Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Study explores whether atheism is rooted in reason or emotion

From First Things, based on research reported by CNN.

A new set of studies in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology finds that atheists and agnostics report anger toward God either in the past or anger focused on a hypothetical image of what they imagine God must be like. Julie Exline, a psychologist at Case Western Reserve University and the lead author of this recent study, has examined other data on this subject with identical results. Exline explains that her interest was first piqued when an early study of anger toward God revealed a counterintuitive finding: Those who reported no belief in God reported more grudges toward him than believers.

At first glance, this finding seemed to reflect an error. How could people be angry with God if they did not believe in God? Reanalyses of a second dataset revealed similar patterns: Those who endorsed their religious beliefs as “atheist/agnostic” or “none/unsure” reported more anger toward God than those who reported a religious affiliation.

Exline notes that the findings raised questions of whether anger might actually affect belief in God’s existence, an idea consistent with social science’s previous clinical findings on “emotional atheism.”

Studies in traumatic events suggest a possible link between suffering, anger toward God, and doubts about God’s existence. According to Cook and Wimberly (1983), 33% of parents who suffered the death of a child reported doubts about God in the first year of bereavement. In another study, 90% of mothers who had given birth to a profoundly retarded child voiced doubts about the existence of God (Childs, 1985). Our survey research with undergraduates has focused directly on the association between anger at God and self-reported drops in belief (Exline et al., 2004). In the wake of a negative life event, anger toward God predicted decreased belief in God’s existence.

The most striking finding was that when Exline looked only at subjects who reported a drop in religious belief, their faith was least likely to recover if anger toward God was the cause of their loss of belief. In other words, anger toward God may not only lead people to atheism but give them a reason to cling to their disbelief.

I think the best defense to this phenomena is for the church to not tell people that God’s job is to make them happy in this life on Earth. I think if we spent less time selling Christianity to young people as life enhancement, we would have much fewer apostates. If young people get into their minds that God is their boss, not their waiter, then that is a good preparation for the real world. And all of the challenges that Christians face – from poverty, to peer pressure, to health problems to persecution. Stop expecting happiness, that is not God’s goal for you.

I was blessed to have discovered apologetics at a very early age. This passage from C. S. Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters” always stood out to me back then:

Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.

When I was young, I shortened this quote into my motto, which lasted until just a few years  back when I finally started to feel some security. And that motto was “nothing works”. Nothing works. That’s right, so get used to it. Everything sucks, nothing works. Nothing works.

Stop expecting God to make you happy. You are a soldier, and your job is to fight to the last breath in your body for the General. Hold until relieved. You’re damn right it’s unfair. Your whole life is unfair and then you die. Get used to it. When I was in college, my Christian friends and I used to joke that even if we fought our entire lives for God and he tossed us into Hell like firewood, we would still do the same things. We were happy to serve and we didn’t think about whether we were getting what we wanted. We did not take stupid chances, but we just didn’t care about being happy. We felt that God was in the right, and sinful humans were in the wrong, and that it was enough for us to serve on the right side. We didn’t expect anyone to care how we felt, we just expected to serve. And if our first plan failed, we went on to the next plan, and the next, until we found a way to serve in spite of the unfairness of it all.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Friday night movie: Saboteur (1942)

Here’s tonight’s movie:

IMDB mean rating: [7.3/10]

IMDB median rating: [7/10]

Description:

Aircraft factory worker Barry Kane is accused of starting a fire at a Glendale, California airplane plant during World War II, an act of sabotage that killed his friend Mason. Kane believes the real culprit is a man named Fry who handed him a fire extinguisher filled with gasoline during the fire. When the investigators find no one named “Fry” on the list of plant workers, they assume Kane is guilty.

This one is directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

Happy Friday!

Filed under: Videos, , , , , , ,

New study: scientists and the general public similar in religious practices

Rice University reports on a new study conducted by sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund.

Excerpt:

The public’s view that science and religion can’t work in collaboration is a misconception that stunts progress, according to a new survey of more than 10,000 Americans, scientists and evangelical Protestants. The study by Rice University also found that scientists and the general public are surprisingly similar in their religious practices.

The study, “Religious Understandings of Science (RUS),” was conducted by sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund and presented today in Chicago during the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference. Ecklund is the Autrey Professor of Sociology and director of Rice’s Religion and Public Life Program.

“We found that nearly 50 percent of evangelicals believe that science and religion can work together and support one another,” Ecklund said. “That’s in contrast to the fact that only 38 percent of Americans feel that science and religion can work in collaboration.”

The study also found that 18 percent of scientists attended weekly religious services, compared with 20 percent of the general U.S. population; 15 percent consider themselves very religious (versus 19 percent of the general U.S. population); 13.5 percent read religious texts weekly (compared with 17 percent of the U.S. population); and 19 percent pray several times a day (versus 26 percent of the U.S. population).

[...]RUS is the largest study of American views on religion and science.

What would be interesting is to find out what specific arguments scientists who believe in God would appeal to, and which specific arguments scientists who don’t believe in God would appeal to.

You can see Ecklund’s book about her research here on the Oxford University Press web site. You can also buy the book here from Amazon.com.

And here is a related lecture from Cambridge University featuring Dr. Ecklund.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Does science cause people to disbelieve in God? A look at the research of Dr. Elaine Ecklund

Dr. Elaine Ecklund explains her research about scientists and their beliefs in this paper.

Excerpt:

Scholars talk a great deal about research done in the 1960’s that revealed differences in religious beliefs among members of different disciplines (especially comparisons between natural and social scientists). My findings, however, do not reveal vast discrepancies in religious belief and practice among disciplines and fields. The true difference lies between academics in these scientific disciplines and members of the general public. With little doubt, scientists at major research universities are less religious—at least according to traditional forms of religion—than members of the general public.

During public lectures about the study, the question inevitably asked first is: Do the professors you studied believe in God? When asked their beliefs about God, nearly 34 percent of academic scientists answer “I do not believe in God” and about 30 percent answer “I do not know if there is a God and there is no way to find out,” the classic agnostic response. This means that over 60 percent of professors in these natural and social science disciplines describe themselves as either atheist or religiously agnostic. In comparison, among those in the general U.S. population, about 3 percent claim to be atheists and about 5 percent are religiously agnostic. When it comes to affiliation with particular religions, scientists are also vastly different from members of the broader society. About 52 percent of scientists see themselves as having no religious affiliation when compared to only 14 percent of the general population. Scientists who are not religious justify their inattention to religion through language that stresses the irrelevance of science to religion. Those not raised in religious homes, the case for the majority of scientists without religious affiliation, also emphasize their lack of experience with religion.

[...]What are we to make of this lack of traditional religion? Is knowledge of science somehow in conflict with being religious? Childhood religious background, not exposure to scientific education, seems to be the most powerful predictor of future irreligion. Those scientists raised in almost any faith tradition are more likely to currently be religious than those raised without any tradition. In addition, scientists who describe religion as important in their families as children are much more likely to practice faith currently. When compared to the general population, a larger proportion of scientists are raised in non-religious homes. When one considers that many more scientists come from non-religious homes or homes that were nominally religious, the distinctions between the general population and the scientific community make more sense. A large part of the difference between scientists and the general population may be due more to religious upbringing, rather than scientific training or university pressure to be irreligious, although these other possibilities should be further explored.

I heard about this research in the latest episode of the Reasonable Faith podcast. You can listen to it to hear Dr. Craig’s comments.

I think this research raises an important question that we need to ask scientists who don’t believe in God. That question is: “which particular pieces of scientific evidence led you to doubt God’s existence?” And then we should have done our scientific homework about the Big Bang, the fine-tuning, the origin of life, the Cambrian explosion, the habitability arguments from astrobiology, and so on, to be able to make a positive case for God’s existence from science. Christians ought to be more excited about science, because we have nothing to fear – and everything to gain – from knowing a lot more about science than we know now.

You can see Ecklund’s book about her research here on the Oxford University Press web site. You can also buy the book here from Amazon.com.

UPDATE: Commenter Eugene has found a related lecture from Cambridge University featuring Dr. Ecklund.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Dad: the tenth most popular gift requested by children at Christmas

Dina sent me this sad article from the UK Telegraph.

Excerpt:

A study of 2,000 British parents found most children will put a new baby brother or sister at the top of their Christmas list, closely followed by a request for a real-life reindeer.

A “pet horse” was the third most popular choice, with a “car” making a bizarre entry at number four.

Despite their material requests, the tenth most popular Christmas wish on the list was a “Dad”.

[...]A request for a “mum” reached number 23 on the list.

It’s sad. I think that there is a perception among many young women today that it is OK to have recreational premarital sex that may lead to having a child out of wedlock. Many unmarried women have an intuition (not supported by data) that a child will turn out fine without a father in the home. Some think (against the data) that fathers can be substituted with a government welfare check and that children won’t notice the difference. But the research shows that this is a false belief.

Excerpt:

Census data and the Fragile Families survey show that marriage can be extremely effective in reducing child poverty. But the positive effects of married fathers are not limited to income alone. Children raised by married parents have substantially better life outcomes compared to similar children raised in single-parent homes.

When compared to children in intact married homes, children raised by single parents are more likely to have emotional and behavioral problems; be physically abused; smoke, drink, and use drugs; be aggressive; engage in violent, delinquent, and criminal behavior; have poor school performance; be expelled from school; and drop out of high school.[19] Many of these negative outcomes are associated with the higher poverty rates of single mothers. In many cases, however, the improvements in child well-being that are associated with marriage persist even after adjusting for differences in family income. This indicates that the father brings more to his home than just a paycheck.

The effect of married fathers on child outcomes can be quite pronounced. For example, examination of families with the same race and same parental education shows that, when compared to intact married families, children from single-parent homes are:

  • More than twice as likely to be arrested for a juvenile crime;[20]
  • Twice as likely to be treated for emotional and behavioral problems;[21]
  • Roughly twice as likely to be suspended or expelled from school;[22] and
  • A third more likely to drop out before completing high school.[23]

The effects of being raised in a single-parent home continue into adulthood. Comparing families of the same race and similar incomes, children from broken and single-parent homes are three times more likely to end up in jail by the time they reach age 30 than are children raised in intact married families.[24] Compared to girls raised in similar married families, girls from single-parent homes are more than twice as likely to have a child without being married, thereby repeating the negative cycle for another generation.[25]

Finally, the decline of marriage generates poverty in future generations. Children living in single-parent homes are 50 percent more likely to experience poverty as adults when compared to children from intact married homes. This intergenerational poverty effect persists even after adjusting for the original differences in family income and poverty during childhood.[26]

And here’s a bit more data showing that having government replace fathers via higher taxes and more redistribution of wealth doesn’t take away the bad effects of fatherlessness:

Children from low-income, two-parent families outperform students from high-income, single-parent homes. Almost twice as many high achievers come from two-parent homes as one-parent homes. Source: “One-Parent Families and Their Children;” Charles F. Kettering Foundation (1990).

Children reared by a divorced or never-married mother are less cooperative and score lower on tests of intelligence than children reared in intact families. Statistical analysis of the behavior and intelligence of these children revealed “significant detrimental effects” of living in a female-headed household. Growing up in a female-headed household remained a statistical predictor of behavior problems even after adjusting for differences in family income. Source: Greg L. Duncan, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn and Pamela Kato Klebanov, “Economic Deprivation and Early Childhood Development,” Child Development 65 (1994).

After taking into account race, socioeconomic status, sex, age, and ability, high school students from single-parent households were 1.7 times more likely to drop out than were their corresponding counterparts living with both biological parents. Source: McNeal, Ralph B. Jr.”Extracurricular Activities and High School Dropouts.” Sociology of Education 68(1995): 62-81.

I think that these are significant in light of the recent shooting in Connecticut:

In studies involving over 25,000 children using nationally representative data sets, children who lived with only one parent had lower grade point averages, lower college aspirations, poor attendance records, and higher drop out rates than students who lived with both parents. Source: McLanahan, Sara and Gary Sandefur. Growing up with a Single Parent: What Hurts, What Helps. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994.

A 1988 Department of Health and Human Services study found that at every income level except the very highest (over $50,000 a year), children living with never-married mothers were more likely than their counterparts in two-parent families to have been expelled or suspended from school, to display emotional problems, and to engage in antisocial behavior. Source: James Q. Wilson, “In Loco Parentis: Helping Children When Families Fail Them,” The Brookings Review, Fall 1993.

72% of adolescent murderers grew up without fathers. 60% of America’s rapists grew up the same way. Source: D. Cornell (et al.), Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 5. 1987. And N. Davidson, “Life Without Father,” Policy Review. 1990.

The likelihood that a young male will engage in criminal activity doubles if he is raised without a father and triples if he lives in a neighborhood with a high concentration of single-parent families. Source: A. Anne Hill, June O’Neill, “Underclass Behaviors in the United States,” CUNY, Baruch College. 1993.

The shooter in Connecticut hadn’t spoken to his father in two years:

Peter Lanza, the father of Sandy Hook shooter, hadn’t spoken to his son for more than two years and his father is at a loss for what drove Adam to kill 20 students and six teachers at his old elementary school.

[...]Adam, 20, had not spoken to his brother Ryan or father for upwards of two years at the time of the shooting. Adam reportedly distanced himself from his father Peter when he started to become serious with his new girlfriend, and current wife.

Peter and Adam’s mother Nancy split in 2001 but did not formally divorce until November 2008. Court records made the split appear amicable as both parties agreed to put their sons needs above any bitterness, but Adam was apparently the one to cut ties with his father in 2010.

Women need to think ahead and realize that the little children will be impacted by her choice of man, as well of her choice of whether to have recreational premarital sex with a man. If she doesn’t test him adequately and makes poor choices, then the children will be deprived of a father in the home. I don’t think that the sentiment “he makes me happy and horny and my friends approve of him” necessarily translates into “he can do the job of protecting, providing and leading on moral and spiritual issues”. Those are two different sets of criteria, and often at cross-purposes in a culture that despises traditional male roles as “sexist”.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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