In Ghosts We Trust
by JUSTIN D. BARNARD
Director of the Institute for Intellectual Discipleship
September 22, 2008 - G.K Chesterton is infamously misquoted as saying, “When a man stops believing in God, he doesn’t then believe in nothing, he believes anything.” Despite the misattribution, that statement itself appears to have garnered some empirical support from a new study released by Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion. Apparently, the study finds that superstition increases as a “religious” outlook on life decreases.
Summarizing study findings, Mollie Hemingway explains: “The Gallup Organization, under contract to Baylor's Institute for Studies of Religion, asked American adults a series of questions to gauge credulity. Do dreams foretell the future? Did ancient advanced civilizations such as Atlantis exist? Can places be haunted? Is it possible to communicate with the dead? Will creatures like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster someday be discovered by science?
The answers were added up to create an index of belief in occult and the paranormal. While 31% of people who never worship expressed strong belief in these things, only 8% of people who attend a house of worship more than once a week did.”
To the extent that social stability and longevity depend upon the absence of widespread superstition, animism, and belief in the occult/paranormal, the results of this study (together with the commonsense-wisdom of the Chestertonian quip) indicate that Christians should make no apologies for promoting religion in the public square. After all, social stability depends upon moral order, and one need not be an expert in anthropology to know that superstitious cultures are morally bankrupt. Yet moral order, as, for example, captured in the “Second Tablet” of the 10 Commandments, cannot survive apart from an acknowledgment of Morality’s Source. Thus, at a minimum, some form of civil religion is necessary for society’s survival.
Related Web Resource: http://www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=2039&var_recherche=tablet