A friend of mine, Mary Jo Sharp, wrote a blog post for me on her reaction to the data and what it tells us about the people around us. Mary Jo is a former atheist from the Pacific Northwest who thought religion was for the weak-minded. She now holds a Masters in Christian Apologetics from Biola University and is the first woman to become a Certified Apologetics Instructor through the North American Mission Board.
Be sure to read her post, and then scroll down to the bottom to see a graphic depicting some of the most fascinating data from the survey, which you can download in full here.
Here is Mary Jo’s article:
By Mary Jo Sharp
The Nagging Feeling of a Creator
As a Christian, I doubted my belief in God. This doubt was born of inexperience with the Christian community as well as inattentiveness to the life of the mind. I set out to answer my doubts and found that there were many arguments for belief in the existence of a Creator. One of the main arguments that brought me back around to belief was the argument from the moral law.
According to a recent survey by LifeWay Research, I’m not alone. The majority of 1,000 people surveyed appear to believe that the existence of good and evil—from where we derive morality—points towards the existence of God, as the standard of goodness and as the moral lawgiver.
Beyond merely theorizing on the existence of good and evil, we live as if there are good and bad things to do in a day, even if we profess to deny the existence of good and evil. We strive to do what is good; at the very least, what we perceive is “good for us.” We humans have a nagging concept of goodness present in our lives, regardless of how we describe it. From where does such an idea come? For a majority of those surveyed by LifeWay Research, the idea of a standard of goodness derives from the nature of a perfectly good Creator, “who defines morality.”
For the non-religious, according to the survey, the existence of morality is a less convincing argument, with 53 percent disagreeing with the statement, “Since people have morality, I think there is a creator who defines morality.” While that statistic is no surprise, the surprising statistic is the 33 percent of the non-religious who agreed with this statement. From the statistic, without reading too far into the results of this general survey, we can take away that discussion on the existence of good and evil, and discussion about how we know what is good (what is the standard of goodness), are valuable apologetic tools.
The survey further discovered an age gap in the view of morality as a positive argument for the existence of God. Three-quarters (75 percent) of those aged 45 or higher while only 57 percent of those aged 44 and younger agree that morality offers proof of a creator.
Though there are many considerations for the age gap, such as life experiences, education, and generational culture, the statistic was also reminiscent of a prediction by C.S. Lewis in The Abolition of Man. Lewis predicted that as a society lets go of its belief in objective morality, our beliefs would be habituated, instead of reasoned.
Younger generations are exposed to more humanistic and atheistic philosophy than ever before. The exposure, without the necessary caveat, or instruction, that the philosophy is overtly atheist or humanistic, can produce conflicting views in an individual concerning morality. Therefore, the statistic from LifeWay Research demonstrates that the moral law argument, which includes the case for objective moral truth, should be addressed in at least junior high and high school age students; and earlier, if possible.
The LifeWay Research survey also found conflicting views from the atheists, agnostics, and non-religious surveyed when it came to the evidence for a Creator from the natural world. This group was more likely to believe that there is a Creator based on design of the universe than they were likely to believe in the existence of a creator based on the origins of human life.
Without a more extensive and detailed survey, only speculation as to the discrepancy can be made. However, in the 20th century, as mentioned previously, our society was exposed to much more atheistic philosophy; a philosophy which entails that there is no ultimate meaning, purpose, or value to the universe and, therefore, to human life.
Humans, according to this philosophy, are specks of dust in the enormity of a vast, indifferent universe. The undermining of the ultimate value of human life has most likely negatively influenced the view of the existence of human life as evidence towards an intelligent, personal Creator.
Conversely, the 20th century ushered in so many new technologies, affording our society an explosive century of scientific discovery. These new discoveries and the depth of knowledge we have gained about the detailed orderliness of our universe could be positively influencing our view of the existence of an intelligent, designing Creator. However, it would seem that atheistic philosophy would also negatively influence our view of the universe as being designed and purposed by a Creator (not considering origins of human life). Therefore, the statistics seem to suggest an inconsistency in worldview.
Both of the statistics on the view of evidence from the natural world demonstrate the need for an informed Christian view on the nature of science and religion. We must dispel any irrational fear that Christianity is opposed to scientific discovery and reclaim our knowledge tradition in the exploration of God’s creation.
Evidence for the Existence of God
When I had doubt about my belief in God, considering the arguments for His existence didn’t move me towards atheism. Rather, I began to see, for the first time, the vast riches of evidence available to me for the existence of God. As the church experiences a renaissance of the life of the mind, we must also consider that we should never need another renaissance when it comes to apologetics.
The discipline of apologetics is a necessary aspect of the Christian life providing one part of a solid foundation in which trust in God flourishes. The LifeWay Research survey has touched on this very thought: apologetics, as was present in the preaching and teaching of the earliest believers, impacts the life of the believer as well as the life of the non-believer in God.
Ed Stetzer is the executive director of LifeWay Research. For the original article, visit edstetzer.com.