Washington-based researcher Mark Gray, above, has some bad news for the Catholic Church: youngsters are demanding proof that what they are being taught about God and religion is true.
In the absence of such evidence, they are leaving the Church in large numbers to become atheists or agnostics because there’s trend in popular culture to see atheism as “smart” and faith as “a fairy tale”.
According to this report, Gray, of the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University, says in a new report that the “whole concept of faith” is losing credibility with the young, who do not see God or religion measuring up to science.
This is a generation that is struggling with faith in ways that we haven’t seen in previous generations.
Gray recently published the results of two national studies by CARA, which conducts social science research about the Church. One of the surveys was of those who were raised Catholic but no longer identified as Catholic, ages 15 to 25. The second survey was of self-identified Catholics aged 18 and over.
In exploring why young Catholics were choosing to leave the faith, he noted “an emerging profile” of youth who say they find the faith:
Incompatible with what they are learning in high school or at the university level.
In a perceived battle between the Catholic Church and science, the Church is losing. And it is losing Catholics at a young age.
The interviews with youth and young adults who had left the Catholic Faith revealed that the typical age for a decision to leave was made at 13. Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed, 63 percent said they stopped being Catholic between the ages of 10 and 17. Another 23 percent say they left the faith before the age of 10.
Of those who had left the faith:
Only 13 percent said they were ever likely to return to the Catholic Church.
The most common reason given for leaving the Catholic faith, by one in five respondents, was they stopped believing in God or religion. This was evidence of a “desire among some of them for proof, for evidence of what they’re learning about their religion and about God,” Gray said.
He added that one reason for this state of affairs might be the compartmentalisation of faith and education. Youngsters may go to Mass once a week but spend the rest of their week learning how faith is “dumb”.
His solution to the problem is to have pupils taught about things like evolution and the Big Bang theory by people with religious convictions. That would show them that there’s no conflict between science and religion.
Gray insists that the Christian faith that was the birthplace of science and that:
The Church has been steadily balancing matters of faith and reason since St Augustine’s work in the fifth century.
Gray concludes that more parents need to be aware of their children’s’ beliefs, as many don’t even know that their children may no longer profess to be Catholic.
The Church has a chance to keep more of the young Catholics being baptised now if it can do more to correct the historical myths about the Church in regards to science, and continue to highlight its support for the sciences, which were, for the most part, an initial product of the work done in Catholic universities hundreds of years ago.
(Shhhh! Just don’t mention Giordano Bruno, the philosopher and scientist who was burnt at the stake by the Catholic Church in 1600, or Galileo Galilei, the astronomer, physicist, engineer, philosopher, and mathematician who played a major role in the scientific revolution of the 17th century. His work also annoyed the Church, and he spent the last years of his life under house arrest).