They are Out to Get Us

Not only are they out to get us, they want our children too.  “They” being the atheist stalkers that seek to undermine every shred of faith in God.  They are sometimes blatant and sometimes sneaky, but they know what they are doing.  Consider the “Atheist Pocket Debater,” a new iPhone app released last month. The competition is stiff with more than 150,000 apps on the market, yet “Atheist Pocket Debater” is currently ranked #100 in popularity.  Here is the iTunes description:

“Atheist Pocket Debater” gives many ways to argue against Christians, Creationists, and Bible thumpers. It is set up for very quick reference and memorization, yet contains full arguments as well as different ways to argue the same topics. Examples include “Lack of Historical Evidence for Jesus,” “America Was NOT Created as a Christian Nation,” and “God Is Too Hidden to Be Real.” Arm yourself with very powerful and logical arguments against religious zealots.

This battle against God is especially obvious on college campuses where our kids are sent to learn often under Atheist professors that teach heresy as if it was logic.  Once, atheists were not so visible. Today, they are more aggressive and vocal, perhaps emboldened by best-selling books such as “The God Delusion” (2006) by Richard Dawkins and “God Is Not Great” (2007) by Christopher Hitchens.  According to a Pew Research Center survey, twenty percent of young Americans are atheists, agnostics or have “no religion,” up from 11 percent in 1988,

The first steps towards atheism are the steps away from practicing religion. Without the influence of parents and community, once kids leave home, they are more likely to fall away from going to Mass.   A recent UCLA study revealed that 52 percent of college students said they attended religious services frequently the year before entering college. By their junior year, though, that level of attendance had dropped to 29 percent of students.

Fighting Back

What are parents to do?  Instead of fretting over stocking them with school supplies, clean underwear and a sturdy backpack, our primary concern should be schooling them in their faith.

A Protestant publisher sharing the same concern has come out The “Apologetics Study Bible for Students” app, the digital student-friendly edition of their popular Apologetics Study Bible, which has sold more than 115,000 copies.  It was designed to give “young people straight answers to the hardest faith questions being asked of them.”

“Apologetics helps develop believers who are passionate and self-confident,” says Sean McDowell, editor of the Apologetics Study Bible for Students. “Christians who believe but cannot explain why they believe often become insecure about their convictions.

The Bible and the app are good tools against attacks on Jesus, yet, be aware that these are Christian but not specifically Catholic resources. While we wait for a Catholic app, we can make use of other material that are specifically Catholic. I recommend the easy-to-use book in the apologetic series, “Beginning Apologetics” by Fr. Frank Chacon and Jim Burnham.    Their book on How to Answer Atheists and New Agers prepares people to respond confidently to the misinformation and attacks of agnostics and atheists.  There is also a Catholic Parent website that lists a number of books to help fight against atheisism.

The College Survival Kit for Catholics, is a DVD with four talks on moral relativism given by Catholic author, Dr. Peter Kreeft.  It is especially suited to high school and college kids and addresses such things as moral relativism and  being Catholic in a post-Christian culture. (At the end of this article are more resources from CE’s online store.)

Don’t Let Them Leave Home Without It

We cannot force faith itself, but it is our responsibility to arm our children for battle — spiritual battle. The fight is not always just between faith (in God) and no faith but it also includes filling our children up with knowledge of their own Catholic religion before they leave home.  Along with atheists trying to discredit God, many will confront Catholic bashers both inside and outside the Church that belittle and misinterpret Catholic teaching. Our kids should know what it is they are defending if they are to defend it with zeal.

Teaching my children the truth once seemed like a daunting task to me, one that knew so little of it.   I wanted to do better than passing on just surface teachings, so I began reading books on apologetics and taking notes.  After several years of research, I was inspired to share it with other parents in Catholic Truths for Our Children.  The idea was to collect the strongest explanations of Catholic teachings from the most respected apologists in the country and include the Scripture passages that supported these teachings.  In addition to really learning my religion, I came to understand some key points.

  • There is no teaching that is not supported by Scripture and the writings of our early Church Fathers.
  • Catholics that differ with the Church on certain teachings are no different than Protestants that protested and left the Catholic Church. It is illogical to think that God is giving them the correct answers while hiding it from His Church. What is the likelihood that the Catholic Church has gotten her teachings wrong for over 2,000 years while modern, liberal Catholics have discovered the real truth?
  • Honoring Mary is a Catholic custom from earliest times.  The tradition to go to her, the Mother of Our Savior, is rooted in both the Old and New Testaments.
  • Scandal in the Church is not proof of error in Catholic teaching.  It is the teachings of Jesus Christ through His Church that we are following and not just mere humans that can fail us.  Jesus made that clear when he chose Judas to be a part of his inner circle.  There was nothing wrong with the seminary Judas attended, yet he betrayed our Savior.  Why did Jesus include him as one of his followers if he knew this would happen?  Could it be to show us that there will always be sinners in the Church but that will never destroy the teachings Jesus gave us?

No Guarantees

Alas, I know through my own family and friends that the battle can be fierce after kids leave home.  No matter what we do, there is no guarantee they won’t slip spiritually.

The Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) knows this well enough that it has enlisted an army of missionaries to evangalize our young adults.  The secular culture and anti-Catholic forces are pulling hard, but FOCUS is pulling back.  It was founded in 1998 by Curtis Martin and Dr. Edward Sri and sends missionaries around the country to campuses.

In just twelve years, FOCUS now extends to 45 campuses in 25 states with over 200 full-time staff members. More than 10,000 students are involved in FOCUS on college campuses through a number of activities including Bible studies.  FOCUS takes recent college graduates, trains them in the teachings of the Catholic Church, Scripture and practical aspects of ministry, and sends them out typically in teams of four to serve on college campuses to reach kids through friendship and win them over to Christ.

But even with an entire arsenal of spiritual ammunition, in spiritual warfare there is always an ebb and flow.  As some of our kids are leaving the faith, others are returning. Fr. Gary Benz of Linton, ND once shared some thoughts with me that reflect the importance of keeping the faith even if our children go astray

Jesus did everything right but He was still put on the cross.  He could have said:  ‘Look what I did for them and they put me on the cross.’  He did all the right things but still ended up on the cross, Judas betrayed Him and his apostles except for John ran away.  Parents often feel this way and so do pastors.  We are the spiritual fathers of our congregations.  It hurts to see kids go off and engage in bad behavior.  We think, ‘Well, what did I do wrong?’  I know what parents go through.  But there are still prayers.

Fr. Benz stressed the power of prayer and hope.  He said that many times, he has seen kids that walked away from their religion at one point, come back stronger than ever later on.

Fr. Benz also points out that if a child has strayed, perhaps it brings home the powerful lesson that we are not in control.  Regardless of our efforts, faith is ultimately a gift that cannot be forced. We must do our part to raise our children in the Faith and then step back and pray as we place them in God’s hands.

Additional resources (your purchase helps support this website):

Preparing Your Faith for College

How to Stay Catholic in College

Answering the New Atheism

Greater Than You Think – A Theologian Answers the Atheist

Made for More by Curtis Martin (This book comes from FOCUS)

The Loser Letters ( a new book from Ignatius which combats atheism with wit and satire)

Patti Maguire Armstrong

By

Patti Maguire Armstrong and her husband have ten children. She is an award-winning author and was managing editor and co-author of Ascension Press’s Amazing Grace Series. She has appeared on TV and radio stations across the country.  Her latest books, Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories from Everyday Families and children’s book, Dear God, I Don’t Get It are both available now. To read more, visit Patti’s Catholic News and Inspiration site. Follow her on Facebook at Big Hearted Families and Dear God Books.

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  • http://www.RaisingCatholicKids.com Mark Armstrong

    There are also some great apps and social media tools to embrace and put on your IPhones and Blackberries to help strengthen your faith too. In the last 5 months the Catholic Exchange Facebook Fan page has doubled the number of fans, and its Twitter site has picked up hundreds of followers. The point is we need not be afraid of technology, we need to understand it and use it to our advantage. We can enrich our faith with it.

    The younger generation doesn’t even use email anymore, all they use is social media to communicate. So if the baby boom generation wants to communicate with them they need to understand how to reach them.

    By the way, the author of this article rocks! :)

  • tricia

    For parents who want to better incoulate and arm their teens (esp. as they head off to college), The Envoy Institute of Belmont Abbey College is sponsoring the First Summer Apologetics Camp. The camp is for teens ages 16-19, and will be held in the Blue Ridge Mtns. of NC from August 15-21. Apologetics sessions will be led by Patrick Madrid, Dr. Peter Kreeft, Jim Burnham, Ken Hensley, and Paul Thigpen to name a few! In between readings and conferences there’ll be whitewater rafting, hicking, rope climbing and general all around fun! Go to http://www.envoyinstitute.com for more details.

  • http://prairiehawk.me PrairieHawk

    Just this morning I opened my local newspaper (the Fargo Forum) to the opinion page and read a letter from an outspoken atheist who opposes the presence of a Ten Commandments monument on city property (they’ve been fighting over it for years). This man is a member of the Red River “Freethinkers” group and a Vietnam Vet who lost his Christian faith while he was serving in the war. The gist of his reason for giving up his faith was that he saw things in Vietnam that were incompatible to him with the existence of a good and loving God.

    We Catholics need to be prepared to answer not just people’s arguments but people’s wounds. Apologetics alone won’t do it; we also need to love those who oppose us, to show them love even when they are not loving us back. Prayer I think is the most powerful weapon we have, along with the steadfast witness of those of us who have been there ourselves. I’m not faulting anything Patti said, because it’s all true; but I’m sure she would agree with me that Christianity is more than a sum of arguments, it is Christ, and we need to be Christ for the people who need us.

  • lkeebler

    May I respectfully add… when in battle, know your enemy… When we understand who the enemy is, it is easier to do battle and understand his tactics. It is also easier to pray and “RESIST HIM, STEADFAST IN YOUR FAITH” (understanding the power of prayer) for the repentance of those who the devil has “put it into the heart” (John 13:2). I’m not saying all those who are deceived or who do evil are “possessed by the devil.” But the evil influence of the “roaring lion… looking for someone to devour” is the deception and corruption of the devil that devours the souls of men.

    There is a devil (and there is a hell)…

    1 Peter 5: 8 Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. 9 RESIST HIM, STEADFAST IN YOUR FAITH, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering.

    John 13: 2 The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God,

  • jmtfh

    Parents–GET ON FACEBOOK!!! “Friend” your kids and their friends and you can stay abreast of what is going on in their day-to-day lives! Be positive, and even if at times you wince at what is going on in their lives, LOVE THEM UNCONDITIONALLY.

    And as a young priest, who is now the director for vocations of a diocese, once told me in the confessional, “PRAY YOUR BUTT OFF!” As I have watched my home educated children who willingly went to daily Mass and Communion even through high school, struggle with their faith, I have become BFF with St. Monica! She will help us pray our kids back to “Home Base.”

  • Joe DeVet

    Not much to add to this. But I will say, isn’t it a mystery with what can only be called “evangelistic zeal” the “New Atheists” seek to win converts to their faith? How can a supposed non-entity generate so much energy?

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