50,000 people from 57 different countries and five continents were recently asked whether or not they consider themselves religious, nonreligious, or are a convinced atheist. Of those respondents living in America, only 60% identified themselves as religious, a 13 percent decrease over the past seven years. Equally troubling is that the number of self identified atheists in America rose from 1 percent to 5 percent over that same period.
Those figures, unfortunately, are in line with other studies on religion in America. According to the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS), 15 percent of Americans have no religious identity at all, a figure that has doubled since 1990. That number, however, has risen to 20 percent, according to a Pew Research Center poll released this past week.
It seems fitting, then, that Pope Benedict has called for a year of faith. Catholics must be vigorous in spreading their faith – the one true faith – to others around the globe. And one man who is doing just that is Dr. Ralph Martin, the Director of Graduate Theology Programs in the New Evangelization at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, Michigan.
His most recent book, “Will Many Be Saved?: What Vatican II Actually Teaches and Its Implications for the New Evangelization,” has been lauded by many church leaders. Francis Cardinal George calls it a “uniquely important book.” Timothy Cardinal Dolan refers to it as “a shot in the arm for bishops, priests, and laity as we respond to the Holy Father’s call.” And Donald Cardinal Wuerl writes that it “contributes significantly to a richer understanding of our faith.”
Dr. Martin’s efforts, as well as the emphasis the Church has placed on renewing our faith, should compel us to work even harder. At a time when secularism, atheism and agnosticism are on the rise, the world needs to hear the prophetic voice of the Catholic Church now more than ever.
I recently had the opportunity to attend one of Dr. Martin’s lectures on the new evangelization at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It’s worth watching.