Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Some Evidence for Our Divine Benefactor

Do Christians fare better than others? It seems so:

• In Medicine. Religion, and Health, Harold Koenig summarizes a wide body of data showing that religious people who affirm the afterlife are healthier than nonbelievers. They are less likely to suffer from stress and depression, less likely to attempt suicide, less vulnerable to a host of other ailments, and more likely to live longer. Psychologist Jonathan Haidt cites surveys that show that “religious people are happier, on the average, than nonreligious people.” Surveys show that religious people even have more fulfilling sex lives than secular people! And sociologist Arthur Brooks concludes his study of philanthropy in American by showing that religious believers are vastly more generous both with their time and money than their secular counterparts. They give more not only to religious causes but also to secular causes.” (Dinesh D’Souza, Life After Death: The Evidence, 216)

Interestingly, most secular people seem to acknowledge these conclusions. Some will even confess, “It must be comforting to believe.” However, if pressed, they might add, “I’d rather be right than comfortable” or “truth is better than a comforting fiction.” Nevertheless, they also tend to admit that there is no proof against the existence of God or an afterlife, just a lack of evidence.

However, don’t all the emotional and physical benefits that we Christians enjoy constitute evidence of a Higher order? And is the secularist’s rejection of religion based on a lack of evidence or a lifestyle choice? Twenty years ago, an atheist friend challenged me to chess. If I lost, I would have to read Why I Am Not a Christian by the brilliant mathematician and atheist Bertrand Russell. If he lost, he would have to read the Gospel of John. We both lost a game each, so I began to plow my way through Russell, who wrote, “The worst feature about the Christian religion is its attitude toward sex.”

D’Souza, however, explains that Russell’s stance was based less on a lack of evidence than his own sexual preferences:

• As an advocate of public nudity and free love, Russell naturally found this [the erosion of Christianity] a very congenial prospect. He was one of the first apostles of the sexual revolution. (207)

The choices of the heart tend to cause us to see those things that confirm our choices and deny the evidences that oppose them. It also seems that these lifestyle choices can give birth to and sustain powerful movements. Psychiatrist G. Brock Chisholm, president of the World Federation for Mental Health, had stated in 1945:

• The re-interpretation and eventual eradication of the concept of right and wrong which has been the basis of child training, the substitution of intelligent and rational thinking with faith in the certainties of the old people, these are the belated objectives of practically all effective psychotherapy.

• The fact is that most psychiatrists and psychologists and other respectable people have escaped from these moral chains and are able to observe and think freely.

• If the race is to be free from the crippling burden of good and evil, it must be psychiatrists who take the original responsibility.”

How widespread was this thinking “In a 1976 survey of members of the APA, 95% reportedly admitted to being atheists or agnostics.” Were these philosophical commitments the product of evidence or lifestyle choices? According to Al Parides, Prof. of Psychiatry, UCLA:

• If you look at the personal lives of all Freud’s followers—his initial disciples—these people certainly have an unbelievable amount of particular problems in the sexual area…The amount of deviancy as far as their sexual behavior and so forth is enormous. If you are saying that psychiatry promotes a certain form of morality that is a deviant morality in regard to many areas including sexual behavior—yes, I would agree. (Psychiatry: The Ultimate Betrayal, Bruce Wiseman, 12-14)

Was their commitment to uncommitted sexuality as product of a lack of evidence to the contrary or the pursuit of their hearts’ desires? Please understand that I’m not blaming our unbridled sexual appetites for atheism. I think that there are many reasons why we fail to see the evidence.

Does that fact that the God-fearing fare better than the secularist constitute evidence for a Benign Cosmic Lover? According to Jesus, those who would make God their Shepherd would fare better:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

If the secularist is honest, he will admit that he has an evidential problem. The secularist worships science and reason as adaptive tools. Meanwhile, they disdain religion as the antithesis and therefore regard it as counter-adaptive. Yet, it is the Christian who is thriving in their midst!

For the secularist, this is a puzzle; for the Christian, it’s a puzzle that gradually fits together, shedding light on a Divine design. Consequently, D’Souza concludes,

• Given the weight of the evidence in favor of belief, there is no room for unbelievers to claim that their position enjoys a superior claim to rationality. On the contrary, unbelief is neither intellectually plausible nor practically beneficial. (217)

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