CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

Well, since we're still here... {lopsided g} I suppose we should get back to the work of, as I put it Friday, "helping people believe God lives and cares about such things".

The following argument (unlike the galumphing 600+ page monster I finally finished posting up sometime before Easter this year) does not arrive deductively at trinitarian theism, despite its deductive form. Rather, it illustrates that ortho-trin theology (if true) offers the most assurance of a person being ultimately 'saved' compared to other philosophies and theologies (broadly categorized).

Usually I would qualify 'saved' as meaning something like 'saved from sin', but for purposes of this argument I have allowed a broader and more general notion of salvation: as will be seen below, I mean something more like assurance that a person shall be saved from injustices or suffering sooner or later. This would, however, also include being saved from sin (whether from other persons' sins, or from one's own sins.)

(P)remises and (O)bservations are roughly approximate, the main difference being that I expect Observations to be readily agreeable either as topics of common experience or as reasonably obvious summary conclusions from tacit subarguments. A premise may only be an assertion, although ideally it is either a necessary assertion or else is a conclusion imported in from some other not-especially-obvious argument. But either premises or observations may be challenged for purposes of analysis.

(H)ypotheses are the worldview propositions to be compared to one another in conjunction with the various premises and observations (and relevant conclusions).

P(remise) 1.) Salvation (per se) of a person requires that the person to be saved must be saved by at least one person.

O(bservation) 1.) P1 requires some kind of interpersonal union between the saving person and the person to be saved (even if the union is minimal to the extent of there being only one person saving himself).

O2.) The intentions of derivative persons may fail insofar as they may be trumped by the behavior of the ground upon which the derivative persons depend for existence.

C(onclusion) 1.) Other things being equal, a person to be saved has better assurance of finally being saved by some person (whatever 'salvation' is supposed to mean) in proportion to the characteristics of the ultimate ground of reality. (from P1, O1, O2.)

P2.) 'Salvation' involves doing some kind of good to the person being saved.

C2.) Other things being equal, a person to be saved has better assurance of finally being saved in proportion to the likelihood that the characteristics of the ultimate ground of reality involve doing good to persons. (from C1, P2.)

Subsequent hypotheses shall thus address the result of C2 by considering various ideas about the ground of all reality.

H(ypothesis) 1.) The ground of reality is not personal at all. (i.e. naturalistic or supernaturalistic atheism is true.)

C3.) If H1 is true, the ground of reality offers no assurance at all that a person may be saved. (from H1, C1.)

H2.) The ground of reality is such that a derivative person's "personhood" is some kind of declension or fall, that ideally ought to be reversed. (For example, most or all types of negative pantheism.)

O3.) If H2 is true, the personhood of the derivative person should cease to exist eventually.

C4.) If H2 is true, the ground of reality is such that the person to be 'saved' should cease to exist. (from H2, O3.)

O4.) If a person ceases to exist, that person no longer can be the receiver of good done to that person.

C5.) If H2 is true, the ground of reality offers (less than!) no assurance at all that a person (as such) may be saved. (from C2, C4, O4.)

H3.) The independent ground of some reality is personal, but it has nothing to do with the system of reality in which the person to be saved exists. (i.e. cosmological dualism is true or some other philosophy proposing a limited number of Independent Facts, with God being one of the IFs.)

C6.) If H3 is true, the existence of an ultimate God is completely irrelevant to whether a derivative person in that other system of reality (not dependent on God for its existence) may be saved. (from H3, C1)

H4.) The ground of all reality is (somehow) both personal and non-personal.

O5.) Any expectation of behavior of the H4 ground of reality is perfectly balanced by its equal and opposite characteristics.

C7.) If H4 is true, the ground of reality offers no particular assurance that a person may be saved. (from C1, H4, O5.)

H5.) The ground of all reality is personal (i.e. God exists), but God refuses to have anything to do with this system of reality other than being (in some way) its originator. (i.e. minimal deism is true.)

C8.) If H5 is true, the ground of reality (God) offers (less than?) no assurance that a person may be saved. (from C1, H5.)

H6.) The ground of reality is personal, but although God is interested in subordinate realities, God refuses to act in regard to the operations of those subordinate realities. (i.e. nominal deism is true.)

O6.) A derivative person, as a derivative person, must exist in a subordinate system of reality, one way or another.

C9.) If H6 is true, the ground of reality offers (less than?) no assurance that a person may be saved. (from C1, H6, O6.)

H7.) Entities more powerful than human persons exist, but the ground of reality is still essentially as stated in one of the previous hypotheses.

C10.) If H7 is true, the ground of reality is at best irrelevant to the salvation of a person; and might offer less than no assurance of the salvation of a person. (from H7, C{3:9})

H8.) Some theism more immanent than nominal deism is true; but God is primarily concerned with the mere exercise of effective power.

O7.) Someone needing 'salvation' is at least being threatened by an effective exercise of power (one way or another).

C11.) If H8 is true, the ground of reality offers no assurance that a person may be saved; and maybe less than no assurance! (from H8, O7, C11.)

H9.) God exists, but is not in Himself a unity of Persons.

O8.) If H9 is true, then God has nothing intrinsically to do with unity between persons.

C12.) If H9 is true, the ground of reality offers (at best) less assurance that a person may be saved, than if God had intrinsically to do with unity between persons. (from H9, O8, C1, maybe also C2.)

H10.) God exists, and is in Himself a unity of Persons; but this unity has nothing to do with His own self-existence.

O9.) If H10 is true, then God could act finally against unity among persons, without acting against the ground of His own self-existence.

C13.) If H10 is true, the ground of reality offers (at best) less assurance that a person may be saved, than if God's own self-existence had intrinsically to do with unity between persons. (from H10, O9, C1, maybe also C2.)

H11.) God exists, and is in Himself a unity of Persons, and this unity has something to do with His own self-existence (i.e. positive aseity is true, and God exists at least as the person of God self-begetting and the person of God self-begotten).

C14.) If H11 is true, the ground of reality offers more assurance that a person (even an enemy of God) may sooner or later finally be saved, than all previous hypotheses. (from C1, maybe also C2, H11, C{3:13})

H12.) God exists, and is in Himself a self-begetting and self-begotten unity of Persons; and the next ontologically prior action of this Unity (beyond the positive upkeep of self-existence of the Persons in Unity of fair-togetherness with one another) is the generating and giving of that-which-is-God between the Persons. (i.e., trinitarian theism is true, with the 3rd Person of God proceeding eternally from the begetting and begotten Persons as a gracious gift from person to person.)

P3.) Doing good between persons ideally involves giving that which is the greatest good from one person to another.

C15.) If H12 is true, the ground of reality offers even more assurance that a person (even an enemy of God) may sooner or later be saved, than all previous hypotheses. (from C1, definitely also C2, H12, C{3:14})

(Note: the argument as formulated does not of itself consider the question of distinction between naturalistic theism or supernaturalistic theism. H12, for example, might involve some kind of trinitarian pantheism, so far as this argument goes.)

The final conclusion above, is (as I said) not an argument that orthodox trinitarian theism is true; but it helps show something important at stake, in trying to discover which of the hypotheses (and their subgroups) is true compared to the others.

If ortho-trin is not true, it is quite literally too good to be true. We shall have to be satisfied (so far as we can be) with something less good being true.

Any news less than this, is less of a gospel: less-good news.

Because some guy with a highly over-convenient interpretive scheme thinks the Rapture will occur in the next 24 hours. Surely, none of us will be left behind, right...? {wry g}

All kidding aside: if we are not looking for the fulfillment of justice in the world, especially against ourselves where we deserve it, then we're doing something wrong. We're rejecting justice at all, or we're putting our own selves up as being the final standard of justice, in mere competition with other persons.

So, whether we're Christian or not, whether we believe Harold Camping's prediction or not (and obviously I don't), let us take this opportunity as a reminder to be penitent of our sins, whether those we have already renounced and left behind, or those we are still being freed from, and cry for justice--to the farthest extents we can see and beyond!

Because, after all, whether or not the world begins to end tomorrow, I can predict with 100% certainty that, barring an outright miracle otherwise, some people will die--as they do on any other day. The day of repentance may be "Today" for as long as it is called "Today", but without repentance that promise of hope remains unfulfilled, whether today or in any day to come. Don't refuse that hope or deny it!--be fair to others!--at least be a sheep and not a goat!

You may not believe in a God to be reconciled to, or Who will reconcile you to Himself and to your enemies; but you still have a choice to act in hope and justice for other people. Or not.

Will your legacy to the people after you be one of hope?--or of hopelessness?

Choose now, today, for as long as it is called Today; and do something about it.

(And if you can believe in God, and that God even cares about such things, then pray to Him for help and strength in being fair to other people.)

Precious few details in this article, but interesting conclusion. Also suggests we are not really "born atheists" as some atheists like to argue (for reasons I still don't quite gather).

Somewhat rare mainstream media coverage of a religious issue in the Telegraph, Richard Dawkins accused of cowardice for refusing to debate existence of God.

I'm a little skeptical it is just cowardice, perhaps its pride or even a fear of letting theism come across as too credible via an opponent like William L. Craig. But at least one of Dawkin's fellow atheist intellectuals is urging him to reconsider:

Dr Daniel Came, a philosophy lecturer and fellow atheist, from Worcester College, Oxford, wrote to him urging him to reconsider his refusal to debate the existence of God with Prof Craig.

In a letter to Prof Dawkins, Dr Came said: “The absence of a debate with the foremost apologist for Christian theism is a glaring omission on your CV and is of course apt to be interpreted as cowardice on your part.

“I notice that, by contrast, you are happy to discuss theological matters with television and radio presenters and other intellectual heavyweights like Pastor Ted Haggard of the National Association of Evangelicals and Pastor Keenan Roberts of the Colorado Hell House.”

It is too bad. I suspect it would be one of those "God" debates that captures broad public interest and coverage.


Last time we looked at an general overview of the research, examined a specific study and put it in the context of its research milieu. That study said that rejecting Christianity correlates with low self esteem (LSE). This time we examine an argument made by an atheist, Skycomet the fallen angel (O him! of course). What's old Sky up to these days? He's on the Think Atheist blog. (I don't know the guy but screen names crack me up). In his article "Religious People Have More Self Esteem than Non Religious People," Skycomment argues against this view.
I was sitting in Adolescent Psychology class this morning and the topic was "self-esteem." About half-way through the class, the girl in front of me suggested that "more spiritual [which to theists means more religious] people have higher self-esteem than less spiritual [ie less religious or non-religious] people."

As most of us know, this is an extremely common theist argument against non-theists, particularly atheists. And, although I think the girl truly believed what she was saying...

But, the fact is that I REALLY disagree with her on this!

As documented in my last installment the studies show that there is a fairly solid conclusion suggested by the data, that religious people have high self esteem and such self esteem is a major factor in being religious. That does not automatically translate into the corollary that, therefore, those who reject religious belief must have low self esteem (LSE). We looked at a couple of studies that suggested it was true, but I admitted that is far from being actual proof. The research is just beginning. (I say a couple--one was directly designed to measure that hypothesis, the other correlated self esteem with God image, and skepticism with negative God image so it forms the basis of an argument but in an indirect way).

Skycomet goes on

Having been a former theist myself, I think it's more likely that religion [especially the monotheistic ones] impose low self-esteem on a person rather than bolster it!
That's irrelevant, the thesis is that people reject Christianity because of their LSE, and he did fall away. It may have been due to his self esteem. Now observe his view of God and Christianity:

After all [and since I came from Christianity I will use that as an example], what type of messages does Religion send it's believers?

- I am not worthy of your love, Christ.
- Why do you love me?
- I'm a sinner.
- Jesus died to save my sins, therefore I deserve to burn in hell.
- I must humble myself before the Lord.
- Pride is a sin.
He's confirming what Piedmont and the other researchers find, that negative God image is linked to rejecting Christianity, they also find that LSE is related to a negative God image. So in fact this may be confirming the original thesis thesis, Sky has unwittingly and contrary to his intent proved the thing he's trying to disprove. Of course its' only anecdotal and doesn't mean the thesis is proved. Yet, it does mean his argument is ineffective.

Some of the things in his list are not negative but they are indicative a low self esteem person. Humbling oneself before God is not negative but to a LSE person humility is equated with humiliation. LSE confuses Pride with high self esteem, and vice verse. He equates being a sinner with negative judgment on self wroth, whereas a high esteem person is capable of understanding that being sinner is not a judgment on one's worth a human being. Every single one of those statements indicate the opposite of what he wants to prove. He thinks they prove that that Christianity is negative and bad for self esteem, they really function like a semantic differential grid as the studies use and he's just proving his own LSE.

How in the world do those kind of messages correlate with positive self-esteem?!
It seems to me that they would do the opposite and make a person who is a TRUE believer [there are fakes among them, of course] think they'r * worthless.

If one starts with LSE in the first place. He's just reading the statements as low esteem would dictate. The low self esteem screws up the logic of the religious doctrine and distorts it. Take one example of the statments above:

Jesus died to save my sins, therefore I deserve to burn in hell.
That's not just illogical, it's not Christian doctrine it's antithetical to Christian doctrine, but it's a perfect example of the demonstration of low self esteem given by Piedmont (see 107-109). It's illogical that because Jesus died for me I must deserve to burn in hell. There's a missing step in there: my sins deserve punishment but Jesus loves me, I am not my sins." I am worth dying for since Jesus did die for me, that means Jesus loves me in spite of my sins. But this obvious conclusion is clouded by the LSE to remove the "I am worthy" premises so the connection between God's love and one's unworthy nature is made. This is the very example in the Piedmont book, "how could God love a person like me? I am unworthy of love, therefore, God either doesn't love me or there is no God."

Sky again:

However, this argument, and similar ones [like religion makes people happier then not having one] sound like baseless, bogus, and more manipulative attempts to use emotion and fear to turn people to religion! Afterall, who does not fear unhappiness? It doesn't seem to matter to a lot of religious people whether these claims are true or not... it only matters that they create more sheep [or slaves - whichever you want to call it] for their religion.
These claims are backed by hundreds of empirical studies, however, and I have demonstrated that and will soon (hopefully) have a book coming that about those studies. Of course it sounds bad to him he has LSE. All he's really proving is what I suspect that atheism is, at least for a lot of people, the product of LSE and psychological dynamics and unwillingness to do the hard work of re programing they way we years what's beings in the area of self esteem.

I see a lot of immorality and base cruelty in decieving people like this. [Although I don't think the girl was attempting to decieve people, I think she was one of the poor saps that believed the BS spouted from theologian mouths. And I feel sorry for her. - Which is how I tend to feel for a lot of religious people of late, sorry for them.]
This is based upon the bad assumptions colored by LSE.

I think non-theism, on the other hand, lifts someone's self-esteem. It gives us an incredible amount of power to control our own destiny and our own lives, it helps us to see through BS [whether it comes from religion or popular culture], and it raises the value of humanity above "god" giving us an incredible sense of self-worth.
This is of course an illusion based upon false premises which are in fact lies. Think about it, if LSE is leading one to reason poorly about God's love, so that love become an insult and hate and rejection of the source of love become liberating (because sin nature is now free run riot and is now confused with self esteem) then what's being experience dis not higher self esteem but a combination of temporary gratification of sin and revenge upon a father figure (God) who the skeptic hates for the alleged rejection he imagines to have been wrought upon him by God.

The fact of the matter is empirical studies prove religion = good self esteem and that people stay with their faith because it builds their self esteem. I can offer anecdotal back up for that becasue I was an atheist. I had LSE because idiots always told I was stupid because I had dyslexia. I had a born again experience and then my self esteem was healed I began to love myself for the first time since early childhood. This guy is just bucking the empirical proof because he doesn't like what scinece tells him.

So... with that said... it is clear to me... that this religious jibber-jabber is founded on nothing and sounds supiciously like an outright lie.
This little jibber jabber is based upon empirical studies. Notice he doesn't with any studies. Not a one of them. He does confirm what the studies show, the opposite of what he wants to confirm. The thing is this is not all good news for fundies. It may seem like it on the surface but not entirely. It means that the spiritual situation is mixed in with psychological dynamics. That means for the atheist it's not just a matter of "reason" and "logic" and being an atheist doesn't make him supiorior. Form the standpoint of Atheist Watch it proves my point, mocking and ridicule on message boards by atheists agaisnt Christians is probably the result of poor self esteem and their becoming atheists is a psychological problem not a logical truth or any kind of big liberation. For the fundie it means two things, they are failing to spread the gospel because they don't respect self esteem. The fundies do more to destroy self esteem than anyone (I say that having gone to fundie school and I became an atheist become of them). That means part of bringing God's love into the world is about loving people and healing them, it also means the spiritual and the psychological are mixed up together.

One thing I realized since the last installment (self esteem part 1) atheists generally take this topic as major insult. I'm saying "there may be a possibility that your atheism is the result of psychological dynamic" they see it as saying "you are not good!" After discussing with others I realize this is the way LSE works.You understand anything that is not lauding your greatness as an insult. People with LSE can't take any sort of criticism. They equate self esteem with worth. This is why they equate being guilty of sin with being found not worthy of love. That's just the LSE talking. That does not mean we are not worthy of love or that God doesn't love us. I am a person has always been effected by LSE. I had loving parents who cared, they tired to help but due to the dyslexia I always had LSE.

One more caveat, I don't believe in hell. I think the very doctrine of taking hell as a literal place of torment is in itself indicative a bad psychological dynamic, but it's one many of us are stuck with become we were taught to see things that way as kids. I think it gets in the way.

*typos in block quotes are made by atheists. I don't correct spelling for quotes. If I quote a person who misspells a word I quote the misspelling. I know I misspells words a lot that's not the point.

(Note: this is cross-posted at my new blog, The Ring of Truth)

Of all the proposals put forward for understanding the structure of the positive case for theism, that by Dallas Willard as he described it in a famous article strikes me as the most plausible. Willard distinguishes his own approach from one which "in one stroke, from one set of true premisses, purports to establish or render plausible the existence of Jehovah, understood by Christians to also be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." He does not present a series of independent arguments, each of which lead to the same conclusion, the existence of the Christian God. In his view, the evidence for God is built up in stages, where the conclusions at each stage do not serve straightforwardly as premisses for arguments at the next stage. Rather, "what is shown or evidentially supported in the earlier stages only determines a framework of possibilities within which the considerations of the later stages are carried on." He proposes three stages of theistic evidence. The first stage demonstrates that the cause of the physical universe is itself non-physical and unconditioned by anything other than itself. The second stage demonstrates that the cause of the universe has some analogy to human intelligence. The third stage fills in the details about this intelligent, transcendent cause by attending to specific religious and moral experiences in human history.

The conclusion of stage one, that the cause of the physical universe is itself non-physical and self-subsistent, derives from the observation that, "However concrete physical reality is sectioned up, the result will be a state of affairs which owes its being to something other than itself." There are two ways we can see that this is true. The first way is to observe that for any physical thing to exist, certain conditions have to met, which conditions derive from outside itself. For example, in order for a biological cell to exist certain sub-cellular structures had to come together in just the right way. Those other structures and their arrangements comprise the conditions for the existence of the cell. Those structures in turn depend for their existence on certain molecular structures, and so on. It is plausible to claim that every physical thing is conditioned in some way by factors outside itself.

The second way, which Willard focuses on, has to do with the fulfillment of these conditions across time. We observe that "every physical state, no matter how inclusive, has a necessary condition in some specific type of state which immediately precedes it in time and is fully existent prior to the emergence of the state which it conditions." Think of the ignition of a car engine. In order for this to take place the following conditions had to be in place the instant prior to the ignition: a source of voltage had to supply a spark through a functioning spark plug, the cylinder containing a certain amount of fuel had to be pressurized to just the right degree, etc. What do we mean that the triggering state had to be 'fully existent' prior to the emergence of the state we are observing? Well, the triggering state itself had to emerge under certain other conditions before it could bring about the state we are observing, which conditions also had to emerge, etc. If we are observing the collapse of a series of dominos, before the 13th domino collapses the 12th had to collapse, and before the 12th could collapse the 11th had to collapse, etc.

If we follow this example through to its logical conclusion, we have to conclude that any series of physical causes must have a first term if anything is to happen. Otherwise we are forced to imagine an infinite series of causes going back into the infinite past, in which case the conditions of the state we are observing could never be met, as the necessary conditions of those conditions would never 'get to' them. In the domino case, for example, if an infinite number of dominos must fall before the one we are observing can fall, the one we are observing cannot fall because the falling line of dominos will never get to it. Furthermore, the first term must be quite unlike the causes that come after it in that it is self-subsistent, unconditioned by anything else. If it were itself conditioned, then it would not be the first term and we would have to push our investigation back even further. "Thus," Willard concludes, "concrete physical reality implicates a being radically different from itself: a being which, unlike any physical state, is self-existent."

So whether we observe the world in terms of currently existing physical structures whose existence depends on that of underlying structures, or in terms of events each of which depends on the occurrence of previous events, we see that behind all conditioned physical structures and dependent physical events there must be something non-physical (since all physical things are conditioned) and self-existent to serve as the first term in all series of causes and the one unconditioned reality that conditions everything else.

I find this line of argument more compelling than attempts to answer the vague question, "Why is there something rather than nothing?" as if 'nothingness' is the default state and the fact that there is 'something' is a surprise that has to be explained. As Willard points out, the existence of anything at all is only a surprise if we have already assimilated existence to physical existence. Physical things as dependent things are "admittedly always more or less hanging on by the skin of their teeth and inevitably tending toward disintegration." If we have decided ahead of time that only physical things exist or could exist, then we will be puzzled why anything exists at all. But "in general ontology one has to understand that existence is, in general, no more problematic than non-existence. Existence isn't somehow 'harder' or inherently less likely than non-existence." What needs to be explained is how physical things come into being and hold together, not just things in general. The existence of a self-subsistent thing is not surprising or inherently unlikely, and forms the best explanation for the current existence of dependent physical being.

Of course it should be emphasized that this is only stage one of the case for theism, and the conclusion of this line of argument does not take us to the Christian God. Indeed, as C.S. Lewis put it at one point in Mere Christianity, we are not yet within a hundred miles of the Christian God. But the conclusion is nevertheless very significant. In Willard's delightful phrase, we are now dealing with an "ontologically haunted universe." He goes on:

If I am right, there has got to be something more than the physical or 'natural' universe: and something obviously quite different in character-though also essentially related to it, for from this 'something more' the physical universe ultimately derives. If this is established, it is not clear to me that very much of a point is left to atheism, which in the contemporary world surely draws most of its motivation from a desire to tame or naturalize reality-all hope of which is now lost.

It would be wrong to criticize this argument for not filling in the details about this non-physical, self-existent cause, because it never pretended to be able to do so. But at the very least it gets us beyond naturalism, which opens up space for the possibility that the non-physical, self-existence cause of the universe is the Christian God. If naturalism were established, this possibility would not be open. That is why the universe is 'ontologically haunted'.


I have for a long time now contended that most atheists had low self esteem. I found several sources that asserted it but with no empirical proof. What really got me thinking that was the almost desperate need some of them have to mock and ridicule Christians. It struck me that they were doing that to bolster their own egos. I have now found empirical evidence of this notion. There are several studies that claim to demonstrate that atheists have low self esteem. This is still not proof. There is a long way to go to prove the argument, and I'm sure that its not true of all atheists anyway. These studies are limited in many ways. but there are several of them and they do cover more than one culture. It's a good start on exploring a hypothesis. The main study I am examining here, however, is called "rejection of Christianity and Self Esteem." I will refer to this study as RCSE.

All the studies are done by the same group Emyr Williams, Leslie J Francis, Mandy Robbins
University of Wales, Bangor, UK the major study uses A sample of 279 13- to 16-year-old secondary school pupils in Wales completed the Rejection of Christianity Scale and the Coopersmith Self-Esteem Inventory. After controlling for sex differences a small but significant correlation was found between the two variables, indicating that low self-esteem is associated with the rejection of Christianity. Leslie J. Francis did three of the IQ studies that show no correlation between religious belief, lack thereof, and intelligence. The last such study he did was in 1996, but he has done three such studies on IQ and religious belief.

The rejection of Christianity scale was constructed by Francis, but not just for this study. The Coopersmith Self-Esteem Inventor is standard has been used for a while.The study was done as a smaller piece of a larger picture that consists of several more studies and seeks to understand the relationship between self esteem and religoius belief. The larger picture is an argument that acceptance of Christianity is based upon good self esteem.

From RCSE:

Much of the work that measures religiosity uses items that are specifically designed to determine positive valency. For example, the Francis Scale of Attitude toward Christianity (Francis, 1978; Francis & Stubbs, 1987) assesses how positively people feel about God, Jesus, the Bible, prayer and church. Using this instrument, a number of studies have demonstrated a positive association between a positive attitude toward Christianity and a range of positive psychological categories, such as happiness (Francis, Jones, & Wilcox, 2000), general psychological health (Francis, Robbins, Lewis, Quigley, & Wheeler, 2004) and life satisfaction (Lewis, 1998). In particular, several studies have now confirmed the link between a positive attitude toward Christianity and better self-esteem (Jones & Francis, 1996).
In other words a fairly large body of work already exists documenting the relationship between acceptance of Christianity and good self esteem. Measurements of things like happiness and self esteem are standard and have long been demonstrated by well validated measurement instruments.

The rejection of Christianity scale:
from RCSE:
By way of contrast, the Rejection of Christianity Scale proposed by Greer and Francis (1992) was designed to assess negative valency. The authors of the measure presented 32 negatively phrased questions to a sample of 875 fourth- and fifth-year secondary school pupils attending ten Catholic and ten Protestant schools in Northern Ireland. The questions that received the lowest item-rest-of-test correlations were rejected, leaving a scale of 20 items generating alpha coefficients of 0.94 for the Protestant sample and 0.90 for the Catholic sample. This scale has been shown to have internal consistency reliability among Northern Irish undergraduate students (Lewis, Maltby, & Hersey, 1999) and Welsh undergraduate students (Robbins, Francis, & Bradford, 2003).
Little research has been done to relationships between this measure and self-esteem. Since previous research has shown that there is a positive correlation between self-esteem and indices of religiosity designed with a positive valency (Jones & Francis, 1996), it is hypothesised that a negative relationship will be found between self-esteem and this measure of religiosity designed with negative valency.



A total of 279 secondary school pupils in Wales from years 9, 10 and 11 completed the 20-item Rejection of Christianity Scale (Greer & Francis, 1992) and the 25-item Coopersmith Self-Esteem Inventory (Coopersmith, 1981). One quarter (25%) were aged 13, one third (32%) were aged 14; 30% were aged 15, and 13% were aged 16. Males comprised 56% of the sample and females 44% of the sample.


The Rejection of Christianity Scale (Greer & Francis, 1992) is a 20-item Likert-type instrument, employing a five-point response scale ranging from ‘agree strongly’, through ‘agree’, ‘not certain’, and ‘disagree’, to ‘disagree strongly’. The scale measures negative valency toward Christianity. This scale is designed so that higher scores indicate a higher tendency to reject Christianity.
The Coopersmith Short-Form Self-Esteem Inventory (Coopersmith, 1981) is a 25-item instrument, employing a dichotomous response scale of ‘yes’ and ‘no’. The possible range of scores for this form of the Coopersmith Self-Esteem Inventory is 0-25, with higher scores indicating higher self-esteem.


Both measures achieved satisfactory Cronbach alpha coefficients (Rejection of Christianity Scale, .88; Coopersmith Self-Esteem Inventory, .80). After controlling for sex differences by means of partial correlations, the data demonstrated a small, but significant, correlation (r= -0.14, p <.05) between self-esteem (M = 15.3, SD = 4.9) and rejection of Christianity (M = 62.7, SD = 13.2) indicating that as teenagers’ endorsement of negative statements concerning Christianity increases, their scores of negative self-esteem also tend to increase.


The present study has explored the relationship between rejection of Christianity and self-esteem among adolescents in Wales. After controlling for sex differences a small but significant negative
correlation is found between high-self esteem and rejection of Christianity, as hypothesized. This finding strengthens the conclusions drawn from studies like that of Jones and Francis (1996), which demonstrated a positive correlation between high self-esteem and a positive attitude toward Christianity by demonstrating that the association is not a function of the valency of the measure of religiosity. Evidence of this nature appears to be suggesting that the Christian tradition is supportive of the development of self-esteem among young people rather than detrimental to it.
(References used by RCSE can be seen in link above).

The major criticism is that this study is not representative. It's only a small sample of Welsh children.

The rejection of Christianity scale has been validated.

fromRCSE :

This scale has been shown to have internal consistency reliability among Northern Irish undergraduate students (Lewis, Maltby, & Hersey, 1999) and Welsh undergraduate students (Robbins, Francis, & Bradford, 2003).

That is to say these are not the same as above, where those were done on secondary students these are done on college (Undergraduate). Although Wales and Ireland are basically the same general culture. The work on self esteem and rejection of Christianity is just getting started. The other pieces of the puzzle in this equation have all been put in place. The rejection of Christianity scale has been validated cross culturally in several studies. The link between positive self esteem and acceptance of Christianity has been validated cross culturally and the attitude toward Christianity scale has been validated cross culturally. Francis scale of attitude toward Christianity has been cross validated in Hong Kong and Belgium.

A second argument used by atheists is that Children are being given negative self images by religion, they are blamed for being gay and other things churches call 'sin' thus they are given their negative self esteem in return they reject religion because it has rejected them. On the face of it that looks like a pretty likely senerio. Through what mechanism does this happen? Is it inherent in all religion or is there a way to avoid it? Ralph Peidmont wrote a book that is part of a multi-volume set called Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion, this is Volume 16. He discusses a study by Francis (p105) that establishes a positive correlation between a positive God image and high self esteem. In other words if you teach children that God is good and loves them they will will tend to have higher self esteem than if you teach them a negative, that is critical, fault finding, legalistic, blame oriented view of God.

The Fracis study in Peidmont's book used
...a 735 secondary pupils between 11-18 competed the Coopersmith Self-Esteem inventory and Revised Junior Eysenck Personality Questionnaire and a semantic differential index of God images in order to examine the relationship between God images and self-esteem while controlling for personality factors. The data demonstrates a significant corroboration between positive God images and positive self esteem, after controlling for individual differences in personality. (105)

Peidmont traces the currents of social science research on the top through seven different "strands" of thought which include everything form "religions causes negative self-esteem" to "religion causes postiive self esteem" and all the machinations one can think of based upon variations of those two poles. The problem is none of that research was based upon the kind scientific instruments and controls that Francis uses. Peidmont discusses the work of Spilka and Benson who start from the other end of the spectrum and investigate the assumption that self-esteem shapes the acceptability of God images. Peidmont quotes Benson and Spilka in 1973:

Persons with high levels of self esteem may find it difficult to share the same religious belief. A theology predicated upon a loving accepting God is cognitively compatible with high self esteem, but it could be a source of discomfort for a believer low in self esteem. It does not make good cognitive sense to be loved when one is unlovable. Consequently the latter person can march to a different theology, one that is more consistent with his self image. (Benson and Spilka 209-210).

The implications are intriguing becuase it not only means that people who present a mean legalistic view of God have low self-esteem, not only that atheist's rejection of God is due to their low self esteem but that for those atheists who really rail against God as evil, mean, and vicious, they are really railings against themselves. Whereas it doesn't necessarily follow that we can correct it by teaching people that God is loving. Would they just reject the notion of a loving God because it doesn't fit their sense of self?

Benson and Spilka* did two studies in (73) and (75). the latter done by Spilka, Addison and Rosenshon. Both studies determined self esteem by a modified Coopersmith. They assessed God images by means of semantic differential grid which generated two scales defined as measuring a loving God image and a controlling God image.Self-esteem was negatively related to a wrathful God image. Among female students self esteem was negatively related to a wrathful God image. Although Peidmont shows other studies that didn't find a correlation, Cartier and Goehner (1976) related measures of self-esteem with God images (Peidmont 109).

The significance of this is two fold. If it is true that theological teaching is to blame for self image, or to laud for good self image, it behooves the chruch to seek to teach healing images of God. This may be a huge short coming for which a great deal of theological education deserves blame. It may also be the case that being an atheist, at least for some, has less to do with reason and logic as the atheist try to argue it does, and more to do with hidden psychological motives.

I admit that I am. My emotional response is satisfaction with touches of pleasure that he was killed by Navy SEALS. But should I be? A friend pointed me to Ezk. 18:23, "'Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?' says the Lord God, 'and not that he should turn from his ways and live?'"

While I certainly agree that it would have been better for Bin Laden to turn from his ways and repent, that was highly unlikely. Still, am I wrong to take pleasure in Bin Laden's death? I saw this article by theologian John Piper, showing that there are verses on the other side of the coin, suggesting that God does take satisfaction in the judgment and punishment of the wicked. For example, Deut. 28:63, "And it shall be, that just as the Lord rejoiced over you to do you good and multiply you, so the Lord will rejoice over you to destroy you and bring you to nothing; and you shall be plucked from off the land which you go to possess."

Here is how Piper puts it together:

My suggestion is that the death and misery of the unrepentant is in and of itself not a pleasure to God. God is not a sadist. He is not malicious or bloodthirsty. The death and suffering considered for itself alone is not his delight.

Rather, when a rebellious, wicked, unbelieving person is judged, what God has pleasure in is the exaltation of truth and righteousness, and the vindication of his own honor and glory.

Whether we should take pleasure in it or not, I do not see a strong argument against President Obama's decision to proceed with the operation and its objective to kill or capture Bin Laden:

But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for [the government] does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.
Rom. 13:4.

I attended my first meeting of the Los Angeles Chapter of Reasonable Faith. Many thanks to Chris, the Chapter Director, for doing the hard work to start the chapter, preparing for the meeting, and hosting. We discussed what kind of group we were hoping to be a part of, our various backgrounds, and had some energetic discussions about apologetic issues. We wrapped up the evening discussing the issue of "gratuitous suffering" and its role in the argument from evil. It was good to be discussing apologetics again after a very busy time in litigation. I enjoyed the discussion, but the best part was getting to know the guys (no gals yet) at the meeting. Smart guys all.

If you are in the Los Angeles area and are apologetically inclined, check out the link above for contact and meeting information.

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