Importance of Religion and Family Life

Importance of Religion and Family LifeThe Pew Research Center wanted to learn about global views on the importance of religion and family life, so they surveyed over 30,000 people in 27 countries. One set of questions presented was, “Does religion play a more or less important role today than it did 20 years ago, and is that good or bad?” A second query set was, “Are family ties stronger or weaker than they were 20 years ago, and is that good or bad?”

A large majority in most countries agreed on the two questions involving family ties. There is strong agreement that family ties are weakening and that it is a bad thing. Across the 27 countries, 58 percent said that family ties had weakened while 22% said there was no change and only 15% said they had strengthened.

There was less agreement concerning religion. A median 37% said that religion plays a less important role in their countries today, while 27% said it is more important. Interestingly, most of the people surveyed were NOT OPPOSED to religion playing a more important role in their countries. The most significant opposition to religion’s role seems to be in Europe with Sweden (51%), France (47%), and the Netherlands (45%). In the United States, only 18% are opposed to a more important role for religion in the nation. In Canada, the opposition is 29%.

The countries where the largest percentage of people said that family ties are strengthening are Indonesia and the Philippines. The countries where more people said that religion plays a more important role now than 20 years ago include the Philippines, Kenya, Nigeria, and Indonesia. By far, the people of Indonesia said that religion plays a more important role now (83%). Indonesia is 87% Muslim, and Nigeria is evenly split between Christians and Muslims. Kenya is 83% Christian and the Philippines 90% Christian in the broadest sense.

Not surprisingly, in the United States, people who consider themselves to be somewhat or very conservative (to the right end of the political spectrum) are 42% more likely to favor more religious influence in the country than those who are liberal or left-leaning. That attitude is reflected in the positions taken in the current U.S. Political campaign.

For more details on this study of the importance of religion and family life, visit the Pew Research website HERE.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Intellectually Honest Skepticism

Intellectually Honest SkepticismAs I speak on college and university campuses, a large number of people (both atheists and religious) find a statement I like to open with to be astounding. The statement is, “You can intelligently and logically and rationally believe in God.” There is an immediate air of doubt in the minds of many who cannot or do not want to believe it. I don’t know how many of them change their minds in the course or our lectures. Skepticism abounds today, but what we need is intellectually honest skepticism willing to seek the truth.

Certainly one major factor has been that various churches, groups, and individuals have dogmatically forced a creed of creationism upon all members. Those creeds frequently fly in the face of both science and common sense. The more capable and clearest thinking young people who refuse to be force-fed this dogma, simply leave the church. Many of the leading atheist speakers in the United States today came from a church background.

The growth of aggressive atheism is another factor leading many to think that intelligent, logical belief in God is impossible. Attractive websites and high budget, colorful printed materials promote naturalism, if not downright atheism. Saturated with scientific materialism and locked into a mindset that anything religious is automatically wrong, they claim to be the only voice of reason, logic, and competent science.

Instead of skepticism referring to a healthy, scientifically rigorous approach to issues and solving problems, the word has become synonymous with an anti-religion mindset. It is evident that, in a great many cases, the atheist community has completely taken over the concept of skepticism.

I want to suggest that intellectually honest skepticism is Christian in nature, and it is the approach Jesus used in His ministry and teachings. In fact, the Bible condemned religionism more strongly than atheism. The Bible makes only fleeting references to atheism. (See Romans 1:19-23.) The strong condemnation statements of Christ, and the Bible writers in general, come down on the religious leaders who force their traditions on the population. The teachings of Christ focused on attitudes and how we treat each other. The religious establishment constantly criticized Christ because He did not adhere to their traditions. His teaching was logical, practical, and pragmatic not built on the traditions of the past. He asked questions and awaited logical responses.

Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (5th Edition) defines a skeptic as “one who carries a critical or incredulous attitude into his inquiries.” Skepticism is defined as “the doctrine that all knowledge is uncertain.” This does not mean that skeptical minds reject anything that is not physical. Limiting our belief system to only what we can see, smell, touch, feel, and hear precludes all kinds of things. A vast percentage of nuclear physics, quantum mechanics, relativistic physics, and even some mathematics depends upon knowledge that does not involve the senses.

Intellectually honest skepticism demands inquiry and also recognizes that knowledge is uncertain because humans are uncertain. This does not mean that there is no such thing as truth. It just means that skeptics should be aware of their own limitations and of the human capacity to misjudge. Intellectually honest skeptics know the danger of preconceived ideas and their approach should be humble, open, and careful. Being skeptical does not mean that a person has no beliefs, morals, or convictions. I can have strong convictions and beliefs and can communicate those to others and still have the ability to change my beliefs and understandings.

Unfortunately, skepticism in today’s American culture is at least as dogmatic as ultraconservative, fundamentalistic religion. Any skeptics who would question Darwin, would likely be castigated by their peers. There is a need for intellectually honest skepticism in the world. I am a skeptic in approach, but there are some basic things that my skeptical approach has led me to believe strongly. If we reason together in an open, skeptical way, we can learn. Blind, closed skepticism and blind, closed dogmatism are impossible to tell apart to those who are seeking the truth.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Galileo Is a Poster Child

Galileo Is a Poster Child

Atheists frequently use Galileo as proof that religion is destructive and that good scientists don’t believe in God. In reality, Galileo is a poster child for the view that we try to present in all of our websites, videos, and printed materials.

Atheists have created a classic example of “fake news,” and the facts are undeniable in Galileo’s case. Galileo was a firm believer in God and the Bible, and he remained so all of his life. Among his most famous statements about science and faith were, “The laws of nature are written by the hand of God in the language of mathematics … The human mind is a work of God and one of the most excellent.”

Galileo argued that the Earth revolved around the Sun, not the other way around. That was in opposition to the way the church leaders interpreted the Bible. The Pope urged Galileo to present both sides of the argument in a book. The Pope insisted that since God is omnipotent, He could create natural phenomenon any way He wanted to. Galileo wrote the book as a dialogue between the two sides. He named the character presenting the argument in favor of an Earth-centered solar system “Simplicio” meaning “buffoon.” Galileo made the Earth-centered case seem dull-witted. That caused the Pope to put Galileo in the permanent isolation of house arrest. Galileo was never tortured, and his house arrest was in the hospitality of luxurious private residences belonging to friends.

The main point here is that Galileo is a poster child for the harmony of science and faith because he was a believer in the biblical worldview who advanced a better scientific understanding of the universe. C.S. Lewis wrote, “Men became scientific because they expected law in nature, and they expected law in nature because they believed in a Legislator.” Johannes Kepler who gave us the laws of planetary motion wrote: “The chief aim of all investigations of the external world should be to discover the rational order which has been imposed upon it by God and which He revealed to us in the language of mathematics.”

As the famous scientist Michael Faraday lay on his deathbed, a visiting friend asked him what his speculations were now that he knew he was dying. His response was “Speculations, man, I have none! I have certainties. I thank God that I do not rest my dying head upon speculations, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that day.”

Since Galileo is a poster child for science and faith, you could also add Kepler and Faraday and several others.

— John N. Clayton © 2019

All quotes are from Just Thinking magazine, Volume 27.1 available from Ravi Zacharias International.

Moral Compass Lost

Moral Compass in the Bible

The lack of a moral compass in America has become apparent. In the first part of 2019, various states have legalized recreational drugs and approved prostitution. Now the New York State legislature has allowed the abortion of a baby up to the time of birth. There was a standing ovation in the legislative chamber when they announced the result of the vote. Two states are now considering the abortion of a baby after birth if the child has “significant health issues,” whatever that means.

I am being bombarded with emails and phone messages from atheists saying that I need to see what significant changes can take place when religion no longer controls America. Religion has not controlled America for a long time, if ever.

This ministry is not about religion – human attempts to find God. This ministry is about education and seeing the evidence to support faith in God and the Bible as His Word. I appreciate the challenges of atheists and skeptics because I can raise questions from a scientific standpoint to show the intellectual bankruptcy of their abortion ideology. When we remove God from the equation, the moral compass is gone. You have no basis of making any law that has moral ramifications. The existence or nonexistence of God plays a major role in issues like these:

When is a fetus a human?

Can medical intervention change the criteria of what is moral?

Is “survival of the fittest” a valid standard to support whether someone should be allowed to live?

I have argued for over 50 years that one of the best evidences for God’s existence is the wisdom and practical value of the teachings of Jesus. I believe we can see God’s hand in the Bible’s writing which gives us answers to the tough questions. Science can provide data, but it cannot answer how its discoveries should be used.

We try to give logical answers that provide a moral compass to a confused world. Our answers are not from one man’s wisdom, but from what God has given us in His Word and in His creation. The moral argument for God’s existence gains strength as the world sinks into a quagmire of doubt and conflict, but the Bible’s fixed value system has worked and continues to work when it is applied.

For more on this subject, click HERE and watch programs 21 and 22 in the Does God Exist? series for free.

–John N. Clayton © 2019

Third Reason Why Atheism Makes Sense

Third Reason Why Atheism Makes Sense

For the past two days, we have examined two reasons why atheism makes sense to some people. As we said before, many people genuinely believe that there is no God and there can be many reasons for that. Today we want to examine a third reason why atheism makes sense. It involves a failure to see God working in the lives of people who claim to be Christians.

REASON 3. Christianity does not work. If there is a God, why does He not act when things get rough? Why do even the best Christians find themselves afflicted with disease and loss and even death? Why do so many Christians have nervous breakdowns, broken marriages, hostile children, alcohol and drug problems, and all of the other bad things which are a part of the world today? One man recently wrote to me, “Christianity only works for those who would do okay without it.” Another wrote, “The only thing I can see in prayer is its therapeutic value. Certainly, those who are afflicted and are Christians do not have a better survival rate than those who are afflicted and are atheists.” A third said, “I do not know of any Christian man in my community that does more good, is more generous, or is more successful than my neighbor who is an atheist. If God is real and Christianity is really worth anything, why is that true?”

RESPONSE. This challenge gets to where most Christians live. Can our friends tell any difference between us as Christians and our neighbors who are not? There are two major problems here. The first is that erroneous claims by some religionists have fouled the air. There are those who wear the name Christian who convey to the world the idea that Christians have diplomatic immunity from all problems. They preach what some call a “health and wealth gospel.” They teach that no person who is a real Christian will ever be sick or fail.

The truth is that God never gave Christians diplomatic immunity from problems. The emphasis on present-day miracles and the use of television to promote the claims of “faith healers” have given atheists much to criticize. Atheists, and even many believers, do not understand the advantages a Christian enjoys. When the Word of God says things like, “Seek and ye shall find, ask and it shall be given to you,” it is not speaking of physical and material things. God has not promised that Christians will have health, wealth, and freedom from problems. What He has promised is that He will bless those things we do to serve Him. There is no greater joy, greater fulfillment, greater satisfaction, or greater thrill than to see God work through us to accomplish something we could not possibly do alone.

The difference between an atheist and a Christian in dealing with infidelity in a mate is that the Christian can rebuild that marriage. The difference between the two in dealing with an alcohol or other drug problem is that the Christian can overcome it with God’s help. In dealing with death or tragedy, the Christian can cope and go on and continue to have a fulfilling life. In dealing with failure, the Christian can be secure and confident that it does not affect our eternal destiny.

ADVICE. It is vital that we convey to the world around us that when Christ lives in us, and we are spirit-filled people, we are not walking around two feet off the ground behaving as mystics. We Christians need to let the world know how much of a positive change God has made in our lives. Too often non-Christians view the Church as a group of somber, unhappy, irrational, mystical, illogical, unintelligent, hypocritical people who are out of touch with reality. This third reason why atheism makes sense is one that we can easily disprove as we can laugh, love, enjoy life, and logically and rationally defend our faith.

–John N. Clayton © 2019

Nones Can Be More Religious than Christians

Nones Can Be More Religious than Christians in Western Europe
We have reported on the Pew Research Center’s survey in the United States which indicated that those who list their religious affiliation as “none” are increasing. (See more about that HERE.) New research indicates that those nones can be more religious than Christians.

In May of 2018, the Pew Research Center released a study of religious beliefs and practices in western Europe. Some of the things they learned are very surprising. The survey involved 25,000 people in 15 countries of Western Europe. Since Pew had previously gathered similar data in the U.S., they were able to make comparisons. In comparing the results in the U.S. and Western Europe, the Pew researchers found that:

1-Americans are more religious than Western Europeans. That isn’t too surprising. The questions asked included “Do you believe in God with absolute certainty?” and “Do you pray daily?”

2-American “nones” are more religious than Western European “nones.” This is more surprising since you would think that those who have no religious affiliation would be equally lacking in faith. However, many Americans who have given up on organized religion still believe in God, and they even pray to Him.

3-American “nones” are as religious as or more religious than Christians in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. That is the most surprising finding of all that nones can be more religious than Christians. Only 23 percent of European Christians say they believe in God with absolute certainty. In the United States 27 percent of “nones” have that much faith. Only eighteen percent of Christians in Western Europe pray daily. Twenty-percent of the “nones” in the United States say that they have daily prayer. In Western Europe, fourteen percent of Christians say that religion is very important in their lives. Religion is almost as important to U.S. “nones” where thirteen percent say that religion is very important.

According to Pew Research, even though Western Europeans identify as Christians, for them it is a cultural or ethnic identity rather than a genuine religious faith. Eleven percent of Western Europeans say they are “spiritual but not religious.” That allows them to keep the traditions of Christianity without a commitment to the doctrines and things they don’t like.

Looking at these statistics, we can see that it is possible that some nones can be more religious than Christians. We see that even though faith in God has eroded in the United States, Western Europe is far ahead of us in secularization. All of these statistics give those of us who are committed Christians something to think about.
–Roland Earnst © 2018
You can read more about the recent Pew study HERE.

Secularizing a Culture

Secularizing a Culture
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.”

Computer Modeling Religion

Computer Modeling Religion
An international team of experts including computer scientists, philosophers, religion scholars, and others set out to find a method for computer modeling religion. The “Modeling Religion Project” ran for three years with funding from the John Templeton Foundation. They completed the project and gave their report in June 2018.

Collaborating on the project were Boston’s Center for Mind and Culture, the Virginia Modeling, Analysis, and Simulation Center, and the University of Agder in Norway. The goal was to use artificial intelligence to predict which political philosophy will give the best outcome. What does that have to do with religion, you ask? Read more.

The experts entered data collected from real people (largely in Norway) concerning economic security, education, and religiosity into computer models. The computer models were “trained” with “a set of empirically validated social-science rules about how humans tend to interact under various pressures.” In the computer model, the researchers could increase investment in education or provide more jobs or give the youth more social opportunities and so forth. The outcome was supposed to give politicians a tool to choose the most effective policy to follow. You still might wonder what this has to do with computer modeling religion.

Okay, here is the crucial part concerning religion. A spinoff of that project is another one called “Forecasting Religiosity and Existential Security with an Agent-Based Model.” This project is asking questions such as: “Why aren’t there more atheists? Why is America secularizing at a slower rate than Western Europe?” They also are attempting to learn what factors make a society more religious or speed up secularization. LeRon Shults who teaches philosophy and theology at Norway’s University of Agder said that by entering data from 22 different countries, they can predict “whether and how belief in heaven and hell, belief in God, and religious attendance would go up and down over a 10-year period.”

The researchers found that four factors lead a society to become more secular (less religious). The factors are:

1-Having enough money and food (existential security)

2-Having personal freedom (to choose whether or not to believe)

3-Welcoming diversity (or pluralism)

4-Higher level of education (in science and the humanities)

They found that all four of those factors must be present to speed up the secularization of a society. If any one of those four is missing, the society will remain more religious.

Wesley Wildman, a professor of philosophy and ethics at Boston University, collaborated on the project with Shults. Wildman said that keeping education local and in private schools and not welcoming pluralism have been “forms of resistance to secularization” in the United States that have slowed the move away from religion. He suggests that we need to nationalize education and be more welcoming of diversity and pluralism so that we can achieve more secularization as Europe has done. He hopes that their computer model will help politicians learn how to do that. However, he is not optimistic that politicians will accept his recommendations anytime soon, but he said, “We’re going to get them in the end.”

What, then, are the implications of computer modeling religion? You see the four factors that the researchers say will speed up the secularization of a society. Think about what this might tell us about the future. We will continue with that thought tomorrow. In the meantime, below are some links for more information about this project.
–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.”

Religion in Canada

Religion in Canada
The Angus Reid Institute is a highly respected polling agency in Canada. They have released a detailed study of religion in Canada which is titled “A Spectrum of Spirituality.” Their study divided the Canadian population into four categories:

Non Believers 19%
Privately Faithful 30%
Spiritually Uncertain 30%
Religiously Committed 21%

When the “Spiritually Uncertain” were asked “Do you believe that God or a higher power exists” 87% indicated doubt. The study observes some interesting points about morality and belief:

“When one is unsure of the existence of a supreme arbiter of truth, it becomes increasingly easier to abandon previously held values… Identifying with a specific religious organization usually means sharing a set of values with others of like belief. Removing the connection has facilitated an increasing number of Canadians to adopt or accept practices that they would have otherwise seen as immoral.”

Religion in Canada reflects the tragedy of the modern church in which the leadership assumes that everyone believes in God. When people ignore the evidence for God, they choose to live according to their own desires. We need to make a strong effort to show young people how we can know there is a God, and what a difference belief in God makes in our lives.

We invite you to build your own faith and to know why you believe what you believe. For our free correspondence course, go to doesgoedexist.org. You can watch our video series free of charge on doesgodexist.tv. Build your faith in God and His word. Know that a fulfilling life comes from following the rules and practices that Jesus gave us for successful living.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Skeptical or Religious Bigotry?

Skeptical or Religious?
Atheists have frequently written about the bigotry of people who believe in God and refuse to accept a fact that contradicts their religious belief. In the January 2018 issue of Scientific American, atheist Michael Shermer devotes his monthly column to this skeptical or religious bigotry.

In the article, Shermer quotes Asheley R. Landrum, a psychologist at Texas Tech and an expert on the factors influencing public understanding and perception of science, health, and emerging technologies. Studies conducted by Landrum showed how people look at data concerning climate change. The study showed that Republicans and Democrats reacted in very different ways to the content. A study that was skeptical of climate change data was not read by many of the Democrats while it was much more readily accepted by the Republicans.

Landrum concluded that, “We are good at being skeptical when information conflicts with our preexisting beliefs and values. We are bad at being skeptical when information is compatible with our preexisting beliefs and values.”

It has been my experience that the same thing happens when atheists and agnostics are confronted with data that supports the existence of God and the validity of Christianity. Trying to get some of my atheist friends to read scientific material by Dr. Francis Collins or Dr. Alister McGrath or even our own material has been almost impossible. It doesn’t matter if the authors are highly trained scientific researchers because they also believe in God, the material is off limits to many atheistic skeptics. In the same way, many of my religious associates have not read any of the scientific material produced by Richard Dawkins or Michael Shermer.

Frequently atheists have told me that they have no answer to a presentation that I have given. However, they don’t want to believe in God, and so they won’t believe no matter what the evidence is. Atheists with that kind of bias are not being skeptical, but rather they have built their own religion and don’t want to look at any fact that might conflict with it. Christians frequently do the same thing.

Maybe the starting place for discussions with a relative or friend who has rejected the existence of God is to ask whether there is anything that would change their mind. The question is whether they are being merely skeptical or religious. Has their unbelief become a religion? At the same time, we should be open to their skeptical questions, but we need to be sure that we are “ready to give an answer to anyone who asks of the reason for the hope that is within us, but do it with gentleness and kindness” (1 Peter 3:15).
–John N. Clayton © 2018