"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Monday, November 22, 2010

Matthew 19:13-15 -- Atheism, IQ, Security, Wealth & Children

Yesterday I skimmed an article from two years ago, Atheists are more intelligent, but does intelligence lead to atheism?

It contains such interesting ideas as these:

"one reason for the decline in traditional religious beliefs in industrial societies is that an increasing sense of technological control over nature diminishes the need for reliance on supernatural powers"

I get this.  People can explain things scientifically instead of having to believe a Higher Power was somehow in control.  Worshiping and sacrificing in order to appease the gods who controlled the weather or fertility didn't matter so much as technology improved and people could better control some things in their lives.

"increasing material wealth in Western Nations in the 20th century lead to increasing IQ"

This one puzzled me as I couldn't understand the correlation between wealth increasing one's intelligence (I had this wrong visual of someone winning the lottery and immediately adding 20 points to the IQ!) until I went just now to read a bit about IQ on Wikipedia. I had the wrong idea about intelligence quotient (IQ) thinking it was something one was born with instead of considering the variety of factors that can influence it (e.g. nutrition in childhood, having been breastfed, nurture, personality traits, musical training and so forth).  So now this statement makes better sense and I can see why and make the jump from increasing material wealth to increasing IQ to atheism. 

Because ...

"a secure life equals a life in which people can free themselves from religion."

This reminds me of why people often say suffering draws them closer to God. When life is going great and everything is falling into place, what use then is there for God?  But when your wealth can't buy health and your doctors and medicine fail or when your child is addicted to drugs and you throw up your hands in despair because it seems there is no solution, faith and trust in God is often what we hold onto.  There is that need for hope that something can be done, somehow, somewhere by Someone bigger than sickness and addiction.

So what does all this have to do with the next part of Matthew 19? 

Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.
 14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 15 When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there. 

and the parallel passage in Luke

 15 People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18)

It's just that when I read that article about intelligence leading to atheism verses such as these came to mind.

Children: examples of the greatest in God's kingdom

1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.  (Matt 18)

 25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.  (Matthew 11)

It made me wonder why Jesus specifically mentioned changing to become like little children, the kingdom of heaven being made up of such like children and his praising God for revealing "these things" to little children instead of the "wise and learned."  Did he see that in the future people would have technological advances, more material wealth, secure nations with good armies and they would no longer see any use for God?

Was Jesus encouraging future generations to remember their need for God?   If we think this world is all there is to living then I can understand one wanting to live it up, acquire wealth so she can travel and experience all the goodness and thrills of this life. However, what if there is more? What if this life is like a vapor compared to eternity? 

The article stated:  "As children grow up, they are less likely to agree with statements like 'I believe there is a God' and 'God means a lot to me'."

Were these messages from Jesus concerning children and child-like faith a reminder to us not to forget the awe and wonder of God?

What do you think of the article?  What do you think of Jesus' words concerning children that I mentioned in this post?  Do you think I should have considered the article and verses separately and I am way off in my thinking by linking them together this way? Please share your thoughts on either or both. Do you think my reasons for why technologically-advanced, wealthy nations have given up on the idea of God make sense? How would you explain it differently? What does Jesus mean when he says we must be like little children to be part of God's kingdom?



Suroor said...

I know a lot of people who left religion because they were miserable. I know a blogger who stopped believing because they felt their prayers were not being heard and they were miserable. My husband's cousin left religion because he thought religions hold you back and there are scores of people who lead very miserable lives when they leave religion and their families turn against them so I don't think it is always those who are wealthy and comfortable that lose their belief.

Interesting article but I think it would be great to divide non-religionists into categories. Not everyone who doesn't believe in religion is an atheist.

Also some people adopt Atheism out of peer pressure or because its fashionable. I doubt that raises their IQ :)

Amber said...

There are plenty of brilliant people with high IQ's who are ardent believers in some form of religion. And there are people with low IQ's who don't believe. I think the question of faith is so personal and can be affected by so many different factors in ones life that boiling it down to IQ is pointless.

I tend to think that when we are told to be like little children that it means the level of trust that children have. Remember, kids are always learning and questioning things.

Wafa' said...

Atheism always interests me :) not that i am going to be but the idea that you really have the power to ditch your God for no one is .... i don't know, but seems so strong.
Maybe fear comes into my mind when talking about Atheist.

I guess the only option i might understand about being an atheist is when you lose faith in God, how?
i love the idea of a tender and loving God but when all these brutal things happening and no one get involved it scares me. why would He interfere to help a sick child? . Why didn't He stop a major natural disaster? but then if they are natural and not His doing then He is not a controlling God, so on the other hand why would i worship Him still? .

i remember believing that Atheism doesn't happen unless something went wrong with that person in his/her religion. but now i know it's more of a mental thing, cuz if it's based on your heart, you might flip again.

that's what i think anyway :)

Hijabis On Ranting Tour. said...

How interesting one of my philosophy teachers also used to tell me that there was no longer a need for god because we are more intelligent or something, are the verses referring to children because of their innocence?, because children havent been corrupted with materialism and they are therefore able to enjoy small pleasures whilst we are always seeking something huge and life changing, i dont know what the link between atheism and intelligence is, but i cant imagine a life without God, interesting post as usual

Susanne said...

Suroor, thanks for the examples you provided concerning those who left religion for things other than IQ. :) I enjoyed your comment!

Amber, I agree that dividing us between high IQ and low IQ in matters of religion seem "pointless." That's why articles like this drive me nuts and seem so arrogant or something.

Yes, good points about the children! Thanks for what you added. Hope you are feeling better!

Susanne said...

Wafa', you have some very interesting thoughts concerning atheists! I liked reading your point of view concerning them. You seem to think believing in God is a kind of a crutch so those who can ditch God (so to speak) are strong. I get the impression atheists do have their own gods although they are called human reasoning and science rather than Allah or Yaweh or God. :)

Thanks for sharing your perspective! Enjoyed it.

Naz, that's a good point about the innocence of children. And I can't imagine life without God either. :) Thanks for your comment. Good to hear from you again!

observant observer said...

oooch, tough , very tough questions! If religion and God is the prime reason for having something to blame for or something to get something from like healing, comfort,wealth, bread etc, I think we are dealing with the wrong concept of religiousity. Religion also teaches us about accepting the worst part of life. I think the main reason for people to have religion is to be able to put more meaning to life than what it seems so banal. I believe even those people who profess that they're atheists are actually having a never ending questions about God, they must feel very lonely and somehow agrees that there's something beyond tangible reality, it's just that they try to play tough.....maybe :-)

Susanne said...

Observant Observer, thanks for what you added. Yes, our spiritual beliefs do often provide us with meaning to life and help us through the tough times. I don't know a lot of atheists to say whether or not they are just trying to act tough. :)

I appreciate your comment!

Daniel said...

This may be something different than you're looking for, but food for thought.
Why is it that God healing an illness 2,000 years ago that today we can cure with modern medicine any less of a miracle? They didn't have the medication at that time to cure them, the depended on God and God healed them. It's not proof for no God, it shows that God is there in our time of need. God can change molecular structures... He turned water into wine- for example. we use chemistry (which operates by laws God created) to cure illness. God can skip that process, and even cure diseases we can't. One day we may discover a cure for them, God willing, but that won't make the cancer patient that God healed today,when the doc said there was no treatment available, any less of an act of God tomorrow if we discover a cure.
Am I making sense?
In other words. I think that increased wealth, IQ, etc don't cause people to be atheists. People suppress the knowledge of God that is already in them because they want to. Atheists will say that we believe in God because we have a need for Him to exist. Yet an atheist doesn't believe in God because they have a need for Him NOT to exist.

Susanne said...

Daniel, yes, you make sense. I'm glad you said what you did. Didn't you post the video recently about the guy who stated he simply didn't want to believe although the proof of the historical resurrection was there? I think that's the truth- some people just choose not to believe for whatever reason.

Thanks for what you added. It's good to read your POV!

Kind Heart said...

Hey Susanne,

there is no such thing as pure atheism as everyone is born with the innate ability to know that there is a God and then mostly due to the parents teaching they become Jews Christian Muslims or atheists etc.

Ask any so called Atheist about their faith and they will look down and say aah i'm an atheist, but when they become in trouble they call for God, they deny it on the outside while inside they know well there is a God.

i knew one danish girl back when i was in high school, she told me she was an atheist, but in all times she gets happy or excited about something she will shout oh my God oh My God,lol

as one become more learned he will see God's work everywhere in technology in medicine and in our marvelous creation take for example in how many steps our bodies utilizes glucose and how many steps our body builds hemoglobin.

we use all kind of gadgets and new technologies here in Saudi Arabia but to this day i'm not aware of a single Saudi becoming an atheist.

those who can see His perfect creation and work know that there is God.

All children go to heaven and everyone in heaven is young :)

have great day lovely Susanne

Kind Heart said...

and i will not hide my admiration for your countrymen and women that the word "in God We Trust" is the official motto of your good country the United States.

That's so beautiful and i'm sure that value will continue in your good people.

I have been there once when i was like 17yrs old, i loved all people there they are so sweet,my basket in the super market fell and a little kid ran and helped me put things back in it in the super market, my items fell again at the cashier and he and his family helped me again.

i wouldn't mind making the US my honeymoon destination one day, aah one day if the Lord so wills.

you Susanne and your people are so sweet and i hope your love for God will continue forever. And that you will come to follow prophet's Muhammad's message.

Susanne said...

Kind Heart, you really do have a kind heart. Thanks for your sweet comment. :)

I enjoyed hearing about your experiences with the Danish girl in high school and also among people here when you visited. I'm really glad the people were helpful when your groceries fell.

I hope one day you and your wife (inshallah) can honeymoon here as well. :)

I appreciate your comment!