Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
To You, Dear Atheist
Folha de S. Paulo, August 31, 1980
In 1980, Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira wrote three articles explaining the timeliness of Saint Louis de Montfort’s “slavery of love” to Jesus Christ through Mary. Indeed, nothing could be so contrary to the spirit of our age, and yet, nothing can truly provide such a complete solution. This article has been translated and adapted without his revision. –Ed. American TFP.
Dear? This adjective may make readers wonder. After all, they have seen me, through my articles and other means, fight atheism for decades, especially the most actively imperialistic form it has assumed in the course of history, that is, Marxist atheism. How, then, can one justify the adjective “dear?” The explanation is this:
God wills the salvation of all men: of the good, so that they may receive the reward of their merits in Heaven; of the bad so that, touched by grace, they may amend and attain Heaven. Therefore, from different standpoints and for different reasons, both the former and the latter are dear to God. Now since they are dear to God, how could they not be so to a Catholic? Yes, dear even when to defend the Church and Christendom, a Catholic fights them. So for example, at the very moment that a crusader was fiercely fighting a Mohammedan during the reconquest of the Holy Sepulcher, he could have addressed the Mohammedan as “dear brother.”
The expression “dear atheist” is therefore valid and includes a range of different nuances; for there are nuances in atheism. Naturally, a specific sense of the word “dear” applies according to the nuance. Thus, there are atheists who rejoice to such an extent over their conviction that “God does not exist” that if some evident fact such as a spectacular miracle should convince them of the contrary, they might easily come to hate God and even to kill Him, if it were possible.
Other atheists are so mired in the things of the earth that their atheism consists not in denying the existence of God, but rather in being completely unconcerned about the matter. If the distinction is permissible, they are not “atheists” in the most radical sense of the word, but rather “a-theists” that is, secularists. God is not part of their conception of life and the world. Were it proven to them that God exists, they would see Him as being with whom or without whom the world would go on just as it does. Their reaction would be to totally and perpetually banish Him from earthly affairs.
There is still a third kind of atheist who, crushed by the labors and disappointments of life, and seeing clearly, by bitter personal experience, that the things of this world are no more than “vanity and vexation of spirit” (Eccl. 1, 14), desires that God existed. But hobbled by the sophistries of atheism, to which they had formerly opened their souls, and tied by rationalistic mental habits to which they had attached their minds, they are now groping in the darkness unable to find the God whom they once rejected. When I meditate on that apostrophe of Jesus Christ, “Come to Me all you that labor, and are burdened, and I will refresh you” (Matt., 11, 28), I think especially of this kind of atheist and feel especially inclined to call them “dear atheists.”
This explains the kinds of atheists to whom these reflections are particularly directed. Nevertheless, it is not only them that I have in mind, but many other readers who are much more dear to me: some brothers in the Catholic Faith, members, as I am, of the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ. Having read a reference I made to the spirituality of Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, they wanted me to say something more about the matter.
Now I speak to the especially dear atheists, hoping to touch them to the depth of their souls, in the same text in which I speak to my very dear brothers in the Faith.
Imagine yourself, dear atheist, in one of those intervals of the daily life of yore in whose calm the agreeable and profound impressions – which the labor of the day, charged with the dust of triviality and the sweat of effort, had smothered in the subconscious – would rise to the surface of the spirit. Those were the ample moments of leisure in which the yearnings for a smiling past, the enchantments and hopes of a harsh but luminous present, and the so-often treacherous fantasies would make an agreeable stereoscope for relaxing the soul, “put in peace… in that gay and blind deceit that fortune does not permit to long endure” (Camões, Lusiadas, Canto III, verse 120).
In today’s scanty moments of leisure, on the contrary, it is the neurotic tumult of disappointments, worries, wild ambitions and exacerbated weariness that rise to the surface. And over this tumult hovers an overwhelming, leaden, and obscure question: “What am I living for?”
Click Here to read “Service, a Joy”, the second article.
Click Here to read “Obey in Order to be Free”, the third article.