Johnny Skeptic

The Existence of God

Kosmin and Lachman wrote a book that is titled ‘One Nation Under God.’ Consider the following from the cover:

Billy Graham:

“Based on the most extensive survey ever conducted of religion in America, ‘One Nation Under God’ delivers surprising revelations about the religious beliefs, practices, and affiliations of Americans, and about the complex dynamics of a country that is paradoxically among the most religious and the most secular on earth.”

“‘One Nation Under God’ is quite possibly the most comprehensive and thoughtful profile of contemporary American religious life in print.”

John Cardinal O’Conner

“‘One Nation Under God’ comes as not surprise, either in content or in quality of research. Its authors have demonstrated their objectivity, their professionalism, and their openness so frequently in the past, that for them to have produced a work of lesser value would have disappointed all who have come to rely on their data and their integrity, as have I. This book will disappoint no one interested in facts or their implication for our country.”

“Seymour P. Lachman is the University Dean for Community Development at the City University of New York. Barry A. Kosmin is a sociologist at the CUNY Graduate School.”

 

Kosmin and Lachman provide a lot of documented evidence that shows that geography, family, race, ethnicity, gender, and age are important factors regarding why people believe what they believe. I will discuss each of those six factors.  Although the authors did not intend for their book to be used to attack Christianity, that is what I will do. If the universe is naturalistic, Kosmin’s and Lachman’s research makes sense. If a God exists who is not the God of the Bible, and has chosen to mimic a naturalistic universe, Kosmin’s and Lachman’s research also makes sense. I do not believe that it is likely that a God who wanted people to believe that he exists, and wanted people to accept him, would mimic a naturalistic universe in many predictable ways, thereby needlessly undermining his attempts to try to convince people to believe that he exists, and to accept him.

Geography

Kosmin and Lachman:

Chapter 3 – ‘Geography is Destiny.’

“We would not claim to explain the spiritual disposition of the inhabitants of a locale in terms of the natural environment. Yet it must have some impact. The geographic diversity of the United States may in some way be reflected in religious preferences. Surely a relationship exists between the particular local environment and the regional differences in religious preference among the Pacific Coast , the Rocky Mountain states , the South, the Northeast, and the Midwest . A warm climate and plentiful supplies of surface water in lakes and rivers undoubtedly encourages the practice of adult baptism by immersions in the southern states. Can it be an accident that the airwaves of the south are full of gospel country music? A 1991 Gallup Youth Survey showed that 94% of teenagers living in the American Midwest believe in Heaven, compared with only 84% in the East. Teens living in the South are more likely to read the Bible (55%) than those in the eastern (31%) or western (45%) United States .

“When we refer to the geography of American religion, we are really speaking about social rather than physical scenery. Certain locations and habitats attract certain types of people and religion is an activity practiced in groups…….People literally search for compatible life-styles, and so a sorting process operates as to where people live and with whom they mix. As the figures mentioned above show, peer-group influences are important, especially on the young. The peer group perpetuates traditional and reinforces majoritarian tendencies, which in turn produce the regional religious cultures we will describe.

“Until the 1960s, the South was the region most removed from the mainstream of American industrial society. Unlike in the West, few newcomers entered the South, and immigrants from overseas with religious influence were few and far between in the region. “Baptist culture was almost palpable,” as the University of Chicago religious scholar Martin Marty has aptly stated. in the early part of this century, the First Baptist Church in a southern community often owned the town’s swimming pool and other recreation facilities. The Baptist student union dominated the campus life of the colleges. Huge evangelistic rallies competed for attendance with high-school football. Remarkably, the emergence of the “New South” over the last few decades has not altered things very much, as residents of the South are still more church-oriented than people in other sections of the country.

“The West and new religious movements

“The relative lack of older people also explains why the frontier served as the breeding ground for the religious experimentation we saw was a particular feature of California . As the sociologists [Rodney] Stark and Bainbridge have stated, the West is ‘especially hospitable to novel and exotic religions.’ The West has cults, or, more politely perhaps, ‘New Religious Movements’ (NRMs), while the South and Midwest have sects, enthusiastic offshoots of established churches. As some would see it, eccentrics of all description go west

“One example of the NRM-frontier phenomenon in recent Oregon history was Rajneeshpuram. Based upon his teachings of the guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, this movement revolved around a mixture of Indian mystical ontology, Western psychotherapy, and New Age psychology. It attracted social experimenters working on self-improvement. Its devotees were mainly baby boomers born around 1950, who by 1980 could be described as veterans of the hippie generation.”

Johnny Skeptic: It is quite important to note that geography plays an important role regarding why people believe what they believe across all cultures, which is to be expected if the universe is naturalistic, or if a God exists who is not the God of the Bible and has chosen to mimic a naturalistic universe.

Family

Consider the following:

Kosmin and Lachman:

“Statistical evidence supports the existence of a link between the nuclear family and religious participation. The birth of a child often leads to a baptism, christening, circumcision, or naming ceremony. All evidence suggests that married people increase their religious participation and often join churches, synagogues, or temples if and when they have children of school age.”

Johnny Skeptic: Since the important influence of family regarding what people believe is so obvious, there is no need for me to discuss any more of what Kosmin and Lachman said about that issue. Suffice it to say that if the universe is naturalistic, the important influence of family regarding what people believe is understandable. In addition, if some other God exists, and chose to mimic a naturalistic universe, the important influence of family regarding what people believe is understandable.

Race and ethnicity

Consider the following:

Kosmin and Lachman:

“In no area of American and social life are stereotypes so far from the truth as in the relationship of religion and ethnic origin. As we shall see, growing ethnic diversity has not led to religious fragmentation. On the contrary, religious identification and belief tend to crosscut racial and ethnic divisions among Americans and to provide a largely unappreciated level of social cohesions and consensus on core values. In fact, for many new immigrants the church rather than the public school is the new melting pot aiding their acculturation into their new society.”

Johnny Skeptic: If the universe is naturalistic, or if some other God exists and chose to mimic a naturalistic universe, the important influences of race and ethnicity regarding what people believe are understandable.

Gender

Consider the following:

Kosmin and Lachman

Male

Age group

18-24 81.1%

25-44 81.3%

45-64 87.6%

65-74 88.4%

75+ 84.1%

Female

Age group

18-24 86.5%

25-44 87.9%

45-64 92.4%

65-74 92.7%

75+ 92.7%

Johnny Skeptic: It is important to note that the percentages of women who are Christians are significantly higher than the percentages of men who are Christians.

Consider the following:

Kosmin and Lachman:

“It appears that Christianity is especially associated with female spirituality. Adolescent girls exhibit stronger belief in the inerrancy of the Bible, and higher rates of participation in religious services. One explanation may be that women are more religious than men because of their different standing in society, reflecting a fundamental division of labor by sex. Religious and family spheres in the West were feminized and separated from the mainstream workplace activities, which were male-dominated. Another interpretation has it that men are less religious than women because of what psychologists refer to as sex-type personalities. In this view, being religious is consistent with a feminine orientation, which includes a religious experience of ‘otherness,’ a personal experience of ‘connectedness,’ and a sharing of the ‘WE-ness’ of a religious community. In the jargon of the men’s movement, being religious is not conducive to maleness since it demands submission and is more left-brain-oriented.

“Participation in churches has always been lower for men in all major Protestant and Catholic denominations in America . Historically, European Christianity, with its experience of feudal society and monarchy, has shown antipathy to maleness – the heroic, the hunter, the achiever, activism, and assertiveness.”

“Bryan Caplan points to a fascinating survey by Rodney Stark and Alan Miller on the difference between men and women in their religious beliefs. Two striking facts emerge: (1) across all cultures, women are more religious than men, (2) in the least traditional cultures (i.e. those who approve of single motherhood, have with a high abortion rate, low fertility, and high female labor force participation) the gap between men and women is wider. How can this be explained?

“One can think of three approaches to religion. Sociologists focus on the role played by religion in society. For Durkheim, religion is what binds a moral society together, while for Marx, it is the opium of the mass. For Weber, on the other hand, there is no universal law that govern society in the way there are laws that govern nature. Hence, religion stems from the individuals who comprise society and the importance they attach to things such as magic, charismatic individuals and ideas, spirits, ecstatic feelings, symbolism, the soul and supernatural powers in their lives.

“Psychologists focus on the psychological needs for human to believe. Freud identifies three such needs, while tracking the development of an individual. A baby is born ‘incomplete’ (as opposed to chicks, say, who can walk and start pecking early enough) and, as such, undergoes a dependence phase upon others, namely parents. While awaiting the attention of the latter, the baby develops a state of “blissful hallucination,” which is perpetuated later in life through religious beliefs. As a child leaves childhood, he leaves a world of affection and fairy tales to fall in the cruel, real world. Religious beliefs is an attempt to recreate this fair, yet magical world. The adult also needs to create a utopic world where there is a sense and order to things.

“Given their stance, sociologists (apart from Durkheim, perhaps) and psychologists generally tend to view religion as a receding force in the face of scientific advancement and mass education. There is evidence that support this: apart from a few outliers (the US being the most obvious one), as countries advance (technologically and in terms of educational attainment), their citizens tend to lose in religiosity. But, paradoxically, Robert Barro and Rachel McClearly have found that religiosity is an important contributor to economic growth.

“I’m not quite sure though how sociologists and psychologists would view Stark and Miller’s gender gap in religiosity. There is indeed a gender gap in educational attainment which may be a factor. But then why are women much more religious than men in modern societies where this education gap is narrower?”

Johnny Skeptic: If the universe is naturalistic, or if a God exists who is not the God of the Bible and has chosen to mimic a naturalistic universe, genetic and sociological factors would account for the fact that the percentages of women who are religious across all cultures are significantly higher than the percentage of men who are religious.

Age

Consider the same statistics that I mentioned previously:

Male

Age group

18-24 81.1%

25-44 81.3%

45-64 87.6%

65-74 88.4%

75+ 84.1%

Female

Age group

18-24 86.5%

25-44 87.9%

45-64 92.4%

65-74 92.7%

75+ 92.7%

Johnny Skeptic:

If the universe is naturalistic, or if a God exists who is not the God of the Bible and has chosen to mimic a naturalistic universe, since it is well-known that elderly people are much less likely to change their worldviews than younger people are, the statistics are understandable.

The spread of the Gospel message

If the universe is naturalistic, or if a God exists who is not the God of the Bible and has chosen to mimic a naturalistic universe, the only way that a person could hear the Gospel message would be if another person told them about it. As far as I know, no one has ever heard the Gospel message unless another person told them about it. This same argument applies to all religions that have books. If a God exists, he might partly use humans to let people know about him, but if a God does not exist, or if a God exists who is not the God of the Bible and has chosen to mimic a naturalistic universe, the only way that a person could hear the Gospel message would be if another person told them about it.

Do Christians consider the spread of the Gospel message to be more important than the spread of a cure for cancer? If a Christian discovered a cure for cancer, and was able to make the cure available to everyone in the world who had cancer within one week, would he do so, or would he choose to allow the existing means of distributing cures for diseases to distribute the cure, which would result in needless suffering? Does God consider the spread of the Gospel message to be more important than the spread of a cure for cancer?

The distribution of food.

If the universe is naturalistic, or if a God exists who is not the God of the Bible and has chosen to mimic a naturalistic universe, the only way that people could obtain enough food to eat would be through human effort. If a God exists, he might partly use humans to distribute food to people, but if a God does not exist, or if a God exists who is not the God of the Bible and has chosen to mimic a naturalistic universe, the only way that people could get enough food to eat would be through human effort.

The global flood and the sorting of fossils and sediments

If the universe is naturalistic, or if another God created the universe, and for some reason decided to mimic a naturalistic universe, that explains why fossils and sediments are sorted in ways that are convenient for skeptics, and why many Christians do not believe that a global flood occurred. Even some evangelical Christian geologists do not believe that a global flood occurred. If a God exists, he would certainly have the option of sorting fossils and sediments in ways that are convenient for skeptics, and have convinced many Christians that a global flood did not occur, but I do not believe that there is sufficient evidence that a God who wanted to convince people to believe that he inspired the Bible would do that.

Young Earth Creationism (YEC)

A lot of fundamentalist Christians believe that the earth is 8,000 years or less old, and that dinosaurs did not predate humans. Two of the leading fundamentalist Christian organizations who promote YEC are the Institute for Creation Research (http://www.icr.org/), and Answers in Genesis, (http://www.answersingenesis.org/). One of the biggest problems that those organizations have is that a large percentage of fundamentalist Christians believe that the earth is old.

Bible prophecy

All Bible prophecies are disputable. If Jesus had accurately predicted when and where some natural disasters would occur, month, day, and year, very few people would have disputed that he could predict the future, and more people would have become Christians. That is a reasonable assumption since historically, many people have accepted all kinds of religions based upon a lot less convincing evidence than that. In addition, Nostradamus and Edgar Cayce attracted a lot of followers based upon a lot less convincing evidence than that.

In my opinion, no prophecies at all would be much better than 100% disputable prophecies. That is because the Bible says that God is not the author of confusion (1st Corinthians 14:33), and yet Bible prophecies have needlessly caused lots of confusion.

Summary and conclusion of chapter 2.

If the universe is naturalistic, or if some other God exists who chose to mimic the ways that things would be if the universe is naturalistic, 1) all religions that have books would be spread entirely by word of mouth, which is the case 2) humans would only able to obtain food through human effort no matter what their worldview is, which is the case, 3) it would not be surprising that the percentage of women who are theists is significantly higher than the percentage of men who are theists in every culture, which is the case, 4) it would not be surprising that the percentages of elderly people who change their worldviews are much smaller than the percentages of younger people who change their worldviews, which is the case, 5) hurricanes would kill people, animals, and plants, and destroy property as if there were not any differences between them, which appears to the case, 6) all tangible benefits would be indiscriminately distributed at random according to the laws of physics without any regard for a person’s needs, requests, or worldview, and the only benefits that anyone could ask God for and expect to receive would be subjective spiritual/emotional benefits, which appears to be the case 7) it would not be surprising that fossils and sediments are sorted in ways that have convinced the vast majority of geologists, including some evangelical Christian geologists, that a global flood did not occur, which is the case, 8) it would not be surprising that humans are very similar genetically and anatomically to other primates, which is the case, and 9) no religious book would contain any indisputable prophecies, which is the case.