Is it possible to discover the key factors for secularizing a culture? Yesterday we discussed an international computer modeling project called the Modeling Religion Project. The goal of the international team of experts working on the project was to use computer modeling to learn how politicians could manipulate the religiosity or secularization of a society. We won’t go into all of the background details again, but you can read yesterday’s post HERE.
We said that this scientific study determined that four factors lead to secularizing a culture. The factors are: 1-Having material things, 2-Having personal freedom, 3-Welcoming diversity or pluralism, 4-Having a higher level of education in science and the humanities. We quoted Wesley Wildman, a professor of philosophy and ethics at Boston University and a collaborator on the project who seems to want our culture to become more secularized and less religious. He said, “The U.S. has found ways to limit the effects of education by keeping it local, and in private schools, anything can happen.” He also said, “Lately, there’s been encouragement from the highest levels of government to take a less than welcoming attitude to pluralism. These are forms of resistance to secularization.”
You shouldn’t need a computer model to realize that having money and material things along with personal freedom can lead people to forget about God. The ancient Israelite nation demonstrated that multiple times, and we can see it in more modern societies. Unfortunately, people turn to God in hard times and forget about Him when things are going well. Welcoming diversity or pluralism, when it means that we consider all faiths or no faith to be equally valid, is also an obvious path to secularization. However, sharing our faith with people of diverse cultures does not lead to secularization. Also, education does not have to be a path to unbelief. The DOES GOD EXIST? program has always said that science and the Bible, when both are correctly understood, are friends and not enemies.
Professor Wildman built another computer model to determine why some religious groups survive while others fall apart. He concluded that one of the most important factors is that the movements that persist have “a highly charismatic leader who personally practices what he preaches.” Wildman said, “It’s basically, leave the groups alone when the leaders are less consistent, kill the leaders that have those specific qualities.” In other words, he is saying not to worry about religious movements with leaders who are not charismatic and who don’t practice what they preach. They will probably die out anyway. The religious movements that will last and have a radical effect on society are those led by a charismatic leader who practices what he preaches.
What religious leader fits that description precisely? Jesus Christ, of course. What did the ones who wanted to end His religious movement do? They killed Him. The thing they did not count on, was that we would not stay dead.
Computer modeling has now given us the steps to secularizing a culture. Professor Wildman put it this way: “The MODRN (Modeling Religion in Norway) model gives you a recipe for accelerating secularization—and it gives you a recipe for blocking it. You can use it to make everything revert to supernaturalism by messing with some of those key conditions—say, by triggering some ecological disaster. Then everything goes plunging back into pre-secularism. That keeps me up at night.”
We suggest that we should be working to create not a “secular” or “religious” society, but a society based on the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. We don’t need an ecological disaster. We do need a 1-a secure society, 2-with personal freedom of speech and religion, 3-that welcomes and shares with those in need, not only physically, but spiritually, 4-and with education that recognizes that God speaks through His creation (science) and through His word (the Bible). Remember that the authorities tried to kill Jesus and His message, but they could not.
–Roland Earnst © 2018
Click HERE for information about the Modeling Religion Project.
Click HERE for research reports from the project.
Click HERE for an article from The Atlantic titled “Artificial Intelligence Shows Why Atheism Is Unpopular.”