18 March 2013

Worldwide Religion Rejection - Sorry Bob Jones, You Are Wrong.

by Dr Mark Keown

Bob Jones is at it again. In the NZ Herald today (19/03/2013) he has commented on the decline of religious adherence in the recent British census. He speaks of his hope that the same thing will happen in NZ. No doubt his hope will be realised, as there is no secret that European Kiwis who make up the majority of the population have been rejecting institution religion for decades now. Sadly for Bob, we Europeans don’t have many kids, so NZ will increasingly become non-European and religious adherence will begin to rise as we are peopled by Polynesians, Asians and others in the future.

In the opinion piece Jones shows his modernist atheist biases. First, on the basis of philosophy he rebukes Jeff Tallon for suggesting that the intricacy of the universe supports the possibility of a creator. The problem for Bob is that he shows he is out of touch with philosophy. Philosophy does not rule out a creator, it regales against those who believe that there must be a creator. A creator (or creators) is one viable philosophical reason for this complex universe. Philosophy does not rule it out, but rightly rejects those who insist it is the only solution. It may well be the best solution. What is your solution Bob? What is your alternative? Aliens? Nothing produced this glorious universe? I can’t think of a better solution than some utterly immensely powerful creator (s) and creative force, even if I can’t prove it. I go with Jesus because he popped in and rose from the dead. Others have different explanations. What is yours Bob?

Secondly, he hammers some Americans for their belief in a literal 6 day creation. Fair enough on this one; but again, he shows how out of touch he is. Christians hold a range of views on the development of our world and universe, with many accepting science’s consensus of a big bang and an old earth. Many actually agree with an evolutionary world-view. However, they recognise the non-viability of evolution without an agency, and believe that God is at the helm of the creation of life in our world. When Bob singles out six-day creationists, he is using a straw man argument, a classic tactic. He ignores the swath of thinking Christians who have moved on from modernist dichotomies.

Thirdly, he shows that he hasn’t kept up with different ways Christians read the Bible. We don’t all naively read it literally. Hermeneutics is a well-developed discipline which recognises that the Bible is “theological history” as are the writings of the Hebrews, Greeks, Romans and others and reads it against its historical setting allowing for its biases, use of metaphor, varying intents, and genre, etc. Perhaps you could do a course on hermeneutics somewhere Bob.

Fourthly, Bob lives in a world which vilifies Christianity as entirely negative. This bias needs to be challenged. Yes, those who follow Christ have failed to live up to their own ideals, for that we are sorry. However, this does not repudiate the brilliance of Jesus who came among us and was the first to preach full egalitarianism, unconditional love, and non-violence. Further, Christianity has had a major positive influence on he and us all being able to enjoy science (e.g. Newton), education, health, work ethic, justice, morality, egalitarian democracy, freedom, and more. Jesus has brought much good to the world, even if his followers haven’t always got it right. While religion can be destructive, it has brought much good to our world. While Bob would no doubt disagree, I would argue that without Christianity, the world would be far worse off than it is today.

Finally, what really got me going was his statement that “with one exception, rejection of religion is a worldwide phenomenon corresponding with increasing education.” I wonder what the exception is – Islam? China? Former Communist nations like Russia? South America? Korea? Russia? Africa? His claim is utterly naïve and incorrect. In many countries in Europe and peopled by Europeans his thesis can be argued, especially the UK, USA, Australia, Canada, and NZ. But more broadly, this is patently incorrect. Christianity is blazing through Asia and Africa as we speak. In many of these nations (esp. China), education levels are on the rise not in decline, and Christianity is flourishing, despite state oppression. South America remains very Christian. Many portions of Europe, especially those which were under Communist rule, are far more religious than they were a few decades ago. Bob is your classic modernist suffering from a Euro-centric myopia. Religion is far from dead. See the response to the selection of Pope Francis. He should check out a recent report on the World’s Christian population. It’s bad news for Bob (www.pewforum.org/Christian/Global-Christianity-exec.aspx).

So, the census will no doubt reveal a decline in religious affiliation among Europeans in particular, but is this permanent or temporary? I suspect the latter, but it may take a few generations until the likes of Bob and I are facing our destinies and NZ (and other currently Caucasian dominated nations) is a brown and very religious country.

(Also published on Mark Keown’s blog, http://drmarkk.blogspot.co.nz/2013/03/worldwide-religion-rejectionsorry-bob.html).

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