Does mainline liberal Protestantism have just 23 years left?

512px-Ruins_of_Holyrood_Abbey,_EdinburghMore on the plight of mainline liberal Protestantism. . . .

Evangelical scholar Ed Stetzer calculates that at the current rate of decline, mainline liberal Protestant churches will cease to exist in 23 years.

He crunches the numbers and suggests the reasons.  For example, “Over the past few decades, some mainline Protestants have abandoned central doctrines that were deemed ‘offensive’ to the surrounding culture,” but that strategy doesn’t work.

Wait a minute:  Isn’t that the sort of thing that we have been hearing from the evangelical church growth movement?

Stetzer doesn’t really believe that these churches will cease to exist and he laments their decline.  But would it be good if they cease to exist, or is a liberal church better than nothing?  Is there a point to institutional religion without the religion?  Doesn’t that leave just an institution–with all its trappings of bureaucracy, self-protection, and regulation–without a purpose?

I would say that the rumors of the death of mainline churches may be greatly exaggerated.  There still have their Christian pastors, theologians, congregations, and members. But their future may be in their becoming more conservative.  This may be happening.  The Methodists, for example, have embraced the pro-life cause and show some skepticism about the gay agenda, though the church is still torn over those issues.  Conservatives in those denominations often struggle over they should stay and fight–until they are thrown out–or leave, thereby abandoning their church to the liberals.  And it is theoretically possible that some of today’s secularists might start attending the increasingly secularist church bodies.
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Education and religion

graduation-1177256_640Does having more education mean being less religious?  That has been the conventional wisdom in academic circles.  But a new Pew Research study has found that the relationship between education and religion is much more complicated than that.

In general, according to the report, highly educated people are less religious.  But this effect does not hold true for Christians.

Highly educated Christians are actually more likely to go to church regularly than less educated Christians.

Read the findings after the jump.  How do you account for them?

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Totalitarianism vs. Religion

Mussolini_cropSome atheists accuse religion of being inherently “totalitarian.”  But, as sociologist Chandler Rosenberger, points out, this isn’t true.

The word “totalitarian,” coined by Italian fascists, was defined by Mussolini as “everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.”  (Limited government conservatives:  Memorize this definition.)

Prof. Rosenberger explains how religion is usually a check against totalitarianism, which is why totalitarians try so hard to stamp it out. [Read more…]

Exploding myths about cohabitation

1171173373_12cd9932e3_zUniversity of Virginia sociologist Bradford Wilcox has published a study of the effects of cohabitation, couples living together without marriage.  He especially looked at the impact on children when their parents are not married.  He quantified his study by examining what percentage of children over time are still living with their parents.

Now one could deduce using common sense that couples who are not married are going to have less stable families, with children being adversely affected.  This study, though, gives an abundance of empirical data.  Not only that, it looks at cohabitation globally, finding consistent patterns across nationalities and cultures.  And it explodes at least three common myths that people had assumed about cohabitation.

The complete study is here.  Read an interview with Prof. Wilcox on his findings after the jump.

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Does the scientific method apply to psychology?

imprisoned-2066638_640We’ve blogged about the problem in the field of psychology that so many of their research experiments can’t be replicated.  That means that, according to the scientific method, they are invalid.

The problem continues, and it’s compounded by the fact that the profession doesn’t seem to care!

The proliferation of peer-reviewed articles whose results can’t be repeated keeps building.  Despite these findings, nothing is changing in the way psychologists do their research, the way journals vet their articles, or in the articles that get published.

An article on the subject, quoted and linked after the jump, says that as many as two-thirds of psychology articles “can’t be trusted.”

But let me pose a different way to look at this problem.  Can it be that the same scientific method used for chemistry and biology is unusable in the study of the minds of human beings?  People are active agents, not inanimate objects that follow only natural laws.  So it’s no wonder human beings are unpredictable and inconsistent.  And different subjects and groups react in different ways.

After I quote the article, I quote a commenter, who points out that there may be other ways to design, evaluate, and learn from various kinds of research, in addition to strict application of “the scientific method.”

In fact, the view that the scientific method is the only way to know truth–not logical reasoning (as in philosophy) and certainly not revelation (as in theology)–is surely one of the more reductionist errors of the Enlightenment.

I have no problem jettisoning 2/3 of the published research in experimental psychology–though it would help to know which 2/3–and the lack of response of the professionals in the field is inexcusable.  But maybe what all of this proves, with an abundance of replication, is the protean quality of the human psyche. And that would be an important scientific finding.  It would even be empirical and replicable. [Read more…]

U.S. Census won’t ask about LGBT identities

US-Census-2020LogoThe 2020 Census will not ask people about their sexual orientation or gender identity.  An earlier draft of survey questions for the American Community Survey included those topics, but officials explained that this was a mistake.

LGBT activists say this makes them feel excluded.  Do you think such questions would be appropriate or would be a violation of privacy on the part of the government?

I think it would be good to know how many people we are talking about, as the country wrestles with these issues.  I predict that the census will include the questions after all, even though they have never been asked before. [Read more…]