Showing posts from February, 2009

Reversing Decline, Slow but Steady Growth in the Number of Priests

The Vatican released some numbers about Catholicism worldwide. They conclude that the number of Catholics worldwide held steady at 17.3% of the global population as of 2007. That is about 1.14 billion Catholics. As for the number of priests, "Since 2000, the number of priests has gone up by several hundred each year. The two decades before that had witnessed a marked decline." The number of priests in the hopper also seems to be increasing, though there are regional declines, "Worldwide, the number of candidates for the priesthood rose by just under one-half of a percentage point, although Europe and North and South America registered small declines."

Church Attendance by the Numbers: Stability Among the Christians

In a previous post, I noted the stability of atheist belief in the United States despite the many predictions about the end of religion. The number of atheists in the U.S. today is the same today as it was in 1944: 4%. In other words, "[t]he number of atheists in the United States appears to be unchanged for at least 63 years."

Just as the rise of atheism had been predicted for so long, the demise of church attendance and Christian faith has been anticipated by many. Studies show, however, that reported church attendance has been remarkably stable. Church attendance today is he same as it was in 1973: 36%. There was a drop off before then. From 1954 through 1964, church attendance was stable at 44%. The drop off occurred between 1964 and 1973. But why did it drop off about 8 points during that time?

Stark attributes the decline in the late 60s and early 70s to Vatican II. His theory is that Vatican II lead to a decline in Catholic attendance, while Protestant ra…

Rethinking intelligent design

Dr. Thomas Woodward came to my college (Princeton) to give a talk on Intelligent Design. I had already made up my mind a while back that ID was bogus, the arguments had been pummeled into the ground and that it was bad science and even worse theology. I went to the talk expecting to give him a good talking-to. To my surprise, he was very reasonable and the points he made were at the very least thought-provoking. Some of the evidence of design he presented I hadn't heard before. What was most interesting, though, was that he pointed me to the work of Brad Monton, a philosopher of physics who did his PhD at Princeton, who is an atheist but who also thinks at least some of the ID arguments have some merit. Check out his fascinating blog here and read the preview of his forthcoming book, Seeking God in Science, in which he-gasp-defends ID as an atheist, and thinks ID should be discussed in the science classroom as an illustration of some of the difficult questions that arise in philos…

The Atheist Assault on Higher Learning: O yea, Free Thinkers!

Of course I've met many atheists in school who were part of the history of ideas program where I did my doctoral work. Most of them would not fall into the category of which I speak. But the those on the net tend to be non academics (maybe working class or white collar business or probably most of them are computer people). Few of them really seem to have any background in anything like Arts and Humanities. They are all very opinionated about how evil useless and stupid arts and humanities are, but they will express a fondness for art because it's pretty. Yet they have nothing but total contempt for any sort of idea that emerges from the realms of human thought governed by arts and humanities as a discipline.

Let's face it, most atheists on the internet think that the only form of knowledge is science. I suspect his is becasue very few of them went beyond the sophomore level in college and most of them are products of trade schools, the kind that advertise "you don'…

Are we all closet atheists?

William Lobdell, the former religion reporter for the LA Times, has contributed a guest post to the Debunking Christianity blog. He notes that when he wrote his column he received many messages from 'closet' doubters and atheists, pastors included, who thanked him for having the courage to speak out even if they couldn't. Lobdell believes that this phenomenon is far more widespread than people think:

"Several recent studies have shown that there’s little difference in the moral behavior of evangelical Christians and atheists. I’d argue that’s because both groups don’t really believe, deep down, that God is real...I think there are so many closet doubters because people sense there’s no God who personally intervenes in their lives. But they can’t take the final step toward deism, agnosticism or atheism because the religious ties that bind us are thick. I know. I was a closet atheist for four years."

This assertion raises some interesting questions about the nature o…

Is Richard Carrier Wrong about the End of the World? (Part 2)

In Part 1, I discussed whether Richard Carrier was wrong about his understanding of Romans 8:18-23, where Paul compares the redemption of Christian bodies with the redemption of creation itself ("the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God"). Rather than forfeit the point that the universe and the bodies of believers will be renewed at the resurrection, Dr. Carrier argues that Paul does not believe in the renewal of creation but rather in its complete destruction. The old world will be completely replaced by the new with no element of continuity.

A chief flaw in Dr. Carrier's argument, explored in Part 1, is his reliance on what he thinks other, later Christian writers meant when writing about the end of the world.
So there can be no doubt that the earliest Christians believed the present world would be annihilated and replaced with a new one, just as graphically described in 2 Peter 3:3…

Atheism by the Numbers: Going Nowhere Fast

In his What Americans Really Believe, Rodney Stark has a chapter entitled The Godless Revolution That Never Happened. He notes several earlier predictions of the demise of religion and rise of atheism. Thomas Woolston, 1670-1731, thought religion would disappear by 1900. Voltaire, 1694-178, gave religion another fifty years. Though religion endured, the expectation of its imminent demise persisted. Other influential thinkers including Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Max Weber, and Émile Durkheim, all shared a similar view of declining religious belief.

In the 1960s, Anthony F.C. Wallace stated in a leading undergraduate anthropology textbook, "The evolutionary future of religion and in supernatural forces that affect nature without obeying nature's laws will erode and become only an interesting memory . . . belief in supernatural powers is doomed to die out, all over the world, as a result of he increasing adequacy and diffusion of scientific knowledge . . . the process in ine…

The Threat of Valentine's Day

Note: this article is something I posted up yesterday on another blog as part of my virtual book tour this month; but considering the tacit theological emphases, I thought I'd post it here, too.


I can't help but feel horribly depressed this time of year, for my own reasons. But true love would fix all that right? And everything would then have a happy ending, right?


Well, maybe. It depends--not on true love, but on me. The selfish side of my mind and soul, you see, is not really all that interested in true love. In fact, that part of me is scared spitless by true love. That part of me would much rather have someone who is addicted to me, and who lives as an extension of my life. True love is far more threatening.

The main heroine of my novel, Cry of Justice, endemically embodies this problem with my ego and pride and self-centeredness. Not that this is all she is and does; but whenever I preach I tend to preach against myself. {wry g} And b…

Annoucement for Atheist Watch

In my latest article on Atheist Watch I show that the same organization that started the Jesus Project also started and runs Skeptical Inquirer magazine. I think this is a good indictment of the biases of that project.

Updated Collection of Resurrection Book Reviews

I have added my review of Geza Vermes' The Resurrection: History and Myth to the CADRE site's Reviews of Books about the Historicity of the Resurrection article. The article contains reviews of 15 leading books on the resurrection of Jesus, from many different perspectives. It may be one of the most comprehensive collection of reviews of resurrection books on the internet.

Non Issues in the Lukan Birth Narrative -- Registration in Bethlehem

The next Non Issue in Luke’s birth narrative is Joseph’s return to his ancestral home, Bethlehem, to register for the census. (I deal with the first Non Issue -- the scope of the Augustun decree --, here). Many commentators are completely dismissive, conjuring up images of an empire-wide census requiring everyone to return to the city of their ancient ancestors. E.P. Sanders, for example, claims that "the entirety of the Roman Empire would be uprooted by such a decree" and asks, "Why should Joseph have had to register in the town of one of his ancestors forty-two generations later?" The Historical Figure of Jesus, pages 86-87.

Paying closer attention to the Gospel of Luke itself, however, reveals that the author is careful not to describe the census itself as requiring registration in one's ancestral home. Rather, Luke only references any ancestor when noting that Joseph registered in Bethlehem because he was of the House of David. When referring to the ce…

And It Gets Worse: Obama's Abortion Order

In an earlier post, I noted that Obama had taken what I (and many in the pro-life movement) believe to be an extreme position by signing an executive order that reversed President Bush's earlier order prohibiting federal money to be given to organizations that perform or counsel abortions. I opined that such a move was not good.

In the comments to that post, one reader named "A Hermit" argued:

[S]ince the majority of Americans in polls regularly express their support for women's right to control what happens inside their own bodies it is you who are in opposition to what Americans think their tax dollars should support.
I responded:

Now, with respect to the polling -- yes, more Americans claim to be somewhat pro-choice (by margins mostly within the margin of error), but those that believe that they should always be legal are in the distinct minority. Moreover, I know of no poll where a majority of Americans approve of the government funding abortions. Do you have one?