Monday, October 11, 2010

Not So Fast: Why Faith Still Trumps Atheism

I was reading a story about France's mistake to ban Burqas on HuffPo when I saw a story on why Atheism will eventually replace Religion. And before you start rolling your eyes because I'm even reading HuffPo, just stop while you're behind. How am I supposed to read about, say Hinduism or cultish sects if I never venture outside I read from a bunch of sources. But I will admit that the comments in both the "Religion" and the "Entertainment" sections are super annoying. They're all "Religion is dumb and only morons believe in Spaghetti Monster/Air Deities" or "Actors/Singers/Athletes are dumb and only morons care about them." I think these comments actually reveal how sad the commenters are for taking the time out to write an uppity comment about how dumb something or someone is when they supposedly don't support it.

Instead, they should copy and paste the article into their blog posts (like moi) and THEN rant about it. Duh! Let's not be so lazy! Plus, it takes major cajones to write a whole post (with your real name and picture) disagreeing with a story (like moi). Anyway, here's where the copying and pasting comes in. From the HuffPo Atheism Blog:

"Atheism is a peculiarly modern phenomenon. Why do modern conditions produce atheism? Does this mean that religion is on the way out?

First, as to the distribution of atheism in the world, an instructive pattern emerges. In sub-Saharan Africa there is almost no atheism.1 Belief in God declines in more developed countries and atheism is concentrated in Europe in countries such as Sweden (64% nonbelievers), Denmark (48%), France (44%) and Germany (42%). In contrast, the incidence of atheism in most sub-Saharan countries is below 1%. (The U.S. is more religious than other developed countries with only about one person in eight expressing disbelief). 

The question of why economically developed countries turn to atheism has been batted around by anthropologists for about eighty years. Anthropologist James Fraser proposed that scientific prediction and control of nature supplants religion as a means of controlling uncertainty in our lives. This hunch is supported by data showing that the more educated countries have higher levels of non-belief and there are strong correlations between atheism and intelligence."

Let me interject here. Eww on that last sentence. You all might be brainiacs, but you don't have to be snooty about it. He does make a very valid point in the first part of that paragraph, about how reducing uncertainty in nature can make having faith in the unknown seem futile. Well, he didn't write that, but I can gather this from what he wrote because my IQ hovers around 130, thank you very much. Back to the story: 

"Atheists are more likely to be college-educated people who live in cities and they are highly concentrated in the social democracies of Europe. Atheism thus blossoms amid affluence where most people feel economically secure. But why?"

I love articles which contain questions like "But why?" as if the writer must gently lead the reader to his point, hand in hand. I suppose although contained in the Atheism section, it's really aimed at all those low IQ, less educated folk (like moi?). Let's continue. I'm waiting with baited breath for the "why?" answer.

It seems that people turn to religion as a salve for the difficulties and uncertainties of their lives.2 In social democracies, there is less fear and uncertainty about the future because social welfare programs provide a safety net and better health care means that fewer people can expect to die young. People who are less vulnerable to the hostile forces of nature feel more in control of their lives and less in need of religion.
In addition to being the opium of the people (as Karl Marx contemptuously phrased it), religion may also promote fertility, particularly by promoting marriage.3 Large families are preferred in agricultural countries as a source of free labor. In developed "atheist" countries, women have exceptionally small families and do not need religion helping them to raise large families.
Even the psychological functions of religion face stiff competition today. When people experience psychological difficulties they turn to their doctor, psychologist, or psychiatrist. They want a scientific fix and prefer the real psychotropic medicines dished out by physicians to the metaphorical opiates offered by religion.

Moreover, sport psychologists find that spectatorship yields much the same kind of social, and spiritual, benefits as people obtain from church membership. Precisely the same argument can be made for other forms of entertainment with which spectators become deeply involved. Indeed, organized religion is striking back by trying to compete in popular media, such as televangelism and Christian rock and by hosting live secular entertainment in church."

Yeah, I figure "sport psychologists" would find that SPORT "spectatorship" would yield such results. And he should've hit delete when he wrote "televangelism" is a strike back from religion to entertain. It's not. I'm a Christian and I can totally tell you it has pretty much always been a giant strike AGAINST us. Sure, Tammy Faye's mascara tears were good for a few laughs, but there is not much entertaining going on in the world of televangelism. Unless you actually find Joel Osteen's stiff country boy opening-sermon jokes funny. And if you do, you're probably one of those religious folks with the low IQs bringing us all down.

But I really wanted to focus on the author, Nigel Barber's point about people wanting "a scientific fix" provided by "the real psychotropic medicines dished out by physicians" instead of "the metaphorical opiates offered by religion." Here's where I think Mr. Barker majorly misses the mark. By the end of the piece, he concludes (predictably) atheism will trump religion eventually/inevitably unless some catastrophic event occurs. Like an epidemic or a worldwide economic collapse.

This made me think of my last doctor's appointment with the primary care physician's specialist's specialist. He's pretty much become my primary care doc now, actually. Anyway, it was last Thursday and he was telling me he was going to refer me for some more tests at the hospital where I had a biopsy done 6 months ago (um, new readers, please just click here. This is WAY too long to rehash. Thanks.). Tears rolled down my cheeks. Yeah, tears so quickly after that whole "Let It Be" post. I am, if one thing, a cryer. If he had said, "Mrs. De Freitas, you are cured!", I would cry. If he had said, "Mrs. De Freitas, I have to take your blood pressure," I probably would've bawled, too. Anyway, half daring him, and half pissed, I asked, "So, what's to stop me from taking a bunch of pills to end all this?" Yes, I know, that's WOW. But let me finish. He replied, "No, no, your illness is not lethal. It won't kill you. You can still live a very active life."

"Yeah, but what KIND of life? One where I might be in a wheelchair in a few years? Or bedridden? No children?" It's always a mistake for me to say that last one aloud to anyone because it's guaranteed to make me cry hysterically... instantly. Like saying my parents will eventually die or I'll always be stuck in my current job. It's no bueno. The specialist's specialist leaped up in search of tissues (as if a Kleenex could fix all my troubles) and realizing he had none, rushed "ER" style right out of his office to the bathroom, returning with a paper towel (if a Kleenex wouldn't fix it, Brawny certainly wouldn't). He sat down and answered me in a way I certainly did not expect.

"You wouldn't do that, Alisha (wow, my first name!!!), because of your faith. Your faith in God." Yup, the doc, said "faith in GOD". Not because of a treatment or new medicine or any "scientific fix." He continued, "I wish there was some pill you could take to make you all better. But there isn't. There are pills for many things- you have allergies or you suffer from depression, doctors can treat the symptoms through medicine. Medicine does not have all the answers, though, and there's much we don't know."

I looked at him and said, "Thank you. Thank you for saying that, for being honest. I appreciate it."

That's where I believe Mr. Barber's summation falls short. Why? (Ha ha, I can see why he chose to use questions to connect points now. It's so easy.) People don't need global epidemics to turn to faith when everyday, we have personal pain. A sudden layoff, a diagnosis of cancer, a death of a loved one- these are tragedies closest to the heart that can wound the soul. And as my doctor pointed out, it is faith and hope in the Omnipotent which will keep many going in life, not social programs or health insurance (please do NOT take that as a political statement).

Believe me, the LAST thing I want now is more medical science or pills. I want God. I want to be wrapped in His love. I want the "peace that passes all understanding." I want to be strengthened by His joy.

I want, no desire, God.


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