In the contemporary world we usually hear people claim that “I don’t believe in God.” Sometimes the claim is not that strong and comes out in the form of an agnosticism concealed behind “I believe there is some kind of energy behind everything” or “I believe in Jesus, but not in the Church’'. They express, in their own way, that religion, or belief in God, is not that important anymore. That is, some people may be Catholic, others Muslim, and others Buddhists or Protestants, but in public life, we usually do not address such particularities, because there are other more important things to care about, such as common peace, wellbeing, and technological progress.
However, that posture overshadows (to take a very optimistic stance), a reality that has always been seen as fundamental for mankind, which is their connection (or lack thereof) with something that goes beyond them, with a reality that antecedes mankind, which has created this world and, therefore, needs to be taken into consideration in our reflections about it and about how we behave while we are here. What we would like to propose here is that we realize again how central the question about God is in our lives. And that every one of us is able to actively look for that answer in our lives.
To sum it up, at a certain point, around the 15th century, the catholic cosmovision of the world was broken up. The catholic goodness was questioned and other conceptions of goodness start to come up. The great question now has become how to make sure we can live in peace with such distinct conceptions of goodness sharing our attention. To a certain extent people leave behind the search for goodness and, ultimately, for Truth. We do not believe it is possible anymore to talk about truth in a strong sense, for fear of being accused of dogmatism, of holding a pretense that would be beyond human capacity.
Without denying the limits of human reason, the fact is that our reason impels us since a very early age to look for truth. Actually, children are known for persistently making uncomfortable and inconvenient questions. But they are exactly an example of that desire for truth. If we deny that, we deny something that is extremely fundamental in every one of us. And then we fall into some kind of realm of norms. People don’t know anymore what to do, what destiny has been assigned to us, and then we create rules, norms to live together. But that will necessarily go wrong. What is more, if we are rather honest we can see it has already gone wrong.
Without a common project, without searching for truth, conflicting interests will try to assert themselves not through dialogue, or because they are better in themselves (because they cannot claim that anymore), but through force. It may be the force of money, or the force of a mass of people united to impose an ideal, but it will be an imposition “from outside,” of a set of ideas that might have little to do with reality. And that leads to those totalitarianisms that bring so much evil to mankind by depriving us of our most fundamental liberties.
And if we go back now to the start, we realize that the source of such an extremely important problem lies in displacing religious issue from its central position in human life. That is, it is not that important if a God or gods exist or not. It is as if we heard someone say: “You can believe whatever you want, but help us here to solve this conflict.” As if both things were not deeply related, when, actually, only when mankind responds to God it can effectively and coherently act in the world.
Atheism is as much a religious position as many of the so-called traditional religions. It certainly provides an answer it expects to be true in regard to that fundamental question about God. And perhaps, in that sense, the position of an atheist is even more coherent than the position of those who have given up on looking for truth. At least apparently, they bring the question about God again to core of our discussions. What believers, and especially catholic believers need to do is to embrace a mindset that promotes dialogue, is respectful and charitable, but firm and coherent. And based on that centrality of the religious dimension, resume the effort to look for answers to all other human questions.