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.

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New study: even casual use of marijuana / cannabis alters brain

Reported by the UK Telegraph.

Excerpt:

Experimenting with cannabis on a casual basis damages the brain permanently, research has found.

It is far from being a “safe” drug and no one under the age of 30 should ever use it, experts said.

People who had only used cannabis once or twice a week for a matter of months were found to have changes in the brain that govern emotion, motivation and addiction.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School in America carried out detailed 3D scans on the brains of students who used cannabis casually and were not addicted and compared them with those who had never used it.

Two major sections of the brain were found to be affected.

The scientists found that the more cannabis the 40 subjects had used, the greater the abnormalities.

Around 10 million people in Britain, almost a third of the population, have used illegal drugs, with cannabis the most popular. The research author, Dr Hans Breiter, professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said: “This study raises a strong challenge to the idea that casual marijuana use isn’t associated with bad consequences. Some people only used marijuana to get high once or twice a week.

“People think a little recreational use shouldn’t cause a problem, if someone is doing OK with work or school. Our data directly says this is not the case.

[...]Mark Winstanley, chief executive of Rethink Mental Illness, said: “For too long cannabis has been seen as a safe drug, but as this study suggests, it can have a really serious impact on your mental health.

“Research also shows that when people smoke cannabis before the age of 15, it quadruples their chance of developing psychosis. But very few people are aware of the risks involved.”

I troubled by this study because I know people who act as if smoking marijuana were as much a right as free speech.

What I would really like to see is that people who insist on engaging in irresponsible behaviors then go on bear the consequences of that behavior. The problem is that it’s not only these people who are affected, it’s the innocent people around them. There are the innocent victims of car accidents or theft or the children who suffer because their parents want to “alter their brains”. Those are the people I am worried about.

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New study: teen pot use could hurt brain and memory

NBC News reports.

Excerpt:

Teenage pot smokers could be damaging brain structures critical to memory and reasoning, according to new research that found changes in the brains of heavy users.

Research released Monday in the journal Schizophrenia Bulletin showed the brains of young heavy marijuana users were altered in so-called sub-cortical regions — primitive structures that are part of the memory and reasoning circuits. And young people with such alterations performed worse on memory tests than non-using controls, despite the fact that the heavy users had not indulged for more than two years, on average, before the testing.

“We see that adolescents are at a very vulnerable stage neurodevelopmentally,” said Matthew Smith, who led the research team at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. “And if you throw stuff into the brain that’s not supposed to be there, there are long-term implications for their development.”

The portion of people ages 12 to 17 who used marijuana during the past month fell to 9.5 percent last year from almost 12 percent in 2002, according to the latest figures from the government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. But that still represents millions of adolescents and teenagers — and the legalization of marijuana has raised the specter that underage people will have easier access.

Adults who smoked pot regularly as teens were shown to have “neuropsychological decline” and “more cognitive problems” than non-users in a study last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). This was true even if users stopped using long before the study.

I think these papers are useful when talking to young people about drugs. You don’t want it to be a situation where you are ordering them around based on nothing more than YOUR needs and YOUR beliefs. Then it turns into a head-butting contest, and you can’t watch them all the time. A better alternative is to produce the studies that show the real effects and then ask them what they have on their side. If they are going to rebel anyway, at least you have tried to persuade them rather than control them, and that’s good parenting.

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Study: brain of child neglected by mother is smaller and underdeveloped

Dina sent me this article from the UK Daily Mail.

Here is the scan:

Brain scans of 3-year old children: normal vs neglected

Brain scans of 3-year old children: normal vs neglected

Excerpt:

Both of these images are brain scans of a two three-year-old children, but the brain on the left is considerably larger, has fewer spots and less dark areas, compared to the one on the right.

According to neurologists this sizeable difference has one primary cause – the way each child was treated by their mothers.

The child with the larger and more fully developed brain was looked after by its mother – she was constantly responsive to her baby, reported The Sunday Telegraph.

But the child with the shrunken brain was the victim of severe neglect and abuse.

According to research reported by the newspaper, the brain on the right worryingly lacks some of the most fundamental areas present in the image on the left.

The consequences of these deficits are pronounced – the child on the left with the larger brain will be more intelligent and more likely to develop the social ability to empathise with others.

But in contrast, the child with the shrunken brain will be more likely to become addicted to drugs and involved in violent crimes, much more likely to be unemployed and to be dependent on state benefits.

The child is also more likely to develop mental and other serious health problems.

Professor Allan Schore, of UCLA, told The Sunday Telegraph that if a baby is not treated properly in the first two years of life, it can have a fundamental impact on development.

He pointed out that the genes for several aspects of brain function, including intelligence, cannot function.

[...]The study correlates with research released earlier this year that found that children who are given love and affection from their mothers early in life are smarter with a better ability to learn.

The study by child psychiatrists and neuroscientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, found school-aged children whose mothers nurtured them early in life have brains with a larger hippocampus, a key structure important to learning, memory and response to stress.

The research was the first to show that changes in this critical region of children’s brain anatomy are linked to a mother’s nurturing, Neurosciencenews.com reports.

The research is published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition.

Lead author Joan L. Luby, MD, professor of child psychiatry, said the study reinforces how important nurturing parents are to a child’s development.

I have a very good feminist non-Christian friend who sometimes comments here. I once asked her about marriage and she said that her skills would be wasting on raising children. I explained to her my view that a mother needs to stay at home with the children, and that is more important work. I expect my future wife to read all kinds of books on child care and to give the child attention, nutrition, exercise and play so that the child will grow up to be an effective Christian. Maybe I need to be clear. I am not going to spend hundreds of thousands per child with just any woman. I need a woman who can produce influential and effective Christians who will engage in the public square. And we do not entrust that job to just anyone – we want a Michele Bachmann or a Jennifer Roback Morse. Professional women who are willing to be stay-at-home moms when it’s necessary to do that.

I expect the woman I marry (if I marry) to have a college degree, and preferably a graduate degree, and a couple of years of employment. Then she has to stay home and invest in those children through the first five years at least. After that she can stay home or work as much as she thinks is beneficial to the family goals of impacting the university, the church and the public square – as well as continuing to raise those children. It’s not a waste of her talent to make the next William Lane Craig, the next Marsha Blackburn, the next Doug Axe, or the next Edith Jones.

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New study: breast cancer rates in China skyrocketed because of one-child policy

 

Life Site News reports. (H/T WGB)

Excerpt:

Pro-abortion advocates have relentlessly denied a link between abortion and breast cancer, but a new study has emerged from China that seems to show that such a link not only exists, but that the risk rises with each abortion a woman has.

Dr. Joel Brind, professor of endocrinology at Baruch College, City University of New York and a director at the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute, called the findings a “real game changer” for deniers of the so-called ABC link.

The study, titled “A meta-analysis of the association between induced abortion and breast cancer risk among Chinese females” was published this week in Cancer Causes and Control, a peer-reviewed international cancer journal.

[...]The researchers say they were initially puzzled by their findings, stating that Chinese women “historically” have had lower rates of breast cancer compared to women from western countries such as the US.

They found, however, that incidences of breast cancer in China increased at an “alarming rate” over the past two decades, corresponding with the rise of the Chinese Communist Party’s one-child policy.

[...]The overall risk of developing breast cancer among women having only one abortion increased by 44 percent.

Calling it the “dose-response relationship” researchers also found that the risk of breast cancer increased as the number of abortions increased. Two abortions increased the risk by 76 percent, three by 89 percent.

“In summary, the most important implication of this study is that IA was significantly associated with an increased risk of breast cancer among Chinese females, and the risk of breast cancer increases as the number of IA increases,” concluded the researchers.

IA means “induced abortion”.

More:

The researchers called their findings “consistent” with those of Dr. Brind, who found in a 1996 meta-analysis that women had a 30 percent greater chance of developing breast cancer after aborting their child.

“Not only does [the study] validate the earlier findings from 1996, but its findings are even stronger,” Brind told LifeSiteNews.com.

[...]The Chinese research follows on the heels of two similar studies earlier this year. One study published in the IndianJournal of Community Medicine in May found a 6-fold greater risk of breast cancer among Indian women with a history of induced abortion when compared to the women with no such history. A similar study from Bangladesh published in the Journal of the Dhaka Medical Collegein April found that women with a history of induced abortion had a 20-fold increase in likelihood of developing breast cancer when compared to women with no such history.

In a report last month, Brind called the findings of the two studies “of the sort of magnitude that has typified the link between cigarettes and lung cancer.”

Here’s the results and conclusion from the actual paper:

Results

A total of 36 articles (two cohort studies and 34 case–control studies) covering 14 provinces in China were included in this review. Compared to people without any history of IA, an increased risk of breast cancer was observed among females who had at least one IA (OR = 1.44, 95 % CI 1.29–1.59, I 2 = 82.6 %, p < 0.001, n = 34). No significant publication bias was found among the included studies (Egger test,p = 0.176). The risk increased to 1.76 (95 % CI 1.39–2.22) and 1.89 (95 % CI 1.40–2.55) for people who had at least two IAs and at least three IAs, respectively. Subgroup analyses showed similar results to the primary results. Meta-regression analysis of the included studies found that the association between IA and breast cancer risk attenuated with increasing percent of IA in the control group (β = −0.022,p < 0.001).

Conclusion

IA is significantly associated with an increased risk of breast cancer among Chinese females, and the risk of breast cancer increases as the number of IA increases. If IA were to be confirmed as a risk factor for breast cancer, high rates of IA in China may contribute to increasing breast cancer rates.

Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “war on women”, especially when you couple it with sex-selection abortion, which pro-abortion people favor. But I have to caution everyone about using studies like this as your whole case against abortion.

Pro-life debater Scott Klusendorf explains:

First, I think it’s wrong when we make how abortion impacts women our primary message. There is a place for that being a secondary message, but it should never be our primary message. Abortion is wrong not because it adversely affects women. It’s primarily wrong because it intentionally takes the life of a defenseless human being. We’ve got to keep our focus clear on that.

I’ve summarized some of the previous studies on abortion/contraception in this recent post.

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