Roman Catholicism and the American Way of Life

By Thomas T. McAvoy | Go to book overview

FRANCIS X. CURRAN, S.J.*


III. The Religious Revival and Organized Religion

In these days of semantic confusion "religion" is a much-abused word. It is applied to, or adopted by, groups and individuals who are fundamentally non-religious or even anti-religious. To many churchmen, the great enemy of religion is stigmatized by another abused word, "secularism." If it means the exclusion of God from human thinking and human living, then secularism is indeed the enemy of religion. Yet today we have that monstrous chimera, the religious secularist.1 An individual or society which denies the existence of a divine being or which transmits the question of God as pointless is not, in any sense acceptable to a Catholic, religious. The Catholic cannot but feel uneasy when professed theists speak of a weak and fallible God perfecting Himself through human history; yet to these men religion still connotes God. He draws the line before those who profess that contradiction in terms, a theology of humanism. "Religion" is meaningless unless it is defined in terms of God.

And to the Catholic the word "religion" necessarily implies the Church. For to him religion is intelligible chiefly in terms of the Church. He knows that religion is something quite personal, grasped interiorly. But he knows also that, as a social being, he seeks expression of his intimate belief and experience in community. Every community is personal in its essence; it rises from personal relationships; it satisfies personal needs. The Church is such a community, a sacra-

____________________
*
Rev. Francis X. Curran, S.J., is Professor of History at Loyola Seminary, Shrub Oak, N.Y., and a contributor to history periodicals. He is the author of Major Trends in American Church History ( 1941), The Church and the Schools ( 1954).
1
This anomaly is described in Herbert W. Schneider, Religion in 20th Century America ( Cambridge, Mass., 1952), 143.

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