Atheism is on the rise. Catholics must do a better job at evangelizing [UPDATED]

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.

h/t Aquinas College Catholic Studies program



  • Dvd Bach

    Unless religious people can produce some good reason to believe in any god, they’re doomed to fail no matter how hard they work. Atheism is on the rise because more and more people are realizing that there’s simply no reason to believe that any gods exist.

  • Running me out of Church

    One huge reason people do not attend church anymore is that they see how other “Catholics” live, and they see hypocrites. And who wants to come to Church and hear them tell you to vote republicon when you know republicans are a bunch of scumbags, and a PRIEST is saying this in CHURCH. The Church will LOSE more members if they do NOT get out of politics. It sickens my stomach and I have already quite contributing.

  • Benjamin Holmes

    A major goal of evangelization should be to renew and revive faith in God and the Church among the youth. I am a cradle Catholic and revert, having dabbled in a few different philosophies, the last of which was a three years stint in the Episcopal Church. I am a “twentysomething” guy, as well.

    I am both proud and humbled to be Catholic, and I do follow the teachings of God’s Word and the Church. I believe that a major disconnect between the Church and youth is the cold nature of the hierarchy. Look at the absolute free fall and collapse of the Church in Ireland, especially once the Ryan Report was released a few years back. The lack of accountability by the hierarchy- the secretive actions and shielding of pedophile priests- has cause the bishops to lose substantial favor and trust among the laity and youth. The Church needs to recognize that some of its actions are to blame for our woeful condition.
    The French Revolution targeted the Catholic Church for a reason, in part, because the
    hierarchy was too ensconced with the monarchy, rather than the people,
    and too many people witnessed this intimate relationship with corrupt worldly
    power. Make the bishops more accountable, include more lay democracy, and you ill revive trust.

    The world, especially Western nations, desperately needs a vibrant healthy Catholic Faith to stand firm as a bulwark to the anti-life trends of secularization and the destructive powers of unhinged Ayn Rand libertarianism, to offer a holistic alternative to the failed mindset that we are “just fine” without God. The Church is the “pillar and fire of truth,”and I am happy to stand at the base of this mighty pillar, looking towards God.

    God bless.

    • Robert Morin

      Hmm, and to think that the Eastern Rite Catholics like my ancestors were persecuted enough. After all, it was because of the Iron Curtain that sent my grandparents to this country for fear of both Fascism from Germany, and from Communism from Eastern Europe for this same reason. Although, I’m hoping that we won’t wind up with this in America after all this time. This is one thing we have to prevent before it’s too late. You’re right, because if you think that the Roman Churches are starting to look like town hall meetings/ghost towns, think about some parishes in the Byzantine Church, I almost thought the Saturday Vigil Divine Liturgy was almost like a weekday morning liturgy when I went. Things have to change to get back to how they were… Let’s bring back the robust, energetic, vibrant culture that we had back around 10 – 20 years ago!



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