Increasing education means many more people will continue to put their faith in hard evidence of science.
Physicist Jeff Tallon, writing in this newspaper recently, bemoaned what he described as an "astonishing decline" in those identifying themselves as Christians in the latest British Census, and the almost 70 per cent jump in those professing no religion, these changes occurring over a decade since the previous Census.
"We can expect the upcoming New Zealand Census to expose similar trends," he added.
I certainly hope so, although unlike Tallon I don't find this trend astonishing. Indeed, I was upset upon calling the Census hotline to be told not to complete the forms, for one very good reason, namely that my absence skiing in Aspen that week with family members and friends prevented inclusion of a further 15 in the ever-growing non-religious tally.
Tallon is destined to be continually disappointed. With one exception, rejection of religion is a worldwide phenomenon corresponding with increasing education.
The exception is the United States where a genuinely astonishing statistic reveals that over 60 per cent of Americans believe the Earth was created 6000 years ago. Presumably Tallon's in that camp, as in his article and in speeches to the faithful he argues that the Bible is historically accurate and to be read as literal history. Now that also is astonishing. Not even the idol-worshipping Catholics subscribe to that nonsense any more, while with the Anglicans, polls consistently show over 60 per cent of their clergy don't even believe in God or an afterlife.
Look at our church-founded top private schools' annuals and you will consistently see half a page allocated at the back to the school's witchcraft purveyor. But one thing you'll never read is mention of God and certainly never Jesus, which would be terribly embarrassing. Rather, it's platitudinous guff about values and, just occasionally, assisting the girls' spiritual development, whatever that means.
Normally I would ignore Tallon as a religious nutter but he brought me into his article, saying he would "gladly debate Bob Jones for asserting that God is a myth", and he "can only presume" I've never "studied the evidence". The "evidence" he then proffered essentially amounted to saying that the universe in all of its intricacy is so amazing, an assertion I wholeheartedly agree with, that only a creator could be responsible. Should Tallon decide on a discipline change he should avoid philosophy, or at least its logic affiliate. They'd boot him out within minutes with that calibre of deductive reasoning. Not knowing why something is, is no reason to invent an answer and flies in the face of science's hard evidence principles.
His marvelling at everything being so balanced ignores the old adage that nature deplores a vacuum and the everyday evidence of nature's constant evolutionary processes in response to ever-changing stimuli. That's explicable logic and it's a cop-out to ascribe primitive mysticism to this. It's also why Christians talk of practising their faith. In other words, perhaps unwittingly, they accept there's not a shred of evidence under-pinning their belief so in lieu, simply have faith that it is so. One could equally have faith on Tallon's "evidence" that the world is controlled by oysters off the coast of Lisbon, indeed it is more likely because at least the oysters exist.
Tallon expressed surprise at the rejection of religion by Helen Clark, John Key and the three Davids (Cunliffe, Shearer and Parker). I can't imagine why, as all are well-educated and plainly intelligent. One would not expect otherwise.
He should note that Christianity's decline, now fortunately rapid, has been going on for three centuries. It had its reign, dominating European life for 1000 years, now accurately described as the Dark Ages, the blackest period of (solely church-induced) stultification in human history.
In the name of religion, superstition purveyors have sacrificed virgins, burned non-believers at the stake, stoned pur-ported sinners to death, and countless other outrages, while all the time baying at the sky. Doubtless they will continue in the future, albeit, thanks to education, in ever-diminishing numbers.
Tallon is free to believe what superstition he wishes but instead of flogging witchcraft at us, I suspect he would be a far happier man were he to take up golf or acquire a mistress or indeed a bevy of them, or anything that's about the here and now instead of fretting about an imaginary afterlife. He certainly shouldn't hang his hat on the promise of eternal existence, for with a smidgen of imagination he would realise that would be nothing less than tortuous.
Finally, in quoting Einstein praising the hardly unique Christian values, he should remember the great physicist dismissed religion as childish. My advice to him is to grow up, or more particularly get up off his knees as grovelling in a church is simply wasting valuable time in the only life he will ever have.
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