Study shows atheism is declining

 Atheism around the world is not increasing - a conference in Rome learnt yesterday. Cardinal Paul Poupard, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, inaugurated the council's plenary assembly on the theme: "The Christian Faith at the dawn of the new millennium and the challenge of unbelief and religious indifference." Fifty-five people from all continents, including members, consultors and officials of the dicastery, are participating in the meeting which runs until Saturday. After opening remarks, there was the presentation of the results of a world survey on unbelief and religious indifference that the pontifical council conducted. "It is not true that atheism is growing in the world. From the militant and organized atheism of other times, we now have a situation of practical indifference, of a loss of the relevance of the question of God, of abandonment of religious practice, above all, in the western world. But not an abandonment of belief in God." According to the council's president, "what we need to do is to give specific responses, not continue to examine the problem of the loss of faith. We are not sociologists but pastors." The outcome of this study is a "map" of unbelief. Following is a summary of its conclusions: - "Unbelief is not increasing in the world. It is a phenomenon linked above all to the western world. It is not linked to Asia, Latin America or Africa, nor to the Muslim world." - "Militant atheism is declining and does not exercise any public influence with the exception of some regimes where there is still an atheistic political system in power. A certain militant laity is noted, however, especially in Europe." - "Religious indifference or practical atheism is growing. Agnostics and non-practicing believers tend to be placed in one single group which lives as if God does not exist: is is the rise of 'homo indifferens'." - "Atheism and unbelief, typically masculine, urban phenomena of people with a medium to high cultural level in the past, today extend to women who work outside of the home: among them, unbelief increases and reaches levels which are almost equal to those of men." - "The number of persons who regularly go to Church is decreasing. This does not mean an increase in those who do not believe, but rather a change in religious practice and their way of believing: to believe without belonging." - "A new search, more spiritual rather than religious, is growing, one that does not always coincide with a return to tradition religious practices." Source: VIS

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