One of the things that is on the rise today is atheism. Not just the usual brand of atheism, but one that is more militant and harder to deal with. It has infected the young as well. The very young. A statistic I heard recently that as many as 25% of grammar-school-age children do not believe in God.
Much of this of course is in our culture. Our culture reaches into the young supposedly through ‘children’s programming’. But some of that has at its foundations in a utilitarian understanding of reality that excludes God. Even the chorus of praise for ‘science’ has an undertow of disbelief in faith of any kind.
This is so even though there is no real conflict between science and religion. Science is the true child of religious faith as it seeks to discover the beauty, order and marvels of creation. Many of the greatest scientists of history were men and women of faith. In fact, the scientific movement had its birth in the West in our Universities, all started by the Church.
One must make a distinction here between science and scientism. Scientism is a belief that there is no God and that science alone can give the answers to everything. It is a bias that some scientists have. These are men and women who begin as unbelievers and bring that prejudice into their studies. The scientific method is based on measurement and experimentation and is always open to correction. It has a humility before facts and is open to admitting error if the next experiment disproves their original hypothesis.
Faith and Religion are not empirically verifiable. You cannot measure belief. One must keep the two spheres of Faith and Science separate and distinct. Scientists can be unbelievers, but science cannot either believe or disbelieve. It must be measured.
For a believer in God, one can study whatever field of science in a kind of wonder at the beauty and order of creation. While God created everything, He lies beyond the reach of the scientific method.
Often one hears the old canard about the silencing of Galileo by the Church. That one incident is outweighed by all the science that the Church has championed throughout the ages. Even today, we are the only religion on earth that has two observatories to monitor the stars!
And in the moral sphere, our opposition to Abortion has a scientific basis in genetic studies. The unique genetic makeup of the embryo, whose structure is not that of the father or the mother but is uniquely that of the new developing human person, is a fact of science. Science confirms our teaching, as do the scientific instruments that can detect the heartbeat and the brainwaves of the developing child in the womb. Science tells us this, not faith.
This is an area where science actually gives weight to the teaching of the Church that the developing human child in the womb needs the protection of law so that it can develop from a preborn fetus (literally young one) to a post-born baby. It is the same child. Science helps us to see that reality.
Another help to our belief in the reality of God is the objective moral values that we hold as Catholics, but also that even atheists hold.
For instance, is there anyone in our nation that does not believe that slavery is always, and in every case, immoral? We can all believe that this is true whether you are in a blue state or a red state. We, as Catholic Christians, believe that this is part of the objective law that God has revealed to us. It stands on His authority. But if you do not believe in a God who reveals how we should live our lives, on what basis does one hold it? There have been many who say that the stronger should control the weaker. Hitler set up a whole racist system that gave the “Aryan race” the responsibility of running the world and subjugating other peoples for the common good. Atheists could disagree with him, but can they say he is wrong or immoral in his belief? And on what basis? When there is no God, Dostoyevsky declared, all is permitted.
Atheism is a system of belief that simply does not work either philosophically or ethically. Yet it is infecting our young who can’t yet tease out the contradictions and the untruths of the atheistic position.
We need to be strong in our Catholic Faith and express our belief that God is God and He has revealed to us the way to live. To disbelieve in Him is to open up many more questions and problems than it solves.