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Catholic Dictionary




Denial of a personal God who is totally distinct from the world he created. Modern atheism has become so varied and widespread that the Second Vatican Council identified no less than eight forms of disbelief under the single term atheismus: "Some people expressly deny the existence of God. Others maintain that man cannot make any assertion whatsoever about Him. Still others admit only such methods of investigation as would make it seem quite meaningless to ask questions about God. Many, trespassing beyond the boundaries of the positive sciences, either contend that everything can be explained by the reasoning process used in such sciences, or, on the contrary, hold that there is no such thing as absolute truth. With others it is their exaggerated idea of man that causes their faith to languish; they are more prone, it would seem, to affirm man than to deny God. Yet others have such a faulty notion of God that when they disown this product of the imagination their denial has no reference to the God of the Gospels. There are also those who never enquire about God; religion never seems to trouble or interest them at all, nor do they try to see why they should bother about it" (Church in the Modern World, I, 19). In the light of this array of infidelity, it was only logical for the council to declare that atheism is one of the greatest problems facing mankind in the world today. (Etym. Greek atheos, denying the gods, without a god.)