Since 2000, Ottawa Archbishop Marcel Gervais has expressed his opinion on a variety of faith topics. These texts were initially published in the "Ask the Religion Experts" column which appears every Saturday in The Ottawa Citizen. As of June 2005, Msgr. Patrick Powers, Vicar General, will be taking on the responsibility of the weekly articles.

Recent books have said that the idea of God causes more harm than good and that atheism is the morally superior choice. How woud you answer these authors?

I have not read these books, but here is my answer to these types of questions. I am certain you will not find it surprising that I do not agree with this line of thinking. A common definition of faith goes something like this: it is the service and worship of God or the supernatural and the commitment or devotion to a religious faith or the observance system of religious attitudes, beliefs and practices. I am convinced that every single faith group helps its members to know and understand God and to live faithfully with everyone else here on earth.

The values which are developed among the members of all faith groups serve to make our society a much better place. To remove God and the supernatural from our world would have absolutely disastrous results. It is through our faith that we develop a deeper understanding of God as well as an increased self-awareness which is fundamental to the development of any society which leads to greater justice and solidarity among its peoples.

Interestingly, a few years ago, I participated in a conference on, of all things, the taxation of Churches. One of the participants, from Revenue Canada, delivered a truly thought provoking paper in which he argued that the current status should be maintained because all Churches add to the betterment of society as they contribute more in their outreach programmes than they often receive in tax exemptions! Religions always bring about a greater good.

Harm is never caused by faith in God. I believe that Atheists have it wrong. They are entitled to their opinion. They are not bad people. However, I think it is important that we continue to dialogue, deepening our mutual respect and understanding.