Do you ever wonder why so many people fall away from the Christian faith they were raised with? Does it bother you that young people leave the Church––not just the Catholic Church, but all denominations––in large numbers once they reach college? Does it disturb your own faith to know that many people, including many intelligent people, don't believe the central claims of Christianity, or even in the existence of God? The number of people, especially young people, who do not affiliate with any religious faith is indeed steadily increasing in most western countries. However, if we understand the real reason why most people abandon religious faith and religious practice, we will not be shaken or discouraged in our own faith, but rather motivated to reach out to those who have fallen away from faith in God and the Church.
1. Suffering, or at least the amount of suffering in the world, is irreconcilable with a God Who is all-loving, all-knowing, and all-powerful.
2. Faith in God is unreasonable in light of modern science.
3. Religion is oppressive and prevents people from being their true selves and living the lifestyles they prefer.
…my concern was different from that of most of my comrades. Their question was,"Will we survive the camp? For, if not, all this suffering has no meaning." The question which beset me was, "Has all this suffering, this dying around us, a meaning? For, if not, then ultimately there is no meaning to survival; for a life whose meaning depends upon such a happenstance––as whether one escapes or not ––ultimately would not be worth living at all (Man’s Search for Meaning, p. 71).
I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that. My guess is that this cosmic authority problem is not a rare condition and that it is responsible for much of the scientism and reductionism in our time (Feser, The Last Superstition, p. 34).
"What’s going on with this denial of the soul and this physicalism? The problem is not a lack of evidence. The evidence is out there for anyone who is at least remotely open and willing to look at what’s going on in these areas that I’ve been talking about. That’s not the problem. The problem is: 'I don’t want to believe in transcendence, because transcendence implies a God Who I might be responsible to,' or, 'I don’t want to believe in transcendence because I only want to believe in what I can see.' That of course is like giving yourself a frontal lobotomy just for the heck of it, just as a matter of opinion. I mean, why would you do it? People do what they do. My point is, this is not rationally motivated, and it’s not based on good evidence––the evidence favors the soul" ( Eternal Word Television Network, Fr. Spitzer’s Universe, “What is the Evidence for the Soul? Part 1”, November 16, 2016).
I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem; also my wisdom remained with me. And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them; I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had spent in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun (Ec 2:9–11).
Clearing Away the Obstacles: Choosing God
For the vast majority of people who abandon religious faith or choose to remain away from it, their reason for doing so is quite simple and unoriginal. It is that tendency in human nature towards selfishness, domination, and disobedience. In the Christian tradition, we call this tendency "Original Sin". No, it doesn't consist in a couple of people "way back when" literally eating a piece of fruit from a tree arbitrarily labelled “off limits”. That story (i.e., the Genesis account of Creation) is simply a beautiful and poetic way of telling what is the literally true story of human history, namely, that we were once in harmony with God but rebelled against Him by choosing our own will over His, and we are now at war within ourselves, with each other, and with God. We failed to trust in God, and as a result, we suffered the inevitable consequences of our hopeless endeavor, which was trying to find happiness in something other than God. In order to win back our trust and our hearts so that we can be reunited with Him forever, He sent His Son Jesus Christ to redeem us and reveal to us the complete truth about who we are and Who God is. Therefore, the only way to clear the obstacles to faith is to be honest with ourselves and start asking the most important questions, such as: Am I happy? As in, really happy? If not, do I have any reason to think that I will ever be truly happy by continuing to live the way I’ve been living? What is the meaning and purpose of my life? What do I desire more than anything, beyond mere sensual pleasures and ego-gratifications? Is it reasonable for me to think that these desires will be fulfilled by anything or anyone in this world? If not, am I open to the possibility that my deepest desires are leading me to God, since He alone can even conceivably be the fulfillment of a desire for something beyond this world?