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Catechism of the Catholic Church

Atheism

2123 "Many . . . of our contemporaries either do not at all perceive, or explicitly reject, this intimate and vital bond of man to God. Atheism must therefore be regarded as one of the most serious problems of our time." 58

2124 The name "atheism" covers many very different phenomena. One common form is the practical materialism which restricts its needs and aspirations to space and time. Atheistic humanism falsely considers man to be "an end to himself, and the sole maker, with supreme control, of his own history." 59 Another form of contemporary atheism looks for the liberation of man through economic and social liberation. "It holds that religion, of its very nature, thwarts such emancipation by raising man's hopes in a future life, thus both deceiving him and discouraging him from working for a better form of life on earth." 60

2125 Since it rejects or denies the existence of God, atheism is a sin against the virtue of religion. 61 The imputability of this offense can be significantly diminished in virtue of the intentions and the circumstances. "Believers can have more than a little to do with the rise of atheism. To the extent that they are careless about their instruction in the faith, or present its teaching falsely, or even fail in their religious, moral, or social life, they must be said to conceal rather than to reveal the true nature of God and of religion." 62

2126 Atheism is often based on a false conception of human autonomy, exaggerated to the point of refusing any dependence on God. 63 Yet, "to acknowledge God is in no way to oppose the dignity of man, since such dignity is grounded and brought to perfection in God...." 64 "For the Church knows full well that her message is in harmony with the most secret desires of the human heart." 65

Notes:

58 GS 19 § 1.

59 GS 20 § 2.

60 GS 20 § 2.

61 Cf. Rom 1:18.

62 GS 19 § 3.

63 Cf. GS 20 § 1.

64 GS 21 § 3.

65 GS 21 § 7.

English Translation of the Cathechism of the Catholic Church for the United States of America © 1997, United States Catholic Conference, Inc.

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