Yesterday I started to describe what we found on our South America apologetic outreach during our recent lectureships in Colombia. As we spoke with people on the street, both men and women told me that they know the “Church” is a fake. They cite the failure of the Catholic Church to improve the standard of living of “common people” in countries like Colombia in spite of the enormous wealth the church holds. Several of them had suffered abuse at the hands of a church leader, and their expressions of pain were suppressed only by the church’s control.
The Colombian young people had seen the conflict between what they learned from television and on their computers and the traditions of the Catholic Church. At the same time, I was warned that if my lessons contained material in opposition to Catholic teaching, I would experience chastisement. At one point while our group was singing in the plaza, a Catholic priest came out of the church building and took one of our handouts. It seemed obvious that he was taking notes, and I gave him a business card for “Does God Exist?’ We have not heard from him as yet.
Atheists have taken note of all of this. Richard Dawkins has challenged the Catholic Church to a series of debates In December of 2017 at three universities in Colombia. Father Gerardo Remolina, a Vatican-trained scholar, has accepted Dawkin’s challenge. We hope to monitor these debates. Also, Dawkins has offered a competition to the young people of Colombia. He challenged them to watch the BBC program “Beautiful Minds” and write a five-page paper on why the life of an atheist is the best way to live. Dawkins will choose ten winners, and he will give them a personal tour of the British Museum.
In our lectureships in Ecuador and Colombia, we found intense interest in our approach. Young South Americans are rejecting Roman Catholicism. They are resenting the abuse, hypocrisy, and lack of constructive use of the Roman Catholic Church’s great wealth. They no longer are willing to live by an irrational faith based on tradition. Being told to THINK, to study the evidence for themselves and to believe that science and faith are friends and not enemies is a message they are eager to hear and accept.
We were blessed in our presentations in Ecuador and Colombia with two men who have lived in those countries for much of their lives and could translate our material accurately. We now have our videos subtitled in Spanish, and we hope to expand the outreach of our booklets and children’s material by translating them into Spanish. Unfortunately, we are a very small voice in a very large mission area. Dawkins and his associates are making their main thrust to reach university students, and those are the people who will control the moral and financial future of these countries. Already the Health Minister of Colombia, who is an atheist, has vowed to make abortion legal in his term. He states his atheist belief as the reason for that goal.
People in Ecuador and Colombia are eager to establish a meaningful relationship with God. They have seen the violence and murderous actions of drug warlords and the cartels who deny the teachings and principles of Jesus Christ. They have also experienced the apathy, abuse, and politics of organized religion through the Catholic Church. The need is great for a South America apologetic outreach. The people are anxious to learn a new way of living guided by God. The fields are ripe for harvest, but the laborers are few.
–John N. Clayton © 2017