Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Study explores whether atheism is rooted in reason or emotion

Navy SEAL Matthew "Axe" Axelson

Image of Navy SEAL Matthew “Axe” Axelson from the movie “Lone Survivor”

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 because of my contingency fund’s size. 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.

Certainly, we did not take stupid chances to get ourselves into trouble deliberately. But we just didn’t care about being happy, that was not our goal. 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.

There is no way that you could read the New Testament and come out with the idea that Jesus wanted fun and thrills and good feelings. He never laughed. He was killed for his obedience to God. He desperately wanted to avoid punishment, but he did things that he did not feel like doing because it was for the benefit of others, in obedience to God his Father. And it’s that kind of realistic pessimism – downbeat practical resignation – that we ought to be striving for. This life is not a trip to the mall where everything is on sale and we grab what we like. At all.

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

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, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Does God behave badly? Brian Auten interviews David T. Lamb

Brian Auten of Apologetics 315 interviews Old Testament scholar David T. Lamb on his new book “God Behaving Badly: Is the God of the Old Testament Angry, Sexist and Racist?“, a book which is intended for the lay Christians who want to reconcile the New Testament and Old Testament portraits of God.

The MP3 file is here.

About David T. Lamb’s academic credentials:

  • Doctor of Philosophy, Theology (Old Testament)(2005), University of Oxford
  • Master of Philosophy, Theology (Old Testament)(2002), University of Oxford
  • Master of Divinity (2000), Fuller Theological Seminary
  • Master of Science, Industrial Engineering (1985), Stanford University
  • Bachelor of Arts, Economics (1984), Stanford University

Summary:

  • Lamb’s testimony and experience in campus ministry
  • Lamb’s decision to go to graduate school become a Christian scholar
  • Lamb’s new book and its’ intended audience (it’s for beginners!)
  • Why Christians should read more in the Old Testament
  • Why we need to look at the positive and negative texts in the Old Testament
  • Are the portraits of God in the Old Testament and the New Testament compatible?
  • Is the Old Testament picture of God loving or harsh?
  • What are some of the examples that people point to when they say God is angry?
  • Are there general any guidelines for answering hard passages of the Bible?
  • Is the Old Testament God sexist?
  • What does the Old Testament say about women?
  • Is the Old Testament God racist?
  • What are some examples where other nations are treated well by God?
  • Don’t the laws in the Old Testament make God look legalistic and strict?

This book is similar to Paul Copan’s “Is God a Moral Monster?“, but that book is less introductory than Lamb’s book. It also engages more directly with the New Atheists than Lamb’s book.

Brian also interviewed Paul Copan about his book, and you can listen to that interview on Brian’s site.

Filed under: Podcasts, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The post-abortion trauma of famous musician Steven Tyler

Here’s an article in National Review. (H/T Mary)

Excerpt:

Long before he won accolades as an American Idol judge, Steven Tyler was a bona-fide rock star, with all that that implied. In 1975, when he was in his late 20s and the lead singer for the band Aerosmith, Tyler persuaded the parents of his 14-year-old girlfriend, Julia Holcomb, to make him her legal guardian so that they could live together in Boston.

When Miss Holcomb and Tyler conceived a child, his longtime friend Ray Tabano convinced Tyler that abortion was the only solution. In the Aerosmith “autobiography,” Walk This Way (in which recollections by all the band members, and their friends and lovers, were assembled by the author Stephen Davis), Tabano says: “So they had the abortion, and it really messed Steven up because it was a boy. He . . . saw the whole thing and it [messed] him up big time.”

Tyler also reflects on his abortion experience in the autobiography. “It was a big crisis. It’s a major thing when you’re growing something with a woman, but they convinced us that it would never work out and would ruin our lives. . . . You go to the doctor and they put the needle in her belly and they squeeze the stuff in and you watch. And it comes out dead. I was pretty devastated. In my mind, I’m going, Jesus, what have I done?”

[…]After the abortion, Tyler began a torrid affair with Playboy model Bebe Buell while still seeing Julia, the mother of his aborted son. If you were wondering what happened to Julia (who is referred to as Diana Hall in the book) after this purportedly psychologically safe procedure, Bebe tells us: “There were many suicidal calls from poor Diana as they were breaking up. It was actually a pretty sad time.”

And how was Steven coping?

He went on a European concert tour, accompanied by Bebe, who tells us: “He was crazy . . . totally drunk, really out of it. . . . Steven destroyed his dressing room at Hammersmith . . . when we got back from Europe. . . . One night I found him on the floor of his bathroom having a drug seizure. He was writhing in pain.”

This was followed by Steven’s “Tuinal days” — a period he spent stoned on massive doses of the barbiturate. He says: “I would eat four or five a day . . . and be good for a couple of months . . . which is why that period is blackout stuff.”

This is the dysfunctional recipe for dealing with post-traumatic stress: Take heavy doses of drugs to numb the memories and feelings — and throw in a portion of toxic rage at bandmates and hotel rooms. Anger, especially in men, is often an undiagnosed sign of depression and repressed grief that needs a healthy expression and healing. Many post-abortive fathers tell us that anger management was a major problem for them after their abortions.

[…]For many post-abortive men and women, the anxiety associated with an abortion can surface at unexpected times, triggered by events such as a subsequent pregnancy, the death of a pet or a loved one, or some other person, place, or thing that in some way connects with the traumatic memory. Years later, when Tyler married, and he and his wife were expecting their first child, he was still haunted by the abortion: “It affected me later. . . . I was afraid. I thought we’d give birth to a six-headed cow because of what I’d done with other women. The real-life guilt was very traumatic for me. Still hurts.”

There are so many interesting things about this post:

  • how some men at a certain age have difficulty in making commitments and being responsible
  • how men at a certain age never think that anything bad will happen to them
  • how parents need to be more careful about standing up to their children and saying NO
  • how statistics do matter – the more you use something risky, the greater chance it will fail
  • how the rock-and-roll lifestyle that people seem to venerate can be destructive
  • how abortion really does harm men

In my next post, I will be writing about a different kind of behavior by a real hero. I find it very strange that so many people celebrate rock-and-roll musicians who merely entertain us. That doesn’t necessarily qualify them for being good husbands and fathers, though. I think women need to realize that some young men can be very dangerous and destructive because of their foolhardiness and irresponsibility. But sometimes a lack of fear can be a good thing in responsible young men, as we shall see in the next post.

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

New study explores whether atheism is rooted in reason or emotion

From First Things, based on research reported by CNN. (H/T Apologetics 315)

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’m having trouble understanding how someone can read the gospel, realize how God did not prevent Jesus from enduring suffering, and then expect God to be Santa Claus. I’m drawing a blank. And this is not to mention the responses to the intellectual problem of evil.

Basically, here are four of the major reasons why people leave Christianity, in my experience.

  1. They want to do something immoral that is forbidden in Christianity. This type of person wants to do something immoral that is forbidden by Christianity, like pre-marital sex. They dump Christianity in order to feel better about seeking happiness in this life, apart from God and his moral duties.
  2. They think that God’s job is to make them happy by giving them everything they want no matter what they do. When God disappoints them by not giving them what they expect in order to be happy, they leave the faith and just pursue happiness without caring about God.
  3. They want to be loved by people, not by God. This type of person thinks that Christianity is compatible with being liked and popular. When they try to articulate the gospel in public, they find that people don’t like them as much, and they feel bad about offending people with exclusive truth claims that they cannot back up using logic and evidence. So, they water down Christianity to get along with atheists, liberal Christians and other religions. Finally, they jettison Christianity completely and just say whatever makes people like them.
  4. They don’t want to learn to defend their faith. This type of person is asked questions by skeptics that they cannot answer. Usually this happens when people go to university after growing up in the shelter of the Church. The questions and peer pressure make them feel stupid. Rather than investigate Christianity to see if it’s true and to prepare to defend it in public, they dump it so they can be thought of as part of the “smart” crowd.

My advice: prepare for tragedies – save money and take no chances. Live smart.

More on what causes atheism here.

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

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