inclined to act the theologian, I've added only a very few comments in brackets and red text. What do YOU think of the Catholic view of things? Share your comments below. - ZWB

2123 "Many . . . of our contemporaries either do not at all perceive, or explicitly reject, this intimate and vital bond of man to God. Atheism must therefore be regarded as one of the most serious problems of our time."58
2124 The name "atheism" covers many very different phenomena [I couldn't agree more]. One common form is the practical materialism which restricts its needs and aspirations to space and time. Atheistic humanism falsely considers man to be "an end to himself, and the sole maker, with supreme control [That'd be a pretty naive "atheistic humanist", to think he has "supreme control" over anything. Something secular people come to terms with is how the complex interactions of manifold forces are actualy the authors of our "history". ], of his own history."59 Another form of contemporary atheism looks for the liberation of man through economic and social liberation. "It holds that religion, of its very nature, thwarts such emancipation by raising man's hopes in a future life, thus both deceiving him and discouraging him from working for a better form of life on earth."60
2125 Since it rejects or denies the existence of God [substitute "recognizes the incoherence or impossibility of" for "denies the existence of"], atheism is a sin against the virtue of religion.61 The imputability of this offense can be significantly diminished in virtue of the intentions and the circumstances. "Believers can have more than a little to do with the rise of atheism. To the extent that they are careless about their instruction in the faith, or present its teaching falsely [That's it; I'm an atheist because I haven't read the Bible correctly], or even fail in their religious, moral, or social life, they must be said to conceal rather than to reveal the true nature of God and of religion."62
2126 Atheism is often based on a false conception of human autonomy, exaggerated to the point of refusing any dependence on God.63 Yet, "to acknowledge God is in no way to oppose the dignity of man, since such dignity is grounded and brought to perfection in God. . . . "64 "For the Church knows full well that her message is in harmony with the most secret desires of the human heart [The idea that there is a single, compatible set of "secret desires" in the "human heart" denies dignity to human persons whose desires are incompatible.]."65
2127 Agnosticism assumes a number of forms. In certain cases the agnostic refrains from denying God; instead he postulates the existence of a transcendent being which is incapable of revealing itself, and about which nothing can be said. In other cases, the agnostic makes no judgment about God's existence, declaring it impossible to prove, or even to affirm or deny.
2128 Agnosticism can sometimes include a certain search for God [Which god?], but it can equally express indifferentism, a flight from the ultimate question of existence, and a sluggish moral conscience. Agnosticism is all too often equivalent to practical atheism.

58 GS 19 § 1.
59 GS 20 § 2.
60 GS 20 § 2.
61 Cf. Rom 1:18.
62 GS 19 § 3.
63 Cf. GS 20 § 1.
64 GS 21 § 3.
65 GS 21 § 7.