So there has been a quote attributed to Ben Stein makings its way around the internet in various forms. The quote claims that the “world’s going to hell” and that this is related to secularism or Christian’s getting “pushed around.” As about.com explains Mr. Stein did say some of these things, but much of the quote is added. I think the “quote” (see what I did there) is however indicative of how many people feel. The amount it has been spread through email and on Facebook in various forms would certainly seem to indicate that this is the case. I would like to counter this notion that the world is so terrible and “going to hell” and the belief many people seem to have that the bad things that do happen are somehow related to secularism or a lack of Christianity. To be clear I will be referencing the top article from here. I shall start with this whole “going to hell” business.
I would just like to start by saying that I have an app on my iphone that has a database of all the exoplanets discovered so far and notifies me whenever a new one is confirmed. There are so many awesome things about that sentence. Let’s start with the exoplanet bit. We have discovered planets orbiting other stars! According to my app as off 1-12-2013 there are 855 confirmed exoplanets, and we are discovering more all the time. We are finally getting some real data on that question likely as old as humans (and possibly older) are we alone? Someday soon we may even be able to get some evidence of whether there is life on some of these planets! The rate of new planet discoveries is truly amazing. Just earlier today my app let me know that five new planets had been discovered.
Now let’s turn to the device and how it receives its information. There are millions of people around the planet with near constant near instant access to a powerful computer and a mind boggling huge (not to mention rapidly growing) body of information a.k.a. a smart phone connected to the internet. I think this is bound to have all manner of uses, and we are really just getting started in discovering what is possible. Computers, phones, and internet connections are becoming faster and more powerful every year.
It’s not all about the science and technology either. You may have heard of the so called rise of China and other developing countries. China’s economy has grown by an average of 10% over the last thirty years! To put it another way China’s GPD per capita (adjusted for inflation as it always should be) is more than 39 times what is was in 1970. I think the rapid economic growth of China and other developing countries over the last few decades represents one of the largest and most rapid improvements in human well being in history. Millions of people around the world are becoming engineers, entrepreneurs, scientists etc. instead of engaging in subsistence farming. I would hardly call that “going to hell.”
I think I have covered well enough why I think the world is not “going to hell” and is in fact awesome and getting better. I would now like to address this particular part of the article
“Billy Graham’s daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her ‘How could God let something like this happen?’ (regarding Hurricane Katrina).. Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response. She said, ‘I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we’ve been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?’”
According to about.com this was actually in reference to the 9/11 attacks. As far as I can tell the way that it was incorrectly portrayed seems to imply that Mrs. Graham is saying that Hurricane Katrina is a direct result of secularist actions. I find this not only ridiculous, but incredibly insulting. The logical conclusion of what she says would seem to be that secularists are responsible for the death and destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina. Does this mean that secularists or atheists should feel responsible and guilty for the deaths caused by the 9/11 attacks or Hurricane Katrina? That would seem to be the logical conclusion. Is the implication that God will not protect counties that have too many atheists or don’t have enough discussion of religion in every public setting? God seems to have treated the Chinese quite well in spite of the Communist Party’s explicit atheism. To be clear this is not intended to be an attack on Ben Stein or Mrs. Grahm. It would be easy to find a poorly constructed argument someone made on the internet and to make them look ridiculous. That is not what I am trying to do. I am addressing this article because I think it resonates with many people, and it gives me something specific to counter rather than some vague idea such as a loss of “values” or “spirituality.”
Perhaps I am too optimistic about the future. It is entirely possible global economic growth will slow, natural disasters will get worse due to climate change, or some unpredictable event will truly make the future worse, however I think much of the pessimism is unjustified and based on vague notions that have little or no basis in reality. These ideas that bad events and trends are somehow related to secularism, atheists, or too few mentions of the almighty in the public sphere are particularly frustrating. I wish those that held these views would explain what exactly they mean. Perhaps in doing so they would realized that it doesn’t really make much sense, or maybe some good point would be revealed that we could actually discuss (you can probably guess which I think is more likely). I think that as long as we continue to invest in science, technology, our fellow human beings, and promoting secularism that collective Minnesotan, American and global human well being will continue to improve, and maybe people will realize a more secular world isn’t so bad after all. It’s gonna be the future soon, and I can’t wait.