On January 24, 2024, the Pew Research Center released 2023 data on American religious beliefs. It suggests that the rise of religious “nones” may be slowing. The “nones” are people who claim no religious affiliation, and they have been the fastest-growing religious belief group in America. In the past 50 years, “nones” went from less than 5% to 30% of all Americans. However, this latest report put the “nones” at 28%. Some of the other numbers reported are:
Nones are 17% atheist, 20% agnostic, and 63% nothing in particular.
Thirty years ago, 90% of Americans were “Christian,” and now that number is 60%.
69% of nones are younger than 50.
97% of nones attend religious services a few times a year or not at all.
56% say they believe in “some higher power” aside from the God of the Bible.
The Pew Research Center has a good reputation for gathering data, but still, there is no such thing as an infallible academic survey. Sampling is complex and affected by many variables, but Pew Research has worked hard to avoid pitfalls as much as possible.
The “Does God Exist Ministry” began in 1968 when we were concerned about American religious beliefs. We saw massive ignorance about the evidence for the existence of God, the validity of Jesus Christ as God’s Son, and the inspiration of the Bible. There is a tendency for churches to pretend that everyone believes in God. Believers have suggested that teaching about the evidence for believing in God, Jesus, and the Bible is a waste of time. There have even been attempts by religionists to shut down this ministry, and the refusal to look at science-based evidence has grown.
Our concern about American religious beliefs is why we offer free correspondence courses and a variety of video lessons on our website doesgodexist.tv. We want anyone with an open mind to see evidence from science and to share that with others. We encourage everyone to know why they believe what they believe. Understand that science is simply knowledge, and it strongly supports faith. If someone thinks there is a conflict between science and faith, they either have bad science, bad theology, or both.
We can see evidence of a creator in the design features of living things that allow life to flourish in hostile environments. One of those environments is the very muddy rivers in Western and Central Africa. They are so muddy that underwater visibility is less than an inch. How do fish find food and avoid obstacles in muddy rivers like that? Peters’s elephantnose fish have the answer.
Peters’s elephantnose fish (Gnathonemus petersii) have an electrolocation system. An organ on their tails sends out weak electric field pulses. Receptors on the fish’s skin detect distortions to the field caused by any object or creature nearby. The fish also has a trunklike nose, which is full of electroreceptors. Peters’s elephantnose fish can make unusual movements to catch prey or avoid objects. It can even paddle backward in what researchers call a “moonwalk.”
Researchers have found that by swiveling the trunklike nose (called a schnauzenorgan) and shaking the electrically-charged tail, a Peters’s elephantnose fish can create a mental 3-D map of its environment without seeing it. Experiments have shown that this system is very accurate and efficient. In one test, the fish could identify a shape and correctly respond to that shape 94% of the time.
We suggest that such a unique design seen in Peters’s elephantnose fish gives strong evidence that life is not an accident. The evidence indicates it was designed by an intelligent Creator to allow every part of our planet to be inhabited by unique forms of life, even places that would be lethal to most life forms. This doesn’t happen by accident but rather by the God who created life. We can study and learn about the Creator because He created us in His image and shows Himself to us in the things He has made (Romans 1:20).
References: “Weakly electric fish use self-generated motion to discriminate object shape” in the journal Animal Behaviour, Volume 205, November 2023, pages 47-63, reported in Science Direct and in Scientific American, February 2024, page 18.
We recently received an article from a Christian woman working in a Christian assisted living facility telling about the value of special days to those in care facilities. She pointed out Romans 14:5, which says, “One person decides that one day is holier than another. Another person decides that all days are the same. Every person must make his own decision.” The word “holiday” in its original use meant “holy day,” and holy means “sacred, dedicated to God.” We need to find reasons for celebrating our own special holidays.
Our sister in Christ found that she could improve the lives of residents in the facility where she worked by making every day memorable by assigning notable food names to certain days. One day would be Fettuccine Alfredo Day, and another might be Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie Day. Incorporating food holidays into meal planning gave residents something to look forward to. It told everyone that small celebrations remind us that every day is special and life is worth living.
In ancient Israel, there were a host of special days to remind the people of the blessings of God in ways they might otherwise overlook. They had frequent celebrations of a good harvest, of being free from domination by others, and of the good things that had happened in the past. Jesus used parables to talk about good things even though the circumstances of the common people were bleak at that time. Think of how special days Americans celebrate can bring joy into our lives.
We need to avoid gloom and doom mentalities and rejoice in the good things God has given us. Besides positive national celebrations, add ways of celebrating our own special holidays as we remember the good things God has done. And don’t forget to bring these special celebrations to those who are isolated and fighting the battles of health and old age.
The Latin name for the Moon is “luna.” Many English words are derived from that root, including lunacy, lunatic, and even loon, as in “crazy as a loon.” Having grown up in the north, I know that hearing the cries of loons cry could lead to thoughts of them being crazy. Lunar cycles occur naturally, but many people believe a “lunar influence” is connected to abnormal behavior.
People have given unique names to certain full-moon appearances, such as blue moon, sturgeon moon, harvest moon, cold moon, snow moon, pink moon, flower moon, strawberry moon, hunter moon, beaver moon, worm moon, and wolf moon (which we will have tonight). You can find those names in the Farmer’s Almanac, so it should not be surprising that most of them have connections to agriculture or to a time when people did not have electric lights clouding their view of the sky. I have found that seeing the full moon in remote areas hundreds of miles away from city lights is a moving experience. If you were fishing, harvesting, hunting, or plowing, you would have no problem with just the Moon for illumination.
The Moon is not just an accident, nor is its influence on life. Genesis 1:14 describes God clearing Earth’s cloud cover to let the lights of the heavens (Sun and Moon) become visible “for signs and seasons and for days and years.” Some birds use the Moon for migration journeys that coincide with specific lunar phases. Many animals respond to both circadian rhythms and a lunar clock.
So, how does the Moon affect human activity? Studies show that there are more animal bites from cats, rats, and horses during full moons, probably because more humans are doing more things at night during a full moon. Also, data show there are more crimes during full moons. Apparently, criminals can use the light of a full moon for their activities just as farmers can.
The Bible refers to lunar cycles for time and mentions lunar festivals (Colossians 2:16) but otherwise makes no particular connections to the Moon. All of the claims of abnormal human behavior during various lunar cycles are in the realm of what is called “folklore.” Erika Brady, who teaches folklore at Western Kentucky University, says, “It’s a way of imposing order on something that feels frighteningly out of control.”
I hope you can take some time tonight to admire the full moon away from city lights and imagine how ancient people depended on it for nighttime light to carry on their lives. Meanwhile, don’t worry about it affecting you psychologically or causing biological changes. The animals and insects may be altered by lunar cycles, but you are not a bug or a werewolf.
Yesterday, we discussed the new information about the construction and size of the cosmos we are learning from the James Webb Space Telescope. The Webb telescope shows us the size of God’s physical creation as NASA continues to pump out new discoveries and better understandings of star and planet formation. Search “James Webb Telescope” on your computer and see for yourself.
One of the better understandings from recent Webb telescope data is what it takes to make a planet like Earth. The conventional understanding of planet formation was that as stars formed, they threw off material that gravity pulled together, forming planets. The Webb telescope has the resolving power and the infrared light-gathering ability to observe planet formation in different stages.
The first step in planet formation is for the star to actively produce elements needed for terrestrial planet formation. Quiet stars do not make the necessary elements since heavier elements will move toward the star’s center, not outwards. The star must spin fast enough to throw out the required heavy materials. That means gaseous planets like Jupiter are much more common in the cosmos than terrestrial planets like Earth.
The heavier elements in a planet come from exploding stars. That means planets will be more likely in certain types of galaxies, and galaxies have an evolutionary history, changing with time. The Webb telescope actually observes the changes in galaxies and star and planet formation. The creation process is still active, and new planets are being formed as we watch.
In manufacturing, we know that a machine is designed to take raw materials and mold and shape them into the desired final product. Years ago, I worked for a man who designed and built such machines, and his wisdom and creativity were incredible to watch. This designer didn’t use a blueprint or follow a manual. He had the skill to comprehend what the final machine would look like and what it would do.
As we watch star and planet formation take place, we see the wisdom and creativity of God. The writer of Proverbs wrote, “O you simple ones, understand wisdom and you foolish ones, be of an understanding heart” (Proverbs 8:5). The Webb telescope allows us to see the wisdom of the Creator in ways we have never imagined.
With all the distractions going on in the world, it is easy to miss perhaps the most remarkable engineering accomplishment of human history. A telescope launched on Christmas Day 2021 is now much further from Earth than the Moon is. The Webb Space Telescope consists of 18 hexagonal mirrors with a total area of 273 square feet (69.54 x 46.46 feet) and can see things in space that can’t be viewed from Earth’s surface. The cost to make the telescope and place it in space was 10 billion dollars, so is it worth the price? Yes, it is! What we learn from the Webb telescope tells us more about God.
More than 40 years ago, J.B. Phillips wrote a book titled Your God is Too Small. The first thing we learned from the Webb telescope is that the cosmos is much bigger than we can imagine. The telescope can see things that no optical device on Earth can. We live in a galaxy containing roughly 100 billion stars, and we know there are many other galaxies in space. Webb has shown us vast numbers of distant galaxies, and as we measure how far away they are, we see what the creation looked like billions of years ago.
Let me give you a simple explanation of what that means. If you travel to a place 100 miles away at 50 miles per hour, how long will it take to get there? The answer is two hours. When we measure how far away these galaxies are, we can tell when the light we see left them. Light travels at 186,000 miles per second. Doing the same calculation, we know the light reaching the Webb telescope left those galaxies some 13 billion years ago. We are looking backward in time to near the beginning of creation.
The latest pictures from Webb show that these old galaxies are flat like a sheet of paper. We learn from the Webb telescope that the creator was molding and shaping galaxies into a form that would allow planets and, ultimately, life to exist. As we understand the creation process, we see power beyond what we can imagine. Like all scientific discoveries, that raises many new and exciting questions for us to study and understand. It further tells us how unique Earth is and raises an old question the ancients asked about God, “What is man that you are mindful of him” (Psalms 8:4).
Many things in the creation do not lend themselves to conventional science. Gravity is an excellent example. What is gravity, and where did it come from? Issac Newton suggested that gravity was a property of mass because the more mass something has, the more it weighs. A physics equation describes gravity, saying that if you have two masses, there will be a force of attraction between them.
In a high school physics experiment, we hung two large bags of sand near each other. Gravity would pull them toward each other, and if you increased the amount of sand, it would draw them closer. Using a group of levers, the students could measure the force between the two bags. We can measure it, but what is gravity?
Instead of bags of sand, scientists measure the gravity force between the Earth, Moon, and Sun. What keeps Earth orbiting the Sun and the Moon orbiting the Earth? Isaac Newton proposed that the distance between objects affected the amount of gravitational force between them. An equation describing the attraction between masses 1 and 2 must include the masses, the distance between them, and a number known as the gravitational constant. The equation is F = G (M-1)(M-2)/X2. G is the gravitational constant, and scientists have measured it to be 6.67 x 10 -11. If the value of the constant G differed from what it is, the Earth could not exist, and neither could we.
If you don’t follow all of that, don’t worry about it. The point is that gravity is a complex quantity that holds everything together. But that leaves questions unanswered. What is gravity? Is it a wave? How can it work over huge distances? How can mass cause gravity – or does it? Why is the gravity constant precisely what it is?
As science probes deeper into the nature of matter, time, space, and energy, it becomes increasingly evident that not everything physical has a physical cause. We cannot explain the creation of time, space, energy, or gravity by conventional science. As you read modern research reports, you see that our world was shaped from dimensions beyond the four we know about. The laws that govern our world and the dimensions we live in do not fully describe the nature of gravity, time, or even space.
Ancient biblical writers guided by the Spirit of God understood that a wise Creator designed our world. The writer of Proverbs 8 personifies wisdom, giving it a feminine nature. Wisdom says, “O you simple, understand wisdom and have an understanding heart. The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His way before His works of old. I was set up from eternity, from the beginning and before the earth ever was.”
Open-minded contemplation of the creation leads to the recognition that an infinite intelligence beyond that of any human brought the physical creation into existence. We learn from the Bible that God’s purpose was to allow the war between good and evil to end once and forever and that we play an essential role in that war.
We constantly get solicitations from people who want us to join them in fighting some national problem. Some of them say it is our duty as Christians to be part of their organization, party, or action. It is not my intention to tell anyone what they personally wish to do is wrong, but Christ’s message is not to involve His Church in partisan protests. In “Power For Today,” Gene Shelburne said it well: “Our primary duty is to sow seeds, not to pull weeds. We must remember that it is not our role to administer punishment. Weed pulling is God’s Job.”
That agrees with what Jesus taught in Matthew 13:24-30. His parable tells of a farmer’s attempt to sow seeds in his field where an enemy comes at night and sows destructive weeds. When the seeds germinate, it is evident that someone added weeds to the crop. The workers come to the farmer and ask if they should pull weeds. The farmer replies not to pull weeds because they will uproot the good seeds with them. He says that they should remove and burn the weeds when the harvest comes.
There is much that is wrong with our world. A military response is not the answer. Bombing an abortion clinic, setting fire to a liquor store, or shooting a person promoting prostitution is not the answer. The Church needs to sow seeds by teaching and showing that God’s plan is superior and that the help of the Holy Spirit will make a difference.
When Peter wanted to fight those seizing Christ, Jesus told him to put his sword away (Matthew 26:51-52). The Church must not get involved in politics or military-like actions. By training our young people and teaching all people by every means possible, we sow seeds that can change our country’s direction and impact the world. The forces of evil in the world will try to prevent us from sowing seeds, but the fruit of those forces will be bitter and destructive. History has repeatedly shown that God will take care of human evil in His time.
Near the end of 2023, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed 21 species from the Endangered Species Act because they have become extinct. What causes the extinction of plant and animal species?
Many factors lead to extinctions. Dr. Hugh Ross says the fossil record indicates that half of the mammal species that existed at the time of Adam and Eve are now extinct. Human activities that can endanger species include habitat destruction, introduction of invasive species, and introduction of diseases. Of course, animals can endanger people in various ways, including introducing diseases.
Humans have endangered plant species by introducing invasive plants. Plants used for decorative purposes can become invasive. Examples are English holly and the tree of heaven. Some plants that have become invasive were introduced to serve a purpose, such as controlling erosion. An example is the kudzu plant.
At other times, humans have caused extinction by killing large numbers of a species such as the passenger pigeon. Because of hunting and habitat destruction, the dodo bird became extinct within less than a century of its discovery. Humans caused the extinction of the great auk by foolish vandalism. Today, poachers are endangering the rhinoceros by killing them for no good reason. By contrast, human efforts rescued the California condor after it became extinct in the wild.
Woolly mammoths existed alongside early humans, and some scientists say they were essential for the survival of humans in some areas. People used them for food and their skins for protection from the elements. Their bones became tools, building materials, and even musical instruments. These large animals also kept plant vegetation under control while spreading their seeds. We can not always determine the cause of the extinction of plant and animal species, and that is the case with woolly mammoths.
The extinction of the dinosaurs occurred before humans were on the scene. That is good because humans and dinosaurs could not coexist on the land or at the same atmospheric oxygen level. God used them to prepare Earth for humans, and He orchestrated their extinction before He placed Adam and Eve in the garden.
As we look at the extinction of plant and animal species, we learn some essential facts. From the beginning, God had a plan for life as He prepared this planet for us to be here. He gave the first humans the responsibility to take care of the Earth, but we have not done a very good job. Finally, God is still giving us a chance to do better, and we have had some successes. Serving God involves serving others and caring for what God has given us for human flourishing. We can only do that when we submit to His plan for our lives.
The Bible repeatedly urges Christians to have an attitude of gratitude, repeating the instruction to give thanks to God and to those who serve in the Church. There is a great deal of evidence that expressing gratitude benefits our physical and mental health. An atheistic view denies gratitude. Looking after # 1 does not move a person towards being thankful, isolating and affecting how the atheist lives. We recommend an article in The Saturday Evening Post titled “The Gratitude Resolution.” It has these suggestions for expressing gratitude:
“Multiple studies have shown that expressing gratitude is associated with a host of mental and physical benefits. Being consciously thankful can enhance empathy and self-esteem, reduce aggression, counteract negative emotions and improve sleep, mood and immunity. So make a resolution this year to be more grateful.”
The article goes on to suggest keeping a daily gratitude journal, complimenting those who serve or help you, and sending “thank you” notes to people who have helped you in some way. Can you imagine what effect it would have on the world if everyone followed those suggestions for expressing gratitude? Christians need to set an example that will encourage others to follow.