The Voice of the Enemy (1)
Brian D. Dykstra, teacher at Hope PRCS, Walker, MI
“Forget not the voice of thine enemies: the tumult of those that rise up against thee increaseth continually” (Psalm 74:23).
The wars, possibilities of future conflicts, hurricanes and earthquakes of which we have read in the news bear testimony that Christ is returning. It is not as often, however, that we can read of the growth of man’s arrogance in his way of sin and his disdain for anything having to do with God and His Word. Yet, the voice of God’s enemies is increasing continually.
The Journal of Religion and Society recently published a study done by Gregory S. Paul. Mr. Paul is known as a leading international expert on dinosaur paleontology, but he turned his research abilities to the area of social science for a recent study. Mr. Paul investigated the belief that religion is of benefit to society. He writes,
As he helped initiate the American experiment Benjamin Franklin stated that “religion will be a powerful regulator of our actions, give us peace and tranquility within our minds, and render us benevolent, useful and beneficial to others.” When the theory of biological evolution removed the need for a supernatural creator concerns immediately arose over the societal implications of widespread abandonment of faith. In 1880 the religious moralist Dostoyevsky penned the famous warning that “if God does not exist, then everything is permissible.”
Mr. Paul’s study intends to investigate the relationship between society’s overall level of belief in a supernatural power and problems in society. By employing scientific research methods Mr. Paul comes to the conclusion that higher rates of belief correspond with higher levels of social problems while nations in which levels of belief are the lowest, are the nations which demonstrate the highest levels of societal health. Mr. Paul claims that this would not be true if believing in God were beneficial to society. He concludes,
If the data showed that the U.S. enjoyed higher rates of societal health than the more secular, pro-evolution democracies, then the opinion that popular belief in a creator is strongly beneficial to national cultures would be supported. Although they are by no means utopias, the populations of secular democracies are clearly able to govern themselves and maintain societal cohesion. Indeed, the data examined in this study demonstrates that only the more secular, pro-evolution democracies have, for the first time in history, come closest to achieving practical “cultures of life” that feature low rates of lethal crime, juvenile-adult mortality, sex related dysfunction, and even abortion. The least theistic secular developed democracies such as Japan, France, and Scandinavia have been most successful in these regards.
That is Mr. Paul’s conclusion. Belief in God is bad. Society is better off when there are fewer people who believe in God.
Mr. Paul’s study caught the attention of Andy Clark, host of “Amsterdam Forum,” an hour long shortwave radio program broadcasted by Radio Netherlands Worldwide. The printable on-line version of this broadcast begins:
Is having God on your side always advantageous? Well, a new study from the US says not necessarily so. The broad ranging study compares data from 18 developed democracies and it shows societies with higher levels of belief also have higher levels of societal dysfunction. The US was the most religious country in the study, with around 90 percent of people believing in a higher power, and it also showed the highest murder rates, highest levels of child mortality and highest levels of sexually transmitted disease and teenage pregnancy. An expert panel joined Amsterdam Forum this week to tackle the question: “Is religion bad for society?”
The panelists included Gregory Paul, and Peter Derkx, professor of Humanism and Worldview at the University for Humanistics in Utrecht. The paper includes a few key quotations from the discussion:
Peter Derkx: “I don’t think religion in itself is the problem. I think a particular type of religion is the problem and I would say an absolute belief in God is closer to what I think is a problem. I think that God as an authority figure causes people not to think for themselves critically and rationally and intelligently, and I think it’s very important when people meet problems in life that they think about what they want and what the best thing to do is, etcetera, instead of looking to some authority figure who tells the[m] what to do.”
Gregory Paul: “The Bible is whatever you want to make it, there are passages where God orders his followers to kill children, to mass murder children—this happens repeatedly. We need to start looking at whether the Bible is really a good moral guide. It’s a very dark book, in many ways, written by ancient tribal peoples, who in many regards didn’t know any better. This may be one of the reasons why the United States, which is more Bible-based than any other developed democracy, is suffering from some [sic] many societal problems.”