“Godless” Europeans Believe in Trolls and Elves

The other day I was thumbing through my Wall Street Journal and the following quote was enlarged within this book review article (if the link leads you behind a pay wall just google “wsj the God profusion” to get the free view). The quote said, “Europe’s churches are empty–but don’t take that as a sign of reason’s triumph. More than half of Icelanders believe in elves and trolls.”

I couldn’t skip the article written by Naomi Schaefer Riley and I was thoroughly entertained reading it. I won’t type out the entire article here save for few quotes. I encourage you to read it. But essentially the article is a review of a book entitled, “The Triumph of Faith” by Rodney Stark. The author of the book argues against faulty polling that erroneausly suggests the world is becoming more god-less. When in fact, the world is ever becoming more faith-filled.

He makes the case against the Enlightenment dogma that says reason will triumph over and eventually bury faith and religion, and ultimately God himself. Enlightenment evangelists and apologists are quick to point out that religion and belief in God are for the less educated, ignorant, illiterate, and even country hicks. Surely the more educated urban dwellers would never be led into such silliness, right? But the facts show something quite different. The author of the article correctly points out that “college-educated Americans are more likely to attend religious services than their counterparts with only a high school diploma.” In South America, nearly all of their countries are “now less than 5% secular.” And in the rest of the Southern Hemisphere and the Middle East, religion is growing very rapidly.

The article then touches on something I have never considered before. The book goes into an area detailing how government sponsorship of religion (think the United Kingdom) is actually a “hinderance to the growth of faith. Monopoly destroys competition, and competition causes growth.” I won’t go into much detail on this point for now, but I’ll be considering this idea for a very long time I’m sure.

The article then talks about the famous empty churches of Europe. Generally speaking, the empty church phenomenon is relegated largely to the European continent. But do empty churches point toward a lack of belief in the supernatural? Not according to the facts. In fact, supernatural beliefs in Europe are wildly far reaching and far fetched.

The article states, “In Austria, 28% of respondents say they believe in fortune tellers; 32% believe in astrology; and 33% believe in lucky charms. More than 20 percent of Swedes believe in reincarnation; half believe in mental telepathy. More than half of Icelanders believe in huldufolk, hidden people like elves and trolls. It seems as if the former colonial outposts for European missionaries are now becoming more religious, while Europe itself is becoming interested in primitive folk beliefs.”

Quite comical.

I’m not saying that America will not follow the European trend. With all the immoral filth being trotted about in the name of progressivism, we may well be on our way to teaching our children about little trolls and worshipping boxes of Lucky Charms cereal. Who knows? But despite these primitive folk beliefs in Europe, America and indeed the vast majority of the world, is absolutely not on the fast track toward secular naturalism.

Far, far from it.

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Does Atheism Lower Crime and Make Us Happy?

“Meaninglessness does not come from being weary of pain. Meaninglessness comes from being weary of pleasure.” –G.K. Chesterson

A minority of people claim this life is all there is and we should simply make the best of it while we are here. They believe that ultimately when they die they become a gourmet meal for maggots. They think they can be reduced to molecules in motion, machines that can be reduced to the periodic table that simply dance to the music of their DNA (page 133). They believe only material things exist without thinking for a moment that it took immaterial logic to come to that conclusion. Forget about trying to account for immaterial things like love, compassion, hope, justice, joy, and meaning. They think these things are illusory.

Most people of this type attempt to use their atheism to say that religion (specifically Christianity) poisons everything and atheist leaning countries are more enlightened, happier, and have less crime.  The countries cited by the atheist are usually in Western Europe or one of the Scandinavian countries such as Denmark.

Is Denmark really happy or is it artificial?

I have a couple of problems with this kind of thinking.  First, it has never been proven that atheism is the source of a less criminal culture and this notion should be flatly rejected until a level of evidence would tip the balance toward such a view. Second, when I hear someone make such a claim I begin to research some of the history myself and not simply take their word for it.  Thankfully, I have history resources and a number of friends who are educated in the area of European history as it relates to cultural evolution.

Thinking about the northern and western European areas, it’s important to see how the area changed over the centuries.  In a book by David Landes, “The Wealth and Poverty of Nations,” Landes writes about tenth century Europe and he describes it like this:  “In the tenth century, Europe was just coming out of a long torment of invasion, plunder, and rapine, by enemies from all sides.  So terrifying were these marauders [the Vikings], so ruthless their tactics (taking pleasure in tossing babies in the air and catching them on their lances or smashing their heads against the wall), that the very rumor of their arrival [sent everyone running]” (pages 29 and 30).

David Marshall said this about what happened to the culture (specifically Denmark) since then:  “So 1000 years ago, the ancestors of modern Danes were sacrificing maidens and cruising the North Sea looking to pick up some monastic bling. Now they’re riding bicycles to flower shops in Copenhagen. What happened?  To make history very simple, and maybe overly simple, the Gospel happened.”  Now there are obviously thousands upon thousands of pages that could be written on this topic and the evidence behind it but this is a blog, not a book.  The point is clear.

We know from history that indeed Christianity brought civility to this part of the world and later birthed science as we know it and what a Godsend these things have been!  To further the point would take far longer to develop but it is certainly not the decline of Christianity and the rise of atheism that has spawned less crime in western and northern Europe.  A couple of points come to mind.  First, many god-less countries legalize drug use and do not view it as a criminal issue which is a polar opposite stance of the United States.  This would include the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Denmark, and others (by the way, I’m not here to debate the politics of drug liberalization.  Clearly the “War on Drugs” has been a failure).  In addition to various drug deregulations, these countries also legalize many other forms of questionable behavior such as prostitution, assisted suicide, child suicide, bestiality, etc.  Moreover, some of these countries have extremely restrictive gun laws where oftentimes handguns aren’t just restricted, they are banned.  Yet none of this evidence points directly toward religion or atheism.  It has to do with decriminalization laws.  When you decriminalize actions and behaviors that once were criminalized, it stands to reason that crime rates will fall!  In this case, lower crime rates do not happen because you’re an atheist.  In this case, lower crime rates happen because of decriminalization.  How one interprets the data is what is important here.  Remember this:  the numbers don’t say anything on their own.  The people interpreting the numbers say everything.  

And to further the point allow me to punctuate it with the following exclamation.  Correlation does not adequately explain causation!  I could claim that America has NFL football. Then I could claim that America is the most charitable country on Earth. The consistent atheist may try to claim that NFL football increases charitable giving. Now we know that’s crazy talk but you can see that correlation does not equate to causation.

I want to end this post with this article in the New York Post.  Enjoy!

P.S.  I have three people awaiting a post from me on the subject of objective morality.  I apologize for not having it posted sooner.  When I’m doing a study I have to complete what I’m doing before moving on.  And on top of that, these things take time and I do not sit around and “blog” all day long.  I have a job, a family, and a life so please be patient with me.  🙂