The Decline and Fall of Christianity: Scientific and Intellectual Indicators

Christianity, science and learning

The universities, seminaries and research centers of Medieval Christianity played a central role in the origins of modern science. The earliest scientists of this era began their work with the assumption that the universe was intelligible because a rational God had made it that way. The church was the center of all academic and intellectual life, and religious officials the guardians of knowledge both secular and sacred.

Over time, naturalism displaced supernaturalism. As knowledge of the world advanced, it became clear that supernatural forces were not needed to explain anything. Science became a naturalistic endeavor, with the working assumption that there is nothing except this natural world. Secularism also became a feature of the academy generally. Social sciences such as history, anthropology, political science, economics and law were all secularized, their practitioners having progressively less use for gods, angels, hell, sin or witchcraft.

Scientific research and advancement once occurred almost exclusively in entities tied to the church. Today it is contained within the walls of secular universities, research centers and laboratories. The original European university grew directly out of the church, and institutions of higher learning for centuries were dominated by Christianity in their curricula, faculty and identity. Today, out of roughly 7,000 post-secondary institutions in the US, only around 700, or about 10%, have a clear religious affiliation. Higher education is a primarily secular endeavor in the modern western world.

A little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism; but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion. - Francis Bacon

Source

I think one of the great historical contributions of science is to weaken the hold of religion. That's a good thing. - Steven Weinberg

Godless intelligentsia

The most prominent early western scientists shared a strong belief in God. Isaac Newton, Galileo, Copernicus, Blaise Pascal, Francis Bacon, Johannes Keppler and others were believing Christians.

Today, studies indicate that both natural scientists and social scientists have much lower belief in God than the general public. In 2009, 83% of Americans believed in God, while only 33% of scientists did. The plurality of scientists, four in ten, did not believe in God or a higher power. Almost half of all scientists considered themselves atheist, agnostic or "nothing in particular" religiously.

In 1914, 42% of American scientists believed in a personal God, and an equal number did not. Thus while outright nonbelief has remained stable, belief in a personal God has notably declined in the American scientific community over the last century.

Among American college professors, about 56% believe in God at least some of the time. More than one in five (23%) qualify as atheist or agnostic. And this number rises to 37% at the elite institutions. Atheism and general secularism are very high among the leading thinkers and academics of the United States.

Among Americans, belief in God declines with education. Of those with high school education or less, 88% believe in God, while only 71% of postgraduates do. Non-belief in a higher power rises from 5% to 9% as Americas go from high school to postgraduate education.

Christianity vs Science

Aside from the overall de-Christianization of human knowledge, traditional Christianity sometimes directly clashes with the findings of modern science. Traditional Christians give priority to the Bible above all else, so where there is no conflict (such as the germ theory of disease), Christians do not have a problem. But where there is a conflict, they defer to the Bible and must fight science.

Source

Evolution, creationism and origins

The theory of evolution, which is accepted by the vast majority of modern scientists, claims that the various life forms of the earth arose from simpler predecessors and common ancestors over many years of change and development. By contrast, the Christian Bible claims in the book of Genesis that all living things were created in one fell swoop by God. Christian creationist views range from a literal interpretation of the Biblical narrative to a middle ground where God created all original forms, which subsequently "micro-evolved" into their current forms.

A literal interpretation of the Biblical creation story and the genealogy of Adam's descendants leads to the conclusion that the earth is about 6,000 years old. The universe as a whole is not considered to be much older than that, again, given the account in Genesis. By contrast, modern geology, archaeology and astronomy indicate that the earth is roughly 4.5 billion years old. The universe is estimated to be roughly 13 to 14 billion years old.

Modern science indicates that the first forms of life arose from the mix of chemicals present in the early earth, a theory that has been verified in laboratory experiments. This naturalistic account clashes with the Christian or Biblical view that the origins of life are with God.

Science, while owing much of its origins to the thinkers and institutions of Christianity, today has left the religion far behind.

New York Public Library
New York Public Library | Source

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Comments 28 comments

Dave Mathews profile image

Dave Mathews 4 years ago from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA

secularist: For me it matters not what science or what the public at large might think. As a "Christian" I believe in Almighty God, Christ Jesus, and God's Holy Spirit. I further believe that God desires each one of us humans to see his way as the only right way. Anyone who thinks otherwise it is their loss when there time comes to an end.


chefsref profile image

chefsref 4 years ago from Citra Florida

Hey Sec

I think you mistake Evangelical Christianity for traditional Christianity. Catholics number about 17.4 percent of the world population, dwarfing the other Christian sects, are they not traditional? Having been raised in a Catholic family, I know a little about that faith but much less about other denominations.

(Yeah, ok some of the whackos say Catholics are not Christian. Who Cares?)

The Catholic Church has come a long way since the days of Copernicus and Galileo and no longer denies science or even evolution; they simply say that IF evolution occurred, it was guided by God.

That seems to me to be a far more practical and believable stand than the Evangelical position of trying to deny science when it contradicts the Bible.

To be true to an Evangelical outlook means you have to deny the last few hundred years of science and progress. Darwin is out the window, dinosaurs either didn’t exist or they coexisted with early men. Fossil fuels are not possible unless God planted them there. Even the Flu vaccine becomes a problem because the Flu bug evolves over time, etc. etc.

Thus, I see Catholicism as having a much sturdier foundation than Evangelism, which will die as it tries to deny science.

In any event, all religions rest on a foundation of faith and we can have faith in anything we choose.

The Flying Spaghetti Monster blesses you with his noodly appendage and invites you to Pastafarianism


dejahoo profile image

dejahoo 4 years ago from Georgetown, TX

Just another fulfillment of prophesy that there will be many scoffers in the last days and there will be a famine in the land, not for food but the word of God almighty.

The next few years could be horrific for those that do not know God or "have the mark of God in their forehead." Those that have the mark of the beast, will be be destroyed. As the plagues continue to increase with intensity, people still will not repent and Satan has been given power to slay up to a 1/3 of mankind before Christ's return and this helps sort the wheat from the tares.

And most do not understand about the three earth ages and how God destroyed the first earth age that included dinosaurs. We will be going into that 3rd earth age at the return of Christ. The exodus from Egypt was a type foreshadowing the end but this time, God's people stay and the evil are destroyed so that we inherit the goods that the wicked have accumulated.

My suggestion to everyone, REPENT while you have an opportunity as you do not know if you will have a tomorrow. For more study on the subject, read the Bible otherwise, just sit back and watch the events continue to unfold as the season approaches.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 4 years ago from New York City Author

Dave: You are free to believe whatever you want. The fact remains Christianity has declined and continues to decline into irrelevance. And the larger trends of human civilization do affect individual lives.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 4 years ago from New York City Author

Chef:

I don't make a distinction between Catholics and Evangelicals when it comes to "traditionalism." The Catholic Church has simply become less traditional over time. They have become less infatuated with the Bible and with old orthodoxies.

I think American Catholics, on the whole, happen to be less traditionally minded than Protestants for a variety of historical and demographic reasons. But that doesn't mean Catholicism the religion is inherently less tradition-oriented.

I've never really liked spaghetti :)


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 4 years ago from New York City Author

Dejahoo:

I don't know what any of that has to do with the subject matter of this article.

"The next few years could be horrific for those that do not know God or have the mark of God in their forehead."

Isn't that what they have been saying for the last 2,000 years? Haha.

Here's a primer on the many apocalypses over the centuries:

http://hubpages.com/education/A-History-of-the-End...

The sky is falling!

I'll call you from area code 666.


dejahoo profile image

dejahoo 4 years ago from Georgetown, TX

The difference is knowing the parable of the fig tree. That is the reestablishment of Israel in 1948 and that the end of this age occurs while that generation still lives so we are getting close. I don't necessarily post this for your benefit but for others that might read and be influenced by your heresy.


dejahoo profile image

dejahoo 4 years ago from Georgetown, TX

The difference is knowing the parable of the fig tree. That is the reestablishment of Israel in 1948 and that the end of this age occurs while that generation still lives so we are getting very close. I don't necessarily post this for your benefit but for others that might read and be influenced by your destructive teaching.

Mark 13

28 “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 29 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it[d] is near, right at the door. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. 32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert[e]! You do not know when that time will come. 34 It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.

35 “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. 36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 4 years ago from New York City Author

My "heresy" and "destructive teaching"? LOL! What is so destructive about stating facts? Only those who fear the truth, who fear that reality does not conform to their prejudices and assumptions, will have a problem with it.

"Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened."

The generation referenced (Jesus' generation) passed away, and these things did not happen. Wake up.


chefsref profile image

chefsref 4 years ago from Citra Florida

Interesting; about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. So, Christ and the Angels may not know when the end is coming but dejahoo knows that the end is nigh.

Doesn't that mean that dejahoo is God the father?


dejahoo profile image

dejahoo 4 years ago from Georgetown, TX

Did you not read that you can know the season? I'm not trying to win an argument but to plant seeds. Hopefully, there is still some fertile ground.


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 4 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

Why are "christians" so fascinated with the "end of times"? It truly amazes me. Perhaps it is the only way they can "prove" that God actually exists.

That's like drinking hemoock to prove that it can kill you. Too funny.


Diane Stephenson 4 years ago

It's strange that people seem to think we need to place Christianity on one side of the equation and science on the other as if the two are at war. Has anyone ever read the series of books by Lee Strobel, an investigative journalist? He interviews well-known scientists, historians and those in other relevant fields and these men who are highly respected in their fields all believe that science proves the Bible - there is no contradiction. Incidentally, Strobel was an atheist when he began his research for these books and his intent was to disprove Christianity. In the end, he could not deny the truth that today's science proves the Bible and what is written in the Bible is truth. I would challenge any of you who think Christianity irrelevant today to read at least a couple of these books: The Case for Creation, The Case for Faith, The Case for Christ, etc. At least a couple of these have corresponding DVDs of the interviews. They are very interesting and enlightening. And they are not merely men's opinions, they are factual accounts of what science has discovered over the last few years especially.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 4 years ago from New York City Author

Diane:

Firstly, on the general question of Christianity and science. Look, technically, every single thing in Christianity is not incompatible with every single thing in science. Obviously. I said as much in the article. On questions that Christianity addresses but science does not, there does not have to be conflict.

The conflict is where the Bible/ Christian tradition says one thing, and the science says something else, such as the age of the earth.

The real fundamental conflict, at the end of the day, is what I referred to in the article: supernaturalism and naturalism. These are two completely different, irreconcilable and mutually exclusive mentalities. And they will lead to different conclusions on questions, as a result.

Secondly, regarding Strobel. I did not read any of his books, but I looked at some Amazon reviews and descriptions of "The Case for a Creator" and others, including this review (supportive of the book):

http://www.amazon.com/Case-Creator-Journalist-Inve...

I have also watched videos of him on Youtube. He does not use science. Like Kirk Cameron, Ray Comfort and many other apologists and anti-evolutionists, he wraps pseudoscientific and non-scientific arguments in the cloak of "science." They ignore or twist the evidence in favor of evolution and other scientific theories they don't agree with to suit their own pre-established beliefs. I can expound on this issue if you want.

It all goes back, again, to the "worldview" at play: supernaturalism and naturalism. Either you allow the possibility that a supernatural realm exists, or you don't.

So, Diane, if you want to argue for the former position, you must explain something very simple: it is obvious that a natural world exists, but why should I believe that a supernatural realm exists?


dejahoo profile image

dejahoo 4 years ago from Georgetown, TX

Most people do not understand or believe that the Bible is God's inspired word and as such discount it. Did God give Moses the law or did Moses come up with the tablets by himself? The Bible was never intended to be a science book but truth by which people can live their lives on a daily basis.

All of the world has been blessed because of the covenant between God and Abraham. You are a beneficiary of the teachings of the Bible whether you know it or admit it. In fact, science is continually demonstrating that the Bible is absolutely accurate in the things that it teaches in particular with regard to health. Is this natural or supernatural that the Bible even exists for us?

Further, Ezekiel describes flying saucers yet we had no idea they even existed until the 20th century. Now, who is ahead of who?


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 4 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

dejahoo - please seek professional help as soon as possible. You are suffering from several delusions. My mom also thought that Jesus would return to earth in a flying saucer. Who is spreading this kind of drivel for old people?


dejahoo profile image

dejahoo 4 years ago from Georgetown, TX

Know that the false Christ comes first and claims that he will fly you away but the word teaches that we are not to be deceived and should not worship that one. Young people can benefit from the teachings as well. It is all more important as we see that day approaching. Have a good day and may God bless you.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 4 years ago from New York City Author

Science is continually demonstrating that the Bible is inaccurate on a wide variety of topics.

Modern humanism demonstrates that we do not need the bizarre and confused writings of ancient savages to lead good moral lives.

The Bible has been proven wrong on a number of claims. The prophecies of the Bible are meaningless, and no better than the prophecies of any other religion, cult or ideological fad.

You are the beneficiary of modern secular reason and secular science whether you know it or admit it.

The only people who believe the Bible is reliable on anything meaningful are those who reject the findings of modern science and the advancements in human knowledge that have taken place over the last 2000 years.


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 4 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

Man it is really really hard to kill those 2000 year old whispers! Too bad they didn't have modern science to report on the facts of those days. Instead all they had was extremely unreliable "witnesses".


GC 4 years ago

Religion is becoming completely irrelevant. We don't need it to understand our world or to be moral. All religion has left is scare tactics like Hell and the end times. Unfortunately that's enough to keep the less intelligent among us believing.


tonka21 4 years ago

in response to securlarist, please show me where you can disprove anything written in the bible! science has only ben able to prove different events in bible, never dis prove


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 4 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

Tonka21 - you are only paying attention to what you believe is "proof" of the writings of the bible. Many, many people have tried to prove events of the bible only to fail.

Where are the 10 commandments? Nobody knows. Neither can you prove where Jesus was buried (if he ever was). Among other unprovable events - Noah's ark, Jesus' miracles, and about 1,000 other events cannot be proven.

On the other hand. We can show scientifically that Noah's ark is just a fairy tale. The ark simply wasn't large enough to hold 2 of each animal, crawly thing, creeping thing, etc, plus all the feed it would have taken to sustain them, plus all the waste products (even temporarily). Not to mention the fact that many of the animals would have had to come from Australia, a continent that wasn't even known to exist at the time.

You need to listen to people much smarter and those who do know what they are talking about. Instead you listen to old wive's tales, superstition and whatever sectarian bible you probably don't even read.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 4 years ago from New York City Author

Tonka:

Read the article. Age of the earth, age of the universe, evolution and origin of life are the biggest and most obvious ones.


chefsref profile image

chefsref 4 years ago from Citra Florida

Hey Sec

First I think you're wrong to lump so many Christians in the same category. Yes, there are those that believe that every word in the Bible is literally true. But there are far more that look at the Bible as a mixture of metaphor and history.

If you take each word as truth your head should explode because of the many contradictions. If you regard it as metaphor you can leave the nonsense behind and look for the meaning lurking there.

I don't know whether to believe in the Divinity of Christ but I can be a Christian because of the message of Christ. For those like myself, it matters not how much you prove or disprove from the Bible, we don't believe in the literal truth of every word.

As to needing the Bible as a moral guide; some of the most moral people I have known were atheists and some of the most immoral people claimed to be Christians. I think the sense of right and wrong is innate for most of us. Christians that need to be told what to do need a Bible but they don't bother to use it.

Finally,atheism is just as much a religion as any theistic belief. First atheism requires faith, believing there is no God. The existence of God can be neither proved nor disproved, thus it requires faith to hold either position.

Second is the amount of proselytizing that atheists do. Like any other religion, atheists want converts. When they have converts, again, like any other religion, they believe themselves to be the chosen ones. No not because they will go to Heaven but because they hold the ultimate truth. That's religion.

I would say I am safe in my agnosticism but everyone of faith wants to try to convert me, saying I lack conviction.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 4 years ago from New York City Author

GC:

You make some great points.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 4 years ago from New York City Author

Chef:

Nothing in life is black and white. And there is a wide spectrum of human belief. But for the sake of trying to understand people's behavior, we should make some clear distinctions.

There are certainly a variety of Christian beliefs, from Mormons to Orthodox. But as I already said, over time, Christianity as a whole has become less traditionalist and less literal. Some groups have become more or less literal than others, but in the aggregate they have become less.

I agree with much of what Jesus said, does that make me a Christian? I bet well over 90% of the human race agrees with much of what Jesus said about peace and being nice. Does that make them all Christians?

Or does such a loose standard water down the term "Christian" to the point of uselessness? Does this commonality instead indicate that the innate moral sense of humans is what informed Jesus' message, rather than the other way around?

Atheism and theism are not religions. They are beliefs. Theism means belief in God, atheism means (in its purest sense) lack of belief in God. Many religions fall under the theist umbrella (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, some Hindu religions, etc).

One of the distinguishing factors of religion is its supernaturalism. Insofar as secular belief systems or ideologies do not incorporate a supernatural element, they cannot be called "religion."

And everyone "proselytizes." Political parties try to get new members. Social clubs try to get new members. Businesses try to get new customers. Does that mean they are religions, too?

Atheism, again, is simply a belief (or a lack of belief, more precisely). Individual atheists may believe they have "ultimate truth" but that has nothing to do with atheism per se.

Last point: no one can prove God does not exist because it is impossible to prove a negative. The burden is on the person making the positive claim, not on the person awaiting the evidence. Thus believing in God is NOT equivalent to not believing.

Non-belief in God is logically superior in the same way that non-belief in Big Foot or non-belief in the Tooth Fairy is superior. Non-belief is the default condition of the human mind.


nicomp profile image

nicomp 4 years ago from Ohio, USA

"Modern science indicates that the first forms of life arose from the mix of chemicals present in the early earth, a theory that has been verified in laboratory experiments. "

No, it absolutely has not been verified in laboratory experiments. No form of life has been created from a mix of chemicals in a laboratory.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 4 years ago from New York City Author

Nicomp:

Scientists created a synthetic life form (not from scratch) several years ago. Read the details here:

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/05/scientis...

http://articles.cnn.com/2010-05-21/health/venter.q...

So this provides weight to the theory. In addition, check out this Youtube video explaining how abiogenesis probably worked. The information is based on laboratory experiments:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6QYDdgP9eg

There is plenty more where that came from of course.

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