Blog Tal — 23 January 2012

G. K. Chesterton

Evangelical Christians are naïve, unintelligent, easily led, irrational, anti-scientific, and intolerant, right? If you read some comments on the secular blogs and articles in the mass media you would sure think so. But does that perception actually reflect reality? Not according a recent poll done by The Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University.  According to that survey of more than 1600 randomly chosen adults, there are a number of facts about American religious life that run counter to the prevailing assumptions.

I will not try to deal with all the Poll’s surprising trends in this blog, but there is one fact I found especially intriguing. According to the news release announcing the findings, conservative evangelical Christians tend to be decidedly less naïve and not as easily swayed than the rest of the general population.

The Baylor Survey found that traditional Christian religion greatly decreases credulity (gullibility), as measured by beliefs in such things as dreams, Bigfoot, UFOs, haunted houses, communicating with the dead and astrology (Ch. 15, “Credulity: Who Believes in Bigfoot”). Still, it remains widely believed that religious people are especially naive, particularly those who identify themselves as Evangelicals, born again, Bible believers and fundamentalists. However, the ISR researchers found that conservative religious Americans are far less likely to believe in the occult and paranormal than are other Americans, with self-identified theological liberals and the irreligious far more likely than other Americans to believe. The researchers say this shows that it is not religion in general that suppresses such beliefs, but conservative religion.

As Dr. Rodney Stark, one of the authors of the study summarized: “There’s an old saying that a man who no longer believes in God is ready to believe in just about anything, and it turns out our data suggests it’s true. That is to say, religious people don’t believe this stuff, but there’s no education effect.”
Dr. Stark’s comment is a paraphrase of a quote from years ago attributed to British philosopher G. K. Chesterton: “When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing — they believe in anything.” The point is that evangelical, Bible believing Christians are not easily swayed to believe superstition, the occult, or weird religious teachings The reason is because they have an objective standard by which to discern truth from error. The primary reason for worldview ministry is to equip believers in this important dimension of their faith. That’s why is here!

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Tal Davis

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