Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The World According to Evangelical Leaders

The Pew Forum has released a survey of evangelical Protestant leaders worldwide, which includes several interesting statistics. First, their opinions of nonbelief:
  • 71% of evangelical leaders called secularism a "major threat" to Christianity—the most of any option.
  • Muslims beat out the "non-religious" in terms of perceived unfriendliness toward evangelicals, 69% to 45%. But that includes self-described agnostics and even some theists; the results would be different for atheists alone.
  • 70% have an unfavorable view of atheists—a higher percentage than for any other (ir)religious group, including Muslims.
These figures are consistent with my previous observation that atheists are the most disliked and distrusted minority in America. Now, here are some other discouraging statistics:
  • 52% of leaders think Jesus will "probably" or "definitely" return within their lifetime. Again they show that there's only a marginal difference between them and apocalyptic prophets like Harold Camping.
  • 94% believe that winning converts is essential to evangelical Christianity. Helping the needy? A still-high but much-lower 73%.
  • 92% have a favorable view of Pentacostals, the denomination most known for "worshipping God" by speaking gibberish and flailing around.
  • 84% think homosexuality should be discouraged by society.
  • 47% reject evolution entirely; another 41% insist it was God-guided.
  • 55% think that "a wife must always obey her husband." Why? Well, because God said so. Isn't that reason enough to treat women as second-class citizens?
  • 51% think abortion is not usually, but always wrong—which would include cases of rape, incest, and endangerment to the mother.
  • 84% believe they should express their political views. These are the people in positions of authority, and that means those views will inevitably rub off on their congregations.
It always amazes me when people ask why we nonbelievers can't just mind our own business and respect other people's beliefs. These statistics should make the answer obvious: beliefs have consequences. When they're false, they can cause serious harm and even warp our perception of reality. It's only natural to promote reason when this is the result of its absence.

Now that I'm done with that little rant, I'll end on an amusing note: 52% of leaders thought that consuming alcohol is "incompatible with being a good evangelical." Even leaving aside how absurd that is on its face, let's take a look at Jesus' words in Matthew 11:18-19:
"For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon.' The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' But wisdom is justified by her children."
Either evangelical leaders don't know their Bible, or they genuinely don't think Jesus himself belongs in their exclusive club.

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