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Ioannes Paulus PP. II
Christifideles Laici

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Secularism and the Need for Religion

4. How can one not notice the ever-growing existence of religious indifference and atheism in its more varied forms, particularly in its perhaps most widespread form of secularism? Adversely affected by the impressive triumphs of continuing scientific and technological development and above all, fascinated by a very old and yet new temptation, namely, that of wishing to become like God (cf. Gen 3:5) through the use of a liberty without bounds, individuals cut the religious roots that are in their hearts; they forget God, or simply retain him without meaning in their lives, or outrightly reject him, and begin to adore various "idols" of the contemporary world.

The present-day phenomenon of secularism is truly serious, not simply as regards the individual, but in some ways, as regards whole communities, as the Council has already indicated: "Growing numbers of people are abandoning religion in practice"(8). At other times I myself have recalled the phenomenon of de-Christianization that strikes long-standing Christian people and which continually calls for a re-evangelization.

Human longing and the need tor religion, however, are not able to be totally extinguished. When persons in conscience have the courage to face the more serious questions of human existence-particularly questions related to the purpose of life, to suffering and to dying-they are unable to avoid making their own the words of truth uttered by Saint Augustine: "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you"(9).In the same manner the present-day world bears witness to this as well, in ever-increasing and impressive ways, through an openness to a spiritual and transcendent outlook towards life, the renewed interest in religious research, the return to a sense of the sacred and to prayer, and the demand for freedom to call upon the name of the Lord.




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