In his book ‘50 ideas you really need to know about Religion’ (2008), Peter Stanford states that “Atheism has traditionally been seen simply as the rejection of religion, but with the onward march of secular, scientific philosophies, especially in Western society, it is now regarded by some as a religion in its own right, offering God-free rituals to mark birth, marriage and death. Some 2.3 per cent of the world’s population describes itself as atheist.”
Surprisingly a recent survey conducted by Washington-based Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life revealed that atheist are better versed on religious matters than some people who claim to believe in God. This fact alone should indicate to some ‘believers’ that they need to educate themselves better on what and why they believe. Perhaps they (atheists are of course invited & encouraged to participate) would be willing to think or meditate on the following questions:
• What answer do you give to the question ‘is there any proof that God exists?’
• Is there any scientific evidence that proves that God exists?
• Are there any religious groups/persons that can ‘prove’ that God exists?
If the answer to any of the above is ‘No’ does that imply?
• God does not exist for the billions of people here on earth?
• Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and all other forms of institutional religion are therefore based on pure fantasy or a mass delusion?
• can atheists prove that God does not exist?
On the other hand:
• Do individuals possess intuitive perceptions that reach beyond the normal five senses that might explain the existence of God?
• How might we explain the existence of pain and suffering in the absence of God?
• Is science the only means through which the existence of God could be explained?
• Is there a future for religion?
• Is there a future for atheism?
As for the future of religion, author Peter Stamford, quickly counters any suggestion that religion has had its day, by stating that "while religion at the start of the twenty-first century may be changing, it shows no sign of fading away. Indeed around the globe, in Africa, Asia and Latin America, the numbers of those claiming a formal religious allegiance are on the up".
Meanwhile the search for God also shows no sign of abating. Recent surveys conducted in North America indicate that more than 90 percent of people believe in a Creator or God. However, while a rapidly declining majority still choose to remain within institutional religion many more explore spirituality outside the conventional set-ups. The search for God, again according the Stamford, make take many forms and have many names, but ultimately it is about the same thing – individuals trying through religious systems to find meaning and value in human life.
To the disciples' delight the Master said he wanted a new shirt for his birthday. The finest cloth was bought. The village tailor came in to have the Master measured, and promised, by the will of God, to make the shirt within a week.
A week went by and a disciple was dispatched to the tailor while the Master excitedly waited for his shirt. Said the tailor, "There has been a slight delay. But, by the will of God, it will be ready by tomorrow."
Next day the tailor said, "I'm sorry it isn't done. Try again tomorrow and, if God so wills, it will certainly be ready."
The following day the Master said, "Ask him how long it will take if he keeps God out of it." Anthony de Mello, SJ. One Minute Wisdom