Christianity And Western Decline

I have often encountered the view that a revival of Christianity is what is needed to stop the decline of the “West”.  I take a rather opposite view however, as too often it seems to me that Christian beliefs are actually contributing to that decline.

When we are faced by a ruthless and implacable ideology such as Nazism, whose followers have no hesitation whatever in using the most brutal acts of violence to achieve their ends, turning the other cheek is not a strategy that has ever been successful.

The current Pope has been accused of being a Communist, but is he perhaps really just propagating the teachings of the New Testament, as discussed here:

http://theatheistconservative.com/communism-is-secular-christianity/

In Victorian times in the UK, there used to be a distinction made between the deserving and the undeserving poor.  In the 20th century, the welfare state was created and gradually this distinction was forgotten.  For decades, whole generations have been raised on welfare and the church has never once to my knowledge challenged the wisdom of this.  This has resulted in a growing underclass of people.  Then in the later 20th century and early 21st century the idea of “multi-culturalism” became fashionable, paving the way for an unprecedented flood of immigration.  The underclass now includes a large number of Muslims, many of whom are very hostile to our most important freedoms, including freedom of speech.

Not only did the Anglican church see no problems arising from this developing state of affairs, they have in some ways almost encouraged it.  A former archbishop suggested that we should allow Sharia law to become part of our legal system.  A bishop welcomed the call to prayer from a mosque in his diocese.  Of course there is nothing to say that the clergy cannot oppose the growing influence of Islam, but so far at least our clergy in the UK have made no attempt to do this.  In earlier times they sent brave missionaries out to far away lands to convert people and do charitable works, but political correctness is still the order of the day in the Church in our age.

Our bishops have a right to sit in the House of Lords, there is not the separation of church and state that was so wisely enshrined in the U.S. constitution. Our bishops constantly urge us to take in more migrants, even those attempting to enter the country illegally, regardless if they are hostile to democracy and free speech. Some of the migrants may even have terrorist sympathies, many probably have no skills to offer, but the bishops do not seem to be concerned about those things. The bishops also routinely interfere with attempts at welfare reform, the idea of the protestant work ethic does not seem to figure in their thinking.

In summary I would argue strongly that we should move beyond religious thinking, towards a more rational age.  If the church is to play a role in the salvation of our society and way of life, then they must learn again to be more pragmatic and realistic about the not always pleasant realities of the world.  As I have mentioned above the Church has not always been feeble and too literalist as they are today.  Regardless of whether they can regain this realism, I believe that for the UK, we should recognize that the separation of Church and State is important for a democracy to function well, and therefore we should remove the Bishops from the House of Lords.

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Intelligence, Concentration, And IQ Tests

I do not believe that IQ tests measure intelligence. Rather I believe that they measure a combination of intelligence, learning and concentration at a particular point in time.  By learning I mean for example where tests contain words that are less familiar to the test subject (perhaps because the language is their second language), they might respond rather more slowly.

Also I believe that self-esteem can affect concentration.  Quite some time ago I heard of a study that was done that seemed to confirm this belief.  In the study, a group of students were first given an IQ test. Then the group was divided into 2 groups. The first group was subjected to verbal abuse and negative comments. The second group was given encouragement to increase their self-esteem. Then the 2 groups were given a second IQ test. Noticeable differences were seen in the results of the first and second tests which indicated that the verbal abuse and negative comments had caused a deterioration in the scores for the first group.

If such results can be observed after even such a short period of such verbal abuse, how much more profound could the result of a childhood of negativity received from parents or the wider community be having? A school that encourages self-esteem could for example be producing more apparently intelligent pupils.

Unfortunately I have not now been able to locate any information on this study, but if any readers know of it, I would be very grateful if you could provide any information. I think it was done in the 80s or 90s in New Zealand or Australia. The work of the psychologist Reuven Feuerstein seems to suggest something similar however.

Also other research into the effect of financial rewards for IQ tests have apparently shown that IQ scores increase noticeably when financial rewards are offered, and greater rewards also lead to greater increases.

http://news.sciencemag.org/2011/04/what-does-iq-really-measure

All this does not mean that I believe that IQ tests are useless, quite the contrary. I also believe that individuals have different levels of innate intelligence, and that that is mainly genetically determined, but environmental factors such as nutrition also play a part. Certainly at least until we really understand how the human brain works, IQ tests are the only indicator we have of intelligence. What I am implying is that IQ tests should be recognized for what they are, a measure of intelligence, learning and concentration combined. We should certainly not therefore assume that people who only achieve relatively lower scores in childhood may not later do better in life than others who had achieved higher scores, even discounting the random misfortunes people encounter in their lives.

Freedom Of Speech Is Under Threat

Freedom of speech is our most important freedom.  Without it democracy cannot function properly and advances in thought are hampered.  Today in the “West” freedom of speech is seriously threatened, from several directions.  Islamic fundamentalists are terrorizing cartoonists who draw pictures of their religious figures.  Those critical of Islam have also been threatened.   Newspapers are engaging in self-censorship due to a pervasive climate of “political correctness”.  Students are demanding “safe spaces” at universities to protect them from ideas they may be troubled by.  At the same time, “Western” governments are trying to pass ever more authoritarian laws which increase their ability to control their populations.

What are the causes of this trend?  I would argue it is the result of declining average intelligence of “Western” populations combined with the growing numbers of followers of the Islamic religion in our societies.  Islam is a brittle religion, it does not stand up to scrutiny, and so Islamic societies exact harsh punishments on those who try to criticize or publicly leave it.  These punishments are in fact stipulated in the core Islamic texts.  As the numbers of Muslims in our societies keep growing, Muslim voices demanding protection of their religion from criticism are getting louder.  Our governments are fearful that growing tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims will lead to a breakdown in law and order, and so they are acquiescing to these demands.

Although it is tempting to think that in the short term these policies will be effective in maintaining law and order, I believe that in the long run they will have a very bad effect on freedom of speech in general.  If the situation we are in is a temporary one, then these policies may be more justified as a temporary measure.  However unless they are coupled with a comprehensive and effective strategy to reduce the influence of the Islamic religion in the “West”, then our situation will not be a temporary one, but in fact will continue to deteriorate.

I will be examining the UK government’s policy responses to this situation in detail in future articles.

Atheism And Morality

I often come across the view expressed by followers of the Abrahamic religions that there can be no morality without religion, and that therefore atheists are necessarily immoral.  However human beings are social animals, the urge to help others is quite a natural one.  Atheists also like to form friendships, and therefore they benefit from peer approval, which is more often a force for compassion than cruelty and callousness.  The idea that people are immoral unless you instill into them the fear of terrible punishments in the “afterlife” is therefore not sound.

Another weakness in the argument that only the followers of Abrahamic religions are moral is that these religions all encourage beliefs that are irrational.  Should we believe in things for which our senses see no evidence?  Surely the avoidance of truth should be considered immoral?

The simple fact that prominent atheists risk their lives by publicly criticizing religions is itself evidence of morality in atheists.  What else could be their motivation in risking their lives but a desire to serve the greater good?

Followers of the Abrahamic religions also tend to associate the declining birth rates in the West with the decline in religious observance.  However this ignores the fact that countries that continue to have higher degrees of religious observance are also seeing declining birth rates.  The pope may urge his followers not to use contraception, but the majority of Catholics take very little notice of this.  Declining birth rates are undoubtedly a serious problem for Western civilization, but religion has largely failed to provide an antidote.  Some groups such as the Amish and Mormon communities may be maintaining higher birth rates but their religious beliefs may be problematic in other ways.

We must look elsewhere for a solution to this problem, to reason.  In future articles I will be putting forward rational arguments for, and suggesting ways to achieve, higher birth rates in Western countries.