Last week, Psychology Today published an opinion piece, trying to disguise it as science, showing that atheism will replace religion. So, given that this would threaten my own job security, I thought I’d better check it out. And now, having read it, I’d like to thank the author for once again demonstrating the axiom, “Often, when scientists reach the mountaintop of discovery, they find the theologians who have been waiting for them there for thousands of years.”
The author, Nigel Barber, points out the increase in atheism in “developed” countries and cites, “Anthropologist James Fraser proposed that scientific prediction and control of nature supplants religion as a means of controlling uncertainty in our lives.” In the Lutheran Church, we call this, “The Theology of the Cross” (which, incidentally, happens to be the central topic of our current Sunday morning Bible class). In short, it’s through suffering that God calls us back to Him. When we consider most of our lives to be happy and content, we see no need for God. When things get bad, though, we tend to remember how much we need Him. This study simply demonstrates statistically what Luther said 500 years ago and the entire Old Testament history of Israel exemplifies. (Read the Book of Judges for a great example.)
Fun with Statistics
While increased intelligence and atheism tend to follow the same trends, still only 36.6% of the most elite professors consider themselves atheists, which means that, while many of our intellectual elite don’t believe in God and tend to worship the human mind and its accomplishments instead (which makes sense, considering their field), the majority still believe in God. Further, since the birth rate among religious people is considerably higher than that of atheists, and since children tend to inherit their parents’ beliefs, atheists will eventually disappear simply through their own parenting plans.
That said, atheism is growing in America (I couldn’t find worldwide historical trends.) Atheism is growing at a slow-but-steady rate. And while this rate, if trends continue (and historically, we know these trends tend to fluctuate, so it’s unlikely), Protestant Christianity will last another 258 years, but it’ll be 780 years before the flying cars are all being driven by atheists.
God of Science
Many scientists, the more they learn about creation, come to the conclusion that our universe points to God. While God did not give us the Bible as a science book, we should expect that the Creator of the universe should know a thing or two about it, and the more we compare the Bible to science, the more we learn that the universe affirms the truth of the Bible.
While many religions sadly promote guilt, only the Bible can actually cure guilt. A psychologist can tell you not to feel guilty or tell you that you have no reason to feel that way, but the only actual solution for guilt can be found on the cross, where our guilt was nailed, killed, and left for good (Colossians 2:13-15). Until the world comes up with another solution, our own eyes tell us of the evil and suffering in the world, and our consciences tell us that we are accountable for our sin, and if we’re accountable, we must be accountable to Someone, Who can only be God. But thank God that He has provided the solution that we could not (Romans 5:7,8).
When the Hammer Falls
As a pastor, I’m there in the best times (weddings, births) and the worst times (funerals) in people’s lives. I’ve seen the power of God in those situations, and true the the Theology of the Cross, it’s during the funerals that the promise of God’s love and the assurance of the resurrection shines clearest. Because no matter how bad things get in our lives, we know that it will get better, that Jesus will one day return to take us to a new heaven and earth, free from pain, suffering, and corruption (1 Corinthians 15:51-54). Nobody else can offer that assurance.
Finally, we have the promise from the Creator Himself that the Christian church will continue (Matthew 16:18). He kept His promise to suffer for our sin made way back in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:15), and He has kept all His promises since. God cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18), so we can trust that, one day, atheism will disappear as the Son of God replaces faith with sight. Until then, we persevere and seek to love our neighbor, whether Christian, atheist, or anything else, as we love ourselves.