While the militant atheist believes that faith in God is irrational, many studies seem to indicate that such a faith is highly adaptive. For instance:
- A National Opinion Research Center survey of Americans conducted between 1972 and 2008…found that the percentage of people reporting that they were “very happy” range from 26 percent among those never attending religious services to 48 percent for those who go more than weekly (Scientific America Mind, May/June 2012, 61)
These findings reflect the norm. A 2009 survey of more than 350,000 Americans concluded:
- Did religion make them happier, as previous studies had shown? Absolutely, according to the data – but they were still worse off than their contented residents of more affluent states where religion mattered less. (62)
The fact that many serious Christians come from very troubled backgrounds makes these findings even more profound! Now add to this the findings that committed Christians – as measured by their church attendance – also show marked health advantages. And so how can a belief system deemed to be irrational be so strongly associated with adaptive advantages?
The atheists with whom I’ve dialogued generally do not dispute these findings. Instead, with a dismissive shake of the head, they respond that irrational beliefs can be comforting and stress-reducing.
I wonder? I had a friend whom I used to envy. He genuinely, but erroneously, believed that all the women found him sexually attractive. He didn’t experience the angst that most of us experience, wondering whether he was liked. Instead, he was sure of it! However, this anxiety-eliminating trait brought him many problems in the long run. Whenever a woman would turn him down, he was convinced that she was just playing “hard to get.” This irrational belief sent him to jail on at least two occasions for “harassment.”
There is always a price for irrationality. It rubs against the fabric of reality, precluding an optimal adjustment. If our Christian faith is truly irrational, as the militant atheists insist, we should expect to find greater levels of maladjustment than has been found in atheistic (communist) societies.
Instead, it seems that wherever the Christian faith has trod, there have been positive outcomes. Former editor of the Sunday Telegraph, Dominic Lawson, in a review in the Sunday Times of Niall Ferguson's new book, Civilisation: The West and the Rest, carries a quote from a member of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in which he tries to account for the success of the West:
- “We have realised that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity. That is why the West is so powerful. The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the successful transition to democratic politics. We don’t have any doubt about this.”
About what other “irrational” beliefs can this be said?