Some Good News!

From the media, you might imagine atheism is very popular.  But it isn't!  The world's population is still seeking God, in one form or another.  And Christianity is still the most popular.  2010 estimates suggest that 30% of the entire world is christian, 25% muslim, 15% hindu, 7% buddhist, 0.2% jewish, and 15% "unattached" (to any religion).  (Source: Pew Research Centre, quoted in The Economist 22 Dec 12).

Why are we so religious?  Well, an atheist writing last year suggested these difficulties.  It's hard to face the vulnerability and fragility of being human (without support from God).  One wants assurance of stability in marriage, relationships, one's children.  It's hard to find peace, collect your thoughts, find a focus (if the world is an accident).  We all shares values like fairness, kindness to kids, saving the environment - but the secular world doesn't have any mechanisms to activate these.  The secular world says work hard and marry and you'll find fulfillment - but this promise don't seem to work out.  (Alain de Boton, Globe&Mail 3 March 12).

Contrary to popular opinion, we have been getting a little MORE intelligent over the decades!  (Wai, Current Directions in Psychological Science, Dec 2012).  But the very brightest stars tend to be male.  80% of top mathematicians are boys.  Of the world's 100 best chess players, 99 are male.  Of the 37 best Bridge players in the world, one is female.  Why?  Maybe women have more sense than to waste thousands of hours playing some silly game?

And we are still fairly honest, despite what you hear.  In a recent experiment, someone left a dozen wallets containing money and ID in random public places around the city of Hamilton (Canada).  Eleven were returned, with the money intact.

And finally, we behave better than you'd imagine.  Among married men in surveys in Western countries, the infidelity rate is 10-30% (men more, women less).  But this is "lifetime infidelity" - a much smaller fraction is currently being unfaithful.  And (contrary to one famous study, later proved false) infidelity is even less common in Christian marriages.

One alarming development is the encroachment of "positive discrimination" on education.  The British government has decided that more poor people should go to universities.  One friend took his daughter to an admission interview at an eminent British university.  The Dean announced that her school report was excellent, but because it was a private school "you will lose points" - and went on to deduct further points because her mother has a degree, and more still because her father has one!  Should we not educate children according to their needs?  Discrimination is an ugly thing - in Canada it provoked the "Montreal Massacre" - can we go back to the level playing field?

A decision in Britain has broken new ground.  David Cameron's government is enacting legislation to permit gays to marry in the Anglican church.  Without a separation of church and state, the Church of England remains subject to the Queen and her government, so the secular government can force changes upon the church!   Apparently this is the first time it has done so, at least for centuries.  Although individual ministers in the church will retain freedom of conscience, the church as a whole must provide the service demanded - changing its doctrines as necessary.