Are atheists dying out?

PERSONAL_SECULARISM_LOGOAn article in Evolutionary Psychological Science looks at the “secularization hypothesis,” the assumption that modernity would be accompanied with the gradual dying out of religion.  That is proving not to be the case, with many researchers trying to figure out why.

The authors of this study sought a biological reason.  They found a strong correlation between “religiosity” and family size.  Conversely, they found a very strong correlation between the degree of “secularism” and small family size.  That is to say, atheists tend to have very few children.

The researchers conclude that secularists are dwindling demographically.

In the words of the article abstract (given after the jump), “A contra-secularization hypothesis is proposed and defended in the discussion. It states that secularism is likely to undergo a decline throughout the remainder of the twenty-first century, including Europe and other industrial societies.”

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Why is Cedar Rapids so Godless?

Cedar_Rapids_skylineIowa defines the American heartland, with its staunch Midwestern values and rural American virtues.  Though its prairie populism sometimes elects Democrats, today its elected officials are most Republican.  The candidate favored by Christian conservatives usually wins the Iowa caucuses.

A recent study ranked Iowa as the 19th most religious state in the union.  Except for one mysterious outlier:  Cedar Rapids.

The second largest city in the state, with a population of only 130,000, is an island of secularism in an ocean of religion.  By virtually ever standard–Bible reading, Bible believing, church attendance–Cedar Rapids scores closer to the big coastal cities than any of its midwestern neighbors.  Nearly half (47%) of its adults are “nones,” holding to no particular religion at all.  That’s the same percentage as Los Angeles county.

So why is this?  People are trying to figure that out.  One perhaps counter-intuitive reason:  Cedar Rapids is overwhelmingly white.  So are the vast majority of “nones.” Black people, in contrast, score extremely high on the religious indexes (Bible reading, Bible believing, church attendance).  A large black population tends to increase a city’s religion score, while a large white population decreases it.  At least that’s what the post says, quoted and linked after the jump, which also lists other possible factors.

Still, the mystery remains.  Iowans, can any of you explain? [Read more…]

Charles Taylor wins philosophy prize

There is the Nobel Prize for various great achievements, and now there is the Berggruen Prize for philosophy.  The first award, which comes with $1 million, was given to Charles Taylor.

Taylor, a Canadian thinker, is one of the most interesting, helpful, and Christian-friendly of all contemporary philosophers.  (See this Cranach post.) A Catholic, though not of the Reformation-despising kind, Taylor has written provocative and insightful explorations of the self, identity, language, and morality.  One of his biggest subjects, though, is the phenomenon of secularism, which he shows is not as simple as many of its adherents assume and which, far from doing away with religion, may drive people to try to find it again.
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Teaching predestination at Berkeley

The New York Times has a fascinating article by Berkeley history professor Jonathan Sheehan about how he teaches John Calvin in his secular classroom.  Specifically, he uses the scary stuff in Calvin–particularly, double predestination–to blow the minds of his students and to teach them their limits.  Read the article and a response to what he says from someone else who teaches Calvin to secular students (linked and excerpted after the jump).

We Lutherans believe in predestination, though not Calvin’s double predestination.  But we certainly believe in the limits of human beings, a message considered salutary today.  Maybe teaching Luther’s Bondage of the Will would have a similar effect.

What do you think of this use of Calvin?  Is it really accurate to his thought?  Do we take away from this that it’s okay to teach Law to secular students, just not the Gospel?  (The emphasis here is on those who are not chosen to salvation, I guess a group the secularists identify with.  But what about those who are?) [Read more…]

Are Christians the powerful or the marginalized?

In the course of a post on why so many evangelicals are supporting Donald Trump, S. D. Kelly tosses off an observation that explains much about the current controversies between Christians and secularists.

Secularists tend to see Christians as “the powerful”; that is, in postmodern parlance, those who are in a position of power and privilege who oppress “the marginalized,” those who lack power and privilege.

But Christians tend to see themselves as “the marginalized,” oppressed by the cultural elite who exclude them and exercise their power against them.

Thus, when a Christian baker refuses to participate in a gay wedding, the secularists see the Christian heteronormative establishment discriminating against marginalized and oppressed gay people.

While Christians see secularists–who control the culture, the entertainment industry, the educational establishment, the government, and the law–imposing their sexual ideology on those with traditional Christian values and punishing them for their minority religious beliefs.

This explains much of the rhetoric, argumentation, and high feelings on both sides.  Are these just two irreconcilable perceptions?  Or can we make an objective case for one side or the other?  Does realizing these different perceptions suggest other ways of addressing these controversies? [Read more…]

Britain now has more “nones” than Christians

Great Britain now has more people who say they have “no religion” (48%) than say they are Christians (44%).  (Other religions such as Islam constitute 8%.)  And this happened fast.  Fifteen years ago, around 75% said they were Christians.  Five years ago, only 25% said they have “no religion.”  After the jump, a story about this from the London Spectator.

For a long time, most Brits still considered themselves Christians, while hardly ever attending services.  Staying Christian requires going to church.  Then again, when the churches themselves, as a whole, become so theologically liberal they stop teaching anything that could be recognized as Christianity, then of course Christianity will, apart from divine intervention, be extinguished.

Could such a religious shift happen in the USA?  Or is it already happening? [Read more…]