Month: January 2015

Why does education tend to make people less religious?

scientists survey

We can certainly agree that there are genuinely thoughtful and brilliant people on every side of this debate, and we are all just trying to figure out the answers together.

Yet, studies have shown that every year of education “reduces the propensity to attend religious services at least once a month by about 14 percentage points.” (1)

So *why* does education tend to make more people less religious?

Is that not counter intuitive? If we can be certain this world was created by God, should not those who study the natural world, or logic/reason, be even more inclined to believe? Yet we see the opposite.



There are diverging traditions in the bible, like the two stories of Judas death

There are many cases where multiple traditions are interwoven in the Bible. Sometimes we know why these developed, other times, we can only guess.

One example of diverging traditions is the death of Judas, which has two different biblical accounts or traditions that cannot be fully reconciled. While some have tried to reconcile it (indeed one can find many conservative Christian pastors focus on one of the many differing elements of the story, the death itself, and try to hypothesize how a person can both hang himself, and die by falling head first, at the same time) yet most scholars generally agree these are different accounts. This discrepancy is acknowledged by academics from all traditions (Catholic, Evangelical, Protestant, & Secular), see below.

judas death bible contradiction

Kim Paffenroth, Catholic scholar:

“The actual details of the two accounts are irreconcilable. This difference in content creates quite a different meaning for Judas’s death in Acts. Luke’s version of Judas’s death does not include the poignancy (or notability) of suicide (as in Matthew), but rather portrays the death as the kind that should (or must?) happen to wicked people. He shows an interest in relating the death more graphically and grotesquely when he adds the detail that “all his bowels gushed out.” (1)

Bart Ehrman, secular scholar:

“According to Matthews Gospel, Judas hanged himself, and that after his death the chief priests used the betrayed money to purchase a field in which to bury strangers in Jerusalem. They called it the Field of Blood, because it was purchased with “blood money.” The book of Acts has a different account of Judas’s death and its relationship to this field. It is probably impossible to reconcile the details of these two accounts.” (2)

Craig A. Evans, Darrell Bock, Andreas J. Köstenberge, Conservative evangelical scholars:

“The two accounts appear to be independent traditions. A point often overlooked is that the existence of two distinct traditions suggests that Judas’ scandalous death was a widely known fact in the early church. Clearly we are not certain of all the details given the differences between Luke and Matthew.”  (3)


Religious drug/alcohol rehab programs start off less effective, cause depression, and may encourage relapse

A few studies of drug/alcohol rehab found that religious rehab programs start off worse and cause more depression/anxiety than secular psychological treatment.

spiritual drug rehab

In two clinical trials, published in the Journal of Substance Abuse, “Some of the patients received spiritual guidance as part of the treatment… others received secular psychotherapy. Because of the enduring popularity… programs that involve a spiritual component, Miller and his team expected the patients in the spiritual group to do better than those in the secular group. They were wrong — at least in the short term.

While both groups eventually benefited relatively equally from their treatment — abusing substances on fewer days — it took *longer* to see improvement among those in the spiritual group.

What’s more, those who received spiritual guidance reported being significantly more anxious and depressed after four months than those who got secular help. Those problems abated at about the eight-month point, but because substance abusers are at high risk for suicide, some worry that it may not be a good idea to put them through demanding spiritual calisthenics in the early months of their recovery.

This amplifies a fascinating 1997 paper which found that patients who reported knowing that someone was praying for them used significantly more substances after leaving treatment than those who didn’t know someone was praying for them.” (1)

Most scholars argue that the Pauline letters in the Bible are not all authentic

“A combination of philological, rhetorical, theological, and historical evidence has led most scholars to conclude that Paul did not write all letters attributed to him.

Nearly all scholars consider Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon as authentic.

Conversely, most would agree that Paul did not write 1 and 2 Timothy or the letter to Titus (the so-called Pastoral Letters), although a few scholars maintain that these letters are also authentic.

With regard to Ephesian, Colossians, and 2 Thessalonians there is an ongoing discussion regarding authorship, but most scholars think that Paul did not write Ephesians, and the same is the case for Colossians. The authorship of 2 Thessalonians is still an open question.

Thus the Pauline letters may be divided into three groups
(a) almost certainly genuine letters (authentic)
(b) letters concerning which there is an ongoing discussion (disputed)
(c) letters almost certainly not written by Paul (pseudonymous or deuteropauline)”

The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Books of the Bible

Religious violence can be the result of overly aggressive generalization

Religious violence is wrong, regardless of who is involved, but the reasons are often more difficult that simple hate, often it involves money and politics, for example consider the situation of Pentecostals in India.

Butler University professor of religion, Dr. Chad Bauman recently visited India to understand the violence against Pentecostals. He writes: “A lot of the hostility to Christianity that’s found in India today is related to their evangelism and what’s seen as a predatory form of evangelism that targets vulnerable and marginalized people. It’s also seen as an evangelism that’s funded to a considerable degree from abroad, and that is true—about $1 billion a year goes from the United States to India to mission and service organizations.”

Bauman said Christians are seen by some of the more conservative elements of Indian society as a threat to tolerance and secular society “because they don’t respect other people’s faiths… Christians are seen to be intolerant,” he said, “and so the question is: To what extent can Indian society tolerate these aggressively evangelistic Christians before the secular fabric of the nation falls apart?

“Of course, in an irony that one sees sometimes in the American treatment of Muslims, some Hindus respond to that challenge by themselves acting in extremely intolerant ways towards India’s Christians, including, occasionally, with violence.”

Why is God not more clear about his identity and his message?

There are currently 11 major world religions, though if we break this down into groups (like Unitarian Pentecostals vs Trinitarian Coptic Christians) and include new religious movements, this number reaches 4,200. To further break it down it’s estimated that there are 33,000 Christian denominations, of these 8,000+ are Protestant denominations that arose a few hundred years ago. But wait, there is more, there are thousands of religions that have existed throughout history and thousands of Gods that were once worshiped by millions, but are now long forgotten.

 Why is God not more clear about his identity and his message?

  1. Humans throughout history who uses their intuition, logic, heart, or “spirit” to search for God, have reached completely different conclusions, gods, and religions.
  2. Humans who try to reach God using revealed texts (Bible, Quran, Vedas) not only have the problem of many texts that all make the same claim, but also the fact that there are dozens of radically different interpretations of each text. Many of these interpretations are held by others to be formally heretical, and exclude one from heaven.

world religions chart

Atheist are the most hated group in the US

PF_14.07.16_interreligiousRelations_totalRatings1While prejudices exist in all groups, according to one study, the worst kind of prejudice and animosity exists against the non-religious.

If you are religious, and you see two people, an atheist and a member of your religion, doing the same *exact* action, you will always rate the atheist worse.

Philosopher Paul Draper writes: “The most robust prejudice correlated with religiosity is prejudice against atheists. [In a study by Jennifer C. Wright] Christian and atheist actors were portrayed in one condition as performing IDENTICAL immoral actions. Those actors portrayed as atheists were appraised significantly more negatively than those actors portrayed as Christians.

In another condition, atheist actors portrayed as performing supererogatory [morally good] actions were regarded as less praiseworthy than their Christian counterparts performing IDENTICAL actions.”

This is consistent with other ratings given by the US public, as seen in this 2014 Pew survey.