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Millennial Catholics can be argued back to Church: Bishop Barron

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Atheistic youth require logical discussion to return to the faith
By Deborah Gyapong
Photo caption: Appearing by video at the 3rd New Evangelization Summit in Ottawa May 13, Bishop Robert Barron, Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles, says that Millennial Catholics need to be argued back into the Church.
The “New Atheists” have argued Millennial Catholics out of the Church and they need to be argued back in, says Bishop Robert Barron.
Appearing by video at the 3rd New Evangelization Summit in Ottawa May 13, the Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles and founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries addressed the growing proportion of those who tick “None of the Above” when they answer surveys on religious affiliation.
Bishop Barron called “the crisis of the Nones” one of “major proportions.”
Recent surveys in the United States show “Nones” rising to 25 per cent of the population from about three per cent in the 1970s.
“It gets worse among young people,” he said. Among those 30 and under, the proportion of “Nones” rises to 40 per cent. Even worse, among those with Catholic backgrounds, 50 per cent in that age group “claim no religion,” he said.
“Think of all the kids baptized and confirmed over the last 30 years,” he said. “Half have left the Church.”
A recent Pew Research study that asked why young people were leaving found three main reasons: 1) science disproves religion; 2) religion is just a wish-fulfillment fantasy, and 3) religion is behind most of the violence in the world, he said.
“I think we should respond to those three concerns,” Bishop Barron said.
The New Atheists like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris “didn’t hug young people into their way of thinking,” they “argued” them into it, Bishop Barron said, noting he meets “their disciples all the time” in various settings.
Bishop Barron first tackled the argument that science disproves religion, examining the supposed lack of scientific evidence for a creator. What people mistake for science, however, is “scientism,” a view that “the only way to be rational is to be scientific,” and “tests of hypotheses (are) the only way to generate truth.”
The Catholic Church continues to embrace the sciences, he said, and the originator of the Big Bang theory, now widely accepted, was a Catholic priest.
Trying to find evidence of God inside his creation is like trying to find an architect in the building he made, he said. “God is not a being among many, one item in the universe.”
“God is the reason why the universe should exist at all,” he said.
St. Thomas Aquinas provided many rational arguments for the existence of God, the bishop said, and the one that “galvanized me” is the “argument from contingency.”
“The world is full of contingent things” whose existence depends on various other factors, he said. For example, every person is contingent on parents, food, and air, and those things are themselves contingent on other things.
In the search for an original cause, “back and back we go, but we can’t go back infinitely or we never have an answer to the question,” he said.
“We must come to some reality that is not contingent,” he said, “the non-contingent cause on which all the rest of existence depends.”
Bishop Barron said the New Atheists fly from this argument “like vampires from the light,” because they are so committed to atheism and “they find every possible way to resist it.”
On the second point, it is atheism, he believes, that “is a wish-fulfilling fantasy.” Without God, “it’s totally my life and I can live any way I want,” he said.
“Religion does correspond to the deepest longings of the heart, but that doesn’t imply it is simply a fantastic unreality,” he said. The human spirit is hungry for goodness, truth and beauty – hungry for God.
As for the belief that religion is responsible for violence, Bishop Barron said it’s “an old argument that was revived very much after 9/11.”
Although religious people have behaved badly over the centuries, other factors are usually found behind most wars, he said. In the 20th century, “the bloodiest century in human history,” secularist ideologies explicitly opposed to religion were responsible for the most deaths, he said.

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