Religions


I’ve heard a lot of atheists hypothesize that one of the reasons religion was invented was because people had to manage their fear of death.  If people believe that they will continue to live on in some fashion after death, it mitigates their fear of death.  Can the fear of death explain the origin of religion, or the origin of religious faith in people today?  Perhaps, but three points should be made.  

First, not all religions include conscious existence beyond the grave.  For example, in many Eastern religions absorption into the One (personal extinction) is the end of all things.  Clearly immortality is not the motivation for those religions and religious practitioners.  

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If Christians firebombed every publisher that printed publications speaking ill of Jesus and Christianity, there would be few publishers and publications left.  But alas, we don’t resort to violence to defend our faith.  Islam is a peaceful religion, remember?  It’s those fundamentalist Christians that we have to watch out for.

Many people think religious claims are untestable, making it impossible to make an objective, reasoned choice as to which religion you should adopt.  You just have to pick the one that fits your personal preferences, your family tradition, etc.  Mark Mittelberg challenges this view in his book, Choosing Your Faith In a World of Spiritual Options.

Mittelberg starts with a question that religious people often do not even consider: Why choose any faith at all?  His answer is interesting: because you don’t have an option.  We all place our faith in something.  The question is whether or not that faith is justified or not; true or not.  Contrary to popular belief, answering this question is possible.

Before he delves into the principles by which we can test worldview claims, he discusses and evaluates six faith paths that most people use to determine their beliefs, showing how each is deficient: (more…)

The National Council of Church’s report on church membership lists the following organizations as the top ten biggest religious denominations in the U.S.A.: 

  1. The Catholic Church: 68.5 million
  2. Southern Baptist Convention: 16.1 million
  3. The United Methodist Church: 7.8 million
  4. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: 6 million
  5. The Church of God in Christ: 5.5 million
  6. National Baptist Convention, USA: 5 million
  7. Evangelical Lutheran Church in America: 4.5 million
  8. National Baptist Convention of America: 3.5 million
  9. Assemblies of God: 2.9 million
  10. Presbyterian Church (USA): 2.7 million

I was surprised by the large gap between the number one and number two slots, and I was astounded to learn that Mormonism is the 4th largest denomination in America.  

HT: Theology in the News

I’ve read a good number of books since my last “What I’ve Been Reading” post, but have failed to write about them.  I hope to write about these books in the coming days or months, but for now I’ll just write about my most recent reading escapades.

I recently finished reading Christianity without the Cross: A History of Salvation in Oneness Pentecostalism (thank you Michael for purchasing this for me from my Ministry Resource List!).  Historian Thomas Fudge has written a well-researched history on the history of the doctrine of salvation in the United Pentecostal Church.[1] Fudge documents the evidence that those involved in the merger of the Pentecostal Church International (PCI) and the Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ (PAJC) into the United Pentecostal Church (UPC) in 1945 held two different views of salvation.  The majority believed that one is born again only after they have repented, been baptized in Jesus’ name, and baptized in the Spirit evidenced by speaking in tongues.  A sizable minority (mainly from the PCI), however, believed one was born again at the point of faith/repentance.  While they believed in baptism in Jesus’ name and receiving the Spirit evidenced by speaking in tongues, they understood such to be the result of salvation, not the cause of salvation.  The two groups agreed to fellowship their soteriological differences, not contending for their own views to the disunity of the new fellowship.

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Michael Patton at Reclaiming the Mind has some nice charts showing the breakdown of the world’s religions (numbers and percentages), as well as the breakdown of Christian traditions.

I’m late to the game on this one, but I just discovered some great statistical information regarding changes in the religious identity of Americans between 1990 and 2008, as well as a great interactive online chart visually displaying the information.  Here is some of the most pertinent information:

  • Those who claim to have no religious affiliation (called “Nones”) have grown in every state since 1990. 
  • The west and northeast coasts dominate the no religion category.  VT comes in 1st with 34%.  CA ranks 15th with 18%.  MI ranks last with 5%. 
  • Non-Christian religions have grown in all but 6 states since 1990. 
  • Protestants have diminished in all but 4 states. 
  • Catholics have diminished in all but 20 states. 
  • Catholics have increased in CA from 27% in 1990 to 38% in 2008. 
  • The northeast has the highest percentage of Catholics (RI has 46%).  CA ranks 5th with 38%.  AL ranks last with 6%. 
  • The south is mostly Protestant (AL has 80%).  CA ranks 45th with 35%.  MA ranks last with 26%. 
  • CT has the most non-Christian religious adherents (8%).  CA ranks 6th with 5%.  Wyoming ranks last with 1%. 
  • For those who simply don’t know what to say their religious identity is, OR comes in 1st place with 7% (compared to 2% in 1990), and DE last with 2% (in 1990 they were ranked 1st with 6%).  CA has 5%.

The beliefs of Nones was broken down further:

  • 51% believe in a deity of some sort
  • ~24% believe in a non-personal God
  • ~27% believe in a personal God
  • ~36% are agnostic (~19% hard agnostics, ~17% soft agnostics)
  • ~7% are atheist
  • 22% of 18-29 year old are Nones

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