(CATECHESIS, WEDNESDAY GENERAL AUDIENCE, OCTOBER 2012—FEBRUARY 2013.)
THE YEAR OF FAITH. THE WAYS THAT LEAD TO KNOWLEDGE OF GOD (2)
NOVEMBER 14, 2012
Ever since the Enlightenment the criticism of religion has been gathering momentum; history has also come to be marked by the presence of atheistic systems in which God was seen as a mere projection of the human mind, an illusion and the product of a society already misled by so many alienating factors. Moreover the past century experienced a strong process of secularization under the banner of the absolute autonomy of the human being… A particularly dangerous phenomenon for faith has arisen in our times: indeed a form of atheism exists which we define, precisely, as “practical”, in which the truths of faith or religious rites are not denied but are merely deemed irrelevant to daily life, detached from life, pointless. So it is that people often believe in God in a superficial manner, and live “as though God did not exist”.
In fact human beings, separated from God, are reduced to a single dimension — the horizontal — and this reductionism itself is one of the fundamental causes of the various forms of totalitarianism that have had tragic consequences in the past century, as well as of the crisis of values that we see in the current situation. By obscuring the reference to God the ethical horizon has also been obscured, to leave room for relativism and for an ambiguous conception of freedom which, instead of being liberating, ends by binding human beings to idols.
With this picture before her, the Church, faithful to Christ’s mandate, never ceases to affirm the truth about man and about his destiny… The invitation to converse with God is addressed to man as soon as he comes into being. For if man exists it is because God has created him through love, and through love continues to hold him in existence (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, n. 19).
What answers, therefore, is faith required to give, “with gentleness and reverence” to atheism, to scepticism, to indifference to the vertical dimension, in order that the people of our time may continue to ponder on the existence of God and take paths that lead to him?