Why are so many atheists apathetic

secularizationIs religion returning to Europe?

"God is dead - or has never lived." "God is love." "God cannot be described in our words." There are as many forms of belief and disbelief as there are people, says the Czech sociologist and thinker Tomás Halik:

"There is a deep belief, there is also a politically abused religion, there is naive bigotry. And in atheism there is also a militant atheism, a proud atheism - but there is also an atheism of pain, from the people who say : There are so many terrible things in my life. "

Tomás Halik combines two perspectives in his person: that of the sociological observer of religious phenomena - and that of the believer in a secular environment in the Czech Republic.

Underground religion

The 68-year-old studied philosophy, sociology and psychology in Prague. In addition, he completed a theology degree underground 40 years ago - and was ordained a priest in Erfurt in 1978. Secret!

"Even my mother didn't know that I was a priest. This underground church in particular was very convincing for me. Well, it was a risk, but I'm very happy that I have this experience. Especially the experience with the connection between civil work and priestly Activity."

At that time, Halik was working as a psychotherapist in a Prague clinic for alcoholics and drug addicts. In addition, he secretly celebrated church services and helped to distribute philosophical and theological books that were banned by the socialist regime.

Return of the spiritual

As a border crosser between the worlds, he became a sought-after contact person in the course of his life: especially for those who cannot do much with conventional church structures but are looking for answers to existential questions.

Today, in addition to his work as a professor of sociology, Halik is also the rector of the Prague University Church. He has baptized around 1,300 people so far. Although the Czech Republic is one of the most secular countries in Europe, Tomás Halik speaks of a return of the religious.

"This return of religion is not a return to the religion of the old days. On the one hand, some religions are transforming into a political ideology. On the other hand, there are also many people who say I am not religious, but spiritual."

And there are those who reject belief in a higher authority.

"The return of religion is not at all attractive"

The Marburg philosopher Joachim Kahl sees no value in the statement that religion is returning to secularized Europe. For him, the more crucial question is: what kind of religion is returning?

"The return of religion is nothing at all attractive. Because how does it return? Through daily bomb threats and mass murder. Which is of course always based on religion: 'Allah wills it' is shouted, and then one blasts away in the hope that one ends up in paradise and the evil unbelievers end up in eternal damnation. "

The German philosopher and humanist Joachim Kahl. (Deutschlandradio / Burkhard Schäfers)

Joachim Kahl sees the answer to religious fanaticism in atheism. The philosopher describes himself as a secular humanist whose thinking was largely shaped by the religion's criticism of the Enlightenment. He outlines the future role of religion in society as follows:

"Religion is in decline in Europe. Of course not in an automatic decline. I don't see it at all because people's lives are so difficult and complicated that there will always be people who cling to religious offers of meaning and promises of salvation. Perhaps one has to speak of opposing tendencies: It depends on the milieus in which one moves. "

So is it more reasonable to believe - or not to believe? The Catholic sociologist Tomás Halik replied - initially irritating - with a double yes: in every unbeliever there is also a believer, and in every believer there is also an atheist. If you only allow one position, you can become a fanatic. Allowing both sides in oneself and not suppressing them is always an advantage.

"A critical atheism can clean up the naive religious notion a bit. A certain type of atheism also has a piece of truth. We should embrace and integrate that."

Atheists find hugging strategies offensive

Joachim Kahl - the representative of the atheist position - does not want to be hugged and absorbed in his thinking. He thinks that is offensive.

"That still comes from medieval scholasticism. Philosophy was the handmaid of theology. She was supposed to prepare the ground. And that is also Mr. Halik's wish that atheism should take a purifying, faith-correcting position. But that is not a position worth emulating. "

In Munich at the Catholic Academy in Bavaria, Joachim Kahl and Tomás Halik will also discuss the question of religious indifference.

For the atheist, the question of God is naturally not in the foreground. Ethics is much older than religion, according to Kahl. Unifying humanistic values ​​arise in the coexistence of people.

Halik criticizes "apatheism"

Halik, on the other hand, thinks it is absolutely necessary that people ask themselves religious questions. He criticizes the widespread - as he calls it - "apatheism":

"People are apathetic, not just towards the answers of faith, but towards the questions themselves. That is difficult. We can have a dialogue with the militant atheists. But this apatheism is more common today than atheism."

Has secularization come to an end, is religion returning? Believers and atheists each give different answers to this question. So who decides about this in a plural society? Joachim Kahl says:

"We, the discussants, decide about it ourselves. There is no higher authority, who should presume such power of interpretation? In this respect, it remains a back and forth - a wave."