Here’s my response to this week’s challenge:
If Christianity were true, enlightened countries would believe it. And today’s challenge says that basically if Christianity were really true, then it would be gaining believers in these enlightened cultured countries, not losing them. And so this challenge is citing a study that was reported in the BBC that suggests that religion might be becoming extinct in nine countries.
Here’s what they say: “The important thing to note is that in the nine nations cited all of them are First World affluent and highly educated countries.” By the way, the countries are Australia, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Switzerland. They say this: “The fact that religion is dying in these enlightened countries and not, for instance, in countries of lower prominence is compelling evidence that religion is not a product of reality but rather a reflection of man’s pre-scientific superstitions.”
Now, this is kind of a peculiar challenge, but let me just offer three quick thoughts regarding it. My first thought is this: It seems like a bit of an overstatement to suggest that religion is going to become extinct in nine nations. Now keep in mind “extinct” means that no one believes in religion at all. Not one person. And so again, it seems like a bit of a stretch that that would be the case, but nevertheless, alright, fine, that’s what they’re claiming. But to me it seems like a bit of an overstatement. And by the way, I’m curious, why is not say England or the United States also not included in that list? I mean aren’t they also First World, affluent, highly educated countries? So again, I’m not saying that this disqualifies the whole study, but it still makes you wonder why that wasn’t included.
The second thing is this: What does this study really tell us? To me it tells us that people who are living in a very secular state, very secular country, who are being trained and educated by secular schools, probably by a lot of professors and teachers who have adopted scientific naturalism, people who are being raised in such a culture are growing up to become less religious. Is that a surprise? Doesn’t seem to me at all like it would be surprising. Of course. What else would we expect?
My third thought is this: This doesn’t surprise me at all what they claim that they have found. Think about this. Are people who are First World affluent and highly educated more likely to believe that they are wretched criminals deserving of punishment and desperately in need of a savior to save them from the crimes they’ve committed against the Holy God? No, I wouldn’t think that would be the case. Are people who are First World, highly educated, and affluent more likely to take up their cross, deny themselves, and follow Jesus on a regular basis? No, of course not.
So to me, this study doesn’t seem to prove that religion is going extinct. Rather, it seems to be more consistent with what the Scriptures already say about the nature of reality and especially about what Jesus said. Jesus said look, it’s not the healthy that need a doctor, rather, it’s the sick, and he has not come to call the righteous, but rather, to call sinners to repentance.