In a world dominated by magical thinking, superstition and religion, give yourself the benefit of doubt. This is one skeptic's view of the Universe.
"Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure."
“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed”.
“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”
The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted.
Whether religion is overrated or underrated is difficult to answer. But it’s intensely important to the personal lives of billions of people. I thought for a while about why this might be, and came up with three inherent weaknesses in human beings that religion exploits.
Probably the most basic emotion of all life on Earth. We’re no exceptions. If there is one thing that unites us all, it’s the fear of death – or more precisely, the state of ‘not living’. Religion gives us deliverance from that fear. Nothing to worry about, it says, your time here on Earth is nothing more than a prelude to eternal life in a different plane.
What evidence do we have of this? Absolutely none. But we believe, because for most of us, it’s unimaginable that our consciousness will one day cease to exist. Even though we only have to think of the vast stretch of time before our births to realize that it’s not only possible but is the norm.
2. Pattern and meaning seeking
Human beings are meaning-seeking animals. All external evidence suggests that the universe is essentially meaningless, and yet our minds tell us that there must be something to it after all. We think our lives follow a narrative, that everything happens for a reason, that there are such things as fate and destiny, that the future can be altered and controlled.
So we pray to our gods to keep us safe. We bribe them to make us richer or more successful. We thank them for the good things in our lives. We cajole, chide and blame. We worship.
To put it kindly, we’re natural classifiers. In this we’re no different to other primates, but thanks to our larger brains, we’ve taken it to a whole new level. Country. Skin colour. Gender. Appearance. Self versus the other. My kind of people versus your kind of people.
There are evolutionary reasons for this. In a hunting-gathering world where tribes often competed fiercely for resources, people had to be segregationist in nature. Brotherhood towards members of your tribe. Enmity towards members of the other tribe. We did it to survive. It’s built into our genes.
Religion stokes this trait by preaching universal love and unspeakable violence in the same sentence. The former is for within the group. The latter is reserved for the other groups.
A couple of quotes
I will leave you with two quotes. One by Epicurus:
‘Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?’
And another by Voltaire:
‘Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.’
"I believe that we are on the verge- within 10 years- of a major collapse of evangelical Christianity; a collapse that will follow the deterioration of the mainline Protestant world and that will fundamentally alter the religious and cultural environment in the West. I believe this evangelical collapse will happen with astonishing statistical speed; that within two generations of where we are now evangelicalism will be a house deserted of half its current occupants, leaving in its wake nothing that can revitalize evangelicals to their former “glory.”
The party is almost over for evangelicals; a party that’s been going strong since the beginning of the “Protestant” 20th century. We are soon going to be living in a very secular and religiously antagonistic 21st century in a culture that will be between 25-30% non-religious.
This collapse, will, I believe, herald the arrival of an anti-Christian chapter of the post-Christian west and will change the way tens of millions of people see the entire realm of religion. Intolerance of Christianity will rise to levels many of us have not believed possible in our lifetimes, and public policy will become particularly hostile towards evangelical Christianity, increasingly seeing it as the opponent of the good of individuals and society.
The response of evangelicals to this new environment will be a revisiting of the same rhetoric and reactions we’ve seen since the beginnings of the current culture war in the 1980s. The difference will be that millions of evangelicals will quit: quit their churches, quit their adherence to evangelical distinctives and quit resisting the rising tide of the culture.
Many who will leave evangelicalism will leave for no religious affiliation at all. Others will leave for an atheistic or agnostic secularism, with a strong personal rejection of Christian belief and Christian influence. Many of our children and grandchildren are going to abandon ship, and many will do so saying “good riddance.”
This collapse will cause the end of thousands of ministries. The high profile of Christian media will be reduced, if not eliminated. Hundreds of thousands of students, pastors, religious workers, missionaries and persons employed by ministries and churches will be unemployed or employed elsewhere. [ ]. Visible, active evangelical ministries will be reduced to a small percentage of their current size and effort.
Nothing will reanimate evangelicalism to its previous levels of size and influence. The end of evangelicalism as we know it is close; far closer than most of us will admit.
Why Is This Going To Happen?
1) Evangelicals have identified their movement with the culture war and with political conservatism. This was a mistake that will have brutal consequences. They are not only going to suffer in losing causes, they will be blamed as the primary movers of those causes. Evangelicals will become synonymous with those who oppose the direction of the culture in the next several decades. That opposition will be increasingly viewed as a threat, and there will be increasing pressure to consider evangelicals bad for America, bad for education, bad for children and bad for society.
2) In what must be the most ironic of all possible factors, an evangelical culture that has spent billions of youth ministers, Christian music, Christian publishing and Christian media has produced an entire burgeoning culture of young Christians who know next to nothing about their own faith except how they feel about it. Coming generations of Christians are going to be monumentally ignorant and unprepared for culture-wide pressures that they will endure.
3) Evangelical churches have now passed into a three part chapter: 1) mega-churches that are consumer driven, 2) churches that are dying and 3) new churches that whose future is dependent on a large number of factors. I believe most of these new churches will fail…denominations will shrink, even vanish, while fewer and fewer evangelical churches will survive and thrive.
Our numbers, our churches and our influence are going to dramatically decrease in the next 10-15 years. And they will be replaced by an evangelical landscape that will be chaotic and largely irrelevant.
4) Despite some very successful developments in the last 25 years, Christian education has not produced a product that can hold the line in the rising tide of secularism. The ingrown, self-evaluated ghetto of evangelicalism has used its educational system primarily to staff its own needs and talk to itself. I believe Christian schools always have a mission in our culture, but I am skeptical that they can produce any sort of effect that will make any difference. Millions of Christian school graduates are going to walk away from the faith and the church.
5) The deterioration and collapse of the evangelical core will eventually weaken the missional-compassionate work of the evangelical movement. Look for evangelical ministries to take on a less and less distinctively Christian face in order to survive.
6) Much of this collapse will come in areas of the country where evangelicals imagine themselves strong. In actual fact, the historic loyalties of the Bible belt will soon be replaced by a de-church culture where religion has meaning as history, not as a vital reality.
7) A major aspect of this collapse will happen because money will not be flowing towards evangelicalism in the same way as before.”
South Korea has one of the proportionately highest Christian populations in East Asia. But why?
Well, prior to 1945 Christianity was pretty much unheard of in Korea. The growth of both was gradual before 1945. In that year, approximately 2% of the population was Christian. Rapid growth ensued by 1991, 18.4% of the population (8.0 million) was Protestant, and 6.7% (2.5 million) was Catholic.
Anglicanism in Korea has also experienced significant growth in the recent decades.
Why did all of this happen? In recent years, the growth of Protestantism has slowed, and all the previous growth was due to the typical Christian missionary work, Christians with this fanatical idea, believing the world must convert to Christianity, because after all, it is the only true path to salvation.
Now, with just under a third of Koreans identifying themselves as Christian, this has caused tension in recent times, especially between the Christian and Buddhist communities as Buddhists have felt that current president Lee Myung-bak’s very public Christianity has left them unfairly victimised at times.
Fundamentalist Protestant antagonism against Buddhism has been a major issue for religious cooperation in South Korea, especially during the 1990s to late 2000s. Acts of vandalism against Buddhist amenities and “regular praying for the destruction of all Buddhist temples” have drawn criticism. Buddhist statues have been considered as idols, attacked and decapitated. Arrests are hard to enforce, as the perpetrators work by stealth at night.” Such acts, which are supported by some Protestant leaders, have led to South Koreans having an increasingly negative outlook on Protestantism and being critical of church groups involved, with many Protestants leaving their churches in recent years.
So once again Christians and their evangelizing nonsense are causing conflicts, fear, paranoia, and dividing people apart.
University students (traditionally at the heart of a lot of social change and protest in Korea) have now started to respond by setting up “Atheist Clubs” at top Korean universities to try and curb some of the ever-growing evangelicalism in the South.