Atheism and Agnosticism: 20 Centuries of Smear Campaign*

Auguste Rodin’s “Thinker”

5 Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his arm, whose heart turns away from the Lord.
6 He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land”.

Holy Bible, Jeremiah 17 vv.5.6

He who believes in the Son has eternal life; he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God rests upon him.

Holy Bible, John 3, v36

…he (Utopus) made a solemn and severe law against such as should so far degenerate from the dignity of human nature, as to think that our souls died with our bodies, or that the world was governed by chance, without a wise overruling Providence: for they all formerly believed that there was a state of rewards and punishments to the good and bad after this life; and they now look on those that think otherwise as scarce fit to be counted men, since they degrade so noble a being as the soul, and reckon it no better than a beast’s: thus they are far from looking on such men as fit for human society, or to be citizens of a well-ordered commonwealth; since a man of such principles must needs, as oft as he dares do it, despise all their laws and customs: for there is no doubt to be made, that a man who is afraid of nothing but the law, and apprehends nothing after death, will not scruple to break through all the laws of his country, either by fraud or force, when by this means he may satisfy his appetites.  They never raise any that hold these maxims, either to honours or offices, nor employ them in any public trust, but despise them, as men of base and sordid minds…

Sir Thomas More, “Utopia”, 1516

6. We thought it useful to speak to you lovingly on these matters in order to strengthen your excellent resolve. But a much more serious subject demands that We speak of it, or rather mourn over it. We refer to the pestilent disease which the wickedness of our times brings forth. We must unite our minds and strength in treating this plague before it grows rife and becomes incurable in the Church through Our oversight. For in recent days, the dangerous times foretold by the Apostle Paul have clearly arrived, when there will be “men who love themselves, who are lifted up, proud, blasphemous, traitors, lovers of pleasure instead of God, men who are always learning but never arriving at the knowledge of truth, possessing indeed the appearance of piety but denying its power, corrupt in mind, reprobate about the faith.” [8] These men raise themselves up into “lying” teachers, as they are called by Peter the prince of the Apostles, and bring in sects of perdition. They deny the Lord who bought them and bring upon themselves swift destruction. They say they are wise and they have become fools, and their uncomprehending heart is darkened. You yourselves, established as scouts in the house of Israel, see clearly the many victories claimed by a philosophy full of deceipt. You see the ease with which it attracts to itself a great host of peoples, concealing its impiety with the honourable name of philosophy. Who could express in words or call to mind the wickedness of the tenets and evil madness which it imparts? While such men apparently intend to search out wisdom, “they fail because they do not search in the proper way… and they fall into errors which lead them astray from ordinary wisdom.” [9] They have come to such a height of impiety that they make out that God does not exist, or if He does that He is idle and uncaring, making no revelation to men. Consequently it is not surprising that they assert that everything holy and divine is the product of the minds of inexperienced men smitten with empty fear of the future and seduced by a vain hope of immortality. But those deceitful sages soften and conceal the wickedness of their doctrine with seductive words and statements; in this way, they attract and wretchedly ensnare many of the weak into rejecting their faith or allowing it to be greatly shaken. While they pur sue a remarkable knowledge, they open their eyes to behold a false light which is worse than the very darkness. Naturally our enemy, desirous of harming us and skilled in doing so, just as he made use of the serpent to deceive the first human beings, has armed the tongues of those men with the poison of his deceitfulness in order to lead astray the minds of the faithful. The prophet prays that his soul may be delivered from such deceitful tongues. [10] In this way these men by their speech “enter in lowliness, capture mildly, softly bind and kill in secret.” [11] This results in great moral corruption, in licence of thought and speech, in arrogance and rashness in every enterprise. 7. When they have spread this darkness abroad and torn religion out of men’s hearts, these accursed philosophers proceed to destroy the bonds of union among men, both those which unite them to their rulers, and those which urge them to their duty. They keep proclaiming that man is born free and subject to no one, that society accordingly is a crowd of foolish men who stupidly yield to priests who deceive them and to kings who oppress them, so that the harmony of priest and ruler is only a monstrous conspiracy against the innate liberty of man. Everyone must understand that such ravings and others like them, concealed in many deceitful guises, cause greater ruin to public calm the longer their impious originators are unrestrained. They cause a serious loss of souls redeemed by Christ’s blood wherever their teaching spreads, like a cancer; it forces its way into public academies, into the houses of the great, into the palaces of kings, and even enters the sanctuary, shocking as it is to say so.

Pope Pius VI, Encyclical “Inscrutabile divinae”, December 25, 1775

All citizens are bound to unite in maintaining in the nation true religious sentiment, and to defend it in case of need, if ever, despite the protestations of nature and of history, an atheistical school should set about banishing God from society, thereby surely annihilating the moral sense even in the depths of the human conscience. Among men who have not lost all notion of integrity there can exist no difference of opinion on this point… Let it not be forgotten that law is a precept ordained according to reason and promulgated for the good of the community by those who, for this end, have been entrusted with power… Accordingly, such points in legislation as are hostile to religion and to God should never be approved; to the contrary, it is a duty to disapprove them… We know that, by a lamentable abuse of his reason, and still more so of his will, the atheist denies these principles. But, in a word, atheism is so monstrous an error that it could never, be it said to the honour of humanity, annihilate in it the consciousness of God’s claims and substitute them with idolatry of the State.

Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical “Au milieu”, February 16, 1892

“There were even some nations who thought they could dispense with God, and that their religion should consist in impiety and the neglect of God. The rebellion of individuals and states against the authority of Christ has produced deplorable consequences… that insatiable greed which is so often hidden under a pretence of public spirit and patriotism, and gives rise to so many private quarrels; a blind and immoderate selfishness, making men seek nothing but their own comfort and advantage, and measure everything by these; no peace in the home, because men have forgotten or neglect their duty; the unity and stability of the family undermined; society in a word, shaken to its foundations and on the way to ruin… Pius XI, Encyclical Quas primas, 11 December 1925

Pope Pius XI, Encyclical “Quas primas”, December 11, 1925

“Sad to say, this vast circle comprises very many people who profess no religion at all. Many, too, subscribe to atheism in one of its many different forms. They parade their godlessness openly, asserting its claims in education and politics, in the foolish and fatal belief that they are emancipating mankind from false and outworn notions about life and the world and substituting a view that is scientific and up-to-date.
100. This is the most serious problem of our time. We are firmly convinced that the basic propositions of atheism are utterly false and irreconcilable with the underlying principles of thought. They strike at the genuine and effective foundation for man’s acceptance of a rational order in the universe, and introduce into human life a futile kind of dogmatism which far from solving life’s difficulties, only degrades it and saddens it. Any social system based on these principles is doomed to utter destruction. Atheism, therefore, is not a liberating force, but a catastrophic one, for it seeks to quench the light of the living God. We shall therefore resist this growing evil with all our strength, spurred on by our great zeal for safeguarding the truth, inspired by our social duty of loyally professing Christ and His gospel, and driven on by a burning, unquenchable love, which makes man’s good our constant concern. We shall resist in the invincible hope that modern man may recognize the religious ideals which the Catholic faith sets before him and feel himself drawn to seek a form of civilization which will never fail him but will lead on to the natural and supernatural perfection of the human spirit. May the grace of God enable him to possess his temporal goods in peace and honor and to live in the assurance of acquiring those that are eternal.”

Pope Paul VI, Encyclical “Ecclesiam suam”, August 6, 1964

For God the Creator is the one definitive source of the moral order in the world created by him. Man cannot decide by himself what is good and what is evil - cannot “know good and evil, like God.” … “Disobedience,” as the original dimension of sin, means the rejection of this source, through man’s claim to become an independent and exclusive source for deciding about good and evil.

Pope John Paul II, Encyclical “Dominum et vivificantem”, 18 May 1986

The theological dimension is needed both for interpreting and solving present-day problems in human society. It is worth noting that this is true in contrast both to the “atheistic” solution, which deprives man of one of his basic dimensions, namely the spiritual one, and to permissive and consumerist solutions, which under various pretexts seek to convince man that he is free from every law and from God himself, thus imprisoning him within a selfishness which ultimately harms both him and others.

John Paul II, Encyclical “Centesimus annus”, 1st May 1991

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 …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 Agnosticism.…2128 Agnosticism can sometimes include a certain search for God, but it can equally express indifferentism, a flight from the ultimate question of existence, and a sluggish moral conscience. Agnosticism is all too often equivalent to practical atheism.

58 GS 19 § 1, 59 GS 20 § 2, 60 GS 20 § 2, 63 Cf. GS 20 § 1, 64 GS 21 § 3, 65 GS 21 § 7. “Catechism of the Catholic Church”, September 1997.

I met the rich atheist and the poor atheist: I wanted to dialogue with both of them, but they were incapable of any logical reasoning: they stank of wine and drugs.

“Calendario di Frate Indovino”, 2002, Franciscan Monks Publishers

The true danger is atheism and I think that in future we and the Moslems will face this attitude together.

Father Celso Mantellini, “Il Gazzettino”, 17 October 2004

“Where God disappears, man does not become any greater but looses his dignity, he becomes the fruit of a blind evolution and for this he can be used and abused. If God is missing the contrasts become irreconcilable.

Pope Benedict XVI, 15 August 2005

Atheists, who do not believe in the next life, “are content with overeating and overdrinking in this one”.

Don Daniele in the Parish Gazzette of Buja (Udine), from “la Repubblica”, 28 December 2005

Astonished and grateful, we ask once more: “Lord, what is man that you have made yourself known to him? … Greatly happy is man who has known his Creator. In this we differ from wild beasts and other animals, because we know we have our Creator, while they do not know it.”

Pope Benedict XVI, General papal audience, 11 January 2006

The atheist is a poor man or a poor woman with a short view because he does not believe in life after death; a person who needs compassion but also help as he is without hope and thinks that everything ends here on this earth.

Cardinal Agostino Poletto, 31 January 2006, from “la Repubblica”, 1st February 2006.

Today, one must take into account the confrontation with secular culture in many parts of the world, which not only tends to deny every sign of God’s presence in the life of society and of the individual, but, with various means that bewilder and cloud the upright human conscience, is seeking to corrode the human being’s capacity and readiness to listen to God…
Man, both in his interiority and in his exteriority, cannot be fully understood unless he recognises that he is open to transcendence.
Deprived of his reference to God, man cannot respond to the fundamental questions that trouble and will always trouble his heart concerning the end of his life, hence, also its meaning. As a result, it is no longer possible to introduce into society those ethical values that alone can guarantee a coexistence worthy of man.
Human destiny without reference to God cannot but be the desolation of anguish, which leads to desperation.
Only in reference to God’s Love which is revealed in Jesus Christ can man find the meaning of his existence and live in hope, even if he must face evils that injure his personal existence and the society in which he lives.
Hope ensures that man does not withdraw into a paralyzing and sterile nihilism but opens himself instead to generous commitment within the society where he lives in order to improve it.

Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI held at the pontifical Gregorian University on Friday, November 3, 2006

* Excerpts from “Dicono di noi” by Unione degli Atei e degli Agnostici Razionalisti.

Last update: 18 March, 2007