Atheism or Christianity: Whose Fruit is Sweeter?
“Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies.” Such is the arduous title of a recent article that appeared in Journal of Religion and Society. Although the content of the article is much more reader friendly and interesting than its title might suggest, the author’s proposal is disturbingly misleading. According to Gregory Paul, “a freelance scientist and scientific illustrator specializing in dinosaur evolution” who penned the article in question (“Author Information,” n.d.), “[a]greement with the hypothesis that belief in a creator is beneficial to societies is largely based on assumption, anecdotal accounts, and on studies of limited scope and quality restricted to one population” (Paul, 2005). Supposedly, America’s forefathers like Benjamin Franklin were wrong in their many remarks about how religion (and specifically the Christian religion) would be a blessing upon America. Gregory Paul indicates that actually the blight of theism is clearly visible, and apparently a source of much of America’s dysfunction.
In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion in the prosperous democracies.... No democracy is known to have combined strong religiosity and popular denial of evolution with high rates of societal health. Higher rates of non-theism and acceptance of human evolution usually correlate with lower rates of dysfunction, and the least theistic nations are usually the least dysfunctional. None of the strongly secularized, pro-evolution democracies is experiencing high levels of measurable dysfunction... (Paul, 2005).
Thankfully, Mr. Paul admitted that his writing was “not an attempt to present a definitive study that establishes cause versus effect between religiosity, secularism and societal health.” Nevertheless, he leaves readers with the strong impression that the fruit of theism is much more bitter than that of atheism.
Although one could argue that on certain grounds the United States is not as “dysfunctional” as some might contend, statistics do indicate that in America 22% of the population suffers from one or more STDs (“Tracking...,” 2004), more than one million innocent, unborn babies are slaughtered every year (“Induced Abortion,” 2002), and on average one murder (not including abortions) occurs every 32 minutes (“Crime in...,” 2003). These are only a few of the ghastly statistics that indicate America certainly is not the “shining city on the hill” that many (including our Founding Fathers) would like for it to be. That said, is one justified in closely attaching such data to America’s predominant theistic viewpoint? After all, “[o]ver the past fifty years of research, the percentage of Americans who believe in God has never dropped below 90%” (Gallup, Jr. and Lindsay, 1999, p. 23). Does theism really breed poor societal health and dysfunction? Answer: It certainly could. But, pure, unadulterated Christianity and true, biblical theism does not.
Most Americans believe in a higher power, which they may call “God,” but for many this is not the God of the Bible. They simply believe in a “convenient” creator, who allows them to do whatever feels good. They reject the Bible as revelation from God, and choose to live according to their own rules (which can lead to a dysfunctional society if those “rules” are contrary to biblical mandates). A great percentage of the remaining theists in America who call themselves Christians have perverted Christianity to the extent that somehow (among other things) having sexual relations outside of a scriptural marriage and killing innocent, unborn babies is acceptable. This type of theism is no better than atheism, and its fruit will be just as bitter. Israel suffered much throughout their history, but this was not the result of their theism. Rather, it was because of their departure from true, faithful devotion to Jehovah God (e.g., Numbers 14:33-34; Judges 19-20). As far back as 1947, Lincoln Barnett, in an article titled “God and the American People,” observed how “[i]t is evident that a profound gulf lies between America’s avowed ethical standards and the observable realities of national life. What may be more alarming is the gap between what Americans think they do and what they do do” (emp. in orig.). This gap has only widened in the last fifty years. What many theistic Americans may say they do (obey the God of the Bible) and what they really do (contribute to the moral decline of society by breaking God’s laws) is, indeed, disconcerting and grounds for legitimate criticism.
Atheistic, pro-evolution democracies, however, cannot logically associate the immorality of America with pure Christianity, and thus assume that atheism is more beneficial for a society. A country comprised of true Christians would be mostly void of such things as sexually transmitted diseases, murder, thievery, drunken fathers who beat their wives and children, drunk drivers who turn automobiles into lethal weapons, and heartache caused by such things as divorce, adultery, and covetousness (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:21; Matthew 19:9; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5-9; Galatians 5:19-23; Ephesians 4:28; 5:25,28; 6:4). Only those who break God’s commandments intended for man’s benefit would cause undesirable fruit to be reaped. [NOTE: This is the kind of society that America’s Founding Fathers envisioned—one based upon the unchanging, moral principles of the Bible. In reality, America was founded to be a republic, not a democracy (see Miller, 2005).]
The God of the Bible cannot logically be blamed because “theists” or “Christians” forsake His commands and do that which is right in their own eyes (cf. Judges 17:6). Furthermore, simply because the more atheistic, pro-evolution democracies do not permit their godless philosophy of life to produce the true fruits of the “survival of the fittest” mentality, but rather choose to live according to moral guidelines similar to those found in the Bible (e.g., not murdering, stealing, lying, etc.), does not mean that alleged low rates of crime, murder, etc. is the fruit of true atheistic thought. In short, unrighteousness, whether it stems from atheism or a corrupted form of Christianity, produces bitter fruit that will eventually bring about the wrath of God.
Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people (Proverbs 14:34).
Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! Woe to men mighty at drinking wine, woe to men valiant for mixing intoxicating drink, who justify the wicked for a bribe, and take away justice from the righteous man! Therefore, as the fire devours the stubble, and the flame consumes the chaff, so their root will be as rottenness, and their blossom will ascend like dust; because they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel (Isaiah 5:20-24).
“Author Information” (no date), The John Hopkins University Press, [On-line], URL: http://www.press.jhu.edu/books/title_pages/1442.html.
Barnett, Lincoln (1947), “God and the American People,” Ladies Home Journal, November.
“Crime in the United States, 2002” (2003), Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC.
Gallup, George Jr. and Michael Lindsay (1999), Surveying the Religious Landscape: Trends in U.S. Beliefs (Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse Publishing).
“Induced Abortion” (2002), Alan Guttmacher Institute, [On-line], URL: http://www.agi-usa.org/pubs/fb_induced_abortion.pdf.
Miller, Dave (2005), “Christianity, Democracy, and Iraq,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/308.
Paul, Gregory S. (2005), “Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies,” Journal of Religion and Society, vol. 7, [On-line], URL: http://moses.creighton.edu/JRS/2005/2005-11.html.
“Tracking the Hidden Epidemics 2000” (2004), Center for Disease Control, [On-line], URL: http://www.cdc.gov/nchstp/od/news/RevBrochure1pdfintro.htm.