Dispatches from the Creation Wars

The terminally ridiculous Dennis Prager is distressed by the rising number of atheists in the country. And he offers his explanation for that rise:

The first is that increasingly large numbers of men and women attend university, and Western universities have become essentially secular (and leftist) seminaries. Just as the agenda of traditional Christian and Jewish seminaries is to produce religious Christians and religious Jews, the agenda of Western universities is to produce (left-wing) secularists. The difference is that Christian and Jewish seminaries are honest about their agenda, while the universities still claim they have neither secularist nor political agenda.

That is why the more university education a person receives, the more he is likely to hold secular and left-wing views. The secular left argues that this correlation is due to the fact that a college graduate knows more and thinks more clearly and therefore gravitates leftward and toward secularism. But if you believe that the average college graduate is a clear and knowledgeable thinker as a result of his or her time at university, I have more than one bridge to sell you.

But that isn’t an argument, it’s merely a sniff. Surely he would not deny that, on the whole, those who have advanced degrees will be more knowledgeable about more things than those who only finished high school. That doesn’t mean they’re always going to be right, of course — how could it, since those with advanced degrees will still disagree on nearly everything? But it would be silly to deny that more education generally leads to more knowledge.

And isn’t it interesting that Prager thinks that every single person who goes to grad school and is an atheist is brainwashed? None of them are thinking for themselves and reaching a reasonable conclusion based on the evidence at hand, all of them are just mindlessly believing whatever they are told. That’s all the more fascinating given that he is defending religion; if going to grad school brainwashes a person, what must going to church every week do? Oh, that’s right — it enlightens them, or so Prager thinks.

A second reason God is not doing well among Westerners these days is that many members of the Jewish and Christian clergy decided that their primary role was not to advocate their religion’s moral and religious standards, but rather 1) to make congregants comfortable (“Don’t call me ‘Pastor,’ ‘Rabbi’ or ‘Father’; call me Jerry”) and 2) to promulgate the values they learned at their secular left-wing universities.

He doesn’t even pretend to offer an argument here, only a conclusion. He doesn’t cite any numbers on this, no research to back it up, not even a weak attempt at showing some causal connection. Hard to take that seriously at all; he’s literally said nothing.

A third reason God is not doing well is that most of the men and women who are products of this secular left-wing education (meaning a large majority of Western men and women) are theologically, intellectually and emotionally ill-prepared to deal with all the unjust suffering in the world. I will never forget a Swedish pastor’s reaction to the 1994 capsizing of the Estonia, a ferry that sank in the Baltic between Estonia and Sweden, leaving 852 passengers and crew dead. He said he could not believe in a God who allowed such injustice to take place.

This pastor spoke for vast numbers of modern Western men and women. The existence of so much unjust suffering in the world has strongly contributed to their rejecting belief in God. And undoubtedly, the devastation caused by the Japanese earthquake and tsunami has further reinforced many individuals’ rejection of God.

Well yes, a lot of people reject the existence of God based on the problem of evil. That has been the case for centuries. But I would suggest that perhaps one thing that drives people away from religious ideas in this regard is not just that they can’t reconcile the notion of a loving god with such suffering, but because so many religious believers pretend to know exactly why God deliberately inflicted such suffering in the wake of every single disaster.

Within moments of any earthquake or hurricane, the Righteous Few immediately declare that God did it specifically in order to punish — fill in the blank — gays, the ACLU, abortion providers, and so forth. And yet those disasters inevitably kill far more people who aren’t part of those groups than who are, including lots of good, churchgoing, decent people. It probably makes people wonder whether they should believe in a God with such bad aim.

The fourth reason is Islamic violence and the tepid response to it by the liberal churches and synagogues. It would seem pretty clear that a major, albeit almost never acknowledged, reason for the huge audiences for recent books advocating atheism has been the massive amount of evil in God’s name committed by radical Muslims. Nothing creates atheism as much as evil done in God’s name.

Okay, he’s got something of a point there. Al qaeda, after all, is a faith-based initiative.