Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

New study: religious communities have lower rates of crime

From the radically leftist Huffington Post, of all places.

Excerpt:

As a crime stopper, faith may be particularly effective in setting moral norms, building social ties and investing communities with a sense of meaning and purpose, counteracting the “moral cynicism” and individualism that can foster criminal behavior, researchers Ulmer and Casey Harris of the University of Arkansas note in the latest issue of The Sociological Quarterly.

Ulmer and Harris explored “Race and the Religious Contexts of Violence” in their study. They analyzed data from the U.S. Census, the Religious Congregations and Membership Study and crime reports from nearly 200 counties in New York California and Texas. All of the counties had substantial numbers of black, white and Latino residents.

What they found was not only evidence that religion may exert a protective influence discouraging violent crime, but that there are also racial-ethnic differences in the role of faith communities.

Consider these findings:

• Black and white violence decreased significantly as the percentage rose of county residents who belonged to congregations or were regular attenders.
• Black and Latino violence was lower in communities where residents belonged to similar types of religious institutions, indicating faith groups from similar traditions were able to exert greater influence on community values when they had a significant presence.
• Religious homogeneity was not associated with overall rates of white violence, but further breakdowns showed communities with larger percentages of evangelicals had lower rates of white violence. Latino violence was significantly reduced in communities with large numbers of active Catholics.
• Black violence dipped dramatically in counties with high levels of poverty, unemployment and low levels of education where large percentages of residents were active in congregations. This is a key finding, as communities with severe social and economic disadvantages are more likely to have high violent crime rates.

The findings suggest that religious groups have the ability to cultivate moral attitudes “that counteract the code of the streets,” Ulmer says.

The post also includes results from another study, this one featuring over 15,000 people between the ages of 18 and 28:

Baylor researchers Sung Joon Jang and Aaron Franzen analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to examine differences in crime rates among young adults in four categories:

• Religious and spiritual.
• Spiritual but not religious.
• Religious but not spiritual
• Neither religious nor spiritual.

Individuals who identified themselves as “religious” were less likely to be offenders.

However, individuals who were “spiritual but not religious” were more prone to commit violent crime than their “religious and spiritual” counterparts and more likely to commit property crime than emerging adults who were “religious” or “neither religious nor spiritual.”

“Is being ‘spiritual’ enough to reduce criminal propensity without also being religious? Our study suggests the answer is no – at least during emerging adulthood,” Jang and Franzen write in a recent issue of the journal Criminology.

What both studies also suggest is that the role of religion should be considered as communities address issues of violent crime.

Communities lose out when they marginalize or trivialize the potential pro-social influences of religion, Jang says.

“And one of the areas where society suffers is in crime,” he says

A long time ago, when I was just getting started with blogging, I wrote a series of posts that explained the minimal requirements for a robust moral system.

These were:

1) Objective moral values

There needs to be a way to distinguish what is good from what is bad. For example, the moral standard might specify that being kind to children is good, but torturing them for fun is bad. If the standard is purely subjective, then people could believe anything and each person would be justified in doing right in their own eyes. Even a “social contract” is just based on people’s opinions. So we need a standard that applies regardless of what people’s individual and collective opinions are.

2) Objective moral duties

Moral duties (moral obligations) refer to the actions that are obligatory based on the moral values defined in 1). Suppose we spot you 1) as an atheist. Why are you obligated to do the good thing, rather than the bad thing? To whom is this obligation owed? Why is rational for you to limit your actions based upon this obligation when it is against your self-interest? Why let other people’s expectations decide what is good for you, especially if you can avoid the consequences of their disapproval?

3) Moral accountability

Suppose we spot you 1) and 2) as an atheist. What difference does it make to you if you just go ahead and disregard your moral obligations to whomever? Is there any reward or punishment for your choice to do right or do wrong? What’s in it for you?

4) Free will

In order for agents to make free moral choices, they must be able to act or abstain from acting by exercising their free will. If there is no free will, then moral choices are impossible. If there are no moral choices, then no one can be held responsible for anything they do. If there is no moral responsibility, then there can be no praise and blame. But then it becomes impossible to praise any action as good or evil.

5) Ultimate significance

Finally, beyond the concept of reward and punishment in 3), we can also ask the question “what does it matter?”. Suppose you do live a good life and you get a reward: 1000 chocolate sundaes. And when you’ve finished eating them, you die for real and that’s the end. In other words, the reward is satisfying, but not really meaningful, ultimately. It’s hard to see how moral actions can be meaningful, ultimately, unless their consequences last on into the future.

I argued in other posts in that series that atheism does not ground any of those factors, but Christian theism (and Judaic theism) ground them all. Atheists aren’t going to be able to behave morally in the face of temptation when doing the right thing (assuming there is such a thing on their view) involves risk or self-sacrifice. Doing the right thing when it goes against your self-interest makes no sense on atheism – it’s not rational. And the studies above lend empirical support to that claim.

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

William Lane Craig on the relationship between science and religion

Chris Shannon shared this article from Reasonable Faith on Facebook. The faster we get used to this material, the better off Christianity will fare in the marketplace of ideas.

Here’s the introduction:

What has happened, however, in the second half of this century is that historians and philosophers of science have come to realize that this supposed history of warfare is a myth. As Thaxton and Pearcey point out in their recent book The Soul of Science, for over 300 years between the rise of modern science in the 1500’s and the late 1800s the relationship between science and religion can best be described as an alliance. Up until the late 19th century, scientists were typically Christian believers who saw no conflict between their science and their faith—people like Kepler, Boyle, Maxwell, Faraday, Kelvin, and others. The idea of a warfare between science and religion is a relatively recent invention of the late 19th century, carefully nurtured by secular thinkers who had as their aim the undermining of the cultural dominance of Christianity in the West and its replacement by naturalism—the view that nothing outside nature is real and the only way to discover truth is through science. They were remarkably successful in pushing through their agenda. But philosophers of science during the second half of the 20th century have come to realize that the idea of a warfare between science and theology is a gross oversimplification. White’s book is now regarded as something of a bad joke, a one-sided and distorted piece of propaganda.

Now some people acknowledge that science and religion should not be regarded as foes, but nonetheless they do not think that they should be considered friends either. They say that science and religion are mutually irrelevant, that they represent two non-over-lapping domains. Sometimes you hear slogans like “Science deals with facts and religion deals with faith.” But this is a gross caricature of both science and religion. As science probes the universe, she encounters problems and questions which are philosophical in character and therefore cannot be resolved scientifically, but which can be illuminated by a theological perspective. By the same token, it is simply false that religion makes no factual claims about the world. The world religions make various and conflicting claims about the origin and nature of the universe and humanity, and they cannot all be true. Science and religion are thus like two circles which intersect or partially overlap. It is in the area of intersection that the dialogue takes place.

Here are his six ways that science and religion overlap:

  1. Religion furnishes the conceptual framework in which science can flourish.
  2. Science can both falsify and verify claims of religion.
  3. Science encounters metaphysical problems which religion can help to solve.
  4. Religion can help to adjudicate between scientific theories.
  5. Religion can augment the explanatory power of science.
  6. Science can establish a premise in an argument for a conclusion having religious significance.

Part 2 was my favorite part. Here’s part of it:

When religions make claims about the natural world, they intersect the domain of science and are, in effect, making predictions which scientific investigation can either verify or falsify. Let me give some examples of each.

[...]Another interesting example of science’s falsifying a religious view is the claim of several Eastern religions like Taoism and certain forms of Hinduism that the world is divine and therefore eternal. The discovery during this century of the expansion of the universe reveals that far from being eternal, all matter and energy, even physical space and time themselves, came into existence at a point in the finite past before which nothing existed. As Stephen Hawking says in his 1996 book The Nature of Space and Time, “almost everyone now believes that the universe, and time itself, had a beginning at the big bang.”3 But if the universe came into being at the Big Bang, then it is temporally finite and contingent in its existence and therefore neither eternal nor divine, as pantheistic religions had claimed.

On the other hand, science can also verify religious claims. For example, one of the principal doctrines of the Judaeo-Christian faith is that God created the universe out of nothing a finite time ago. The Bible begins with the words, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth” (Gen. 1.1). The Bible thus teaches that the universe had a beginning. This teaching was repudiated by both ancient Greek philosophy and modern atheism, including dialectical materialism. Then in 1929 with the discovery of the expansion of the universe, this doctrine was dramatically verified. Physicists John Barrow and Frank Tipler, speaking of the beginning of the universe, explain, “At this singularity, space and time came into existence; literally nothing existed before the singularity, so, if the Universe originated at such a singularity, we would truly have a creation ex nihilo (out of nothing).”4 Against all expectation, science thus verified this religious prediction. Robert Jastrow, head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, envisions it this way:

[The scientist] has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.5

This is a popular-level article, and I recommend it. It really speaks to what I see as the biggest problem that I find among my co-workers who call themselves theists. There is a strange view of faith out there that says that faith is about life enhancement. God’s job is to provide us with a happy life, via mystical coincidences. God’s job is to make us happy – to make our plans work out and to protect us from suffering in this life. On this view, God is part of a subjective experience. When people who have this view talk about God, they talk about him as a kind of rabbit’s foot or lucky charm. They are not trying to know if God exists objectively, or to know his character objectively. They are trying to run their own lives, and they want to believe that the there is a mysterious force in the universe that orders everything to make them happy. And perhaps they sing praise hymns in church to reward this mystical God. Praise hymns make them happy, so it must make him happy, too. There are Christians in my office who have this postmodern view of God as cosmic safety blanket, and they do not see it as incompatible with other views like pluralism, universalism, pro-abortion, pro-gay-marriage, pro-socialism, and so on. This subjectivist view of religion is, of course, nowhere in the Bible.

Enter science. Scientific evidence (and its partner, historical evidence) is the antidote to this subjective, life-enhancement version of Christianity. Scientific evidence establishes premises in arguments for God’s existence. These arguments make the existence of God knowable apart from private experiences, personal preferences, mysticism and singing praise songs. If God really exists, then he is not just a projection of our own minds that serves our needs for comfort. God is not a crutch that we pull out by force of our own will – he is out there and he is real. Historical evidence, and the theology that is based on it, is also important, because it establishes the character of God objectively. Now instead of pushing our views onto God, and making him serve us, we can get to know him and serve him. Instead of having God arrange things mystically to serve our needs, we can use our wills to achieve the things that matter to him, while working within the rules of engagement that he has set out.

Science helps us know that God is real regardless of our personal preferences, our communities, our feelings, our desires and all that subjective stuff. And if God is real, then we find out what he is like by looking outward, not by looking inward, and not by agreeing with the people around us. Not everyone who claims to be a Christian is happy about the idea of God being real and knowable, because it threatens their autonomy to invent their own God. That’s why it’s important to know the science to correct even Christians, who have somehow adopted this postmodern, personal-preference view of religion.

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

Economist Walter Williams blames school violence on secularism and moral relativism

Economist Walter Williams

Economist Walter Williams

My two favorite economists are Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell. Both are conservative or libertarian. Both of them happen to be black. But neither is especially outspoken about religion. But imagine my surprise when I read this CNS News column on gun violence in schools by Walter Williams, who I always thought was the more libertarian of the two.

Look:

When I attended primary and secondary school — during the 1940s and ’50s — one didn’t hear of the kind of shooting mayhem that’s become routine today. Why? It surely wasn’t because of strict firearm laws. My replica of the 1902 Sears mail-order catalog shows 35 pages of firearm advertisements. People just sent in their money, and a firearm was shipped.

Dr. John Lott, author of “More Guns, Less Crime,” reports that until the 1960s, some New York City public high schools had shooting clubs where students competed in citywide shooting contests for university scholarships. They carried their rifles to school on the subways and, upon arrival, turned them over to their homeroom teacher or the gym coach and retrieved their rifles after school for target practice. Virginia’s rural areas had a long tradition of high-school students going hunting in the morning before school and sometimes storing their rifles in the trunks of their cars that were parked on school grounds. Often a youngster’s 12th or 14th birthday present was a shiny new .22-caliber rifle, given to him by his father.

Fathers? Children don’t grow up with fathers any more, 42% of the time. And why not? The feminists told us that men are evil, and that marriage is sexist. And the socialists told us that rewarding single motherhood was a good idea, because it makes women who don’t bother to get married before having sex more equal to those who do bother to get married first. But fatherlessness is a huge factor in criminal behavior, as I showed before.

Dr. Williams continues:

What explains today’s behavior versus yesteryear’s? For well over a half-century, the nation’s liberals and progressives — along with the education establishment, pseudo-intellectuals and the courts — have waged war on traditions, customs and moral values. These people taught their vision, that there are no moral absolutes, to our young people. To them, what’s moral or immoral is a matter of convenience, personal opinion or a consensus.

During the ’50s and ’60s, the education establishment launched its agenda to undermine lessons children learned from their parents and the church with fads such as “values clarification.” So-called sex education classes are simply indoctrination that sought to undermine family and church strictures against premarital sex.
Lessons of abstinence were ridiculed and considered passé and replaced with lessons about condoms, birth control pills and abortions. Further undermining of parental authority came with legal and extralegal measures to assist teenage abortions with neither parental knowledge nor consent.

Customs, traditions, moral values and rules of etiquette, not laws and government regulations, are what make for a civilized society. These behavioral norms — transmitted by example, word of mouth and religious teachings — represent a body of wisdom distilled through ages of experience, trial and error, and looking at what works.

The importance of customs, traditions and moral values as a means of regulating behavior is that people behave themselves even if nobody’s watching. Police and laws can never replace these restraints on personal conduct so as to produce a civilized society. At best, the police and criminal justice system are the last desperate line of defense for a civilized society. The more uncivilized we become the more laws that are needed to regulate behavior.

Many customs, traditions and moral values have been discarded without an appreciation for the role they played in creating a civilized society, and now we’re paying the price. What’s worse is that instead of a return to what worked, people want to replace what worked with what sounds good, such as zero-tolerance policies in which bringing a water pistol, drawing a picture of a pistol, or pointing a finger and shouting “bang-bang” produces a school suspension or arrest.

See, now that’s a smart libertarian. Smart libertarians understand that liberty depends on people being aware of the design of the universe, and the objective moral obligations imposed by that design. If we don’t promote institutions and people that help us to explore the design of the universe, then we are going to have to rely on big government to regulate us instead of regulating ourselves. What we’ve done instead is make impossible to speak about the reality of God and the reality of objective morality in schools, or in any other public place, for that matter. Hearing about God and morality is just too offensive to people who want to put their own selfishness above the moral law.

Similarly, libertarians should not be pushing for promiscuity, abortion and same-sex marriage, either. Intact families are necessary for raising the next generation of citizens to be well-adjusted, law-abiding and productive. Marriages are more stable when the participants are chaste and/or abstinent for a period of time early in the relationship. And children do better when raised by a mother and a father, and less well in other arrangements. Either we feel an obligation to control our own desires and make a plan for marriage success, so that we can provide children with a stable nurturing environment, or the government will have to control the anti-social behavior of fatherless children.

Thomas Sowell has posted a more traditional argument against gun control, in the extremist left-wing UK Guardian, of all places.

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

Seven stories about Mitt Romney that you won’t hear from the liberal media

Mr. Hawkins wrote a column entitled “7 Incredible Personal Stories About Mitt Romney That You May Not Know“.

Here’s my favorite:

2) Mitt Romney gave milk to a V.A. hospital: This is the kind of thing Mitt Romney has done for people in need who cross his path.

He shared a story of a V.A. hospital in Boston that Mitt Romney stopped at while on the campaign trail running against Ted Kennedy. Ted Kennedy had made a thirty minute stop at the same location a couple of weeks prior.After touring the V.A. hospital, Mitt asked to look at their books. After he spent forty minutes going through their books, he told them, “You run a very good place, very tight. Very good.” Romney asked to go on another tour of the hospital, and after spending an hour and forty minutes there, the last question he asked was, “So what… what do you — what are you lacking? What do you need help with?”

The response? “Milk.”

Since the press was around, snapping photos and asking questions, Glenn explained that Romney did a really awkward joke where he said, “maybe we should teach everyone here how to milk a cow.”

Of course, that’s all the press cared to hear and ran with a story that claims “Mitt Romney says veterans should have to milk cows.”

“This is where it gets good,” Glenn started. “Romney calls him up the next morning.”

Romney first apologizes to the man who runs the hospital for any problems the attention from the press jumping on his words brought to the hospital. He next offers to help with the milk situation.

“Friday comes, and the milkman comes,” Glenn continues. “This is what the vets needed – they needed 7,000 pints of milk a week. Milkman shows up, 7,000 pints. The head of the V.A. hospital asks, ‘Where did all this come from?’ He [the milkman] said ‘an anonymous donor.’ Now, the guy didn’t put it together.”

Glenn explains that when the next week rolled around, the milkman shows up again, and continued to show up every week for two years. After two years of delivering 7,000 pints of milk a week to the hospital, as the milkman is retiring, the man finally gets him to reveal the anonymous donor.

It’s Mitt Romney.

“Mitt Romney was writing a personal check and didn’t want anybody to know for two years and provided the vets with all of their milk in Boston,” Glenn explained to listeners this morning.

When Romney became governor, he sent a bill through to help the V.A. hospital – it was down to the dollar.

Read the other six.

Meanwhile, taxpayers spent $1.4 billion on Barack Obama and his family.

Mr. Hawkins and I share the view that Romney was not the most conservative candidate in the Republican primary. I wanted Michele Bachmann first, then Rick Santorum when she dropped out. John wanted Newt Gingrich. But we would both rather have Romney, than Obama. At least now we know that there are some good things about Mitt Romney as a man, even if I don’t agree with him on policy.

Filed under: News, , , , , , ,

Romney gave 1,000 times as much to charity in one year as Biden gave in a decade

From the Weekly Standard:

The release of Mitt Romney’s 2011 tax returns shows that he freely gave away more than $4 million to charity last year (about 30 percent of his income).  In comparison, when Joe Biden was first running for vice president, his tax returns showed that he had given away just $3,690 to charity over the previous ten years (about 0.2 percent of his income).  In other words, Romney gave away a thousand times as much to charity in one year as Biden gave in a decade.

That’s despite the fact that the Bidens earned well over $2 million over that decade.  In fact, their income was $320,000 in 2008, thereby putting them comfortably over the $250,000-a-year line that marks the entry point for “millionaires and billionaires” in Obama-speak.

Last year, Romney freely gave away more than $10,000 a day to charity — an impressive sum by nearly any standard.  Of course, it’s not too hard to beat Biden’s tally.  Over the span of that decade, or 3,650 days, he gave away $3,690 — an average of $1.01 a day.

Should we be surprised by this lack of charity from leftists? Well, Democrats are typically non-religious, as you might expect of people who support killing unborn children. In fact, Obama leads Romney 69% to 23% among non-religious people. So do people of no religion typically give a lot to charity, like the religious Romney, or are they mostly opposed to giving charity, like the pro-abortion secularist Joe Biden?

Consider this article from the Boston Globe.

Excerpt:

States with the least religious residents are also the stingiest about giving money to charity, a new study on the generosity of Americans suggests.

The study, released Monday by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, found that residents in states where religious participation is higher than the rest of the nation, particularly in the South, gave the greatest percentage of their discretionary income to charity.

The Northeast, with lower religious participation, was the least generous to charities, with the six New England states filling the last six slots among the 50 states.

[...]The most generous state was Utah, where residents gave 10.6 percent of their discretionary income to charity. Next were Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina. The least generous was New Hampshire, at 2.5 percent, followed by Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

[...]The study found that in the Northeast region, including New England, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York, people gave 4.1 percent of their discretionary income to charity. The percentage was 5.2 percent in the Southern states, a region from Texas east to Delaware and Florida, and including most of the so-called Bible Belt.

[...]The study was based on Internal Revenue Service records of people who itemized deductions in 2008, the most recent year statistics were available. The data allowed researchers to detail charitable giving down to the ZIP code.

To ensure that states with differing costs of living were judged by the same standard, researchers calculated each state’s median discretionary income — the money remaining per household after variable but essential costs such as housing, child care and food are paid for. They then looked at the percentage of discretionary income that the typical household in each state gave to charity.

[...]Of the 10 least generous states, nine voted for Democrat Barack Obama for president in the last election. By contrast, of the 10 most generous states, eight voted for Republican John McCain.

If you think that this is the only life you have, and there is no one out there to hold you accountable, then it’s easy to be self-centered. Unless charity makes you feel good, there is no reason to do it on atheism. And when you don’t have a reason to be moral, then you often won’t be.

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

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